Quick hits (part II)

1) Thomas Edsall talks to political scientists about white identity politics

For 50 years Republicans have battered the Democratic coalition, wielding the so-called southern strategy — built on racism and overlaid with opposition to immigration — to win control of the White House and one or both chambers of Congress.

At the same time, Democrats have struggled to piece together a coalition strong enough to deliver an Election Day majority. In the 1950s, the Democratic coalition was 87 percent white and 13 percent minority, according to the American National Election Studies; it is now 59 percent white and 41 percent minority, according to Pew Research.

As the Democratic Party has evolved from an overwhelmingly white party to a party with a huge minority base, the dominant strategic problem has become the tenuous balance between the priorities of its now equally indispensable white and minority wings.

President Trump has aggressively exploited Democratic vulnerabilities as no previous Republican candidate had dared to do. The frontal attack Trump has engineered — in part by stigmatizing “political correctness” — has had a dual effect, throwing Democrats back on their heels while simultaneously whetting their appetite for a fight.

For Democrats to counter Trump effectively, a number of scholars believe it is essential to understand the motivations — the needs, beliefs and agendas — of those whites who have moved into the Trump camp. Only armed with that information, the way these scholars see it, can the left recapture enough of those voters to regain majority status on a more permanent basis, both in its battles for Congress and for the White House.

2) I like Saideman’s take on Mattis– yes, we will in fact miss him, but his “adult” influence has also been overrated.

3) Good take on the search for anti-conservative bias on google:

It is, perhaps, unsurprising that none of the Congress members complaining about Google’s anti-conservative bias appeared overly concerned that hate groups had hijacked YouTube. Instead, they kept hammering at the bias they claimed the company was directing against them.This is because, as Pasquale told me, the Republicans are very good at “working the refs” to get what they want. What they want here is to bring Google to heel, as they’ve done to Facebook, which conspicuously hired the conservative politician Jon Kyl to investigate its anti-conservative bias, and added an avowedly conservative publication, the now defunct Weekly Standard, to its fact-checking team, giving the magazine’s staff the ability to down-rank sources with which it disagreed ideologically.

But the #StopTheBias campaign has a more pernicious goal: it is yet another way for Trump and his minions to undermine the credibility of the mainstream media.

4) Yglesias on Paul Ryan’s farewell address:

The first half of Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s farewell address to Congress is dedicated primarily to his effort to convince himself that a deficit-financed tax cut for the rich represents not just an idea he happens to favor, but a substantive legacy that constitutes a worthy career-long labor. Then it went off the rails.

In the back half of his speech, Ryan challenged Congress to address the needs of the poor as he claims he attempted during his time in public service. This claim is at odds with his many attempts to take away health care for America’s most vulnerable, his abandonment of tax incentives for the lowest earners, and his commitment to dubious anti-poverty programs.

“You all know that finding solutions to help people lift themselves out of poverty is a personal mission for me,” he said, echoing a line that he has shopped to a lot of journalists over the years but that there is no evidence of in his record. He then went on to say a bunch of stuff that isn’t true about the social safety net, the American poor, and his own record on either.

It’s a perfect capstone to Ryan’s career: Rich people get tax cuts; poor people get pious words and misleading rhetoric.

Paul Ryan is wrong about the war on poverty

Ryan’s entire thinking about the subject of poverty is shaped by his deep commitment to a fundamentally false premise: the notion that anti-poverty programs have failed.

5) Finally watched the SNL “It’s a Wonderful Trump.”  Definitely worth your time.

6) Dana Milbank, “This week in Trump inhumanity: Keeping a mother from her dying toddler.”

7) Drum makes a good case that even though vaping is better than smoking it is still really bad– the potential for a costly, life-long addiction to nicotine.

8) Speaking of nicotine addiction– a new study that shows meditation is amazingly successful for quitting smoking.

9) How Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In” message unraveled.

10) Catherine Rampell, “Has the GOP tax cut delivered? Yes — and the tooth fairy was here just last night!”

11) Helluva graphic— most mentioned country on front of NYT over time.

12) Scientists have a found a new kingdom of life.  Whoa!

The tree of life just got another major branch. Researchers recently found a certain rare and mysterious microbe called a hemimastigote in a clump of Nova Scotian soil. Their subsequent analysis of its DNA revealed that it was neither animal, plant, fungus nor any recognized type of protozoan — that it in fact fell far outside any of the known large categories for classifying complex forms of life (eukaryotes). Instead, this flagella-waving oddball stands as the first member of its own “supra-kingdom” group, which probably peeled away from the other big branches of life at least a billion years ago.

13) “Gene-edited farm animals are coming. Will we eat them?”  I will.  Is it really so different than all the highly-selective breeding we’ve been doing for thousands of years?

Researchers, after years of fighting public skepticism on genetically modified foods, are hopeful but not optimistic. Advocates are lining up on both sides of the issue.

“We’re at this inflection point in society, where gene editing is really taking off, and now is the time we could have a more sustained public conversation about how we want it used in our world and how we don’t want it to be used,” said Jennifer Kuzma, co-director of the Genetic Engineering and Society Center at North Carolina State University. “All the polls indicate that people are less comfortable with animal biotechnology than plant biotechnology. . . . A regulatory system cannot be based 100 percent on science or scientific risk, and values come into play when setting the standards.”

14) David Leonhardt makes the case for Democratic Party populism in 2020:

There is only one quality — beyond, of course, charisma — that Democrats should demand in their nominee. The Democrats need a candidate who can and will run as an economic populist…

They need a candidate who will organize the 2020 campaign around fighting for the little guy and gal. (And most of the potential Democratic nominees could do so.) It would be a campaign about Republican politicians and corporate lobbyists who are rigging the game, a campaign that promised good jobs, rising wages, decent health care, affordable education and an end to Trumpian corruption.

