Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Is Liberal Democracy Dying?

Doubtful. Very doubtful. Charles Kenny, author of the seminal New Optimist book, Getting Better: Why Global Development Is Succeeding--and How We Can Improve the World Even More, explains:
Already, both Trump’s election and Brexit are looking a little less apocalyptic than a few months ago. The incompetence of the U.S. Administration has blunted its impact. Courts have reined in some of Trump’s immigration restrictions, Congress is restraining some of his cuts and is providing cover to independent investigators. And it is still possible that Brexit will not happen—at least opinion has turned against a “hard Brexit” that would have meant no access agreements with the European Union. Even with such an exit, predictions are that it will shave a few percentage points from the UK GDP. Not good, but not a civilizational collapse. That is to say nothing of the thumping victories of Emmanuel Macron in France and Justin Trudeau in Canada, or the recent defeat of extremist parties in Austria and the Netherlands.
And the idea of liberalism remains in reasonable shape worldwide....The World Values Survey of attitudes across the planet suggests we are slowly converging toward common opinions on liberal values. Take the statement “democracy may have its problems, but it’s better than any other form of government.” World Values Surveys responses in favor of that statement ranged from 81 percent in the former Soviet Union to 92 percent in the West in the middle of the last decade. Since the turn of the millennium, progress toward democratic governance has indeed flat-lined according to most available measures, but we are still close to the all-time peak, far higher than during the Cold War.
It isn’t just about the ability to vote, either: There is growing global commitment to liberal values of equality as well. Take views toward homosexuality: Again according to the World Values Survey, the proportion of people who thought homosexuality was never justifiable has dropped from an average of 59 percent to 34 percent between the early 1990s and the turn of the last decade. That matches heartening worldwide progress over the past twenty years toward legal recognition of gay rights, including in North America and Europe, but also in Uruguay, Taiwan, and South Africa. Globally, we do still face an immense amount of homophobia, sexism, racism, and nativism. Illiberal democracy is strong. But the long-term trends toward inclusion are positive, not negative.
And while Luce worries that support for democracy has “plummeted across the West since the fall of the Berlin Wall,” that might be overselling things. Take attitudes toward having a strong leader who does not have to answer to parliament or elections: According to the World Values Survey, 80 percent of Germans thought this was a bad idea at the turn of the millennium, although that number dropped five percentage points by this decade. In the United States during the mid-1990s, 71 percent opposed, now that number is 63 percent. A worrying decline to be sure, but hardly a plummet. And there has never been a time with more widespread equality of rights and treatment in the country—compare that to the Jim Crow era, or before the Equal Pay and Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s, the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990, or even before the 2015 Supreme Court decision that declared same-sex marriage the law of the land.
Legal changes, once again, reflect broader changes in attitudes. Take racism: Support for interracial marriage in the United States only crossed the 50 percent barrier in 1997. It is now at 87 percent. Hate crimes in the country fell by almost half between 1994 and 2015. The percentage of Americans who think immigrants strengthen the country through hard work and talents has climbed from 31 percent in 1994 to 59 percent in 2016 (although the uptick in support is concentrated amongst Democrats).
This last statistic suggests that anti-immigrant views aren’t quite the inevitable mass response to the growing challenge of inequality that the media might have us believe. Indeed, data for the United States and the UK illustrate the fact that these are the attitudes of an aging and shrinking minority. Fifty-five percent of retirement-age voters supported Donald Trump—that compared to 31 percent of those aged 18 to 29 (the old in America have long been more right-wing, but this demographic gap is growing). Brexit votes similarly skewed toward the elderly. And as Emmott points out, retirees cannot justify their move to the political extremes as resulting from increased dispossession—they are a group cosseted with guaranteed pensions and free health care. Nativist pandering isn’t aimed at the left-behind, and most of those left behind know it won’t help them.
More positive attitudes toward liberal values—especially among the young—might, in part, reflect material circumstances that are not quite as grim as suggested by The Retreat. Globally, the last twenty years have seen the fastest reduction in absolute poverty ever. Economic performance in Europe and America, meanwhile, has lagged. But while Luce points to stagnation in incomes for most people in the West over the past three decades, it is perhaps better seen as a slowdown from historically unprecedented growth of the post-war period. Economists Branko Milanovic and Christoph Lakner look at the incomes of those in the 81st to 90th percentiles of global income distribution in 1988, a group predominantly made up of the poorer half of Western countries and former communist nations. Income growth for that group was about 1 percent a year over the subsequent 20 years. That is a cumulative total of around 20 percent between 1988 and 2008—less improvement than the bulk of those below them in the global income distribution as well as the world’s richest ten percent, but not nothing. (U.S. median household income in particular did decline in the fourteen years between 1998 and 2012, but it has largely recovered since then.)
This somewhat more positive view extends to a number of other measures of the quality of life. Luce notes that, since 1985 in the United States, the cost of higher education and health care has exploded. True, but thanks to the lower cost of food and other manufactured goods, alongside policy reform like the Affordable Care Act, it is also the case that more people can afford them (if accompanied with greater student debt). The percentage without health insurance has fallen from 15 percent to 9 percent between 1997-2016, with the most notable decline coming after 2014. With the failure of Congressional efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, that number should stay depressed. Meanwhile, the percentage of 18-24 year olds in college in the United States climbed from 31 percent in 1989 to 41 percent in 2015.
So can everyone just calm down a little bit? Liberal democracy is still in good shape and will likely be with us for a good long time, despite its undeniable and well-documented problems. 

