Friday, December 3, 2021

Republicans Won't, But Democrats Should, Try to Defuse the Culture Wars

My latest at The Liberal Patriot!
"It’s not exactly a secret the Republicans are running hard against the Democrats on sociocultural issues like crime, immigration, ideology in the schools and cancel culture. Their strategy is to combine attacks on these perceived vulnerabilities with an indictment of Democrats’ failure to return normalcy to the economy and thoroughly contain the pandemic. The goal is to paint a picture of the Democrats as an incompetent party distracted by secondary issues out of step with normal voters.
The Democrats’ standard response to Republican sociocultural attacks is to insist that the problem areas identified by the GOP aren’t really problems. They are fake issues cynically pumped up by right wing media to scare voters who would otherwise be responding favorably to the Democrats’ superior performance and policy ideas. The apotheosis of this was Terry McAuliffe’s robotic pronouncement of voter concern about schools in the Virginia gubernatorial contest as responding to “racist dog whistles”.
This seems unlikely to work....
Unmuddling the Democratic story starts with defusing the culture war issues that give so much credence to the Republican claim that Democrats are out of touch with the concerns of ordinary voters and prevent Democrats themselves from focusing attention where it is most needed. This may strike many Democrats as terribly unfair; why should Democrats try to do this when GOP attacks are so cynically motivated and so many in their own ranks are guilty of holding truly reactionary and extreme cultural views?
This may not be “fair” in some sense. But it is necessary because it is Republicans who benefit from the endless battle over these issues, not Democrats. Democrats are not on strong ground when they have to defend views that appear wobbly on rising violent crime, surging immigration at the border and non-meritocratic, race-essentialist approaches to education. They would be on much stronger ground if they became identified with an inclusive nationalism that emphasizes what Americans have in common and their right not just to economic prosperity but to public safety, secure borders and a world-class but non-ideological education for their children.
Republicans would continue their attacks of course but they would land with less force, allowing—and perhaps forcing—Democrats to sharpen their focus on voters’ primary concerns like the economy. That is probably the very last thing Republicans would want Democrats to do—and therefore the very thing that Democrats should be doing."
Read the whole thing at The Liberal Patriot. And subscribe--it's free!

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Public Opinion on Abortion

This seems like a good time to review public opinion data on abortion. Felicitously, AEI's Karlyn Bowman has released one of her excellent public opinion compendia focusing on abortion--a comprehensive 76 pages of data from 1970s to today. As the data show, public opinion on abortion is way more complicated than, say, a simple opposition to repealing Roe v. Wade. An invaluable resource for the struggle sure to come.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

We're Embroiled in an Endless Culture War

And that ain't good. Especially for the left. John Halpin explains at The Liberal Patriot
"For most of the 1980s and 1990s, politics in Western nations was fought over different conceptions of state power, taxes, regulation, and redistribution. Conservative parties mostly favored more capitalism and less regulation while progressive parties mostly favored market interventions and more generous social welfare policies. Post 9/11, parties began to divide along issues of military interventions and the global war on terror, with contentious issues around immigration also rising in importance. But for most of the past 40 years, a basic left-right dichotomy focused on the proper balance between state and private power dominated much of politics in democratic and capitalist nations.
Around 2012, something fundamentally shifted with this basic left-right ideological conflict, particularly in the U.S. but also in other Western democracies.
Cultural battles around religion, gender, race, and other social issues have always played a role in politics. But during President Barack Obama’s second term—with the rise of social media, the Brexit vote in the U.K., and the ascendance of Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016—the main debates in politics moved sharply away from economics and state power and towards competing visions of identity, patriotism, immigration, and perceptions of cultural extremism.
Some of these divides are explained by educational shifts in the composition of party voters, with more culturally traditional working-class voters moving towards conservative and populist right parties and more educated professional voters moving into progressive and green parties.
Yet educational polarization doesn’t explain why today you can find many Trump and Biden voters agreeing (at least in polls) about the importance of jobs or stronger economic support for workers and families while simultaneously viewing one another as mortal threats to our nation’s identity and future well-being."

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Class, Class, Class

It's what it's all about baby! Read this terrific interview by Justin Fox with Angus Deaton and Anne Case then go buy their book, Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism.
"AD: The U.S. has become a two-class society. We’re conferring sort of elite status on people with a bachelor’s degree and letting the rest go fish, as it were. The funny thing is that only a third of the adult population have BAs. So the two-thirds that’s not doing very well is a majority, and you might have thought that legislative politics and voting would sort this out. That’s one of the puzzles of the age, why the majority has not managed to use the political mechanism to rectify this problem.
JF: This education divide exists in political leanings outside the U.S., but does it show up across the board in other countries as well?
AC: Anywhere you look in the world, people with more education live longer lives and are healthier, for a variety of reasons. But the only other episode we could find where the life expectancy in adulthood is moving in opposite directions for people with and without a BA is in the countries of Eastern Europe after the fall of the Berlin Wall. So we’re keeping very bad company."

Monday, November 29, 2021

Before the China Shock, There Was the NAFTA Shock

Interesting NBER paper. Paywalled but you can read the earlier working paper for free (link below).
"Why have white, less educated voters left the Democratic Party over the past few decades? Scholars have proposed ethnocentrism, social issues and deindustrialization as potential answers. We highlight the role played by the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). In event-study analysis, we demonstrate that counties whose 1990 employment depended on industries vulnerable to NAFTA suffered large and persistent employment losses relative to other counties. These losses begin in the mid-1990s and are only modestly offset by transfer programs. While exposed counties historically voted Democratic, in the mid-1990s they turn away from the party of the president (Bill Clinton) who ushered in the agreement and by 2000 vote majority Republican in House elections. Employing a variety of micro-data sources, including 1992-1994 respondent-level panel data, we show that protectionist views predict movement toward the GOP in the years that NAFTA is debated and implemented. This shift among protectionist respondents is larger for whites (especially men and those without a college degree) and those with conservative social views, suggesting an interactive effect whereby racial identity and social-issue positions mediate reactions to economic policies."

Friday, November 26, 2021

The Balance Between Safety and Justice

Striking that balance has been, to say the least, quite a challenge for Democrats. Recent events do not enhance one's optimism on this score. Excellent column by James Hohmann in the Post: