Friday, July 31, 2020

David Brooks (Yes, David Brooks!) Gets It Right

I recommend the excellent new column from David Brooks, "The Future of American Liberalism: What Biden can learn from F.D.R." Strange I suppose that men of the right like David Brooks are now offering very sensible recommendations to the left that include backing fairly radical policy ideas that are assuredly not in the standard Republican playbook. But I welcome it. I suppose we'll hear the predictable caviling from the left that Brooks and his like are not true progressives so we should give them the cold shoulder. I disagree. As Deng Xiaoping put it in a slightly different context: "Who cares if a cat is black or white so long as it catches mice?"


* Offer big change that feels familiar.

Economic and health calamities are experienced by most people as if they were natural disasters and complete societal breakdowns. People feel intense waves of fear about the future. They want a leader, like F.D.R., who demonstrates optimistic fearlessness.

They want one who, once in office, produces an intense burst of activity that is both new but also offers people security and safety. During the New Deal, Social Security gave seniors secure retirements. The Works Progress Administration gave 8.5 million Americans secure jobs....

* Broadcast pragmatism, not ideology.

New Dealers were willing to try anything that met the specific emergencies of the moment. There was a strong anti-ideological bias in the administration and a wanton willingness to experiment. For example, Roosevelt’s first instinct was to cut government spending in order to reduce the deficit, until he flipped, realizing that it wouldn’t work in a depression.

“I really do not know what the basic principle of the New Deal is,” one of his top advisers admitted. That pragmatism reassured the American people, who didn’t want a revolution; they wanted a recovery....

* Get capitalism moving.

The Reconstruction Finance Corporation, run by Jesse Jones, a Hoover administration holdover, gave bankers incentives to take the capital that had been sitting in their vaults and get it out into the community. The Federal Housing Administration backed mortgages. As Louis Hyman of Cornell notes, the F.H.A. induced more private lending in a few months than the Public Works Administration spent during the entire decade. The New Deal was more clever and diverse than just tax-and-spend liberalism...

* Look for imbalances.

Capitalist economies get out of whack from time to time. The New Deal brought balance. It made it easier for workers to unionize and deal on more equal terms with business. Wall Street was too powerful. The New Deal reined it in....

F.D.R. also demonstrated that the most effective leaders in crisis are often at the center of their party, not at left or right vanguard. Abraham Lincoln took enormous heat from abolitionists. But he’s the one who defeated slavery. Theodore Roosevelt had a conservative disposition and lagged behind many Progressives. But he’s the one who led Progressive reforms. F.D.R. was able to pass so much legislation precisely because he was so shifting and pragmatic and did not turn everything into a polarized war.

We’re not going to have another Roosevelt. But in a time of crisis, in an ideological age, he showed it’s possible to get a lot done if you turn down the ideological temperature, if you evade the culture war, if you are willing to be positive and openly experimental."

David Brooks wants you to join the union! I'll take it.

What Biden can learn from F.D.R.

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Thinking About the Portland Protests

1. These protests have gone on for a very long time. It would seem that the original point--about Black Lives Matter and police violence--has been made.

2. It seems doubtful that continuing them indefinitely is going to add that much or anything to the original point.

3. The protests have evolved into nightly peaceful rallies that inevitably are followed by confrontations later at night at the Federal Courthouse where fires are lit, rocks, bottles and firecrackers thrown, lasers aimed at law enforcement and attempts made to scale/tear down the surrounding fence. (See the link below to a detailed AP story on the nightly events.)
4. This violence adds nothing to the point of the peaceful rallies but actually detracts from it. It is a terrible look for the movement. (See the wise words of Dr, King below, courtesy of The Democratic Strategist.)
5. Yet the "peacefuls" seem utterly unable to stop the "violents" from their nightly escapades. This seems to be some combination of genuine disorganization along with an attitude that, well, the real perpetrators of violence are Trump, the cops, etc. so it would be unseemly to try very hard to stop demonstrator violence.
6. Another rationale is, well, it hasn't hurt anything so far; the movement has a lot of support and Trump is still losing badly. Therefore, we don't need to worry about a backlash.
7. But politics and public opinion are changeable so it does not follow that no backlash today means no backlash tomorrow. Trump clearly wants more these of these kind of confrontations and it would warm his little heart if they spiraled out of control so that he'd have a weapon to use against Biden and the Democrats.
8. Therefore, if the Portland protesters want to make their point without stepping on their own story and potentially helping Trump, they should work hard to stop those in their ranks who are intent on violence and continued confrontations.
9. If they can't figure out a way to do this, perhaps they should consider packing it in for awhile. Otherwise, the costs of the ongoing protests could exceed the benefits to the very cause they support. Not to mention the cause of getting rid of Trump, without which nothing particularly good is likely to happen.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2020