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Science Fiction Saturday: Greg Egan

There's hard science fiction and then there's Greg Egan. This Australian science fiction author and computer programmer is justly celebrated for his incredibly imaginative and rigorous extrapolations of cutting edge math and physics. Science fiction just doesn't get much "harder" than Egan's stuff. 

Permutation City is one of Egan's early novels and one of my favorites. Here's the description:
Paul Durham keeps making Copies of himself: software simulations of his own brain and body which can be run in virtual reality, albeit seventeen times more slowly than real time. He wants them to be his guinea pigs for a set of experiments about the nature of artificial intelligence, time, and causality, but they keep changing their mind and bailing out on him, shutting themselves down.

Maria Deluca is an Autoverse addict; she's unemployed and running out of money, but she can't stop wasting her time playing around with the cellular automaton known as the Autoverse, a virtual world that follows a simple set of mathematical rules as its “laws of physics”.

Paul makes Maria a very strange offer: he asks her to design a seed for an entire virtual biosphere able to exist inside the Autoverse, modelled right down to the molecular level. The job will pay well, and will allow her to indulge her obsession. There has to be a catch, though, because such a seed would be useless without a simulation of the Autoverse large enough to allow the resulting biosphere to grow and flourish — a feat far beyond the capacity of all the computers in the world.
Far out man! But Egan pulls it off and the Kindle edition can be had for the low, low price of $2.99.

And he just keeps coming up with amazing ideas. Here's the idea behind his Orthogonal trilogy published 2011-2013.:
Orthogonal is a science fiction trilogy by Australian author Greg Egan taking place in a universe where, rather than three dimensions of space and one of time, there are four fundamentally identical dimensions. While the characters in the novels always perceive three of the dimensions as space and one as time, this classification depends entirely on their state of motion, and the dimension that one observer considers to be time can be seen as a purely spatial dimension by another observer.
The plot involves the inhabitants of a planet that comes under threat from a barrage of high-velocity meteors known as 'hurtlers', who launch a generation ship that exploits the distinctive relativistic effects present in this universe which allow far more time to elapse on the ship than passes on the home world, in order for the ship's inhabitants to develop the technology needed to protect the planet. The three novels deal with a succession of increasingly advanced scientific discoveries, as well as a number of radical social changes in the culture of the generation ship's passengers.
Technically, the space-time of the universe portrayed in the novels has a positive-definite Riemannian metric, rather than a pseudo-Riemannian metric, which is the kind that describes our own universe.
Other great stuff includes novels Diaspora, Quarantine, Distress and Schild's Ladder, as well as any of his collections of short stories (Axiomatic is particularly good).  

If reading Egan doesn't blow your mind, you just aren't paying attention!

Friday, September 15, 2017

Obscure Music Friday: The Crazy World of Arthur Brown

"I am the God of Hellfire and I bring you......Fire". With those immortal words and with its associated hook, Arthur Brown and his band, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, forever burned their way into our consciousnesses. Well, maybe not forever because now he is  mostly forgotten. Too bad! The song "Fire" is an all-time classic. Give it a listen and also check out the theatrics in the video, which is how he used to perform on stage, complete with real flames. He also used to be lowered from the heavens on a winch to begin the act. Alas, I never got to see him live!

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Despite Widespread Panic, It Now Seems Unlikely Trump Will Succeed in Dismantling Obama's Legacy

After the unfortunate events of last November, there were widespread fears on the left that Trump would reverse everything the Obama administration managed to accomplish. At the time I thought that was quite unlikely, not because Trump might not want to, but because politically and institutionally this would be very hard to do.

