From Natural to Political: What Weather Can Teach Us About Political Disasters

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Agreeing Loudly is thrilled to introduce you to Monica Powell; writer, proud public school educator, and a new contributor to the site. Check out her bio here and check out her writing below.

By Monica Powell

It was the middle of winter and I stood at the busstop, jacket-less. My teeth chattered violently as we waited for the bus to arrive. My best friend threw her scarf around my shoulders. “You’re like a pigeon,” she said. “You keep making the same mistakes over and over again.”

Though ten years have lapsed since a school bus was my primary mode of transportation, I have lost neither the nickname nor the habit of being consistently underprepared for the weather. This memory came flooding back to me during the Women’s March, when I relied on the densely packed bodies (as opposed to my pathetically thin coat and socks) to keep me warm.

In the days since our 45th president was elected, I have been thinking a lot about the concept of preparedness. I think of the nation’s shock on election night, how millions of people–regular citizens, news pundits, elected officials, were all completely dumbfounded by the results of the election. Despite all evidence pointing towards this impending disaster, what made us “forget our jacket,” so to speak? And more importantly, how can we prepare for future storms?  

According to the New York Times, in the wake of an impending natural disaster, “even after all of the best practices in emergency communications are exhausted, 5% of the population will remain in harm’s way.” Perhaps when we look closer at the belief systems that provide us reasons to ignore natural disasters, we can find insight into how an entire nation managed to come face-to face with this catastrophic social and political disaster.

Reason #1: Gauging Risk

“It can’t be that bad.” Researchers heard this type of response again and again from people who opted to defy mandatory evacuation notices during Sandy and Katrina. Speaking from my own experience with a politically conservative father, I heard this sort of rhetoric many times leading up to the election. “He can’t be that bad,” my dad would insist. “He won’t be able to do half of the stuff he’s claiming to do.” Like the Katrina victim dumbfounded by their destroyed house, my father shakes his head in disbelief as our president gets to work making good on each and every horrific campaign promise. And this is only week one.

Reason #2: Lack of Exposure

It is difficult to be afraid of what you don’t know. Many who defied evacuation orders did so because they had never been in a hurricane and they couldn’t imagine the extent of damage it could cause. When you have no frame of reference, how can you possibly imagine the power of a hurricane? Sandy and Katrina victims quickly learned that these storms were beyond anything they could have imagined. Politically speaking, this was the circumstance for millions of Americans during the 2016 election. Having lived the last quarter century under Clinton, Bush and Obama, it is difficult to imagine a President Trump. It was difficult to imagine (for both liberals and conservatives alike) the amount of damage one man could truly cause.

Reason #3: People Have Short Memories

Oddly enough, it wasn’t only people who had never experienced a hurricane who opted to stay behind in Sandy and Katrina. It was like how the moment I got inside that warm bus, memories of the jacket-less cold were soon forgotten. Or how the pain of childbirth doesn’t discourage women from their second or third pregnancy. Humans have short memories, particularly for uncomfortable, painful things that they’d sooner forget. Memories of past hurricanes fade into hazy memories. When the next time newscasters are predicting a storm, many hurricane survivors will revise history, insisting it wasn’t so bad the last time, that surely this one couldn’t be worse than storms survived in the past. Half of our country chose to ignore the historical parallels between President Trump and one German Fascist. They willfully refuse to see the parallels between these two men, both obsessed with making broken countries “great again” through increased government control and racial and religious purification.

The most troubling connection between these natural and political disasters are the populations who are impacted the worst. In the four years to come, the people who will be hit the hardest will be the elderly, the poor, and racial and ethnic minorities. It is our job to protect those who will have the hardest time protecting themselves. It is our responsibility to stay vigilant towards all policies that come out of this administration, particularly those that put the safety of marginalized populations at risk.

In the 2016 Presidential election, this storm caught us by surprise. It is a matter of national security for us to create a disaster relief plan for the 2018 election. So call your representatives. Check your sources. Peacefully protest and march. Let’s make sure we are prepared.

The Greater Recession: Party’s End and A New Beginning.

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Generational change, or the lack thereof, proved to be a chief driving force of the “bottoming out” of the Democratic Party this year. This is not news to “Agreeing Loudly.”  We’ve predicted this and built a site partly on this fact for 16 months. The early returns are not good — Democratic Party leadership is not reading enough Thomas Frank.

New York, NY — (the capital of national Democratic Party incompetence, cluelessness, and cultural excess).

The beating heart of America and the state of New York (like every state) is the people. And the people have been betrayed. While the GOP celebrates, and all Americans should be protective of those most vulnerable and commit themselves to being the best person they can be, it is time for the Democratic Party to take these next six weeks and actually do some introspection. I have no doubt that introspection is going on in the hearts and minds of voters and supporters. However, it is rarely going on in the minds of boomer-heavy Democratic Party leaders. And that will not change until we demand that it changes.

Permanent Minority Leader Chuck Schumer is not going to suddenly discover his populist voice at the age of 65. Permanent Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is not going to suddenly discover her populist voice at the age of 76. I do not bring up their ages to be an agist. Far from it. Because the war on the young and the war on the middle and working class has been going on ever since their generation came to power via Watergate in the mid-70s. I bring up, what in the end are mere numbers to highlight the concept of subsidiarity: let those that are closest to the problem, and are more likely to know the problem — solve the problem.

The problem with the party is neoliberalism and corporatism. The problem is empty and soulless “high society” and “status” liberalism. The problem is an irrational appeal to moderation, compromise, incrementalism, and the idea that leaders (and especially the President) can just solve anything. They can’t and they won’t. We must do it. We the people. Welcome to the third and final part of the story of the future Greater Recession: Party’s End and a New Beginning.

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In 18 to 36 months, because it is a fact of the business cycle, and for reasons cited in Parts One and Two, this country will be in another “bubble” recession. The recession is inevitable. The pain caused to human beings because of short-sightenedness, corporate greed and grift, and government sponsorship of it, is completely avoidable. Were it not for the fact that elections, a lack of vision for the future and a good message, and voter apathy having consequences.

It would have happened if Hillary Clinton had won too. Don’t forget that former incoming Majority Leader Schumer had a stated top legislative goal of corporate tax cuts to get after overseas tax shelter-corporate profit dollars in the coming session. Now that Donald Trump has won, it will still happen. In some ways it’ll be the same, in others worse. The difference now is how the powers that be will react to it, and how we the people will react to it. Life is ten percent what happens to you, ninety percent how you react to what happens to you.

The big financial institutions and investment banks are already lining up and betting for the market to fail. Hiring freezes have commenced. All the indicators are there.

Despite all of his populist rhetoric, and many commentators citing that it was a farce and fraudulent in advance, the incoming Trump administration has already tapped a Goldman Sachs banker as the next Treasury Secretary. It might as well be enshrined into the Constitution at this point. Doesn’t matter who wins–there’s going to be a GS Treasury Secretary.

Bizarrely, this Greater Recession will not feel greater than the great one. Why? Because working families and working people have not made up what was lost economically for them in 2007-09. My ancestors barely felt the Great Depression in the 1930s–why? Because they were already poor to begin with. If/when the market fails and there are more bail outs of banks, but not people–get ready for the student loan “bubble” to burst too. Mr. Pres.-elect, it’s up to you what you want to do–I recommend doing the right thing.

For anyone who thinks the intra-party civil war within the Democratic Party can save us all from this fate, or if you think there will be an inevitable electoral backlash, think again. And then read Thomas Frank. Then get back to me. Then go read Thomas Frank again. Then listen to the “Margin of Error”, then branch out from there.

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After the 2016 Election — the two party power structure in this country looks like this:

Presidency: GOP (the first elected President in American history without any political or military experience prior to the Presidency)

US Senate: 52 GOP, 48 DEM (+2 DEM)

US House: 238 GOP, 194 DEM (+6 DEM)

US State Governors: 34 GOP, 15 DEM, 1 IND (Alaska) (+3 GOP)

US State Legislatures: 36 GOP/GOP-caucusing, 14 DEM/DEM caucusing in State Senates | 32 GOP/GOP-leaning, 17 DEM, 1 IND (Alaska) in State Houses.

