Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Yes, White Working Class Voters Can, In Fact, Be Reached by Democrats

That's been a long time theme of my writing--both in terms of feasibility and necessity--and some new exit poll data collected by Ron Brownstein provides more support for this thesis. It's long been apparent that Democrats generally have a better shot at reaching young and/or female white working class voters than older male ones. But Brownstein's data add another factor to partitioning the white noncollege population that really shows how accessible parts of that population are.
That factor is whether a voter is an evangelical Christian. The data strongly suggest white noncollege voters who are not evangelicals are way more accessible to Democratic appeals than those who are. That could be very important in 2020, as Democrats consider what strategy to pursue and what candidate to put forward to beat Trump.
"Democrats....ran particularly well this year among white working-class women who are not evangelicals, a group that also displayed substantial disenchantment in the exit poll with Trump's performance. Those women could be a key constituency for Democrats in 2020 in pivotal Rust Belt states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, where relatively fewer blue-collar whites are also evangelical Christians.
Nationwide, nearly three-fifths of blue-collar white women who are not evangelicals voted Democratic in last month's House races, while an equal number said they disapproved of Trump's performance in office, the analysis of exit poll results found. That was well over double the Democratic share of the vote among non-college white women who are evangelical Christians. And while Republicans last month still carried a majority among working-class white men who are not evangelicals, Democrats attracted about twice as much support from them as they did among the equivalent men who are evangelicals.....
While some Democrats have come to view white working-class voters as largely a lost cause for the party in the Trump era, other party strategists, including some affiliated with organized labor, have privately argued that the large number of staunchly conservative evangelical Christians in the group has overstated Democratic weakness among them.
Strategists in this camp argue it would be a mistake for the party to downplay outreach to white working-class voters who are not evangelicals, especially the women in that group....
Many of the party's potential 2020 contenders appear better suited to energizing its new base than recapturing working-class whites: Sens. Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker and Texas Senate candidate Beto O'Rourke might all fit into that category. By contrast, former Vice President Joe Biden, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown and centrists such as former Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe and outgoing Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper might be better positioned to reassure working-class white voters than to mobilize the base.
Similarly, the choice on how the party positions on racially tinged issues, such as immigration and police reform, will also likely be influenced by this debate. If Democrats believe they can recapture meaningful numbers of blue-collar whites from Trump they may hesitate about alienating them with vanguard liberal positions on social issues — such as abolishing ICE — in the hope of energizing younger and non-white voters.....
Although changes in survey methodology may partly explain the difference, the 2018 exit polls showed that among both working-class white men and women who are not evangelicals, Democratic House candidates won a measurably higher share of the vote than Hillary Clinton did in the 2016 presidential race. In the heavily blue-collar Rust Belt states that tipped the 2016 election to Trump — particularly Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania — even small improvements might be enough to tilt the result the other way."
About this website
CNN.COM
Cracks have emerged in Donald Trump's hold on his core constituency of white working class voters, new data from the 2018 election reveal.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

