Photo of the day

Love this shot from an In Focus gallery of photos from the final weekend of the Olympics:

A picture taken with an underwater camera shows Britain’s Thomas Daley competing in the Men’s 10m Platform Semifinal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 20, 2016.

Francois-Xavier Marit / AFP / Getty

We have met the enemy… and he doesn’t exist

Kind of a mind-bending post from Bill Ayers.  I kind of love it:

But I want to make a much bigger point here. The point isn’t just that Gov. LePage, or Pastor Burns from South Carolina, were wrong about who our enemies are. The point is that they are both wrong about whether there are any enemies at all.

Put another way: there are no enemies.

I’ll say that again for emphasis: There are no enemies. “Enemies” are an illusion we create ourselves…

People will immediately object, of course. “What about ISIS?”, they will ask. “What about Russia? China? Terrorists? Weren’t the Nazis enemies?” (Because Godwin’s Law).

We live in a culture defined by enemy narratives. Almost all of our stories, our movies, our TV shows revolve around the struggle with enemies, “good guys” vs. “bad guys”, black hats and white hats. There are exceptions, of course, but they are relatively rare. The Enemy Narrative is one of the most recognizable stories we have.

The problem is, it’s all wrong. Or, put another way, it’s all made up – a constructed story we tell ourselves about the world that hides and obscures more than it illuminates. We believe that enemies are real, that they really exist, just like trees and oceans and clouds are real. But they’re not. Enemies are just people with labels we attach to them…

But what about people who attack us? Aren’t they our enemies? If someone tries to do me harm, I’m not making that up – doesn’t that make someone my enemy?

Imagine this story: I go out for the evening with my brother (who would, for the record, never do this…). We have dinner, maybe hear some music, walk to a couple of bars. He’s feeling down about things in his life. Over the course of the evening he drinks too much, thinks about the wrong things too much, grows angry. Soon he’s consumed by his anger and rage, fueled by alcohol. He bumps into someone, starts scuffling. I step in to restrain him, and he turns his anger on me. He lashes out to hit me.

Is he my enemy? Of course not. He’s misguided, confused, and mistaken. Yes, he’s trying to do me harm. But he’s still my brother. And I will respond to him as such…

This is not an argument for complete pacifism (a topic I’ve dealt with previously). If my brother is attacking me, I’m going to resist. I may even use force against him. But because he is my brother, not my enemy, I will use the least force necessary. I will do everything I can to keep him whole and unharmed.

Likewise, if a terrorist group is planning to attack us we should attempt to stop them. But in doing so, we should remember that, however confused or mistaken they may be, they are still fellow human beings. When Jesus called on us to love our enemies, this is exactly what he meant. If you claim to be a Christian and yet want to lash out in anger and hatred at terrorists (or Mexicans, or “thugs”, or anyone else), you’ve got a problem…

Gov. LePage will not be the last politician during this electoral season to label someone else “the enemy”. Partisans on both sides will do so, because the Enemy Narrative is a great way to mobilize your tribe and get them to go out and do things. Every time we do so, we dehumanize each other a little bit more. LePage isn’t the cause of the problem, he’s a symptom.

Good stuff.

Organization matters (and Trump doesn’t have it)

I gave a talk to a group of NCSU students yesterday about how to make sense of all the election polls.  Thing is, to some degree, there’s no making sense.  Well, of course you can average all the polls and that does, in fact, give us a pretty good idea.  But that said, when you look at the patterns across various polls with various methodologies, etc., it’s hard to conclude much other than that Hillary Clinton is currently winning.

That said, whatever her real margin is— and even the averages are quite different in the aggregators as they use different approaches to averageing– I actually strongly suspect that come election day, Clinton will out-perform the polls.  Why?  Trump’s historically poor campaign.  And in this regard, not just the dumb stuff he says, etc., but also the way in which he has almost completely ignored campaign organization.  And organization does, in fact, matter.  Nice post from John Sides:

Stories about the ramshackle nature of the Trump campaign are abundant. Arecent article called Donald Trump’s organization “more concert tour than presidential campaign.” A 12-year-old appears to be running Trump’s field office in a populous Colorado county. Sixty percent of registered voters — and even 40 percent of Republicans — believe that Trump’s campaign is “poorly run.”

