election
05
Jan

Identity crisis in American politics

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Here we are on the cusp of the 2018 midterm election, and the closing arguments of each party have offered a stark contrast. In short, the Republicans, led by, and I would say eclipsed by, the occupant in the White House, are running on fear. Specifically, of the Scary Migrant Caravan, which is weeks away from reaching the southern U.S. border, and will likely be a fraction of its size now. On the other side, Democrats are implicitly and explicitly running to undo some of the damage they say has been done in the past two years of total Republican control. And they’re running on health care, which polls consistently show as the top concern of voters.

I’m not making any predictions about the outcome. I’m just pointing out that the Republican party right now is using tribal identity to win. By tribal identity I mean “white, Christian Americans who hate and fear those brown people.”

Am I being too harsh? Ezra Klein probably wouldn’t think so. In his great essay published today in Vox, Klein makes the case that the Republican party under the Obama years had become more white and more fearful about losing their, let’s call it what it is, white privilege. If the current occupant of the White House hadn’t descended that golden escalator in 2015 and immediately denigrated Mexican immigrants, another of the two dozen Republicans running would have won the nomination, but eventually another nativist – let’s call him white Nationalist – would need to emerge. Because that’s the way the party was going. Here’s Klein, boiling down Identity Crisisan analysis of the 2016 campaign from political scientists John Sides, Michael Tesler, and Lynn Vavreck:

• Trump destroyed the rest of the Republican field among primary voters who were angry about immigration. Trump did 40 points better among Republican voters with the most negative views of immigration than among those with the most positive views. Trump’s success, in other words, was that he ran an issue-based candidacy on an issue where he was closer to the Republican base than the other candidates were.

• The same was true with attitudes toward Muslims: “Trump performed significantly better with Republican voters who rated Muslims relatively unfavorably in 2011 than he did with Republican voters who rated Muslims relatively favorably.” By contrast, views of Muslims did not affect support for Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio.

• And so it went for race, too. Republican voters who attributed racial inequality to a lack of effort among African Americans rather than past and present discrimination were 50 points likelier to support Trump. Similarly, Republicans who told pollsters they felt coldly toward African Americans in 2011 were 20 points likelier to support Trump than Republicans who said they felt warmly toward African Americans.

Klein goes on to quote the authors about how the election of the first Black President was a realigning moment. That is, and I’m injecting my own spin here, Republicans, especially those on the lower end of the education and economic spectrum, more strongly aligned their political persuasion with race; that is their own White race.:

“The Obama administration was not only eight years of a Democratic president—which meant that partisan polarization would only continue to grow—but also eight years of a black president,” write Sides, Tesler, and Vavreck. “Once Obama was elected, Americans’ racial identities and racial attitudes became even more potent political forces. The gap between the political opinions of whites and blacks grew larger.”

It was exactly ten years ago that Barack Obama was elected. Do you remember the elation around the country and around the world at this event? I do. But in other parts of the U.S. there were people on the other side who saw his election as not just a defeat of their candidate – John McCain, who, to his credit, explicitly did not make race an issue – but rather a sign of the coming doom of White Americans. Remember how people tossed around the term “post-racial” ten years ago? Yes, quaint. Instead of instantly becoming a post-racial nation, the election of Barack Obama deepened and hardened the racial divides that were always there (usually) just under the surface. And now we have an occupant in the White House who is using a klaxon horn instead of a dog whistle to the most racist of his base. The rest of his party is a bit divided: some in suburban districts are not saying his name, as I am not. They’re generally touting the low unemployment numbers. One wonders why the occupant in the White House is not doing the same; the economy is generally good. Other Republicans in mostly rural and deep-red districts are running on the same fear and racial resentment and terror that the Migrant Caravan – filled with, as was said in the Saturday Night Live spoof last weekend, “Guatemalans, the 1990 Detroit pistons and a few babadooks.” Will fear and hate work? For the sake of race relations alone, I hope not.

One other thing. If the rise of Donald Trump – there, I said his name – is the major legacy of Barack Obama’s tenure, well, that’s sad. I don’t think it will be seen as Obama’s most important legacy. After all he accomplished many things apart from just being who he was. But if the rise of Donald Trump and naked nativism is a key fallout from 2008, I hope for the best: that it will be able to lance the boil of racism that has plagued this nation for hundreds of years. I remain optimistic.

