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Divided We Stand

Divided We Stand
New book about the 2020 election.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Return to Gucci Gulch

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax issue in the 2016 campaign. Trump railed against special interests and claimed to be the champion of ordinary Americans.
Binyamin Applebaum at NYT:

The tax plan that the Trump administration outlined on Wednesday is a potentially huge windfall for the wealthiest Americans. It would not directly benefit the bottom third of the population. As for the middle class, the benefits appear to be modest.
The administration and its congressional allies are proposing to sharply reduce taxation of business income, primarily benefiting the small share of the population that owns the vast majority of corporate equity. President Trump said on Wednesday that the cuts would increase investment and spur growth, creating broader prosperity. But experts say the upside is limited, not least because the economy is already expanding.
The plan would also benefit Mr. Trump and other affluent Americans by eliminating the estate tax, which affects just a few thousand uber-wealthy families each year, and the alternative minimum tax, a safety net designed to prevent tax avoidance.
The precise impact on Mr. Trump cannot be ascertained because the president refuses to release his tax returns, but the few snippets of returns that have become public show one thing clearly: The alternative minimum tax has been unkind to Mr. Trump. In 2005, it forced him to pay $31 million in additional taxes.
Alen Rappeport and Thomas Kaplan at NYT:
Opposition from the real estate industry was swift and vocal, with trade groups strongly criticizing elements of the plan that they say will make home-buying less attractive and weaken the housing market. While the plan specifically calls for preserving the mortgage interest deduction, real estate agents are warning that a proposal to double the standard deduction will make taxpayers less likely to itemize their tax returns and claim the mortgage deduction.
The most politically fraught proposal is eliminating the state and local tax deduction, which allows taxpayers who itemize to write off their property, state and local taxes. The measure is particularly prized in blue states with high property taxes, but is also widely used in some Republican districts in Virginia, New Jersey and California.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

How HRC Lost

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the mechanics of the 2016 campaign as well as the economic distress that brought down the Democrats.

Stanley Greenberg in The American Prospect:
The campaign relied far too heavily on something that campaign technicians call “data analytics.” This refers to the use of models built from a database of the country’s 200 million voters, including turnout history and demographic and consumer information, updated daily by an automated poll asking for vote preference to project the election result. But when campaign developments overtake the model’s assumptions, you get surprised by the voters—and this happened repeatedly.

Campaign manager Robby Mook and his team believed that identity politics, demographic trends, and Trump’s temperament would be enough to win, so they could avoid confronting the “trust problem.”

Astonishingly, the 2016 Clinton campaign conducted no state polls in the final three weeks of the general election and relied primarily on data analytics to project turnout and the state vote. They paid little attention to qualitative focus groups or feedback from the field, and their brief daily poll didn’t measure which candidate was defining the election or getting people engaged.
The fatal conclusion the Clinton team made after the Michigan primary debacle was that she could not win white working-class voters, and that the “rising electorate” would make up the difference. She finished her campaign with rallies in inner cities and university towns. Macomb got the message. “When you leave the two-thirds of Americans without college degrees out of your vision of the good life, they notice,” Joan Williams writes sharply in White Working Class: Overcoming Class Cluelessness in America.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Russia Sought to Divide Us

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Adam Entous, Craig Timberg and Elizabeth Dwoskin report at WP:
The batch of more than 3,000 Russian-bought ads that Facebook is preparing to turn over to Congress shows a deep understanding of social divides in American society, with some ads promoting African American rights groups, including Black Lives Matter, and others suggesting that these same groups pose a rising political threat, say people familiar with the covert influence campaign.
The Russian campaign — taking advantage of Facebook’s ability to send contrary messages to different groups of users based on their political and demographic characteristics — also sought to sow discord among religious groups. Other ads highlighted support for Democrat Hillary Clinton among Muslim women.
These targeted messages, along with others that have surfaced in recent days, highlight the sophistication of an influence campaign slickly crafted to mimic and infiltrate U.S. political discourse while also seeking to heighten tensions between groups already wary of one another.
While Facebook has played down the impact of the Russian ads on the election, Dennis Yu, chief technology officer for BlitzMetrics, a digital marketing company that focuses on Facebook ads, said that $100,000 worth of Facebook ads could have been viewed hundreds of millions of times.

According to Yu, “$100,000 worth of very concentrated posts is very, very powerful. When you have a really hot post, you often get this viral multiplier. So when you buy this one ad impression, you can get an extra 20- to 40-times multiplier because those people comment and share it.”

