Sunday, September 29, 2019

The Democrats and the Diversity of Suburbs

The Democrats have been making some significant gains in suburban America. But it's important to remember that suburbia is a vast section of America and should not be thought of as just the suburban outgrowths of our largest and most dynamic cities. There is much, much more to suburbia than that. And once you get away from these more cosmopolitan suburbs, the voters (more white, less educated) and Democratic progress look quite different.
I noted this point in various analyses I conducted of the Obama elections. The differences I discussed at the time between small and medium metros and the largest metros remain very relevant. David Hopkins rehearses some of the current data in a very good New York Times op-ed.
"[Democrats] have not extended [their] success to the suburban communities surrounding smaller cities, which remain predominantly — even increasingly — Republican. The suburbs surrounding Jacksonville, Fla., Indianapolis and Grand Rapids, Mich., for example, provide Republican candidates with more than enough votes to compete in, and often win, statewide elections.
To achieve a durable national majority, Democratic candidates will need to expand their appeal to the less diverse and more culturally conservative electorates of the small-metro suburbs, which remain aligned with the Republican Party even in the era of Donald Trump....
The growing partisan divergence separating large-metro suburbs from those in the rest of the country extends to congressional elections....[I]n the nation’s smaller metro areas, where the share of suburban House seats held by Republicans rose to 71 percent after 2018 from 60 percent after the 1994 election, Republicans continue to thrive. Even last November’s “blue wave” hardly threatened Republican incumbents like Warren Davidson of suburban Cincinnati-Dayton, who won re-election by 33 percentage points; Gary Palmer of suburban Birmingham, Ala., who won by 38 points; or Francis Rooney of suburban Cape Coral, Fla., who won by 25 points....
President Trump’s historically strong performance in a string of smaller and more homogeneous suburbs from greater Scranton, Pa., to greater Des Moines proved pivotal in the 2016 election and could well recur in 2020. Broadening the Democratic tent to bring more of these socially traditionalist small-metro suburbanites into the fold would provide the party with a critical electoral advantage, but such gains will be difficult to achieve in an era of growing cultural warfare."
That's the challenge. We'll see if the Democrats are up to it.
About this website
To build a national majority, the party has to win the areas around smaller cities, which have resisted the blue wave.

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Could Labour Win the Next Election in the UK?

An unequivocal "maybe". They actually have a very interesting and potentially popular economic program but lots of things could derail their chances including, of course, how they handle the Brexit issue, not to mention a range of unwise positions pushed by left activists within the party.
Both the problems and the promise of Labour were on display at the recently concluded annual Labour Party conference. They are well-described by my old friend John Judis, who attended the conference as research for a book he is preparing on the US and European left. I was particularly struck by this passage at the end of his article, which reminds me a great deal of some of the conflicts that bedevil the left here in the US.
"To assess not just the party’s electoral prospects, but its future, I spent a good deal of time as forums organized by the younger party activists. Obviously, I had to be selective and what I say here should be taken with a grain of salt. But I would draw a very rough distinction between what I heard from elected officials or trade union leaders and staff and what I heard from Labour members who teach or study at universities or work for political organizations or the media. Of the latter, I’d say that like their American counterparts within the Democratic party, they advocate positions that don’t take account of what a political majority might now or someday support. Their ideas are expressions of moral and even quasi-religious conviction. For instance, they want the British to give up their “privileges” that came from their colonial empire; they favor open borders; they warn of planetary extinction, on the other hand, but on the other hand, see a Green New Deal not merely as a way to stem global warming, but as a sure pathway to full employment.
On Wednesday, after much of the leadership had left for London for the reopening of Parliament, the delegates who remained got the conference to adopt measures along these lines. They voted to remove any control on freedom of movement to the UK, remove any caps on or selective criteria for immigration, grant immigrants immediate access to social welfare, including the National Health Service, and grant the vote immediately in national elections to immigrants and to foreign nationals living within the UK (so that the proverbial Polish plumber would be eligible to vote in the UK and Poland.). They also voted to eliminate by 2030 — in only ten years — all power plants and vehicles and home heating that depend on fossil fuels. These positions contradicted those of the party’s leadership and its 2017 manifesto, but would also land the party in very hot water if it were identified with them in the next election.
The party leadership’s equivocation on Brexit was precisely meant to win over some of the 52 percent, including the voters in Labour constituencies who supported Brexit, but these voters supported Brexit partly because they rejected the EU’s policy on immigration and borders. Labour’s parliamentary candidates may diverge from these positions, but the resolutions mandate that the positions will show up in the party’s official election manifesto (which carries far more weight than party platforms in the US do). If they do, Labour will be in even more trouble, and its dazzling economic program, which has considerable political support in the country, could be lost for a generation."
About this website
I often complain about foreigners who write about American politics without knowing the first thing about our history. I know...

