Did voter suppression decide 2016?

Not likely.  One easy way to gauge the impact would be to look at rates of change in Black turnout in states that passed laws making it harder to vote versus states that did not.  I assume somebody has or will do that.  For now, though, I found this recent tweet from Nate Cohn interesting:

2016 in maps

Nate Cohn with a really cool set of maps via twitter that shows shifts from earlier elections (areas that became more Democratic in blue, of course, and more Republican in red).  This really needs to be all consolidated in the Upshot.  But, here’s a few of them:

As Cohn notes on twitter, 1996-2016 represents a massive urban/rural shift:

Everything mattered

Loved this post in Vox from David Roberts about what mattered in the election.  Of course, in an election this close, most anything you can point to potentially made a difference in the outcome.  Roberts systematically looks at the evidence for all the commonly-offered explanations and gets to this sort-of summary:

The most agonizing implication of the narrow loss is that everything mattered.

Every decision to hype Clinton’s emails. Comey’s extraordinary violation of precedent. WikiLeaks. Clinton’s Goldman Sachs speeches. Her refusal to dissociate from the Clinton Foundation. Her poor retail politics. Trump not releasing his tax returns. Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan hiding out. Sanders tarnishing Clinton’s image among young people. Institutions standing by and doing nothing as Trump shredded democratic norms. The gamble that Trump’s misogyny and racism would render him unacceptable.

Fake news on Facebook. Epistemological bubbles. Elite self-absorption. Hot take after hot take delivered to the choir. Americans making the contest into a crass reality TV show fueled by Facebook memes. The press refusing to cover policy.

And whatever else you can name. The Electoral College turned on a 107,000-vote margin. All of it mattered. If you’re prone to haunting, crippling regret (luckily I don’t know anyone like that), that’s where you should focus your energy.

And I really like this part, because it certainly applies to what I got wrong:

Many people assumed that certain norms and standards still transcend the partisan divide. Surely being accused of, and admitting on tape to, serial sexual assault. Surely swindling poor people with a fake university. Surely crude racial stereotypes. Surely running a charitable foundation as a slush fund. Surely encouraging violence at rallies or threatening to reject unwelcome election results. Surely celebrating torture or vowing war crimes.

Clinton bet most of her chips on there being some floor, some violation of norms too low even for today’s radicalized Republican Party. She thought responsible Republican officeholders would rally. She thought at least well-off, well-educated Republican women would recoil in horror.

She was wrong. There is no floor. Partisanship has been revealed as the strongest force in US public life — stronger than any norms, independent of any facts. [emphasis mine]

Ezra Klein sums it up:

Political scientist Julia Azari has written the single most important sentence for understanding both Trump’s rise and this dangerous era in American politics: “The defining characteristic of our moment is that parties are weak while partisanship is strong.”

Here is the problem, in short: Parties, and particularly the Republican Party, can no longer control whom they nominate. But once they nominate someone — once they nominate anyone — that person is guaranteed the support of both the party’s elites and its voters.

And I’m particularly frustrated because I study partisanship and know how damn strong it is.  But even I didn’t realize it was that damn strong.  Among other things, as discussing with Jon K via email today, it is clearly stronger than religious faith (how else to explain so many Jesus-loving Evangelicals whole-heartedly embracing a man like Trump).

Anyway, lots more good stuff in Roberts article– I especially like the part on how Clinton was victimized by the media– but the biggest takeaway for me from this election was that a candidate as fabulously flawed as Trump still got 90% of his partisans to vote for him.


Damn, did I love this from Jay Rosen on how reporters should respond when politicians, like, say, The President-elect, make entirely baseless allegations.  This storify has several embedded tweets that show reporters/editors just not getting it, but you’ll have to click over to see those:

This article in USA Today came across my social feed a few days ago: Trump supporters target George Soros over protests. It’s about the accusation in some quarters on the right that Soros is behind the protests that sprang up after the election that made Donald Trump president-elect. On Apple News the headline was: George Soros blamed for secretly funding Trump protests.

None of the 1,300 words in the article presents any evidence that this charge is true. (Seriously: none.) The entire “plot” of the piece is that accusations have been made, the people accused say the charges are baseless, and USA today found zero evidence to undermine their defense. The accusers include some of the least reliable people on the internet, including the notorious fantasist, Alex Jones of the Infowars…

If you are evidence-based you lead with the lack of evidence for explosive or insidious charges. That becomes the news. If you are accusation-driven, the news is that certain people are making charges. With the details we may learn that there’s no evidence, but the frame in which that discovery is made remains “he said, she said.” (See my 2009 post about that.)

