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Defying the Odds

Defying the Odds
New book about the 2016 election.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Leftward Ho: Capitalism, Socialism, and Democrats

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

Frank Newport at Gallup:
For the first time in Gallup's measurement over the past decade, Democrats have a more positive image of socialism than they do of capitalism. Attitudes toward socialism among Democrats have not changed materially since 2010, with 57% today having a positive view. The major change among Democrats has been a less upbeat attitude toward capitalism, dropping to 47% positive this year -- lower than in any of the three previous measures. Republicans remain much more positive about capitalism than about socialism, with little sustained change in their views of either since 2010.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Trump's Weak Knowledge

Daniel Lippman at Politico:
Trump’s desire to call world leaders at awkward hours is just one of many previously unreported diplomatic faux-pas President Trump has made since assuming the office, which go beyond telephone etiquette to include misconceptions, mispronunciations and awkward meetings. Sometimes the foibles have been contained within the White House. In one case, Trump, while studying a briefer’s map of South Asia ahead of a 2017 meeting with India’s prime minister, mispronounced Nepal as “nipple” and laughingly referred to Bhutan as “button,” according to two sources with knowledge of the meeting.

Trump’s apparent ignorance about world affairs, geography and leaders has also repeatedly emerged in internal staff meetings. Ahead of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s June 2017 White House visit, Trump asked his national security aides whether the Indian leader would be bringing along his wife. Staffers explained that Modi has long been estranged from his wife. “Ah, I think I can set him up with somebody,” Trump joked, according to two people briefed on the meeting. It was in that same meeting that Trump appeared confused by Nepal and Bhutan, which lie sandwiched between India and China.

“He didn’t know what those were. He thought it was all part of India,” said one person familiar with the meeting. “He was like, ‘What is this stuff in between and these other countries?’”
Trump at times also betrays an ignorance of regional history and rivalries. During his meeting with Abe at Mar-A-Lago in April this year, Trump repeatedly praised Chinese strongman Xi Jingping, according to a former NSC official from a prior administration.

“Everyone was cringing because Japan and China are rivals and the Japanese and the Chinese are nervous about the president tilting too far towards the other side,” that person said. A White House official said Trump explained to Abe that his relationship with Xi would be useful in dealing with North Korea and insisted it “wasn’t considered a negative” by the Japanese side.

At times Trump has done more than make ignorant slips: The Washington Post reported in January that he sometimes puts on an Indian accent and imitates the way Modi speaks. And in an infamous Oval Office remark in January that sparked a global furor, Trump branded several African nations along with Haiti and El Salvador as “shithole countries.”

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Romney, Trump, and Race

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's relationship to bigotry.

From Mitt Romney:
A year ago in Charlottesville, a Nazi white supremacist plowed his car into a group of people, killing Heather Heyer and injuring several others. His object was to brutalize and terrorize demonstrators whom he and his hate brigade opposed. The President opined that there were good people in both groups, a statement for which he was widely criticized. My view —then and now — is that people who knowingly march under the Nazi banner have disqualified themselves as “good people.” Accordingly, I wrote:

Prior to and after Charlottesville, the President made public statements that were viewed by some as expressing or evoking racism. He objected to this characterization and insisted that he opposes racism. What followed has been a national conversation about the implications of race in America. Today, one year after Charlottesville, I again add my voice to this discussion.
I firmly believe in the moral foundation that underlies and is enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and in the Constitution: “all men are created equal.” I recognize that while individuals are born with unequal talents, unequal family circumstances, and unequal opportunity for education and advancement, the equality of the intrinsic worth of every person is a truth fundamental to our national founding and moral order.

As citizens of a nation founded on the principle of human equality, we must categorically and consistently reject racism and discrimination. We must refuse to allow our estimation of others to be based upon their ethnicity rather than upon their qualities as individuals. We must insist that those we elect as our leaders respect and embrace Americans of every race, sexual orientation, gender, and national origin. In this country, it must be electorally disqualifying to equivocate on racism.