After 2018 Midterm Elections — this is a realistic possibility:

The GOP faces a very favorable Senate map in 2018. 2016 was actually the last time in a long time the Democrats had a realistic chance to pick up the Senate absent a wave and a complete re-organization of the Democratic Party. Now we have the following seats that will still likely fall, or very well could.

GOP gains: IN, MO, MT, ND, (Joe Manchin holds on, but switches parties), 59 seats.

The situation will not improve much in the US House in an era of gerrymandering, voter ID, and key provisions of the Voting Rights Act gone.

Therefore, the next two years should be a legal battle in key states and 2017 should be about actually voting in progressive major US city Mayors so we can stop looking so hypocritical when corporate Democratic Mayors engage in tax giveaways to subsidize sports stadiums, and real estate projects, etc. We can stop looking so hypocritical when it comes to education achievement gaps, etc.

Lessons have not been learned and the liberal boomer establishment is mostly not getting it.

The Democratic Party will still have a DCCC that dictates to local units their “expert” opinions and sophisticated numbers over the local knowledge of people who have lived most, if not all, of their lives in their communities.

Most of the chairs and public elected officials of the Democratic Party remain unchanged. And already the Keith Ellison for DNC Chair (which I support, with some small reservations) momentum is slowing down because the “donor class” doesn’t want him and mostly, doesn’t like him.

We have no evidence since the year 2006 that Dems will magically turn out in a midterm when they do not hold the White House. 2006 was certainly a wave, but it was a wave that was created by the Iraq War and the Bush Administration being historically unpopular. It is likely that Trump will be unpopular, but when you have Democratic leaders like (permanent) Minority Leader Schumer in the Senate, and (permanent) Minority Leader Pelosi in the House vowing to make Donald Trump more popular, and vowing to work with him on some things, in stark contrast to how the GOP leadership behaved after an *actual* landslide in 2008, the jury is very much still out on the so-called coming 2018 Democratic wave.

2018 should be focused on the states and localities. Gubernatorial and state legislative campaigns. Party-building begins locally and it begins personally. Think local.

If the GOP maintains most of what they hold or even slightly improve (via winning the MN and PA gubernatorial races, a distinct possibility if nothing changes), not only are they knocking on the door of a filibuster-proof Senate, but they are also knocking on the door of a Constitutional amendment proof majority in the states (3/4ths, 37 states needed to pass and ratify proposed Constitutional amendments).

Not only will there be no wave if things do not change in a hurry for the party, but there are many areas past the above mentioned Senate map looking brutal, where we could lose ground further.

New York Democrats are currently prepping Chelsea Clinton to run for Congress in a long-held but only slight Democratic district in the New York-17th. I predict the GOP goes out and gets an Iraq Veteran who delivers lines like this across the district:

“While Chelsea Clinton was getting groomed to run for Congress and join the family business someday, I was dodging bullets in the Middle East.” – the Eric Greitens of the New York 17th. 

I’m sure Chelsea is nice, this is not personal. But I ask our readership to please get an early start in starting the human rights watch campaign to free Chelsea Clinton from what Democratic Party insiders and the Clinton cabal of advisors keep asking her to do. Go into careers that she does not want to do and is not a natural at doing. It’s insulting to her humanity, it’s insulting to the electorate, and I can only hope that she does not run. Enough with the Dukes and Earls, whether political or economic.

The 2020 Presidential Election — here are the early, talked about candidates:

One of the Reagan-baby Gen-X heavy GOP deep benchers (Rubio, Sasse, Cotton, Haley, although probably not Speaker Ryan as he’ll be too politicized) wins the Presidency, replacing Trump, who limits himself to one term citing political success and victories, or because he is impeached by a GOP congress, bringing us briefly, a President Glen Allen Walken…I mean Mike Pence.

Meanwhile, here is what the Democratic Party is countering with as of now, or at least this is what the early chatter is in the Beltway.

Sen. Cory Booker (NJ).

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (NY).

Sen-elect Kamala Harris (CA).

Gov. John Hickenlooper (CO).

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (MN).

First Lady Michelle Obama (Will reside in Washington D.C.).

I wanted to give everyone the proper amount of time away but now it is time to be honest.

Michelle, I have no doubt would be great. But she has stated many times that she has no interest in electoral politics. The Obama family has served their country enough. Leave them alone.

Sen-elect Harris will not run, and while she has a bright future, she is also from California, which has never produced a Democratic President and looks unlikely to do so in this current climate. Lets see what kind of Senator she is going to be first. I have high hopes that at the very least she’d make an excellent AG or VP candidate, then perhaps President after that.

Furthermore, every- single-talked-about candidate was only analyzed in terms of fundraising abilities, not potential message or vision for the future. The amount of people who do not get it in the political, media, and intellectual elite is alarming. For the most part, only the folks and their supporters are getting it. A quick note on the rest: Booker and Gillibrand (as well as Cuomo) may very well run, but they won’t win. If Sen. Klobuchar or Gov. Hickenlooper run, see Tim Pawlenty.

Thanks for sticking with us. Let’s get organized team future, we’re the last, best hope and it’s time to accept that. 

Piercing the Bubble: Reflections on Tuesday

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If there is a universal lesson to be learned from Tuesday, November 8th, 2016 — it’s that we should avoid painting people with too broad of a brush. We must work to get out of our own (often) self-imposed “bubbles” and pierce other ones, to remind your neighbor and fellow American that you’re still here too.

First off, I apologize. We got it wrong. But then again, so did everyone. While Agreeing Loudly got the numbers at the Presidential level wrong, if you look at our back catalogue of podcasts and articles, a lot of the analysis was there all year, serving as a caution and a warning that hard times and danger was ahead for the Democratic Party. Ultimately, I followed Nate Silver and the previously reliable polling aggregations. I said we’d barely hold out in 2016 and then 2018 and 2020 would be rough, which would then lead to rock bottom. 2016–meet rock bottom. 

We do this site because we care about the future. We all get busy at times and have things get in the way but at the end of the day — I am incredibly proud of our first year-plus content. I want to encourage listenership to the back catalogue and readership of previous articles. I think it will help provide context to what was driving the decline of the Democratic Party.

I’d also like to point to a few of my favorite “Agreeing Loudly” contributor inventions:

Satire Is Pointless by Carson Starkey.

This is more true than ever now. I struggle to come up with the words of a great dark comedy that would equal this. Satire and reality truly have merged these past few years and AL.com contributor and MoE co-host Carson Starkey was right on top of that development. Which led us to…

Sadly, not satire.

I’d also like to call attention to the name of the site: Agreeing Loudly.

Intended or not, for me the namesake of this site is a reference to the “bubble.” We’ve all been in them. We’ve all lost sight of reality before because we were so focused on improving  things and accomplishing the task at hand, surrounded by like-minded people.

The brilliant and nuanced podcast the “Margin of Error”, an essential listen featuring nearly weekly guests with co-hosts Allan Branstiter and Carson Starkey. The podcast manages to be simultaneously succinct and in-depth. I cannot help but think of the refrain I repeated all year about the ultimate 2016 result. Hillary Clinton will win by the margin of error. However, the funny thing about the margin of error is that by definition, the other candidate can win.

The Greater Recession: Party’s End (pre-written, now being slightly readjusted for the final result) was mentioned during the first and second parts to The Greater Recession article series. Party’s End of course refers to the Democratic Party. So while we missed the final numbers, I cannot say that I am overly surprised by what happened on November 8th.

Even if Hillary Clinton won on Tuesday, the problems of the Democratic Party existed and every contributor here at Agreeing Loudly ultimately believed some version of Tuesday was eventually going to happen, and it would happen no later than 2020. It looks like it has happened in 2016. We now know that the Obama coalition is entirely dependent on Obama (shocker… I know, something named after a person needs that person).

So where do we go from here? Ruminate on some of these themes I plan on discussing in the coming year.

The Political Spectrum doesn’t exist.

“We Are The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For.”

Please Join Us and Please Disagree Respectfully. Reach Out and Ask To Come On The Show. We want to hear from you, learn from you, and do everything in our power to help you all through this and build this site into something that you can take solace and ideas from as we prepare to exit into the long night that is the political wilderness.

Winston Churchill spent time in the wilderness. William F. Buckley created an intellectual movement of conservative principles while in the long political wilderness. It took him twenty five years to see the President that he had dreamed of. Something tells me that if Buckley were still alive, he would be mostly horrified by what just happened even though the movement he created now has more power than at any time since the 1920’s (which of course led to good things right… right?)