Monday, September 25, 2017

Counties Left Behind

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the economic distress that brought down the Democrats.
Non-college whites felt isolated, and in a direct geographical sense. In recent years, the people most likely to move for better opportunities were the highly educated, who clustered in places such as Silicon Valley, New York, Boston, and Seattle. The counties encompassing such areas accounted for much of the growth in new businesses after the Great Recession. Government spending enabled lobbyists and contractors to flourish: five of the nation’s ten wealthiest counties were suburbs of Washington, DC. Meanwhile, small rural counties shrank and faltered. In the recovery of the early 1990s, they had accounted for a third of net increase in new businesses. From 2010 through 2014, they lost more businesses than they generated.
Kim Hart at Axios:
U.S. geographical economic inequality is growing, meaning your economic opportunity is more tied to your location than ever before. A large portion of the country is being left behind by today's economy, according to a county-by-county report released this morning by the Economic Innovation Group, a non-profit research and advocacy organization. This was a major election theme that helped thrust Donald Trump to the White House.
Key findings:
  • New jobs are clustered in the economy's best-off places, leaving one of every four new jobs for the bottom 60 percent of zip codes.
  • 57% of the national rise in business establishments and 52% of employment growth from 2011-2015 were in prosperous areas.
  • Most of today's distressed communities have seen zero net gains in employment and business establishment since 2000. In fact, more than half have seen net losses on both fronts.
  • Half of adults living in distressed zip codes are attempting to find gainful employment in the modern economy armed with only a high school education at best.
  • The healthier the economy, the healthier the person: People in distressed communities die five years earlier

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Todd Akin, the 2017 Edition

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

On Friday, Trump gave an odd, rambling speech, nominally in support of appointed Senator Luther Strange in the Alabama runoff. Jonathan Martin at NYT:
“If Luther doesn’t win, they’re not going to say we picked up 25 points in a very short period of time, they’re going say, ‘Donald Trump, the president of the United States, was unable to pull his candidate across the line,’” he predicted to 7,500 Alabamians at a rally on Friday night as Mr. Strange looked on.

His blurting out of his political stage directions was a vintage moment of Trumpian indiscretion. But it also had the benefit of being accurate. The contest between Mr. Strange and Roy Moore, a former State Supreme Court justice and evangelical firebrand, is the most significant test yet of the president’s power to sway the party’s conservative base.
“If Roy Moore wins, Bannon and all the other of those people will pop out of the woodwork everywhere,” said Senator Richard C. Shelby, the veteran Alabama Republican, referring to the former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon, who has taken a leading role against the preferred candidate of his former boss. 
Moore was removed from the bench for defying a court order to take down the Ten Commandments from the State Supreme Court.  In the past, he supported banning homosexual acts.
It is the sort of message that terrifies Republican elites, who fear he could be a more weaponized version of Todd Akin, the 2012 Missouri Senate candidate who lost after saying women’s bodies could block a pregnancy in cases of “legitimate rape.”
“Roy Moore would be the Todd Akin of 2017 and 2018 for every Republican on the ballot,” said Karl Rove, the Republican strategist, who is aligned with the Senate Leadership Fund. “Republicans will be asked, ‘Do you agree homosexuality should be punished by death, do you believe 9/11 was a result of God’s anger?’ He’ll say outrageous things, the media will play it up, and every Republican will be asked, ‘Do you agree with that?’”
 “I think they’ll go after that seat,” Mr. Shelby said of the Democrats’ approach should Mr. Moore win on Tuesday. That is less likely if Mr. Strange captures the nomination, he said. “If Luther wins, he’s in.”
The Senate Democratic campaign arm has lined up a pollster to test Mr. Jones’s strengths and Mr. Moore’s vulnerabilities. And Alabama Democrats are openly rooting for the former judge.
 “We want Roy Moore to win that primary,” said Patricia Todd, a Democratic state representative from Birmingham. “He gives us a better shot in the general election.”

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Russians Hacked Election Systems in 2016

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Jeff Mulvihill and Jake Pearson report at AP:
The federal government on Friday told election officials in 21 states that hackers targeted their systems before last year’s presidential election.

The notification came roughly a year after U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials first said states were targeted by hacking efforts possibly connected to Russia. The states that told The Associated Press they had been targeted included some key political battlegrounds, such as Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The AP contacted every state election office to determine which ones had been informed that their election systems had been targeted. The others confirming were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

Being targeted does not mean that sensitive voter data was manipulated or results were changed. A hacker targeting a system without getting inside is similar to a burglar circling a house checking for unlocked doors and windows.

Even so, the widespread nature of the attempts and the yearlong lag time in notification from Homeland Security raised concerns among some election officials and lawmakers.

Low Life Expectancy and Trump Support

Defying the Odds goes into some length on the economic and social distress that boosted Trump. Ironiclly,
Senate Republicans have supported unpopular legislation that would have worsened this distress.

At the American Journal of Public Health, Jacob Bor has an article titled "Diverging Life Expectancies and Voting Patterns in the 2016 US Presidential Election."