10 Things We Now Know About the 2018 Election

It's taken awhile for the picture to come into focus, but with generally finalized election returns, more data availability and accumulated analysis, we can now delineate the main features of the 2018 blue wave with some confidence. Here are 10 things we now know about the election..
1. Besides netting an impressive 40 seat gain in the House, the Democrats had an extraordinarily high margin in the House popular vote. The latest figure is almost 9 points--8.6 to be precise. Amazing. This is the greatest margin on record for a minority party contesting a Congressional election. As Harry Enten of CNN put it, this wasn't a blue wave--it was a blue tsunami.
2. Overall turnout was through the roof. The latest figure is 50.1 percent, the highest midterm turnout since 1914. That means turnout was up a mind-blowing 13 points over the last midterm in 2014.
3. The Catalist data make it clear that this historic turnout increase was driven heavily by younger voters, those under 40. These voters are predominantly members of the Millennial generation, with smaller groups of post-Millennials and the younger segment of Generation X. Precise figures are not yet available but we can be confident the turnout of these younger voters went up significantly more than 13 points.
4. Younger voters also drove improved Democratic performance in this election, relative to the 2016 Presidential election. Whether looking at 18-24 year olds, 25-29 year olds or 30-39 year olds, their margins for Democratic House candidates were all well over 30 points. These margins were improvements of 15-19 points over the 2016 Presidential.
5. The greatest margin increases for the Democrats among young voters occurred among white voters. This includes a massive 25 point swing toward the Democrats among white 18-29 year olds. In a development of great potential significance, Democrats appear to have carried all white voters under 45 in this election.
6. Both unmarried women and unmarried men played key roles in this high turnout election, much more so than their married counterparts. Unmarried voters were also primarily responsible for the Democrats' improved margins over the 2016 Presidential election.
7. Nonwhite turnout was way up in this election--significantly more than 13 points--including among blacks, Hispanics and Asian/other race voters. The same was true of white college voters. White noncollege turnout apparently lagged far behind.
8. Relative to 2016, the greatest shifts in margin toward the Democrats were among white college graduates, especially women, and Asian/other race voters. White noncollege voters had a smaller, but still significant, shift toward the Democrats.
9. Overall, the Democrats' gains among white voters.in 2018 can account for essentially all of their improved performance over the 2016 Presidential election.
10. While Democrats did not win rural areas, or even come close, it is still the case that the largest swings toward the Democrats over 2016 took place in rural, not suburban, areas.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Is Macron the French Trump?

OK, he isn't a right wing populist like Trump, but he does have one big thing in common with him: he, like Trump, believes he's repealed the laws of politics. He, like Trump, believes he can do and say lots and lots of unpopular things and not suffer the standard, negative consequences.
Hey Emmanuel--it's not working! The yellow vest protests have thrown France into a tizzy. It turns out unpopular policies are, well, unpopular. Sheri Berman on the Monkey Cage blog:
"Initially, protesters demanded a rollback of the proposed diesel tax increase. Although diesel prices in France have risen in 2018, French fuel prices are not particularly high in comparative terms. Tax rates overall, however, are extremely high; in 2016, only Denmark’s were higher.
But the diesel tax increase was merely a trigger; the real cause of the massive outpouring of anger and frustration lies deeper. The diesel tax increase was the latest of several reforms proposed by Macron that would disproportionately affect France’s least well-off, including abolishing a wealth tax, making it easier for companies to hire and fire employees, and fighting unions.
More generally, France remains plagued by long-standing social and political problems. Unemployment is high, growth is low and divisions — between urban and rural areas, highly educated cosmopolitans and less-educated “left-behinds” — are increasing.
Macron came to power promising to deal with these and other problems, but the reforms thus far led many to dismiss him as another member of an out-of-touch elite. His aloof personal style — and several well-publicized disparaging remarks to those less well-off, including that they should “stop whining” and simply “cross the street to find a job” — lead growing numbers of citizens to view him the “president of the rich.” As the protests swelled, the yellow vests’ anger became increasingly aimed at Macron and, more generally, at an establishment that seems unwilling or unable to address their needs.
Macron faces the most serious crisis of his presidency, with popularity numbers at a new low — matching the worst figures achieved by his predecessor, Fran├žois Hollande. The yellow vests, on the other hand, have approval ratings of over 80 percent."
Guess Macron and his En Marche movement have not reinvented politics after all. The old rules still apply. And the May European parliament elections loom. Something tells me Macron/En Marche are in for a very unpleasant election.
About this website
WASHINGTONPOST.COM
Macron came to power promising to be the solution to populism.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

It's the Generations, Stupid

One thing people keep underestimating it seems to me, is the significance of generational change. Politically, it is huge. Take a look at the chart below from Catalist, particularly the data on those 45 and under--which currently includes MIllennials, Post-Millennnials and the younger part of Generation X (which most data show are quite similar to older Millennials in their attitudes and political behavior). The data on whites under 45 is especially amazing.
Then read the new piece by Ron Brownstein on the CNN site on the GOP's generational gamble. Tell me that this isn't a party in some serious trouble--and probably sooner than most think.
"Trump is...committing the GOP to a strategy of squeezing more advantage from groups that are shrinking. All of the major data sources on the electorate's composition -- from the Census Bureau to the exit polls to Catalist -- agree that the share of the vote cast by Trump's core group of whites without a college education has been declining by about two percentage points over each four-year presidential cycle. With turnout among minorities and college-educated whites surging, Catalist's preliminary analysis found those working-class whites, while still the electorate's largest single group, dropped fully five points as a share of the vote this year, compared to the last mid-term in 2014.
One thing no political strategy can reverse is the tide of generational replacement. As not only the World War II and Silent Generations, but also more baby boomers pass out of the electorate, the share of the eligible voting pool comprised of Generation X, millennials and Post-millennials is inexorably rising. The States of Change project forecasts those three generations -- which are much more racially diverse and college-educated than the generations they are replacing -- will continue growing to about two-thirds of eligible voters by 2024 and nearly three-fourths by 2028. More voters mean more consequences if Republicans can't soften the recoil from the party that younger voters displayed last month."