Friday, September 27, 2019

Is Warren Electable?, Take 2

Some interesting new data from Democracy Corps, which show her running about as well against Trump as Biden (49-42 vs. 49-41). I was particularly encouraged by the chart below, which shows her doing relatively well among white working class women. This is a trend to keep an eye on, given the probable centrality of these voters to the 2020 election result.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Tell Me Again How Economic Trends Have Nothing to Do With Trumpism

The release of new data from a Brookings/Wall Street Journal collaboration provides a reason to revisit the utterly bizarre contention that economic trends have nothing to do with the rise of Trumpian politics. I don't know how anyone can look at the charts below, drawn from the Brookings report, and continue to maintain that economic trends are largely irrelevant to the fissures in our politics and the cultural/racial concerns that, in a proximate sense, seem to drive them.
Authors Mark Muro and Jacob Whiton note in the Brookings report:
"[I]t’s clear that a series of genuine, penetrating [economic and demographic] shifts have been happening at warp speed through the last decade. These shifts are massively altering the two parties’ economic identities.
For one thing, the two parties have in just 10 years gone from near-parity on prosperity and income measures to stark, fast-moving divergence.
With their output surging as a result of the big-city tilt of the decade’s “winner-take-most” economy, Democratic districts have seen their median household income soar in a decade—from $54,000 in 2008 to $61,000 in 2018. By contrast, the income level in Republican districts began slightly higher in 2008, but then declined from $55,000 to $53,000.
Underlying these changes have been eye-popping shifts in economic performance. Democratic-voting districts have seen their GDP per seat grow by a third since 2008, from $35.7 billion to $48.5 billion a seat, whereas Republican districts saw their output slightly decline from $33.2 billion to $32.6 billion."
Muro wrote in response to a query from Tom Edsall:that Democrats are winning in the "very powerful, dense, and prosperous economic areas that increasingly dominate the American economy....Democrats control the places that are most central to American economic power and prosperity.”
And we expect this divergence not to have political effects? That doesn't seem plausible. As Edsall notes:
"A growing body of work demonstrates that scarcity, economic stagnation and relative decline are powerful factors driving intensified conservatism on issues of race, culture and immigration."
Edsall also provides some interesting comments from political scientist Ronald Inglehart, whose work is sometimes invoked to defend the thesis that economic change has nothing to do with the current culture clash.
Inglehart made the case that a “combination of economic insecurity and cultural insecurity has contributed to the Trump vote.”...Most critical, in Inglehart’s view, is that treating economic and social issues separately creates a false dichotomy:
"The interaction between insecurity caused by rapid cultural change and economic insecurity drives the xenophobic reaction that brought Trump to power and is fueling similar reactions in other high-income countries. And the rise of the knowledge society is driving this polarization even farther."
Here Inglehart appears to be departing from the common trope of many of his fellow political scientists whose approach has been simply to emphasize anti-immigrant sentiment and different forms of cultural/racial resentment, since they have tended to be the strongest predictors of Trump support in various quantitative studies .I applaud Inglehart's view since, after all, how much does the standard political science approach really tell us? After all, it should not be a huge surprise that voting for an anti-immigrant, racially resentful candidate is predicted by, well, being anti-immigrant and racially resentful. But why now and why so much support for a candidate with those views? This is the really interesting and important question.
And frankly I don't think the answer, in a broad sense is that hard to find. A toxic interaction between economic change and cultural reaction is entirely consistent with the historical record on the rise of right populisms. As political scientists Manuel Funke, Moritz Schularick and Christopher Trebesch have shown in their paper , “Going to Extremes: Politics after Financial Crisis, 1870-2014”, covering 140 years, 800 general elections and 20 countries, far right populist parties driven heavily by xenophobia towards immigrants and minorities typically experience a surge in support in the aftermaths of large and lingering crises. And, as economist Claudia Goldin noted in her study of immigration policy debates in the US in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, “Almost all serious calls for the literacy test [to stem the flow immigrants] were preceded by economic downturns. … and few economic downturns of the era were not accompanied by a call for [immigration] restriction in the halls of Congress.”
So whey are we so surprised that Trumpism is happening now? We shouldn't be. The answer is right in front of our noses. We also shouldn't be surprised if Trumpian-style populism here and in other countries continues to be a huge problem if current economic divergences continue.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Can the Democratic Nominee Win Georgia in 2020?

