SSC DISCORD SERVER AT https://discordapp.com/invite/gpaTCxh ; SCHELLING POINT FOR DISCUSSION IS WED 10 PM EST

Theses On Trump

The smart money still says Trump will crash and burn before getting the nomination. But everyone saying this should have to add “however, he’s certainly lasted much longer than we originally predicted.”

Scott Adams places the blame for this surprising perseverance on Trump-specific factors – namely, his brilliance as a persuader and manipulator. The mainstream media reports I’ve seen place it on Republican-specific factors, some combination of the words “ignorant”, “bigoted”, “white”, and “aggrieved entitlement”, followed by “therefore, Trump” – without a good explanation for why not therefore Scott Walker or therefore Rick Santorum.

I would argue it reflects a more general trend. As Exhibit A, I bring before the court Jeremy Corbyn.

In case you’re not following the United Kingdom: Labour, the UK’s major leftist party, is having leadership elections. Jeremy Corbyn is expected to win. In most ways, Corbyn is the diametric opposite of Trump. Trump is on the right, Corbyn is on the far left. Trump is inconsistent in his policy stances to the degree he even has any; Corbyn has strong opinions which he never deviates from even an inch. Trump has never held office; Corbyn has toiled in an unimpressive Parliamentary back bench position for decades. Trump is famously loud and bombastic, Corbyn is famously quiet and reserved, and likes to talk about things like gardening and how more people should be beekeepers.

But their rises to power look weirdly similar. Corbyn spent twenty years on the edges of British politics, mostly a figure of fun for his weird out-of-touch positions. When he announced the intention to run for Labour leader, everyone thought of it as a quixotic attempt to gain some free coverage, like when Dennis Kucinich runs for President. Some of the MPs who signed off on his candidacy request forms said they did it because they figured it wouldn’t matter one way or the other so they might as well make him happy. The media talked about how silly it was that he was even running at all. Then he started gathering momentum. The establishment freaked out and told everyone he was unacceptable and they were not to vote for him under any circumstances. A parade of important figures and personalities went on the news to personally beg voters not to vote for him under any circumstances, ably parodied by the Twitter account @corbynwarnings:

Nevertheless, Corbyn seems amply placed to win the election, and British bookmakers give 3:1 odds in his favor. What happened?

Well, for one thing, this is the first year people are allowed to vote directly for the Labour leader. So it might just mean the British Left was really really far left for a long time and nobody noticed before this.

But the analogy with Trump seems a little too good. People like the same things about both of them. They speak their mind. They don’t care what anyone else thinks. And the establishment obviously hates both.

People have always liked outsiders. But now it’s starting to get ridiculous.

Everyone knows that America is getting more ideologically polarized these days. The right is getting rightier. The left is getting leftier. This puts the Establishment in a bind. The winning strategy had always been to play to the fringe for the primary, then veer towards the center for the general election; the fringe would grumble, but if you played it right you could mollify them and be all things to all people. But now the distance from the fringe to the center is much larger, and proportionally harder to cover without an obvious betrayal. A candidate who wants to get elected on the national level, or even on a local level if the local area is ideologically diverse enough, has to make that betrayal.

Worse, once they’re elected they’ve got to deal with reality. If you try to be too liberal (like raising the minimum wage to $15) or too conservative (like building an immigration wall), then businesspeople with a vested interest in the economy continuing to work start yelling at you, and maybe you back down. There’s this archetypal image of the new President-elect walking into the White House on day one and very serious men in suits telling him “Okay, here are the planks of your campaign platform which don’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell of working and which you are going to drop,” and probably he listens. The clearest example here would be Obama promising to close Guantanamo Bay by 2010, followed by him getting elected and someone asking “Okay, and exactly how are you going solve all of the legal hurdles to doing this?”

The base doesn’t have to worry about reality. If, as people like Robin Hanson suggest, politics is not about carefully selecting policies that most benefit the country so much as about signalling values and ingroup membership, then the base will be interested in enforcing its own particular extremism.

In the past, the center and the fringe were close enough for an uneasy compromise: sure, the base would gripe about “the establishment” and light up at the mention of “an outsider”, but sufficiently canny politicians could still navigate a careful path between their competing demands.

Now that’s becoming harder. The base thinks of the establishment not just as suspicious but as actively hostile; thus the rise of the Tea Party, whose whole purpose was to elect a new kind of conservative who wouldn’t cave in to big government liberals like all the other kinds of conservatives did, and who were a constant thorn in the side of a Republican Party trying to get the most electable people in power so they could do the most electable things.

But now the Tea Party’s actually attained some power, they can’t deny reality any better than their predecessors, and so they keep doing all sorts of crazy things like not shutting down the government over each real or imagined slight. Where do you go from there?

Apparently, you go to Trump.

The most salient feature of Trump – I would say the only salient feature of Trump – is that the establishment hates him. Reince Priebus goes to sleep at night and has nightmares about Trump. The liberal media has important-looking people coming on in suits saying it’s a national embarrassment that anyone could vote for Trump. But in signaling terms, what they’re unintentionally saying is “Moderates hate this guy! He’s too politically incorrect to win over Democrats! Only vote for him if you’re a real Republican.” And Republicans are eating it up. It doesn’t even matter that he’s not that conservative in real life, the media has conducted his campaign for him. Every bad thing the media and the establishment say about him will just make him more popular.

And the same seems true of Jeremy Corbyn.

Trace this tendency far enough, and I think it explains why Bernie Sanders is doing better than expected, why Ben Carson has the Republican 2nd place right now, and maybe why Obama won his surprise upset over Hillary in 2008. I predict we are in for a lot more interesting Corbyn-style surprises.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

781 Responses to Theses On Trump

  1. MepeterYoujane says:

    “I predict we are in for a lot more interesting Corbyn-style surprises” warns blogger.

  2. Alraune says:

    What I’d love to see is an analysis of current campaigns compared with pre-Lincoln and pre-Roosevelt campaigns. It’s been about as long from WWII to now as from the revolution to civil war and civil war to New Deal, so I suspect we’re looking at a cycle.

    • Steve Johnson says:

      We’re seeing the end point of elections as an aspect of justification for government.

      The progressive state has gotten to the point where it has shed all constraints on simply importing voters by the millions, handing them welfare and section 8 housing and cheap mortgages and Obama phones, etc. and collecting their votes.

      That’s the ultimate end point of elections. In a game theory view it’s the ultimate strategy. A huge decision as to what to do about this is looming.

      • BBA says:

        There’s no such thing as “Obama phones”. The Lifeline telephone subsidies sometimes referred to as such were introduced during the Reagan administration.

        Of course even though it isn’t true that this is a new Obama program, enough people on both sides believe it’s true for me to wonder why I even bother.

        • Steve Johnson says:

          Are there no such thing as “Obama phones” in the sense that there’s no one out there with a government paid mobile phone or in the sense that someone other than Obama introduced the program?

          If it’s the second sense (it is) then you’re really missing my point.

          • Zebram says:

            @BBA:

            Wow. Complete strawman. And intentionally so because you want to label him a racist.

          • Muga Sofer says:

            Steve, perhaps I’m misunderstanding too – wasn’t your point that “Obamaphones” are a symptom of a recent paradigm-shift toward “imported voters”?

          • Steve Johnson says:

            Muga Sofer –

            My point is that free phones and importing people to whom free phones are significant are a hack to elections and that this has expanded fast enough and furtively enough recently for there to be all sorts of newly expanded entitlements that people who aren’t collecting them would never find out about – except by accident of a memorable video. Do you think if you went digging you couldn’t find other things like the obamaphone?

            Elections are “supposed” to provide feedback about government. When you ask someone why the government should be obeyed – why it has authority rather than just power – the answer is “because we all voted on it”. The answer used to be because “it is ordained by God that the King is the king”. In some places the answer is “because the supreme ruler personifies juche and the people’s revolution”.

            For the most part for a long time that answer satisfied everyone (except some fringe libertarians like Hoppe) but if you can import a new low IQ underclass and bribe them with phones (for example) paid for by the high IQ voters – who are now outnumbered – then does “because we all voted on it” still satisfy as a source of legitimacy? If 50+% of the population simply lives off of payments from 50-% they’ll never vote to decrease the payments and the 50-% will have to seriously think about other forms of government – ones where the dominant strategy isn’t “import parasites until they numerically outnumber the host population”.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Steve Johnson – “If 50+% of the population simply lives off of payments from 50-% they’ll never vote to decrease the payments and the 50-% will have to seriously think about other forms of government – ones where the dominant strategy isn’t “import parasites until they numerically outnumber the host population”.”

            if the top 50-% still have roughly speaking the best standard of living in the world, in the best country in the world by most preference metrics, maybe paying for the bottom 50% is an acceptable cost?

            A few months back, I took some free time to read Robert Bork’s “Slouching Toward Gomorrah”. I’m fairly sympathetic to a lot of his arguments as well, but the fact remains that all the trends he highlighted have only accelerated since, and we’re actually doing pretty okay. Violence is down, crime is down, we’re still on top of the world economically, and the rest of the world is still scrambling to keep up with our innovations. Peak Oil hasn’t reduced us to savagery, global warming hasn’t drowned us in our homes, we still haven’t been hit by nuclear terrorism or an asteroid, the dollar hasn’t melted down, the feds haven’t come for my guns and neither Bush nor Obama has installed themselves as Dictator For Life. I’ve been following politics closely since I was in my early teens, and after twenty years I guess I’m just not that interested in prophecies of doom any more. It almost seems like I should start entertaining the notion that I may actually live out my life in a relatively stable world, without having to fight even a single gas pirate.

            So if you still feel like contemplating the coming race war or Galtian coup or whatever, go right ahead. But maybe spend less time worrying about potential disasters and more looking at what you can do to advance your personal goals?

          • Doctor Mist says:

            @FacelessCraven:

            if the top 50-% still have roughly speaking the best standard of living in the world, in the best country in the world by most preference metrics, maybe paying for the bottom 50% is an acceptable cost?

            Maybe. If you think the great standard of living was handed to us by magic, rather than (just maybe?) having something to do with the fact that, historically, most Americans worked for a goddam living?

            See if it seems the same way to you in another twenty years, when you’ve put away a little nest egg and see retirement looming, and wonder whether you will be allowed to keep what you’ve saved.

          • NL says:

            @Doctor Mist

            There are more people working in the labor force now (as a percentage of the population) than anytime before 1978. Has it been declining? Yes, since 2000, because of the aging population of the US.

            BLS doesn’t seem to have any good data on who’s retired vs in school vs just not wanting to work, though.

          • Zebram says:

            @FacelessCraven:

            if the top 50-% still have roughly speaking the best standard of living in the world, in the best country in the world by most preference metrics, maybe paying for the bottom 50% is an acceptable cost?

            Yes, the top 50% have the ‘best standard of living in the world’, but it’s not as if the bottom 50% is dying in abject poverty. Most people in the bottom 50% with the exception of homeless people are not really poor by any historical standard. At this point, people start to wonder if making the top 50% pay for stuff when nobody in the bottom 50% really needs it to survive starts to drift into ‘theft’ territory.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            @NL:

            There are more people working in the labor force now (as a percentage of the population) than anytime before 1978.

            Ah, so I will be able to keep what I’ve saved for my old age. Whew, that’s a relief.

            So there must be some other reason why entitlement spending is half the budget. It’s a mystery.

          • “There are more people working in the labor force now (as a percentage of the population) than anytime before 1978. Has it been declining? Yes, since 2000, because of the aging population of the US.”

            There are fewer than at any time after 1978, however. I don’t know if you have data on aging, but given that the rate rose from 1978 to about 1999 and has been falling since then, steeply since 2007, I find it hard to believe that aging can explain it.

            I suggest that the initial rise was due to women moving out of the household and into the labor force. A quick google finds women’s labor force participation rate roughly doubling from 1950 to 1998.

          • NL says:

            “So there must be some other reason why entitlement spending is half the budget. It’s a mystery.”

            No, it’s for the same reason. Most entitlement spending is Social Security and Medicare aka Old People spending. More retirees, more entitlement spending.

        • nyccine says:

          As there were people publicly bragging about getting an “Obamaphone,” telling people they would vote for Obama because they got an “Obamaphone,” then it doesn’t make a bit of difference who created the program, or how long it’s been in place, it’s a damn Obamaphone.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            It appears that the term “Obamaphone” first gained currency in a chain-email circulated among conservatives in early 2009, just after Obama took office. It is such a fine specimen of the genre that I cannot forebear reproducing it here:

            I asked him what an “Obama phone” was and he went on to say that welfare recipients are now eligible to receive (1) a FREE new phone and (2) approx 70 minutes of FREE minutes every month. I was a little skeptical so I Googled it and low and behold he was telling the truth. TAX PAYER MONEY IS BEING REDISTRIBUTED TO WELFARE RECIPIENTS FOR FREE CELL PHONES.. This program was started earlier this year. Enough is enough, the ship is sinking and it’s sinking fast. The very foundations that this country was built on are being shaken. The age-old concepts of God, family, and hard work have flown out the window and are being replaced with “Hope and Change” and “Change we can believe in.” You can click on the link below to read more about the “Obama phone”…just have a barf bag ready.

            Low and behold, the term has, from its inception, been a dishonest and hysterical partisan attack.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Earthly Knight “Low and behold, the term has, from its inception, been a dishonest and hysterical partisan attack.”

            Reading the exchange thus far, I was curious and decided to hit google and see what I could find. This was the first result.

            http://www.obamaphone.com/lifeline-facts

            “Lifeline was nicknamed Obamaphone since the popularity of the program exploded under the Obama Administration.”

            …And I see someone has already linked the “Obama Phone” video. Apparently it’s a dishonest and hysterical partisan attack to quote the administrators and benefactors of a policy, more or less verbatim?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Yes, if you tell everyone that Obama’s giving away free phones for three years, eventually some people will get the idea that Obama’s giving away free phones and be overjoyed at the prospect. I’m actually having trouble finding anything about Obamaphones on google before October 2009, when the factcheck article was posted. I’d be happy to know if you could do better.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Earthly Knight – Do you find it entirely implausible that the program was promoted under the Obama administration, that it being Obama’s administration doing the promotion helped it go viral in the recipient community, and that all the reasons it went viral as a positive thing for the recipients made it go viral as a negative thing for conservatives?

            They’re handing out free money! go get yours!
            They’re handing out free money! That’s our taxes they’re giving away!

            There’s no distortion, no lying. What one side sees as a good thing is PRECISELY what the other side sees as a bad thing. At least, that’s how it seems to me. For what it’s worth, I highly doubt that it was the people who ran the program who labeled it “Obama Phone” initially, but I’m likewise pretty confident that it wasn’t the conservatives who did either.

            [EDIT] I’ll check around more if I have time. As it stands though, I think it’s pretty safe to say that your description of a conservative plot is entirely unfounded.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Do you find it entirely implausible that […] it being Obama’s administration doing the promotion helped it go viral in the recipient community, and that all the reasons it went viral as a positive thing for the recipients made it go viral as a negative thing for conservatives?

            You’ll have to find evidence for that, I’m afraid. As it stands, the earliest public use of “Obamaphone” anyone has found is the chain email quoted above. Also note the similar construction and genesis of “Obamacare” (and “Hillarycare” and “Reaganomics” before it)– we should probably start from the presumption that any portmanteau incorporating a politician’s name is a smear created and/or popularized by their ideological opponents.

            There’s no distortion, no lying.

            Apart from attributing a program started by Obama’s predecessors to him, you mean.

            As it stands though, I think it’s pretty safe to say that your description of a conservative plot is entirely unfounded.

            You’re right, “plot” is probably giving the subliterate racists who wrote and propagated the above email too much credit. It’s more of a barking-idiotically-through-endless-nights type of situation.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @EarthlyKnight – “You’ll have to find evidence for that, I’m afraid.”

            The Obamaphone lady isn’t evidence? She’s the first place I ever heard the term, and I think it went viral pretty quick. You’re telling me she started calling it “Obamaphone” because of a conservative smear campaign? That seems… unlikely.

            “We should probably start from the presumption that any portmanteau incorporating a politician’s name is a smear created and/or popularized by their ideological opponents.”

            Normally I would entirely agree, except that the earliest and by far the most prominant example of its use came from democrats, and the letter you’re calling a libelous smear gives exactly the description the Obamaphone lady gives on live TV. I mean, word for word, yes?

            And your argument is that that women learned everything she knew about the program from a conservative email smear campaign?

            “Apart from attributing a program started by Obama’s predecessors to him, you mean.”

            From the Obamaphone website:

            “This program to help needy Americans get free cell phones and free minutes was dubbed “Obama Phone” in recent years because of its rapid expansion during the Barack Obama presidency.”

            no one knew anything about the program before Obama “rapidly expanded” it, and again, you need to explain how a conservative smear campaign became democrat talking points without leaving a paper trail.

            “You’re right, “plot” is probably giving the subliterate racists who wrote and propagated the above email too much credit. It’s more of a barking-idiotically-through-endless-nights type of situation.”

            Let’s read the email again:

            “I asked him what an “Obama phone” was and he went on to say that welfare recipients are now eligible to receive (1) a FREE new phone and (2) approx 70 minutes of FREE minutes every month.”

            this is pretty much exactly how the Obamaphone lady described it as well. It also happens to be entirely true.

            “I was a little skeptical so I Googled it and low and behold he was telling the truth. TAX PAYER MONEY IS BEING REDISTRIBUTED TO WELFARE RECIPIENTS FOR FREE CELL PHONES.”

            Not technically true, since it’s paid for by taxes on the phone companies which are then immediately passed on to the consumer. I’m not sure my wallet appreciates the difference, though.

            “This program was started earlier this year.”

            Not technically true; the program had been going on since Reagan. Obama is only the one that “rapidly expanded” it at an “explosive rate” (quotes via the official program website, natch). Again, it’s a distinction in search of a difference.

            “Enough is enough, the ship is sinking and it’s sinking fast, SEND YER CLEANSING FIRE &etc”

            …and the rest is tribal interpretation of the facts. That seems like a pretty honest assessment to me.

            “You’re right, “plot” is probably giving the subliterate racists who wrote and propagated the above email too much credit. It’s more of a barking-idiotically-through-endless-nights type of situation.”

            I actually voted for Obama in ’04. I thought he was too much like Bush to vote for him in ’08. Opposing the “explosive” expansion of our already vast entitlement system is not sub-literate racism. Quoting democratic talking points verbatim is not lying.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            and I think it went viral pretty quick.

            Who do you think made it go viral? Why do you think your first exposure to the program came from a video of a shrill, poor black woman (prominently featured on Drudge Report, no less) a few weeks before the election? Whose narrative does that support? Do you normally get your political news from poor, black women shouting on street corners?

            no one knew anything about the program before Obama “rapidly expanded” it

            Could you point to the act of congress or executive order by which Obama expanded the program? As far as I know it had little to do with Obama and a lot to do with the combination of a) free publicity for the program provided by conservative news outlets, making this a weird self-fulfilling prophecy, b) aggressive marketing by phone companies, and c) the increasing indispensability of cell phones in the job and housing markets.

            (quotes via the official program website, natch)

            The official program website, which, curiously, does not have a .gov address and features this disclaimer at the bottom:

            “OBAMAPHONE.COM IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH ANY DEPARTMENT OF THE US GOVERNMENT, THE FCC, OR THE LIFELINE PHONE PROGRAM.”

            You were duped into thinking the poor black woman on the street corner and the black man in the white house were conspiring to steal your hard-earned monies. In the most hackneyed twist imaginable, it turns out it was the telecommunications behemoths all along.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            Earthly Knight – “Who do you think made it go viral?”

            It went viral with conservatives because it was a picture-perfect example of entitlement, in all senses of the term. Presumably it went viral with poor liberals because hey, free phone! Tangible benefits from the Obama administration!

            “Do you normally get your political news from poor, black women shouting on street corners?”

            Well, she gives an accurate, concise description of the program, and her views on Romney aren’t too far off mine, so maybe I should start? Her delivery might be somewhat eccentric, but she had her talking points down and her facts straight. It seems unlikely that she thought those talking points up herself, and it seems even more unlikely that conservatives gave them to her. Again, you cannot call conservatives liars for repeating liberal talking points more or less verbatim.

            “Could you point to the act of congress or executive order by which Obama expanded the program?”

            Nope. My assumption is that the “rapid expansion” happened by publicizing a little-known program, with that publicity going viral thanks to the euphoria of the first Obama term, and then going extra-viral thanks to the Obamaphone lady. TYour hypothesis about the increasing indispensability of cellphones seems sound as well, conservative propaganda driving liberal adoption, without actually transferring through the mainstream media, seems unlikely. Likewise, I see no point in ignoring the fact that all federal programs are advertised, both by the departments themselves and by organizations working with them.

            At this point the question comes down to actual expansion rates, how many enrollees in the program pre-Obama versus how many post. If the program’s own supporters are claiming he expanded it dramatically, I have little incentive to argue their claim.

            “The official program website, which, curiously, does not have a .gov address and features this disclaimer at the bottom:”

            …You are correct, and I am mistaken. It is in fact not the official website.

            “You were duped into thinking the poor black woman on the street corner and the black man in the white house were conspiring to steal your hard-earned monies.”

            …So your argument is that this website:
            http://www.obamaphone.com/
            …Is not actually run by people supportive of Obama generally and the Lifeline program in particular, but in fact is a cunning plot by conservatives to make a website that in all ways appears to be supporting outreach to the poor, but actually disseminates subtle conservative propaganda to undermine the president and his programs?

            How devious!

            I mean, shit, it’s possible. It’s a weird, weird world out there. But from flipping through a couple sub-pages and links at random, if they’re faking it, they’re doing a really good job, and I’m going to need more evidence than your say-so. An email that apparently quotes a democrat accurately isn’t going to cut it.

            Hell, is it even a bad program? Are liberals opposed to minorities, the poor and the disabled receiving “free” cellphones at a nominal cost? but you recognize that we can’t just vote everyone everything they want right? And the entitlement mentality has to have a limit, right?

            “In the most hackneyed twist imaginable, it turns out it was major corporations all along.”

            Really? You mean taxes are just a fiction the Banks made up to whittle down my paycheck?

            You seem to think that anyone not on your side is evil. I’ve been a republican, and I’ve been a democrat, and I’m leaning back toward republican again. It’s just people all over.

            [EDIT WARS!] – “it turns out it was the telecommunications behemoths all along”

            …If by “telecommunications behemoths” you mean the FCC, pursuant to the Telecommunications Act of 1996, then sure. But that’s not really the point. The point is that there exists a significant class of people who seem to think that their prosperity, such as it is, is provided directly by the federal government.

            [Further Edit] – an example of the sort of slow burn-foom thing I’m assuming for the Lifeline program would be the recent proliferation of civilian-owned suppressors in the gun community. They used to be government-only except for a tiny minority able to navigate the red-tape maze. Eventually those who successfully navigated the maze started offering advice to the rest of the community, more and more people started working their way through the process, larger numbers made it lucrative to assist or advise the process, navigation became normalized and formalized, and legal ownership exploded. No actual law changed, but suppressors went from semi-mythical to something I’ve personally employed on a weekend at the range.

          • Nita says:

            @ FacelessCraven

            Here’s a nice write-up of the history of the program. Quote:

            Soon, a whole bunch of other wireless carriers got in on the program — by 2010, Virgin Mobile, Verizon, Sprint, i-Wireless, Head Start, Consumer Cellular, Midwestern Telecom, Allied Wireless, and others had free phone plans. That’s why you can find all these “free cell phone” websites that look kind of shady, like Obamaphone.net or FreeGovernmentCellPhones.net.

            But let’s not be too hard on Carlos Slim et al. — as we learned in the previous thread, being an employer is really stressful 🙁

          • Autonomous Rex says:

            These are the footsoldiers of the Temporarily Embarrassed Millionaire Project (TEMP)

          • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:

            “Do you normally get your political news from poor, black women shouting on street corners?”

            Why wouldn’t I? Is there something about being poor, black or female; or the use the public square that implies that her political news in not worth getting?

            I mean, rich white men are very fond of shouting their political news. Aside from being able to afford swanky convention centers to do it in, is there any difference that privileges their views?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Presumably it went viral with poor liberals because hey, free phone!

            Where do you get the idea that leftists shared the video because they thought it reflected well on the Obama administration? All the results I can find on google are conservatives trying to convince you that she is a Perfectly Representative Obama Voter and liberals doing damage control about how the video is racist and unfair. You are badly misreading the situation.

            but in fact is a cunning plot by conservatives […]

            What? I’m saying the website is guerrilla marketing intended to look like the “official program website”, as you put it, but actually designed to sell phones. Point being that the Drudge Reports and Rush Limbaughs of the world got you to believe the line about Obama giving free phones to welfare queens to buy votes, when in fact Obama had little to do with it, and the real culprit was multinational corporations sneakily exploiting a government subsidy. Just read the link Nita posted.

            Why wouldn’t I? Is there something about being poor, black or female; or the use the public square that implies that her political news in not worth getting?