Sunday, December 2, 2018

The Road Map to a Blue Pennsylvania

It's very important for Trump that he carry Pennsylvania again in 2020. This could be quite difficult for him, judging from recent trends in the Keystone state. An article by Paul Kane in the Post collects a lot of the reasons why and in the process makes it pretty clear what the Democrats need to do in 2020 to win the state.
"President Trump’s biggest 2016 upset took a very sharp turn this year away from Republicans.
Look at Sen. Robert P. Casey Jr.’s more than 13-percentage-point victory last month, only to be topped by Gov. Tom Wolf’s 17-point reelection win. Those Democrats torched the four suburban counties surrounding Philadelphia and Allegheny County, home to Pittsburgh and its inner suburbs, by margins never before seen.
Take Chester County, the wealthiest in Pennsylvania, due west of Philadelphia. Hillary Clinton broke through the traditional GOP stronghold in 2016, winning by 9 percentage points over Trump. Casey won there by 20 percentage points.
“You can’t attribute that just to a verdict on me,” Casey said in an interview inside his Senate office, giving Trump’s unpopularity much of the credit.
Wolf won there by 24 percentage points, actually topping Clinton’s raw vote total in Chester County from the higher-turnout 2016 race....
The broader problem was spelled out by G. Terry Madonna, who runs the Center for Politics and Public Affairs at Franklin & Marshall College, and Michael L. Young in a memo laying bare the Republican struggles:
* Democrats have won four of the past five governor’s races, each by more than 9 percentage points;
* Republicans lost 11 seats in the state House and five in the state Senate, creating the chance for Democratic majorities after 2020;
* Republicans performed even worse in down-ballot statewide contests: They have lost six straight races for state auditor, four straight for state treasurer and two straight for attorney general....
Of eight statewide races in the past three elections, Republicans won just two — Trump and Sen. Patrick J. Toomey (R), both in 2016.
Two Pennsylvania Democrats, state Attorney General Joshua Shapiro and Treasurer Joseph Torsella, actually received more votes than Trump two years ago.....
Casey believes a Democratic presidential nominee, man or woman, can keep Trump’s margin down in the rural towns if they follow the Wolf-Casey approach.
“Get there physically, listen to them, show up and give a damn,” he said.
His first ad, run heavily in the western part of the state, showed coal miners talking about Casey’s legislation to help with their health benefits. A second ad showed a mother talking about the opioid epidemic in that part of the state.
Clinton devoted outsized attention to Pennsylvania, including an epic election eve rally outside Philadelphia’s Independence Hall with Bruce Springsteen, Katy Perry and the Obamas.
But her campaign focused heavily on liberal cultural issues, running ads that questioned Trump’s fitness for office. She received just 26 percent of the vote in the rural areas and small towns, according to exit polls.
Last month, Casey received 44 percent of that same region’s vote.
That came despite an ideological transformation in which he abandoned the culturally conservative views of his late father, former governor Robert Casey Sr.: The son now supports most gun-control proposals and in 2013 backed same-sex marriage.
His message for 2020 contenders is to follow that same path. The nominee will not abandon Pennsylvania’s urban or suburban voters, the new Democratic base. He or she does not need to win a majority in small rural towns, but must do better than Clinton."
That shouldn't be too tough.
About this website
WASHINGTONPOST.COM
Gov. Wolf and Sen. Casey won handily in the midterms with an election strategy that will be key for whomever the Democratic Party nominates for president in 2020.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Whither Capitalism?