It's certainly possible. Stacey Abrams recently released a lengthy memo on how she thinks this could be accomplished in 2020. It's worth reading and has a lot of interesting data in it.
Abrams' summary:
"1. Georgia is competitive up and down the ballot. With a diverse, growing population and rapidly changing electorate, Georgia is not a future opportunity for Democrats; it is a necessity right now.
2. The Abrams strategy provides a blueprint for Democratic victory up and down the ballot in 2020. By expanding the electorate and delivering a clear, values-based message to all voters, Democrats are poised to win Georgia in 2020.
3. Large national and local investments can unleash Georgia’s potential. By investing big and investing early in registration, organizing, and turnout, Democrats can further change Georgia’s electorate and maximize turnout among voters of color and Democratic-leaning white voters.
4. Democrats must reject false choices and apply an evidenced-based approach in Georgia and beyond. We do not lose winnable white voters because we engage communities of color. We do not lose urban votes because we campaign in rural areas.
5. Georgia is every bit as competitive as perennial battleground states. With one of the youngest and the most African American electorate of any competitive state, Georgia has demographic advantages that don’t exist in other states."
I'm probably not quite as optimistic as Abrams and less convinced it's as accessible to the Democrats as Michigan, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin (or Arizona for that matter). But I agree with her that the state is definitely worth a serious effort in 2020. Here's my take on the various challenges involved. (All estimates by demographic group and simulated election outcomes based on States of Change data.)
Trump won Georgia by 5 points in 2016. This was a decline from Romney’s 8-point victory in 2012, making the trend in the state similar to that in Arizona and Texas. Democrats hope to build on this trend and make the state even closer in 2020.
Democrats had a fairly good election in Georgia in 2018, if not quite as good as in a number of other swing states. They lost the House popular vote by slightly less than 5 points but they did flip one GOP-held House seat. The Democrats also flipped a net of 13 state legislative seats from the GOP. But they lost the marquee governor’s race in the state, as Democrat Stacey Abrams fell just 1.4 points of defeating Republican Brian Kemp. This was the best performance by a Democrat in a Georgia governor’s race in this century.
These trends make the Democrats hopeful they can take the state in 2020. But the fact that the state has gotten no closer than 5 points in the last three elections makes the Trump campaign believe they can hold the line. Adding to this confidence, Trump is currently running a negative net approval rating in the state of -2, not great, but still better than in a lot of other 2020 swing states.
Georgia’s large nonwhite population—38 percent of the state's voters in 2016—is dominated by Blacks. Blacks were 31 percent of the voting electorate, compared to 3 percent for Hispanics and just under 4 percent for Asians/other race. These groups supported Clinton by 76, 17 and 6 points, respectively, Georgia’s white college graduates, 25 percent of voters, strongly supported Trump by 24 points, 59-35 percent. But white non-college voters were even stronger in their support, giving him a lop-sided 63-point margin, 80-17.
States of Change estimates indicate that white non-college eligible voters in 2020 should decline by almost 2 points relative to 2016, while white college graduates should remain roughly stable. Black eligible voters should increase by almost a point, as should Hispanics, while Asians/other race should increase by half a point. These underlying demographic changes are enough to knock almost 2 points off the Democratic candidate’s projected disadvantage in 2020, all 2016 voting patterns remaining the same.
Given the relative closeness of Trump’s victory in 2016 plus the Democrats’ projected bonus from demographic change, Trump will seek to go beyond holding his 2016 levels of support from various demographic groups. Perhaps it’s a bit much to ask to increase his margin among white non-college voters over his already mammoth 63-point advantage. But white college voters were also strong for him and if he increased his margin among them by 10 points that would project to a 6-point victory in 2020.
For the Democratic candidate, the Black vote in Georgia will loom large. If the Democratic candidate could get Black turnout back to 2012 levels that would move the race within one and a half points of victory, all else equal. And if both Black turnout and support matched 2012 levels, that would actually produce a narrow victory. A 10-point pro-Democratic margin shift among white college grads would be similar in effect to the increased Black turnout scenario—narrowing the gap but not quite producing victory—while shaving Trump’s immense white non-college margin by 10 points would, in and of itself, project to a very close Democratic victory.
About this website
Former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, a rising star in the Democratic Party likely to end up on any nominee's vice presidential shortlist, sent a "playbook" to every presidential campaign and major party committee with her recommendation for how to win Georiga and the country in 2020...