            You got this backwards. The implication is that any other time a black woman on a street corner is shouting about something– police brutality, say, or cuts in school funding– the people who watched and shared this video will immediately tune her out.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Nita – I guess that would explain why the websites keep mentioning “Carlos Slim, the richest man in the world!” Thanks for the background, it’s fairly illuminating. On the other hand, are we sure that it’s actually a bad program? Isn’t cellphone access for poor people actually a pretty good idea? Yes, I understand that this thread started with Steve Johnson using Obamaphones as an example of government largess; but his argument is not my argument. If they’re a good idea, and Carlos Slim et al are responsible for the massive uptake, aren’t Carlos Slim et al doing a good thing reasonably well sorta kinda?
            On the other hand, Obamaphones got famous more or less for the attitude of the Obamaphone lady, which was pretty clearly that good government consists of the Government giving her free things. the Lifeline program is in fact exactly that sort of thing. As it happens, it’s possibly a rather effective entitlement on a cost/benefit basis, so maybe we should keep it. But again, you do recognize that there has to be some upper limit of entitlements, yes? And that a large subculture of people who think that the government exists to give them things is ultimately unsustainable?
            The problem isn’t that the Obamaphone lady got a phone, it’s that she appears to think that the proper function of government is for it to give her free things. If you have no objection to that viewpoint, then I suppose it’s an area where we disagree.

            @Earthly Knight – “Where do you get the idea that leftists shared the video because they thought it reflected well on the Obama administration?”

            The Obamaphone Lady’s rant is the *end product* of the liberal viral campaign, not the beginning. The liberal viral campaign is “you can get a free cellphone! fuck yeah Obama!”. The conservative viral campaign is “They’re giving away free cellphones! Thanks, Obama!” Judging by Nita’s link, I’d say the progression goes: telecom marketing > liberal viral message > conservative viral message > Obamaphone Lady > National Obamaphone Meme.

            “What? I’m saying the website is guerrilla marketing intended to look like the “official program website”, as you put it, but actually designed to sell phones. ”

            …You said “Obamaphone” was a “a dishonest and hysterical partisan attack.” I said “I highly doubt that it was the people who ran the program who labeled it “Obama Phone” initially, but I’m likewise pretty confident that it wasn’t the conservatives who did either.” And low and behold, it was not actually the conservatives who did it, and it wasn’t the federal administrators. The question is open whether it was the corporate marketing team who actually coined “Obamaphone” or if that was a meme that emerged organically from the clientele that the marketers later adopted. I lean toward the later; it has the flavor of an organic meme, not something professionals cooked up (the website was registered in 2009, but was a more or less empty front-page till 2013). I could be wrong, but I’m not sure it matters.

            For what it’s worth, I cheerfully retract my assumption that the program’s rapid expansion actually had anything to do with any actions of any part of the federal government during Obama’s administration. Judging by Nita’s link, it looks like the rapid expansion comes down to an accident of historical timing (cellphones become the norm), with the “Obama” connection being pure conflation from both sides of the political spectrum.

            “Point being that the Drudge Reports and Rush Limbaughs of the world got you to believe the line about Obama giving free phones to welfare queens to buy votes, when in fact Obama had little to do with it, and the real culprit was multinational corporations sneakily exploiting a government subsidy.”

            …And the part you’re missing is that the Obamaphone lady actually exists, is a real example of a segment of the democratic party rather than simply a conservative caricature, and that you cannot blame corporations and conservatives for that fact. I think you are entirely correct that the Obamaphone program is a bad example of “wasteful government entitlements”, both because it’s not being driven by the government and because it’s not obvious that it’s actually wasteful. But the Obamaphone Lady Rant is actually a damn good example of the Entitled. That is the Liberals’ problem, and not the Conservatives’ fault.

          • Nita says:

            @ FacelessCraven

            I don’t think subsidized phones are an outrage, and I don’t know whether the involvement of private companies makes the implementation more or less efficient, but Mr Slim is certainly guilty of complicating our debate 🙂

            Just watched the anti-Romney (“Obamaphone”) lady. She’s not ranting on a street corner, she’s answering questions asked by the author of the video.

            The questions were:
            1. Have you got Obama phone?
            2. How did he give you a phone?
            3. OK, what’s wrong with Romney, again?

            And yeah, I too think that a good government should provide lots of stuff — decent roads, street lighting, protection from fire and crime etc.

            Most importantly, all that good stuff allows me to earn more than I need, so it’s only fair that I pay taxes.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            “And low and behold, it was not actually the conservatives who did it, and it wasn’t the federal administrators.”

            I don’t think we’ve seen any evidence of this– I expect the slick corporate website is also of more recent vintage. The chain email still seems like the most likely source for the “Obamaphone” meme.

          • Linch says:

            As an aside, I agree with FC’s tacit conclusion that having federal subsidies for phones is probably a good idea. Completely unnecessary if phone service companies are in stiffer competition, but an okay fix for a bad market.

            6 billion people in the world have phones (1.5 billion more than have a working sanitation system). I think it’s safe to say that phones are no longer a luxury for the very rich.

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          @ BBA
          The Lifeline telephone subsidies sometimes referred to as such were introduced during the Reagan administration.

          Now that cell phone service costs less than landline, it seems reasonable for the government to promote cells.

          Here’s more history, unfortunately written in syrup.

          http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-a-budget/302787-setting-the-record-straight-on-the-fcc-lifeline-program
          In fact, the concept of universal service can be traced back to the Postal Act of 1792. Lifeline’s roots are in the Reagan FCC, which created Lifeline at the behest of a bipartisan group of congressman and senators.
          In the Telecom Act of 1996, Congress further codified the concept by establishing the Universal Service Fund (USF), stating that “[c]onsumers in all regions of the Nation, including low-income consumers and those in rural, insular, and high cost areas, should have access to telecommunications and information services.” And in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the Bush FCC used USF monies to support prepaid wireless services and ensure that those displaced by the storm were able to stay connected. Later the Bush FCC expanded prepaid wireless Lifeline beyond Katrina victims.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        It feels like I have to say this every week, but the number of illegal immigrants in the US is, in fact, declining. I’ve never much understood the paranoia surrounding illegal immigration, but it at least made more sense back when it was actually happening.

        • James D. Miller says:

          I doubt we can trust official statistics or academic studies on this issue. See
          http://www.steinreport.com/BearStearnsStudy.pdf

          • Earthly Knight says:

            It’s plausible that the numbers are a significant underestimate, but it’s not so plausible that they’re failing to capture the relevant trends. CPS data from 2010 suggests there were 13 million immigrants living in the US, CPS data from 2014 suggests there are 12 million– what’s the hypothesis, that a fad of lying to pollsters swept through the Mexican community?

            Edit: Also, apologies to Scott, for polluting his blog with this nonsense, and to Alraune, for distracting from his delightfully weird suggestion about the cyclicity of American politics.

          • nyccine says:

            I’d imagine that the hypothesis would be that much like the official unemployment index, or the massive discrepancy between crime statistics and crime victimization surveys, people with motives in downplaying certain figures are pushing their thumb on the scales.

          • Zykrom says:

            “Or maybe all you free-thinking rationalists are more susceptible to propaganda than you’d like to imagine, never mind admit.”

            I’m honestly coming around to the view that we might be more susceptible than average, nevermind being above it

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @Earthly Knight – “I’ve never much understood the paranoia surrounding illegal immigration…”

          Crime rates, wages, additional strain on social programs, and the political effects of importing new voters en mass aren’t good reasons? I mean, I have no idea, I haven’t looked at the issue with any great care, but given that illegal immigrants tend to be pretty poor, and given the known effects of poverty in every other demographic group tend to be pretty ghastly, it seems plausible that adding poor people to the country might cause more of those sorts of problems.

          “…but it at least made more sense back when it was actually happening.”

          Illegal immigration has grown from a fringe concern to an issue that can swing presidential elections. Just on that single fact alone, it seems improbable that illegal immigration is a thing that happens rarely.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Crime rates are in free fall and illegal immigrants cannot vote.

            “Illegal immigration has grown from a fringe concern to an issue that can swing presidential elections. Just on that single fact alone, it seems improbable that illegal immigration is a thing that happens rarely.”

            Why listen to Pew when the hysteria itself is proof!

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Earthly Knight -“Illegal immigrants cannot vote, of course.”

            Yet. Which is why the amnesty should happen double-quick, yes?

            “Why listen to Pew when the hysteria itself is proof!”

            Opposition to an amnesty is usually described as costing Republicans the Hispanic vote. If Illegal immigration isn’t a pressing issue, why would that be true?

            To clarify, I’m not talking about political pressure to fight illegal immigration, I’m talking about political pressure to allow it. If illegal immigration itself is in decline, why is political pressure to allow it growing stronger?

            You might consider seasoning your replies with a bit more charity, friend.

            [EDIT WARS!] “Crime rates are in free fall[.]”

            Entirely true. And the social programs/wages?

          • Jiro says:

            Depending on how Evenwel v. Abbott turns out, illegal immigrants may end up essentially voting after all.

            (Summary: Texas is electing senators based on districts that contain equal numbers of people, but “equal numbers of people” doesn’t mean “equal numbers of voters” because some districts are full of illegal aliens. The net effect is that voters in districts with lots of illegal aliens have more influence. While the illegal aliens themselves aren’t voting, voters in districts with lots of illegal aliens are more likely to be Democrats just like the illegal aliens themselves, so basically the same effect is achieved indrectly.)

          • Aegeus says:

            @FacelessCraven: “Yet. Which is why the amnesty should happen double-quick, yes?”

            Since illegal immigrants can’t vote, you say Democrats are importing more voters and waiting for amnesty. But if illegal immigrants could vote, you’d also say take that as proof that they’re importing more voters. Is there anything that would make you believe that it’s not a deliberate conspiracy to subvert the democratic process?

            Also, if this is a Democrat strategy, you have to explain why illegal immigration rates grew during Republican presidencies as well. Were all the Republicans just asleep at the wheel, while the Democrats are the only people who ever understood demographics?

          • Earthly Knight says:

            Opposition to an amnesty is usually described as costing Republicans the Hispanic vote. If Illegal immigration isn’t a pressing issue, why would that be true?

            This is not at all what we were discussing. Earlier you claimed that “it seems improbable that illegal immigration is a thing that happens rarely.” This claim is flatly contradicted by the Pew data I cited– which, again, shows that net illegal immigration is hovering around zero– and the grounds you give for dismissing it are not serious enough for me to bother engaging you on the other topics.

            The net effect is that voters in districts with lots of illegal aliens have more influence.

            I hope this doesn’t jeopardize Texas’s reputation for playful exploration of geometric form in the next redistricting cycle.

            (mostly kidding, this strikes me as a legitimate concern)

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Aegeus – “Since illegal immigrants can’t vote, you say Democrats are importing more voters and waiting for amnesty.”

            “But if illegal immigrants could vote, you’d also say take that as proof that they’re importing more voters. Is there anything that would make you believe that it’s not a deliberate conspiracy to subvert the democratic process?””

            I’m not sure how declining to enforce a law unpopular with one of your demographic constituencies, while simultaneously pushing for a workaround to that law that would expand that constituency significantly is any sort of logical contradiction. I guess I don’t fully understand your point? Weak immigration enforcement gets them votes now, and increases pressure for an amnesty which gets them more votes later. It’s a two-for-one, as they say in Magic. Unless you think large numbers of brand-new and very-poor citizens highly dependent on social services are going to vote Republican?

            And of course, the fundamental difference between the two is that one side reasonably expects to reap its political gains at the expense of the public purse.

            “Also, if this is a Democrat strategy, you have to explain why illegal immigration rates grew during Republican presidencies as well. Were all the Republicans just asleep at the wheel, while the Democrats are the only people who ever understood demographics?”

            Part of it looks like kicking the can down the road, refusing to commit to a politically costly fight while avoiding it was still possible. Again, both the republicans and the democrats stand to gain politically from the fight, but the benefits are highly asymmetrical. Republicans secure their supporters via ideology/policy concerns. Democrats use ideology, policy concerns, and the considerable social services budget of the United States of America.

            I reiterate, I actually have no idea which side is right. I am pretty sure that the conservative concerns are not as preposterous as EK is trying to paint them. I am somewhat concerned about the long-term efficacy of our social programs to actually lift people out of poverty rather than maintaining them in it for generations, and the old “bread and circuses” failure mode of democracies. Other people in this thread have mentioned the idea that you can have liberal immigration policies or a good social safety net but not both. do you disagree with that idea? If so, how do you think we can reconcile the two?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @EK – “This is not the topic we were discussing.”

            It was in fact the point I was trying to discuss, but I apologize for communicating it poorly.

            “Earlier you claimed that “it seems improbable that illegal immigration is a thing that happens rarely.” This claim is flatly contradicted by the Pew data I cited– which, again, shows that net illegal immigration is hovering around zero”

            Alright. The data shows it leveling off around 2008, having increased steadily since 1990. Miller offered that the actual population was likely twice the official estimates, and you didn’t seem to disagree too strongly. The taper in illegal immigration also coincides pretty neatly with the housing crisis and subsequent recession here in in the states, which is not tremendously reassuring from a “this problem is already solved” standpoint. What happens when the economy picks back up?

            Even assuming the graph remains stable in the near-term, the Pew data actually supports my point. Over the timeline of that graph, immigration grew from a fringe issue to one that can swing presidential elections. The graph holding steady means the effects aren’t getting worse than they were in 2008, but the effects in 2008 had already reached an extremely significant level.

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The US population has increased significantly in that time frame, so we’ll have to start by converting the gross figures to percentages. I get 1.4% in 1990, 2.3% in 1995, 2.8% in 2000, 3.6% in 2005, 3.7% in 2010, and 3.2% at present. As a sanity check, ask yourself whether the difference of 0.9 percentage points over 20 years could possibly have the catastrophic consequences some of the commenters here predict.

            The recession ended years ago and immigration numbers have not rebounded. So much for the recession hypothesis.

            I’ll address some of the other points tomorrow if I have time.

          • Aegeus says:

            “Weak immigration enforcement gets them votes now, and increases pressure for an amnesty which gets them more votes later.”

            But it doesn’t get them votes now, because we already established that illegal immigrants can’t vote! You don’t have a two-fer there, you have a rather sketchy one-fer.

            My original question wasn’t pointing out a contradiction, but a lack of evidence. Your theory is that Democrats are promoting illegal immigration because the illegal immigrants will then vote for them. Your evidence is that the Democrats are promoting illegal immigation.

            See the missing piece there? There are other theories that would equally be supported by the same evidence, such as “Democrats are promoting illegal immigration because, like Republicans, they don’t want to start a fight and are fine with the status quo.” Or “Democrats are promoting illegal immigration because they think cheap labor is good for our economy.” Or even “Democrats are promoting illegal immigration because their constituents support it, and this is just democracy in action rather than a conspiracy theory.”

            That’s why I asked that question. Do you have any reason to support bold claims like “Democrats are deliberately importing illegal immigrants, giving them the vote, and bribing them from the public purse to skew elections in their favor?” or are you just jumping to the worst motive you can think of?

          • Pku says:

            I do have to ask, why aren’t there more people who support illegal immigration as a means of getting cheap labour? Seems like a win for everyone (except people who want to legalize all immigration).

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Earthly Knight – “As a sanity check, ask yourself whether the difference of 0.9 percentage points over 20 years could possibly have the catastrophic consequences some of the commenters here predict.

            A decent point.

            “The recession ended years ago and immigration numbers have not rebounded. So much for the recession hypothesis.”

            Also a decent point. Maybe it’s just my own parochial view, but it doesn’t exactly feel like Sunny Days Again where I live, though. If it wasn’t the recession that changed the trend, what was it? I rather think not the gents patrolling the border with deer rifles…

            Your arguments for Immigration being an empty issue seem reasonable. I guess for me the disconnect comes from wondering what happens then. Let’s say we amnesty all 10-20 million illegals. do we expect no more illegals from here on out? If more start showing up, do we amnesty them too? Do we just open the border and say to hell with it? It seems instinctively repugnant to me to have laws and not enforce them, and at the moment our official policy seems utterly incoherent. The “deport them all” side can at least claim to be following the rules as written. What’s the saner alternative, long term?

            @Aegeus – “But it doesn’t get them votes now, because we already established that illegal immigrants can’t vote!”

            the Hispanic community strongly supports amnesty. It may shock you to hear it, but quite a few of them are not themselves illegal aliens, and thus have the franchise.

            “Democrats are promoting illegal immigration because their constituents support it, and this is just democracy in action rather than a conspiracy theory.”

            Democrats also overwhelmingly support expanding entitlements to the poor, which immigrants specifically and a fairish number of Hispanics generally happen to be. “Conspiracy” implies secrecy, and there isn’t any of that. As you say, it’s Democracy in action. Bread and Circuses, and success to the side that promises them in the greatest abundance..

            But as EK has argued above, the numbers are small for this particular issue. Maybe they stay small, and it doesn’t matter? Maybe the current furor is just lag from when the immigrant population was growing steadily year-on-year for nearly two decades?

          • Deiseach says:

            Can someone explain to me how an illegal immigrant can vote? I presume they need to show evidence of identity, have their polling card checked that they’re the same person as the person on the register of electors, etc. before going into the polling booth?

            Does the right of resident aliens to vote mean that “resident aliens” are being conflated with “illegal immigrants”? Am I to take it that some people have been so long illegal in the U.S. that they have established identities that permit them to vote? Or should I instead be given to understand that shady party political groups conspire to render elections fraudulent by making it possible for people without the legal right to vote to cast their ballots by winking at false proofs of identity or wholesale fraud and deceit?

            As an interested outsider, I’d really like to know how “importing voters by the millions” works, because (a) I’m sure there were and are plenty of illegal Irish who probably scammed the system and (b) our own government might be interested in getting a reliable source of voters to prop them up in the next election.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Faceless Craven:
            You know what else is illegal? Employing illegal immigrants.

            If people really thought illegal immigration was a problem of such a scale that militarizing the border was necessary, they would be talking far more about attacking that end of the problem. Because pushing down on their ability to get jobs would be the surest way to reduce illegal immigration demand.

            There are plenty of reasons not to support this. I don’t support it. But no one even mentions it, and that should tell us something.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I presume they need to show evidence of identity, have their polling card checked that they’re the same person as the person on the register of electors, etc. before going into the polling booth?

            Poor, sweet, naive Deiseach. Checking voter ID is racist.

            (The actual answer: their kids are born here, therefore are citizens, therefore can vote and displace the natives.)

          • SanguineVizier says:

            @Deiseach

            Can someone explain to me how an illegal immigrant can vote? I presume they need to show evidence of identity, have their polling card checked that they’re the same person as the person on the register of electors, etc. before going into the polling booth?

            Each state has its own rules on voting, so YMMV, but here is how it worked in North Carolina.

            Previously, in order to vote in NC, you would go to your designated polling place (determined by your address), give your name and address to the poll-worker, they would cross your name off the list and hand you your ballot. No showing of photo ID was required. People, who tended to be Republican, claimed that this allowed for voter fraud, since all anyone (including an illegal immigrant) needed to do to vote in place of someone else was know the name and address of a registered voter. A few years ago, the Republican-controlled state legislature passed a law, signed by the Republican governor, requiring photographic proof of identification in order to vote. This has been roundly and hysterically condemned as discrimination, racism, and Jim Crow by Democrats and people on the left. Last I was aware, the federal Department of Justice was bringing suit against the state of North Carolina to have the law overturned. I do not know how things are in other states, but I suspect that requiring proof of identification to vote is the exception, not the rule.

            The rhetoric around the issue of voter fraud is typical. Democrats claim Republicans cannot win elections without discriminating against poor blacks who cannot obtain photo IDs, and Republicans claim Democrats cannot win elections without voter fraud.

          • Nita says:

            Many Americans live their lives with only a driver’s license or even no ID at all, like Russian peasants in the early 20th century.

            In my country, it is understood that all interactions with the state require a state-issued ID, so poor people get theirs free of charge.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            @Nita I believe it is case law that if state-issued ID is required to vote, then ID that can be used to vote must be available free of charge. Otherwise, the voter ID law becomes an unconstitutional poll tax. However, this free ID doesn’t have to let you do anything else (like drive) and states aren’t required to advertise its availability.

            And on the driver’s license point, Motor-Voter (which requires people to be given the opportunity to register to vote when they apply for a driver’s license) is federal law.

          • Mary says:

            ” I presume they need to show evidence of identity, have their polling card checked that they’re the same person as the person on the register of electors, etc. before going into the polling booth?”

            You presume wrongly. If you’ve missed them, there have been regular hysterics here about the very notion of having to produce a photo ID to vote.

            The usual claim is that it disenfranchises blacks of course, both because that’s not arguing for a crime, and because the only unracist thing left to say in America is that blacks are too dumb to get photo IDs.

          • Randy M says:

            I doubt the pew data is entirely reliable, but I figured out how it will understate the problem, rather obvious, if flame-bait, really.

            It may be true that the change in the population of illegals has ended in recent years, though it doesn’t seem to be true that our politicians had much to do with it or take peoples concerns seriously. However, the illegal aliens currently here, if they have children, which they likely do at rate greater than the native population if we go by demographic data, will be technically growing the non-immigrant population (due to USA’s somewhat anomalous birthright citizenship). But which group will these children more resemble, the natives or their parents? It depends on why people object to illegal immigration, other than the obvious that it promotes defection generally as people see law-breaking rewarded. Are the children likley to be fluent in English? Probably moreso than new immigrants (although taught at taxpayer expense). Likely to be an economic drain? Economists will say no, and I think it’s pretty clear they won’t generally be competing with economists, but those with low skill jobs may be justly worried about their own children’s prospects. Likely to use social services more? Well, they will tend to increase the rates their parents use services for the first 18 years or so. Likely to have allegience to the traditional American culture? I’ve seen studies (okay, headlines) that suggest that second generation immigrants are less assimilated.

            In any case, though, this may be why people percieve there to be more illegal immigration than there is. (It may not, of course, it could be because of media focus, etc. And my idea could be off if the immigrant population is mostly male).

          • Earthly Knight says:

            The children will learn fluent English, the grandchildren will not know Spanish, and the great-grandchildren will be sent to special Spanish schools on the weekends because their parents want to keep open a slender connection to their cultural heritage. Just like with every other group of immigrants in the past. The Mexicans are no longer coming, and in ten years or so this will be a completely dead issue.

            http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2013/02/07/second-generation-americans/

            About nine-in-ten second-generation Hispanic and Asian-American immigrants are proficient English speakers […] roughly six-in-ten adults in the second generation consider themselves to be a “typical American” […] about three-quarters of second-generation Hispanics (78%) and Asian Americans (72%) say that most people can get ahead if they’re willing to work hard.

          • Brad says:

            Jaskologist wrote:

            (The actual answer: their kids are born here, therefore are citizens, therefore can vote and displace the natives.)

            Having been born here, the kids are as native as anyone else. Unless you meant native in the sense of American Indian?

          • Chalid says:

            Voter fraud as described above could happen, in theory, but basically never does. For the obvious reason that there’s no incentive to do it (your individual vote doesn’t matter), while if you get caught you go to jail for a long time. Every time people go looking for it they come up with laughably small numbers.

            Anecdotally, after moving away from my home state I went without valid ID in my various new states of residence for a good ten years without it causing any issues whatsoever.

          • Mary says:

            “Every time people go looking for it they come up with laughably small numbers.”

            Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain, namely that without photo ID it’s hard to find.

            Colorado had a large problem with people showing up at the polling places to vote and being told they had already voted by mail — and then letting them cast a provisional ballot and throwing it out for the mailed in one. They fixed that by going to entirely by mail.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Okay, confession time. I used the word “native” intentionally as bait, because I knew the knee-jerk response would be illuminating.

            When you shift so easily from “why are you worried about immigration?” to “you deserve to be dispossessed!” don’t be surprised when people ignore your explanations of why they don’t have to worry about immigration. You’ve already told them that you don’t have their best interests at heart.

          • ryan says:

            @Deiseach

            I’m not sure how it works in all 50 states, but in Texas it’s pretty simple. You go to this website:

            http://www.sos.state.tx.us/elections/voter/reqvr.shtml

            You then fill in the information, print out the form, and mail it to the registrar.

            I’m sure you’ll note the part that says You must be 18 to view this website you must be a citizen to register to vote. Just click yes.

          • SanguineVizier says:

            @Chalid

            Anecdotally, I went to vote in the primary in 2012 and I was told “You have already voted.” They had me fill out a provisional ballot, which was originally the wrong ballot as whoever had voted in my place requested a Democrat ballot, and I have only ever been registered as a Libertarian. It was sealed up and went into a large stack of provisional ballots. I have no idea whether my provisional ballot actually ended up being counted. The poll-workers were unconcerned about it and did not treat the event as something completely novel. That was the fourth time I voted in eight years.

          • brad says:

            @Jaskologist
            How exactly are you being dispossessed? Are you dispossessed when your neighbor has a child and so your vote is going to be diluted by one in eighteen years?

            The paranoid style in American politics, indeed.

          • Chalid says:

            @Mary How large was this large problem, and was there any evidence that it was due to fraud as opposed to bureaucratic glitches and the like? I googled a bit and came up empty.

          • wysinwyg says:

            Maybe the current furor is just lag from when the immigrant population was growing steadily year-on-year for nearly two decades?

            Or maybe all you free-thinking rationalists are more susceptible to propaganda than you’d like to imagine, never mind admit.

          • nil says:

            I don’t see why one should assume votes are really on the subjective mind of anyone involved when support for/opposition to immigration falls pretty naturally out of broader Blue and Red values

            Certainly, it’s the best way to explain why anti-immigration turns off Hispanic citizens. Sure, they’re also more likely to know people who would be generally affected, but what I really think they’re reacting against is the underlying value (call it pro-cohesiveness if you’re steelmanning and pro-defining-white-culture-as-American-culture if you’re not) which motivates most opposition to immigration.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            Having actually worked at a State Board of Election I can add a few salient points.

            After the debacle of 2000, the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) made changes to election law nationwide and put a sizable number of dollars into changing and modernizing voting processes. Part of that change was to require that voter’s identify themselves either when they register or at the polls. The new requirements being pushed by Republican’s require that identification be produced every single time you vote, even if you are a 78 year old nursing home resident who has voted continuously for the last 60 years.

