Quick hits (part I)

1) Why didn’t Clinton’s campaign do things differently?  Because they thought they were winning:

Sure, in hindsight, Clinton and her team should have guarded themselves from that outcome. They should have had a good response to attacks that Clinton was an elite outsider taking money from Goldman Sachs. They should have done more in Michigan and Wisconsin — especially in light of establishing field offices in reach states like Arizona and Texas. And looking back, even with their already 200-person-strong staff in Michigan, and millions of dollars spent in advertising, if they could go back and do more for those 10,000 votes that went to Trump instead, of course they would, a senior Clinton campaign aide tells me. (Although Iowa looked simply impossible to win.)

But then again, it didn’t look like they needed to.

You don’t need to answer for your weaknesses if they don’t seem to be hurting you

There was every indication that a Clinton victory was near certain. Early voting turnout — although not an indicator of Election Day results — was confirming polling that had Clinton consistently in the lead.

On ground game, Clinton was ahead. She had a bigger, more organized staff. According to an exit poll of early voters, Clinton’s campaign contacted twice as many American voters as Trump’s did.

Clinton’s campaign strategy was tested; Clinton would never be the agent of change Trump could claim to be (she has had a career in Washington after all), but she could easily proclaim Trump’s case for change too risky. And polls suggested that it was a line of attack that was working.

But as my colleague Jeff Stein explained, the polls “badly underestimated” the strength of the Republican coalition — lowballing both the number of white voters without a college education who would turn out at the polls on Election Day and the number of anti-Trump Republicans who ended up supporting the GOP nominees.

“So it was a very different electorate than we expected,” Matt Grossmann, a political scientist at Michigan State University, told Stein. “And Republican-leaning women and conservatives who hadn’t made up their minds almost all ended up voting for Trump.”

2) A handy flowchart for dealing with holiday greetings.

3) I’d read a little about Milo Yiannopoulos before, but never all that much.  That said, I found this Bloomberg profile to be absolutely fascinating of what it is like to be a truly horrible human being.

4) James Surowiecki on how private prisons will benefit from Trump.  Oh, and, yes, they are horrible:

When you consider that the government still spends money monitoring private prisons, and that it’s stuck running the parts of the system that private companies thought were money losers, the case that private prisons save money looks shaky.

Even if they did, the ethical cost would be too high. Imprisoning people is one of the weightiest things that government does, yet outsourcing imprisonment means that treatment of inmates is shaped by bottom-line considerations. This has led to understaffing, inadequate mental-health care, and, in some cases, inadequate meals. Worse, private prisons have an obvious incentive to keep people inside as long as possible. Last year, Anita Mukherjee, an assistant professor of actuarial science at the University of Wisconsin, studied Mississippi’s prison system, and found that people in private prisons received many more “prison conduct violations” than those in government-run ones. This made it harder for them to get parole, and, on average, they served two to three more months of prison time.

The perversities of profit-driven prison policy don’t end there. The need for inmates leads companies, in effect, to lobby state and federal governments to maintain the current system of mass incarceration. Government-run prisons aren’t blameless here—prison-guard unions lobby for longer sentences and tougher laws—but the private companies know how to throw their weight around, and they benefit from strong local support, as they are often in rural towns without many other sources of jobs or tax revenue.

5) A look at the future demographic diversity of America with lots of cool charts.

6) Yglesias with the case for nomalizing Trump:

But several students of authoritarian populist movements abroad have a different message. To beat Trump, what his opponents need to do is practice ordinary humdrum politics. Populists in office thrive on a circus-like atmosphere that casts the populist leader as persecuted by media and political elites who are obsessed with his uncouth behavior while he is busy doing the people’s work. To beat Trump, progressives will need to do as much as they can to get American politics out of reality show mode.

Trump genuinely does pose threats to the integrity of American institutions and political norms. But he does so largely because his nascent administration is sustained by support from the institutional Republican Party and its standard business and interest group supporters. Alongside the wacky tweets and personal feuds, Trump is pursuing a policy agenda whose implications are overwhelmingly favorable to rich people and business owners. His opponents need to talk about this policy agenda, and they need to develop their own alternative agenda and make the case that it will better serve the needs of average people. And to do that, they need to get out of the habit of being reflexively baited into tweet-based arguments that happen on the terrain of Trump’s choosing and serve to endlessly reinscribe the narrative of a champion of the working class surrounded by media vipers.

7) Political science research on race and Donald Trump’s priming of race-based politics.