After the 2016 campaign, in which the winner routinely floated baseless charges — including many about the press — the unsuitability of accusation-driven news coverage should be obvious to mainstream journalists. It should be, but it is not…

The takeaway is that some journalists may be completely unprepared for what’s coming, even after Donald Trump used “people are saying” to such insidious effect.

Instead of defining public service as the battle against evidence-free claims, they will settle for presenting the charge, presenting the defense, and leaving it there, justifying this timid and outworn practice with a “both sides” logic that has nothing to do with truthtelling and everything to do with protecting themselves against criticism in Trump’s America.

Yep.  Some of the coverage I saw of Trump’s baseless allegations about voter fraud, of course, fit into this standard news formula, but the challenge clearly is to simply report that story as “Trump makes baseless allegation,” (which several outlets seemed to do) not, “Trump says something; other side says it’s not true.”

Using Trump’s personality against him

Love this post from Drum on Trump’s freakout on twitter about losing the popular vote so much.  Some good analysis of the crazy people he’s re-tweeting along the way, but here’s the summary:

What kind of person is so unhinged that even though he won a presidential election, he goes nuts when he’s reminded that he lost the popular vote and (a) demands that all his minions start writing sycophantic tweets about his historic landslide victory, (b) continues stewing about it anyway and fabricates an allegation of massive voter fraud perpetrated by the Democratic Party, (c) flips out at an anodyne segment from a CNN reporter about his lies, and (d) spends his evening hunched over his smartphone rounding up a motley crew of racists, nutbags, and teenagers to assure him that he’s right?

What kind of person does this? And how easy is it to manipulate someone like this? We have a helluva scary four years ahead of us.

Meanwhile, William Saletan has a piece entitled “How to Manipulate Donald Trump: He’s an emotional weakling, and his recent interviews give us models for dealing with it.”  I think his amazingly fragile ego is a real key here:

3. His ego is fragile. After winning the Republican nomination in May, Trump gloated about it for months. Now he’s gloating about the election. In tweets and interviews, he has crowed that he beat Clinton “easily.” On Tuesday, he ran another victory lap, trumpeting the addition of Michigan to his “landslide.” To understand how central this is to Trump’s sense of himself, check out the first 19 paragraphs of his interview with the Times. Invited by the publisher to give opening remarks, Trump spoke at length, not about the future but about his genius and prowess on the campaign trail. In his Nov. 11 interview with 60 Minutes, he bragged about the number of Twitter followers he had gained.

A president-elect who is self-assured doesn’t behave this way. Nor does he snap at a late-night sketch comedy show. Nor does he summon TV executives to complain that particular pictures they have aired are unflattering to him. Trump does these things because he’s deeply insecure and easily wounded.

4. He craves approval. Trump often comes across as indifferent to the feelings of others. That’s misleading. He cares intensely about being respected and loved. Consider his twisted relationship with the Times. For two weeks after the election, he tweeted that the paper was “nasty,” “failing,” and “looked like fools in their coverage of me.” Despite this, he requested a meeting and showed up at the paper’s offices to wag his tail. He promised Times staffers an immigration bill that “even the people in this room can be happy” with. He told them “it would be, to me, a great achievement if I could come back here in a year or two years … and have a lot of the folks here say, ‘You’ve done a great job.’ And I don’t mean just a conservative job, ’cause I’m not talking conservative. I mean just, we’ve done a good job.” Yes, Mr. President. Good boy.

Yep.  He really is staggeringly insecure.  Yes, that can be used him.  But these sure as hell aren’t traits you want in a president (among other things, Putin and others can also use this against him).  I’ve always loved the quote, “First-rate people hire first-rate people; second-rate people hire third-rate people.”  So true.  And safe to say– and evidence so far eminently backs this up– Trump is not getting the best people.

Supremely Wrong

Law professor Geoffrey Stone on how the Republicans’ refusal to even consider Merrick Garland undermines the legitimacy of the Court.  He’s right:

Throughout my career, I have honored the fundamental role the Supreme Court plays in our system of government. There have, of course, been many Supreme Court decisions with which I’ve disagreed over the years, but I have always respected the essential legitimacy and integrity of the Supreme Court as an indispensable institution in our American democracy.

