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

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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.””

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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

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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.”

Opinion | After Citizens United, a Vicious Cycle of Corruption – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

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

Dec. 6, 2018, 363
Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the author of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, speaking at the White House in 2017.
Credit
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

“In the eight years since it was decided, Citizens United has unleashed a wave of campaign spending that by any reasonable standard is extraordinarily corrupt.

To see how this operates in practice, let’s take a look at how Paul Ryan, the outgoing speaker of the House, negotiated a path — narrowly constructed to stay on the right side of the law — during a recent fund-raising trip to Las Vegas, as recounted in detail by Politico.

In early May, Ryan flew to Nevada to solicit money from Sheldon Adelson — the casino magnate who was by far the largest Republican contributor of 2018 — for the Congressional Leadership Fund, an independent expenditure super PAC. Ryan was accompanied by Norm Coleman, a former Republican Senator from Minnesota.

The Leadership Fund, according to its website, is “a super PAC exclusively dedicated to protecting and strengthening the Republican Majority in the House of Representatives.” It “operates independently of any federal candidate or officeholder.””

Opinion | Donald Trump’s Dimming Prospects – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times

By Thomas B. Edsall
Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.,  Nov. 29, 2018, 301


Supporters of Kyrsten Sinema, the Democratic Senate candidate in Arizona, await election results in Phoenix on Nov. 6. Ms. Sinema won.
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Christian Petersen/Getty Images

“Now that the midterm elections have been digested — and looked at up, down and sideways — some patterns that might dim President Trump’s re-election prospects have begun to emerge.

Catalist, a for-profit data firm founded in 2006 by the Democratic campaign strategists Harold Ickes and Laura Quinn, has become a go-to source of voter and donor information for liberal and progressive organizations.

During and after the 2018 elections, the firm conducted a study of the electorate to determine favorable and unfavorable developments important to its clients.

Catalist found that between 2014 and 2018 white voters aged 18 to 44 shifted sharply in favor of the Democrats. In 2014, whites 18 to 29 supported Democrat candidates by one percentage point; in 2018, these young white voters backed Democrats by 26 points, a substantial 25-point swing.”

Opinion | The Trump Legions – By Thomas B. Edsall- NYT

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

Nov. 1, 2018, 98
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Thumbs up on President Trump in Murphysboro, Ill., last week.CreditCreditDoug Mills/The New York Times

“When reporters asked President Trump last week if he bore any responsibility for the pipe bombs sent to many of his critics and adversaries, he declared his innocence:

“Not at all, no. There is no blame. There is no anything.”

At the same time, an Oct. 29 PRRI survey revealed that 69 percent of voters believe that Trump has “damaged the dignity of the presidency.”

Trump reinforced this public assessment in his answer to another question: Did he plan to phone any of the officials who had been targeted with bombs, including his predecessors in the White House, the Clintons and the Obamas? His reply:

“I think we’ll probably pass, thank you very much.”

These exchanges raise the same two questions that have been posed repeatedly during the Trump presidency:

How could this man have been elected to the highest office in the land? And how can Trump not only remain in office but, for the moment at least, appear to stand a reasonable chance of being renominated and even re-elected?

To get some answers to these questions, I turned to a 2018 paper by Ronald Inglehart and two fellow political scientists at the University of Michigan, as well as to a new book by Marc Hetherington and Jonathan Weiler, who are political scientists at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill.

In “The Silent Revolution in Reverse: Trump and the Xenophobic Authoritarian Populist Parties,” Inglehart, Jon Miller and Logan Woods provide fresh insight on a subject to which Inglehart, at times writing with Pippa Norris of Harvard, has devoted much of his career: the ongoing tension between materialist and post-materialist values and the political consequences of that tension.”

Opinion | The 2016 Exit Polls Led Us to Misinterpret the 2016 Election – The New York Timesby Thomas Edsall – NYT

“The Pew Research Center and the Center for American Progress have produced methodologically sophisticated surveys of the electorate that sharply contradict 2016 exit polls.Perhaps most significant, a March 20 Pew Research Center public opinion survey found that 33 percent of Democratic voters and Democratic leaners are whites without college degrees. That’s substantially larger than the 26 percent of Democrats who are whites with college degrees — the group that many analysts had come to believe was the dominant constituency in the party.

According to Pew, this noncollege white 33 percent makes up a larger bloc of the party’s voters than the 28 percent made up of racial and ethnic minorities without degrees. It is also larger than the 12 percent of Democratic voters made up of racial and ethnic minorities with college degrees.In sum, Pew’s more precise survey methods reveal that when Democrats are broken down by education, race and ethnicity, the white working class is the largest bloc of Democratic voters and substantially larger than the bloc of white college-educated Democratic voters.In a detailed analysis of the 2016 vote, Pew found that 44 percent, or 60.1 million out of a total of 136.7 million votes cast on Nov. 8, 2016 were cast by whites without college degrees — demographic shorthand for the white working class.”

Robots Can’t Vote- but They Helped Elect Trump – by Thomas Edsall – NYT

My god, this is imortant imformation. Thank you Thomas Edsall et al.

“When you look across America to see where jobs and wages have been lost to robotics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and automation, it is the middle of the country that stands apart from the rest.The accompanying map, which was produced by Daron Acemoglu of M.I.T. and Pascual Restrepo of Boston University, shows the size and scope of the region that has borne the brunt of postindustrial modernization.”

How Immigration Foiled Hillary – by Thomas Edsall – NYT

“What Democrats missed was the profound political impact recent immigration trends were having on the more rural parts of the once homogeneous Midwest — that the region had unexpectedly become a flash point in the nation’s partisan immigration wars.

In a Brookings essay published last month, John C. Austin, director of the Michigan Economic Center, a local think tank, writes that the region is experiencing a “steady stream of immigrants from Mexico, Central America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.”

As a result, Austin continues, Immigration has become an unambiguous factor in this racially charged Midwestern landscape. While immigrant-rich states like Arizona, California, and Florida are often at the center of immigration policy discussions, the political debate about the role of immigrants burns hottest in the heartland.”

Donald Trump Is the Godfather of a Democratic Renaissance – by Thomas Edsall – NYT

“After decades of getting out-organized and outspent in battles to control state legislatures, Democratic strategists have woken up to the importance of defending against Republican gains at the grass roots.

The anger and fear provoked by the advent of President Trump have led to explosive growth for progressive advocacy groups determined to oppose the president’s agenda and, crucially, to elect Democrats to local office — groups like Indivisible, Run for Something, Emerge America and Color of Change.

The number of Democratic candidates filing for office at all levels of government has surged; the trickle of money into liberal grass-roots programs has become a flood; and turnout in post-2016 Democratic primaries has reached record levels.”