I believe that the impressive ineffectiveness of the Trump administration so far indicates that the (typical) pessimism of the left was not justified. The Obama legacy is highly likely to survive to be built on by later progressive politicians. An excellent piece by Perry Bacon on 538 makes the case. Bacon synthesizes various sources to come up with Obama's top 10 accomplishments and then considers what has happened to them under the Trump administration.
1.      The 2009 economic stimulus and the drop in the unemployment rate that followed it.
2.      The bailout of the auto companies.
3.      The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).
4.      The Dodd-Frank bill that increased regulation of big banks and created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
5.      The repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” that allowed openly gay and lesbian Americans to serve in the U.S. military.
6.      The killing of Osama bin Laden.
7.      The drawdown of U.S. troops from Afghanistan and Iraq.
8.      The agreement reached between Iran, the U.S. and five other nations to attempt to curb Tehran’s nuclear program.
9.      The normalization of U.S. relations with Cuba.
10.  The 200-nation Paris climate change agreement that Obama helped negotiate and the slew of additional environmental initiatives that were promulgated through new rules and provisions in the stimulus.
A review of this list shows how much of what Obama achieved can’t be unwound by Trump simply because we are in a different time in history:
§  The stimulus was a specific policy in response to the economic crisis.
§  Ditto for the auto bailout.
§  The country has moved leftward on gay rights, with gay marriage now recognized as a constitutional right. So it’s very unlikely that Trump will try to reimpose the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. (In a sign of that shift, Trump is instead seeking to limit new recruits to the military who are openly transgender.)
§  Osama bin Laden isn’t coming back to life.
§  It’s difficult to see Trump returning the U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan to anywhere near the levels — 140,000 in Iraq and 33,000 in Afghanistan — that existed when Obama took office. Although Obama didn’t succeed in his stated goal of bringing all the troops home, he lowered the numbers to about 6,000 in Iraq and 8,400 in Afghanistan by the time he left. Trump has recently committed to boosting the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, but there are now only about 11,000 U.S. troops there.
That’s five of 10 major Obama accomplishments that are more or less etched in stone. The other half could in theory be unwound. Indeed, it is the official policy of the Republican Party, as stated in the party’s platform, to reverse Obama’s initiatives on Cuba and Iran, end U.S. participation in the Paris agreement, and repeal Dodd-Frank and Obamacare.
But so far, even the easier achievements to get rid of haven’t gone anywhere. The new president is essentially 0 for 3, with two incompletes.
You’re familiar with the Republican failure to repeal Obamacare. Trump has also spoken of his dissatisfaction with the Iran deal but has not withdrawn the U.S. from it. In June, Republicans in the House passed a bill to roll back parts of Dodd-Frank, but that provision has little chance of becoming law, because that would require 60 votes in the Senate and Democrats oppose it. So that’s three areas in which Obama’s legacy, at least for now, remains in place.
In June, Trump declared, “I am canceling the last administration’s completely one-sided deal with Cuba.” But the policy that Trump announced that day was far short of a full reversal of Obama’s moves: Embassies in Havana and Washington remain open, new flights and cruises to Cuba are still operating and formal diplomatic relations between the two governments continue. (Trump did make it harder for American tourists to go to Cuba and U.S. businesses to operate there.) Trump seems potentially headed toward a full reversal of that major Obama initiative. But he’s not there yet, so that one is incomplete.
Similarly, on the environment, Trump made a much-ballyhooed announcement that the United States was withdrawing from the Paris agreement. But he didn’t totally unwind Obama’s work there either. First, Obama and his administration worked hard to make the Paris agreement a worldwide deal, so the U.S. withdrawal does not by itself destroy the agreement. Trump’s announcement has not yet caused a stampede of other nations to pull out, with China, France and Germany in particular recommitting to the agreement even after the new American president declared his opposition to it. Secondly, because of the rules of the agreement, the United States cannot officially withdraw from the Paris deal until Nov. 4, 2020. Trump could withdraw that day, but a President Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders might be elected the day before, on Nov. 3, 2020, on a pledge to keep the U.S. in the agreement.
And the wind and solar power initiatives that Obama championed appear not to be under any threat from Trump’s team, probably because these policies aren’t viewed as punitive, unlike the perception of Obama’s regulations on coal.
So Trump is not the end of the world--better days are coming! For more on how and when, consult your copy of The Optimistic Leftist. And keep your sunny side up.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

So What Are We to Think about Sanders' Medicare for All Plan?

