Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Like a Hanging, This Should Concentrate the Mind

The Democrats are dragging things out. And it's not helping. Thermostatic reaction is setting in. Philip Bump at the Post has the relevant data, along with a lot of very nice charts.
"On Thursday, Gallup released new polling asking an interesting question: Is government doing too much? In 2020, with the pandemic emerging and the Trump administration’s response lacking in many ways, Americans were more likely to say they wanted the government to do more, by a 13-point margin. This year, a majority say the government’s trying to do too much. That position has a nine-point advantage, a flip of 22 points. Among Democrats, the flip was 10 points, and among Republicans, 13.
Among independents, the shift was 37 points.
Even within Biden’s party, polling from CNN indicates that the further-left part of the caucus isn’t overwhelmingly winning the big-picture debate. Democrats and independents who lean to the party broadly support the specific components of the Democratic bill. But asked whether it’s progressives or moderates who are helping the party more, Democrats were about split. Among independents who lean left, the moderates held a double-digit advantage.
None of this means that passing Biden’s full spending bill would hurt the party or that it wouldn’t help. This also does not mean that the party should fret over generic-ballot polling 13 months before the elections; in fact, it shouldn’t. But those advocating for Biden to leverage his mandate to go big on spending need to recognize that the mandate has eroded, and that the large group of independents is skeptical of Biden and the broad strokes of his policy agenda, even if they endorse the specifics."

Monday, October 18, 2021

The Democrats' "Factory Town" Problem

A couple of weeks ago Jonathan Martin wrote a big piece on a forthcoming report by Democratic strategists Richard Martin, Mike Lux and David Wilhelm on where and how much Democrats have lost ground in the Midwest--for their purposes the Great Lakes region plus Missouri and Iowa. No report yet but I thought I'd flag it here since it sounds like it should be very informative.
The focus of the report is the "factory towns"--midsize and small counties in these states--where Democratic losses have been concentrated. Their point:
"The share of the Democratic presidential vote in the Midwest declined most precipitously between 2012 and 2020 in counties that experienced the steepest losses in manufacturing and union jobs and saw declines in health care, according to a new report to be released this month.
The party’s worsening performance in the region’s midsize communities — often overlooked places like Chippewa Falls, Wis., and Bay City, Mich. — poses a dire threat to Democrats, the report warns.
Nationally and in the Midwest, Democratic gains in large metropolitan areas have offset their losses in rural areas. And while the party’s struggles in the industrial Midwest have been well-chronicled, the 82-page report explicitly links Democratic decline in the region that elected Donald J. Trump in 2016 to the sort of deindustrialization that has weakened liberal parties around the world.
“We cannot elect Democrats up and down the ballot, let alone protect our governing majorities, if we don’t address those losses,” wrote Richard J. Martin, an Iowa-based market researcher and Democratic campaign veteran, in the report titled “Factory Towns.”...
“If things continue to get worse for us in small and midsize, working-class counties, we can give up any hope of winning the battleground states of the industrial heartland,” writes Mr. Martin."
This is all quite plausible I think--I have written pieces that have made not dissimilar points. But I am anxious to see the actual report which, reporter Martin informs us, is full of "arresting data, vivid graphs and deepening red maps".
I'll write some more about it whenever it finally shows up.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Demonizing Moderates Is a Really, Really Bad Idea

One more for the "what country do progressives think they're living in?" file. Anne Kim at the Washington Monthly has the sad tale.
"As one of just seven Democrats from House districts that voted for Donald Trump in 2020, veteran Representative Ron Kind of Wisconsin is exactly the sort of candidate Democrats need to keep their majority in next year’s midterms. A former college football star and an avid hunter, Kind is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee, a longtime chair of the moderate New Democrat Coalition, and a vocal champion of the dairy farmers in the sprawling, mostly rural district in western Wisconsin he represents.
But after 13 terms in Congress, Kind has called it quits. “Truth is, I’ve run out of gas,” the 58-year-old said when he announced his retirement earlier this summer. He described himself as someone who “tried to be reasonable, pragmatic, thoughtful” and “worked hard to try to find common ground with my colleagues.”
Kind also called himself a “dying breed in public service,” which could not be more apt.
The moderate Democrat’s likely successor is Trump-endorsed Republican Derrick Van Orden, a former Navy SEAL and cafĂ© owner who challenged Kind in 2020 and lost by only about 10,000 votes....
Wisconsin’s Third District has grown more conservative. While its voters supported Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John Kerry, and Barack Obama, Trump has not only won it twice but also increased his margin in 2020. As a result, Van Orden will likely join a growing caucus of Trump loyalists in the House that includes Marjorie Taylor Greene (of Jewish space laser fame), Nazi-curious Madison Cawthorn, and gun-toting COVID denier Lauren Boebert. It’s hard to believe that Van Orden could occupy the seat once held by Republican Steve Gunderson, Kind’s predecessor, one of Congress’s first openly gay members, who was known for his bipartisanship.
The departure of a moderate like Kind might be cheered by some progressives. No doubt they’ve been frustrated, often with good cause, by moderates like Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. “Manchema” have not only insisted on slashing President Biden’s proposed $3.5 trillion spending package, they’ve also been coy about their bottom line and demanded deal killers like the Hyde Amendment banning federal funds for abortion (Manchin) and no hikes in corporate income tax rates (Sinema).
Nevertheless, Kind’s retirement should be alarming to all Democrats, especially since he’s not the only swing-district Democrat bolting. In addition to Kind, the moderate Democrats heading for the hills in 2022 so far include Illinois’s Cheri Bustos, Texas’s Filemon Vila, and Arizona’s Ann Kirkpatrick. More are likely to come. Their departures show how miserable life has become for Democratic moderates—not just for the coy sorts like Sinema, but for head-down-sleeves-up sorts like Kind. They’re walking away from tough districts, expensive primaries from fellow Democrats, and a Republican Party that often seems to have purged its sane members. The result, however, is a Democratic majority at risk....
Democrats need to keep in mind that the stakes in 2022 are much bigger than the policy debates now dividing them, and that the preservation of the caucus should be their highest priority. Rather than vilifying the party’s moderates, Democrats should be working to grow their ranks."
This seems stunningly obvious to me. But it does seem to have escaped the notice of many progressives, including politicians who represent +30 Democratic lean districts. Funny thing about that.