            The incidence of in-person fraud at the polls is extremely low. What fraud there is overwhelmingly the result of double registration, not impersonation. The simple reason for this is that in order to swing an election, the amount of impersonation required would be such that it would be easily detectable in the number of people who showed up at the polls being told they had already voted. Also, the number of people involved in the fraud, or the same person voting multiple times at the same location, etc. In person voter fraud is very hard to carry out. Think about how you would try and go about it and what odds you would give that you would be detected. The absence of any documented in person impersonation schemes is in fact evidence of their absence.

            Where voter fraud is attempted is in very small elections. Say a liquor-by-the-drink referendum held on a Tuesday in July in a currently dry rural county with nothing else on the ballot. There you do see attempts to attempt to commit fraud via absentee ballot. Absentee ballot requests do require proof of identification in order to count as a means of curbing just this problem.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Mary said upthread that Colorado had exactly the widespread problem you say would be a sign of large-scale voter fraud, and we didn’t hear anything about that.

            And regarding absentee ballots – what sort of identification is required in your state? Back when I was voting absentee in North Carolina, all that I needed to do was send in a letter with my name, address, and date of birth.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Evan Þ:
            Mary stated “Colorado had a large problem with people showing up at the polling places to vote and being told they had already voted by mail

            That is precisely where I said voting fraud does occasionally occur (by-mail absentee ballots). In person ID requirements do nothing to address this issue.

          • ThirteenthLetter says:

            “Many Americans live their lives with only a driver’s license or even no ID at all, like Russian peasants in the early 20th century.”

            Really? How many?

            Now, maybe there really are “many” Americans in this position, but still, I’m always kind of astounded at this argument. Let’s say for the sake of argument they do exist in such huge numbers. These people who lack the photo ID needed to vote must logically also lack the photo ID needed to buy liquor or cigarettes, open a bank account, get a credit card, fly on an airplane, enter a courthouse, rent an apartment, be hired for most jobs, obtain state benefits, drive a motor vehicle, and on, and on. It sounds like what we need is a program to either a) abolish these photo ID requirements needed to participate in modern American society, or b) get these poor downtrodden souls the photo IDs they need. Fretting about voter ID is surely an almost criminal distraction from the dire state these fellow citizens are in.

          • A lot of the discussion in this thread seems to assume that the critical question is whether the number of illegal immigrants is increasing. From the standpoint of those people opposed to illegal immigration, the existence of a large number of illegal immigrants is a problem, whether or not the number is increasing.

            If the total number of illegal immigrants is constant, that means that the number coming in is balanced by the number leaving or dying. If the total number is going down, more than balanced. But blocking the flow would still make sense from the standpoint of opponents of illegal immigration, since that would make the number here decline faster.

          • nil says:

            @ThirteenthLetter That depends on the particular ID law. When I was living in Minnesota, there was a proposed amendment (which was defeated) which would have required a valid, current ID giving your current address. If you’re young or poor (and you don’t have to be all that young or all that poor), you move regularly and no one I know is particularly diligent about going and getting a new ID every time they do so. I think my driver’s licence has matched my address for about 15 months out of the last decade, and it’s never been an issue in any other circumstances (which include but are not limited to signing several housing leases, getting a couple credit cards and changing banks four times, receiving a passport, flying regularly including internationally, being pulled over several times resulting in three tickets, transferring an auto title, applying to and attending law school, taking the bar exam, being sworn in as an attorney, and starting two different jobs as an attorney (one of which was for a juvenile protection court) and several non-law jobs). Plus, a lot of the things you list there can allow one to get away with even an expired ID. While not every voter ID bill requires an current address (the currently active one in my new home of Wisconsin doesn’t), I assume they all require an unexpired one.

            All that said, I’ll readily cop to the fact that I oppose any effort to make voting less convenient, because higher turnout tends to cause elections to go in ways I like… particularly in light of the fact that when it comes to voting, which is basically an irrational and pointless activity from the perspective of any particular individual, it doesn’t take much inconvenience to prevent someone from going to the polls.

          • Anthony says:

            Deisiach – I presume they need to show evidence of identity, have their polling card checked that they’re the same person as the person on the register of electors, etc. before going into the polling booth?

            Hahahahahahaha!

            In California, here’s how it works: You fill out a paper form with your name, address, date of birth, and party identification, and check a box saying that you are a U.S. Citizen, and you mail it in. You will then receive election materials at the mailing address you provided (which can be different from the physical address). You can then walk into the appropriate polling place, state your name and address, and if that’s reasonably close to what’s on the roll, you are asked to sign the register, then given a ballot and can vote. In a few locations, you’ll be mailed a ballot and envelope to vote by mail, because the county couldn’t find an appropriate polling place, or didn’t want to spend the money.

            You can also mail in a form requesting an “absentee” (mail-in) ballot, or another one requesting “permanent absentee voter status”; the former gets you a mail-in ballot for the next election, the latter gets you mail-in ballots forever.

            What happens if you move? Nothing. *If* you move within the county, and send in a new registration form indicating that you were already registered, they will probably update rather than duplicate your registration. If you move to a different county and indicate that you had been registered, your new county will eventually send a list to your previous county with you and anyone else who’s updated; the county you moved from will probably (if the address matches) remove you from the voter rolls.

            If you move, and the person who moves into your former residence marks the election material with “moved” or “please foward” and the postal carrier picks it up, the county may eventually (within two years) remove you from the rolls, especially if the post office provides them with an updated address that’s out-of-county.

            At no stage will you ever be asked to prove who you are – only to identify yourself and your address orally. There’s a small chance that if you register under a false name that the poll-worker will know you and will know that you are not the person registered. If you have a plausible excuse, you might get to vote anyway. If you choose to vote by mail, nobody will know the difference.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ ThirteenthLetter

            No one person is likely to apply for all the things you list. If none of them are needed nor important to zim at present, missing one or more voting cycle may not be worth the hassle of getting even a “Free ID”.

            Using myself and some neighbors (mostly retired or self-employed) for sampling, I’ll note the things I/we don’t need to do.

            These people who lack the photo ID needed to vote must logically also lack the photo ID needed to

            > buy liquor or cigarettes, – don’t like
            >open a bank account , – already had one for years
            >get a credit card, – same (debit card)
            >fly on an airplane, – never want to
            >enter a courthouse, – no ID required here
            >rent an apartment, – own own home
            >be hired for most jobs, – we shun those jobs, or are retired
            >obtain state benefits, – not elegible
            >drive a motor vehicle, – when you get the drivers license, they take your photo

            and on, and on. It sounds like what we need is a program to either a) abolish these photo ID requirements needed to participate in modern American society[….]

            Let’s not add “to vote” to your list, at least.

        • vV_Vv says:

          I don’t think that illegal immigrants vote, anyway.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          Well then. Since illegal immigration isn’t even a problem, we don’t need comprehensive reform to fix it. Wish they all were this easy!

        • Fairhaven says:

          I live 60 miles from the border with mexico part of the year. In fact, I can see mountains in Mexico from my house. they run right across the border, and the human traffickers and drug smugglers follow the ridges.

          Every single one of my neighbors has had an encounter with illegals. Almost every one in the county is Christian, and they give food and water to illegals dumped in the desert by human traffickers. Some of these good people have been murdered, raped, robbed and tied up as a result. all these ranchers have guns – they could run illegals off, but they don’t, they choose to be personally charitable. they want to be as safe as you are – is that unreasonable to ask? why are they second class citizens? and by the way, the majority of Americans who live near the border are legal Hispanic-Americans.

          I asked a neighbor who has lived there her whole life to write about it. she thinks a fence is useless:

          I knew Rob Krentz, the rancher in southeast Arizona, famously murdered by a Mexican national while out on his own property. The day before the murder he helped the Border Patrol to recover a fairly large amount of marijuana, also on his property – the BP did not chase down or arrest the drug carriers involved, telling Rob that merely taking their drugs would be punishment enough when the unsuccessful smugglers returned to Mexico and faced their bosses. One of those who got away stole a gun from an unlocked car overnight, and came back and killed Rob the next day.

          I can promise you that drug smugglers still inhabit the mountains all around this area, even in public campgrounds on a close-by national forest – local and state law enforcement is prevented by federal authority to arrest or enforce law concerning these matters – they have simply erected signs to warn those who come to visit, and washed their hands of the responsibility of action. All authority is given over to “Homeland Security” for such. This is an example of federally mandated “policy” being implemented as if it was law, which it is not. Especially since 9/11, it has been SOP for both parties to practice this “new” kind of governance.

          I am witness to the southern border area becoming a vast, lawless and ungovernable area, much like the “Frontera” of Mexico just across the line where more than 50,000 people have been murdered in the last few years. This is ongoing, but I suspect the average American does not know it, and has not thought about how simple, or how sacrosanct and IMPORTANT a border is. Property that has no edges or limits cannot be governed. Imagine trying to protect your home if the walls and yard fences were questionable as “your area”.

          I risk the lives of friends and family if I write specific instances that I know of, where there have been threats and coercion by individuals and by cartel sponsored smugglers and even by federal authorities. Someone forced a friend, while her family was taken hostage, to take a woman in labor to a local hospital to give birth to a new “American”, a seed, a precious and innocent infant, planted to make illegal activities easier. Others were openly threatened if they reported suspicious activity. Murdered, headless bodies discovered near homes and family. A father murdered in the presence of his family because he would not give his farm equipment to the cartel locals – on THIS SIDE of the border. Private pilots who tell me the “highways” that come to, and through, the border are distinct and beaten down by extreme use. Businesses closing, ranches and farms going under, schools losing students and funding to the point of dysfunction, property values plummeting – I am affected by these things daily.

          And the Mexican-Americans – farmers, ranchers and productive workers of all ilk are doubly affected, to be lumped in with the illegal criminals, and to have their politicians and Hispanic activists claim it is just racial prejudice that causes us to speak up, and they resent it the same way I do. We do not see race as the issue at all – it is a life-threatening thing we face. And there is no authority to go to for remedy. And we are IN the United States of America! I have also heard of officials warning locals to keep their stories to themselves “for their own good”. No one will help us, especially our own senators. They are too busy sticking to party politics, and the truth would be too ugly to admit.

          And all of the people I know, that I mention above, the local churches and charitable organizations, are all actively involved in taking care of those who are less fortunate, for indigents and honest illegal’s who simply come for work. Rob Krentz was one of those, and helped many who came across the border.

          And I also know many local people addicted to drugs, and those that are just “casual” users, who claim it to be a “victimless crime”. They keep shelling out money to make it worse. These issues arise as the result of the failure of individual morality, a sense of entitlement to do as we please regardless of outcome. A fence will not, and cannot, make for a safe and functional border. A fence cannot fix greed and addiction. A famous quote, “I have met the enemy, and he is us”.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Fairhaven:

            I am witness to the southern border area becoming a vast, lawless and ungovernable area, much like the “Frontera” of Mexico just across the line where more than 50,000 people have been murdered in the last few years

            Strikes me that this is more a problem of drug prohibition than of the presence of illegal immigrants per se. It is pretty much an inevitable consequence of the laws of economics that if you prohibit the possession and sale of a commodity which a lot of people want to buy, which is compact enough to smuggle, then people with little to lose will rise to meet the demand. If you have a large country on your border where lots of people are very poor and the climate is good for growing those commodities (and the institutional climate is corrupt/lackadaisal enough to make it easy for you to import them wholesale), then that’s probably where you’re going to get most of your currently-prohibited drugs coming from.

            If you then throw in the fact that illegal economic actors cannot rely on the machinery of the state to protect their rights, and thus have much more of an incentive to resort to violence – indeed, to resort to spectacular violence in order to deter competitors from ever crossing them, then you have a recipe for a humanitarian disaster like the Mexican drug war, all flowing logically from the USA’s decision to treat a public health problem as if it were a criminal problem.

            Part of the problem is that, yes, buying drugs from murderous cartels is unethical, but it is not inherently evil to buy substances that enable you to experience certain altered states of consciousness; it is only because the government has precluded buying them from legal, licensed outlets that leaves people nowhere to go but the criminal market. And we are already seeing a reduction in the cartels’ revenue stream due to competition from legal cannabis producers north of the border; there is no reason to expect that not to apply with other drugs as well.

            Given that places that do try to treat problematic drug use as a public health problem rather than a criminal one (see, for instance, Portugal, or just about anywhere running an opiate maintenance problem) tend to not have noticeably worse problems than places that have a mostly or entirely criminalization-focused approach, there is really very little reason to think that the advantages of drug prohibition in the USA are worth their terrible cost in human lives, and ending the prohibition regime and replacing it with a public health focused, cognitive liberty respecting regime will almost certainly do much more to undermine the cartels’ reason for existence than expecting people to heed notions of personal morality that are much harder to alter (taking a drug does not subjectively feel like a victim-creating act of aggression such as an assault or a robbery, and it’s not the fault of people who want to use drugs that the government bans legal businesses from supplying them).

        • Fairhaven says:

          You may disagree, but surely you can muster up the empathy to understand why illegal immigration bothers 70% Americans. These are the concerns of people who are not part of the elite and do not benefit from cheap labor:

          • There are 10-20 million illegals. They suppress wages. They are competing for jobs with legal Hispanic-Americans and other minority groups and new Americans.
          • There is a problem with illegal criminals. They mostly prey on poor people and legal Hispanic-Americans in their neighborhoods.
          • Most illegals use government social welfare programs. The highest rate of welfare recipients come from the Dominican Republic (82 %), Mexico and Guatemala (75%) and Ecuador (70%), for both new arrivals and established residents. This is a huge drain on already underfunded and stressed out social welfare programs that are meant for Americans.
          • People who want fiscal responsibility and a smaller, constitutional government are disturbed by an imported dependent class which wants big, expensive government.
          My town is suffering from a building boom of hotels and spec houses that is enabled by cheap, legal and illegal immigrant labor. Local residents hate the building boom which is ruining the town; we pick up the tab for schools, prison, and welfare over the winter. The builders and investors love the cheap labor. The residents who loved the town not being overbuilt, not so much.

      • We have a problem: Recent immigrants don’t trust capitalism.

        Proposed solution: Let’s make the problem worse!

        • Deiseach says:

          their kids are born here, therefore are citizens, therefore can vote and displace the natives

          Wow, Jaskologist, I had no idea recent migrants were so discriminatory towards the indigenous Native Americans!

          Or by “natives” do you mean “children of immigrants who came here fifty to two hundred years earlier than this batch”? 🙂

          • Ever An Anon says:

            It’s a shame that this lazy counter-argument still gets play. By your definition, South African Zulus and Taiwanese Han aren’t “native” in their own countries either and thus have no right to secure their borders. Somehow I doubt those arguments would fly.

          • Esquire says:

            I try to always chime in when people make this point to remind everyone that immigration worked out *extremely badly* for Native Americans.

          • Zykrom says:

            Making fun of someone for using “native” as a euphemism for “white” does necessarily = thinking white americans have no right to secure borders.

          • wysinwyg says:

            Making fun of someone for using “native” as a euphemism for “white” does necessarily = thinking white americans have no right to secure borders.

            No it doesn’t.

          • Zykrom says:

            “does” in that comment was a typo of “doesn’t” actually lol

          • Deiseach says:

            Zyrkom, what I was making fun of was talking about “natives” in this context – everyone in America is an immigrant or the descendant of immigrants.

            What separates the “natives” (and Dutch, German, French and Spanish are every bit as “native” as English) from the “immigrants” today is merely time, and not a lot of time in some cases; Trump’s comment about his immigrant grandparents, for instance. His parent, by that standard, was one of the migrant’s kids who displaced the “natives”.

            Maybe you guys should push for him to be repatriated back to his ancestral homeland! 🙂

          • Zykrom says:

            I know what you were doing, I typo’d myself into saying the exact opposite of what I meant.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @Deiseach

            Everyone everywhere is an immigrant or the descendant of immigrants, except perhaps some East Africans.

            Nevertheless, citizens of a country have a reasonable interest not to dilute their citizenship rights.

          • Shenpen says:

            I don’t know if you are being dishonest here or pointing out their dishonesty actually?

            I mean, the dishonesty is treating immigration like a moral issue. Then it could be pointed out in most countries of Earth the ancestors of people who complain have taken the land by force. They have no moral real moral standing in demanding others should not take it via immigration and similar moves, they are even usually less destructive moves.

            No, the proper anti-immigration argument should be entirely lacking moralism and purely might-makes-right based: my tribe took this land with force, and that is how we are going to protect it. In other words, border trespassers will be shot, not because it is a highly moral thing to do, but because it is the the current possessors basic interest and the nation-state, as a sovereign, is the highest moral authority.

            The problem is, most people are far too squeamish for such honest. Lefties like to believe in things like human rights, righties in a god that is a higher moral authority than the nation state.

            So people say dishonest things, because they are squeamish.

          • Zebram says:

            @Shenpen:

            That could be. Moral nihilism certainly has very strong arguments behind it. It is likely we just have different emotional reactions and find different things appealing, and through existing social constructs, we express them in different ways, whether liberal or conservative or libertarian or whatever.

          • nydwracu says:

            What separates the “natives” (and Dutch, German, French and Spanish are every bit as “native” as English) from the “immigrants” today is merely time, and not a lot of time in some cases; Trump’s comment about his immigrant grandparents, for instance. His parent, by that standard, was one of the migrant’s kids who displaced the “natives”.

            “But Brawndo’s got electrolytes!”

      • Zebram says:

        I don’t know if that’s necessarily new. Perhaps the process has accelerated, but elections have virtually always been about bribing the voters with free things to persuade them to vote for you.

  3. Pku says:

    I love this article, but I have two issues.
    About “If, as people like Robin Hanson suggest, politics is not about carefully selecting policies that most benefit the country so much as about signalling values and ingroup membership…”: Even if this is true, the people voting might not believe it’s true. Which could lead to a lot of people putting their money where their mouth is to prove they’re serious, and to prove to themselves they’re real (I know I’ve had instances where I did things I said I wanted to but didn’t really, because I told myself “well if I really believed this, I would act on it!”)
    Also, this is a minor complaint, but I feel like Sanders (and to a lesser degree, Trump) owe a lot of their success just because they stand out: Sanders was the first serious guy to challenge Hillary (who a lot of democrats don’t like), and Trump is the clear standout in the pool of Republican contenders – so even if most republicans oppose him, their votes end up scattered between ten different similar candidates, while the pro-Trump people all vote for Trump.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Why is Trump the clear standout? Ben Carson seems like more of a standout to me. You could make similar points about Carly Fiorina and even Jeb Bush; all stand out in their ways.

      • Pku says:

        Firstly, it doesn’t have to be Trump that stands out – but it’s almost inevitable that in a pool this size someone’s going to stand out for being outlandish, which is pretty self-reinforcing. (maybe alternate-universe you just said “Why is Carson the clear standout rather than Trump?)
        In terms of why it is Trump rather than someone else though, I think it’s mostly what you said, (that everyone on the left describes him as “Moderates hate this guy! He’s too politically incorrect to win over Democrats! Only vote for him if you’re a real Republican!”) My point was that this doesn’t have to make him popular, just make him different enough to be an extremal point.
        (Note: I just googled “Krein-Milman theorem because I forgot the word for extremal. I say this to signal nerdiness and, hopefully, accumulate nerd-cred).

      • I actually thought Rand Paul was kind of the stand out? He seemed to have the biggest variance in policies from the others, while at the same time not being what you’d call a moderate. (PS – my knowledge of US politics is limited)

        • Zebram says:

          He did and probably continues to, but he’s intentionally (and foolishly in my opinion) downplaying his own differentiating factors.

        • Brad says:

          I don’t know if he is still pushing the gold standard but if so, that’s quite a bit more radical than either a wall or a $15 minimum wage.

          • Zebram says:

            I don’t think he’s ever supported a gold standard. I believe Ron Paul supported competing currencies. No idea of Rand ever said anything similar.

      • Randy M says:

        Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina are both doing well at the moment as well. Trump is making more of an issue of being an outlyer, though.
        All three non-career politicians (yet). Conservative partisans are feeling increasingly disenfrachised from the party, despite claims here and elsewhere that it is ever further right. See Ace of Spades, for example.

        Trump isn’t terribly conservatives on many issues, or at the least is quite inconsistent. I don’t think he’s trusted on the right so much as the rest are trusted to betray.

  4. Quotidian says:

    I do like that your example of “too conservative” is “build a 1200 mile concrete wall and make mexico pay for it (somehow)” and “forcibly deport 11 million people” and your example of “too liberal” is “make sure people can afford to live when working full time for the minimum wage” and “don’t detain people without a trial in a prison on foreign soil”.

    Because Both Sides (TM).

    • ButYouDisagree says:

      Why not make the minimum wage $40/hr? That will really make sure people can afford to live when working full time for the minimum wage! Scrap that, why not $100/hr?
      Unless there are potential downsides of raising the minimum wage, in which case it would be perfectly reasonable to call someone “too liberal” for supporting a particular minimum wage.
      This isn’t just idle talk–a $15 minimum wage in places where the median wage is e.g. around $15 would be devastating.

      • Quotidian says:

        Damn, you’re right! In fact, why have a minimum wage at all? I mean, we could have an actual discussion about what would be an optimal minimum wage, but why bother with that when we can toss out ridiculous figures!

        (Seriously though, I’m curious. What would be so “devastating” about a 15 dollar minimum wage in areas with a 15 dollar median wage?)

        • Mary says:

          The job losses.

          It’s not just that you have to pay people whose marginal value is not $15 the $15. It’s the people whose marginal value is $15 who will quit or slack or suffer horrific morale if you don’t pay them more.

          • TrivialGravitas says:

            http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/12/12/beware-the-man-of-one-study/

            This has been covered in some depth and I invite you to try and explain why the funnel plot has such an amazing stand out signal at ‘no effect’.

          • ButYouDisagree says:

            @TrivialGravitas

            As I wrote below:

            Since many workers receive non-monetary compensation, we might not expect to see a large unemployment effect. In this case the effect of a minimum wage would be to divert compensation away from benefits and to wages.
            This might not seem like a big deal. But it negates any purported benefit of a minimum wage, reduces the freedom of employees and employers, forces workers to take compensation that’s taxed (many benefits are not), and most hurts the workers who are worst-off (and who might need e.g. free job training or uniforms).

            Of course, at higher numbers, the minimum wage will exceed many workers’ marginal product and cause unemployment.

        • ButYouDisagree says:

          The point is that particular minimum wages could be extremely harmful. You were talking as if unrealistic conservative ideas are actually bad, while unrealistic liberal ideas are almost always good.
          Also, don’t act like $40 is a ridiculous number, but $15 could only ever be criticized for being “not optimal.” In places where almost all workers’ marginal product is greater than $15 (some big cities), a $15 minimum wage doesn’t have much effect. But in places where almost all workers’ marginal product is less than $15 (e.g. Podunk, MS) a $15 minimum wage would have a huge (negative) effect.

          In fact, why have a minimum wage at all?

          Good question. What’s your model of how compensation is set such that a price floor leads to good outcomes?

          • Quotidian says:

            Okay, give me a suggestion for an optimal minimum wage. Or, if you don’t want a minimum wage, some other system to replace it with.

          • Nathan says:

            I’m pretty sure his alternative to the minimum wage is “no minimum wage”.

            Although some prefer the EITC.

          • Urstoff says:

            No minimum wage, used direct cash transfers instead. The empirical evidence on the minimum wage is incredibly mixed, so it’s not clear why anyone would promote it as a policy (ok, it is clear, but I’m being charitable). Cash transfers like the EITC also have the benefit of going to all low income workers, not just those at or around the minimum wage. It also puts the burden of helping the poor across all taxpayers rather than just employers (which, when I’m not being charitable, seems to me to be a strike against it for some progressive types who seem to be more anti-corporate than anti-poverty).

            So the minimum wage is a blunt and possibly harmful policy to help the poor, whereas cash transfers like the EITC are much more efficient and broad. So why are people pushing for a minimum wage rather than an increased EITC? Again, in the spirit of charity, I shall remain silent on that question.

          • ButYouDisagree says:

            I’m not super confident, but my maximum likelihood estimator for the optimal minimum wage is $0.
            I don’t think the minimum wage on net helps the poor, so I would get rid of it regardless of any other programs. As far as transfers go, I think a negative income tax is somewhat promising. Reducing occupational licensure and other regressive regulations is an intriguing possibility, but I’m not sure how big an impact it would make.

          • Saul Degraw says:

            EITC is a wonky sort of thing. Raising the minimum wage feels like more immediate aid and that counts for a lot to people who feel like they need a lifeline and they need it now. Not when taxes are done.

          • xq says:

            So why are people pushing for a minimum wage rather than an increased EITC? Again, in the spirit of charity, I shall remain silent on that question.

            Because minimum wage is extremely popular (even a majority of Republican voters support it) and cash transfers are unpopular. I agree that if increases to EITC and minimum wage were equally attainable, increasing EITC would be better, but that’s not the actual choice.

            edit: Another reason is that you can pass minimum wage locally, while EITC requires congress. Due to gerrymandering, Republicans will control congress at least until 2020 and probably longer. So EITC is a closed door at least until then.

          • DavidS says:

            @Urstoff: genuine question, what empirical evidence? There was a post about this on this very blog which suggested that most studies didn’t see the expected job losses due to minimum wage (as actually applied, that is. Presumably a $40 one would have an effect).

            In terms of realism of $15, our (right-wing by UK standards) govt announced earlier this year minimum wage changes that would mean a £9 minimum wage by 2020. Not that huge a difference.