My old friend John Judis says it's a step forward for the Democratic Party. I'm inclined to agree. Sure Republicans will attack it as stupendous overreach. Sure the details are shaky and in practice such a transition would be hard to pull off--at least all at once. But as Judis points out, it's aspirational in a bold way that Democrats have avoided to their detriment and very easy for the average voter to understand. These are very good things!

The Overton window is moving so let's not worry too much about how "practical" the proposal is. Instead view it as a positive--even inspiring--sign of where our politics is going.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Can Democrats Take Texas (or at Least Part of It)?

Sometimes it feels like Texas is the Great White Whale for the Democrats. They're obsessed with it but they just can't catch it. Will Texas always be that way or are there chances for Democrats even now to make progress?

Francis Wilkinson in an excellent piece for Bloomberg makes the case that really are opportunities, starting in 2018. He explains:
In 2016, while Hillary Clinton was losing states previously won by Barack Obama, she substantially outperformed him in Texas, losing the state by 9 points compared with Obama's 16-point loss in 2012.
Republican strategist Liam Donovan analyzed the swing, from 2012 to 2016, in congressional districts nationwide. Six of the 11 districts with the greatest swing in presidential vote from Republican to Democrat were in Texas.
Donovan emailed:
Traditional swing seats are still going to swing, and there may even be enough for Democrats to recapture the House, but the opportunity for realignment lies in these affluent suburbs where Clinton capitalized on Trump's relative weakness among college-educated white voters. Democrats have been seeking to turn Texas blue on the strength of Hispanic turnout, which is necessary, but thus far insufficient. Whether Democrats can win in the near term will depend on whether they can figure out how to peel off Republican-leaning Trump skeptics in places like Highland Park (metro Dallas) and Memorial (metro Houston).
You cannot peel if you do not play. Clinton received 44 percent or more of the vote in five Texas districts currently held by Republicans. More striking, Clinton defeated Trump statewide among voters under 40, and won the youngest cohort, 18- to 24-year-olds, by a thumping 26 points. Turning Texas youth into loyal Democrats should be a Democratic crusade. One-quarter of the state's population is under the age of 18.
Sound like a real opportunity to me. We'll see if the Democrats can take advantage of it. 

Monday, September 11, 2017

What Do Democrats Stand For?

Excellent question! You'll find much to ponder in a new interview by Susan Glasser of five prominent Democrats in the new edition of the Politico magazine. They are: Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, historian Michael Kazin, Mitch Stewart of 270 Strategies, Jess O'Connell, CEO of the Democratic National Committee and Tom Perez, chair of the same organization. 

Glasser remarks:
It was striking, in fact, to hear Perez open by talking about “the loss of over 900 seats in state legislatures, the movement from 60 Democrats in the Senate to 48, the loss of governors and secretaries of state and state attorneys general, etc.,” over the course of the Obama presidency—and equally so to hear Tanden, who advised Clinton on her economic strategy in last year’s race and runs perhaps the party’s leading think tank, say “we have to show a bolder economic plan than we have before.”…..
[T]here was surface agreement on Perez’s “every ZIP code strategy”; how could there not be, with Trump having won the election by claiming the three swing states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin on the basis of his appeals to their disaffected white majorities? But nagging worries remained: Could the Democratic Party address the lost white working class with its policies? Would it? Or were the economic fears Trump claimed to address really just a cover for a darker Trump agenda of racial exclusion and immigrant-bashing that Democrats won’t and shouldn’t cater to?
 Does this roundtable answer these questions, not to mention the Big One about what do Democrats stand for? You be the judge.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Era of Big Government Being Over Is Over

The era of big government is not over. It was never over (I'm looking at you Bill Clinton). It's still going strong and, in fact, may be getting a second wind. As Larry Summers put it (reported by Albert Hunt in a recent Bloomberg column):
The Republican vow to significantly reduce the size of government is a foolish pipe dream, Larry Summers says, not because of liberal policy aspirations but because of structural economic realities.
At a lunch on Wednesday, Summers, a former Treasury secretary and a leading Democratic economic-policy thinker, explained the substantive as well as political impracticalities of cutting entitlements and defense spending in the years ahead. 
"If we want to maintain traditional American values, government will need to be significantly larger," Summers declared at the event, hosted by the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Significantly larger! That Overton window is moving..... 

