Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Generational Hammer Coming Down on the GOP

I don't want to be a broken record on this but I continue to believe people are underestimating the potential effects of generational change on American politics. The data on generational cleavages in attitudes and voting behavior continues to accumulate and, if anything, is getting stronger as Millennials have fully entered the electorate and as the oldest part of the Gen Z cohort has reached voting age.
The New York Times recently had an interesting article along these lines. Leaving aside the interviews with actual teenagers in the article, which are intriguing but not exactly hard data, they do cite some real data which makes the point.
"Election data suggests that the youngest voters are supporting Democrats, and surveys of teenagers not yet old enough to vote reveal them to be anxious about the current state of the country and likely to embrace liberal views.
Over all, 59 percent of people 18 to 24 say they’re Democrats, compared with 33 percent who say they’re Republicans, according to an Upshot analysis of Pew Research Center data over the last year. Even young people who self-identify as Republicans, another Pew survey found, say they hold more liberal views than older Republicans on a wide range of issues — including race relations, the causes of climate change and the involvement of government in people's lives. The youngest Republican voters who supported Mitt Romney in 2012 were the most likely to abandon Mr. Trump in 2016.
The youngest white voters are more evenly split between parties. About half of whites ages 18 to 24 say they’re Republicans. They favored Mr. Trump in the presidential election, but those who turned out in the midterm elections very narrowly backed Democrats, according to preliminary data from Catalist, a Democratic data firm. And only 39 percent of 18-to-24-year-old whites approve of Mr. Trump’s job performance, the Pew data shows.
Also, this next generation (those born after the mid-1990s, the so-called Generation Z) will be the first in which nearly half of the electorate is nonwhite — a group that overwhelmingly votes Democratic.
“Republicans are in trouble,” said Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican pollster who has written a book on millennial voters. Election results show millennials holding onto their Democratic views as they age, she said. “It would not surprise me if the problem is worse, not better, with Gen Z, given the moment we’re in.”
I have no quibble with these data except I believe white 18-24 year olds in 2018 were probably strongly not narrowly Democratic, My reading of the Catalist final data is that white 18-24 year olds were probably around +20 nationally for the House. So that's not "narrowly".
Anyway, these data are a big deal. A really big deal. States of Change estimates are that in 2016, GOP voters were 19 percent Millennials and Gen Z and 56 percent from the Baby Boomer and Silent generations. Flash forward to 2036, holding voting and turnout patterns constant, and we would expect the Republican coalition to be 47 percent Millennials and Gen Z and just 22 percent Boomers and Silent. For the Democrats, the analogous figures are 30/44 in 2016 and 59/15 in 2036. These are massive changes, especially given the significantly more liberal cast of the Millennial and Gen Z generations when compared to the oldest cohorts. And that will deeply effect both parties and the politics of the country as a whole.
You can count on it.
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NYTIMES.COM
Recent data — and interviews with a dozen teenagers on the front lines of politics — show a decided leftward lean.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

On Wisconsin?

The victory of Republican Brian Hagedorn over Democrat Lisa Neubauer in a key state supreme court election in Wisconsin has caught national attention as a potential harbinger for the 2020 election. It has underscored what many have reasonably claimed: Wisconsin could be the most important and most hotly-contested battleground state in 2020.
So what should we make of Hagedorn's election?
First, it should be noted that a low turnout election like this one does not favor the Democrats. There is a very high probability that the composition of the Presidential year electorate in 2020 will be more favorable for the Democrats.
But second, it does indicate how tough this state will likely be for Democrats when they're running against Trump. Wisconsin in 2016 had 58 percent white noncollege voters, a figure that is likely to still be 56 percent in 2020. As this group goes, so likely will Wisconsin.
Consider the 2016 election. There was roughly an 8 point margin swing against the Democrats relative to 2012. Of those 8 points, around 7 can be accounted for by a large swing away from the Democrats by white noncollege voters and about a point is attributable to a substantial drop in black turnout (States of Change analysis).
Or consider 2018. Democrat Tony Evers' gubernatorial victory was based above all on cutting the Democrats' 2016 deficit among this group in half (exit polls). Without that, Evers doesn't win the election.
So let's hope this 2019 Wisconsin defeat s is a wake-up call for the Democrats. It's clear what they need to do in 2020. Can they do it?
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NYTIMES.COM
For Democrats, an intense effort to rebuild their Midwestern “blue wall” for 2020 is showing gains in Michigan and Pennsylvania. But Wisconsin looks up for grabs.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Why Aren't Hispanics an 80-20 or 90-10 Democratic Group?

