Wednesday, April 25, 2018

"California Is the Future" argument gains momentum.

Ross Douthat, the conservative New York Times columnist, devotes his column today to discussing the thesis Peter Leyden and I developed in a series of four essays for Medium. He gives the thesis a fairly respectful hearing for a good chunk of his column before the usual rehearsal of conservative objections to the California model--or rather hellhole, as they seem to think of the state.
So, read the column, but then please read the actual articles, which Douthat kindly links to.
Is California’s one-party rule our political destiny?

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.
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.

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.

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…

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.

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.

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…

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Democratic Wave Watch: White Working Class Women

I ran across this piece of data in a memo on the new Democracy Corps poll. Yes, yes, I know, they're Democratic-oriented but they generally do good polls and play it straight with the data. What they found is quite extraordinary: white noncollege women in their poll were +2 on the generic Congressional for the Democrats while white noncollege men were +31 for the Republicans.
Wow. It's just one poll but if it's even close to what's actually happening with white working class women, the GOP is in big, big trouble. A pro-Democratic swing of that magnitude among this group would pretty much doom them in 2018.

Looking Ahead to the 2018 Elections

I wrote the article below for State of the Left, a website run by the UK social democratic think tank, Policy Network. I wouldn't say there's a lot of real revelations in the article since it's written to try to get UK audiences up to speed on what's going on here in the run-up to November. But you may find it useful as a summation of a number of different relevant strands to the election.
Note that this was written before Paul Ryan bailed out on his party so my judgments on the trouble the GOP is in are probably conservative.
The 2018 election in the United States will be the first national vote since Donald Trump’s stunning populist triumph in November, 2016. As such, it will tell us a great deal about the popularity (or lack thereof) of Trump’s version of the Republican party and…

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

More on California Is the Future

John Cassidy,my favorite New Yorker columnist, has an excellent piece out on lessons from California for Trump. Here's how the article starts:
'If you’re looking to get away from Donald Trump’s Twitter feed and spend a few days thinking about the direction of this country, you might consider a trip to Southern California, which I visited last week with my family. In many ways, the Golden State represents the American future that Trump—with his white nativism and economic protectionism—is trying to turn back, Canute style.
Once a bastion of Nixon-Reagan Republicanism, California is now among the most diverse states in the country, with Hispanics and Asians making up a majority of the population. The state—the world’s sixth-largest economy—is also increasingly integrated into the Pacific Rim. In Washington, the “pivot to Asia” foreign-policy doctrine is often ridiculed. In California, it is rapidly becoming a reality.
Trump lost California by a two-to-one margin in 2016, and, after taking office, he waited more than a year to visit the state. But the G.O.P.’s problems in California predate Trump: the Party has been in free fall since the nineteen-nineties, when Pete Wilson, then the governor, a Republican, endorsed Proposition 187, a proto-Trumpian ballot initiative that was designed to prevent non-citizens—Hispanic non-citizens, mainly—from using state-provided public services. (The initiative passed in 1994 but was ruled unconstitutional in 1998.) In alienating the fast-growing Latino vote, Wilson helped cast his party into the wilderness for a generation.
Wilson left office in 1999, and the last Republican to have won statewide office since then was former insurance commissioner Steve Poizner, in 2006....
There are still fourteen Republicans from California in the House of Representatives, but, going into the midterms this November, at least seven of those seats are in serious jeopardy....If Trump keeps up his demonization of immigrants and talk of economic protectionism, things are likely to get even harder for California Republicans."
And yet....despite this obvious peril California Republicans era are simply doubling down on Trump-style rhetoric and actions on immigrants. Nowhere is in the state is this more true than in Orange County, probably the central battleground for California House seats in this coming election. As Ronald Brownstein notes in a good new article on this dynamic:
"Local officials in Orange County last week threw a twist into the escalating conflict between the nation's capital in Washington and the state's capital in Sacramento by moving to join the Trump administration's lawsuit against the state on the explosive issue of so-called "sanctuary" policies that limit cooperation with federal immigration laws.
The move by the county government to ally with Trump -- which also includes a new policy from Orange County's sheriff intended to undercut the state law -- seems likely to spill into California's critical cluster of congressional races. With Democrats targeting at least seven, and perhaps as many as 10, Republican-held House seats across California, some GOP strategists believe that siding with Trump against the state on the volatile "sanctuary" issue represents the party's best chance to minimize its losses....
In many ways, the Board of Supervisors' choice to support the federal lawsuit seems a throwback to the days when the county was viewed as a hotbed of white backlash conservatism, rather than a reflection of the growing minority presence and shifting partisan allegiances among college-educated whites that allowed Hillary Clinton in 2016 to became the first Democratic presidential candidate to carry Orange County since Franklin Roosevelt in 1936."
So: how well is tying themselves to Trump likely to work in this area? A recent Public Policy Institute of California found about 60 percent of Orange County/San Diego residents disapprove of Trump. Perhaps Orange County itself is different? Nope. A new Chapman University poll specifically of Orange County finds Trump with a 37 percent approval rating to 63 percent disapproval.
This doesn't sound promising for a "we're 100 percent with Donald Trump" strategy in Orange County. But it does sound promising for the antithesis of that strategy: California is the future. As Cassidy notes at the end of his article:
"California is fulfilling its traditional role of leading the United States into the future. Trump, of course, has a very different idea of where the country should be heading. But when his efforts are viewed from the edge of the Pacific Ocean, they look even more quixotic and self-defeating than they do from Washington and New York."
Yup. Quixotic and self-defeating. Orange County--and all--Republicans take note.

