Thursday, December 12, 2019

Joe Biden's Immigration Plan: Pretty Good!

From the New York Times article on the plan:
"Like other Democratic presidential hopefuls, Mr. Biden would roll back Trump administration immigration policies, including its practice of forcing migrant families to wait in dangerous areas of Mexico for the duration of their immigration cases and limiting the number of asylum seekers who can apply for protection at entry points along the border. Mr. Biden would also reinstate Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, which Mr. Trump has moved to end. The program, created during the Obama administration, shields young immigrants known as Dreamers from deportation....
As a longer-term goal, Mr. Biden’s plan calls for an overhaul of the country’s immigration system, including providing a path to citizenship for people who are in the country illegally. He also wants to allow cities and counties to petition for more visas for immigrants to support economic growth....
Despite a push on the left to abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, Mr. Biden’s plan stops short of seeking that or even outlining any major restructuring of the agency. His plan says his administration would ensure that personnel at ICE, as well as at Customs and Border Protection, “abide by professional standards and are held accountable for inhumane treatment.”
Mr. Biden’s plan does not call for decriminalizing unauthorized border crossings, a move supported by some other Democratic presidential candidates. Asked at a debate in June whether they believed that crossing the border without documentation should be a civil offense instead of a crime, most of the candidates onstage raised their hands. Mr. Biden raised a finger.
The next week, in an interview on CNN, he said he did not support the decriminalization of such crossings. “I think people should have to get in line, but if people are coming because they’re actually seeking asylum, they should have a chance to make their case,” he said."
So far, so good. As political scientist Marc Hetherington has said (quoted by Tom Edsall):
"Liberal Democrats don’t seem to realize they are out of step with the rest of the American public when it comes to immigration and racial attitudes...,Most consequentially, liberals seem to think that surely most Americans are fine with more porous borders. It would be cold and heartless for people to believe otherwise, not to mention economically shortsighted....[liberal faith in widespread support for immigration] is not even remotely true.”
And that gets to the heart of some Democrats' cultural (not economic) vulnerabilities as potential general election candidates. As Ed Luce noted in a Financial Times column:
"People in the middle, who may quietly support gay marriage but attend churches that do not, or who sympathise with illegal immigrants but want a secure US-Mexico border, feel looked down upon. Implying that those who disagree with you are backward is a poor way of winning their vote."
After the UK election results, perhaps we should take this problem more seriously and not assume a robustly progressive economic program (as popular as that may be) will cure all electoral ills.
Mr. Biden would roll back President Trump’s immigration policies but would not decriminalize unauthorized border crossings, in contrast with his progressive rivals.

Biden Back in the Lead in Wisconsin

The widely-respected Marquette Law School Wisconsin poll has Biden back in the lead in the state. Granted it's not much of lead (47-46) but it is an improvement over last month's poll which had Trump ahead of Biden 47-44. The RCP running average for WI is now Biden +4.
None of the other potential Democratic nominees ran ahead of Trump in this poll. Yes, yes, I know, early trial heat, name recognition, etc. But there it is. It's worth noting that Sanders is as well-known as Biden at this point and Warren nearly so.

Well, That Could Have Gone Better...

Labour's somewhat more favorable late polling results did not pan out and what mostly appeared to be a looming disaster was, in fact, a disaster. I won't review the voting results in much detail until I find more interesting data on the election than is currently available.
Political scientist Matthew Goodwin had this to say in an article on the UK site UnHerd:
"The 2019 election will probably underline how Labour has, to all intents and purposes, broken into two distinct parties. On one side stand an awkward alliance of socially liberal white-collar professionals, students and ethnic minorities who reside in London, a few other big cities and the university towns. Together, these groups comprise what Thomas Piketty calls the “Brahmin Left”; a faction that is far more interested in expressing its social liberalism and pro-Remain views than delivering genuine economic reform and solidarity for Labour’s traditional voters.
On the other stand those blue-collar and socially conservative workers who reside in small towns, Labour’s northern heartlands and Wales. As we first pointed out five years ago in Revolt on the Right, these are voters who feel left behind not only by the economic transformation of Britain but also by the sudden rise of social or even “hyper” social liberalism, a creed cherished by the Brahmin Left but which workers neither support nor respect.
This is as much about value loss as economic loss. Consistently, for more than a decade, Labour has been losing ground among the latter group, who lean left on the economy but a little right on culture and identity. When the Brahmin Left reduces their instinctive social conservatism to racism or xenophobia, it simply confirms the rumours that are now circulating through blue-collar Britain: that Labour is no longer a home for them. Given that these groups hold fundamentally irreconcilable values, it is not easy to see how they can be held together either at this election or the one after."
A bit harsh perhaps, but there's truth there. Put a bit more succinctly: Corbyn and company. thought they could overcome the drag from their ambiguous/unpopular views on important socially-inflected issues by blasting out their (actually fairly popular) progressive economic message. Not so. There's a lesson there.
For a broader view that goes into some of the history of the Labour party and issues in and around the election's aftermath, I recommend this New York Review of Books article by Matt Seaton. Lengthy, but well worth reading. He concludes gloomily:
"Social-democratic Britain is already a tattered, damaged thing. The question is what will be left to save by the time the Labour Party can win a general election again."
Far-reaching though the effects of this punctuation mark in the Brexit story will be, the 2019 general election may change the landscape of British politics and the fabric of its society in even more profound and decisive ways. With renewed calls for a referendum on independence for Scotland, where....