We Need Nationalism--The Right Kind of Nationalism

My colleague John Halpin is out with a new piece on the Democracy Journal website, "Why We Need Inclusive Nationalism". I strongly recommend it. Note that I and another colleague, Peter Juul, will shortly be publishing an article--"Toward the Next Frontier: The Case for a New Liberal Nationalism"--in the American Affairs journal (on or about August 20) that sounds many of the same themes.

Some excerpts from Halpin's article--but please read the whole thing.

"America faces enormous challenges at home and abroad that our political system is ill-prepared to handle. Mired in compounding health, economic, and social crises arising from the coronavirus pandemic—on top of years of broken politics, widening inequality, and growing threats to liberal values around the world—our nation needs a common vision for renewal that speaks to all Americans. We need an inclusive American nationalism, in opposition to Donald Trump’s reactionary and exclusionary nationalism. We need a new framework for economic and social reform that takes seriously our constitutional promise to build “a more perfect Union” and to secure the rights, liberties, and opportunity of all people post-COVID....

As the nation confronts this crisis moment, we need to ask ourselves: “What comes next? What should Americans do to successfully rebuild, repair, and reshape our economy and society for the betterment of all people?” As difficult as it may seem given current political divisions, national renewal after the crisis will require our people and leaders to temper their ideological battles and try to forge a spirit and agenda of collective action committed foremost to American economic and social strength.

Unfortunately, American politics under President Trump is stuck in a cycle of mutual recrimination and division with no comprehension or even acknowledgement of what constitutes the common good for America in a time of crisis. President Trump’s model of racial and ethnic nationalism coupled with tax and regulatory policies tilted toward the wealthy and powerful will not hold. There have been too many failures and too many contradictions in his approach and no longer enough public support to maintain his populist right framework of politics outside of a particularly fervent base. But getting rid of Trump alone won’t solve our problems. Activists, intellectuals, and political leaders need to develop and promote an alternative philosophical vision grounded in the best ideas from the left to the center that is wide enough to enlist all Americans in a common project of national rebuilding....

Politics works best for the country when it provides legitimate institutional arenas for reasoned debate and common endeavor and compromise. It loses credibility when it descends into a never-ending series of cultural wars designed to force people who think differently to acquiesce to abstract sociological theories about interlocking webs of oppression and privilege or angry “us vs. them” social media fights targeting and reducing people to racial, ethnic, or religious categories. Rather than helping citizens better understand actual forms of discrimination and barriers to success for all people, these culture wars leave people confused, divided, and without tangible plans for improving the situation. Americans don’t need to fully adopt the worldview of critical studies to understand that deepening wealth inequalities and diminished job opportunities and health conditions for low-income people across racial lines undermine our national economic strength....

With national attention again turned to police accountability following the killing of George Floyd and those in other communities, we must not let this moment again turn into a series of rhetorical battles and media fights between mostly unaffected political elites that fail to fundamentally address the basic economic inequalities underlying many of these injustices. A framework built on liberal nationalism instead seeks to offer a way for disparate Americans with divergent cultural values to recognize these economic inequalities and be part of a common effort to steadily bring all people into American life based on the core American principle that all people deserve equal dignity, rights, and opportunity....