8) The older generation of evangelical “leaders” have shown their true colors with their embrace of Trump.  I like this call for a return to what Jesus had to say (given the emphasis on helping the poor, oppressed, imprisoned, etc., I suspect it will fall on largely deaf ears among Republican evangelicals):

The words of Jesus — which are printed in red in many Bibles — could not be more relevant today. Despite the terrible things done in the name of Jesus, a Christianity that stays true to his words has survived for 2,000 years. Maybe this is a moment in our history for evangelicals to repent and be “born again” again as Red Letter Christians.

9) Pretty impressive tweetstorm on why Trump won– but please write a blog post or article already!

10) Jamelle Bouie on 1980’s Jesse Jackson as offering a roadmap for the Democrats’ future.

11) I’m with Drum on the over-use of “white supremacy” (you’ll not be surprised given my favoring of “racial resentment”):

I was listening in on a listserv conversation the other day, and someone asked how and when it became fashionable to use the term “white supremacy” as a substitute for ordinary racism. Good question. I don’t know the answer, but my guess is that it started with Ta-Nehisi Coates, who began using it frequently a little while ago. Anyone have a better idea?

For what it’s worth, this is a terrible fad. With the exception of actual neo-Nazis and a few others, there isn’t anyone in America who’s trying to promote the idea that whites are inherently superior to blacks or Latinos. Conversely, there are loads of Americans who display signs of overt racism—or unconscious bias or racial insensitivity or resentment over loss of status—in varying degrees.

This isn’t just pedantic. It matters. It’s bad enough that liberals toss around charges of racism with more abandon than we should, but it’s far worse if we start calling every sign of racial animus—big or small, accidental or deliberate—white supremacy. I can hardly imagine a better way of proving to the non-liberal community that we’re all a bunch of out-of-touch nutbars who are going to label everyone and everything we don’t like as racist.

Petty theft is not the same as robbing a bank. A lewd comment is not the same as rape. A possible lack of sensitivity is not a sign of latent support for apartheid. Bernie Sanders is not a white male supremacist.

Likewise, using a faddish term is not a sign of wokeness, no matter who started it. Let’s keep calling out real racism whenever we need to, but let’s save “white supremacy” for the people and institutions that really deserve it.1

12) A FB friend who I think is exactly the type of person that gives liberals a bad name posted this attacking Drum, and other white men like me:

Here’s what the world needs less of right now: “liberal” white dudes deriding the marginalized for having the audacity to fight for equal rights.

In the past week alone, I’ve rolled my eyes at Mark Lilla, who wrote “The End Of Identity Liberalism” for The New York Times; Kevin Drum, who wrote “Let’s Be Careful With the ‘White Supremacy’ Label” for Mother Jones; and Cal Newport, who wrote “Quit Social Media. Your Career May Depend on It,” also for The New York Times.

That the conservative movement has embraced an anti-diversity party line is nothing new (though the egregiousness of its current stance is startling). That many Democrats have decided to embrace this platform as well, in an apparent effort to expand their power, is deeply troubling.

Indeed, the parallels between the conservative and liberal movements right now are chilling: On both sides, white men are controlling the narrative. And on both sides, these narratives are relying on the scapegoating of minority groups, and the repudiation of a fight for civil rights (because, to be clear, “identity politics” is code for civil rights).

Well, damnit, Minda Honey got me.  I guess I’ll come out and just admit I hate Black, gay people, etc., and think they should stop fighting for their rights.  This isn’t a straw man argument, it’s more like a whole straw village. Every white male liberal embraces feminism, anti-racism, gay rights, etc.  Yet somehow thinking this should not encompass the totality of liberal politics makes me no better than Trump.  Ugh.

13) Turns out there may be great therapeutic properties from “magic mushrooms.”  Good God it is so past time we get past our ignorance-based fear of all illegal drugs and get benefits where we can.  And the evidence for psychedelic drugs just keeps growing.

14) How well do American kids do in math?  Not so bad.

15) Justin Wolfers with one of the best pieces I’ve read on Trump and Carrier:

But the Carrier case also illustrates a larger point about how the economy works. In Mr. Trump’s telling, the economy is a fixed set of jobs getting shifted around a global chess board. Mexico’s loss is our gain and vice versa.

But you should think of the economy as being in a state of constant churn. The economist Joseph Schumpeter used the now-famous phrase “creative destruction” to describe this process by which new firms push out the old. The result can be cruel, but an extraordinarily fluid labor market, many economists argue, is the secret of American dynamism.

