Democrats’ biggest demographic problem

Forget working class white voters.  Sean Trende— who was as right about this election as anybody– does a really, really interesting post-election analysis without even explicitly considering race.  Democrats’ problem is that their voters are ever more increasingly clustered in urban areas and therefore ever more inefficiently distributed to win elections.  This graph is kind of amazing:

In case that’s not entirely clear.  Where once Democrats competed on roughly equal footing on various levels of urbanicity, they are now getting killed outside mega and large cities.  And there’s just not enough mega and large cities:

In other words, the Democrats’ coalition of the ascendant is very inefficiently distributed.  We therefore opted to utilize a demographic (urbanicity) that is easily filtered through a geographic component (CBSAs) and that people intuitively think of in geographic terms.  What we discovered is a different dimension to the Democrats’ demographic inefficiency problem: They are becoming far too clustered in urban centers to be effective, even when they win the popular vote.

Winning mega-cities by 30 points is great, but her margin there was mostly (though not entirely) neutralized by her poor performance in large rural areas and small towns alone. Again, her vote in these mega-cities was also inefficiently distributed in already-blue states; the swing states with mega-cities tend to have large amounts of rural land, which is why she lost Florida, Georgia and Pennsylvania. Finally, we note that while rural and small-town America are disappearing, that disappearance is happening much more gradually than people appreciate…

But we get back to our initial point: In our system of government, popular vote metrics are only sensible when put through a geographic filter.  This causes problems in the Electoral College, which we’ve recounted before.  There are only nine “mega-cities” in America: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Miami, Atlanta, Houston, and Dallas.  These, in turn, affect 11 states: New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California, Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia and Texas.

In other words, in seven of these states, further growth in this area does no good for Democrats, as they are already blue. In three others (Pennsylvania, Florida and Georgia), the rural areas, towns, and small cities cast enough votes to outvote the mega-city.  The final one – Texas – may be the key to a Democratic majority down the road, but Hillary Clinton still lost it by nine points, with a lot of Romney’s votes going to third party candidates. Put differently, the place where the Democratic coalition is growing the most does them the least good, electorally speaking.

But if it causes problems in the Electoral College, it wreaks havoc in the Senate, House, and state legislatures.  While only 11 states have mega-cities, 18 states have neither mega-cities nor large cities.  To put this in perspective, a party that sweeps the rural and town-dominated states starts out with 36 Senate seats.  This won’t happen, of course – Vermont isn’t going Republican any time soon – but Republicans also have a solid foundation in states with large cities, like Oklahoma and Kansas.  Because of the Democrats’ concentration in cities, and because of the concentration of the urban vote in relatively few states, the Senate is now a natural Republican gerrymander.

In the House, it is largely the same story…

 3. This is reversible.

We close with the following thought.  This happened for a reason, and since it happened for a reason, it is probably reversible.  But it won’t happen overnight.  Democrats were once able to win rural areas, and send large numbers of members of Congress from these places.  That was in part because they focused their message on these areas, and tolerated culturally conservative Democrats like Harold Volkmer in Missouri and Sonny Montgomery in Mississippi.

But for much of the Obama administration, these members were forced to take a series of tough votes that rendered the Blue Dog Democrat a near-extinct species. Hillary Clinton’s campaign in 2016 was almost entirely directed toward the coalition of the ascendant in mega-cities, which is a decent enough coalition for the popular vote, but is highly problematic for the Electoral College.

We very much doubt that liberal Democrats will like some of policy compromises that winning back these areas probably entails. We suspect, however, that they will find that preferable to the policies that will be enacted over the next four years.

I’m not sure if more socially conservative Democrats are the key to reversing this.  That said, I think Trende is exactly right that Democrats’ future electoral hopes do depend up– at least somewhat– reversing this trend.  Now, how to do that?  (Or, maybe it really is just more socially conservative Democrats?)

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Tough guy!

Sure, official presidential portraits are a small thing, but like so much else, I think this adds some fairly transparent insight into Donald Trump’s simple mind.  You can practically see him thinking, “look how tough I look.  I am the toughest.”  I swear, my first reaction to this was that it reminded me of the look you’d get from a 10-year old kid (I have experience with those) when you tell them to look tough.  A little more on the matter and the oddness of it at Vox.

