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Teixeira: Where Does Trumpism Come From?

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

That is the $64,000 question in American politics. Thomas Edsall has an excellent and important take on the question in his latest New York Times column titled “Robots Can’t Vote But They Helped Elect Donald Trump“. Here are some choice excerpts but please read the whole article:

When you look across America to see where jobs and wages have been lost to robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and automation, it is the middle of the country that stands apart from the rest….

“My take is that grievances, both racial and against cosmopolitan, liberal elites, have played an important role,” [economist Daron] Acemoglu wrote me in an email:

“But economic hardships, as they often do, made these fault lines more salient. Dormant grievances have become more alive.”

Acemoglu argues that recent technological developments have helped drive voters to the right:

“The swing to Republicans between 2008 and 2016 is quite a bit stronger in commuting zones most affected by industrial robots. You don’t see much of the impact of robots in prior presidential elections. So it’s really a post 2008 phenomenon.”….

In a September 2017 paper, “Importing Political Polarization? The Electoral Consequences of Rising Trade Exposure,” David Autor, who is also an economist at M.I.T., and three of his colleagues, dug further into the demographics of those suffering the economic costs of trade with China.

Autor and his co-authors found that:

“Trade exposure catalyzed strong movements towards conservative Republicans between 2002 and 2010 in counties with majority non-Hispanic white populations.”….

Their analysis resonates, they suggest:

“with the themes of recent literature on the political economy of right-wing populism, in which economic shocks to dominant population groups engender a political response that sharpens group identities and enhances support for conservative politicians. This pattern is evident in our finding that the impact of trade shocks on political polarization appears largely attributable to increases in foreign competition facing manufacturing industries that are intensive in the employment of non-Hispanic white males.”

Acemoglu, Autor and their colleagues provide a synthesis between the economic and the sociocultural explanations of the rise of the populist right. In doing so, they provide a corrective to the recent tendency in segments of the liberal media to downplay economic factors and to focus instead on racial resentment and cultural dislocation as the primary forces motivating Trump voters.

The point here is that the two generalized explanatory realms — the one focused on race and the other on economic shock — overlap. It is not either/or but both that gave us President Trump.

Still, explanations tend to become monocausal.

Take, for example, the Dec. 15, 2017 headline at the Vox website: “The past year of research has made it very clear: Trump won because of racial resentment.” According to German Lopez, the article’s author, “employment and income were not significantly related to that sense of white vulnerability.” What was? “Racial resentment.”

A May 9, 2017 story in The Atlantic asserted that

“fear of societal change, not economic pressure, motivated votes for the president among non-salaried workers without college degrees.”

Those stories were by no means alone. Salon: “Liberals were right: Racism played a larger role in Trump’s win than income and authoritarianism”; The Nation: “Economic Anxiety Didn’t Make People Vote Trump, Racism Did.”…

Trump’s strongest support in the primaries and in the general election came disproportionately from the least well educated whites — those who, as Acemoglu and Autor argue, are most vulnerable to the economic dislocation resulting from automation, the rise of a robot work force, global trade and outsourcing.

In an email, Autor describes how the two explanatory models dovetail. He starts with a question:

“Do you think non-college, non-urban whites would feel so dislocated if their job prospects were strong and their wages rising?”

He then goes on to point out that

“all of these observations — authoritarianism, racism, cultural dislocation — have relevance. The only claim that’s irrelevant because it’s already been disproved is that economic factors were unimportant to Trump’s victory.”

I agree strongly with Edsall, Acemoglu and Autor. It has always been my view that  it should not be surprising that voting for an anti-immigrant, racially resentful candidate is predicted by, well, being anti-immigrant and racially resentful. But why now and why so much support for a candidate with those views? That is a much more difficult and arguably more important question.

Consider the following. Over time, the most striking thing about anti-immigrant sentiment and racial resentment is that they have been trending steadily downward. Take the basic question of whether immigration should be increased, decreased or stay the same. We are now at levels of “decrease” that have not been this low since the 1960’s. In particular, there has been a huge drop in “decreased” since around the time of Pat Buchanan’s nativist candidacy for the Republican nomination in 1992, reflecting dramatic changes in the views of white Americans. Yet Buchanan was not successful but Trump was.

Similarly, there has been considerable change in basic views about immigration and whether it’s a good or bad thing for America—and it’s positive not negative change, even if one confines the data to white Americans. According to Gallup data, that very much includes in the recent period, when Trump has risen to prominence. Indeed, after the “good thing” response was as low as 51 percent in the early 2000’s, it has been around 70 percent in the last two years.

Nor on racial resentment do we see any kind of spike in negative racial attitudes in the recent period. Negative racial attitudes, according to General Social Survey (GSS) data analyzed by 538, were far higher in the early 1990’s than they have been in recent years among both white Democrats and Republicans.

Of course, it is possible that there has been a spike in negative attitudes on race and immigration but it has been confined to, say, the group most likely to support Trump—white working class or noncollege men. But that does not appear to be the case either. According to GSS data, there has been essentially no change in the incidence of these attitudes among white working class men in recent years.

