Only in America

Sometimes, nothing captures the truth like satire.  The Onion:

‘No Way To Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens

And nobody writes better about America’s gun insanity than Adam Gopnik:

Was it a jihadist or just a guy?” So the seventeen-year-old girl asks, on hearing the news, landing at once on the central black-comedy question as the annals of American mass murder expand this morning. If the author of the at least fifty dead and more wounded—the word “wounded,” of course, fails to capture the extent of the maiming, just as the blank word “dead” fails to capture the dawning of grief for so many families—was someone who had, even once, communicated with or been radicalized by isis, no matter how remote or long-distance that radicalization, or if he was merely a Muslim from a Muslim country, then a massive act of terrorism would have been committed and a militant response, including travel bans and broad suspensions of rights, would be essential. If it was just one more American “psycho,” then all we can do is shrug and, as the occupant of the Oval Office put it, send “warmest condolences and sympathies…” President Trump, deprived from birth by some genetic accident of all natural human empathy—one should listen to a recently recovered tape of Trump, speaking to Howard Stern, in which he is actually boasting of his indifference to a man he thought was dying—speaks empathy as a foreign language and makes the kinds of mistakes we all make in a second language that we have barely mastered, placing adjectives in places that no native speaker ever would. Who sends warmest anything to the families of murder victims? [emphases mine] Vice-President Mike Pence, who is not a sociopath, merely a Republican, knew that the right language is the language of bafflement, talking about “senseless violence” and the rest.

So far, all signs are that it was just a guy—just one more American killer who got his hands on some collection of weapons designed for the sole purpose of killing people, and who then killed people. We know that if it was a Muslim with a foreign name, we would be in full panic mode and all we would be hearing about is the ever-greater dangers of terrorism. Indeed, the killings in France, on Sunday, which were surely terrorism, have already begun to attract that kind of attention from the right wing here. But when it happens here, what we’re told by the entire power structure of American life—both houses of Congress, the White House, and now the Supreme Court, locked and loaded to sustain the absurd and radical pro-gun ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller—is that there is nothing at all to be done, save to pray.

The facts remain facts. Gun control acts on gun violence the way antibiotics act on infections—imperfectly but with massive efficacy. 

And Ryan Lizza:

“In times such as these, I know we are searching for some kind of meaning in the chaos,” Trump said. “Some kind of light in the darkness. The answers do not come easy.”

Perhaps he was speaking about the difficulty of losing a loved one in such horrific circumstances, but it also sounded like he was talking about doing anything—anything at all, in terms of public policy—about the epidemic of gun deaths in America. Near the end of his speech, Trump said that “even the most terrible despair can be illuminated by a single ray of hope.” If your hope was that Washington would start to grapple with a response to the crisis of mass shootings, the President didn’t offer a single ray.

German Lopez with just how much of an outlier America is on all this.  Well worth reading.  A couple key charts:

A chart shows America’s disproportionate levels of gun violence.

Gun ownership tightly correlates with gun violence.

But… freedom!

Nicholas Kristoff with totally common-sense policy changes we are not making.

And, as always, re-upping on Gary Wills, “Our Moloch.”

Las Vegas shooting– twitter response version

Busy day, but here, at least, are my favorite tweets I have read on the matter today:


Who is a feminist?

I’ve been inspired by my Gender & Politics paper assignment to think about doing some real research on American attitudes towards contemporary feminism.  Here’s the assignment:

Informally discuss the meaning of feminism with at least five people. Make sure to ask them if they are a feminist, why or why not, and what do they think of when they hear the term. How did people respond? Why do you think that people reacted as they did? What did these conversations help you learn about perceptions and reality of feminism in America?

Anyway, the 2016 ANES asks respondents if they identify as a feminist.  So, for a start, I just thought I’d see the propensity of different demographic groups to identify a feminist or not.  So, here you go, percentages in each group that identify as feminist:

All: 38%

Democrats: 53%

Republicans: 22%

Men: 25%

Women: 51%

Parent: 38%

Under 30: 41%

Over 60: 35%

Lives in South: 35%

Deep South: 33%

Married 36%

Born-again: 32%

College degree: 50%

White: 38%

Black: 39%

Latino: 35%

Trump voter: 21%

Clinton voter: 59%

What went wrong with the Republican party anyway?

