Do Democrats have a Pelosi problem?

So, this Atlantic article following Conor Lamb’s win was pretty typical in discussing whether Nancy Pelosi is a serious problem for the Democrats.

My short take… Republicans are going to hate whomever the Democrats’ leader is.  It’s easier to hate a person than an abstract entity like a political party.  In today’s era of negative partisanship, whomever the Democratic leader is will be seen as a drag in Republican-leaning districts, because the hate will attach itself to an individual.  Especially with the help of Fox News, Rush, etc., over the years vilifying the Democratic leader.  And, if the Democratic leader happens to be a woman like, Nancy Pelosi, yes, so much the worse.

So, for Democrats who think Pelosi needs to be thrown overboard just because Republicans use her as a symbol of hate?  Please.  Also, she’s been a very effective and skilled politician.


The challenge to Pelosi has one good reason behind it, and many bad ones. The good reason is that Republicans have made her their most effective campaign message. Democrats running in red seats have faced ceaseless ads tying them to the dreaded San Francisco Liberal, and victorious candidate Conor Lamb had to disavow her leadership in order to squeak through. That’s not a replicable pattern: A handful of the party’s most vulnerable candidates might be able to promise not to support her speakership, but Democrats cannot control the chamber without candidates in 218 districts who will vote for Pelosi.

Would a different Democratic leader prove less of a liability? Probably for a while, yes. Republicans have spent years building up Pelosi as a hate figure, and a newer and less familiar Democratic leader would take longer for Republicans to promote as a target of fear and loathing. It’s also possible that a Democrat who was either from a less famously progressive locale than San Francisco, or not female, would be less threatening to some socially conservative voters. (The latter point is the most fraught: Do Democrats really want to let irrational fear of powerful women dictate their choice of leaders?) It is true, though, that deposing Pelosi would have at least a temporary messaging benefit in some tough districts this fall…

Replacing Pelosi as leader would create the ephemeral benefit of forcing Republicans to rotate in a new cast of villains to star in their attack ads — MS-13? hippies? antifa? — until they could build up the name-ID for her successor. It would bring the significant downside of firing an elected official who is extremely good at her extremely important job.

Paul Waldman:

Conor Lamb, the victor in that Pennsylvania special election, said at the campaign’s outset that he wouldn’t be voting for Pelosi for speaker in 2019 if he were elected, since he thought the time had come for a new generation to take control (Pelosi, who’s 77, has been in Congress for over 30 years). That might not have made Pelosi feel good, but she’s as hard-headed as they come, and if it helped win a seat for Democrats, she wasn’t going to complain.

But we don’t know whether it actually did help. Perhaps Lamb’s stance defused the attack (though it certainly didn’t stop Republicans from making it), or perhaps when people are voting for their member of Congress, they don’t much care who the party’s leader is.

That sounds like a radical thing to say, but the truth is that we have zero evidence that it actually changes any votes when every Republican candidate shouts “My opponent is just a puppet of San Francisco liberal Nancy Pelosi!” There’s no question that Republican voters dislike her, but that’s very different from her actually having an effect on the outcome of any race. But we’ve been seeing those ads for so long we just assume they must make a difference.

Most people would probably be surprised to learn that Speaker of the House Paul Ryan is just as unpopular as Pelosi. Both of them have approval ratings of around 30 percent (see here or here), while Mitch McConnell is the really unpopular one; sometimes his approval is below 20 percent…

When you have those ideological divisions, each party’s leadership will inevitably reflect where the party is; you aren’t going to get a presidential nominee or a congressional leader who comes from the Democratic Party’s right flank or the Republican Party’s left flank.

That means that members of each party will come to despise the other party’s leaders, and Republicans have had ample time to get to hate Pelosi; she has led House Democrats for the last 15 years.

But even in that context of polarization, both parties have to compete in places where there are lots of the other party’s voters around. Charging your opponent with being too close to his or her party’s leaders is a good way to rile up your own base. In a district like that one in Pennsylvania, which Donald Trump won by 20 points, it was a guarantee that ads with Pelosi’s face would turn up.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t a reasonable argument to be made that it’s time for Pelosi to step aside.