But now, for the first time in my career, I find myself hesitating. This is not a reflection on the judgment or integrity of any of the current or former justices. It is, rather, a reflection on what the Senate Republicans have done to the fundamental legitimacy of the Supreme Court in the future. By refusing to confirm President Barack Obama’s appointment of Chief Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, Senators Mitch McConnell, Charles Grassley, and their Republican cronies betrayed our constitutional traditions and undermined a central principle of American democracy. Although they maintained that their unconscionable behavior was “justified” by the fact that the vacancy arose during President Obama’s final year in office, this was a blatantly dishonest assertion. In fact, a long line of presidents have made appointments to the Supreme Court in the final year of their terms, including such historic figures as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, and Ronald Reagan.

The plain and simple fact is that the Senate Republicans profoundly abused their power and violated the spirit of our Constitution and of our constitutional traditions for one reason and one reason only – to prevent a duly elected president from appointing to the Supreme Court an eminently qualified and properly confirmable justice in the rank partisan hope that the next president – hopefully a fellow Republican – would then appoint a justice more to their ideological liking. [emphases mine]

And, sadly, when all the dust settled, they actually got away with it. No better than burglars, they got away with it. Instead of acting in accord with long-settled constitutional principles and traditions, they violated the norms of the Supreme Court appointments process and deliberately abused their authority for rank partisan advantage.

Their unconscionable behavior will rightly cast severe doubt on the legitimacy of whatever individual President Trump appoints in place of Chief Judge Garland. Every vote that justice casts in the future will be called into question, because that justice will be sitting on the Supreme Court bench because of nothing less than a constitutional coup d’etat. Through no fault of his or her own, that justice will be seen as an interloper who should never have been appointed to the Court…

As a sign of the moral corruption that now plagues our nation, though, in this instance Senate Republicans, caring more about outcomes than principles, ruthlessly distorted the advice and consent process in order to attain partisan political ends. That this happened is nothing short of disgraceful. Let us not forget their shameful abuse of authority. And let us not forget that President Trump’s first appointment to the Supreme Court will in fact be an illegitimate interloper who has absolutely no business being the decisive vote in critical Supreme Court decisions in the years and decades to come. By this act, Senate Republicans have undermined the credibility and the legitimacy of an essential branch of our national government. Shame on them.

Yep.  Of course, the decisions will still be followed.  But many 5-4 decisions will surely have an extra cloud over them.  David Dayen on how Obama should stick it to the Republicans by giving Garland a recess appointment.  Alas, it’s out of Obama’s character to take such action:

Come January, President Barack Obama will be consigned to the sidelines as Donald Trump occupies the Oval Office and begins the work of dismantling his legacy. But there is one action that Obama could take on January 3, 2017 that could hold off some of the worst potential abuses of a Trump administration for up to a year. Obama can appoint his nominee Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court on that date, in between the two sessions of Congress.

Based on everything we know about Obama’s temperament and politics, he won’t resort to this. But given how Republicans relentlessly obstructed his efforts for eight years, he would be completely justified in playing one final trump card. And there’s a cost to ignoring that card. The fact that Democrats prefer to maintain governance norms, even while Republicans break them time and again, inescapably pushes the policymaking apparatus of the country to the right…

All that said, this would be completely out of character for Obama, who plans to spend his final two months in office as a horse whisperer to Trump, not an antagonist. The gambit would have an extremely low likelihood of permanent success—even if the Court didn’t rule the Garland appointment unconstitutional (and it probably would), he’d be out in a year.

More than that, it just wouldn’t be sporting. It would break a long-held governing norm, that you don’t use the powers of the office for short-term political gain. Obama would see reversing this as highly treacherous.

And that’s the real point. Republicans have absolutely no problem breaking any norm in their path to power. They turned the filibuster from a seldom-used tool to a routine exercise. Tom DeLay saw advantage in doing a second redistricting in Texas in 2003 to pick up extra GOP seats, even though states normally redistrict every 10 years; he succeeded. Congress typically passes the debt limit without comment, but Republicans took the country to the brink of its first default, extracting concessions in the process. A minority of the Senate prevented the confirmation for years of any director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau simply because they didn’t like the agency. The opposition party would never attempt to conduct foreign policy that differed from the president’s, until Republican senators tried it before the Iran deal…

There are consequences to one party being more aggressive about defying governing norms. If liberal legislation can’t break a Republican filibuster, but Democrats don’t offer the same resistance, the playing field is tilted to conservative policy. If Republicans use any maneuver to get appointees in place, and Democrats don’t, conservatives become more likely to be ensconced at executive agencies. If Republicans are willing to blackmail the government and Democrats aren’t, they get more concessions from that blackmail. If Republicans use gerrymandering and voter suppression and every available tool more sharply than Democrats, we get conservative government even if we vote for a liberal one.