So, one of my major themes for years has been the asymmetry between the Republican and Democratic parties.  In large part, because I think there’s a somewhat knee-jerk response, to just assume that everything is symmetrical.  So, given that the Republican Party has clearly gone off the rails and Democrats have not, how do we explain that?  Lee Drutman— whose been doing the best writing of anybody on political parties over the past couple years– takes an excellent stab.  Well worth reading the whole thing.  But since, you come here for my expert excerpts…

At this point, it should be obvious that the Republican Party has gone insane. The pressing question now is: “Why has the Republican Party gone insane?”

My argument is that the modern Republican Party is a direct result of the design flaws of the American political system — our winner-take-all single-member electoral districts, our reliance on private money to finance elections, and our increasingly presidentialist system of government. You simply can’t understand the GOP’s pathologies without understanding the larger political system in which it operates.

It’s tempting to lay the blame on well-known destructive political leaders (Newt Gingrich, Mitch McConnell, Donald Trump, etc.). But why should politicians here and now be any more destructive than at any other time and place? What’s different here and now are the opportunities and incentives. That’s why we need a structural explanation…

Understanding the nature of coalitions helps to explain Chait’s other question: If our system is so poorly designed, why did only one party go off in an extreme direction?

Chait actually supplies the answer in his response. The Democratic and Republican coalitions are very different (a point that Matt Grossmann and David Hopkins also make, much more extensively, in Asymmetric Politics). As Chait astutely notes:

[The] Democratic Party is racially and economically heterogeneous. Even if he had wanted to take vengeance upon white America for its sins, Obama had far too many white supporters to make such a course of action remotely practical. [emphases mine] (A majority of Obama’s voters were white, in fact.) On economic issues, the Democratic Party relies on support and input from business and labor alike.

There is little such balance to be found in the Republican Party. Republicans concerned about their party’s future may blanch at Trump’s pardoning of the sadistic racist Joe Arpaio or his gleeful unleashing of law enforcement. In the short term, however, they have bottomed out on their minority support and proven able to win national power regardless, by using racial wedge issues to pry away blue-collar whites.

Since the 1980s, Republicans have held together a coalition around a woolly vision of “limited-government conservatism” that could mean different things to different people. Libertarian-minded business owners saw it as low taxes and deregulation. Conservative Christians saw it in terms of religious liberty or not extending rights to LGBTQ citizens. Middle-class whites who scored high on racial resentment scales saw it as government not taking their money to give free things to freeloading black and brown people.

These different [Republican] groups can be kept in the same big-tent coalition because they all understood that on the values they cared about most, the Democratic Party was not the party for people like them. Over time, as they identified as conservatives and Republicans, they learned the orthodoxies that “people like them” stood for, and were pulled along for the sake of keeping the governing coalition together, understanding that any defection would spell defeat in a two-party system.

By contrast, Democrats have been the party of the working class, the party of cosmopolitan urban professionals, and the party of minority groups. There was really no coherent “liberal” ideology that held these groups together, other than an interest group logroll in which each constituency got something. The need to keep all these constituencies happy is why the party stayed moderate, and also lacked a compelling vision from the Clinton era forward.

I especially like Drutman’s section on campaign finance:

Finally, we can’t discuss the nature of the two political coalitions without discussing the role of private money in politics. Broadly speaking, the wealthy and corporations have used money (through campaign contributions and lobbying) to shape economic policy so that it disproportionately benefits the rich and corporations.

This money has made it harder for the Democratic Party to truly be the party of the working class (one reason, as Chait notes, that Democrats have remained moderate).

But its more consequential effect was that it pulled the Republican Party very far right on economic issues. And because many of these far-right economic positions are broadly unpopular on their own, the Republican Party has had to work even harder to disqualify Democrats, turning up negative partisanship to ever higher levels and having to rely more and more on anti-elite/anti-government and now increasingly overt racial demagoguery in order to keep Republicans voting Republican.

Great stuff.  And again, I would argue “what went wrong with the Republican Party anyway” is one of the absolutely key questions to understanding contemporary American politics and how we can, hopefully, improve things.

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