The abstract:
Objectives. To assess whether voting patterns in the 2016 US presidential election were correlated with long-run trends in county life expectancy.
Methods. I examined county-level voting data from the 2008 and 2016 presidential elections and assessed Donald Trump’s share of the 2016 vote, change in the Republican vote share between 2008 and 2016, and changes in absolute numbers of Democratic and Republican votes. County-level estimates of life expectancy at birth were obtained for 1980 and 2014 from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Results. Changes in county life expectancy from 1980 to 2014 were strongly negatively associated with Trump’s vote share, with less support for Trump in counties experiencing greater survival gains. Counties in which life expectancy stagnated or declined saw a 10-percentage-point increase in the Republican vote share between 2008 and 2016.
Conclusions. Residents of counties left out from broader life expectancy gains abandoned the Democratic Party in the 2016 presidential election. Since coming to power, the Trump administration has proposed cuts to health insurance for the poor, social programs, health research, and environmental and worker protections, which are key determinants of population health. Health gaps likely will continue to widen without significant public investment in population health.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Trump, Buchanan, Sam Francis, and Paleocon Racism

In Defying the Odds, we note that Pat Buchanan's 1992 campaign foreshadowed the Trump campaign:
After growing up in Washington, DC, earning degrees at Georgetown and Columbia, working as a White House aide in two Republican administrations, and logging many hours on the television talk-show circuit, Buchanan was yet another insider who took up outsiderism. Specifically, he became a spokesperson for a faction of conservatism that disdained internationalism and free trade, and even flirted with Holocaust denial. Bush’s support for NAFTA and Israel outraged him. “He is yesterday and we are tomorrow,” Buchanan said in his announcement speech. “He is a globalist and we are nationalists. He believes in some Pax Universalis; we believe in the Old Republic. He would put American's wealth and power at the service of some vague New World Order; we will put America first.” 
In 2016, Pat Buchanan looked back at his 1992 race and told journalist Jeff Greenfield: “Those issues started maturing. Now we’ve lost 55,000 factories. … When those consequences came rolling in, all of a sudden you’ve got an angry country. We were out there warning what was coming.” 
At The New York Times, David Brooks writes of Buchanan and palecon writer Sam Francis:
The Buchanan campaign was the first run at what we now know as Trumpian populism. In a profile of Francis called “The Castaway,” Michael Brendan Dougherty smartly observed that Buchanan and Francis weren’t just against government, they were against the entire cultural hegemony of the ruling class.
Francis wrote a wickedly brilliant 1996 essay on Buchanan, “From Household to Nation”: “The ‘culture war’ for Buchanan is not Republican swaggering about family values and dirty movies but a battle over whether the nation itself can continue to exist under the onslaught of the militant secularism, acquisitive egoism, economic and political globalism, demographic inundation, and unchecked state centralism supported by the ruling class.”
Francis urged Buchanan to run an unorthodox campaign (of the sort Trump ended up running), and was ignored. “If Buchanan loses the nomination, it will be because his time has not yet come,” Francis wrote. The moment would end up coming in 2016, 11 years after Francis’ death.
Francis’ thought was infected by the same cancer that may destroy Trumpism. Francis was a racist. His friends and allies counseled him not to express his racist views openly, but people like that always go there, sooner or later.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Manafort Is In a Lot of Trouble

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

At WP, Tom Hamburger, Rosalind S. Helderman, Carol D. Leonnig and Adam Entous report:
Less than two weeks before Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination, his campaign chairman offered to provide briefings on the race to a Russian billionaire closely aligned with the Kremlin, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Paul Manafort made the offer in an email to an overseas intermediary, asking that a message be sent to Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate with whom Manafort had done business in the past, these people said.

“If he needs private briefings we can accommodate,” Manafort wrote in the July 7, 2016, email, portions of which were read to The Washington Post along with other Manafort correspondence from that time.

The emails are among tens of thousands of documents that have been turned over to congressional investigators and special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s team as they probe whether Trump associates coordinated with Russia as part of Moscow’s efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election.

There is no evidence in the documents showing that Deripaska received Manafort’s offer or that any briefings took place. And a spokeswoman for Deripaska dismissed the email ex­changes as scheming by “consultants in the notorious ‘beltway bandit’ industry.”
At NYT, Kenneth P. Vogel and Jo Becker report:
Paul J. Manafort, the former campaign chairman for President Trump who is at the center of investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, is working for allies of the leader of Iraq’s Kurdish region to help administer and promote a referendum on Kurdish independence from Iraq.
The United States opposes the referendum, but Mr. Manafort has carved out a long and lucrative career advising foreign clients whose interests have occasionally diverged from American foreign policy. And he has continued soliciting international business even as his past international work has become a focus of the investigation by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, into ties between Russia and Mr. Trump and his associates, including possible collusion between them to influence the presidential election.
In fact, the work for the Kurdish group appears to have been initiated this summer around the time that federal authorities working for Mr. Mueller raided Mr. Manafort’s home in Virginia and informed him that they planned to indict him.
At NYT, Michael S. Schmidt:
Mr. Mueller has asked for all internal White House communications about numerous former campaign officials, including Paul J. Manafort, the former campaign chairman who is now under federal investigation. The document request also seeks communications about Mr. Trump’s campaign foreign policy team: Carter Page, J. D. Gordon, Keith Kellogg, George Papadopoulos, Walid Phares and Joseph E. Schmitz.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Russia: Deep Impact

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

If a star of fake wrestling shows can become president, then a guy who played a president (not to mention God) can talk about Russia.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

The Wire, DC Edition

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

The FBI wiretapped Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman, both before and after the election, CNN reports. According to the report, those taps were active during a "period when Manafort was known to talk" to President Trump, but not at the time Manafort attended a meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer.
Three sources told CNN the investigators were concerned Manafort had "encouraged Russians to help with the campaign."
The taps were authorized by a FISA court, per CNN, a step that requires high-level approval and significant documentation. A storage facility belonging to Manafort was also searched.
 The investigation into Manafort began in 2014, over consulting work he did in Ukraine. He is now a central focus of Robert Mueller's investigation. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Another bombshell, per the NY Times: after agents executed a search of Manafort's home in July, prosecutors "told Mr. Manafort they planned to indict him."

