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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Kavanaugh and the Midterms

In Defying the Odds, we discuss how the issue of Supreme Court nominations affected the 2016 race.

Susan Page at USA Today:
More Americans oppose than support the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, a new USA TODAY/Ipsos Public Affairs Poll finds, an unprecedented level of disapproval for a nominee to the nation's high court.
Amid allegations of sexual assault against Kavanaugh, those surveyed say by 40 percent to 31 percent that the Senate shouldn't vote to approve his nomination, the first time a plurality of Americans have opposed a Supreme Court nominee since polling on the issue began. Nonetheless, they also are inclined to believe he will, in the end, be confirmed: Just 11 percent predict he won't; 45 percent say he will.

The findings underscore the serious political stakes – and the potential for blowback in the midterm elections now little more than six weeks away.
From Gallup:

 Support for Prior Supreme Court Nominees, Final Survey, 1987-2018
Would you like to see the Senate vote in favor of […] serving on the Supreme Court, or not?
Vote in favor Not vote in favor Margin
% % pct. pts.
Brett Kavanaugh 39 42 -3
Neil Gorsuch 45 32 +13
Merrick Garland 52 29 +23
Elena Kagan 46 36 +10
Sonia Sotomayor 55 36 +19
Samuel Alito 54 30 +24
Harriet Miers 42 43 -1
John Roberts 60 26 +34
Ruth Bader Ginsburg 53 14 +39
Clarence Thomas 58 30 +28
Robert Bork 38 35 +3
Reading for Kavanaugh is latest. Gallup did not measure support for the nominations of Anthony Kennedy, David Souter or Stephen Breyer. Gallup measured support for Neil Gorsuch, Merrick Garland and Ruth Bader Ginsburg just once, shortly after each was first nominated.
Gallup

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Rohabacher Update

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race

The CA 48 race between Dana Rohrabacher and Harley Rouda is very close.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

First Paper for Structured Independent Study

Answer one of the following:
  1. Take any chapter in the Herrnson book and write a brief update taking into account developments since its publication early in 2016, including that year's elections.  What do we know now that we did not know then?  How does this new information bear on his analysis and conclusions?
  2. Choose any current election for the House or Senate.  What do the television campaign ads tell us about the strategies of the Democratic and Republican nominees?  (In most cases, you may find them on YouTube.) Some examples here: https://www.vox.com/2018/9/14/17852386/campaign-ads-2018-midterms-gop-cruz   In your analysis, consider the economic, demographic, and political makeup makeup of the constituency.
  3. How will the Kavanaugh controversy affect key races for the Senate in 2018? See the list at https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2018/9/3/17800588/2018-midterm-elections-senate .  In your answer, take into account public opinion surveys as well as the political history of contentious Supreme Court nominations (especially Clarence Thomas).
  • Essays should be typed (12-point), double-spaced, and between five and six pages long. I will not read past the sixth page. 
  • Submit papers as Word documents, not pdfs.
  • Cite your sources. Use Turabian/Chicago endnotes. 
  • Watch your spelling, grammar, diction, and punctuation. Errors will count against you. Email me your papers by October 5.  I reserve the right to dock late papers one gradepoint for one day's lateness, a full letter grade after that.

Dark Money Disclosure ... For Now

In Defying the Odds, we discuss congressional elections as well as the presidential race.  Campaign finance is a big part of the story.

Adam Liptak at NYT:
In a victory for advocates of campaign finance transparency, the Supreme Court refused on Tuesday to block a trial judge’s ruling that required some nonprofit groups that place political advertisements to disclose the names of their contributors.
The Supreme Court’s brief order gave no reasons and did not note any dissenting votes. The order vacated an earlier one entered on Saturday by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. that temporarily blocked the ruling.
That ruling, issued last month by Judge Beryl A. Howell of the Federal District Court in Washington, required many nonprofit groups that placed advertisements supporting or opposing political candidates to disclose the identities of donors who had contributed more than $200. Before the ruling, such groups could generally shield their donors from public scrutiny.
The case was brought by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, a watchdog group. It sued the Federal Election Commission and Crossroads GPS, a conservative group. Judge Howell struck down a federal regulation that had effectively allowed secret contributions, saying it conflicted with a federal statute.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Rich People are Better Off. Everyone Else...

 In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House.  Those divides, however, are now working against him. Despite reports of robust economic growth, Trump's approval rating is sagging and Republicans are in serious danger of losing the House.  What is happening?

At NYT, Nelson D. Schwartz writes about the aftermath of the 2008 crash.
A decade later, things are eerily calm. The economy, by nearly any official measure, is robust. Wall Street is flirting with new highs. And the housing market, the epicenter of the crash, has recovered in many places. But like the diary stored in Ms. Swonk’s basement, the scars of the financial crisis and the ensuing Great Recession are still with us, just below the surface.
The most profound of these is that the uneven nature of the recovery compounded a long-term imbalance in the accumulation of wealth. As a consequence, what it means to be secure has changed. Wealth, real wealth, now comes from investment portfolios, not salaries. Fortunes are made through an initial public offering, a grant of stock options, a buyout or another form of what high-net-worth individuals call a liquidity event.
Data from the Federal Reserve show that over the last decade and a half, the proportion of family income from wages has dropped from nearly 70 percent to just under 61 percent. It’s an extraordinary shift, driven largely by the investment profits of the very wealthy. In short, the people who possess tradable assets, especially stocks, have enjoyed a recovery that Americans dependent on savings or income from their weekly paycheck have yet to see. Ten years after the financial crisis, getting ahead by going to work every day seems quaint, akin to using the phone book to find a number or renting a video at Blockbuster.
...
When the bubble burst, the bedrock investment for many families was wiped out by a combination of falling home values and too much debt. A decade after this debacle, the typical middle-class family’s net worth is still more than $40,000 below where it was in 2007, according to the Federal Reserve. The damage done to the middle-class psyche is impossible to price, of course, but no one doubts that it was vast.
In December reported at Bloomberg:
President Donald Trump is trying out a new campaign slogan: “How’s your 401(k) doing?” The answer for more than half of Americans is that they don’t have one.

