Why Do Republican Senators want more violence against women?

Of course they don’t.  What they don’t want is to renew the Violence Against Women Act.  Normally, I don’t think of Democrats as savvy enough to so successfully have the Republicans make fools of themselves, but I think this time they are.  If not, the Republicans are just really stupid:

With emotions still raw from the fight over President Obama’s contraception mandate, Senate Democrats are beginning a push to renew the Violence Against Women Act, the once broadly bipartisan 1994 legislation that now faces fierce opposition from conservatives…

Republicans are bracing for a battle where substantive arguments could be swamped by political optics and the intensity of the clash over women’s issues. At a closed-door Senate Republican lunch on Tuesday, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska sternly warned her colleagues that the party was at risk of being successfully painted as antiwoman — with potentially grievous political consequences in the fall, several Republican senators said Wednesday.

Some conservatives are feeling trapped.

Love this from Sessions:

“I favor the Violence Against Women Act and have supported it at various points over the years, but there are matters put on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, who opposed the latest version last month in the Judiciary Committee. “You think that’s possible? You think they might have put things in there we couldn’t support that maybe then they could accuse you of not being supportive of fighting violence against women?”

I damn well hope so.  It strikes me that Republicans are normally much better on these tactical matters.  Anyway, here’s a great way out of the trap– just support the damn bill.  It’s not like it legalizes gay marriage or gives free contraceptives to children while it’s at it.

Alien earthworms

So, among the really interesting facts/anecdotes, etc., in one of my favorite books of the past year, 1493, was the fact that earthworms are, in fact, an alien species for all parts of North America that were covered by glaciers in the last Ice Age.  E.g., all of Canada and much of the northern U.S.  And whether earthworms are a native species of a forest or not makes a really big difference.

A recent Quirks and Quarks episode provided the sort of example I love of just how complicated ecological relationships can be.  The Ovenbird is native to North American forests that were– until humans brought them there– earthworm free.  This meant lots of leaf litter on the ground in which to hide their nests.  Now that humans have brought worms to these forests–often as fishing lures– the worms eat the leaf litter, leaving less coverage for Ovenbird nests.  End result, more ovenbird eggs getting eaten by predators and fewer ovenbirds.  Presumably, that also has some consequences that scientists have not yet figured out.   I’ve seen a couple ovenbirds in my (earthworm full) area– gotta love the orange mohawk.


Ovenbird Image


For the record

Thirteen years ago today I defended my dissertation.  I wouldn’t remember the date, but one of my professors, Herb Weisberg, always liked to point out that it was on the Ides of March.  It served me well– got a number of publications out of the research.  I hated talking about it with non political scientists– could always tell they were just humoring me in pretending that they found it interesting.  One of the reasons I love the parenthood research so much is that people actually find it interesting, rather than just pretending.  If you are a glutton for punishment, here’s the official dissertation abstract from the ProQuest database:

I examine the foundations of U.S. citizens’ attitudes towards major political parties. Political scientists traditionally define political partisanship as an emotional (affective) attachment to a party. I view this as an incomplete and misleading picture of party loyalty. Based upon this traditional definition, our explanations of partisanship exclude both citizens’ beliefs about the parties as well as attachment to a party as a social group. This dissertation examines three separate sources of party attitudes: emotional attachment to the party (partisan affect), beliefs about the parties (partisan cognitions), and a sense of belonging to the party (partisan social identification) in order to better explain and predict political behavior.

I used a precisely-designed survey questionnaire to assess the affective, cognitive, and social identity components of partisanship in a manner not previously attempted. Three-hundred-two randomly selected registered voters in Franklin County, Ohio completed the survey. I first categorized individuals based on the affective or cognitive basis of their partisanship. I found that affectively-oriented partisans tended to be more consistent in their partisan behavior whereas cognitively-oriented partisans exhibited ideology and party assessments more preferable to their preferred party. I concluded that emotional attachments to political parties represent a more stable source of partisan orientations providing for more consistent behavior over time, yet cognitive orientation to politics strengthens partisanship through increased information.

I subsequently examined partisan and independent social identification, that is, attachment to a political party as a meaningful social group of which one considers oneself to be a member. Basing my predictions on social identity theory, I found that as partisan social identity increased, respondents were more likely to perceive greater differences between parties and candidates and to behave in a more partisan manner. Furthermore, I found that for some persons a social identity with political independents also exists. The final analyses examine the relationship between affect, cognition, and social identity and find that the social identity is more closely tied to partisan affect. The dissertation’s conclusion discussed what these varying psychological bases of partisanship imply for how citizens relate to parties and how political parties can strengthen partisanship among the electorate.

All the single ladies

Nice post from Hannah Rosin about the importance of unmarried women in the upcoming election.  Apparently, they’re the new swing voters, and even have a cool label to go with it– “swingle.”

Democrats already do better among women and better among unmarried people, so I’m not quite seeing the “swing” here, but this part of the argument certainly makes sense:

The single woman, or “swingle,” as pollsters are now calling her, is already one of the largest voting blocs at 55 million, and that number is growing by almost 1 million voters a year—faster than any other group of voters broken out in the polls. Last year, single women made up one-quarter of voters overall—about the same number as self-identified white evangelical Christians. And if Obama’s strategy for courting these women works long term, pollsters say, single women might actually become the Democrats’ equivalent of the evangelicals—a reliable base for future elections.

The real hope for Democrats is to convert more of the other-wise red-state inclined of these women, in part through Republicans’ cluelessness on them:

Red states have the lowest marriage and highest divorce rates, while it’s the so-called “urban elites” who favor long, stable marriages. In 2008, the Census Bureau began publishing divorce rates, and it has been Alabama that shows up at the top of the list along with Oklahoma and Kentucky, while New York, California, and Massachusetts stick close to the bottom.

What Republican candidates are really missing about their base is what Democratic pollster Celinda Lake, who first started tracking single women in the mid-1990s, has called the “symbols and images of politics.” Instead of acknowledging the prevalence of divorce and single-parent homes in some way, the GOP’s candidates continue to project photos and postcards of perfect Republican families, each husband matched to a beaming wife and two children—in short, the Romneysat Christmas. If you’re a single mom in Alabama struggling to work and take care of a kid alone, it can be grating to have to take in three generations of Romney perfection. “That’s not the lives of these women,” Lake says. “They are economically marginal, they are short of time, they are juggling, and hoping that one of the balls doesn’t fall on their head at any given time.”

Anyway, will indeed be interesting to see if Democrats really are able to increase their margins among women this time around– especially the more economically-challenged ones.

My bracket

So, finished filling out my bracket last night.  Don’t feel particularly good about it.  Relied primarily on Ken Pomeroy (love Pomeroy).  Tried to focus on teams that looked most likely to over-perform their seeds as based on primary ratings.  To some degree, also tried to use the principles from this classic Slate piece on bracket picking.


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