Monday, September 18, 2017

RT, Sputnik, and Trump

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

Jim Rutenberg writes that the NYT that RT and Sputnik are at the center of a Russian-directed social-media network that helped Trump.  He quotes John Kelly, the founder and chief executive of  the social-media marketing and analytics firm Graphika.
Shortly after the election, academic and corporate clients hired him to track the proliferation of “fake news” — that is, unequivocally false content. He confined his search to social accounts that shared fake news at least 10 times during the last month of the campaign. This September, in his airy, loft-style office suite on the West Side of Manhattan, he called up the results of the study on a laptop screen. They were visualized as a black sphere on which each of the 14,000 fake-news-spreading accounts appeared as a dot, grouped and color-coded according to ideological affiliation. The sphere was alive with bursts of purple (“U.S. Conservative”), green (“U.S. Far Left”), pink (“Pro-Russia/WikiLeaks”), orange (“International Right”) and blue (“Trump Core”).
Within the fake-news network, Kelly explained, RT was high on the list of most-followed accounts, but it was not the highest — it ranked No. 117 out of roughly 12,000 accounts he was tracking. Its website was the 12th-most-cited by the fake-news consumers and purveyors — ahead of The New York Times and The Washington Post but behind Breitbart and Infowars.
What was more interesting was who followed RT. It drew substantially from all quadrants of Kelly’s fake-news universe — Trump supporters and Bernie Sanders supporters, Occupy Wall Streeters and libertarians — which made it something of a rarity. “The Russians aren’t just pumping up the right wing in America,” Kelly said. “They’re also pumping up left-wing stuff — they’re basically trying to pump up the fringe at the expense of the middle.”
Nearly 20 percent of the fake-news-spreading accounts, Kelly’s analysis determined, were automated bot accounts, of the sort the American intelligence assessment claimed were working in tandem with RT and Sputnik. But who was operating them was unclear — and regardless, they were far outnumbered by accounts that appeared to belong to real human beings, reading and circulating content that appealed to them. In this paranoid, polarized and ill-informed subset of American news consumers, RT’s audience crossed all ideological boundaries.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


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

Federalist 62: 
No government, any more than an individual, will long be respected without being truly respectable; nor be truly respectable, without possessing a certain portion of order and stability.
From The Daily Beast:
President Donald Trump on Sunday retweeted an animated GIF showing him hitting a golf ball at Hillary Clinton, knocking her to the ground as she boards a plane. The image was among several that the president retweeted on Sunday morning, in addition to a tweet mocking North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as “Rocket Man.” Trump has tweeted controversial animations before—notably a video of him punching a man who had the CNN logo superimposed on his face.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Is a Nonwhite Majority Inevitable?

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the demographic divides of the 2016 campaign.

At TNR, John Judis writes that Democrats cannot count on a nonwhite majority to bring them back into the majority:
Whiteness is not a genetic category, after all; it’s a social and political construct that relies on perception and prejudice. A century ago, Irish, Italians, and Jews were not seen as whites. “This town has 8,000,000 people,” a young Harry Truman wrote his cousin upon visiting New York City in 1918. “7,500,000 of ’em are of Israelish extraction. (400,000 wops and the rest are white people.)” But by the time Truman became president, all those immigrant groups were considered “white.” There’s no reason to imagine that Latinos and Asians won’t follow much the same pattern.
In fact, it’s already happening. In the 2010 Census, 53 percent of Latinos identified as “white,” as did more than half of Asian Americans of mixed parentage. In future generations, those percentages are almost certain to grow. According to a recent Pew study, more than one-quarter of Latinos and Asians marry non-Latinos and non-Asians, and that number will surely continue to climb over the generations.
Unless ethnic identification is defined in purely racial—and racist—terms, the census projections are straight-out wrong and profoundly misleading. So is the assumption that Asians and Latinos will continue to vote at an overwhelming clip for Democrats. This view, which underpins the whole idea of a “new American majority,” ignores the diversity that already prevails among voters lumped together as “Latino” or “Asian.” Cuban-Americans in Miami vote very differently from Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles; immigrants from Japan or Vietnam come from starkly different cultures than those from South Korea or China. While more than two-thirds of Asian voters went for Obama in 2012 and Clinton in 2016, they leaned the other way in the 2014 midterms: National exit polls showed them favoring Republicans by 50 to 49
Then again, there is California, where demographic change has helped to wipe out the GOP on the statewide level.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Poor Jeff Sessions

Poor Jeff Sessions.  First, Trump reverses himself and agrees to enshrine DACA in law.

