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 Bad History Informing the Impeachment Debate

Cautious Democrats seeking to avoid impeaching Donald Trump are making a mangle of the past and misreading the present.

In the turmoil of 21st-century American politics, the greatest danger comes in wrongly applying the lessons of the past to a constantly changing present. This is playing out in the debate over how best to challenge Donald Trump. Whether the argument is over impeachment or over the best candidate to defeat him in 2020, there is a pitched battle between those urging a cautious, measured approach, and those pushing for institutional and ideological confrontation. Team Caution often reinforces their argument with history. Electorally, they cite the catastrophic defeats of George McGovern in 1972 and Walter Mondale in 1984 to warn of another landslide loss to Republicans. In Politico , former NPR reporter Alan Greenblatt darkly warns that nominating a progressive challenger “steers a course too far from the country’s center of political gravity to win.” On impeachment, journalists and Democratic leadership alike reference President Bill Clinton’s impeachment in 1998...

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.

When 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 would have extended the timeline to hit zero carbon emissions by 20 years, and reinstated a...

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
wwc_homepage_logo-3.jpg Eight 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 appears that racism, xenophobia, and misogyny played a larger role. But...

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)
In 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 authorities while the other refuses, the betrayer goes free while the stalwart get three years. In a two-party political system, each party can be seen as a prisoner: Refuse to cooperate too much,...

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
Election 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 45 percent of college-educated white women . It shouldn’t surprise us that women voted for Trump as strongly as...