And Peter Beinart takes on the gender angle (and written before Lamb’s election):

Gender scholars would not be surprised. For a 2010 paper in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, the Yale researchers Victoria Brescoll and Tyler Okimoto showed study participants the fictional biographies of two state senators, identical except that one was named John Burr and the other Ann Burr. (I referred to this study in an October 2016 article for this magazine called “Fear of a Female President.”) When quotations were added that described the state senators as “ambitious” and possessing “a strong will to power,” John Burr became more popular. But the changes provoked “moral outrage” toward Ann Burr, whom both men and women became less willing to support.

Nancy Pelosi, by leading her party in Congress, has become Ann Burr. A woman can serve in Congress without being perceived as overly ambitious. By climbing to the top of the greasy pole, however, Pelosi has made her ambition visible. She has gained the power to tell her male colleagues what to do. (The pollster Celinda Lake notes that most ads attacking Pelosi show her speaking, not listening.) She has put herself, to quote the anti-Ossoff ad, “in control.”

For John Burr, this wouldn’t be a problem. As the management professors Ekaterina Netchaeva, Maryam Kouchaki, and Leah Sheppard noted in a 2015 paper, Americans generally believe “that leaders must necessarily possess attributes such as competitiveness, self-confidence, objectiveness, aggressiveness, and ambitiousness.” But “these leader attributes, though welcomed in a male, are inconsistent with prescriptive female stereotypes of warmth and communality.” In fact, “the mere indication that a female leader is successful in her position leads to increased ratings of her selfishness, deceitfulness, and coldness.”…

The more successful Pelosi is—the more she outmaneuvers and dominates her male adversaries—the more threatening she becomes. And the easier it becomes to tar the male Democratic candidates who would serve under her as emasculated yes-men. Which makes it harder for Democrats to retake the House.

It would be comforting to think that Pelosi is alienating because she’s a rich liberal Democrat from San Francisco—not because she’s a woman. Yet despite attributes that should make her endearing to cultural conservatives—she is a Catholic Italian American grandmother of nine who entered politics only after staying home to raise her kids—many Americans greeted her rise with, in the words of the Yale researchers, “contempt, anger, and/or disgust.” It was the same for Hillary Clinton: Her deep religiosity, career-long focus on child welfare, and insistence on keeping her family together in the face of near-unimaginable humiliation didn’t spare her in the 2016 presidential election.

Take that you sexist Pelosi haters.  Okay, mostly kidding.  Democrats who want Pelosi to go are not sexists.  But they are enabling Republican sexism.  And looking to overthrow a proven leader for it.


Quick hits (part II)

1) Thanks to EMG for this NatGeo story on fraternal twins where one appears white and the other black (because, honestly, race is entirely a social-cultural construct of which skin tone is just one of many factors):

Historically, when humans have drawn lines of identity—separating Us from Them—they’ve often relied on skin color as a proxy for race. But the 21st-century understanding of human genetics tells us that the whole idea of race is a human invention.

Modern science confirms “that the visible differences between peoples are accidents of history”—the result of mutations, migrations, natural selection, the isolation of some populations, and interbreeding among others, writes science journalist Elizabeth Kolbert. They are not racial differences because the very concept of race—to quote DNA-sequencing pioneer Craig Venter—“has no genetic or scientific basis.”

2) Found this New Yorker article on facial feminization surgery for trans-women pretty fascinating.  Obviously, pretty curious for Nicole’s thoughts on the topic.

3) Why “white Evangelicals abandoned their principles for Trump?”  I’d say because they were only pretending these were there principles when convenient and because PID> religion.

4) Presidential historian Robert Dallek on Trump’s White House:

It’s deadly to a presidency to be surrounded by sycophants who are going to be emphasizing the need to stroke the president’s ego, to make him feel as if he’s always right and ingenious. There are no easy decisions to be made in the White House; everything is difficult and complex and consequential. If ever there was a need for honesty and hard truths, it’s in the White House.

Someone once said that history is argument without end, but so is politics and policymaking. But Trump is someone who is so thin-skinned and who thrives on the need for approval and adulation that it’s got to be hard to maintain an intellectually honest climate around him…

I think you have to go all the way back to Warren G. Harding in 1921 to find a president as unqualified to hold the office as Trump is. Harding was not a very bright guy, and even though he had been lieutenant governor of Ohio and became a senator, he was terribly shallow and unimpressive. He got elected, in part, because he looked like a president and because there was a lot of discontent at the time. But he had no idea what he was doing, and yet he was convinced that he did.