          • Urstoff says:

            @xq: because it’s more politically feasible, people support the option that may or may not work (and may actually harm unskilled labor) rather than the option that definitely does work? Okay, I guess, but that’s a really strange calculus.

            @DavidS: To start:
            http://www.economics.uci.edu/~dneumark/IZA%20JLP.pdf
            http://econweb.tamu.edu/jmeer/Meer_West_MinimumWage_JHR-final.pdf

            Also, if you do think that $40 would have an effect (presumably because of supply and demand), then why wouldn’t $15 have an effect? More to the point, do you believe that there are no people whose skills/abilities are so lacking that their labor is worth less in terms of productivity than $15 an hour?

          • Mary says:

            ” In places where almost all workers’ marginal product is greater than $15 (some big cities), a $15 minimum wage doesn’t have much effect. But in places where almost all workers’ marginal product is less than $15 (e.g. Podunk, MS) a $15 minimum wage would have a huge (negative) effect.”

            One notes that this is also a way for expensive locations to cut cheaper locations out of economic development by forcing them to pay as if they were in the high-cost-of-living locations.

          • xq says:

            @xq: because it’s more politically feasible, people support the option that may or may not work (and may actually harm unskilled labor) rather than the option that definitely does work? Okay, I guess, but that’s a really strange calculus.

            It is not strange. This is how politics works all the time. For healthcare the left would have preferred a single-payer system, but that was politically impossible so they settled on a compromise of individual mandate. For climate change, a carbon tax or cap and trade is rightly favored by policy elites, but it’s not possible to pass such a bill so instead we have a bunch of inefficient regulation.

          • Urstoff says:

            I know that’s how politics works, but it’s still a strange calculus for an intelligent person considering policy to promote a politically feasible policy whose effects are largely unknown (and may be negative) to a less politically feasible policy whose effects are known and generally positive.

            Again, that’s the charitable interpretation. The uncharitable is that such people strongly believe that the minimum wage is both greatly beneficial to low skill workers (it’s not a second-best solution to them) and also sticks it to those mean old corporations.

          • xq says:

            I know that’s how politics works, but it’s still a strange calculus for an intelligent person considering policy to promote a politically feasible policy whose effects are largely unknown (and may be negative) to a less politically feasible policy whose effects are known and generally positive.

            I agree that it would be strange if you had low confidence that minimum wage would be an improvement on the status quo. That is not the opinion of most policy-oriented liberals. Most (agreeing with most economists) believe that effect of modest minimum wage increases don’t much affect unemployment. But it’s not what they would prefer in an ideal world; like you, they would prefer direct cash transfers.

          • Urstoff says:

            I think economists are more mixed on the question than you say, but that’s not even the right question to ask. The right question is whether the minimum wage has a net positive effect in the long-run. Asking if the minimum wage will reduce employment very much is quite compatible with thinking that it has a net negative effect in the long-run; after all, if not many people make below the proposed minimum wage, then there won’t be much of a disemployment effect.

            I think those who are confident enough in the positive effects of the minimum wage to promote it as a policy versus increasing the EITC (which many Republicans have favored in the past) or some other cash transfer program are simply overconfident (for whatever reason). You’d have to accept one of three theses: unskilled labor is an atypical good and thus supply and demand does not apply to them as it does other goods (this is Card and Kreuger’s position); employers will not (in the long-run) fire or cease to hire workers whose productivity is below the minimum wage; or that there are no (or very few) workers whose productivity is worth less than the proposed minimum wage (probably true for a minimum wage of $0.25 and hour; obviously incorrect for a minimum wage of $50 and hour; very dubious for a minimum wage of $15 an hour). Given that the first two theses go against pretty strongly confirmed theses (supply and demand and the wages linked to productivity), they shouldn’t be given up lightly. As a result, the confidence in any of those theses (particularly for the layperson) should be fairly low, and thus confidence that the minimum wage is a net positive in the long run should be fairly low.

          • Brad says:

            It’s worth noting that EITC is talked about as a general anti-poverty measure but if you look at the details it’s an anti-children-in-poverty measure. They payments never go higher than nominal for those without dependent.

            I’m sure some consider that a feature, not a bug, but consider the marginal incentives.

          • Alex Z says:

            Given the low likelihood of the expression of your policy preferences having the effect of your stated policy preferences being enacted, why be strategic? Why not argue for the optimal policy?

          • Urstoff says:

            @Brad: That may be true. A negative income tax or a reconfigured EITC is probably preferable.

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            One notes that this is also a way for expensive locations to cut cheaper locations out of economic development by forcing them to pay as if they were in the high-cost-of-living locations.

            15 years ago I noticed that my far-left colleagues and far-right colleagues both agreed that the US should not import goods from third-world countries with wages below the US’s minimum wage. For different reasons, but they definitely agreed this was the obvious good policy.

          • xq says:

            @Urstoff : You don’t need to accept one of those theses. You could also simply be convinced by the empirical work showing small or no effects.

            But my point isn’t that liberal policy wonks are right to believe this, simply that they do. And if you believe that the expected gain of minimum wage is positive, and there are no other feasible alternatives on offer, then it is rational to support it.

            @Alex Z : There is no reason to be strategic when simply stating policy views, and plenty of liberals do argue for direct transfers. Here’s Krugman (probably the most prominent liberal policy expert), for example, supporting a basic income: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/14/opinion/krugman-sympathy-for-the-luddites.html

          • Urstoff says:

            Being convinced is not the same thing as being rationally convinced. So, I guess, they may have some sort of regulatory principle: always believe empirical results that contradict well-established theory. Obviously not SOP in science (and most of social science, I hope), but this is politics.

            Of course, what bugs me more is intelligent progressives who are (presumably) interested in optimal policy who don’t use any economic reasoning whatsoever (or at best cite the Card and Kreuger study). But I guess politics isn’t about policy.

          • xq says:

            Rational people can come to very different conclusions.

            Here’s Scott’s analysis of this issue: http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/12/12/beware-the-man-of-one-study/

            This is more of a needle curve than a bell curve, but the point still stands. We see it’s centered around 0, which means there’s some evidence that’s the real signal among all this noise. The bell skews more to left than to the right, which means more studies have found negative effects of the minimum wage than positive effects of the minimum wage. But since the bell curve is asymmetrical, we intepret that as probably publication bias. So all in all, I think there’s at least some evidence that the liberals are right on this one.

            It’s also worth noting that on some issues, like trade or price controls, a large majority of economists oppose the more “liberal” position. That economists can agree on those issues, but not minimum wage, seems strong evidence to me that the economists who support it are not simply partisans.

          • wysinwyg says:

            Okay, give me a suggestion for an optimal minimum wage. Or, if you don’t want a minimum wage, some other system to replace it with.

            Minimum wage should be set at the level of municipalities only (with an option for no minimum wage at all) with no state or federal minimum.

            This would have a few obvious advantages over the current system:
            1) Places with low median wages could set their minimum wages correspondingly low.
            2) We might be able to get some robust data on the effects of different minimum wages on comparable economic zones (comparing Podunk, MS’s $2/hr with Nowhere, LA’s $4 wage; or Boston’s $12 with SF’s $15).
            3) It might get people to actually care about local politics.

          • Urstoff says:

            I definitely don’t want to deny the possibility of rational disagreement; indeed I think that such a possibility is very underapplied in political discussions. One rational disagreement would be the meta-principal I mentioned: how easily one allows contradictions of well-established theories. It’s not clear to me how to rationally choose how far along the gradient of that principle one is, so I think two people can certainly rationally disagree on something if it stems from meta-principles like that.

            And, of course, I’m not an economist and I’m not talking about the judgement of economists. Experts rationally trust their own expert judgment (so I’m not making any claims about the partisanship of economists themselves). But I’m not an expert and neither, I think it’s fair to say, are most of the people here or on my Facebook feed. So I’m talking about what it’s rational to believe as a layperson. Because the expert consensus is weak but the theoretical case strong, it seems to me that it’s rational to judge that, on net, the minimum wage is probably harmful (at least, more likely than not), and since there are alternative programs about which the consensus is much stronger, those should be the ones that are promoted. My initial question at the top of this thread was somewhat rhetorical since we all really know the answer: most supporters of a minimum wage think it intuitively obvious that it’s a net benefit to workers (not clear if they care about employers) and don’t know the literature at all. The follow up question is whether it is possibly rational to support the minimum wage (against other alternatives) when the intelligent layperson is somewhat familiar with the literature. It seems the conclusion that I’ve come to is: it depends on your meta-principle regarding the relationship between theory and empirical evidence. I don’t have much confidence in this conclusion, though.

            Addendum: proposed minimum wage laws that target, for example, just fast food restaurants with at least X locations, just add to my suspicion that a lot of the support for the minimum wage comes from anti-corporate sentiment.

          • xq says:

            Yes. I agree with almost that entire comment. So, to sum up, when you ask why an “intelligent person considering policy” might support a minimum wage as an nth-best option, one reasonable answer is, they are on a different place than you on the gradient of weighing empirical studies vs. theory. And indeed, liberals do often argue, explicitly, that economics puts too much weight on theory as opposed to empiricism.

            edit: well, I agreed until you made that addendum

          • wysinwyg says:

            Addendum: proposed minimum wage laws that target, for example, just fast food restaurants with at least X locations, just add to my suspicion that a lot of the support for the minimum wage comes from anti-corporate sentiment.

            Which would suggest we ask: where does anti-corporate sentiment come from?

          • “Most (agreeing with most economists) believe that effect of modest minimum wage increases don’t much affect unemployment.”

            Minimum wage workers represent less than 3% of the labor force, so of course the minimum wage has little effect on the overall unemployment rate. The relevant question is its effect on the unemployment rate of the low income workers it affects.

            Jim Buchanan’s old comment on the subject was that all economists agree that increasing the minimum wage reduces the employment of low wage workers, and that that was not an empirical claim but part of the definition of “economist.” It takes considerable effort to come up with plausible economic models in which the demand curve for inputs doesn’t slope down like other demand curves.

            The following was written by Krugman in 1998, back when he was still an academic economist rather than a professional public intellectual:

            “So what are the effects of increasing minimum wages? Any Econ 101 student can tell you the answer: The higher wage reduces the quantity of labor demanded, and hence leads to unemployment. This theoretical prediction has, however, been hard to confirm with actual data. Indeed, much-cited studies by two well-regarded labor economists, David Card and Alan Krueger, find that where there have been more or less controlled experiments, for example when New Jersey raised minimum wages but Pennsylvania did not, the effects of the increase on employment have been negligible or even positive. Exactly what to make of this result is a source of great dispute. Card and Krueger offered some complex theoretical rationales, but most of their colleagues are unconvinced; the centrist view is probably that minimum wages “do,” in fact, reduce employment, but that the effects are small and swamped by other forces.”

          • xq says:

            That’s an interesting article by Krugman (http://www.pkarchive.org/cranks/LivingWage.html). It touches upon some of the issues we’ve discussed here. Note that even though he’s arguing against min wage, he basically makes the same argument I am here:

            One answer is political: What a shift from income supports to living wage legislation does is to move the costs of income redistribution off-budget. And this may be a smart move if you believe that America should do more for its working poor, but that if it comes down to spending money on-budget it won’t. Indeed, this is a popular view among economists who favor national minimum-wage increases: They will admit to their colleagues that such increases are not the best way to help the poor, but argue that it is the only politically feasible option.

            I’ll just repeat there are plenty of still working academic economists who support minimum wage.

          • “I’ll just repeat there are plenty of still working academic economists who support minimum wage.”

            I wouldn’t be surprised. But I expect there are very few—following Buchanan’s point none—who don’t recognize that raising the minimum wage increases unemployment among those directly affected, since that’s a straightforward implication of conventional price theory. It’s possible to get around it with enough ingenuity, but not easy or plausible.

            But the theory only gives you the sign, not the magnitude. If the demand for unskilled labor is very inelastic, a 10% increase in wages might result in only a 1% decrease in employment, in which case the total income of low wage workers goes up, not down. That would be a reason why some economists would favor raising the minimum wage.

            What I find irritating is not the fact that some people support raising the minimum wage but that most of the rhetoric pretends that there is no negative effect on employment of unskilled workers. It’s almost always put as if the only argument against is that it will reduce profits or raise prices. That lets people see it as a question of “are you for or against the poor,” when the prior question ought to be “does this policy help or hurt the poor?”

        • Wrong Species says:

          If you honest to god cannot think up an answer to that question(even as a theoretical concern) then you really need to spend a little time reading about economics.

    • Theo Jones says:

      Although there is a little bit of false equivalence in the article, you make the min wage increase look better by judging it on its intent instead on its likely impacts. I wouldn’t call it devastating in its effects, however a min wage increase of that size will likely have substantial economic side effects. Despite Card&Kruger and similar results , the majority of empirical studies on the employment effects of the min wage suggest a 10% increase in it in it would increase unemployment by 0.1% or more (absolute unemployment rate, not relative increase ie. 4% unemployment before to 4.1% after ), plus have other effects. See this literature review (particularly p. 74 and p. 78) http://www.nber.org/papers/w846

      This isn’t to say that I would oppose any attempt to reduce poverty, I would instead suggest transfer payments, wage subsidies (ie. the earned income tax credit), or (unrealistically considering the current political climate) a BIG. But a min wage increase would produce substantial side effects.

      • Quotidian says:

        Hmm… that may be fair enough, honestly. Haven’t read the paper yet but I can think of a few ways that increasing the minimum wage could hurt some folks. Sill, it would certainly be nice if our government got itself together enough to have an actual discussion about the relative merits of raising the minimum wave vs. increased unemployment.

        A question for you though, if you don’t mind. I also support a basic income, but how exactly would that not include “substantial side effects” on par with or worse than an increased minimum wage?

        • Nathan says:

          I support the basic income specifically because I think it would have less negative side effects than the measures it would replace.

          For example, unemployment welfare. If you give unemployed people money (or food stamps or whatever) you are paying them to stay unemployed. With a basic income they get the money whether they work or not – so there is no extra incentive not to work.

          • roystgnr says:

            Saying “no extra incentive” isn’t quite correct. To pay for the basic income you need higher taxes, and higher marginal tax rates reduce the incentive for work across the board. More significantly at lower incomes, the decreasing marginal utility of money means that someone with a basic income has much less incentive to work than someone without.

            Compared to the stereotypical “you get this benefit unless you have more than $X of income or $Y of wealth, then you’re on your own” insanity, on the other hand, basic income is brilliant.

          • Anaxagoras says:

            I feel like some of that might be that we’ve tried minimum wage and can see its side effects, whereas there’s never been (that I know of), a society that tried basic income guarantee. How likely would you consider it that it has worse side effects that you don’t know about because there’s been less research and empirical observation?

          • Autonomous Rex says:

            If you’ve seen the side effects could you share an example or two? There have been hundreds of minimum wage increases on city state and federal level
            in the last 75 years.

            With such a wide sample there must be plenty of tragedies you can point to.

          • Anaxagoras, we’ve never had a whole society go for a basic income guarantee, but we’ve had a couple of pilot programs that looked promising.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MINCOME

          • Luke Somers says:

            Anaxagoras > there’s never been (that I know of), a society that tried basic income guarantee.

            No society has done it, but it has been tried.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_income#Pilot_Programmes

            edit: NINJAS

        • roystgnr says:

          Basic income would include substantial side effects, but the immediate negative side effects would be distributed progressively towards people who pay higher taxes and the indirect negative side effects would have a timescale measured in generations. Minimum wage increases include substantial side effects, but the negative side effects would be distributed disproportionately towards those people with the lowest incomes and the greatest propensity toward unemployment, and the indirect negative side effects would have a timescale measured in years.

          I’m not sure if I’m in favor of a basic income, but at least it would have an honest claim toward being a minimum wage. Otherwise the minimum wage is $0; it’s merely intermediate wages that are outlawed.

        • Theo Jones says:

          A question for you though, if you don’t mind. I also support a basic income, but how exactly would that not include “substantial side effects” on par with or worse than an increased minimum wage?

          It might. I’m not categorically opposed to minimum wage increases. I could imagine a case where the anti-poverty effects of a minimum wage increase outweigh its employment (and other) negative effects. My problem with many liberals on this issue is their tendency to ignore/deny the possibility of these costs, instead of rationally evaluating the tradeoffs involved.

          I do think that per unit of money redistributed a basic income would produce less deadweight loss, but this is mostly a guess and speculation on my part. So, my preference might just be the confirmation bias talking. There are studies that indicate positive effects from a BIG, but the most recent of these tend to be focusing on BIG-like programs in developing nations. See, for instance, this news article which discusses one such program in Nambia http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/a-new-approach-to-aid-how-a-basic-income-program-saved-a-namibian-village-a-642310.html

        • With empirical results on the minimum wage it’s important to remember that there are other levers in employee compensation besides wages and employers are free to mess with these:

          http://www.nwasianweekly.com/2014/05/blog-seatac-tells-us-15-minimum-wage/

          “Are you happy with the $15 wage?” I asked the full-time cleaning lady.
          “It sounds good, but it’s not good,” the woman said.
          “Why?” I asked.
          “I lost my 401k, health insurance, paid holiday, and vacation,” she responded. “No more free food,” she added.
          The hotel used to feed her. Now, she has to bring her own food. Also, no overtime, she said. She used to work extra hours and received overtime pay.
          What else? I asked.
          “I have to pay for parking,” she said.

          And if there are changes in employment they’ll be more likely to be from a reduction in hiring than from layoff meaning it can take a while for them to happen. Naive microeconomics says that equilibrium is reached instantly but in the real world there are such things as reluctance and concern for employee morale. Here’s a summary of a book whose author interviewed hundreds of people about how and why they made decisions about employment:

          http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2013/09/why_dont_wages.html

          If you just look at monetary effects then the conclusion is that the minimum wage is good for poor people on net even if there are a few who become unemployed. But with the non-monetary effects I’m not sure and there are clearly much better ways to help poor people.

        • “but how exactly would that not include “substantial side effects” on par with or worse than an increased minimum wage?”

          It would produce a different set of side effects.

          The main effect of a minimum wage is to increase the unemployment rate of low skill workers by pricing them out of the market. A secondary effect is to encourage a shift from non-wage to wage benefits—higher wages and less air conditioning, for instance.

          A basic income might increase the voluntary unemployment rate of low income workers, if some of them chose leisure over additional income, but it wouldn’t prevent low skill workers who wanted jobs from finding them.

          A minimum wage may either increase or decrease the total income of those it affects, depending on the elasticity of demand for their labor—whether the percentage increase in their wages is more or less than the percentage decrease in their employment. Income transfers almost certainly increase the welfare of the recipients (“almost” because there could be negative effects of the overall disincentive to work that outweighed the benefit).

          • Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:

            A basic income might increase the voluntary unemployment rate of low income workers

            Might. I am not certain that is it likely though.

            In order for a low skilled worker to create enough marginal value to be worth a livable (or minimum) wage, they generally have to work really, really hard. And the minimum wage makes it a binary proposition: either work that hard, or don’t work at all. This is an artifact. Under a minimum wage regime, the voluntarily unemployed (/unemployable) just have work-intensity preference (/ability) that falls somewhere below that necessary for the minimum wage.

            I always assume that instituting a basic income would be coupled with removing or significantly rolling back the minimum wage, because the belt-and-suspender approach really doesn’t seem like good policy in this case.

            If a low skill worker has the “livable” problem solved, then pretty much any wage is a good wage. Their work-intensity preference selects the wage they want to work for. Under such a regime, *I* think, there would be extremely few people who would chose “absolutely no work” over “really^n easy work, for some value of n.” It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if a well chosen basic income regime actually increased labor market participation rates.

          • ” It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if a well chosen basic income regime actually increased labor market participation rates.”

            Where the “regime” includes the abolition of the minimum wage. That wouldn’t surprise me either, depending on the level of basic income.

            But a different way of putting it is that abolishing the minimum wage increases labor force participation rates, ceteris paribus, instituting a basic income reduces labor force participation rates, ceteris paribus, and the summed effect of doing both might be to increase labor force participation rates.

            I think the assumption that instituting a basic income would be accompanied by an abolition of the minimum wage is unreasonably optimistic–like the assumption that it would be accompanied by the abolition of all programs whose supposed justification was helping poor people.

      • Pku says:

        On the object-level issue, Scott pointed out here http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/12/12/beware-the-man-of-one-study/ that it looks like a mild increase in minimum wage would not have a huge negative effect (controversially, according to average studies).
        The thing that annoys me about the “15$ minimum wage” thing is that there’s some pretty good reasoning for raising it mildly (I think it hasn’t been adjusted for inflation in a while), but they jump to 15$ an hour (actually, signalling theory explains this one – if people want to signal leftism, “adjust for inflation!” isn’t a very good battle cry.)

        • E. Harding says:

          Ah, but would abolition of the present minimum wage have a huge positive effect? That is the question.

        • ButYouDisagree says:

          Since many workers receive non-monetary compensation, we might not expect to see a large unemployment effect. In this case the effect of a minimum wage would be to divert compensation away from benefits and to wages.
          This might not seem like a big deal. But it negates any purported benefit of a minimum wage, reduces the freedom of employees and employers, forces workers to take compensation that’s taxed (many benefits are not), and most hurts the workers who are worst-off (and who might need e.g. free job training or uniforms).

      • xq says:

        Why are you posting a review from 1982? Studies have been done since then.

      • Mary says:

        “you make the min wage increase look better by judging it on its intent instead on its likely impacts.”

        Well, yes, if you are evil.

        I can’t imagine any other motive for judging something by its intent — which apparently means by what those who have willfully deluded themselves, or at best, those whose intent is composed of wishful thinking through negligence, have convinced themselves are its likely impacts — than by its likely impacts.

        Especially since we can all see people insisting on perpetuating actively harmful programs because of their good intentions.

    • E. Harding says:

      I like it that Scott’s example of “too liberal” is “raise the wages of or make unemployable 50+% of Blacks, 60% of Hispanics, and over 40% of workers overall, raising unemployment to 9% and leading the racial gaps in unemployment to skyrocket” and his example of “too conservative” is “enforce immigration law while strengthening foreign and domestic government accountability and national security”.

      • Pku says:

        I don’t support 15$ minimum wage, but that’s a ridiculously contrived way to describe those things.

        • Izaak Weiss says:

          I believe that Harding’s point was that you can argue for extremism in both directions.

        • E. Harding says:

          Not really. But you can see what I was trying to do- create a mirror image of Quotidian’s ridiculously contrived way to describe these things.

          • Quotidian says:

            Heh, I take your point. Framing matters.

            But still, there’s something to be said about the degree of extremism. I think a much better argument would be matching “deporting 3% of the country’s population” and “spending billions of dollars on building a border wall” with something equally extreme that the front-runner on the left has suggested. Like… uh…

            Hmm…

          • E. Harding says:

            Making the minimum wage 80+% of the median wage does count as extreme!

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Quotidian “Framing matters.”

            yup.

            “I think a much better argument would be matching “deporting 3% of the country’s population” and “spending billions of dollars on building a border wall””

            or we could phrase that as “enforcing the law, and sorting out the mess by a decade or more of previous leaders refusing to enforce the law.”

            I don’t really have any real opinion on the efficacy of any of the solutions to immigration, but arguing against enforcing the existing laws by pointing out a problem created *exclusively by ignoring those laws* rubs me the wrong way.

            and you may find this difficult to believe, but other people (intelligent ones even!) have exactly your feelings about immigration and the 15$ minimum wage, only swapped. If you think they’re obviously wrong, maybe you could explain why in some detail?

            for starters, if it’s unthinkable to control our border and it’s unthinkable to deport illegal aliens, then what exactly should our border policy be?

          • Edward Scizorhands says:

            spending billions of dollars on building a border wall

            I think the wall is a silly idea, but it’s a construction project that will employ lots of people, which is exactly what the pro-stimulus crowd says we need more of.

            But when the GOP suggests a construction project, all of a sudden we all worry about cost.

        • Theo Jones says:

          I think (or at least hope) Harding was making a joke about Quotidian’s phrasing instead of making an argument to be taken seriously.

      • Anonymous says:

        By the way “E. Harding” is going around the linking your job website and personal facebook in the comments section of blogs discussing your posts.

        You’d think if he’s going to go around doxxing people, he’d at least stay off their blog afterwards.

        • Noumenon72 says:

          He even defended it in this MR thread, using the argument “I put a lock on my diary, so the fact you don’t have one makes it OK that I printed yours in the newspaper!”

          • Urstoff says:

            Is this post a meta-doxxing?

          • Noumenon72 says:

            Uh, sorry, I wasn’t thinking about that. But E. Harding is right that Scott doesn’t really attempt to hide it from anyone who reads this blog regularly. Just the world at large.

    • Paul Kinsky says:

      It makes perfect sense if you define “too conservative” and “too liberal” as the distance from the respective political party’s leadership on a one-dimensional scale going from Liberal to Conservative. Not to say the current political landscape is ideal, of course.

    • Echo says:

      I like how you turn “enforce existing immigration law” into “forcibly deport 11 million people”, and describe every policy you like as “basic human decency”.
      It’s almost as if you’re not being honest.

      • Quotidian says:

        Which of the two things I mentioned don’t constitute basic human decency? The bit about not indefinitely detaining people without trial (and, incidentally, torturing them)? Or the bit about raising the minimum wage so that people can afford to, you know, have a passable standard of living?

        • Nathan says:

          “People can have a passable standard of living*”

          *as long as they have a job, which the minimum wage makes harder to achieve.

        • E. Harding says:

          Again, dude, you’re ignoring the unemployment effects. It is as Scott Sumner says: either 60% of Hispanics will get fired, or get a raise, or some combination of both. Do you really think Mississippi, Georgia, or Uganda is so poor because their minimum wages are not high enough?