About this article
In the epic struggle between President Donald Trump and the Democratic-controlled California state government, a new front is opening that could prove pivotal to the…

I welcome their hatred (2)

Rush Limbaugh is also apparently upset with us. I invite you to read the screed below. But I was pleased to learn that I have been appointed to a professorship! Very kind of you Rush.
"Anyway, the thing about Jack Dorsey at Twitter. Jack Dorsey read an article by a couple leftist professors and retweeted it thinking, “Man, this is a great read.” You know what it is? It’s a very long, serious piece on how the only solution the United States has is to simply eliminate the Republican Party, just get rid of it, that California is the model. If we want to save America and if we want America to actually be great, we need to model the rest of the country after California and simply get rid of the GOP and conservatism....
Their names are Peter Leyden and Ruy Teixeira, and they both believe that we are already in a civil war in this country and that the only objective the left should have is the elimination of the GOP. The elimination of conservatism, simply wipe it out. And their model for this is the state of California, that leftists and Democrats should take what has happened in California where the Republican Party essentially ceases to exist, and do that all across the United States, essentially, to effectively win this second civil war."
I wonder if he pronounced my name right.
RUSH: They claim that the only way to save this country is simply get rid of the Republican Party, like the North got rid of the South and neutered them in the Civil War.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

I welcome their hatred!

There's a bit of a kerfuffle about an article I recently wrote with Peter Leyden that was part of our California Is the Future series on Medium. The article, "The Great Lesson of California in America's New Civil War", was recently tweeted about by Jack Dorsey, the Twitter CEO, who said it was a "great read".
Cue the right-wing outrage. Their view is:
1. The fact that the Twitter CEO favorably mentioned our article is irrefutable proof that Twitter is part of a Vast Liberal Conspiracy to promote the left and shut out the right.
2. The article argues that there is a struggle going on for which model America should follow and it will be resolved not by bipartisan compromise but rather by one side triumphing over the other. The article takes the Democrats' side and sees California as our best current model for where the country is and should be going. The Trump model, closely embraced by today's Republican Party, must be defeated.
That, according the right wing howls that Dorsey's tweet has elicited, can only mean we envision turning America over to "mob rule" and a one-party state.
3. Since it is article of right wing faith that California today is a hellhole little better than Venezuela, the very idea of California as a model for America's future sends them into a tizzy. As the commentator on the conservative Townhall site (link below) says: "I'd rather chug bleach".
Well, that seems a bit over the top. Anyway, I do plead guilty to the idea that California is a way better model for the country's future than the pronouncements and policies of the today's Trumpized Republican Party.
Meanwhile, as FDR put it in a different context, I welcome their hatred.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

The 7,383 Seat Strategy

7,383--that's how many state legislative seats there are in the country. Right now, the Republicans control around 1,000 more seats than the Democrats with unified legislative control in around two-thirds of states.
6,066 of these seats are up in the 2018 election. Joan Walsh does an excellent job of running down this situation--and opportunities/challenges for Democrats--in her mammoth recent article in the Nation.
As I've noted before, do not sleep on these elections. In some ways, they could be more important than the race for the House. After all, even with very favorable results in the House (and the Senate), 2018 is not likely to be the start of a new progressive era in the United States. No, that is really a 2020's thing when President Trump is (hopefully) defeated and Democrats have enough strength in the states to dominate the next round of redistricting, thereby allowing them to push back against Republican gerrymandering and translate their underlying political support into actual political victories.
That's where the 7,383 (or 6,066) seat strategy comes in....
About this article
Taking inspiration from Virginia, Democrats are finally running to win in the states. But will the party make room for a different kind of candidate?