Democrats, in short, bring a butter knife to a gunfight. They may be correct on the merits that institutional norms allow the government to function properly. But as long as Republicans don’t care about such niceties, that respect is equivalent to surrender.

Damn it, but if nobody respects important norms, what then?!  Democrats may be bringing a butter knife to a gun fight, but Republicans are just shooting machine guns in a crowded square, damage to democracy be damned.  Ugh.

Missed opportunity?

I’ve been meaning to link to this Alec MacGillis take on white working class voters, for a while, but I didn’t just want it lost among 20 or so quick hits.  MacGillis really emphasizes the voters who voted for Obama in 2012, but not Clinton in 2016.  Surely, there are many reasons for that.  Could be that Obama is just a far more charismatic and compelling candidate,  but I certainly think the economic message was part of the story.

But there was a whole subset of the white working class Obama was still winning: voters in northern states where unions, however diminished, still served to remind members of their Democratic roots (and build inter-racial solidarity). In these states, voters could still find national figures who represented them and their sort, people like Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown and Vice President Joe Biden. Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, centered on Biden’s hometown of Scranton, went for Obama with 63 percent of the vote in 2012. Rural Marquette County, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, went for him with 56 percent of the vote. In Ohio, there were a couple counties in the state’s Appalachian southeast that went stronger for Obama in 2012 than they had in 2008. In the opposite corner of the state, gratitude for Obama’s bailout of the auto industry helped win him 64 percent of the vote in Lucas County, around Toledo. Across the North, Obama ran even or ahead with John Kerry and Al Gore among white working-class voters; their raw vote total for him nationwide exceeded his tallies of college-educated white voters and minority supporters…

Most crucially, she was running not against Romney, the man from Bain Capital, but against Trump. Yes, Trump was (or claimed to be) a billionaire himself, but he was not of Romney’s upper crust — they scorned him and his casinos and gold-plated jet, and were giving him virtually none of their campaign contributions. Trump attacked the trade deals that had helped hollow out these voters’ communities, he attacked the Mexicans who had heavily populated some of their towns and had driven much of the heroin trade in others, and, yes, he tapped into broader racial resentments as well. Faced with this populist opposition, Clinton fatefully opted against taking the “I’m on your side; he’s not” tack that Obama had used so well against Romney, and had instead gone about attacking Trump’s fitness for the presidency.  [emphasis mine]

I really do think that’s an important point.  I think for a lot of voters, Trump was somewhat unfit, somewhat unhinged, somewhat fill-in-the-blank-ist, but on their side.  Better the flawed, “unfit” candidate on your side than the fit candidate who is not.  It’s clear that Clinton went hard after Trump’s greatest weakness– his clear temperamental unsuitability to be president.  Yet, I’ve always loved Rove’s idea of going after your opponent’s strength. Once you take that away, they’ve got nothing.

And here’s the thing, yes, Trump was able to offer rhetoric and a generalized disposition that he was on their side, but policy-wise, he so was not.  It seems that this should have been hammered home.  Sure, there was some of this, but damnit, if you can go after Romney’s tax plan, you can certainly go after Trump’s.

And, there was basically a ton of evidence that Trump is essentially a con man.  Maybe the Clinton campaign determined he really was teflon on this stuff.  And, hey, easy to take shots at the losing campaign.  But in an election ultimately this close, the campaign probably did matter.  And it does seem pretty clear that Trump’s unfitness just did not resonate enough with many white working class voters.  Perhaps, the fact that Trump was conning them in order to deliver big tax cuts to the rich would have resonated.  Alas, we’ll never know.


Quick hits (part II)

1) It’s truly unconscionable how we treat workers in poultry processing plants.  What really kills me about it is that I suspect we would only pay a modest amount more for it if workers were actually treated humanely.

2) Ezra Klein argues that Democrats need to be an emboldened minority party after winning the popular vote.

3) David Remnick on Obama’s reckoning with a Trump presidency.

4) Now Trump isn’t so sure about torture because the last guy he talked to explained that he doesn’t actually work.  And he was especially convincing because his nickname is Mad Dog.  Sad.

5) Uwe Reinhardt’s headline says it all, “Republicans can repeal Obamacare. They can’t repeal the logic of health insurance.”

6) Of course we all talk to ourselves all the time (especially while writing blog posts, actually).  Had not really given it much thought till this fascinating piece in the Atlantic.

7) How to be better at persuading other people, based on science.  Short version, of what most smart people have already figured out– you have to rely on arguments that resonate with their approach to the issue, not yours.

8) So, maybe we are not politically sorting ourselves by where we live so much after all.

9) Damn straight, you should subscribe to a newspaper and support good journalism.  Yes, I’m talking to you.

