Abortion attitudes should not be so damn stable, but they are

Thomas Edsall had a column back in May about how interesting it is that while other social issues have undergone dramatic change, abortion has remained such a stable area of conflict.

Over the years, the abortion debate has become a linchpin in the political battle between Democrats and Republicans, mobilizing Christian evangelicals on the right and supporters of the women’s movement on the left.

Why has the abortion issue had such staying power, compared, for example, with the steady liberalization of views on homosexuality and interracial marriage?

Of course, there has been a lot of underlying partisan change:

From 1975 to 1988, the views of Democrats and Republicans on abortion were virtually identical, again according to Gallup, when 18 percent to 21 percent of voters in both parties agreed that abortions should be allowed “under any circumstances.” Since 1988, the parties have diverged: by 2018, 46 percent of Democrats, but only 11 percent of Republicans, said abortion should be “available under any circumstances.”

Contemporary polling shows that there are a number of contradictions in the public view of abortion. In some respects, majority opinion is supportive of abortion rights, in others it is opposed.

There’s all sorts of interesting numbers to dig into.  Mostly illustrating the fact that Americans are far more ambivalent on the issue than you’d ever guess from 1) media coverage, or 2) the views of political elites.

But, overall, what I find most striking, is the overall consistency of opinion while other social issues have changed so much.  Drum:

Needless to say, this violates Kevin’s Law, which states that opinions on abortion never change, and anyone who says otherwise is engaged in special pleading. So without further ado, here is Gallup’s own conclusion:

Little has changed over the past year, or even over the past 10 years, in Americans’ basic outlook on abortion.

And here’s the main chart:

Since 1975, the number of people who think abortion should be illegal under all circumstances has surged from 22 percent to . . . 21 percent.

Give it up, folks. Nothing is changing, and there’s no special reason to think it ever will. Whatever happens, the chart above describes the basic state of public opinion that we all have to deal with. So deal with it.

But here’s the thing, this doesn’t actually make sense.  People with more education are more liberal on abortion.  People who are less religious are more liberal on abortion.

Here’s college grads over time:

Image result for percent college graduates over time

And here’s the rise of the religiously unaffiliated:

No religious affiliation in America has grown to 19.6%

So, two key demographics that favor legal abortion have been growing.

And here’s the modest decline in white Evangelicals:

Image result for percent evangelical christian over time

So, with all this going on, why isn’t support for legal abortion noticeably climbing?!  I honestly don’t know.  But, I’m pretty sure there’s political science research with my name on it that’s going to try and figure that out.

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Quick hits (part I)

1) Just another day in American-style corporate health care:

Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals announced today that the company expects to pay $15.4 million in a settlement with the U.S. Justice Department after allegations that Questcor Pharmaceuticals, which Mallinckrodt acquired in 2014, had bribed doctors and their staff to prescribe an incredibly expensive drug.

Two whistleblowers came forward in April to accuse Questcor of trying to boost profits for Acthar, a medication primarily for infants with seizures. Questcor raised the price of the medication by almost 100,000 percent (not a typo) from just $40 in 2000 to $38,892 today, despite the fact that Acthar has been on the market since 1952. Mallinckrodt currently rakes in about $1 billion per year from Acthar, according to CNN. [emphases mine]

“Mallinckrodt denies any wrongdoing on the part of Questcor during the relevant period, and intends to vigorously defend the company in this matter,” the company said in a press release.

Mallinckrodt has previously pointed out that the drug price of Acthar was raised by Questcor before Mallinckrodt bought it. But that doesn’t change the fact that Questcor appears to have been purchased by Mallinckrodt precisely because it was making money hand over fist.

Nor does it change the fact that about $8,000 of the price hikes on Athcar have reportedly occurred since Mallinckrodt bought Questcor. And the $15.4 million fine, which has yet to be finalized with the DOJ, pales in comparison to how much money the company is currently taking in on the drug.

While the company denies wrongdoing, the whistleblower lawsuit alleges that the “illegal practices that Questcor had been engaging in since 2007 have knowingly been continued since the merger and acquisition of Questcor by Mallinckrodt.”

Acthar is used for infantile spasms, which afflict roughly 2,000 babies in the U.S. each year, but Mallinckrodt has expanded the use of Acthar for other ailments like rheumatoid arthritis. A 60 Minutes report from May of 2018 raised serious questions about how well the drug actually works for arthritis in seniors, and an expert who spoke with 60 Minutes said that there’s “no evidence” Acthar works for rheumatoid arthritis despite the fact that Mallinckrodt reportedly makes about $500,000 each year for prescriptions treating the condition.

Curiously, there’s a drug called Synacthen that’s identical to Acthar and sells for just $33 in Canada. So why isn’t Synacthen available in the U.S.? Because Mallinckrodt bought the U.S. rights to Synacthen and simply doesn’t make it available to American consumers.

Ugh.  Also, Infantile Spasms are a particularly serious type of seizure.  So wrong.

2) Roxanne Gay says freak out.  Drum says, maybe not so much:

And there’s more. The headline unemployment rate is at its lowest rate in half a century and the long-term unemployment rate is lower than it was at the height of the housing bubble. Household earnings are up about $8,000 over the past five years. Blue-collar wages have increased by more than $1 per hour. The poverty rate has dropped for three straight years and is now lower than at any time aside from the peak of the dotcom boom. Despite the best efforts of Republicans, Obamacare continues to provide health coverage for nearly 20 million additional people compared to a decade ago. Among teens, cigarette smoking is down; alcohol use is down; other drug use is down; teen pregnancy is down; and arrests are down. The US economy is the most robust in the world. About 700,000 new citizens are naturalized every year, up from 100,000 in 1980. Same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. And on a personal note, there’s been a huge surge in new treatments for multiple myeloma, which means that I will probably be blathering on your computer for many years to come.

My message here is simple. If you cherry pick all the bad stuff that’s happened in the past few years, you can make a case for being pretty discouraged. If you cherry pick all the good stuff, you can make a case that everything is fine. The real reality is somewhere in-between. So if you feel like being discouraged, don’t let me get in your way. But there’s always good and bad in the world, and there’s no reason to insist otherwise.

Except for climate change, where we’re still on track to commit planetary suicide and no one is truly taking it seriously. That’s just a pure nightmare.

Oh, yeah, except climate change.

3) My colleague, Andrew Taylor, makes a pretty interesting argument about liberal bias among political science professors using social science.  Though, this liberal is no big fan of implicit bias (heck, among other things, we’ve got enough explicit bias these days):

Yet, although academic political scientists consider themselves experts who have built robust models validated by all sorts of empirical studies, they seem to believe the kinds of misinformed and prejudicial attitudes and anti-social and harmful behavior they attribute to just about everyone else have somehow evaded them.

That is odd. The last time I checked, political science professors were human beings. They are surely not immune from theories of human behavior they hold and have validated under scientific conditions.

One such in-vogue theory is unconscious or implicit bias. This is the idea that individuals are inherently prejudiced against others from certain groups. Social scientists use the theory to explain pervasive racism and prejudice against out or minority groups in all walks of life. The idea is that although a person may feel they judge others neutrally or on merits unrelated to group membership, they hold biases, admittedly often small, that they are incapable of correcting.

These attitudes adversely affect the individuals who constitute their object. Compounded, they can have material effects on public policy and social outcomes.

Although the theory has vocal critics and some proponents recognize its limited capacity to predict the behavior of individuals, the academy has produced a great deal of confirmatory published experimental and survey research.