Trump is a reasonable heir to someone like Harding because Trump is uninformed, doesn’t read, doesn’t seem to have much intellectual curiosity, and seems to trust his instincts more than anything else. Like Harding, he thinks he can solve everything by himself, and that’s not a good way to keep the best and smartest team around him.

It also means we’re likely to get people in high-level positions who are insufficiently qualified and who don’t have much experience, but because they make Trump happy or comfortable, they’re able to survive and thrive. That, unfortunately, is where we are today.

5) Love the UMBC coach’s openness about his family’s struggles with his son’s mental illness (OCD).  We need to do so much more as a society to destigmatize mental illness.

6) Peter Beinart on the rise of right-wing foreign policy:

It’s useful to see Pompeo as part of a cadre of influential, foreign policy-oriented, Republican politicians that includes Tom Cotton, Marco Rubio, and Ted Cruz. All four were elected to Congress with support from the Tea Party, a movement that depicted moderate Republicans —as Goldwater once depicted Eisenhower and Nixon—as complicit with the welfare state. Pompeo has particularly close ties to the Tea Party’s most important funders, the Koch Brothers.
On foreign policy, the American right has historically oscillated between isolationism and crusading interventionism. The Koch Brothers and Rand Paul lean toward isolationism. Rubio and Cotton lean toward crusading interventionism. What they all share is self-righteousness. The United States is pure; its adversaries are wicked. Thus, America must either shun other nations or dominate them. What it cannot do is recognize that even its adversaries have reasonable fears and legitimate interests, which America should try to accommodate.Because America is pure and its enemies are evil, accommodating them is immoral. Like Goldwater and William F. Buckley, who saw compromise with communist regimes as appeasement, Pompeo has called the Iran deal “surrender” and insisted that the United States make “no concessions” in any talks with North Korea.

7) It’s still somewhat of a mystery of what causes canker sores.  I used to suffer from them quite often until about 15 or so years ago when I started using Listerine twice a day and they became a rarity for me ever since.8) How our collective use of mapping apps could make traffic worse:

In the pre-mobile-app days, drivers’ selfishness was limited by their knowledge of the road network. In those conditions, both simulation and real-world experience showed that most people stuck to the freeways and arterial roads. Sure, there were always people who knew the crazy, back-road route, but the bulk of people just stuck to the routes that transportation planners had designated as the preferred way to get from A to B.Now, however, a new information layer is destroying the nudging infrastructure that traffic planners built into cities. Commuters armed with mobile mapping apps, route-following Lyft and Uber drivers, and software-optimized truckers can all act with a more perfect selfishness.

In some happy universe, this would lead to socially optimal outcomes, too. But a new body of research at the University of California’s Institute of Transportation Studies suggests that the reality is far more complicated. In some scenarios, traffic-beating apps might work for an individual, but make congestion worse overall. And autonomous vehicles, touted as an answer to traffic-y streets, could deepen the problem.“This problem has been vastly overlooked,” Alexandre Bayen, the director of UC Berkeley’s Institute of Transportation Studies, told me. “It is just the beginning of something that is gonna be much worse.”

9) Honestly, this summary of social science research on gun owners comes across a little too much like crack for liberals to me, e.g.,

These are men who are anxious about their ability to protect their families, insecure about their place in the job market, and beset by racial fears. They tend to be less educated. For the most part, they don’t appear to be religious—and, suggests one study, faith seems to reduce their attachment to guns. In fact, stockpiling guns seems to be a symptom of a much deeper crisis in meaning and purpose in their lives. Taken together, these studies describe a population that is struggling to find a new story—one in which they are once again the heroes.

I don’t doubt some of the very real correlations, but I think there’s a little much cultural judgment being read into this.  I also found, “Why Gun Culture Is So Strong in Rural America” pretty interesting, but problematic in it’s own ways.