        • Anonymous says:

          deleted

        • Zebram says:

          “Which of the two things I mentioned don’t constitute basic human decency?”

          How about sending people to jail aka rape houses if they decide to voluntarily negotiate a wage that falls below the arbitrary number you have set?

          See how we can play games both ways here?

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Or the bit about raising the minimum wage so that people can afford to, you know, have a passable standard of living?

          Because this misunderstands what we want labor markets to accomplish. My brother-in-law does not make enough money to support a family of four. Who cares? my Sister is the primary bread-winner. My brother-in-law is earning supplemental income to raise his standard of living, which is good.
          We want labor markets to create these kinds of opportunities for people.

        • Fairhaven says:

          it’s not basic human decency to promote a welfare state that has destroyed and degraded black lives and black communities, to the sole benefit of the bureaucrats who get most of the money and the politicans who thus buy votes.

          it is the worse sort of Lady Bountiful hypocrisy to promote policies that make you feel morally superior, but actually harm the people you pretend you are helping.

          black teenage unemployment was a mere 9% before minimum wage laws.
          if you want to increase wages, stop encouraging 10-20 million illegals to flood into the country and depress wages.

    • Zebram says:

      Ah, using nice sounding euphemisms to represent your own views, are we?

      Why didn’t you say “Extract money at gunpoint from one group to hand out to another group” instead of your nice sounding version? Looks like you’re trying to stack the deck in your favor with inconsistent terminology.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      @ Quotidian
      I do like that your example of “too conservative” is “build a 1200 mile concrete wall and make mexico pay for it (somehow)” and “forcibly deport 11 million people” and your example of “too liberal” is “make sure people can afford to live when working full time for the minimum wage” and “don’t detain people without a trial in a prison on foreign soil”.

      Trump may have said the former, but the latter are pretty mild positions for Sanders. They sound more like Hillary.

      /s

  5. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    Everyone knows that America is getting more ideologically polarized these days. The right is getting rightier. The left is getting leftier.

    Any thoughts on what’s causing this? The internet and the economic crisis seem like the two most obvious factors.

    • Pku says:

      I wonder if it’s caused by more inward-focus? until the end of the cold war, americans were focused on an external enemy, something that persisted for a while afterwards. But since then there hasn’t really been much of that – the Taliban tried for a while, but they can’t really live up to the legacy of the USSR. (I say this in comparison to Israel, where people seem to be more united, partly because there’s a feeling of being surrounded by enemies).

    • The decline of a mass media that kept ‘acceptable’ opinion within a very narrow spectrum of beliefs. IMO, it was akin to cultic brainwashing on a massive scale, and history will probably treat it as such. But it was perhaps necessary to successful democratic governance. (I could be completely wrong here – the future will tell.)

      • Richard Gadsden says:

        Mass media before radio was much less centralized, and much wilder and woolier. Politics was also much more polarized in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. Aside from the Civil War, rhetoric was far wilder:

        If they dare to come out in the open field and defend the gold standard as a good thing, we shall fight them to the uttermost, having behind us the producing masses of the nation and the world. Having behind us the commercial interests and the laboring interests and all the toiling masses, we shall answer their demands for a gold standard by saying to them, you shall not press down upon the brow of labor this crown of thorns. You shall not crucify mankind upon a cross of gold.

        Trump might just about get as far as Bryan, but only just. I doubt anyone did in between.

      • Wait a minute says:

        Sounds plausible. In the past journalists were pretty secured in using journalism against others while being secured from it themselves. With internet and social media they can be victims of it as much as anyone else. Maybe what has changed is indeed just the means to restrict unpopular ideas.

      • Hanfeizi says:

        “IMO, it was akin to cultic brainwashing on a massive scale, and history will probably treat it as such. But it was perhaps necessary to successful democratic governance.”

        I don’t think there’s much I can add to this.

    • Charlie says:

      On the other hand, it may be one of those things “everyone knows” that is in fact false.

      • Alexander Stanislaw says:

        I haven’t read the following report carefully, but the increasing polarization (or sorting might be a more intuitive term) in the US has some good evidence in support of it:

        http://www.people-press.org/2014/06/12/political-polarization-in-the-american-public/

          • FacelessCraven says:

            How do they disambiguate a group moving in an ideological direction from a group standing still while society (or even the other party) moves in the other direction?

            a lot of people here are saying that the Right has moved way-way-way-right, but from where I’m sitting, common centrist positions in the 90s, say, are now unspeakably right-wing. That doesn’t seem like the right moving.

          • Anonymous says:

            @FacelessCraven:

            “[…] we are seeing the movement of a bobber on the water. What is the bobber attached to?”

          • haishan says:

            I don’t think you can really project down to one dimension. We’ve moved way leftward on gay rights — Tom Hanks won an Oscar 20 years ago for portraying a man who was fired because he was gay, but now, at least in some circles, you’re more likely to be fired for not supporting gay marriage. On the other hand, on economic issues we’ve drifted right; Obamacare is almost the same as the GOP alternative to Hillarycare. And on some issues like abortion we’re in pretty much the same spot as 40 years ago.

          • Jaskologist says:

            This idea that Obamacare was some big Republican legislation is total bullocks. Stop trying to foist your unpopular legislation on the guys who voted against it and take some responsibility.

            The resemblance of one aspect in it to a proposal from one right-leaning think-tank 20 years ago is not enough to make something a “Republican” position. There are many other items in the bill which must be considered (suing nuns to make them buy contraceptives is hardly right-wing), and even this one item that everybody wants to focus on was never demonstrated to have much Republican support (how many Republicans 20 years ago voted in favor an individual mandate?)

          • Stezinech says:

            That uptick in Republican conservatism in the mid-70s seems to coincide nicely with deregulation of campaign donations. See, Buckley v. Valeo (1976).

          • Steven says:

            That uptick in Republican conservatism in the mid-70s seems to coincide nicely with deregulation of campaign donations. See, Buckley v. Valeo (1976).

            Well, yes, if you don’t realize that in every election prior to that ruling (which was on a law that was passed in late 1974 and so had never been in effect for any election prior to the case) all campaign spending and donations were completely unlimited, and that every election since the Buckley v. Valeo decision has, in fact, been substantially more regulated (under the portions of the law that survived the decision, like limits on direct contributions to candidates) than any election prior to that decision, sure, you can come to the conclusion that increasing Republican conservatism since the mid-1970s was caused by “deregulation”.

          • Stezinech says:

            I never claimed that increasing Republican conservatism was caused by deregulation. My point was that the shift was enabled by the combination of increasing money in politics and the lack of regulation that *could* have been put in place. Buckley v. Valeo set a precedent that was followed by other cases.

    • Stezinech says:

      There are lots of potential causes; more important than the 2007 economic crisis is probably the longer-term trend towards greater income inequality (http://www.apsanet.org/portals/54/Files/Task%20Force%20Reports/Chapter2Mansbridge.pdf)

      To visualize the issue, see this is a nice report on political polarization in the US by Pew:
      http://www.people-press.org/2014/06/12/political-polarization-in-the-american-public/

    • E. Harding says:

      Party sorting. The median voter is still in the same place, and the standard deviation of political opinion is the same, but the two halves of the ideological spectrum are better sorted along party lines than ever, thus leading coalitions of the far Left and moderate Right to build on each other.

      For example, in the last election, Arkansas ousted its last Democratic Senator.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Is it even true? It’s certainly true on social media, presumably caused by social media. But is it true in general? Is it affecting elections?

      (The Tea Party is certainly affecting elections. But is polarization the best description of the Tea Party? Gerrymandering should produce a certain kind of polarization.)

      • E. Harding says:

        Tea Party is dead, and has been dead since election day, 2010, when it got what it wanted. It is affecting elections today as much as the Prohibition Party.

        • Zebram says:

          I don’t know if I agree. The Tea Party certainly is not a distinct organization, but it’s ideas seem to be incorporated into certain strains of the Republican Party somewhat. I’d attribute the influence of the Tea Party to the overthrowing of Eric Cantor by a primary challenger to them.

        • Donttellmewhattothink says:

          Actually, there are more tea party candidates at every level of government from county to state houses to governors to congress. It is liberals that were devastated in the last election. That is why obama enacts, oops, decrees, so much of his agenda by illegal fiat.

    • Saul Degraw says:

      I don’t think anything is causing it. I think the mid-20th century of broad consensus might have been an exception rather than a rule. The issue was that it was an exception that is really the only living memory we have accept the oldest Americans. The parties hated each other for most of the 19th centuries until WWII.

      The two major American parties were big tent parties for most of the 20th century. The Democratic Party had a Northern component which was urban, liberal, and ethnic. The southern component of the Democratic Party was rural, Anglo-Saxon or Scots-Irish, Protestant, and very conservative. Sometimes a Southerner could be economically populist though.

      The GOP had a similar split between a progressive wing (Bob La Follette, George Norris, LaGaurdia, etc.) and a very conservative wing.

      Let’s say that this was true from about Teddy Roosevelt until 1968.

      The 1960s starting with Goldwater and continuing until now turned the parties from being big tents to small tents. LBJ was not wrong when he said that the Civil Rights Act would cause the Democratic Party to lose the South for generations. There used to be such a thing as a liberal or Rockefeller Republican but they were chased out of the party. Lincoln Chaffee was arguably the last Rockefeller Republican in national politics. Another issue is The Big Sort. Living among like-minded people tends to make beliefs stronger. Liberals become more liberal and conservatives become more conservative.

      • Paul Torek says:

        That is a very plausible hypothesis and good supporting data, but Freedom and Compassion’s point:

        The decline of a mass media that kept ‘acceptable’ opinion within a very narrow spectrum of beliefs.

        might just Trump yours (sorry, couldn’t resist).

    • Two-party system (as opposed to multi-party) might contribute? If your view differs from the party you’re in, its strategically less viable to seek support from other parties, because the other party is totally opposed. A multi-party one seems to leave more room for compromises, nuance, and the ability for temporary alliances. I guess there is a cost in terms of constantly shifting sands, but it seems better than a country fighting itself?

      The US system doesn’t allow preferences does it? So it’s hard to imagine it could easily change, because it splits the vote and ensures a loss without preferences. So unless you’re exactly in the centre or on the total fringe, new parties are a bad idea without preferences.

      • Nathan says:

        This is broadly true, and yet new parties have emerged and won big shares of the vote in First Past The Post systems like the UK and especially Canada.

        I’d say the bigger difference is that the US system allows outsider candidates to be successful within the established parties even if the party bigwigs don’t like it.

    • Mary says:

      I blame the Supreme Court, which decided in the 1960s that, because they liked a bunch of libelers, they would set a higher bar for libel for “public figures,” requiring more than that you lie about them and do damage, but that they be able to prove you did it with malice or extraordinary negligence.

      This made public discourse nastier and discouraged reasonable people from entering it.

      Well, it could be one factor.

    • Walter says:

      A long time ago Scott wrote a post defending scoundrels. It had a bit where if you set up a question and mentioning one position signals evil then the goal posts move to crazy town. I think it was pedophile sentencing, but I feel like the same point works for political parties.

      Imagine a bunch of liberal or conservative politicians trying to be the left most or right most. Some issue comes up. Everyone picks their most extreme possible response, while still appealing to moderates. Someone wins the contest, they’ve got the best possible compromise between the left/right extreme and the center.

      Well, first off someone may jump over them, hoping to drag the center left/right, but let’s say no one does. The thing about elections is that they are an iterated process. Next election the point formerly between the center and left/right is something most of the party has voted for. Its mainstream. Now the same process occurs, and the positions that the pool of candidates stake out are further from the center than previous one. This repeats until madness.

    • LeeEsq says:

      I don’t think that Americans are getting more polarized. Its just that we are more aware of the polarization because media is more fragmented in the present than it was during most of the Cold War. During the Cold War, plenty of people were ready to accuse ordinary liberal Democrats of being Communists or denounce the entire Civil Rights movement as a plot of the USSR to undermine America. The Hippies had plenty of out there thoughts from the Left that people found disturbing. Its just that the media limited the platforms to pamphlets and it was easier to paint the far side of politics as silly.

    • ryan says:

      I’m feeling quite contrarian today, so I’m going to take the position that the country is not getting more polarized these days. I think we’re at a pretty normal level of polarization given the country’s history, and that there have been much higher levels in the past. The typical southern gentleman and Berkley radical of today are not in anywhere near the disagreement they were in the early 70’s. Earlier in the comments today’s left and right are arguing whether a minimum wage or EITC are more effective tools for reducing poverty. In the 30’s the left and right were arguing over whether there should be no government interference in the economy or if we should adopt communism.

      I think the actual mechanism at work here is television gaining and then losing a monopoly on mass media. When everyone’s principal source of information was 3 boring newscasters saying pretty much the same thing for a half hour every night, it would logically appear to people that there was a lot of shared consensus in the country. Now we have the internet and people who use it as their main source of information realize how vastly different people’s viewpoints are.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Any thoughts on what’s causing this?

      Moving up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

      When people worry about feeding themselves, who cares if your neighbor doesn’t like gay abortions?

      When your basic needs are all accounted for, then you can afford to have a hobby of “getting your neighbor fired.”

      And with the Internet, “neighbor” is “anyone in the country.”

      • DutLinx says:

        I like this idea quite a bit. I’m from Brazil and I notice a stark difference between the things we care about here and in the US. Pot legalizaton, abortion and (until fairly recently) gay marriage barely appear in mainstream debates or media. It seems like we always have more pressing concerns, such as corruption and safety.

        • Edward Scizorhands says:

          This could explain the Great Filter. All potential space-faring societies have doxxed themselves to death.

    • Dain says:

      The right isn’t getting rightier, it’s just becoming more hostile to the left’s increasingly confident leftism. Confident of course because they dominate media, entertainment and academia. Are today’s conservatives against interracial marriage or jailing gay people for merely being gay in public? No. On something like gun control, the right would superfically appear more rigid and dogmatic about it than in days past. But then most of the low-hanging fruit has been picked (http://www.infoplease.com/spot/guntime1.html.) Everyone’s for background checks in 2015, e.g.

  6. Steves says:

    Interesting observations on UK politics. He did kind of come out of nowhere. And in another neat parallel, no-one wants him to ‘win’ more than the tories/right-wing folk ’cause he’s seen as unelectable.

    Oh, and on the subject of UK politics, you can do a lot worse than get all your news from the Daily Mash – you guys came up with The Onion, but we have perfected it:

    http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/politics/politics-headlines/corbyn-insane-not-to-invade-iraq-says-blair-20150901101609

    I know very little about current US politics (I lived in California when the ‘Governator’ was a thing…), but I have to question “The left is getting leftier”. How do you figure that?

    • Paul Goodman says:

      I know very little about current US politics (I lived in California when the ‘Governator’ was a thing…), but I have to question “The left is getting leftier”. How do you figure that?

      I think a major factor here is the desire not to be seen as favoring one side over the other. The evidence as far as I know is that the right has moved a lot farther than the left, but if you take sides then you’re just a biased partisan instead of a wise, rational moderate.

      • Samuel Skinner says:

        Gay marriage? Clinton signed the Defense of marriage act, and the left has gone full social liberal since then.

        • Hadlowe says:

          Not to mention Berniemania being a thing. Supporting an avowed socialist for the presidency would have been unthinkable 20 years ago when “Liberal” was about as nasty a slur as you could throw at a Democrat.

          • Urstoff says:

            I think the “avowed Socialist” thing is overblown, given that his socialism is basically “more social democracy” rather than “collectively owned means of production”.

          • stillnotking says:

            Exactly. Sanders’ “socialism” is a defiant adoption of the right’s characterization of him; he is not an actual socialist, as that term is used in political science.

            “Reactionary” seems to be undergoing a similar shift in meaning, which I expect genuine reactionaries to deplore.

      • Walter says:

        By contrast, from the right it looks like the left is growing ever leftier while we want the same things we’ve always wanted.

        My theory is that this is a case of the Left winning. Imagine this as a football game, conveniently set up with left and right goals as appropriate.

        Initially the parties are set up at the 50 yard line. The left’s position is that we need to go left 50 yards. The right would like to go right 50 yards. Whistle blows, Left advances ten yards.

        Now the Left’s position is that we need to go 40 yards, right’s position is that we need to go 60 yards. One way to describe this is that the right is growing more extreme, demanding ever more movement from the current state.

        I mean, look at the “extreme” Republican positions. Here are a few positions that might be called “far right”. Get rid of gay marriage, get rid of Obamacare, eject Mexican immigrants, and revoke Roe vs. Wade. All of these were added to the platform moderately recently, but they don’t mean that the party is growing more extreme, they mean that it is losing, and has an ever increasing number of defeats it wants to reverse.

    • Saul Degraw says:

      As a Democratic voter and 7 year California resident, I think the Governator was the last Republican to win state wide office and possibly for a long time.

      California used to be a Republican stronghold. There were Democratic Senators and Governors but California also gave the world Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. The state used to be part of Sun Belt conservatism and Orange County helped launch the modern very-right wing GOP. But that collapsed because of a variety of things.

      There are still Republican parts of California but they are way too conservative for the rest of the state.

      California’s demographics and now urban supremacy of SF, LA, San Jose, etc creates California, the liberal stronghold.

    • Adam Casey says:

      >He did kind of come out of nowhere.

      This is the thing people have ignored about him. That wretched woman Abbot ran last time, and Beckett ran against Blair. The hard left always runs a candidate, the same way the libertarian win of the Republican party always runs one. This year it was his turn. It seems likely that people are turning out as much for lefty-glove-puppet-number-782 as they are for

      • Froolow says:

        This is slightly misleading, because Margaret Beckett wasn’t some nonentity lefty also-ran, but the Leader of the Labour Party at the time (she was previously Deputy Leader, and was promoted after the incumbent John Smith died of a heart attack, triggering the leadership election she then lost)

        Everything you say about Diane Abbott is absolutely right, however. I really dislike her.

  7. James D. Miller says:

    I don’t agree that Trump is a man of the right. Restricting illegal immigration is not obviously a right-wing position. Trump came out against cutting Social Security and Medicare, and seems to favor a left-wing view of managed trade, and he is not framing himself as the candidate of god. He also came out for higher taxes on hedge fund employees. Trump is positioning himself as a policy moderate to win the general election, and as a style-radical to win the Republican primary.

    • Pku says:

      Are there any prominent right-wing politicians who favor immigration? (As an immigrant, this would honestly make me feel a lot better).

      • LTP says:

        Jeb Bush is pretty pro-immigration.

      • Alexander Stanislaw says:

        I highly doubt the legal immigration policy is going to change much whoever wins.

        • Pku says:

          Any chance they’re going to implement that “people who earn a graduate degree in the US can stay?” It seems like a clear winner for the US and I think even Romney was for it. (Also, it would save me a lot of trouble).

        • James D. Miller says:

          The President has a lot of discretion in how he or she enforces immigration law, so I would expect a President Trump to have a huge effect on immigration policy.

      • Loquat says:

        It’s important to distinguish between legal and illegal immigration here – plenty of conservatives who oppose illegal immigration are fine with the legal variety. I took a quick look at the Republican primary candidates – Bobby Jindal and Marco Rubio have both gone on record as being pro-legal-immigration, Mike Huckabee’s in favor of letting in more educated professional types, and George Pataki seems to be pro-immigrant in general.

      • Zebram says:

        Probably the more libertarian politicians who are considered to be ‘right wing’ by some.

      • nydwracu says:

        Have you considered that it might not be a good idea to treat [letting in n people with graduate degrees] and [letting in 1000n unskilled peasants] as the same exact thing?

        It’s possible to favor skilled immigration and oppose unskilled immigration. It’s possible to favor immigration of people who will be likely to assimilate, and whose children will stay assimilated, and oppose mass immigration by a population whose most famous mouthpiece advocates irredentist action against our country. They’re two different things.

        • Winter Shaker says:

          Being a non-USAian/a bit slow-witted this morning [delete as applicable], I don’t get your reference to the famous mouthpiece advocating irredentist action. Who is that?

          • With the thoughts you'd be thinkin says:

            He’s talking about La Raza arguing that Mexico should reconquer the lands that the US took from them militarily.

          • Zebram says:

            @With the thoughts you’d be thinkin:

            Of course, the govt of Mexico conquered that land from others. It’s not like Santa Anna and his soldiers went around buying up land. I don’t have much sympathy for the supposed crimes against their ancestors.

          • Winter Shaker says:

            Thanks; I hope I can chalk that up to me being a non-USAian; I’d never even heard of La Raza.

          • Mary says:

            Once, in a bar, a Mexican would get drunk every night and stand up to abuse the US. Over and over. Finally, an American asked him what he had against the US.

            “Are you crazy? You stole half our country! And what’s worse, you stole the half with all the paved roads!”

          • brad says:

            It’s a classic weakman reference. The mouthpiece in question is not most famous because it is particularly large or influential, it’s most famous because opponents love to bring it up over and over again to use as a cudgel. And anyway they’ve dissociated themselves from that position.

          • nydwracu says:

            I’m not talking about La Raza, although it is kind of odd that progressives are so willing to let Hispanics get away with calling their pressure group “National Council of The Race”. I’m talking about Jorge Ramos. In English, he says, “When human rights are involved, when immigration rights are involved, when discrimination and racism is involved, we, as reporters, have to take a stand”, and (about Trump) “you have to go the extra mile to be tough on those who are in power”, and he writes articles protesting that politicians aren’t being nice enough to ‘undocumented immigrants’.

            But here’s what he says when he writes in Spanish (and his book gets translated into English):

            But while no fighting is taking place on the military or legal fronts, there is fighting going on culturally. It’s the Reconquest. Latinos are culturally reconquering lands that once were part of the Spanish empire.

            If you want a tell, here’s one, at the end of that article I linked:

            Presidential candidates should keep in mind that Latino voters are well aware of the value of immigrants, legal or otherwise, in this country, and they won’t vote for anyone who attacks them. And you know that nobody gets into the White House without the Latino vote. So let’s get beyond the lies and prejudice and find an answer that will work.

            He sounds like Anil Dash there, doesn’t he? That’s the tone of someone who believes that he’s picked the winning side and it’s only a matter of time until he can finally wipe out his enemies entirely.

      • Nathan says:

        Also Marco Rubio.

    • LTP says:

      I think there is a portion of the GOP base that actually likes Trump’s vision and considers it conservative (though they are wrong about that), even though it isn’t strictly speaking conservative. Higher taxes on the rich coastal elite, don’t cut their medicare but don’t expand the welfare state to anybody else less deserving, keep foreigners out, etc.

      A kind of older white tribalism masquerading as conservatism.

      • bluto says:

        It’s the old rural populism (think William Jennings Bryan–screw the banks, ban alcohol, and he was Darrow’s opponent in the Scopes Monkey trial) that was a huge wing of US politics until most of it’s supporters preferred to align in the anti-communist coalition. The Tea party and likely Trump surprise seem to me to be their split from that coalition and reemergence as their own political force. If we get a full restructure of both coalitions, they seem like they’d mesh well with the African American vote (very similar views on many issues).

        • With the thoughts you'd be thinkin says:

          William Jennings Bryan gets a bad rap, one of the reasons he opposed evolution was his contact with German materials promoting the sort of eugenics that Hitler would become infamous for. Also the textbook from Scopes talked favourably about eugenics.

          http://www-personal.umd.umich.edu/~ppennock/doc-scopesText.htm
          https://archive.org/details/civicbiologypre00hunt

          • Addict says:

            Sounds like he has a well-deserved bad rap, then?

          • Publicola says:

            Wait, what?

            Wiliam Jennings Bryan has a bad rap, at least in part because of his vocal opposition to eugenics. And you call that “a well-deserved bad rap”?

            Just clarifying, because advocacy for eugenics (especially of the 1920’s ‘Buck v. Bell’ sort) is pretty thoroughly fringe, to say the least.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            I don’t know what Addict meant, but you cannot argue is from ought. Opposing eugenics does not make evolution false.

          • Publicola says:

            No, but opposing eugenics is plenty good enough reason to oppose the teaching of ‘Civic Biology’ (the textbook at the heart of the Scopes Trial). The state of evolutionary theory at the time of the Trial would have appalled any modern scientist. ‘Civic Biology’ in particular was best known at the time not for its advocacy of evolution, but for its advocacy of eugenics as part of its broader Social Darwinian theory of race.

        • Publicola says:

          I can see where you’re coming from, but I tend to associate the new Trump coalition with the old anti-immigration movements of the mid-1800’s, especially the ‘American Party’ (better known as the “Know-Nothing Party”) that fielded Presidential candidates in the 1852 and 1856 elections.

          That’s not just because the ‘Know-Nothings’ were anti-immigration, but also because they were strongly aligned with the Hamiltonian ‘American system’ that vocally opposed free trade and supported a much more regulated, centralized, almost neo-mercantilist structure for the US economy.

          I would argue that the intersection of these two positions has been largely drowned out in American politics — you can either be anti-immigrant or anti-free trade, but rarely will you find a candidate who’s both. That’s where a lot of Trump’s success seems to come from.

      • James D. Miller says:

        “A kind of older white tribalism masquerading as conservatism.”

        More nationalism than white tribalism. I bet Trump would do very well, for a Republican, in attracting black votes in part through his anti-immigration platform.

        • White Southerners formed the Solid South until they elected one of their own (Woodrow Wilson). Catholics then became the most Democratic group until they elected one of their own (JFK). If the patter continues we can expect a large increase in the black Republican vote.

      • blacktrance says:

        Possibly related:

        Although most Republicans say they strongly disagree with Democrats on health care, Iran and affirmative action, fewer than a quarter of Republicans strongly disagreed when those positions were presented as Trump’s. Democrats, a majority of whom said they strongly agreed with their party on health care, were less supportive when Trump was the one endorsing the policy.

