Thursday, January 31, 2019

Amy Klobuchar?

George Will averred in a column today that Amy Klobuchar would have the best chance of making Trump a one-term President. As a rule, taking political advice from George Will merits extreme caution for those of us on the left side of the fence. He may not have our best interests in mind.
Still, could he possibly be right? Check out the chart below from an article from David Byler in the Post. The chart compares the margins attained by possible Democratic candidates to Clinton's margins in the same state in 2016. And, by George, the candidate who stands out the most--who outperformed Clinton the most--is Amy Klobuchar!
Now this isn't exactly "proof" that Klobuchar's the most electable candidate. But it is a point in her favor. Read the Byler article for an appropriately nuanced discussion of what these and other data may mean to the electability question.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

What Will the 2020 Electorate Look Like?

I've already written a bit about this but Pew has a nice short piece out about the topic that's worth a look. Some nice charts, two of which are reproduced below, one on racial composition and the other on generational composition The big takeaways there are Hispanics becoming the largest group among eligible voters in 2020 and the sudden emergence of Gen Z as a significant group among eligibles.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Whites Under 45

Results from the last election were remarkable for Democrats among whites under 45 and I don't think that fact has gotten enough attention. This is a big chunk of the white population and if it is truly slipping away from the Republicans that blows quite a a hole in the GOP's white voters-oriented strategy.
Using the Catalist data, which I believe is by far the most accurate data currently available, I find that Democrats carried the national House vote among whites under 45. Ditto for the Iowa gubernatorial election, the Minnesota Senate and gubernatorial elections, the Arizona Senate election, the Virginia Senate election, the Montana Senate election, the North Dakota Senate election and the New Hampshire gubernatorial election. Wow. That's every statewide contest Catalist has released so far, with the exception of the Georgia gubernatorial election, where whites under 45 were nevertheless significantly less Republican than older whites. I think I detect a pattern!
Whites under 45 in the electorate include the leading edge of the the Post-Millennial/Gen Z generation, the entire Millennial generation and the younger, more liberal half of Gen X. The logic of generational replacement suggests that the behavior we now see among whites under 45 will spread farther up the age distribution (i.e., into the higher turnout late forties and fifties) as the years tick by.
If I was a Republican, I'd be pretty damn nervous.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

How Far Left Is the Democratic Party Moving?

I think the answer to this question depends on how you interpret the rise of the "young anti-capitalist left" as it's termed in a recent, lengthy 538 report by Clare Malone. This group includes politicians like Ocasio-Cortez, organizers like Maurice Miitchell of the Working Families Party, organizations like the DSA and Justice Democrats and activist writers like Sean McElwee.
I take these folks seriously and think they perform an important role in raising the profile of some key left issues and generating energy and a sense of the possible around those issues. As Paul Krugman put it in Malone's article on the specific issue of the Green New Deal: "If the Green New Deal means that we’re going to try to rely on public investment in technologies and renewables and things that will make it easier for people to use less fossil fuel, that’s a pretty good start."
So all that's great. But it's important to keep in mind that the real left movement among the Democrats in party-wide and, for the median Democrat, that does not take them to the same place as this young anti-capitalist left.
Consensus Democratic leftism today rejects ‘business as usual’ and involves a sweeping indictment of the economic and political system for generating inequality and doing little to help ordinary people in the wake of the great financial crisis. Substantively, Democrats today – in particular aspirants for the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination – are far more willing to entertain and endorse ‘big ideas’, such as going beyond the ACA, aka Obamacare (which is now vigorously defended) to ‘Medicare for all’, free college education, universal pre-kindergarten provision, vastly expanded infrastructure spending, including a Green New Deal and even a guaranteed jobs program. Taxing the rich is ‘in’ and worrying about the deficit is ‘out’.
Democrats are also highly unified on core social issues such as opposing racism, defending immigrants, promoting LGBT and gender equality and criminal justice reform. In short, the center of gravity of the Democratic party has decisively shifted from trying to assure voters of fiscal and social moderation, to forthrightly promising active government in a wide range of areas.
But this hardly means the Democrats are becoming a radical, anti-capitalist party. Far from it. As leftism goes, the current Democratic iteration is of a fairly modest variety, approaching, at most, mild European social democracy.
Nor is it the case that incumbents and moderates are being thrown out wholesale and replaced with candidates much farther to their left. Across the country, only two Democratic incumbents in the House lost primaries, and none in the Senate did. A Brookings study found that self-described “progressive Democrats” did well in primaries this election season but establishment Democrats actually did somewhat better. The same pattern obtained in the general election in November.Thus, the change in the party is less a leftward surge featuring new politicians with a radical agenda (though this is happening to some extent) and more a steady party-wide movement to the left.
So the Democratic party is moving to the left, but the young anti-capitalist left is only a part of that movement, rather than defining that movement. That's an important difference to keep in mind. The Democrats have been, and need to remain. a "big tent" party.
About this website
A few months ago a friend wrote me an email with the subject line, “What is Sean McElwee.” This is the kind of question that occurs to a person who spends a lot…