To understand why many conservatives in rural America believe this, you must start with first principles, because the argument ultimately isn’t about guns; it runs even deeper than the Second Amendment. At a 2015 campaign event during the Iowa caucuses, J. C. Watts, the former congressman from Oklahoma, spoke about perspectives on original sin. It helps illuminate the differences in worldview between many conservatives and liberals. Mr. Watts said Democrats think people were born basically good, so when good people did bad things, something in society (in this case, guns) needed to be controlled. Republicans think the fault lies with the person — the perpetrator of the evil. Bad choices result in bad things being done, in part because the perpetrator lacks the moral guidance the Christian faith provides.

The reaction to mass shootings highlights this difference. Liberals blame the guns and want to debate gun control. For conservatives, the blame lies with the shooter, not the gun.

To my conservative friends, it’s a matter of liberty and personal responsibility. Even after a horrific event like the school shooting in Florida, where 17 people were killed, more gun control would be compromising those first principles. For them, compromising those principles would be even more horrific and detrimental to society than any shooting. What my conservative friends see is not gun control, but rather control, period.

Yeah, I get it, understand the rural gun owners.  But, I also understand that they are in complete denial of the overwhelming evidence of the relationship between our lax gun policies and our homicide and mass shooting rates.

10) I’ve been pretty curious of the research about Scott Kelly and Mark Kelly after reading Endurance.  This is a nice piece on DNA changes and how it is a lot more complicated than typically reported.


Another somewhat alarming-sounding finding is that Scott Kelly’s DNA “no longer matches that of his identical twin.”

For anyone familiar with genetics, this is possibly the most obvious statement one could make. We humans accumulate random mutations throughout our genomes as we age, and the chances that Mark and Scott’s genetic sequences were randomly modified in exactly the same way are astronomically small. In reality, their DNA hasn’t been identical for most of their lives.

That’s just at the most basic sequence level. All sorts of chemical modifications to DNA can dramatically affect where and how genes are expressed, and those markings—termed epigenetic—are malleable. Genomes add and erase those markings all the time, and they’re not the same between identical twins, either.

Throw in a heaping pile of spaceflight, where exposure to higher levels of radiation necessarily mutates DNA more quickly, and the truly surprising result would be seeing no difference between Mark’s and Scott’s genetic sequences. The fact that they differ, and that Scott’s mutation rate is apparently a bit higher than Mark’s, is totally expected.

“No twin pairs are ever completely identical, and we all do accrue random mutations all the time,” Bailey says. “No doubt, Scott did or does have different or more mutations than Mark—and anyone else not being in space for a year—due to radiation exposure alone.”

11) Love this, “Want to stop climate change?  Educate girls and give them birth control.”

12) Only a Humanities professor would write an impassioned defense of the Humanities titled, “There is no case for the Humanities.”

Photo of the day

Surfing and the Northern Lights in a single photo?  Doesn’t get much better.  Via Atlantic’s gallery of surfing in the Arctic:

A surfer looks at the northern lights on March 9, 2018 in Utakleiv, northern Norway, Lofoten Islands. 

Olivier Morin / AFP / Getty

Quick hits (part I)

1) Yglesias on the reality of “political correctness” and attitudes towards free speech on campus, “Everything we think about the political correctness debate is wrong: Support for free speech is rising, and is higher among liberals and college graduates.”

2) Not a big fan of being verbally abusive to employees– male or female– but that doesn’t make it a #metoo issue.  I liked this comment from an accomplished female friend who shared this article, “The Stranger Things creators were accused of verbally abusing female employees” about the Duffer Brothers.  The fact that this story seemed to have a shelf-life of about a day, suggests many believe similarly.

If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been yelled at, I could retire. I don’t get a free pass from pissing off my bosses because I’m female. Granted, I think there are more effective management techniques than shouting at and insulting subordinates, but that’s a management issue, not a harassment issue.

3) This New Yorker article on how we determine death and “brain death” in particularly was really interesting.  I had never heard about this fascinating case of a family who simply refused to accept “brain dead” as actually dead for their daughter that they still care for.

4) Sticking with the New Yorker, also loved (and was scared/disturbed) this article on the stinkbug invasion.  Hasn’t made Cary, NC yet, at least.

5) How a couple in Michigan learned to game the lottery.  Interesting stuff, but I’m going to be a little judgmental here, though, and say it’s a real shame that people would actually spend pretty much all their time doing this rather than something with at least a minimally pro-social benefit (like the case of the Biomedical researcher who gave up his job to work full time on gaming the lottery).

