The issues Democrats should be running on

Good stuff in David Leonhardt’s latest.  It all starts with this key chart:

The mistake that Democratic candidates have made is thinking that just because they should activate their progressive id on some issues, they should do so on all issues.

There are two main examples, both of which have received a lot of airtime during the presidential debates. The first is the idea of decriminalizing border crossings, so that the illegal entry into this country would be only a civil violation. Most top Democratic candidates — Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — support the idea. If illegal entry weren’t a crime, they say, Trump couldn’t lock people in cages.

Supporters of the idea make intricate, technocratic arguments about how decriminalization won’t make the border less secure. But most voters tune out. They don’t buy the long explanations for why the policy doesn’t mean what it certainly seems to mean: less border enforcement. In an NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist Poll, 67 percent of registered voters called decriminalization “a bad idea.”

The second example is a proposal to eliminate private health insurance and require people to have Medicare. Sanders and Warren back it. Again, supporters offer complex arguments about why Americans will love this idea (especially if it’s phrased in just the right way) — and, again, most Americans say no thanks. They’re dealing with enough economic anxiety, without having their health insurance taken away and replaced by something uncertain.

The shame is that both health care and immigration should be Democratic advantages. Most voters recoil at Trump’s racist immigrant-bashing, and most want the option to join Medicare. And if Democrats want to reverse Trump’s policies, they need to beat him, not offer policies, like decriminalization, that would hypothetically constrain him.

Yet Democrats are frittering away their advantage — and damaging their image.

And look at the chart.  It shouldn’t be hard.  Raise the minimum wage, tax millionaires, voluntary Medicare for all, properly regulate guns, give immigrants a path to citizenship.  This is all good stuff– and popular.

Of course, unless it’s Bernie Sanders, I suspect that the Democratic nominee will likely be smart enough to properly finesse any particularly unpopular positions.  We sure don’t need to lose to Trump over this stuff when democracy as we know it is truly at stake.


The great academic conspiracy to give conservative students lower grades

Which, of course, does not exist.

There was a nice write-up on some great research on this from a long-ago friend at Ohio State earlier this summer and I never got around to it.  But, now that the semester has started and it’s time for me to start discriminating against my conservative students (note– tongue firmly in cheek!), here you go:

The idea that left-wing college professors are both brainwashing undergraduates and discriminating against conservative students has emerged as one of the most consistent right-wing lines of attack against American higher education over the last few decades. While conservative undergrads, like many types of students, may often feel isolated, a new working paper led by a public policy professor who tells me he’s a “lifelong Republican” suggests that any evidence for bias in grading against conservative students is at best minimal and most likely absent.

Matthew Woessner, associate professor of political science and public policy at Pennsylvania State University–Harrisburg, has been working with various colleagues on questions related to political identity and higher education for years…

Woessner tells me that, when he first went into this field of research, “I came at this expecting to find evidence of discrimination, but the data didn’t support it.” Now, years later, having published a book and over a dozen articles on the topic, he concludes that college campuses, “are not a hotbed of ideological discrimination. There are challenges for any minority in the academy, and that includes political minorities and racial minorities,” Woessner says, and those challenges can lead some conservative students to “lay low.” But there’s just no evidence that college professors—who do indeed trend liberal in many departments—routinely discriminate against conservative students…

Meanwhile, right-wing media outlets with a perennial grudge against professors have made the curious choice to report on this study as evidence of professorial bias. These reporters must not have read to the end of the paper, where the authors write: “[Our] results do not paint a picture of conservative students under siege. They remain largely satisfied with their college education, and perform nearly as well as, if not better than, their liberal counterparts.” And that’s just as it should be.

Actually, I finally got around to posting this because a friend just shared a nice profile of Woessner within the context of this research.

Also, reminded me of this great twitter thread recently:


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