Opinion | Five Things Biden and His Allies Should Be Worried About – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Kriston Jae Bethel for The New York Times

“There are at least five reasons Joe Biden’s consistent lead over Donald Trump does not guarantee him a lock on the White House.

First, there are indications that Trump’s base of support — whites without college degrees — is more energized and committed to voting this year than key Democratic constituencies. And there is also evidence that polling does not reflect this.

Second, Latinos, who are key to the outcome in several crucial states — Arizona and Florida, for example — have shown less support for Biden than for past Democratic nominees. Many Hispanic voters seem resistant to any campaign that defines them broadly as “people of color.”

Third, absentee voting is expected to be higher among Democrats than Republicans, subjecting their ballots to a greater risk of rejection, a fate more common to mailed-in votes than to in-person voting.

Fourth, the generic Democratic-Republican vote (“Would you be more willing to vote for a Republican or Democratic candidate for Congress?”) through early July favored Democrats by more than 10 points, but has since narrowed to 6 points.

Fifth, the debates will test Biden’s ability to withstand three 90-minute battles against an opponent known for brutal personal attacks.

There are other factors — such as the possibility that the Republican Party will conduct an effective voter suppression drive, or that Trump and his advisers will contrive new mechanisms to pave the way to victory.”

Opinion | Voters Seem to Think Biden is the ‘Law and Order’ Candidate – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker for The New York Times

“On Feb. 20, Time magazine asked Henry Louis Gates Jr, the director of the Hutchins Center for African and African-American Research at Harvard, about America’s “missed opportunities for racial equality.”

Gates replied:

One of the most dramatic shifts to the structure of the African-American community has been the doubling of the Black middle class and the quadrupling of the Black upper middle class since 1970.

Gates was drawing attention to the fact that from 1995 to 2017, the number of Black Americans with advanced degrees — Masters, Ph.D., M.D. or J.D. — tripled, going from 677,000 to 2.1 million. Over the same period, the percentage of Black adults with college degrees more than doubled, from 11 to 24 percent.

William Julius Wilson, a University Professor at Harvard and the author of “The Truly Disadvantaged,” made a related observation in 2017:

One of the most significant changes in recent decades is the remarkable gain in income among more affluent blacks. When we adjust for inflation to 2014 dollars, the percentage of Black Americans earning at least $75,000 more than doubled from 1970 to 2014, to 21 percent. Those making $100,000 or more almost quadrupled to 13 percent (in contrast white Americans saw a less striking increase, from 11 to 26 percent).

These gains have not been restricted to affluent Black Americans.

Since 1966, two years after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the percentage of African-Americans with incomes below the poverty line has been halved, from more than 40 percent to 20.8 percent in 2018.

Decades of defamatory rhetoric from Donald Trump — as both citizen and president — notwithstanding, Black America is doing vastly better than it was before the advent of the civil rights movement.”

Opinion | ‘I Fear That We Are Witnessing the End of American Democracy’ – by Thomas Edsall – The New York Times

Public

I would love to be more relevant. I found this piece by Tom Edsall so edifying, that I thought about posting it, and calling my blog, “Please, make me smarter!” This is the first clear explanation I’ve read for the extraordinary loyalty of most Trump supporters.

“. . .  According to Joshua Greene, a professor of psychology at Harvard and the author of “Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them,” Trump is expert at sending “signals that are music to the ears of his base,” signals that ineradicably affirm his membership in the populist right wing of the Republican Party.

Greene argued in an email that when

Trump says that a judge of Mexican ancestry can’t do his job, or attacks women for their physical appearance, or makes fun of a disabled reporter, or says that there are good people on both sides of a violent neo-Nazi rally, or that Haiti is a “shithole.” or that the “Second Amendment People” can maybe do something about Hillary Clinton, Trump is very deliberately and publicly excommunicating himself from the company of liberals, even moderate ones.

In Greene’s view, Trump offers a case study in the deployment of “costly signals.

How does it work? Greene writes:

Making oneself irredeemably unacceptable to the other tribe is equivalent to permanently binding oneself to one’s own. These comments are like gang tattoos. And in Trump’s case, it’s tattoos all over his neck and face.

At the same time, Trump’s “costly signals” make his reliability as a protector of white privilege clear.

John Tooby, a professor of anthropology at the University of California-Santa Barbara, described the signaling phenomenon in a 2017 Edge talk as an outgrowth of what he calls a “coalitional instinct.”

