Opinion | Let the People (of Florida) Vote – The New York Times

David Leonhardt

By 

Opinion Columnist

CreditCreditJoe Raedle/Getty Images

“Winning civil rights is never easy. The fight can stretch on for decades and include setbacks that feel like utter defeat. An enduring lesson of the civil rights movement of the mid-20th century is the need for persistence, because social progress doesn’t come without a fight.

I’d encourage you to keep this idea in mind as I tell you this morning about the fight for voting rights in Florida. Parts of the story are depressing. Yet I think optimism is still the right attitude.

Last year, Florida voters overwhelmingly passed Amendment 4, a ballot initiative restoring voting rights to 1.4 million state residents previously convicted of a felony. It seemed like one of the biggest victories for voting rights in years, especially because almost 20 percent of black adults in the state had previously been prevented from voting. In May, however, the state legislature — controlled by Republicans — passed a bill that undermined the amendment, and Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill in June.”

Opinion | Get It Together- Democrats – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

After an effective 2018, the party is struggling.

David Leonhardt

By David Leonhardt

Opinion Columnist

The dome of the Capitol is reflected in a puddle in Washington last December.CreditErin Schaff for The New York Times

“The Democratic Party is having a rough summer so far:

  • Congressional Democrats have a weak, confusing message about Robert Mueller’s findings.

  • Congressional Republicans outfoxed Democrats on a border funding bill.

  • Nancy Pelosi, the speaker of the House, needlessly criticized a group of young House progressives — and those progressives responded by accusing her, without evidence, of racism. (President Trump’s ugly remarks yesterday were a reminder of what actual racism looks like.)

  • Several top-tier Democratic presidential candidates have staked out unpopular positions on immigration and Medicare.

  • A few candidates who could have helped the party in other ways are instead running quixotic presidential campaigns. For example, Gov. Steve Bullock of Montana could have run for Senate, and the billionaire Tom Steyer could have financed voter registration drives.

  • An otherwise impressive Senate candidate who’s hoping to unseat Mitch McConnell — Amy McGrath, in Kentucky — started her campaign with an embarrassing flip-flop about how she would have voted on Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

I don’t want to exaggerate the impact of these events. Trump’s approval rating has moved up only about two percentage points in recent weeks, according to the polling from Real Clear Politics and FiveThirtyEight. Between 42 and 45 percent of Americans approve of his performance.”

Opinion | The Democrats Are Confused on Immigration – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

David Leonhardt

By David Leonhardt

Opinion Columnist

A patchwork made by Roberto Marquez representing an American flag hangs on a portion of the United States-Mexico border in Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, earlier this month.CreditGuillermo Arias/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“The Democratic Party no longer has a clear policy on immigration.

It used to, not so long ago. The party’s leaders knew what they favored and felt comfortable saying so. Their platform generally included: 1) a path to citizenship for immigrants who came to this country illegally but had since obeyed the law; 2) deportation of undocumented immigrants who had since broken the law in significant ways; 3) fairly robust border security and investigation of companies employing undocumented immigrants, to hold down current and future levels of illegal immigration.

Besides favoring these policies, Democrats were also willing to talk about the benefits of limiting immigration and of assimilation.”

“My own view is that the country benefits from significant limits on immigration. As David Frum notes in a recent cover story for The Atlantic, immigration levels were quite low for much of the 20th century — from roughly the 1910s through the 1970s.

The slowdown helped many of the immigrants who arrived in the waves before 1910 (including parts of my family). They faced less competition in the labor market. Labor unions were more easily able to grow, because they were organizing an increasingly assimilated workforce. The immigration slowdown played a role in the great income surge of the post-World War II decades.

Today, I’d favor a policy with a lot of similarities to the Democrats’ platform of the Obama years, including humane treatment of immigrants already here plus tight border security. I’d change the mix of immigration, to let in fewer low-skills immigrants and more high-skills immigrants. Doing so has the potential to reduce inequality and lift economic growth.”

“If nothing else, I’d urge Democrats to look at public opinion on immigration with an open mind. The polling isn’t as favorable as some of the recent conversation on the left has suggested. In a recent Gallup poll, 47 percent of Americans called illegal immigration a critical threat and another 30 percent called it an important threat.”

David Lindsay: This is so important. Are the Democrats listening? In a recent Gallup poll, 77% of Americans think that illegal immigration is either a critical or an important threat.

Opinion | The Democrats’ Leftward Move – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

Too much? Or just enough?