Academics consider bias particularly pervasive in homogenous populations. Political science is certainly homogenous. A number of studies show the discipline’s professors are overwhelmingly liberal and largely identify as Democrats—by about 10 to 1 according to a study of North Carolina and Florida faculty I recently co-authored and that is forthcoming in a flagship journalof the American Political Science Association.

Actually, I’m not sure of the research on this (and, sorry, not going to check right now), but in my experience (okay, with myself and other informed PS professors) being aware of various cognitive biases actually really does make us less susceptible to them.  How many other people discuss the “sunk cost trap” while in line with friends at lunch?

4) Dana Milbank on how for Trump, D-Day was all about… Donald Trump.

5) It’s bad enough to have really bad people among Catholic priests.  Even worse when they are Catholic bishops:

During his 13 years as bishop in West Virginia, one of the poorest states in the nation, Bransfield spent $2.4 million in church money on travel, much of it personal, which included flying in chartered jets and staying in luxury hotels, according to the report. Bransfield and several subordinates spent an average of nearly $1,000 a month on alcohol, it says. The West Virginia diocese paid $4.6 million to renovate Bransfield’s church residence after a fire damaged a single bathroom. When Bransfield was in the chancery, an administrative building, fresh flowers were delivered daily, at a cost of about $100 a day — almost $182,000 in all.

Bransfield, 75, drew on a source of revenue that many parishioners knew little about, oil-rich land in Texas donated to the diocese more than a century ago. He spoke of church money as if it were his to spend without restriction, according to the report.

“I own this,” he is quoted as saying on many occasions.

6) I read $2 a Day about poverty in America as NC State incoming Freshman reading a couple years ago.  It was really good.  And I assign this summary to my Public Policy class.  Turns out, new research strongly suggests that it significantly overstates extreme poverty in America.  That said, there still is too much extreme poverty in America.

7) Really excited to see the updated Hall of Fossils next time I visit the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.  I also like that they reference the last major renovation in the early 1980’s.  I still have very fond memories of my dad taking me to a members only reception for the re-opening featuring dinosaur cookies.

8) Dara Lind with a terrific article on how the border crisis really is a crisis now.  And why.  A must-read.  I added this to my Public Policy syllabus for next semester.

9) Meanwhile a harrowing Politico article on life for poor women in Honduras:

What do you do when you fear for your life and the state won’t protect you? Or if the state might make your already tenuous situation worse? The fraught calculations that face Sofia and her mom are endemic across Honduras, a country that remains in the grip of a rash of violence against women and girls. For some, the answer is simple and disruptive: They have to leave. When exhausted families, mothers toting babies and young women traveling alone arrive at the southern border of the United States, it’s not just gang violence or criminality in general that they’re fleeing. It’s also what Sofia whispers about to her bunny: men who beat, assault, rape and sometimes kill women and girls; law enforcement that does little to curtail them; and laws that deny many women who do survive the chance to retake control and steer their own lives.

As of 2015, Honduras ranked among a tiny group of nations, including war-racked Syria and Afghanistan, with the highest rates of violent deaths of women. Although Honduras’ overall murder rate has decreased in recent years, it remains one of the deadliest countries in the world, and the murder rate has been declining more slowly for female victims. Murder remains the second-leading cause of death for women of childbearing age.

10) Terrific interview with the creator of HBO’s “Chernobyl” on the nature of truth and stories and the show.

11) This Reason satirical campaign video meets used car ads is really, really good:

12) Seth Masket on the potential costs of not impeaching:

But even if we assume there would be a political price for impeachment, that does not mean that declining to impeach would be without consequence. For one thing, if there are voters who would be bothered by impeachment, there are quite a few others who would be bothered by the lack of it. The idea that Trump has clearly committed impeachable acts but Democrats in the House of Representatives won’t punish him because they think it will hurt them in the next election is not a particularly inspiring message, especially for a party that keeps urging people to put country before party.

On top of that calculus, it’s entirely possible Trump wins re-election whether Democrats pursue impeachment or not. He’s won before, incumbents usually win re-election, and they almost always do during a growing economy. What’s the lesson coming out of that election? “We might have removed him but failed to so here he is for another four years”?

It’s important to consider just what the lessons of this presidency will be for subsequent administrations and congressional parties. If Democrats decide that, despite widespread lawbreaking, impeachment just isn’t on the table because conviction is unlikely and there may be political costs, then it would effectively remove impeachment as a serious constraint on presidential actions. And given that the Department of Justice has also removed itself from control of the president, that would basically mean that presidents truly are above the law as long as they serve…

But fairly or not, Democrats have been placed in the position of determining whether to prosecute presidential lawbreaking. Either choice may have negative consequences, but the decision should be evaluated not just in terms of what will happen this year or next, but for the decades to come.

12) I’m sorry, but I’m so not impressed by arbitrary feats such as climbing Everest and returning home all within 14 days.  The key is living in a hypoxia chamber rather than actually acclimating at the mountain.

13) Endorse: Students should stop treating faculty as expendable.  That said, as a middle-aged white male, I hardly ever run into this anymore.

14) Damn, the willful ignorance of Republicans on climate is just breathtaking.  And, I’m not going to just blame Trump– he’s, symptom, not cause here:

Fifty or 100 years from now, we may well say that President Trump’s concerted effort to exacerbate climate change — and that’s precisely what it is — was the single worst thing he did in a presidency full of horrors. A new report from the New York Times gives new details about just how diabolical his administration’s actions have been:

In the next few months, the White House will complete the rollback of the most significant federal effort to curb greenhouse-gas emissions, initiated during the Obama administration. It will expand its efforts to impose Mr. Trump’s hard-line views on other nations, building on his retreat from the Paris accord and his recent refusal to sign a communiqué to protect the rapidly melting Arctic region unless it was stripped of any references to climate change.

And, in what could be Mr. Trump’s most consequential action yet, his administration will seek to undermine the very science on which climate change policy rests.

The goal appears to be to keep the government from ever confirming that climate change exists and, failing that, to do everything it can to make it look less serious than it is. The administration also plans to create a new panel to downplay climate change and discredit legitimate science on the topic, led by National Security Council senior director William Happer, who once said, “The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.”

15) And you can very much appreciate Tom Nichols’ take on “Chernobyl” without watching the show.

16) Catherine Rampell with a good take (and I’m disappointed in Warren here), “Everyone’s got a climate plan. So where’s the carbon tax?”

To be clear, the candidates’ proposals include many other good ideas. They all say we should eliminate subsidies for fossil-fuel companies. They all boost federal investment in and incentives for R&D in clean technology. This is critically necessary, especially for basic research, which private companies might not be sufficiently incentivized to undertake on their own.

But then things go off the rails.

The plans devote a lot of verbiage to talking about the magical properties of government procurement — that is, using the deep pockets of the government to purchase more energy-efficient products. Warren, for instance, analogizes her own plan, which includes a $1.5 trillion federal procurement commitment, to the industrial policy America previously undertook for the space race and our mobilization against Nazi aggression.

But in both of those historical comparisons, “The goal wasn’t to create a commercial product,” points out David Popp, a Syracuse University professor who specializes in environmental economics. “The government was the consumer.”

Just because the public sector buys more energy-efficient lightbulbs, electric cars or solar panels doesn’t mean the (much larger) private sector will, absent price incentives. Especially if we add conditions to the production of those green goods that actually increase their costs to consumers, as some of these plans do.

17) Greg Sargent:

Amazingly, after all we’ve seen, there’s still a tendency in some quarters to treat the falsehoods regularly told by President Trump, and echoed by his media allies, as a somewhat exaggerated but basically conventional form of political dishonesty.

