Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Politics of Clean Vs. Renewable Energy

I trust that everyone agrees the most difficult part of making progress combating climate change is the politics of generating action, whatever one's preferred policy solution(s) might be. Along these lines, I recommend this recent article by David Roberts on Vox, based on an extensive new poll by the Green Advocacy Project. Here's the key part:
"There’s been a bit of a kerfuffle in the climate policy world lately. On one side: those who believe we should target a future of 100 percent renewable energy. On the other: those who say such a goal is impractical and we should also allow for nuclear power and fossil fuels with carbon capture.
Some states and cities are requiring the former, with renewable energy standards; some (most notably California and Washington) are requiring the latter, with clean energy standards.
Does the public have a preference? The poll tests a series of statements about this.
“We should produce electricity from wind and solar as much as possible.” This gets 59 percent majority support, with 88 percent of Democrats, 40 percent of Republicans, and 41 percent of independents. (Fun fact: 98 percent of Clinton voters.)
“In the future, we should produce electricity using 100 percent renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind.” This gets 55 percent majority support, with 92 percent of Democrats, 27 percent of Republicans, and 55 percent of independents. (Fun fact: 97 percent of Democratic women.)
“In the future, we should produce electricity using 100 percent clean energy sources, such as solar and wind, nuclear, and carbon recapture from fossil fuels.” This more expansive definition of clean energy gets 65 percent majority support, with 87 percent of Democrats, 41 percent of Republicans, and 57 percent of independents.....
Allowing for non-renewable, non-emitting sources of energy like nuclear seems to peel off quite a few squishy Republicans, without losing many Democrats or independents. That might mean a broader majority.
And a more potent legislative force: This strategy of uniting pro-renewables and pro-nuclear camps has worked to get successful clean energy policies in place in Illinois, New York, California, and, most recently, Washington.
There’s also the simple fact that adding renewables and nuclear together yields far more total clean energy."
No doubt this observation will rouse the ire of those to whom nuclear and CCS are anathema and simply a distraction from the righteous path. To these folks, Roberts says (and I concur):
"Climate hawks have different opinions on nuclear and CCS, but in my view, if you don’t think they will compete, why not allow for them to try? As long as they don’t drain attention and resources from options that are cheap and available now, it’s not a sacrifice. Give them their research money; harvest the support of their backers.
Given the urgency of climate politics, being agnostic on how to reduce carbon seems a small but easy step toward consensus."
Makes sense to me. This is not an area in which we can afford the liabilities of purist politics.
About this website
A new poll gets deep into voter preferences on climate policy.

Monday, April 29, 2019


Morning Consult just released their weekly tracking poll of likely Democratic primary voters and the results for Joe Biden are very good. The rollout of his formal candidacy has widened his first choice lead over Bernie Sanders from 6 to 14 points (now 36 to 22 percent).
Interestingly, despite all the brouhaha about the Anita Hill hearings and Biden's overly-familiar physical style, he is doing quite well among women (38 percent support) and, especially, black women (47 percent).
How can this be? I would refer you to the very interesting article by Trip Gabriel of the Times on Biden's appeal in Pennsylvania. Gabriel notes that Biden "has the potential to attract suburban moderates defecting from the Republican Party under President Trump, to invigorate black voters who were underwhelmed by Hillary Clinton and to reverse at least some losses among working-class white voters."
The material on black voters in this article is the most interesting. Most white liberals fail to understand that Ta-Nehisi Coates and like commentators do not represent the median black voter, who comes from a more pragmatic and, in important ways, more conservative place. Indeed, recent public opinion data show clearly that white liberals themselves are now to the left of blacks on many issues concerning race and racism.
Gabriel interviewed black voters in Philadelphia. He found that:
"patrons [of a black-oriented coffee and book shop] universally said Mr. Biden was at or near the top of their list, in no small part because of his eight-year partnership with President Barack Obama....
Kerry Chester, 53, a network engineer working at his laptop, said he voted for Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont in the 2016 Pennsylvania primary. But for 2020 he thinks it is so important to defeat Mr. Trump that Mr. Biden is preferable, even compared to the two top African-American candidates, Senators Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California....
Neither Mr. Chester nor other black voters interviewed said Mr. Biden’s record of championing anti-crime bills — as a Delaware senator in the 1980s and ’90s — that led to mass incarceration were impediments to their support.
“That was 20 years ago,” Mr. Chester said. “I can’t hold everything against him.” He added that compared with other candidates, “I trust him a lot more.”
Nasya Jenkins, 21, who works at a Boys and Girls Club and is an aspiring influencer on Instagram, said she did not penalize Mr. Biden for his treatment of Anita Hill in her 1991 Senate Judiciary Committee testimony. Mr. Biden called Ms. Hill recently to address some of her concerns, a conversation she said left her dissatisfied.
“I’m not really so caught up on what happened in the past,” Ms. Jenkins said. “We’re here now, with all the problems we have. What do you plan on doing to change that — period?”
Sure, this is anecdotal stuff but it seems consistent with preference patterns we're now seeing in the data. It may be the case that Biden could not only do a better job reaching white working class voters than Clinton but also do a better job mobilizing black voters, including women. That's pretty important.
Look, I don't want to go overboard on Biden. He has lots of problems, including possible lack of appeal to young voters. And if I was backing someone strictly on the basis of policy and who would do the best job as President, I'd pick Warren. But the data as they come in do suggest that Biden has a case as the candidate best-suited to Job #1: taking out Trump.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