6) Enjoyed Sean Illing’s interview (these are almost uniformly great) with Bruce Gibney about how the Baby Boomers have ruined everything:

Sean Illing

What’s the most egregious thing the boomers have done in your opinion?

Bruce Gibney

I’ll give you something abstract and something concrete. On an abstract level, I think the worst thing they’ve done is destroy a sense of social solidarity, a sense of commitment to fellow citizens. That ethos is gone and it’s been replaced by a cult of individualism. It’s hard to overstate how damaging this is.

On a concrete level, their policies of under-investment and debt accumulation have made it very hard to deal with our most serious challenges going forward. Because we failed to confront things like infrastructure decay and climate change early on, they’ve only grown into bigger and more expensive problems. When something breaks, it’s a lot more expensive to fix than it would have been to just maintain it all along.

7a) What’s so ultimately stupid about tipping is that even when restaurants try and get rid of it for all the right reasons, it’s so damn embedded in our culture that the restaurants actually suffer for doing  the right thing.  Ugh.  Nice New Yorker on the matter:

New research by Lynn shows that when restaurants move to a no-tipping policy, their online customer ratings fall. One factor that explains that dissatisfaction is how we, as consumers, respond to “partitioned” prices versus “bundled” prices. A partitioned price divides the total cost of an item into smaller components—say, a television listed for a hundred and ninety dollars that has a ten-dollar shipping fee. A bundled price would list the television, shipping included, for two hundred dollars. Consumers tend to perceive partitioned prices as cheaper than bundled ones. Lynn says that a customer who routinely tips fifteen per cent will see a gratuity-included restaurant as more expensive than a traditional restaurant with menu prices fifteen per cent lower. “In fact, a customer who routinely tips twenty per cent”—making her total bill higher than the gratuity-included alternative—“will still view the no-tipping restaurant as more expensive,” Lynn told me.

Lynn found that online customer ratings fell even more dramatically when restaurants instituted a mandatory service charge. People don’t like price hikes, he said, but they accept the logic of a restaurant taking on responsibility for its employees’ full wages and pricing its goods accordingly. They hate service charges. The underlying issue is that, while it is strongly encouraged by social norms, tipping is still notionally optional; being automatically billed for it feels like a “gotcha” moment. Lynn’s research also shows that customers expect inferior service from no-tipping establishments—which biases their views of the service they receive.

In Lynn’s study of online customer ratings, mid-scale restaurants suffered more after instituting no-tipping policies than upscale ones, where, he hypothesizes, customers are less price-sensitive. This suggests that, for the time being, success with tip-free programs may be restricted to the very high end. But that won’t necessarily stop other restaurants from trying. Despite the ethical virtues associated with going tipless, restaurant owners’ primary motivation to do so is likely financial. Minimum wage is rising across the country. If the tipping system remains, restaurants will have no choice but to raise menu prices in order to pay their staff. Servers will then double-dip, so to speak: they will benefit from a higher base wage while their tips also increase as menu prices climb. In other words, the best way for restaurants to keep prices low is to eliminate tipping. The biggest thing holding them back is customers’ suspicion that doing so is a ripoff.

7b) Among other heretofore largely ignored problems with tipping, it makes sexual harassment more likely.

8) Do antidepressants work?  Yes, but pretty modestly, and mostly for major depression.

9) Greg Sargent on the Republican cover-up for Trump:

House Republicans may have the power to prevent important facts about President Trump and Russia from coming to public light. But here’s what they don’t have the power to do: prevent important facts about their own conduct on Trump’s behalf from coming to public light.

Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee have announced that they are shutting down their investigation into Russian efforts to sabotage our democracy and into Trump campaign collusion with those efforts. Shockingly, they have reached conclusions that are entirely vindicating for Trump: There was no “collusion,” and while Russia did try to interfere, it didn’t do so in order to help Trump.

In an interview with me this morning, Rep. Adam B. Schiff — the ranking Democrat on the Intel Committee — confirmed that Democrats will issue a minority report that will seek to rebut the GOP conclusions.

But here’s the real point to understand about this minority report: It will detail all the investigative avenues that House Republicans declined to take — the interviews that they didn’t conduct, and the leads that they didn’t try to chase down and verify. And Schiff confirmed that the report will include new facts — ones that have not been made public yet — that Republicans didn’t permit to influence their conclusions.

