Be very afraid

Some local news reports the reporter just wants you to be there to say something with PhD after you name and you get your 5-second anodyne clip.  Sometimes, the reporter really wants to get your take on the situation and lets you bring in some Political Science.  That’s awesome.  And such was the case with WRAL Laura Leslie’s recent report on Republican candidates of all stripes trying to scare voters with xenophobia.  Enjoy.  (Video at the link)

By Laura Leslie, WRAL Capitol Bureau chief

Raleigh, N.C. — The migrant caravan in Mexico headed for the U.S. is still months away from reaching the border, but it’s showing up everywhere on television in the final days of this campaign season.

The ads feature darkened, threatening images of immigrant caravans, dark-skinned people throwing rocks, crowds rioting.

Some are federal ads, broadcast and tweeted by everyone from President Donald Trump to congressional candidates. But others are Republican ads in state races, from the North Carolina Supreme Court to the state Senate and House – offices that have no control over federal immigration policy.

Steven Greene, a political science professor at North Carolina State University, said the candidates and outside groups airing the ads are betting voters don’t know the difference.

“We know that Democrats have been energized by Donald Trump for the past year and a half – are ready and raring to vote – and Republicans are afraid their voters are going to stay home,” Greene said. “It seems that, at this time, immigration is the issue that might be most likely to motivate them.

“You make whatever argument works for you,” he added.

Other ads for state candidates label opponents as “dangerous” and “extremist.” One by a national political action committee claims a vote for any Democrat is a vote for socialism and chaos.

Greene called that laughable.

“What it does show is the power of negative partisanship these days,” he said, “trying to get people not to vote because they support you and the issues you care about but because the other side is so scary.”

This year’s campaign has been especially ugly, he said.

“We’ve always had negative ads – let’s be clear about that, probably since the 1780s – but just the fact that people are so motivated by their hatred and their fear of the other party, that is something that we’ve really seen an increase of in recent years, and I think these ads speak to that, unfortunately,” he said.

 

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Quick hits (part II)

1a) Ezra on Republican lies on health care:

But there’s another question all this raises: Why are Republicans spending so much time lying about their health care policy? Why not just adopt the popular protections for preexisting conditions they claim to support? How did Republicans get here?

I have a theory.

A bit of health policy history is necessary here. In the early 2000s, it looked like Democrats and Republicans were converging around an approach to health care both could live with, built atop some of the Republican ideas offered in response to Bill Clinton’s 1994 proposal…

Over the next decade, opposition to Obamacare became the central feature of Republican policy thought. This had two downstream consequences. One was that it wrecked the central political theory behind the Obamacare compromise — that Democrats, in giving up the policy advantages of single-payer, would gain the political benefits of bipartisan support — and sent Democrats toward Medicare-for-all, which is better at cutting costs, simpler to explain, and more difficult to challenge legally.

The other was that it forced Republicans to abandon a basically reasonable vision of health care policy and left them with, well, nothing. Opposing Obamacare isn’t a policy vision, but it had to be made into one, and so Republicans tried: They began attacking Obamacare’s weak spots — its high premiums and deductibles — and proposing to lower them by permitting insurers to once again discriminate against the sick and the old…

The problem with the Republican health care vision is that it’s hideously unpopular; that’s why the GOP’s Obamacare replacement efforts collapsed. And it’s left Republicans with two choices. They can level with the public about their health care plan and lose the election or they can lie to the public about their health care plan in a bid to keep their jobs. So far, they’ve chosen lying. [emphasis mine]

1b) Chait on GOP lying on health care:

In any case, Trump’s “plan” for health care is a lawsuit to deny protections for people with preexisting conditions. This is the opposite of having a plan to protect people with preexisting conditions.

Republicans are doing this both because they viscerally despise Obamacare and because they ideologically believe the government should not regulate the insurance market. But their position is wildly unpopular. The dynamics of competitive democracy suggest Republicans should be forced to abandon a policy position that they cannot defend to the electorate. Instead they are obscuring their stance with wild lies without altering its substance whatsoever. Whether they succeed in doing so poses an important test for the democratic process.

2) Good stuff from Dylan Scott on how 2018 is the Identity Politics election:

2018 is a trial run for the future

For as much as Republicans decry identity politics, preying on white fears about changing demographics and brown criminals is just another form of it. Republicans don’t have much to offer their voters except corporate tax cuts and Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, so they’re stirring up white fright. Cruz’s campaign is trying to paint O’Rourke as a young punkbeholden to Hollywood liberals. Gillum has faced something more sinister, multiple racist robocalls of neo-Nazi origins.

A promising showing in 2018 for these young, diverse candidates — carried into office thanks to young, diverse voters — would bode well for Democrats in 2020. They can build on that momentum to craft a winning coalition to win the White House. Republicans would, meanwhile, need to evaluate whether running back to the Trump playbook is palatable one more time or whether it would risk electoral disaster.

On the other hand, meager Democratic victories in 2018 would leave the party with uncomfortably few answers about how to win elections in the Trump era — and lend the Republicans confidence that they can keep winning on white fear, at least for the short term.

The midterms represent two very different bets about what kind of identity politics can win an election in America in 2018. Democrats are putting faith in a diverse, progressive future. Republicans see a much darker underbelly in the American electorate, and they are hoping to exploit it for another unexpectedly triumphant Election Day.