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty images)

07
Jan

White people and misplaced nostalgia

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This article from the Washington Post is another in a long and continuing line of How Did This Happen analyses of the presidential election. This one uses the theory that nostalgia for White Christian America – presumably in the 1950s, whether or not they actually lived through the 50s – drove so many Americans to vote for Trump. Because nothing says nostalgia for a simpler time like a thin-skinned man with a fragile ego who tweets out provocations to foreign countries before he’s inaugurated and dismisses the entire intelligence community. Just like Eisenhower, right?

Sorry. Back to the race issue. White resentment is a real thing, and it’s been reported on in many outlets and researched by Pew and others. But the framing of the article, that all these voters wanted was a return to Andy Griffith America – Andy Griffith was a TV SHOW – sorry – shows that either these people are suffering from the worst case of cognitive dissonance ever, or the author is treating their racism with kid gloves. Here’s a key passage:

Seventy-four percent of white evangelicals believe American culture has mostly changed for the worse since the 1950s — more than any other group of Americans — compared with 56 percent of all whites, according to a 2016 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. In sharp contrast, 62 percent of African Americans and 57 percent of Hispanic Americans think the culture has changed for the better, the survey said.

With his promise to “Make America Great Again,” Trump appealed directly to this sense of dispossession, and 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for him, according to exit polls.

Make America Great Again is about racism. Say it, Washington Post. Well, the writer sort of gets real with some fact-based history about the town The Andy Griffith Show was supposedly based on, Mount Airy, North Carolina:

Not everyone is nostalgic for the 1950s.

Ron Jessup, 68, who grew up in Mount Airy during that era, found the place generally friendly then, he said — as long as he and other blacks obeyed the racist laws and social mores of the time.

If African Americans went to the theater, they sat upstairs, he said. If they went to the restaurants, they avoided the counter. “We understood what was considered our place,” said Jessup, who is retired from his job as a high school principal in nearby Winston-Salem. Even now, all five Surry County commissioners are white.

Fictional Mayberry only represented part of the Mount Airy story because it only portrayed a white America, Jessup said.

And the article is still skirting the glaring truth: many of these voters don’t care just about the Bible or gay marriage or lower taxes, they want a White dominant America.

They’re not going to get it. It’s simply not possible. And they’re going to be very angry if and when they realize this.

21
Jan

White nationalist: election about white identity

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Elections are about a lot of things, obviously. People vote for a variety of reasons, obviously. But when you have white nationalists (AKA white supremacists) jumping for joy at the election of someone who they think will “bring their world view into being,” you really have to sit up and take notice.

One prominent white nationalist says plainly that the election of Trump was about white identity:

That concept would be that white Americans, as whites, have collective interests that are legitimate — just as blacks and Asians and every other group have collective interests that are legitimate. One obvious legitimate interest of whites is not to be reduced to a minority.

Now, I don’t think Donald Trump really thinks in those terms. But for those of us who have been trying to slow the dispossession of whites, all of his policies — at least, those pertaining to immigration — align very nicely with the sorts of things we’ve been saying for many years.

I think that is almost — well, probably entirely — an accident. He does not arrive at these views because of any kind of sense that white Americans deserve to be a majority in their own country. I don’t think he thinks in those terms.

White nationalists, again AKA, white supremacists, are overjoyed and energized. Their attendance doubled, the Washington Post reports, at their key national conference last week.

In the wake of Trump’s win, attendance more than doubled from last year’s Washington gathering of the group, which the Southern Poverty Law Center places in the vanguard of “academic racism.” The Institute’s core belief, according to the SPLC, “is that ‘white identity’ is under attack by multicultural forces using ‘political correctness’ and ‘social justice’ to undermine white people and ‘their’ civilization.”

Political correctness. You remember that phrase spat out by EVERY Trump supporter interviewed in the mainstream media in the last 18 months. If it wasn’t clear then what they meant, it should be clear now. They – white Americans who espouse these views – want the ability to shout their grievances that they have lost their dominance and they want it back.

We should listen to them, carefully. We should have listened to them. But, then, listening is not the same as condoning. Regarding race, we’re entering a very dark period in the U.S., pun not intended.

12
Jan

The White Male Resentment Election

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Wait. Keep reading. We know that elections have a lot of moving pieces and there are many ways to explain a “loss”: we put that in quotes because Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, possibly by more than two million when all from California are counted.

But we’ve commented many times on the “Make America Great Again” slogan. Do its adherents have any idea exactly what date when America was last great? 1956? Before they were born? What has been making America not so great?

There are many answers these voters have been giving. They’ll blame NAFTA, they’ll blame ISIS – which is a minimal threat within America’s borders, but whatever – and they’ll blame the “elites” (gee, who did you think you voted for? Joe the Plumber?)

