On TAP: Kuttner + Meyerson

Teixeira

The spate of House Republican retirements in Texas—the so-called Texodus—has gotten people thinking again about Texas’s political trajectory. Is a blue Texas really on the horizon?

Certainly recent trends have been very favorable. In 2018, Beto O’Rourke missed unseating Senator Ted Cruz by just 2.3 points. And, although O’Rourke fell short, Democrats picked up 12 seats in the Texas House, two seats in the Texas Senate, and two seats in the U.S. House, and came close in several other statewide races. Underlying these developments, there are well-documented, strong trends toward the Democrats among younger Texans, including whites, and in Texas’s large metropolitan areas (Houston, Dallas, Austin, and San Antonio—two-thirds of the Texas vote).

So a blue Texas is not so far-fetched anymore. Indeed, one can start to discern a sort of formula for making that happen.

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 enthusiastic accounts of grassroots Democratic organizing in Texas, which, noble as they are, 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 in 2012 to 9 points. How did she do this? The dataset developed for the “States of Change” project 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 non-college 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’ statewide deficit anytime soon. Instead, while demographic change will continue to provide a boost to Democratic prospects (I estimate 1.4 points in the 2020 election) 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 non-college 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. Note also that, according to the exit polls, O’Rourke’s deficit in 2018 among white college Texas voters was 11 points and his deficit among white non-college voters was 48 points. These results suggest that the blue Texas formula could come to successful fruition much faster than most observers thought.

Dayen

Caucuses are an exclusionary and inferior option for selecting political preferences. Numerous states, including Colorado, Utah, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Washington, scrapped their caucus systems for the 2020 cycle, with the DNC encouraging the switch. Only four states will use caucuses on the Democratic side. But two of them—Iowa and Nevada—happen to be the crucial early states candidates have been sitting in for the better part of a year. And now, concerns about hacking have thrown them into question.

Iowa is so wedded to an old-time tradition of voters trudging out in the snow to spend four hours at a rec center that they persisted with a caucus. To fulfill a DNC requirement that caucuses allow for participation of voters who can’t attend, Iowa added a “virtual caucus,” where voters would call in. This was always ridiculous, since the virtual caucus would only have counted toward 10 percent of the total, creating unequal voting weight depending on your location. But now, the DNC is poised to reject the virtual caucus, after determining that there was no way to keep it secure, something much on the minds of DNC members after being hacked in 2016.

Why the DNC would wait until five months before the caucus to invalidate its rules is unclear, and absurd. Because non-caucusing participation is a requirement, the Iowa (and probably Nevada) caucuses are now in doubt. New Hampshire has a law that requires it to be the first primary in the nation. If Iowa shifts to a primary at this late date, New Hampshire will try to flip past them, creating calendar chaos. Iowa has just two weeks to present a new plan for the DNC to approve.

In other words, it’s a mess, and an eminently preventable mess. The DNC’s delay in approving caucuses could mean that two dozen candidates spent millions of dollars wooing Iowa for no reason. Already, campaigns have been incorporating the virtual caucus into their ground game strategy. Too afraid to piss off Iowa and its peculiar traditions, the DNC didn’t just mandate primaries. Too afraid to piss off New Hampshire, the DNC didn’t change the primary structure from allowing states unrepresentative of the nation’s demographic makeup to dominate the process.

I prefer a rotating regional primary, splitting up the nation into (perhaps four) regions and running a lottery three months before the first primary on which region goes first (ending camping out in one state), doing the rest monthly until there’s a winner. Or you could make the state with the closest general election tally or highest prior-election turnout first in the nation, ending the tyranny of tradition. Instead, the DNC’s deferential and delayed decision-making has now created an omnishambles.

 

LINKS TO MY STORIES

A conversation with Demand Justice’s Brian Fallon on his call for the next Democratic president to reject corporate lawyers for judicial nominations.

The death of the Volcker rule opens a large weakness in the financial regulatory structure, which separating commercial and investment banks can close.

Purdue Pharma’s opioid settlement proposal to effectively nationalize the company could offer a solution to the broader prescription drug crisis as well as the overdose epidemic.

 

ALSO AT THE PROSPECT

The best of Kalena Thomhave, our writing fellow covering poverty who ended her fellowship this week.

Reuven Avi-Yonah rebuts critics of Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax plan.

Alex Sammon on David Koch’s biggest tax loophole: the step-up in basis.

Gabrielle Gurley on Trump’s failures in Puerto Rico.