President-elect Trump is now mere months away from taking the Oath of Office. He is our President, but that doesn’t mean he is a good man. Because he is not. And if he wants me to change my mind on that he will have to show me something dramatically different.

We must pierce the bubble and learn. We must seek common and mutual understanding and stop speaking past one another if this country is to ever be united again in any meaningful way. I hope for the sake of all of us that President-elect Trump succeeds. I have my doubts. I strongly believe that you have to spend time in the batting cage to get a .300 batting average. Donald Trump has maybe watched some baseball games. Clearly he understands now what people like about it. But it will be very, very hard for him to hit .300 or even .200 or .100. Instead what we are seeing so far is hired guns on steroids, intent on threatening hundreds of years of our traditions and social contract. In these times, here is another thing to bring back: constitutionalist liberals.

Make no mistake the game will get played. And now more than ever, it must be a sell out crowd. Because the whole world is watching and worrying just like us.

Lets go to the ballgame. Lets sing the national anthem still. The team might finish in last place, but we have to show the world that we still care.

In the mean time and in the immediate term, lets take care of one another. We still have strength in numbers.

I ask those that will be vulnerable to be careful, be smart, be brave, and resilient. And I ask those who have privilege to love and support the vulnerable and the hated. It’s not just the bare minimum we can do right now and the right thing to do, but it is the only thing to do.

Call out hatred when you see it and stand up next to the hated. Not because you are trying to persuade the hater, but because we must show solidarity, love, and support for those that are hated.

 

 

Election Postmortem by Justin Norris

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Justin Norris holds an undergraduate degree in Political Science from Minnesota State University Moorhead and a MA in Political Science from the University of Georgia. He is currently completing his PhD there.

When I was a teenager I enjoyed reading the historical fiction of authors like James Clavell. In one of his stories, Tai-Pan I believe, there was supposedly an old Chinese curse that went like this: May you live in interesting times. I have no idea if such a curse exists, but if it doesn’t it certainly should, because we are certainly cursed to live in interesting times.

 
Many have asked me to write a postmortem of sorts for the 2016 presidential election. As to oblige, the following is a list (in no particular order) explaining what I believe led to the outcome in the 2016 Presidential election. Many of the items on this list bleed together and intensify the impact of one another.

 
Word of warning, this is a long list for this kind of format, and I’m not going to put together a tl; dr version. These assessments come from a combination of expertise, the publicly available information released up to this point, and some of the semi-inside info I’ve received from several people who were in the field during the campaign. Since it is still early, some of these assessments may change as new information emerges. That being said, here’s what I think happened.

 
1. Social desirability bias is alive and well. Many people, especially college educated voters (both men and women), did not want to fess up to pollsters that they supported Trump. Of course, in hindsight this is not surprising, and I had concerns about this problem early on, but there was little good evidence to suggest it was a factor during the primaries (and what evidence that did exist was mixed). Moreover, the classic examples for social desirability bias in surveys occurred when white people would lie about supporting African American candidates for political office. The incredible accuracy of the overall polling environment during the 2008 and 2012 elections led many to believe that social desirability bias was no longer as major a problem as it was in the past. We were lulled into a false sense of security, and the consequences were both great and terrible.

 

The bad polling data led to bad polling aggregates and bad models. Or as many methodologists like to joke about these kinds of situations: garbage in, garbage out. Faulty data leads to faulty decisions. This led many within both campaigns to make faulty decisions about vote targets, potentially effective messaging, canvassing goals, targeting areas, etc. It also helped fuel a lot of confirmation bias across the board (myself included). Though to be clear on this point, damn near everyone was fooled by this. There are several reports originating from within the Trump campaign that suggest that they expected to get no more than 240 Electoral Votes on election night. They were caught flat footed by this as much as everyone else.

 
Similarly, most pollsters used faulty assumptions for the population weights they used in their survey results. They assumed that the election would look like 2012. This turned out to be wrong. Some pollsters released multiple findings for their polls using different weights. I think this should become the norm.

 
2. Sexism is alive and well. I have had people (who I thought were smart, until they said this) tell me that Clinton was nominated solely because she has a vagina. Period. The exit polls are suggestive on this matter. Damn near 80% of males overall voted for Trump. Moreover, the large number of sexual harassment stories in the days since Trump’s victory makes it clear that it may be debatable as to whether sexism was the most important factor for deciding this race, but you cannot deny that it was a factor, and likely an important one.

 
3. Racism and bigotry are alive and well. The exit polls and on-site interviews are suggestive on this point. People who care deeply about illegal immigration overwhelmingly went for Trump. And they were very vocal about it. We are talking about a winning candidate endorsed by both Neo-Nazis and the KKK. Moreover, many hate groups bussed ‘their’ voters to the polls in several important states. On a personal (albeit anecdotal) level, I know many of us have had to look no further than our own social media environments to see the role bigotry played in this race. I also know many people who have already had to deal with this in the real world. It is unclear at this juncture how important this was for the outcome, but it’s pretty clear that it was part of the equation.

 
4. White working class/white rural rage is real, and Democrats need to ditch the corporatists that moved the party away from the working class in general when it comes to economics. When it comes to economics, Trump ran as an old-school Democrat in many ways (at least rhetorically). Superficially, much of what Trump said on corporate greed, the system being rigged, etc. is similar enough to what Bernie Sanders said that many voters would not be able to tell the difference. And the Democrats let him get away with it. Instead of showing how full of shit Trump is on these issues the Democrats largely ceded the ground. This had consequences which are now plainly seen.

 
5. I’m sorry, but Clinton was a terrible candidate. I know I’m going to get heat for saying it, but it’s true. To be fair, it’s not entirely her fault. Her enemies have been very effective in painting her in the worst possible terms for decades, and the aforementioned problems with sexism make the impact of these attacks even worse. However, she ran a terrible campaign (especially considering who she was running against).

 
Many of us hoped that the Clinton camp learned from 2008, but as of right now that does not appear to be the case. It appears that they still valued loyalty over competence, and suffered from group think to the extreme. For example, I’ve gotten both inside accounts and read media reports stating that the Clinton campaign did not try to mobilize support or persuade voters in rural areas. Nor did they try to target working class whites.

 

 

Moreover, there are media accounts suggesting that this decision was made over the loud objections of Bill Clinton (who knows a few things about this subject). Both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama made plays for these constituencies. Even if you don’t win them over, you must try to counteract your opponent’s efforts in trying to win the day with these voters. The Hillary Clinton campaign ignored these constituencies almost entirely. The damage on this point is evident.

 
Similarly, insiders have told me, and media accounts now confirm that the Clinton campaign overly relied on simulations for determining messaging, canvassing maps, GOTV priorities, and other matters. In and of itself heavy use of data analytics isn’t necessarily bad. If you do it right I believe it can pay dividends. However, it’s what happened next that makes me want to scream. After putting their plans into effect for messaging, canvassing, etc. the people on the ground reported that it wasn’t working.

 

This went on for months in both critical and noncritical states where people on the ground warned the campaign brass that it wasn’t working. Messages were falling flat. They couldn’t build enthusiasm or get voter commitments. Targets were not being met. The brass in Brooklyn told them to stay the course. That is political malpractice, and whoever was in charge of making that decision should never get paid to work in politics ever again. Ever. In general, using data and running simulations to help make strategic decisions is a good thing, but once you’ve tried to implement those plans and the evidence suggests it’s not working then you need to rethink what you are doing. You need to challenge your assumptions, question the data, and listen to the people you have entrusted to put your plans into effect. Ugh. And again, you can’t just focus on minority populations, young voters, and women, and you certainly can’t just focus on the urban and suburban areas. This is a recipe for disaster.

 
6. I am certain I’m going to get heat for this too, but the evidence is already mounting that it’s true. Third Party support did constitute a spoiler effect for both Clinton and Trump. Exit polls suggest that roughly a third of Johnson voters in critical states, states decided by less than one percent were self-identified Democrats. Moreover, nearly all of Stein voters were self-identified Democrats. If these people had voted for Clinton in places like FL, WI, PA, or MI it could have swung the election. That’s a textbook spoiler effect. Though I of course concede that this, and all the other factors identified in this dissection do not exist in a vacuum. Regardless, that is all I’m going to say on this subject.