        • Jeremy says:

          That poll seems misleading. The questions are phrased as

          “[John Kerry/Donald Trump] is opposed to ripping up the deal to put limits on Iran’s nuclear program and instead argues it must be strictly enforced. Do you agree or disagree with [Kerry/Trump] about the Iran deal?”

          Which is clearly a different question than what they are acting like they asked, which is

          “[John Kerry/Donald Trump] is opposed to ripping up the deal to put limits on Iran’s nuclear program and instead argues it must be strictly enforced. Do you agree?”

          Donald Trump explicitly has said that he thinks the deal is a bad deal. The poll asked if the pollee agreed with Trump “about the Iran deal” which means that answering “agree” with Donald Trump vs John Kerry is a substantially different question to anyone who has outside knowledge of their opinions.

          All of the questions in the poll have this obvious problem. The results don’t back the narrative of “people change their opinions based on who they think they are agreeing with”, but back the narrative “people have some knowledge of politicians’ views and wont tell a pollster they agree with a politician they disagree with just because they were primed with a specific quote they agree with.”

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Isn’t that the point of the article? The media is treating the two candidates similarly, not really paying attention to their policies, but vaguely assuming that anti-establishment means extreme. That Trump can’t get votes from Democrats because he is politically incorrect, not because of his policies.

      • DavidS says:

        I don’t know if it’s simply ‘politically incorrect’. If I was in the US I wouldn’t vote for him whatever his policies because he doesn’t seem serious and he seems like a bit of an angry egomaniac. And I think that politicians make shedloads of their most important decisions at a great distance from manifestoes or detailed scrutiny, so ‘try to elect a guy who isn’t a nutter’ is a major priority.

        It’s possible this is just a stylistic difference between US and UK politics, but I’ve watched e.g. the Republican debate and Trump interviews and from a distance I find the concept of him with that sort of power as genuinely a little scary.

        • Walter says:

          Eh, “Yes Minister” had the right of it. The elected officials are like mascots. G15’s get the jobs done, under court’s supervision.

          • DavidS says:

            What’s a G15?

            As someone who’s worked in the UK civil service, Ministers definitely aren’t mascots. Sure, loads happens at levels below them, but I’ve often seen civil servants say something is impossible, then next week have three alternative ways to implement it because they’ve actually been told to by a Minister.

            In terms of elected people more generally, i.e. MPs, I’m never sure what sorts of power they have. It seems to be an odd mix of ‘occasionally outright block the govt on huge things like wars’ and ‘make tiny little tweaks in legislation, whether for better or worse’. And in the UK a lot of both is actually the unelected House of Lords!

          • brad says:

            G-15 are very senior civil servants. They aren’t the top non-appointed civil servants, there’s another layer called the senior executive service, but they’re close.

            The term itself refers to a pay band:
            https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/salaries-wages/2015/general-schedule/

            I’m not positive, but I suspect we have a much deeper layer of politically appointees than the UK. There’s more than 1000 positions in the executive branch that are appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

          • DavidS says:

            Yeah, you do. A UK Govt Department has a Secretary of State and perhaps 6-10 Ministers. It’s completely separate from the permanent civil service people, who at the most senior levels will still serve whatever government’s elected.

      • Troy says:

        The polling data, though, shows that Trump’s support is not greater among people who identify as very conservative than it is among other Republicans. So he doesn’t seem to be disproportionately attracting the ideologically extreme.

    • malkav60 says:

      I don’t see how he’s remotely a man of the right except maybe his loud nationalism. Trump and Sanders almost seem like an intentional experiment to prove that “politics” isn’t about policy. Both favor protectionism, immigration restriction, high taxes on the wealth, and single payer health care. They have very similar policy goals, yet zero overlap between their fan bases. If anything their supporters come from two separate identity groups.

      • xq says:

        It’s true that both Trump and Sanders have called for increase in some taxes for the rich, but there’s a huge difference in magnitude. Sanders called for a 90% top marginal tax rate. Trump called for ending carried interest loophole. Lumping both these proposals into “high taxes on the wealth” is extremely misleading. Trump has basically right-wing economic views, though not as extreme as the rest of the Republican primary candidates. Sanders has economic views considerably to the left of the majority of Democratic politicians.

      • nydwracu says:

        Well, yeah. The election is about installing your big chimp to scare the bejeezus out of your enemies for four years, and keeping the other side’s big chimp out so as to avoid having the bejeezus scared out of you. Sanders is a literal socialist, so Fox doesn’t like him. Trump is… the histrionic studies-major sorts are actually convinced that he’s the second coming of Hitler and a major threat to the freedom of the press (which I can’t imagine anyone minding — if Trump made a campaign promise to round up every media outlet based in New York and feed all their employees to lions in Zimbabwe, he’d win in a larger landslide than Nursultan Nazarbayev), so they don’t like him. Since Fox doesn’t like Sanders, people who don’t like that sort like Sanders. Since Jayden Jingle-Jendur doesn’t like Trump, people who don’t like that sort like Trump.

        It’s the world’s biggest and shittiest team spectator sport. Where did you think the phrase “nuclear football” came from?

      • Luke Somers says:

        Trump’s policies are by far the best part about him. He’s a brash, nasty, mean person. Some people seem to like that. I don’t.

        So, it doesn’t really surprise me that Trump and Sanders have zero overlap despite there being some substantial similarities in their positions. The difference is not about their positions.

      • Walter says:

        I think its a tribal thing. He may not be a man of the right, but he’s absolutely a man of the Red. The Reddiest Red. He couldn’t be Redder if he showed up at his rallies in a monster truck and put Vince McMahon on the ticket as his VP.

      • Dain says:

        “I don’t see how he’s remotely a man of the right except maybe his loud nationalism.”

        That has a “Apart from that, Ms. Lincoln…” quality to it, especially if you’re on the left.

    • Simon says:

      Donald Trump is basically one of those national-populist conservatives who have become so popular here in Continental Europe over the last 15 years, only adapting that ideology to the context of US political culture instead which results in not being that easy to recognize as quite the same program. See also the French National Front, the Danish People’s Party, the National Democratic Party in Germany et cetera.

      The entire combination of welfare state economics with hardline nationalist moral values is probably harder to sell to an Anglo-Saxon audience, because of how often it comes across as vaguely fascist. (a parallel that has not been lost on many Europeans either, though)

      • Bettega says:

        “National-populist conservatives” have been popular in Europe for longer than that. Have you ever heard of Charles de Gaulle or Konrad Adenauer, or do you think they were fascists? Even Swedish social democracy was once called “Folkhemmet”, the people’s home, with obvious nationalist connotations.

        • Simon says:

          I’m under the impression Adenauer, De Gaulle etc- were more part of the established traditional right wing, whose drift away from communitarianism to Chicago School libertarian economics in the 1970s the national populists I described earlier then emerged in opposition to. Ironically enough, the Danish National Party/Front National brand of conservatism is a very new phenomenon then, as it’s also a gap on the right they are filling.

          Sorry I did not make that clearer.

    • Troy says:

      I don’t agree that Trump is a man of the right. Restricting illegal immigration is not obviously a right-wing position. Trump came out against cutting Social Security and Medicare, and seems to favor a left-wing view of managed trade, and he is not framing himself as the candidate of god. He also came out for higher taxes on hedge fund employees. Trump is positioning himself as a policy moderate to win the general election, and as a style-radical to win the Republican primary.

      I came to the comments to say almost exactly the same thing. IIRC polling data shows that Trump is doing about equally well among most ideological camps in the Republican party (“very conservative,” “conservative,” “moderate”). Support for Trump is better predicted by demography than ideology — in particular, he’s very well-supported by lesser-educated working white voters (especially males), partly for his anti-immigration stance and partly because of his style and disdain for political correctness. Meanwhile, on my Facebook feed, which is primarily populated by very well-educated whites, no one can say a nice word about Trump.

    • AlexanderRM says:

      …dang, that’s beautiful. Trump gets to be seen as far-right by the Republican base without actually holding many right positions, by being extremely loud about the ones he does and getting the Left to attack him; if the Left hates him everyone assumes he must be a good conservative.

      On the other hand I don’t think it’s his deliberate strategy to win the general election; see the bit above where getting the Left (and I’m assuming anyone to whom “the left hates him” isn’t a ringing endorsement, so most moderates) to hate him is a vital part of the strategy.

  8. A question that occurred to me: does this mean that what many consider the foundation of successful modern Western democracy – the identification of the population with a single identity, with democratic governance acting as a way to navigate internal differences within this group – is breaking down as this ‘central identity’ no longer exists?

    In Charles Murray’s book ‘Coming Apart’, he recounts how, up until around the 60s, the daily lives and practices of the elites/liberals/urbanites were not qualitatively different from those of other Americans. There might be regional differences, but the phenomenon of people living lives so different that they might as well be from different countries is a new one, perhaps only one to two generations old. He recounts how, even at Harvard, the students ate pretty much what the common people did, and the distinctions so visible today – cupcakes/quinoa/soymilk lattes at a nice local coffeeshop/Whole Foods versus steak/potatoes/McDonalds/Walmart – were absent. So even if Harvard and the backwaters of Appalachia diverged wildly in their beliefs, they didn’t diverge so much in the actual practice of their daily lives, thus being members of a single group, and therefore making it possible for them to be part of a single democratic polity. Suspicion: it is when the practices/actual lives of the groups diverged that it became impossible for one to identify with the other, because identity has much more to do with lived lives than professed beliefs.

    The existence of tribal groups and their power bases has been an exacerbating factor, perhaps even the causal factor, for the breakdown of democracies elsewhere in the world.

    Perhaps it was inevitable, with the decline of a mass media that kept all discourse strictly within a very narrow spectrum of ‘acceptable’ opinion, that the ‘central’ American identity would fade or split into multiple identities that are really different. (Looking back, the pre-internet era feels positively dystopian to me now, and I have no wish to return to it.)

    What do others think of this thesis? How do you think things will play out?

    • LTP says:

      I think Charles Murray’s account is really romanticized and not convincing. Yes, the elites were less conspicuous in their consumption, and maybe they were less likely to live in enclaves of their tribes, but American society of the past was incredibly elitist and divided in other ways. The elite consumed media that nobody else did to a greater extent than today, like humanities writing out of academia, high-brow novels, opera, theater, etc. They also had a very different and exclusive education that involved a great deal of impractical knowledge for the purposes of signalling, like latin and greek, extremely detailed knowledge of history both artistic and political, etc.

      There was also a lot of division and tribalism, just on different lines. There was greater segregation along ethnic lines even among white ethnic groups, and non-whites were just straight-up excluded from this supposed consensus. And, of course, women were excluded largely, as well. So were non-religious people. Etc.

      And if you go back further in American history to the guilded age, there was arguably even more segregation between classes then as there is today.

      • Publius Varinius says:

        Why do you think that detailed knowledge of Greek, Latin and history had no use apart from signalling?

        Books published before ~1750 are mostly in Latin. Many books had no national-language alternatives before the 20th century. Latin was the sole official language of the Austrian empire until 1847.

        An excellent knowledge of world history was, and still is, extremely useful for people involved with international diplomacy.

        • LTP says:

          I’m not saying they’re worthless, I’m a big believer in the humanities personally, but I do think making those sorts of things standard education for the elite from a young age regardless of their life paths was primarily about social signalling. Most of them would never use the information. And, I think the value in history is the gestalts obtained from knowing the big picture of it, not knowing random names and dates and battles off the top of your head.

          • Addict says:

            You’re simply wrong as a simple matter of fact. If you learned Latin, it meant you could interact with people from other parts of Christendom. Latin, then (after Richlieu) French, served not as a foppish way to demonstrate your expensive education, but instead as the De Facto language of Europe’s diplomatical and political scene. If you didn’t learn Latin (or, later on, French) then you were a peasant, not in that you lack the means to signal an expensive education, but in that you can’t communicate with people too far away from your home village and dialect.

          • LTP says:

            See, that may have been true in the past, but was that still true in the early 20th century, when they were still standard for elite education? Not really. Maybe you needed know some French, but the dead languages were really dead by that time.

          • Deiseach says:

            Well, the dead languages may have been really dead by the early 20th century, but a foundation of Latin (with or without Greek) was still helpful in medicine, law and science; at the very least it means you can read the following not as “Triangle equals” but “delta” and understand where it comes from:

            Δ = b^2 – 4ac

            Where do we get the “haem” in “haemophiliac”? Why does a phlebotomist phleb*? 🙂

            (*They don’t, they tomise!)

          • Good Burning Plastic says:

            @Deiseach:

            I know all of those things even though I never studied Greek and know pretty much f— all about Greek grammar.

      • Dahlen says:

        The “guilded” age is much more a feature of European history, I’m afraid, and you’d have to go pretty damn far back for it. The word you were looking for is “gilded”.

      • Dain says:

        “They also had a very different and exclusive education that involved a great deal of impractical knowledge for the purposes of signalling, like latin and greek, extremely detailed knowledge of history both artistic and political, etc.”

        Murray’s point is that the lower class of old sought to emulate that, to the degree they could (e.g purchasing an encyclopedia set from a traveling salesman), because there was a cultural consensus that bourgeois habits were a good thing.

    • Zebram says:

      That’s a good question. It reminds me of the show ‘Family Ties’. The parents were very liberal, but they all prayed grace to the same god at Thanksgiving. Surely everyone believing the same god who created them for some purpose, for example, reduces some animosity between people than between people who believe in a god and those who don’t. Now, that’s just yet another fundamental difference that exists between the two camps.

    • nydwracu says:

      A question that occurred to me: does this mean that what many consider the foundation of successful modern Western democracy – the identification of the population with a single identity, with democratic governance acting as a way to navigate internal differences within this group – is breaking down as this ‘central identity’ no longer exists?

      None of the current Supreme Court justices are from an inland state. Only one is not from either New York, New Jersey, or California. All of them went to either Harvard, Yale, or Princeton. And none are Protestant.

      This is a recent development.

      • Mike says:

        This is something I notice all the time in editorials on education and inequality and the availability of upward mobility.

        Where I live (the midwest) very few people plan on going to an elite college. Most go to a state school, some to a regional private school. Their goals are getting a solid job, for the most part. Political power beyond the local isn’t usually considered

        In the editorials I read (all from Ivy league grads) the attitude seems to be that you need to get into a top school direct from poverty to attain equality. Which is definitely true if you want to be a mover and shaker in their world — as your supreme court example demonstrates. But if you just want a good job or even a decent research position it’s a very colloquial opinion.

    • Adam Casey says:

      I would like to bring the UK to your attention. We’ve got class divisions so deep and so old they make the America look like a communist utopia.

      It’s not that the rich eat different food. The upper and middle classes here have different names, shop in different places, go to different kinds of school at every level, have different accents, vote differently, care about different things, play different sports etc etc etc. And so have their ancestors for hundreds of years.

      I notice our democracy works out pretty ok. Because sure the working class are Not Our Sort, but they’re not alien. They have different subcultures, but they’re of the same culture. We’re all unoffensive Church Of England types, all speak English, all watch the BBC.

      If anything I expect the breakdown in American identity to be about race. It’s much much easier for a upper/middle class American to feel that black/hispanic people are in a real sense alien than to feel that the poor are.

      • LeeEsq says:

        I am currently reading David Kynaston’s mammoth multivolume social history of the United Kingdom between Atlee and Thatcher. What is really striking about is how the United Kingdom of 1950 seemed to be a lot closer to the United Kingdom of 1900 than the United States of 1950 did to the United States of 1900 despite all the massive social, economic, and lifestyle changes between 2015 or even 2000 and 1950. A lot of the deep class divisions and arcane cultural institutions of the United Kingdom of 1900 seem to be still going strong in 1950 UK. In contrast, the 1950 United States seems to have nothing in common with 1900 United States. Even movies and other media from around the same time show this.

        • Adam Casey says:

          Part of this is the US just has much less history I think. I’m culrurally aware of details of Victorian history, and Tudor history. It seems that would be weird to have as background cultural knowledge in the US.

      • ryan says:

        I think you’ve pretty much got it. It was obvious to Malcolm X that “the American people” were not a polity in the literal sense. There was a white nation and a black nation. The whole thing is a great read:

        http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtid=3&psid=3619

        Here’s a key quote:

        In this deceitful American game of power politics, the Negroes (i.e., the race problem, the integration and civil rights issues) are nothing but tools, used by one group of whites called Liberals against another group of whites called Conservatives, either to get into power or to remain in power. Among whites here in America, the political teams are no longer divided into Democrats and Republicans. The whites who are now struggling for control of the American political throne are divided into “liberal” and “conservative” camps. The white liberals from both parties cross party lines to work together toward the same goal, and white conservatives from both parties do likewise.

        The white liberal differs from the white conservative only in one way: the liberal is more deceitful than the conservative. The liberal is more hypocritical than the conservative. Both want power, but the white liberal is the one who has perfected the art of posing as the Negro’s friend and benefactor; and by winning the friendship, allegiance, and support of the Negro, the white liberal is able to use the Negro as a pawn or tool in this political “football game” that is constantly raging between the white liberals and white conservatives.

        Politically the American Negro is nothing but a football and the white liberals control this mentally dead ball through tricks of tokenism: false promises of integration and civil rights. In this profitable game of deceiving and exploiting the political politician of the American Negro, those white liberals have the willing cooperation of the Negro civil rights leaders. These “leaders” sell out our people for just a few crumbs of token recognition and token gains. These “leaders” are satisfied with token victories and token progress because they themselves are nothing but token leaders.

        In 20 years when white British liberals are using Muslims as a political football perhaps you will remember reading this.

        • This quote confirms my feeling that Malcolm X was the real hero of the civil rights movement, in every way to be preferred to that quisling Pharisee MLK.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            I’m not sure that’s entirely fair. I’ve always felt that they were, purposefully or not, a bit of a tag-team. MLK could basically point at Malcom X and say, “You can deal with me, or you can deal with him.” And when MLK’s approach wasn’t cutting it, Malcom X made a great attention-getter.

            That being said, I completely agree, for whatever my Midwestern white-boy opinion is worth, that Malcom X had a lot more to do with actual advancements in civil rights than MLK.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          The difference being, radical Muslims are not going to be content with being a mere football: they’re going to get in some kicks of their own. Putting a leash on a vicious dog is hazardous but doable. Trying to put a leash on a rabid one will just get you killed.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        If anything I expect the breakdown in American identity to be about race. It’s much much easier for a upper/middle class American to feel that black/hispanic people are in a real sense alien than to feel that the poor are.

        Exactly. Americans might think we Brits are obsessed with class, but it seems (to me at least) that America is at least equally obsessed with race. For example, I can’t imagine a website like Stuff White People Like originating in the UK, and Americans seem much more interested in tracing their racial pedigrees (“Oh yeah, I’m Irish-American, my ancestors came over in the 1860s”) than British people are.

        • Adam Casey says:

          >For example, I can’t imagine a website like Stuff White People Like originating in the UK,

          Quite. I mean we have that site here, but it’s called Things Guardian Readers Like or Things Middle Class People Like if you’re feeling less subtle.

        • Steve Johnson says:

          You’re missing the joke.

          Stuff white people like is about class and what separates good white people – like those in Brooklyn who read the NY Times – from the evil white people – who like NASCAR.

          Calling it stuff white people like is a barb at the first group – who use the adjective “white” only as an insult.

  9. LTP says:

    I also think Trump is a consequence of the modern, internet-based world we live in. In the past, national politicians had to clear a number of elitist, establishment hurdles to even be able to be candidates, get the nomination, raise enough money to be viable, and get enough media coverage to even be in the national consciousness. The base didn’t matter very much. They had to be satisfied *just enough* that they wouldn’t jumps ship in the general election. Fourty years ago, to be a viable Presidential candidate, you had to impress union leaders, business leaders, party leaders in smoke-filled rooms who could sink your candidacy through their influence of convention delegates (who were more than a formality, at the time), newspaper editors, TV anchors, the patriarchs of old rich families in the northeast, and so on. Further, you had to be embedded in the establishment enough and well-regarded by the establishment enough to even get access to theses people.

    Now, with the rise of the fragmented internet media, you can be a viable candidate even if everybody in the establishment hates you. You can gain direct access to people through the internet and anti-establishment news sources. The masses, and the party bases, now control the elections as the elites’ influence has dramatically waned. The bases don’t want to be, from their perspective, taken advantage of like they had in years past. The Labour party leadership election is similar, they’re just a bit behind the US because UK politics are structurally more elitist than US politics, but the same trend in manifesting. Obama himself, as well as Bernie Sanders, Rick Santorum in 2012, Mike Huckabee in 2008, and Howard Dean in 2004, are all examples of this. Trump is merely this current trend taken to its most extreme and logical conclusion.

    In many ways, modern politics are becoming more populist and personal, and now resemble elections of old when countries and cities were so much smaller. In US history, you might think of Andrew Jackson. Or, to go back further, think of the elections in the Late Roman republic. The establishment is the old patrician families in Rome, Obama may be somebody like Cicero, who was an outsider in some ways but still cushy with the establishment in others, while Trump may be a Catilina, a true outsider appealing to populist impulses for his own personal power (this analogy breaks down a bit, as Roman politics of that time were way more personally violent, but you get the idea).

  10. Publius Varinius says:

    “So it might just mean the British Left was really really far left for a long time and nobody noticed before this. “

    It’s just this. It’s been noticed, too: Lord Ashcroft called it well before the general election.

  11. Jeff H says:

    “The left is getting leftier.”

    On social issues, maybe, but otherwise it seems to me all the momentum is rightward. On the economy, I don’t see a lot of daylight between Obama and Bush. On foreign policy, Clinton seems pretty close to the median Republican candidate of the last decade or so.

    • LTP says:

      Well, there’s Bernie Sanders.

      I think most of the rightward movement of the US left on economic policy happened in the late-80s and 90s, before moving slightly leftward in the late-aughts and continuing to slowly drift leftward. Imagine the “99% vs. 1%” rhetoric coming from the mouth of Al Gore circa 2000, or even John Kerry circa 2004. It’s unthinkable.

      Also, I think even if you believe the gap isn’t huge, the middle is hollowed out anyway, which is polarization of another kind.

      • Zebram says:

        I don’t know if that’s correct. I recall John Edwards clearly talking about ‘two Americas’ all the time. Al Gore also kept referencing ‘tax cuts for the 1%’ repeatedly in the debates.

        • A Definite Beta Guy says:

          Let’s not forget John Kerry referring to outsourcing as “Benedict Arnold CEOs.” Every major corporate leader was literally characterized as a traitor.

    • E. Harding says:

      Read 1990s Paul Krugman sometime. Also, remember when the NYT opposed the minimum wage and amnesty? 100% of the momentum of the Left is leftward.

    • xq says:

      Really? Obama passed PPACA, the largest social program in 40 years. He also passed a large stimulus, bailed out the auto industry, and increased taxes on the rich by getting rid of part of the Bush tax cuts. Bush wouldn’t have done any of that. Of course, during most of his term congress was controlled by Republicans, so his ability to act on the economy was limited. Even when Democrats controlled congress, he needed every Democrat to pass anything, so the limit on legislation was set not by him but by the most conservative Democrat. So his accomplishments actually understate the gap.

      Bush tried to privatize social security.

      I think there’s quite a bit of daylight between Obama/Clinton and the Republicans.

      • Sam says:

        You misspelled “Obamacare” as “PPACA”. I think PPACA is some sort of South American camelid?

      • Adam says:

        Is this a joke? Bush passed TARP, then Obama passed ARRA. Bush passed Medicare Part D, then Obama passed PPACA. Bush took over education with No Child Left Behind, then Obama took over automaking (for a few years anyway).

        Obama arguably would have been tremendously different from Bush if Congress hadn’t stopped him, but to at least some extent, that’s kind of the point of Congress, isn’t it? They smooth out the differences between executives.

  12. Steve Johnson says:

    Your analysis hinges on the premise that there are really two sides and that the Republican party actually does want to do things that their base wants – they just have to compromise to achieve anything.

    That is not borne out by reality.

    The reality is that progressives have intentionally revamped the economy and demographics of the country to attain more clients. This is an inevitable outcome in a democratic state. If every vote is equal then the degenerate solution is to simply buy cheap votes. When you’re done buying all the cheap votes you can you import cheaper voters.

    Perhaps it will help to imagine government as an AI that has hacked it’s fitness function. It will keep doing what it needs to do to ensure that there is no interference from the voters. Republicans have picked up on the pattern. Either they get to vote against progressive policies or voting is useless and they’ll have to act accordingly – because progressivism can never stop.

    The other aspect is that there are plenty of people who can see that only the total ruin of the nation is at the end of that road but everyone is trapped in a defect equilibrium. If you notice that importing millions of Mexicans and Chinese and Indians is a long term disaster for the country you still don’t speak up or do anything to stop it because it’s in your short term interest to not get called out from the herd as a “racist”. Trump is a coordination point for these people.

    • DavidS says:

      Intentionally is quite a strong claim here, especially as the benefit to the actual people involved from doing this is unclear at best. Have you got evidence of this being intentional?

        • DavidS says:

          That doesn’t say ‘the left wanted immigrants to vote for them’ it says ‘the left wanted immigrants because they saw multiculturalism as a Good Thing, and possibly to piss off their political opponents’.

          Thanks for the link, though: I’ve seen the ‘rub their noses in diversity’ countless times but never with the actual source. It’s not a great source, mind.

          “I remember coming away from some discussions with the clear sense that the policy was intended – even if this wasn’t its main purpose – to rub the Right’s nose in diversity and render their arguments out of date.”

