Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Report on the European Left

This report is from Judith Meyer, a very smart young activist in the German branch of DiEM25, the pan-European group started by Yanis Varoufakis. A lot of useful information here about the state of play within both the German and general European left.
German Left
Andrea Nahles was elected to be the first female head of SPD (in its 155 years of history). I see this choice as a way for SPD members to do what Germans like to do: indulge in the ideal-ego of a rebel while not risking destabilisation. Andrea, apart from being a woman, is known for fiery language and once sang the Pippi Longstocking song in Bundestag, so she can count as different, a change from the usual leaders. And she was not the party old guard's first choice of leader, as she came up after Gabriel and Schulz. However, that doesn't change that she was also picked by the party old guard and she has no big plans of change for the SPD, while her challenger, Simone Lange, would have wanted the party to apologize for Schröder's Agenda 2010 - Lange also belonged to the #NoGroko camp. In the end, Lange got 27% and Nahles 66% of the delegates' votes. That is one of the weakest results for an SPD leader in history - Schulz had gotten 100%, and even speaking at this convention he still got more applause than Nahles. But Nahles was the consent candidate; even Jusos leader Kevin Kühnert, who had grown to national fame as the biggest face of the #NoGroko campaign, decided to endorse Nahles rather than vote for Lange who nevertheless was closer to his stances on almost everything. Said that the party needed someone to unite them and that after some private talks he was giving Nahles an advance of trust. Probably a power rationale. Incidentally, Nahles hasn't made a secret out of the fact that she wants to be chancellor / vice-chancellor one day, so expect her and current SPD vice chancellor Scholz to be jockeying against each other whenever given an occasion, even though programmatically not much divides them.
While the next regular SPD party convention is only one and a half years from now (!), Nahles wants the SPD grassroots to have a fundamental debate now which will eventually culminate in a renewed program. Jusos and #NoGroko will expend their revolutionary forces in a thousand local groups and commissions that way. Similar program discussion is ongoing in the German Greens. Linke is the only leftist party whose organs insist that their 2011 program is still a good basis; there are more and more voices asking them to develop something new as well, given the new situation and new challenges.
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European Left
DiEM25's announcement of running as a transnational party (even if that isn't formally possible) with a single program, a single list of candidates and a single Spitzenkandidat across Europe, has caused a lot of worried movement among the other parties already. Mélenchon's France Insoumise affirmed it will not be running as part of the European Party of the Left; instead they signed an alliance with Podemos and Portugal's Bloco, declaring they will also run a transnational party. This is unlikely to actually come to pass because of programmatic differences (and none of the parties actually wishing to hand over some of their sovereignty); their alliance statement was flimsy. But it served to worry some more parties that had assumed to be running with them and who now find themselves having to make a choice of partners. It also increased pressure on the European Party of the Left, which is internally split (as many of its member parties) along the most fundamental vision of what Europe should be (with sovereigntist Lexiters, even nationalists, present next to those who'd reform the EU and those who'd turn the EU into a federation or a republic) and whose welfare it should seek (i.e. the question of refugees and migrants).
DiEM25's alliance is about to have its second meeting. It will be open to the public and recorded on video if interested. There has been an open call to the Melenchon/Podemos/Bloco alliance, as well as to the European Party of the Left, to work on a common program, common list and common Spitzenkandidat. The program would be based on the idea of having a Plan A, B and C:
Plan A = how we want to reform Europe. For DiEM25 this is defined in the general field of the European New Deal, #StopTheDeal with Turkey, #LetLightIn the European institutions, the commitment to organizing a European Constitutional Assembly to replace all existing treaties (while letting citizens decide on how close of an association this should yield) and so on.
Plan B = Constructive Disobedience. If the EU fights the plan A, we resist. The Rebel Cities are a good example of how any level government can refuse to implement policies that are destructive, or can implement alternative policies instead, for example Barcelona suspending evictions or making room for thousands of refugees even though Spain doesn't want to take the refugees it had agreed to take. In Greece, some of the examples given for Constructive Disobedience are delaying debt repayments for as long as creditors haven't agreed on a debt restructure / realistic repayment plan that doesn't necessitate welfare cuts every year. Or Greece may veto European decisions that require unanimity in order to force Europe to act.
Plan C = what to do if the EU disintegrates or if a country gets forced out of the Euro. Unlike Mélenchon, DiEM25 will never advocate initiating Grexit, Frexit, Italexit or similar, because that would mean giving up the opportunity to change Europe through disobedience, because it would initially worsen most people's economic situation, and because it would strengthen nationalist voices. However, it is quite possible that the Powers-That-Be would force Grexit because of Plan B, or that the EU as a whole disintegrates before 2025. Plan C is preparation for that without advocating it.
Most importantly however, and this is already happening, is to influence the debate, to make this European election the first one at which parties will talk about what they want to change in Europe. So far, the European elections always got hijacked by national topics, also because so far only national parties and not transnational alliances/parties ran in it, and because the European Parliament, despite its name, does not have much power to enact any policies. For a group uninterested in seats for the sake of seats, the purpose of running is the visibility and the ability to change the discourse, Europe-wide...