But Trump and certain of his media partisans have long been engaged in something altogether different — something that can only be described as concerted and deliberate disinformation…

It’s the disinformation, stupid

It should be impossible to watch these diatribes in full without quickly realizing that this isn’t ordinary political dishonesty — some level of artifice is an inevitable feature of politics — but rather is something much more insidious. What’s notable is the sheer comprehensiveness of the effort to create an alternate set of realities whose departure from the known facts seemingly aims to be absolute and unbridgeable…

Disinformation and ‘constitutional rot’

Don’t take my word for it. With Trump’s lies and distortions now numbering over 10,000, serious political theorists have noted this aspect of Trumpian disinformation. See this Jacob Levy essay, which argues that Trump’s autocratic reshaping of reality on multiple fronts depends on the delegitimization of other institutional authority.

Or see this Jack Balkin essay on “constitutional rot.” One key sign of our breakdown, Balkin argues, is the fact that Trump has the backing of what can only be understood as “domestic propaganda machines.”

Such propaganda, Balkin notes, “undermines the crucial role of deliberation and the search for truth in a democracy. Propaganda attempts to put everything in dispute, so that nothing can be established as true.” It “undermines shared criteria of reasoning, good faith attempts at deliberation, and mutual accommodation between political opponents in democracies.”

17) Smoking gun evidence that NC Republicans lied to the courts for political gain.  I’m sure Democratically-appointed judges will care.  Would be nice if Republican-appointed ones would, too.  You know, rule of law and all that.

Where Congress is really unrepresentative

So, I was covering religion and public opinion in class yesterday and was somewhat surprised how little my students knew about Evangelical vs. mainline, etc., but it proved to be a great teaching opportunity that led to some really good class discussions.  One of the big take-aways was the growth in the number of secular Americans with no religious affiliation.

Anyway, somewhat randomly last night, then, I came across this Pew Report that looked at the religion of those in Congress versus the American public.  And, whoa, are Christians way over-represented and unaffiliated way under-represented:

Christians overrepresented in Congress

Also, for what it’s worthy I strongly suspect a good number of those “Christians” (especially of those “unspecified/other”) are actually “unaffiliated” but have decided that they best be “Christian” for running for office.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Love this from Chait, “he Most Unrealistic Promise Democrats Are Making Is to Restore Bipartisanship.”

The Obama presidency was an eight-year experiment in the possibility of obtaining Republican support for major initiatives. It is impossible to imagine a more conclusive result. Despite having jacked up the deficit during the entirety of the presidencies both before and after Obama’s, Republicans spent the entire time insisting on massive fiscal austerity despite facing objectively the most favorable conditions for stimulus spending since World War II. Obama’s offer to support John McCain’s cap-and-trade plan and Mitt Romney’s health-care plan drew almost zero Democratic and zero Republican votes, respectively. Republicans wouldn’t even accept a deal to trim Medicare spending in return for tax reform.

McConnell publicly stated his logic at the time: putting the bipartisan imprimatur on Obama’s policies would make the policies popular. More than mere strategy was at work. By waging partisan war against any of Obama’s initiatives, Republicans helped persuade their voters that his ideas — even those with a solid moderate Republican pedigree — were dangerous socialism. And the more fearful Republican voters became, the harder it was for Republicans to negotiate anything with Obama. Republicans were afraideven to be seen talking to the president. At times, when negotiations could not be avoided for bills whose passage was required to avert disaster, Obama would let Biden close the deal just to create the appearance that he hadn’t been part of it…

Democrats are going to have to choose between making real changes that can help their constituents and keeping a supermajority requirement in the Senate. There is no more cruelly unrealistic promise than the magical thinking being peddled by the Democratic party’s self-styled realists.

I’ve been a fan of Cory Booker for his honest talk on criminal justice issues.  But, I will say, his totally unrealistic take on bipartisanship has definitely lowered my opinion of him.

2) Good interview on how parents buy college admissions:

Is there anything you think your book got wrong or understated?

I think the general themes were right on point, and I don’t think it’s because I was so brilliant. I think it’s because this was a system that was hidden in plain view and was in front of your nose if only you looked, and also because it was so offensive to most people’s idea of what America is about. The fundamental ethos of America is equal opportunity and upward mobility and everybody gets a chance. The people who perform the best are supposed to rise to the top, and college education is supposed to be the driving force in upward mobility. So the idea that the wealthy can perpetuate their own privileged status through college admissions, that it’s not an equal gateway for everybody but a way to perpetuate American aristocracy, is a real affront to people. And that’s the resonance a case like this has.

3) Looking forward to reading Frans de Waal’s book on animal emotions:

Of course, we recognize ourselves in such stories. This is why they are powerful: They evoke our empathy, perhaps our most cherished emotional ability (one that we share with animals, as anyone who has lived with a dog well knows). But, to our detriment, researchers who study animal behavior have been methodically warned against exploring empathy as a means of understanding. Too many illuminating observations have gone unpublished because suggesting that humans share traits with other animals invites accusations of anthropomorphism.

To avoid such charges, researchers have invented a glossary of contorted terms: Animals don’t have friends but “favorite affiliation partners”; chimps don’t laugh when tickled, but make “vocalized panting” sounds.

This isn’t just silly; it’s dangerous. Instead of worrying about anthropomorphizing animals, we should fear making a far worse mistake, what de Waal calls “anthropodenial.” When we deny the facts of evolution, when we pretend that only humans think, feel and know, “it stands in the way of a frank assessment of who we are as a species,” he writes. An understanding of evolution demands that we recognize continuity across life-forms. And even more important, achieving realistic and compassionate relationships with the rest of the animate world requires that we honor these connections, which extend far and deep.

4) Top takeaways from Trump’s absurd budget:

4. The biggest losers: Under Trump’s budget proposal, 10 major departments and agencies would see their budgets slashed by 10 percent (or more) in the next year alone: Agriculture, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, State, Transportation, Corps of Engineers, and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The Trump administration likes to refer to a 5 percent cut in nondefense spending, but some agencies get far bigger chops than others. The EPA and Corps of Engineers would lose almost a third of their current funding.

5) The revolution will be fought over fabric softener (demand #3).

6) Interesting stuff from James Fallows on the 737 Max.

7) Chait on the fundamental lie of conservative populism:

The populist promises that set Trump apart during both the primary and the general election have simply failed to materialize. Trump’s budget, which proposes cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that he had famously pledged to oppose, is the latest evidence that he has simply defaulted to traditional movement conservatism.

Conservative populism has followed the same course in the United Kingdom and the United States. Right-wing politicians attached expansive promises to retrograde cultural panic to gain power, and once given a chance to follow through, have managed to deliver only the latter. These movements justified themselves as an authentic rebellion against the experts. The experts warned the promises were impossible. It turns out they knew what they were talking about.

8) Good stuff from Brian Schaffner and Samantha Luks:

The public’s party-driven misinformation and misperceptions about politics has drawn a great deal of attention from scholars over the past decade. While much of this research assumes that the misinformation documented by survey researchers is an accurate reflection of what individuals truly believe, other scholars have suggested that individuals intentionally and knowingly provide misinformation to survey researchers as a way of showing support for their political side. To date, it has been difficult to adjudicate between these two contrasting explanations for misperceptions. However, in this note, we provide such a test. We take advantage of a controversy regarding the relative sizes of crowds at the presidential inaugurations of Donald Trump in 2017 and Barack Obama in 2009 to ask a question where the answer is so clear and obvious to the respondents that nobody providing an honest response should answer incorrectly. Yet, at the same time, the question taps into a salient political controversy that provides incentives for Trump supporters to engage in expressive responding. We find clear evidence of expressive responding; moreover, this behavior is especially prevalent among partisans with higher levels of political interest. Our findings provide support for the notion that at least some of the misinformation reported in surveys is the result of partisan cheerleading rather than genuinely held misperceptions.