Mike Elk on immigrants and unions working to fight deportation raids.

 

SHARING THE WEALTH

Dianne Feinstein is emblematic of Democrats’ fear of governing and approval of nice polite Republicans. (NY Mag)

Private equity firm Blackstone behind the deforestation of the Amazon. (The Intercept)

Speaking of which, here’s Adam Levitin on why private equity’s limited liability should be stripped. (Credit Slips)

Bernie Sanders’s op-ed for restoring journalism in America. (Columbia Journalism Review)

Big Sin getting bigger as Altria and Philip Morris discuss merging again; Altria was spun off from Philip Morris in 2008. (Reuters)

Amazon kept a “burn book” of criticisms from lawmakers about its HQ2 project. (Wall Street Journal)

Establishment meddling for John Hickenlooper in the Colorado Senate primary is roiling the party. (Denver Post)

Political scientists keep getting 2016 wrong, writes Ryan Cooper. (The Nation)

Indonesia moving its capital city because of climate disruption. (CNN)

I’m so old I remember when protesting eminent domain was a conservative rallying cry. Now Donald Trump says “take the land” for the border wall. (Washington Post)

Democrats held firm with labor on NAFTA 2.0. (Financial Times)

Meyerson

Donald Trump has come up with a two-fer: His administration has promulgated a new policy that both takes nativism to new heights and attacks John McCain, all in one.

According to an article in today’s New York Times:

Children born abroad to certain United States service members and other federal employees will no longer be granted automatic citizenship under a Trump administration policy set to take effect in October. Parents of those children, including those born on military bases, will have to apply for citizenship on the children’s behalf before they turn 18. … The policy appeared to be aimed at military families who have not lived in the United States for years.

The Pentagon, the Times reports, is predictably furious at this latest diktat from the Department of Homeland Security. Defense Department officials are trying to figure out who exactly would fall under the new strictures and who’d skate by.

Well, I know one prominent American who might not have made Trump’s latest cut: the late John McCain, who was born in the Panama Canal Zone, where his father had been stationed, when the Canal Zone was a U.S. territory. When McCain ran for president in both 2000 and 2008, a number of his critics questioned whether he met the constitutional requirements for the presidency, which mandate that presidents be born in the USA.

Could Trump have had McCain in mind when he and Stephen Miller were cooking up their latest brainstorm? Could Trump be so deranged that he still is determined to attack McCain? He already has—repeatedly. Seven months after McCain shuffled off this mortal coil, Trump, unprompted, took out after him, calling him “horrible” on Fox News, and he has periodically continued his tirades.

So if this new burst of nativism strikes you as inexplicable, there’s a likely explanation: the inexhaustible Wrath of Trump, which death itself cannot quell.

Teixeira

People are asking this question—or flat out claiming third parties did sink her—because they are worried about how such parties might affect the Democrats’ chances of defeating Trump in 2020. As one example, Josh Marshall recently stated:

[I]t’s really the unusually high 5.7% of the vote going to three third party candidates—Gary Johnson, Jill Stein and Evan McMullin—that made it possible for Trump to win as a minority candidate.

Thinking about the 2020 election, there are certainly scenarios where third parties, depending on their type and the distribution of their vote, could hurt the Democrats.

But to set the record straight, 2016 does not appear to have been one of those times. In a “States of Change” report, we performed the exercise of re-allocating the “extra” third-party vote to see how the election outcome might have been affected if those third-party voters had voted for the Democrats or Republicans. As we explained in the report:

One of the unique features of the 2016 election was the relatively high third-party vote. Nationally, third-party candidates in 2016 collectively garnered about 4 points more than they did in 2012—5.7 percent versus 1.7 percent. While it is possible that similarly high levels of support will appear in future elections, the historical trend would suggest that a decline is more likely after a spike. Given that trend, the authors developed a separate 2016 baseline where third-party vote share is returned to its lower 2012 levels and the rest of the third-party vote share is reallocated based on underlying partisan preferences.

The result: Trump still wins the electoral vote, only by a larger margin, 309–229. This is because he still carries the key states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, while also carrying New Hampshire by a narrow margin. This makes sense when one considers the actual distribution of the third-party vote in these states: Michigan, Johnson 3.6 percent/Stein 1.1 percent; New Hampshire, Johnson 4.9/Stein .9; Pennsylvania, Johnson 2.4/Stein .8; Wisconsin, Johnson 3.6/Stein 1.

