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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

SOTU Reax: Meh!

In  Defying the Oddswe discuss attitudes toward Trump in the 2016 race.

Ryan Struyk at CNN:
Almost half of Americans who watched President Donald Trump's first State of the Union address -- 48% -- say they had a "very positive" impression of the speech, down from 57% of speech-watchers after his first address to match Barack Obama's rating after his first State of the Union address, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS.
It's the lowest net positive rating for a State of the Union address since at least 1998, when CNN first asked the question. There is no equivalent poll for addresses before 1998.
Related: Full poll results
Some important caveats: This survey reflects the views of only those who watched the speech, not of all Americans. The poll was conducted among a group of Americans who said in prior interviews that they planned to watch the speech and were willing to be contacted after its conclusion.

People who choose to watch a political speech tend to be more supportive of the speaker than the general population; this sample was about 7 points more Republican than the entire American population.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Russia: The Known Knowns


  1. At the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, the Trump campaign, chaired by Paul Manafort (since indicted), worked behind the scenes to weaken the party platform's anti-Russia stance on Ukraine.
  2. "Trump revealed highly classified information to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in a White House meeting."
  3. Top Trump campaign officials met at Trump Tower with sketchy Russians who had offered dirt on Hillary Clinton.
  4. On Air Force One, Trump helped his son, Don Jr., prepare a misleading statement about the meeting.
  5. Trump, contradicting what his staff had said earlier, told NBC he fired FBI Director James Comey because of "this Russia thing."
  6. Michael Flynn, later Trump's first national security adviser, talked privately about sanctions with the Russian ambassador during the transition, then denied it to Vice President Pence.
  7. Flynn (who has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI) failed to disclose payments from Russia-linked entities. Trump has repeatedly defended Flynn.
  8. During the transition, Jared Kushner spoke with the Russian ambassador "about establishing a secret communications channel between the Trump transition team and Moscow."
  9. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, then a U.S. senator, spoke twice the Russian ambassador, then didn't disclose the contacts during his confirmation hearing.
  10. When Bob Mueller was named special counsel, Republicans widely praised him.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Russian Bots in the 2016 Campaign

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

A statement from Twitter to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism:
We first reviewed the accounts’ engagement with Tweets from @HillaryClinton and
@realDonaldTrump. Our data showed that, during the relevant time period, @HillaryClinton Tweets were Retweeted approximately 8.6 million times. Of those Retweets, 47,846—or 0.55%—were from Russian-linked automated accounts. Tweets from @HillaryClinton received approximately 19.2 million likes during this period; 119,730—or 0.62%—were from Russian linked automated accounts. The volume of engagements with @realDonaldTrump Tweets from Russian-linked automated accounts was higher, but still relatively small. The Tweets from the @realDonaldTrump account during this period were Retweeted more than 11 million times; 469,537—or 4.25%—of those Retweets were from Russian-linked, automated accounts. Those Tweets received approximately 28.8 million likes across our platform; 517,408—or 1.8%—of
those likes came from Russian-linked automated accounts.
We also reviewed engagement between automated or Russia-linked accounts and the @Wikileaks, @DCLeaks_, and @GUCCIFER_2 accounts. The amount of  automated engagement with these accounts ranged from 47.5% to 72.7% of Retweets and 37% to 64% of likes during this time—substantially higher than the average level of automated engagement, including with other high-profile accounts. The volume of automated engagements from Russian-linked accounts was lower overall. Our data show that, during the relevant time period, @Wikileaks Tweets were Retweeted approximately 5.65 million times. Of these Retweets, 196,836—or 3.48%—were from Russian-linked automated accounts. The Tweets from @DCLeaks_ during this time period were Retweeted 6,774 times, of which 2.47% were from Russian-linked automated accounts. The Tweets from @GUCCIFER_2 during this time period were Retweeted approximately 24,000 times, of which 2.32% were from Russian-linked
automated accounts.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Sexual-Harassing RNC Finance Chair Steps Down


RNC Press release, January 31, 2017:
“I am proud to have Steve Wynn on board as RNC Finance Chairman,” said Chairwoman McDaniel. “His incredible career has been marked not just by extraordinary business success, but meaningful relationships with his employees, guests, and Americans of all backgrounds."