This is our president

What does it say about our country that we elected (and nearly half support) a completely unmoored narcissist?  Nothing good, that’s for sure.  And even though we’ve had plenty of time to get used to Trump, it still is pretty amazing to be reminded time and time again in such dramatic ways what a breathtakingly emotionally immature person he is.  Jenna Johnson on last night’s TV interview:

The way President Trump tells it, the meandering, falsehood-filled, self-involved speech that he gave at the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters was one of the greatest addresses ever given.

“That speech was a home run,” Trump told ABC News just a few minutes into his first major television interview since moving into the White House. “See what Fox said. They said it was one of the great speeches. They showed the people applauding and screaming. … I got a standing ovation. In fact, they said it was the biggest standing ovation since Peyton Manning had won the Super Bowl, and they said it was equal. I got a standing ovation. It lasted for a long period of time.”

The most powerful man in the world continued: “You probably ran it live. I know when I do good speeches. I know when I do bad speeches. That speech was a total home run. They loved it. … People loved it. They loved it. They gave me a standing ovation for a long period of time. They never even sat down, most of them, during the speech. There was love in the room. You and other networks covered it very inaccurately. … That speech was a good speech. And you and a couple of other networks tried to downplay that speech. And it was very, very unfortunate that you did.”

Trump brushed off the suggestion that it was disrespectful to deliver Saturday’s speech — which included musings about magazine covers and crowd sizes — in front of a hallowed memorial to CIA agents killed in the line of duty. He insisted that the crowd was filled with “the people of the CIA,” not his supporters, and could have been several times larger than it was. Had a poll been taken of the 350-person audience to gauge the speech’s greatness, Trump said the result would have been “350 to nothing” in his favor.

The lengthy interview, which aired late Wednesday night, provided a glimpse of the president and his state-of-mind on his fifth full day in office. It revealed a man who is obsessed with his own popularity and eager to provide evidence of his likability, even if that information doesn’t match reality.

Trump insisted that he could have “very, very easily” won the popular vote in the election — which concluded more than 11 weeks ago — had he simply tried. He again suggested that Democrat Hillary Clinton won the popular vote because of widespread voter fraud, of which there is no evidence. He hinted that he thinks voter fraud might have also helped elect former president Barack Obama, whose favorability ratings were higher than his on Inauguration Day. He justified some of his unsubstantiated claims by saying that millions of his supporters agree with him. He did acknowledge that his own approval rating is “pretty bad,” but he blamed that on the media.

Trump plugged an “extraordinary poll” that he said found that people “loved and liked” his inaugural address. He again claimed to have “the biggest crowd in the history of inaugural speeches” and accused the media of demeaning his supporters by underreporting turnout. Trump also took credit for the Dow Jones industrial average closing above 20,000 for the first time on Wednesday, referred to a former rival as “one of the combatants that I fought to get here” and said that a recent visitor told him that their meeting “was the single greatest meeting I’ve ever had with anybody.”

I think there’s plenty of use for “most” and “greatest” with Trump, but here in the real world, those are not going to be positive words following “most” and “greatest.”

How to lose the War on Terror

Robin Wright:

On Wednesday, a draft executive order circulated that would call for an end to all processing and admission of Syrian refugees in the United States “until such time as I have determined that sufficient changes have been made.” The arrival of Temple Sinai’s refugee family, who have been waiting for years and come so close to finding a safe haven, could now be put off indefinitely “or forever,” Dettelbach told me. “They were vetted to an inch of their lives. It’s insane to hold them accountable for what is going on in their country—or in our country.”

The restriction would be part of a wide-ranging, eight-page document titled “Protecting the Nation from Terrorist Attacks by Foreign Nationals.” It would also halt all refugee admissions and resettlements from any country for the next four months, to allow for a review of vetting procedures. It would order an immediate thirty-day halt to the admission of all people—even for business or trade, family reasons, humanitarian emergencies, or tourism—from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen, as well as Syria. Trump would also cut the number of visas for refugees worldwide by more than half, to fifty thousand, for 2017…

A recent report by the international-security program of New America, a Washington think tank, echoes the Rand study. “Far from being foreign infiltrators, the large majority of jihadist terrorists in the United States have been American citizens or legal residents,” it said. Even more notable, “every jihadist who conducted a lethal attack inside the United States since 9/11 was a citizen or legal resident. In addition about a quarter of the extremists are converts, further confirming that the challenge cannot be reduced to one of immigration.” …

The terrorism threat from Syrian refugees is low for three reasons, according to Dan Byman, a staff member of the 9/11 Commission, which in 2011 conducted the official inquiry into the Al Qaeda attacks. “First, very few among the refugees support the terrorists,” Byman, now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told me. “Second, the vetting for the refugees is extensive. Third, the American Muslim community has consistently shown itself to be hostile to terrorism and reports most of the few suspects in their ranks.”