“To earn membership in a group,” Tooby says, “you must send signals that clearly indicate that you differentially support it, compared to rival groups.”

This, Tooby notes, encourages extremism: “Practical and functional truths are generally useless as differential signals, because any honest person might say them regardless of coalitional loyalty.” Far more effective are “unusual, exaggerated beliefs,” including “alarmism, conspiracies or hyperbolic comparisons.”

The success of Trump’s strategy will have long term consequences for the Republican Party, in Greene’s view:

Trump won over the base by publicly sacrificing his broader respectability. Back in 2016, the other Republican primary candidates looked ahead at the general election and thought this was a losing strategy. But Trump pulled it off, perhaps because he didn’t really care about winning. But now he owns the party. No Republican can get elected without the Republican base, and the Republican base trusts Trump and only Trump, thanks to his costly signals.”

Opinion | Why Do We Pay So Many People So Little Money? – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Brittany Newman/The New York Times

“With notable abruptness, thanks to the advent of the coronavirus, much of the public has become aware its dependence on hospital orderlies, cleaners, trash collectors, grocery workers, food delivery drivers, paramedics, mortuary technicians, and postal, shipping, maintenance, wastewater treatment, truck stop and mass transit employees — on what, to many, had been a largely invisible work force.

As Tony Powell, a 62-year-old hospital administrative coordinator, told Molly Kinder, a fellow in the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, in a taped interview in May:

People are not looking at people like us on the lower end of the spectrum. We’re not even getting respect. That is the biggest thing: we are not even getting respect. Nobody is listening to their voices. Maybe they’ll wake up and see: Oh, these are the people that are actually taking care of the people that need to be taken care of.

A paper published that same month, “The Declining Worker Power Hypothesis,” by Anna Stansbury and Lawrence H. Summers, economists at Harvard, describes conditions on the bottom rungs of the job market:

The American economy has become more ruthless, as declining unionization, increasingly demanding and empowered shareholders, decreasing real minimum wages, reduced worker protections, and the increases in outsourcing domestically and abroad have disempowered workers — with profound consequences for the labor market and the broader economy.

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
Excellent research and writing, thank you Thomas Edsall. I propose we consider and try to implement a new employment tax that goes up as the unemployment rate goes up, and retreats as the unemployment rate goes down. The funds would help pay for a federal work program for every American that needs a job. One of the many benefits of such a tax and spend system, is that it would put pressure on companies and small business people to hire workers, since if they don’t, the tax goes up. Supermarkets that replace cashiers with robots would see their taxes go up, unless those workers quickly found other work.

Opinion | Trump’s Immigration Ban Is Straight Out of His Old Populist Playbook – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times

“President Trump has chosen his pandemic re-election strategy. He is set on unifying and reinvigorating the groups that were crucial to his 2016 victory: racially resentful whitesevangelical Christiansgun activistsanti-vaxxers and wealthy conservatives.

Tying his re-election to the growing anti-lockdown movement, Trump is encouraging a resurgence of what Ed Kilgore, in New York magazine, calls “the angry anti-government strain of right-wing political activity that broke out in the tea-party movement” — a movement now focused on ending the virus-imposed restrictions on many aspects of American life.

Jeremy Menchik, a political scientist at Boston University, argues in a lengthy Twitter thread that

these protests have something for everyone: small-business, concerns for the working class, anti-elitism for resentful rural whites, fetishism of guns for NRA, dislike of government for traditional conservatives. It’s a crosscutting issue even amid a pandemic.

Menchik makes the point that anti-quarantine protests

will distract the electorate. If the election is a fight between Trump vs governors who refuse to open their economies, Trump doesn’t have to defend his record on Covid-19. He’s an advocate for liberty!

Studies of the 2009-10 Tea Party movement, Menchik writes, suggest that “continued protests will boost conservative turnout in Nov 2020.” The protests

will help frame the 2020 election as a choice between the pro-open economy Trump versus the Washington insider #BeijingBiden who is complicit in China’s efforts to hurt working class Americans.

Crucially, Menchik argues,

Continued protests will help Trump rebuild his coalition of 2016. Scholars of digital social movements emphasize a logic of connective action not collective action; where personalized content sharing across media networks enables coalition building.

Casting the coronavirus epidemic as a wedge issue, Trump is playing both ends against the middle, in an attempt to veil his own inconsistencies.    . . . “

David Lindsay:

Here are the top comments after this article, which, like the article,  are also amazing.