So the question then becomes, in a sense; what set them off? Why did a substantial group of white working class voters, whose views on race and immigration were likely of long standing, rather than recently acquired, make a strong move toward right populism today rather than years ago? It’s a puzzle.

One prime suspect for solving this puzzle is the material circumstances and economic trajectory of white working class Americans– especially white working class men–and their communities in the last 25 years or so since Pat Buchanan first raised his pitchfork high at the Republican national convention. It’s not controversial to say that that trajectory has been quite poor. Earnings declines have been the rule for white noncollege male workers, with those in the bottom quarter of the earnings distribution down by almost half, but even those in the middle of the distribution have seen their earnings decline by over a fifth. And most of this decline has taken place since the turn of the century, with a particularly sharp decline in the Great Recession years.

This is the story told by cross-sectional data. But surely white noncollege men made at least some gains as they aged and their careers progressed? A Sentier Research study indicates that these gains have been very modest indeed, as measured over ages 25-26 to ages 43-44, especially as compared to white college men ($6,000 vs. $54,000). For white noncollege men, that’s an 18 year period with glacial progress.

Of course, there’s more to the material situation of white noncollege workers than annual earnings, though this is surely important. Other important dimensions might include job availability, opportunities for upward occupational mobility, the state of their local communities and health and mortality concerns. But, by all accounts, serious problems have emerged in these areas as well.

So perhaps these changes, especially as exacerbated by the sharp economic decline of the Great Recession, were enough to set off that still-considerable sector of the white working class that harbors negative attitudes around race and immigration. That would be consistent with the “deep story” uncovered by sociologist Arlie Hochschild in her study of white working class communities in Louisiana. This is the story these individuals tell themselves to make sense of their world:

You are patiently standing in the middle of a long line stretching toward the horizon, where the American Dream awaits. But as you wait, you see people cutting in line ahead of you. Many of these line-cutters are black—beneficiaries of affirmative action or welfare. Some are career-driven women pushing into jobs they never had before. Then you see immigrants, Mexicans, Somalis, the Syrian refugees yet to come. As you wait in this unmoving line, you’re being asked to feel sorry for them all. You have a good heart. But who is deciding who you should feel compassion for? Then you see President Barack Hussein Obama waving the line-cutters forward. He’s on their side. In fact, isn’t he a line-cutter too? How did this fatherless black guy pay for Harvard? As you wait your turn, Obama is using the money in your pocket to help the line-cutters. He and his liberal backers have removed the shame from taking. The government has become an instrument for redistributing your money to the undeserving. It’s not your government anymore; it’s theirs.

A toxic interaction between economic change and cultural reaction would also be consistent with the historical record on the rise of right populisms. As political scientists Manuel Funke, Moritz Schularick and Christopher Trebesch have shown in an influential paper, “Going to Extremes: Politics after Financial Crisis, 1870-2014”, covering 140 years, 800 general elections and 20 countries, far right populist parties driven heavily by xenophobia towards immigrants and minorities typically experience a surge in support in the aftermaths of large and lingering crises. And, as economist Claudia Goldin noted in her study of immigration policy debates in the US in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, “Almost all serious calls for the literacy test [to stem the flow immigrants] were preceded by economic downturns. … and few economic downturns of the era were not accompanied by a call for [immigration] restriction in the halls of Congress.”

To conclude, it seems foolish to try to understand Trumpism without taking into account the material conditions, trajectories and aspirations of Trump supporters and their considerable shortcomings in recent decades—their economic pessimism and fear of the future have real roots, as economists have copiously documented.

Of course, it would also not be credible to analyze Trumpism without a very prominent role for the racial and cultural lens through which Trump’s supporters interpret the world and the problems they face. There are likely some very complicated interactions between the material frustrations of white noncollege voters, particularly men, and a sense of racial “status anxiety” that may have always been there to some degree, but has come out in full force in the aftermath of a great economic crisis. This is what we should seek to understand instead of condemning vast swathes of our fellow Americans as simple racists.


Teixeira: Governors’ and Legislative Elections May Prove More Important Than Congressional and Senate Races

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

Sure,  control of the House is very important and the Democrats have an excellent chance to get that back in 2018. More difficult, but not out of the question, would be the Senate.

But let’s face it, 2018, even with very favorable results in the House and the Senate, is not going to be the start of a new progressive era. No, that is really a 2020’s thing when President Trump is defeated and Democrats have enough strength in the states to dominate the next round of redistricting, thereby allowing them to translate their underlying political support into actual political victories.

That’s why the most significant results of the 2018 election may well be those for state, not federal, offices. Here’s what’s at stake:

  • 36 governors’ races, 26 of which are currently in Republican hands. And of the 26 Republican-held seats, 13 are in states that Obama won in at least one of his Presidential victories (pictured above).
  • At least half of state Senate seats in 42 states (in 15 of these states, the entire Senate is up).
  • Every state House seat in the overwhelming majority of states.
These results will set the playing field for state elections in 2020 and the redistricting thereafter. Procedures in states vary but the typical setup is for the state legislature to be in charge of the actual redistricting with the governor having veto power. In 34 states, the governor who will be in office for the upcoming redistricting will be elected this year (two were elected last year, which the Democrats bagged) and in 30 states half or more of state senators who will preside over the process will be elected this year.
Of course, 2020 will be important too, but the revolution, so to speak, starts this year. So if you’re wondering where to put your energy and/or money, you could do worse than throwing it at competitive legislative and govenors’ elections in key states. And in case you want some hard data on state legislative districts, the Presidential results in a given Republican-held district always provide useful information about the potential competitiveness of the district.
Historical and model-based results suggest this could be a very good year indeed for the Democrats at the state level. Let’s make it happen.

