Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Anatomy of an Impending Trump Political Catastrophe: Pennsylvania

In the 538 poll averages, Trump is behind in all of the three Rustbelt states key to his 2016 victory: Michigan (10.7 points), , Pennsylvania (8.0) and Wisconsin (8.1). Let's take a look at the currently closest of the three, Pennsylvania.
Rhodes Cook provides an-depth look at the state of play in PA, rounding up a ton of great data about the state's politics and recent trends. I can also benchmark current Democratic performance against targets that I set for Democrats to take the state back when I published Path to 270 in 2020 report last November.
"For the Democratic candidate, one approach would be to simply rely on the demographic changes just outlined and hope voting patterns from 2016 remain the same. If that were the case, the Democrat would carry Pennsylvania by around half a percentage point.
But this strategy would be very risky. Democrats will clearly attempt to change these voting patterns in their favor. One goal might be to increase Black turnout back to its 2012 levels. This would be helpful but would not add much to their performance, since Black turnout declined only marginally in Pennsylvania in 2016 and was actually still slightly above white turnout in that election. Returning the margin among Black voters back to levels attained by President Obama in 2012 would be more helpful but would add only a percentage point to the Democrats’ projected margin. Widening the Democrats’ margin among white college graduates by 10 points would be more effective, adding 3 points to potential Democratic 2020 performance.
But the goal with the most potential impact would be to move some white noncollege voters—particularly white noncollege women, among whom Clinton ran 25 points better than among their male counterparts—away from Trump. Shaving 10 margin points off Trump’s advantage among white noncollege voters—thereby bringing the Democratic deficit close to what it was for Obama in the state in 2012—would boost the Democrats’ projected margin by as much as 5 points. Even achieving half that goal would give the Democrats a several-point cushion in the state."
How's that looking? Well Biden isn't yet there on the PA black vote but boy is he hitting his targets in the rest of the electorate. In the Nationscape data since April 1, he is shaving not 10 but almost 20 points off of Trump's margin among white noncollege voters (from +30 to +11) and has more than doubled the Democratic margin among white college voters (from +9 to +21).
Definitely a catastrophe in the making.
States of Play: Pennsylvania By Rhodes CookIn: 2020 PresidentPosted June 29, 2020 Dear Readers: As we’ve stressed throughout this election season, the president isn’t picked by national polling or the popular vote, but rather by the individual states — successful presidential nominees must cob...

Monday, June 29, 2020

The Return of Economics: How to Make the George Floyd/BLM Moment Longer-Lasting and More Effective