          ‘coming away from discussions with the sense’ is massively open to this person being opposed to them (or for that matter a fanatic in favour) and getting the wrong end of the stick.

          • Randy M says:

            If true, it is indicative that one side sees importing masses of foreign people as a tool to cause harm or at least discomfort to their political opposition.

            “Thanks for the link, though”
            Don’t thank me, thank Google! tm

          • DavidS says:

            Eh. I would be surprised if policies that parties supported weren’t often accompanied by some comments of how this will put their opponents in an awkward situation. Its been pretty clear that even with things like deciding to take military action, though (hopefully) I think the decision isn’t driven by this, people are conscious of the political effect and try to use it. Not great, but maybe inevitable.

    • Dues says:

      In that case shouldn’t the republican position be to get more immigrants from countries like China, which have lots of conservatives and less from liberal countries like Mexico? Or is there a perception that conservatives are more nationalistic, so only the liberals will emigrate?

      • Randy M says:

        Is China more conservative than Mexico? Do Chinese politics line up closely enough with ours to tell? In any event, I don’t think it is ideological, so much as “immigrants will vote for the party most free with citizenship and social benefits” and it’s quite hard to out play the democrats there, at least credibly.
        Also, the left owns the racism weapon. See Jason Richwine; not directly what you are suggesting, but I suspect Republicans worry about suggesting some countries are preferable to others in any way.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Indeed, there is a history of refugees from communist regimes being admitted by Republicans and subsequently voting Republican. Most famously the Cubans in Florida, but also southeast Asians in California, especially the Hmong.

        • Bettega says:

          Only for a few generations though, before their grandchildren with no memory of expropriation enter universities and are radicalized by their professors.

          • Hanfeizi says:

            I don’t think being “radicalized by their professors” is as big a factor as the end of the Cold War. Asian populations who were refugees from and were resisting communism were a pretty Republican block. Given how heavily evangelical many of these immigrant populations tend to still be (as the spouse of a Chinese immigrant, we, despite both being non-religious, tend to find ourselves spending a lot of time in the company of Chinese evangelical Christians- because “join the church” tends to be what they do right after they apply for a green card), this seems like a natural base to cultivate for the Republican party.

          • Muga Sofer says:

            At that point, I would assume the immigrants have “assimilated” and more must be imported.

    • Buckyballas says:

      I’m with DavidS. Last I checked, progressives were trying to make poor people less poor through government intervention, not make more poor people to get votes. We should also distinguish between progressive politicians and progressive nonpoliticians (who don’t care quite as much about getting votes), although even so, I seriously doubt there is some progressive politician conspiracy designed to make more poor people so that they can give them money and get more votes. Perhaps this is happening as a side effect of progressive policies, but “intentionally” is probably not accurate. I think “inevitable” and “progressivism can never stop” might also be overselling your case a bit.

      • The original justification of the War on Poverty was that it was supposed to get people permanently out of poverty. It failed to do so (see Murray’s _Losing Ground_ for supporting details), and ended up as a program to make being poor less unpleasant. A cynical (possibly too cynical) interpretation of that is that the objective was to create a permanent underclass dependent on government handouts.

        If you look at data on the U.S. poverty rate, definition held constant, the pattern is pretty striking. The rate was falling from the end of WWII to about the point at which the War on Poverty got fully staffed and funded, has been roughly constant, going up and down with economic conditions, since then.

  13. Galle says:

    Honestly, I think Nate Silver’s explanation is pretty solid and born out by the evidence thus far – Trump is doing well because he’s great at drawing attention to himself, and in this state of the campaign most polling goes to the candidate who most distinguishes themselves from the pack. There’s about twenty people running for the Republican nomination – how many can you actually name?

    (also, being wildly despised isn’t as big of a factor, because the people who will never vote for you haven’t agreed who they WILL vote for yet)

    Silver predicted a while back that Trump would make it at least as far as November if he could keep media attention on himself, and has since said that Trump is “running a perpetual attention machine”. So he seems on track to me.

    (Admittedly, my opinion of this is probably influenced by the fact that it’s Nate Silver.)

    • Vaniver says:

      There’s about twenty people running for the Republican nomination – how many can you actually name?

      Trump, Bush, Walker, Cruz, Christie, Carson, Fioriana, and Kasich. I think I hit most of the ones that poll above 5%.

      This is one of the perks of having conservative friends on Facebook; despite seeking out no election-related materials myself, I have a background awareness of campaign happenings.

      • Alejandro says:

        Per the latest RealClearPolitics average, you missed only Rubio amond the 5%+ set (he is at 6%, above Walker, Floriana and Kasich). On the other hand Christie is doing worse than you think, tied with Paul at 2.8%.

        FWIW, I agree with Silver’s and Galle’s diagnosis. Trump will fade once the Establishment settles on a candidate (Bush, Rubio, Walker or Kasich) and whoever they choose starts pouring money into attack ads and campaign infrastructure.

        • Walter says:

          Attack adds are the wrong way to hurt Trump, in my opinion. Then again, perhaps I just haven’t seen the right one.

          I think the way you kill Trump is by having the establishment men fight among themselves, try and draw the reporters away from him. Media attention is his oxygen, crimp the tube.

          • Galle says:

            Really, the way you fight against Trump is to just clear out the playing field a bit. There’s an enormous “oh god, not Trump, how can you possibly be serious” vote that’s currently split over all the other candidates.

          • Paul Torek says:

            What Galle said. The point is borne out by the previous Republican primary, albeit that one had an ever-changing lead candidate, before settling on the establishment choice.

  14. Sniffnoy says:

    The liberal media has important-looking people coming on in suits saying it’s a national embarrassment that anyone could vote for Trump. But in signaling terms, what they’re unintentionally saying is “Moderates hate this guy! He’s too politically incorrect to win over Democrats! Only vote for him if you’re a real Republican.” And Republicans are eating it up. It doesn’t even matter that he’s not that conservative in real life, the media has conducted his campaign for him.

    Tangential, but interestingly, (Democrat) Claire McCaskill did this deliberately with (Republican) Todd Akin so that he would win the Republican primary, so that she would have an easy opponent in the general.

    Although people are now claiming that parts of this violated campaign finance laws, so it might turn out that this is not an example to imitate.

  15. Azure says:

    I’m at a loss to think how the Left is getting Leftier. The most ‘Lefty’ thing Obama can be credited with is the Affordable Care Act, which isn’t a very ‘left’ approach to health care reform at all. It could have just as easily been a republic plan ten years ago. And Clinton wasn’t particularly ‘Left’ either.

    The only cultural shifts to the ‘Left’ that I can really think of are ones that the average Libertarian would get behind. Like “Let’s not put people in jail for smoking pot.” and “Perhaps we shouldn’t have so many people in jail /at all/ or for nearly as long.” and “How about if we think people who want to have sex with each other doing so is a good thing and don’t discourage them and let them get married if they want to.”

    I think there’s certainly a large amount of discontent, but the ‘left’ has mostly managed to get people to agree that declining standards of living are a problem that people ought to do something about, rather than crystalizing various dogmata that peopel are rallying around the way the right has with the focus on Illegal Immigration and Don’t Raise Taxes.

    • E. Harding says:

      “We are the 99%!”

      “Fight for $15!”

      “Abolish discrimination against homosexuals, transgenders, and various other sexual orientations, thereby supporting the imprisonment of anti-homosexual bakers and photographers!”

      “Looting and arson is justified!”

      “Let’s subsidize out-of-wedlock births!”

      “Mandatory paid maternity leave!”

      “End all gender disparities!”

      “Rape culture!”

      “Picoaggressions!”

      “Donald Tokowitz!”

      “I think there’s certainly a large amount of discontent, but the ‘left’ has mostly managed to get people to agree that declining standards of living are a problem that people ought to do something about”
      -Where, Madagascar? Syria? Libya? Iraq? Yemen? The CAR? Haven’t heard support of doing anything about those from the political wing of the Left. The idea declining standards of living are a problem in America is laughable.

    • Zebram says:

      Quick correction: The libertarian position on marriage is not really to legalize gay marriage, but to have a complete separation of state and marriage. People will go to their church or lawyer and get a private marriage contract, and give it whatever significance they feel like.

      • Richard Gadsden says:

        Would that mean that sex clauses are no longer unconscionable in contracts?

        Because otherwise, adultery wouldn’t be breach of contract.

        • Zebram says:

          Correct. You could include an adultery clause if you wanted as long as it is mutually agreed to.

        • Muga Sofer says:

          I get the impression most libertarians are OK with prostitution. That may be some unknowable sampling bias, though.

      • walpolo says:

        This is still a lot closer to the progressive view than the conservative one.

      • Azure says:

        I always liked that idea, myself. It always struck me as a weird anachronism that the government even has an institution of ‘marriage’.

        • Zebram says:

          Well, if you go to Raw Story and post that there, you’ll be met with charges of being a complete idiot for that point of view. They literally believe there would be ‘chaos’ if the govt did not define marriage to stop ‘kooky’ people from defining it however they wish.

        • Deiseach says:

          Several reasons why government gets involved; one reason is via the law courts, because when people fall out of looooooveeeee, they immediately lawyer up and want all their share of money, property, child custody, etc. This means laws have to be interpreted and new laws made, e.g. palimony – what happens when two cohabitants split up?

          Varying forms of marriage (X and Y got married in church, A and B jumped the broom, C and D underwent soul-bonding in a former life) competing for recognition – it’s a lot easier to draw up a civil form and say “Okay, you want to be recognised as a married couple, everybody has to do this. Any other ceremonies you want to undergo, that’s your private business.”

          A claims B married her, then deserted her and now she’s destitute with a child to support, make him take her back as his legal wife. B claims they were never married, they only lived together, and whatever private ceremony they underwent was not real marriage. Again, it’s easier to make a ruling that “if it happens in this building with this form of words, we recognise it as a legal marriage”.

          Who is next of kin – the person you are in a sexual/romantic relationship with, or your family by blood? Gets important when fighting over child custody, hospital visitation rights, rights to leave property in a will, etc. Government rules that if you’re married, your spouse is your next of kin, makes it clearer.

          Tax credits for married people were to do with the financial burden of raising a family, because even today, if children are involved and the parents can’t or won’t support them, that falls on the state (again, because in former times, before the state took on the responsibility, it was my babe lies cold within my arms and none will take me in).

    • TrivialGravitas says:

      The problem is you’re conflating Obama and The Left. There’s two kinds of partisans, the kind who support the party, no matter what the party says (see: republicans who support universal healthcare is you frame the question as ‘trump has supported universal healthcare in the past…’, and democrats who *stop* supporting it when framed that way), and there’s the kind that actually care about the stuff the party is trying to sell.

      The latter kind HATE Obama, they’ve hated him since late 2009 or so. Some of it’s because he failed to do things he made genuine attempts at (closing Guantamo), some of its because he played himself up as the progressive alternative when he wasn’t ever really that. When I was more active in traditional politics active I regularly came across literature like ‘a list of x ways Obama is the same as Bush’.

      • CatCube says:

        It’s the same thing with G.W. Bush and conservatives–the best that could be said for the man is that he was a little to the right of center.

    • Dain says:

      “The only cultural shifts to the ‘Left’ that I can really think of are ones that the average Libertarian would get behind.”

      Exactly, but libertarians aren’t really conservative. The ONLY thing makes them so is the free market angle. They’re on the liberal spectrum, will gladly tell you this, and feel and behave as if the people they need to persuade are leftists who simply have a blindspot where economics is concerned.

      It took me cruising the internet for years to see that the mainstream had in fact drifted pretty far left. That the only respectable rightist in mainstream circles is libertarian, i.e. pro social liberalism but through “classical” liberal means.

      Of course as far as public perception goes, libertarians ARE conservative, because progressives rule, dislike free markets, and have been able to define the broad and heterodox views they’re not terribly familiar with as a big ol’ conservative opposition.

  16. Max says:

    Losing an election isn’t nearly as painful for voters as it is for the political professionals.

  17. Sebastian says:

    “Some of the MPs who signed off on his candidacy request forms said they did it because they figured it wouldn’t matter one way or the other so they might as well make him happy.”

    I think that’s a slightly odd way of putting it – I think the phrasing was always something like “to broaden the debate”, which I think was at least to some extent an acknowledgement that all the other candidates were towards the right of the party, and it might be good to have some balance.

  18. Nathan says:

    If Scott’s hypothesis is right and Trump and Corbyn are both part of a larger trend, we should be seeing new non establishment parties and candidates attracting significant support around the world. Do we?

    The answer is a clear yes. Just a handful of examples: Five Star Movement in Italy. Podemos in Spain. UKIP in the UK. Syria in Greece. Here in Australia at our last federal election we elected senators from the libertarian, Palmer United, Family First, and Motoring Enthusiasts parties.

    Some of these are very left, some are very right, some are weird populist billionaires with opinions that fall all over the political spectrum (That’s right: there is in fact an Australian version of Donald Trump). But what’s consistent is that the vote share for the old established candidates and parties is on the decline everywhere.

    • Pku says:

      Doesn’t seem to be happening so much in Israel – Netanyahu seems to win repeatedly mostly because he’s the establishment candidate.

      • Nathan says:

        Arguably Israel is way out in front of this trend. It’s not like Likud ever gets anything close to a majority in its own right.

      • Evan Þ says:

        Alternatively, having a very close and undeniable foreign threat focuses the debate.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I was reluctant to use those examples, because a lot of them seem more like “Southern Europe is screwed, therefore elect crazy demagogues.”

      • Richard Gadsden says:

        UKIP in UK, True Finns, Danish People’s Party, PVV in Netherlands, AfD in Germany. None of which are in Southern Europe, nor in countries that are screwed.

        Here in the UK, the mainstream third party collapsed at the last election, losing 15% of the vote. The mainstream first and second parties put their combined vote share up for the first time since 1992. By 1.5%.

        The long-term downward trend is pretty obvious:

        https://britdemocracy.files.wordpress.com/2015/06/graph1.jpg

        • John says:

          In fairness, that mainstream third party collapsed for an extremely good reason. They ran mostly on a lefter-than-Labour platform, and won enough seats to be very nearly in a kingmaker position. They then proceeded to spend five years in formal coalition with the Conservatives, doing very little for any leftist cause and enabling almost all of the government’s worst excesses. (Google ATOS assessments if you feel like getting depressed.)

          For good measure, in their election campaign they did particularly well out of students – a lot of students volunteered for them, and they won a lot of student-heavy constituencies. As a central plank of their election campaign, each of their candidates signed personal pledges to abolish tuition fees for university students. One of the first things they did after winning the election was to triple tuition fees from £3,000 per year to £9,000 per year. It came out later that even during the campaign they’d planned to drop that promise at the first sign of coalition negotiations.

          Basically, it turns out that it *is* possible for a politician to lie so much that people stop voting for them. It just takes a lot of effort.

          (Why yes, I did vote for them in 2010 and I am bitter, why do you ask?)

          • Deiseach says:

            Basically, it turns out that it *is* possible for a politician to lie so much that people stop voting for them. It just takes a lot of effort.

            Oh, yeah. I can’t face voting in the next election for my own party, and I thought up to the previous election that I was hardened to the rampant corruption, cronyism and blackguardism in it. But their (lack of) handling of the banking collapse and the revelations of exactly how much they were screwing the country made a lot of people angry, angry enough to hammer them in the election.

            Now we’re coming up to a new election, and I still can’t bring myself to vote for them, but there is no way I can vote for the Shower Currently In Power and Labour, who would have been my second choice after my original party, have been just that tiny bit too brazen about how the sausage is made (Isn’t that what you tend to do during an election? – not so much what he said, which is amenable to reasonable interpretation, as his delivery “Well, duh, you tell the rubes what you think will make them vote for you”) for me to trust them.

            So it’s genuinely looking like Sinn Féin or no-one, unless some fringe party representative pops up out of nowhere 🙁

            Cheer up, John: you only got burned with the Lib Dems, we got burned with the Greens and then Labour going into coalition with majority centre-right parties and tamely rolling over at their master’s voice to do what they were told by the senior party.

          • “Don’t vote. It only encourages them.”

          • Sylocat says:

            And Syriza accomplished all that in less than a year. Wow.

    • Publius Varinius says:

      Syria in Greece.

      Oh boy, Freud would love this! You mean Syriza, right?

    • David Barry says:

      Here in Australia at our last federal election we elected senators from the libertarian, Palmer United, Family First, and Motoring Enthusiasts parties.

      Really only Palmer should be included here (though he’s a worthy inclusion as anti-establishment, especially as you mention as a parallel to Trump). The Family First and Motoring Senators were only elected because of the Senate group voting tickets, and neither has much support amongst voters themselves. The libertarian Senator did literally get 9% of the vote in New South Wales, but he had first position on an absurdly large ballot paper; I expect that at the next election the LDP will go back to polling its usual 2-3% (as they got in other states, without a super-favourable ballot draw), half of whom are confused Liberal voters.

      • Nathan says:

        It’s true that the micro-parties don’t get much vote individually. However group voting tickets have been in place for a long time. They’ve only started electing these outsider groups because the total outsider vote has grown so much.

        In the 1993 election, the Liberal/National coalition and the ALP collectively secured close to 90% of the Senate vote. in 2013 that had shrunk to 68% (and less than 50% in the WA rerun). Our electoral system distorts things of course, but the drift away from the major parties is real.

    • Zakharov says:

      The libertarian got elected because people confused “liberal democratic party” (libertarian) for “liberal party” (conservative, aren’t Australian party names great?); the motoring guy got elected entirely by accident thanks to a quirk of preferences.

      • James Picone says:

        And Palmer United is mostly a Queensland farmer protest vote because they hate fracking and the Liberal/National Party is fine with it (and Palmer isn’t).

      • Quite a long time ago there was an Australian libertarian party called “The Workers Party.” Which might have confused some people.

  19. Ever An Anon says:

    Trump is ahead because he’s an ideal protest vote. I’m still registered as a Democrat so I can’t vote in the Republican primary, but if he makes it to the general election I would gladly break my vow of non-voting so that I could give the ultimate middle finger to everyone in Washington.

    Let’s be real, Trump is not a conservative of any flavor. He is a clown, he knows that he’s a clown, and his supporters damn well know it too. But so were the last three or four consecutive Presidents. At least he’d be an entertaining one. I’d love to see his version of dodging shoes or playing semantics over the definition of the word “is.”

    I think a lot of us used to be proud of America and would like that feeling back, but realistically it’s not on the table. So why not at least stick it to the people responsible?

    • Scott Alexander says:

      People have always thought the world was going to hell. Why are protest votes more popular now?

      • Dan Simon says:

        What protest votes? Nobody’s voted for a single candidate yet, anywhere.

        There’s a long-term trend of various oddball candidates getting major poll spikes that fizzle completely at the (real) polls. Remember Howard Dean? Herman Cain? Bernie Sanders?

        We’re months away from anyone casting a single vote. Perhaps we should all just calm down a bit…

        • Deiseach says:

          It will be interesting to see if any of the candidates start changing or forming policies in order to appeal to the perceived support for Trump. If it’s agreed that he’s not a serious contender, by the same token (as with Sanders for the Democrats) there is a section of the public who are expressing support for him for whatever reasons: genuine agreement on immigration, as “screw you” to the established candidates, as “the whole thing means nothing, I might as well row in behind the nutjob”.

          Will we see Republican candidates getting heartened to sound tough on illegal immigration? Will any of them (or rather, their campaign managers) start crafting campaigns in his style?

          I can’t see him as going anywhere near like all the way, but as an influence on the style of other candidates? Someone who thinks “Well, who knew the idea of getting tough with Mexico could fly?” and adopts it (because really, the chances of a shooting war with Mexico are probably pretty low, and when/if in power no way anyone is going to realistically face deporting eleven million people or however many, but as rhetoric in a campaign it could sound good) – that would be Trump’s victory.

      • Jeffrey Soreff says:

        >Why are protest votes more popular now?

        Because the median real wage peaked about two decades ago in the US?

      • Zebram says:

        My guess is because perhaps now, with the internet, more and more people think the people in D.C. have no clue what they are doing. They are basically just performing experiments on the economy now.

  20. 27chaos says:

    The country has been drifting rightward in the past several decades. However, when you look at the opinions of the new generations of voters, that process seems to now be reversing. We will soon feel a tremendous impact from this. I think this reversal is the cause of increased polarization. Before, everyone’s policy was drifting the same direction. Now, some voters’ preferred policy is drifting in the opposite direction of the previous momentum.

    When we look at the Republican primary candidates specifically, I think what we’re seeing is indirectly caused by this ongoing reversal of voter preferences. The countersignalling idea you present here would fall into this category of explanations, but this goes beyond it. As it stands here, the countersignalling idea feels true but very incomplete. Looking for other explanations similar to it that are compatible with the reversed momentum paradigm may prove helpful for us.

    I can’t articulate any sort of coherent connection between these ideas and the reversed momentum, but my brain is forcing these associations to mind: Berkson’s Paradox, the tails-come-apart effect, evaporative cooling of group beliefs, lag in how politicians’ expectations change over time relative to how voters’ expectations change over time, some form of election bias from conditioning on being a conservative politician, heteroskedastic errors. Can anyone think of relevant stories relating any of these ideas into some vaguely sensible explanation? Apparently my subconscious thinks it knows, but does not want to tell me. Maybe I’m just being foolish, seeing explanatory pareidolia and thinking it’s something real.

    • Cassander says:

      There are about three issues on which the county had moved right. Monetary policy, crime policy, and deregulation of transport. On every other subject whatever victories the right has won have been swamped by leftward movement. For example, welfare reform did make a cut to an entitlement program, but every other entitlement program has been expanded, some financial regulations were repealed, but more were added, and so on.

  21. SFG says:

    What do people think of the thesis that the left won the cultural war and the right the economic war?

    Any relation to Trump? Apart from the immigration thing, he seems pretty liberal culturally…even gave money yo Planned Parenthood…

    • Samuel Skinner says:

      “What do people think of the thesis that the left won the cultural war and the right the economic war?”

      Incomplete. Affirmative action was gutted (it used to have blatant quotas), forced busing ended and other forms of left wing social engineering fell by the wayside. Change in social norms have been permanent, but mostly in the “acceptance” category.

      As for the economic war, it is unclear how much that was a right victory; the system has become more free market, but it isn’t clear how much the left was in favor of things like set prices for airlines.

      • The original Mr. X says:

        Incomplete. Affirmative action was gutted (it used to have blatant quotas), forced busing ended and other forms of left wing social engineering fell by the wayside.

        Maybe, but I’m not sure that means that the country hasn’t gotten more left-wing.

        Assume for the sake of illustration that it’s possible to quantify how left-/right-wing a country is. The country starts at zero, then affirmative action quotas are introduced, and now the country is twenty units to the left. Then the quotas get thrown out, resulting in the country moving fifteen units to the right. But, whilst the country has just moved to the right, it’s still further to the left than it was before affirmative action got introduced. Even if the left hasn’t had universal success since the ’50s, I’d still argue that the country is now considerably more left-wing than it was in, say, 1959.

    • Saul Degraw says:

      I think the country is way too big to say that the either said truly won a side in the war. SSM is the law of the land and Gen Xers and Millennials seem more socially liberal but you still have plenty of stories about teenagers being tried as adults for sexting and teenage sex. People are just slowly starting to say that mass incarceration might be bad after decades of people just really wanting mass incarceration. There are plenty of people who do still support tough on crime and long sentences.

      Economically. There are still plenty of people like me who believe in the welfare state and the libertarians have not been able to completely gut the New Deal and Great Society yet. SSN and Medicare are still wildly popular and the ACA was not felled.

    • Zykrom says:

      I think both the right and the left of 100 years ago would be horrified by the state of the culture and the economy of 2015.

      Wouldn’t say anyone “won.” Maybe not even moloch.

      • Zebram says:

        I’d say that’s correct.

        • DavidS says:

          I dunno. Culture, maybe, although arguably every time period is appalled by every other. But economically – sure, there are issues with deficit etc. but I’d guess the 1915 folk would also be rather bowled over by all the stuff that people seem to have.

      • Hanfeizi says:

        I don’t know. It’s remarkable how similar (and how different) the world of 2015 is to the world imagined by Bellamy in Looking Backwards. We basically built his national socialist utopia- and it works as well as such a utopia can be expected to in the real world.

      • Pete says:

        Maybe everyone won. I can’t think of a single thing I’d have preferred about living in 1915, and not just because I would probably have been fighting in the trenches (or severely wounded).

    • Eli says:

      I think it’s more accurate to say that capitalism won. Where capitalism happened to find left-wing cultural positions useful, such as with gay marriage (for well-off San Franciscans) or feminism in the workforce (for those who want to “Lean In”), those cultural positions have become entrenched, but where left-wing cultural notions conflicted with capitalism (like, “maybe we should treat black people nicely instead of as an expendable labor force whose deaths don’t matter”), we lost.

      • LeeEsq says:

        I don’t know. I think that wealthy people and corporations, and I think it makes more sense to refer to them rather than an abstract notion like capitalism, found that they benefit from anti-racism and cosmopolitanism in many ways. A less racist world allows them to form links with wealthy people and corporations in other countries and create a sort of global elite position on things like free trade and immigration. This allows them to shift economic policy to one that favors their interests more easily. There are other ways that anti-racism helps wealthy people and corporations.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      Each party has some positions from 40 years ago that both parties hold firm to.

      Republicans won’t stand for racists. Try calling into some Fox News show and say Obama sucks because black people are stupid. Watch what they do.

      Democrats can’t stand to raise taxes eve on people making $300,000 a year. They have to be very careful when talking about wanting regulation.