Now this NYT story by Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman brings his private humiliation into public view:
In the telephone call to Mr. McGahn, Mr. Rosenstein said he had decided to appoint Mr. Mueller to be a special counsel for the investigation. Congress had been putting pressure on Mr. Rosenstein to appoint a special counsel to put distance between the Trump administration and the Russia investigation, and just the day before The New York Times had revealedthat Mr. Trump had once asked Mr. Comey to end the F.B.I.’s investigation into Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser.
When the phone call ended, Mr. McGahn relayed the news to the president and his aides. Almost immediately, Mr. Trump lobbed a volley of insults at Mr. Sessions, telling the attorney general it was his fault they were in the current situation. Mr. Trump told Mr. Sessions that choosing him to be attorney general was one of the worst decisions he had made, called him an “idiot,” and said that he should resign.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Chuck and Donny

Tax Reform: The Rich Will Gain

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax issue in the 2016 campaign. Trump railed against special interests and claimed to be the champion of ordinary Americans.

Yesterday, he said of tax reform: " the rich will not be gaining at all with this plan."

That makes no sense.  In 2014, the latest year for which data are available, to the Tax Foundation finds that the top 25 percent of filers paid 87 percent of federal income tax, and the top ten percent paid 71 percent. The top 1 percent of taxpayers paid more than than the bottom 90 percent put together.

How could the rich not gain from his tax scheme?

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The US News Rankings, Higher Education, and Trump

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the working-class resentment that fueled Trump:
College America was becoming a class apart. Its members had their own tastes, preferences, and neighborhoods. And its children were marrying one another. (For instance, the Clintons’ daughter wed a fellow Stanford graduate whose parents had both served in the House of Representatives.) College-educated parents passed along good genes, provided their children with cultural opportunities, paid for test-prep classes, and used their connections to open the doors for internships and jobs. Darren Walker, the president of the Ford Foundation, writes of friends who ask his help in getting internships for their children. “I understand what they’re doing; this is part of being a parent. Still, it’s a reminder that America’s current internship system, in which contacts and money matter more than talent, contributes to an economy in which access and opportunity go to the people who already have the most of both.”
So to the extent that blue collar Americans thought that the system was rigged in favor of college America, they were not entirely wrong. They also had reason to think that college America looked down on them.
Benjamin Wermund writes at Politico:
America’s universities are getting two report cards this year. The first, from the Equality of Opportunity Project, brought the shocking revelation that many top universities, including Princeton and Yale, admit more students from the top 1 percent of earners than the bottom 60 percent combined. The second, from U.S. News and World Report, is due on Tuesday — with Princeton and Yale among the contenders for the top spot in the annual rankings.
The two are related: A POLITICO review shows that the criteria used in the U.S. News rankings — a measure so closely followed in the academic world that some colleges have built them into strategic plans — create incentives for schools to favor wealthier students over less wealthy applicants.Class-based anger was a driving factor in the 2016 presidential campaign, as white voters without college degrees vented their frustration by voting for Donald Trump in record numbers; it was the single best statistical predictor of a Trump voter. In the wake of Trump’s election, the majority of Republicans say colleges and universities have a negative effect on the country, according to the latest polling by the Pew Research Center. Young people still see college as necessary to get a good job and move up in society. But the vast majority don’t believe the higher education system is helping them do that, according to a recent report by New America, a Washington-based think tank.
“Elite colleges are part of the apparatus that produces Trumpism and produces working class, white resentment,” said Walter Benn Michaels, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“It fits perfectly into Trump’s narrative … Basically, if you’re a low-income or working-class white student who works hard and you find out that what matters in admissions is who your daddy is, or what your race is, you’re completely left out,” said Richard Kahlenberg, senior fellow at the Century Foundation. “When a politician like Donald Trump comes along and says the system is rigged, you’re very likely to believe that. In this case, it is rigged — against those students.”

Backing DACA

In  Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's positions on immigration.. Trump plans to phase out DACA.  Karlyn Bowman writes at AEI:
In a YouGov/Economist poll taken before Trump’s announcement, a solid plurality of Americans (48%) said they wanted him to keep DACA, while 29% wanted the President to end it. Democrats (73%) and independents (43%) were in favor of keeping the program. Only 30% of Republicans were, while 49% said it should be ended. After the announcement, 55% of Americans in a HuffPost/YouGovsurvey said they thought Trump made the wrong decision, with 88% of Democrats and 53% of independents giving that response. 83% of Republicans thought the president made the right decision.
Broader questions about DACA that don’t mention Trump also showed more support than opposition to the program. The September 5–6 HuffPost/YouGov survey asked two differently-worded questions, each of half their sample. 53% said they supported “allowing undocumented immigrants who came to the US as children to stay in the country,” while 29% were opposed. 47% said “undocumented immigrants who were brought into the country as children” should be allowed to stay in the country; 30% said they should be required to leave the country. In the YouGov/Economist poll, 55% said they favored DACA.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Russia, Facebook, and 2016

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss Russian involvement in the 2016 campaign.

