Chart of the day

Loved this Vox article about how the rise of cigarette consumption is basically a technological triumph.  It’s all about the automated cigarette rolling machine.  You can see the impact on how Americans consume tobacco:

Forms of tobacco consumption

On being a “moderate” politician

Really enjoyed this Vox piece last week on whether Jeb Bush is actually a moderate:

In an excellent profile in the Weekly Standard, Andrew Ferguson reviews Jeb Bush’s record in Florida and concludes that overall, he’s much more conservative than both the national press corps and right-leaning activists think. He posits at the end that Jeb could be “a self-conscious, deep-dyed conservative who for the moment feels the need to look like a moderate, especially before an admiring press and in the company of the wealthy Republicans who these days are his constant companions and marks.” …

After a litany of standard conservative views, there’s the twist: “There is no plan to deport 11 million people,” the video shows Bush saying. “We should give them a path to legal status where they work, where they don’t receive government benefits, where they don’t break the law, where they learn English, and where they make a contribution to our society.” …

The upshot is that by challenging his party on one high-profile issue, Bush has to do less to seem moderate elsewhere, in the eyes of both the press and activists, when the general election rolls around. And somewhat fairly so! With the parties as polarized as they are, it is genuinely unusual for a candidate to forthrightly take on the base.

But as both liberals and conservatives agree, Bush’s overall governing record has very little that’s moderate about it. So in an interesting sense, Bush’s immigration position lets him have things both ways — it gives the media a peg to hang the moderate label on Bush, but as the right learns more about his record, it lets him tout that he is, otherwise, a down-the-line conservative.

Yes!  It’s amazing how much credit politicians get from the media by deviating from orthodoxy on just a single issue.  As for whether voters actually perceive the politicians as more moderate or not, it’s hard to imagine the media constantly referring to someone is not going to have an impact.

Back in the day when there were actually some prominent pro-choice Republicans, I was convinced that one of these politicians could be absolutely as conservative as can be, but because of the abortion position, they would inevitably be referred to as “moderate.”  Bill Clinton was “moderate” in 1992 by tactically adopting a pro death penalty position and having some harsh words for Sister Souljah.

I guess the point is, it really does not take much deviation from party orthodoxy for a politician to get labeled “moderate.”  It makes it really easy for smart politicians to use this to their advantage.  Meanwhile, though, it can actually provide the public a highly-distorted view of where the politician actually stands.

I actually tried a bit of an experimental study where I presented students with descriptions of hypothetical candidates with various political positions and I systematically varied just their abortion stand to see how much impact it would have on overall ideological ratings.  Not all that much, actually.  I’m thinking now, that’s because the phenomenon is largely filtered through the media, rather than how voters actually see political moderation.  I may have to go back to this some day.

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