10a) Not a fan of having a torturer in charge of the CIA.

10b) And my good friend and colleague, Michael Struett, on the matter in the N&O.

11) And the political scientist who thought he’d throw in his lot with Kris Kobach’s dishonest case against the almost non-existent voter fraud has basically had his reputation publicly trashed.

12) This is a great thread from Niskanen (libertarian think tank) President Jerry Taylor summarizing a fascinating new working paper from political scientist extraordinaire, Larry Bartels.

In contrast to much journalistic speculation, I find that Republicans are not particularly divided by cultural conservatism (as measured by survey items focusing on respect for the American flag, the English language, and negative feelings toward Muslims, immigrants, atheists, and gays and lesbians, among others); indeed, they tend to be united and energized by these values. Democrats, by comparison, are relatively divided on cultural issues, with more than one-fourth finding themselves closer to the average Republican position than to the average position of their own party.

13) Totally nerdy, but totally loved Drum’s take on how to use the y-axis in charts.  Short version, so long as you are not being misleading, minimize white-space.  I agree.

14) Of course Alabama sheriffs are allowed to get rich by letting prisoners go hungry.  Yes, seriously.  Welcome to America.  Or at least the deep South part.

15) Another nice Sean Illing interview, this one on rural resentments:

Sean Illing

In the book, you argue that the anger we’re seeing in rural America is less about economic concerns and more about the perception that Washington is threatening the way of life in small towns. How, specifically, is Washington doing this?

Robert Wuthnow

I’m not sure that Washington is doing anything to harm these communities. To be honest, a lot of it is just scapegoating. And that’s why you see more xenophobia and racism in these communities. There’s a sense that things are going badly, and the impulse is to blame “others.”

They believe that Washington really does have power over their lives. They recognize that the federal government controls vast resources, and they feel threatened if they perceive Washington’s interest being directed more toward urban areas than rural areas, or toward immigrants more than non-immigrants, or toward minority populations instead of the traditional white Anglo population.

Sean Illing

But that’s just racism and cultural resentment, and calling it a manifestation of some deeper anxiety doesn’t alter that fact. [emphasis mine]

Robert Wuthnow

I don’t disagree with that. I’m just explaining what I heard from people on the ground in these communities. This is what they believe, what they say, not what I believe.

Sean Illing

Fair enough. The title of your book, The Left Behind, rubbed me the wrong way. It seems to me that many of these people haven’t been left behind; they’ve chosen not to keep up. But the sense of victimization appears to overwhelm everything else.

15) This article is not quite 100% explicit on the point, but I like how it gets at the fact that Virginia was particularly ripe for an upset because it’s games are less reliable indicators of relative team quality due to the lower number of possessions:

Playing slowly leaves better teams more vulnerable to upsets, said John Harris, a mathematics professor at Furman University who, with two other faculty members, Kevin Hutson and Liz Bouzarth, has studied N.C.A.A. tournament upsets.

He groups teams into “Giants” and “Killers.” The Giants are always the better team. The variable is what improves the underdogs’ chances. The answer, it turns out, is when the Giants’ giant-like qualities are minimized, because a slow pace means there is literally less basketball being played.

“Picture it in terms of an extreme case,” Harris said. “If each team had one possession, a Killer is more likely to upset a Giant. The more possessions you give a Giant, the more likely it is they’re able to separate.

“It’s the reason,” he added, “why you don’t play the World Series in one game.”

16) Yeah, some kids may get hurt at Britain’s riskier new playgrounds, but the payoffs in building children’s non-cognitive capacities is worth it.

17) I do love the idea of tying fines to your income.  Smarter countries have already figured this out:

If Mark Zuckerberg and a janitor who works at Facebook’s headquarters each received a speeding ticket while driving home from work, they’d each owe the government the same amount of money. Mr. Zuckerberg wouldn’t bat an eye.

The janitor is another story.

For people living on the economic margins, even minor offenses can impose crushing financial obligations, trapping them in a cycle of debt and incarceration for nonpayment. In Ferguson, Mo., for example, a single $151 parking violation sent a black woman struggling with homelessness into a seven-year odyssey of court appearances, arrest warrants and jail time connected to her inability to pay.