I've flogged Adam Tooze's book, Crashed, here several times. Let me point you as well to an excellent interview with Tooze by Seth Ackerman that is out on the Jacobin site. In this interview, Tooze has a lot things to say about the current directionality of capitalism and implications for the left.
The interview's still behind a paywall (though subscriptions to Jacobin are pretty inexpensive and they have a lot of great stuff). Here is the last part of the interview, where implications for the left are directly discussed:
Ackerman: When it comes down to it, though, it won’t just be the Daily Mail. If and when the rubber meets the road and we start seeing a roll-out of [left interventionist economic] policies —
Tooze: Sure, you’re going to see all sorts of types of resistance, there’s no question. Even the bailouts have a radically different political economy depending on how power is configured. Even something that is transparently in the interest of stabilizing the financial system they’re a part of will still face resistance from, say, Barclays or Deutsche Bank. So sure, if they were confronted with anything that smacked of socialism, there would be hell to pay. I’m not saying that we should underestimate that.
But you were asking about ideas, political framing, the emergence of a new model. I would agree: no one has put a label on it yet. But look at the swap lines, or these trade agreements — which are not really trade agreements at all; the tpp and ttip are deep structuring mechanisms meant to stabilize long-term investment and supply chain arrangements. To just pack all that under “neoliberalism” and say it’s a continuation is, I think, just really uninteresting. One could do that, but it doesn’t grasp the level of innovation that those kinds of measures entail.
If you look at area after area of governance, modes of governance are responding to the deep transformations in capitalism that we have seen in the last fifteen to twenty years. There is, I think, on the part of intelligent bits of the system, a profound awareness of what that entails.
This is one big theme of the book: the financial crisis was a cognitive shock. It was a crisis of macroeconomics. We require a new mode in thinking, and the crisis produced it. It’s kind of there for us already, in the work that so-called “macrofinancial” economists are doing. I agree there’s no single label for it, and it’s not clear what its politics are at this point, but in terms of a reimagining of the architecture, the plumbing, of global capitalism, there’s a lot going on.
This is one of my frustrations with bits of the Left, and why I hope this book will make a constructive contribution.
Ackerman: But it’s not as if there’s been a political agency that has grasped that and put forward any political alternative, except possibly Corbyn and McDonnell.
Tooze: The vehicle and the driver was the inequality discourse, that massive shift in public consciousness about capitalism and its social structure, which rips through from Occupy to the Piketty moment. It’s really broad-based, and it has really shifted the way people think about income and wealth. There has been a political reaction to that, too: new left-wing movements in Europe, in democratic-socialist activism in the US, and in adjustments in fiscal policy. We’re no longer in the full austerity moment.
The full austerity moment was quite narrow — it was in 2011–13, and it was basically unsustainable. And we’re now in some sort of crazed, Republican giveaway moment in the US. Which is good for labor markets: we’re running the Kaleckian experiment — how far can you pump up labor markets until there begins to be a pushback?
The great disappointment, of course, is that it’s not a left-wing administration doing it. It’s not obvious what a left administration would get if it did attempt it.
Ackerman: Yet the core labor-capital contradiction is still operating in the same direction as it was in the previous decades. Labor-market regulations continue to be dismantled, unions are weaker, strikes are fewer — in the US and in Europe.
Tooze: Yes, there has been a fracturing of neoliberal ideology. Yes, there has been a fracturing of the There Is No Alternative consensus. What hasn’t emerged is a new There Is No Alternative.
Tooze also pronounces the German SPD as dead as a doornail and likens European bond vigilantes to Guatemalan death squads. Fun interview!
About this website
JACOBINMAG.COM
Economic historian Adam Tooze on a decade of shattered illusions and the limits of the neoliberal imagination.

