Cruz, Rubio, and the Latino vote

Nice piece from Jamelle Bouie and the Latino Republicans (Cruz and Rubio) and the potential for an identity-based vote in a general election:

“Some Republican leaders believe the way to soften the Democrats’ hold on minorities is to field more black and Hispanic candidates and stay true to the party’s ideals.”

But there’s a problem. Representation is great, but policies are better. And there, the Republican Party is lacking…

Yes, individual Republican lawmakers have backed reform on mass incarceration, immigration, and other issues that hold a special resonance for minority communities. But as a party, the GOP and its voters are on the other side of every issue most important to minority voters, from concerns over police violence to immigration reform and help for unauthorized immigrants.

The idea that voters would ignore this—and vote instead on descriptive representation—is belied by the actual record of black and Latino Republicans in statewide elections. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott won just 10 percent of black voters in his 2014 re-election race, while Ted Cruz lost Latinos almost 2-to-1 in his 2012 bid against Paul Sadler. Indeed, a recent study from University of Cincinatti political scientist David Niven suggests that—among blacks at least—any electoral boost from racial identification is lost if the candidate is a Republican. “There are some very successful African-American Republicans, but those folks don’t attract African-American votes,” he said. “Party matters so much more than race.” Other data showssomething similar for Latinos.

Part of the misunderstanding comes from a belief that Obama way out-performed among Black voters.  He didn’t.  This was already a supremely Democratic group that became a bit more so.  Nothing fundamental changed:

Put simply, there are clear and obvious limits to the political value of descriptive representation. And even when representation has mattered—Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, for instance—the impact is overstated. Conventional wisdom is that Obama drove enthusiasm and turnout among black voters, giving him his huge margins with blacks in the 2008 and 2012 elections. But that’s only partially true. For starters, the rise in turnout in presidential elections preceded Obama; the black turnout jump from 2000 to 2004 is similar to the jump from 2004 to 2008. Obama accelerated turnout growth, but he didn’t cause it.

Even then, we can attribute a large portion of 2008’s black turnout to community organization and outreach, not Obama’s blackness. “Campaign attentiveness, group identity, and efficacy measures did not reach especially high levels among African Americans in 2008, and their influence on turnout was less significant than other factors,” wrote researchers in a 2009 study on black turnout in President Obama’s first election…

In other words, Obama the person was less important to black turnout than the Democratic Party’s ties to black voters and the campaign’s effort to broaden and strengthen those ties. Which, again, is fodder for the broader point: Representation is important to outreach with minority communities, but it’s not dispositive. What counts most are ideas and policies that appeal to those communities, and an infrastructure that brings them to the polls.

Which means that, for now, Republicans are stuck. They have a diverse field, but those candidates are tied to orthodoxy that doesn’t appeal to most blacks and Latinos, to say nothing of the affective problems with the GOP field, from Trump’s vocal bigotry to Chris Christie’s not-so-subtle dog whistles.

I suspect Rubio or Cruz would perform better among Latino voters than would any of the other Republican candidates.  But honestly, by a pretty small margin.  Of course, a pretty small margin may be just enough in a tight race (and one of the reasons I think Republicans would be wise to choose Rubio).  But the idea that either of these guys will mean any kind of sustantial shift among Hispanic voters is just wrong.


Professors should teach more; colleges should charge less

Enjoyed this Steven Pearlstein column on the rising costs of college and what to do about it.  Number one, of course, cut administrative bloat.  Pretty much everybody but overpaid administrators will be down with that.  Streamline and re-think general educational requirements?  Sounds okay to me.  Operate year-round.  Sorry, fantasyland.  Not just as lazy professors who won’t go for that.  And in my experience, it’s the students who drive the empty classrooms on Fridays, not nearly as much the faculty.  Okay, so what I found most interesting (and surely controversial among my colleagues)– make us teach more:

Few students or parents realize that tuition doesn’t just pay for faculty members to teach. It also pays for their research.

I’m not talking about research supported by grants. I’m referring to the research by tenure-track faculty members that is made possible because they teach only two courses per semester, rather than the three or more that was once the norm.

Teaching loads at research universities have declined almost 50 percent in the past 30 years, according to data compiled for the American Council of Trustees and Alumni. This doesn’t necessarily mean professors aren’t working as hard — surveys show they’re working harder and under more pressure than ever. Rather, says former Mason provost Peter Stearns, it reflects a deliberate shift in focus as universities compete for big-name professors by promising lighter teaching loads and more time for research. In the egalitarian culture of higher education, once some professors won the right to teach less, their colleagues demanded the same. Before long, “two-and-two” teaching loads — two classes in each of two semesters — became the norm.

Today, research is the dominant criterion by which faculty members are evaluated. In deciding which professors get tenure, assessment of teaching tends to be perfunctory (few members of tenure committees ever bother to visit a classroom), and all that is required is competence. It is nearly impossible, however, for a professor to win tenure without publishing at least one book and three or four articles in top academic journals.

Unfortunately, much of that work has little intellectual or social impact.

“The vast majority of the so-called research turned out in the modern university is essentially worthless,” wrote Page Smith, a longtime professor of history at the University of California and an award-winning historian. “It does not result in any measurable benefit to anything or anybody. . . . It is busywork on a vast, almost incomprehensible scale.”

The number of journal articles published has climbed from 13,000 50 years ago to 72,000 today, even as overall readership has declined. In his new book“Higher Education in America,” former Harvard president Derek Bok notes that 98 percent of articles published in the arts and humanities are never cited by another researcher. In social sciences, it is 75 percent. Even in the hard sciences, where 25 percent of articles are never cited, the average number of citations is between one and two… [emphasis mine]

A better approach would be to offer comparable pay and status to professors who spend most of their time teaching, reserving reduced teaching loads for professors whose research continues to have significance and impact. Some departments at some schools have embraced “differentiated teaching loads,” but most tenured faculty members resist and resent the idea that they need to continually defend the value of their research. And administrators are wary of doing anything that might diminish their universities’ research reputation.

Suffice it to say, that even my lamest research has generally been cited at least half a dozen times and my best stuff (party identification and social identity theory) might damn well be considered influential.  But I am under no illusions about the impact of my research on society.  I suspect my contribution to the world might be greater if I influenced another 60 students (two upper-level sections of 30) a year in the classroom rather than published another article on the politics of parenthood (not that I am in anyway ashamed of that research or think it is value-less).  [Not that I have any desire to forego my 2-2 load– it really does allow me to be as awesome and dedicated as I can in those two courses a semester and leave me the time not to just research but to actually be a “political expert” and enlighten the broader public beyond just my students].  There are some amazing political scientists out there who really move the discipline– and yes, the world– forward.  Research should be primary for them and we all benefit from the John Zaller’s and John Aldrich’s (two non-random scholars who have influenced me immensely).  But the truth is most of us simply are not changing the discipline or the world and more emphasis on teaching and less on research would both directly benefit our students and make college more affordable.

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