That's the question Tom Edsall asks in his latest New York Times column. Well, the answer to that is pretty simple: they aren't black and black voters are so overwhelmingly loyal to the Democrats for very specific and well-known historical reasons.
So, not a big mystery there. That said, Edsall seems to be implying that Democrats are significantly underperforming among this group relative to what one would reasonably expect from how awful Trump is, etc.
I'm not so sure about that. The best data we have on Latino support rates from Catalist does indicate that the Democrats did very well indeed among this group in both 2016 and 2018--significantly better than 2012 and especially 2014. Catalist says Clinton carried Hispanics 71-24 (+47), compared to Obama's 67-30 (+37) in 2012 , and that House Democrats carried the group 71-27 (+44) in 2018.
So they may not be an 80-20 group but in the current environment but they do look like a 70-25 group, which is still pretty darn good. You can see this rough pattern in a number of other states where Catalist data are available like Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota and Virginia, where Democratic margins were generally in the +40-+50 range. Of course, there were states where Catalist data are not available like Florida where the margins were presumably lower, as was also likely the case in various noncompetitive races in other states.
But the central tendency of this group is very strong and should not be underestimated. 70-25 is a heck of baseline to start with even if you're not guaranteed to get that in every election in every state.
Should we expect this baseline to continue to ratchet up toward 80-20, say, if Trump and the GOP continue on their current course? I am doubtful. Hispanics are motivated by many other issues besides immigration, some are conservative and will remain so, some are evangelical Protestants and so on. In that sense, I think Edsall is right that Democrats who are relying explicitly or implicitly on this group becoming as monolithically Democratic as blacks will wind up disappointed.
I think the bigger problem with Latinos for Democrats lies not in their support rates at this point, but in their relatively poor turnout. This problem is well-documented and conceivably could be at least partially solved by good old-fashioned mobilization efforts. I'd worry about that rather than why Latinos don't vote 80-20 Democratic.
Finally, as I've noted a number of times, Latinos by themselves are not the solution for Democrats even in Latino-heavy states like Arizona and Texas. Swings in the white vote, including both college and noncollege, have to be joined with strong performance among Hispanics to carry these states in 2020.
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NYTIMES.COM
It’s the question that may decide the 2020 elections — and the future of the Democratic Party.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the White Working Class

David Byler continues to do excellent data work at the Washington Post and is out with a new column that examines the role of the white working class in the Democratic party. That's right, the Democratic party not the Republican party. As Byler reminds us, the white working class, despite shrinking as a proportion of voters and leaning strongly Republican these days, is still a very important part of the Democratic coalition (I should note here that the States of Change project will be issuing a major report in June on Democratic and Republican party coalitions, going back to 1980 and projected forward through the 2036 election. Watch for that!)
"Pew recently found that 33 percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters were non-college educated white voters, a figure that eclipses the percentage of Democrats who are college-educated white voters (26 percent), black (19 percent) or Hispanic (12 percent).
Put simply, Democrats aren’t starting from zero with the white working class. They start out with a real base that they should try to maintain (or expand on) if they want to win in 2020."
True that. Byler goes on to summarize some data on the differences between Democratic and Republican white working class voters, including their relative youth and comparative moderation on issues like immigration and race. This is illuminating. Byler concludes by offering what strikes me as some excellent advice for thinking about this vast and diverse group.
"Neither party’s base is in perfect lockstep on every issue. It’s possible to imagine Trump losing some culturally right, economically left voters if his opponent successfully runs as a populist and hits Trump hard for bills such as tax reform. It’s also possible that if a Democrat neglects the working-class white voters who stuck with the party or intentionally tries to trade them for some other voters, a Republican will take that trade and again surprise the political world by winning on blue-collar white strength.
Some level of stereotyping is inevitable in politics. There’s nothing wrong with statements such as “Democrats win Hispanics by a solid margin” or “Republicans rely heavily on the white working class” — and exceedingly general language such as that can be necessary (or even helpful) for describing a country of more than 300 million people. But parties who turn shorthand into mental shortcuts are in danger of misunderstanding the electorate and losing winnable elections."
That is very definitely food for thought.
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WASHINGTONPOST.COM
Most popular narratives leave white working-class Democrats out of the national conversation — but they're a huge group who will have a lot of sway in 2020.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Can the Democrats Win with Identity Politics?

