Quick hits (part II)

1) I thought James Carville made some good points in a recent interview I linked.  Ed Burmilla, does not:

Carville is the most skilled practitioner of a hobby common to his social and political stratum: ascribing to “the working class”—or simply “voters”—a resistance to any kind of change that inconveniences people like James Carville. Simply put, his performances seek to demonstrate the remarkable coincidence that “voters,” particularly of the central casting Average Joe variety, dislike all of the same things he dislikes.

This is endemic among liberals of the Clinton 1990s vintage, the insistence that their caricatured ideal of the working class cannot stomach the sort of change the left wing of the party prefers. A decade after Clinton’s second term ended, this idée fixe was trotted out to excuse liberals’ refusal to champion marriage equality (Barack Obama ran explicitly opposed to it, and Hillary Clinton famously was “a big fan of civil unions” until it was safe to flip). Sophisticated and urbane liberals like Obama and Clinton were allies to the LGBTQ community, of course! But as a matter of pragmatic politics, neither one could afford to risk alienating that guy in the hard hat, could they?

2) Kristof on Sanders and electability.  I really like that he makes the Reagan comparison, as I was recently thinking the same thing myself.  I do not at all think Sanders is unelectable.  I think he is the riskiest choice.  And I’m in no mood for risks in getting Trump out of office:

“Electability is truly in the eye of the beholder,” notes Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia. “We’re all terrible at figuring out who is electable and who isn’t.”

Back in 1980, Sabato noted, some Democrats rejoiced when Republicans nominated an obviously unelectable candidate named Ronald Reagan. Then in 2016, the one thing many pundits agreed on was that Trump was unelectable. So let’s bring some humility to the exercise.

Still, consider who voters say they might support. Gallup finds that 93 percent of voters now say that they would be willing to vote for a well-qualified woman, up from 33 percent in 1937. And 96 percent say they could support a black candidate, up from 38 percent in 1958. (Voters may exaggerate their own tolerance, but the trend is clear.)

Similarly, 78 percent of voters say they would be willing to support a gay candidate, up from 29 percent in 1983. Indeed, Pete Buttigieg might face more resistance because he is young (only 70 percent are willing to back a candidate under 40) than because he is gay.

Yet there is one kind of candidate that Americans remain hostile to. Only 45 percent say that they would be willing to vote for a socialist. And Sanders faces another hurdle: Only 69 percent say they would consider a candidate over 70.

These are generic questions, and it’s possible that voters would warm to a particular septuagenarian socialist, especially when the alternative is a certain septuagenarian Republican. In head-to-head polls against Trump, Sanders does well; all Democrats do similarly. Yet I keep thinking of how British voters recently overwhelmingly re-elected a deeply flawed conservative leader over a socialist challenger.

Supporters of Sanders believe that he would greatly increase turnout, but there was no sign of that in Iowa or New Hampshire. Sanders won in New Hampshire only because the liberal wing of the party is uniting around him, while the moderate wing is deeply divided (in some ways, this is an echo of 2016, when Republicans could not coalesce around a rival to Trump).

3) My bad habit of not actually listening to my wife is not actually my fault.  Sort of:

“You’re not listening!” “Let me finish!” “That’s not what I said!” After “I love you,” these are among the most common refrains in close relationships. During my two years researching a book on listening, I learned something incredibly ironic about interpersonal communication: The closer we feel toward someone, the less likely we are to listen carefully to them. It’s called the closeness-communication bias and, over time, it can strain, and even end, relationships.

Once you know people well enough to feel close, there’s an unconscious tendency to tune them out because you think you already know what they are going to say. It’s kind of like when you’ve traveled a certain route several times and no longer notice signposts and scenery.

But people are always changing. The sum of daily interactions and activities continually shapes us, so none of us are the same as we were last month, last week or even yesterday.

The closeness-communication bias is at work when romantic partners feel they don’t know each other anymore or when parents discover their children are up to things they never imagined…

Social science researchers have repeatedly demonstrated the closeness-communication bias in experimental setups where they paired subjects first with friends or spouses and then with strangers. In each scenario, the researchers asked subjects to interpret what their partners were saying. While the subjects predicted they would more accurately understand, and be understood by, those with whom they had close relationships, they often understood them no better than strangers, and often worse.