No Unforced Errors Please

Make no mistake, it will not be easy to beat Trump. That's why Democrats can ill afford unforced errors like advocating reparations. I get that in the current climate, this is a lot about competing for black Democratic primary voters and that whatever Democratic candidates say now may well be moderated if one of the pro-reparations candidates actually gets the nomination.
But damage is already being done, as Paul Starr argues in the American Prospect. I find little to disagree with in Starr's take, the essence of which is this:
"Donald Trump and Steve Bannon must be smiling from ear to ear and celebrating their good fortune whenever they hear one of the Democratic presidential candidates endorsing a bill to establish a commission to study reparations for descendants of slaves—a proposal that everyone will take as preliminary to support for financial reparations. It's the sort of idea Trump and Bannon can work with, to expand and lock down Republican support among white voters next year....
[E]ven considered just from the standpoint of racial justice, the Democrats’ top priority ought to be winning the election, not running a campaign of moral gestures toward ideas that are overwhelmingly unpopular and might well cost them the White House....
[T]he priority for Democrats has to be ideas that will help them win a majority in 2020, and reparations in any form will not get them there. Endorsing a commission to study reparations is no solution; it will only invite more questions to the candidates about what they support and what taxes they propose to raise to pay for reparations. Leaving those questions open will only seem evasive, and in the general election, leaving them open will allow the Republicans to define the issue.
African Americans may or may not ever receive reparations, but the 2020 Democratic candidates who are moving in that direction have already given Trump and Bannon a priceless gift."
Stern words. But Starr is right. No unforced errors. Please.
About this website
Some of the 2020 Democratic candidates don’t have their priorities straight.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Is Biden the One?

That is, could he get the nomination? Could he beat Trump?
The answer to the first question is sure, he could get the nomination and right now he probably has a better chance than any other single candidate to do so. Nate Silver in a lengthy article on 538 runs down all the reasons for this, as well as detailing the various factors that could stand in his way. Fine article, strongly recommended.
That said, is Biden the favorite against the field? Absolutely not. Therefore, chances are the nominee will be someone other than Biden but that covers a lot of ground and the crystal ball is foggy.
But if Biden does get the nomination, could he beat Trump? Put a bit more strongly, could he not only beat Trump, would be the probability-maximizing candidate for doing so?
Silver's article focuses heavily on Biden's nomination possibilities and doesn't really render a judgement on this question. But Henry Olsen, my favorite conservative political analyst, does so in his latest article in the Washington Post. Olsen says:
"Joe Biden starts the 2020 campaign not only as the favorite for the Democratic nomination but also probably as a slight favorite to win the presidency itself....
Self-described moderates and conservatives remain about half of the Democratic primary electorate, and as the other candidates play the popular parlor game “More Progressive Than Thou,” Biden sits largely alone hoovering up support from the largest ideological bloc. Early polls show how tilted Biden’s support is toward moderates, and his continued leads show how strong such a tilt can be....
His potential to unseat Trump, however, is even more striking. He leads the president by an average of 7.8 percent in the RealClearPolitics average of national general election trial heats so far, easily the largest of any potential Democratic nominee. That lead is not just a function of high name ID, either. Sanders is about as well known as is Biden, yet he leads Trump by only 2.7 points. There are clearly some swing voters who feel comfortable with Biden in a matchup with Trump while feeling uneasy with the other contenders at this stage.
That ability to speak to that swing voter is going to be the key factor in the general election. Only 38 percent of voters had a favorable opinion of Trump on Election Day 2016, according to the exit poll, five points lower than Hillary Clinton’s favorable rating. Trump won because he decisively defeated Clinton by a 47-to-30 margin among the 18 percent of voters who did not like either candidate. In effect, “Never Hillary” beat “Never Trump” to the shock of pundits everywhere....
Trump’s only hope, assuming he can’t raise his job approval rating, is to turn the Democratic nominee into a pariah. He needs to make “Never [Insert Nominee Name]” as powerful as “Never Hillary" to force some of the people who disapprove of him to reluctantly back him a second time. He might be able to do that with most potential Democrats. But it seems a hard task with Biden.....
Democrats, independents and Republican defectors searching for a return to normalcy after years of turmoil will likely see him as their best hope. If he understands this, a year from now he’ll be the presumptive nominee and a substantial favorite to win."
I might add to Olsen's points that so far sparse polling shows Biden beating Trump not only in his home state of Pennsylvania but also Michigan and Wisconsin and beating Trump by more than other potential Democratic nominees. If it's true that Biden does have the best chance in the Rustbelt three that delivered the Presidency to Trump (I grant you this is debatable, early polls and all that) the case against his having the best chance of beating Trump must come down to Biden significantly reducing Democratic odds in states like Georgia, Arizona and Florida. No data of any kind here yet but I have my doubts Biden would really hurt Democrats in these states.
Therefore, while I am not sure Olsen is right, I am not sure he is wrong either.
About this website
Joe Biden is by far the best candidate positioned to win the Democratic nomination, and possibly the presidency.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

