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Teixeira: Attaching “Equity” to All the Democrats’ Programs Is Not a Very Good Idea

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

Back during the campaign, I wrote a piece that got around on “Common Sense Democrats“. I argued that “there is a need for political common sense to undergird…debates [within the party]. If polling, trend data, campaign history and/or electoral arithmetic make clear that certain approaches are minimum requirements for success, they should be front-loaded into the discussion. That way discussion can focus on what is truly important instead of endlessly relitigating questions that are essentially settled.

In other words, start with common sense and then build from there. There will still be plenty of room for debates between left and right in the party, but matters of common sense should be neither left nor right. They are simply what is and what anyone’s strategy, whatever their political leanings, must take into account.”

“Democrats should not run against Republicans with positions that are unambiguously unpopular. These include, but are not limited to, defunding the police, abolishing ICE, reparations, abolishing private health insurance and decriminalizing the border. Whatever merits such ideas may have as policy–and these are generally debatable–there is strong evidence that they are quite unpopular with most voters and therefore will operate as a drag on the Democratic electoral and governance success.”

There is another side to this proposition that could be 6a or maybe just a proposition of its own. Just as Democrats should not advocate unpopular policies, they should not advocate popular policies in a way that makes them less popular.

This is brought to mind by the current vogue for attaching the word “equity” to virtually everything the Democrats are advocating and frequently seeming to justify race-neutral and popular polices on the grounds that they would promote racial equity. As politics, this makes no sense. You are taking policies that have great appeal to persuadable voters–otherwise they would not be so popular–and framing them as equity policies, which will reduce their appeal to persuadable voters who have non-liberal views on racial issues.

This is a very bad idea, as this piece from Matt Yglesias’ substack (written not by Matt but by Marc The Intern–nice job Marc!) establishes. The analysis in the piece shows that there are far more persuadables who support progressive economic positions but are non-woke on racial issues than there are those that are woke on racial issues but don’t support progressive economic positions. So framing race-neutral, popular Democratic economic programs as equity programs is a very poor tradeoff in support and electoral terms.

“There’s a growing trend both in media and among elected politicians of deliberately highlighting racial equity as a key argument in favor of left-of-center economic policies.

Two UC Berkeley economists writing in the NYT: “To Reduce Racial Inequality, Raise the Minimum Wage”

Two more academics writing in the NYT: “What Canceling Student Debt Would Do for the Racial Wealth Gap”

And it’s not just in the newspaper. In January, Cory Booker and Ayanna Pressley rolled out a proposal for “baby bonds,” emphasizing the idea that this program would help close the racial wealth gap.

President Joe Biden, 10 days before he took office, described his completely race-neutral small business proposals as prioritizing “Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American owned small businesses.”

None of the actual ideas are bad ideas. We should raise the minimum wage. We should cancel some student debt. We should give more money to poor people (baby bonds are just one way of doing this). We should help small businesses during a pandemic.

It’s also true that these ideas would disproportionately benefit people of color. After all, poor people in America are more likely to be non-white. Literally any policy that helps the poor regardless of race advances racial equity. This is not just true in theory — anti-poverty programs in this country have already reduced racial inequities.

But the premise of this style of argument seems to be that there are lots of people who are skeptical of race-neutral social welfare programs who will become more enthusiastic about them when the policies are framed as winners for racial equity.

With some help from the Voter Study Group, we can see that data clearly supports that this framing is counterproductive — almost everyone who cares a lot about racial justice also supports an expanded welfare state, whereas lots of people who support progressive economic policies have conservative views on racial justice questions.”

The piece proceed to demonstrate this by marching through a series of crosstabs of views on progressive economic positions with views on racial issues. They are well worth your attention (I reproduce one below, but there are quite a few of them.) The piece concludes:

“[I]t’s completely true that left-of-center economic programs advance racial equity.

But nearly all Democrats would continue to advocate for anti-poverty programs even if the poor were a perfectly racially representative group.

Racial issues are fashionable in progressive circles, so it’s useful in intra-progressive status competitions to say that your pet issue has a racial equity angle. But this approach risks losing many more cross-pressured voters than it has any chance of winning.

Whether you think people are skeptical of things that seem to help some races at the expense of others (this is my take), or if you think Americans are simply really racist (probably someone’s take), the conclusion is actually the same: if you want to advance racial justice, you have to win first. And you can’t win by alienating all the populists.