How the Midterm Elections Can Change U.S. Politics

There is already a fair amount of horse race coverage speculating on who will win which midterm elections in 2018. But those who want some insight as to how the midterm elections outcome could affect life in America should check out Andrew Prokop’s Vox post, “5 ways the 2018 midterms could change American politics: What’s really at stake in this year’s elections,” which notes,

Depending on how well Democrats do, the party could kill the Republican legislative agenda in Congress, gain new powers to investigate the Trump administration, get the ability to block Trump’s nominees from being confirmed, pass new liberal state laws in many parts of the country, and win many offices with power over the 2021 redistricting process.

Prokop discusses how the elections could help Dems or lead to further gridlock. But he also sketches a scary worst case scenario, and fleshes out each of his five points. He provides a good intro to the importance of the miderm elections, which could be used to help motivate Democratic campaign workers and voters, particularly the young ones whose hopes for a good life could be profoundly affected by the outcome of the midterms. As Prokop asks, “Do conservatives get more chances to enact their dream laws in 2019 and 2020 — laws that could have consequences for decades to come — or do they get stopped in their tracks?”

Prokop could have added a sixth point, that the very survival of American democracy may be at stake. If the Republicans somehow enhance their majorities, who is going to prevent further Russian meddling in our elections? Who is going to check the acceleration of income inequality? Who will prevent the gutting  of Social Security and Medicare, or the rape of the environment? “The stakes are high,” concludes Prokop, “and the consequences will be felt for a very long while indeed.

As Ed Kilgore has noted, Democrats are in very good shape to prevent all of this as 2018 begins, and the signs are in place for a broad ‘wave election’ favoring Dems. But the danger of political apathy and midterm voter drop-off are continuing concerns, and it’s going to take a great effort to build on the impressive electoral gains of 2017 to make it happen.


Teixeira: The Formula for a Blue Texas

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

A formula you say? There’s a formula for a blue Texas? Well, sort of. I mean this in the sense that a sober quantitative accounting of the challenge Democrats face in Texas provides a useful guide to how the blue Texas goal can actually be attained. More useful I think than the countless breathless accounts of grassroots Democratic organizing in Texas (here’s a recent example), which make little effort to explain which groups have to move and by how much to be successful.

So here’s the “formula”. In 2016, Clinton improved over Obama in Texas, reducing his 16 point deficit in the state to 9 points in 2012. How did she do this? The dataset developed at CAP for our Voter Trends in 2016 report indicates that Clinton improved over Obama among both white non-college-educated and college-educated voters. The Democrats’ deficit among Texas’s white non-college-educated voters fell from 60 points in 2012 to 55 points in 2016. The shift toward Clinton among white college graduates in the state was even larger—from a 30-68 percent deficit in 2012 to 37-57 percent in 2016, a margin improvement of 18 points. The white college-educated improvement cut Clinton’s deficit in the state by about 4.5 points and the white noncollege improvement moved things in her direction by about 1.5 points, for a total shift of 6 points toward Clinton from better performance among whites. The rest of Clinton’s gains relative to Obama were accounted for by improvements in Latino turnout and support.

This suggests that the correct formula for a blue Texas is not to rely on demographic change and better mobilization of existing pro-Democratic constituencies, which often appears to be the default strategy. That is not likely to be enough to cut the additional 9 points off of Democrats’s statewide deficit anytime soon. Instead, while demographic change will continue to provide a boost to Democratic prospects and mobilization efforts should continue, the key question is how to keep the trends evident in 2016 going. Rough calculations indicate that if Democrats can cut their white noncollege deficit to 45 points and their white college deficit to 10 points, while continuing positive, if unspectacular, Latino trends (getting Latino turnout of eligibles to around 40 percent, while improving Latino vote margin to around +30D), that should be enough to flip the state or come very close.

Note: I’m not saying this would be easy to do! But I do believe the formula would work and builds plausibly on current trends.


Instead of Counting on Scandals to Flip Trump Supporters, Dems Should Listen Better

Yesterday J. P. Green noted that sometimes an outsider perspective can help illuminate our politics. Venezuelan Economist Andres Miguel Rondon takes a crack at it in today’s Washington Post, and makes a compelling argument that, rather than hoping Trump will be undone by scandals, “To beat President Trump, you have to learn to think like his supporters.” As Rondon writes,

If you’re among the majority of Americans who oppose Trump, you can’t understand why. And it’s making you furious. I saw the same thing happen in my native Venezuela with the late Hugo Chávez, who ruled as precisely the sort of faux-populist strongman that Trump now loves to praise. Chávez’s political career (which only ended with his untimely death) seemed not only immune to scandal, but indeed to profit directly from it. Why? Because scandal is no threat to populism. Scandal sustains populism.

