A history lesson

So, some really cool research tells us what we’ve always known, but puts some great quantitative analysis.  The Democrats eventually lost the Republican party to the South over white racism.  Drum has a nice summary:

But a couple of researchers recently found some: Gallup poll data starting in the late 50s that asks if you’d be willing to vote for a qualified presidential candidate who happened to be black. Respondents who answered no were coded (quite reasonably) as racially conservative. They then looked at differences between the Democratic Party ID of Southern whites who were and weren’t racially conservative. Here’s their conclusion:

We find that except for issues involving racial integration and discrimination, whites in the South and elsewhere have indistinguishable preferences on both domestic and foreign policy in the 1950s….We find no evidence that white Southerners who have negative views of women, Catholics or Jews differentially leave the Democratic party in 1963; the exodus is specific to those who are racially conservative. Finally, we
find no role for Southern economic development in explaining dealignment.

So: why did Democrats lose the white South? For the reason common sense and all the evidence suggests: because the party became too liberal on civil rights, and racist white Southerners didn’t like it. Southern white flight from the party began in the 1940s, took a sharp dive in the early 60s, and continued to decline for several decades after as Democrats became ever more committed to black equality. This might not be the only reason for Southern realignment, but it’s surely the most important by a long stretch. [emphasis mine]

For more on both this study and the Southern Strategy of the Nixon era, Wonkblog’s Max Ehrenfreund has you covered.

So, does this mean all white Southern Republicans are racist?  Of course not.  Does it mean that white racism and racial resentment played a critical role in the South realigning from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican?  Absolutely.


What about the police shootings that aren’t on video

Hopefully you’ve heard the latest on the recently released video of a many getting killed in pretty much cold blood by a police officer who is now charged with murder.  Rather disturbing that this incident actually occurred 15 months ago and we are just now getting the video released and murder charges.  It’s not particularly complicated.  The fact that the cop will now face 1st degree murder charges is a good and appropriate thing.

That said, I can’t help but think does anybody doubt for a second that he would be facing no punishment at all if this had not been caught on a dashcam?  None of the other seven officers at the scene fired a shot.  But I also did not read anywhere that any of these other officers had originally reported that their colleague acted inappropriately.  No, video of police is not a panacea to solve all of our problems.  But it is pretty clear that in at least some situations it is the only way we will get actual accountability.

Photo of the day

love this shot and reading about how much work it took to get it.  From a recent Telegraph pictures of the day gallery:

Alan McFadyen has taken 720,000 pictures of kingfishers diving trying to get the perfect picture. A dad-of-three inspired by visits to an idyllic countryside spot to watch kingfishers as a boy with his grandfather spent SIX YEARS and took three quarters of a million photos trying to get the perfect shot in memory of his late relative. Alan McFadyen, 46, was taken as a young boy by his grandfather Robert Murray to see the kingfisher nesting spot at the beautiful lakeside location near Kirkcudbright, Scotland, 40 years ago.

Alan McFadyen has spent six years and taken 720,000 photos attempting to take the perfect shot of a kingfisher diving. As a young boy Alan was taken by his grandfather Robert Murray to see the nesting spot beside the beautiful lakeside location near Kirkcudbright, Scotland, 40 years ago.Picture: Alan McFadyen/Mercury Press

Why do we punish drug users?

Seriously.  Really interesting NYT Q&A with a philosophy professor making a strong case for why we should not punish drug users (a positions with which, of course, I strongly agree).  Some highlights:

Douglas Husak: I’d go much further, at least regarding penalties for drug use. I think it’s a serious moral wrong to send people to prison for the recreational use of drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and heroin. What we need is a total decriminalization of drug use.

G.G.: What leads you to that conclusion?

 D.H:  Everyone agrees it is seriously unjust to punish people in the absence of very good reasons to do so.  But the case in favor of punishing people for using drugs has never been made.

G.G.: I suppose popular thinking is roughly that punishment is a good way to deter people from doing something that they would otherwise be very tempted to do and that may well lead to terrible consequences if they do it. The pleasure that drugs bring makes them attractive, and the consequences of using them can be overwhelmingly hideous. So, unless there’s reason to think that the consequences of drug use are not as bad as we think or that no form of punishment is likely to deter drug use, then it seems reasonable to punish it.

D.H.: I think it’s wrong to punish people just to get them not to do something bad.  That principle would allow us to punish overeating, smoking, failing to exercise, and lots of other activities that virtually no one proposes to punish. Most crimes we punish (murder, rape, robbery) do serious harm to other people. Almost all people who do drugs at most harm only themselves. The hideous effects of drugs on users and their families we hear so much about occur in only a very small minority of instances.  Most drug users do not suffer substantial harms, and we should be cautious about generalizing from worst-case scenarios.  We should not subject tens of millions of Americans to punishment because of bad effects that materialize in only a small subset of cases. In addition, threats of punishments don’t do much to deter drug use. Most drug users don’t believe they’ll be caught, and they are right…

D.H.: I say that drug use itself is not substantially harmful becauselongitudinal studies indicate that health and life expectancy of the roughly half of all Americans who have used drugs (with the exception of tobacco) is virtually identical to that of the half of Americans who have not. Again, no one should generalize from worst-case scenarios to criminalize conduct that is harmful in only a small percentage of cases. These generalizations would allow the prohibition of lots of behaviors, including the consumption of alcohol. And efforts to prevent these worst-case scenarios almost certainly cause harm that is greater than whatever harms they prevent. When adolescents are caught and punished for using drugs, the consequences of punishment are worse than whatever harm the drugs are likely to have caused.

Good stuff!  There may be a reasonable debate to be had on the selling of drugs, but one thing we sure don’t need to be doing is punishing people simply for using.

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