The Generational Hammer Coming Down on the GOP

I don't want to be a broken record on this but I continue to believe people are underestimating the potential effects of generational change on American politics. The data on generational cleavages in attitudes and voting behavior continues to accumulate and, if anything, is getting stronger as Millennials have fully entered the electorate and as the oldest part of the Gen Z cohort has reached voting age.
The New York Times recently had an interesting article along these lines. Leaving aside the interviews with actual teenagers in the article, which are intriguing but not exactly hard data, they do cite some real data which makes the point.
"Election data suggests that the youngest voters are supporting Democrats, and surveys of teenagers not yet old enough to vote reveal them to be anxious about the current state of the country and likely to embrace liberal views.
Over all, 59 percent of people 18 to 24 say they’re Democrats, compared with 33 percent who say they’re Republicans, according to an Upshot analysis of Pew Research Center data over the last year. Even young people who self-identify as Republicans, another Pew survey found, say they hold more liberal views than older Republicans on a wide range of issues — including race relations, the causes of climate change and the involvement of government in people's lives. The youngest Republican voters who supported Mitt Romney in 2012 were the most likely to abandon Mr. Trump in 2016.
The youngest white voters are more evenly split between parties. About half of whites ages 18 to 24 say they’re Republicans. They favored Mr. Trump in the presidential election, but those who turned out in the midterm elections very narrowly backed Democrats, according to preliminary data from Catalist, a Democratic data firm. And only 39 percent of 18-to-24-year-old whites approve of Mr. Trump’s job performance, the Pew data shows.
Also, this next generation (those born after the mid-1990s, the so-called Generation Z) will be the first in which nearly half of the electorate is nonwhite — a group that overwhelmingly votes Democratic.
“Republicans are in trouble,” said Kristen Soltis Anderson, a Republican pollster who has written a book on millennial voters. Election results show millennials holding onto their Democratic views as they age, she said. “It would not surprise me if the problem is worse, not better, with Gen Z, given the moment we’re in.”
I have no quibble with these data except I believe white 18-24 year olds in 2018 were probably strongly not narrowly Democratic, My reading of the Catalist final data is that white 18-24 year olds were probably around +20 nationally for the House. So that's not "narrowly".
Anyway, these data are a big deal. A really big deal. States of Change estimates are that in 2016, GOP voters were 19 percent Millennials and Gen Z and 56 percent from the Baby Boomer and Silent generations. Flash forward to 2036, holding voting and turnout patterns constant, and we would expect the Republican coalition to be 47 percent Millennials and Gen Z and just 22 percent Boomers and Silent. For the Democrats, the analogous figures are 30/44 in 2016 and 59/15 in 2036. These are massive changes, especially given the significantly more liberal cast of the Millennial and Gen Z generations when compared to the oldest cohorts. And that will deeply effect both parties and the politics of the country as a whole.
You can count on it.
About this website
Recent data — and interviews with a dozen teenagers on the front lines of politics — show a decided leftward lean.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

On Wisconsin?