…I know how you feel. You are outraged. What did you ever do to these people to deserve their hate? What can possibly be going on? How can they, for example, make sense of so many former Goldman Sachs men in the Trump Cabinet? Weren’t the bankers supposed to be the enemy? Not to mention Russia? All your senses (and your Facebook friends) tell you that, with all this hypocrisy, justice demands that Trump be impeached, indeed it should have happened long ago. For your sake and for his supporters’ sake, too. Instead, it continues, and each day that goes by, it makes less sense to you. As Venezuelans used to tell one another: Chávez te tiene loco. Trump is making you crazy. Making you scramble for ways to make this end.

Rondon reviews the  litany of Trump’s scandals, from the Access Holywood tape to the recent Mueller indictments and concedes that Trump’s approval ratings have been driven down. Yet, noted Rondon, “in one November poll, only 7 percent of his supporters from last year said they’d vote differently.” Scandals may influence public opinion, but don’t expect much change among his supporters. Further, “If you want to fight Trump effectively, you have to learn to think like they do and give up altogether the prospect that scandal will one day undo him.”

Rondon argues, “his supporters are convinced that you are to blame. Until you can convince them otherwise, they will cheer him on. The name of the game is polarization, and the rookie mistake is to forget you are the enemy.” Trump’s supporters have been whittled down to hard-core ideologues and those who are willing to cut off their noses to spite your face.

Many of Trump’s supporters do harbor an intense hatred of liberals, who they perceive as elitist snobs. Indeed, some may be more driven by this animosity than diferences on policy. But it’s doubtful that they add up to 40+ percent of the electorate.

Although political illiteracy is not exclusive to Trump voters, there are a large number of low-information voters in Trump’s hard-core base. As political researchers Richard Fordling and Sanford Shram note in their Monkey Cage article, “‘Low information voters’ are a crucial part of Trump’s support“:

Our research finds that Trump has attracted a disproportionate (and unprecedented) number of “low-information voters” to his campaign. Furthermore, these voters are more likely to respond to emotional appeals — whether about the economy, immigration, Muslims, racial relations, sexism, and even hostility to the first African American U.S. president, Barack Obama. They are the ideal constituency for a candidate like Trump.

We define low-information voters as those who do not know certain basic facts about government and lack what psychologists call a “need for cognition.” Those with a high need for cognition have a positive attitude toward tasks that require reasoning and effortful thinking and are, therefore, more likely to invest the time and resources to do so when evaluating complex issues. Those with a low need for cognition, on the other hand, find little reward in the collection and evaluation of new information when it comes to problem solving and the consideration of competing issue positions. They are more likely to rely on cognitive shortcuts, such as “experts” or other opinion leaders, for cues.

Fording and Schram conclude that “a core part of his base is made up of low-information voters who appear more susceptible to Trump’s appeals based on race and religion and less prepared to challenge his misstatements and untruths.” It’s hard to credibly quantify this segment, and even harder to ennumerate another group of Trump’s base, who are high-information, low-compassion voters focused more on their portfolios than what may be good for America.

But the most relevant segment for Democrats is the percentage of Trump voters who are now open to voting for Democratic candidates. Some statistical indicators, including recent generic ballot trends, suggest that readiness to vote Democratic is making a dent, however small, among Trump’s suporters. Harry Enten reports that “the Democratic advantage in the FiveThirtyEight generic ballot aggregate is up to about 12 points, 49.6 percent to 37.4 percent.with an 18-point advantage among registered voters in the generic congressional ballot question.” And It only takes a small change to make a big difference.

But it does no good to point out to persuadable Trump supporters that they are low-info or morally-challenged. Rondon advises, “before you try to persuade them that they are being racist, or worse, ignorant by believing in Trump, you should ask yourself: Will this help convince them that I am not their enemy? Because what can really win them over is not to prove that you are right. It is to show them you care. Only then will they believe what you say.”

Democrats just might get an edge with ‘persuadable’ Trump voters by ascertaining their fears, hopes and policy priorities. To do this credibly will require some targeted polling, followed by a real commitment to reach out to them with empathy, instead of the anger and condescension of facebook rants.

“So as the second year of Trump’s administration approaches, stop,” concludes  Rondon. “Take a deep breath. Let all the hatred circle from afar. Don’t let it into your echo chamber.”

Rondon may be overstating the uselessness of scandals in changing political opinion. Certainly, there is a distinction to be made between sex scandals and the smell of massive corruption and election-rigging emanating from the Trump Administration’s dealings with Putin and Russian oligarchs. But Dems would be wise to focus their criticism on Trump and Repubican leaders — not on their supporters.


Creamer: Tax Bill Puts GOP Brand in Free Fall

The following article by Democratic strategist Robert Creamer, author of Stand Up Straight: How Progressives Can Win, is cross-posted from HuffPo:

In the long struggle to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice, the forces of greed and inequality have just won a battle.

The owners of the Republican Party – a small, elite class of wealthy investors and CEO’s – successfully ordered their minions in public office to massively lower their share of the taxes that we all pay for the things we do together, as a country.

