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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Republicans Smell a Democratic Wave

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional races as well as the presidential election.

Michael Scherer, Josh Dawsey and Sean Sullivan at WP:
A raft of retirements, difficulty recruiting candidates and President Trump’s continuing pattern of throwing his party off message have prompted new alarm among Republicans that they could be facing a Democratic electoral wave in November.
The concern has grown so acute that Trump received what one congressional aide described as a “sobering” slide presentation about the difficult midterm landscape at Camp David last weekend, leading the president to pledge a robust schedule of fundraising and campaign travel in the coming months, White House officials said.
But the trends have continued, and perhaps worsened, since that briefing, with two more prominent Republican House members announcing plans to retire from vulnerable seats and a would-be recruit begging off a Senate challenge to Democrat Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota despite pressure from Trump to run.
And by the end of the week, many Republicans were scrambling to distance themselves from the president after he spoke of “shithole countries” during an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers about immigration policy. Rep. Mia Love (R-Utah), a rising star in the party who faces a strong Democratic challenge this year, quickly denounced Trump for apparently denigrating Haiti, the birthplace of both her parents, during the Oval Office discussion.
Republican strategists have turned decidedly pessimistic about their prospects for the 2018 midterm elections.
Prominent Republicans are now saying privately that Democrats are virtually certain to win control of the House of Representatives.
As one senior Republican on Capitol Hill told ABC News, “If the election were held today, the House would be gone. Fortunately, the election is not today.”
Another prominent Republican strategist working on the midterm elections went further, telling ABC News point-blank that Republicans will lose the House and that this prospect unlikely to change.
“The only question is whether Democrats win narrowly by picking up 25 seats or whether it is a blowout of more than 35 seats,” the strategist told me.
Dante Chinni at NBC:
On top of those political measures of competitiveness, the 30 retirement districts show some demographic points of concern for the GOP.
Among the 30 retirement districts, 11 are above the national average for populations with a college degree.
That could be a problem for the Republicans. In the December NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 57 percent of those with a college-education said they would prefer that the Democrats control Congress, compared to 36 percent of the group who favor Republican control.
And the racial composition of the retirement districts should be worrying for Republicans as well.
Twelve of the retirement districts are above the national average, 38.7 percent, for their minority population. The Republican Party has long struggled to reach minority voters, and those problems have been exacerbated under President Donald Trump.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Bleeding Red

 In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House.

In Coming Apart, Charles Murray explains why he includes knowledge of military insignia in his famous "bubble test."
In the 2000 census, 26.4 million Americans were veterans of the armed forces. In mainstream America, just about every neighborhood is peppered with numerous veterans, and the local chapter of the VFW or American Legion is still a significant civic force in much of America.
It’s not only about jobs, income, opioids or even race. It is also about the impact of America’s 21st-century wars, and who has done the actual fighting and dying.

The fact is that red state residents are over 20% more likely to join the military, while the denizens of blue America punch way above their weight when it comes to college. Even as Hillary Clinton won 2.86 million more votes, Trump won 60% of veterans.

Ironically, the George W Bush administration helped set the stage for Trump. There was a notable correlation between battlefield casualties and support for Trump. Those parts of the US that felt the carnage more as a reality than as an abstract swung Republican. According to Douglas L Kriner of Boston University and Francis X Shen of the University of Minnesota, “Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Michigan could very well have been winners for Clinton if their war casualties were lower.”
The abstract of the Kriner-Shen article:
America has been at war continuously for over 15 years, but few Americans seem to notice. This is because the vast majority of citizens have no direct connection to those soldiers fighting, dying, and returning wounded from combat. Increasingly, a divide is emerging between communities whose young people are dying to defend the country, and those communities whose young people are not. In this paper we empirically explore whether this divide—the casualty gap—contributed to Donald Trump’s surprise victory in November 2016. The data analysis presented in this working paper finds that indeed, in the 2016 election Trump was speaking to this forgotten part of America. Even controlling in a statistical model for many other alternative explanations, we find that there is a significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump. Our statistical model suggests that if three states key to Trump’s victory – Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin – had suffered even a modestly lower casualty rate, all three could have flipped from red to blue and sent Hillary Clinton to the White House. There are many implications of our findings, but none as important as what this means for Trump’s foreign policy. If Trump wants to win again in 2020, his electoral fate may well rest on the administration’s approach to the human costs of war. Trump should remain highly sensitive to American combat casualties, lest he become yet another politician who overlooks the invisible inequality of military sacrifice. More broadly, the findings suggest that politicians from both parties would do well to more directly recognize and address the needs of those communities whose young women and men are making the ultimate sacrifice for the country.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Anti-Rohrabacher Ad