Friday, November 30, 2018

Why Cultural Explanations for Trumpian Populism Are So Inadequate

My old pal and co-author, John Judis, has a terrific article out in the Washington Post magazine about understanding the 2018 election results and the continuing red-blue divide.
In Judis' view, you can't understand this divide without understanding the different economies that underpin red and blue America. By this, he doesn't just mean the income levels or unemployment rates of red vs. blue communities but their vastly different economic trajectories, job structures and workforces. For those in red America, they see their economy, rooted in fading rural and industrial areas, changing in ways that undermine their communities an their entire way of life. People in blue America experience a different economy and have a different point of view.
The richness of Judis' analysis of these different economies and how they shape politics is a refreshing change from the torrent of studies that purport to "explain" Trumpian populism by simply linking it to resentful or hostile views of blacks, immigrants, women, etc. These studies dismiss any kind of economic dimension to Trump support because standard survey variables like views of family financial situation don't have linkages that are as strong. But of course that is is not what Judis means by the differences between red and blue economies. It is not all, or even mostly, about income levels and certainly not their most recent changes.
"Many Americans (primarily but not all white) who once lived comfortably in older Midwestern and Southern towns have had important parts of their identity stripped away by the transformation of the U.S. economy. Many of them once enjoyed lifetime employment from the same company and could identify with that company — whether it was General Motors or Sears. They also may have enjoyed the protection and solidarity of belonging to a union. They lived in neighborhoods and frequented the same bars, restaurants, churches and bowling alleys. They and their friends had gone to the same high schools and followed the same local teams. They owned their homes and protected them by owning guns. Many of the men had served in the armed forces and belonged to veterans’ groups.
Move ahead to now: The company has left. The union is gone. The neighborhood is gone. Many of the working-class whites, like the Trump supporters in Ohio I interviewed for my last book, have moved to nearby suburbs, where the main public square is the shopping mall. As identities made possible by the old jobs and the old economy have faded, other identities — ones often associated with hard-line conservative politics — have both endured and filled the void: strong identification with the traditional family, with the home (for which these voters see gun ownership as an essential means of protection), with church and religion, with the flag and the nation. Interwoven among these identities are ones that are fundamentally rooted in resentment: toward undocumented immigrants whom they believe their taxes subsidize; toward both legal and undocumented immigrants who they see as upending the mores and language of their hometowns; toward those minorities who, in their minds, benefit unfairly from affirmative action; and toward distant elites in the cities who project disdain for them and their way of life....
It’s hard to imagine America finally confronting the differences in prosperity and prospects between red and blue areas as long as Trump and his tweets occupy center stage, transfixing Democrats and Republicans alike. Yet for the sake of America’s future, we are going to have to find a way to talk honestly about the massive divide caused by the two economies — and somehow, start working to bridge it."
About this website
WASHINGTONPOST.COM
What the 2018 midterm results — and all those blue dots — tell us about the future of U.S. politics.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

How to Beat Right Wing Populism

Two interesting recommendations here. In the UK Guardian, Paul Mason emphasizes the role of emotion, inspiration and economic hope.
"The first lesson...for liberal centrism, if it wishes to survive, is that it needs an emotional narrative with an inspirational core offer. And that core offer has to be economic hope: there is nothing that says the far left has to own policies of fiscal expansion, redistribution, state aid and high wages. It’s just that the neoliberal economic textbook says they can’t be done. The “fear of the future” reported in much qualitative research on supporters of the nationalist right is, for many of them, rational. People are reacting as if scared, depressed and angry because the world created by precarious employment, poor housing and rising inequality is scary, depressing and annoying.
If you can’t answer the question: “How does life get rapidly better for me and my family?”, no amount of communicative power will help. Secondly, the centre has to make a strategic choice: to side with the left against the right. All discussions of populism that avoid that conclusion are worthless."
Amen. On a different tack, Joan Williams on the Atlantic site focuses on the various ways educated and affluent whites tend to look down on the white working class. She includes a tendency to pooh-pooh the whole idea of economic anxiety as a driver of reactionary populism ("it's just racism") and a tendency to see any and all opposition to open borders as yet more racism.
She concludes her piece with a challenge to white elites. I particularly like the last line.
"With each trump-fueled outrage, people on Twitter ask whether I’m finally ready to admit that the white working class is simply racist. What my Twitter friends don’t seem to recognize is their own privilege. If elites cling to the idea that working-class whites are perpetrators of inequality, rather than both perpetrators and victims, perhaps it’s because they want to believe that they are where they are because they’ve worked hard and they’re the smartest people around. Once you start a conversation about class, elite white people have to admit they have not only racial privilege but class privilege, too.
Acknowledging this also requires elites to cede yet another advantage: the extent to which they have controlled Democrats’ priorities. Political scientists have documented the party’s shift over the past 50 years from a coalition focused on blue-collar issues to one dominated by environmentalism and other issues elites cherish.
I’m one of those activists; environmentalism and concerns related to gender, race, and sexuality define my scholarship and my identity. But the working class has been asked to endure a lot of economic pain while Democrats focus on other problems. It’s time to listen up. The only effective antidote to a populism interlaced with racism is a populism that isn’t."
About this website
THEATLANTIC.COM
Donald Trump likes to pit elite and non-elite white people against each other. Why do white liberals play into his trap?