There are some who feel that in our effort to create equality of opportunity for some we have, in certain circumstances, created discrimination for others. That surely would be unfortunate and ill-advised. Our aim must be equality of opportunity, not superiority of opportunity. That said, my personal experience working in communities of color is that in the great majority of circumstances, it is still a distinct disadvantage of opportunity to be African-American or Hispanic-American. My understanding of the Black Lives Matter movement, for example, is that it is not intended to elevate minority lives above white lives; it is intended to draw vivid attention to the too frequent reality of deadly racial discrimination in law enforcement and in the courts.

My convictions regarding the equality of mankind were unquestionably shaped by my parents and by my belief that we are all children of God. Civil rights were a passion for both my father and mother; Dad refused to support a presidential nominee of his party due in part to that person’s perceived equivocation on civil rights. As a governor, he established the first state Civil Rights Commission. In our home, Mom and he taught us to respect people different than ourselves and to champion racial equality.

There are some besotted and misguided souls who long for a population that is more homogeneous—more white. They even disparage legal immigration, ignoring the fact that nearly all Americans are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. But can they not at least recognize—whether or not they like it—we are, in fact, a highly diverse population? And given this reality, “united we stand and divided we fall.”

The matter of race and racism is not tangential to the great issues of our day: it is one of them. It is impossible for America to achieve and sustain high growth, economic superiority, and global leadership if our citizenry is divided, disengaged, and angry. But more than this, we must foster equality if we are to remain a great and good nation. And we ourselves must embrace the dignity of all God’s children if we are to merit His love.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

It's "Text Massages"

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character and his way with words.  He and his underlings have made many mistakes.

In March, David Nakamura wrote at WP:
Amid all the chaos in the White House — including West Wing personnel drama, the Stormy Daniels scandal and Mueller’s Russia investigation — some wayward spellings and inaccurate honorifics might seem minor. But the constant small mistakes — which have dogged the Trump White House since the president’s official Inauguration Day poster boasted that “no challenge is to great” — have become, critics say, symbolic of the larger problems with Trump’s management style, in particular his lack of attention to detail and the carelessness with which he makes policy decisions.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Study of Validated Voters

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

From Pew:
In March, 82% of those who reported voting for Trump – and whom researchers were able to verify through voting records as having voted in 2016 – said they felt “warmly” toward Trump, with 62% saying they had “very warm” feelings toward him. Their feelings were expressed on a 0-100 “feeling thermometer.” A rating of 51 or higher is “warm,” with 76 or higher indicating “very warm” feelings.
The views of these same Trump voters had been quite similar in November 2016: At that time, 87% had warm feelings toward him, including 63% who had very warm feelings.
This report is based on surveys conducted on Pew Research Center’s nationally representative American Trends Panel. The Center tracked views of Trump among the same groups of Americans in March 2018 and at three points in 2016, including in November shortly after the election. In that survey, respondents reported whom they had voted for.
When state voter files – publicly available records of who turned out to vote – became available months after the election, respondents were matched to these files. Self-reported turnout was not used in this analysis; rather, researchers took extensive effort to determine which respondents had in fact voted. And unlike other studies that have employed voter validation, this one employs five different commercial voter files in an effort to minimize the possibility that actual voters were incorrectly classified as nonvoters due to errors in locating their turnout records.
This study also includes a detailed portrait of the electorate – which also is based on the reported voting preferences of validated voters. It casts the widely reported educational divide among white voters in 2016 into stark relief: A majority of white college graduates (55%) reported voting for Hillary Clinton, compared with 38% who supported Trump. Among the much larger share of white voters who did not complete college, 64% backed Trump and just 28% supported Clinton.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

