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


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 | The Politics We Don’t See Matter as Much as Those We Do – By Thomas B. Edsall – The New York Times


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

Credit…Corey Lowenstein/The News & Observer, via Associated Press

“Some of the most important developments in politics do not happen every election cycle, but every ten years, when politicians scrap the old battleground map and struggle to replace it with a new one more favorable to their interests.

Steven Hill, a former fellow at New America, described how this works in his still pertinent 2003 book “Fixing Elections: The Failure of America’s Winner Take All Politics.”

“Beginning in early 2001, a great tragedy occurred in American politics,” Hill wrote. As a result of that tragedy, “most voters had their vote rendered nearly meaningless, almost as if it had been stolen from them” as “hallowed notions such as ‘no taxation without representation’ and ‘one person, one vote’ have been drained of their vitality, reduced to empty slogans.”

Hill was referring to “the process of redistricting” that he argued was legalized “theft” engaged in by “the two major political parties, their incumbents, and their consultants,” which Hill said was “part of the everyday give-and-take (mostly take) of America’s winner-take-all politics.” “

Opinion | Vote Counts Change. Please Don’t Panic. – By Jesse Wegman – The New York Times


Mr. Wegman is a member of the editorial board.

Credit…Victor J. Blue for The New York Times

“Imagine a parallel universe in which the sitting president cares about holding a free and democratic election in the midst of a pandemic. Imagine that his administration is staffed with competent, incorruptible officials who devote every waking hour to stopping the virus, saving lives, rebuilding the economy and preserving democracy. Imagine that the Postal Service hires tens of thousands of extra workers to process the surge of mail-in ballots.

We don’t live anywhere near that universe. But even if we did, we’d still have to worry about the “blue shift.”

It’s a harmless-sounding term, but it describes a very real phenomenon that could trigger major disputes in vote counts across the country after Election Day, lead to weeks of litigation and, most ominously, give President Trump an excuse to challenge the legitimacy of the vote if he loses it.

The blue shift refers to the tendency of votes counted after Election Day — mostly absentee and provisional ballots — to skew in favor of the Democratic presidential candidate. This has happened in each of the past four elections, according to Edward Foley, an election law scholar at Moritz College of Law at the Ohio State University. Mr. Foley coined the term after the 2012 election, when he was trying to predict which closely contested states might become the focus of legal challenges by one or the other political party.”

How Local Covid Deaths Are Affecting Vote Choice – The New York Times

By Lynn Vavreck and 

“On March 18, Donald J. Trump declared himself a wartime president against “the invisible enemy” of coronavirus and invoked the Defense Production Act. Now he’s facing a downside of presiding over a war: American casualties.

In the days since that pronouncement, Covid-19 has taken the lives of almost 150,000 Americans, many more than have died in recent wars combined. Data from over 328,692 interviews in 3,025 counties across the nation suggest that coronavirus-related deaths, like casualties of war, are hurting the president’s approval rating and may cost him and his party votes.

The gap between stated voting support for Mr. Trump and Joseph R. Biden Jr. grows by about 2.5 percentage points in Mr. Biden’s favor when a county has extremely high levels of coronavirus-related deaths relative to when it has low levels. These changes may come within counties as the number of virus-related deaths change, or across counties at any given point in time. For example, Covid-19 fatalities exploded in Wayne County in Michigan in April, suggesting a 1.25-point expansion of the gap between Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden.”

“. . . The analyses reveal clear patterns across multiple levels of geography (states and counties) and different offices (president, Senate and House). Local coronavirus fatalities are hurting Republicans running for federal offices.

A doubling of cases per capita in a county over the last 60 days drops Mr. Trump’s two-party vote margin against Mr. Biden by a third of a percentage point — a seemingly small gap, but not when you consider that several recent elections have been won by narrow margins. In 2016, the critical state of Michigan was won by less than a third of a point; Wisconsin and Pennsylvania were won by less than a point. And some places are seeing a tripling or quadrupling of cases.”

Opinion | The Real Reason Biden Is Ahead of Trump? He’s a Man – By Peter Beinart – The New York Times


Mr. Beinart writes about politics and foreign policy.

Credit…Kriston Jae Bethel for The New York Times

“A narrative has formed around the presidential race: Donald Trump is losing because he’s botched the current crisis. Americans are desperate for competence and compassion. He’s offered narcissism and division — and he’s paying the political price.

For progressives, it’s a satisfying story line, in which Americans finally see Mr. Trump for the inept charlatan he truly is. But it’s at best half-true. The administration’s mismanagement of the coronavirus and the Black Lives Matter protests only partially explain why the president is trailing badly in the polls. There’s another, more disquieting, explanation: He is running against a man.

The evidence that Mr. Trump’s electoral woes stem as much from the gender of his opponent as from his own failures begins with his net approval rating: the percent of Americans who view him favorably minus the percent who view him unfavorably. Right now, that figure stands at -15 points. That makes Mr. Trump less popular than he was this spring. But he’s still more popular than he was throughout the 2016 campaign. Yet he won.