This was conventional wisdom until very recently. Obama knew focusing on race would hurt him, allowing him to be popular enough to win states like Indiana once and Florida, Ohio, and Iowa twice…..

So I don’t think this should be taboo to say: Americans, on average, are in line with (or even to the left of) Democrats on economics, but they are not in line with the Democrats’ new focus on making everything about race, including the very economic ideas that give them a fighting chance to win elections.”

Please read the entire article; it’s an important piece.


Russo: Rush Limbaugh and the Myth of the Conservative Working Class

The following article, by John Russo, visiting scholar at the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and Working Poor and co-editor of the blog, Working-Class Perspectives, is cross-posted from Newsweek:

Rush Limbaugh, who passed away on Wednesday at age 70, was conservative talk radio’s most flamboyant and influential provocateur. Boasting an audienceof 15 million, Limbaugh is often credited with persuading working-class voters to embrace a Republican Party whose pro-business, free trade economic policies went against working-class interests. As Kevin Wagner, a professor of political science at Florida Atlantic University, explained, “Limbaugh was on the forefront of trying to take conservative policies and explain them in a way that appeals to a demographic that typically would not favor the Republican Party.” The result, Wagner suggests, can be seen in “the strength of the Republican party has among working-class Americans.”

But is it really true that Limbaugh, who could be misogynistic and racially inflammatory in his broadcast, appealed primarily to the working class? In fact, as Rick Perlstein has suggested, Limbaugh’s listeners are more aptly described as “the petty bourgeoisie, the Joe the Plumbers, the guys with their own bathroom fixture businesses, the middle managers.”

This case of mistaken identity, of misidentifying people who are actually quite comfortable as “working class,” is one that has plagued coverage of American conservatism for years now—and was a crucial error in how people interpreted the participants in the Capitol riot. Many of those arrested after the January 6 riot were middle-class business owners, doctors, lawyers, IT specialists and accountants.

So why do so many continue misidentify them—and former President Trump’s supporters more generally—as working class? We can trace the error back to its grain of truth: the economic displacement that explains why white working-class people are so angry.


Brookings Forum on Equity for Black Americans Explores Strategies for Biden Administration

The Brookings Institution has a forum, “Around the halls: What should the Biden administration prioritize in a policy agenda that promotes equity for Black Americans?,” which includes presentations by Brookings experts on 14 subtopics, including:

Ensure access to vaccines and prioritize jobs and income – Camille M. Busette
Baby bonds and the child tax credit – E.J. Dionne, Jr.
Enforce higher standards on artificial intelligence – Alex Engler
Economic reforms should redress injustices of the past and provide equal opportunity now – William G. Gale
Ensure Black Americans are included in the COVID-19 vaccination programs and economic relief, and continue pursuing police reforms – William A. Galston
Prioritize teacher diversity in public schools – Michael Hansen
A policy agenda to support Black America must prioritize drug reform – John Hudak
Require all banks to offer very low-cost basic accounts – Aaron Klein
To embrace Black humanity, the Biden administration must embrace restitution – Rashawn Ray
Focus in particular on the barriers to opportunity faced by Black men and boys – Richard V. Reeves
Ensure Black Americans have access to the ballot box – Molly E. Reynolds
Address exclusionary zoning laws and encourage pathways to build wealth outside homeownership – Jenny Schuetz
Create a “Tech New Deal” for Black America – Nicol Turner Lee
Reduce the barriers to entering the legal profession – Clifford Winston

Here’s a sample contribution from “Prioritize teacher diversity in public schools” by Michael Hansen, Herman and George R. Brown Chair, Director of the Brown Center on Education Policy, and Senior Fellow in Governance Studies: ”

“I urge the Biden-Harris administration to prioritize teacher diversity in public schools as a policy lever to both advance the status of students of color and promote a more inclusive, multicultural democracy for all. The demographics of the nation’s student body crossed the 50% nonwhite threshold in 2014, becoming officially “minority majority” status overall. Yet, the nation’s public teacher workforce remains disproportionately white—roughly 80% according to the latest data.

In recent years, the empirical evidence drawn from many rigorous studies across many different schooling contexts has coalesced around an important finding: exposure to teachers of color increases many short- and long-term outcomes for students of color and promotes greater tolerance and empathy among white students. School systems nationwide should capitalize on this evidence base and start using teacher race as a policy lever for stronger and more equitable public education.