Americans who think [this way] should join in a common effort for national renewal and start building a network of engaged citizens committed to building a new politics that can help our country emerge successfully from this crisis. This is not an easy project given the structure of American government. No one ideological approach alone is likely to build and sustain state and national majorities durable enough to overcome the multiple veto points in our constitutional system. Liberal nationalists must therefore work strategically to knit together large majorities of voters across racial, class, and ideological lines to back steady improvements that lead to higher pay for workers, more secure families, true universal health care, a revitalized national economy, and smarter international action.

We must not lose hope that Americans of all stripes can work with one another—and those in other nations—in good faith on big challenges. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt stated in his famous Four Freedoms address in 1941: “This nation has placed its destiny in the hands and heads and hearts of its millions of free men and women; and its faith in freedom under the guidance of God. Freedom means the supremacy of human rights everywhere. Our support goes to those who struggle to gain those rights or keep them. Our strength is our unity of purpose.”

As usual FDR said it best.

Trump offers reactionary and exclusionary nationalism. There is a different, and better, kind.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Trump's Biggest Problem

As I have argued, the make-or-break constituency for Trump is the white working class; if they don't go his way, he's toast. Tim Alberta agrees and has a very interesting reported piece from Scranton, PA suggesting the deep trouble Trump is in. Well worth reading. The views of some of the people Alberta talks to will no doubt offend the tender sensibilities of some on the left, but as far as I'm concerned I welcome them to the popular front against Trumpism.

"The bottom that for as well as Trump performed with these voters in 2016, he needs to do even better with them in 2020. He needs to convert more blue-collar Democrats. He needs to turn out more unaffiliated nonpartisans. The question is: Can he?...

Here were two prime targets for the president’s reelection [Kathy and Butch]: one voter he stole from Democrats in 2016, and one voter who preferred him but didn’t turn out. Trump needs both of these voters to break his way in 2020; instead, Kathy is going back into the Democratic fold, and Butch is staying home again...

[H]earing from these voters sure made me wonder whether Trump has any path to reelection. We already knew he’s bleeding support among white suburbanites; if he’s losing any sort of ground with the white working class, it’s difficult to see how he carries a state like Pennsylvania, or Michigan, or Wisconsin—the three battlegrounds that put him in the White House."

There you have it. Losing these voters is the death knell for Trump. Smart Democrats want to keep these voters right where they are. Please notice how sensitive they are on law and order issues. No unforced errors. Let's not screw this one up.

To win, the president needs to capture untapped support from the blue-collar base. In Scranton, he’s not getting the job done.

OK, Enough Is Enough

Really, these violent street demonstrations need to stop. They're accomplishing nothing other than giving Trump a gift. Claire McCaskill gets it right (see below).

As does Bob Kuttner:

"Trump, with the aid of Bill Barr, has come up with the diabolically clever ploy of sending his private federal army into cities whose mayors don’t want the help, ostensibly to protect federal property and prevent violence.

Everyone knows this is a sham, intended to provoke more violence and depict Trump as a law-and-order president. But—wouldn’t you know it—the extreme fringe of the far left is playing into Trump’s hands, aided by a few angry poor people smashing downtown windows. Some people dressing up as antifa may even be right-wing provocateurs.

Mayors are caught in this crossfire. Some were the original targets of protests that were mostly peaceful, but with violent fringes. Now, people are in the streets, mad at everybody....

Asking our far-left comrades to exercise some self-discipline is a fool’s errand. The extreme left loves moments like this. As they used to say, it "heightens the contradictions" of the capitalist system, and brings us closer to the revolution.

Read some fricking history, people. Read about the German communists in the early 1930s who confidently declared, "After Hitler, Us!"

So enough already! And I might add, anyone who is participating in this nonsense, or even supporting it, should be ashamed of themselves.

Image may contain: text that says 'Claire McCaskill @clairecmc Anyone who participates in violence or property damage in the context of a protest is disrespecting the legacy of John Lewis and helping Donald Trump. 8:39 AM Jul 27, 2020 Twitter for iPad'

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Florida and the Latino Vote

CNN dropped several state polls over the weekend--AZ, FL and MI--with Biden way ahead in MI and solidly ahead in both FL and AZ. In fact, with the latest Florida polling, 538 now has Biden's lead at 7.1 points in the state, which is the same lead they give Biden in WI and actually a bit larger than his PA lead (6.7). That's really quite amazing.