David Potenziani
Durham, NC
Times Pick

Mr. Edsall ably documents the fact that Trump is clever but not smart. He’s clever by driving wedges between groups and connecting his disparate supporters in the hope to flip a few states. If he were smart, he would have stepped up with leadership showing (feigned) sincerity, calm, and empathy for the plight of the American people, marshaling the resources to get testing on its feet, and driving forward for effective treatment and the promised land of a vaccine. He would have won. Maybe bigly. But all is not good in the land of Trump. The latest polls show erosion of support by seniors. GOP governors are breaking ranks with the leaders of their party. Most Americans fear the virus and want protection. Trump’s approach is purely political when a vastly different solution is needed. The lack of leadership will leave all areas in the lurch. Because COVID-19 respects no one, the epidemic will ravage every farm, hamlet, village, and town—everywhere. This was a challenge of leadership. Trump has failed. Tragically.

35 Replies907 Recommended

John commented April 22

John
Cleveland Heights
Times Pick

In addition to the groups described as comprising his coalition, Trump pulled together a number of single-issue voters who were willing to hold their noses regarding their general dislike for the man: anti-choice, anti-tax, anti-immigrant, anti-regulation, anti-Palestinian, etc. I hope that this pandemic has revealed that character matters. This is a guy who insisted on placing his name on stimulus checks as a decoration, a guy who lies shamelessly and gives himself a 10/10 for his performance on every issue, the kind of person who, if a character on a TV show, everyone would laugh at and find completely despicable and to be dismissed. I hope that these single-issue voters will come to their senses and see that Trump is not presidential material. Biden, despite his flaws, has a basic sense of right and wrong that one could appeal to. It would matter to Biden whether a given course of action was right or not. Trump completely lacks that. He does not even understand that. His desire to win at all costs and his lack of character are now completely laid bare. He has got to go.

24 Replies574 Recommended

alan haigh commented April 22

alan haigh
carmel, ny

Thank you pundits. Without your guidance Trump’s tactics would have seemed like love of America and the desire to lift the lot of working Americans to me. Every single Trump briefing on the pandemic has revealed such utter incompetence- such a complete inability to marshal a simple paragraph of information that if the voters bring him within a mile of another term, I suppose we will have the government we deserve. Cuomo’s detailed briefings provide a perfect contrast, revealing a thorough grasp of the data and what the consequences are for regular people. Night and day. Grammar school and graduate school. How can Trump be a champion for anyone who successfully graduated high school?

7 Replies495 Recommended

Joel Sanders commented April 22

Joel Sanders
Montgomery, AL

It’s interesting that the anti-shutdown protestors see themselves as, once again, giving the middle finger to the coastal elites but are actually being duped by conservative elites.

5 Replies415 Recommended

Tony Pious commented April 22

Tony Pious
Times Pick

Conservative working class whites fail to understand what wealthy conservative whites have always known. Government per se is not the enemy; government is merely the tool of the real enemy — Big Capital. That the Kochs and Mercers and DeVos’s of the world can fund astroturf campaigns and hoodwink blue colar whites into acting against their own interests is bald evidence of the primacy of money in American politics. What credulous working class whites fail to understand is that COVID-19 is a far greater threat to them than to the shadowy squintillionaires who bankroll their protests. So while they are coughing and hacking their way to an early grave the Kochs and Mercers and DeVos’s of the world are secure in the knowledge that their squintillions will isolate them from the havoc they wreak.

20 Replies409 Recommended

Stephen Csiszar commented April 22

Stephen Csiszar
Carthage NC

@David Potenziani He cannot even be bothered to pretend to feign sincerity, or anything else he lacks, like everything. He can however, continue endlessly to talk about himself. TV game show host making life-and-death decisions for hundreds of millions. Oh America.

329 Recommended

Mike N commented April 22

Mike N
Rochester

Our country is divided now into two camps but it isn’t even about ideology anymore. It comes down to one thing: those susceptible to the con, and those who aren’t. It’s not about ideology; it’s about gullibility.

24 Replies328 Recommended

Opinion | Covid-19 Is Twisting 2020 Beyond All Recognition – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Al Drago for The New York Times

“Not only will the coronavirus crisis define Donald Trump’s legacy, it will determine whether or not he is a one-term president.

David Winston, a Republican pollster, summed up the situation in an email:

The country is not looking at what is occurring through a political lens. They are focused on the threat to their health and the country’s health and how that threat is being addressed.