A Bad Day for House Republicans

The special election for Ohio's 12th CD -- a heavily Republican district -- was extremely close.  Ron Brownstein at The Atlantic:
The Republican Troy Balderson’s slim advantage over the Democrat Danny O’Connor in a district Republicans have held without much drama since the 1980s reaffirms the core geographic and demographic divides that have defined almost all major elections since Trump’s victory in 2016. Pending the count of absentee and provisional ballots,
Balderson maintained huge leads in the 12th district’s blue-collar, small-town, and rural areas, but faced a Democratic surge in the white-collar suburbs, particularly those closest to Columbus. Balderson arrested that surge just enough in the reliably Republican outer suburbs and exurbs of Delaware County to emerge with a 1,754 vote advantage.
Whoever ultimately prevails, the Ohio contest, like last year’s big Democratic wins in Virginia and Alabama, again suggested that the Trump era is producing a “new normal” in American politics defined by greater polarization along almost every possible front.
On balance, these sharpening divisions leave Democrats in a strong, but not guaranteed, position to win back the House by maximizing their gains in well-educated suburbs and picking off even a few Republicans outside of the major metropolitan areas. By the count of David Wasserman, the House race analyst for The Cook Political Report, there are 68 House Republican districts whose voting history leans less reliably toward the GOP than Ohio-12. “We won a district where we can nominate a bag of cement … and we won by [about] 1,000 votes,” says the longtime GOP strategist Mike Murphy, a Trump critic. “That means … they are playing 50 seats deep in our infield and almost winning. What does that tell you about our midterms?”
At Axios, Neal Rothschild reports: "Democrats have outperformed in each special election since President Trump took office by an average of 8.5 points, according to the Cook Political Report's Partisan Voter Index, which measures the partisan tilt of each district based on the two previous presidential elections."

Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) insists he will remain on the ballot and run for reelection this fall despite being indicted and charged -- along with two others Wednesday -- with securities fraud, wire fraud and making false statements to the FBI. Collins, the first sitting member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, pleaded not guilty in court and called the charges “meritless” in a brief media appearance. He told reporters he would “mount a vigorous defense in court to clear my name” and said he anticipates being “fully vindicated and exonerated.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) said during a recent Republican fundraiser in Spokane, Washington, that conservatives’ effort to impeach Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had stalled because it would delay Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation, according to audio of a released Wednesday.
“So it’s not a matter that any of us like Rosenstein. It’s a matter of, it’s a matter of timing,” he said. “The Rachel Maddow Show” obtained the audio from a member of the progressive group “Fuse Washington” who paid the $250 entry fee to attend the fundraiser for House Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.). Nunes was also recorded saying that if Attorney General Jeff Sessions won’t “unrecuse” himself and special counsel Robert Mueller “won’t clear the president,” then “we’re the only ones, which is really the danger.” He said Republicans have to keep their majority, or “all of this goes away.” More:

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Trump, Trump Followers, and the Media

In Defying the Odds, we discuss Trump's character

A release from Ipsos:
First off, the good news. The large majority of Americans, 85%, agree that the “Freedom of the press is essential for American democracy.” Additionally, two-thirds (68%) say that “reporters should be protected from pressure from government or big business interests.” Majorities of both Democrats and Republicans agree with these two statements signaling deep support for the concept of freedom of the press.
Some of the limits of public support for freedom of the press are made stark with a quarter of Americans (26%) saying they agree “the president should have the authority to close news outlets engaged in bad behavior,” including a plurality of Republicans (43%). Likewise, most Americans (72%) think “it should be easier to sue reporters who knowingly publish false information.”
Unanimity starts to break down as we more grounded questions. While a plurality – 46% -- agree “most news outlets try their best to produce honest reporting”, there are very stark splits by the partisan identification of the respondent with most Democrats (68%) generally believing in the good intent of journalists, but comparatively few Republicans (29%). And when we ask questions with specific partisan cues, the political split is very wide. For instance, 80% of Republicans but only 23% of Democrats agree that “most news outlets have a liberal bias,” and 79% of Republicans but only 11% of Democrats agree, “the mainstream media treats President Trump unfairly. Returning to President Trump’s views on the press, almost a third of the American people (29%) agree with the idea that “the news media is the enemy of the American people,” including a plurality of Republicans (48%).
A final statistic is somewhat reassuring, only 13% of Americans agree that “President Trump should close down mainstream news outlets, like CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times.” Here less than a quarter of Republicans (23%) agree along with fewer than one in ten Democrats (8%).