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Democrats and Immigration

OK folks, Trump's shutdown on the wall didn't work. But no one should take this to mean Democrats have "won" on immigration and there's not a lot of work still to be done. The fact of the matter is that Democrats are still clueless on how to talk to voters with ambivalent feelings about immigration, particularly those from the working class. If Democrats really want to beat Trump in 2020 and beat him and what he represents decisively, they absolutely need to confront this deficiency and develop a clear, salable position on immigration.
There is no better place to start than with Andy Levison's new essay for The Democratic Strategist, "Democrats need to understand how to talk to working class voters about immigration–and not just dismiss them as racists." I strongly urge you to read the whole thing. Here's the gist, as summarized on the TDS website.
"Donald Trump’s blatant and vicious appeal to pure prejudice regarding immigrants and immigration has led many progressives and Democrats to respond in an equally categorical way, describing all objections to immigration as simply a smokescreen for racism.
Since opinion polls have consistently shown that most Americans are not bitterly anti-immigrant and do not support draconian measures like mass deportation, this reaction does not immediately seem to present a major problem for Democrats in 2020.
But, in fact, it does. While most Americans do not share Trump’s visceral loathing of Latin Americans and actually support a range of positive measures such as providing a path to citizenship for long time, law-abiding undocumented immigrants, a very substantial group also supports the demand that America regain control of the southern border and prevent further “illegal” immigration.
Simply dismissing all these voters as racists who do not deserve any response other than condemnation is a profound mistake–one that will endanger Democratic hopes of winning the presidency in 2020 and almost certainly place the Senate entirely out of reach. Democrats need to provide a reasonable response to the concerns that do exist, particularly among working class Americans."
Read it, read it, read it.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Unintended Consequences of Trumpian Populism

One of the points I made in my book, The Optimistic Leftist, was that "the political dynamic unleashed by right populism will actually contribute to its own demise". No one paid much attention at this time, since everyone was busy panicking about Trump. But perhaps I wasn't so crazy, given the way things have been unfolding lately.
Along these lines, I was very interested to see this piece on Bloomberg from columnist Karl W. Smith. Smith is not a conventional leftist; he is rather a "liberaltarian" who is a fellow at the Niskanen Center, the split-off from hard-libertarian Cato Institute. Here's some of what Smith had to say:
"Trump’s election was supposed to have heralded a political realignment in America. The Republican Party, long associated with the interests of business and more affluent Americans, would now be fueled by the white working class and a powerful nativist sentiment. In the Democratic Party, the interests of organized labor and the working class were giving way to those of Wall Street, Silicon Valley and the cosmopolitan elite. The new partisan divisions would be based not on class but on openness to globalism.
To be blunt about it: This didn’t happen. (To be fair, some were skeptical at the time.) Instead, the entire country is shifting in a more populist direction, and Democrats are dominating the policy debate.
Exhibit A is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her off-the-cuff mention of a 70 percent tax rate, which has sparked a national discussion. Polls show that it’s popular not only with Democrats but with a plurality of Republicans. Celebrated left-wing economists argue that high tax rates are necessary to prevent the U.S. from slipping into an oligarchy, a message that is likely to resonate strongly among anti-globalist Trump supporters.
Likewise, Ocasio-Cortez has forced elites on both sides to at least grapple with the economic tenets of modern monetary theory. MMT, as it is known, suggests that a government with its own currency does not need to raise taxes in order to increase spending. So far MMT has faced strong pushback from elites of the left and right. But its basic contention, that deficit spending isn’t as bad as you have been led to believe, is gaining support.
These two propositions — that the government should check the power of private-sector billionaires and should spend freely to alleviate social ills — form the core of the classic leftist platform. And these positions are becoming more influential, not less, in the Democratic Party....
If their nominee in 2020 is someone like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren or Sherrod Brown, then I predict a rapid shift. Democrats would win back many of the white working class voters they lost and cruise to victory. Centrist pro-business Democrats would be sidelined, and the only resistance to the president’s tax and spending priorities would be from Senate Republicans. That would just drive more populists out of the Republican Party and into the Democratic Party, which would enter a period of almost complete electoral dominance.
If, on the other hand, Democrats nominate a more centrist candidate, such as Kamala Harris or Cory Booker, then the uneasy status quo would remain.....
In the long run, however, the end result in both cases would be largely the same. America is moving leftward. And that shift infuses the left of the Democratic Party with an energy that is unmatched anywhere else along the political spectrum."
Interesting times!
About this website
He used it to win the presidency, but they’re using it to win the policy debate — and maybe more.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Generational Change and Views of Government

