Photo of the day

From a recent Atlantic photos of the week gallery:

Lightning dwarfs city lights as a distant thunderstorm passes by Dodge City, Kansas, on June 29, 2018. 

Charlie Riedel / AP

Minority rule

I first wanted to write this post a couple weeks ago, but didn’t get around to it, but now there’s plenty more good stuff I can add.  And let’s just start with this Norm Ornstein tweet in response to a Paul Waldman column:

Think about that.  And be like Ornstein and use that stat every chance you get.  And ask yourself what Brendan Nyhan always asks, “what would you say if you saw this in another country.”  Exactly.  Not much of a democracy.

The Chait post that got me thinking of this a couple weeks ago:

Over the last generation, the Republican Party has moved rapidly rightward, while the center of public opinion has not. It is almost impossible to find a substantive basis in public opinion for Republican government. On health care, taxes, immigration, guns, the GOP has left America behind in its race to the far right. But the Supreme Court underscores its ability to counteract the undertow of its deepening, unpopular extremism by marshaling countermajoritiarian power.

The story really begins in December 2000. George W. Bush had a tenuous hold on the Electoral College, despite having half a million fewer votes nationwide. But his edge depended on a narrow margin in Florida, which was attributable to the fact that voting machines in Democratic counties failed to register a higher percentage of votes than machines in Republican counties. A recount would threaten that outcome (and in fact, a hand count that included every kind of missed vote, including ballots that both wrote and checked in the name “Al Gore,” would have given Democrats the presidency). But Bush’s brother controlled the state’s government, and it doggedly refused to allow the recount to which the trailing candidate was entitled. In the end, five Republican Supreme Court justices narrowly ended the recount and gave Bush the presidency…

And yet that trick underscores the Republican Party’s legislative competitiveness. The House has a massive Republican tilt, requiring Democrats to win the national vote by six or seven points in order to secure a likely majority. The Senate has an even more pronounced tilt, overrepresenting residents of small states, which tend to be white and rural. George W. Bush in 2000 and Trump in 2016 each won 30 states while losing the national vote. Since each of these states has equal representation in the Senate, the chamber gives Republicans an innate advantage. If every state’s Senate vote reflected its national orientation, Republicans would have a natural supermajority. Merely attaining parity in an evenly divided country requires Democrats to win at least ten seats in Republican-leaning states.

The Electoral College reflects the same overall bias. By reducing the power of voters who live in states that vote heavily for one candidate or the other, and magnifying the power of voters who live in closely balanced states, it gives disproportionate influence to white voters

The central drama of the Trump era is a struggle to defend American democracy against an authoritarian leader. The Republican Party’s comfort with the crude authoritarianism of its president, though, did not spring out of nowhere. It is the culmination of a party increasingly comfortable with, and reliant on, countermajoritarian power.

And Paul Waldman:

That [Supreme Court nomination] vote will be a vivid reminder that we are living in an age of minority rule. In fact, that is one of the central features of this political era. The Republican Party represents a minority of the American electorate, yet it controls not only all three branches of the federal government but also most state governments, as well.

Why do I say that a vote in Kavanaugh’s favor is an example of minority rule? Because the body that will confirm him is built in its current formation  to almost guarantee Republican control, despite the fact that most American voters selected Democrats to represent them there.

Using Dave Leip’s invaluable election atlas, I added up all the votes cast for Democrats and Republicans in the 2012, 2014 and 2016 Senate elections, which put the current Senate in place. I didn’t bother with the few special elections since 2012, which in total wouldn’t change the results much, but I did include Bernie Sanders’s and Angus King’s last elections, since they are nominally independent but caucus with the Democrats. Here are the results:

Republican votes: 102.3 million

Democratic votes: 117.4 million

In the elections that determined the current Senate, there were 15 millionmore votes cast for Democrats than for Republicans. Yet Republicans maintain control and therefore get to confirm President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

Well, that’s just how it is, you might say. Blame the framers. And that’s true: They set up a system in which Wyoming’s 580,000 residents get two senators and California’s 40 million residents also get two senators.

But that doesn’t mean it’s fair or right or that Democrats shouldn’t be livid in cases like this where it leads to such an antidemocratic outcome. And the GOP’s built-in advantages combine to make the country much more hostile to the policies the majority actually wants… [emphases mine]

There’s a related situation in the House, where most analysts believe that in order to take control Democrats will have to not just win the popular vote, but win it by a huge margin of 6 or 7 points. And all this is why enormously popular policies like minimum wage increases, greater funding for education, and universal health coverage never see the light of day, while our national legislature eagerly cuts taxes for the wealthy and corporations whether that’s what the public wants or not. And one of the things you can absolutely count on from the newly (even more) conservative Supreme Court is that they will approve every step Republicans take to suppress the votes of those inclined to oppose them, making their continued hold on power all the more likely…

In other words, our entire political system is built to give the Republican Party a series of advantages, even when they represent a minority of the public, as they now do. In some cases that’s by their design, and in some cases it’s a happy accident, but it all points in the same direction. And when Republicans have power, they work ceaselessly to make the system even less democratic and more rigged in their favor.