Jamal Bouie had a recent column in the Times titled Beyond White Fragility, with the subhead "If you want to let freedom ring, hammer on economic injustice". It really is remarkable how little talk there has been about fundamental economic factors that are intertwined with racial justice issues. Bouie quotes Martin Luther King:
"The black revolution is much more than a struggle for the rights of Negroes, It is forcing America to face all its interrelated flaws — racism, poverty, militarism and materialism. It is exposing evils that are rooted deeply in the whole structure of our society. It reveals systemic rather than superficial flaws and suggests that radical reconstruction of society itself is the real issue to be faced."
Bouie adds:
"In our society...the fight for equal personhood can’t help but also be a struggle for economic justice. And what we see, past and present, is how that fight against the privileges and distinctions of race can also lay the foundations for a broader assault on the privileges and distinctions of class...
To end segregation — of housing, of schools, of workplaces — is to undo one of the major ways in which labor is exploited, caste established and the ideologies of racial hierarchy sustained. And that, in turn, opens possibilities for new avenues of advancement. The old labor slogan “Negro and White, Unite and Fight!” contains more than a little truth about the necessary conditions for economic justice."
He concludes:
"[T]he predominating discourse of belief and intention in the movement] overshadows those stakes: too much concern with “white fragility” and not enough with wealth inequality. The challenge is to bridge the gap; to show new supporters that there’s far more work to do than changing the way we police; to channel their sympathy into a deeper understanding of the problem at hand."
So if endless interrogations of white fragility aren't doing much good, what would? How can the struggle for economic justice be made central to the current moment? Robert Wright in his Nonzero newsletter has some excellent suggestions on how this could be done.
"Last week the New York Times ran a piece depicting Bernie Sanders as woefully out of step with the current political moment by virtue of his tendency to see the world through the prism of economic class, not ethnic identity. Calls from the Black Lives Matter movement “to address systemic racism and police brutality,” said the Times, are resonating in a way that “Mr. Sanders’s message of economic equality did not.”
It’s true that we’re hearing very little about that favorite Sanders theme of raising taxes on high-income people and using the money to help low-income people. By and large, the George Floyd story is being seen as a story about racial injustice and not about economic injustice.
I think that’s a mistake, in two senses.
First, it’s a tactical mistake for the left. This is a moment full of activist energy, and it’s opened up new political space; there’s a chance to push for radically increased government spending on, for example, education, housing, and health care for low-income people. Such spending disproportionately helps black people, and to pass it up because it’s technically about class, not race, would be wasteful to say the least.
Second, it’s a conceptual mistake. Racial justice and economic justice are deeply connected, as has been noted by a number of people, including Martin Luther King, Jr. (“What does it profit a man to be able to eat at an integrated lunch counter if he doesn’t earn enough money to buy a hamburger and a cup of coffee?”) If we’re going to launch a serious attack on racism, it needs to include a serious attack on economic inequality.
Or, to put it another way: If we want to help as many as possible of the George Floyds of the world, we need to see the story of George Floyd in wide angle. It’s not just the story of a black man dying at the hands of a brutally indifferent white cop. It’s the story of a black man whose circumstances of birth, like those of many black men, made it likely from the get-go that he’d have antagonistic encounters with police, and that these encounters would lead to various kinds of bad outcomes, ranging from jail to death.
Floyd was born in a poor Houston neighborhood featuring crime and drugs and bad schools. He was a good athlete and went to a Florida college on scholarship, but after two years he returned to Texas, and there he traveled a path familiar to people in his neighborhood. Like 29 percent of the black males born in the U.S., he wound up in prison....
No doubt Floyd encountered consequential racism while young, but no doubt his economic deprivation also took a toll. If he’d been a black kid born into a more affluent household, his chances of winding up in the criminal justice system would have been lower.
To put a finer point on it: On any given day, a black man between the ages of 27 and 32 is more than twice as likely to be in jail if he was born into a household in the bottom tenth of the income distribution for African-Americans than if he was born into a household with the median income for African-Americans. And that median income—for the entire household—is only $42,000....
The disadvantages facing people born into poor neighborhoods like the one Floyd was born into are many and complex, and I’m not qualified to prescribe the multidimensional government spending the problem calls for. But to mention a few obvious policy possibilities:
(1) Improve public schools in low-income areas and provide lots of financial aid for low-income students who want to attend college or vocational school. A 2010 study found that black men who don’t finish high school are ten times as likely to have been in jail by their early 30s as black men who have finished college and three times as likely as black men who have finished high school but not college.
(2) Expand the number of low-income people eligible for free health care and improve the health care low-income people get, including robust treatment for substance abuse and other mental health problems.
(3) Create a government jobs program that, ideally, would have the side effect of improving the quality of life in low-income communities by, say, upgrading and maintaining public spaces or expanding recreational programs.
I could go on—but only after doing more research. Again, this is a complicated problem, and it’s worth not just massive government expenditure but creatively and carefully designed expenditure—a kind of Apollo project of social policy.
The Black Lives Matter protests are impressive in their energy and diversity, but when it comes to policy advocacy, they haven’t been a model of clarity and tactical savvy. “Defunding the police,” advocates say, doesn’t mean what lots of people naturally take it to mean—depriving the police of all funding. (Then why do they call it… never mind.) Rather, it means taking some police services—handling domestic disputes or the homeless, say—and moving them to other agencies, along with commensurate parts of the police budget; or maybe using a chunk of the police budget to fund some new community service.
OK, but even leaving aside what a counterproductive label “defund the police” is (polls show that blacks and whites alike react negatively to it), the underlying idea is in a certain sense too modest. It sends the message, however unintended, that new community initiatives are limited by the amount of money that can be pried away from police departments. I say think bigger!
There sometimes is bigger talk in Black Lives Matter circles—in particular about reparations. But reparations, however strong the moral case for them, will almost certainly never happen—and if they did happen, they’d probably be divisive, perhaps even making the eventual arrival of another ethno-nationalist president more likely.
This suboptimal policy agenda—consisting of things that are too ambitious, not ambitious enough, and/or self-destructively labeled—seems to be rooted in the unspoken premise that almost everything about the George Floyd tragedy is attributable either to racist policing or racism more broadly. Certainly policing needs reform, and certainly racism looms large. Even the economic disadvantage Floyd was born into is largely a product of racism. Still, if you don’t address economic disadvantage directly, as a problem in its own right, you’re leaving a lot of policy tools unused, and you’re leaving a lot of money on the table. As a practical political matter, we can direct way more resources toward victims of racism by deploying class-based policies than by relying on race-based policies alone.
Two days ago New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie wrote a piece asserting that economic equality has long been an aspiration of the Black Lives Matter movement. He’s right—as you can see if you do a little digging on the website of Movement for Black Lives, an umbrella group encompassing BLM. But the fact that he had to remind us of this more than a month after George Floyd died is testament to how little airtime the issue of economic justice has gotten lately.
Bouie’s column cited a bygone labor slogan: “Black and White: Unite and Fight.” Exactly! Class-based policies, though by definition not about race per se, can in principle erode racism. The kinds of policies I’m advocating would naturally appeal to low-income whites, which means they’d give low-income whites and low-income blacks common political cause.
I’m not saying this would magically heal America’s racial divide. But it’s well-established that bigotry tends to grow when one group sees itself as having a zero-sum relationship with another group, and that the perception of a non-zero-sum relationship—like common policy goals, jointly pursued—can have the opposite effect."
If you want to let freedom ring, hammer on economic injustice.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Rustbelt Seniors to Trump: Drop Dead!