10) The election’s most-alarming story– Russian influence:

Part of the Russian operation’s success is that we cannot measure the effect. Did the DNC emails depress the Sanders vote for Clinton? Did the Podesta emails turn off independents? Would voters have responded differently if major media had reported the email releases not as legitimate news but as an intelligence operation by a hostile foreign power aimed at undermining the integrity of U.S. elections? There are no clear answers. But there are certainties: The email operation increased negative stories about Clinton, fueled an immense propaganda attack and diminished coverage of actual issues. The large polling lead Clinton gained after the debates slipped significantly under this barrage of negativity — even before FBI Director James B. Comey’s bombshell.

11) Rather disturbing that Trump’s National Security Adviser, Michael Flynn, is basically insane.  Or, if not insane, certainly only a tenuous connection to reality.

12) Brendan Nyhan on how Trump’s brand of identity politics could exacerbate our tribal politics:

Mr. Trump’s approach has the potential to transform the party system. First, the success of his campaign may encourage other Republicans to adopt his model. He has shown that the penalty for deviating from orthodox policies is minimal and that an ethno-nationalist style can have significant electoral advantages.

Second, though presidents cannot impose their will on most of domestic policy, they can help define the issues on the political agenda. In the choices that he makes, Mr. Trump may play down conflict over the size and scope of government and shift the political debate toward questions of national identity, immigration and culture.

Finally, few Republicans are likely to want to cross Mr. Trump and his energized supporters given the threat of a potential primary challenge in 2018.

Consider, for instance, Mr. Trump’s decision to name as his chief strategist Steve Bannon, the head of Breitbart, a website described in an article in the conservative National Review as catering to “a small but vocal fringe of white supremacists, anti-Semites and internet trolls.” Though the move lacked recent precedent, no Republicans in Congress objected, which made the issue into a partisan dispute with Democrats. Mr. Trump has also stirred emotions by promising to deport two to three million undocumented immigrants. By contrast, the fate of a tax cut — normally the top G.O.P. domestic policy priority — has received less attention (though the party will almost certainly pursue one).

Mr. Trump’s success is likely to provoke a response from Democrats that could accelerate this shift. They face an outraged liberal base that is likely to reject conciliatory messages intended to win back votes among the white working class.

The party might instead double down on cosmopolitan appeals to the minority voters and college-educated white voters who were the main target of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. The strategy failed in 2016, but the incentive to try again is clear. Democrats came closer to winning several Sun Belt states where minority and college-educated white populations are growing, like Arizona and Georgia, than they did some traditional Midwest strongholds with higher numbers of noncollege whites, like Ohio and Iowa.

13) Peter Beinart on the electoral college, it “Was Meant to Stop Men Like Trump From Being President.”

14) Why Senate Republicans might actually keep the filibuster (judicial appointments aside, I presume).

15) Excellent Scott Lemieux post on the Democrats’ post-mortem problem:

This isn’t to say that Democrats shouldn’t analyze and try to learn from the defeat. But it’s crucial to remember that the 2016 election is never going to be run again. We’ve learned for sure that Hillary Clinton should not be the Democratic nominee again, but I don’t think that’s something to worry about. Trump will presumably be on the ballot again, but as an incumbent with a record. What message and strategy the Democratic candidate should use will depend on who wins the nomination, what Trump’s record looks like, and what the salient issues are. The 2020 election will be its own thing and should be treated as such. As Hillary Clinton now knows all too well, what we think we know about politics can be turned on its head very quickly.

16) Krugman explains how Trump’s infrastructure plans get it all wrong.

17) There are no easy answers for the problems faced by working-class whites in Rust Belt America.  That said, Donald Trump certainly showed that you can win an election by pretending there are easy answers.  The reality, though, is tough:

But the question is what Democrats should say. The biggest problem Democrats face now, and will face in the future, is that there are no simple solutions to the economic crisis in the Rust Belt. Democrats have tried, with proposals like infrastructure projects, science and technology education, and tax credits for companies that offer apprenticeships, but few of the policy prescriptions that could begin the process of getting millions of white, working-class men back to work are very sexy. “There’s no silver bullet,” Ned Hill, a professor at Ohio State University and the faculty affiliate for the Ohio Manufacturing Institute, told me. “This is an adult conversation so easy answers aren’t there.”…

This underscores the grim reality that both parties have to face. There’s a very real possibility that no amount of investment or retraining can replace the manufacturing jobs that have been lost. It’s been decades, after all, since the North American Free Trade Agreement, and nearly as long since China entered the World Trade Organization in 2001. Despite both Democratic and Republican administrations since then, there has been no reversal of fortunes for the Rust Belt.