“Accurately understanding another person often requires a second thought, to think, ‘Wait a minute, is this really what this person meant?’ and to check it,” said Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business who studies the closeness-communication bias. “We just don’t do that as much with those we are close to because we assume we know what they are saying and that they know what we are saying.” [emphasis mine]

4) Really enjoyed this New Yorker profile of Sapiens author, Yuval Harari.  Considering what a mega-bestseller this is, also interesting how hard it was for him to get it published in America.

5) Ruy Teixeira (one of the co-authors of the Emerging Democratic Majority way back when) makes the case that, sorry, Democratic candidates still need to look to the middle, “No, radical policies won’t drive election-winning turnout: Despite what Sanders says, Democrats still have to persuade voters in the middle.”

No myth is stronger in progressive circles than the magical, wonderworking powers of voter turnout. It’s become a sort of pixie dust that you sprinkle over your strenuously progressive positions to ward off any suggestion that they might turn off voters. That is how Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), now the Democratic presidential front-runner, has dealt with criticism that his more unpopular stances — including eliminating private health insurance, decriminalizing the border and covering undocumented immigrants in a government health plan — might cost him the votes he needs to beat President Trump.

Sanders’s explanation of why this is not a problem is simple, and he has repeated it endlessly. When a member of the Los Angeles Times editorial board asked him whether “a candidate as far to the left as you” would “alienate swing voters and moderates and independents,” the senator replied: “The only way that you beat Trump is by having an unprecedented campaign, an unprecedentedly large voter turnout.” Faiz Shakir, Sanders’s campaign manager, adds: “Bernie Sanders has very unique appeal amongst [the younger] generation and can inspire, I think, a bunch of them to vote in percentages that they have never voted before.”

This has remarkably little empirical support. Take the 2018 midterm elections, in which the Democrats took back the House (a net 40-seat gain), carried the House popular vote by almost nine points and flipped seven Republican-held governorships. Turnout in that election was outstanding, topping 49 percent — the highest midterm turnout since 1914 and up 13 points over the previous midterm, in 2014 — and the demographic composition of the electorate came remarkably close to that of a presidential election year. (Typically, midterm voters tend to be much older and much whiter than those in presidential elections.) This was due both to fewer presidential “drop-off” voters (people who voted in 2016 but not 2018) and to more midterm “surge” voters (those who voted in 2018 but not 2016)…

Nonetheless, the overwhelming majority of the Democrats’ improved performance came not from fresh turnout of left-of-center voters, who typically skip midterms, but rather from people who cast votes in both elections — yet switched from Republican in 2016 to Democratic in 2018…

What’s more, States of Change data does not suggest that youth turnout, which Sanders promises to increase so significantly, was a particular Democratic problem in 2016. In fact, young voters (ages 18 to 29) increased their turnout more than any other age group in that election, from 42 percent in 2012 to 44 percent in 2016. They also increased — if only slightly — their margin of support for the Democratic candidate…

As Nate Cohn of the New York Times has noted after scrutinizing the data, it’s a mistake to assume that Democrats would benefit disproportionately from high turnout. Trump is particularly strong among white noncollege voters, who dominate the pool of nonvoters in many areas of the country, including in key Rust Belt states. If the 2020 election indeed has historically high turnout, as many analysts expect, that spike could include many of these white noncollege voters in addition to Democratic-leaning constituencies such as nonwhites and young voters. The result could be an increase in Democrats’ popular-vote total — and another loss in the electoral college.

Getting substantial increases in turnout is hard.  And, as much as Bernie’s supporters love him, it’s hard to see him turning a lot of otherwise non-voters into voters.  As far as I know, the last presidential candidate to do that was Obama.  And Obama’s uniquely inspiring to young-people and Black people 2008 campaign is not easily repeated.6) Non Bernie fan writes of the potential disaster of denying Bernie the nomination if he has a plurality, but not a majority of delegates:

But I’m not writing this to bash Bernie. Quite the opposite, actually. While I may doubt his general-election formidability, I have zero doubt about this: The single most disastrous outcome for the party would be for Sanders to win a plurality of pledged delegates, only for Democratic power brokers to try to deny him the nomination at a contested convention.

I shudder to imagine the visceral outrage this would unleash among Bernie voters. It would legitimize their long-standing grievances against the Democratic establishment, and do lasting damage to the party at a time we can least afford it—even if the maneuver ultimately failed. Were it successful, the fallout would be even more dire. One has to assume that many of the millions who voted for him would clamor for him to run as an independent, declare war on the Democratic Party, and refuse to vote for whomever we put on the ticket. And their fury would be justified.