9) Ed Yong, “A New Discovery Upends What We Know About Viruses.”

10) The latest YA twitter mob could not be more karmically perfect or happen to a more-deserving target:

What Jackson’s case really demonstrates is just how narrow and untenable the rules for writing Y.A. literature are. In a tweet last May, Jackson himself more or less articulated them: “Stories about the civil rights movement should be written by black people. Stories of suffrage should be written by women. Ergo, stories about boys during life-changing times, like the AIDS epidemic, should be written by gay men. Why is this so hard to get?”

In a live Q. and A. for an online children’s literature conference in January, Jackson explained that he was at one point tempted to write tangentially about immigration,but his Latino friends talked him out of it: He’d be encroaching on their turf, poaching their spot on the shelves.

11) OMG Thom Tillis is the absolute worst.  There are important constitutional principles at stake.  Until Donald Trump convinces him otherwise.  This is beyond embarrassing:

North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis voted Thursday to support President Donald Trump’s Poor Thom Tillis. For a few shining days the Republican senator from North Carolina had a backbone. Then, in one crumbling moment Thursday afternoon, it went away…

The why, according to North Carolina’s junior senator, was that he’s heard “serious discussion” about changing the National Emergency Act so no “future left-wing president” can do what he was voting to allow the current right-wing president to do. The prospect of a change in the law was the fig leaf with which Tillis tried to cover his capitulation.

In a whopper worthy of the president himself, Tillis said he did not change his position out of concern that a vote against Trump would bring on a primary challenge when he stands for re-election in 2020.

Fear of the president’s disapproval and the wrath of his base clearly caused Tillis’ humiliating flip-flop. After his op-ed, North Carolina Republicans let him know that not being in lockstep with Trump left him out of step with them.

So, it’s okay to ignore Constitutional principles as long as you make it harder for a future “left wing president” to ignore the Constitution.  Riiiiiight.

12) With white Democrats ever-more secular, more candidates are ignoring the “and God bless America” platitudes.  This Christian says “hooray” because boy do I hate that crap.

While white progressives once described religion as something that brought Americans together, they’re now more likely to describe it as something that drives them apart.

It’s not hard to understand why. For starters, the percentage of white Democrats who express no religious affiliation has skyrocketed. According to unpublished data tabulated for me last year by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), 8 percent of white Democrats expressed no religious affiliation in 1990. By 2016, the figure was 33 percent. In 1990, white self-described liberals were 39 points more likely to describe themselves as Protestant than as religiously unaffiliated. By 2016, religiously unaffiliated beat Protestant by nine points.

Secular Democrats haven’t only grown more numerous. They’ve also become some of the party’s most motivated activists. As The Atlantic’s Emma Green has noted, a PRRI poll taken last August and September found that Democrats who shun organized religion were more than twice as likely to have attended a political rally in the previous year than Democrats who identify with a religious group. Today’s Democratic candidates cannot simply assert, as Obama did in 2004, that “we worship an awesome God in the blue states,” because so many active Democrats do not.

The other reason liberal candidates more often describe religion as a source of division is the rise of Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. Before Donald Trump, Republican religious discourse was more ecumenical.

13) Paul Waldman on white identity politics and the future of the Republican Party:

It’s no accident that the members of Congress who have these folks so worried are a Latina and a Muslim woman, because what is coming to define a good portion of the Republican Party is a sense that white people are not just losing something today but are under the threat of cultural, political and even physical annihilation.

In its extreme form, it’s defined as “white genocide,” a term common among white supremacists who believe that the white race is literally in danger of being wiped out. In a less extreme form, it manifests in people being increasingly drawn to white identity politics.

We have to be clear what we mean when we say that. In her upcoming book, “White Identity Politics,” political scientist Ashley Jardina clarifies that the term should be understood to refer not just to straightforward racism but to something more particular. White identity politics is about whiteness becoming an organizing political factor, a group identity that leads people to seek certain things and favor certain policies because of how they will affect white people.

he presidency of Barack Obama had a great deal to do with the current white identity politics, and in hindsight we might see it as inevitable that a racist demagogue would emerge to exploit the backlash Obama produced. That’s why Ta-Nehisi Coates referred to Trump as “the first white president,” arguing that his 2016 campaign should be understood as an assertion that whites had to retake power and restore (as they saw it) their rightful place atop the hierarchy.

What motivates it isn’t just hostility to minorities but fear that whites will be overrun, oppressed and eventually eliminated, and the solution is in turn to banish minorities from wherever white people are feeling this threat, whether it’s the United States, Europe or New Zealand…

Many Republicans would protest that their party affiliation is based not on racial fears of extinction but on things such as support for small government and tax cuts, or opposition to abortion rights and marriage equality. And they aren’t lying. But it’s also undeniable that with Trump in charge — and with the party having given itself over to him so completely, at least for now — white identity politics now defines the GOP. But what will they do as it drags them down? [emphasis mine]

15) Never heard of “curling parents” before.  Enjoyed this in Chronicle of Higher Ed.

‘Curling’ Parents

People used to talk about helicopter parents, said Jump, the college counselor. These days, he said, the term is “curling parents,” a reference to the Olympic sport. Parenting, in other words, is no longer about hovering over one’s children. It’s about sweeping problems out of their way.

The desire to insulate children from problems also emerged in Calarco’s research. She interviewed a mother who said, “I just don’t want my kids to suffer.” That’s a nearly universal sentiment. But in this particular example, Calarco said, it was the mother’s explanation for why she would run her children’s homework to school if they forgot it at home.

If that’s your definition of suffering, then not getting into your top-choice college is a real hardship.

16) Leonhardt is right, “The Admissions Scandal Is Really a Sports Scandal.”

The researchers were given access to anonymous admissions records at 19 elite colleges and then analyzed how admissions offices treated different groups of students. Low-income students, for example, were no more likely to be admitted than otherwise similar students with virtually identical academic records. So-called legacy students — those whose parents attended the same schools — received substantial boosts. So did underrepresented minorities.

But the biggest boost went to recruited athletes: An athlete was about 30 percentage points more likely to be admitted than a nonathlete with the same academic record…

If the accusations are true, they’re outrageous. But they also highlight a larger problem that has somehow become acceptable: A scam like this could exist only because competitive sports occupy a ridiculously large place in the admissions process.

The situation is different for other extracurricular activities. Great musicians are more likely to be admitted to a college than similar students who don’t play an instrument — as is only fair, because musicians deserve credit for their accomplishments. But the musicians don’t generally receive a 30-percentage-point boost on their admissions chances. Stage managers for the high school theater don’t, either. Nor do student body presidents, debaters, yearbook editors or robotics competitors.

Athletes do. Their extracurricular activities are not treated merely as an important part of a college application, but as a defining part. [emphasis mine]

17) OMG this is crazy!  Sort-of-identical twins. 75% genetically related and boy girl.  Whoa.

One boy. One girl.

Sharing a single placenta.

“It doesn’t add up,” Dr. Fisk recalled thinking.

As it turned out, the twins were neither fraternal nor identical. They fell into a third rare category known as semi-identical or sesquizygotic twins. Although it would take several years to prove, he was looking at the first set of semi-identical twins to be identified during pregnancy, according to a paper published last week in the New England Journal of Medicine.

18) I used to really enjoy Frances Scott on the local news.  Horrible to read how an artificial hip replacement that should have never happened (there was already evidence that the replacements causes metal poisoning) basically ruined her life.  Ugh.