But what many have said – many white men – have said, explicitly and covertly, is that they’re losing their power. From The Nation magazine:

Indeed, when these voters scream about the economy, when Trump appealed to them, over and over, by claiming that the government was wasting their money, a big part of that was the perception that government money was going to help African Americans, single mothers, and the white people in their neighborhoods they deemed lazy. Trump ally Roger Stone said in September, about his candidate’s appeal to black voters: “When you are trading your vote for a welfare check, yes, that is a form of slavery. Yes.”

Again, not just loss of white privilege, but white male privilege. The Nation continues:

They were voting against an economy they believed was giving women a step up. In July, David Frum, in The Atlantic, compiled all of the conversations and interviews he’d done with Trump voters into an anti-elite screed written from their perspective. “In our America, the gender gap closed a long time ago—and then went into reverse,” he wrote. “Obama in the Oval Office was humiliating enough. But Hillary will be worse: We’re going to lose any idea at all that leadership is a man’s job.” I looked into this and it isn’t true. Everywhere in the country, women do worse than men in both job-market participation and in salaries. If there’s a tiny pocket of the country where women do better than men, it is not large enough to measure or make even a tiny difference in what we do measure. What is true is that women had been gaining ground. Men in rural communities across the country are unable to perceive that as anything but a loss to their own advantages.

So. Will America be great enough for them after four years of the new administration? We have to doubt that.

13
Jan

Who are the “deplorables”?

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By now everyone has heard about Hillary Clinton’s comment about half of her opponent’s supporters falling into a “basket of deplorables” – sexist and racist mostly.

The pushback from her opponent and his surrogates has been hard and unrelenting. But unless we’ve missed it, none of these surrogates or Trump himself have refuted the claim. None of them have said, “no, most of my supporters are not racist at all.”

Because it wouldn’t be true.

Of course it’s political season, and lies are flying fast and furious. But the framing of the counter-attack on Clinton is telling. Trump has been courting racists and alt-right white nationalists since the beginning.

Dana Milbank in the Washington Post says what everyone in the U.S. should already know; that a good percentage – okay, we can quibble about the exact percentage - are bigoted or racist:

In June, the Pew Research Center found that 79 percent of Clinton voters believe the treatment of racial and ethnic minorities is an important issue, while only 42 percent of Trump supporters feel that way. As I wrote previously, earlier Pew research found that Trump supporters were significantly less likely than other Americans (and supporters of other Republican presidential candidates) to think that racial and ethnic diversity improves the United States.

Research by Washington Post pollsters and by University of California at Irvine political scientist Michael Tesler, among others, have found that Trump does best among Americans who express racial animus. Evidence indicates fear that white people are losing ground was the single greatest predictor of support for Trump — more, even, than economic anxiety.

So, okay, maybe deplorable is an loaded term. It might be more accurate to say, “Trump does best among Americans who express racial animus and white people who fear they are losing economic ground, therefore they blame people of color.” It’s a little wordy, though, right?

What we can say for sure is, it’s going to be a very long 53 days until this election is over.

22
Jan

Asian and Hispanic Americans less likely to vote

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CPS_race

Source: www.electionproject.org

Election 2016 is entering the home stretch (and not a minute too soon), and voters are going to be casting their votes by mail in some states in just a few weeks.

Hispanics and Asians could be crucial, and their percentage of the U.S. population is growing. This year  Hispanic and Asian voters will form 16% of the eligible voter pool, and will continue growing each year. But voter turnout rates among Hispanics and Asians is relatively low, according to Pew Research and the U.S. Elections Project.  In the 2012 presidential election, 64% of non-Hispanic white eligible voters cast ballots, as did 67% of black eligible voters. But the voter turnout rate was 48% among Hispanics and 47% among Asians.

One possible reason for lower registration (and turnout) rates among Hispanics is that they tend to be younger. In fact 44% of all Hispanic voters are millenials. But even that doesn’t explain it fully, because even among millenials, Hispanic/Asian registration trails significantly. Language barriers might be an issue. Also, Hispanic and Asian voters are concentrated in non-competitive states like New York and California and Texas. Or it may come down to the lack of a “family tradition” of voting in US elections.

We hope that more people who have the right to vote will do so. And from a demographic perspective, we would be fascinated to learn why Asian-Americans and Hispanics lag behind other groups in registration and voting habits.

