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.


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