Since the waning days of the Obama administration, many states and districts have taken actions to promote diversity among teacher ranks, though often these efforts are targeted to urban settings, often with high shares of nonwhite students. The problem, though, is that student diversity is growing more diffuse, quickly increasing in the suburban and rural areas that previously served almost exclusively white student bodies; thus, current efforts likely misdirect teachers of color away from the areas where they could be most impactful.

Beyond recruiting greater numbers of teachers, school leaders also need complementary strategies both to provide more exposure opportunities to nonwhite teachers for all students, and to help train existing teachers to work with and support students of color without projecting their unconscious biases onto them. Fortunately, the evidence base on these areas is deep enough to point to the strategies leading to more inclusive schools where all students can learn on a level playing field.”

In addition, “For more information, you can read more Brookings experts’ analysis on race and American public policy, watch a recent webinar featuring Congresswoman Joyce Beatty and Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr., and subscribe to receive updates with future research in this field.”


Teixeira: Biden’s Biggest Move

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

What’s the Biggest Thing to Happen in the Biden Administration So Far?

No, it isn’t the impeachment trial. No, it isn’t the executive orders. It’s this, as lucidly captured by John Cassidy of The New Yorker:

“If there were any doubt that Joe Biden’s economic proposals represent a big break with the policies of the Obama and Clinton Administrations, the debate about Biden’s $1.9 trillion covid-19 relief plan dispelled it. For good or ill—and, in my view, it is very positive—the Biden White House is pursuing a bold and aggressive program of Keynesian economic management, the likes of which Washington hasn’t seen since the nineteen-sixties.

The argument began, last week, with a warning about the Biden plan from Lawrence Summers, the Harvard economist who served as the Secretary of the Treasury toward the end of the Clinton Administration and as the director of the White House National Economic Council during Obama’s first term. Whatever good the Biden spending package might do in boosting output, wages, and profits, Summers wrote in the Washington Post, it was so large that it could also “set off inflationary pressures of a kind we have not seen in a generation, with consequences for the dollar and financial stability.” Over the weekend, Olivier Blanchard, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund, seconded Summers’s concerns, tweeting, “The 1.9 trillion program could overheat the economy so badly as to be counterproductive.”

Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” on Sunday, the Treasury Secretary, Janet Yellen…said that the possibility of inflation picking up as the economy rebounds from the pandemic was “a risk that we have to consider,” but she also insisted that policymakers have the “tools to deal with that risk if it materializes.” Delighting Democrats who want to break with the past, Yellen emphasized the need to pull the economy out of its covid-19 slump rapidly and restore full employment. Citing a Congressional Budget Office study that predicted that the jobless rate wouldn’t return to its pre-pandemic level until 2025, she said, “There is absolutely no reason why we should suffer through a long, slow recovery.” CNN’s Jake Tapper pressed Yellen on how quickly the Biden plan might bring down the jobless rate, which is now at 6.3 per cent. (Before the pandemic, it was just 3.5 per cent.) Given the danger of making a bold promise that opponents could seize upon, most politicians would have punted on Tapper’s question. Yellen tackled it head on. “I would expect that if this package is passed we will get back to full employment next year,” she said…..

The message implicit in the Biden plan is that prior Democratic Administrations have been too modest in their ambitions and too committed to the old orthodoxy about the relationship between inflation and unemployment. Biden’s advisers haven’t made this argument explicitly, but Josh Bivens, an economist at the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute, laid it out clearly last week. “The U.S. economy has run far too-cool for decades, and this has stunted growth and deprived millions of potential job opportunities and tens of millions of potential opportunities for faster pay raises,” Bivens wrote, praising the Biden plan. Ever since the inflation of the nineteen-seventies, policymakers, led by the Fed, have sought to exert downward pressure on rising prices, a policy of “opportunistic disinflation,” Bivens noted. “The Biden plan is essentially the reverse of opportunistic disinflation—it’s opportunistic go-for-growth.”