And Ron Brownstein:

Kavanaugh could be confirmed by a narrow Senate Republican majority rooted in the nation’s smaller states over the virtually unified objections of a Democratic Senate minority strongest in the largest states. Kavanaugh in turn could cement a Republican-appointed Supreme Court majority that would control America’s legal framework for years — regardless of how much of the nation’s future population and economic growth flows into the largest states.

The Senate’s bias toward small states isn’t new: An extended standoff over the issue nearly derailed the convention that wrote the Constitution. Yet the small-state bias may now be more relevant than ever, because it aligns more precisely than at earlier points in American history with the tectonic forces separating the two parties, including urbanization, racial and religious diversity, and the transition to an information-based economy. As small and large states separate even further along those dimensions in the years ahead, the constitutional compromise that provided each state two senators — in a narrow vote held 231 years ago next week — could provoke growing tension…
David Shor, a senior analyst at Civis Analytics, a Democratic-oriented data consulting firm, has quantified how the Senate has increasingly diluted the electoral impact of minority voters over time. Using a statistical technique that compares the minority share of the population in each state to the minority share of the nation’s overall population, he found that minority voters are more underrepresented in the Senate today than at any point since 1870. Projections by Robert Griffin of the nonpartisan Public Religion Research Institute show that minority underrepresentation is on track to widen further for at least the next 40 years as the nation grows more diverse.

The reason for this growing gap, Shor explains, is that the minority population, particularly immigrants and their children, are concentrating in the largest states already disadvantaged by the Senate’s structure, while the predominantly white and smaller states that gain under the rules are diversifying much more slowly. “The issue at a high level is that most growth in the nonwhite population has been concentrated in large states like California, New York and Florida,” Shor says.

That means the racial implications of the Senate’s small state bias will only grow as the US continues its transition into a majority nonwhite nation through the next quarter century or so. Because that growing nonwhite population is concentrated in relatively fewer states, their influence in the Senate will be enduringly constrained. “The Senate is the last redoubt of white voting power,” Shor says. “You have a small group of white rural states … that are going to have an enormous amount of power, not just over judges, but over vetoing legislation.”

Okay, I didn’t want to be overly provacative and title this post Apartheid America, but, damn, that would not have been entirely unfair.  Again, what would you say if you saw this situation in another country?

It’s hard to reunite families

When you don’t actually want to (because you are evil) and because you never made any plans for how it would be done (because you are incompetent).  Charles Pierce lets loose, and I agree with his headline, “Someone Should Go to Jail for This.”

Try this sometime. You’re in court and the judge gives you a deadline to do something by Day X. Then, when Day X arrives, tell the judge that you’ve only been able to do four percent of what the judge demanded that you do. See where you’re eating dinner that night.

Getty Images

This whole thing is preposterous now. The administration* never had a plan to do anything except separate these families and hold the children hostage. It certainly had no plan to reunite the children with their parents. As far as I can tell, it had no plan beyond the phrase, “zero-tolerance.” Now, it’s trying to cobble a policy together as fast as it’s trying to cobble together facilities in which to warehouse terrified toddlers. And all it’s got left is a president* who believes that he doesn’t have to listen to people like federal judges. From the WaPo:

“Well,” he replied, “I have a solution: Tell people not to come to our country illegally. That’s the solution. Don’t come to our country illegally. Come like other people do — come legally…Is that what you’re saying…I’m saying this: We have laws. We have borders…Don’t come to our country illegally. It’s not a good thing…Without borders, you do not have a country.”

Nice kid you have there. Be a shame if you never saw them again.

This is barely organized crime.

GOP ==> Jesus

Really interesting Op-Ed in the NYT by Michele Margolis today describing her research on religion and politics.  I’ve made the case here many times that many Evangelicals clearly put their political beliefs ahead of their supposed Christian beliefs, but Margolis’ research systematically shows that, we really are in the world of PID before everything.  To be fair, this happens for Democrats, too, but moves them in the opposite direction.  Margolis:

Most Americans choose a political party before choosing whether to join a religious community or how often to attend religious services. [emphases mine]

Faith often becomes a peripheral concern in adolescence and young adulthood — precisely the years when we tend to form stable partisan attachments. Religion typically becomes relevant again later, after we have children and start to think about their religious upbringings. By that time, our political views are set, ready to guide our religious values and decisions.

This is precisely the pattern that produced the religiosity gap between Democrats and Republicans. In 1965, M. Kent Jennings and Richard Niemi conducted a survey of over 1,500 American high school seniors, and then followed up with those people when they were in their 20s and 30s, and at 50.