The victory of Republican Brian Hagedorn over Democrat Lisa Neubauer in a key state supreme court election in Wisconsin has caught national attention as a potential harbinger for the 2020 election. It has underscored what many have reasonably claimed: Wisconsin could be the most important and most hotly-contested battleground state in 2020.
So what should we make of Hagedorn's election?
First, it should be noted that a low turnout election like this one does not favor the Democrats. There is a very high probability that the composition of the Presidential year electorate in 2020 will be more favorable for the Democrats.
But second, it does indicate how tough this state will likely be for Democrats when they're running against Trump. Wisconsin in 2016 had 58 percent white noncollege voters, a figure that is likely to still be 56 percent in 2020. As this group goes, so likely will Wisconsin.
Consider the 2016 election. There was roughly an 8 point margin swing against the Democrats relative to 2012. Of those 8 points, around 7 can be accounted for by a large swing away from the Democrats by white noncollege voters and about a point is attributable to a substantial drop in black turnout (States of Change analysis).
Or consider 2018. Democrat Tony Evers' gubernatorial victory was based above all on cutting the Democrats' 2016 deficit among this group in half (exit polls). Without that, Evers doesn't win the election.
So let's hope this 2019 Wisconsin defeat s is a wake-up call for the Democrats. It's clear what they need to do in 2020. Can they do it?
About this website
For Democrats, an intense effort to rebuild their Midwestern “blue wall” for 2020 is showing gains in Michigan and Pennsylvania. But Wisconsin looks up for grabs.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Why Aren't Hispanics an 80-20 or 90-10 Democratic Group?

That's the question Tom Edsall asks in his latest New York Times column. Well, the answer to that is pretty simple: they aren't black and black voters are so overwhelmingly loyal to the Democrats for very specific and well-known historical reasons.
So, not a big mystery there. That said, Edsall seems to be implying that Democrats are significantly underperforming among this group relative to what one would reasonably expect from how awful Trump is, etc.
I'm not so sure about that. The best data we have on Latino support rates from Catalist does indicate that the Democrats did very well indeed among this group in both 2016 and 2018--significantly better than 2012 and especially 2014. Catalist says Clinton carried Hispanics 71-24 (+47), compared to Obama's 67-30 (+37) in 2012 , and that House Democrats carried the group 71-27 (+44) in 2018.
So they may not be an 80-20 group but in the current environment but they do look like a 70-25 group, which is still pretty darn good. You can see this rough pattern in a number of other states where Catalist data are available like Arizona, Georgia, Iowa, Minnesota and Virginia, where Democratic margins were generally in the +40-+50 range. Of course, there were states where Catalist data are not available like Florida where the margins were presumably lower, as was also likely the case in various noncompetitive races in other states.
But the central tendency of this group is very strong and should not be underestimated. 70-25 is a heck of baseline to start with even if you're not guaranteed to get that in every election in every state.
Should we expect this baseline to continue to ratchet up toward 80-20, say, if Trump and the GOP continue on their current course? I am doubtful. Hispanics are motivated by many other issues besides immigration, some are conservative and will remain so, some are evangelical Protestants and so on. In that sense, I think Edsall is right that Democrats who are relying explicitly or implicitly on this group becoming as monolithically Democratic as blacks will wind up disappointed.
I think the bigger problem with Latinos for Democrats lies not in their support rates at this point, but in their relatively poor turnout. This problem is well-documented and conceivably could be at least partially solved by good old-fashioned mobilization efforts. I'd worry about that rather than why Latinos don't vote 80-20 Democratic.
Finally, as I've noted a number of times, Latinos by themselves are not the solution for Democrats even in Latino-heavy states like Arizona and Texas. Swings in the white vote, including both college and noncollege, have to be joined with strong performance among Hispanics to carry these states in 2020.
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It’s the question that may decide the 2020 elections — and the future of the Democratic Party.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the White Working Class