 
7. The media dropped the ball. In the attempt to adhere to the ‘balanced coverage’ approach to covering campaigns many in the media pursued a false dichotomy that led many to believe that the campaigns were comparable in many ways. This is nonsense. Yes, the media covered the ‘Grab them by the pu**y’ video, but they also dedicated a ridiculous amount of coverage to the email story, even though it was a nonstory compared to everything else going on in the campaigns. For example, even now the majority of voters are unaware that there are around 75 pending lawsuits against Trump, many involving allegations of serious crimes. Similarly, the media gave Trump so much free uncontested air time it was insane. Not to mention that issues were generally ignored. Yes, the media always focuses more on the horse race, but not to the exclusion of damn near everything else.

 
To be fair, television and cable are dying platforms, with fewer viewers by the day. Similarly, much of the traditional print media did a fantastic job, but fewer and fewer people read their content. Instead we get the vacuous nonsense that passes for discourse in social media. And most of what gets circulated in social media comes perilously close to rank propaganda or are downright hoaxes. I had a conversation post-Election Day with a family member and Trump voter where they listed a litany of well-known hoaxes to help justify their vote. To hammer the point home that these stories were false I read them the top Google search results for each story. In each case, the second Google result was the Snopes story explaining that the story was a hoax. I suspect many people have had similar conversations in the wake of this election. It’s has gotten to the point where Silicon Valley elites are starting to ask if Facebook has too much influence over American political discourse, especially given that most of what gets disseminated is patently false.

 
8. The Clinton campaign is arguing that the Comey letter is to blame for their loss. Given all the other problems I believe this is suspect as the sole cause. However, it undoubtedly played an important role. The media jumped on this story, and though they quickly dialed back the more explosive aspects because they were entirely unfounded the damage had already been done. And to add insult to injury the second statement from Comey stating that the new investigation was already over and had found nothing was nowhere near as widely circulated.

 
As for the impact of the FBI putting its finger on the scale, the best evidence at this point suggests that it influenced voter behavior in a number of ways. The exit polls and a lot survey data suggest that the Comey letter had a profound impact on late-deciders, with the majority of them breaking for Trump. This makes the scant coverage of Comey’s retraction all the more damning. Moreover, there is evidence that the Comey letter demoralized a significant number of Democratic leaning voters, and helped bring a lot of wavering Republicans back into the fold. Though I think Harry Reid goes too far in arguing that Comey violated the Hatch Act, his behavior came perilously close, and I believe the Justice dept. should have ordered him to not send the letter.

 
9. There could be many culprits as to why, but this was a low turnout election, especially compared to the two previous elections. This hurts Democrats for a number of reasons, but I will focus on what I think is the most damning reason that has the farthest reaching consequences for future races. This was the first presidential election in 50 years that was not conducted under the most important provisions of the Voting Rights Act. After testing the waters in the 2014 midterms the Republican Party pushed for measures in many Republican controlled states that depress turnout, and focused these efforts in traditionally Democratic leaning areas or targeted Democratic leaning constituencies. Unless stopped by the courts, Republican controlled states cut polling places in Democratic leaning areas, reduced the number of days for early voting, reduced the number of early voting locations, and passed voter ID laws purposely designed to make it harder for Democratic leaning constituencies to get lawful IDs.

 
We know that the goal was to target Democratic leaning constituencies because the GOP admitted it through the evidence presented in federal court, and both federal and state rulings were supposed to stop both NC and WI from implementing these laws. Both NC and WI ignored these rulings and did it anyway. In WI this likely threw the election to Trump given that over 300,000 voters were turned away for not having IDs (that the courts said they didn’t need to have), and as of now, Trumps vote margin is around 27,000 votes. Voter suppression (and that is what it was) likely played a critical role in the results for FL, NC, WI, and MI.

 

 

I could go into greater detail and deeper in the weeds for every single one of these points, but this is already longer than I wanted to make it, and I have other work to do.
I hope this clarifies things for many of you or at least gives you something to think about. If anyone wants them I can provide links to support every single one of these points.
I have been getting a lot of questions about what I think the Democratic Party should do or what liberals/progressives should do about all of this. I have a lot of thoughts on this matter, but I am unsure if I will put them out into the ether.

 

 

Though I will say this, when there is no hope there is no fear. For years now the left has allowed the more conservative factions to govern the Democratic Party because many believed the stakes were too high (protecting existing gains, the Supreme Court, etc.). Well, that’s over now. The right now controls all three branches of government, and they are already making plans to do what many have feared. So now I suggest that the left should fight back. Band together and fight for what you actually believe in, and don’t be afraid to lose. When the conservatives were out in the wilderness for decades they were not afraid to lose, and it helped them immensely. Democrats can’t just be the ‘not crazy’ party anymore. The party needs to actually stand for what its voters believe in. Enough is enough.

 

 

2016 Election Preview & Predictions: Part Two – Congressional Elections

current-congressional-makeup
Current Congressional makeup (114th Congress)

The Battle for the US Senate

As it stands right now:

47 GOP – 47 Dem/Independent Caucusing Dem – 6 Toss Up


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

Easy Dem pick-ups in WI and IL, and a hold in CO.

The Balance in the Senate will be decided by these six states:

NH  Incumbent Republican Senate Kelly Ayotte has benefitted from the last week and widened her lead but it is still within the margin of error. (Republican hold)

PA  Katie McGinty has surged the last few weeks in what looked like another missed opportunity for a Democratic pick-up, now looks like a win that should be just outside the margin of error. (Democratic pick-up, now up to 49 seats).

NC – A tough call. Polls show a neck and neck race between incumbent Richard Burr and challenger Deborah Ross, who has ran a good race. I’ll split the difference here with the Presidential neck and neck race in NC and say it’s a hold. (Republican hold)

IN  Another retread candidate because Democratic boomers must hold onto power until the end of time and younger folks are only needed for a vote every 4 years (but not every 2) and to be foot soldiers in #ForeverWars, but I digress. Evan Bayh is boring and if he runs for President in 2024 he should be ignored because 1.) the Democratic Party and the United States should reject political dynasties of every form, and 2.) he won’t win. That being said, while Bayh is a poor fit for the country that actually exists now, he is a great fit for the state of Indiana as it exists right now. He will win, but not by as much as he used to. (Democratic pick-up, now up to 50 seats).

MO – Jason Kander is exactly the type of candidate the Dems should be running in every state, from safe to toss-up. Younger. A veteran. But he has received little help from the Clinton campaign, despite all their talk of “party-building.” He needed the resources, and did not get enough from the national party. What he did get will be too little, too late. Furthermore, he was not helped at the top of the ticket in Missouri. The Clinton camp could have targeted it and expanded their map but they did not, but would that have even helped? More likely, it could have hurt. Clinton is not popular in Missouri and Kander, currently MO Secretary of State, is running ahead of Clinton in polls by double digit margins. So perhaps a smart strategic play by the Clinton campaign but still… where are the resources? Where is the party-building? (Republican hold, but just barely)

NV – Al Franken 2.0 but eventually decided in favor of Joe Heck (R) to give the GOP 51 seats and a narrow Senate majority. Nevada is notoriously difficult to poll and if demographics that favor Hillary strongly show up down-ballot, then Catherine Mastro will win and with the Presidency itself give the Democrats a slim VP tie-breaking majority. However, polls have been trending the way of Joe Heck in the past week and the top of the ticket may not be as much help as previously thought. (Republican pick-up, back down to 49 seats).

The Democrats end up gaining 3 seats in the Senate but come up short. I guess this means Chuck Schumer could be permanent Senate Minority Leader after all. The driving reason I do not think the Democrats will pick up the Senate on Tuesday is the same reason Hillary Clinton will win: there are just too many close races that need to break the Democrats way and too many upsets or slight upsets for me to predict with any sort of confidence, that the Senate will change hands. If the Democrats do pick up the Senate, it will be by the slimmest of margins. I think they’ll come up painfully short, just like Cleveland did last night.

This gives us a final Senate Map of:


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Opportunities for a pick-up left on the table:

  1. Florida (the GOP owes Rubio now that he agreed to run for re-election when he wanted to be done and out of the Senate, and it increases the likelihood that they clear the field in 2020 for him to run again.)
  2. Ohio (Another retread candidate of the Democrats, who have been running way too many of them which underscores that the Democrats have no bench or farm system, and that Boomer control of the party leadership and most positions could very well eventually doom this party that supposedly is demographically assured the future.)