The country doesn’t only need this agenda. It wants this agenda. A mountain of evidence shows that populism — the real kind, not the faux Trump version — is the Democrats’ most effective political strategy. Yet that evidence often gets obscured by less important issues, like a candidate’s race, sex or precise spot on a traditional liberal-conservative spectrum…

More than 60 percent think taxes on upper-income people are too low, according to Gallup. Almost 70 percent say the same about corporations. A clear majority also favors expanded government health care, more college financial aid, a higher minimum wage and tougher anticorruption laws…

This group is mostly white, mostly without a college degree and disproportionately rural, according to the analysis, by YouGov Blue and Data for Progress. On social issues, the group’s attitudes look pretty Republican. Many of its members think sexism isn’t that big of a problem, for instance. They express anxiety about demographic change and favor tighter border security.

These are the sort of voters that some Democrats had written off as irredeemable racists. But that’s a terrible mistake.

On economic issues, swing voters look decidedly un-Republican. They are even more populist than loyal Democrats. By a wide margin, they favor free college, a big expansion of Medicare and federal action both to reduce drug prices and to create jobs.

“These voters want leaders who are going to look out for them,” Alissa Stollwerk of YouGov told me. Trump persuaded many voters that he was their ally by running a racially focused campaign. Democrats have already shown they can win back a meaningful share of them by running an economically focused campaign.

15) Yeah, I get that we’re all completely used to Trump’s lies.  But how is that nobody cares that he so clearly lied about an issue at the heart of the whole Russia/collusion issue?!

16) Chait, “The More Republicans Lose, the Harder They Work to Rig the Game.”

17) The link between August birthdays and dramatically higher diagnoses of ADHD suggests that we are overdosing the disease.

These arbitrary cutoffs have important implications for the diagnosis of A.D.H.D. In a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, we found that among several hundred thousand children who were born between 2007 and 2009 and followed until 2016, rates of A.D.H.D. diagnosis and treatment were 34 percent higher among children born in August than among children born in September in states with a Sept. 1 school entry-age cutoff. No such difference was found among children in states with different cutoff dates. The effects were largest among boys.

We believe these findings reveal just how subjective the diagnosis of A.D.H.D. can be. In any given class, inattentive behavior among younger, August-born children may be perceived, in some instances, to reflect symptom of A.D.H.D., rather than the relative immaturity that is biologically determined and to be expected among children who are nearly one year younger than September-born classmates.

Though I’ve no doubt ADHD is over-diagnosed I can state from personal family experience that an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment with medication can make a huge positive difference for the family and for the firstborn son so diagnosed.

18) Among my favorite reads of the week is Yglesias on the conservative attack on democracy.  Read it.

The threat to democracy isn’t “populism”

All of which is to say that the real Trump-era threat to democracy is the opposite of populism.

Trump has many of the mannerisms and much of the style of a plebiscitary dictator who wields demagogic rhetoric to turn the crowd against liberal institutions. But in a real-world sense, Trump and his political allies are unpopular, and people keep voting against them.

They nevertheless wield vast political power, however, because of institutions. The Electoral College, gerrymandering, and the maldistribution of Senate seats allow the GOP to enjoy political power that’s disproportionate to their voting support.

A tight-knit group of Federalist Society lawyers and judges allow conservatives to advance policy ideas that lack public support through the judiciary. When in doubt, they fib and hope Fox News will help them muddy the waters.

The case will, of course, make its way up to higher courts, where hopefully cooler, more humane heads will prevail. But whether they do depends not just on the law but on the political context.

The rhetoric and practice of actual majoritarian populism — rather than simply assuming Chief Justice Roberts will do the right thing — is critical in moments like this. Judicial conservatives will be restrained in their activism if and only if they believe that defying the will of the people on such consequential matters will lead to their delegitimization.

It’s a fear they ought to have. But one which will only develop if progressive leaders are able to move beyond excessive fear of populism and learn to speak the language of popular majoritarianism and democratic self-rule.

19) Conservative blogger Ann Althouse had a post on my research.  Cool?  Anyway, interesting, but wrong take here:

I’ve observed over the years that researchers tend to explain any gender difference in a way that makes whatever is true of women good. This is an interesting example of that. You can see that they’re presenting the independence and courage of men as “risk taking,” “deviance,” and insensitivity to “morality.” I’m intrigued by the presentation of women as pushed by the Democratic elite. Is being a follower regarded as a positive quality (when you follow the Democratic elite)?

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

2 Responses to Quick hits (part II)

  1. Nicole K. says:

    7) I fail to understand how the fact that, as Drum admits, vaping won’t lead to lung cancer or other diseases that are caused by the tar in cigarettes. This is a huge deal. As soon as I realized vaping could effectively replace smoking and significantly reduce the risk of an early and painful death that I faced as a smoker, I switched right away and no longer have any desire for a cigarette. I get nicotine is addictive, but I don’t understand why that in and of itself is a big deal. I always thought that the problem with smoking was the damage it caused to those who took up the habit. I recognize that I have a nicotine dependency, but so what? You could argue the same addiction arguments about coffee. No one cares about that because it doesn’t cause harm. Isn’t that what matters?

    • Steve Greene says:

      Absolutely a win for you and similar cases. I think Drum’s concern is that teen smoking has already had a really strong decline, but now vaping is going way up among teens. So, it’s not a matter of replacing cigarettes with vaping, but no nicotine use at all with vaping, and that’s definitely a big net loss.

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