Monday, September 23, 2019

Public to Democrats: Here's What We Want!

The public is trying to tell the Democrats how to beat Trump! The latest messages are contained in the new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. The poll asked about support for a series of proposals that have been advanced by various political actors. The graphic below helpfully compares the views of Democratic primary voter with those of all registered voters.
Here's the deal: if Democratic primary voters support a given proposal but the general electorate does not, that's probably a proposal to shy away from. Really, the public is trying to help the Democrats out here! Note particularly, the very high support among all voters for allowing universal access to Medicare and the poor ratings for banning fracking, eliminating Obamacare, Medicare for All that eliminates private insurance and, at the very bottom, providing government health care to undocumented immigrants.
Let's not make this beating Trump business harder than it has to be.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Is Warren Electable?

Well, if Trump is in bad enough shape next November, sure she is. So might any Democrat. But there are certainly reasons to wonder how well she'd fare if Trump is only in his average amount of hot water.
Right now, Biden is running a smile-inducing 12 points ahead of Trump in RCP's running average of trial heats. Warren is running a less exciting 5 points ahead of Trump in the same average.
One reason is that she shows persistent weakness among white noncollege voters. This is nothing new as Paul Starobin recently pointed out in a Times article:
"The problem is that she has a relatively weak standing in Massachusetts with non-college-educated working-class voters, and especially white workers. These voters are critical, especially in the Midwest and in states crucial to Mr. Trump’s victory like Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
You might call it the Warren Paradox. Her core message as a politician — that America has become rigged in favor of the very wealthy, and the rich get richer as the rest of us get shafted — is very much aimed at the working class. What’s more, her personal narrative, of her rise from “the ragged edge of the middle class” in her native Oklahoma, as she has put it, to professional success and acclaim in the fields of education and government might seem to embody a character trait of grit that appeals to blue-collar workers....
In Massachusetts, the Warren Paradox can be glimpsed in towns like Rockland, population near 18,000, a suburb about 20 miles south of Boston, overwhelmingly white and working class. In her November 2018 Senate race against a pro-Trump Republican, Ms. Warren won 60 percent of the vote statewide but only 44 percent of the vote in Rockland. By contrast, northwest of Boston, in the upscale suburb of Lexington, where the median home value is $1.15 million, (compared with $340,000 in Rockland), Ms. Warren took 74 percent of the vote."
David Leonhardt adds in a different piece:
"In her 2012 and 2018 Senate races, Warren struggled in other blue-collar parts of Massachusetts, like the areas around Springfield and Worcester. And in most state polls asking voters to choose between Trump and potential Democratic nominees, Warren looks considerably weaker than Joe Biden.
She is tied with Trump in Wisconsin, while Biden led by nine percentage points, according to a recent Marquette University poll. In New Hampshire — which borders parts of the North Shore — Biden leads Trump by 10 points, while Warren trails by two, according to an Emerson College poll."
All that said, I do like Warren and think she'd make a very good president--perhaps the best of the lot currently running for the nomination. But to govern, you gotta win the darn election. Jonathan Chait explains some of my frustration, as well s some cautious optimism that she could turn things around:
"Warren has joined most of the field in embracing broadly unpopular stances that play well with progressive activists, like decriminalizing immigration enforcement, abolishing the death penalty, and providing health coverage to undocumented immigrants. Trump’s campaign clearly grasps that his only chance of success is to present the opposition as unacceptably radical, and the Democratic primary is giving him plenty of ammunition to make this case....
Does this mean the Democratic Party in general, or Warren in particular, is doomed? Not at all. If the economy goes into recession or slows significantly, almost any Democrat would be expected to defeat Trump. It is also possible Warren can successfully pivot from the primary to the general election.
The outlines of such a pivot can be discerned already. Her recent campaign message targeting political corruption reprises her original theme, which simultaneously indicts the malfeasance of the Trump administration, presents Warren as a good-government outsider, and moves the debate away from tax-and-spend liberalism and onto more popular, anti-corporate grounds. Her recent plan to jack up Social Security benefits — yes, it is another budget item — gives her a selling point that polls incredibly well.
One can imagine other steps Warren can take to shore up her vulnerabilities in the coming months. She could produce her own health-care plan, one that leaves the option of employer-sponsored insurance in place. She could promise not to raise middle-class taxes, and that such a promise would take priority over enacting the full panoply of her domestic agenda. And, without breaking faith with core liberal values, she could think of some conciliatory gestures toward social traditionalists of the sort that worked well for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama (and which Hillary Clinton largely dispensed with).
Here is another thing about Warren that is impossible to measure, but which ought to count nonetheless: She is a compelling orator with a sympathetic life story and a gift for explaining complex ideas in simple terms. Yet she has spent most of the last year positioning herself as if the general election will never happen. At the moment, I’d feel very nervous betting the future of American democracy on Warren’s ability to defeat Trump. But a lot can change in a year, and it’s not hard to imagine the Warren of 2020 as a potent challenger."
Well said, both the bad and the good. Let's hope she and her campaign team are thinking long and hard about how to shore up these weak points, particularly with white working class voters. Without that, all her great plans could come to naught.
About this website
She has struggled with white, working-class voters like those important to winning Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The White Working Class: Why Writing Them Off Is Political Insanity