At The Daily Beast, Ben Collins, Kevin Poulsen and Spencer Ackerman report:
Pushing fake news was just one component of the Russian campaign to shape American minds. Part two: organizing anti-immigrant events echoing themes from the pro-Trump press.
Russian operatives hiding behind false identities used Facebook’s event management tool to remotely organize and promote political protests in the U.S., including an August 2016 anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rally in Idaho, The Daily Beast has learned.
A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to the Daily Beast that the social-media giant “shut down several promoted events as part of the takedown we described last week.” The company declined to elaborate, except to confirm that the events were promoted with paid ads. (This is the first time the social media giant has publicly acknowledged the existence of such events.)

The Facebook events—one of which echoed Islamophobic conspiracy theories pushed by pro-Trump media outlets—are the first indication that the Kremlin’s attempts to shape America’s political discourse moved beyond fake news and led unwitting Americans into specific real-life action.
Colins, Poulsen, and Ackerman earlier reported:
Russian-funded covert propaganda posts on Facebook were likely seen by a minimum of 23 million people and might have reached as many as 70 million, according to analysis by an expert on the social-media giant’s complex advertising systems. That means up to 28 percent of American adults were swept in by the campaign.
On Wednesday, Facebook’s chief security officer, Alex Stamos, revealed that Russia had “likely” used 470 fake accounts to buy about $100,000 worth of advertising promoting “divisive social and political messages” to Americans. It was Facebook’s first public acknowledgment of the role it unwittingly played in the Kremlin’s “active measures” campaign. Stamos’ statement was also conspicuous by what it omitted: Facebook has refused to release the ads. More significant, it hasn’t said what kind of reach Russia attained with its ad buy.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Negative Partisanship

In Defying the Odds, we discuss partisanship in 2016.

Alan Abramowitz and Steven Webster write at Politico:
Neither Trump nor Clinton was especially well-liked. Data from a Pew survey conducted before the 2016 national conventions found that both candidates received mediocre ratings from supporters of their own party—and record low ratings from members of the opposing party. On a “feeling thermometer” scale of zero to 100 degrees, Clinton received an average rating of 12 degrees from Republicans, while Trump received an average rating of 11 degrees from Democrats. In fact, 68 percent of Democrats rated Trump at zero, and 59 percent of Republicans rated Clinton at zero—an extraordinary reading with no modern precedent.
As a result, even though many voters had reservations about their own party’s nominee, very few ended up defecting in November. It was once common for voters to choose, say, a Republican for president and a Democrat for senator. No longer: Recent elections have been characterized by unprecedented party loyalty and straight-ticket voting, and negative partisanship is a major reason.
The concept of negative partisanship was first developed by political scientists studying countries with multi-party systems, such as Canada and Germany. But today, it applies even more clearly to the United States. Our research shows that Americans increasingly are voting against the opposing party more than they are voting for their own party.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Leftward Ho, Continued

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

From Pew:
Seven months into President Donald Trump’s administration, nearly half of all Democratic and Democratic-leaning registered voters describe their political views as liberal. The share of Democrats who describe themselves this way has steadily risen and is now 20 percentage points higher than in 2000.
Through the first half of 2017, more Democratic voters identify as liberal (48%) than as moderate (36%) or conservative (15%), based on an average of Pew Research Center surveys. In 2008, 41% of Democratic voters called themselves moderate, while 33% said they were liberal and 23% said they were conservative. And in 2000, Democratic voters who called their views moderate outnumbered liberals by 44% to 28%, while 23% said they were conservative.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Feinstein's Religious Test

In Defying the Odds, we discuss cultural reasons for Trump's victory.  Trump got 60% of the non-Hispanic Catholic vote.  One reason is that Democrats seem bent on insulting their beliefs.

Michael McGough in LAT:
Is Sen. Dianne Feinstein an anti-Catholic bigot? Did she violate the spirit if not the letter of the Constitution’s ban on a “religious test” for public office when she worried this week that a Catholic nominee for a federal appeals court might be unduly influenced by her religious beliefs because, as she told the nominee, “the dogma lives loudly within you.”
Feinstein’s comments at a hearing Wednesday of the Senate Judiciary Committee were directed to Notre Dame law professor Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals (and, as some noted, a mother of seven). The response on Twitter was immediate and righteously indignant.
I don’t think Feinstein is a bigot or a descendant of the 19th Century Know-Nothings who muttered about “rum, Romanism and rebellion.” But she went too far in raising doubts about whether Barrett would allow her religious views to affect her rulings as a judge (particularly about abortion rights, Feinstein’s priority when it comes to judicial nominations)...Barrett didn’t deserve such treatment, despite a claim by a liberal interest group, the Alliance for Justice, that “Barrett has said that judges should be free to put their personal views ahead of their judicial oath to faithfully follow the law.”
Nowhere in its screed against Barrett did the group substantiate this extraordinary accusation. It cited a 1998 article Barrett co-wrote as a law student that argued that a Catholic trial judge with religious objections to capital punishment should recuse herself from deciding whether to impose a death sentence. That, of course, is the opposite of suggesting that a judge should issue a ruling based on her religion.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Trump, Schumer, Pelosi ... and Rocky

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

At The Hill, Lloyd Green examines Trump's surprise deal with Schumer and Pelosi:
Trump was a Schumer donor way before he decided to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2015. According to the Federal Election Commission, Trump gave $9,000 to Schumer’s campaigns, Ivanka threw in $4,800, and Don Jr. and Eric each kicked in a cool $1,000. At the end of the day, that comes to nearly $16,000, a pretty good haul if you ask me.