3) The extreme prosecution of people for assisting other voters is just voter suppression by another name.  Shame on these prosecutors.

4) Nice Atlantic piece on the present and future of NC politics.

5) Kristoff is absolutely right– legacy admissions is affirmative action for the privileged and we need to do away with it.  I’d like to think I would have still gotten into Duke if both my parents had not gone there, but, damnit, the last thing a kid whose parents went to Duke needs is a lower bar for entry into an elite university.

6) Julia Belluz, “Fox News says the migrant caravan will bring disease outbreaks. That’s xenophobic nonsense.”  Fox is just the worst.  Ugh.

7) Great Conor Friedersdorf piece:

This week, Donald Trump clarified the stakes in the midterm elections. Speaking on behalf of the Republican Party, he urged his followers to back its congressional candidates at the ballot box in a demagogic video. It opens on a demented murderer speaking Spanish in court and segues to footage of the caravan of Honduran migrants entering Mexico, portraying them as barbarian hordes at the gates.

No responsible political actor would select and juxtapose those video images. No charitable or exculpatory account of its intent is even plausible. It was a naked effort to stoke bigotry and exploit ethnic anxieties.

And no Republican Party message is more prominent…

If the GOP succeeds next week at the ballot box, politicians all over the country will conclude that they can advance their careers by vilifying minority groups, frightening voters predisposed to xenophobia, and dividing Americans. No incentive structure is more dangerous to a multiethnic nation. Politicians in other nations marshaling similar tactics have sparked sectarian violence, campaigns of ethnic cleansing, and civil war. Trump happens to preside over a country where such extreme outcomes are unlikely. But that does not change the character of his tactics or the moral obligation to stand against them. [emphasis mine]

8) Great twitter thread on the Republican party of Lincoln.

9) And  great twitter thread from Greg Sargent on what a heinous and fascist use of the military it is for Trump to send troops to the border to “protect” us from the caravan.

10) This is a few minutes old, but I just came across it and I love it.  One of my favorite local sports columnists on the importance of local news (and paying for news):

The Athletic started from scratch, online, and doesn’t have those issues – or that tradition. I wish The Athletic the best. More jobs for people in my line of work is a good thing, and a little healthy competition is as well. They have hired some of my really good friends, longtime and valued colleagues and people I don’t know but whose work I deeply respect.

But they can’t do what we do: Cover a community from top to bottom with the kind of depth and analysis you can’t get from two minutes on TV and the expertise your neighbor posting on Nextdoor doesn’t have. There’s a reason newspapers have thrived for hundreds of years: There’s no better way to get a digest of the news than to have it reported, collated and curated by people who know what they’re doing, whether that’s in print or online.

Our methods of delivery may change – we have some new ideas of our own coming soon – and our numbers may dwindle as we adjust to the changing news economy, but our commitment to our craft and our jobs has not and will not.

I believe in that. There’s no better place in the world to be a sports columnist than the Triangle. And I believe in the vital role newspapers play in our communities and in our country. So I’m staying.

So even if you don’t subscribe to the paper, support us by paying for full access to our website. Or support them. Or both. But news isn’t free. In fact, it’s ridiculously expensive to report and create. If you like it, pay to keep it coming. It’s still the best deal out there. [emphasis mine]

11) Great essay from Ezra on Trump and the media.  You need to read it.

Days after Trump’s inauguration, then-chief strategist Steve Bannon gave an interview to the New York Times.

“I want you to quote this,” Bannon said. “The media here is the opposition party.”

Just in case his point was missed, he said it again. “You’re the opposition party. Not the Democratic Party. You’re the opposition party. The media’s the opposition party.”

The problem was the media didn’t want to be Trump’s opposition party. The media wanted to cover his presidency. Early on, the media wanted more than anything else to normalize his presidency, and their coverage of it; there was a constant hunt for the moments when Trump appeared presidential or seemed to be changing his behavior to better match the burdens of his office.

Trump’s solution to that problem has been to provoke the media into looking like his opposition by lying in more absurd ways and directly attacking them in more outrageous ways at more and more outrageous times. Remember, for instance, “The FAKE NEWS awards,” which Trump hyped on Twitter for weeks?

Trump leverages the trollish formulas boyd outlined to perfection: He uses Twitter to create spectacle on social media, deploys catchy and unusual frames (“FAKE NEWS!” “the true Enemy of the People”) that sympathizers can search for to find supporting evidence or fellow loyalists, and then uses the media’s aggrieved or simply truth-telling reaction to paints himself as a victim of endless media bias (“90 percent of the coverage of everything this president does is negative”).

The media then reacts in the only way that makes any sense given the situation: We cover Trump’s statements as outrageous and aberrant; we make clear where he’s lied or given succor to violent paranoiacs; we fret over the future of the free press. And then Trump and his loyalists point to our overwhelmingly negative coverage and say, “See? Told you they were the opposition party.”

Trump, in other words, manipulates the media using the same tactics as a run-of-the-mill alt-right troll, and for much the same reason: He wants the media to fight with him so he gets more coverage and shows how biased they are against him. He wants the media to fight him because that drives attention to the things he’s saying, to the conspiracies he’s popularizing, and to himself. Going to war with the media nets Trump much more coverage than giving a speech on manufacturing policy or tax cuts.

The problem is Donald Trump isn’t your run-of-the-mill troll. He’s the president of the United States of America.

 

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