19) Apollo 11 is amazing!  Go see it on a big screen if you can.

(Just a few more) quick hits

Some more good links from lasts week I couldn’t let die:

1) Love this on letting your child have their own inner life.

As my children get older, I’m realizing how profoundly my instincts have been shaped by this culture of constant supervision, which wants to believe that it’s the same thing as intimacy. I still prefer it, over all, to the enormous distance that I sometimes felt as a teen-ager toward my parents. But I want to ask: Who is speaking up, today, for a young person’s right to a private life, to secrets, unshared thoughts, unmonitored conversations and relationships?

2) Really like what Drum has been writing about climate change lately:

I don’t have such a plan in mind, of course, but I do have a few guidelines that I think could help someone win this game:

  • Think international. Yes, yes, the Republican Party is hopeless right now and that makes America a non-player. But you shouldn’t obsess about America anyway. Any plan that’s worth the paper it’s written on will focus on things that are most likely to work all around the world.
  • Focus on getting the biggest bang for the buck. “Biggest bang” is pretty obvious: it just means reducing carbon emissions as much as possible as fast as possible. But “for the buck” means more than just the lowest possible price tag. “Price” should be seen as both dollars and as personal sacrifice. The more sacrifice you ask of people, the bigger the cost. The lower the sacrifice, the better chance you have of getting widespread buy-in.
  • Forget the free market. There’s no profit in addressing climate change. In fact, the profit is almost entirely on the other side. This means that any plausible plan has to include lots of government subsidies: subsidies for solar, subsidies for wind, subsidies for electric cars, subsidies for reforestation, etc. Basically, you should accept that virtually every policy you support will happen only to the extent that the government subsidizes it.
  • Lots of shared R&D. We could address climate change solely with existing technology. The problem is that even with truckloads of subsidies, it would demand more sacrifice than people are likely to accept. That means that we desperately need new and better technology on all fronts as soon as possible. This should be a Manhattan Project kind of thing, and in this case it’s OK to be America-centric. Obviously other countries do scientific research as well, but America does the most. What’s more, a project like this really would motivate other countries to get on board with R&D of their own.

And how will all this be paid for? The obvious answer is a whopping big progressive carbon tax. This would provide plenty of money for all those subsidies and would provide a tailwind for all the other carbon-reduction policies you come up with. However, a whopping tax means a big sacrifice, and that probably dooms it to fail. A carbon tax that starts small but steadily increases is one compromise that might work. A carbon tax that pays for more than just climate change might also reduce opposition.

There are plenty of other possibilities. The main thing is to be rigidly realistic at all times. If you ask too much of people, they won’t support your ideas no matter how great they are. And even if they do, they aren’t likely to respond appropriately to the scale of the problem on their own. I haven’t, after all. Neither have you. But that’s OK: climate change won’t be affected much by personal action anyway. It’s too big. Like a war, it requires action on a governmental scale. Unlike a war, however, it has no human enemy to spur citizens to accept the sacrifice it takes to win. It’s up to us to come up with an alternative. [emphasis mine]

3) Charles Pierce on McCabe, Trump, and supine Republicans:

All weekend, the president*’s defenders pounded away at McCabe’s 60 Minutesinterview as proof of the “deep state” conspiracy to undermine the administration*. On Tuesday, McCabe told Today that he had informed the so-called “Gang of Eight”—the bipartisan congressional intelligence chiefs—that he was launching the investigations and that none of them raised any objections. From Politico:

On Tuesday, McCabe disputed the insinuation made by some of his critics that he had made the decision to investigate Trump on his own, arguing that the decision was not a spurious one. “Opening a case of this nature, not something an FBI director — not something that an acting FBI director would do by yourself, right? This is a recommendation that came to me from my team,” he added. “I reviewed it with our lawyers. I discussed it at length with the deputy attorney general… and I told Congress what we’d done.”

The former FBI deputy director warned that just because investigations had been opened it did not mean the agency had drawn any conclusions about them thus far.But, he argued, “you have to ask yourself, if you believe the president might have obstructed justice for the purpose of ending our investigation into Russia, you have to ask yourself why. Why would any president of the United States not want the FBI to get to the bottom of Russian interference in our election?”

The Gang of Eight is made up of the Democratic and Republican leadership in both houses of Congress, plus the chairman and ranking members of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees. In 2017, at the time McCabe requested the investigation, these would have included Senator Mitch McConnell, Speaker Paul Ryan, Richard Burr, and White House lawn ornament Devin Nunes from the House. According to McCabe, even Nunes didn’t object to the investigation. This is just a bit astounding, considering the supine performance of congressional Republicans once the president* got sworn in.

They all know. That’s the main thing. They all know and they’ve done nothing. Historians one day will fall out of their anti-gravity chairs.

4) This is good, “Stop Using the Word “Collusion”—How to Frame the Critical Question at the Heart of Trump-Russia.”

5) CNN’s hiring of a totally unqualified Republican hack to be a “political editor” is do disappointing.  “Liberal media” my ass.  Margaret Sullivan:

In early 2017, Isgur was summoned to meet with President Trump in the Oval Office, where she needed to pledge her loyalty to be named the Justice Department’s spokeswoman by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Now CNN has hired Isgur — who has no journalism experience and once slammed her new employer as the “Clinton News Network” — as a political editor.

The network, under heavy fire for the move, was insisting by Tuesday night that she wouldn’t be directing political coverage, although that surely is what a political editor might be expected to do.

That sounds a lot like damage control.

But why CNN made this move to begin with is the deeper and more troubling question.

It strongly suggests that the network’s big thinkers — including head honcho Jeff Zucker — are aiming for a kind of false fairness: a defensive, both-sides-are-equal kind of political coverage that inevitably fails to serve the voting public.

This approach is not guided by what’s good for citizens, but by a ratings-first effort to position the network in the middle of Fox News Channel on the right and MSNBC on the left…

If you’re trying to deepen understanding, bridge the divide or do excellent journalism, this is one of the last moves you’d make.

6) NYT with a “how self-compassionate are you quiz.”  Very.  Honestly, I am probably too self-compassionate :-).

7) Among things I will never feel guilty for– struggling to use “they” as a personal pronoun for a single person.  Sorry, decades of linguistic use wires the brain pretty hard.  I think Virginia Heffernan needs more self-compassion.  Also, I think person who really don’t want to use he or she need to find an entirely new pronoun.  We already have a they and it means more than one person.  And, yes, I accept that languages evolve in change, but not typically in ways that are almost impossible to organically adapt to.

8) Why the Catholic priesthood needs women.  My views on the role of women in the Catholic Church are an area where keeping an open-mind (and some good impetus from my progressive, feminist mother) allowed me to undergo as dramatic a change of opinion as on anything.

9) Interesting research on how the number of push-ups you can do is more predictive of future heart health than a treadmill test.  The best category was 40+ push-ups before muscle failure.  Much to my dismay, I can get into the 30’s, but not quite 40.

Quick hits (part I)

1) Sorry, I can’t let Howard Schultz go.  Eric Levitz on his vapid town hall:

A promise to make health care affordable for every single American — which is to say, to extend insurance to the nearly 30 million people who currently lack it, and drastically reduce costs for the one in four Americanswho currently forgo necessary medical care because even with insurance they cannot afford it — without increasing the deficit, significantly raising taxes, or disrupting the private insurance market. (Schultz feels no obligation to specify how he would do this.)