The non-partisan Tax Policy Center has found that when all of the provisions of the Republican tax bill are in full effect by 2027, 82.8 percent of the bill’s benefits will go to the top 1 percent ― and 53 percent of Americans would actually pay more in taxes.

The bill also contained provisions that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office says will mean 13 million fewer Americans will be covered by health insurance and that premiums will increase by double digits for millions more.

The GOP was successful at teeing up its next campaign – to cut Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and education in order to offset the rising federal deficits that will result from their tax cuts for the very rich.

They have won that battle. But the battle will actually make it more likely that progressives will ultimately win the war.

Winning wars is not just a story of individual victories. It is about maneuvering, the alignment of forces, the morale of the troops, the underlying geography defining the conflict. It is about who can take and seize the high ground – in this case, the high political ground.

The Republican Party will pay a huge political price for their tax “victory.”

Granted that the rulers of the Party may not care. The owners of the Party made it ever so clear that their Congressional troops were expected to pay any price to give them the trillions of dollars they will receive from the Republican tax bill.

The GOP foot soldiers were told pretty explicitly that the Party’s owners had invested millions over the last two decades, and now that they were blessed with a once-in-a-generation control over both Houses of Congress and the White House, they expected to be paid their return right now – while the getting is good.

A Senate Budget Committee Analysis shows the kind of payoff the GOP tax bill gives to big GOP donors.

Goldman Sachs for example invested $26,894,393 in donations to Republicans from 1990 to 2017. It will receive about a $6 billion tax cut.

Here are some of the biggest winners:

Goldman Sachs: Contributions, $26,894,393 – Tax Cut, $6,091,800,000

General Electric: Contributions, $20,025,764 – Tax Cut, $15,990,000,000

Citigroup: Contributions, $19,759,908 – Tax Cut, $9,165,000,000

Microsoft: Contributions, $17,934,790 – Tax Cut, $27,690,000,000

Exxon Mobil: Contributions, $16,845,751 – Tax Cut, $10,530,000,000

Pfizer: Contributions, $15,673,394 ― Tax Cut, $38,794,080,000

Walmart: Contributions, $12,894,979 – Tax Cut, $ $5,187,000,000

Chevron: Contributions, $12,779,874 – Tax Cut, $9,048,000,000

Eli Lilly: Contributions, $9,764,311 – Tax Cut, $5,460,000,000

Google: Contributions, $7,392,522 – Tax Cut, $11,836,500,000

Johnson & Johnson: Contributions, $5,636,745 – Tax Cut, $12,909,000,000

Proctor & Gamble: Contributions, $3,682,275 – Tax Cut, $9,555,000,000

IBM: Contributions, $1,873,305 – Tax Cut, $13,923,000,000

Apple: Contributions, $500,381 – Tax Cut, $47,970,000,000

Total: Contributions, $178,903,432 – Tax Cut, $236,453,880,000

As a group, these firms will see tax cuts 1,321 times their original investment in contributions. You have to admit, the GOP is delivering for those who own the Party.

But that doesn’t change the fact that the bill will be, as Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said during floor debate, an anchor around the ankles of every Republican candidate for office in 2018 – and in 2020.

Progressives gained three major advantages from this year’s tax battle.

1). First, Progressives crushed the opposition when it came to framing the tax battle and branding Republican tax policy.

The GOP tax plan is now politically toxic. The most recent NBC poll found that by a margin of 63 percent to 7 percent, Americans believe the GOP tax plan was designed to help corporations and the wealthy, not the middle class. Majorities also say they expect their own taxes and those of middle-class families to stay the same or go up under the bill, while taxes for corporations and the wealthy go down.

The forces opposing the tax bill wanted to brand it as a tax cut for millionaires, billionaires and wealthy corporations paid for by cutting Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and education – and by raising taxes on the middle class. They were successful.

A recent CNN poll found that only 33 percent of Americans supported the bill and 55 percent opposed. A Quinnipiac poll had disapproval of the Republican plan at 55 percent, vs. 26 percent approval.

Progressives also won the underlying debate over whether tax cuts for the rich ultimately “trickles down” to ordinary people. According to a recent USA Today poll, most respondents believe it would not materially help grow the economy. White House arguments that the tax bill would raise wages by $4,000 per person were written off by the public as being laughable.

Does all of this matter politically? Quinnipiac found that 43 percent say they are less likely to vote for a U.S. Senator or Member of Congress who supports the plan, with only 18 percent saying they would be more likely. That is a net deficit of 25 percent who are less likely to support those who voted yes on the bill.

Some Conservatives argue that the bill will actually become more popular as working people see cuts in their taxes next year. But as pollster Geoff Garin points out:

Here’s the truth: 80 percent of taxpayers will see an increase of less than 2 percent in their after-tax income (it is not until you get to the 95th percentile that the after-tax income benefits are much greater). There is NO history of voters being grateful for tax cuts that small – in fact history suggests that most taxpayers do not even recognize having received a tax cut when it is that small. The problem is compounded for the Republicans in two ways: (1) they have raised expectations in people’s minds that they would receive a much larger tax cut, and (2) people will feel their tax cut is especially paltry when they hear about the size of the tax cuts that millionaires and billionaires are receiving.

