Thursday, February 28, 2019

Rustbelt Vs. Sunbelt, Take 2

Time to revisit the Rustbelt vs. Sunbelt debate on Democratic 2020 strategy. This time we have some new data to look at, courtesy of Ron Brownstein on the Atlantic site. Brownstein got the good folks at Gallup to give him white college/noncollege breaks from their state by state 2018 approval ratings (which I previously posted about); the results are quite interesting.
Some relevant topline:
"In the key Rust Belt states that Trump captured in 2016, his job-approval rating during 2018 was consistently worse than his national average among whites with and without a college degree, according to detailed figures provided to me by Gallup....
In almost all the Sun Belt states that Democrats are hoping to contest, by contrast, Trump’s approval rating among both college- and non-college-educated white voters exceeds his national average, according to the same previously unpublished results."
More specifics on Rustbelt states:
"Among whites holding at least a four-year college degree, Gallup placed Trump’s 2018 approval rating at 39 percent in Michigan and Wisconsin, and at only 36 percent in Pennsylvania—each slightly below his national average of 40 percent among white-collar adults. Among his core supporters, whites without a four-year college degree, Gallup placed his 2018 approval rating at 54 percent in Michigan and Pennsylvania, and at 50 percent in Wisconsin. Those were each below his national average of 57 percent with blue-collar whites."
Comparing these numbers with States of Change estimates for Trump support among these groups in the 2016 election, there are big white noncollege drops (2016 Trump support vs. 2018 Trump approval) in Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and big white college drops in Michigan and Pennsylvania. So all three states look quite vulnerable for Trump.
Specifics on Sunbelt states:
"[Trump's] support among non-college-educated whites was much higher than it was in the Rust Belt: Gallup found that he drew positive job ratings from 73 percent of these voters in Georgia, 67 percent in North Carolina, 66 percent in Texas, and 61 percent in Florida. Likewise, among college-educated whites,Trump ran well above his Rust Belt numbers in all four states....In Arizona, which has moved into play for Democrats in 2020 after Democrat Kyrsten Sinema’s Senate victory there last fall, 59 percent of non-college-educated whites said they approved of Trump’s performance, but only 42 percent of those with degrees said the same."
These numbers too show some attenuation compared to 2016 Trump support, which is also consistent with some of the data from the 2018 election about these groups in these states. So there are clearly opportunities for the Democrats here too, especially in conjunction with nonwhite populations that are large and generally very hostile to Trump. As Brownstein notes, white voters, especially white noncollege voters, will probably be much harder to move in these states, making very strong nonwhite turnout particularly important.
But there are reasons to doubt that even strong nonwhite turnout may be enough to flip these states. After all, in Georgia in 2018, Stacey Abrams lost her election, despite stellar black turnout (the share of black voters in that election was actually slightly higher than in the previous Presidential election, which is quite unusual). There just wasn't enough swing in the white vote. A better model perhaps is Arizona, where Kyrsten Sinema both got very strong Latino turnout and big shifts among white voters (both college and noncollege).
Looking at the big picture then, this seems like a fair summary of priorities:
"Considering all these factors, Democratic strategists generally agree that any road to 270 Electoral College votes begins by recapturing Pennsylvania and Michigan, the two former blue-wall states that reverted most sharply toward Democrats last November. But even if the party retakes both, it would still need to win one more state to beat Trump.
Priorities USA, the Democratic super PAC, recently released a strategy memo (linked to below) in which it reaffirmed this consensus by identifying Pennsylvania and Michigan as the two states Democrats are most likely to regain from Trump in 2020. The group then pinpointed Wisconsin as the state most likely to push the Democratic nominee’s vote count over the edge, with Florida ranking next as the state most likely to tip toward the Democrats. The group announced that it will shortly launch a $100 million advertising and organizing effort in those four states.
Josh Schwerin said that toward the end of 2019, the group will also invest in a second tier of states: North Carolina, Arizona, and Georgia, three Sun Belt states that Trump won; and Nevada, which Clinton carried....Though Schwerin’s group doesn’t believe Democrats have to choose between the Sun Belt and the Rust Belt, it does believe targets in the latter region may be “somewhat closer” in 2020. “These are states that were blue before,” Schwerin explained. “As Arizona is moving towards us, we are making sure that some of these states don’t move away from us.”
Sounds right to me. Now what candidate is best-suited to pursue this kind of strategy--kind of Rustbelt plus--that is an interesting question. That seems a bit more debatable to me than the general strategy. Let the debate begin!
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The biggest battlegrounds in 2020 might require very different candidates.