 In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional races as well as the presidential election.

Issa and Royce are out. Now, Barbara Boxer's PAC for a Change is going after Dana Rohrabacher.

Friday, January 12, 2018

Trump Would Have Called Ireland a Shithole Country

Had he been around in the 1840s, he would have described Ireland -- the birthplace of most of my great-great grandparents -- as a shithole.

From The Times,  March 8, 1847:
There is one feature of the famine in Ireland which has forcibly impressed itself on the English public, and which we animadvert on now for the benefit of those whom it specially concerns. So shockingly prominent is it, that we venture to say it will ever be recorded as distinguishing the present from similar calamities. The astounding apathy of the Irish themselves to the most horrible scenes immediately under their eyes, and capable of relief by the smallest exertion, is something absolutely without a parallel in the history of civilized nations. All that we read of in the description of Turkish or Chinese fatalism, of the indifference to life on the banks of the Ganges, or the brutality of piratical tribes, sinks to nothing, taking examples and opportunities into account, compared with the absolute inertia of the Irish in the midst of the most horrifying scenes.
The Turkish predestinarian sees a fellow-creature struggling for life in the water, and will not even throw him a rope though it lies at his feet. He sees a poor wretch assaulted by assassins in the street, and does not even take the pipe from his mouth to lend a hand or raise an alarm.We can understand this, shocking as it is; but we cannot understand what appears to be of daily occurrence in Ireland, and what we have on the authority of persons who seem to share the general stupidity.


Reactions to Trump's Racist Comments

Trump's description  of "shithole countries" has sparked quite a reaction.

Associated Press:
The U.S. president is only hurting himself both at home and abroad, some Africans said.

“He has not only insulted Africans, he has also insulted African-Americans,” said Sylvester Odion Akhaine, associate professor of international relations at the Lagos State University in Nigeria. “Internationally, such language will deepen the isolation of the United States, a country that is already losing its global prestige.”

An opposition lawmaker in Ghana called for a boycott by developing countries against the United States until Trump leaves office. “The sooner he is made aware that America needs the world and the world needs America the better it is for all of us,” Ras Mubarak said.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

"Shithole Countries"

  In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character.

Josh Dawsey at WP:
President Trump grew frustrated with lawmakers Thursday in the Oval Office when they discussed protecting immigrants from Haiti, El Salvador and African countries as part of a bipartisan immigration deal, according to several people briefed on the meeting.
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to these people, referring to countries mentioned by the lawmakers.
Trump then suggested that the United States should instead bring more people from countries such as Norway, whose prime minister he met with Wednesday. The president, according to a White House official, also suggested he would be open to more immigrants from Asian countries because he felt they help the United States economically.
In addition, the president singled out Haiti, telling lawmakers that immigrants from that country must be left out of any deal, these people said.
“Why do we need more Haitians?” Trump said, according to people familiar with the meeting. “Take them out.”

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Issa Out

In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional races as well as the presidential election.

Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA-49) just announced that he will not seek reelection.  He had a very close race in 2016 and was going to be a top Democratic target in 2018.  

There is a stark regional divide in California politics:  not just north-south, but coastal-inland.

Issa is one of just two California Republican House members whose district touches the Pacific Ocean.  The other is Dana Rohrabacher.  Both districts are potential Democratic pickupsl

That is not mere coincidence. Coastal districts have different demographics and economics,  They are also more attuned to environmental issues, and the Trump administration's decision to allow new offshore oil drilling (except in Florida) is likely to be unpopular in any district where one can smell seawater.