David Byler continues to do excellent data work at the Washington Post and is out with a new column that examines the role of the white working class in the Democratic party. That's right, the Democratic party not the Republican party. As Byler reminds us, the white working class, despite shrinking as a proportion of voters and leaning strongly Republican these days, is still a very important part of the Democratic coalition (I should note here that the States of Change project will be issuing a major report in June on Democratic and Republican party coalitions, going back to 1980 and projected forward through the 2036 election. Watch for that!)
"Pew recently found that 33 percent of Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters were non-college educated white voters, a figure that eclipses the percentage of Democrats who are college-educated white voters (26 percent), black (19 percent) or Hispanic (12 percent).
Put simply, Democrats aren’t starting from zero with the white working class. They start out with a real base that they should try to maintain (or expand on) if they want to win in 2020."
True that. Byler goes on to summarize some data on the differences between Democratic and Republican white working class voters, including their relative youth and comparative moderation on issues like immigration and race. This is illuminating. Byler concludes by offering what strikes me as some excellent advice for thinking about this vast and diverse group.
"Neither party’s base is in perfect lockstep on every issue. It’s possible to imagine Trump losing some culturally right, economically left voters if his opponent successfully runs as a populist and hits Trump hard for bills such as tax reform. It’s also possible that if a Democrat neglects the working-class white voters who stuck with the party or intentionally tries to trade them for some other voters, a Republican will take that trade and again surprise the political world by winning on blue-collar white strength.
Some level of stereotyping is inevitable in politics. There’s nothing wrong with statements such as “Democrats win Hispanics by a solid margin” or “Republicans rely heavily on the white working class” — and exceedingly general language such as that can be necessary (or even helpful) for describing a country of more than 300 million people. But parties who turn shorthand into mental shortcuts are in danger of misunderstanding the electorate and losing winnable elections."
That is very definitely food for thought.
About this website
Most popular narratives leave white working-class Democrats out of the national conversation — but they're a huge group who will have a lot of sway in 2020.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Can the Democrats Win with Identity Politics?

Perry Bacon Jr. considers this question in his latest article on 538. He starts out by noting:
"The case for Democrats both running on populism and centering their electoral strategy around appealing to Midwestern white voters without college degrees is fairly strong. After all, polls show that voters are more aligned with the Democrats on some high-profile economic issues than on some hot-button cultural ones. Recent electoral history also seems to make this case. Then-President Barack Obama leaned heavily into economic populism during his successful 2012 re-election bid, when he won states including Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Hillary Clinton lost those three states and the election in 2016 after a campaign in which both she and President Trump spoke bluntly about issues around race and identity. In turn, Democratic congressional leaders emphasized a pocketbook message for the 2018 midterms, and the party’s candidates executed it, highlighting health care, particularly the GOP push to repeal Obamacare, more than perhaps any other issue. And the Democrats made huge gains in November.
Looking ahead to 2020, the easiest, clearest path for the Democrats to get 270 electoral votes is for them to win Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, and all three states’ electorates have a higher percentage of whites without college degrees and a lower percentage of people of color than the nation overall. And those three states have already shown signs of bouncing back toward Democrats — the party won the governor’s race in all three in November."
I couldn't have put it better myself. Bacon then proceeds to try to make the case for an alternative approach where Democrats "talk a lot about equality and identity issues, and...focus on turning out nonwhite voters and white people with college degrees as much as white people without degrees."
One interesting point he makes here is is that Obama-Trump voters get a lot of attention but there are also Obama-nonvoter in 2016 and Obama-third party voters who could be targets and who have a different profile. So perhaps these voters need a good dose of identity politics. Bacon also notes how much of 2018 Democrats' success was derived from opposition to Trump on non-economic issues like immigration..So identity politics could be a way of mining that part of the electorate.
Well, maybe. But it seems to me that any 2020 Democratic candidate will implicitly and explicitly be running against Trump's rhetoric and policies around immigration and other culturally-inflected issues. I'm not sure a candidate needs to be very left or identity politics--oriented to convince voters that he or she is indeed an alternative to Trump and what he stands for.
But Bacon makes an interesting case and it's worth reading. Honest fellow that he is, he admits that he himself does not completely buy his own argument and concludes:
"I’m making a case here, and it’s purposefully a bit provocative. The clearest way for Democrats to win in 2020 is for the party to carry Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — three states that have lots of white voters without college degrees and where Trump’s tax and health care plans are very unpopular. Perhaps Democrats aren’t disciplined enough to talk about race and identity without also talking about related issues (reparations, for example) that may turn off swing voters.....So I’m not sure that this kind of non-economic liberalism is the best strategy for Democrats. But I’m not sure it isn’t either."
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The basic theory of the presidential candidacy of Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota and the potential candidacy of former Vice President Joe Biden is that Democra…