This changes everything 

Wow, who would have thought a Vice-presidential debate could change the whole course of the campaign?!  Just kidding.  Other than calling it a “bad debate” (a debatable point), Nate Silver nails it:

Clinton’s ahead by about 4 points right now, or maybe 5, Micah. But I’m not sure I’d use that as a baseline to judge the impact of the VP debate. My prior is that this has been a pretty bad debate, and VP debates don’t move the polls much even when they’re pretty good debates. So any further movement in the polls is probably caused by things *other* than tonight’s debate.

(Also pleased to see that Nate Silver uses asterixes when italics is not available.  I do this all the time, as it seems the obvious thing to do, but I’ve felt almost alone.  But now that I see Nate Silver does it…)

So, whatever else I say about this, really probably doesn’t matter all that much.  That said, I think there’s a near-consensus that Kaine came across as too attack-dogish.  Okay.  Probably true.  Also true that Pence did not actually work particularly hard to defend Trump on a number of things.  Oh, and Pence seems to have learned from Trump how to flat-out lie with a straight face.  Again, not like any of this changes things, but insofar as it does, there’s some grist for the media to dig into on Pence’s clear lies about Trump’s record.

Yglesias‘ take captures a lot of what I seemed to be seeing on twitter:

When Kaine demanded that Pence defend Trump’s secrecy on his taxes, Pence ducked and talked about how low taxes are good for economic growth. When Kaine offered an extended list of Trump insults that he said he couldn’t believe Pence would defend, Pence didn’t defend them — he pivoted to complaining about Clinton and the “basket of deplorables.” Pence was tight, disciplined, and focused on his talking points. He never took the bait, never let himself get dragged into unfavorable terrain, and simply ignored subjects he didn’t want to discuss.

It was a genuinely bravura performance, one one that a passel of GOP senators and congressmen running in tough races ought to study. The problem is Trump is at the top of the ticket…

Kaine is running for VP, Pence is running for 2020

If Kaine and Pence had been debating for an Ohio senate seat, any fair-minded person would have to conclude that Pence won in a landslide. He was focused on his key points, while Kaine was focused on dragging the conversation into personal attacks on a man who wasn’t even standing on the stage.

The problem, obviously, is that they aren’t running for an Ohio senate seat.

They’re running for Vice President. Or at least Tim Kaine is. That’s why he loyally defended Clinton when Pence hit the Clinton Foundation issue instead of pivoting away to his own talking points. He played the somewhat awkward role of loyal number two. Pence, by contrast, focused on making Mike Pence look good and happily left Trump’s eccentricities on the cutting board.

And, Chait with an enjoyable take:

Tim Kaine and Mike Pence had very clear strategies in the vice-presidential debate, and followed them with robotic consistency. Kaine’s plan was to turn every question into a list of the horrendous things Donald trump has said or done. Pence’s plan was to turn every question into an attack on Barack Obama. The problem with Pence’s strategy is that Obama is popular and is not on the ballot, while Trump is highly unpopular and is on the ballot.

Pence provided an evening of escapist fantasy for conservative intellectuals who like to close their eyes and imagine their party has nominated a qualified, normal person for president. [emphasis mine]

Yeah, fun stuff, but I’ll be shocked if we’re still talking about any of it next week.

Least anticipated VP debate ever?

No.  But at least since 2004.  Paul Ryan was responsible for all sorts of Republican excitement in 2012.  And 2008– Sarah Palin vs. Joe O-Biden– now, that’s good stuff.  After a couple of cycles were the VP candidates were a moderately or bigger deal, it’s kind of weird how incredibly off-the-radar the VP candidates have generally been.  Sure, I’ll watch tonight, but at least half of that is out of a sense of professional obligation rather than looking forward to it.

I have no predictions, but I certainly like Yglesias’

That’s highly doable and would be fun to see.

Also, worth noting that VP debates don’t actually matter  But, just because it’s highly unlikely they will influence the election, they can be good for some classic moments.  Hopefully we’ll get something half as good as one of these tonight.

Racism and free speech

So, I ended up sitting in on a talk by the NCSU Chancellor the Alumni Association and a lot of what he had to say was explaining recent events on campus.  I have to confess to being often shamefully unaware of what’s going on on the broader campus and this was one of those time.  Apparently, the Chancellor has come under much criticism for not punishing students for engaging in a racist conversation in an on-line chat.  The story from the student newspaper captures it pretty well:

Two students issued an apology to the entire NC State student body Wednesday after screenshots of a GroupMe chat laced with racial epithets were posted to the Wolfpack Students Facebook group Tuesday night.

The screenshots, which feature an extensive conversation between two NC State freshmen, Connor Jackson and Brennen Smith, showed texts that mock the Black Lives Matter protests that have been taking place in Charlotte and around campus. The conversation also featured messages like “Bruh we in the private chat you can call a n—– a n—–,” and the N-word was used repeatedly. 

In their apology, which was emailed to all NC State students, Jackson, who is studying psychology, and Smith, who is studying agricultural sciences, said that they know what they said “is very offensive and hurtful to the African-American community here on campus.” 

The two mentioned that they hope their close friends and the entirety of the NC State community will forgive them and their actions. 

“We’re sorry for our words, and we’re sorry for how they hurt many people, some of whom are very close to us,” they wrote. “The pain we’ve caused will take a long time to heal; it is just our hope that it will be able to at some point.”

The initial post in Wolfpack Students drew a lot of reactions from group members, garnered the attention of members within Student Government and prompted a video message from Chancellor Randy Woodson. 