03
Jan

Trump sparks surge in Latino voter registration

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Political insiders have wondered for decades how to motivate Latinos to vote. Now they have their answer: Donald Trump.

Trump is poised to win today’s primary in Indiana, and if he does he will have a clear path to the GOP nomination for President, most political experts agree. The dawning realization that the Republican nominee will likely be Trump has led to a spike in voter registration for Latinos. And they’re not registering to vote FOR him either.

Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Elected and Appointed Officials, projects 13.1 million Hispanics will vote nationwide in 2016, compared to 11.2 million in 2012 and 9.7 million in 2008.

A whopping 80 percent of respondents in a poll of registered Hispanic voters in Colorado and Nevada said Trump’s views on immigration made them less likely to vote for Republicans in November. In Florida, that number was 68 percent.

The figures are sparking confident tones from Democrats, who think their party’s nominee will benefit from a huge advantage in the fall not only in the presidential race but also in battles for the House and Senate.

Many of the newly registered Hispanic voters are in relatively safe states for Democrats (California) and Republicans (Texas). But rising registration rates among Hispanics in swing states of Colorado, Florida and Nevada could make it easier for the Democratic candidate to capture them. If Trump proves especially toxic, even states like Arizona and Georgia could be in play.

It’s Trumps loud demands to close the border that have motivated Latinos, not just the policy itself (most wouldn’t be directly affected by it) but the ugliness of the rhetoric, including Trump’s most ardent supporters.

Does anyone want to take bets on whether Trump will double down on the rhetoric?

08
Jan

American anger 2016 and “the other”

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Have you gotten into an argument about politics yet this season? If so, you’re not alone. And if it seems like these disputes are becoming more toxic and mean, they are, according to a fascinating, though not surprising, essay in the New York Times this week.

The Big Orange One was not named in the article, and that may be due to the conclusion that Trump is just a vessel for simmering rage that has been boiling in the American electorate for some time.

While the percentage of Americans who identify as Democrat or Republican has gone down in recent decades, those with a strong party affinity are now farther apart from the other side than ever. And according to this essay, it’s largely based on racial attitudes:

The increasing alignment between party and racial attitudes goes back to the early 1990s. The Pew Values Survey asks people whether they agree that “we should make every effort to improve the position of minorities, even if it means giving them preferential treatment.”

Over time, Americans’ party identification has become more closely aligned with answers to this question and others like it. Pew reports that, “since 1987, the gap on this question between the two parties has doubled — from 18 points to 40 points.” Democrats are now much more supportive (52 percent) of efforts to improve racial equality than they were a few decades ago, while the views of Republicans have been largely unchanged (12 percent agree).

And with race and ethnicity front and center in the 2016 race, from Black Lives Matter protesters to Trump calling Mexicans rapists and murderers (“though some I’m sure are nice people”), the partisan split is even more pronounced.

 

11
Jan

Minority voter suppression, 2016 edition

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We’ve just seen the first two contests of the 2016 elections, and just in time, there’s a new paper from the University of California, San Diego, that shows what we already suspected. That is, voter ID laws dampen turnout for minorities.

Voter ID laws adversely affected the turnout of minorities, and particularly that of Latinos, the paper found. The study also revealed that turnout among Democrats was disproportionately affected, backing up claims of a political motivation behind the laws, which have been overwhelmingly championed by GOP legislators.

It is the first comprehensive study that’s been done over many election cycles that very clearly shows how minority voters are affected, and how they’re adversely and disproportionately affected compared to their white counterparts, the authors say.

Lajevardi, a Ph.D. candidate in UC-San Diego’s department of political science, is joined on the study by lead author Zoltan L. Hajnal , a political science professor there and with Lindsay Nielson, a post-Doctoral fellow. They examined not just the turnout, but the gap among racial groups compared with white voters. Looking at states with strict photo ID laws in elections from 2006 through 2012, they found, where they are enacted, racial, and ethnic minorities are less apt to vote.

Not only have the numbers of states passing voter ID laws grown considerably since the Supreme Court approved of Indiana’s photo ID law in 2008, the requirements in the laws have also gotten stricter. The paper’s authors thus focused attention on “strict” photo ID laws, meaning those “that prevent the voter from casting a regular ballot if they cannot present appropriate identification.” Seven states have strict photo ID laws in place, by the study’s count.

In general elections, states with strict photo ID laws show a Latino turnout 10.3 points lower than in states without them, the study showed. The law also affected turnout in primary elections, where Latino turnout decreased by 6.3 points and Black turnout by 1.6 points.