Tag Archives: Political Science

Mann and Ornstein: How the Republicans Broke Congress

Political scientists Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein, the high priests of “centrism” in Washington, D.C., warned back in 2012, Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem.

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

This op-ed was a preview of the books that followed, “It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism” (2012) and updated in 2016, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks Was: How the American Constitutional System Collided With the New Politics of Extremism.

Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein are back with a new op-ed at the New York Times, How the Republicans Broke Congress:

In the past three days, Republican leaders in the Senate scrambled to corral votes for a tax bill that the Joint Committee on Taxation said would add $1 trillion to the deficit — without holding any meaningful committee hearings. Worse, Republican leaders have been blunt about their motivation: to deliver on their promises to wealthy donors, and down the road, to use the leverage of huge deficits to cut and privatize Medicare and Social Security.

Congress no longer works the way it’s supposed to. But we’ve said that before.

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The new Whiny Right (Updated)

I posted about this topic last year, The secret to Trump’s success: the GOP is the party of white identity and white grievances.

New York Times columnist Charles Blow now has a must-read column, America’s Whiniest ‘Victim’:

Donald Trump is the reigning king of American victimhood.

He is unceasingly pained, injured, aggrieved.

The primaries were unfair. The debates were unfair. The general election was unfair.

“No politician in history — and I say this with great surety — has been treated worse or more unfairly,” he laments.

People refuse to reach past his flaws — which are legion! — and pat him on the back. People refuse to praise his minimal effort and minimal efficacy. They refuse to ignore that the legend he created about himself is a lie. People’s insistence on truth and honest appraisal is so annoying. It’s all so terribly unfair.

It is in this near perfect state of perpetual aggrievement that Trump gives voice to a faction of America that also feels aggrieved. Trump won because he whines. He whines in a way that makes the weak feel less vulnerable and more vicious. He makes feeling sorry for himself feel like fighting back.

In this way he was a perfect reflection of the new Whiny Right. Trump is its instrument, articulation, embodiment. He’s not so much representative of it but of an idea — the waning power of whiteness, privilege, patriarchy, access, and the cultural and economic surety that accrues to the possessors of such. Trump represents their emerging status of victims-in-their-own-minds.

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Losing faith in democracy

Some deeply disturbing reports in the Washington Post Wonkblog today. First, Yascha Mounk and Roberto Stefan Foa write, Yes, people really are turning away from democracy:

We have been surprised by the scale and intensity of attention our work has garnered around the world since the New York Times profiled it last week. Perhaps we shouldn’t have been. Our research, after all, helped contextualize the seismic shifts we’ve seen in some of the world’s long-standing democracies over the past year — and comes to some rather startling findings.

Public attitudes toward democracy, we show, have soured over time. Citizens, especially millennials, have less faith in the democratic system. They are more likely to express hostile views of democracy. And they vote for anti-establishment parties and candidates that disregard long-standing democratic norms in ever greater numbers.


It is to be expected that claims as disconcerting as these would evoke some skepticism. Over the past week, our critics have mooted three main objections: They claim that our findings are highly sensitive to the wording of particular survey questions or the way in which we interpret particular results; they claim that, contrary to what we are saying, millennials are not more critical of democracy than their elders, and they dispute that disenchantment with democracy has markedly increased over time.

We would be very pleased if these criticisms held true. After all, we’d rather be reassured of the stability of our democracies than win an argument. Sadly, though, we remain as alarmed as we have ever been.

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The Two Americas: Urban Versus Rural

Four years ago I did a post on this topic. The Two Americas: Urban Versus Rural (the links were corrupted in the blog transition).

Jonathan Rodden recently wrote at the Washington Post‘s The Monkey Cage, This map will change how you think about American voters — especially small-town, heartland white voters:

broken-united-statesIn perhaps the most painful gaffe of his 2008 campaign, speaking to a group of donors in San Francisco, President Obama offered an infamous description of voters in postindustrial small towns in Pennsylvania and the Midwest: “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

President Obama was drawing on a common wisdom that had been making the rounds among pundits from David Brooks on the right to Thomas Frank on the left. According to this narrative, the frustration of Americans living in postindustrial heartland towns led them to ignore their economic interests and embrace the cultural conservatism offered by the GOP.

This narrative started with the stark red and blue maps of counties and congressional districts that began to appear every other November since 2000. The maps seemed to reveal “two Americas.” Blue America, according to David Brooks, was located “around big cities on the coasts,” while people in Red America “tend to live on farms or in small towns or small cities far away from the coasts.”

This understanding of the Democrats as the party of metropolitan America and the Republicans as the party of smaller postindustrial cities and towns is deeply ingrained in the American political discourse, and has shaped many analyses of the upcoming presidential election.

It is also completely wrong.

Whaaa? Bobo Brooks is completely wrong? Who coulda guessed.

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The Trump campaign strategy of targeting ‘poorly educated’ missing white voters

Screenshot-16In 2012, then-Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal urged the GOP to “stop being the stupid party” and end its embrace of “dumbed-down conservatism.”

After winning the Nevada GOP primary in February, Donald Trump said “I love the poorly educated”.

The New York Times today reports on Donald Trump’s Big Bet on Less Educated Whites:

A potential victory for Donald J. Trump may hinge on one important (and large) group of Americans: whites who did not attend college.

Polls have shown a deep division between whites of different education levels and economic circumstances. A lot rides on how large these groups will be on Election Day: All pollsters have their own assessment of who will show up, and their predictions rely on these evaluations.

The largest bloc is whites who have no college degree, and the voting-age population of this group is as large as that of voting-age blacks, Hispanics and Asian-Americans combined. Mitt Romney won this group over Barack Obama by 26 percentage points, and Ronald Reagan by 31 points in 1984. But Bill Clinton won this bloc of voters both times he ran. In this year’s political polls, this group favors Mr. Trump by large margins over Hillary Clinton.

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Who are the Trump voters?

Donald-Trump-CartoonJust about every pundit has tried to answer the question “Who are these people who support Donald Trump?”

The lazy media villagers reflexively resort to asserting that they are the economically distressed and angry white working class, with the laziest among them even asserting that they include “Reagan Democrats” (all of whom are already dead or barely alive in a nursing home).

Pollsters try to tell us that they are the white working class with less than a high school education and who are politically alienated. Republicans Rocked By Revelation That Trump Supporters Aren’t Registered And Don’t Vote.

There is also the recent book from J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, that is, a crisis in the decline of the white working class culture and values. Review: In ‘Hillbilly Elegy,’ a Tough Love Analysis of the Poor Who Back Trump (Economic insecurity, he’s convinced, accounts for only a small part of his community’s problems; the much larger issue is hillbilly culture itself. Though proud of it in many ways, he’s also convinced that it “increasingly encourages social decay instead of counteracting it.”)

Martin Longman at the Political Animal blog takes a look at The Real Trump Voters:

Simon Maloy at Salon does a good job of distilling the new Gallup data on Trump voters. They aren’t exactly who most people think they are. They’re not as economically distressed or negatively impacted by the loss of manufacturing jobs as is widely assumed, and they’re often more suburban than rural. Counterintuitively, “Gallup found that the only candidate who is viewed consistently positively in areas with higher concentrations of manufacturing jobs is… Hillary Clinton.”

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