How minorities win

One thing I like to tell my classes is that an intense minority beats an apathetic majority almost every time.  My favorite example (thanks to Last Call ) is prohibition.  There was never near a majority of this country that actually wanted to ban alcohol.  Thus, I particularly enjoyed this Seth Masket piece on how exactly it is that minorities win.  Here’s a bit:

Labor unions, civil rights activists, suffragettes, and gays and lesbians have all won major battles against numerically superior opponents. On the flip side of the same coin, groups like the Tea Party, or Southern Democrats a couple of generations ago, have prevented majorities from accomplishing their objectives. The whole idea of a democracy is that the majority is generally supposed to get its way. But time and again, it’s not the majority but a potent minority that drives—or prevents—progress. The key is not persuasion, but organization. If one side is better organized, it can defeat a larger opposing side without ever needing to persuade anyone of anything.

So how exactly does an organized minority go about defeating a disorganized majority?

2. By Staying Unified Around a Single, Powerful Issue

For much of the 20th century, America’s southern states were a stalwart component of the Democratic Party—but also the most politically conservative region of the country. Time and again, this minority blocked measures most Democrats supported: anti-lynching bills, civil rights bills, bills ensuring African Americans’ access to the ballot.

One key issue kept the South working together: race. “Nowadays,” wrote political scientist V. O. Key in his 1949 book Southern Politics in State and Nation, “about all that remains to promote Southern solidarity is the Negro.” Examining that claim in 1993, political scientist Ira Katznelson made the case that the South also often broke with the majority of Democrats on labor issues, but ultimately agreed that “race [was] at the center of the distinctive regional interest of the South.” Like the South of that time, today’s Tea Party has a central, clear-cut opponent: the president and the government he heads.

Yep.  That was certainly the key to Prohibition and it speaks to the power of the gun lobby.  Also:

4. By Forming Interest Groups

How are gun rights activists able to defeat even the most modest gun control bills when a majority of Americans claim to want such legislation? The answer has to do with organized groups: Gun activists have them; gun control advocates don’t. “Gun owners have shared social activities that facilitate collective action; they hunt, target shoot, and go to gun shows. An industry caters to them and has a financial stake in gun rights,” notes political scientist David Karol. “By contrast, gun control supporters have no shared identity or activities that bring them together.” Similarly, the loose confederation of hundreds of Tea Party groups across the country gives a voice and organizational direction to millions of Americans frustrated by the federal government. Moneyed interests like the Koch brothers support them. On the other side, while there may be large numbers of Americans who are, say, willing to pay higher taxes, you don’t see a lot of them forming groups to demand it.

Well, there’s your guns example.  Anyway, the other 3 are good, too.  And a useful primer if you’ve got a minority that wants to accomplish something.

Map of the day

Chris Cizilla nicely called this the best worst map of the US ever.  It’s a map of what every state is worst at:

Image courtesy of Pleated-Jeans

Seems to me that Iowa’s got it pretty good– lots of old people.  And I really doubt there’s a lot more female crime in Oklahoma, just more female prosecution.  As for NC and our teacher salary?  That’s just a shameful embarrassment.

Photo of the day

From the Telegraph’s Animal Photos of the Week:

Well, this is one way of getting your milk delivered. Cattle rustlers in Bukit Mertajam, Malaysia, had to abandon their car after it broke down after squeezing four cows into it. The dozy crooks used a blowpipe to tranquillise the animals before loading them into their Proton Wira car, which has folding rear seats. One cow was placed in the boot and the other three squeezed into the rear of the vehicle. As the three crooks fled the scene of the crime, two on motorbikes and one driving the car, the car broke down under the weight of the four unusual passengers.

Well, this is one way of getting your milk delivered. Cattle rustlers in Bukit Mertajam, Malaysia, had to abandon their car after it broke down after squeezing four cows into it. The dozy crooks used a blowpipe to tranquillise the animals before loading them into their Proton Wira car, which has folding rear seats. One cow was placed in the boot and the other three squeezed into the rear of the vehicle. As the three crooks fled the scene of the crime, two on motorbikes and one driving the car, the car broke down under the weight of the four unusual passengers.Picture: Stian Alexander

Christie fallout

Tomasky wrote this piece before Christie’s press conference, but this part of it really resonates with me (and seems under-discussed):

3. The middle position, which is that he didn’t have prior knowledge but he learned it was political some time ago—not long after it happened, say—and is now lying about having just learned…

And it must be said that it’s kind of difficult to imagine that the truth isn’t #3 or some version thereof. Think about it. You’re the sitting governor. It’s the first day of school. You get reports—and mustn’t he have gotten these reports?—that school children are delayed in Bergen County because of access-lane closures on the GWB. You ask a coupla questions, but ah well, you think, that’s the GWB, they’re always fixing something up there, plus it’s the Port Authority, not entirely your jurisdiction, you have to tussle with Cuomo over it, and it’s just one day.