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Economic Dynamism = Democrats

Yes, there is a magic formula for generating Democrats. It's called economic dynamism. And the formula for generating Republicans, particularly Trumpian ones, is exactly the reverse: economic stagnation and decline.
Ron Brownstein picks up on a just-released report by Brookings and the /Information Technology and Innovation Foundation on innovation jobs and economic growth. "Just 20 large metropolitan areas now account for a clear majority of the nation's jobs in the 13 high-productivity industries that the authors identify as the nation's most innovative."
Brownstein connects this development to recent political trends:
"Correlating the study's findings with the results of the 2016 presidential election captures the enormity of that shift. In the 5% of metropolitan areas that have attracted the largest number of these cutting edge jobs -- a list of 20 communities that includes New York, Boston, Washington, Atlanta, Dallas, Phoenix, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and Seattle -- Hillary Clinton won 59% of the vote and routed Trump by 11.5 million ballots, according to calculations provided by Brookings. Just those 20 thriving metropolitan areas provided her over 28 million votes -- more than two-fifths of her total.
In the next 5% of metro areas that have attracted the most of these high-innovation jobs -- a group that includes Pittsburgh, Orlando, Charlotte, Nashville, Austin and Portland -- Clinton beat Trump by about eight percentage points, or roughly 1.2 million votes. In all, these two groups of thriving urban areas -- the 40 communities that comprise the 10 percent of American metros that have generated the most of these highly-innovative jobs -- provided Clinton over 36 million votes, fully 55% of her total.
In the metros that ranked between the 10th and 25th percentile for the number of these high-innovation jobs, Trump squeezed out a narrower advantage of about 200,000 votes, or half a percentage point. He beat Clinton soundly by 3.4 million votes in the remaining 75% of metro areas with the smallest numbers of these coveted jobs. Trump also won comfortably in the smaller communities that are not included in the nation's roughly 400 metropolitan areas.
These stark findings reinforce the results of other studies over the past few years that show Democrats growing stronger in the places generating the most economic growth and Republicans solidifying their hold on the places displaying less dynamism. Brookings had found that although Clinton won fewer than a sixth of the nation's counties in 2016, her counties generate almost two-thirds of the nation's GDP.
Another recent Brookings study found that the average Congressional district held by Democrats now generates 50% more economic output than the typical district held by Republicans. Productivity per worker and the median income is now also substantially higher in the Democratic than the Republican districts."
So there you have it. Want more Democrats? Figure out how to spread economic dynamism beyond the large metro areas where it is currently thriving. If not, Democrats will win some elections but they will not achieve the governing majorities they really need to move the country forward.
When it comes to economic innovation, the rich are getting richer -- and that's generating increasing social frustration and political turmoil for the winners and losers alike as the digital revolution rolls through the American economy.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Looking Past Iowa and New Hampshire