Friday, January 26, 2018

Unintentional Gerrymandering Matters More Than the Intentional Kind

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

At FiveThirtyEight, Harry Enten asks why there are fewer competitive districts.
Gerrymandering is part of the story. Take a look at the interactive graphic we built to demonstrate how congressional district lines shift when they are drawn to prioritize different goals. It’s clear that most redistricting schemes that ignore politics and race would yield more competitive U.S. House districts — i.e., those with a partisan lean of 10 percentage points or less — than we currently have. But our analysis suggests that the relative lack of competitive seats under the current map can’t be explained by gerrymandering alone. Under the two redistricting schemes in our interactive that attempt to draw districts to be compact in shape, there are roughly 30 more competitive districts than there are under the current congressional map. That doesn’t come close to taking into account the loss of 92 similarly competitive districts between 1996 and 2016.4FiveThirtyEight contributor David Wasserman and Ally Flinn calculated that only 17 percent of the decline in competitive districts over the past 20 years was the result of redistricting.
So if the redistricting process isn’t solely to blame, what else is going on? It’s actually pretty simple: The states, counties and even neighborhoods from which districts are drawn are less competitive than they used to be because voters are sorting themselves. People are changing their political opinions to be more like their neighbors’, and people are moving to regions where their political viewpoint is more common. This “self-sorting” means more and more areas come, in essence, pre-gerrymandered — dominated by partisans. That makes it more difficult to draw competitive districts without an increased effort to do so.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Data on Campaign Finance

The average amount spent by a winner of a House seat in 2014 dollars rose from just under $777,000 in 1986 to about $1.47 million in 2014, an increase of 89 percent. (In nominal dollars the increase was 308 percent.)
... 
We also know quite a bit about the size of contributions and the number of donors participating in the campaign finance system. As Figure 8 below depicts, the number of donors contributing to candidate campaigns has increased steadily over the last decade, and the average donation has decreased in real dollars over that same period. Whereas only 65,970 people donated to candidate campaigns in 1982, more than 3.2 million did so in 2016 (which is still less than 2 percent of the adult population). However, donor activity has become more highly concentrated: In 2016, only 15,810 individuals accounted for half of all campaign contributions. By way of comparison, in the 2000 election, 73,926 individuals accounted for half of the donations


Why donate?  The reasons are a mix of purposive, material, and solidary motives.


Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Mulligan


Donald Trump is still the answer to many conservative evangelical leaders’ prayers. Or at least to their continuing grievances.

They embrace Trump the policymaker, despite being uneasy about Trump as a man, says Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a prominent evangelical activist group.
Perkins knows about Stormy Daniels, the porn actress who claimed, in a 2011 interview, that in 2006 she had sex with Trump four months after his wife, Melania, gave birth to their son, Barron. He knows of the reports that Daniels (real name: Stephanie Clifford) was paid off to keep the affair quiet in the waning weeks of the 2016 election. He knows about the cursing, the lewdness and the litany of questionable behavior over the past year of Trump’s life or the 70 that came before it.
“We kind of gave him—‘All right, you get a mulligan. You get a do-over here,’” Perkins told me in an interview for the latest episode of POLITICO’s Off Message podcast.

Guess he skipped Proverb 6: 32-33:  "But a man who commits adultery has no sense; whoever does so destroys himself. Blows and disgrace are his lot, and his shame will never be wiped away."

Monday, January 22, 2018

Shutdown Is Over. Immigration Problems Are Not.

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character. He did little to avert or end the recent shutdown, and probably aggravated the situation.