Friday, October 15, 2021

The Global Energy Crisis Is Exposing the Ideological Mistakes of Climate Activists

The goal is good--contain global warming. The results are not so good because so much of the climate movement allows ideological commitments rather than evidence and pragmatism to guide their activism. Ted Nordhaus' excellent essay on the Foreign Policy site provides a comprehensive discussion of the current energy crisis along with the energy and political realities that underlie the crisis and are frequently ignored by green movements and politicians.
"For years, the proponents of wind and solar energy have promised us a green future with electricity too cheap to meter, new energy infrastructure with little environmental impact on the land, and deep cuts in carbon emissions. But despite the rapid growth of renewable energy, that future has yet to materialize. Instead, many of the places that are furthest along in transitioning to renewable energy are today facing a crisis of power shortages, sky-high electricity prices, and flat or rising carbon emissions.
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered companies owning backup diesel generators to operate them nonstop when electricity demand is high in order to avoid rolling blackouts. In Britain, exploding natural gas prices have shuttered factories, bankrupted power companies, and threaten to cause food shortages. Germany, meanwhile, is set for the biggest jump in greenhouse emissions in 30 years due to surging use of coal for power generation, which the country depends on to back up weather-dependent wind and solar energy and fill the hole left by its shuttered nuclear plants.
The proximate cause of all these crises has been surging natural gas prices as the world recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. But the underlying problem is that despite huge bets on renewable energy over the last several decades, California, Britain, and Germany have chosen fossil fuels over carbon-free nuclear energy to backstop their electrical systems.
Germany and California have prioritized closing nuclear plants over decommissioning coal and gas plants. But with so much power still generated from fossil fuels, rapid declines in the cost of wind and solar have not translated into cheap electricity. Electricity prices, in fact, have tended to be highest in places with the greatest share of renewable energy. Public resistance to the growing land use impacts of renewable energy has further hobbled efforts to build out renewables and the infrastructure necessary to support them.
One might dismiss these inconvenient developments as hiccups in the early phases of a global energy transition. But in many ways, the early phases are the easiest: Wind and solar developers can cherry-pick the best locations with good access to existing transmission lines. There is a huge reservoir of existing, on-demand, fossil fuel power generation that can supply the lion’s share of electricity demand while also filling in for renewable energy sources when the sun doesn’t shine and wind doesn’t blow. Subsidies for renewable energy are manageable for taxpayers and electricity consumers as long as the share of wind and solar supplying the grid isn’t very high.
But as the share of renewable energy grows in places like California and Germany, the technical challenges associated with scaling up renewables become more difficult. Once the share of variable renewable energy (i.e., solar and wind) begins to approach 20 percent or so, it swamps the electrical grid whenever the sun is shining and the wind is blowing. Surges of wind and solar power at particular times of the day not only undermine the economics of other power sources on the grid but also undermine the economics of adding additional wind and solar. This phenomenon, called value deflation, is already eroding the economics of wind and solar in California and elsewhere—even at relatively low shares of grid penetration.
Sustained phases of low wind and overcast skies, as much of Europe saw this summer, create the opposite problem, with wind and solar generating far less electricity than normal. During those periods, grid operators need to have enormous amounts of backup generation standing by—essentially an entire second grid of capital-intensive fossil fuel plants that, under the best of circumstances, rarely need to operate but must still be built and maintained. Then there are seasonal variations in wind and solar that are larger still, requiring a vast overbuilding of wind and solar generation capacity in order to produce enough electricity during those times of the year when wind or sun is scarce. This, in turn, requires idling much of that overbuilt wind and solar generation when wind and sun are abundant."
There is much more in the essay. I recommend you read it. Possibly it will cause you to revise some of your priors.