Let’s be clear: This isn’t about appeasing ‘Bernie bros’ to avoid their wrath. It would be fundamentally undemocratic and incompatible with our party’s core ideals—regardless of what may be technically possible under DNC rules—to try to subvert the will of the people in favor of backroom horsetrading to anoint a nominee. It would betray both our principles and our political goals in one fell swoop.

So let’s preemptively kill that inevitable clusterfuck before it can kill us. Every Democrat in the field should commit right now to support the pledged delegate leader at the convention.

Also, I actually disagree very strongly with, “It would be fundamentally undemocratic and incompatible with our party’s core ideals.”  Why that may make sense in what is generally two-party elections, the idea that it is undemocratic to not award office to the plurality leader in a multi-candidate field, just does not hold up.  Imagine 5 candidates each around the low 20’s of delegates and the 23% plurality leader is loved by his core, but hated by everyone else.  Is that really undemocratic that the 2nd place, but non-objectionable to most others would be the nominee?  Of course not.

That said, I don’t doubt the logic of Bernie Bro wrath.  And, you know what, anybody pissed off who stays home and thus helps re-elect Trump– deserves Trump.  Alas, the rest of us don’t.  If Joe Walsh can commit to voting for whomever the Democratic nominee is, surely Bernie supporters should be able to do the same.

7) Radley Balko, “The Roger Stone case highlights our pernicious system of tiered justice”

8) The backlash against bail reform in New York is deplorable:

It just so happens that a campaign to roll back New York’s landmark bail reforms is unfolding as Michael Bloomberg’s presidential run forces a reckoning with stop-and-frisk, the policing tactic that led to the harassment and humiliation of millions of innocent people, most of them black and Hispanic boys and men, while Mr. Bloomberg was mayor of New York City.

Police officials and prosecutors made arguments about stop-and-frisk that sound familiar in the current conversation about bail reform.

For over a decade, these officials assured Mr. Bloomberg and the public that the enormous human cost of stop-and-frisk was worth it, because the practice reduced crime and saved lives.

They were wrong. When stops finally plummeted — first amid Bloomberg-era legal battles and later under Mayor Bill de Blasio — crime rates in the city actually fell.

Now, law enforcement officials are again making arguments against reforms based largely on anecdotal evidence, and they are being given the same benefit of the doubt.

It has been less than seven weeks since landmark criminal justice reforms went into effect statewide banning bail for defendants charged with most misdemeanor and nonviolent offenses.

But already, prosecutors, police officials and others are cherry-picking cases and crime data to make a case for rolling back some of the reforms. “Violent criminals are being returned to the community and will know the names of their accusers and where to find them,” New York City Police Commissioner Dermot Shea wrote in a January Times Op-Ed, lobbying for changes to the law. (A spokesman for Commissioner Shea said that he does support many of the reforms.)…

If prosecutors, police or others believe the law is causing public harm, it is their job to make a reasoned case. Instead, too many have resorted, once again, to whipping up fear over crime to defend policies that lead to over-policing and incarceration.

Regularly missing from their lectures about public safety is any significant recognition of the ways these policies have harmed the safety and dignity of black and Hispanic people in New York…

In this context, the campaign against the bail reforms seems less about public safety than it does about power, designed to make clear that law enforcement remains an untouchable political force in New York politics.

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

3 Responses to Quick hits (part II)

  1. Mika says:

    #1 When I read Carville’s words I see him shouting and I get suspicious. Why is he talking like that, what are his actual goals?

  2. Andrew Oh-Willeke says:

    #5 Do you not think that Hillary Clinton’s campaign lost a campaign she was overwhelmingly expected to win in a landslide in no small part because her lack of charisma depressed turnout? I also have a very hard time seeing Obama as all that exceptional as a candidate. Turnout is hugely important to which party wins and you want a candidate that does that. Also, the notion that Sanders has no appeal to unaffiliated voters isn’t well born out. His economic agenda, which is what he focuses on, has wide appeal and can win over swing voters.

    • Steve Greene says:

      1) I think HRC was a pretty ordinary candidate and BHO really was an extraordinary candidate. And he undoubtedly had an outsize impact on Black voters, regardless of his charisma. 2) There’s really not all that many swing voters and I think there’s plenty of reason to believe Bernie’s relative extremism will repel at least as many as it attracts. Especially among those over 50. His old-school Soviet loving stuff is not good.

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