Beating a dead (media) horse

Okay, maybe enough on this point, but this in Maclean’s just lays it out so well:

This may have been the most absurd week in U.S. politics in recent history.

Here is a list of gaffes, mistakes, or scandals that came out of the Trump campaign, just in the last seven days, just off the top of my head:

Let’s begin with the Commander and Chief Forum. Trump lavished praise on the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. He then made the unprecedented error of discussing his classified intelligence briefings and claiming his briefers were unhappy with the current President. After that, Trump lied, yet again, that back in 2003 he opposed the Iraq War.

It was then revealed by the Washington Post that Trump had taken credit for charitable giving by others. It reported he lied to the IRS, claiming donations he never made. What’s more, he illegally used $20,000 earmarked for his charity to buy a six-foot portrait of himself.

Trump then gave a TV interview to the Kremlin’s propaganda network RT, and afterwards claimed he only did it because he was “tricked” by Larry King. In another appearance he gave an incoherent monologue about something he called “nuclear warming,” which included false accusations against Clinton and sentences like, “Uranium is big, big stuff because it means the ultimate.”

Next, as the terror attacks of 9/11 were remembered, a radio clip emerged of Trump (on the very day of the attacks!) boasting that his building was now the highest in New York. Then it was reported Trump has publicly lied about helping to recover bodies at Ground Zero. He also claimed he personally had “hundreds” of friends who died in the attack, not one of whom his campaign was able to name.

While all of this was going on, he made an unprecedented personal attack on the chair of the Federal Reserve, Janet Yellen. He renewed his attacks on Elizabeth Warren, once again calling her “Pocahontas.” He promised he would start a war with Iran if its sailors made inappropriate gestures. After his VP released his own tax returns, Trump once again refused to do the same. His son tweeted a neo-Nazi meme. And one of his chief surrogates disavowed the Geneva Conventions.

By comparison, how was Hillary Clinton’s week? She failed to smile at Matt Lauer. She echoed numerous polls by asserting half of Trump’s supporters are racist. And she almost fainted while suffering from pneumonia. Which is all to say, the media consensus as delivered by the pundits and the headlines is that Clinton had a really bad week. This is absolutely, unequivocally, insane.

Every day, Trump says something or is revealed to have done something that would have disqualified every other candidate for president over the last 40 years. Howard Dean’s political career ended after he yelled too loudly at a campaign rally. All Michael Dukakis had to do was pose for a picture in a tank and his campaign was over.

By contrast, Trump is exposed as a liar, a fraud or a bigot on an hourly basis. He is shown repeatedly to be ignorant of the most basic elements of the U.S. Constitution or international affairs. You could describe his entire campaign as a train wreck, if a train was able to crash day after day non-stop. But still, the pundits roll their eyes—“That’s just Trump being Trump”—and turn to Clinton’s cough.


Why do women hate marijuana?

So, back this summer I did a post from my exploration of marijuana attitudes, looking at how much it is influenced by religion.  The main point of the research, though, was to try and explain why– unlike almost every other policy issue– women are actually more conservative than men.  Laurel and I actually presented the paper a couple weeks ago and I realized I should mention our findings here, as I think they were pretty interesting.  Very short version: women are less supportive of legal marijuana because they have used marijuana less.  Here’s the abstract:

Though it is well-established that women are more liberal than men across a broad range of issues, when it comes to the increasingly prominent issue of marijuana legalization, the direction of the gender gap is reversed, with women more conservative than men. Relying primarily on a 2013 Pew survey—unique for the extensiveness of its marijuana questions, including marijuana usage—we explore and attempt to explain the nature of this unusual gender gap. We test several hypotheses and find that neither women’s role as mothers, nor most other demographic differences, can explain this gap. The greater religiosity of women, especially, Evangelical Christian, “born again” identity, does play a prominent role in the gender gap on marijuana policy, but does not account for the full difference of opinion between women and men. We also find that the “white male effect” is a driver behind the gap, as not only men, but whites are significantly more supportive of legalized marijuana throughout our analyses (supplemented with ANES). Importantly, we also find there is a substantial gender gap on use of marijuana and that once this is controlled for, the impact of gender disappears. If the debate around marijuana policy becomes framed more as a civil liberties issue and less about immoral and dangerous behavior, the existing gender gap should decline.