The real danger is the rippling effect that the order would have on allies and enemies—and even at home. Trump’s decision, Byman said, would discourage other countries from taking in refugees. It could legitimize or fuel anti-immigration movements that have been gaining ground across Europe. It could indefinitely set adrift almost five million Syrians sitting in camps in Turkey (2.8 million), Lebanon (one million), Jordan (six hundred and fifty-five thousand), Iraq (two hundred and thirty thousand), and Egypt (a hundred and sixteen thousand), where employment opportunities are often nonexistent and education is limited. The kids have few outlets; they are susceptible to criminal and extremist groups. Inside Syria, another six and a half million people are displaced, or forced from their homes; many want to flee.

Jihadi movements—the Islamic State, Al Qaeda, Hezbollah, Hamas, and dozens of smaller groups—will almost certainly exploit the move as proof that the West is at war with world’s 1.7 billion Muslims. In a recruitment video last year, an Al Qaeda branch in Somalia showed footage of Trump, then on the campaign trail, proposing his ban of all Muslims from the United States. [emphasis mine]

Or, nicely summed up in this tweet:

How NAFTA and China killed jobs in chart form

I really enjoyed this long read from Brad Delong at Vox on the decline of manufacturing jobs in the U.S.  Nonetheless, it was a little long and I love how Drum pithily declares he can summarize the whole thing in a single chart.  He’s not far off:

 

You might want to show that to somebody next they rail against NAFTA.  That said, there’s also some good cross-national comparison that Drum nicely summarizes:

Very roughly speaking, DeLong’s argument is this: everyone agrees that Germany is the poster child for an advanced economy with a great manufacturing policy. And yet, their manufacturing employment has steadily declined for the past half century too, just like ours. So if this has happened to Germany, there’s not much of a case for suggesting that the US has done anything especially wrong over the past 50 years. We’ve simply evolved from a (relatively) poor manufacturing nation into a (relatively) rich services and technology nation. This has nothing much to do with trade policy, either. It’s just what rich countries do. What’s more, it’s a decidedly good thing overall, even if it does affect a smallish number of people badly.

But, hey, I’m sure dropping TPP and making a better deal on NAFTA will create a boom in manufacturing jobs in Ohio, PA, etc.  Oh, and I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

 

Photo of the day

This is almost too amazing too be true.  A meteor over India via Wired.

PRASENJEET YADAV

Why the lies

Thanks to ohwilleke for directing me to this terrific Tyler Cowen column on Trump’s lies:

By requiring subordinates to speak untruths, a leader can undercut their independent standing, including their standing with the public, with the media and with other members of the administration. That makes those individuals grow more dependent on the leader and less likely to mount independent rebellions against the structure of command. Promoting such chains of lies is a classic tactic when a leader distrusts his subordinates and expects to continue to distrust them in the future.

Another reason for promoting lying is what economists sometimes call loyalty filters. If you want to ascertain if someone is truly loyal to you, ask them to do something outrageous or stupid. If they balk, then you know right away they aren’t fully with you. That too is a sign of incipient mistrust within the ruling clique, and it is part of the same worldview that leads Trump to rely so heavily on family members…

Trump specializes in lower-status lies, typically more of the bald-faced sort, namely stating “x” when obviously “not x” is the case. They are proclamations of power, and signals that the opinions of mainstream media and political opponents will be disregarded. The lie needs to be understood as more than just the lie. For one thing, a lot of Americans, especially many Trump supporters, are more comfortable with that style than with the “fancier” lies they believe they are hearing from the establishment. For another, joining the Trump coalition has been made costlier for marginal outsiders and ignoring the Trump coalition is now less likely for committed opponents. In other words, the Trump administration is itself sending loyalty signals to its supporters by burning its bridges with other groups.

These lower-status lies are also a short-run strategy. They represent a belief that a lot can be pushed through fairly quickly, bundled with some obfuscation of the truth, and that long-term credibility does not need to be maintained. Once we get past blaming Trump for various misdeeds, it’s worth taking a moment to admit we should be scared he might be right about that.

So the overall picture is this: The Trump administration trusts neither its own appointees nor its own supporters, and is creating a situation where that lack of trust is reciprocal. That is of all things a strategy for getting things done, and these first one hundred days are going to be a doozy.

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