Continuing the theme from my Times op-ed, here are the quite extraordinary 65+ Biden-Trump results from the New York Times Rustbelt battleground polls:
Michigan: Biden 50-Trump 38 (Biden +12)
Pennsylvania: 55-37 (Biden +18)
Wisconsin 55-34 (Biden +21)

Hold the Line, Joe!

The most militant activists in and around the Black Lives Matter movement continue to hector Biden to adopt strenuously radical demands such as defund the police. So far, he has refused. Excellent. There is no reason for him to do so. He doesn't need the votes of these hyper-activists, since they are few in number, and as for the people these activists claim they represent, he already has strong support across the board. He doesn't need to embrace defund the police to get their votes. And most of all, he just needs to keep the support he's already built up among suburban, moderate, older and white noncollege voters to win a smashing victory. A ringing call to defund the police will only undercut, not build, the Biden coalition.
The fact of the matter is that people aren't interested in getting rid of their current police force--as defund the police implies--and somehow replacing it with a new one. In a recent Quinnipiac poll, just 14 percent supported eliminating and replacing their current police department, while 81 percent were opposed. Even among black voters, the split was only 32 percent for/61 percent against.
In the same poll, 67 percent of voters said they supported the ongoing George Floyd protests. What that means--making the reasonable assumption that all eliminate and replace voters also supported the protests--is that 4 in 5 protest supporters do not want to get rid of and replace their current police force.
So defund the police just doesn't cut it with American voters. And, no it doesn't work to explain what the slogan "really means" is providing some more money for social services and changing the mix of police activities, etc, etc. If you're explaining, you're losing.
From the Politico article on this controversy:
"During the primaries, Biden bet everything on winning overwhelming support from African American voters, who eventually reversed the near collapse of his campaign in the first three states.
Biden’s advisers were often less attentive—and sometimes downright dismissive—of certain obsessions of the social media left. Biden did not discuss white privilege the way Kirsten Gillibrand did. He didn’t endorse reparations or the legalization of marijuana when some of his chief rivals did. He stubbornly insisted that the two most important primary constituencies were political moderates and older working-class African Americans, two groups without much influence online. The Biden campaign’s unspoken primary slogan could have been, “Twitter isn’t real life.”
This cautiousness and skepticism has spilled into the general election. One way to think of the Biden campaign’s navigation of racial issues is that he and his advisers care a lot more about addressing policy demands than they do about addressing cultural issues.
“There is a conversation that’s going on on Twitter that they don’t care about,” one Democratic strategist observed. “They won the primary by ignoring all of that. The Biden campaign does not care about the critical race theory-intersectional left that has taken over places like The New York Times. You can be against chokeholds and not believe in white fragility. You can be for reforming police departments and don’t necessarily have to believe that the United States is irredeemably racist.”
Amen, you don't and Biden doesn't and that's a very good thing!

