Morning Ed: Politics {2017.07.26.W}

David Brooks may have whiffed with his “Italian Lunch” column, but cultural codes are real and in addition to disadvantaging people on the wrong side of the figurative tracks it Daniel Drezner argued that it allowed the likes of Jared and Ivanka a pass.

There has been a spate of books pointing out the weaknesses of democracy, and Yuval Levin is taking a look. James Hanley also reviews one of the books. Nathan Robinson is having none of it.

Daily Kos Elections believes that California’s top-two primary system is bad, bad, bad. I have a proposal…

Pseudoerasmus asks how we can go about setting up pro-social institutions and “get to Denmark.”

A Democratic think tank does the math and says that Democrats would do better to target working class Trump voters instead of the educated moderates that Hillary Clinton pursued.

Relatedly, we’re approaching the point where it’s Democrats rather than Republicans that can be more adequately described as the preferred party of the wealthy. {More}

Juggalos march on Washington with a surprisingly reasonable set of demands.

Independent commissions for redistricting may not gerrymander any less than legislatures’ drafts.

The Post Office apparently played fast and loose with giving workers time off to help Hillary Clinton.


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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57 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Politics {2017.07.26.W}

  1. The Cultural Code article is kind of right. There are plenty of people going against Jared and Ivanka. These are also members of the upper middle educated class but on the outside of the cocktail circuit. I suspect LGM is right. A lot of journalists are not cynical diggers for truth but professionals looking for a nice paycheck and desiring of access. This makes them Court Couriers. See also the Cult of Saavy.

    Working Class Trump voters. On numbers yes. The issue for the Democratic Party is the tension between social politics and economic populism. This is an age old center left Party problem.

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    • Modern mass media journalism depends on access and being critical is an easy way to end access fast. Politicians might not be able to censor the press via the government but they have ways of making their jobs difficult and unpleasant. A lot of journalists also seem to be like the people who, while excluded from the cool kid’s table in the high school cafeteria, toadied up to them because they wanted in. This dynamic manifests in both political and celebrity journalism.

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  2. PO – What?! Unions playing fast & loose with rules for politics? Say it isn’t so!

    If independent commissions are gerrymandering even worse, then perhaps they are not as independent as we imagine they are.

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    • Oscar Gordon: perhaps they are not as independent as we imagine they are.

      Amazingly we haven’t figured out a way to remove politics from politics.

      Think of the supposed “experts” in removing themselves from politics and making dispassionate rulings, i.e. the Supreme Court. IMHO in Bush v Gore, 7 of the 9 Supremes lost control of their emotions and judgement. 2 of them said it was ok for Gore to change the rules after the election to count some ballots extra special (because he’s a Dem, if he’d been GOP they would have flipped) and 5 more said we should end the process while Bush was ahead (ditto but reversed).

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  3. The knock on independent redistricting commissions seems to be that they don’t produce enough competitive districts. In my experience, the enabling statutes generally have “competitive” pretty far down on the list of goals/constraints the commissions are charged with. Much more likely that they are supposed to minimize the number of counties and cities that are split across districts, maintain communities of interest, etc.

    Take Colorado’s court-drawn US House district map (control of the legislature was split, and both sides were willing to throw it over to the courts). Given the guidance in the state constitution and statutes, any map is going to start with: (1) an Eastern Plains rural district; (2) a Western Slope and rural mountains district; (3) Denver; and (4) El Paso County (Colorado Springs). The rest of the exercise is how to cut up the Front Range from Douglas County north to Wyoming and the resort mountain counties. At first glance, the Denver area looks mildly gerrymandered. But the oddball center shape is Denver’s irregular shape plus a chunk of one suburb. The rest of the suburban donut has to be split somehow, and is going to look odd no matter how you do it. The general NW vs SE split is not a bad one based on communities of interest.

    LeeEsq talks about natural gerrymandering, which is what the Colorado rules produce. Three very safe seats for the Republicans — the two big rural districts and Colorado Springs. One very safe seat for the Democrats — Denver — and a moderately safe seat — the northern chunk that includes Boulder and the mountain resorts. Two moderately competitive districts, one held by the Dems and one by the Republicans, both drifting slowly leftward.