Perry Bacon Jr. considers this question in his latest article on 538. He starts out by noting:
"The case for Democrats both running on populism and centering their electoral strategy around appealing to Midwestern white voters without college degrees is fairly strong. After all, polls show that voters are more aligned with the Democrats on some high-profile economic issues than on some hot-button cultural ones. Recent electoral history also seems to make this case. Then-President Barack Obama leaned heavily into economic populism during his successful 2012 re-election bid, when he won states including Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Hillary Clinton lost those three states and the election in 2016 after a campaign in which both she and President Trump spoke bluntly about issues around race and identity. In turn, Democratic congressional leaders emphasized a pocketbook message for the 2018 midterms, and the party’s candidates executed it, highlighting health care, particularly the GOP push to repeal Obamacare, more than perhaps any other issue. And the Democrats made huge gains in November.
Looking ahead to 2020, the easiest, clearest path for the Democrats to get 270 electoral votes is for them to win Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and all three states’ electorates have a higher percentage of whites without college degrees and a lower percentage of people of color than the nation overall. And those three states have already shown signs of bouncing back toward Democrats — the party won the governor’s race in all three in November."
I couldn't have put it better myself. Bacon then proceeds to try to make the case for an alternative approach where Democrats "talk a lot about equality and identity issues, and...focus on turning out nonwhite voters and white people with college degrees as much as white people without degrees."
One interesting point he makes here is is that Obama-Trump voters get a lot of attention but there are also Obama-nonvoter in 2016 and Obama-third party voters who could be targets and who have a different profile. So perhaps these voters need a good dose of identity politics. Bacon also notes how much of 2018 Democrats' success was derived from opposition to Trump on non-economic issues like immigration..So identity politics could be a way of mining that part of the electorate.
Well, maybe. But it seems to me that any 2020 Democratic candidate will implicitly and explicitly be running against Trump's rhetoric and policies around immigration and other culturally-inflected issues. I'm not sure a candidate needs to be very left or identity politics--oriented to convince voters that he or she is indeed an alternative to Trump and what he stands for.
But Bacon makes an interesting case and it's worth reading. Honest fellow that he is, he admits that he himself does not completely buy his own argument and concludes:
"I’m making a case here, and it’s purposefully a bit provocative. The clearest way for Democrats to win in 2020 is for the party to carry Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — three states that have lots of white voters without college degrees and where Trump’s tax and health care plans are very unpopular. Perhaps Democrats aren’t disciplined enough to talk about race and identity without also talking about related issues (reparations, for example) that may turn off swing voters.....So I’m not sure that this kind of non-economic liberalism is the best strategy for Democrats. But I’m not sure it isn’t either."
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FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.COM
The basic theory of the presidential candidacy of Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and the potential candidacy of former Vice President Joe Biden is that Democra…