Julie Hirschfeld Davis & Maggie Haberman at NYT:
When President Trump mused last year about protecting immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children, calling them “these incredible kids,” aides implored him privately to stop talking about them so sympathetically.
When he batted around the idea of granting them citizenship over a Chinese dinner at the White House last year with Democratic leaders, Mr. Trump’s advisers quickly drew up a list of hard-line demands to send to Capitol Hill that they said must be included in any such plan.
And twice over the past two weeks, Mr. Trump has privately told lawmakers he is eager to strike a deal to extend legal status to the so-called Dreamers, only to have his chief of staff, John F. Kelly, and senior policy adviser, Stephen Miller, make clear afterward that such a compromise was not really in the offing — unless it also included a host of stiffer immigration restrictions.
As the government shutdown appeared to near an end on Monday, one thing was clear to both sides of the negotiations to resolve it: The president was either unwilling or unable to articulate the immigration policy he wanted, much less understand the nuances of what it would involve.
Julia Azari wrote at FiveThirtyEight:
Policy-making was much more Congress-centered in the 19th century. The clearest examples of this are probably from the 1850s, when presidents Zachary Taylor and Franklin Pierce left the difficult task of dealing with the growing crisis of slavery to Congress. (Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas urged Pierce to support the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, which he eventually did – rather than the other way around.) After the Civil War, presidents grew less passive, but members of Congress still asserted their own agendas on issues like tariffs and currency — the big economic questions of the time. Presidents were more likely to be led by their parties than to lead them.
So far, Trump has mostly followed the 19th-century model, even if that wasn’t exactly his intention. Despite his clashes with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell over health care, Trump has not shown an interest in the details of policy. He hasn’t fully staffed the executive branch and hasn’t appointed staff or Cabinet officials with a lot of relevant policy experience. This reflects older patterns in which the national government was smaller and did much less, and presidents didn’t have the extensive professional staff they have now.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Shutdown and 2018


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

Lloyd Green at The Hill:

 [If] the shutdown drags on long enough so that it muddies the debate over lifting the debt ceiling, then we will likely be looking at a superstorm of pain and discord. While government shutdowns are treated more like economic hiccups, a U.S. sovereign debt default would have Alexander Hamilton spinning in his grave, lead world markets to crash, and American senior being deprived of their social security checks.

Does this mean that Democrats face no downside? No, as congressional Democrats have their own political risks. While polls report sympathy for Dreamers, polls also reflect that voters expect Democrats to be cut a deal on the budget. On that note, a pre-shutdown CNN poll showed that only Democrats favored a shutdown over Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, another symptom of the Democrats becoming more a movement — and less a political party — just like the Republicans. And that’s not a good thing for America.

To be sure, red state Democrats up for reelection this year are highly aware of the risks attendant with the shutdown. Democrats from Indiana, Missouri, North Dakota and West Virginia backed the Republicans on Friday night’s cloture vote. Indeed, Schumer was not about make them walk the plank, not even for the Democratic base. Hopefully, a grudging compromise can be reached here sooner than later, but don’t hold your breath. Bile is the operative coin of the realm.

Trump literally says that Democrats will be complicit in any murders that undocumented immigrants commit.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Trump's Russian Winter

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

The attendance of members of Russia’s elite at Trump’s inauguration was evidence of the high anticipation in Moscow for a thaw in U.S.-Russia relations following a campaign in which Trump stunned U.S. foreign-policy experts by repeatedly praising Russian President Vladi­mir Putin.
As questions about Russia’s interference in the 2016 election were beginning to percolate publicly, prominent business leaders and activists from the country attended inaugural festivities, mingling at balls and receptions — at times in proximity to key U.S. political officials.

