The statues

Great piece at NPR.  First, it takes on Trump’s Russian-inspired “whataboutism.”  (If you are not familiar with this Soviet propaganda technique, read this).  And, then, it looks at what people are looking for in their RE Lee statues:

So “whatabout” them? [Washington, Jefferson, etc.] Must they all go if Robert E. Lee goes?

Not necessarily, because they are not all the same.

Some figures stood for something larger. Washington guided the foundation of a country that eventually preserved freedom for all. Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence, in which a single phrase — “that all men are created equal” — became a hammer that later generations would use to help smash the chains of slavery.

It’s possible to make a case for honoring such men, so long as we are also honest about their flaws. They were participants in a great experiment in self-government, which has expanded over time to embrace more and more people of all races, not to mention women, too.

So “whatabout” Lee? What did he stand for?

Lee, who is connected by marriage to the family of Washington, resigned from the Army to fight against his country, on the Confederate side in the Civil War…

There is still a case to be made for Lee as a brilliant general, who won battle after battle and kept his army together for years, even though it was massively outnumbered and undersupplied. He is a significant figure in the American story.

Ulysses S. Grant, the general who defeated him, gave the best epitaph of Lee, saying the Confederate general “had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought.” …

Is it remotely possible that Spencer and Identity Evropa and the driver of a Dodge Challenger came to defend the statue of Lee because of his skill in military tactics and strategy? [italics in original; bold is mine]

To have such defenders says a lot about the cause that Lee represented. To have the president of the United States compare Lee to Washington is simply, factually wrong.

Meanwhile, terrific essay from Stonewall Jackson’s great-great-grandsons in Slate:

Last weekend, Charlottesville showed us unequivocally that Confederate statues offer pre-existing iconography for racists. The people who descended on Charlottesville last weekend were there to make a naked show of force for white supremacy. To them, the Robert E. Lee statue is a clear symbol of their hateful ideology. The Confederate statues on Monument Avenue are, too—especially Jackson, who faces north, supposedly as if to continue the fight.

We are writing to say that we understand justice very differently from our grandfather’s grandfather, and we wish to make it clear his statue does not represent us…

While we are not ashamed of our great-great-grandfather, we are ashamed to benefit from white supremacy while our black family and friends suffer. We are ashamed of the monument.

In fact, instead of lauding Jackson’s violence, we choose to celebrate Stonewall’s sister—our great-great-grandaunt—Laura Jackson Arnold. As an adult Laura became a staunch Unionist and abolitionist. Though she and Stonewall were incredibly close through childhood, she never spoke to Stonewall after his decision to support the Confederacy. We choose to stand on the right side of history with Laura Jackson Arnold.

Confederate monuments like the Jackson statue were never intended as benign symbols. Rather, they were the clearly articulated artwork of white supremacy. Among many examples, we can see this plainly if we look at the dedication of a Confederate statue at the University of North Carolina, in which a speaker proclaimed that the Confederate soldier “saved the very life of the Anglo-Saxon race in the South.” Disturbingly, he went on to recount a tale of performing the “pleasing duty” of “horse whipping” a black woman in front of federal soldiers. All over the South, this grotesque message is conveyed by similar monuments. As importantly, this message is clear to today’s avowed white supremacists.

And this nice chart, via Drum, reinforces the point:

Photo of the day

From a recent photos of the week gallery in the Atlantic:

A surfer catches a wave as the sun sets at the end of the first day of the annual Boardmasters festival held on Fistral beach in Newquay on August 9, 2017 in Cornwall, England. Since 1981, the Boardmasters surfing competition has been held in Newquay and is now part of a larger five-day surf, skate and music festival. 

Matt Cardy / Getty

Looking good for 2018

Seth Masket takes to 538 to explain why all the Democratic Congressional candidates for 2018 is a good sign.  I love that this nicely explains some of my favorite PS research ever (reading Gary Jacobson’s work on strategic challengers and Congressional elections as much as anything inspired me to be a political scientist).  Anyway, Masket:

Ed Kilgore ran a similar analysis recently at New York Magazine, drawing from a longer time series made available by the Campaign Finance Institute. The main finding was that Democrats hold an enormous advantage in early candidate filings for the 2018 midterm elections. In particular, if we limit the analysis to the number of challengers to House incumbents who have filed for next year and have raised at least $5,000 — in an effort to narrow our sample to truly viable candidates — we see a record advantage for Democrats right now…

In the chart below, I have plotted the Democratic advantage in early House challengers against the number of House seats won by Democrats since 2004. As the chart suggests, while there is a pretty small number of data points, this is a very strong relationship. Each additional percentage advantage in early candidates yields about 2.5 additional House members in the election…

Political science research suggests that the recruitment of high-quality candidates explains a good deal of election outcomes — if a party can convince a large number of skilled and experienced candidates to run for office, those candidates tend to do better and the party tends to win more seats. Indeed, the recruitment of quality candidates helps explain the development of the incumbency advantage in 20th century American politics. Finding strong candidates was Newt Gingrich’s approach prior to the 1994 Republican landslide, just as it was Rahm Emanuel’s strategy for 2006.

Other factors will affect just how successful those recruitment efforts will be, of course. If a House member looks safe and the political fundamentals (including the state of the economy and the president’s popularity) don’t look like they’re going to make incumbents unpopular, it will be hard to convince, say, a state legislator in a safe district to jump into a difficult and expensive congressional race.

But the environment right now suggests that Republican incumbents are vulnerable. President Trump’s approval ratings are in the mid-30s, even amid a strong economy, and it’s hard to see how the environment will improve much for the GOP by next year. And one way Democrats have been responding to Trump’s various norm violations is by running for office. [emphases mine]

Will the Democrats get a House majority in 2018?  Maybe, maybe not.  The thing to note now is that all the key factors seem to be in place to make this a very real possibility.  And if it does happen, a very-well-deserved impeachment.

Trump’s triggers

Apparently, the presidency needed a trigger warning to keep Trump away.  Too late now.  From Politico:

“In some ways, Trump would rather have people calling him racist than say he backed down the minute he was wrong,”[emphasis mine] one adviser to the White House said on Wednesday about Charlottesville. “This may turn into the biggest mess of his presidency because he is stubborn and doesn’t realize how bad this is getting.”

For Trump, anger serves as a way to manage staff, express his displeasure or simply as an outlet that soothes him. Often, aides and advisers say, he’ll get mad at a specific staffer or broader situation, unload from the Oval Office and then three hours later act as if nothing ever occurred even if others still feel rattled by it. Negative television coverage and lawyers earn particular ire from him.

White House officials and informal advisers say the triggers for his temper are if he thinks someone is lying to him, if he’s caught by surprise, if someone criticizes him, or if someone stops him from trying to do something or seeks to control him.

To paraphrase a friend who shared this on FB… well it’s not like the president ever faces these things.

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