So the third-party effect is not necessarily anti-Democratic. And Hillary Clinton did not lose the 2016 election because of it. As for 2020, we should wait until we have more information before we make a judgment on who it will help and who it will hurt.

Kuttner

The British prime minister has just pulled off a constitutional coup. He requested the queen to suspend Parliament for about six weeks ahead of the October 31 deadline for a Brexit deal or a no-deal exit from the EU; and since the queen’s consent is a mere formality, Her Majesty complied.

This ploy will drastically narrow the window for debate on the terms of Brexit. Johnson is gambling that weakening debate in the House of Commons increases the chances that he will have the votes to lead the U.K. out of the EU, deal or no deal.

But Johnson may have miscalculated, and may have strengthened the hand of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Until Johnson’s latest move, Corbyn, whose own party is divided on Brexit, had decided to delay the strategy of trying to force a vote of no confidence on the prime minister and force new elections because Corbyn wasn’t sure he could muster the votes.

Now, however, Johnson has managed to unify the several fractious opposition parties in common outrage against himself. Under the suspension order, the House of Commons goes out of session as early as September 9. This gives Parliament just over a week to muster a vote of no confidence—and muster the reckless Johnson out of office.

His latest move has just increased the odds of his own ouster.

Teixeira

So much data, so little time! Probably the single thing you should be sure to look at is the RealClearPolitics rolling average of candidate preference. Right now, Biden’s still ahead, of course, with almost twice the support of Sanders and Warren, who are now quite close in the polling average. Harris is a fairly distant fourth.

But also worth paying attention to are several media outlets that are starting to release data from their polls in graphical, cumulated form with interesting internal demographic trends. Politico, for example, has some nice material up from the Morning Consult poll. These data have Sanders still leading Warren by a significant amount, though they do have Warren gaining ground, as pretty much every other poll does.

Some noteworthy internals here are that Sanders and Biden are neck and neck among Hispanics, while Biden has roughly twice the level of support of Sanders among blacks. And, as the polling feature notes, “Warren leads among the educated and rich, Sanders among the uneducated and poor.” There is also an interesting chart showing how incredibly white Buttigieg’s support is.

The Economist has even better visuals using YouGov data. For whatever reason, Warren seems to run particularly strong in these polls, nosing ahead of Sanders in recent data. The internals give Biden a slight lead among Hispanics by nearly four times the level of Sanders’s support among blacks. Biden runs ahead of Sanders and Warren among those with high school or less or some college, while Warren is the leader among both four-year-college graduates and those with postgraduate education.

Finally, Warren is the leader among those being at least considered by voters, regardless of who their first choice is. Among those whose first choice is specifically Biden, Sanders, or Harris, Warren gets the most “consider” designations.

Meyerson

Today’s Washington Post features a fascinating and revelatory story by James McAuley that illuminates the growing relationship between the Hasidic sect Chabad and the operationally anti-Semitic regime of Hungary’s Victor Orban. (“Operationally” because it’s not apparent that Orban is personally anti-Semitic, but abundantly apparent that he has resurrected a host of anti-Semitic tropes—most particularly, in his ongoing attacks on George Soros—in order to consolidate his support among the largely rural Hungarians who make up his electoral base.) A passing reference in the article also points to Chabad’s hitherto unheralded support for shareholder capitalism—file under “Who knew?”

At issue is Orban’s desire to construct a Hungarian Holocaust museum that largely omits Hungary’s long history of anti-Semitism in recounting the murder of roughly 400,000 Hungarian Jews in 1944, when the Nazis took more direct control of the nation from their wartime ally, Hungary’s anti-Semitic ruler Miklos Horthy, whose reputation Orban has sought to rehabilitate. After first entrusting the museum project to Maria Schmidt, who resolutely downplayed Hungarian anti-Semitism, Orban was compelled to let her go. Now, he’s restarted the project under Chabad Rabbi Slomo Koves, a staunch Orban supporter who repeatedly has turned a blind eye to Orban’s anti-Semitic electoral appeals. Koves points out that Orban has aggressively supported the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Hungary’s largely secular Jewish population has long accused Orban of cozying up to Chabad as a way of mitigating his ongoing invocation of anti-Semitic themes.