David Leonhardt

By David Leonhardt

Opinion Columnist

Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Kamala Harris raised their hands when asked if their health care plans would abolish private insurance as Joe Biden looked on during a 2020 Democratic primary debate last week. Ms. Harris later moderated her position.CreditDrew Angerer/Getty Images

“After the Democratic debates last week, two of my more conservative colleagues — David Brooks and Bret Stephens — criticized the party for moving too far to the left for its own good. Many liberals reacted to the columns with either anger or disdain, saying that the Democrats don’t need to win over center-right elites in order to win the White House in 2020.

My own view falls somewhere in between that of my colleagues and their critics. On basic economic issues, I think Democrats have plenty of room to adopt a more progressive agenda. Substantively, that’s a smart agenda for an economy suffering from severe inequality and climate change. Politically, it fits with the populist, progressive views that most Americans hold on economic matters. Higher taxes on the rich, to take one example, are extremely popular.

But just because the Democrats have room to move to the left on some issues doesn’t mean they’re wise to move to the left on all of them. And I think the arguments — both substantively and politically — are much weaker for some of the policies Democrats are now pushing.

Free college for all ends up helping a lot of affluent families who don’t need help (as Pete Buttigieg has done a nice job of explaining). Trying to abolish private health insurance will lead to an epic political fight that will crowd out every other issue, including climate change. And abandoning the party’s traditional support for rigorous immigration enforcement would encourage more illegal immigration. (Here is a longer version of my thoughts about the Democrats’ strange new vagueness on immigration policy.)

I recognize that many progressives are to my left on at least one of these issues, and I respect their substantive arguments. But the political case strikes me as much weaker, especially on immigration and health care. Most Americans aren’t in favor of a more open immigration policy or the banning of private health insurance. And I’m skeptical that these issues are potent enough among occasional voters to inspire a turnout surge. The politics of free college are arguably better, but some polls suggest that it too is unpopular.

So I wonder: Are any of these priorities worth increasing the chances of President Trump’s re-election?”

David Lindsay:  I support all of the above.

Opinion | How to Fight Gerrymandering Now – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

David Leonhardt

By David Leonhardt

Opinion Columnist

Demonstrators protested against gerrymandering in front of the Supreme Court in March.CreditJoshua Roberts/Reuters

 

“John Roberts and the four other Republican-appointed Supreme Court justices last month gave their approval to extreme gerrymandering, which means that federal courts will no longer be able to reject political maps drawn for partisan reasons.

That’s a bad development for American democracy. Political parties will be able to entrench power by drawing legislative districts that allow them to win elections even when they receive fewer votes.

So what can opponents of gerrymandering do? I see several strategies:

1. Criticize the Roberts court for its partisanship. Both parties engage in shameful gerrymandering. But Republicans have done much more of it than Democrats. To be blunt, five Republican-appointed justices — including one who’s on the court only because Senate Republicans effectively stole a seat — delivered an enormous, anti-democratic gift to their own political party.”

Opinion | Republicans for Redistribution – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

David Leonhardt

By David Leonhardt

Opinion Columnist

CreditL.E. Baskow/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

 

“”On economic policy, Democrats are unified and Republicans are divided.”

That’s one of the summary points from a fascinating new poll by the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, a political science research group.

The poll shows that Democrats hold consistent views on economic policy across income groups. Both affluent and lower-income Democrats, for example, overwhelmingly favor a higher minimum wage, higher taxes on the rich and paid family leave.

Republicans are different. High-income Republicans tend to oppose these progressive economic policies. But most lower-income Republicans support them.

“About 19 percent of Republicans held economic policy positions closer to the average Democrat than the average Republican, placing them on the ‘economic left,’” write Lee Drutman, Vanessa Williamson and Felicia Wong, in their summary of the poll.”

The Problem With Putting a Price on the End of the World – by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

“But the downsides of performance standards are often exaggerated. Most Americans are surely happy to pay a small amount more for their homes, for instance, if their children no longer have to ingest lead paint. And the initial skepticism about California’s plan appears to have been misplaced. Critics predicted that the state wouldn’t be able to meet its goal without hurting its economy. They were wrong: The state met its goal four years early, by 2016. The costs to consumers were modest and hard to notice. John Podesta told me he considered California’s approach a model for future federal action.

The key political advantage is that performance standards focus voters on the end goal, rather than on the technocratic mechanism for achieving it. Carbon pricing puts attention on the mechanism, be it a dreaded tax or a byzantine cap-and-trade system. Mechanisms don’t inspire people. Mechanisms are easy to caricature as big-government bureaucracy. Think about the debate over Obamacare: When the focus was on mechanisms — insurance mandates, insurance exchanges and the like — the law was not popular. When the focus shifted to basic principles — Do sick people deserve health insurance? — the law became much more so.”

