Archive

  • David Brooks: Wrong On the Effects of Microtargeting, Wrong For America

    Flickr/ljlphotography
    I stopped reading David Brooks a while ago, when he decided it was his mission not to provide thoughtful commentary on current events but instead to produce one column after another that read like the Cliff Notes for a high school "character education" class. But his column today is worthy of comment, because it gets at something that I've been thinking about for a while, raises an important issue about how campaigns are conducted today, and still manages to be utterly wrong. As we all know, campaigns have become increasingly sophisticated at targeting voters. Back in the stone age when I worked on campaigns, they had little more information to work with than what was on your voter registration card. They knew your age, your gender, your address, and a couple of other data points, and with some creativity they could infer other things about you (for instance, one campaign I worked on sent a mailer about gay issues to any household with two people over 30 of the same gender living...
  • Why Republicans Have Gotten Away With Craziness This Year

    Just a couple of people with non-crazy ideas. (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
    We don't know if Joni Ernst is going to be the next Senator from Iowa, but one thing we can say is that Democrats failed to paint her as a radical Tea Partier with dangerous ideas. (Actually, there's another thing we can say: her replacing liberal lion Tom Harkin would have to be the widest ideological swing in a Senate seat from one Congress to the next in a long time.) The question is, why? And more broadly, why have they failed to do that with any of the GOP Senate candidates running this year? It's not like this is a bunch of moderates. One explanation is that the establishment triumphed by weeding out the nutcases : National Republicans managed this year to snuff out every bomb-throwing insurgent who tried to wrest a Senate nod away from one of their favored candidates. They spent millions against baggage-laden activists such as Matt Bevin, the Louisville investor who mounted a ham-fisted challenge to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Mississippi state Sen. Chris...
  • What We Talk About When We Talk About a Republican Senate

    Presuming we have a Republican Congress next year, there's going to be a lot of talk right after the election about what that will change 1) politically and 2) substantively. While I'm ordinarily an advocate of more substantive discussion and less political discussion (not that I have a problem with political discussion, since I do plenty of it myself, it's just that it should be leavened with consideration of the things that actually matter), there's a potential problem in the substantive discussion that I think we should be on the lookout for. For instance, this morning on the radio I heard some energy expert whose name I didn't catch say that if Republicans take over the Senate, we're likely to see the government shift its focus toward fossil fuels and away from renewables. Which sounds perfectly logical until you ask how such a shift is supposed to take place. This is what is often missing from policy discussion: enough acknowledgment of the institutional processes that determine...
  • How to Reduce the Voting Gap

    Demos
    This post originally appeared at Demos.org Over the last three decades, research suggests, the class bias of the voting public has increased dramatically. In the 2012 election, there was a 33 point gap between the turnout rate of the highest bracket ($150,000 or more) and the lowest bracket ($10,000 or less). My article explores the implications of this gap, but it’s also important to know the causes. Demos.org Registration: The first part of the problem is registration. One study finds , “state voter registration laws pose a substantial barrier” to the mobilization of low-income voters. We can see this in the Census data from the 2012 election (below). Among eligible voters in the highest bracket 87.1 percent were registered in 2012, compared with only 63.2 percent of those in the lowest bracket. This registration gap certainly plays a role in turnout inequality, and unnecessary burdens don’t help. Worse, many states are currently purging their voter rolls , which primarily affect...
  • Electing Judges Is Insane

    This guy never had to run for reelection. Plus he brings his own gift bag. (Flickr/Nathan Rupert)
    With a couple of minor exceptions, like a few local judgeships in Switzerland, the United States is the only country where judges are elected. Indeed, to the rest of the world, the idea of judges running for office—begging for money, airing attack ads against their opponents, thinking always about their next election even after they take the bench—is positively insane. And they're right. We've had elected judgeships for our entire history, but until the last few years, those elections were nothing like races for Congress or governorships. But those days are past—now not only are judges acting like politicians, outside groups (yes, including the Koch brothers) are pouring money into judicial races to produce courts more to their liking. And when you make judicial elections more partisan, you get more partisan judges, like one Judith French, a member of the Ohio Supreme Court who is running to retain her seat : At a Saturday event at which she introduced Republican Gov. John Kasich,...
  • Are GOP Donors Going to Get Anything In Return For Their Millions?

