Quick hits (part I)

1a) Political Scientist Hans Noel and former-Republican columnist Jennifer Rubin in clear agreement (and me too, for that matter) on how Democrats should proceed on Trump’s malfeasance.  Noel:

If I were giving advice to Democrats, I’d say impeachment is not a good move, unless you’re sure that the Senate is going to convict. The worst thing would be for Trump to appear vindicated by the process.

But that’s not an argument you’re going to be able to make to activists who are demanding that Democrats move forward. So, for sure, there is going to be impeachment material that is discussed in committee. It’s a question of whether the Democrats can slowly manage all of that — have hearings, subpoena the president’s tax returns, and spread it out over the course of two years. Better to have all the material that you would use for impeachment and then let the voters decide in 2020.

1b) Rubin:

Back inside the Beltway, House Democrats will have the power to hold hearings, subpoena witnesses and documents, and hold non-complying witnesses in contempt. Shining a light on the administration’s skullduggery will strengthen the hand of those resisting improper order and give underlings pause about cooperating. Moreover, the House will slowly build the case for removing — by election in 2020, most likely — Trump and his Senate enablers. That worked well in the midterms, and a campaign built around the inarguable proposition that Trump is abusing his power may help reassemble a winning coalition for Democrats.

The Trump resistance, including groups such as Nobody Is Above the Law, also continue to protest peacefully, both laying down a marker in defense of democratic norms and keeping their own voters engaged and enthusiastic. Trump remains the Democrats’ best organizing tool.

What is not, in all likelihood, going to be possible is to impeach and remove Trump. The Senate will remain in GOP hands, making removal (requiring a two-thirds majority) almost inconceivable. Impeaching without removing Trump undoubtedly would fire up his cult and provide weird vindication. Better to investigate, embarrass and — after he leaves office — prosecute him for any crimes (e.g. obstruction of justice) taken in office.

2) The futility of trying to stop mass shooters while we have a country awash in guns:

While retrospective analyses about where laws failed, or might be strengthened, are certainly worthwhile after such tragedies, they can also start to feel futile. The challenge, as Jeffrey Swanson, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the Duke University School of Medicine, told me on Friday, is that the risk factors for gun violence are widely varied, complex, and nonspecific. “They tend to apply to many more people who are not going to do what you’re trying to prevent,” he said.

Balancing the rights of those with mental-health issues and the desire to safeguard the public is, arguably, the most vexing dilemma in the gun-control debate. The vast majority of people with histories of mental illness will never be violent. Yet studies, including research by Swanson, have shown that people with serious mental illnesses do pose an increased risk of violence compared to those without, and the problem is made far worse when coupled with substance abuse. The puzzle for lawmakers is that predicting violence is maddeningly inexact.

As long as the discussion about gun control continues to center on an individual’s right to bear arms, finding solutions that make an actual dent in the number of mass shootings will remain elusive. The starting point of America’s debate about guns is the idea that every person should be able to have one for self-defense.  As a result, access to guns is far easier in the United States than in any other wealthy, industrialized country. A recent study estimated that there are three hundred and ninety-three million civilian-owned firearms in the United States, a rate of 120.5 guns for every hundred residents, making the country’s firearms-ownership rate twice that of the second-highest nation, Yemen.

“Gun control in our country is not really gun control anymore—it’s people control,” Swanson said. “We have to figure out the people who are so dangerous that it’s justified to limit their Second Amendment right. That’s really hard to do.” [emphasis mine]

3) It’s the damn guns.  German Lopez, “America’s easy access to guns is enabling all these mass shootings: It’s the guns. The guns are the problem.”

4) “Appearance is political” and the Georgia governor’s race.  Good stuff.

5) What if everyone voted?

Many political scientists say that policies that make voting easier would also make American democracy more representative and less likely to favor the interests of wealthier, older and white voters who typically turn out at higher rates. Broader participation, proponents say, could ease polarization, lift faith in government and dampen criticism that politicians representing the views of a minority of Americans wield the majority of power in Washington.

6) The amount of problems in actual voting is truly ridiculous in a prosperous, modern country.  Conor Friedersdorf:

Tuesday’s problems were not unforeseeable––they were explicitly foreseen. In 2014, the Presidential Commission on Election Administration warned of an “impending crisis.” The report inspired a nationwide survey conducted by the Brennan Center. In 2015, it produced America’s Voting Machines at Risk. Its authors later warned in The Atlantic, “The problem of aging voting technology reaches nearly every corner of the United States. Unlike voting machines used in past eras, today’s systems were not designed to last for decades.”