Because of that, Winston continued, voters will judge the Trump administration by “the effectiveness of actions taken to address that threat, and get the country moving forward again,” making the question on Election Day “who does the country believe should be given the responsibility to govern.”

Crises can provoke extreme responses. The 2008-9 recession produced both Barack Obama and the Tea Party. On a grander scale, the Great Depression produced both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler.

No one is suggesting that the country is at such a point now, but, then again, no one suggested in January of 2015 that the country was on the verge of electing Donald Trump president.

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Continue reading the main story

The current pandemic shows signs of reshaping the American political and social order for years to come.

March 10-15 NBC News/Commonwealth Fund poll asked 1,006 adults “How much do you trust the President Trump to provide information about the coronavirus epidemic?” A majority, 53 percent, said they either had no trust at all (40 percent) or little trust (13 percent). 30 percent said they either completely trust (16 percent) or mostly trust (14 percent) the president.

In another danger signal for Trump, the poll asked “how confident are you that the vaccine will be available to the American public at little or no cost” if a Democrat wins or if Trump is re-elected. Nearly two thirds said they were confident a low-cost vaccine would be available with a Democrat in the White House; half said they were confident with Trump in office for another four years.

Trump’s job approval ratings have risen in recent weeks, but Gary Langer, who conducts polling for ABC News, warned that the results of an ABC/Washington Post survey released on March 27 show that there are substantial risks to the president:

Trump’s overall approval rating drops among people who are more worried about catching the coronavirus, report severe local economic impacts, say their lives have been especially disrupted or know someone who’s caught the virus. He also has lower approval in states with higher per capita infection rates.

While some of those findings reflect the higher levels of infection with coronavirus in blue states, Langer wrote, “the results suggest that as the crisis deepens, the risks to views of his performance likely rise.”

On March 26, Pew Research released results of a survey that showed significant demographic and partisan differences in responses to the question “Has someone in your household lost a job or taken a pay cut as a result of Covid-19?”

Opinion | Trump Has His Sights Set on Black Voters – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Leah Millis/Reuters

“The Trump campaign is investing more money and resources in an attempt to attract African-American voters than any Republican presidential campaign in recent memory.

The drive includes highly visible television advertising, including an $11 million Super Bowl commercial, along with ad purchases in local black newspapers and on radio stations; “Black Voices for Trump”; storefronts in key battleground states; and a sustained social media campaign directed at black voters whose consumer, religious and demographic profiles suggest potential support, including on such issues as immigration, abortion, gender roles and gay rights.

For Trump, the effort became all the more crucial as the Super Tuesday primaries demonstrated Joe Biden’s strong appeal to black voters. Exit polls showed Biden winning 57 percent of the votes cast by African-Americans on Tuesday, 40 points higher than his closest competitor, Bernie Sanders, at 17 percent.

Adrianne Shropshire, executive director of the pro-Democratic BlackPAC and the affiliated nonpartisan Black Progressive Action Coalition, wrote in an email that Trump has already communicated with a large segment of the African-American electorate, although she disputes the effectiveness of Trump’s bid to win black support:

We’ve had a significant number of black voters tell us that they have gotten Trump ads on their social media platforms. That tracks with our recent poll where nearly 30 percent of those surveyed said that they had been contacted by the campaign.

Many Democrats and their liberal allies downplay the president’s efforts, arguing that not only is black support for the Democratic Party rock solid, but that animosity to Trump among minority voters has reached record highs. Democratic politicians and strategists who act on these assumptions do so at their own risk.”

Opinion | Does Anyone Have a Clue About How to Fight Back Against Trump’s Racism? – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

“Can Democrats diminish the bigotry that Donald Trump has unleashed in this country?

Stung by the success of Trump’s anti-immigrant, racist campaign themes in 2016, left-of-center advocacy groups — think tanks, unions, progressive academics and Democratic consultants — are developing tools this year to counter the continuing Republican assault on liberal values, based on the optimistic assumption that the reservoir of white animosity is not so deep that Trump is assured re-election.

These efforts on the left challenge the long history of Republican success in exploiting race and a host of ancillary issues — crime, welfare, social disorder, family breakdown, homelessness — a history that includes Richard Nixon in 1968 and 1972, Ronald Reagan in 1980, George H.W. Bush in 1988 and Donald Trump in 2016.

That history points to the relentless power of racial resentment in American politics. Despite polling that shows greater acceptance of racial equality, this issue is as potent a source of political strength for Trump today as it was for Nixon a half century ago.