The excellent David Wasserman had some astute comments on Twitter about the white working class and how nuts it is for Democrats to write them off. He is correct in all respects and his data is spot on!
"The bottom line: Dems don't need to win a higher % of the WWC than in '16 b/c 1) it's declining as a % of voters and 2) Dems have made robust gains among college whites.
But Dems *can't* afford to backslide much further & hope to win MI/PA/WI etc. And avoiding that isn't simple.
Not about winning the demog. It’s about Dems not getting absolutely annihilated.
Moreover, the notion that voting behavior is polarized to the point that there aren't any swing/persuadable voters left isn't based in reality.
Not only did we see above-average swings from '12 to '16, Dems wouldn't have gone +40 in '18 without converting lots of '16 R voters.
Much of the analysis I'm seeing on this site assumes there's no more room for Dems to fall w/ white non-college voters, who are simply a "lost cause."
In fact, Dems have an awful lot more room to fall w/ them, and that's especially true in many of the most critical EC states.
Dems' path to beating Trump absolutely depends on retaining the gains they made in diverse, college-educated burbs - the kinds we saw in 2018 & #NC09.
But even a slight drop among white non-college voters could negate all of it, given the demog's size & geographic distribution.
Dems' backslide w/ these voters is the main reason IA (66%) and OH (60%) have already exited stage right off the EC battleground, and why a Dem nominee who performs even worse w/ them could risk losses in ME (66%), NH (61%) or MN (56%).
Here's why the "let's win without working-class whites" mentality doesn't hold water for Dems. That demog comprises 45% of all eligible U.S. voters, but:
61% in Wisconsin
61% in New Hampshire
56% in Michigan
56% in Minnesota
56% in Pennsylvania
47% in North Carolina
Good luck."

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

The Fool's Gold of Calling Trump a Racist

Certainly Trump has done and said a lot of things that could be reasonably be characterized as reflecting racist beliefs or assumptions. Therefore, many assume, it is their moral duty to call him a racist in the most direct and unqualified terms possible.
I disagree. If you don't like what Trump does and says on race--and for that matter on many other things--it is your moral duty to defeat him and get him out of office. It has nothing to do with calling him a racist, however righteous that might make you feel.
And the fact of the matter is that calling him a racist--and calling the people who support him racists--is actually counterproductive to the moral goal of ejecting him from the White House. There has been substantial research along these lines previously and now there is new research that confirms this:
"[P]olling done by an alliance of progressive groups last month studying possible Democratic responses to Trump’s immigration rhetoric...found that a response calling Trump racist decreased overall support for Democrats relative to Trump. A response saying Trump uses fear to divide by race worked substantially better. The competing messages produced no major differences among Democrats and independents, but the racism response played much worse among white, non-college-educated voters and soft partisans. The racism response was especially damaging to Democrats after voters were shown an anti-immigration video with Trumpian themes."
About this website
Research shows the term could hurt the chances of defeating him in 2020.