 

The Difficult 2018 midterm Senate Map ahead:

The Democrats will be defending seats in North Dakota, Montana, Missouri, West Virginia, and Indiana all while facing the prospect of a third consecutive midterm backlash to a historic Democratic President.

The Light Skirmish for the US House

GOP – 238

DEM – 197 (9 seats gained by the Democrats)

US House Races to watch: 

Key DEM pickups:

NY-19 (Zephyr Teachout), a model for what needs to happen the next few cycles down-ballot. Teachout is an academic in the Paul Wellstone-mold, she ran statewide and challenged incumbent Democratic Governor Cuomo from the left, with the endorsement of the Working Families Party (who normally cross-endorse with the state Democratic Party). She did very well in that primary against Cuomo by New York statewide election standards, especially upstate, and her victory by a few points in the 19th represents the ideal Democrat team lefty should be electing in reliably blue states like New York and California.

MN-2 (Angie Craig), the only major difference between what I generally predicted at the end of 2015 for the 2016 political year is in the Minnesota 2nd. Where Jason Lewis has ran a despicable Junior Donald Trump-style campaign and Angie Lewis and her campaign team has had everything break their way. Unlike Clinton, Craig has had a blank slate to define herself and continue to define Lewis as a candidate. While outside money has started to pour in and negative attack ads have started against Craig, she has impressed me with her personal brand of retail politics and is exactly the sort of candidate the state and national Democratic Party should continue recruiting for the purple suburban and exurban districts. This will be a Democratic pick-up in the House but will be a tough one to hold onto during the 2018 midterms.

The lone GOP pickup: FL-2

 

Update on the Presidential Campaign and the News of the Last Week:

For the last year I have said margin of error on the ALC2C and MoE (ha!) podcasts, then decided to be influenced too much be current polling. I’ll stick with it though and lay in my bed because of the Clinton ground campaign being vastly superior. As a reminder of what I said would happen:


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

Yes, the last week was brutal, but anyone who doesn’t think this is fake scandal wasn’t going to vote for Hillary anyway. These numbers are more likely being driven by three other factors:

  1. Bad news coming out about premiums rising on the state exchanges and low approvals for the ACA
  2. Gary Johnson supporters who are Republicans coming home to their party, as I predicted they would in the last week (the day I put that up Hillary was up by 7-8 points in aggregate polling, by the time FBI email narrative emerged, that lead was already down to 5 points)
  3. The Media desires the “surge” narrative because of their long-standing bias favoring not the left or right, but rather sensationalism and conflict.

That being said, here is where I am most nervous:

  1. Florida
  2. North Carolina
  3. Utah (this was always a stretch though, based more off of something I wanted to see happen)

I already thought Iowa and Ohio were losses. If she loses FL and NC (along with Trump holding Utah against Evan McMullin) there is still a firewall (seen below).


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

That is if polling trends continue (worst case scenario for the Clinton camp, I stick with my initial predictions that FL and NC hold). The Clinton firewall then becomes Virginia and Colorado, where polling has Clinton up just outside the margin of error. It’s hard to see those states tightening further, but if they do. If EITHER of them do, then the unthinkable has happened and Donald Trump will narrowly become President via the electoral college, likely while losing the popular vote. I do not bring up Nevada even though polls are tightening there because if Nevada votes for Trump, Clinton still wins. Furthermore, if New Hampshire closes dramatically (a moot point because if it does then both Colorado and Virginia are likely in play anyway and it’s a long night) AND Nevada goes for Trump you have the rare 269-269 tie with Clinton popular vote victory, Prime Minister (yes that is a deliberate typo) Paul Ryan oversees voting Trump in as President, and we have a constitional crisis on our hands. None of that will happen but I thought I’d point it out.

Here is what you really need to watch for.

Trump needs either Colorado or Virginia. Those are the tipping point states in the United States right now. They are also states that used to reliably vote Republican that have voted Democratic since the 2006 midterms (for the most part).

I also bring up Virginia because it is one of the first states to report results.

Here is what to look for right off the bat next week:

Virginia will have GOP-heavy precincts reporting before the D.C. suburbs. It will show Trump up. Do not freak out Democrats. This is normal. Obama was down by 5 early on in Virginia in 2008 and ended up easily carrying the state. If Hillary is down early by these margins that is normal. If she is down by more than 5 early on, you have cause to panic a bit. If her support lags with African-Americans and millennials like many indicators are showing, that will depress Northern Virginia turnout and could make that state uncomfortably close. What is most important is taking a blue-trending state and observing that it is under-performing and distilling from that one of the major points I wanted to drive home last week — turnout will be down and early voting indications are that Black and Millennial early voting is down in key battleground states. Those were the two vital parts to the Obama coalition in 2008 and 2012. While one could counter that Hispanic early voting numbers are strong for Clinton, half of the nations Hispanic population lives in California and Texas. Two states that have not been in play in a long time. Remember low turnout is what doomed the Democrats in the 2014 midterms.


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

If Virginia goes that way, look to Colorado. Colorado is another symbol of the Obama coalition. If Colorado is too close to call all night, Hillary is going to lose, because if everything trends relatively equally, New Hampshire and the Maine CD will be in play. This is very symbolic what just about the only thing that has changed in this nation. Back in 2004, we knew if President Bush did not carry Colorado that John Kerry won. In 2016, we know that if Secretary Clinton does not carry Colorado that Donald Trump has won. Same hopelessly divided and politically gridlocked country, slightly different state outcomes – with the Upper Midwest and Appalachia trending Republican against the swing, and the Mountain Southwest and East Coast trending Democratic.

Simply put, don’t worry too much.

Hillary has the advantage even if polls keep tightening for the same reasons President Obama had the advantage over Mitt Romney. HRC has many paths to 270 and Trump has one or two, which as you can tell from what I wrote above, take some mental gymnastics to pull off. Those two paths are winning NH (which has tightened as well) to get to a 269-269 tie, and having Prime Minister Paul Ryan and the House Republicans break the tie in the favor of Trump. Or he can win NH and pick up one of the Maine Congressional Districts. Both of these paths would likely involve losing the popular vote by a larger margin than Bush lost it to Gore in 2000.

Which brings me back to the only thing that matters. Turnout. I said last week this will be the lowest turnout since the 2000 election. Since that article, the last round of the email scandal has push Hillary Clinton’s favorable rating to -12, while Trump is at -18. It is incredibly hard to imagine a scenario where more people vote for either Clinton or Trump than voted for President Obama.

And on a personal note I very much wanted to use this space to talk about the Congressional elections, and only half of it has been about that. The 2016 Presidential Election has been a corrosive and insidious force on our body politic. It will end (hopefully) on Tuesday, but the forces that set it in motion will continue.

Keep calm and carry on. 

-TMO

 

 

2016 Election Preview & Predictions: Part One – the Presidency

trump-vs-clinton-slide-1
Agreeing Loudly contributor Troy Olson predicts Hillary Clinton will make history and be elected the first female President of the United States by a comfortable margin on Tuesday, November 8th and he further predicts that his predictions will be more accurate than Dick Morris, because Dick Morris is professionally and wildly wrong about everything.

Two weeks from today the seemingly endless 2016 Presidential Campaign will wind to a close and the voters (those that have not voted early, which I highly recommend if your state allows for early voting. This will be organized into three parts.

Today will be the Presidential Election itself. One week from today will be the Congressional elections in the Senate and House. And the day before the election will be the Gubernatorial and state legislative elections. I’m doing it this way for two reasons: one, the Presidential election has historically been very static in the weeks leading up to the final vote and especially in this election, everyone has feels very, very strongly about well….something. Two and most important, the President isn’t a dictator. At best, the President has third most control of any politician in this country over daily lives. The individuals that have the most at stake in who becomes President, members of the United States armed forces, vote at alarmingly low rates.

Presidential Election Predictions

The Popular Vote. 