This is obviously unprecedented in modern presidential elections. Typically, the candidates have similar resources and campaign organizations. Typically, it is difficult for one candidate to have a large advantage in televised advertising or fieldwork…

By comparison, Trump is being vastly outspent in advertising and is limited essentially to whatever field organization the Republican National Committee can provide — which will be exceeded by Hillary Clinton’s, much as Romney’s was exceeded by Obama’s. How much will this cost him on Election Day? [emphases mine]

Probably the best estimate comes from a recently published piece by political scientists Ryan Enos and Anthony Fowler. They show that the effect of the 2012 presidential campaign on voter turnout was quite large, about 7-8 points overall.

The more political science inclined of you should read how they got the estimate– it’s a really nice bit of analytical work.  That said, onto how it matters:

Notably, Enos and Fowler also found that these increases in turnout were similar among Democrats and Republicans. As they noted in a previous Monkey Cage post, this implies that both the Romney and Obama campaigns were able to mobilize voters successfully…

So what is the implication for Trump if he doesn’t have a full-fledged field organization? Fowler suggested thinking through the math like this.

Imagine you have a place where 50 percent of the voters support Trump and 50 percent support Clinton. If equal proportions of Trump and Clinton supporters vote, the candidates would obviously tie with 50 percent of the vote each.

Now suppose, for example, that 55 percent of Trump supporters vote but 62 percent of Clinton supporters vote — that 7-point effect again. Now Trump’s share of the vote is 47 percent. The math is: (.55*.50)/[(.55*.50)+(.62*.50)]. In other words, Trump’s disadvantage in campaigning turned a tie into a 6-point defeat…

But clearly the Trump campaign faces a major challenge at this point in time. When you’re down 7 points in the polls and early voting is already starting, you need every vote you can get. But the Trump campaign seems more likely to leave votes on the table.

In short, whatever margin Hillary Clinton likely wins by on election day, it will likely be more than it otherwise would have been as Trump is seemingly leaving so many votes on the table through poor organization.  So, not only does Trump need to catch Clinton in the polls, there’s a good argument to be made that he would need to notably surpass her to make up for his remarkably deficient political organization.


Trump’s immigration “policy”

Did you hear about how Trump is planning a speech to finally outline his actual immigration policy.  That’s right– “build that wall!” is not actually an immigration policy.  It’s a catchphrase.  And somehow, Mr. tough-on-immigration has skated by this far with little more than a catchphrase.  Excellent post from Peter Beinart:

What the commentary of the last few days has generally overlooked is that while immigration was key to Trump’s success in the Republican primary, Trump never actually offered an immigration policy. To the contrary, his success rested in large measure on his ability to avoid one. Trump’s strategy on immigration, as on other key issues, was to cut through the Gordian knot of public policy with aggressive, quick fix solutions. Terrorism? Ban Muslims. ISIS? Bomb the hell out of them and take their oil. Loss of manufacturing jobs? Slap massive tariffs on companies that outsource American jobs. [emphases mine]

On immigration, Trump’s quick fix was building a wall. And he hawked it endlessly, in part because it allowed him to sidestep the public-policy debate that had been tearing the GOP apart: what to do about the undocumented already in the U.S. Trump rarely mentioned deportation, perhaps because he sensed it would draw him into the public-policy quagmire he wished to avoid.