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Is Ohio Lost to the Democrats?

As John Russo points out in The American Prospect, a lot of Democrats seem to think so:
"Many Democrats seem ready to give up on Ohio. Michael Halle, who coordinated Hillary Clinton’s battleground state strategy before managing Ohio Democratic gubernatorial candidate Richard Cordray’s campaign this year, told The New York Times that “it was time for Democrats to jettison Iowa and Ohio in future campaigns in favor of Arizona and Georgia.” Clinton campaign communications director Jennifer Palmieri now says that that the Clinton campaign should have spent less time and money in Ohio and spent more in Georgia, Texas, and Arkansas. Speaking from ground zero for Democratic crossover voters in Youngstown, Mahoning County Democratic Chairperson David Betras commented after the midterms that it wasn’t the people who had left the party. Instead, Betras stated, the Democratic Party had left Ohio."
As has been widely noted, Sherrod Brown was the great exception to a string of Ohio Democratic failures in the last election. The lessons of this to Russo are clear:
"Ohio Democrats cannot count on a strong organizing effort alone to yield victories. They also need the kind of clear message, wide-ranging outreach, and concrete proposals that Brown offered. If Democrats want to reclaim Ohio, they need to recognize that many Ohio Trump voters are also Sherrod Brown voters and vice versa."
In this context, it's worth dwelling on the internals of how Brown managed to cobble together a victory in a state otherwise slipping away from the Democrats. Here's something I wrote awhile ago about how Clinton lost Ohio in 2016 and what it would take to win there in the future.
"It's all about white noncollege voters. In the Rustbelt troika of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, the story [of Clinton's losses] gets muddled because, even though there were big swings among white noncollege voters in these states, they were so close that better performance among black voters could conceivably have turned these states to Clinton.
Not so in Ohio. Not even close. Democrats could completely replicate Obama's high water performance among black voters in 2012 and still lose the state handily, probably by around 5 points. There is really no way around bettering Democratic performance among white noncollege voters, where the Democrats' losing margin roughly doubled from 16 to 31 points between 2012 and 2016.
Of course, some may argue that you could achieve the needed improvements among white voters by appealing to the other part of the white population--white college-educated voters. This is theoretically possible but very, very difficult. Start with the fact there were about twice as many white noncollege voters as white college voters in Ohio in 2016, a ratio that is likely to change only slightly in 2020. So to achieve the same effect as a given shift in the white noncollege vote, you need twice the swing among white college voters.
Since Clinton split the white college vote evenly with Trump in the state, that means to neutralize the big white noncollege shift away from the Democrats, you would need to carry white college-educated voters in Ohio by 30 points in 2020. Not gonna happen."
And indeed that did not happen for Sherrod Brown in 2018. He didn't carry white college voters by 30 points, only 5 points, which is not too different from how Clinton did in 2016. But his deficit among white noncollege voters was a mere 10 points, vastly better than Clinton did in 2016.
That's how it was done. Could a Democratic Presidential candidate replicate this winning formula in Ohio in 2020? Well, in the event Sherrod Brown himself gets the nomination, that would give Democrats their best shot. But, failing that, Brown's playbook certainly provides a good guide for whomever gets the nomination. Indeed, it would be political malpractice to try any other approach if Democrats are genuinely interested in carrying the state in the future.
About this website
PROSPECT.ORG
Lacking Sherrod Brown’s secret (progressive populist) sauce, Ohio Democrats will likely keep on losing.