Hillary Clinton (D) – 48.0%

Donald Trump (R) – 43.0%

Gary Johnson (L) – 5.0%

Evan McMullin (I) – 2.0%

Jill Stein (G) – 1.5%

Other – 0.5%

What to Watch For:

  1. West Coast polls won’t close for awhile, the popular vote will look closer than it ends up because heavily Democratic states like California, Oregon, and Washington have not reported yet.
  2. The big surprise here would be Evan McMullin finishing ahead of Jill Stein. This is because I expect some Stein supporters to come home to the Democratic Party and because Jill Stein has been incredibly underwhelming all cycle, just like in 2012. While I respect the enthusiasm and some of the principled stances of members of the Green Party and Jill Stein herself, like Gary Johnson, she has been way out of her element all cycle. In her defense, the normally funny John Oliver struck a low blow when he made fun of her for playing in a very-early 90’s Indigo Girls sounding rock band. There are many other reasons to not support Jill Stein for the highest office in the land, there is no need to ridicule someone’s incredibly healthy hobby or past career.
  3. I rounded to the nearest .5% for simplicity sake.
  4. I also think a good slice of the traditional GOP (as in they voted for Romney and McCain) electorate who are dissatisfied with Trump as nominee come home, we’ve already been seeing evidence of this the past few days.

The Electoral College.


Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

Hillary Clinton (D) – 323 EVs

Donald Trump (R) – 209 EVs

Evan McMullin (I) – 6 EVs

Explanations: 

This is the danger of making predictions two weeks out but I will discuss a few with you.

  1. Iowa (GOP) – has been trending GOP the last few cycles, has two GOP Senators, a GOP Governor, and is a state I was personally on the ground for in 2008, a spectacular experience, and 2010, still the biggest landslide defeat I and another member of this podcast has ever been apart of. It was a brutal cycle, but unlike other parts of the nation, the red trend and swing in Iowa is real and could be a harbinger of things to come in the Upper Midwest generally.
  2. North Carolina (DEM) – is this the new Virginia for the Dems? I think so. But it will still be razor thin if the polls state as they are in the final two weeks. I think most of the close MoE states will ultimately break Hillary Clinton’s way because she actually has an organized campaign on the ground, unlike Trump.
  3. Florida (DEM) – another state that the GOP could have easily had this cycle on their column had they not nominated Trump. Expect Marco Rubio to run 5-6 points ahead of Trump here. If this state is called for Hillary before 11 PM, we’ll have a shorter night.
  4. Georgia and Arizona (stay GOP, but someday…) – these are two must-holds for Trump. If Hillary pulls off the upset in Georgia, she has won in a landslide. If she wins in Arizona as the polls show now, she has possibly won more electoral votes than Barack Obama did in 2008. I see both of these states ultimately staying the lightest of red, but they will continue to slowly trend blue in upcoming cycles at the local and statewide levels.
  5. Ohio (stay GOP) – this is the state I feel the least confident about, but I think Trump pulls this one out and benefits from lower youth turnout in college towns, combined with a noncompetitive Senate election in the GOPs favor. Large turnout by key Democratic constituencies kept this in Obama’s column in 2012. If Ohio is won by Hillary it will be on the strength of the ground campaign, where investments are considerably less than they should have been due to Hillary having easy paths to 270 without Ohio and incumbent GOP Senator Rob Portman being up by double digits.
  6. Nevada (DEM) – a state that has always been strong for Hillary Clinton, both in the 2008 and 2016 Democratic Primaries and in 2016 General Election polling. This is also part of a broader blue trend over the past decade in the Southwestern United States that includes New Mexico, Colorado, and perhaps soon, Arizona.
  7. Utah (Independent) – discussed further below. I see McMullin pulling this off with just over 30% of the vote, followed by Trump and Clinton being somewhere between 20 and 30% of the vote.

Turnout. 

54% 

Clinton – 5 best and 5 worst states.

Best: California, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Vermont.

Worst: Utah, Wyoming, Oklahoma, Idaho, West Virginia

Trump – 5 best and 5 worst states.

Best: Wyoming, Oklahoma, West Virginia, Kentucky, Kansas

Worst: Utah, California, New York, Vermont, Maryland

Bold Predictions: 

  • Evan McMullin wins the state of Utah and its 6 electoral votes.
    • Why? Because the significant Mormon population in Utah does not trust or like Trump for a variety of reasons and because he is a favorite son who is on the ballot there, as well as 10 other states (a few of which he will also do relatively well in considering he has received next to no attention by even non-major party standards). Overall, McMullin is on the ballot in 11 states and those states, especially Utah and Idaho will drive his 2% national margin.
    • Evan McMullin, a career CIA officer and former Peace Corps member and just 40 years old, will then run and win office statewide in Utah once Orrin Hatch retires, which he will do relatively soon because unlike the Democratic Party, the GOP actually builds a bench, cares about its farm system, cultivates talent, and despite its image as being an old white guy who is afraid of change, they have considerably more young leaders than the Democratic Party does.
  • Voter Turnout, despite this historic election, is lower than in 2012 and is the lowest since 2000 when George W. Bush controversially defeated Al Gore to win the Presidency.
    • Why? Because despite declarations on the ALC2C podcast and on The Margin of Error podcast – fear and hatred of the other side only drives turnout to a point. To reach historic or large (by American standards) turnout you need a positive, optimistic, and hopeful message and the candidates need to have above-the-water favorability ratings. 
    • Favorability ratings are about likability and are a better assessment of a candidate. Approval ratings are the assessment of how well a President is doing their job.
    • In the last six decades, the two years where turnout was the highest were in 1960; where both John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon had sky high favorability ratings. In 2008, while much lower than the famous Kennedy-Nixon election, Barack Obama and John McCain had the highest favorability ratings of the modern political age throughout most of the campaign. This was quite an accomplishment considering the era we live in right now – characterized by increasing government gridlock and partisanship, vitriol, and the public losing trust and confidence in American institutions.
    • Simply put, voting FOR something is always more desirable than voting AGAINST something. Fear and hatred of the other side does and has worked politically in past decades, but only if it is combined with lower turnout, which is ultimately the goal with those campaign tactics.

Winners: 

  • Clinton, for breaking that glass ceiling and making history.
  • The world, for avoiding a Trump Presidency, an idea that terrifies many around the world to no end. Gambling on a personality as volatile as Trump with the largest nuclear arsenal at his fingertips would strike fear into the hearts of a lot of people. They’re not alone.
  • 2020 GOP nominee, who gets to face an incumbent that enters office with -9 to -10 favorability ratings and the general historical trend of an incumbent party not securing a fourth consecutive administration unless it is the Great Depression and WWII. In other words Hillary Clinton will have to do a very, very good job as President and have a lot of voters actually think that to have a fighting chance at re-election. Of course the caveat to this is if the GOP still… cannot get its act together for a national election, which brings me to…

Losers: 

  • Trump, not for losing the election, although that I’m sure will bother him considerably. No, he is a loser even if he wins by some miracle because he has dragged American politics and the honor of the highest office in the land to perhaps its lowest point in our history. Barack Obama, no matter what you thought of his policies, is a basically good and decent man. While I disagree with Mitt Romney, John McCain, and George W. Bush on policy, I always believed they woke up each day wanting to do what is best for their country. Trump has ran this campaign for the glorification of his own ego, has further divided an already divided country, and through his hateful and spiteful rhetoric, has brought out the worst sides of some of us.
  • His supporters, who will be cast aside and derided by most of the GOP elite after this loss. Some have reached Donald Trump’s levels of despicable behavior throughout this campaign cycle, many have lost faith in the two-party system and the economic system as well, and no matter why they are voting for Trump, they all still deserve a country and political leadership who serves the public trust and common interest, rather than special interests. As do all Hillary Clinton, Evan McMullin, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Pirate Party, etc. supporters.
  • 2018 Democratic candidates for office, who will have their work cut out for them at the start and suffer from a third straight midterm backlash to a Democratic administration.

Two weeks to go. Congressional predictions to come next week. Gubernatorial and state predictions to come the day before election day.

Don’t boo. Vote. 

Cultural Conservatism and the Politics of Rage

 

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During a recent episode of FiveThirtyEight’s “Elections” podcast, Harry Enten mentioned a phrase I haven’t thought of for a while that I thought warranted a second look. Enten’s been a vocal critic of not only Trump, but the wave of “cultural conservatism” behind his campaign’s success. He suggested that the core fissure within the Republican Party of 2016 exists between “Trumpian” cultural conservatives and social conservatives like Ted Cruz—which led me to wonder What is cultural conservatism and are we in its moment?