Beinart traces Trump’s answers in the debates and shows how he elides ever actually getting serious on immigration policy.  He continues:

It’s not that Trump never discussed deportation during the primaries. Over the course of hundreds of interviews, he was occasionally forced to admit that, yes, he would send all the undocumented home. But he discussed the topic as little as possible, for the same reason he avoided discussions of how to end the civil war in Syria and how to design a conservative replacement for Obamacare: He couldn’t condense his answer into an appealing bumper sticker…

Why is Trump now ensnared in the very net he avoided for so long? Because Kellyanne Conway, who specializes in making conservative politicians appealing to moderate female voters, decided that in order to soften Trump’s image, she needed to soften his immigration policy. What she appears not to have realized is that softening Trump’s immigration policy requires actually formulating one, something The Donald had wisely avoided for more than a year…

In the primaries, Trump often got away with answering immigration questions with paeans to his beautiful wall, and then letting his opponents delve into the messy details of actual policy. This fall, standing alongside only Hillary Clinton, he’ll find such evasions harder. Seven minutes of filibustering may not be enough.

Have I mentioned how much I am looking forward to the debates?  Even with the media doing all it can to help by setting an absurdly low bar there’s really been no evidence that Trump can clear any bar whatsoever when it comes to a serious policy discussion.

You cannot explain Trump without race

There was a recent piece in Business Insider on “how Donald Trump broke the conservative media” that was widely shared.  There were plenty of interesting insights, but I did not recommend it because of a glaring hole.  There was no mention of race whatsoever.  Trying to explain anything about the politics of Donald Trump is like trying to explain how a nuclear power plant works without talking about uranium.  Zack Beauchamp is all over it:

There are a lot of reasons why Donald Trump managed to take over the Republican Party. One big reason, as Oliver Darcy notes in a recent Business Insider piece, is the conservative media establishment. Darcy argues that Republican elites encouraged conservative voters to embrace alternative, hard-line right-wing media outlets — which made them powerless when those outlets turned on them by backing Trump. [emphasis mine]

Darcy’s piece is thoughtful and well sourced, and you should read it in full. But it misses a basic part of the story. To see why, look at this list of words that don’t appear in Darcy’s story: “race, racism, Mexican, Latino, black, African Americans, minorities.”

Race and racism are a huge part of the Trump story, inseparable from any meaningful account of how he succeeded. That’s because race remains a hugely important motivating force, independent of class or partisanship, in American voters’ political behavior. Ignore that almost entirely, as Darcy does, and you end up with a distorted analysis of Trump’s success…

To explain why conservative voters embraced Trump, you need to look at what actually distinguishes Trump from other Republican candidates. And the key distinguishing factor here is race: Trump is just far more willing to overtly engage in racist rhetoric than any Republican in decades.

This mirrors the conservative media outlets that have most nakedly embraced him. Ann Coulter, perhaps the most consistently pro-Trump commentator, has a history of comments like there’s a cultural acceptance of child rape in Latino culture.”

If you look at Breitbart News, definitely the most consistently pro-Trump outlet, you seea long history of ugly rhetoric about Latino immigration and “black crime” (an actual category tag on the site). These outlets do racist stuff because they know their audience enjoys it. The racism brings the readers, listeners, and viewers.

This also tracks with what we know about Trump supporters.

Of course, I’ll stop writing about Trump and race when we are not in a situation where roughly 40% of the public is planning on voting for a presidential candidate who is about as close to being an avowed racist as you can get.

All the ways the latest Weiner scandal is related to the Hillary Clinton campaign





Right.  Exactly.  Of course, that did not stop all the political press from acting as if this story actually had something to do with the presidential race.  Jim Newell:

As it does roughly every other year, former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner’s penis has returned to fill a summer news vacuum. Weiner is married—though only in the technical sense, now—to Hillary Clinton’s long-time aide, Huma Abedin. Clinton is running for president, against Donald Trump. So it was inevitable that Trump would try to find a way to translate Weiner’s latest indiscretions against his wife into some sort of criticism against Clinton:

I only worry for the country in that Hillary Clinton was careless and negligent in allowing Weiner to have such close proximity to highly classified information. Who knows what he learned and who he told? It’s just another example of Hillary Clinton’s bad judgment. It is possible that our country and its security have been greatly compromised by this.