The chart below, taken from a new article by Jonathan Chait on the .Pew generational data, makes a point I've emphasized repeatedly. The key effect of generational change, besides rising diversification, is going to be shifts in views.among whites in a significantly more liberal direction. .Chait notes:
"Young white voters have more liberal views on social policy and the role of government than older white voters. It is not just that there are too few white voters to sustain the current Republican coalition, but that the white voters aren’t conservative enough...
Attacking big government in the abstract has been the default Republican argument on domestic policy for half a century....Democrats wanted to debate specific programs with specific effects. Republicans wanted to debate government as an abstraction....
Those two large X’s on the left side of the chart show the rapid generational disintegration of anti-government conservatism. They reveal the degree to which young white voters have views of government almost as supportive as nonwhite voters. Older whites think, by about a two-to-one margin, that government is doing too much. Younger whites, by about a two-to-one margin, believe the opposite.
At some point in the not too distant future, the tension between the public’s symbolic conservatism and its operational liberalism will become less relevant, if not completely moot. The implications of this change will be profound. Republicans have spent years relying on the argument that big government is inherently bad. At some point, they will need a new philosophy."

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

So, Are We Winning?

Shortly after Trump took office, I wrote the following in the Washington Post:
"Is Donald Trump the end for the left? Is it really possible, as a baby boomer averred in an interview last month with The Washington Post, that “all the things we cared about for the past 40 years could be wiped out in the first 100 days”?
American leftists are not known for their optimism, and yet, even for them, the prevailing sentiment is that these are especially dark days. Nearly two-thirds of Democrats say they are “worried or pessimistic” about the future of the country in a new Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll.
Historian Jeremi Suri, writing in the Atlantic, assessed that “with his barrage of executive orders, Trump is taking America back to the historical nightmares of the world before December 1941: closed borders, limited trade, intolerance to diversity, arms races, and a go-it-alone national race to the bottom.” Rep. Luis GutiĆ©rrez (D-Ill.) spoke out against Trump’s attorney general pick, saying, “If you have nostalgia for the days when blacks kept quiet, gays were in the closet, immigrants were invisible and women stayed in the kitchen, Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions is your man.”...
[F]ears that Trump will set back the left’s agenda dangerously and irreparably are not well founded. Core advances can’t be undone. Although Trump could do some real temporary damage, he and his movement will fade, and the values and priorities of the left will eventually triumph."
How's that look, two years on? I turn you over to the excellent John Cassidy, from his New Yorker blog:
"[A]t the halfway point in this Presidential cycle, it is also worth asking how successful these attacks [on American democracy] have been—and the answer is more encouraging than is sometimes acknowledged. Trump has undoubtedly disrupted the American system of government, but he hasn’t upended it. And, in many ways, his Administration is already losing steam. With his approval rating languishing at a historic low despite a vibrant economy, and with the Democrats now in charge of the House of Representatives, he no longer controls the legislative agenda. After all the personnel departures, he is finding it hard to fill key vacancies. With polls showing that a majority of the public blames him for the shutdown, he has been forced to sue for peace. (According to the Times, he told Mick Mulvaney, his acting chief of staff, “We are getting crushed.”) Although there is a long way to go before November, 2020, Trump’s reĆ«lection prospects don’t look good. In an NPR poll that came out last week, fifty-seven per cent of registered voters said that they would definitely vote against Trump if he runs again.
From the beginning, it was clear that Trump’s narcissism, amorality, disregard for the truth, and authoritarian tendencies presented a grave threat. The question was how much he would be reined in by the fabled checks and balances that the Founders erected to prevent the emergence of an overweening Presidency—the split between the executive and the legislature, the independent judiciary, the free press, regular elections to elicit the will of the people. To express it another way, the question was: Who was the more powerful, Donald Trump or Thomas Jefferson? So far, Jefferson is winning on points. For the most part, the institutions of American democracy have withstood the assaults they have been subjected to, frustrating and infuriating Trump in equal measure.
Notwithstanding Tuesday’s 5–4 vote by the Supreme Court that revived the Administration’s execrable and pointless ban on transgender people serving in the military, the first line of resistance has been the judiciary, which has slowed, and in some cases blocked entirely, the Administration’s efforts to overturn precedent and due process. Trump likes to fulminate against the members of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, which forced him to revise his travel ban, but many other courts have also ruled against the Administration, including the Supreme Court. Before Christmas, it refused to allow the Department of Homeland Security to enforce a new policy that would prevent people who cross the southern border from claiming asylum.....
[T]he entire Trump Presidency has been alarming—and, thus far, the very worst-case scenarios haven’t materialized. The rogue President has brought the American system of government into disrepute, but he hasn’t overwhelmed it. He has deepened the divisions in American society, but he has also united much of the country against him. He has called into question the alliances that have underpinned U.S. global leadership for seventy-five years, but he hasn’t succeeded in dismantling them. As the transgender ban demonstrates, Trump’s character, his policies, and his presence in the White House still represent a threat to much of what the United States claims to stand for—and the point of maximum danger may still be approaching. But, as we move into the second half of this nightmarish Presidency, there are grounds for reassurance as well as dread."
Fasten your seat belts for 2020. But we just might win this thing.
About this website
Although Donald Trump has undoubtedly disrupted the American system of government, he hasn’t upended it. And, in many ways, his Administration is already losing steam.