What has changed radically over the past four years isn’t Americans’ perception of Mr. Trump. It’s their perception of his opponent. According to Real Clear Politics’s polling average, Joe Biden’s net approval rating is about -1 point. At this point in the 2016 campaign, Hillary Clinton’s net approval rating was -17 points. For much of the 2016 general election, Mr. Trump faced a Democratic nominee who was also deeply unpopular. Today, he enjoys no such luck.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Sad but true. Thank you Peter Berinart. I fear that Biden’s biggest mistake in this campaign was to limit his VP choice to females, when no ticket with a femail VP has ever won in US history.
Last month I backed Susan Rice, but really wanted Elizabeth Warren. Thinking about all the negatives brought up in this research report, I think a moderate white might be best for the ticket, which suggests Whitimer or one of the other governors from the moderate wing of the party.  Warren seems to be the best candidate and leader, but she has the onus of being such a successful female as to draw the ire of small minded men.

In Poll, Trump Falls Far Behind Biden in Six Key Battleground States – by Nate Cohn – The New York Times



Joe Biden holds a strong lead among registered voters in six battleground states carried by Donald Trump in 2016.

2016 Result NYT/Siena
June 2020
Michigan (n=610) <1 Trump +11 Biden

Wisconsin (655) <1 Trump +11 Biden

Pennsylvania (651) <1 Trump +10 Biden

Florida (651) +1 Trump +6 Biden

Arizona (650) +4 Trump +7 Biden

North Carolina (653) +4 Trump +9 Biden

Based on a New York Times/Siena College poll of 3,870 registered voters from June 8 to June 18.

President Trump has lost significant ground in the six battleground states that clinched his Electoral College victory in 2016, according to New York Times/Siena College surveys, with Joseph R. Biden Jr. opening double-digit leads in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Mr. Trump’s once-commanding advantage among white voters has nearly vanished, a development that would all but preclude the president’s re-election if it persisted. Mr. Biden now has a 21-point lead among white college graduates, and the president is losing among white voters in the three Northern battleground states — not by much, but he won them by nearly 10 points in 2016.

Four years ago, Mr. Trump’s strength in the disproportionately white working-class battleground states allowed him to win the Electoral College while losing the popular vote. The surveys indicate that the president continues to fare better in these relatively white battleground states than he does nationwide.

A separate Times/Siena survey released on Wednesday found Mr. Biden leading by 14 points nationwide, 50 percent to 36 percent.”

David Lindsay: This goes back to June 25th, and I thought I had posted it.

Bullock, Beto, and Buttigieg’s Fight on Climate Change – ROBINSON MEYER – The Atlantic

Climate Change Can’t Be Left to the Scientists

“Amid the fireworks of Tuesday night’s Democratic primary debate, there was a moderately interesting exchange about the inherently political task of dealing with climate change. It happened among the not-so-killer B’s: the moderates Steve Bullock, Beto O’Rourke, and Pete Buttigieg.Bullock, the governor of Montana, began by addressing Senator Bernie Sanders, asking, “Are we going to actually address climate change? … Or are we going to give people a better shot at a better life?” Bullock then added: “You can do both.” (This insight did not come as a surprise to Sanders, no matter what you think of his politics. The Vermont senator has endorsed the Green New Deal, which deliberately ties climate policy to several allegedly life-bettering policies, including universal health care and a job guarantee.)Then Bullock attempted to depoliticize climate change: to make it a purely technical issue best left to professionals. “Let’s actually have the scientists drive this,” he said. “Let’s not just talk about plans that are written for press releases that will go nowhere else if we can’t even get a Republican to acknowledge that the climate is changing.”

Bullock is likely correct on the second point: Republicans in Washington, at least, aren’t likely to do anything on climate change soon. But he is wrong to suggest that scientists will solve it. Scientists can only study climate change; they can’t solve it. Engineers, technologists, and energy-system designers will solve it, if anyone can.
Perhaps that’s too nitpicky a point, and Bullock isn’t alone among progressives in leaning too hard on the prized status of science. But climate change will be fought in part by building stuff: new train lines, a new power grid, wind turbines, and solar farms. And as any local zoning-board official will tell you, the construction of something new is always unavoidably, inherently political.The moderators then called on O’Rourke, the former Texas congressman, who replied to this point in a somewhat garbled way.“I listen to scientists on this, and they are very clear. We don’t have more than 10 years to get this right,” he said, before pivoting: “And we won’t meet that challenge with half steps or half measures or only half the country. We’ve got to bring everyone in.” Then he listed a number of archetypes of Americans—Texans and residents of Flint, Michigan, and college students in New Mexico—who needed to be brought into the climate solution.Maybe this wasn’t his point—and it wasn’t much of a point in the first place—but Beto seemed to suggest that the scientists can tell us only the scale of the climate problem. They can’t actually marshal resources to address it.Then Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, echoed Bullock’s point that virtually any Democrat will do more for the climate than the current president. “We have all put out highly similar visions on climate,” Buttigieg said. (I would dispute this, for what it’s worth: Senator Michael Bennet has a more detailed plan than Buttigieg does right now.) “It is all theoretical. We will deal with climate if and only if we win the presidency, if and only if we beat Donald Trump.”