 

Social Conservatism

It’s probably best to start with an idea most politically engaged people are familiar with: social conservatism. This ideology within the American conservative impulse bases its worldview and governing philosophy upon traditional religious morality, especially in regards to gender relations, reproductive rights, sexual behavior, and marriage. While they use the rhetoric of “small government,” social conservatives also tend to support policies that enforce and protect their moral beliefs while prohibiting activities seen as immoral. Their candidates will usually emphasize their religious affiliation and run in support of “family values.”

It’s important to remember that social conservatives are not always economic conservatives—in fact, it is often an economically ambivalent ideology. Nor are they always Christians or white—they are often Muslim, Catholic, or Jewish, and they are present within every ethnic or racial community in the United States. One reason I believe Bernie Sanders failed so miserably during the Democratic primary campaign in the South is because he did not grasp the power of social conservatism within the African-American communities of the region.

Which leads to a final point: social conservatives aren’t necessarily Republicans. It’s probably more effective to understand social conservatism as moral code rather than a political ideology. As such, it reflects the vast diversity of “traditional” moral thinking within the United States, and those who seek to bring about social change succeed when they account for this heterogeneity. LGBT rights and same-sex marriage made significant advances when they appealed to the immorality of oppressing their community and emphasized their desire to enter into the institution of marriage. Simply put, social conservatism is a moral code with inclusionary aspirations. It seeks to not only protect, but expand its moral code. It is an ideology that believes in change, despite its fear of revolutionary action.

 

Cultural Conservatism

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“Minorities Welcome! Only ‘good ones’ need apply!”

Cultural conservatism, on the other hand, is an inherently exclusionary ideology that believes in the supremacy of value systems and political practices based upon nationalist identity. While cultural conservatives don’t necessarily need to be religious, its Trumpian form is founded upon a belief that the United States has traditionally and should always be governed by Euro-American Christian nationalism. Even among supporters who don’t regularly attend church, their worldview is widely influenced by a racial and religious sense of nationalism. American cultural conservatives aren’t necessarily social or economic conservatives—they believe in nation about all else. Citizens are free to ascribe to any ethical or religious code, as long as it doesn’t threaten the integrity and security of the nation. They also believe that cultural outsiders can be brought into the nation, but only if they assimilate fully into the dominant culture—as opposed to diluting it through multiculturalism.

It’s also tempting to paint all cultural conservatives and Trump supporters as racists; however, it is more accurate to understand them as xenophobic above all else. American cultural conservatives view alien “others” as threats to themselves, their interests, and their county. Threatened as they imagine they are, cultural conservatives seek to bring order to chaos through social order, national integrity, law and order, and economic protectionism. Their ideal world is one divided by clear borders, with nations free to protect their physical and economic interests. In their minds, liberalism and globalism has destroyed order and left poor and middle people vulnerable to exploitation. Finally, American cultural conservatives also support social welfare programs, but only for “members” and “good outsiders” (members receiving clear priority).

rnc_dnc_onpage

Is this a Cultural Conservative Moment?

Of course it is. Whereas political conflict in since the 1960s has been between liberals and conservatives, I believe that we are entering a period of pluralism versus cultural conservatism. This should come as no surprise. While Republican leaders have, from time to time, continue to roll back the policies of a bygone battle—repealing Social Security, Medicare, and Medicade, or defunding higher education—its non-elite rank-and-file have been motivated by cultural and nationalistic concerns for at least twenty years. In the past, many of these populists put their faith in party, church, and class affiliations, but today they feel as if these institutions have failed or even betrayed them. The “imagined community” of nationalism is all that remains, and they’ve put all their hopes in the dream that is a strong American nation led by the most talented spinner of nationalistic fantasy—Donald Trump.

The prevalence of cultural conservatism within the currently Republican Party manifests itself not only in its nationalistic rhetoric, but in its firm rejection of traditional social conservatism. The RNC’s vocal rejection of Ted Cruz, paragon of the Old Order, was striking. So was its response to Donald Trump’s pro-“LGBT . . . Q” line. As striking as these were, we should be careful not to believe that the Republican Party is moving into a new era of social progressivism and cultural pluralism. For all the talk about sexual justice, legal justice, economic prosperity, equal pay, and maternity leave, Trump and his surrogates were plucking a dangerous and reactionary chord.

The cultural conservatives currently run the Republican Party. They value nothing more than Euro-American Christian nationalism. They offer acceptance, economic support, sexual liberation, and justice to only those who support their definition of the American nation. Anyone who does not conform is perceived as a dangerous outsider who should be excluded from membership in the national community. Trump didn’t create this moment, nor will it end in November. The history of the United States is a history of justice versus oppression. Our history is also one of alternating nationalistic, pluralistic, liberal, and illiberal impulses. In 2016, the Republican Party has embraced the cultural conservatism and all of its white supremacist and nationalistic baggage.

Come November 8th, the people of the United States will elect one of two candidates, and neither will be named Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. Anyone who votes for Trump or aids him in his potential victory will be abetting the same cultural conservative impulse that gave us Jim Crow, mass lynchings, Chinese massacres, and Know-Nothingism. That’s the kind of moment we’re in.

Conversations with the Ghost of America’s Future Past

America's Future Past

Lost in the madness of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland this week is that Agreeing Loudly snuck two reporters, Carson Starkey and Troy Olson, through the picket line to give our readers this inside scoop on what things are like on the floor. Here is a snapshot of their interactions throughout the week. 

Carson

It’s a good thing our veteraniness got us through security. All we had to do was show them our DOD credentials, I’m wearing this beard, and like that we’re in. Good call on getting the haircut just prior though. Our fake Heritage Foundation cards also came in handy. Props to our interns for those.

Troy

Right. You’ll have to send my regards to Bruce Wayne for loaning me this hair gel. Combined with this suit I’m sporting and my premature 45 year old-ness, we got through no problem.

Carson

Lost in all this madness is that the election will be relatively close still.

Troy

Agreed. Will there be coattails? A backlash against Trump? A wave seems unlikely.

Carson

It does. Ted Cruz didn’t exactly change the game last night. In a society where nobody is persuadable, Hillary will still have to campaign mistake-free. I predict no coattails. Not if Debbie Wasserman-Schultz has anything to say about it.

Troy

And what can we say about Sen. Tom Cotton from earlier in the week? Early 2020 names for him: do you prefer Senator Horseface or Cotton Gin?

Carson

Cotton Gin. Too perfect and appropriate.

Troy

Agreed. Senator Horseface is too mean. It’s merely a gift his last name is actually Cotton. It could have been the nickname anyway….God knows Eli Whitney’s invention condemned black people in this country to decades more of slavery.

Carson

True.

Troy

I won’t lay that at Whitney’s feet though, white people could have used that invention to create factory precession in plants and taken the path of the other great American labor tradition (the northern one), where technology replaces blue collar manual labor jobs.

Carson

The American pursuit of Free Labor goes ever on. Different problems, same outcome.

Troy

Our ability to sleuth at this convention reminds me… has anyone ever assumed you were a Republican?

Carson

Absolutely. All across the South. In a great many conversations. Those were hilarious moments.

Troy

I can see that. I had the opposite experience recently. The two or three liberals in Mississippi somehow found me and engaged me in conversation. (the music overhead stops) Uh oh… looks like they’re running out of Ted Nugent songs to play at this convention.

Carson

No other popular music options. It’s either Nugent or Toby Keith.

Troy

That’s a short list.

Carson

Well Pat Boone is too old to perform live these days.

Troy

That’s too bad, his Kayne West cover would have been great to see, although it likely wouldn’t have worked too well. It’s not 1953 anymore.

Carson

Yeah, the public might not tolerate that as well as they did in the early days of rock n’ roll. Demographics have changed, or so I thought prior to being here.

Troy

It could be 1953 if you redressed this stage and arena. I wouldn’t know.

Carson

Neither would the attendees. They still aren’t aware. (Carson shows Troy a Ron Burgundy meme of “We are laughing” and they both have a self satisfied, smug liberal chuckle).

Troy

So apparently the Back to the Future screenwriter admitted what we knew already, Biff Tannen is based off of Donald Trump.

Carson

Obviously.

Troy

You can especially tell with the second movie, the alternate 1985 timeline.