538 just published a couple of articles on primary polling data that allow us to look beyond Iowa and New Hampshire. The first is on the first four states and the second is on Super Tuesday and beyond.
The article on the early states shows that Buttigieg is just slightly ahead in both Iowa and New Hampshire, with Warren, Sanders and Biden in that order closely bunched behind. Of course, the theory of these first two states is not that they yield a lot of delegates but rather that winning there can provide forward momentum for future primaries. Candidates whose names are not Biden better hope that that's the case because if outcomes in these first two states don't have much impact on the race, Biden is in a very strong position gong forward. The 538 article shows that Biden is solidly ahead in Nevada and way ahead in South Carolina.
Moreover, the second 538 article shows just how strong Biden looks at this point for Super Tuesday and beyond. For Super Tuesday, he leads in Texas and North Carolina and, while polling is sparse, looks like the favorite in Tennessee, Alabama, Virginia and Arkansas. (California is a jump ball and Warren looks good in Massachusetts and Minnesota). Beyond Super Tuesday, Biden is also leading in Michigan, Florida, Illinois, Ohio, Arizona, Georgia, New York and Pennsylvania.
So....if Iowa and New Hampshire lose their mojo this time around it could get late early for Biden's opponents.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

The Economy Vs. Approval Ratings

With the strong economic report on Friday, there is some trepidation in Democratic circles that such reports will translate into a second Trump term. This is possible. The growth and jobs performance of the economy close to the election has a strong historical relationship to Presidential election outcomes. As a number of people have pointed out, incumbent presidents rarely lose re-election except when there's a recession in the last two years of their term. And so far we haven't seen one.
But the other side of this is that strong economic performance should translate into high approval ratings and we're not seeing that either. Instead, Trump is mired in the low '40s and seemingly going nowhere. And that is another very strong historical relationship: Presidents with low approval ratings tend to lose elections. And, as Harry Enter points out, we are very close to the period where approval ratings start to be very predictive of the ultimate election outcome.
"The next 100 days will be critical to understanding whether President Donald Trump will win a second term in office. His approval rating has been consistently low during his first term. Yet his supporters could always point out that approval ratings before an election year have not historically been correlated with reelection success.
But by mid-March of an election year, approval ratings, though, become more predictive. Presidents with low approval ratings in mid-March of an election year tend to lose, while those with strong approval ratings tend to win in blowouts and those with middling approval ratings usually win by small margins.
Let's start with where Trump is right now: an approval rating in the low 40s. Since World War II, two presidents have had an approval rating at or below 45% in mid-March of an election year. George H.W. Bush had an approval rating at 39%, while Jimmy Carter's was at 45% and falling fast. Both of them went on to lose reelection by greater than 5 points.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there have been five presidents with an approval rating of 55% or above. There was Bill Clinton at 55%, Ronald Reagan at 55%, Richard Nixon at 58%, Dwight Eisenhower at 72% and Lyndon Johnson at 80%. All of these presidents won their elections by nine points or greater.
Finally, we have the group of presidents with approval ratings between between 46% and 54%. This includes Gerald Ford at 47%, Barack Obama at 47%, George W. Bush at 49% and Harry Truman at 51%. All of their elections were decided by less than 5 points.
[Only] Ford didn't win."
So all in all, I'd keep my eye on Trump's approval rating. If economic performance is truly going to boost him to a second term, we should start seeing evidence of that in his approval rating. If not, and his approval ratings stays where it is or declines, he is in trouble even if the economy keeps chugging along.
About this website
Some voters may be willing to set aside Trump’s scandals, aberrant behavior, and controversial policies and focus exclusively on the state of the economy, but many, many others won’t.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