And, as Paul Krugman notes, it's not like the Republican efforts to downsize government and cut taxes were ever as successful as they claimed and many liberals feared:
We tend to think of the period since Reagan’s election as a conservative era; even though Republicans controlled the White House only a few years more than Democrats, there were lots of centrist Dems willing to cooperate with R agendas, versus almost no cooperation when Ds held the WH. And one tends to think of the period as a whole as involving tax-and-transfer policy tilting to the right.
Yet that’s not something that jumps out from the numbers. Think about taxes on the top 1%. Yes, Reagan and GW Bush cut them; but both Clinton and Obama raised them. The CBO estimates have some funny fluctuations, driven I think by capital gains: big capital gains raise tax receipts without a corresponding rise in measured income, as I understand it. Still, the overall picture is that at the end of the Obama years taxation of the rich was pretty much back where it was pre-Reagan:
Meanwhile, there were harsh cuts to some social programs — Clinton ended welfare as we knew it — but expansions of others. One simple metric: Medicaid enrollees as a percent of the nonelderly population, via the CDC:

He concludes: "a welfare state supported by progressive taxation has been much more robust than the year-by-year political narrative might lead you to think."

Exactly. Big government never went away and, looking 10 or 15 years down the road, the chances are very good that it's going to get much bigger. As Margaret Thatcher put it in a completely different context: there is no alternative.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Science Fiction Saturday: Lists. Lists, Lists!

Besides asking me for my personal SF recommendations, sometimes people ask if there is anywhere where there are lists of good SF books to consider reading. Is there ever! Look no further than the very nicely-produced Worlds Without End site. There's an entire section devoted to elaborately displayed lists (all those beautiful covers!) of SF books from various sources, including all of the best ones available as far I can figure out. I particularly recommend the Classics of Science Fiction list, based on a meticulous synthesis of critical opinion, and the SF Masterworks list which collects all the books issued by the British firm, Gollancz, in that fantastic series. But there are lots of other good lists, not to mention an entire other section that has complete book lists for all the major SF awards.

Fabulous resource. Highly recommended.

Can You Say "Prime Minister Corbyn"?

The excellent Stephen Bush--whose daily Morning Call email I highly recommend for keeping up on  British politics--has an intriguing article in the latest New Statesman arguing that Jeremy Corbyn should be considered the favorite in the next British election. Think it can't happen--that only bad stuff you think can't happen will happen (e.g., Trump)? Well, think again and read Bush's article. 

Friday, September 8, 2017

Obscure Music Friday: Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies

Most people who are at least vaguely aware of that wonderful musical genre called "western swing" have heard of  Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. But sadly few know of Milton Brown and His Musical Brownies, a competing band that for my money was better. Brown, with Wills, is generally credited with founding western swing but he died in 1936 from injuries suffered in a car crash so never had a chance to make the impact Wills did. But he was great! Do yourself a favor and give Mr. Brown and his smokin' band a listen.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Hey, Remember White Evangelicals?

While nobody was looking, white evangelicals, once regarded as a fast-growing base group for the GOP, have gone into sharp decline. Meanwhile, the unaffiliated actually are a fast-growing base group, but for the Democrats. Read all about this and lots else besides in the Public Religion Research Institute's massive report, America's Changing Religious Identity, based on over 100,000 survey respondents.

Leading Republican Pollster Ready to Bail on GOP

Kristin Soltis Anderson is a leading Republican pollster--specializing in the Millennial vote--who is pretty close to giving up on her party. Guess she wants to be a winner!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

If Unions Are So Popular, Why Aren't There More of Them?

It's a sad fact that union density is going nowhere in this country--that is, nowhere good. Yet, as just-released Gallup polling shows, they are actually pretty popular, with the latest poll reading (61 percent approval) the highest since 2003. 

So why do we have so few unions these days? The simple answer is there's been a a concerted effort by business and conservative political forces to get rid of them. But why has this effort been so successful? Part of the reason lies within the economics profession: the conservative counter-revolution in economics, starting in the 1970's, disparaged the role of unions and mainstream liberal economists lost interest in them about the same time. That left unions' effort to push back against a tilted playing field through labor law reform without a lot of policy street cred. They were easily portrayed as just an interest group out to help themselves.

That's why Larry Summers' latest Financial Times column, in which he forthrightly calls for more policy support for unions and worker power, is arguably more important than the Gallup poll result. Summers is a reliable barometer of the left-of-center conventional wisdom so his views represent more than just the personal opinion of one very influential economist. They suggest that a good chunk of the economics profession--the non-market fundamentalist part--is now ready to see policies that promote unions and labor organization as an important part of the solution to our economic problems. That means the Overton window of "responsible" policy discourse is shifting. And that's a very good thing.