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

More on the Politics of a Green New Deal

Let's face it, the politics of a GND are, at this point, pretty murky. This discussion on the 538 website takes up the topic and the participants don't really come to any firm conclusions, but I think they do raise most of the important issues. Nate Silver usefully points out:
"It seems like the Green New Deal raises two major tactical questions:
1) Incrementalism vs. swinging for the fences.
2) Separating climate change from other issues vs. lumping them together."
and later says:
"My guess is that GND activists are right (politically) about the Overton Window stuff — wanting big, bold sweeping initiatives instead of incrementalism. But that they’re wrong (politically) about the strategy of lumping environmental policy along with a grab bag of other left-ish policy positions, instead of being more targeted."
And still later he says:
"[Y]ou need some kind of paradigm shift...A paradigm shift where even action that seems incremental is actually quite bold, just because the goalposts have shifted so much....
I think the shift would just be a generational one. There’s a *lot* of evidence that people under about age 40 are willing to consider left-wing worldviews that a previous generation might have considered too radical.People under age 40 have also lived with two really unpopular Republican presidents, Bush and Trump (along with one semi-popular Democratic one). So I think there’s a decent chance that policy in the U.S. shifts significantly to the left as those young people grow older and gain influence and power."
So it might work. Or at least parts of it might work. Especially if there's a paradigm shift. Or something.
Stay tuned!
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And where will the conversation go in 2020?

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Reality-Checking Democratic Ideas

I wouldn't say we should be slaves to public opinion data but I think it's still true that a serious left politics takes these data seriously. And that should be true of reparations and other race-related issues, just as in other areas of concern to progressives.
I therefore applaud the excellent Perry Bacon Jr. at 538 for rounding up the latest public opinion data on a wide range of these issues so we can see what Americans really do think about them. Bacon divides up his survey into three categories: popular, mixed opinions and unpopular. In regard to the latter category he notes:
"Reparations, along with abolishing ICE, are very unpopular. This was not surprising to me, which is why I was surprised when I first saw the headline, “2020 Democrats Embrace Race-Conscious Policies, Including Reparations” in the Times. But the candidates’ actual comments were more in the vein of our first two categories — somewhat vague acknowledgements of the inequality that black Americans face. The challenge for Democratic elected officials, as the party leans into its racial liberalism, will be how to translate the public’s general pro-minority proclivities into policy. I suspect that Democratic presidential candidates will end up pushing policies that limit how aggressive ICE can be and that address the wealth gap between black and whites — but fall short of explicit calls for abolishing ICE or giving reparations."
I think Bacon's assessment is correct though, as he also notes, things could change in the future. But for now that is where we are and a wise politics takes these constraints into account.
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The New York Times published a story last week about how some Democratic presidential candidates — notably Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris — had said…