It's An Older Black Voter Thing, You Wouldn't Understand

People continue to be mystified why the old establishment white dude who stumbles over his words comfortably leads the Democratic field. But Biden continues to refuse to collapse.
There are several reasons for this but surely one of the most important, if not the most important, is his strength among black voters. And not just black voters in general but older black voters in particular. And it is this latter trend that is possibly the origin of many observers' failure to "get" Biden's enduring popularity. Harry Enten explains:
"Biden's averaged 49% among all potential black Democratic primary voters in our last two CNN national polls. That's good enough not only for a 35-point lead over his Democratic competitors, but good enough to beat all of them combined by about 10 points.
But I think treating black voters as if they're some sort of monolith creates some sort of a blind spot for those following the campaign: the wide faultline along age in the black community.
In our polling over the last two months, Biden is getting northward of 60% of the vote among black voters 45 years and older. His nearest competitor, Warren, is 50 points behind him.
Younger black voters are far less enthralled with Biden. A look at our polling over the last three months has him in the low 30s with black voters under the age of 45.
This large age gap has existed all primary long, and it's not going away. If anything, our polling is indicating that it is getting larger.
The age gap in Biden's support benefits him in a way that I'm not quite sure folks understand. Simply put, there are more older black voters than there are younger black voters. Those 45 years and older made up 60% of all potential black primary voters. In the majority black primary in South Carolina, those 45 years and older were 71% of all actual primary voters in 2016.
I cannot help but think this age divide imperils some folks ability to understand Biden's appeal with black voters. If all you're reading about is how a lot of younger black activists don't like Biden (which is true), you're missing most of the black voting population. This is also true if you're someone who gets their news off of Twitter, where younger voices dominate in a way they don't in the real world."
I agree with Enten. I think many people are being sorely misled by what they hear on Twitter and from a sector of very visible black activists. Those views are not, by and large, the views of the black community writ large. It is the latter's views that explain Biden's continuing popularity and illuminate his future prospects.
Which are actually pretty good, when you consider how crucial the black vote is to the Democratic nominating process. The Times had an excellent piece on this with good accompanying graphics last week.
Candidates gain delegates based on voting in both states and districts, which are Congressional districts in all but a few places. While Iowa and New Hampshire may generate political momentum for a winner because they vote first, the two states award very few delegates. By contrast, a candidate who is popular in California, Texas and predominantly black districts in the South could pick up big shares of delegates.
A recent poll shows Mr. Biden at 44 percent among black voters in South Carolina, the early voting state with a majority-black Democratic electorate, and a historic harbinger for how the South will vote. The same poll had Mr. Biden’s next closest competitor, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, trailing him by more than 30 percentage points among black voters.
Mayor Randall Woodfin of Birmingham, Ala., who has yet to endorse a candidate, said national political analysts are underestimating the political advantages Mr. Biden enjoys in the South.
“It’s not that he’s weaker than people think,” Mr. Woodfin said. “He’s much stronger.”
[S}ome of the most delegate-rich districts in Southern states like Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina have large shares of black Democratic voters. (Vermont is an exception; its population is largely white, but it has only one district with 11 Democratic delegates.)
Under party rules, more delegates are awarded in districts with high concentrations of Democrats. Because black people overwhelmingly vote Democratic, areas with many black residents tend to have higher numbers of Democratic delegates.
This is a big reason why black Democrats are so sought-after in the race for the party’s nomination. Historically, black Democratic primary voters have tended to back a single candidate...The last Democratic candidate to win the nomination without winning a majority of black voters was Michael Dukakis, then the governor of Massachusetts, in 1988."
I might add here that black voters are not Biden's only advantage at this point. There's also his adamant refusal to take politically toxic positions on hot-button issues to appease vocal critics on his left. We see this most recently in the run up to the release of his immigration plan. From the Post's Daily 202:
"[The plan] will outline an end to Trump’s family separation policy, protections for “dreamers” and address the root causes of the immigration crisis. This will include a proposal for foreign aid to stabilize the Northern Triangle countries in Central America, similar to what Sanders and Warren had in their plans....
Biden’s plan will be more moderate than his rivals. So far, the biggest flashpoint in the Democratic immigration debate this year has been over whether to repeal a portion of the law that makes it a criminal offense to illegally enter the United States. The proposal was first made by former housing secretary Julián Castro, the first candidate to publish a detailed immigration plan, and it targets Section 1325 of the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act, which the Trump administration used to defend its family separation policies. Sanders and Warren endorsed Castro’s idea.
Biden still opposes repealing Section 1325, and that won’t change. He said during one of the debates that changing the law could incentivize more illegal immigration. “Repealing that section could undermine our immigration system. It could undermine efforts to combat human smuggling," Alex said in an interview. “It would shift an additional burden into the immigration court system. Additionally, if the logic behind ending 1325 is to end family separation, there are likely at least eight other laws on the books that someone nefarious and anti-immigrant like Trump could use to separate families. So the problem isn't 1325. The problem is Donald Trump.”
Not that I don't have my doubts about Joe Biden. I worry about him as a campaigner against Trump. And, while I think his programmatic commitments as they are evolving are plenty progressive, i worry that he will surround himself with the kind of economic and budgetary advisers that will undercut that program.. Personnel is policy and neoliberal personnel tend to promote neoliberal policy (see Reid Hundt's A Crisis Wasted).
That said, he does have strengths--some very important strengths--and even those who don't like him would do well to understand them.
About this website
First things first: The theme song of the week is the closing credits to Baywatch.