This is not the uplifting message that either party will want to embrace on the campaign trail. The most effective solutions to it aren’t going to be popular: They include helping people move to areas where there are jobs, and providing wage subsidies for those who can’t. And that may mean that they never come to pass.

18) Mostly, I love the headline, “Learning to love the secret language of urine,” plus I found this little tidbit pretty interesting.

Learning about the body’s many excretions, secretions and suppurations in medical school, I realized that each medical specialty has its own essential effluent. And I heard that some physicians choose their careers based on the bodily fluid they find least revolting. Thus, a doctor disgusted by stool and pus but able to stand the sight of blood might end up a hematologist, while one repulsed by urine and bile but tolerant of sputum might choose pulmonology.

Well, I guess that would make me a nephrologist.

19) This post arguing that liberals are largely crying wolf on racism and sexism got some good discussion in my comments.  Honestly, I think part of this is a problem that Ezra Klein has often mentioned in his podcasts, if not on Vox.  We have difficulties with the language around race.  That’s why I like to use racial resentment and white ethnocentrism.  In large part, these are fairly clearly-defined, measurable, social science terms.  And, I while it may be crying wolf to call Trump “racist” (though, I think there’s a plenty good case he is), it is absolutely clear that his campaign thrived on racial resentment and an appeal to white ethnocentrism.


Photo of the day

4/6 of the family on the day after Thanksgiving.  Pretty happy to get this with the 2 second self-timer on the camera.  There’s also a 12 second timer, but that takes the fun out of it.


Quick hits (part I)

1) Loved “The Arrival.”  This review captures it pretty well.

2) Excellent NC State Senator Jeff Jackson with his take on how Democrats should try and talk to working class voters.

3) Oh man, Alec Baldwin as President-Elect Trump is the best yet.

4) NYT with a great case study on how a totally false tweet blew up huge on right-wing media.

5) Emily Badger on the persistent and pervasive rural bias in American politics.

6) So Pope Francis has continued a waiver to let a priest, and not necessarily a bishop, absolve a Catholic of the sin of abortion.  What I cannot figure out–and have tried– is if this is actually a harsher standard than for murder (of which I always assumed you could just confess to a priest).

7) SurveyMonkey’s post election poll suggests a substantially less diverse electorate than the official exit polls.

8) Brendan Nyhan on the institutional failures that led to Trump.  From 9 months ago.

9) Yglesias with a fascinating psycho-analysis of Jared Kushner.

10) The amazing irony of Trump claiming he would “drain the swamp.”

11) Italian Economist Luigi Zingales on how to resist Trump (based on Italian experience with Berlusconi)

12) Interesting Vox feature on the inter-generational transmission– and inter-generational mis-understandings– of political attitudes.  Much to my dismay, though, nothing on the role of genetics.  Fortunately, Thomas Edsall had a nice round-up of that a while back.

13) The Democratic government in Delaware with a template on how to succeed based on economic policies benefiting the working class.

14) Rick Hasen on the claims that somehow electoral fraud led to Clinton’s loss.  And, no, I haven’t taken this seriously for more than a second.

First, I continue to be inundated with messages from people advancing the most extreme legal and political theories to try to change the results of an election that many on the left see as a threat to American Democracy itself. People want to believe there is rigging, or some magic legal way out, to change the outcome of the election. All of these theories should be approached with extreme caution. Most are a combination of wishful thinking and dubious reasoning. That was true the theories that were put out there using exit polls to try to show that Ohio’s 2004 results were rigged against John Kerry. Some people still believe this even though there is no good evidence of it (as Rep. John Conyers concluded in his report).

15) The comments on this Amazon page for a Trump hat Christmas ornament are great.

16) Nice post from the Lindsay Wagner at the awesome AJ Fletcher Foundation on some of the problems with public money going to private schools:

As I outlined last week, consider the following scenarios that apply to private schools receiving public dollars:

  • Private schools receiving tax dollars don’t have to meet any generally accepted accreditation standards.
  • Teachers don’t have to be licensed.
  • Schools are free to deny admission to anyone, such as those who don’t declare their support for Jesus Christ or those who are LGBTQ.
  • Schools don’t have to adhere to any sort of curricular standards and are free to use teaching materials that draw heavily on biblical teachings.
  • A criminal background check is required only for the schools’ top administrator.
  • A nationally-normed standardized test must be given to students yearly (and report those findings only if enrollment is more than 25 voucher students). The test doesn’t have to be the same, or comparable, to the tests administered in public schools.
  • Only if a school receives more than $300,000 annually is it then required to conduct a financial review by a CPA (only three of the 330 schools met the criteria last year).