Trump is fortunate. Because even though there doesn’t seem to be any meaningful connection between Anthony Weiner’s sexts and the merits or actions of Hillary Clinton, he is not alone in trying to draw one. Members of several news organizations have already found themselves unable to resist the urge to find such a connection and pat themselves on the back for their rigorous neutrality in covering the election. But horserace-ifying this story doesn’t add any balance to the Force, because there’s no there there. If this goes much further, it would be nice if those who’ve made the leap from “There goes Weiner again!” to “Can the Clinton campaign distance itself from this?” could please show their work.

The Anthony Weiner story is a terrific one in its own, isolated domain, unrelated to the ongoing presidential campaign. It’s a former congressman engaging in the same behavior that turned him into a pariah years after he’d said he’d concluded that chapter of his life. It’s painful for just about everyone involved, but so are plenty of great tabloid stories. What’s less clear—meaning, not clear at all—is how this great tabloid story distills into a meaningful election story. Here’s the New York Times’ Maggie Haberman skipping that explanation and jumping straight into the second-order horserace handicapping.

Come again? Steve Bannon is the chief executive officer of the Donald Trump presidential campaign. While divorce documents can’t be taken as the unvarnished truth, Bannon’s ex-wife did make some disturbing allegations about the man in them, and it’s worthwhile to explore the sortof people Donald Trump is hiring to run his campaign. Anthony Weiner, meanwhile, does not work for the Clinton campaign. So … that’s that, campaign-story-wise. Whatever point Haberman was trying to make wasn’t at all clarified with this follow-up, either.

I love that if you click on Haberman’s tweet, lots of people let her have it in intelligent ways.  Not that the is willing to admit any wrongdoing other than not being clear enough.  Needless to say, this is from the NYT, so this kind of foolish, simplistic coverage is everywhere.  Yes, sexting and human scandal are great fun to write about.  But the personal (not political or illegal in any way) misbehavior of the spouse of the campaign manager of the campaign should have pretty much nothing to do with actual campaign coverage.

Quick hits (part II)

1) Ed Kilgore’s headline gets it, “Media False Equivalence Is Trump’s Best Friend in the Debate Over Racism.”

2) Both Drum and ThinkProgress deconstruct a horrible AP story about “conspiracy theories” in both campaigns.  Of course, the reality is that Trump’s campaign is rife with them and Hillary doesn’t need any conspiracy theories– Trump’s reality is plenty.   But, damn, the AP is horrible lately.

3) Philip Bump on the lack of notable Republicans defending Trump on race.

4) Bill Ayers recently reposted a post of his on the false equivalence between racism and being accused of racism.

5) Harry Enten on how Gary Johnson is decidedly not fading in the polls.

Why is Johnson’s support proving more durable than past third-party candidates’? The most obvious answer is that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are extremely unpopular for major party presidential nominees; if third-party voters eventually settled on a major party nominee in past campaigns for fear of “wasting their vote,” they may be less willing to settle this year. (Of course, Johnson’s support may simply fade later than past third-party candidates.)

6) On the inadequacy of criminal law for dealing with bureaucratic malfeasance.

7) Aarron Carroll on how Epipen pricing represents so much of what’s wrong with American health care.

8) Very interesting interview with Uwe Reinhardt on why he thinks the health care exchanges are doomed.  Why?  We’re not really all that serious about the mandate.

9) Aarron Carroll again on simple rules for healthy eating.  Nothing surprising, but nicely laid out.

10) I did not know about “legacy” board games.  Sounds pretty cool.  Going to have to give this a try one of these days.  For now, love playing “Seven Wonders” any chance I get.  Somehow my son, David, is just unstoppable at that game.  Only managed to beat him once.

11) NYT Editorial on the not ransom to Iran.