I was interested to look at the Latino crosstabs in FL. In 2016, States of Change data had Clinton carrying Latinos by 19 points in the state. In the new CNN poll, that's exactly Biden's current lead among FL Latinos. (The latest Quinnipiac FL poll actually has his lead among Latinos a bit higher at 25 points). This is consistent with other polls I've been tracking, where Biden's lead among Latinos is approaching 2016 levels. Sure, the campaign would like bigger leads but I think the trend is good and is bolstering Biden's performance in states like FL.

Image may contain: text that says 'Who's ahead in Florida? An updating vrag 2020 presidential general election polls, accounting for each poll's quality sample size and recency JULY26 EADER Biden Biden 2% MAR. 2020 Trump43.1% APRIL MAY JUNE JULY'

Democrats Now Favored to Take the Senate

Forecasting models for Senate outcomes are scarce but handicappers like the Cook Political Report, which tends to be fairly conservative in its assessments, are now making Democrats favorites to take the Senate. Obviously, that's a huge deal. Check out this excellent deep dive on the Senate situation from Jessica Taylor from the Cook Political Report: Note they now consider Iowa, Montana and Georgia (Perdue) as tossups.

"With just over 100 days until Election Day, the political climate appears dire for Republicans across the board. President Trump is the decided underdog against former Vice President Joe Biden in our Electoral College ratings and Democrats could end up expanding their House majority.

That leaves the Senate as Republicans' firewall—the final barrier to unified control for Democrats in 2021. While GOP incumbents are trying to run races independent of the president, if Trump’s polling numbers remain this dismal come November, that’s an unenviable and likely unsuccessful strategy, according to several top party strategists. As of now, Democrats are a slight favorite to win the Senate majority.

“Something remarkable would have to happen for Republicans to still have control of the Senate after November,” remarked one GOP pollster. “It’s grim. There’s just so many places where Democrats either have the upper hand or are competitive in states that six months ago we wouldn’t have considered at risk.”...

Taken together, that’s not just a perfect storm for Democrats, but perhaps a perfect tsunami. “The bottom fell out for us at the end of May and June,” with worsening numbers continuing into July now, one national GOP strategist looking at polls across the map bemoaned.

Ultimately, every day that Trump stubbornly refuses to change course is another day that it becomes increasingly likely he may not only tank his own re-election bid but could be on a kamikaze mission to take the Republican-held Senate down with him. At this point, a net gain of five to seven seats for Democrats looks far more probable than the one to three seat gain that would leave them shy of a majority."

With just over 100 days until Election Day, the political climate appears dire for Republicans across the board. President Trump is the decided underdog against former Vice President Joe Biden in our Electoral College ratings and Democrats could end up expanding their House majority.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Echelon Insights: Biden Up 15 in Likely Voter Survey!

Who are Echelon Insights? They are a *Republican* polling firm and one of the best. I know the two principals, Kristin Soltis Anderson and Patrick Ruffini and can vouch for them as excellent researchers who play with a full deck. So these findings are pretty amazing. Check out the whole deck for more findings and an explanation of their methodology.…/july-verified-voter-omnibus-…/

Image may contain: text that says 'Biden Leads +15; Democrats Hold +14 Advantage in Generic Congressional Ballot Match-Up the2020 presidential election being held today, would you vote election Congress were today make choice, Vote President whom would you vote? Biden+ +15 53% 9% 43% 38% Vote orCoe 7% 31% DefinitelyR Probably ProbablyD DefinitelyD Democratic candidate +14 51% 11% 40% 37% 11% 26% Trump Biden (Unsure:99%) 996) Republican Democrat (Unsure: 296)'

Friday, July 24, 2020

The Collapse of Trump's White Noncollege Vote

As I argued yesterday, observers are underestimating the key role of declining white noncollege margins for Trump. Perhaps that has something to do with the fact that, even with vast improvements, Biden still tends to run a deficit with these voters.

But that's not the right way to look at it. Cutting your deficit in one group can be just as important that increasing your advantage in another group--in fact more important, depending on the size of the group and the magnitude of the change.