Wired emphasized that 43 states “use systems that are no longer manufactured. Some election officials have resorted to scouring eBay for decommissioned equipment they can cannibalize to extend the life of machines. Georgia was in such dire straits over the lack of parts for its voting machines that it hired a consultant to build customized hardware that could run its Windows 2000-based election system software.”…

The 2014 report was a warning. The 2015 survey was a warning. Glitches in 2016 and 2018 were confirmation of a forewarned problem. And in 2020, when voting machines in many jurisdictions will be two years older than they are now, a glitch that alters the outcome of a race or significantly undermines faith in democracy will count as a preventable catastrophe. Acting now—spending now—is the likeliest way to prevent it.

Of course, the Republicans seem to have little interest in improving this.

7) Drum on why we should not trust the results of cherry-picked scientific studies:

Is this because scientists are under pressure from pharmaceutical companies to show positive results, and before 2000 they did exactly that? Or is it because scientists just like reporting positive results if they can? After all, who wants to spend years of their life on a bit of research that ends up being a nothingburger? I guess we’ll never know. But one thing we do know: we need to keep as sharp an eye on scientists as we do on anyone else, especially if there’s a lot of money at stake. When we don’t, they’re just as vulnerable to pressure and hopeful thinking as anyone.

8) I think Brian Beutler nails it on Jeff Sessions, “Sessions was a rotten figure, who got fired for doing one thing the right and decent way.”  Jonathan Blitzer with an extended take:

But, as the Trump Administration adopted increasingly draconian policies, it became clear that, for Sessions, orchestrating the most systematic and wide-reaching assault on immigrants in modern history was well worth enduring near-constant humiliations from the President. As the government’s top lawyer, Sessions was responsible for, among other things, cancelling daca, spurring family separations, trying to defund sanctuary cities, dismantling the asylum system, reshaping the immigration courts, and retooling multiple travel bans. To the extent that the President has styled himself as an anti-immigration crusader, it’s with a script written entirely by Sessions.

9) Chait on coming Democratic investigations of Trump:

The list ranges from Trump’s tax returns (which Republicans had voted to keep hidden) to his acceptance of undisclosed payments from foreign and domestic interests while in office to more routine incompetence and sleaze, like lavish expenses by Cabinet members and the hurricane response in Puerto Rico.

In public, Republicans are warning that investigating any of these matters will backfire on Democrats. “The business of presidential harassment,” offered Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, “which we were deeply engaged in in the ’90s, improved the president’s approval ratings and tanked ours.”

It ought to be self-evident that McConnell is not actually expressing sincere concern for the political fortunes of the party with which he is engaged in zero-sum competition. Alas, it isn’t self-evident. The notion that rigorous oversight amounts to “harassment,” and can backfire on the congressional party, has taken hold in Establishment Washington. “There is scant evidence of a mandate for a scorched-earth pursuit of Trump,” two senior editors at Politico wrote the day after the election. In the Times, Nicholas Kristof warned that “Democrats jockeying for the presidential nomination in 2020 will tug the party toward impeachment talk or a blizzard of subpoenas — in ways that may help Trump.”

Yes, sometimes aggressive congressional oversight can backfire, like when Republicans fanatically pursued conspiracy theories like Benghazi and “IRS targeting” during the Obama years. The Republican investigation of Bill Clinton also created some blowback, although even that famous episode has a much less straightforward denouement than is widely understood. While hounding Clinton over his affair, Republicans lost the 1998 midterms, an outcome that suggests that there can be a price for going overboard in the pursuit of a scandal that is palpably unrelated to job performance. But the atmosphere of scandal and dysfunction still clung to the Clinton presidency, and it was that stink that allowed George W. Bush to make a case for change in 2000 in what was otherwise an atmosphere of peace and prosperity. As Fred Barnes reported at the time in The Weekly Standard, impeachment “played a historic role, holding Clinton accountable, seeking just punishment, and, not least, shaping the 2000 race and paving the way for a likely Republican victory.” A Bush adviser told him, “There are 13 people who are responsible for where we are now. They are the House impeachment managers.” The lesson seems clear: Even if Congress somehow overreaches in its pursuit of Trump — a prospect that is almost logistically impossible, given the staggering list of misconduct already in plain sight — it would still probably help the Democrats’$2 2020 presidential candidate run against the mess in Washington.