Monday, January 21, 2019

Some Trump Voters Bailing on Trump Due to the Shutdown

That would perhaps be a better headline than the Post headline on the web which says: "Trump voters now blame him for the government shutdown". That sounds like all of them and of course that's not true. But the fact that outlets like the Post are starting to run stories not about how Trump voters are still rock solid for their man but rather about how some of them are getting fed up is a good thing.
The article while anecdotal is still worth reading, especially since it's written from Macomb County in Michigan, a storied locus of white working class discontent with the Democrats going back decades. As the article notes, while Trump carried the county by 12 points in 2016, Democratic Senate and governor candidates carried the county in 2018. Perhaps something is going on there and, by extension, in other similar areas in the Midwest.
The article also correctly points out that Democrats would be unwise to simply count on fed up-ness with Trump to close the deal with wavering Trump voters, especially when it comes to the immigration issue.
"The 2020 Democratic presidential primary contest is expected to include a heavy dose of debate over how to balance attempts to win back white working-class voters — those who live here as well as in states like Wisconsin and Pennsylvania, which Trump also won — with the energy around ascendant women and minorities.
Those attempts will also draw into question whether Democrats can find a way to articulate an immigration plan in areas like this, where the issue resonates. Trump’s insistence on building a border wall has hardened Democrats, whose most prominent policy now is to stop the wall. They rarely tout their own views on border security, but that issue remains important to many voters in industrial states....
“People do want immigration managed,” said Stan Greenberg, a Democratic pollster who has been studying Macomb County voters since the 1980s. “Trump makes it hard because he’s so outrageous. You don’t want to give him an inch. But immigration is still an important issue, and Democrats will have to speak to it.”
A similar point is made by Francis Wilkinson in a recent Bloomberg piece. You might summarize his article as saying "Democrats won't always have the Wall to kick around" Wilkinson points out:
"[W]hen the shutdown, and the symbolic skirmish behind it, ends, the immigration debate will not. And it’s unclear how much progress Democrats will have made persuading distracted voters to embrace a realistic and humane alternative to Trump’s fantasy and aggression....
[W]ill Americans who have been encouraged to imagine an impregnable curtain of steel be better able to imagine the legal and topographical fiascos that would ensue from trying to build it? Or the handmade wooden ladder that would be used to vault over it? What about a comprehensive alternative that includes a path to citizenship for the undocumented and tighter controls on borders and employment?
There’s no way to make progress on such arguments if the Democratic line is simply that the wall is, as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, 'immoral.'"
Exactly. Time for the Democrats to get to it if they really want to win back wavering Trump voters in 2020.
About this website
In Michigan, which helped deliver Trump the presidency, many of his supporters find his stand for a border wall too disruptive, even for him.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

How Did Kyrsten Sinema Win in Arizona?