Monday, February 25, 2019

The Future Belongs to the Left

The odds are long that Financial Times columnist Wolfgang Munchau has read or even heard of my book, The Optimistic Leftist. But there are some interesting overlaps in his latest column with arguments I developed in the book and have elaborated since.
Munchau's critique of contemporary (neo)liberalism is spot on:
"Liberal democracy is in decline for a reason. Liberal regimes have proved incapable of solving problems that arose directly from liberal policies like tax cuts, fiscal consolidation and deregulation: persistent financial instability and its economic consequences; a rise in insecurity among lower income earners, aggravated by technological change and open immigration policies; and policy co-ordination failures, for example in the crackdown on global tax avoidance.
When the financial crisis struck, continental European governments did not take full control of their banking systems, crack down hard enough on bonuses, or impose financial transaction taxes. They did not raise income and corporate taxes to counter-balance cuts in public sector spending. They did not tighten immigration policies."
He sees European and Trump-style right wing populism not as the beginning of the end but rather a transitional stage:
"I expect the pushback against liberalism to come in stages. We are in stage one — the Trumpian anti-immigration phase. Immigration carries net economic benefits, especially over the long term. But there are losers from it, too, both actual and imagined.....Liberal democracy has been successful at breaking down trade barriers, protecting human rights and fostering open societies. But the inability to manage the social and economic consequences of such policies has rendered liberal regimes inherently unstable."
And here we get to the crux of it:
"For now, the right is thriving on the anti-immigration backlash. But its rise is self-limiting for two reasons. First, rightwing policies are not succeeding even on their own narrow terms. A wall along the border with Mexico will not stem US immigration flows any more than the re-nationalisation of immigration policies would in Europe. And second, I suspect that immigration will soon be superseded by other issues — such as the impact of artificial intelligence on middle-class livelihoods; rising levels of poverty; and economic dislocation stemming from climate change.
This is a political environment that favours the radical left over the radical right. The right is not interested in poverty and its parties are full of climate-change deniers. Some of the rightwing populists may speak the language of the working classes, but the left is more likely to deliver.
The killer policy of the left will be the 70 per cent tax rate proposed by freshman US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. It is not the number that matters, but the determination to reverse a 30-year trend towards lower taxation of very high incomes and profits. There would be collateral damage from such a policy for sure. But from the perspective of the radical left, collateral damage is a promise, not a threat.....
We have entered an age that will favour radicalism over moderation, and the left over the right. It is not going to be the age of Donald Trump."
I agree, however scary Trump and his ilk look at the present time. The left should have the courage of their convictions that they have a better way that that way is salable in a rapidly changing environment. Trump certainly exploited voter anger and, yes, racism to get elected. But he also promised to solve people’s problems — with their health care, with their jobs, with their living standards, with their communities, with their children’s prospects. He won’t succeed. That’s a huge opening for the left, including among white non-college voters.
Nowhere is that opening greater than on the issue of growth that leads to better jobs and higher living standards. The Democratic Party is more or less united around a programmatic approach to the economy that could actually produce such growth — an approach some of us call “equitable growth.” It pushes back on inequality, seeing current high levels as an active detriment to growth, and seeks to combine support and opportunity for the broad middle class with investments to make the economy more productive.
This includes truly universal health care, universal pre-K, free access to two years and some four-year colleges, paid family leave, subsidized child care, higher minimum wages, a commitment to full employment, and robust investments in infrastructure and scientific research, especially around clean energy. In one form or another, all of this is working its way into the policy discourse of Democrats, especially candidates for the Democratic Presidential nomination.
The GOP, in contrast, now harbors a cacophony of different economic approaches, from pure libertarianism to Trump’s incoherent economic nationalism. Astonishingly, the one point of agreement of these approaches appears to be that inequality should be pushed even higher by increasing the flow of benefits to the rich. The idea that ratcheting up inequality will somehow lead to strong growth, better jobs, and higher living standards is substantively ludicrous — and not at all what Trump’s working-class supporters had in mind. When it doesn’t work, they will be upset.
In sum, the left can deliver and the Trumpian populists can't. In the end, that will matter.
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For the time being, rightwingers are thriving, but their rise is self-limiting

Saturday, February 23, 2019

Trump Approval Ratings in 2020 Swing States

Gallup has issued its average approval ratings by state for 2018, based on their very large sample tracking poll. It's definitely worth a look. Short story: in states that are likely to matter in 2020, Trump's approval ratings are pretty bad. Doesn't mean he can't win of course, but approval ratings are a pretty good guide to potential support, so it definitely suggests a challenge for the incumbent President.
Caveats: these are average 2018 ratings; Trump may be higher across the board by November, 2020 (or not, his approval have varied within a very narrow band throughout his Presidency). He is already a bit higher this year than he was at the end of 2018. Also, Gallup approval ratings are of all adults not registered or likely voters. This may be of particular significance in a state where there are large numbers of adult noncitizen Latinos or Asians.
Swing states from low to high Trump approval:
Colorado, Minnesota 39
Nevada, Virginia 40
Texas 41
Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin 42
Arizona, Florida 43
Georgia 44
Iowa, North Carolina 45
Ohio 48
Interesting! I was particularly struck by the "Rustbelt 3"--Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin--who put Trump over the top in 2016, all being at exactly 42 percent.
President Donald Trump's job approval averaged 50% or higher in 17 states in 2018 but was below 40% in 16 states.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Bad Democratic Ideas Department: Reparations