Activists want to defund the police. Biden won’t even legalize pot.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Electoral College Seems Unlikely to Save Trump This Time Around

Arguably, that is the key takeaway from the latest round of polling. See the chart below, which was commented on as follows by Geoffrey Skelley on 538:
"[One] thing to note here is that Biden is above 50 percent in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. This is significant because even though Hillary Clinton led in these states at points in 2016, she never crossed the 50 percent threshold. That speaks to just how durable Biden’s lead might be.
But perhaps what’s even more significant about this batch of recent polls is that Trump’s possible Electoral College advantage is slipping. Biden doesn’t lead by as much in most of the battleground states as he does nationally, but his leads are big enough — anywhere from 5 points in Arizona to 9 points in Nevada — that it won’t matter that many battleground states lean to the right of the country.
Take Biden’s leads in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. Those three Frost Belt states were each decided by less than 1 point in the 2016 election, yet Biden leads them all by at least 8 points. That gives him a firmer grip on the Electoral College. The race, of course, could narrow in the coming months, but as the Times/Siena surveys found, Biden also has a sizable edge in states such as Arizona and Florida, which means even if his position weakens in the Midwest — perhaps some white Republican-leaning voters come home to Trump — Biden’s strength in other parts of the country might be less affected and still give him a path to victory with 270 electoral votes."

There's Life in the Old Dog Yet! Biden's Secret Weapon Is His Own Demographic

I had a piece in the Times today folks might enjoy. The gist:
"[T]he Democrats have a secret weapon in 2020 on the other side of the age spectrum: senior voters. Among this age group — voters 65 and older — polls so far this year reveal a dramatic shift to the Democrats. That could be the most consequential political development of this election.
The bipartisan States of Change project estimates that Mrs. Clinton lost this group by around 15 points. By contrast, the nonpartisan Democracy Fund + U.C.L.A. Nationscape survey, which has collected over 108,000 interviews of registered voters since the beginning of the year, has Mr. Biden leading among seniors by about six points. We are looking at a shift of over 20 points in favor of the Democrats among a group that should be at least a quarter of voters in 2020. That’s huge.
This pro-Democratic shift is very much in evidence in 2020 battleground states. The list includes Florida, where seniors should be an unusually high 30 percent of voters (a 17 point shift); Pennsylvania (24 points); and Michigan (26 points). In short, the age group that was President Trump’s greatest strength in 2016 is turning into a liability. In an election where he will need every vote against a strong Democratic challenge, that could be disastrous — and a harbinger of a new, broader coalition for the Democrats.
Who are these seniors who are turning against Mr. Trump? As you might expect, the racial composition of the 65 and over population is majority white — about four in five. And among white seniors, we see the same shift as among seniors as a whole, over 20 points. The movement of white seniors against the president is clearly driving this trend."
The rest of the article unpacks why this might be happening.
They’re senior voters, and they could be Joe Biden’s secret weapon.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Thoughts on the New York Times Poll That Has Biden Up by 14