Carson

And the outcomes wouldn’t be all that off-base.

Troy

Which brings me to our Super Tuesday coverage where we used the Doc Brown “screwed into this tangent” / alternate 2016 Presidential Election bit. Can we just take a minute her and pat ourselves…or rather our pointy heads in peak self satisfaction for calling this entire election cycle?

Carson

I know right? At a time when the standard outcome playbook is in tatters too. We did exercise some solid foresight.

Troy

It’s especially amazing because surrounded by us being right are “professionally wrong” buffoon writing articles about how crazy and unpredictable this election has been.

Carson

We just keep building a trail of evidence for deserving that ad revenue investment. Or switching teams and working for Heritage. I’m not sure.

Troy

The ruthless pursuit of the truth goes on.

Carson

It’s like early Woodward and Bernstein.

Troy

Which is what we build toward when all hell breaks loose in 2018 to 2020. Starkey and Olson breaking the story. Our source–Sore Throat, we refuse to give up.

Carson

I like it. Good throwback/homage reference.

Troy

Of course Sore Throat will be the thousands of Fox News viewers shrieking hysterical rage at Benghazi.

Carson

That’s why their voices are sore. It’s understandable. They can’t NOT watch cable news. They might miss vital updates.

Troy

Still…I feel like we owe it to ourselves to go check out the Heritage Foundation table to see if they have any openings.

Carson

Agreed. It’s not like we’re missing anything.

***Carson and Troy walk off into a corner of the crowded Cleveland, OH arena, will they ever be seen or heard from again? Find out next time on another Conservations from the Ghost of America’s Future Past***

What you just read may scare you, I know it scares me.

However, there is still something we can collectively do about it.

We can change the future…. if we try.

The Gentrified Revolution

For all of Bernie Sanders’s rhetoric about the ills of income inequality and class warfare, in Los Angeles his message was most popular in gentrifying precincts. Dissecting the spacial aspects of why his presidential campaign failed offers important lessons as the movement he inspired looks to the future.

by Allan Branstiter

LA County

The Los Angeles Times published a fascinating and telling interactive map displaying how each of LA’s precincts voted during the Democratic Primary on June 7th. My first impression of the map was that of shock—Hillary Clinton absolutely dominated Bernie Sanders throughout the Los Angeles County. The map basically depicts a sea of blue swamping little boroughs of pinko insurgency.

Aside from the degree of Clinton’s victory in Los Angeles, a close look of the precinct results offers progressives a few important lessons as they plan for the future.

Progressives Still Need to Engage Racial Injustice

If you want to make a Sanders supporter bristle, just talk about the fact that the core of his support tends to be comfortable, highly educated, and white. While Sanders made several important (albeit uncomfortable) overtures towards racial injustice and won the support of high-profile African-American intellectuals and activists like Killer Mike and Ta-Nehisi Coates, black and brown folks still voted largely for Clinton. This holds true in LA, where Clinton did very well South Central cities like Compton, Carson, Inglewood, and West Adams.

Southcentral

White Sanders supporters have been struggling for months to understand why their message of economic and social justice is not resonating in non-white communities. While I have a few theories, I certainly don’t claim to have the answers to this problem; however, I am certain that Bernie and the vast majority of his supporters failed to engage racial problems in a way that convince minorities that they saw their issues (poverty, discrimination, segregation, crime, mass incarceration) as more than abstract political issues. White liberals are adept at talking about racial justice, but they’re not very good at engaging racial injustice.

This map can help us explore this issue from the perspective of racial spaces, and how the old adage “Pay attention to what white folks do, not what they say” might help nurture a truly biracial progressive movement in the future.

 

Sanders Won the Gentrification Vote

The second thing about this map was the fact that Sander’s core of support roughly mapped out the gentrified/gentrifying areas of Los Angeles. This is important to understand because—despite what well-meaning realtors, developers, independent book shop owners, and young urban professional sincerely believes—gentrification is economic and racial violence.

Sadly, where we see concentrations of Sanders supporters on this map, we also see areas of intensifying economic and geographic displacement on the ground. For example, check out the South Beach area:

SouthBeach

Lakewood and Long Beach (located southern of Signal Hill on the map) serve as somewhat affordable bedroom communities for white middle class entertainment, tech, and corporate professionals working north in Downtown and West LA. With this population comes good public services and commercial development. On June 7th, these communities were either evenly contested, with the trendier parts of town going for Sanders.

To the north and east are the communities of Carson and Compton, where precincts went solidly for Clinton. The fact that they are also largely African-American, poor, and neglected is a result of decades of urban redlining, economic predation, and systematic racism. In the past Long Beach and Lakewood worked endlessly to keep surrounding blacks out of their suburbs, but today the area is losing African-American residents due to poor economic opportunities, rising costs, crime, and persistent neglect. In their place are thousands of house flippers, land developers, and white middle class “settlers.”

The browns and blacks who remain face an increasingly precarious housing market, low paying service jobs, and heavy policing. Sure, they have a Trader Joe’s now, but their overall quality of life is stagnating. Considering these facts, it should come as no surprise that poor non-whites did not embrace the enthusiasm for Sanders displayed by their well-meaning but ultimately aloof white neighbors.

The South Beach phenomenon can be seen elsewhere in Los Angeles. For example, Sanders had a lot of support along the I-10 corridor in West LA, where a growing tech sector in “Silcon Beach” (Venice Beach) and the extension of the Metro Expo Line from Downtown to Santa Monica have fueled the displacement of poor Hispanics and blacks in the area:

WestLA

Then there’s ground-zero of LA gentrification—Silver Lake, Echo Park, Highland Park, and Eagle Rock are all hotly developing boroughs with large white populations that voted for Sanders. In fact, one of the most notorious instances of racial displacement occurred in Elysian Park when Chavez Ravine (a Hispanic community) was forcefully emptied and bulldozed to make way for Dodger Stadium:

SilverLake

Long story short, if we’re going to talk about why Sanders did poorly among racial minorities, we need to discuss the failings of white liberalism. We should first begin by dispelling the ideal that all forms of racism—be it segregation, discrimination, neglect, or gentrification—are implicitly motivated by racial malevolence. We need to acknowledge the fact that good “woke” people who espouse even the most inclusive notions of racial justice can also unthinkingly sustain a system of racial inequality. Doing so might alleviate the burden of whiteness felt by white Sanders supporters, and hasten the arrival of a more inclusive and productive progressive movement.

Parting Shot—Clinton Won the Rich and Older People Vote

As a true blue leftist with significant disdain for the outsized influence of wealthy people in the Democratic politics, I should also point out that Clinton won overwhelmingly in the enclaves of ca$h money in LA. Brentwood. Beverly Hills. Pacific Palisades. Westwood. Pasadena. All went for Clinton. Clinton also did well among older Democrats in the ‘burbs: Covina, Beverlywood, Studio City, Encino and the Valley more generally. On the other hand, Sanders did well in Hollywood, where he gummed up traffic and wooed the starry-eyed youths living along Sunset Strip.

Local Man Excited Encyclopedic Knowledge of Clinton Scandals Once Again Politically Relevant

southaustinbear1

WABASSO, MN — Firing up the wireless transistor radio duct-taped to the roof of his Bobcat skid-loader, local man and long-time conservative talk radio enthusiast Bruce Haldorson, is optimistic that his extensive knowledge of 1990’s Clinton Administration scandals will propel him back into political relevancy. Haldorson, who subscribed to the the Wall Street JournalLimbaugh Letter, and American Spectator from 1994 to 1999, looks forward to fervidly espousing his contention that the Clintons got away with tens—if not hundreds—of criminal acts during the 1990s. “A lot of people forget that Slick Willy sold nuclear secrets to the Chi-Coms for campaign contributions,” Haroldson, who once sold food stamps to fund a trip to Dayton Beach in 1995. “Thanks to Donald Trump we’ll finally have an open discussion about Hill and Bill’s involvement in Troopergate, Travelgate, Whitewater, the Vince Foster murder, Filegate, Pardongate, and Able-Danger, and I’ll be able to participate fully at the local Cenex station.” Haroldson went on to assert that Chelsea Clinton’s real father is actual Hillary Clinton’s former law partner Web Hubbell, while repeatedly asserting that Secretary Clinton is actually a “crypto-lesbian.”