Midterm Election Results — What do they all really mean?

By Victoria Jones

Yes, the Republicans have a majority in both chambers of congress, but, no, the world is not ending (yet).

Keith Krehbiel, a professor at Stanford, has developed a model which he claims can predict policy outcomes*.

The gist of it says the following: Imagine a one dimensional ideology map (i.e. a straight line), where left is liberal and right is conservative.  Each point represents a certain person’s ideal point on the spectrum (the further left they are, the more liberal, and vice versa).  There are 5 regions, defined by 4 points: 2V-M, V, V, and 2V-M.  V represents the veto pivot, or the person needed to gain a 2/3 vote to override a veto.  F represents the filibuster pivot, or the person needed to gain a 3/5 vote to stop a filibuster (cloture).  2V-M is the mirror image of V on the other side of M, the median voter.  2V-F is the mirror image of F on the other side of M.  In other words, 2V-M and 2F-M represent the points which M is indifferent between when compared with V and F, respectively.  What’s important to note here is region three (between V and F), which Krehbiel deems the gridlock zone.  When status quo policies lie in this region, any attempt to reform them will fail because any movement will be away from either V or F, and thus the bill will get vetoed or filibustered.


Basically, according to this model, the fact that republicans now have a majority in the House and Senate isn’t what matters.  It’s that there are MORE republicans overall.  This means all the actors on the above diagram shift to the right, therefore changing the region boundaries as well.  Imagine taking the entire model and shifting it a bit to the right.

Now, what does this actually mean in terms of policy?

Relatively liberal policies that used to be in the left edge of the gridlock zone will now be brought out of it, making them vulnerable to change.  In other words, relatively liberal policies will become a little more conservative.  On the other end, some relatively conservative policies that were outside the right side of the gridlock zone are now actually inside of it.  This means that some relatively conservative will remain that way, as they’re unable to be reformed.

Keep in mind that what is presented here is a VERY simplified version of Krehbiel’s model.  Anyone interested in learning more can take a look at the link below, or get a copy of Krehbiel’s book called Pivotal Politics.



*Note: This is under the assumption that actors are trying to get as close to their own ideal point as possible and are aware of others’ ideal points.