Beating Trump is not going to be easy. Implementing big programs that actually have a lot of support like some sort of GND, some sort of Medicare-for-all and some sort of universal child care program will not be easy, even if the Democrats do prevail. It therefore follows that Democrats should avoid pushing unpopular programs that will meet with stiff resistance and undermine their electoral and governance chances.
Such a program is reparations for the descendants of slaves. Whatever one's views on the moral justification for such a program (or its workability), it should not be controversial that such a program is likely to be massively unpopular (see below). Polling data indicate that even among black voters such an idea is not hugely popular, among Hispanics is not popular at all and among whites it is very unpopular indeed. This does not seem like a wise approach to building a winning coalition for 2020.
Oddly, we know have several candidates for the Democratic Presidential nomination who are going on record as in some way backing this idea. Even though these commitments in most cases are quite vague, it is not clear how easy it will be to keep those commitments vague or to drop them at a future date. Presumably all of this has a great deal to do with Democratic primary politics. But that does not mean it will not come back to bite whoever the nominee is in the general. I suggest all potential Democratic nominees take this possibility seriously. Four more years of Donald Trump should concentrate the mind.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Voter ID Laws and Turnout

The story, as told by actual research, rather than the wishes of Republican operatives or the fears of Democratic activists, is simple: these laws just don't have much effect. They don't deter voter fraud, a minuscule problem to begin with, but they also don't depress turnout, including among minority voters. This has been the great worry among Democrats, but it appears that, whatever the malign intent of GOP politicians--and it is certainly true that the drive for these laws has been highly partisan--depressed Democratic-leaning turnout has not been the result.
This means that if Republicans are attempting to shield themselves from the effects of demographic change and unpopular policies through voter ID laws, they are failing and will continue to fail. It also means that Democrats who blame election defeats on these laws are also probably kidding themselves. Their defeats, by and large, are due to other factors. If Democrats want to alter turnout patterns in their favor, it is likely far more important to concentrate on things like automatic voter registration than worrying about voter ID laws.
If you're still skeptical, I invite you to read this lengthy piece on Vox that alludes to the latest study by Cantoni and Pons, as well as summarizes the previous literature. Vox, which tends to be exquisitely sensitive to issues around race, can hardly be accused of being predisposed to ignore racially-biased policy effects. In this case, to their credit, they have apparently decided that the data are the data.
"The study, from Enrico Cantoni at the University of Bologna and Vincent Pons at Harvard Business School, found that voter ID laws don’t decrease voter turnout, including that of minority voters. Nor do they have a detectable effect on voter fraud — which is extremely rare in the US, anyway.
The implication: Despite the legal and political battles over voter ID laws, they don’t really seem to do much of anything....[T]he findings join a growing body of research that suggests voter ID laws have a much smaller effect than critics feared and proponents hoped....
The researchers...looked at how the voter ID laws affected turnout and compared trends to states without voter ID laws from 2008 to 2016.
The results: Voter ID laws do not seem to decrease turnout, even when the data is broken down by race. This held when the data was analyzed in different ways, like evaluating only the effect of stricter laws that require an ID with a photo....
It’s good to be skeptical of single studies with surprising findings, but previous reviews of the research on voter ID laws are in line with what Cantoni and Pons’s study found.
In 2017, Benjamin Highton, a political scientist at UC Davis, conducted the most thorough review of the research yet on voter ID laws. He tried to filter out the studies with weaker methodologies, putting more emphasis on those that were more rigorous. His conclusion: The better studies “generally find modest, if any, turnout effects of voter identification laws.”
So, if you want higher turnout, including among poor and minority voters, get AVR passed and implemented in as many places as possible. Oh, and if you want Democrats to win, run smart, inspiring campaigns.
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The laws don’t seem to do what critics fear or proponents hope.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The Incredible Shrinking Republican Coalition