Opinion | What Is He So Afraid of? – by David Leonhardt – The New York Times

House Democrats may not be able to force President Trump to release his tax returns. But the Democrats can keep reminding Americans that Trump really does not want the public to know what’s in those returns.

As you probably know by now, all other recent presidents (and presidential nominees) voluntarily released their tax information. Trump has not. Now House Democrats are trying to get access to that information and potentially release portions of it to the public.

Last week, Richard Neal, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, demanded to see six years of Trump’s tax returns, citing a 1924 provision in the tax code that gives Congress the power to obtain any citizen’s returns. Neal has given the Internal Revenue Service until Wednesday to hand over the returns to Congress.

Opinion | Elizabeth Warren Actually Wants to Fix Capitalism – by David  Leonhardt – The New York Times

David Leonhardt endorses the big ideas of Elizabeth Warren.

“. . . So far, only one candidate among the 2020 contenders has an agenda with this level of ambition: Elizabeth Warren. Her platform aims to reform American capitalism so that it once again works well for most American families. The recent tradition in Democratic politics has been different. It has been largely to accept that big companies are going to get bigger and do everything they can to hold down workers’ pay. The government will then try to improve things through income taxes and benefit programs.

Warren is trying to treat not just the symptoms but the underlying disease. She has proposed a universal child-care and pre-K program that echoes the universal high school movement of the early 20th century. She favors not only a tougher approach to future mergers, as many Democrats do, but also a breakup of Facebook and other tech companies that have come to resemble monopolies. She wants to require corporations to include worker representatives on their boards — to end the era of “shareholder-value maximization,” in which companies care almost exclusively about the interests of their shareholders, often at the expense of their workers, their communities and their country.

Warren was also the first high-profile politician to call for an annual wealth tax, on fortunes greater than $50 million. This tax is the logical extension of research by the economist Thomas Piketty and others, which has shown how extreme wealth perpetuates itself. Historically, such concentration has often led to the decline of powerful societies. Warren, unlike some Democrats, comfortably explains that she is not socialist. She is a capitalist and, like Franklin D. Roosevelt, is trying to save American capitalism from its own excesses.”

David Lindsay: Here is the top comment chich I endorse, by a woman I admire.

ChristineMcM
Massachusetts

“But whatever my — or your — specific objections, Warren is identifying the right problems and offering a coherent vision for a post-Obama Democratic agenda.” Thank you for pointing all this out, David Leonhardt. Elizabeth Warren is corporations’ worst nightmare, which definitely tells us something. I’ve long thought she was extremely smart and articulate. She has the skill every good professor should have, which is to translate the complex into the readily understandable, the gross outlines of complexity that allows listeners (or students) get the concept before fleshing out the details. She’s also personable, extremely quick-wittted, and always ready with a good analogy that helps the memory of the complex concepts. When Warren says, “the system is rigged against the little guy,” she’s right. Donald Trump said the same thing, but never backed it up with policy. And then of course, as president, he never backed it up, period. I love Warren. Any candidate big corporations and scammers of all kinds love to hate is my kind of president.

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Opinion | Well Played- Madam Speaker – By David Leonhardt – The New York Times

The Democrats are getting the balance between investigatory zeal and caution just right so far.

By David Leonhardt
Opinion Columnist, March 5, 2019

“Nancy Pelosi is very good at her job.

By now, that doesn’t qualify as news, I realize. But the last few days have brought more evidence of Pelosi’s effectiveness as her party’s leader in the House.

The House Democratic caucus is investigating the many Trump scandals with just the right mix of zeal and caution. After Michael Cohen’s testimony last week, the Democrats yesterday released a list of people from whom they are seeking documents. The requests suggest that the Democrats will pursue every important way that President Trump may have broken the law and otherwise violated his oath of office.

[Listen to “The Argument” podcast every Thursday morning, with Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and David Leonhardt.]

But House Democrats — or at least the party leaders and committee chairs who set policy, like Jerry Nadler of the Judiciary Committee — are making sure not to jump to a formal impeachment process at this point. It’s too early. It would be destined to fail in the Senate, given Trump’s strong support among Republicans. And the start of impeachment would shift attention away from Trump’s misdeeds and toward the process itself.

The smart move instead is to keep the focus on what Trump, his aides and his family have done. “Political investigations tend to be marathons rather than sprints, requiring the slow, meticulous accretion of evidential layers,” Michelle Cottle writes in The Times.”