Part of Orban’s cozying up was his selection of Chabad to take over a small, failing Budapest college, which Chabad then renamed Milton Friedman University. How the father of shareholder capitalism became a Hasidic icon is a good question—probably, Chabad was groping to find a Hungarian-descended Jew with beliefs in accord with Eastern Europe’s New Right. Or could it be that Chabad believed some biblical passage actually disparages workers and the environment, and pronounces the share buyback to be a devotional rite?

Kuttner

My dream is that some senior member of the Trump administration makes a public declaration that Donald Trump is clinically insane. Everybody knows this, but his appointees keep behaving as if the mad king has clothes.

The Republican primary challenge to Trump by former Tea Party Congressman Joe Walsh softens the ground. Walsh, in a surprisingly candid op-ed piece, said this:

Fiscal matters are only part of it. At the most basic level, Mr. Trump is unfit for office. His lies are so numerous—from his absurd claim that tariffs are “paid for mostly by China, by the way, not by us,” to his prevarication about his crowd sizes, he can’t be trusted.

Beyond his sheer demagoguery, it is Trump’s lunacy that is most hazardous to our country. He lives in a fantasy world. He seems to be getting crazier by the week.

Suppose a competent and principled conservative, say chief trade negotiator Robert Lighthizer, asked to appear before a congressional committee, and testified firsthand to Trump’s mental instability. Suppose he was joined by a senior national security official.

This conspiracy of silence needs to be broken. Whether Trump is removed from office via impeachment or the 25th Amendment is a tactical detail. January 2021 is too long to wait.

As Joe Walsh said yesterday on ABC News, saying that the 25th Amendment needed to be looked at:

We’ve never had a situation like this, you can’t believe a word he says. Again, I don’t care about your politics, that should concern you. He’s nuts, he’s erratic, he’s cruel, he stokes bigotry, incompetent…. The only thing he cares about is Trump.

This revelation is hardly a well-kept secret. Maybe Walsh will inspire other ashamed Republicans, and set off a stampede.

Dayen

Jay Inslee entered the presidential race for the right reasons, and he made a profound difference by moving the Democratic field to recognize the extent of the climate crisis and the need for bold solutions. He should be applauded for his effort.

The bigger thing to say about his exit, along with the other winnowing we’ve seen this week, is that debates have become this all-consuming element of presidential primary politics in our reality-show age, in a way that wasn’t true just a few years ago. There was more than one reason why Inslee, Hicklenlooper, and Seth Moulton bowed out this week—all of them faced practical and literal deadlines to run for other offices—but realistically speaking, they knew that missing the next set of debates was the effective end of their campaigns, so they took off. The entire campaign this summer has been framed around who will make the debates, what will happen in the debates, and what did happen in the debates.

Maybe that would be fine if it wasn’t for the fact that the debates have been abjectly terrible. Created by game show hosts with no understanding of substance, they’ve been consumed with trying to get candidates to fight with one another instead of what they might be able to accomplish in office. They’re produced as wrestling matches instead of key channels for distributing information to voters, there are way too many people on stage, and the top candidates are separated. Voters are receiving the opposite of information.

This happened really quickly. The 2008 primary debates were not the driving force behind the dynamics of the race, which changed on things like Obama’s Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Iowa or John McCain’s comeback in South Carolina. In 2012, Mitt Romney pretty much never shined in debates and managed to win. But 2012 did provide the clown car spectacle that reached its apotheosis on the GOP side in 2016. Bernie, blessed with several one-on-one showdowns with Hillary Clinton, probably hung in there against the odds because of his debate performances. Today, debates have become the front door for presidential politics.

Some of this is a function of the historically large field. But I’m not sure there should even be debates until late fall, before the first primaries. Otherwise longer shots have no chance to succeed. Performance in a game show should not dictate the choices available for voters for chief executive.

 

LINKS TO MY STORIES

The Federal Trade Commission won’t get tough on Big Tech, because its staff views tech lobbyists as trusted partners.

Elizabeth Warren knows how to work the political system, by identifying ways to make progress on the inside, and then focusing relentlessly on achieving them.

Warren and Sanders returned donations from individuals tied to hedge funds with investments in Puerto Rican debt.

 

ALSO AT THE PROSPECT

Fantastic Alex Sammon piece about the two major dialysis companies spending $100 million to lobby on one state legislative bill that would cut into their profits.

Gabrielle Gurley on the looming Joe Kennedy/Ed Markey primary battle in Massachusetts.

Two from Marcia Brown on the failed attempt to get the DNC to host a climate debate.

Derrick Jackson on how the Trump administration is changing the nation’s dietary guidelines.