Their presence caught the attention of counterintelligence officials at the FBI, according to former U.S. officials, although it is not clear which attendees drew U.S. government interest. FBI officials were concerned at the time because some of the figures had surfaced in the agency’s investigation of the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia, the officials said.
From Twitter:
As previously announced, we identified and suspended a number of accounts that were potentially connected to a propaganda effort by a Russian government-linked organization known as the Internet Research Agency (IRA).
Consistent with our commitment to transparency, we are emailing notifications to 677,775 people in the United States who followed one of these accounts or retweeted or liked a Tweet from these accounts during the election period. Because we have already suspended these accounts, the relevant content on Twitter is no longer publicly available.
Peter Stone and Greg Gordon at McClatchy:
The FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency, two sources familiar with the matter have told McClatchy.
FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.
It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Fox and Friends and CHIP and the Wall

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character.  For his own ego, he seems bent on blowing up negotiations to keep the government open.

If the government shuts down on Friday, President Donald Trump’s television habits may be partly to blame, according to two White House aides.
The president began the day on Thursday by blasting out a tweet that threatened to derail a GOP legislative package designed to keep the government open, arguing that the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known by its acronym, CHIP, “should be part of a long-term solution, not a 30-day, or short-term, extension.” But that is precisely the package House Speaker Paul Ryan was trying to persuade skeptical Republicans to agree to in order to keep the government open.

The Ryan deal had been discussed at length on "Fox & Friends," the president’s favorite morning television program, in the hour before he sent the missive — and the aides immediately suspected that something on the program had prompted it. They also pointed to Trump’s frustration over the comments made by his chief of staff, John Kelly, in a Fox News interview Wednesday evening, to explain his seemingly random eruption.
Host Brian Kilmeade suggested that chief of staff Kelly had gone soft on the border wall.
Moments after Kilmeade’s remark about Kelly, for example, the president took to Twitter and delivered an apparent response. “We need the Wall for the safety and security of our country. We need the Wall to help stop the massive inflow of drugs from Mexico, now rated the number one most dangerous country in the world. If there is no Wall, there is no Deal!”
The Fox hosts discussed the impending shutdown at length, and the president appears to have come to the mistaken understanding that the short-term bill would fund CHIP for only 30 days, rather than the agreed-upon six years.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Trump Twitter Tirades (continued)

 In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character.  For his own ego, he seems bent on blowing up negotiations to keep the government open.

Ed O'Keefe at WP:
White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly told Democratic lawmakers Wednesday that some of the hard-line immigration policies President Trump advocated during the campaign were “uninformed,” that the United States will never construct a wall along its entire southern border and that Mexico will never pay for it, according to people familiar with the meeting.

The comments were out of sync with remarks by Trump, who in recent days has reiterated his desire to build a border wall that would be funded by Mexico “indirectly through NAFTA.”

Trump amplified this stance Thursday in back-to-back tweets that called the North American Free Trade Agreement “a bad joke” and asserted that reworked trade deals with Mexico would somehow pay for the wall “directly or indirectly.”

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Democrats Outperform in Specials

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

Shane Savitsky at Axios:
Democrat Patty Schachtner scored a 9-point victory in a special election in Wisconsin's State Senate District 10 last night, flipping a district that had been held by the GOP since 2000 and that President Trump won by 17 points in 2016, per The Huffington Post.
...

And that's not all, per Daniel Nichanian at the University of Chicago, there were three other worrying results for Republicans in state special elections last night — though they still managed to hang onto the following seats in these GOP-heavy areas:
  • South Carolina's House District 99 had a 15% net swing to Democrats.
  • Iowa's House District 6 had an 18% net swing to Democrats.
  • Wisconsin's Assembly District 58 had a 25% net swing to Democrats.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Nero on the Potomac