On Sunday, the Times Review section had an interesting article on defectors from the Republican party--both those whose voted for Romney in 2012, but not for Trump in 2016 and those who voted for Trump in 2016 but did not vote Republican in 2018. The authors run down the patterns in these fairly substantial defections, using the very good, large sample Cooperative Congressional Election Survey (CCES).
By and large, I would not say their results are hugely surprising, but do confirm one's intuitions about who is bailing from today's GOP. In particular, there is this:
"[O]ne-third of 2012 Romney voters who were under 40 in 2016 did not vote for Mr. Trump, but rather stayed home, voted for Mrs. Clinton or voted for a third-party candidate. Among the under-40 Romney voters who supported Mr. Trump in 2016, 16 percent appear to have defected from the party to vote for a Democratic House candidate in 2018. Of course, we don’t know how they will vote in 2020, but what this means is that in the past two elections Republicans may have lost more than 40 percent of Romney voters born after 1976....
[I]t is the graying of the Republican coalition that is arguably the biggest threat to the party’s prospects. It is true that on average, older people are more reliable voters than younger people. But the partisan identities and voting behaviors that people adopt early in the life cycle tend to stick, becoming routines that people carry on for the remainder of their lives."
And it is further among white voters in these younger generations where the loosening Republican hold could be most deadly for the party. As I have noted before, Democrats carried the national House vote among whites under 45, as well as whites under 45 in most statewide contests of importance. Whites under 45 in the electorate currently include the leading edge of Gen Z, the entire Millennial generation and the younger, more liberal half of Gen X.
If these political leanings among younger generation whites carry forward--as it seems likely they will--the road becomes increasingly treacherous for the GOP. Fast forward just a bit to 2028 and these same generational groupings will comprise around three-fifths of white eligible voters.
That suggests the Republicans will eventually have to implement some sort of course correction. But how and when? My crystal ball is murky....
About this website
The young in particular are slipping away.

Monday, February 18, 2019

2, 3, Many Blue Waves....

Paul Rosenberg has an excellent article on Salon arguing that one blue wave is just not enough for where the Democrats need to go. He's right!
The article includes an interesting discussion of double-wave elections (two wave elections in a row for a party) in American history--when they occurred and how sticky their results were. One thing Rosenberg is very focused on is the necessity for Democrats to concentrate on more than just beating Trump in 2020. There'll be a lot more going on than just the Presidential contest in 2020, as important as that's going to be. The Democrats really, really need, besides a Presidential victory, many more victories in the House, the Senate and, last but not least, governors and state legislatures. In short, another wave.
Can it be done in 2020? The article quotes political scientist Gary Jacobson on the challenges of doing this but, at the same time, the tremendous opportunity the Democrats will have if Trump is at the top of the ticket--which of course seems very likely at the present time.
This opportunity may apply, interestingly, all the way down to the state legislative level.
"State legislative races often get ignored but are critically important, largely because of the congressional redistricting process that will follow the 2020 census. For insight into that, I turned to Steve Rogers of St. Louis University, author of the forthcoming book, "Accountability in American Legislatures.”
“I think the easiest parallel to draw for 2020 is 2010,” Rogers said. “In 2010, Republican state legislative candidates benefited greatly from voters being upset with Democrats at the national level,” and that wasn’t a one-off accident. “My research generally shows that national political conditions are one of the strongest determinants of state legislative election outcomes,” he said. Republicans' big legislative victories in 2010 “allowed them to build somewhat of a redistricting firewall that benefited them throughout the decade,” and even limited Democratic gains in 2018. Now he anticipates something of a reversal.
“Overall, voters are largely unaware of who their state legislators are, let alone what they do from day to day," Rogers said. "So voters often end up relying on views of national politics or their partisanship when making their decisions in state legislative elections.” He's wary of how much difference organizations can make, but says it's critical that “voters have candidates to vote for," meaning that Democratic candidates actually run for office. Democrats did well in this regard in 2018, he noted. “This is something Republican-leaning organizations have a better track record doing, so this is one strategy that progressive groups should likely take up again,” he said."
Amen to that.
About this website
Beating Donald Trump might not be Democrats' biggest task in 2020: A second blue wave could reshape history