One particularly good result for the Democrats' very good 2018 election was capturing a Senate seat in Arizona. Sinema won by 2.4 points in a state that Hillary Clinton lost by 3. 5 points in 2016, raising the possibility that Democrats might be able to carry the state in the 2020 Presidential election.
So how'd Sinema do it when Clinton couldn't? Once again the folks at Catalist Analytics have released some detailed data that help us answer that question. Their data for Arizona, built up from survey data, voter files and actual election returns, indicate relatively strong nonwhite turnout (the Catalist data do not break out nonwhites by black, Hispanic, etc) which helped keep the Arizona midterm electorate closer to the Presidential than is normally the case.
That was helpful for Sinema's cause but by far the biggest factor was strong shifts toward the Democrats in the white vote (75 percent of Arizona voters in 2018). Compared to 2016, Arizona whites shifted toward the Democrats by 11 margin points. That included a pro-Democratic shift of 13 points among white college voters (Sinema came close to breaking even with these voters) and an also-impressive shift of 10 points among noncollege whites. There were also big shifts among whites by age groups, with actually carrying all whites under 45.
The spatial dimension is also interesting. Sinema cleaned up in urban areas but also managed to narrowly carry suburban areas where two-thirds of Arizona voters reside (think especially Maricopa county). This was driven primarily by whites in suburban areas swinging a solid 11 points toward the Democrats.
Based on these patterns, Arizona should definitely be in play in 2020. For more information, consult the Catalist writeup below which, while murky, does contain a lot of nice tables.
About this website
Note: this post is part of a series of analyses detailing the 2018 election using the Catalist voter registration database, survey data…

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Is Florida Lost to the Democrats?

Probably not. But it is true recent Florida results have not been good for the Democrats. And, of course, we have the obligatory breathless New York Times article pronouncing the state "a swing state drifting away". The article quotes Alex Sink, a former Democratic Presidential candidate, saying:
“We just live in a red state here...I think it’s just tilted toward the Republicans now, and I hate to say that.”
Perhaps Ms. Sink is giving up too easily. Cook Political Report's electoral college ratings have Florida rated a dead tossup for 2020. And here are the results (D-R) of the last 3 Presidential elections in the state: -1.2, .8, 2.8. And here are results of 2018's Senatorial and gubernatorial elections, respectively: -.1, -.4.
I dunno. Looks pretty close to me. Consider also how close the two 2018 statewide races were. Historical patterns indicate that white vote share should decline by quite a bit between 2018 and 2020--possibly down to the low 60's--as demographic change and Presidential turnout patterns combine to push up the minority vote. Given voting patterns in the 2018 election, that would probably be enough by itself to flip tiny Republican margins in 20118 to tiny Democratic margins in 2020. Looked at another way, Gillum and Nelson might well have squeaked out victories had they had the advantage of the turnout patterns we're likely to see in 2020.
So it seems way too early to put Florida in the red state category. It will not be easy to win in Florida in 2020 but not prohibitively difficult either. It's still a tossup state. Here's my formula for victory in Florida:
The formula starts with Democrats carrying blacks overwhelmingly while solidly carrying Latinos, with strong turnout on both fronts. (The state’s large, relatively conservative Cuban American population means Democrats can’t feasibly generate the 2-to-1 Latino advantage they typically enjoy elsewhere--that said, 2018 performance among these voters was relatively weak.). Then the Democrats need to be competitive among white college-educated voters in Florida, where they have been making real progress, while avoiding deficits among white non-college-educated voters that reach into the 30s. Indeed, if they could push the white noncollege deficit down to the high 20's, they would be in quite good shape.
So there you have it. Easy, no. Doable, yes. They call 'em tossups for a reason.
About this website
No state stunned Democrats more than Florida, where Republicans thwarted the forces that are lifting Democrats elsewhere. The battleground state is tilting more to the right.