    Oh please. Who are you kidding? (Flickr/Danny Huizinga)
    If you're a liberal zillionaire who contributed lots of money this year to prevent a Republican takeover of the Senate, on Tuesday you're probably going to be pretty unhappy. Which is why, Ken Vogel of Politico reports , the people who run the groups through which all those millions are being channeled are rushing to reassure their donors that it was still money well spent. Which got me thinking about the conservative donors who are probably going to be celebrating next week. For some of them, Republican victories are an end in themselves, but others have a more specific agenda in mind. They help Republicans get elected because they expect something in return. To be clear, I'm not talking about quasi-legal bribery. If you're an oil company or a Wall Street firm, you donate to Republicans not so that they'll be forced to do what you want whether they like it or not, but because you know they like it quite well. Republicans want, deep in their hearts, to cut taxes and slash regulations...
  • They're All Randians Now

    Evidence of the GOP's moral hardening.
    In public opinion, the battle over the Affordable Care Act has come to a stalemate. Depending on how you ask the question, a majority of the public disapproves of the law, but a majority also doesn't agree with Republicans that it should be repealed. On the simple approval question, poll results look just about the same as they did five years ago, which is remarkable given all the fighting over it and everything that has happened, good and bad, in its implementation. But there's something remarkable in this new article in the New England Journal of Medicine that we really need to take notice of, because it represents a significant shift in how some Americans think about health care: Over the past decade, there has been a cultural shift in Americans' attitudes about the principle of universal health care coverage, one of the main rationales for the ACA. In 2007, during the presidential primary season, public support for the view that the federal government has a responsibility to make...
  • Christie 2016: 'Vote For Me Or I'll Punch You Right In Your Stupid Face'

    Flickr/Eugene Smith
    All politicians have to deal with hecklers from time to time, and most try to handle it by being polite but firm, using the moments before security reaches the person and hustles them out to say something like: "This is America, and everyone has the right to speak their minds. So you've had your say, and now it's my turn." It allows the politician to show the crowd that he's unflappable and patient, but not intimidated. That is, unless you're Chris Christie, in which case every heckler is an opportunity to show that you're something else: a tough guy who don't take guff from nobody. To wit, this video from Wednesday, taken by a Democratic tracker: My favorite part is how Christie keeps calling him "buddy" (reminded me of this ). Now try to imagine what would happen if Barack Obama shouted "Sit down and shut up!" at a citizen. Or almost any other prominent politician, for that matter; commentators would immediately start questioning his mental health. But even though it's been a while...
  • The House Could Get Even Nuttier After This Election, But Heat May Be Off Boehner

    (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
    (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) W ith all the attention focused on the Senate in next Tuesday's elections, it would be easy to forget that there's an election for the House happening as well. The consensus is that Republicans will probably add a few seats to their majority—not a defeat, but not a blow-out victory either. Which means that nothing changes, right? Well, not exactly . As Ed O'Keefe writes: A new band of combative conservatives is likely to win House seats next week, posing a fresh challenge for Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and his leadership team as they seek to govern an expanded GOP majority next year. Six to eight new lawmakers are likely to replace incumbent Republicans in deep-red districts, primarily in the South. Most of them, such as Gary Palmer of Alabama and John Ratcliffe of Texas, are backed by the tea party movement and will be more likely than their predecessors to oppose GOP leaders on key legislation. That's right—the House Republicans will get even...
  • Why the 2016 Republican Primaries Will Be a Messy Venn Diagram

    This guy's coming back! (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)
    The 2016 Democratic presidential primaries are promising to be rather boring—although anything can happen, at the moment it looks like Hillary Clinton won't have much competition, and if she does it will come from the less-than-electrifying likes of Martin O'Malley . The Republican side is where the sizzle is going to be, with a bunch of interesting personalities slashing each other to pieces in an exhilarating deathmatch. One of the themes of the commentary about that race will be the candidates' attempts to woo and ultimately secure as many of the GOP's constituency groups as possible. And I think there's a mistake in how we often think about that particular process. It's not a contest with an end point where one person wins. To see what I mean, let's take a look at this interesting article from Tim Alberta and Shane Goldmacher about the early struggle between Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee to win evangelicals : The courtship of Christian leaders by White House contenders—"the...

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