Think of the American economy as a 10-level parking structure or garage, where each car represents an active firm, and the seats in the car are the jobs available. A well-managed business like this is usually pretty full. But it’s also in a state of constant flux, with new cars entering as some people arrive, and previously parked cars leaving as others head home. Every hour, around a tenth of the cars leave the lot, just as a tenth of existing business establishments close each year and leave the labor market.

The deal at Carrier is akin to Mr. Trump’s intercepting a driver on his way to his car, and trying to persuade him to stay parked a little longer — perhaps by pointing to the enticing Christmas specials at the nearby stores.

It’s an approach that no parking business bothers trying.

Rather, the long-term strategy of such businesses is to try to attract a larger clientele by offering a more convenient experience. They understand that there are many more potential customers outside than inside the garage. In this analogy, the government’s best hope for creating jobs is to create a positive business climate.

Mr. Trump is focusing his resources on existing firms — the cars already parked there — rather than on the millions of potential entrepreneurs who might open the next generation of businesses.

Mr. Trump has also suggested that in the future he might use an alternative strategy: using sticks rather than carrots to keep jobs parked within the United States. But this also seems problematic — after all, would you choose to park in a location where parking attendants harass you when it’s time to leave?

The economics of parking contain a big lesson for the Trump administration: A parking garage stays full, and an economy stays healthy, only if it’s constantly refreshed.

16) Yglesias on how we need to take Trump both literally and seriously.  As I will not tire of saying until January 20– President-elect Trump = Candidate Trump.

17) Sarah Kliff on why American prescription drug prices are so high.  As I’ve been telling my classes for years– because we subsidize the whole rest of the world on drug development.

18) Drum on how Obamacare’s requirement that persons with pre-existing conditions be guaranteed coverage and at the same rates as everybody else makes it very hard for Republicans to truly eliminate key aspects of the legislation.  That is, unless Republicans entirely ditch the filibuster.

19) Way back this summer I read Robert Frank’s Success and Luck: Good Fortune and the Myth of the Meritocracy.  Short version: conservatives are sure they actually deserved/earned all their success and good fortune; liberals know better.  Of course, I was already well aware of that.  What I didn’t know about was Frank’s idea for a progressive consumption tax.  This Slate piece nicely lays out the logic for how it would reduce income inequality through it’s understanding of human psychology (it’s not about being rich in an absolute sense so much, as being richer than your neighbor)  It’s pretty cool:

If top marginal income tax rates are set too high, they discourage productive economic activity. In the limit, a top marginal income tax rate of 100 percent would mean that taxpayers would gain nothing from working harder or investing more. In contrast, a higher top marginal rate on consumption would actually encourage savings and investment. A top marginal consumption tax rate of 100 percent, for example, would simply mean that if a wealthy family spent an extra dollar, it would also owe an additional dollar of tax.

That feature of the tax gives rise to what it would be no exaggeration to describe as fiscal alchemy. Consider, for example, how the tax would affect a wealthy family that had been planning a $2 million addition to its mansion. If it faced a marginal consumption tax rate of 100 percent, that addition would now cost $4 million—$2 million for the job itself, and another $2 million for the tax on it. Even the wealthy respond to price incentives. (That’s why they live in smaller houses in New York than in Seattle.) So the tax would be a powerful incentive for this family to scale back its plans. It could build an addition half as big, for example, without spending more than it originally planned.

The fiscal magic occurs because other wealthy families who’d also planned additions to their mansions would respond in a similar way. And since no one denies that, beyond some point, it’s relative, not absolute, mansion size that really matters, the smaller additions would serve just as well as if all had built larger ones.

Current possibility– zero.  But I love this idea and would love to see liberals champion it.

20) We know what works to treat opioid addiction-– substitution therapy.  How many more people will have to needlessly die from overdoses before we finally get some sane policy on the matter?  (Sadly, I expect the answer is hundreds of thousands).

21) Another good take on Trump and the Carrier jobs (and the utter stupidity of our policies regarding “economic incentives”)

Still, what happened in Indiana represents exactly the problem, not the solution, in America’s approach to corporate negotiation. There is literally another factory across town from Carrier waiting for the same kind of attention. It’s not good that the geography of large offices and factories is a function of public money doled out by cities, states and in Washington. It’s been a great boon to companies with the size and flexibility to uproot or locate their operations at will, or at least make a convincing threat they’ll do so. And a big loss for the rest of us.

In hundreds of cases, state and local governments have offered more in subsidy than the $65 million Carrier hoped to save in Mexico.