The Republicans have another, even bigger problem: Voters pay more attention to what they are losing than what they are getting. And going forward every proposed Republican cut to things people care about – including Medicare, Medicaid, and education ― can credibly be described as occurring in order to pay for the GOP’s tax cuts for millionaires and big corporations.

And organizations like Not One Penny and Americans for Tax Fairness that spearheaded the campaign against the Republican tax bill plan to run major efforts over the months ahead to drill this frame into the consciousness of the voters.

2). Second, the campaign against the tax bill put large numbers of people into motion. There is nothing more important to engage people in politics – or in a political movement – than motivating them to take action. When people go to a demonstration or town hall meeting or press event – when they make a phone call to Congress or share a Facebook post – they become emotionally invested in the issue and feel a sense of empowerment that spurs further action.

The Republicans and the Tea Party understood that in 2009, when they launched their war on the Affordable Care Act. That paid off in a highly-motivated Republican volunteer and activist base in the 2010 elections.

The tax battle drew from – and added to – the already robust ranks of the Resistance to Trump and GOP policies. Many of those tax warriors will turn their attention to voter registration and get-out-the-vote activities in the months leading up to next fall – the same way they have in Virginia and Alabama.

3). Third, the fact that the campaign to stop the Trump Tax Cuts made the proposal politically toxic, helped insure that not one Democrat voted to support it. You could not ask for a more iconic example of the difference in Republican and Democratic economics. It is a clear example that Democrats support the interests of ordinary people, while the Republican Party is in business to defend the interests of the 1 percent.

Every Republican in the Senate voted to do the will of the GOP donor class.

Susan Collins, often referred to as a “Moderate,” stood up, saluted and did the bidding of the Party’s owners on Wall Street.

Lisa Murkowski – who was a heroine of the ACA battle earlier this year, got down on the proverbial floor and kowtowed to the oil barons who wanted drilling rights in the Alaska Wildlife Refuge and the Koch Brothers who wanted huge corporate tax cuts.

“Deficit Hawk” Bob Corker apparently felt just fine abandoning his “principled” stand against increasing the deficit once huge tax cuts for real estate investors like himself and his friends were added to the bill.

The tax battle has already changed the perceptions of the Republican and Democratic brands.

In June, the NBC/WSJ poll showed Americans preferred Republicans over Democrats to handle the tax issue by 4 percentage points. Now, they prefer Democrats by 4 points. Republicans have moved from a 7 percentage point advantage to a 5 percentage point deficit when it comes to which Party voters think is best equipped to handle the economy.

That is one reason why a new CNN Poll finds that voters prefer Democrats over Republicans by a whopping 18 percent point margin – 56 to 38 ― as their choice in the 2018 Mid-Term elections. And when asked about the Presidential election in 2020 in an NBC poll, 52 percent said they would definitely or probably vote against Trump while only 36 percent said they would definitely or probably vote for his re-election.

The combined effects of the tax battle, the fight to prevent the GOP from taking away people’s health care, Trump’s unpopularity – and the impact of the GOP Senate candidate Roy Moore ― resulted in the surprising result that the Republican Party was actually more unpopular than the Democratic Party in exit polls taken after the Senate election in Red State bastion Alabama.

Nationally, the Republican brand is in a free fall.

If the GOP pursues its goals of “reforming” – actually cutting – Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, this trend will intensify and harden.

As we saw during the battle to defend the ACA, people get really riled up when someone tries to take something away from them – like their health care. We saw the same thing in 2005 when President Bush tried to privatize Social Security and during House Speaker Ryan’s previous attempts to turn Medicare into a voucher system.

Remember, from the voter’s point of view it isn’t just who wins that matters – it’s who is out there fighting for them. It’s all about who is on your side.

And don’t expect the fact that they now have one “legislative” victory to bolster the GOP’s position with the voters. Only Washington pundits think about putting legislative points on the board – ordinary voters couldn’t care less.

Barack Obama put dozens of legislative points on the board in the first two years of his administration. That didn’t do Democrats any good at all in the 2010 mid-terms.

In 2010, the GOP successfully mobilized millions of people to vote against Democrats who they claimed were trying to “take away their health care.” That was, of course a complete lie. The ACA and the other pieces of legislation passed in Obama’s first two years were actually good for ordinary people – and now they are all very popular.

The GOP tax plan is horrible for ordinary voters. Many might see piddling reductions in their taxes next year or the next. But they will hardly be noticeable. And in the end, whatever benefits there are for ordinary people will expire and those for huge corporations will go into the future – or at least until they are repealed by a Democratic Congress and President. Most people already think they have been had, and they won’t change their minds because they have, in fact, been had.

The GOP tax “victory” won’t look so glorious from the standpoint of late November 2018. As my wife Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky says, we can’t yet see the huge Democratic wave next fall, but we have begun to feel the spray.


Teixeira: Will Gerrymandering Block Democratic Wave?

The following article by Ruy Teixeira, author of The Optimistic Leftist and other works of political analysis, is cross-posted from his blog:

abram table

In a word, no. That is to say, if there is a decent sized wave the Democrats have an excellent chance of taking back the House, despite the fact they are disadvantaged by gerrymandering. And by a decent-sized wave, I don’t mean the Democrats carrying the House popular vote by a gaudy margin of 8-10 points or more. They can probably do it with considerably less.