There are myriad studies, as have noted (along with many others) that show the continuing effectiveness of race and immigration as wedge issues. These studies continue to appear at an alarming rate.”

Opinion |  – By Thomas B. EdThe Lobbyists Blocking Nancy Pelosi and Her New Majoritysall – The New York Times

By Thomas B. Edsall
Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Jan. 10, 2019

64
Speaker Nancy Pelosi after a group photo with House democratic women in front of the Capitol on Jan. 4, 2018.
Credit
Erin Schaff for The New York Times

“Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the idealistic class of 64 Democratic House freshmen are armed with a reform agenda.

This includes H.R. 1, a 571-page bill that addresses voting rights, corruption, gerrymandering and campaign finance reform as well as the creation of a Select Committee on the Climate Crisis — a first step toward a “Green New Deal.”

Proponents of this ambitious project face a determined adversary, however — the top ranks of the interest group establishment, skilled in co-opting liberal members of Congress and converting initiatives to square with the interests of corporate America.

The upper stratum of the Washington lobbying community often exercises de facto veto power over the legislative process, dominating congressional policymaking, funneling campaign money to both parties and offering lucrative employment to retiring and defeated members of the House and Senate.

Lobbyists exercise this power across the course of a member’s career. “Whoever is elected is immediately met with a growing lobbying onslaught by the same big players,” write Lee Drutman, a senior fellow at New America, Matt Grossmann, a political scientist at Michigan State and Tim LaPira, a political scientist at James Madison University, who have contributed a chapter to “Can America Govern Itself?” a book edited by Francis Lee and Nolan McCarty that is coming out in June.

Within the federal lobbying community — a $3.37 billion industry in 2017 — Drutman, Grossmann and LaPira write

a limited number of organizations at the very top of the resource distribution have escalated their political investments in ways that increasingly distinguish them from the rest of the pack.

This population of groups at the top of the distribution is becoming increasingly stable over the last two decades. This group of top organizations — which we call the top tier — is positioning itself as a distinct class.

The authors argue that the first tier lobbying organizations

are analogous to the current generation of very wealthy families who now pay for every conceivable tutor so that their children can be advantaged in applying to elite prep schools and colleges, which are now more and more essential to getting ahead in our increasingly economically stratified society. In both circumstances, financial resources and social connections build up over time, reinforcing stratification. Money does not guarantee outcomes. But it helps reinforce inequalities by widening the gap between the very top and everyone else.

The ability of this elite constituency to meet politicians’ demands for campaign contributions and other resources, the authors argue, has allowed Congress to ignore traditional “populist concerns regarding dominant economic interests” as members of the House and Senate “continue their high-dollar fund-raisers and constant meetings with lobbyists.””

Opinion | White Identity Politics Aren’t Going Anywhere – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

How should Democrats understand — and confront — them?

By Thomas B. Edsall
Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

Dec. 20, 2018, .137

Image
Voters at Merry Acres Middle School in Albany, Ga. on Nov. 6, 2018CreditCreditRuth Fremson/The New York Times

“For 50 years Republicans have battered the Democratic coalition, wielding the so-called southern strategy — built on racism and overlaid with opposition to immigration — to win control of the White House and one or both chambers of Congress.

At the same time, Democrats have struggled to piece together a coalition strong enough to deliver an Election Day majority. In the 1950s, the Democratic coalition was 87 percent white and 13 percent minority, according to the American National Election Studies; it is now 59 percent white and 41 percent minority, according to Pew Research.

As the Democratic Party has evolved from an overwhelmingly white party to a party with a huge minority base, the dominant strategic problem has become the tenuous balance between the priorities of its now equally indispensable white and minority wings.

President Trump has aggressively exploited Democratic vulnerabilities as no previous Republican candidate had dared to do. The frontal attack Trump has engineered — in part by stigmatizing “political correctness” — has had a dual effect, throwing Democrats back on their heels while simultaneously whetting their appetite for a fight.

“. . . In other words, pro-immigration, pro-diversity Democrats face clear obstacles breaking the Republican hold on white voters — and a challenge in repelling Trump’s race-and-immigration-focused offensive. Still, the accumulating insights on how and where Republicans have successfully worked these levers may help demonstrate — as President Barack Obama, President Bill Clinton and the results of this year’s midterm elections prove — that these obstacles are not insuperable and that they can be overcome.”