Across America, one-size-fits-all fines are the norm, which I demonstrate in an article for the University of Chicago Law Review. Where judges do have wiggle room to choose the size of a fine, mandatory minimums and maximums often tie their hands. Some states even prohibit consideration of a person’s income. And when courts are allowed to take finances into account, they frequently fail to do so.

Other places have saner methods. Finland and Argentina, for example, have tailored fines to income for almost 100 years. The most common model, the “day fine,” scales sanctions to a person’s daily wage. A small offense like littering might cost a fraction of a day’s pay. A serious crime might swallow a month’s paycheck. Everyone pays the same proportion of their income.

For a justice system committed to treating like offenders alike, scaling fines to income is a matter of basic fairness. Making everyone pay the same sticker price is evenhanded on the surface, but only if you ignore the consequences of a fine on the life of the person paying. The flat fine threatens poor people with financial ruin while letting rich people break the law without meaningful repercussions. Equity requires punishment that is equally felt.


Non quick hits

Sorry, instead of working on these I watched the first ever #16 seed victory.  Totally busted my bracket that had Virginia winning it all, but totally worth it.

Also, busy night attending the Cary High School performance of “The Secret Garden” musical.  Mini-rant– my least favorite musical I’ve ever seen.  Firstly, just so not a fan of English Countryside-set ghost stories, but really not a fan of characters who’s actions just keep making no sense and seem to come from no coherent motivation.  (And, yes, I do have much lower standards for musicals).  Also, the music wasn’t bad, but I’d at least like to be humming one song on my way out of a musical.  A shame, because the CHS kids are really, really talented and I didn’t think the source material was worthy of them.

Quick hits to come later worked around soccer coaching and basketball watching.


Sometimes public opinion makes sense

Gallup with public support for various proposals to improve school safety.  I don’t think most of these would make all that much difference, but the modest benefit is balanced by low cost and all seem sensible enough.  That is, except for arming teachers, which is the only proposal lacking majority approval.

 That said, we can certainly over-do it on school safety.  We got a message from our Elementary school today that everybody is going to have to state their name and purpose before they are buzzed in and unfamiliar people are going to have to show ID.  I’m sure it happens, but I’ve certainly never heard of any malefactor going into an elementary school and wreaking havoc, except one armed with a gun.  And, I’m pretty sure they would shoot their way in if not buzzed in.  My middle-school son diagnosed this correctly as adult doing something so they can feel like they have more control and are actually making a difference.  Now, reasonable security precautions strike me as fine, but let’s not pretend this is somehow going to stop or even appreciably slow an armed school shooter.


What happens in PA-18 now simply doesn’t matter

So, my assistant soccer coach extraordinaire and faithful blog reader, LW, asked me at soccer practice last night, what if Lamb might lose in a recount or for some other reason not end up with that House seat.  And, in answering him, I realized I had a pretty good blog post, so to the best of my recollection, here’s what I told him.

Now that Lamb has already “won” for now, PA-18, that’s really all that matters.  Despite this:

Republican officials in Washington said they were likely to demand a recount through litigation, and the National Republican Congressional Committee put out a call for voters to report any irregularities in the balloting. Matt Gorman, a spokesman for the committee, said the party was “not conceding anything.”

The Democratic Party got a big “win” out of this.  Anything that happens going forward doesn’t change that.  Republicans have more reason to be scared than ever.  Republicans on the fence have more reason to retire than ever (as many have).  And Democrats have more reason to be enthused and energized.  Conor Lamb proved a great model/template of how to win in a red district. Nothing changes any of that.

If somehow some absentee votes were miscounted and Lamb end up not holding this seat none of the above changes.  Among other things, if that does happen, it is a page A17 story, not the A1 story (still need the right non-print edition metaphor for stuff like this)  Not to mention, the whole state is being redistricted for November anyway.  And as for the House, it truly matters not the tiniest bit whether Democrats have 193 seats or 192 seats right now.

Anyway, Republicans can fight this all they want, but the Democratic “win” is not going anywhere.  And, unless there’s some pretty substantial changes before November (which there could be!), there’s plenty of reason for optimism for 1) Democrats and 2) people who care about the health of our democracy (sadly, right now #2 is almost entirely contingent upon Democrats doing well in November).

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