12) I did enjoy the “moron’s case for Hillary Clinton”

OK, listen up. Nobody cares about emails that show Bono wanted State Department assistance to stream his music from the International Space Station. You should thank Almighty God and Jedi Jebus he failed. So far all we have seen is a public official in extraordinary circumstances who should have known better demonstrate “extreme carelessness” to which I believe she has owned up to sufficiently and which, by the way, no wrongdoing was ever uncovered even after a year-long investigation by the FBI for the love of God. We all know that trustworthiness is important in a President. But if absolutely no slack is given at all, and I mean none, if this is how we treat people who make public service their life and profession, then you will always get “crooks” as politicians because who in their right mind would want the job? It’s like being a firefighter. When there’s a fire everybody runs out. You run in. It’s a maniac’s job but it has to be done so let’s have the best do it and not get wrapped up in what amounts to paperwork. That’s all this really is. Paperwork. You would rather stay at home or vote for someone George Orwell or Edgar Allan Poe couldn’t have dreamed up over emails? Then you’re even dumber than you look…

I know, I know. Damn it all! Wouldn’t it be nice if we could just forget all of that pesky accomplishment stuff of hers and remember that what really matters is the thrill of waiting for indictments which makes for great television? That way we could finally “lock her up” and enough with these stupid women who think they can run a country. Well, enough out of YOU, you moron. This isn’t the lesser of two evils. This is a choice between one great and qualified candidate for the nation’s highest office who you really should be excited about and a dolt with a bad toupee who if you were honest with yourself you wouldn’t trust to manage a Dairy Queen much less the Oval Office.

13) Parents pushing  back against too much homework.  And pretty much any homework more than a few minutes a day in elementary school just isn’t worth it.

14) High school teacher on teaching Donald Trump:

Thus, while I am always careful about how and when to show my biases, I’m not worried about appearing biased if my stance is against bigotry and in defense of moral reason and the scholarly use of evidence, logic, and research. Just as the notions of media neutrality collapse under threats to democracy, so too do notions of teacher neutrality. We can’t be silent. And I’m confident we won’t be.

15) University of Chicago is drawing plenty of attention for it’s letter against intellectual “safe spaces” on campus.  You will be not surprised to know I’m with them on this.

16) Greg Koger on the Clinton Foundation emails:

Washington, DC, is suffering a severe shortage of smelling salts this morning as newsbroke suggesting a correlation between financial contributions and gaining access to a political figure. In this case, the contributions were to the Clinton Foundation and the politician is Hillary Clinton, so this is being cast as a violation of the norms of our nation’s capital.

If only there were prior political science research testing whether contributors were more likely to gain access to political figures…

Actually, there has been a mountain of evidence that this is common practice, as you can see in my all-too-brief list of citations. The most recent of these works is a field experiment in which an interest group solicited meetings with congressional offices and revealed to some of these offices that potential donors would be at the meeting.

The “potential donors” were more likely to be scheduled for meetings and were more likely to meet with members of Congress or top staffers than average citizens making the same request (summaries herehere, and here).

Of course, the link between money and access is no surprise to the seasoned Washingtonian. It plays out over breakfast, lunch, cocktails, and dinner at restaurantsand venues across town, and at sad callcenters where telemarketers wonder why they ever ran for Congress. And the other major presidential candidate is an avowed participant in the pay-to-say-hi game. What’s really shocking is the feigned shock.

17) Washington Post movie critic Ann Hornaday argues that this summer’s hits and misses demonstrate that studios still need to pay attention to good directing, story, etc.  Well, hopefully that’s true.

18) So, actually binged “Stranger Things” in about a week.  Not great, but how would I not like a series with 12-year old protagonists who play D&D set in 1983 and involving supernatural thrills.  Not sure I would have stuck with it, but worked great at 1.4-1.6x speed.  The enjoyment was all plot (not so much dialogue and character), so keeping the plot moving really helped.


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