But the bond between Trump and Schumer is more than just about both guys who grew up in New York City’s outer boroughs, Queens and Brooklyn, respectively. Rather, it’s about cultural affinity and winning. In the case of Trump, Schumer and Pelosi, the two things go hand in hand.
As he points out, Trump is a thoroughly urban character who romped among white ethnics in the Northeastern primaries.  Like Schumer and Trump, Pelosi is as citified as you can get.  She represents San Francisco, and her father and brother were both mayors of Baltimore. This bond comes at a time when Trump's nominal party becomes less and less urban all the time.

Another passage:
For Trump, Schumer and Pelosi, all this was a no-brainer, at least this week. But for Republican legislators, it was a bitter pill. McConnell went out in front on the television cameras looking like he had been forced to eat a plate of broccoli, while Ryan was reportedly furious. Indeed, to add insult to injury, Ivanka walked in on her “daddy’s” meeting with the congressional leadership. Schumer may have been smiling, but the Republicans in the room were not.
In this respect, he resembles another New York Republican billionaire.  In 1982, Maurice Carroll reviewed Joseph Persico's book on Nelson Rockefeller:
New York State budget decisions were on the table at Pocantico Hills one day when Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller's 3-year-old son bounded in and climbed on his father's knee. The child babbled an interruption, and the Governor turned away from the senior state officials and gave his total attention to his little boy.

''Little Mark went on happily having his say,'' writes Joseph E. Persico, who was the Governor's speech writer, ''while his father responded and we waited. Nelson Rockefeller was passing along an unspoken lesson absorbed from his own father - 'These people work for us. Never mind their age, their position, they defer to you.' Thus are young princes bred.''

Sanders Wing v. Democratic Party

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

At Politico, Gabriel Debenedetti reports that the Sanders wing is demanding purity from the rest of the party.
Many Democrats are concerned that Sanders no longer has any control over the vast political network surrounding him after his 2016 campaign manager Jeff Weaver left the helm of Our Revolution in June. That national political organization, Sanders' post-campaign creation, is now led by former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner, who was a strident supporter of the Vermonter and a Clinton critic in 2016.
Last month, Democrats across Capitol Hill were quick to circulate a BuzzFeed report in which Turner called the DNC “dictatorial” and “insulting.” They were concerned that a group with the reach of Our Revolution’s could be doing significant damage to the party’s efforts to re-engage with Sanders voters.
Just as Turner was complaining about the DNC, a range of Democratic senators and their top political staffers were closely following a string of stories that quoted Sanders supporters criticizing [Kamala] Harris.[!]
In one interview, the co-founder of a group called People for Bernie said Harris was being anointed as the candidate "of extremely wealthy and out-of-touch Democratic Party donors."
At no point was this worry more apparent than after the leaders of the National Nurses Union refused last month to rule out supporting primary challenges for Senate Democrats who don’t support his Medicare-for-all health care bill. The group, one of Sanders' closest allies, vowed to “[hold] the Democrats accountable.”

Sanders’ own campaign pollster called the measure a litmus test in the same POLITICO report. And Turner — whose group houses the huge email list Sanders’ team built during his campaign and subsequently refused to hand over to the DNC — said “there’s something wrong” with Democrats who don’t support Sanders’ measure.
Yet it took three weeks for Sanders himself to weigh in. He told the Washington Post that his health care legislation wouldn’t serve as a litmus test for whether or not to back fellow senators. It was hardly a disavowal of his allies’ rhetoric, though, and the delay left other lawmakers sweating about primary challenges for nearly a month.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Crooked Donny: An Update

Brad Heath,Fredreka Schouten,Steve Reilly,Nick Penzenstadler and Aamer Madhani report at USA Today:
Dozens of lobbyists, contractors and others who make their living influencing the government pay President Trump’s companies for membership in his private golf clubs, a status that can put them in close contact with the president, a USA TODAY investigation found.
Members of the clubs Trump has visited most often as president — in Florida, New Jersey and Virginia — include at least 50 executives whose companies hold federal contracts and 21 lobbyists and trade group officials. Two-thirds played on one of the 58 days the president was there, according to scores they posted online.
Because membership lists at Trump’s clubs are secret, the public has until now been unable to assess the conflicts they could create. USA TODAY found the names of 4,500 members by reviewing social media and a public website golfers use to track their handicaps, then researched and contacted hundreds to determine whether they had business with the government.
The review shows that, for the first time in U.S. history, wealthy people with interests before the government have a chance for close and confidential access to the president as a result of payments that enrich him personally. It is a view of the president available to few other Americans.
Among Trump club members are top executives of defense contractors, a lobbyist for the South Korean government, a lawyer helping Saudi Arabia fight claims over the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the leader of a pesticide trade group that sought successfully to persuade the Trump administration not to ban an insecticide government scientists linked to health risks.
Before assuming the presidency, Trump himself held ownership stakes in hundreds of business entities. His most recent financial disclosure shows he transferred those ownership stakes to six core entities.
 But in the end, the transfer of ownership turned out to be a meaningless shell game. Under the new arrangement, each of the entities to which Trump transferred his assets ended up under the control of a revocable trust that operates for the benefit of Trump. [See Figure Below]