Alan Abramowitz shows this in an elegant little analysis just published on Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball. Abramowitz controls for the effect of post-2010 gerrymandering–which he does find is significant and large–and still finds that the Democrats could get a House majority with around 52 percent of the two party House vote (prior to 2010, the model indicates that slightly less than a majority of the popular vote–49 percent–would have sufficed).

And 52 percent looks like a pretty easy target to hit, based on results we have been seeing in the generic Congressional ballot polling. Abramowitz notes:

In recent weeks, Democrats have been averaging a lead of between eight and 10 points according to RealClearPolitics….that large a lead on the generic ballot would predict a popular vote margin of around five points and a gain of between 30 and 33 seats in the House — enough to give Democrats a modest but clear majority.

There you have it. Gerrymandering is bad….but it is far from an insuperable obstacle.


Resistance to Net Neutrality Repeal Will Provide a Hot Mess for GOP

The timing of net neutrality repeal may well be a deliberate effort to distract voters from the brutal Republican tax bill. But net neutrality repeal may nonetheless make the GOP and its corporate supporters rue the day that they linked their images to this ill-considered measure. As John Nichols writes in his article, “Gutting Net Neutrality Is the Trump Administration’s Most Brutal Blow to Democracy Yet: This cannot be the end of a free and open Internet. Activists must fight on in the courts, in Congress, and in the streets” in The Nation:

…Despite overwhelming public support for a free and open Internet, the CFC’s Trump-aligned majority engineered a 3-2 vote to overturn net-neutrality rules that have required Internet service providers to treat all online communications equally—and, in a related move, the commission majority rejected the authority of the FCC to protect a free and open Internet.

Commission chair Ajit Pai, the telecommunications-industry lawyer who has done Donald Trump’s bidding in debates on a host of media and democracy issues, has cleared the way for service providers to establish information superhighways for political and corporate elites, while consigning communications from grassroots activists to digital dirt roads…Pai and his associates have moved to create what former FCC commissioner Michael Copps refers to as “a gatekeeper’s paradise,” where “our civic dialogue—the news and information upon which a successful self-governing society depends upon—would be further eroded.”

…Much of the debate about overturning net neutrality has been focused on the damage the move will do to consumers, and there can be no question that clearing the way for unprecedented profiteering by telecommunications corporations barters off our digital future to the same grifters who have turned broadcast- and cable-media platforms into vast wastelands of commercial excess. “ISPs want to turn the internet into cable,” says Congressman Ro Khanna (D-CA). “[They] want people to pay for every application.”

Nichols adds that “Net neutrality’s defenders will fight on in Congress, in the courts and at the ballot box to overturn this wrongheaded decision. Groups associated with the Voices for Internet Freedom Coalition—led by the Center for Media Justice, Color Of Change, Free Press Action Fund, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, and 18 Million Rising—intend to fight on for net neutrality with legislative and legal strategies…State attorneys general will also be suing. California, New York and Washington have all announced plans to sue — and New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says he expects to that many more states will join the initiative.”

It’s hard to imagine any other initiative that would do more to piss off young voters. David Shepardson and Ginger Gibson of Reuters explain how “Net neutrality repeal gives U.S. Democrats fresh way to reach millennials,” and observe that “Democrats are hoping to paint the repeal of the rules by the FCC, which is now chaired by President Donald Trump appointee Ajit Pai, as evidence Republicans are uninterested in young people and consumer concerns at large.” Further,

Studies show young people disproportionately use the internet compared with older Americans and polls have shown they feel passionately about fair and open internet access. Democrats believe the issue may resonate with younger voters who may not be politically active on other issues like taxes or foreign policy…Jesse Ferguson, a Democratic strategist, said polls have found young people are favouring Democrats in the most recent elections and that the net neutrality issue could be used to gather support in the 2018 midterm congressional elections.

He said while older voters tend to care about Medicare, polls are finding that younger voters are motivated by net neutrality…”Net neutrality is the latest data point for voters that the administration is more interested in doing what big companies want them to do, than what people think is in their interest,“ Ferguson said. ”That’s a narrative that is politically toxic for Republicans.”

Gibson and Shepardson note that “Democrats facing difficult election battles next year are already weighing in strongly in favour of net neutrality rules…Senator Bill Nelson likely will face a difficult battle in Florida and sent a letter earlier in the week opposing the change in net neutrality rules. Several Democratic candidates are sending campaign fundraising appeals citing net neutrality…The changes could also become issues in a number of House races across the country, where Democrats will need to win more than 25 seats to control the chamber.”

Harper Neidig writes at The Hill that “More than 80 percent of voters oppose the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) plan to repeal its net neutrality rules, according to a new poll from the University of Maryland’s Program for Public Consultation…The survey presented respondents with detailed arguments from both supporters and opponents of the repeal plan, before asking them where they stood on the rules. It found that 83 percent overall favored keeping the FCC rules, including 75 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Democrats and 86 percent of independents.”