Monday, April 23, 2018

538 on the America's Electoral Future report

538 had a nice article summarizing our report on their weekly polling/political data roundup. Well done, and they note the following, which is correct:
"[T]his study underlines two broad truths in today’s U.S. politics. The Democrats need to do a better job wooing white working-class voters and getting more blacks to the polls (black populations are larger than Asian or Latino ones in states like Michigan and Ohio that have a lot of Electoral College votes). If they don’t, they’ll have a problem winning states in the middle of the country and therefore the Electoral College. At the same time, Republicans have a huge problem with non-white voters that imperils their ability to win national elections and should not be ignored because of Trump’s victory in 2016.
The authors of this study, in looking at the parties’ demographic coalitions, wrote that “quite a few future scenarios could mimic the result of the 2016 election — a Democratic win in the popular vote with a Republican win in the Electoral College.” That is really bad news for Democrats, but hardly a great place for the GOP to be in either: trying to lead a country where a plurality of voters voted for the other party."
A new projection of the voting population shows demographic problems for Republicans and Electoral College problems for Democrats.
FIVETHIRTYEIGHT.COM

Monday, April 16, 2018

Sean Trende and Anna Greenberg on US Electoral Coalitions and Demographic Change

At our conference we also presented two excellent papers that reacted to our electoral simulations from different perspectives. Anna Greenberg's paper discussed "The Path Forward for the Democratic Party" Sean Trende's paper, provocatively titled "In the Long Run, We're All Wrong", analyzes all the things that could go wrong with Democratic--and Republican--strategies for dealing with demographic change. I commend them to you as well as the panel discussion we had with the authors that is on the C-Span video.
BIPARTISANPOLICY.ORG

Demographic Shifts and the Future of the Trump Coalition: The Movie

The folks at C-Span were kind enough to film our conference today at the Bipartisan Policy Center so it is available for viewing in its entirety. If I do say so myself it was a very, very good conference, crisp presentations and discussions, no filler!
The Bipartisan Policy Center hosts a discussion on changing U.S. demographics and the electoral possibilities that exist for the major political parties in future presidential…
C-SPAN.ORG

The big report on American's Electoral Future is out!