But then day two comes. Same thing. And then day three. Don’t you start asking somebody something?

“So what’s up with that traffic at the GWB?”

“Oh, governor, it’s a traffic study.”

“Studying what?”

“Well, you know…traffic. The Port Authority is, uh…considering changing the lane-feeding pattern.”

“And how long is this going on?”

“Hard to say. Maybe another day.”

“And no one thought to tell me in advance?”

And so on. Traffic is always bad around the GWB, but three- and four-hour snarls aren’t common. Could Christie’s incuriosity about those have been so great, for four long days, that he didn’t even ask a few questions back in early September when this was happening? This control freak of a guy?

Exactly.  Not likely.  This issue was discussed in real time.  He seriously just accepted “traffic study” and moved on despite how incredibly stupid that “traffic study” would be and the damage it was causing?  Doesn’t sound like the Christie I know.  Honestly stretched credibility.

I really liked this Mark Blumenthal piece for summarizing some excellent Political Science takes:

CHRISTIE AND THE ‘INVISIBLE PRIMARY’ – Two prominent political scientists argue that the most important reactions to the Christie controversy are not those of rank-and-file voters but party insiders. Jonathan Bernstein: “[T]he presidential campaign doesn’t begin in 2016 with the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. It began months ago, with the invisible primary. That’s the competition to secure support from key party actors, including politicians, party-aligned interest groups, campaign and governing professionals, formal party officials and staff, activists, and the partisan press. In effect, it’s the efforts of these party actors to coordinate and compete over the leadership of the party…So we can speculate about how voters might react to this scandal two years down the road. Butwe will learn more from good reporting about how Republican Party actors are handling the news — both actors who were prepared to support Christie and those who would’ve found him at least minimally acceptable as the party’s nominee.” [Bloomberg]

John Sides: “In Chris Christie’s case, the important subset of party leaders to watch are Republican moderates. To be sure, this is not who he ultimately needs to appeal to. To win the nomination, Christie needs to convince conservatives that he’s at least ‘good enough,’ even if he isn’t their first choice. But at this point in time,conservative Republican leaders have no incentive to signal that Christie is good enough. They should be trying to steer the nomination toward a more orthodox conservative, and so should signal their opposition to Christie, including in the wake of this scandal. [emphases in original]

Chris Cillizza nicely articulates a point I’ve seen in a number of places:

Here’s the problem with that tack (with the acknowledgment that given Christie’s ambition, it’s the only approach he could possibly take): If ANYTHING comes out that suggests that he had any sort of involvement in ANY way with the closures of the lanes, he is done for.  He left no wiggle room for himself. None. He also insisted that this episode was anomalous in his administration — repeatedly rejecting the idea that he was a bully or fostered a bullying atmosphere within his senior staff.

And finally, Eugene Robinson makes a nice point:

If Christie is truly in the mood for soul-searching, asking how his aides could tell him such lies should be secondary. The more urgent question is what Christie might have said or done to make these loyal lieutenants conclude it would be appropriate — and a lot of fun — to torment the people of Fort Lee because of the mayor’s refusal to pledge fealty.

Exactly, I’m not going to get the metaphor exactly right, but on Slate’s Political Gabfest John Dickerson alluded to the unlikelihood that this action was a single flower among an arid desert, i.e., that is this type of politics just doesn’t come out of nowhere.  You can be pretty sure this is just the way Christie’s team operated.  Now, this was a particularly stupid and ham-fisted way of doing this kind of politics, but it’s got to be pretty clear that this was within the regular bounds of how the Christie team approached politics.

The ultimate correlation is not causation chart

A few friends of posted this on FB.  Damn I love it:

On correlation, causation, and the "real" cause of autism

Just bring this up any time somebody suggests they know the cause for the increase in autism due to the increasing “____” in recent years.

How skills pay

Really interesting post from the Economist on how your skills (primarily numeracy) translate into a wage benefit in various countries.  The winner: the United States:

Overall, the effect of skills on earnings (what economists call “returns-to-skills”) is unsurprising. The authors focus on numeracy and show that people with more skills earn more. A one-standard-deviation increase in numeracy skills is associated with an 18% wage increase among “prime-age” workers (workers between 25 and 54).

But there is massive variation in returns-to-skills:

Why? The authors conduct a series of regressions and, some would argue, show the limitations of social-democratic policies:

[R]eturns to skills are systematically lower in countries with higher union density, stricter employment protections, and larger public-sector shares.

Chalk one up for less fettered capitalism.  Though, I’d suggest Germany still does quite well while having a far more humane approach to social welfare.

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