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.

What really happened in the election

Love this FB post from Political Scientist Matthew Gunning.  It’s based on actual election returns, not just exit polls.  I’m sure there will be more sophisticated and thorough analyses along these lines in time, but for now, this is really good:

Thanks to Rob‘s tip I was able to download all county level returns. I sorted out the counties in Census designated Urbanized Areas with at least a quarter of a million population (2010). This allowed me to look at the results for big cities (Metro America) and Rural America (rural +smaller metros).

1) Metro American actually voted slightly more Democratic than in 2012 both in terms of the share of the vote and the total number of Democratic votes cast. In 2012 Democrats won Metro America 55%-44% and in 2016 they won it 54%-41%. The Democratic margin increased from 11% to 13%. Republicans won almost exactly the same number of votes but their share fell as Democrats added 2 million more voters. I think that the speculation about disenchanted Democrats not turning out is looking unsubstantiated based on these aggregate numbers. It also looks like most of those Republicans who said they weren’t voting for Trump came back to the GOP. It was almost a carbon copy of the 2012 election here.

2) In Rural America Republicans increased both their vote share and their votes cast. Republicans gained 2.3 million more votes in Rural America and Democrats lost 1.9 million votes there. In 2012 Republicans carried Rural America 56%-42% but in 2016 they won it by a landslide margin 59%-36%. Democrats lost Rural America in 2012 but they didn’t get crushed there and that was the difference. Democrats lost ~2 million and Republicans gained more than 2 million. Where these Obama voters who switched? Or was this a case of 2 million discouraged Democrats staying home and 2.3 lapsed voters showing up and voting Republican? We really need someone to go through a rural county voter file to get answers. YouGov suggested it was 85% lapsed voters but I regard this as something to be confirmed.

3) Bottom line is that if you lived in Metro America 2016 shaped up almost identical to 2012. What surprises me most about that is that Romney was a much more qualified candidate than Trump and yet Trump matched Romney’s performance. There was essentially no penalty in Metro America for breaking norms and other things that voters supposedly cared about. When we look at Rural America we see a dramatic shift from 4 years earlier. Honestly anyone who fails to focus on the shift in rural and small metro America isn’t looking carefully at the data. It’s very clear where the electoral shift took place. [emphasis mine]

And, I would add, fair to say that identity politics vs. economic politics has mattered the most in rural and small metro America.

Trump got you in a bad mood?

You are not alone.  From Gallup:


Percentage of U.S. Adults in Bad Mood: Elections 2016, 2012 and 2008
Bad mood defined as percentage of U.S. adults who experienced a lot of stress and worry without a lot of happiness and enjoyment


Seven days before election (avg.) Election Day Day after election *Next seven days (avg.)
% % % %
Nov 8, 2016 10 19 20 12
Nov 6, 2012 10 16 15 12
Nov 4, 2008 10 13 15 13
*Average of seven days after the day following the election
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