    The most amusing episode from a couple of redistrictings back (also court drawn) was the very conservative SE corner of the state pleading not to be included with very conservative Colorado Springs. What that came down to was the rural area’s claim: “Those bastards in the Springs don’t care about anything except expanding the Piñon Canyon tank maneuver site by stealing our land, and stealing our water. We need a purely rural Congressman to protect us.”

    Assuming Colorado gets an eighth House seat after 2020, the Front Range cutting-up is going to look even more peculiar, since that’s where the eighth seat will be.

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    • The comparison I saw on Twitter was to Bush’s treatment of SSM in 2004.

      Arguably worked for Bush for one election. Now it’s some of the Republicans’ embarrassing baggage.

      On the upside, if you wanted to make a Constitutional Amendment banning SSM, 2004-5 might have held the very last window in which such an Amendment might have been possible. After that, it was easy to come up with 13 states that would never ratify such an amendment. Now, I think it’d be tough to come up with 13 states that *WOULD* ratify it.

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      • Yeah, it occurred to me also that they’re trying to run the 2004 playbook with base turnout. Though it should be obvious to everyone that 1) it’s not 14 years ago anymore 2) it almost didn’t work (but for Ohio, we would be having the same electoral college discussion we’re having now, but back then)

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    • Well, technically, Trump tweeted that he wants to ban transsexuals. No actual policy has been released as of yet.

      This could just be yet another case of Trump running off at the mouth (so to speak).

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        • You mean John “This bill is a disgrace I won’t vote for” McCain? Who voted for said bill 20 minutes later?

          (Note: Not the fact that he voted to bring the bill to the floor, but he actually voted for the freaking BHCA or whatever it’s called when IT came up for a vote. He’s not running for re-election, so he’s not on the list of “Needs to have cast at least one vote against the ACA as cover” Republicans).

          WTF was he thinking? he literally gave a roaring speech about god-awful the bill was then voted for it. It’s like the Republican party’s entire problem in a nutshell. “This is a bad idea. HOLD MY BEER”.

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            • It was about the worth of anything John McCain says. Which is to say: Nothing.

              He’s all hat, no cattle.

              Fires a shot across Trump’s bow? Who gives a crap? No Trump, given that he doesn’t care what anyone says (except Putin, apparently), and certainly not anyone on his staff who is just as keenly aware of McCain’s “I have grave concerns about this but will vote for it anyways” habit.

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              • No Trump, given that he doesn’t care what anyone says…

                This is key right now in history. There was a time when having Mavericky Old John McCain speak ex cathedra about an issue might shame the executive into altering course slightly, just because McCain sits on an inexplicably large amount of political capital. Trump’s decision making is 100% transactional. All the talk in the world doesn’t matter unless you have some bearing on the concrete things he wants.

                And even though that’s a flaw in Trump as a person, it’s clearly an asset as a political operator–one he shares with successful operators like Mitch McConnell. They’ll both gladly let John McCain speechify before millions on the White House lawn if it means they get the deciding vote, because the scoreboard is all that matters.

                I used to think that a politician saying the right thing and doing the wrong thing (or just doing nothing) could arguably be marginally better than just doing the wrong thing because at least it exerts some pressure on public perception. But I’m more and more convinced that when saying the right thing is just used to cover for doing the wrong thing, it’s probably no better than doing the wrong thing and demanding that people don’t take your picture while you do it.

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          • He didn’t vote for the bill. He voted twice on procedural motions. The second one, which is the one where people say he voted for it, would have required another vote to pass it (but since it failed that vote there wasn’t another vote). Usually the thing that he voted for the second time is synonymous with voting for the actual bill, it was reported as that, but it was also procedural.

            https://twitter.com/LoopEmma/status/890023920488910848

            (It’s not unlike how Republicans “caught” John Kerry voting for things before he voted against them.)

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            • I’ve just spent the last ten minutes trying find out what McCain did or did not actually vote on and I cannot find a simple, straightforward account of the votes. Instead, I find a lot of stories selling the narrative of McCain tacking against his call for bipartisanship and betraying his legacy or something.

              Pretty much sums up what’s wring with political journalism. Heavy on partisanship narrative construction; light on facts.

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              • In journalism’s defense, yesterday’s narrative was further complicated today. But here is what we’ve got:

                McCain voted twice yesterday. The first was on a Motion To Proceed (MTP) with repeal votes. By voting for that, he wasn’t endorsing any particular plan, but rather voting to open things up for debate and vote. It was an opportunity for him to kill it all dead, and he didn’t.