As such, it marks a return to an older Keynesian tradition, which dominated economic policymaking in the nineteen-sixties, when the U.S. government sought to keep unemployment at very low levels to spur wage growth and capital investment. (In 1968, the jobless rate hit 3.4 per cent.) Skeptics will point out that this period ended with rising inflation and higher unemployment—the phenomenon known as stagflation. As Yellen made clear, the Biden Administration hasn’t discounted the risks of going big. But its policies are based on the conviction that these risks are far less serious than the danger of not doing enough to revive the economy and alleviate the suffering that Americans have endured over the past year. “We have got to address that,” Yellen said on CNN. “That’s the biggest risk.”

Somewhere John Maynard is smiling. As for Summers and the newly-awakened deficit hawks–to hell with them! Full speed ahead!


GOP, a.k.a. ‘the Cop Killers Caucus’ Bets on Public Apathy, Amnesia

MSNBC commentator Joe Scarborough, a former Republican congressman, has taken to calling the G.O.P. “the cop-killers caucus.” Harsh, yes, but it’s fair insofar as the likely acquittal of Trump will give a free pass to the primary instigator of the vicious riot that took the lives of a capitol policeman, Brian Sicknick. Two others, Howard Liebengood and Jeffery Smith dies by suicide in the wake of the riot.

So much for the “Blue Lives mattter” mantra of Republicans who profess to be champions of the police who risk their lives to protect the public — and members of congress.

Every Republican Senator knows Trump instigated the treasonous riot at the capitol. Every Repubican knows that the riot would not have happened and the seven lives would not have been lost without Trump’s agitation. Yet, if more than 10 of 50 Republican Senators vote to hold Trump accountable, it will be a surprise.

The impeachment managers did an outstanding job of presenting the case against Trump. As E. J. Dionne, Jr. writes, summing up their work:

The House impeachment managers moved efficiently on Wednesday to close off the escape hatches and back doors for Senate Republicans. Quietly but passionately, they put the lie to the sham alibis that weak and cowardly members of the GOP are likely to invoke if they decide to do Donald Trump’s bidding one more time.

Those who vote to acquit the former president will now own it all: The incendiary speech that made the nation’s capital a killing ground but also the months of incitement and lying that built up to the violence.

They will own the threats against elected officials who refused to cheat on Trump’s behalf, the attacks on Black voters in big cities, and the savage mendacity of his all-caps tweets. Voting to acquit will mean joining in Trump’s rejection of the democratic obligation to accept the outcome of a free election and in his declarations even before the voting began that this was a “rigged” and “stolen” contest.

Dionne adds that “Importantly, the managers showed how Trump’s criminality involved not just whipping up the shameful, quasi-fascist violence (although that alone would justify conviction) but also his attacks on the entire democratic process, an argument carried by Reps. Joaquin Castro (D-Tex.) and Eric Swalwell (D-Calif). “He had absolutely no support for his claims,” Swalwell said. “But that wasn’t the point. He wanted to make his base angrier and angrier. And to make them angry, he was willing to say anything.” Dionne concludes,

This is why we will owe a debt to the House impeachment managers for many years to come. They have created an indisputable record. They catalogued lie after lie about the election’s outcome. They laid out Trump’s long history of promoting political violence, including his praise, shortly before the attack on the Capitol, for Rudolph W. Giuliani, right after his lawyer had called for “trial by combat.”

The punditry says that fewer than 10 Republican Senators are likely to vote for Trump’s conviction. This will be an outrage, a sign that a once great party has surrendered to craven opportunism or, worse, brutal authoritarianism. But thanks to the work of the impeachment managers, the country will know how spineless the party has become.

The Democratic impeachment managers showed Americans that one party is doing its job with impressive thoroughness and commitment. Those Republicans who will vote to acquit will be placing a cynical bet that most voters either don’t care or will forget their cowardice and hypocrisy in time for the next election. The job of Democrats is to prove them wrong.


How Absentee Voting Saved America

Nathaniel Rakich and Jasmin Mithani explain “What Absentee Voting Looked Like In All 50 States: It was historically popular — and historically Democratic” at FiveThirtyEight. As Rakich and Mithani write,

According to preliminary findings from the 2020 Survey on the Performance of American Elections, a poll of 18,200 registered voters run by MIT political scientist Charles Stewart III, 46 percent of 2020 voters voted by mail or absentee — up from 21 percent in 2016, which at the time was considered high. Only 28 percent of people reported voting on Election Day — less than half of the 60 percent who did so in 2016. In-person early voting also reached a modern high (26 percent), although the change from 2016 (when it was 19 percent) was less dramatic.