Defund the Police: Done and Dusted

And a very good thing that is. Score one for political realism and another defeat for the woke lefties.
"More than a year after calls to “defund the police” took off on the left, Democrats are taking pains to distance themselves from the slogan — hoping to inoculate campaigns against charges that they want to strip resources from law enforcement.
It’s a sign that while the party’s internal debate over the political salience of the movement is still ongoing, in practice, many candidates have already determined the issue is too politically radioactive to take any chances.
“In Bucks County, we need to keep our families safe,” Democrat Mark Lomax, a candidate for county sheriff in suburban Philadelphia, says in a new TV ad shared first with POLITICO. “It starts with funding the police.”
That 30-second ad follows another in which Lomax appears with Democratic district attorney candidate Antonetta Stancu and says, “We know that to fight crime, we must fund the police.”
The explicit commitment to fund the police is rooted in lessons learned from 2020, when numerous Democrats insisted that the "defund the police" movement damaged their electoral prospects. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also concluded in an election autopsy earlier this year that the issue “carried a punch.” But the Democratic messaging is also a reaction to polling: Only 18 percent of Americans said they support the "defund the police" movement, according to a March poll of 1,165 Americans from Ipsos/USA TODAY."
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Wednesday, October 13, 2021

The Education Polarization Question

Tom Edsall has an essay today on the Democrats' difficulties in dealing with this trend. I had my say in the piece, as follows:
"Two Democratic strategists, Ruy Teixeira and John Halpin, both of whom publish their analyses at the Liberal Patriot website, have addressed [the education polarization] predicament.
On Sept. 30 in “There Just Aren’t Enough College-Educated Voters!” Teixeira wrote:
The perception that nonwhite working class voters are a lock for the Democrats is no longer tenable. In the 2020 election, working class nonwhites moved sharply toward Trump by 12 margin points, despite Democratic messaging that focused relentlessly on Trump’s animus toward nonwhites. According to Pew, Trump actually got 41 percent of the Hispanic working class vote in 2016. Since 2012, running against Trump twice, Democrats have lost 18 points off of their margin among nonwhite working class voters.
In an effort to bring the argument down to earth, I asked Teixeira and Halpin three questions:
1. Should Democrats support and defend gender- and race-based affirmative action policies?
2. If asked in a debate, what should a Democrat say about Ibram X. Kendi’s claim that “standardized tests have become the most effective racist weapon ever devised to objectively degrade Black and brown minds and legally exclude their bodies from prestigious schools”?
3. How should a Democrat respond to questions concerning intergenerational poverty, nonmarital births and the issue of fatherlessness?
In an email, Teixeira addressed affirmative action:
Affirmative action in the sense of, say, racial preferences has always been unpopular and continues to be so. The latest evidence comes from the deep blue state of California which defeated an effort to reinstate race and gender preferences in public education, employment and contracting by an overwhelming 57-43 margin. As President Obama once put it: “We have to think about affirmative action and craft it in such a way where some of our children who are advantaged aren’t getting more favorable treatment than a poor white kid who has struggled more.” There has always been a strong case for class-based affirmative action which is perhaps worth revisiting rather than doubling down on race-based affirmative action.
Teixeira on Kendi’s arguments:
It is remarkable how willing liberal elites have been to countenance Kendi’s extreme views which ascribe all racial disparities in American society to racism and a system of untrammeled white supremacy (and only that), insist that all policies/actions can only be racist or anti-racist in any context and advocate for a Department of Anti-Racism staffed by anti-racist “experts” who would have the power to nullify any and all local, state and federal legislation deemed not truly anti-racist (and therefore, by Kendi’s logic, racist). These ideas are dubious empirically, massively simplistic and completely impractical in real world terms. And to observe they are politically toxic is an understatement. [Note: my reply here was about a more general question that Edsall asked about Kendi's overall approach rather than the specific question above about standardized tests/replying in a debate etc.
The left, in Teixeira’s view,
has paid a considerable price for abandoning universalism and for its increasingly strong linkage to Kendi-style views and militant identity politics in general. This has resulted in branding the party as focused on, or at least distracted by, issues of little relevance to most voters’ lives. Worse, the focus has led many working-class voters to believe that, unless they subscribe to this emerging worldview and are willing to speak its language, they will be condemned as reactionary, intolerant, and racist by those who purport to represent their interests. To some extent these voters are right: They really are looked down upon by elements of the left — typically younger, well-educated, and metropolitan — who embrace identity politics and the intersectional approach."
The piece also features my colleague John Halpin's thoughts as well as those of people who disagree with us. .Read the whole thing; it's worthwhile.