                Then he gave a speech denouncing the whole process.

                Then he voted on a procedural matter relating to a specific Repeal and Replace plan. This was, at least technically, another procedural vote. Once again, he had the opportunity to kill the thing he was condemning, and didn’t. (But other senators did it for him).

                Then he explained that while he did vote to move things forward, that did not mean that he supported the bill itself.

                Then today he voted against a major repeal and issued a series of demands (unlikely to be met) that would need to be addressed to get his support.

                And that’s where things are.

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                • I tried to keep my personal thoughts out of the previous comment, but they are as follows:

                  I don’t think McCain necessarily acted hypocritically, but he did act in a way that does not impart much confidence that he will continue to be a voice against repeal. Tuesday was not a good day for him, if you support PPACA or you are looking for consistency.

                  My sense is that he’s trying to tread a middle ground. He might have voted for the R&R on Tuesday to buy himself some cred for his demands today. He might have done it because he supports it. He might have done it because of dementia, I have no idea.

                  While I think he has given PPACA supporters and/or liberals to be skeptical, it is probably a mistake to write him off. Honestly, I think the #1 way the bill passes is to send the message to Republicans “It doesn’t matter what you do from here, as far as we’re concerned you support it.” In which case, it’s “in for a penny in for a pound.”

                  In fact, I think that’s exactly what McConnell is trying to do. He’s trying to anchor his caucus to the whole thing to the point where there is no selfish political incentive not to vote for it.

                  I think the waffling senators (particularly those in the center, but also some on the right) voted yes on Tuesday for it to die-without-blame this week, to avoid individual blame.

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          • Pretty much. I mean yesterday was so baldy hypocrticial that even the usual doe-eyed McCain the Maverick boosters were writing scathing pieces today.

            So not the best day to pretend McCain said something that would, in any way, actually mean anything to anyone or change anyone’s mind whatsoever.

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    • Is it bad politics, though? What terrifying thing are we ignoring because we’re arguing over this? I saw that tweet and figured I missed a document dump or another one of his associates confessing something on Twitter.

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  4. The problem with both Brennan and Robinson, is there is a big hole in the claims for Social Objectivity. When academics start claiming they have a firm grasp and knowledge of it is when they should be shot on spot, because a few minutes later they reach for implementation of social policy.

    Robinson at least pays some consideration to the problem:
    -“Each of these writers insists that their position is driven by empirical evidence, showing that voters are “objectively” bad at making decisions.”

    -“That’s one of the contradictions with the pro-“elitist” position: such people argue that they know what people want better than the people know it themselves, but they’re unwilling to actually try to fair-mindedly understand what people say they want.”

    Here is where Robinson completely goes off the rails:
    -“Libertarians always insist that they are defending a philosophy of freedom, but what they are in fact defending is the freedom of a few to maintain their status privileges.”

    (he probably should have said ‘some’ libertarians, my guess is that is pointed at the Reason/Cato/Koch crews)

    Libertarians are the most radical freedom, anti-establishment people of all political groupings. They often tuck far into the anti-authoritarian individualist corner. Every other grouping is more centered in comparison.

    So neither Robinson or Brennan gain much ground in either the social objectivity problem or the problem of the two freedoms, which will likely evolve into the two biggest problems facing civilization today.

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  5. I guess cultural codes is the phrase of the month. Jared and Ivanka are slick and well dressed which people have always mistaken for competent. It seems a bit much to call that a cultural code. I think there are cultural codes but man every essay on them can’t seem to even define the basic terms. And for sporks sake billionaires dont’ need to give a crap about codes so they are the worst example of them. Jared may be well tailored but are any of the other Trump guys wearing off the rack suits?

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    • I think this is because of how divided the professional classes can be. My cultural codes can be very different than a lot of people who went to Business school or strike it rich techie even though we are both upper-middle class professionals with degrees.

      A lot of my cultural codes come from my drama background and arts passion. There are plenty of people I grew up in comparable circles socio-economically that did not get that.

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      • Every profession has certain codes. In general those things don’t keep people out. They are picked unconscionably while training or informally. I’d love for people to really drill down at the codes that they think actually serve as barriers. Not cheeses or stupid stuff like that. As a side note at a local quiki mart i saw some pre-packaged Wine Infused Salame……fancy foods are pretty run of the mill nowadays.