Of course, the primary reason for the surge in absentee voting was the Covid-19 pandemic. The turnout was likely boosted by Trump’s alarming denial and incompetence in addressing the pandemic as it spiked upward across the nation.

And it was a broad increase, with few exceptions, across the 50 states. As Rakich and Mithani note,

….According to the SPAE, 47 states and the District of Columbia saw their rates of mail voting rise from 2016 to 2020. The only exceptions were the three states that have held predominantly mail elections for years: Colorado, Oregon and Washington. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the biggest spikes in mail voting occurred in places that went the furthest to encourage mail voting (i.e., those that automatically sent every registered voter a ballot), especially those with little history of mail voting prior to 2020. These include New Jersey (where only 7 percent of voters voted by mail in 2016, but 86 percent did so in 2020), the District of Columbia (12 percent in 2016 versus 70 percent in 2020) and Vermont (17 percent in 2016 versus 72 percent in 2020).

By contrast, the five states that clung to the requirement that voters provide a non-pandemic-related excuse in order to vote by mail (Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas) saw some of the smallest increases. For example, Texas’s rate of mail voting in 2020 was only 11 percent (barely changed from 7 percent in 2016), while Mississippi’s was only 10 percent (just a tad higher than the 4 percent in 2016).

Here is FiveThirtyEight’s graphic display of the absentee voting increase in the states:

Rakich and Mithani add that “If we had data for all 50 states, we would likely see Trump winning the Election Day vote in almost all of them and Biden winning the absentee vote in almost all of them….the fact that these votes were so Democratic is very likely due to Trump himself. By casting doubt on the security of mail ballots, he all but ensured that most of his voters would cast their votes using traditional methods, leaving the pool of absentee ballots strikingly — but not surprisingly — blue.”

They note further that ” Some states are thinking about making their expansions of vote-by-mail permanent, while other states have shown little interest” and they warn, “still others are even considering bills to restrict absentee voting.” Voter asuppression is what Republicans do. Yet absentee voting is far easier on state budgets and remains highly popular with voters. Democrats should be prepared in all the battleground states for an extended fight over absentee voting — if they want to keep it.


Teixeira: Socialism Vs. Social Democracy: The Debate Continues!

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

I thought this was a fine essay by Andrew Koppelman on the Niskanen Center site. His basic point is that many, if not most, socialists are really social democrats who believe in a better capitalism and therefore are undermining their cause by insisting on the socialist label. Readers of my (now classic!) essay, “The Five Deadly Sins of the Left” will notice a family resemblance between Koppelman’s argument and sin #2 in that essay.

Here is perhaps the nub of his case:

“In a socialists-for-capitalism program, one of the first things that needs to go is the word “socialism” itself. George Orwell wrote in 1946 about the degradation of political discourse: “The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies ‘something not desirable.’ The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice, have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word like democracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides.” Every use of such empty terms, he thought, “anaesthetises a portion of one’s brain.”

The sensible response by scholars who have studied the left is to distinguish (as Sheri Berman does in her wonderfully clarifying history, The Primacy of Politics) between socialism, which aims to abolish capitalism, and social democracy, which accepts a capitalist economy but demands a state strong enough to moderate its failures and excesses. Judis responds that social democracy is “a label that has no currency in American politics.” True, but there is value in a term that’s not already contaminated with misleading associations. It also helps to be able to articulate distinctions that matter….

Today’s American left has a suicidal tendency to rally around phrases with extreme, politically disastrous significations: defund the police, prison abolition, police abolition. Proponents of reform find themselves constantly explaining that those terms are not to be understood literally (giving new significance to the old slogan, “if you’re explaining, you’re losing”). But the use of this toxic language is not accidental, because in each case the most committed members of the movement aren’t fooling; they are using the phrases literally. The police abolition movement includes genuine anarchists. As [John] Judis reports, many of the most committed American socialists are old-fashioned Marxists. Orwell thought that vague political terms like socialism “are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows the hearer to think he means something quite different.”

The DSA declares: “Until we face, and beat, the stigma attached to the ‘S word,’ politics in America will continue to be stifled and our options limited.” That’s true only if the option one hopes to keep open is the Marxist one, which even most Sanders voters reject. If the word frightens away voters, then it is the word itself that stifles politics and limits options. [EJ] Dionne and [William] Galston acknowledge that “Medicare and Social Security are, in a sense, socialist, and so are our public schools and universities, our community colleges, our water supplies and sewers, and our mass transit systems.” If those can happen without the S word – and they did – then they are not what the S word is necessary for. There are, indeed, enemies on the left.”