“Along with most of you, I share great disappointment and frustration that some in our community not only have bigoted views, but choose to express those views that stand in direct opposition to the diverse and inclusive campus culture that we’re striving to achieve,” Woodson said in the video. “This university will not be defined by a few on our campus who profess racism or hatred.”

Mike Mullen, vice chancellor and dean of the Division of Academic and Student Affairs, said that while the messages the students sent to each other “may be hurtful or hateful, they are not hate speech in the sense that anyone is directly threatened,” and therefore are protected under the First Amendment and not punishable under the university’s code of student conduct. 

Achaia Dent, the organizer behind the die-in protest that was staged at Talley Student Union on Sept. 23 and a freshman studying animal science, said that she thinks Jackson and Smith’s apology was unintentional and that the university should be doing more to combat racism on campus. 

“I think that we have a lot of work to do as a university and as a community,” Dent said. “I don’t think there was meaning behind [their apology]. I think that they’re sorry they got caught, I don’t think they’re sorry for what they did.” 

The texts were screenshotted by Marcus Lowry, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering and Jackson and Smith’s suitemate, after he was added to the group by a friend. According to the Nubian Message, within an hour of Lowry discovering the messages, the resident advisor and resident director in Sullivan Hall had been alerted and the messages were posted on social media.

“I think the situation has been handled as well as to be expected, but that’s honestly not saying much,” Lowry said in an email. “The chancellor released a video addressing the subject, but I think it will end up doing more harm than good. I believe that him protecting racism with the First Amendment in the video just opens the door for more racists to show their true colors.”  [emphasis mine]

And the follow-up story about the racial climate campus forum:

Casting the forum as a legal conversation was a “subterfuge for what’s actually happening here,” according to Ashlyn Sanders, an alumnus of Duke and UNC-Chapel Hill and the sister of Robyn Sanders, a graduate student studying public administration.

“Their position coming in was from a legal perspective but that’s not what are students needed to hear, obviously by the tone of the room,” said Paul Nolan, student body president and a senior studying materials science and engineering. “I think it just exemplifies the problem, our administration isn’t talking to students about how they feel and what they need.”

Well, damn, who does our Chancellor think he is in needing to follow the law?!  Much as people may want the university to make them feel better by punishing people for racist comments in an on-line chat, that’s not how it works in a free society of a public university.  The Chancellor cannot give the students what they want if what they want disregards the US Constitution and NCSU regulations.  The Chancellor could not be more clear that racism is socially unacceptable.  But universities and governments cannot punish people for what’s socially unacceptable, just illegal or in violation of a code of conduct.

NC State, like any institution in society, is far from perfect on matters of race.  But we do a damn good job and the values of anti-racism and anti-sexism are pervasive throughout the faculty and administration.  In a university with over 30,000 students and thousands of employees, the “racial climate” cannot be defined by a couple of first-year morons who use the N-word in an on-line chat.

The reality of American manufacturing

Great column from Binyamin Appelbaum.  The post-war manufacturing boom was a unique time in America’s history.  It’s not coming back.  That said, we actually still do a hell of of a lot of manufacturing (you just can’t build a middle-class lifestyle off a low-skill manufacturing job) and we really need to think about making things better for service sector workers.

The Republican presidential nominee had not come to Western Pennsylvania to talk about any of that. He looked out over his audience and promised, as he does at most of his rallies, that he would revive the American steel industry.

There’s nothing new about nostalgia in politics. American presidential candidates spent the better part of the 20th century promising to help family farmers in the face of urbanization. [emphases mine] Now they promise to help factory workers in the face of globalization. Trump has made the revival of American manufacturing a signature issue, presenting his economic plan in an August speech in Detroit, the nation’s official postindustrial wasteland. Hillary Clinton has campaigned on a broader economic agenda, but when it came time to describe those plans, she chose a fac­tory outside Detroit as her backdrop.

Manufacturing retains its powerful hold on the American imagination for good reason. In the years after World War II, factory work created a broadly shared prosperity that helped make the American middle class. People without college degrees could buy a home, raise a family, buy a station wagon, take some nice vacations. It makes perfect sense that voters would want to return to those times.

From an economic perspective, however, there can be no revival of American manufacturing, because there has been no collapse. Because of automation, there are far fewer jobs in factories. But the value of stuff made in America reached a record high in the first quarter of 2016, even after adjusting for inflation. The present moment, in other words, is the most productive in the nation’s history

This myopic focus on factory jobs distracts from another, simpler way to help working Americans: Improve the conditions of the work they actually do. Fast-food servers scrape by on minimum wage; contract workers are denied benefits; child-care providers have no paid leave to spend with their own children…

The manufacturing boom of the postwar years was an oddity, and there will be no repeat of the concatenation that made it happen: The backlog of innovations stored up during the Great Depression and World War II; the devastation of other industrial powers, Germany in particular, which gave the United States a competitive edge. Yet some parts of the formula that created the middle class may be possible to replicate. Unions played a large role in negotiating favorable work rules, many of which have since entered into law. Stronger unions — or federal regulators, who have increasingly replaced unions as the primary advocates for workers — could improve conditions in the service sector, too.

Politicians of neither party are particularly honest about our present reality (suffice it to say, some are far less dishonest than others), but we need to adapt to this new reality rather than hankering for the old one.  I do love that line about the politics of farming in the 20th century.  I’m going to be using that analogy.

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