From the very beginning, when Donald Trump and his father ignored demands from the Nixon Justice Department that they stop discriminating against African-Americans, through his repeated tax fraud and financial scams, legal impunity has formed the through-line of his career. Holding him accountable serves not only Democrats’ self-interest but the rule of law. That process begins now.

I’m in inclined to think that impeachment itself is probably not wise, politically, but all the investigations exposing real and pervasive corruption.  Hell yeah.

10) Ezra on Republican claims of fraud,etc., on these close elections:

11) Let’s just share another good tweet on a different topic, while I’m at it:

12) Marc Hetherington goes beyond fluid/fixed voters to propose a solution for UNC’s “what do do about Silent Sam” problem.

13) Drum on media coverage of the caravan.

14) I’m still looking for more definitive accounts on youth turnout in 2018 but this study suggests midterm youth turnout was up dramatically:

15) I was so disappointed in the widely-loved novel, Annihilation.  The movie was so much better.  Mostly because, things actually happened.

16) EJ Dionne on the “mystery” of Evangelical love for Trump:

White evangelicals are not “voting their values” nearly as much as they are voting other aspects of their identity. This group is older than the average American. Its members are disproportionately southern. And, by definition, they are white.

Older white southerners are overwhelmingly Republican and conservative. They have been voting for conservative Republicans since 1980, and their drift toward the GOP began in 1964, when Lyndon Johnson’s embrace of civil rights led so many white southerners to abandon the Democratic Party.

Let’s look first at the demography. The average white evangelical is older than the average American: In a survey by PRRI in cooperation with the Brookings Institution released last week, 45 percent of respondents were over 50 years old, while fully 60 percent of the white evangelicals surveyed were over 50.

Politically, white evangelicals speak with a distinct drawl: Half of the white evangelicals surveyed live in the south, compared to only 28 percent of all other whites.

And it should not surprise us that white evangelicals are somewhat more conservative on issues related to race. Let’s just look at two of many examples from the PRRI survey. Respondents were asked to assess the impact of the rise of non-white groups to majority status in the United States by 2045. Among white evangelicals, 54 percent said the demographic change would be negative, compared with 39 percent of other whites.

Asked if “recent killings of African-American men by police are isolated incidents or are they part of a broader pattern of how police treat African-Americans,” 71 percent of white evangelicals said they were isolated incidents compared with 51 percent of white non-evangelicals.

To be clear, nothing we say here is designed to denigrate the faith of evangelicals or to deny its authenticity. But it is important to recognize what these numbers suggest: In politics these days, religious convictions seem to be taking a back seat to identity, partisanship and ideology. While this is by no means unique to white evangelicals, it is certainly important to understanding their current commitments.

17) My great friend Richard Clerkin had his research written up in the NYT.  Awesome!

Many issues seem to divide Democrats and Republicans, and new research has found one more: philanthropy.

Red counties, which are overwhelmingly Republican, tend to report higher charitable contributions than Democratic-dominated blue counties, according to a new study on giving, although giving in blue counties is often bolstered by a combination of charitable donations and higher taxes.

But as red or blue counties become more politically competitive, charitable giving tends to fall.

“There’s something about the like-mindedness where perhaps the comfort level rises,” said one of the authors of the study, Robert K. Christensen, associate professor at the George W. Romney Institute of Public Service and Ethics at Brigham Young University. “They feel safe redistributing their wealth voluntarily. It also matters for compulsory giving.”

The study was conducted by four research professors who set out to explore how political differences affect charitable giving. It was published on Oct. 20 in the academic journal Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly. The other authors were Laurie E. Paarlberg of Indiana University–Purdue University Indianapolis, Rebecca Nesbit of the University of Georgia and Richard M. Clerkin of North Carolina State University.

18) Still looking for a good take on why Florida largely refused to move left while most of the rest of the country did.  I really enjoyed this conversation with NYT polling guru, Nate Cohn, which does not have an answer, but also discusses the issue.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to Quick hits (part I)

  1. samhbrewer says:

    Re: #7
    Also, this, from an interview with author of new book, University of Nike


    From the interview, on university/corporation partnerships:
    These partnerships grow out of the same need for funding, but they’re insidious because they hinder transparency. Schools are able to find these loopholes for public records laws for protecting trade secrets. And the contracts these corporations write when they want to collaborate on research with universities are often written so there’s no obligation to publish research, so they can kill studies that might benefit the public but harm the corporations funding them.

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