This is indicative of Schultz’s broader program. For all his bluster about the Democratic Party’s unrealistic promises — and the left’s refusal to recognize the necessity of legislative compromise — Schultz offered CNN’s audience virtually nothing beyond unrealistic promises and statements that betrayed an ostensible ignorance of the necessity of legislative compromise. On the latter count: Any political observer with a rudimentary understanding of the U.S. Senate would know that, if a voter wants incremental improvements to the health-care system — but not Medicare for All — they will (almost certainly) get what they’re looking for from any Democratic nominee; even president Bernie Sanders will not be able to pass any legislation without the approval of red-state Democrats like Jon Tester and Kyrsten Sinema. Which is to say, to the extent that Schultz is proposing concrete policies, they are just less-detailed versions of the Democratic Party’s consensus positions.

2) Chait on the “emergency.”

As a matter of principle, the Constitution establishes a system that requires the House, Senate, and the president to approve new laws. In some cases, expediency requires the president to act unilaterally. Those rare cases are not defined as emergencies because they’re important — lots of policy is important, even life-threatening. The emergencies are cases where the executive needs to act in an especially urgent way, and where congressional involvement may not be practical…

The anticipation that courts will smack down Trump’s attempted power grab has created some complacency about the brazenness of his attempt. The clever take in Washington is that Trump is claiming emergency powers knowing full well he will probably lose.

But it hardly vindicates the president. Trump impulsively engineered a government shutdown out of the mistaken belief that somehow it would give him leverage over Democrats, and without any understanding of the humanitarian fallout. After he quickly realized it wouldn’t, he made almost no effort to negotiate in good faith, even though it certainly would be possible to imagine immigration policies most Democrats and some Republicans would want enough to authorize more border-security funding.

Having deliberately inflicted pain on his own country on a whim, he is defying democratic norms in order to extricate himself from the humiliation of a retreat. That he is likely to lose may mitigate the offense, but doesn’t excuse it. Trump has at minimum proven that he lacks the temperament or basic competence to serve as president of the United States.

3) Jordan Weissman is right about this plan to allow Medicare buy-in for those 50 and over, “Moderate Democrats Are in Love With a Tepid and Outdated Idea to Fix Health Care.”

4) Yasha Mounk on the “emergency”

Americans often like to imagine that their system of checks and balances is a secure bulwark against the threat of autocracy. But in reality, no set of political institutions is, in and of itself, enough to constrain a popular and power-hungry president intent on destroying the republic. One of the reasons for this is the classic problem of the state of emergency, with which political philosophers and students of the law have grappled ever since the Roman Republic.

As Cicero argued in De Legibus, the safety of the people is the highest law; when a polity faces some unforeseen emergency, there may thus be urgent and legitimate need to loosen some of the ordinary legal restrictions on the powers of the highest magistrate. At the same time, it is obvious that any legal recognition of the need for emergency powers creates a huge opportunity for abuse; if an aspiring autocrat declares a false emergency, he would instantly be liberated from the usual constraints on his power. The history of the 20th century demonstrates that this is no abstract concern: From Adolf Hitler in Germany to Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines, some of the most brutal dictators of the past hundred years have consolidated their power by exploiting emergency legislation.

5) I’m covering this in my public policy class and I don’t recall sharing it here before (and if I have, it’s really good).  David Roberts, “What genuine, no-bullshit ambition on climate change would look like.”

6) Nice piece from Paul Waldman, “Warren and Klobuchar demonstrate the fundamental divide among Democrats.’

This is Warren’s articulation of the problem: Not just that the system is rigged — something Trump said in 2016 — but that it’s rigged by and for a specific group of wealthy individuals who shape it for their own benefit. This willingness to name the villains of the story she tells distinguishes Warren from many of the other candidates.

She also said, “We can’t afford to just tinker around the edges—a tax credit here, a regulation there. Our fight is for big, structural change.” She then outlined an agenda for economic and political reform to change how the system operates. So to summarize, Warren says the problem is a system rigged by the wealthy; the solution is a series of broad and fundamental policy changes that take away their power to continue rigging the system. She’s the one to implement them, because though she came from a poor family, she had the opportunities she says are lacking in the United States today, and she has spent a career understanding and attempting to confront the forces that limit those opportunities for ordinary people.

Klobuchar detailed some of the same policy proposals as Warren, such as reforms to reduce political corruption and guarantee voting rights. She did name some particular individuals — a reference to “dark forces” attacking voting rights, another to “tax loopholes designed by and for the wealthy,” and criticisms of pharmaceutical companies and the gun lobby — but she didn’t tie them together in a single us-vs.-them critique. For Klobuchar, the real problem is “our politics,” a system in which everyone is implicated and everyone can have a part in improving.

7) NC legislature considering revising the law on alcohol sales.  Just sad that Republicans still justify laws with rationales like this,

The state could make more money by allowing ABC stories to open on Sundays. North Carolina is one of only eight states that doesn’t allow liquor store sales on Sundays.

“I think we need Sunday free for the Lord’s day,” said Rep. Pat Hurley, a Republican from Randolph County.

8) This professor says that email is “making professors stupid.”  Yeah, it seems like some workdays are all about email management (but in reality, those emails are generally about my teaching, research, and service) and I don’t think it’s making me stupid.

9) Sorry, I cannot let Howard Schulz go, but his campaign really is illustrative about so much in American politics.  Ezra, “Howard Schultz’s campaign is based on 3 ideas, and they’re all wrong.

10) When it comes to advanced analytics, I just love learning about hockey (especially goaltending).  Love this 538 trying to figure out why scoring is noticeably up in hockey this year.  TLDR– it’s not clear, but it’s fun to watch.

11) David Hopkins, “There Are No Clear Lane Markers on the Road to the White House.”

Political journalists are fond of metaphors, and one recent analogy that seems to be rising in general usage is the comparison of the presidential nomination process to a highway with multiple “lanes” corresponding to identifiable party factions or subgroups. According to this view, each candidate and primary voter resides in a specific party lane (or, on rare occasions, can straddle the boundary between two lanes). The best-positioned candidates in the race, then, will be those who can unite the voters in their lane—either because they have it all to themselves from the start, or because they quickly knock similarly-situated candidates off the road…

While some of these analytical attempts to sort out the primary competition contain grains of truth—there are, after all, identifiable constituencies within the parties that are more or less attracted to various candidates—the “lanes” model of characterizing nomination contests is fundamentally flawed and potentially misleading. It rests on assumptions about how voters behave in party primaries that don’t hold up in reality, as the history of presidential nominations (including the 2016 race) makes very clear…

It’s important to understand how candidates behave strategically to build electoral coalitions and, to the best of our ability, to identify what considerations prompt voters to choose a specific candidate. But any conceptual model of nomination politics needs to incorporate a large random error term, representing the varying effects of personal charisma, persuasive advertising, memorable debate performances, catchy slogans, journalistic takedowns, verbal gaffes, and other factors that have proved difficult to anticipate yet can be just as influential as substantive positions or group membership in shaping voters’ evaluations of the candidates. We’re about a year away from primary and caucus participants being asked to officially register their preferences, which means that we’re still a year away from rank-and-file Democrats beginning to settle on their choice of nominee. It’s a long road to the nomination, and the vagaries of timing and luck ensure that many unforeseen twists and turns still lie far ahead.

12) Interesting take on the Amazon HQ2 mess:

No deal has garnered as much attention as Amazon’s, particularly since local politicians engaged in dozens of publicity stunts designed to woo the retail giant. While the company was searching for new offices, its value ballooned to $1 trillion and Bezos became the richest man in modern history. Meanwhile, investigative reports trickled out all year about the company’s brutal labor practices. The news often came with some mention of HQ2.