Here's what Summers had to say:
The central issue in American politics is the economic security of the middle class and their sense of opportunity for their children. A pervasive sense of vulnerability and missing opportunity leads to dissatisfaction, reduces faith in government and institutions, diminishes willingness to support the least fortunate, increases resentment towards members of other ethnic groups and fuels truculence towards other nations.
As long as a substantial majority of American adults believe that their children will not live as well as they did our politics will remain bitter and divisive. Middle class anxiety is surely also fed by the slow growth of wages even in the ninth year of economic recovery with unemployment at historic low levels. The Phillips curve — the view that tighter labour markets spur an acceleration of wage growth — appears to have broken down. The Bureau of Labor Statistics just reported that average hourly earnings last month rose by all of 3 cents or little more than 0.1 per cent. For the last year, they rose by only 2.5 per cent. In contrast profits of the S&P 500 are rising at a 16 per cent annual rate.
What is going on?....I suspect the most important factor explaining what is happening is that the bargaining power of employers has increased and that of workers has decreased. Bargaining power depends on alternative options. Technology has given employers more scope for replacing Americans with foreign workers, or with technology, or by drawing on the gig economy. So their leverage to hold down wages has increased…..
On this Labor Day we would do well to remember that unions have long played a crucial role in the American economy in evening out the bargaining power between employers and employees. They win higher wages, better working conditions and more protection from unjust employer treatment for their members. More broadly they provide crucial support in the political process for broad measures such as Social Security and Medicare, which benefit members and non-members alike. Both were at their inception passionately opposed by major corporations….
What can be done? This is surely not the moment for policy to tilt further to strengthening the hand of large employers. Sooner or later labour law reform that gives organisers a chance by seriously punishing employers who engage in illegal reprisals should be back on the agenda. Union efforts to organise non-traditional groups in non-traditional ways need to be encouraged. And policy support needs to be given to institutions where workers have a chance to share in profits and in corporate governance. (emphasis added)
OK, I grant you, he's not exactly singing "Solidarity Forever". But in the world of people who shape policy discourse, this is pretty hot stuff.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

You Live by the Trump Educational Divide, You Die by the Trump Educational Divide

The midterm electorate in 2018 will undoubtedly be older and whiter than the electorate in 2016. That'll be bad for the Democrats. But it will also be more educated--and that's bad news for Republicans. That's because Trump's improbable victory in 2016 was built on the largest educational divide among whites we have ever seen (he did 34 points better among white noncollege voters than among white college voters). But those white noncollege voters are much less reliable voters in midterms than their college-educated counterparts, so the 2018 electorate will be skewed, perhaps heavily, away from Trump's favorite demographic.

And, as David Wasserman notes in his excellent article on 538 that delves into this issue:
The most recent NBC/Wall Street Journal national survey found that whites with a college degree disapproved of Trump’s job performance 61 percent to 37 percent, with 51 percent strongly disapproving — a remarkable level of intensity for a group that he carried just 10 months ago. By comparison, non-college whites approved of Trump 56 percent to 38 percent, with only 27 percent disapproving strongly.
If numbers like these hold through November 2018, college-educated voters could swing hard toward Democrats at a time they represent a disproportionate share of the electorate.
Somewhat counterintuitively, the impact of these angry graduates won’t be felt only in highly educated districts. That’s because the story isn’t just about them. It’s just as much about their non-college counterparts dropping out of the electorate.
For example: If college graduates were to turn out at 80 percent of their presidential levels but non-college graduates turn out at only 60 percent of theirs — uniformly across all districts — the college-educated share of the electorate would actually go up by about the same amount in a district where 30 percent of voters hold degrees as it would in a district where 60 percent hold degrees.
That might help explain why so far in 2017, Democrats have made just as big strides — if not bigger ones — in special elections in blue-collar districts like Kansas’s 4th Congressional District and Montana’s at large seat as they have in highly educated, white-collar suburbs like Georgia’s 6th District.
This is an important point: higher turnout among the college-educated may help Democrats not just in highly-educated areas but in ones with a heavy noncollege presence as well. 

None of this means Democrats will get the 24 seats they need in the House or pull off a miracle in the Senate. But it does mean that Republicans are not the only ones favored by midterm turnout patterns this time around. That should help level the playing field for the Democrats so they can take full advantage of the GOP's many and growing vulnerabilities.