According to a review by Good Jobs First, a resource center for accountability in economic development, there have been more than 240 such deals, worth a collective $64 billion, in the last 35 years. Manufacturing facilities are the most common recipient. The average cost per job is $465,000.

In some cases, those handouts go to companies moving across county lines.

What makes all those deals possible, and what they have in common, is a regulatory framework that is highly favorable to companies relocating both between states and abroad, regardless of the subsidies they’ve received or the government contracts they depend on. Like Carrier, the average American corporation is trained to get treats for barking. And why not? It’s always worked. Donald Trump didn’t train corporate America. But he seems happy to keep feeding it.

22) In many ways, the GOP Congress is the only meaningful check on Trump’s malfeasance.  Alas, they seem to have no more interest in that whole checks and balances thing.  Chait.

23) A 538 piece says Trump “probably” cannot overturn Roe v. Wade.  That’s because the law professor interviewed doesn’t think John Roberts is a vote to overturn.  I do.  Or, lets put it this way, I can totally see Roberts not “overturning” Roe v. Wade, but writing an opinion that completely undermines while pretending not to do so.

24) I re-watched “Top Gun” over Thanksgiving (just before it disappeared from Netflix streaming).  Say what you will, but I love that movie.  Fighter jets are just awesome.  And I love the way Tony Scott uses light.  Of all the unreality in it, though, it really bugged me that the Top Gun commander, Mike “Viper” Metcalf (Tom Skerrit) was only a Commander (O5).  Seemed to me that for somebody as old as the character and somebody in charge of the base would surely be at least a Captain.  I messaged my former student, currently a Naval Officer, and he agreed that Viper should probably have been an Admiral.  Then I decided to go to the base website for the current Top Gun (no longer at Miramar).  The current commander is actually a Captain.  Yes, these are the things I spend my time on.

Photo of the day

Some of my happiest early childhood memories were visits to Gatlinburg, Tennessee when visiting my grandmother in western North Carolina (Swannanoa , to be precise).  Probably haven’t been there since I was 10 or younger, but I sure remember riding up the side of a mountain on a skylift with my big sister.  Anyway, I knew there were fires in the area, but had not realized that the town itself was at risk.  In Focus with a photo gallery of the wildfires in the area:

Burned structures are seen from a National Guard helicopter near Gatlinburg on November 29, 2016.

Erik Schelzig / AP

Give up already

Just what is Pat McCrory trying to prove?  And, no, I don’t think he’s counting on the legislature keeping him in office my  legislative office.  At this point, I think he has been so insistent upon fraud and the need for a recount that he wants to go through with it to save face.  Of course, the longer he drags this out, the worse he looks.  The Charlotte Observer:

Pat McCrory, it appears, is going through the five stages of grief. First came denial, then anger. Right now he’s in the bargaining stage. That, thankfully, means that depression and finally acceptance should not be far behind.

Such a cycle may be normal, but what the governor has done since the Nov. 8 election is anything but. In a razor-close race, he has gone way beyond asking that every vote be counted before a winner is declared. He and his fellow scaremongers have disrespected democracy and honest election workers of both parties while slandering innocent North Carolina citizens by recklessly accusing them of felonies. In doing so, he has further tarnished his already-stained legacy and will be remembered always for the lack of grace he showed in what may be his final election…

et us be clear: There is no widespread voter fraud in North Carolina or America. In a state with 6.5 million registered voters, there may be a handful of wrongly registered felons or overzealous get-out-the-vote volunteers. But there is no evidence that thousands of N.C. voters are voting in two states, or that legions of dead people are voting. Almost half of the 43 people McCrory’s camp accused of voting as a felon were not felons at all. And the 101-year-old World War II veteran living in a Greensboro senior living home did not vote in two states, no matter what McCrory’s campaign alleges. There’s certainly not enough fraud, in any case, for McCrory to make up the more than 9,000 votes he would need to overtake Democrat Roy Cooper…

What he doesn’t have a right to do is malign innocent voters with claims that he either knows are mirages or doesn’t care enough to vet. The state board of elections – which, like all 100 county boards, is majority Republican – issued an order Monday effectively dismissing all 52 of McCrory’s complaints.

They know voter fraud is not a real problem in North Carolina. And, down the road, voters shouldn’t allow the myth that McCrory foments to provide cover to overzealous lawmakers – in Raleigh or in Washington.