Regarding congressional action to challenge net neutrality repeal, Don Seifert writes in the Boston Business Journal that, “Just minutes after the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal rules intended to bar internet service providers from blocking or slowing down specific websites, Sen. Edward Markey said he’s filing a bill to put it back in place…Markey authored a resolution, which was signed on by 14 other Democratic senators and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders, that would rescind FCC Chairman Ajit Pai’s vote to repeal the 2015 net neutrality rules.” Expect that Markey’s bill is going to get a lot more Democratic sponsors in short order.

As for protest against coporations behind the repeal of net neutrality, it’s clear that three companies more than any others, are spear-heading repeal. As Lee Drutman and Zander Furnas note at the Dot,  “Going back to 2005 (when the phrase “net neutrality” first shows up in lobbying disclosure reports), the principle’s biggest opponents (Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and their allies) have lobbied against net neutrality about three times as hard as the biggest proponents of neutrality…” These three companies are highly vulnerable to boycotts and stockholders campaigns.


From Kingmaker to “The Cooler,” Bannon’s Stock as GOP Strategist Plummets

Just a few days ago Steve Bannon was a GOP kingmaker who had the President’s ear in his hip pocket. Today his cred as a Republican strategist lies squandered in the fading wake of Roy Moore’s humiliating defeat. As Paul Farhi explains in his article, “Alabama was supposed to turn Steve Bannon and Breitbart into kingmakers. Now what?” at The Washingon Post:

The election of Democrat Doug Jones was a stunning rejection of Bannon and the right-wing news-and-commentary website that pushed Moore’s candidacy despite questions about his moral character — he is accused of sexual misconduct with teenage girls while in his 30s — let alone his ability to win an election long assumed to be a slam dunk for any conventional Republican candidate.

The Alabama results suggest that a reckoning is due for both Bannon and Breitbart, whose influence and audience grew exponentially during Trump’s presidential campaign. Since then, as support for Trump has declined, so has Breitbart’s traffic, settling back to the 15 million people a month it drew before a spike around the election last year.

Farhi quotes former Breitbart editor and frequent Bannon critic Ben Shapiro, who says,

“Steve Bannon lost an unloseable race…He thought [Moore] was the best pick of his life. His ego is so wild and his incompetence so large that he brought about the Kama Sutra of political debauchery. Every wrong move in the book was on full display here.”

Bannon stuck with Moore even when a more prudent strategist would have assessed the candidate as fatally wounded and urged a replacement like Jeff Sessions, who gave up the seat in January to become Trump’s attorney general, Shapiro said.

Instead, he said, Bannon doubled down, persuading Trump to throw his support behind Moore, which reluctantly drew the Republican National Committee back into supporting him. Shapiro, excoriating his old boss, said Bannon “grabs onto power with both hands, and he doesn’t let go. But he has so little to show for it and has earned so little of it himself.”

If Trump still feels he owes his election to Bannon, he may now refocus and see Bannon as a reckless ideologue. Trump likes to divide humanity into two camps, winners and losers, and all of a sudden Bannon is looking more like the political equivalent of “The Cooler.” Republican candidates who want to win would now be wise to pay attention to what Bannon advocates — and do the opposite.

Despite President Trump’s proclaimations about how he prizes loyalty, his record is more one of dumping associates in trouble, usually right around the moment that they have become a liability. Now for example, it’s “Roy who?,” instead of “Roy Moore will always vote with us. VOTE ROY MOORE!” The pattern is a few nice words about the associate about to be dumped, followed by acrid denunciations within a few weeks.

Callum Borchers writes, also at The Post,

“Trump’s direct involvement in the race was almost certainly orchestrated by Bannon, and you would expect Trump, who cares more about winning and losing than anyone, to place the blame at Bannon’s feet,” added Kurt Bardella, president of Endeavor Strategies and a former Breitbart spokesman…

Nevertheless, Bannon could find a way to keep the president’s ear, Bardella said…“Bannon will spin to Trump that last night is the result of a biased media and that Moore is the victim of the ‘fake news,’ the same way Trump is,” Bardella said. “He will try to play to Trump’s worst instincts to preserve his influence. Trump is susceptible to this, as we have seen repeatedly.”

Breitbart and Bannon will still have their die-hard supporters, and gullible primary challengers may seek their counsel now and again. Bannon is already involved in supporting Catherine Templeton in her Republican renegade run for Governor of South Carolina — against Trump’s favored candidate, Governor Henry McMaster, “which could mirror the GOP contest in Alabama that led to Moore’s nomination and ultimate defeat,” notes Meg Kinnard in her AP post, “How Does Alabama Loss Affect Bannon’s S. Carolina Gov Role?

Jonathan Allen writes at NBC news that Bannon’s latest ploy is to blame Moore’s defeat on Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell. Despite McConnell’s tanking approval ratings, that’s going to be a tough sell outside Bannon’s shrinking circle of supporters.

No matter what Bannon undertakes in the near future, however, the very last thing most competitive Republican candidates want to see is Steve Bannon getting off a plane in their states. “I think we got this, but thanks anyway.” As far as Democratic strategy is concerned, the prudent thing to do is just get out of the way, and enjoy the GOP’s demolition derby.