So while these recently-closed private schools may have shut down due to financial problems, it’s impossible to know if other factors were at play.

17) Really interesting post on how fake news is not the problem, so much as propaganda getting covered as real news.  Great case study of Hillary Clinton’s health.

18) Just what we need– a registry of liberally-biased professors.  I wonder how long before I’m on it :-).

19) Just concede already Pat McCrory.

20) Yes, some felons have inappropriately voted in North Carolina.  But it sure as hell ain’t anywhere near 7000.  And some people who are allowed to vote have been wrongly challenged as felons.  Including McCrory voters.

21) I like Drum’s take on Bannon:


So even if we give Bannon the benefit of the doubt on racism, he’s still presided over a website that deliberately indulges in race-baiting, presumably to build its audience. Is that better or worse? You decide.

I’ve written about this before, and I’ve already decided: It’s worse. The David Duke version of racism may be repugnant, but for that very reason it’s fairly easy to fight. There are just too many people who are put off by it.

The Steve Bannon version is far more effective. Partly this is because, yes, critics will overreach and discredit themselves. Partly it’s because his more subtle attacks on “political correctness” don’t put off as many people. Partly it’s because he assures people they can have racist attitudes without actually being racists. And partly it’s because his sub rosa approach is just plain harder to expose.

22) Also a really interesting interview with former Breitbart writer Ben Shapiro.  And, yes, Bannon basically does have no moral compass.

23) Not the least bit shocked for a child psychologist to argue that fears of childhood screen time are overblown.

24) Another good Monkey Cage piece from Michael Tesler on how racially resentful working class whites have been fleeing the Democratic Party well before Trump.


It’s all about the deal

Had a great discussion about Trump with my wife on our Thanksgiving road trip yesterday.  I kept thinking back to this terrific Adam Davidson piece from May about how Trump’s “everything is a deal/negotiation” is an incredibly warped worldview for understanding politics.  This zero-sum game approach may work for Manhattan real estate transactions, but most definitely not for a national economy.  (And searching on Trump Zero Sum will lead to several other interesting commentaries along these lines).

So, I had this in mind when reading Charles Blow’s account of Trump’s recent NYT interview:

 At one point he said:

“I just appreciate the meeting and I have great respect for The New York Times. Tremendous respect. It’s very special. Always has been very special.”

He ended the meeting by saying:

“I will say, The Times is, it’s a great, great American jewel. A world jewel. And I hope we can all get along well.”

Blow’s reaction:

I will say proudly and happily that I was not present at this meeting. The very idea of sitting across the table from a demagogue who preyed on racial, ethnic and religious hostilities and treating him with decorum and social grace fills me with disgust, to the point of overflowing. Let me tell you here where I stand on your “I hope we can all get along” plea: Never.

You are an aberration and abomination who is willing to do and say anything — no matter whom it aligns you with and whom it hurts — to satisfy your ambitions.

My thought– Trump will say anything.  This is the guy who’s been ranting and raving about the “failing New York Times” for month.  When he’s trying to curry favor with Republican base voters, the NYT is horrible.  When he’s trying to curry favor with the NYT, the NYT is a “jewel.”  When he’s trying to get elected, Obamacare will be completely repealed and 12 million illegal immigrants will be deported.  Once he’s elected and has an entirely different universe of considerations, the unpopular aspects of Obamacare will be repealed and only the criminal immigrants will be deported.

Winning the election was just one more deal, one more negotiation for Trump.  Saying “lock her up,” “build that wall,” the “failing New York Times,” etc., this was just like saying you wanted $50 million for a building when you were really hoping to get $30 million.  Trump was not really interested in any of these except insofar as they could help him win this particular negotiation, i.e., the election for president.  It worked.  And now that he’s got that, he can say whatever he thinks will help him with his next deal (being popular?), hence, the NYT is a “jewel” and we’re going to keep the popular parts of Obamacare.

In the end, it’s all just a deal.  And the American people are suckers.

The future of identity politics

So, that Mark Lilla Op-Ed (which I quoted in quick hits) has done a great job starting a conversation on identity politics and the Democratic Party.  For my money, Lila may have undersold the value and importance of a politics that sticks up for disadvantaged minorities, but I’ve also seen too many responses setting up Lila (a liberal Democrat) as a straw man apologist for white supremacy.  For example, this widely-shared piece by another Columbia University professor, Katherine Franke:

In the new political climate we now inhabit, Duke and Lilla were contributing to the same ideological project, the former cloaked in a KKK hood, the latter in an academic gown.  Both men are underwriting the whitening of American nationalism, and the re-centering of white lives as lives that matter most in the U.S.  Duke is happy to own the white supremacy of his statements, while Lilla’s op-ed does the more nefarious background work of making white supremacy respectable.  Again.

