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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, June 22, 2018


 In Defying the Odds, we discuss state and congressional politics as well as the presidential race.

Josh Voorhees at Slate:
When Amy McGrath, a Kentucky Democrat, kicked off her congressional campaign last year with a slickly produced ad about her struggle to become the first female fighter pilot, it was hailed as the best ad of the early midterms cycle and helped vault her to a primary victory last month. Now, a Democrat in Texas may have done her one better.

MJ Hegar, an Air Force veteran who is running against Republican Rep. John Carter in a dark-red district in central Texas, released a bio ad on Wednesday that tells the story of how her military helicopter was shot down by the Taliban in Afghanistan, and how she later sued the Pentagon to overturn its ban on women serving in ground-combat.

Some high praise from a famous source:

Thursday, June 21, 2018


In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's positions on immigration.

John Haltiwanger at Business Insider:
President Donald Trump on Wednesday signed an executive order he said will end the separation of migrant families at the US-Mexico border. But immigration lawyers and experts are concerned by the vague language of the order and warn it leaves significant space for interpretation.
In particular, lawyers are concerned with this line: "It is ... the policy of this Administration to maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources."
Greg Siskind, an immigration lawyer based in Memphis, Tennessee, told Business Insider that the wording grants US Customs and Border Protection the "option" to "continue with family separation."
"They didn't have to use that language. They could've been very clear family separation is not the policy of the US," Siskind added. "It all seems designed to jail people who shouldn't be jailed."

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

A New Testament Verse for the Age of Trump

James 2:2-7 (NIV)

2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?
5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Rich People

In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House. We quote Joan C. Williams on why Trump supporters resent professionals but not rich people:
"For one thing, most blue-collar workers have little direct contact with the rich outside of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. But professionals order them around every day."

The 43% of Democrats who say the U.S. benefits from having a class of rich people is down significantly from six years ago, and Democrats remain much more negative than either Republicans or independents about the impact of a rich class. Roughly eight in 10 (81%) Republicans and 57% of independents say having a rich class is good for the nation, little changed from 2012.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Trump Effect v. Economy Effect

Here's how to predict whether Republicans will actually lose the House in November: Do you think the election will turn on President Trump's low approval ratings, or the booming economy?
  • As you see in this interactive graphic, the GOP would lose 68 seats based on the saggy presidential approval but gain 55 if you go by the booming economy.
Between the lines: The party in power tends to do well in the House during midterm elections when voters are happy with the economy, but it does poorly when the president's approval rating is low, Axios' Harry Stevens and Caitlin Owens write:
  •  There's no recent precedent in which the economy is doing well but the president's approval rating is underwater.
  • Darrell West of Brookings: “Generally, it’s been 'the economy, stupid' that’s been the major issue. But this year it could be, 'It’s Trump, stupid.' Because Trump just dominates everything. He dominates news coverage, he dominates social media activities. He’s a very inviting target for Democrats.”
So it depends what matters to voters. As we found in 2016, they matter more than pundits.

Friday, June 15, 2018


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

Many posts have discussed attitudes toward immigrants and various  ethnic and racial groups.

Thomas Edsall at NYT:
Steven Miller and Nicholas Davis, political scientists at Clemson University and Texas A&M, report on poll data collected by the World Values Survey between 1995 and 2011 in their recent paper, “White Outgroup Intolerance and Declining Support for American Democracy”:
Social intolerance of immigrants, those who speak a different language, and those from a different race leads to increased support for strongman rule in the U.S., potential rule of U.S. government by the army, and decreases support for even having a democracy in the U.S.
Intolerance, they continue,
increases white individuals’ openness to undemocratic alternatives — white Americans who exhibit social intolerance are more likely to dismiss the value of separation of powers.
Because the Miller-Davis study is based on survey data collected well before the 2016 election, the two authors write, “our analysis might undersell the strength of the relationship between intolerance and anti-democratic attitudes.”
Their research suggests that anti-democratic attitudes are on the rise. The percentage of whites who qualified as socially intolerant doubled from 12.6 percent in 1995 to 24.9 percent in 2011, when the most recent World Values Survey was conducted. If that rate of increase were to continue, the percentage of whites in 2020 who would qualify as intolerant would be almost a third.
One of Miller and Davis’s most striking findings is that among socially intolerant whites, education heightens hostility to immigrants and fails to moderate the anti-democratic orientation of these white Americans.
Miller and Davis argue that college-educated white Americans who are
prejudiced against ethnolinguistic difference are much more likely to see democracy as empowering these minority groups beyond their numerical endowment, extending rights and liberties to groups that these white Americans see as unwelcome.
How does this operate? The best educated among those already hostile to immigrants are the ones who are best equipped intellectually to recognize that “democracy involves the institutionalized protection of the rights of various minority groups,” which is just what intolerant voters oppose.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Understanding Populism

In Defying the Odds, we trace Trump's outsiderism to earlier figures.

Jay Cost has a paper at AEI titled “`The Humble Members of Society' Understanding Populism in the United States.  The executive summary:
This report traces the antiestablishment roots of populism, arguing that it is a manifestation of the principal problem inherent to representative government. In the Anglo-American political universe, it first appeared in the early 18th century in the ways the Country Whigs modified the English Commonwealth tradition to attack the economic policies of Robert Walpole.

Migrating to America after the Seven Years’ War, it manifested itself in the Anti-Federalist opposition to the Constitution, Jeffersonian complaints about Hamiltonian economics, and Jacksonian democracy. In all these instances, populist antiestablishment sentiment envisioned a kind of conspiracy of the wealthy, well-born, and connected to hijack republican government, denying the rightful rule of the people and ensconcing the elite in permanent power.

As industrial capitalism facilitated vast inequalities of wealth and power, the ancient anxieties have been notably persistent—such as the agrarian Populists and Bull Moose Progressives, the George Wallace phenomenon, and finally the tea party and Trump movement. While the complaints of each faction are different in the specifics, the underlying grievance, that the privileged few have interfered with the connection between the people and their elected leaders, has been notably consistent.