Tag Archives: Political Science

California’s jungle primary could prevent Democrats from taking back the House

Democrats need to retake 24 house seats to take back Congress in November. 7 of those 24 seats are in California, districts currently represented by vulnerable Republicans which voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

You would think, “we’re a third of the way home!,” but you would be wrong.

So-called good government reformers (“goo-goos”) convinced enough Californians to vote for the top two primary aka jungle primary in 2010, in which candidates pretend to run in a non-partisan primary election and the top two vote getters advance to the general election. Their stated goal is that this would result in more moderate or centrist candidates being elected rather than partisan extremists. The results have proven them wrong.

StopTop2For the past two election cycles the Top Two Primary folks tried pushing this nonsense as a ballot measure in Arizona, fully supported by the editorial staff of The Arizona Republic. Luckily these goo-goos failed, and there was not a third attempt this election cycle.

Goo-goos do not understand human behavior, nor can they do math. Motivated by what happened in 2016, there is a plethora of Democratic candidates running in these seven districts on Tuesday, which only splinters the Democratic vote by the number of candidates running. Republicans on the other hand, always tribal in their voting behavior, have the vulnerable incumbent and the odd challenger running, or only a couple of Republicans running in open seat districts.

On Tuesday, despite the heavy Democratic voter advantage in “blue” California, Republicans could very well emerge with both of the top two positions via the top two primary aka jungle primary, and with it the Democrats’ opportunity to take back Congress this November. Democrats’ California conundrum could cost them the House:

One week before the June 5 vote, California Republicans face the near-certainty of failing to advance a candidate to the general election for US Senate, and the risk, though fading, of failing to place a candidate on the November ballot for Governor. Democrats, meanwhile, are terrified that they will be shut out next week in one or more Republican-held US House districts, particularly in suburban Orange County. Party strategists see winning these seats as key steps in their path back to majority control.

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‘Economically forgotten’ have much in common with America’s poor

Axios.com has an Exclusive: 40% in U.S. can’t afford middle-class basics:

Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 6.19.16 AM

Data: United Way; Chart: Chris Canipe/Axios

At a time of rock-bottom joblessness, high corporate profits and a booming stock market, more than 40% of U.S. households cannot pay the basics of a middle-class lifestyle — rent, transportation, child care and a cellphone, according to a new study.

Quick take: The study, conducted by United Way, found a wide band of working U.S. households that live above the official poverty line, but below the cost of paying ordinary expenses. Based on 2016 data, there were 34.7 million households in that group — double the 16.1 million that are in actual poverty, project director Stephanie Hoopes tells Axios.

Why it matters: For two years, U.S. politics has been dominated by the anger and resentment of a self-identified “forgotten” class, some left behind economically and others threatened by changes to their way of life.

  • The United Way study, to be released publicly Thursday, suggests that the economically forgotten are a far bigger group than many studies assume — and, according to Hoopes, appear to be growing larger despite the improving economy.
  • The study dubs that middle group between poverty and the middle class “ALICE” families, for Asset-limited, Income-constrained, Employed. (The map above, by Axios’ Chris Canipe, depicts that state-by-state population in dark brown.)
  • These are households with adults who are working but earning too little — 66% of Americans earn less than $20 an hour, or about $40,000 a year if they are working full time.

When you add them together with the people living in poverty, you get 51 million households. “It’s a magnitude of financial hardship that we haven’t been able to capture until now,” Hoopes said.

By the numbers: Using 2016 data collected from the states, the study found that North Dakota has the smallest population between poverty and middle class, at 32% of its households. The largest is 49%, in California, Hawaii and New Mexico. “49% is shocking. 32% is also shocking,” Hoopes said.

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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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