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Courts and Dark Money

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

A release from CREW:
In a major defeat for secret money in politics, a judge ruled that dark money groups that spend at least $250 in independent expenditures—a key type of political ad—must report every contributor who gave at least $200 in the past year as well as those who give to finance independent expenditures generally, throwing out an illegal three decades old regulation that was used to avoid disclosure and changing the legal landscape for political spending.
The decision in Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) and Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategies, handed down late on Friday, declares that the law unambiguously commands more disclosure than the FEC has required in 30 years, restoring Congress’s intended full disclosure of those making contributions to groups that fund independent expenditures—ads that explicitly endorse or oppose a candidate for office.
The case stems from an FEC complaint filed by CREW in 2012 against Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS over its failure to disclose the donors behind $6 million in independent expenditures in the Ohio Senate race. Even though Rove told a gathering of contributors that a donor had said he really liked Republican candidate Josh Mandel and had made a $3 million “matching challenge” contribution, the FEC said the contributor’s name could stay secret because he did not earmark it to pay for a specific ad. The court yesterday invalidated the regulation that decision was based on, saying it interpreted the Federal Election Campaign Act much too narrowly.
“This ruling could dramatically change the American political landscape and result in significantly more transparency,” Bookbinder said. “Major donors are now on notice that if they contribute to politically active 501(c)(4) organizations, their contributions will have to be disclosed, and if they are not, CREW will pursue enforcement cases with the FEC and, if necessary, in court.”
Read the decision here.

A July 24 release from Montana Governor Steve Bullock:
Governor Steve Bullock today filed a lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury over their decision last week to abandon disclosure requirements for major donors to dark money groups.
The suit seeks to block the Trump Administration from upending the rules that have been in place for almost 50 years that require 501(c) dark money groups to disclose their major donors to the IRS. Absent that disclosure, so-called social welfare groups could be taking unlimited corporate, or even foreign, contributions to influence elections, contrary to the requirements that grant them tax exempt status.
A copy of the lawsuit is attached.
Governor Bullock has been called “the biggest threat to Citizens United,” and remains committed to ensuring Montana’s elections are the most transparent in the nation. As Attorney General, Bullock led the effortto preserve Montana’s 100-year-old Corrupt Practices Act, taking the case for the state’s citizen democracy all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
In an exceedingly rare bipartisan effort, Governor Bullock worked with Republicans and Democrats to pass the DISCLOSE Act to require the disclosure of donors to independent group spending money on state-level elections. The Act requires any group, regardless of their tax status, that spends money or resources to influence an election within 60 days of when voting begins, must disclose how they are spending money and the source of the money.
Most recently, Governor Bullock signed a first-of-its kind executive order requiring the recipients of major government contracts to disclose dark money spending in elections. The order represents a significant new step for transparency in government. Under the executive order, government contractors who have spent over $2,500 in the past two years in elections will be required to disclose their donations. The order covers contributions to so-called “dark money” groups that are otherwise not required to disclose their donors.

Monday, August 6, 2018

Leftward Ho: Support for Abolishing ICE

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

Sean McElwee at NYT:

Data for Progress also commissioned a national survey from YouGov Blue. We asked respondents, “Would you support or oppose defunding Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and enforcing immigration violations like other civil infractions?” We found 32 percent of respondents in support and 38 percent opposed (with another 30 saying neither or they didn’t know). Half of Democrats supported defunding ICE (18 percent opposed) and among people under 45, 33 percent supported the idea and 27 percent opposed it.

Sunday, August 5, 2018


In Defying the Odds,  we discuss the Trump phenomenon and its impact on the GOP.

Morgan Gstalter at The Hill:
President Trump bragged about his prowess in defeating the Republicans who oppose him, saying at an Ohio rally that he “destroys” the careers of GOP politicians who dare defy him.
“How do you get 100 percent of anything? We always have somebody who says ‘I don’t like Trump, I don’t like our president, he destroyed my career,' ” Trump said.
“I only destroy their career because they said bad things about me and you fight back and they go down the tubes and that’s OK,” he added.

Saturday, August 4, 2018

Taxes, Wages, and Rich People

In Defying the Odds, we talk about the economic divides that enabled Trump to enter the White House.  In 2018, however, those divides may be working against the GOP.  Trump promised that his tax cut would help average Americans, but it has been unpopular.

Indeed, the Democrats could run this 1982 ad, with almost no changes.

Now that enough time has elapsed since the passage of the tax cuts for economists to begin analyzing the data, it's clear that while many Americans may be seeing a bit more money in their paychecks as a result of the new tax breaks, the promised wage growth and business investment have yet to materialize.