Case in point: new Fox News polls have Biden ahead in Michigan and Pennsylvania by, respectively, 9 and 11 points. What's the most important driver here? White noncollege voters. In each case, this group should be roughly half of voters in 2020. The Fox polls have Biden's current white noncollege performance in both states at -10. But that compares (using States of Change data) with -29 for Clinton in PA in 2016 and -21 in MI. These huge swings move the vote heavily in the Democratic direction even if Biden is still losing the group overall to Trump in both states.

You cannot understand what's going on in this election without taking this dynamic into account.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden leads President Donald Trump in the battleground states of Michigan, Minnesota, and Pennsylvania, according to Fox News statewide registered voter surveys.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Where Has Trump Lost Support Relative to 2016?

David Wasserman has an interesting piece up on the NBC News site on where Trump has bled support from his former coalition. The graphic below is informative though I do think there are some problems with Wasserman's analysis.

His basic take:

"In the wake of a pandemic and the protests following George Floyd's death, voters' support for President Donald Trump has tanked.

His average deficit against Joe Biden in national polls has ballooned from 6 percentage points in March to 9 points in July. In the latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, published last week, the former vice president leads Trump 51 percent to 40 percent — larger than his 7-point lead in the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll from June.

But a closer look at the cross-tabs of recent surveys yields some surprising findings: Trump is actually performing a bit better with nonwhites than he did against Hillary Clinton in 2016. And the group fueling Biden's polling surge is seniors and white voters with college degrees."

So it's seniors and white college grads, he says. White I agree that both shifts are very important, I have some slight disagreements. First, I think his analysis shorts the importance of the white noncollege vote. The chart below shows white college grads moving Democratic by 12 margin points (+9 to +21) but also shows white noncollege voters Republican margin being compressed from -24 to -18. That's 6 margin points which is not nothing. Moreover, since the white noncollege group is roughly 50 percent larger than the white college group the impact of that 6 point shift is magnified so that the impact on the overall Democratic margin is fairly close between the two groups (white noncollege impact is about 3/4 of the white college impact).

The second point is that his analysis is sensitive to the baseline chosen for 2016. Here he uses the Cooperative Congressional Election Survey (CCES) to compare to his basket of 2020 polls. The CCES is a fine survey but it is not, by itself, the best choice for a comparison. Better, for example are the States of Change estimates which actually combine the CCES data with Census data on vote demographics and actual election results down to the county level. These data when compared to the 2020 polls show a 13 points pro-Democratic shift among white noncollege voters compared to a 14 point shift among white college voters--so roughly the same. But since white noncollege is so much larger a group, the impact of the white noncollege shift is significantly larger.…/who-s-behind-trump-s-big-polling-…

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Wednesday, July 22, 2020

No Such Thing As Cancel Culture, Eh?

To those who insist, absurdly, that cancel culture does not exist and that the discourse has not been chilled by a fear of being called out for Wrongthink, I offer these new results from a Cato Institute national survey on political expression. Note: for those inclined to discount a survey from Cato, I'd say (1) that's narrow-minded and (2) I personally know Emily Ekins, the political scientist who conducted the survey and she is a top-notch and fair-mined researcher.

"A new Cato national survey finds that self‐​censorship is on the rise in the United States. Nearly two-thirds—62%—of Americans say the political climate these days prevents them from saying things they believe because others might find them offensive. The share of Americans who self‐​censor has risen several points since 2017 when 58% of Americans agreed with this statement.

These fears cross partisan lines. Majorities of Democrats (52%), independents (59%) and Republicans (77%) all agree they have political opinions they are afraid to share.

Strong liberals stand out, however, as the only political group who feel they can express themselves. Nearly 6 in 10 (58%) of staunch liberals feel they can say what they believe. However, centrist liberals feel differently. A slim majority (52%) of liberals feel they have to self‐​censor, as do 64% of moderates, and 77% of conservatives. This demonstrates that political expression is an issue that divides the Democratic coalition between centrist Democrats and their left flank."…/poll-62-americans-say-they-have-poli…

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