Seriously??!!  Given that I’ve made somewhat similar comments as Lila, I guess that means I too am trying to make white supremacy respectable again.

Or this from Franke:

Lilla blames people of color, women, and gay and trans people for Trump’s election — a “repugnant outcome” he concedes.

Oh, please!  Lilla did not in the least blame these groups for Trump’s election (and nor do I).  It is a far cry from saying that a politics too centered on entirely non-economic, personal identity politics, has turned off many white voters, than to actually blame these groups.  Surely, a Columbia University law professor should know the difference.

Or, let’s follow up the blame theme with Rebecca Traister:

Lilla warned, “Those who play the identity game should be prepared to lose it.” As if the centuries’-long push toward enfranchisement, civil rights, equal pay, and reproductive autonomy, and against domestic, sexual, and police violence were a game, and as though those who dared to play it were virtually asking for the punishing reprisals they received for their trouble.

It is unconscionable, this know-better recrimination, directed at the very people who just put the most work and energy into defeating Trumpism, coming from those who will be made least vulnerable by Trump’s ascension.

Is Lilla against these advances?  I sure don’t think so.  Is he blaming groups that push for these kind of advances?  Again, pretty sure he’s not.  Is he arguing that in seeking, broad, election-winning coalitions, (yes, winning elections is a form of game), requires more than focusing on identities of dis-advantaged groups.  Yep.  Traister then spends half her column raging against a fringe group of asshole, young white guys who call themselves “The Dirtbag Left.”  From what I can tell, there’s plenty of dirtbag, not a lot of left.  And not clear to me how this, at all, suggests the Democratic party is not too narrowly-focused on identity politics.

Okay, then, easy enough for me to dismiss these.  But then I came across Yglesias post, “Democrats neither can nor should ditch ‘identity politics.'”  I’m sure I just liked this one better because Yglesias is a white male (though, of Hispanic descent) ;-).  Actually, what Yglesias does is not attack Lilla like a straw-man and provide some terrific historical context in making his argument:

As always with these essays, there is a profoundly true part, namely that you cannot effectively mobilize a political coalition for economic equality, environmental justice, or anything else unless you are able to secure the votes of a large number of white people. Which means, among other things, that even the cause of defending the rights and interests of ethnic minority groups requires political arguments that touch on other subjects and appeal to other groups of voters.

The reality, however, is that politics is not and will never be a public policy seminar. People have identities, and people are mobilized politically around those identities. There is no other way to do politics than to do identity politics.

But to win a national election, you need to do it well. In particular, to get 270 electoral votes or 51 Senate seats, Democrats are going to need the votes of more Midwestern white people than they got in 2016. But to think that they can do that by somehow eschewing identity is ridiculous — white Midwesterners have identities, too, and nobody votes based off detailed readings of campaigns’ policy PDFs. The challenge is to speak more clearly and more effectively to the identity of people who feel left behind in the 21st century as well as those who experience contemporary problems as part of a longer-term struggle to get a fair shake…

By the same token, for a long time now the political behavior of the “white working class” (i.e., white people who don’t have a college degree) has varied substantially from region to region. Republicans traditionally won overwhelming victories with the white working class in the South and among regular churchgoers, while Democrats won with less devout Northerners.

That regional divide is key to understanding what happened in 2016. A Republican Party that was broadly identified with religious Southerners nominated a secular Northerner who was not identified with the Republican Party leadership. Not surprisingly, that helped him win the votes of secular Northerners who’d traditionally distrusted the Republican Party. Meanwhile, his campaign very much emphasized whiteness as a theme, and in an ultimately failed effort to win the votes of traditionally Republican-leaning white women in the suburbs, his opponent joined with him in dissociating the Trump agenda from the Republican Party we’ve known for years.

Good stuff.  And as much as anything, he’s arguing we need to think more broadly about identity politics.  Yglesias, and I think he would admit this, is a little too dismissive of policy. No voters don’t read campaign PDF’s, but they do respond to broad messages and themes.  And it seems pretty clear to me these broad messages and themes of the Democratic Party need to include not only racial justice, anti-sexism, etc., but also, clearly and strongly, messages and themes that appeal to the economic concerns of less-educated white voters.

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