Trump’s Shell Game: All Roads Lead To Trump’s Revocable Trust*

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Cultural Gaps and Polarization

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the cultural gap in the 2016 election.

At WSJ, Janet Hook reports on a new poll:
The poll found deep splits along geographic and educational lines. Rural Americans and people without a four-year college degree are notably more pessimistic about the economy and more conservative on social issues. Those groups make up an increasingly large share of the GOP.
 Views of immigration have also become more partisan. In an April 2005 poll that asked whether immigration strengthened or weakened the U.S., a plurality of 48% said it weakened the nation, with 41% saying immigration strengthened the country.
Now, a substantial majority of 64% view immigration as strengthening the country, while 28% say it weakens the U.S. The change is due almost entirely to a sharp shift in Democrats' views. In 2005, just 45% of Democrats said the country was strengthened by immigration; now the share is 81%.
 Among people without a four-year college degree, a plurality of 44% identified as Democrats in 2010. Now, only 36% do. Among those who are college graduates, just 36% now identify as Republican, versus 41% in 2010.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Political Madness of "Tax Reform"

In Defying the Odds, we discuss the tax issue in the 2016 campaign. Trump railed against special interests and claimed to be the champion of ordinary Americans.

Republicans are reportedly considering a tax "reform" that would cap the mortgage interest deduction, and the ability to deduct state and local taxes; and tax 401(k) contributions up front. And, of course, the bill would cut taxes for corporations.

Political madness.

Tax reform is tough enough. Even the 1986 law-- which was far more reasonable -- was not especially popular with the public. In an October 1986 poll from Cambridge Reports, 36 percent said that it would raise their taxes, compared with just 16 percent who thought that it would reduce them. Over the next three years, the former group would grow to 50 percent.

And in the first election after the bill passed, Republicans lost their majority in the Senate. There were other reasons for that outcome, of course, but there is no evidence that the legislation helped any Republican senator.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Why Did Trump Carry the Rustbelt? One Reason: Union Membership Had Dropped

In Defying the Odds, we suggest an under-examined reason why Democrats were unexpectedly weak in key industrial states;  union membership was way down.
At the high point of their influence many years ago, they [labor unions] supplied the people who worked the phones, stuffed the envelopes and walked the precincts on behalf of the Democrats.  In some states, they still were a significant force, but overall, they were on the wane. Between 1983 and 2015, union membership as a share of employed workers plunged by almost half, from 20.1 percent to 11.1 percent.   Not coincidentally, the drop-off was steepest in five industrial states that voted Republican in the 2016 presidential race 
 Percentage Change in Union Density, Selected States, 1983-2015

                                    1983                2015                Change
Wisconsin                    24.2                 08.4                -15.8
Michigan                     30.8                 15.3                 -15.5
Indiana                        25.2                 10.1                 -15.1
Pennsylvania               27.7                 13.4                 -14.3
Ohio                             25.3                 12.4                 -12.9

Source: Barry T. Hirsch and David A. Macpherson, “State Union Membership Density 1964-2015,”; Barry T. Hirsch, David A. Macpherson, and Wayne G. Vroman, “Estimates of Union Density by State,” Monthly Labor Review 124, No. 7, July 2001,

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Trump, General Kelly, and Media

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's approach to the media.

Lachlan Markay and Asawin Suebsaeng report at The Daily Beast:
Newly minted White House chief of staff John Kelly has sought to put a dent in the influence of one of President Donald Trump’s most famous advisers: Omarosa Manigault.
The former Apprentice co-star—who currently serves as the communications director for the Office of Public Liaison—has seen her direct access to the president limited since Kelly took the top White House job in late July, sources tell The Daily Beast. In particular, Kelly has taken steps to prevent her and other senior staffers from getting unvetted news articles on the president’s Resolute desk—a key method for influencing the president’s thinking, and one that Manigualt used to rile up Trump about internal White House drama.
Glenn Thrush & Maggie Haberman report at The New York Times:
Mr. Kelly cannot stop Mr. Trump from binge-watching Fox News, which aides describe as the president’s primary source of information gathering. But Mr. Trump does not have a web browser on his phone, and does not use a laptop, so he was dependent on aides like Stephen K. Bannon, his former chief strategist, to hand-deliver printouts of articles from conservative media outlets.
Now Mr. Kelly has thinned out his package of printouts so much that Mr. Trump plaintively asked a friend recently where The Daily Caller and Breitbart were.