David Atkins

David Atkins is a writer and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a research and consulting firm specializing in politics and consumer technology.

Recent Articles

The Democratic Party Divide Is About Theories of Political Power

Dianne Feinstein's dust-up with activists over the Green New Deal revealed that progressives are unwilling to tolerate a political system that they feel threatens planetary survival.

AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt, File Senator Diane Feinstein speaks at a Capitol Hill news conference in Washington. W hen California Senator Dianne Feinstein met last Friday with a group of young climate activists from the Sunrise Foundation promoting the Green New Deal framework, the resulting confrontation created yet another political Rorschach test in a fractured electorate. You either saw an arrogant and out-of-touch politician dismissively lecturing children about matters of life or death, or you saw a savvy experienced legislator explaining how the world really works to a group of children pushed by their elders into promoting a hopeless fantasy. Those on the progressive side of the aisle mostly saw the former; those on the center-left and the right saw the latter. Feinstein arguably conceded the point by shelving her more “realistic” alternative to the Green New Deal framework authored by progressive Congressmembers Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ed Markey. Feinstein’s half-measure...

It Was Prejudice. It Was Economics. It Was Both.

New surveys show not all Trump voters had the same motivations.

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren
AP Photo/Ted S. Warren A supporter of President Donald Trump takes part in a May Day protest in Seattle. wwc_homepage_logo-3.jpg E ight months after Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory, arguments still rage over what motivated Trump’s nearly 63 million voters. Was it racism and sexism, or was it the consequence of economic anxiety in disaffected white working-class communities? How had Trump succeeded, particularly in long-Democratic states in the Rust Belt, where Romney and McCain had failed? The question has become a sort of Rorschach test for the left: Many social democrats and Sanders supporters see Trump’s apostasy on trade and his promises to bring factory jobs back as key to his victory, while Clinton-aligned and more identity-focused analysts tend to hone in on Trump’s overt appeals to prejudice. The evidence collected since the election increasingly suggests that both sides are right—it just depends on which Trump voter you’re looking at. For the base Trump voter, it...

The Prisoner’s Dilemma: Why Democrats Should Block Gorsuch

In a rational political system, Democrats might keep their powder dry in the Supreme Court battle. But Republican extremism has made resistance Democrats’ only option.

(Photo: AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
(Photo: AP/J. Scott Applewhite) Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch is escorted by former New Hampshire Senator Kelly Ayotte on the way to a meeting with Senator Ted Cruz on February 2, 2017.\ I n 1950, two mathematicians at the RAND Corporation created a now-famous game called " Prisoner's Dilemma ." A study in the incentives of cooperation and resistance, it is now very relevant to Democrats trying to determine how to respond to President Trump's nomination of conservative jurist Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court. The game's setup goes like this: Two prisoners are being held in solitary confinement with no means of communicating with one another. Prison officials, lacking enough evidence on a major charge to convict either, but confident of conviction on a minor charge, offer each of them a deal to snitch on the other. If both prisoners refuse to betray one another, each gets a year in prison on the lesser charge. If both snitch, each serves two years. But if one cooperates with...

Trump May Be Sexist and Racist, But That’s Not the Only Reason He Won

Economic anxiety drove many of Donald Trump’s working-class voters, a bloc Democrats failed to energize amid plunging turnout overall.

AP Photo/John Locher
AP Photo/John Locher Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally Monday, February 22, 2016, in Las Vegas. E lection Day was an ugly victory for racism, sexism, and bigotry over harmony, inclusion, and decency. But the exit polling and electoral returns show that Donald Trump owes his improbable win less to prejudice and intolerance than to visceral populist anger that went unnoticed or unheeded by far too many Democrats. First, the numbers. Despite Trump’s overt sexism and racism, he managed to win over many women and Latinos. White women, for example, voted for Trump over Clinton by a ten-point margin, according to CNN’s exit polling . Depending on which exit poll you believe, Trump may also have won anywhere from 19 percent to an astonishing 29 percent of the Latino vote, despite his virulently anti-Latino rhetoric. Clinton’s supposed bulwark among college-educated voters also failed: White college graduates backed Trump by a 4-point margin, including...

Racism Alone Doesn’t Explain Trump’s Support, Which Also Reflects Economic Anxiety

It’s become popular these days to blame Trump’s rise on bigotry and racial animus alone, but that diagnosis misses the important role played by economic anxiety.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
AP Photo/Evan Vucci Supporters of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens as he speaks during a campaign rally, Thursday, November 3, 2016, in Concord, North Carolina. A curious consensus is emerging to explain the rise of Donald Trump and the loyalty of his voters. The argument seems to be that Trump’s success is due not to his apostasy from traditional Republican positions on trade and other economic policies, but rather to pure bigotry and racial animus. This position has taken hold in circles that include such prominent analysts as New York Times columnist Paul Krugman , and Matt Yglesias and Dylan Matthews , both of Vox , among others . It has even become a running joke on social media to highlight a prejudiced statement by a Trump supporter, and add the ironic caption “economic anxiety!” The contrasting view, shared by The New Republic ’s Brian Beutler (who started the joke), Mother Jones’s Kevin Drum , and Tory Newmayer , at Fortune , is that both racism and...