Trump has tested out the line this month at a fundraiser, a campaign rally and in a White House meeting, predicting that the rising U.S. stock market will help him win re-election. But only about 45 percent of private-sector workers participate in any employer-sponsored retirement plan, and the lower-income workers in Trump’s political base are the least likely to hold money in such an account, according to the Government Accountability Office.
Ditto the GOP tax cut.  Quentin Fottrell at MarketWatch:
Approximately 76.4 million or 44.4% of Americans won’t pay any federal income tax in 2018, up from 72.6 million people or 43.2% in 2016 before President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, according to data released Thursday by the Tax Policy Center, a nonprofit joint venture by the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, which are both Washington, D.C.-based think tanks. That’s below the 50% peak during the Great Recession. They still obviously pay sales tax, property taxes and other taxes.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Caution about the Democrats' Leftward Drift

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the Sanders candidacy and the leftward drift of the Democratic Party.

At Brookings, Elaine Kamarck and Alexander Podkul urge caution about overstating the Democrats' leftward drift.
For every stunning progressive upset—such as the victories of Ayanna Presley in her Massachusetts congressional primary or Andrew Gillum in the Florida gubernatorial primary—there are victories of more conventional Democratic candidates. Gov. Andrew Cuomo easily won his re-nomination in New York, and likewise Sen. Tom Carper (DE), handily beat Our Revolution-endorsed Kerri Harris in Delaware’s U.S. Senate primary.

...
As the following table reports, self-identified progressive Democrats did well. A total of 101 progressive Democrats won their primaries, which was just under 3 in 10 of all progressives. However, establishment candidates fared somewhat better. A total of 139 won their primaries, with better than 1 in 3 establishment candidates winning the Democratic nomination.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Economic Inequality and the Midterm

 In Defying the Odds, we talk about the social and economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House.  Those divides, however, are now working against him. Despite reports of robust economic growth, Trump's approval rating is sagging and Republicans are in serious danger of losing the House.  What is happening?

First, the situation is not unique.  In 2006, just before the midterm "thumpin'" that cost Republicans control of Congress, President Bush expressed confidence that the economy would save his party.  Eduardo Porter at NYT, 10/24/2006:
President Bush, in hopes of winning credit for his party’s stewardship of the economy, is spending two days this week campaigning on the theme that the economy is purring. “No question that a strong economy is going to help our candidates,” Mr. Bush said in a CNBC interview yesterday, “primarily because they have got something to run on, they can say our economy’s good because I voted for tax relief.”
But Republican candidates do not seem to be getting any traction from the glowing economic statistics with midterm elections just two weeks away.
The economy is virtually nowhere to be found among the campaign ads of embattled Republican incumbents fighting to hold onto their House or Senate seats. Nor is it showing up as a strong weapon in the arsenal of Republican governors defending their jobs from Democrats.
“I don’t know of another election cycle in which the economy was so good, yet the election prospects for the incumbent party looked so bad,” said Frank Luntz, a Republican strategist. “If something goes wrong, Republicans are to blame. If something goes right, Republicans don’t get credit.”
Second, for millions of Americans, the economy is not so greatPatricia Cohen at NYT:
As new research illustrates, two groups in particular have stalled: whites without a college degree, and blacks and Hispanics with one. Both are being far outpaced by college-educated whites.
“America has been a story of getting ahead, of progress,” said Morris P. Fiorina, a political scientist at Stanford University. “There’s been no story of progress — for them.”
The findings, part of a study on the demographics of wealth between 1989 and 2016 from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, show significant advances in education and earnings among white, black and Hispanic Americans over that period. A Census Bureau report this week also showed continued income gains last year. But the study highlights the growing importance of relative shifts in position up or down the income ladder at a time when the economy’s riches are flowing increasingly to the wealthiest sliver.
The economic swoops and comebacks of the last three decades have chipped away at many measures of well-being. An advanced global economy has radically revalued the contributions of blue-collar labor and technological skills.
The lingering economic insecurity has fired resentments, sharpened identity politics and fueled populism on the right and left that is upending hierarchies in the Democratic and Republican Parties.
But parallels between whites who did not finish college and blacks and Hispanics who did show that “this is not clearly a race story and not clearly an education story,” said William R. Emmons, an economist at the St. Louis Fed and a co-author of its report.
David Leonhardt at NYT:
The stock market, for example, has completely recovered from the financial crisis, and then some. Stocks are now worth almost 60 percent more than when the crisis began in 2007, according to a inflation-adjusted measure from Moody’s Analytics. But wealthy households own the bulk of stocks. Most Americans are much more dependent on their houses. That’s why the net worth of the median household is still about 20 percent lower than it was in early 2007. When television commentators drone on about the Dow, they’re not talking about a good measure of most people’s wealth.
The unemployment rate has also become less meaningful than it once was. In recent decades, the number of idle working-age adults has surged. They are not working, not looking for work, not going to school and not taking care of children. Many of them would like to work, but they can’t find a decent-paying job and have given up looking. They are not countedin the official unemployment rate.