Just released! Here's a key bit from the report but please check out the whole thing. There's a lot of grist for your mill, no matter what kind of mill you're working with.
"The wide range of scenarios considered here mostly have Democrats in 2020 maintaining and, in many cases, strengthening their popular vote victory from 2016. Indeed, in only two cases do the authors actually see a Republican popular vote victory in 2020: a 10-point pro-GOP margin swing white noncollege-educated voters and a 10-point pro-GOP margin swing among white college graduates—and, in the latter case, only if the third-party vote is reallocated.
Since Democrats registered popular vote advantages in almost all scenarios in 2020, it should be no surprise that they do so for later elections as well. In the projections that show a Democrat popular vote advantage in 2020, Democrats achieve even greater margins in each subsequent election as the projected demographic makeup of the eligible electorate continues to shift in a direction generally favorable to Democrats.
But, critically, it is electoral votes based on state outcomes, not the nationwide popular vote, that determine the winner in presidential elections. As this discussion details, many Democratic popular vote victories in these simulations do not translate into Democratic electoral vote victories.
In the 2020 election, these simulations include a scenario where Republicans gain a 15-point margin swing in their favor among Latinos, Asians, and those of other races, and a number of scenarios where the education gap among whites plays a key role. The following scenarios result in a GOP Electoral College victory but a popular vote loss: The GOP gets a 5-point margin swing from white noncollege-educated voters twinned with an equal swing toward the Democrats among white college-educated voters; a 10-point swing in Republicans’ favor among white college graduates; and a reversion to 2012 support margins among white college-educated voters. The exception to this pattern is the scenario in which Republicans gain a 10-point margin swing from white noncollege-educated voters, where the GOP carries both the Electoral College and the popular vote. Finally, simply leaving turnout and voter preferences as they were in 2016 while demographic change continues, yields a probable Republican Electoral College victory—though popular vote loss—if the third-party vote reverts to 2012 levels.
Thus, the GOP has many roads to the presidency in 2020 even though demographic shifts appear to make a Democratic popular vote victory easier than ever to obtain. Even more interesting, some of these fruitful scenarios continue to produce Republican electoral vote triumphs in 2024 and beyond, despite mounting popular vote losses."
The demographics of the United States are projected to become much more diverse in the coming decades and will have significant effects on the presidential election in 2020 and beyond.
AMERICANPROGRESS.ORG

Saturday, April 14, 2018

A Preview of Our Big New Report on America's Electoral Future

Our new report on Demographic Shifts and the Future of the Trump Coalition will be published Monday in conjunction with our States of Change conference at the Bipartisan Policy Center. We discuss 17 different simulations of electoral outcomes through 2036 under varying assumptions about turnout and voting preferences (for example, if the education divide among whites continues to widen as it has).
We provided an advance copy to Dan Balz of the Post. His article based on the report will be published in the Sunday paper and is now available online. The report itself will bee available on line on Monday.
Balz's article is a good summary of some of the main themes of the report:
"The authors ran a series of simulations for elections between 2020 and 2036, using different assumptions about the shape of the electorate, while also trying to estimate how tweaks or shifts in levels of support for Republican or Democratic candidates would affect the popular vote in the states and, therefore, the electoral college and the national totals.
One conclusion is that the country should be braced for repeats of what has happened twice in the past five presidential campaigns — a popular vote outcome different from the electoral college result. “This report finds quite a few future scenarios could mimic the result of the 2016 election — a Democratic in the popular vote with a Republican win in the electoral college,” the authors write. (The same thing happened in 2000.)"
About this article
Democrats are banking on changing demographics going their way, but nothing is for certain, according to new study.
WASHINGTONPOST.COM

Friday, April 13, 2018

Madmen in Authority

Practical men who believe themselves to be quite exempt from any intellectual influence, are usually the slaves of some defunct economist. Madmen in authority, who hear voices in the air, are distilling their frenzy from some academic scribbler of a few years back.
---JM Keynes
This is perhaps my favorite quote from Keynes. What I like about it is that it highlights the extremely powerful role of wrong ideas in screwing things up. It's not just that political actors have constrained choices or make mistakes--it's that they believe in wrong ideas, particularly wrong economic ideas, and systematically follow those ideas with predictably terrible results.
One big theme of my book, The Optimistic Leftist, is that getting Western capitalism on a better growth path is not that mysterious. We more or less know how to do it. But so many politicians are "slaves of some defunct economist" (in this case Milton Friedman and allied economists of the 1970's market fundamentalist revolution) that it makes it very difficult to avoid serial policy errors that fail to solve economic problems or even make them worse.
Along these lines, I recommend an article Robert Skidelsky has just published on "The Advanced Economies' Lost Decade". He does a great job summarizing the various strands of economic thought that have led us astray since 2008 and the heavy real-world consequences we have suffered as policymakers serially embraced one bad idea after another.
Ideas matter!
About this article
A review of the policy debates of the post-crisis years suggests that flawed macroeconomic theories were given too much weight for too long. The result has…
PROJECT-SYNDICATE.ORG