Then Buttigieg, who so often cites his young age (and exposure to climate risk) as a major reason for his candidacy, started talking about Trump’s alleged bone spurs. For all the lip service that some politicians pay to climate change, lots of them just don’t know that much about it.”

ROBINSON MEYER is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers climate change and technology.

Source: Bullock, Beto, and Buttigieg’s Fight on Climate Change – The Atlantic

David Lindsay:

It is perhaps funny and exciting that I share an intense focus with a group of conservative Republicans, joined together as the Lincoln Project. These communications experts from the campaigns of George H W Bush, George W Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney, want to replace Donald Trump with Joe Biden, and turn the Senate from Red to Blue, by cleaning out the cowardly enablers of Donald Trump in the Senate. I recommend my post earlier, of a WGBH interview with Jennifer Horn who cofounded the Lincoln Project, for more about these patriotic Republicans and former Republicans. My biggest disagreements with them might start with the timing of mitigating  climate change and rescinding tax cuts for the wealthly.

I have moved the focus of my reading to which blue senatorial candidates deserve my piddlingly modest contributions, and yours. I read in the NYT today that in Montana, the former governor Steve Bullock (D) is challenging the incumbent senator Steve Daines (R).  This begged the question, who is Bullock, and is he an environmentalist who is at least concerned about climate change. His website is disappointingly unhelpful. It wouldn’t let me see anything until I gave them my email address and money. So I bypassed the aggressive gateway. I retyped the basic URL in the URL box of the browser, only to get another appeal for contributions, but also some information — but no list of issues. I had to google my question to find out that Bullock was famous for trying to give Montana voters and businesses as much access as possible to all Federal forests and preserves. He has a great record helping the poor and middle classes, as do many anthropocentrics. I will support this man at this time and election, but will keep an eye on him going forward.  He might be a place holder for a real environmentalist, which is my code for a climate hawk.

I fear that my narrow focus is not of great interest to my extended group of Facebook friends, so if you don’t see a lot more on the climate war and who to support in the senate races, check in or follow my blog InconvenientNews.net, where these musing will continue to get posted,  assuming I carry through. Meanwhile, while researching Bullock, I found the following little gem bove in the Atlantic.


Even if the Polls Are Really Off, Trump Is Still in Trouble – By Nate Cohn – The New York Times


“With Joe Biden claiming almost a double-digit lead in national polls, one question still seems to loom over the race: Can we trust the polls after 2016?

It’s a good question. But for now, it’s not as important as you might guess. If the election were held today, Mr. Biden would win the presidency, even if the polls were exactly as wrong as they were four years ago.

The reason is simple: His lead is far wider than Hillary Clinton’s was in the final polls, and large enough to withstand another 2016 polling meltdown.”

Climate & Environment – Sara Gideon for Maine

“Climate change is one of the most urgent challenges we face — affecting everything from our public health to our economy.  Our natural resources and environment have always been a core part of who we are and how we live in Maine. From our history and heritage to our economy today, stewardship of our woods and waters is deeply important to our livelihoods and our sense of place.

In Maine, Sara has been a champion for the environment and fighting against climate change. She passed the most aggressive goals the state has ever seen for reducing carbon emissions and increasing renewable energy production, making Maine an example for states across the nation, and jumpstarting our clean energy economy and the good-paying jobs it brings. She also passed landmark legislation improving water quality protections for Maine’s tribes.

Taking bold and immediate action on climate change at the federal level is one of Sara’s top priorities. Sara is committed to:

  • Rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement;
  • Investing in the clean energy economy;
  • Setting aggressive goals to move to a completely clean energy system powered by renewables;
  • Modernizing and upgrading our transportation and energy grid infrastructure;
  • Overhauling our transportation system;
  • Setting the carbon emissions reduction goals needed to slow climate change; and
  • Ensuring that nominees to fill key environmental positions in the administration are qualified individuals who will work to protect our environment and fight climate change, not put the interests of the fossil fuel industry first.

Sara is proud to be endorsed by the League of Conservation Voters.”

Source: Climate & Environment – Sara Gideon for Maine

Sara Gideon Wins Democratic Nomination in Maine to Challenge Susan Collins – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — Sara Gideon, the speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, on Tuesday formally became the Democratic nominee to challenge Senator Susan Collins of Maine, wielding a formidable war chest in a race that could determine whether Republicans retain control of the Senate in November.

Ms. Gideon, backed by the Senate Democratic campaign arm and a number of outside political groups, had long been the favorite to challenge Ms. Collins, the sole remaining New England Republican in Congress. The nonpartisan Cook Political Report has rated the race a tossup, and the election has already become the most expensive in Maine history.

“This campaign is about all of us, and about how we can build a stronger future together,” Ms. Gideon said in an acceptance speech broadcast on Facebook. “After 24 years in Washington, Senator Collins has become part of that broken system, putting special interests and her political party first, and Mainers know it and feel it.”