LeRoy says Amazon has indeed inadvertently highlighted public subsidies, which corporations have been able to negotiate largely in the dark. “I think Amazon is not winning a lot of love from corporate America for that,” he says. Deals between governments and other tech companies—and the secrecy surrounding them—are receiving scrutiny, too. Two nonprofits are suing San Jose, California, over a $67 million deal to sell government land to Google for new office space. The organizations argue city officials illegally signed nondisclosure agreements with the tech giant.

But the outcry over Amazon’s HQ2 search won’t necessarily have a lasting impact on the way government officials hand out subsidies to corporations. Jensen says he’s witnessed a number of governments make cosmetic reforms, like introducing rules requiring companies verify the number of jobs they end up producing, but that fundamental issues often don’t get addressed. “I think the PR of this decision hasn’t been positive and there is a potential for a backlash,” he says. “But I feel like I have seen enough terrible economic development scandals that go by the wayside.”

13) Sean Illing on the “emergency,” “Trump declared a national emergency at the border. I asked 11 experts if it’s legal. Spoiler alert: probably not.”  This is really useful for understanding the legal basis of why Trump will likely lose in court.  And it’s not about the obvious lack of urgency.

14) An interesting take on modern journalism, “Journalism is not dying.  It’s returning to its roots.”

If, however, you explained Twitter, the blogosphere, and newsy partisan outlets like Daily Kos or National Review to the Founding Fathers, they’d recognize them instantly. A resurrected Franklin wouldn’t have a news job inside The Washington Post; he’d have an anonymous Twitter account with a huge following that he’d use to routinely troll political opponents, or a partisan vehicle built around himself like Ben Shapiro’s Daily Wire, or an occasional columnist gig at a less partisan outlet like Politico, or a popular podcast where he’d shoot the political breeze with other Sons of Liberty, à la Chapo Trap House or Pod Save America. “Journalism dying, you say?” Ben Franklin v 2.0 might say. “It’s absolutely blooming, as it was in my day.”

What is dying, perhaps, is that flavor of “objective” journalism that purports to record an unbiased account of world events. We take journalistic objectivity to be as natural and immutable as the stars, but it’s a relatively short-lived artifact of 20th-century America. Even now it’s foreign to Europeans—cities such as London cultivate a rowdy passel of partisan scribblers who don’t even pretend there’s an impregnable wall between reportage and opinion. The US was much the same until the late 19th and early 20th century. Until 1900 or so, most newspapers were overtly political, and a name like The Press Democrat meant Democrat with a big D. Advertising was a minor concern, as party leaders encouraged members to subscribe to their local party organ, obviating the need for anything more than classifieds.

15) A rare link courtesy of my youngest son, who sent me this interesting article about the rise of “legacy” board games.  Sorry, I won’t be buying games anytime soon in which I have to tear up cards.

16) Before this season, I was feeling pretty flat about Duke basketball– despite a lifetime of fandom– due to all the one-and-doneness.  But, damn, Zion Williamson’s super-human ability and amazing joie de vivre is his play have brought me fully back on board for this season at least.

Quick hits (part I)

1) We very much take it for granted, but we have gotten so much better at weather prediction (case in point, polar vortex) in recent years.

2) The science of why this weeks frigid temperatures are caused by global warming and we’re likely to have more such events in the future.

The exact details of how this works are complex, but the explanation is simple: warmer land temperatures, particularly in northern North America and northern Eurasia, allow more heat to be transported into the Arctic stratosphere. A warmer Earth makes sudden stratospheric warming events more likely and more frequent. And those events destabilize the polar vortex, bring cold air down into the mid-latitudes, and cause the extreme weather we’re experiencing right now.

3) Obviously, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam was wrong to dress in blackface in 1984, but short of murdering, raping, etc.,  someone in 1984, I think it is absurd to call on a person to resign in 2019 when we have a whole career of public service in between by which to judge them.  Maybe I’m missing something, but I’ve heard nothing calling into question Northam as a racist.  It would be one thing if he had some ambiguous/questionable history, and you could say, “see!” but there’s no history of racism, thus this is something really, really stupid and offensive for which he should rightfully apologize.  But to call for his resignation based on something 35 years ago when you’ve got the intervening 35 years to judge his character strikes me as dramatic overkill.  I got in an argument with my wife about this this morning, and honestly, the very fact that it ended up in his medical school yearbook and nobody thought to stop it tells you that it was, very unfortunately, not too far from the cultural mainstream in 1984 white Virginia.

4) I could do a whole quick hits just on Howard Schultz.  The great thing about his candidacy is that it has brought about so much smart commentary on the stupidity of reflexive “both sides!” centrism and the current state of the party system.  Great piece from Eric Levitz, “Howard Schultz Wants a President Who Will Tell Billionaires Their Favorite Lies”

As many have already noted, a “realist” who believes that a third-party candidate can win the 2020 election is a contradiction in terms. Schultz is about as fluent in the realities of modern American politics as Donald Trump is with those of modern American grocery shopping. Meanwhile, Schultz’s ostensible belief that the U.S. government is analogous to an upscale coffee chain — and thus, that Uncle Sam has no more business running up a $21.5 trillion debt than Starbucks does — is no less a declaration of economic illiteracy than Trump’s insistence that trade deficits are tantamount to theft.

But what makes Schultz’s pretensions to realism truly hallucinatory is this: Even if one stipulates that he is right about the appeal of centrism, and the evil of deficits, his own promises about fiscal policy would still be muchmore extravagantly “unrealistic” than the median democratic socialist’s.

In recent days, Schultz has promised to reduce economic inequality, end extreme poverty, cut the deficit, combat structural racism, and ensure that every American has access to quality health care — while keeping taxes on the rich near historic lows.

5) Krugman on “fanatical centrists”

Finally, the hallmark of fanatical centrism is the determination to see America’s left and right as equally extreme, no matter what they actually propose.

Thus, throughout the Obama years, centrists called for political leaders who would address their debt concerns with an approach that combined spending cuts with revenue increases, offer a market-based health care plan and invest in infrastructure, somehow never managing to acknowledge that there was one major figure proposing exactly that — President Barack Obama.

And now, with Democrats taking a turn that is more progressive but hardly radical, centrist rhetoric has become downright hysterical. Medicare and Medicaid already cover more than a third of U.S. residents and pay more bills than private insurance.

But Medicare for all, says Schultz, is “not American.” Elizabeth Warren has proposed taxes on the wealthy that are squarely in the tradition of Teddy Roosevelt; Bloomberg says that they would turn us into Venezuela.

Where does the fanaticism of the centrists come from? Much of the explanation, I think, is sheer vanity.

Both pundits and plutocrats like to imagine themselves as superior beings, standing above the political fray. They want to think of themselves as standing tall against extremism right and left. Yet the reality of American politics is asymmetric polarization: extremism on the right is a powerful political force, while extremism on the left isn’t. What’s a would-be courageous centrist to do?

The answer, all too often, is to retreat into a fantasy world, almost as hermetic as the right-wing, Fox News bubble. In this fantasy world, social democrats like Harris or Warren are portrayed as the second coming of Hugo Chávez, so that taking what is actually a conservative position can be represented as a brave defense of moderation.

But that’s not what is really happening, and the rest of us have no obligation to indulge centrist delusions.

6) And Michael Tomasky,” Howard Schultz Is Wrong About ‘Both Sides.’ It’s Republicans Who Ruined the Country.”

Both parties are not to blame for the current dysfunction. All right, the Democratic Party is not blameless. But political polarization has been driven almost wholly by the Republican Party.

I could write a book about this (wait, I have!), but here in a column, let me just give a couple of examples.