McCrory has also not escaped notice of the NYT Editorial Board:

Mr. McCrory, a governor who brought disgrace and financial loss to his state by championing a bill to discriminate against gay and transgender people, demanded a recount and began scouring voting rolls for evidence of fraud. It was a hard-fought, acrimonious election, decided by a slim margin, but as provisional and absentee ballots were added to the tally in recent days, Mr. Cooper’s lead surpassed the 10,000 threshold that bars Mr. McCrory from requesting a taxpayer-funded recount.

Mr. McCrory has refused to concede, and despite having no path to victory, he has been engaged in an all-out assault on the integrity of the election system. His fight appears likely to serve as rationale for a renewed effort in the legislature to make North Carolina’s voting laws and regulations even more onerous…

“It’s scandalous that they would malign innocent people to poison the larger public’s trust in the election system,” Bob Hall, the executive director of Democracy North Carolina, said in an interview. It’s dishonorable for Mr. McCrory to promote voting fraud myths and add fuel to voter suppression efforts as he’s going out the door.

Yep.  I don’t hate Pat McCrory.  I’ve mostly thought he was somebody decently well-meaning who was not that bright and ended up  in way over his head.  But now I think he is a sad little man who just cannot face reality.

The reality of immigration policy

I gave a talk earlier this week on a Trump presidency and grouped his policy actions into easy, medium, and hard.  I put immigration in “hard” as the GOP itself is clearly so divided on this.  Drum has a nice post getting to the problematic dynamic and how so many Republicans are really  about rhetoric (the wall!) and not the actual changes that would matter (serious crackdown on employers).  Drum:

I don’t personally care all that much about the level of illegal immigration. The chart above, from Pew Research, shows the current numbers, which strike me as reasonable. But obviously a lot of people do care, and most of them are Republicans. They talk tough, they build walls and fences, and they promise to hire lots of border enforcement agents. But this is all a sham. If the economic incentives continue to exist, so will illegal immigration.

The problem is that Republicans can’t come to grips with their two main constituencies. Social conservatives generally hate undocumented workers and want to deport them all. Business conservatives want no such thing. So Republicans thunder on TV that borders are borders, and by God we need to control them. Then they quietly go back to their jobs and do nothing.

 The obvious way to cut down on illegal immigration has always been to go after employers. [emphases mine] Not only does this attack the root of the problem, but it’s practically self-funding. You hire lots of ICE auditors and then pay for them by levying big fines on employers who break the law. As the problem diminishes, you collect less money but you also need fewer auditors.

E-Verify isn’t perfect. Nothing is. But it could be made good enough. And once that’s done, enforcement could be made pretty widespread and the fines could be made pretty high. If you do that, you can forget about the wall. It’s just a distraction.

Bottom line: Anyone who claims to be fiercely opposed to illegal immigration but doesn’t support strong employer sanctions is just lying to you.

Cheap rhetoric for political point-scoring?  Never.

Facts? We don’t need no stinkin’ facts

James Fallows on Trump’s post-fact world:

This morning, straight off the plane from Shanghai, I was on The Diane Rehm Show with Margaret Sullivan, much-missed former Public Editor of the NYT who is now with the WaPo, and Glenn Thrush of Politico. We were talking about how to deal with the unprecedented phenomenon that is Donald Trump, related to the “Trump’s Lies” item I did two days ago.

You can listen to the whole segment here, but I direct your attention to the part starting at time 14:40. That is when Scottie Nell Hughes, Trump stalwart, joins the show to assert that “this is all a matter of opinion” and “there are no such things as facts.” [emphasis mine]

You can listen again starting at around time 18:30, when I point out one of the specific, small lies of the Trump campaign—that the NFL had joined him in complaining about debate dates, which the NFL immediately denied—and Hughes says: Well, this is also just a matter of opinion. Hughes mentions at time 21:45 that she is a “classically studied journalist,” an assertion that left Glenn Thrush, Margaret Sullivan, Diane Rehm, and me staring at one another in puzzlement, this not being a normal claim in our field.

It’s worth listening in full. This is the world we are now dealing with.

Where I gesticulate wildly about Pat McCrory

Enjoyed being in this Al Jazeera English report on the governor’s race in North Carolina.  Especially, the B-roll footage they used of me at the beginning of my appearance

Also, worth noting that my very next sentence was that I still thought it highly unlikely any such attempt would take place🙂.

Turnout update

So, in the end (though there’s still a little counting), turnout did not drop off nearly as much as it first looked.  That said, Democratic votes went down from 2012 and Republican votes went up.  Nice chart from Timothy McBride:

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