This is a serious poll (NYT/Sienna) is rating A+ by 538) so it should definitely be taken seriously. That said, it's just one poll but will get a huge amount of attention--perhaps too much--simply because it's from the Times.
Besides the rather gaudy Biden lead, Here are some things that struck me, looking over the numbers:
1. Biden still lagging behind a bit on the black vote, but the youth and Hispanic numbers look good, consistent with trend I've been picking up in other data.
2. Trumps' margin among whites is a catastrophically small 1 point. That's what's really tanking his chances at the current time. This includes an amazing 52-30 margin for Biden among whites under 45; continuing a trend we observed in the 2018 election.
3. Consistent with Nationscape and other data Trump has lost support among both white college and noncollege voters relative to 2016. Nationscape finds a bit more of a shift among white noncollege but not nearly as much among white college. My guess is that their white college number is a bit high.
4. The poll finds Biden ahead among voters 65 and older, a huge swing relative to 2016. The Nationscape and other data also show this; I will shortly have a piece coming out in the Times on the big shift among senior voters.
Finally, dare we finally admit it?....Joe Biden may actually be running a pretty good campaign. Jonathan Chait:
"It would obviously be a fallacy to attribute Biden’s current lead entirely, or even mostly, to his campaign strategy. The polls primarily reflect a massive public repudiation of Donald Trump’s presidency. But Biden is also doing some things right.
For all the derision that has surrounded Biden’s generally low profile, it is the broadly correct move. Trump is and always has been deeply unpopular. He managed to overcome this handicap in 2016 because Hillary Clinton was also deeply unpopular, though somewhat less so, and turning the election into a choice allowed anti-Clinton sentiment to overpower anti-Trump sentiment. The fact that Biden has attracted less attention than Trump is not (as many Democrats have fretted) a failure. It is a strategic choice, and a broadly correct one....
The protesters deserve a great deal of credit for using Floyd’s tragic death to highlight broader injustice, and to do a good-enough job of limiting disorder and looting to allow their overwhelmingly peaceful message to come through. But Biden has also done an effective job of using the most popular parts of the protesters’ message while distancing himself from its unpopular elements. Biden speaks for the transracial majority that supports systematic police reform and opposes defunding the cops. Trump is left to represent the minority that sees Floyd’s death as an outlier requiring no serious changes.
Electability was a subject of bitter contention during the Democratic primary. Many progressive critics argued either that electability is inherently unknowable, or that the key electability dynamic was the ability to motivate left-wingers who might otherwise not vote. Instead, Biden’s campaign seems to be vindicating a more conventional theory of the case. He has appealed to progressives by adopting some of the most popular pieces of their program, while steering clear of its controversial aspects. And he is winning in the very conventional way: by stealing voters in the middle who are conflicted.
Those conflicted voters tend to give Trump high marks for his handling of the economy, but recoil at his ugly persona. A Democratic campaign premised on transformational economic change would have given Trump the chance to make those voters choose between style and (what they perceive as) substance. Biden from the beginning has tailored his message precisely for what they want: a president who will act like a president without scaring people about the pace and extent of social and economic change.
Biden is running on a progressive platform — more progressive than most people think, and almost certainly more progressive than even a fully Democratic Congress would pass into law. But his choice to avoid unpopular issues (Medicare for All, the Green New Deal) — which the left assailed not only on substantive terms but as a bad choice that would deflate his voters — is looking shrewder than ever.
Biden probably wouldn’t be fielding rapturous mass rallies even if there was no virus. Nor has he inspired armies of idealistic volunteers. But all the evidence we have suggests Biden actually knows what he’s doing."
How 'bout that! Looks like the Twitterati got this one completely wrong. Whodda thunk it?
A New York Times/Siena College poll finds that Joseph R. Biden Jr. is ahead of the president by 14 points, leading among women and nonwhite voters and cutting into his support with white voters.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

How Not to Build the Left

Free David Shor! Or at least give the poor data analyst a job, since he's been fired and now ostracized for the thought-crime of promoting the idea, based on an excellent study by political science professor Omar Wasow, that maybe riots associated with social movements do more harm than good. You can read the sorry details in this piece by Jonathan Chait that reveals the bizarre attacks leveled against Shor by those now intent on policing the left against such thought-crimes.
This is madness. These kinds of attacks, cancellations and firings should have no place in the progressive movement and all those involved should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. This is not how you build an effective mass movement for change. On the contrary, this is how you undercut it at a moment when the public is quite open to large-scale change. Really, who wants to join a movement which utilizes such Orwellian tactics to deal with political disagreement? Well, some do I guess but most will check out the moment they get a whiff of this stuff.
The fact of the matter is that there is an emerging progressive coalition in this country--call it the Biden coalition--which has a fair chance of routing Trump and Trumpism and rebuilding our sorry country. This emerging coalition reaches far, far beyond the metropolitan woke and the feverish name-calling they marinate themselves in. These "normies", hailing from all parts of this very large country, want their country back and are not interested in giving it to an intolerant left. That left must lose that intolerance and realize it's a part and only a part of this much larger coalition.
Then, get to work on the hard task of actually persuading people that progressive solutions are the best ones for the country's problems. That's how you build the left.
A case study in why the White Fragility rules don’t work.