And here’s our key table, for those who enjoy a nice regression analysis.


Anyway, sometime in the future we’ll take a look across issues where women seem to be more opposed to the perceived “risky” position than do men.

Photo of the day

From recent In Focus photos of the week:

Iranians spend time in Urmia Lake near Urmia, Iran, on August 26, 2016. Hopes for the survival of Urmia salt lake have been revived after more rains boosted a government program aimed at preserving the nearly dried-up water body.

Ebrahim Noroozi / AP

How Republicans and Democrats are getting more different

Very interesting set of charts from Pew looking at how the demographics of partisans have changed– in many cases, quite dramatically– since 1992.  Here’s a nice summary chart on race, age, and education:

And here’s one on those “non-college whites” we keep hearing about:

An absolutely huge drop in the Democratic party.  And lastly, you can see the dramatic rise of secularism within the Democratic party:

More interesting stuff at the study page.


Why the media is getting it wrong

Another great take from TNR’s Brian Beutler.  I think this one makes a helluva lot of sense:

It could be that reporters are disciples of a religion of false balance, or that news organizations are filled with intellectually myopic people. It could be that Trump is such an underdog that reporters feel obligated, honorably, to scrutinize Clinton more aggressively than Trump; or that Clinton disclosures have tended to dribble out slowly and strategically over the time, whereas Trump disclosures have leaked like water from a stone because he refuses to release any information about himself. Or it could be a mix of these factors, none of which is mutually exclusive. All of them likely contribute to the phenomenon.

But I think there’s a more economical way to explain why the media’s behavior this election is so troubling to liberal intellectuals, and it has less to do with partisan liberal biases or the media’s powers of judgment than with basic anthropological facts about the press itself…

The press is not a pro-democracy trade, it is a pro-media trade. By and large, it doesn’t act as a guardian of civic norms and liberal institutions—except when press freedoms and access itself are at stake.[emphases mine] Much like an advocacy group or lobbying firm will reserve value judgments for issues that directly touch upon the things they’re invested in, reporters and media organizations are far more concerned with things like transparency, the treatment of reporters, and first-in-line access to information of public interest, than they are with other forms of democratic accountability.

That’s not a value set that’s well calibrated to gauging Trump’s unmatched, omnidirectional assault on our civil life. Trump can do and say outrageous things all the time, and those things get covered in a familiar “did he really say that?” fashion, but his individual controversies don’t usually get sustained negative coverage unless he is specifically undermining press freedom in some clear and simple way…

The result is the evident skewing of editorial judgment we see in favor of stories where media interests are most at stake: where Clinton gets ceaseless scrutiny for conducting public business on a private email server; Trump gets sustained negative coverage for several weeks when his campaign manager allegedly batters a reporter; where Clinton appears to faint, but the story becomes about when it was appropriate for her to disclose her pneumonia diagnosis; where because of her illness, she and Trump will both be hounded about their medical records, and Trump will be further hounded for his tax returns—but where bombshell stories about the ways Trump used other people’s charity dollars for personal enrichment have a hard time breaking through.

News outlets are less alarmed by the idea that Trump might run the government to boost his company’s bottom line, or that he might shred other constitutional rights, because those concerns don’t place press freedoms squarely in crosshairs. Controversies like his proposal to ban Muslim travel into the U.S., create a deportation force to expel millions of immigrants, and build a wall along the southern border are covered less as affronts to American values than as gauche ideas that might harm his poll numbers with minorities. Trump’s most damaging scandal may have been his two-week political fight with the Khan family, but even there, the fact that Trump attacked the Khans’ religious faith was of secondary interest to questions like whether attacking a Gold Star family of immigrants would offend veterans and non-whites who might otherwise have voted for him.

Maybe not a perfect explanation, but that strikes me as explaining a lot that’s going on.  In a tweetstorm, Nate Silver, also has an interesting take that the media just cannot calibrate quite right (man, if only Nate Silver had a platform to coherently write this all out instead of an annoying series of tweets!  I’ve selected the most relevant, click on the first to see the whole series)

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