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

On Sunday, Axios reported that Republican leaders believe that a loss of the House is unavoidably “baked in." According to the last round of polls, the Democrats continue to hold a double-digit lead on the generic congressional ballot, with a Quinnipiac Poll released last week pegging that number at 17 points, and a majority of Americans giving Trump a grade of “D” or “F,” not exactly the kind of marks that one associates with a self-described “very stable genius.”
...
Indeed, for now, only white men without a four-year degree are staying true to Trump. In contrast, white working class women seem to be slowly heading toward the exits. Nowadays, where “porn star NDAs are now a commonplace in American politics,” according to the New York Times’ Tom Edsall, this shift cannot be called a complete surprise.
...
Election Day 2018 is more than 11 months away, and as 2016 taught us, never count Trump out. Yes, it is too soon to say that a GOP wipeout is assured. But with Trump evidencing no signs of self-control, and the Republican congressional leadership being forced to play cleanup, the odds of a Democratic takeover rise by the day. 
And this WP story posted on the evening of Martin Luther King Day:
Last Thursday was a critical moment in the stalled negotiations, revealing the president’s priorities even as the discussion fell apart.
Trump complained that there wasn’t enough money included in the deal for his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. He also objected that Democratic proposals to adjust the visa lottery and federal policy for immigrants with temporary protected status were going to drive more people from countries he deemed undesirable into the United States instead of attracting immigrants from places like Norway and Asia, people familiar with the meeting said.

Attendees who were alarmed by the racial undertones of Trump’s remarks were further disturbed when the topic of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) came up, these people said.
At one point, Durbin told the president that members of that caucus — an influential House group — would be more likely to agree to a deal if certain countries were included in the proposed protections, according to people familiar with the meeting.

Trump was curt and dismissive, saying he was not making immigration policy to cater to the CBC and did not particularly care about that bloc’s demands, according to people briefed on the meeting. “You’ve got to be joking,” one adviser said, describing Trump’s reaction.

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.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

New Way California

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

Alexei Koseff at The Sacramento Bee:
Pushed out by party activists last summer for negotiating with Democrats on a climate change program, former Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes is doubling down on his fight to reshape the California GOP – with a key assist from former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Mayes announced Tuesday the formation of New Way California, an initiative that aims to expand the appeal of Republican policies and reverse the party’s declining prospects in the state. Republicans, who now make up just a quarter of registered voters in California, have not won a statewide election in more than a decade and hold fewer than one-third of the seats in both houses of the Legislature.
“There really is one-party rule here in California,” Mayes said at a press conference. “Republicans have failed to be able to reach out to average folks in California. They don’t think that we care about them, they don’t think that we are working for their benefit.”

Monday, January 8, 2018

Sorting Matters More Than Gerrymandering

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

Charles Hunt at Legbranch.com:
Gerrymandering, or even the redistricting process generally, has no bearing on county-level vote.
Therefore, if we observe similar declines in the number of competitive counties as we did in competitive congressional districts, we know that gerrymandering is not the sole cause. Using the same calculations Cook Political uses for congressional districts and applying them to county-level presidential results from the last 25 years, Figure 2 shows the resulting trend.
Not only do we observe the same trend in counties as we did among congressional districts, but the disappearance of swing counties is even sharper than that of congressional districts. While the number of swing congressional districts have declined by 56% since 1996, swing counties declined by 73% over the same period.
If gerrymandering, or even redistricting generally, was the main culprit in polarizing our politics or making our elections less competitive, then we would not expect significant changes in geographic areas for which the borders don’t change. Instead, we see that more and more counties are voting more and more consistently for one party or the other. At all geographic levels, and not just congressional districts subject to redistricting, voters are sorting into more like-minded and more partisan communities. This phenomenon of sorting is clearly a serious cause of this partisanship, regardless of whatever effects gerrymandering is said to have.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

A Very Excellent Student

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

John Bowden at The Hill:
Trump was asked by a reporter at Camp David on Saturday why he "felt the need" to tweet the early morning message that blasted doubts about his mental health. In the tweet, Trump referred to himself as "like, very smart."

"Only because I went to the best colleges, or college," Trump responded during the press conference, where he was flanked by GOP congressional leaders.

"I had a situation where I was a very excellent student, came out, made billions and billions of dollars, became one of the top business people, went to television and for 10 years was a tremendous success, which you've probably heard."
There is no record that Trump made the dean's list or graduated with any other kind of honor.  He refuses to release his college transcript.

He misspells simple words such as lying, honored, and tap.