 

APPEARANCES

I was on America’s Work Force Radio talking about a number of stories. Listen here.

 

SHARING THE WEALTH

The Business Roundtable’s statement that companies have obligations to more than shareholders is funny, considering that two months earlier they sent a comment to the Securities and Exchange Commission asking for a rule change to preserve “long-term shareholder value.” (Common Dreams)

Top judicial advocacy group wants an end to Democratic judge nominees from corporate law firms. (The Atlantic)

Banks get a huge win as the Volcker rule is effectively dead. (Politico)

Always read Steve Randy Waldmann, this one on “predatory precarity.” (Interfluidity)

Facebook’s “clear history” tool doesn’t clear history. (WaPo)

Trump proposes blatantly illegal indefinite migrant detention rule. (Axios)

Jason Linkins savages the coming Mark Halperin book. (New Republic)

Commodity Futures Trading Commission makes a deal with Kraft to hide information about a settlement, then releases the information anyway, triggering a lawsuit from Kraft. *headdesk* (Financial Times)

Planned Parenthood going it alone without federal funds. (LA Times)

First manufacturing sector contraction in a decade. (CNBC)

How Amazon and Silicon Valley seduced the Pentagon. (Pro Publica)

When Dean Baker begins to sound the alarm on the economy, listen. (Beat the Press)

Sustainably fracked.” (Wall Street Journal)

Area idiot cabinet member Rick Perry falls for Internet hoax. (Splinter)

Meyerson

The current kerfuffle over Martin Scorsese’s forthcoming picture, The Irishman, raises a lot of questions about the future of movies. As described in today’s New York Times, it pits Scorsese and theater owners against the film’s producer and funder, Netflix, over the question of how the picture is to be distributed: widely on screen, or, as is the case with most elite Netflix productions, in a smaller number of theaters so it can be streamed more widely online.

I have nothing against streaming all manner of things online, but I don’t think that’s any way to treat—or the best way to experience—a real motion picture. Like all artistic media, movies have evolved and involved a distinct form of presentation—on a big screen, in the dark, as a way of creating a more immersive effect. Hitchcock isn’t really Hitchcock minus the sensual immersion that heightens the suspense; Ford isn’t really Ford minus the sensual immersion that heightens the mythic dimensions; and Scorsese isn’t really Scorsese minus the sensual immersion that heightens his characters’ brio and anxiety.

To be sure, the big studios have long since ceased funding anything as complex as Hitchcock, Ford, and Scorsese; the pressures of financialized capitalism have reduced them to turning out the 43rd remake of Batman. Today, it’s television and outfits like Netflix that put up the cash for non–comic book entertainment. But no matter how good or occasionally brilliant such products are, they’re displayed on media that can’t deliver the visual and experiential intensity of a great movie.

Hence the stakes in the fight over The Irishman. May the big screen win.

 

THE CURRENT FIGHT over The Irishman calls to mind the 2007–2008 writers’ strike against the motion picture and television studios—and the joke I unknowingly wrote for the 2008 Oscars.

In late 2007, the Writers Guild struck the studios, chiefly over the issues of whether they’d receive residuals when the films and shows they’d written were—and this was a new development then—streamed. For many years, their contracts had stipulated that when their pictures and shows were screened after their initial releases or rerun on TV, they were paid. At the time, streaming was the Next Big Thing, and the writers wanted similar contractual assurance that they’d be compensated when their work was streamed.

During the strike, I wrote one of my Washington Post columns about the strike, taking, as is my wont, the writers’ side, and explaining that at issue was whether writers would be paid when their work was streamed on computer screens or cellphones. I added, parenthetically, that something—the majesty of a stunningly beautiful picture—might get lost in that translation: “Lawrence of Arabia, I fear, would lose something if viewed on my cell, even if my mother didn’t call during the attack on Aqaba.” The Writers Guild reposted my column on its strike website, subjecting countless writers to my punditry.

The strike actually threatened to postpone Hollywood’s annual celebration of itself, the Oscars, but the studios and the Guild came to terms a few days before the show had been scheduled to go on, and on the show did go, hosted that year by Jon Stewart. I was at home, dutifully watching the show, as all longtime Angelenos or former longtime Angelenos are required to do, when Jon Stewart, returning from a commercial break, strode onstage, took a cellphone out of his pocket, looked at it, and said, “Naah—doesn’t do justice to Lawrence of Arabia.”

I doubt it’ll do justice to The Irishman, either.

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