His argument is well worth reckoning with I think especially for those who have some attachment, sentimental or otherwise, to the socialist label but also wish to be politically effective.

For what it’s worth, here is how I made a similar case in my Five Deadly Sins essay.

“The second deadly sin of the Left is retro-socialism, which demands a complete remaking of the market system to heal the problems of contemporary capitalism. In this view, the ills of the current era are traceable to neoliberalism—faith in the market as the organizing mechanism for society—which compounds underlying problems with the capitalist system itself. The retro-socialists contend that the public is so sick of stagnating living standards, inequality, and periodic crises that it will (eventually) embrace their complete socialist overhaul of the system. This mistakes the public’s genuine discontent with current outcomes for a desire to abandon capitalism entirely. Voters are indeed dissatisfied with the current model of capitalism, but what they want is a different, better capitalism, not “socialism.”

The American Left is mostly careful to put the qualifier “democratic” in front of “socialism” to distinguish it from the authoritarian, command-economy socialists of yesteryear. And for many who use the term, their idea of socialism seems closer to a traditional social-democratic mixed economy than a radically different system that would somehow do away with profits and markets. So why call it socialism, a term that has all kinds of unpleasant associations and does imply a replacement of capitalism? Why not call it “people’s capitalism” or “democratic capitalism” or “the advanced mixed economy” or whatever?
By grasping nostalgically at revolutionary rhetoric, the Left sets the bar high for public embrace of what might otherwise be quite popular policy ideas, from single-payer health insurance to free college to a job guarantee. Generally, it is not a selling point for voters that your policies are a step along the road to socialism. Moreover, belief in the viability of replacing capitalism and the market encourages unrealistic thinking about policies that might work within a market system and misestimation of how quickly they might be adopted. This tendency has not gone unnoticed by voters, who are pragmatically interested in what is feasible and workable and have no ideological commitment to a different system. The socialist label and terminology undercut efforts to persuade voters that the Left’s agenda can work.”

A lot to chew on here. For further edification I recommend reading the two fine books Koppelman discusses in his essay, John Judis’ The Socialist Awakening: What’s Different Now About the Left (2020) and Fred Block’s Capitalism: The Future of an Illusion (2018). And then you can all join me in a rousing chorus of “The Red Flag” for old-times sake.


Edsall: Understanding of Psychological Roots of th QAnon Delusions

In his New York Times column posted today, Thomas B. Edsall explores the psychological roots of QAnon conspiracy believers who energized the riot at the U.S. capitol, and notes:

A Dec 30 NPR/Ipsos poll found that “recent misinformation, including false claims related to Covid-19 and QAnon, are gaining a foothold among some Americans.”…According to the survey, nearly a fifth of American adults, 17 percent, believe that “a group of Satan-worshiping elites who run a child sex ring are trying to control our politics.” Almost a third “believe that voter fraud helped Joe Biden win the 2020 election.” Even more, 39 percent, agree that “there is a deep state working to undermine President Trump.”

Think about it for a moment – 17 percent, more than one out of six Americans believe this stuff. That’s not a tiny fringe of paranoid citizens. Double that, and you have the percentage of those who think Biden and the Democrats stole the election, despite the fact that Trump-appointed judges say it’s nonsense. Edall goes on to quote from interviews and academic studies. Among them this:

According to Joseph E. Uscinski and Joseph M. Parent, professors of political science at the University of Miami and Notre Dame, conspiracy theorists do not “hold coherent, constrained policy positions.” In a forthcoming paper, “Who Supports QAnon? A Case Study in Political Extremism,” Uscinski explores what he identifies as some of the characteristics of the QAnon movement: “Support for QAnon is born more of antisocial personality traits and a predisposition toward conspiracy thinking than traditional political identities and motivations,” he writes, before going on to argue that

While QAnon supporters are “extreme,” they are not so in the ideological sense. Rather, QAnon support is best explained by conspiratorial worldviews and a predisposition toward other nonnormative behavior.