The first is Grover Norquist’s anti-tax pledge. You probably know of it; he has this pledge that he makes Republican members of the House and Senate sign agreeing that they’ll never raise a tax. He dreamed it up in the 1980s, and it really took off after George H.W. Bush broke his “no new taxes” pledge in 1990. They’ve almost all signed it, and with very minor exceptions, no Republican in Congress has voted for a tax increase since 1990.

This has caused untold dysfunction. How? It’s a government’s job to assess the needs of the body politic and address new needs as they arise through some combination of spending cuts, borrowing, and tax increases. The government wanted to create Social Security; it imposed a tax. It wanted to build interstate highways; it borrowed and imposed a tax. It wanted to bail out the Social Security Trust Fund; it did so through a negotiated combination of spending cuts and tax increases.

Well, if taxation is taken off the table, the government can’t do its job. And that is what Norquist and the Republicans have done.

Imagine if the Democrats had done the opposite. If some Grover Norquist of the left had imposed a no-spending-cuts pledge. They would be branded as complete obstructionists, and reasonably so. But they have not. They accept spending cuts. Maybe grudgingly, but they accept them. They agreed to the 2011 sequestration deal that included big domestic cuts.

So in other words, one party, the Republican Party, has said, for 30 years now, that one of the two major tools any legislature has as its disposal to address society’s problems is unusable, untouchable. That is divisive. That has caused dysfunction. And it’s all on the Republicans. [emphasis mine]

7) Dahlia Lithwick on the awfulness that is Stephen Miller.

8) This is crazy and fascinating– big gender gap of student evaluations of teaching on a 1-10 scale that pretty much disappears on a 1-6 scale (for the record, NCSU uses 1-5).

9) Eric Levitz gets another for his great take on Democrats’ irrational support of the filibuster (something I’ve been complaining about for about as long as I’ve been teaching):

The wealthy speculators and slave owners who founded our republic had little faith in popular democracy. The specter of a tyrannical majority using its power over the state to infringe on individual liberty (i.e. their property rights) haunted their collective imagination. To keep that hypothetical thieving mob at bay, they designed a system of government chock-full of veto points — which is to say, opportunities for powerful minorities to kill popular reforms.

To become a law, bills would need to make it through the committee systems of not one but two legislatures, past an independently elected president, and then (after Marbury v. Madison) survive the withering scrutiny of judicial review (and in many cases, the modifications of state-level officeholders). By modern standards, this system was exceptionally small-c conservative. Virtually no contemporary democracy makes it anywhere near as difficult for elected majorities to govern as the early American republic did.

And yet, even the men who designed this system could not condone the modern Senate filibuster. The framers explicitly debated whether legislation should be subjected to any kind of supermajority requirement in the Senate — and they affirmatively decided against it.

And then, the upper chamber accidently created a loophole that allowed any individual senator to prolong debate indefinitely. Eventually, a supermajority threshold was established for closing that loophole, and, as American politics polarized, exceeding that threshold became a requirement for passing any major law. Now, America’s legislative system isn’t just unwieldy and conservative by 21st-century international standards, but also, by 18th-century American ones…

Arguments for preserving the filibuster come in two flavors: misguided and bad.

10) Drum asks, “How Did Lefties Take Over the Democratic Party So Quickly?” and answers that the ideological divisions were never so big to begin with.

It starts with the observation that there are two fundamentally different kinds of left-wing “centrists.” The first genuinely has pretty moderate views. The second actually has fairly lefty views but doesn’t think there’s any chance of getting them enacted. So they propose moderate programs not because it’s all they want, but because it’s all they think they can get. These folks are best thought of as tactical centrists.

Barack Obama was a genuine centrist in some areas (fiscal policy, for example), but a tactical centrist in others. I don’t have any doubt, for example, that he’s supported true national health care pretty much forever. He just didn’t admit it because he didn’t want to come off as too radical. And once elected, he let Congress take the lead and create the Affordable Care Act because he was keenly aware that it was the most he could get from the Democratic Party at that time.

But what happens to tactical centrists when, suddenly, national health care becomes a mainstream idea again?¹ Well, they were always for it privately, so they’re perfectly happy when it becomes OK to say so publicly.

I think what Drum is missing is not just the shift in the Overton window, but, more importantly, how Obama’s presidency (and I do love the guy) pretty much showed the failure of the tactical centrism approach for Democrats.  Why moderate your ideal points for compromise with somebody who is never going to actually compromise with you?

11) I love this, “Want to Stop Fake News? Pay for the Real Thing.”  Yes.  And you should start with a subscription to the Times or the Post if you don’t have one.  For the record, I could pay less than I do with an Educator rate, but I don’t because I believe in paying for what these news organizations provide.  And, especially pay for local news because we don’t have government accountability without it.

12) Seen a lot of good tweets on the matter and this Vox piece summarizes the key arguments, “The remarkably selective outrage on the right about Roger Stone’s arrest: ‘You shouldn’t only start caring about these things when some rich, white, powerful elite is subjected to its abuses.'”

13) Almost forgot Jamelle Bouie’s historical take on Schultz:

Is there any chance a third-party candidate could contest the presidency and win?

The short answer is no. As long as the United States has an Electoral College and winner-take-all process for presidential elections, third-party and independent candidates will have a hard time finding any traction.

There have been times in American history, though, when third-party candidates have upended the political landscape, winning entire regions of the country, although never the presidency. But unlike Schultz, those candidates weren’t self-proclaimed “independents”railing against “divisiveness” from the center; they were polarizers who built support by cultivating personal followings and sharpening ideological, cultural and geographic divides…

All of these examples share key elements. The most successful third-party candidacies relied on a pre-existing mass constituency, whether a movement or a charismatic following or a distinct minority with shared political and cultural interests. To mobilize those constituencies, candidates threw themselves into polarizing the electorate from novel positions — not the center — sharpening differences and working to reorganize the electoral playing field around their concerns. And they played on divisions in the major parties themselves, capitalizing on shifting attitudes within each coalition. The Populists exploited agrarian discontent within the Democratic Party; the Dixiecrats did the same for white Southern opposition to racial liberalism.

To believe, as Howard Schultz does, that “a formidable third choice for president also has a chance to succeed for the first time since George Washington,” one also has to believe that the structure of American politics has suddenly changed, with a large and distinct constituency of voters just waiting to be tapped by an enterprising candidate. Neither is true.

14) How the bad guys are getting past two-factor authentication.  Sneaky!

15) Trump tweeted out support for Bible literacy classes.  But teaching the bible in an honest and academic way might not be so good for Christians.

16) Love this, “Mom Mortifies Son With Amazing Jumbotron Performance.’

17) Drum, “Only 27% of Americans Think American Health Care Is Above Average.”  You know I’m not suprised.  One argument I pretty much never get from my students any more is, “but American health care is the best in the world!”

18) Interesting from NYT, “A Tiny Screw Shows Why iPhones Won’t Be ‘Assembled in U.S.A.’”

19) Really great NYT feature on American figure skater Gracie Gold and her struggles with mental illness.  I don’t care how talented, I honestly cannot imagine putting my child and whole family what it takes to go through to be an elite individual athlete.

20) Surely not everybody’s cup of tea, but damn did I love the outrageous and surreal satire in “Sorry to bother you.”

21) Enjoyed Benjamin Wallace-Wells on Kamala Harris.

22) And more good Schultz readings to cap things off.  Paul Waldman, “What Howard Schultz’s ludicrous candidacy tells us about the American electorate”

23) And Greg Sargent, “Howard Schultz is anything but a realist.”

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