A report from the Center for American Progress , a liberal think tank in Washington, points to the following in particular:
  • Real average hourly earnings (adjusted for inflation) for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls were totally unchanged in June from one year earlier.
  • Real average hourly earnings the approximately 80% of workers categorized as "production and nonsupervisory employees" edged 0.2% lower over the same period.
  • Real median weekly earnings have also decreased slightly.
Wages were up 2.7% for the 12 months that ended July 31, the same annual pace as in
Consider that, while average hourly earnings are growing at an annual rate of 2.7%, the consumer price index for the 12 months that ended June 30 was up 2.9%. That means the purchasing power of Americans went down during that period.

A broader measure of inflation used by the Federal Reserve, based on total personal consumption expenditures, showed an annual rate of 2.2% for the 12 months that ended June 30. That means purchasing power has improved, but not much, in the last year.

The Labor Department tracks inflation-adjusted wages — known as real average hourly earnings. The most recent report, in June, showed a 0.1% increase in those earnings since May.

However, inflation-adjusted wage growth was flat in June compared with a year earlier for the second month in a row. Annual growth in real average hourly earnings was running about 2% in 2015 because inflation was much lower then.
Patrick Temple-West and Victoria Guida at Politico:
 Some of the biggest winners from President Donald Trump’s new tax law are corporate executives who have reaped gains as their companies buy back a record amount of stock, a practice that rewards shareholders by boosting the value of existing shares.
A POLITICO review of data disclosed in Securities and Exchange Commission filings shows the executives, who often receive most of their compensation in stock, have been profiting handsomely by selling shares since Trump signed the law on Dec. 22 and slashed corporate tax rates to 21 percent. That trend is likely to increase, as Wall Street analysts expect buyback activity to accelerate in the coming weeks.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Precinct Map of 2016

In Defying the Odds, we discuss polarization in the 2016 election.

On the neighborhood level, many of us really do live in an electoral bubble, this map shows: More than one in five voters lived in a precinct where 80 percent of the two-party vote went to Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton. But the map also reveals surprising diversity.

(We've also created a tool that allows you to examine the data in a more personal way. It’s here.)
 You might imagine that the Deep South, one of the most reliably Republican regions of the country, is a homogeneous zone of Republican strength. Instead, it’s a patchwork of overwhelming Democratic and Republican precincts, sometimes right next to each other. Democratic strength isn’t even confined to the cities, as it is in much of the rest of the country. It's an artifact of segregation in the most racially polarized part of the country.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Steady Trump Approval

In Defying the Odds, we discuss public  opinion in the 2016 election and the current landscape.

Amina Dunn at Pew:
Over the course of an eventful first 18 months in office, President Donald Trump’s approval ratings have remained remarkably stable. There has also been a wider gap between Republicans’ and Democrats’ views of Trump than for any other U.S. president in the modern era of polling.
Four-in-ten Americans approve of Trump’s job performance while 54% say they disapprove, according to a Pew Research Center survey in June. Trump’s approval ratings have hardly moved in surveys conducted by the Center this year, and his current rating is nearly identical to the 39% who said they approved of his performance in February 2017, shortly after his inauguration.
Trump’s steady ratings early in his tenure are unique among recent presidents. And while his ratings are also the most polarized along party lines, this divide represents a continuation of a trend seen in assessments of recent presidents, including Barack Obama and George W. Bush

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Landslide Counties, 2016

In Defying the Odds, we discuss polarization in the 2016 election.

David Wasserman at FiveThirtyEight:
More than 61 percent of voters cast ballots in counties that gave either Clinton or Trump at least 60 percent of the major-party vote last November. That’s up from 50 percent of voters who lived in such counties in 2012 and 39 percent in 1992 — an accelerating trend that confirms that America’s political fabric, geographically, is tearing apart.
Of the nation’s 3,113 counties (or county equivalents), just 303 were decided by single-digit margins — less than 10 percent. In contrast, 1,096 counties fit that description in 1992, even though that election featured a wider national spread.1 During the same period, the number of extreme landslide counties — those decided by margins exceeding 50 percentage points — exploded from 93 to 1,196, or over a third of the nation’s counties.