Analyzing these data, I find that twentysomething Democrats and Republicans were equally secular: Most had pulled away from religion after high school, and Democrats and Republicans did so at similar rates. But nine years later, Republicans had become much more likely to attend church than their Democratic counterparts. In contrast, even those who bucked the secular trend and remained religious in their 20s were no more likely than less religious members of their cohort to join the Republican ranks in their 30s…

In one experiment, I showed some people a flyer advertising their political party, while other people saw an apolitical flyer. Relative to Republicans who saw the apolitical flyer, Republicans who saw the partisan flyer reported feeling closer to their religious faith. Democrats who saw a political flyer, in the other hand, had the opposite response.

In other words, a subtle nudge to think about politics made Republicans feel more religious and Democrats feel more secular.

It may seem counterintuitive, if not downright implausible, that voting Democrat or Republican could change something as personal as our relationship with God. But over the course of our lives, political choices tend to come first, religious choices second…

These same dynamics help explain religious identity in the age of Donald Trump. The familiar narrative that religious beliefs lead white evangelicals to the Republican Party ignores the flip side: how Mr. Trump’s polarizing presidency could be changing evangelicalism in America.

Hearing evangelical leaders praise Mr. Trump and noting his persistent approval among white evangelicals, white Trump supporters may find themselves more and more drawn to the evangelical label and to churches they know will be filled with politically like-minded congregants.

In my case I’ve been an (almost) weekly church-goer my whole life and that never changed.  And the Catholic Church drives me crazy some times, but there’s enough focus on social justice (you know, the stuff Jesus talked about literally all the time), that I’m not going anywhere.  Fair to say, focusing on politics, though, almost surely makes me think in a more secular manner (though, I’m a very secular thinker– whatever that is– for a weekly churchgoer), in part, because “Christianity” in American has become so allied with the GOP.

Photo of the day

This Atlantic gallery of Audubon photography winners is one of my favorite galleries ever.  So many amazing images.

A Dalmatian Pelican lands on Lake Kerkini, Greece. 

Christina Sautter / Audubon Photography Awards

Yes, it’s the racism and xenophobia!


ice new analysis from political scientist, Steven V. Miller (who I imagine is extra insistent on that middle initial these days) on the role of racial resentment in immigration attitudes.  Short version– yes, it’s the damn racial resentment, stop pretending otherwise!  Somewhat less short version, i.e., the paper’s abstract:

Does ‘economic anxiety’ explain attitudes toward immigration or can we better understand attitudes toward immigration as a function of ethnocentrism and racial resentment? This is a long-standing empirical debate in immigration opinion research and the election of Donald Trump, who consistently communicated anti-immigration hysteria on the campaign trail, has only intensified the salience of this debate. However, any focus on this debate by reference to the 2016 presidential election will struggle to distinguish the relative effects of ‘economic anxiety’ and racial resentment because the current political climate is one in which racial resentment may also influence attitudes about the economy. I help settle this debate with a battery of analyses on attitudes toward immigration across the American National Election Studies and Voter Study Group data, spanning analyses on immigration opinion for white Americans from 1992 to 2016. I further leverage the metadata these data provide by estimating the effects of unemployment and exposure to automation/outsourcing at levels as granular as the state, the county, the ZIP code, and the core-based statistical area. My analyses are unequivocal that racial resentment is reliably the largest and most precise predictor of attitudes toward immigration. [emphasis mine] Further analyses and simulations from a cherry-picked model most consistent with the ‘economic anxiety’ argument show that a standard deviation increase in racial resentment is still a greater magnitude effect than all ‘economic anxiety’ proxies combined and set to their conceivable max. I close with implications for immigration opinion research, given its increased salience after 2016.

Here’s his tweet with more info and link to the paper.

And the table here shows how racial resentment dwarfs all other factors– including, of course, economic anxiety.

How I am like a poor, uneducated Republican

I’m a fan of having 3+ children.  Gallup has been polling on “ideal family size” for years.  The first chart is pretty dramatic as we can see how this has changed:


They also have a table breaking this down by demographics, from which I derived the title of the post:

Meanwhile, a nice piece in the Uphsot about why young adults say they want fewer children:

Wanting more leisure time and personal freedom; not having a partner yet; not being able to afford child-care costs — these were the top reasons young adults gave for not wanting or not being sure they wanted children, according to a new survey conducted by Morning Consult for The New York Times.

The survey, one of the most comprehensive explorations of the reasons that adults are having fewer children, tells a story that is partly about greater gender equality. Women have more agency over their lives, and many feel that motherhood has become more of a choice.

But it’s also a story of economic insecurity. Young people have record student debt, many graduated in a recession and many can’t afford homes — all as parenthood has become more expensive. Women in particular pay an earnings penalty for having children.

“We want to invest more in each child to give them the best opportunities to compete in an increasingly unequal environment,” said Philip Cohen, a sociologist at the University of Maryland who studies families and has written about fertility.

At the same time, he said, “There is no getting around the fact that the relationship between gender equality and fertility is very strong: There are no high-fertility countries that are gender equal.”

My take?  Just have more kids.

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