Uscinski found a substantial 0.413 correlation between those who support or sympathize with QAnon and “dark” personality traits, leading him to conclude that “the type of extremity that undergirds such support has less to do with traditional, left/right political concerns and more to do with extreme, antisocial psychological orientations and behavioral patterns.

Edsall notes that researchers have found similar pattters among some left-leaning Americans, particularly when their party is out of power. Edsall continues,

In their 2014 book “American Conspiracy Theories,” Uscinski and Parent argue that “Conspiracy Theories Are For Losers.” They write:

Conspiracy theories are essentially alarm systems and coping mechanisms to help deal with foreign threat and domestic power centers. Thus, they tend to resonate when groups are suffering from loss, weakness or disunity.

To illustrate how the out-of-power are drawn to conspiracy theories, the authors tracked patterns during periods of Republican and Democratic control of the presidency:

During Republican administrations, conspiracy theories targeting the right and capitalists averaged 34 percent of the conspiratorial allegations per year, while conspiracy theories targeting the left and communists averaged only 11 percent. During Democratic administrations, mutatis mutandis, conspiracy theories aimed at the right and capitalists dropped 25 points to 9 percent while conspiracy theories aimed at the left and communists more than doubled to 27 percent.

Edsall’s column is focused on diagnosis, not remedies. That’s a big topic for another column. For Democrats interested in building an enduring coalition, reducing the widespread sense of loss is a critical concern which they must address with credible policies and creative initiatives to promote more critical thinking in education and mass media.


Teixeira: Bernie Moved the Overton Window, Biden Stepped Through It – The Success and Failure of the Sanders Campaigns

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

Bernie Sanders and his movement had quite an impact on American politics in 2016 and 2020 but it is almost inconceivable that he will run again in 2024. At the dawn of the Biden administration, what should we make of his campaigns and the potential of his brand of politics going forward?

It is a mixed record. On the positive side, it seems entirely fair to credit him with moving the Democratic party and the entire political conversation to the left. He has been a veritable Overton window-moving machine, constantly pushing for bigger and bolder policies to attack America’s problems and railing against the influence of the rich and the staidness of the political establishment. His arguments tapped into a latent public hunger, particularly among younger voters, for a decisive break with business as usual that merely tinkered at the margins of the American political economic model. They were ready to move left and Bernie showed them the way.

Reflecting his efforts and those of like-minded politicians and activists, Medicare for All and a massive Green New Deal entered the political conversation, as did aggressive action on workers’ wages, taxing the rich and free provision of higher education. As they did, this shifting of the Overton window made policies that were more moderate, but considerably to the left of prior Democratic commitments, a much easier sell both within and outside of the party. One need only look at Biden’s policies on health care, climate change, wages, higher education and, more generally, on levels of taxes and spending to see the concrete results of this shifting window to which Sanders contributed so much.

But there was failure as well, most critically in the coalition-building and political power area. Sanders did much worse in 2020 than in 2016 in the Democratic primary vote (26 percent vs. 43 percent) and was soundly defeated by the considerably more moderate Biden. His supporters have various stories attempting to explain away this poor performance but the fact remains that Sanders could not successfully sell his approach even within a political party that was moving to the left and in the midst of a national crisis.


Coleman: Dems’ 2022 Senate Prospects Merit Cautious Optimism

Yes, it’s way early. But here’s some thoughts from “2022 Senate Races: Initial Ratings” by J. Miles Coleman at Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

“Republicans will be defending more Senate seats than Democrats in 2022, but both sides have some potential pickup opportunities — though a large gain for either party seems unlikely….Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) would have been an overwhelming favorite to win a third term, but even with his retirement, Ohio’s rightward lean makes it an uphill climb for Democrats….Democrats’ clearest path to gaining seats runs primarily though the Rust Belt, as Pennsylvania and Wisconsin seem to be their top offensive races, though they may finally get lucky in North Carolina….We rate four states — Arizona, Georgia, Nevada, and New Hampshire — as Leans Democratic, and these seem to be the most obvious GOP targets….There will likely be more retirements this cycle, but they probably won’t change the fundamental picture.”

Here’s Crystal Ball’s first 2022 Senate race ratings map:

The wild card in fleshing out strategy for Democrats has to be the applicability of the lessons of Georgia’s double Senate flip for Democratic Senate campaigns in other states? It’s a question that should be thoroughly investigated by the DSCC and every Democratic Senate campaign for 2022.