I Think Steven Johnson’s NYT Piece is Worth Your Time

December 4, 2016

I’ve gotten pretty tired of the “keep-the-Electoral-College-so-rural-states-don’t-get-crushed-by-the-urban-elite” line. There are lots of reasons the Electoral College should be consigned to history, and Mr. Johnson’s commentary makes some points I hadn’t thought of.

Later,


Economist Noah Smith Makes Some Important Points

December 3, 2016

Noah Smith teaches finance, writes for Bloomberg News, and blogs at noahpinionblog.

In this Bloomberg News piece that went up yesterday,he works some ground many of us have also trod: that economics needs a dose of sociology to get a fuller picture of the world.

A whole lot of us, for better or worse, define ourselves by our jobs. One of the first questions you usually get in a social situation, when you’re introduced, is “what do you do?” meaning “what’s your job?” I saw some outtakes from one of Trump’s speeches, and he hit the mark with his audience, telling them how essential their jobs, or the jobs they used to have, were to defining America. Our country, in the minds of millions, is defined by our industrial might, what were called the “smokestack industries.” People were proud of and felt secure in jobs in large corporate factories, such as the auto industry. They had decent salaries, pensions, and their kids would eventually come take their places on the line. That sense of security is long gone, and that makes for a very large, receptive audience to a “make America great again” message, no matter how phony. People believe what they want to believe, which is how hucksters and hustlers make their livings.

More on this down the road.

Later,


Just to Elaborate on the “Clinton Didn’t Connect with Working-Class Americans” Thing . . .

November 26, 2016

Part 1 of 2, and this will be relatively short:

Post-election, a meme quickly sprang up saying Hillary Clinton lost because she did not have a strong, clear message for America’s working class. The subtext was, “We told you so! You should have nominated Bernie!” Bernie himself said:

“The working class of this country is being decimated — that’s why Donald Trump won,” Sanders said. “And what we need now are candidates who stand with those working people, who understand that real median family income has gone down.”

Responding to an audience member who asked how she could become the second Latina U.S. Senator, he went on to say:

“I have to know whether that Latina is going to stand up with the working class of this country and is going to take on big money interests. It is not good enough for somebody to say, I’m a woman, vote for me. No, that’s not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industry.

“In other words, one of the struggles that you’re going to be seeing in the Democratic Party is whether we go beyond identity politics. I think it’s a step forward in America if you have an African-American CEO of some major corporation. But you know what, if that guy is going to be shipping jobs out of this country, and exploiting his workers, it doesn’t mean a whole hell of a lot whether he’s black or white or Latino.”

That middle quote was pretty clearly a shot at Clinton, and, to my mind, a cheap one.

Now, as I will point out in Part 2, Donald Trump did not win “because the working class of this country is being decimated.” I will also say I agree that Dems in general need to be more direct and clear about how they’re going to help average Americans. But the lack of that message isn’t why Clinton lost the electoral vote. There were other reasons.

Here, I will remind readers that Hillary Clinton won more than 2 million more votes than Donald Trump and may well end up receiving one of the highest popular vote totals in history. So it’s not like he mopped the floor with her. True, the distribution of those votes did not put her over 270, so, in practical terms, unless the Electoral College does something truly historic, it’s not going to matter. But it should matter in terms of how we view these results and how we plan for future elections. I would also note that two of the states she lost were narrow losses: Michigan by something like 10,000 votes and Wisconsin about just over 22,000, though there’s a recount apparently happening. Pennsylvania was a more lopsided loss.

It should not go unnoticed that Hillary Clinton also won a majority of voters with incomes under $50,000 a year. There’s a growing body of evidence, in fact, that education and race, not income or income inequality, were major drivers of Trump voters. Check Nate Silver, for example. What I still have to figure out is why minority turnout, especially Hispanics, wasn’t stronger for Clinton.

As far as “identity politics,” since I worked for him, I know Berne’s basically a 30s socialist/progressive, for whom everything pretty much reduces to class. I’m familiar with that thinking; I’ve read Marx and Marcuse and the others. But I also know it’s wrong. Ask Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. if his class protected him from being arrested by a white Cambridge police officer. Class doesn’t explain how women and minorities make less money than white males. Class doesn’t explain why union members would vote for an anti-union candidate for president. Class didn’t have anything to do with a 62-year-old white man gunning down a 15-year-old black man and referring to him as “another piece of trash.”

I would add that one of the weaknesses of Sanders’ own campaign was a lack of effective outreach to minorities. Cornel West, speaking to the NY Times for a piece that appeared in April:

“Cornel West, one of Mr. Sanders’s most visible African-American surrogates, said that he thought that Mr. Sanders could win the nomination but that the senator should have fought to be “well-known quicker and much earlier” among voters, especially blacks.”

People sometimes vote their race (you don’t think Trump wasn’t whipping up “identity politics”?) and their gender, and we have to account for that.

I think, as he often does, The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein has a thoughtful piece we should read carefully. Clinton’s electoral vote loss may have a lot more to do with faulty campaign mechanics than any messages she may or may not have sent. Tara Golshan, on VOX, has has her own piece on how Clinton might have been undone by lousy information. Ponder all this before jumping on the class warfare wagon.

Later,


For All Y’all Who Think Clinton’s to Blame Because She Didn’t Connect w/the Working Class . . .

November 26, 2016

The Guardian reported that, of the one in three Americans who earn less than $50,000 a year, a majority voted for Clinton. A majority of those who earn more backed Trump.

And check out The New York Times’ exit polling interactive graphic showing Clinton won 53 percent of voters with incomes under $30,000 and 51 percent of voters with incomes between #30,000 and $49,999. Not a big win, but she had the majority.

I’ll have more on this.

Later,


A Peaceful and Happy Thanksgiving Wish . . .

November 24, 2016

And, thanks, Arlo!

later,


Thoughts from One of Our Greatest Presidents:

November 20, 2016

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Wonder who Booth would have voted for?

Later,


Did Somebody Say, “Rude”?

November 20, 2016

So Donald Trump deftly deflects attention to his $25 million settlement of the Trump U fraud suit by going on social media demanding an apology from the cast of “Hamilton” for having rude temerity to read a statement to Mike Pence after a performance:

“We have a message for you, sir. We hope that you will hear us out. Vice President-elect Pence, we welcome you, and we truly thank you for joining us here at Hamilton: An American Musical. We really do. We, sir, we are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights, sir. But we truly hope this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us, all of us. We truly thank you for sharing this show — this wonderful American story told by a diverse group of men, women, of different colors, creeds, and orientations.”

Now, considering all the racist bile thrown at the Obama family over the last 8 years, including the recent reference to the First Lady as “an ape in heels,” and considering the obnoxious and offensive emanations from Trump’s own mouth about women, Muslims, Mexicans, and people with disabilities, oh please . . .

Later,