Compassion and Trump voters

Here’s some pretty cool political science research that is, sadly, not all that surprising.  Short version: even among Republicans Trump’s core supporters (i.e., those who voted for him in the primaries) are notably less compassionate than others.  Longer version:

In my research into the public’s support for a variety of government policies, I ask questions about how compassionate someone is, such as how concerned they are about others in need.

These questions are integral to understanding how people feel about who in America deserves government support.

Some people are more compassionate than others. But that doesn’t break simply along party lines.

I find that Democratic and Republican Party voters are similar, on average, busting up the cliché of bleeding heart liberals and uncaring conservatives.

And then there are Trump voters…

Republicans are not less compassionate than Democrats, but my research also shows that there is a stark divide between parties in how relevant an individual’s compassion is to his or her politics.

Public opinion surveys show that you can predict what kind of policies a more compassionate person would like, such as more government assistance for the poor or opposition to the death penalty.

But for most political issues, the conclusion for Republicans is that their compassion does not predict what policies they favor. Support for more government assistance to the poor or sick, or opinions about the death penalty, for example, are unrelated to how compassionate a Republican voter is…

The Republican voters who didn’t support Trump were similar to Democrats on the survey with respect to their answers about compassion. Their average scores on the compassion items were the same. This is in line with the other survey data showing that liberals and conservatives, and Republicans and Democrats, are largely similar in these personality measures of compassion.

But Trump supporters’ answers were not in line with these findings.

Instead, their average responses to the broad compassion questions were significantly lower. These answers showed that Trump supporters were lower in personal compassion.  [emphasis mine]

Raise your hand if your surprised by that.  We also know that these voters were much higher in racism and sexism.  It’s almost as if they are… deplorable.

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What it really takes to reduce mass incarceration

I came across this John Pfaff piece in December and it went straight into the Public Policy syllabus.  Great summary of the politics and policy of mass incarceration and just how hard it will be to make real and meaningful change.  It’s a little on the longer side than most stuff I share, but if you want to understand criminal justice policy in America better there’s probably few better things you could do than take 5-10 minutes to read this.  That said, hey, this is a blog, so excerpts:

Our continuing legacy of racial segregation further amplifies this punitiveness. Wealthier, whiter suburban voters often wield disproportionate electoral influence when it comes to electing the prosecutor. These voters like the feeling of crime going down—but they face none of the costs of aggressive policies. After all, it is not their brothers or fathers or uncles or sons who face the unnecessary police stops or arrests or indictments or convictions or prison terms. Those costs are disproportionately borne by poorer people of color in the city, whom those voters do not know or even interact with.

These problems have always been with us. But they are more problematic now because as our prisons have grown, so, too, have the groups that benefit from them—and who thus have an incentive to manipulate people’s punitiveness and fear of crime for their own ends. Though many would at this juncture quickly point to private prison firms, they are not the main ones “profiting” off prisons. They hold about 9 percent of the nation’s prisoners and generally have little impact on policy…

It is various public sector actors who truly benefit. About two-thirds of $50 billion we spend on prisons—$33 billion or so—goes to the wages and benefits of prison staff. It is not surprising, then, that (public sector) correctional officer unions fight reforms, given how much is at stake. That many if not most prisons are located in economically distressed areas and provide some of the few well-paying jobs in the region only magnifies this effect…

It was never going to be possible to significantly scale back our outsized reliance on prisons easily. Mass incarceration did not arise by accident or due to one or two small mistakes. It is the product of a deep, racially driven punitiveness, combined with a vast array of incentives that consistently make harshness politically safe and leniency dangerous. Our seven-year reduction in prison populations is certainly something to celebrate, but those reductions are modest and always vulnerable. And they will remain modest and vulnerable unless we tackle some very difficult issues, such as how we treat violence and the even the basic design of our criminal justice systems.

Lots more good and important stuff.  If you’ve ever thought that mostly we just need to ease up on non-violent drug offenders, then you really need to read this.

Putin’s 2nd most important U.S. ally– McConnell

Great Greg Sargent piece from a couple days ago that got a lot of well-deserved attention:

One shadow narrative unfolding in the background over the past two years has been the gradual discovery of just how broad the scope of Russian sabotage of the 2016 election really was. This has made certain events during the campaign appear more serious in retrospect.

In September 2016, as The Post has reported, top Obama administration officials privately asked senior congressional leaders in both parties to go public with a united front against Russian interference. But McConnell refused, claiming (in The Post’s words) that “he would consider any effort by the White House to challenge the Russians publicly an act of partisan politics.” McConnell also questioned the intelligence demonstrating Russian sabotage.

We have since learned a great deal about the Russian interference that McConnell raised doubts about. Special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s indictments of Russian nationals laid out a very detailed plot to corruptly swing the election. More recently, Senate Intelligence Committee reports demonstrated the extraordinary reach of the Russian disinformation campaign, which included elaborate efforts to divide the country on racial and cultural lines.

Remember, it was widely known during the election that some sort of Russian interference efforts were taking place. Candidate Trump was downplaying the seriousness of these efforts, or dismissing them altogether.

It’s hard to know how much of a difference it would have made if congressional leaders went public with bipartisan acknowledgment and condemnation of the Russian interference effort. But it certainly could have helped educate the public and shed light on just how indefensible Trump’s downplaying of Russian sabotage really was. Of course, that might have hurt Trump’s candidacy, so for McConnell, it was apparently a nonstarter…

This raises new questions about another McConnell action: The refusal to hold votes on legislation protecting the special counsel. In fairness, Trump has still not moved successfully against Mueller. But McConnell scuttled efforts to protect Mueller even though Trump privately tried to fire him twice. There’s still time for Trump to act, and passing such protections — which the Democratic House would support — would plainly make any such action, and the damage it would cause, less likely.

Oh, should we also mention that, perhaps even more than Trump, McConnell deserves blame for the shutdown:

On the shutdown front, McConnell continues to refuse votes on bills reopening the government that have already passed the House. McConnell claims there’s no point, because Trump wouldn’t sign them. But this actively shields Trump from having to veto bills funding the government, which would make it much harder for him to keep holding out. Worse, McConnell privately told Trump in December he has no leverage and no endgame here, meaning McConnell knows full well that not forcing Trump’s hand leaves us adrift with no exit in sight…

In much discussion of all these matters, there is a terrible rhetorical habit of treating GOP conduct toward Trump as mere passive acquiescence. In fact, this is better seen as an active enabling, on one front after another. And we are likely to learn much more about just how damaging this has been soon enough.

Short version: Mitch McConnell– the second-worst person actively working to undermine American democracy.

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