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  6. Apropos of noting, I was struck yesterday the way that cultural and political ideas can bleed across borders while losing some of their essential context.

    The example I came across yesterday is that my local supermarket stocks Mexican Coca-Cola alongside the regular stuff. Now, I understand that Mexican Coke is popular with some people in the US because it is sweetened with actual sugar rather than HFCS, but the thing is that New Zealand Coke is sweetened with cane sugar, not HFCS (and why wouldn’t it be, after all our politicians don’t have to suck up to Iowa), there shouldn’t be any difference between Mexican Coke and New Zealand Coke, apart from the fact the Mexican stuff will be more expensive because it had to be shipped from Mexico. And yet this idea that Mexican Coke is better in some way has managed to travel all the way to Wellington.

    There was another example recently were a couple of high school girls made an argument that womens’ sanitary products shouldn’t be subject to our Goods and Services Tax (GST) because they are essentials and not luxuries. They made the argument that if men had to use them, they would be treat as essential, not luxuries. The problem is that GST is not a luxury tax – all goods and services are taxed at the exact same rate. And so an argument had drifted in from overseas without anyone checking that it was applicable to New Zealand.

    It makes me wonder just how much of our political ideas are just echoes of other country’s concerns.

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    • Is it possible that Mexican Coke and New Zealand Coke are actually a slightly different recipe? One of the interesting things I stumbled across a while ago was the Big Mac ingredient ratios in different countries. The Big Mac varies from country to country to account for slight differences in cultural preferences for things like moisture ratios and preference for sweet / sour / savory, etc. It’s not a totally different product, but you’d find, say, more sauce on average in a Mexican version than you might in an American version because that’s what the focus groups indicate is optimal. It seems like Coke might adjust the bitterness knob a little bit to alter the bitter/sweet ratio from country to country.

      Given that Coke is water with some syrup in it, the idea of shipping bottles of it from Mexico to New Zealand makes the efficiency nerd in me shudder. I wonder if “Mexican Recipe” Coke produced locally would have the same sort of marketing appeal.

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          • Really? Would a bottle of Coke Classic made in New Zealand for New Zealanders taste the same as a bottle of Coke Classic made in the US for USers? My understanding is that it wouldn’t… even before we get to the actual varietals.

            And this isn’t even about New Zealanders having a different preference for Coke Classic itself, but simply a different palate. Coke looks/looked at certain countries and said, “Oh, they tend to favor much sweeter things… so we’ll make the Coke sweeter there so they like it more.” At least, that is my understanding.

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    • There have been reports of non-Americans who get arrested by the police in their home country referring to things like the 5th Amendment and Miranda Rights because of their over exposure to American media.

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  7. “When you lose to somebody who has 40 percent popularity, you don’t blame other things — Comey, Russia — you blame yourself,” Schumer told The Washington Post earlier this week. “So what did we do wrong? People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.”

    Wait wait… Hillary stinks like rotten poop!

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    • “People didn’t know what we stood for, just that we were against Trump. And still believe that.”

      While I kind of think that there was more going on than “Vote Hillary Clinton because she’s against Trump!”, I think that this explanation of Schumer’s has the benefit of self-reflection likely to inspire change in behavior.

      As such, I give it two thumbs up.

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      • I’m worried that that “change in behavior” is going to be a shift towards the Warren/Sanders faction that the most vocal part of their base wants, and that rather than being a same alternative to the Republican Party, they’ll continue to be just another flavor of stupid.

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        • At this point, willingness to change indicates eyes that are open. Heck, if they change and it doesn’t work, *MAYBE* they’ll be willing to change a second time.

          Of course, maybe the Republicans will eff things up so badly that people will vote the bums out and the (D) politicians are pretty much the default Not (R) politicians.

          But a willingness to change before something like “holy crap, where in the hell did (Democratic Party Version Of Trump) come from and how did s/he beat Chelsea?” happens is nothing but a good indicator.

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  8. Hardball. The Alaska Dispatch News is reporting that Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke called both of Alaska’s US Senators on Wednesday to threaten them with sanctions (ranging from not nominating Alaskans to Interior posts to not allowing expanded oil exploration along Alaska’s North Slope) as a response to Murkowski’s “no” vote on the motion to proceed with debate on Obamacare repeal.

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