Monday, April 1, 2019

Personnel Is Policy, Therefore Economic Personnel Is Economic Policy

One of the most consequential decisions of Obama's early administration was to let a small group of, as Simon Johnson puts it in an excellent American Prospect review essay, Status Quo Republicans--Ben Bernanke, Tim Geithner and Hank Paulson--set the overall response to the financial crisis. As Johnson remarks, if you hire Republicans, you will get Republican policy.
Johnson's review essay covers two books, a jointly written defense of their role in the financial crisis by Bernanke, Geithner and Paulson and Reed Hundt's new book, A Crisis Wasted: Barack Obama's Defining Decisions. (Hundt, FCC chairman under Bill Clinton, was on Obama's 2008 transition team and, besides knowing all the players, had a close-up view of these decisions being made).
Hundt's book is primarily concerned with why an alternative approach was not taken, rather than letting the Status Quo Republicans run the show. Hundt's answer, as summarized by Johnson:
"Obama did not bring with him a large, experienced team, and during the campaign he developed only broad-brush ideas. The experts on the details were almost all people who had worked with the Clintons. They were Small Ball Democrats—smart people with admirable ideas, but hardly in a position to stand up to Status Quo Republicans. New Deal–style Democrats were conspicuous by their absence.
The financial sector was saved, largely intact, by unprecedented government support. If homeowners had received the same level of support in 2008-2009—for example, in the form of cheap refinanced mortgages—what would have happened? The American economy would have recovered, house prices would have risen, and everyone involved would have looked like a genius. Modern central banks control the price level and this has a primary, direct effect on asset prices—including housing. In most of the country, house prices bounced back but millions of homeowners could not finance their way through the trough. Powerful people in the financial sector could obtain cheap loans, even in the darkest days, because their access to credit was the top priority for both the Bush and Obama administrations.
The result, in rough chronological order, was: mass unemployment, greater inequality, collapsed opportunity, confused anger, and President Trump. The efforts put into financial reform—making sure this could not happen again—by Messrs. Bernanke, Geithner, and Paulson were weak. They lament that next time the central bank will not have the tools to deal with an incipient crisis. If that proves true, it is because their generation undermined the legitimacy of the Federal Reserve through inattention to regulation, consumer protection, and blatant bad behavior before the crisis, and through subsequently allowing the Too Big To Fail banks to become even larger and more dangerous—the total indebtedness of JPMorgan Chase today is in the range of $2.5 trillion."
This really was the great failure of the Obama administration. Where it really counted, they just had the wrong people in charge and the consequences were immense. There is nothing more important than ensuring this does not happen again.
As Johnson concludes his essay:
"It is unlikely that the next Democratic president will want to be seen as another reincarnation of the Clinton administration. But are the potential home-run policy ideas being debated and honed in sufficient detail? Who will be hired—and with what experience—to be in charge of implementation? What are the plans for regulating the financial sector, which is more powerful than ever? And who exactly will be in charge when anything starts to go wrong in the macroeconomy? On these questions may turn both the election and the future of American democracy."
I recommend you read this important essay in full and perhaps pick up Hundt's book to boot. For extra credit, you could try Noam Scheiber's book, The Escape Artists: How Obama's Team Fumbled the Recovery, which is an excellent, detailed account of exactly what the subtitle says it is.
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PROSPECT.ORG
The 2008 financial collapse should have brought the repudiation of neoliberalism. What happened?

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Mayor Pete-mentum?

Beto O'Rourke is definitely making an impact on the race, but for somebody who truly came out of nowhere, there's the one and only Pete Buttigieg, aka Mayor Pete. He's not exactly topping the polls right now, but just getting on people's radar screens at this point is pretty amazing. And I have to admit, I like a lot of what I see; he's seems to have very good political instincts. Like this, from a January interview in Washington Post Magazine:
“Donald Trump got elected because, in his twisted way, he pointed out the huge troubles in our economy and our democracy…at least he didn’t go around saying that America was already great, like Hillary did.”
---Mayor Pete
Right on, Mayor Pete! Of course, this earned him no applause from the political geniuses who advise Hillary Clinton. Nick Merrill, one such advisor, had this to say:
“This is indefensible. @HillaryClinton ran on a belief in this country & the most progressive platform in modern political history. Trump ran on pessimism, racism, false promises, & vitriol. Interpret that how you want, but there are 66,000,000 people who disagree."
Yes, how can Mayor Pete say those terrible things about such a successful campaign?
Anyway, David Atkins has a good take on the Washington Monthly blog about the dispute that underlies this exchange.
"Trump is a fraud, and so are his promises. But during the 2016 campaign, he acknowledged the anxiety of these communities, and gave them a narrative that fit both their worldview, their understanding of politics, and their prejudices.....
It is very disappointing that so many voters in the white working class were willing to believe and accept the racism-fueled narrative of false promises that Trump offered, but that is what happened. Whoever the Democratic nominee is in 2020 has two options to confront this problem. One is to simply give up on reaching these voters in the belief that their prejudices concerning racial and gender minorities make them unwinnable, regardless of the nominee’s messaging around economic policy. The second is to campaign to them in a way that acknowledges the desolation of these communities and gives them a more appropriate and accurate villain to blame.
Merrill’s argument fallaciously assumes that taking this second approach means unavoidably abandoning the Democratic party’s base: women and people of color. But both common sense and specific research indicates that this doesn’t need to be the case.....
Another broad misconception shared by those in Merrill’s camp is that economic populists from the left who support Buttigieg’s messaging believe that all Trump voters can potentially be swayed by it. It’s common among these types to point to some act of horrific racism or sexism at a Trump rally and smirk about “economic anxiety.” But, of course, no one really believes that all Trump voters are persuadable in this way...Even if only 5% of Trump voters are...persuadable...that's the difference in many districts and states between a loss and a landslide victory."
To his credit, I think Mayor Pete gets this.
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WASHINGTONMONTHLY.COM
The deplorable basket may not be as big as believed