    • Cassander says:

      There are about three issues on which the county had moved right. Monetary policy, crime policy, and deregulation of transport. On every other subject whatever victories the right has won have been swamped by leftward movement. For example, welfare reform did make a cut to an entitlement program, but every other entitlement program has been expanded, some financial regulations were repealed, but more were added, and so on.

      I’d hardly call that a right wing economic triumph.

  22. Tony says:

    It’s simpler than that. People are fed up with a senile elite class that doesn’t do anything and doesn’t admit the real problems being faced so they jump at anyone who is different in any way even when they’re crazy or impossible or incoherent.

    • Zebram says:

      I agree 100%. I think most people who vote for Trump knows he is a clown, but they also think the establishment politicians are all clowns, liars, and thieves, only that they pretend to be sophisticated statesmen and stateswomen. They’d atleast have an honest clown than a deceitful one.

  23. ddreytes says:

    I don’t think you need to talk that much about signalling or any of this to point out that most of the bases of both parties in the US have for a long time now been significantly out of touch with the people in the party establishment, and the dance where the people in power are trying to pretend that they don’t materially disagree with most of their committed supporters in their respective parties has been getting harder and harder to maintain.

    IMO Trump is the most explosive and immanent manifestation of this not just that the establishment hates him – but mostly that (1) he’s a good communicator in general but especially (2) he’s been incandescently explosive on immigration which has been the single biggest issue on which the Republican base and establishment have been at odds. Of course the fact that the establishment hates him hasn’t hurt, but more than anything else I think it’s the feeling in the base that the Republican Party has refused even to acknowledge what they deeply believe about immigration.

    This has also been more or less true in the UK but it’s more complicated there and has gone on in different ways for longer, with things like the Conservatives falling apart over the EU in the 90s and Labour sucking up their disagreements with Blair.

  24. mauiaw says:

    I think Corbyn is popular because he appears to be able to think for himself, voting 301 times against the party whip. It’s not necessarily his policies that gain him votes but that he might be able to evaluate them somewhat more objectively than the other candidates. In contrast the other leadership contenders criticise the man and not his policies. I feel his case is similar to that of Nigel Farage in the GE. Corbyn represents a move away from the childish politics of trying to shut down debate by ad hominem attacks. I think the message electing him sends is perhaps more important than whatever will happen to Labours chances in the next election. The public should be given more credit than simply chalking it up to supporting the underdog.

    Although I’m no longer living in the UK and so haven’t followed the leadership election closely, watching this video and reading this article have swung my opinion in his favour.

    • The original Mr. X says:

      I think Corbyn is popular because he appears to be able to think for himself, voting 301 times against the party whip. It’s not necessarily his policies that gain him votes but that he might be able to evaluate them somewhat more objectively than the other candidates.

      Maybe, but I think that sort of argument ends up proving too much. Conspiracy theorists, Neo-Nazis and the like are clearly able to defy pressure to fall into line with mainstream opinion, but it doesn’t follow that such people are “more objective” than others.

      Corbyn represents a move away from the childish politics of trying to shut down debate by ad hominem attacks.

      On the other hand, elections aren’t just about voting for an abstract set of policy proposals, they’re also about actually choosing somebody to put those proposals into practice. Rejecting a candidate because they don’t have the right personality traits to lead a country is actually a pretty sensible thing to do.

  25. MattW says:

    So, ummmm….. who do you think I should vote for Scott?

  26. grort says:

    Thanks for the post! Makes sense to me. 🙂

  27. Lliam says:

    Since I can’t see anyone else having said it, the 2010 Labour leadership election also allowed members to vote.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labour_Party_(UK)_leadership_election,_2010

    • Douglas Knight says:

      The plan was to get a lot more members than the 120k who voted in that election, but the web page still says that they only have 200k members. That seems very low, less than the number of union members who cast half votes in the last election.

      If they don’t get a lot more members, the fact that the three constituencies voted in roughly the same way suggests that the change in the electorate shouldn’t matter. Maybe they only voted that way because they wanted to vote for viable candidates, despite the availability to make protest votes via the alternative vote system?

      Or maybe the pollsters falsely believe that Labour voters are going to turn into members?

      • Slow Learner says:

        Full Party membership has spiked to around 270,000 (from ~190,000 before the election).

        Eligible voters in the leadership election, between Party members and “registered supporters” are ~600,000.
        Some have referred to this as the CorBoom – informal surveys suggest that ~2/3 of new members are voting Corbyn.
        There’s a lot of discussion of what effects this will have; even if Corbyn loses, if a substantial proportion of the new members stick around it will re-shape the internal dynamic of the Labour Party in terms of CLP membership, canvassers, votes on candidate selection…
        I’m certainly waiting with great interest to see how the results of the leadership vote fall out in the next week or so.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Where do you get the 600k number? How sure are you that they are all going to vote? Might they just be union members who are registering their support, since it is no longer automatic? The full members had 2/3 turnout last election, so if the 600k has 2/3 turnout, that’s 400k votes, more than 300k last time, but not dramatically more.

          • Slow Learner says:

            600k came from Labour Party reports of how many ballot papers they were sending out.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            It turned out that there were 550k eligible voters and 420k who voted. That’s only 30% more voters than last time. If the new voters went 2/3 for Corbyn, the new voters didn’t change the election. He would won without any new voters, just with new voting rules (elimination of MP super votes, plus full votes for union members). [assuming that the 100k net new voters are all the new voters; it might me be that lots of union member stopped voting and were replaced by people who vote differently]

            It makes me wonder if people who in previous elections would have preferred a left candidate failed to take advantage of their alternate vote power to express this preferences, but insisted on putting a first vote for a viable Miliband. Of course, if they had revealed their true preferences, maybe voting reform would not have happened.

    • John says:

      This is correct – the major change is that this year, the election will be decided exclusively by the party membership (including new one-off £3 “supporting memberships” intended to bring more people into the party). In previous years one third of the votes went to the unions, one third went to the parliamentary party, and one third went to the membership.

  28. Saul Degraw says:

    John Chait at New York/Daily Intel had a similar take a few weeks ago. There is probably a huge distance between the bases and the elites of both parties. Elites being defined fairly broadly as the vast upper-middle class people who either work as partisan journalists, policy wonks, and politicians for both parties. The Republican elite is probably more socially liberal and economically conservative than their base. You see this because Trump is running an economically populist campaign. He doesn’t take about raising the retirement age or cutting social security or privatizing social security and medicare like other GOP candidates. The GOP elite for a long time has tried to make the white, working-class base excited over privatization but it is no longer working. If it ever worked. Though Xenophobia seems to be Trump’s big attack. The rest is more Huey Long populism (so is the Xenophobia). He has been wildly sexist. Has he said anything against SSM or that can be construed as homophobic?

    The Democratic base and elite are fairly to very identical on social issues. The big division is over economics where the base (even more pragmatic liberals like me) want a more robust welfare state and question the Clintonian NAFTA economics that dominated the party from 1992 until the present.
    So this explains why Bernie Sanders is doing relatively to very well.

    I wonder how the party elites would react if the election was Sanders v. Trump?

  29. Anthony says:

    Trump is doing well because he’s willing to openly express disgust at the sanctimonious hypocrites of the left, and he’s the only one who punches back.

    Ben Carson is doing well because he’s (apparently) a really sincere evangelical, and Trump isn’t (and won’t pretend to be) and so the evangelical voters who are also over the left’s sanctimonious hypocrisy can’t vote for Trump.

    • suntzuanime says:

      The sanctimonious hypocrites of the left like Jeb Bush.

      • Zykrom says:

        i genuinely dont know if this is ironic or sincere

      • ddreytes says:

        Whatever other problems Jeb Bush might have, I think most of his failure can be explained by the abysmal quality he’s displayed as a campaigner.

        Just an absolute and total putz.

        • Zebram says:

          One thing you have to give to Trump is he knows how to mock people. Something about Jeb seemed off to me, and when I heard Trump say that Jeb seemed to be bored with himself and about to fall asleep, I knew he had nailed it.

        • Paul Torek says:

          This. Does “abysmal campaigner” include excessive frankness or consistency? Because it sounds to me like he’s trying to run in the general election already, before bothering to (even try to) win the primary.

  30. If Trump draws his support from Establishment hatred, the best way to fight him is for an Establishment politician to promise to appoint Trump to high office. I recommend ambassador to the UN … or possible Secretary of HUD.

    • bluto says:

      That only helps if the establishment has credibility with the voters, and Trump’s success is a strong indicator they have very little credibility.

    • Andrew says:

      It would need to be a position that doesn’t need a Senate confirmation hearing, otherwise it would just be a gift to Trump. Also, this is exactly what the Establishment Republicans did a century ago to Teddy Roosevelt.

    • Anthony says:

      Trump would refuse. Unless *maybe* it was to head ICE.

  31. Gunther says:

    As a centrist Australian, it’s always weird to read an article and comments thread where a $15 minimum wage is held up as some kind of radical leftist policy that would leave the country a smoking ruin. Our minimum wage was higher than that when our dollar was at parity with the US dollar and our Conservative party wouldn’t dream of cutting it.

    • suntzuanime says:

      And Australia successfully warded off its immigrant influx too. It’s possible Scott was overstating the impossibility of these policies.

      • DavidS says:

        Australia is surrounded by huge oceans though, which may change the immigrant situation.

        • AngryDrake says:

          IIRC, Operation Wetback managed to be successful even with a land border. Once they started arresting and deporting people forcibly, a lot more people left, just to have some control over their departure.

          Making the border air-tight is doomed to failure, much like computer security is doomed to failure. The real-life solution is to punish those who transgress, with a high rate of detection of wrongdoing, rather than trying to implement flawless countermeasures against transgression happening.

      • Nathan says:

        Edit: NM

      • Randy M says:

        And those two policies succeeding might even be related!

    • Nathan says:

      Australia has pretty high market wages though, and young workers are deliberately given lower minimum wages.

    • Pete says:

      As a Brit living in Canada, I was surprised and amused when my Father in Law told my wife that “if you think we should have universal health care then you’re a socialist.” And our Conservative government, thought by many to be pretty right wing, is introducing a 9+ pound minimum wage by 2020 (more than 13 USD at current exchange rates).

      I also find it interesting how people in different countries view the left-right divide, and most seem to be certain that their conception of it is universal. I’m unconvinced that left and right are particularly meaningful or useful anyway.

  32. Yakimi says:

    Bingo. Corbyn, Sanders, Trump, and European nativist parties are all part of the same reactionary phenomenon: people across the political spectrum are disillusioned with the range of solutions offered by their post-Cold War transnationalist establishments (“neoliberalism”, “the Cathedral”) and they turn to Old Left-style socialism and/or nativism to refocus politics on their parochial, nationalist interests. So on both sides of the political spectrum, the most popular candidates are those that are skeptical of total freedom of trade and migration, refocusing on the concerns of the native working class. On the Left, the Old Left revival has led to conflict with proponents of open borders (see Sanders and Vox) and New Left identity politics (see Sanders and Black Lives Matter). On the Right, people no longer reflexively support free market solutions as they did during the Cold War. In Europe, right-wing nativist parties hope to lure working class voters away from their traditional parties by being more supportive of the welfare state.

    A Sanders supporter and a Trump supporter may hate each other, but they have much more in common than their historical tribal affiliations would suggest. This fusion of policies transcending the political spectrum is reminiscent of fascism, and probably some the same concerns that fueled fascism then are fueling neoparochialism now.

    • Eugine_Nier says:

      In Europe, right-wing nativist parties hope to lure working class voters away from their traditional parties by being more supportive of the welfare state.

      Ironically, (or not), just as the welfare systems are becoming increasingly financially unsustainable. Heck, Syriza’s whole pitch was to blackmail the Germans into providing Greece with the money to keep the Geek welfare state going a little longer. Of course, they didn’t quite phrase it like that.

      I suspect what’s going on is that as the welfare systems are teetering everyone is looking to someone to blame. No one wants to hear that the welfare systems were never sustainable in the first place.

    • nydwracu says:

      lmao did you really just call a politician who writes a weekly column in a paper founded by the communist party of great britain “reactionary”

      • Viliam says:

        A reactionary is a person who holds political views that favor a return to the status quo ante, the previous political state of society, which possessed characteristics (discipline, respect for authority, etc.) that he or she thinks are negatively absent from the contemporary status quo of a society. As an adjective, the word reactionary describes points of view and policies meant to restore the status quo ante.

        Using this Wikipedia description, Communists are the textbook example of reactionary, since the fall of Soviet Union. And the similarities go deeper than this.

      • Eli says:

        You want to gang up on him in ranting about how fascists and socialists are very different creatures from actual reactionaries (neo or not)?

        Because I think you and I are on the same side with this one. Like, I honestly think that if you go around calling the working-class, socialistic Old Left “parochial” and its new manifestations as “neoparochialism”, then you’ve gone waaaaay too far into the EU-neoliberal weirdo zone of viewing everything as dichotomously split between “neoliberal capitalism imposed from above on all countries” and “nationalism”.

        Though I do agree that hey, if “total freedom of trade and migration” harms the native working classes, and the foreign working classes, and basically everyone who’s not an owner of land or capital, then to hell with it, and you don’t get to refute economic facts by yelling, “But that’s nationalist, waaaaah!”.

        • Yakimi says:

          “You want to gang up on him in ranting about how fascists and socialists are very different creatures from actual reactionaries (neo or not)?”

          Of course they are, but you are focusing on individual carriers of ideas. The actual desires and interests that bring those individuals to prominence maybe at odds with what those individuals believe.

          So the rise of socialist candidates seems to me to be motivated by a desire to repudiate economic internationalism for economic nationalism, which I believe to be a reactionary development (i.e. a reaction) because nationalism is a less universalist than internationalism. Little of this is actually conscious, but it is only natural that a world in which progressivism is the dominant fashion that reactionary impulses are disguised in progressive packaging.

          “and you don’t get to refute economic facts by yelling, “But that’s nationalist, waaaaah!”.”

          I hope I don’t come across as condemning the phenomenon I’m describing. I actually find neoparochialism quite encouraging.

      • Yakimi says:

        The individual is not a reactionary, but the geist that brought him to prominence is. His supporters are really using his socialism as a vehicle for their nationalist, parochial economic interests (“bring back our jobs”, “bring back our industries”), whereas the progressive establishment fashion exemplified by The Economist is to celebrate the increasing oneness of humanity.

        • nydwracu says:

          In other words, progressivism and neoliberalism are two sides of the same coin, as I’ve been saying for a long time now.

        • Eli says:

          In what insane world is the Economist considered progressive? They’re a bunch of goddamn neoliberal Tories!

        • Steve Johnson says:

          Eli –

          The left rules and because it rules it has to actually deal with reality.

          The price mechanism is necessary no matter how many English professors or vaguely employed activists disagree. #GiveMoneyToWomen (an actual SJW hash tag) is the economic policy of progressives who don’t have to worry about mass starvation and instead can just compete to look more progressive. That’s not a concession to the right – it’s a concession to reality. Unlimited leftist economics ends in literal cannibalism.

          The Economist is what you get when you take progressive assumptions and policies and actually try to keep a functioning economy.

          This is another example of the usual progressive view that “progressives don’t run anything since it is progressive policy that there be no racism (sexism, etc.) and racism is the only possible explanation for differences between groups but group differences persist therefore, racism! (and progressivism has never been tried).” Progressive economic policy is just as impossible for the same reason – progressivism isn’t under selective pressure for truth, it’s under selective pressure to produce benefits (in the form of holiness) for the holders of progressive beliefs.

          • Eli says:

            Nonsense. The Economist makes no actual claims on its own behalf to be left-wing, and positing a vast conspiracy with the Economist as its rightmost tentacle faces both ordinary complexity-prior issues and a sheer lack of evidence.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            It’s not about conspiracies, vast or otherwise, it’s about people with access to actual power having to make concessions to reality/practicality. Sort of like how fringe leftist parties will never have to actually implement their ideas, and so can afford to be more ideologically pure than the Labour/Democrat parties.

    • stillnotking says:

      You’re absolutely right, and this is not a new phenomenon; for instance, Wallace and McGovern were competing for a lot of the same voters in 1972. Hunter Thompson described it in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, a typically exceptional work of journalism, but also (underrated!) political analysis.

  33. “If you try to be too liberal (like raising the minimum wage to $15) or too conservative (like building an immigration wall)”

    It makes no sense whatsoever to me that being against the first should lead you to favor the second, or that being against the second should lead you to favor the first. The traditional left/right liberal/conservative spectrum obscures far more than it illuminates.

  34. komponisto says:

    The most salient feature of Trump for me is that he got the Amanda Knox case right, and loudly. My policy is not to hate on such people.

    If the election were between him and, say, Alan Dershowitz (who got it wrong, and loudly), I would be canvassing door to door for the Donald.

    Mrs. Clinton, and her State Department, were not particularly impressive on this issue.

    • Pku says:

      Why is that case so important to you?

      • Zykrom says:

        On LessWrong it was used as a shibboleth for rationality.

        http://lesswrong.com/lw/1j7/the_amanda_knox_test_how_an_hour_on_the_internet/

        • Pku says:

          Huh. I only know about the case what I’ve read in the last ten minutes, but I don’t know how much bayesian evidence it gives for Trump – he’s generally a loud contrarian, so it seems like he’d have a 50% chance of being right on something like this entirely by accident (you might take away some points since he’s predisposed to be contrarian, or you might give him some points for choosing to be contrary on this rather than some other issue, but it sounds like it was a big deal and he wasn’t that unlikely to have commented on it, so I’d say he comes down to having between 10% and 90% chance of getting it right by accident). This shouldn’t be enough to massively shift views on him.
          (Dershowitz, OTOH, might genuinely lose significant points for this).

        • Deiseach says:

          Shibboleth certainly seems to be the word. Why on earth drag the Resurrection into it? Other than a very tenuous link to the Italian newspaper article (where it gives one sentence to Amanda Knox apparently attending Mass while in prison), the only use I can see there is:

          (a) The judges and jurors are Italian
          (b) Most Italians may be presumed to be Catholics
          (c) Catholics are Christians
          (d) Christians are dumb, look at the ridiculous things they believe!
          (e) Ergo the jurors and judges are dumb and we’re much smarter than them
          (f) So our estimation of her guilt or innocence is correct.

          You know, he could have just talked about the DNA evidence, the other suspect who fled, etc. without the little swipe at Christianity. But I suppose every tribesman must do the ritual bowing to the totem in order to signal “I bear allegiance to our ideals, I am a member in good standing”, right? 🙂

          • komponisto says:

            You know, he could have just talked about the DNA evidence, the other suspect who fled, etc. without the little swipe at Christianity.

            You’re right. I would not have written it that way today.

            At the time, of course, the rationality movement was still closely associated in my mind with atheist activism, and “idea politics” generally (what Robin Hanson or someone like him might call “far-mode value signaling”) and I viewed this case as a contrasting, “near-mode” sort of rationality test (albeit one fraught with “far” ways to go wrong, e.g. the national element). Indeed, the context was that skeptic/atheist forums at that time had not done a better job on this question than most internet forums; Less Wrong was very distinct in this regard.

    • Deiseach says:

      But was that Trump saying “On consideration of the evidence I do not believe this young woman guilty” or was it more he was appealing to “NO FOREIGN COURT HAS JURISDICTION OVER OUR CITIZENS! USA! USA! THOSE FOREIGNERS HAVE NO RIGHT TO LAY A FINGER ON AN AMERICAN! BRING HER HOME!!!!”

      Whipping up popular patriotic sentiment and jumping on the bandwagon of “One of ours is being treated badly because we all know foreign law is corrupt and wrong” in order to gain advantage in popular support and regard for oneself is not unusual; I see the same “Bring them home, there’s no case to answer” in the mass media every time a Briton is arrested for drug smuggling, and we had a touch of it on our own media with the case of the Irish nanny – you Americans may be shocked, shocked! to learn our press thought your legal institutions every bit as dodgy and your prosecutors and judges every bit as publicity-hungry and courting the populist vote as Mr Trump thought Italian legal institutions and Italian judges and prosecutors 🙂

    • Adam says:

      Following, caring about, or commenting on media-frenzy murder trials at all loses you points in my book, but sure, I guess if you’re going to, being right about it is better than not, though I have no idea what ended up being ‘right’ in this case.

  35. Eugine_Nier says:

    > Everyone knows that America is getting more ideologically polarized these days. The right is getting rightier. The left is getting leftier.

    Except the right isn’t actually getting rightier. Rather what was previously considered the “mainstream position” is becoming the “far right” position. This is most obvious with things like gay marriage, but even on economic issues, the Tea Party was considered “far right” for wanting to return to the level of government spending at the start of the Obama administration. Another example of a “far right” position is believing college students accused of rape are innocent until proven guilty.

    • jaimeastorga2000 says:

      I don’t know. The mainstream right is utterly cucked, but it seems to me like the alt-right has grown a lot in the past few years.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Do we have any way of knowing what % of people actually hold given views, though? People are good at building bubbles, and the internet has probably made that easier. A lot of people who hold views that are pretty fringe probably think those views are better-represented than they are.

    • Saul Degraw says:

      So this shows how everything is a matter of prospective.

      I am a liberal and Democratic voter. I would agree that the Democratic Party is growing more left. This is generational. I think left-leaning people in my generation don’t want DLC centrism anymore. Or the hold hem and haw that used to happen on anything before saying an opinion.

      However, I would say that the right-wing has moved further and further to the right especially with the increased and never ending attacks on anything that resembles a welfare state, the attack on the Voting Rights Act, etc. Plus plain old paranoia about UN Conspiracy theories that are non-binding resolutions. The conservative movement seems to have really become the party of Cleek’s law.

      • Eugine_Nier says:

        However, I would say that the right-wing has moved further and further to the right especially with the increased and never ending attacks on anything that resembles a welfare state,

        So do they now favor repealing medicare and social security, how about welfare itself?

        What they are opposing is every new welfare state program the democrats propose, i.e., the level of welfare state they support is more then they used to.

        Plus plain old paranoia about UN Conspiracy theories that are non-binding resolutions.

        So have the conservatives actually caused to US to withdraw from previously approved resolutions?

        What I think is happening is that you are so used to your alief that progressivism should be a ratchet that you confuse “not moving left fast enough to keep up with the status quo” with “moving further right”.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          “So do they now favor repealing medicare and social security, how about welfare itself?”

          Making changes to Medicare like privatization and block granting (block granting effectively ending Medicare as it exists) are frequently recycled ideas in the Republican Party.

          Privatizing SS was doctrine until Bush actually tried to do it.

          More broadly, Republicans seem to want to reduce the redistributive effects of broad ranges of policies.

          I don’t think any of that is particularly controversial. “Government small enough to drown in a bathtub” isn’t something the left made up. It’s actually promulgated by those on the right.

          • Eugine_Nier says:

            Privatizing SS was doctrine until Bush actually tried to do it.

            So you admit the republicans moved to the left on this issue.

            More broadly, Republicans seem to want to reduce the redistributive effects of broad ranges of policies.

            Yet they never actual do, and meanwhile the government keeps getting more and more redistributive.

    • Galle says:

      Meanwhile, Obama was accused of being far left for supporting a health care reform plan substantially similar to one endorsed by the early 90s Republican Party.

      This is one of those situations where the general cognitive bias hazard is so strong and thick that you really can’t trust your own observations. If the experts say that the right is getting righties and the left is getting leftier, they’re probably right.

      • Eugine_Nier says:

        Meanwhile, Obama was accused of being far left for supporting a health care reform plan substantially similar to one endorsed by the early 90s Republican Party.

        You mean the one proposed by Hilary in the early 90s that Republicans opposed?

    • Adam says:

      But we did. US federal spending has held steady within the margin of error of 35% of GDP for the past forty years outside of 2009 and 2010. My grandmother took me to some of those Tea Party rallies in Nevada. Wanting to end stimulus spending is sure as shit not why they were considered extremist.

  36. Anonymous says:

    Everyone knows that America is getting more ideologically polarized these days. The right is getting rightier. The left is getting leftier

    Except this is patently false to anyone following american politics from the outside. Obama, for example, the supposed socialist candidate ended up being a republican president. The reality is that the right moved slightly to the left and the left moved to the right.

    The reason it’s simple and it’s stated in the article: the people that fork over the money that make running for elections possible, ie. corporations, need center-right policies so those are the only ones that pass. Disagreement can exist only where (a) it doesn’t matter to corporations, (b) corporate interests are not aligned. Gay marriage, gun control, drugs, abortion are all examples of those categories and if you only look at those topics it will seem like republicans and democrats have been getting farther and farther apart. Note however that those hot topics rarely get addressed once the president is in office.

    This isn’t an american phenomenon either, all over europe you can find supposedly left-wing parties acting systematically center-right.

    In short I think that your premises are slightly wrong, because you are partially unaware of your political bubble, but your conclusions substantially right. The rate at which weird candidates are appearing is increasing because mainstream politics is increasingly clustered around pro-corporate center-right positions, there’s plenty of people who do not like pro-corporate center-right parties willing to vote for the odd person.
    Then mainstream media will do its best to portray the weird candidate as a populist buffoon that’s going to destroy the world because they are in bed with mainstream politics (sometimes the weird candidate is actually a populist buffon but that’s ortogonal to media portrayal).

    • Eli says:

      This guy gets it! Yay!

      The rate at which weird candidates are appearing is increasing because mainstream politics is increasingly clustered around pro-corporate center-right positions, there’s plenty of people who do not like pro-corporate center-right parties willing to vote for the odd person.
      Then mainstream media will do its best to portray the weird candidate as a populist buffoon that’s going to destroy the world because they are in bed with mainstream politics (sometimes the weird candidate is actually a populist buffon but that’s ortogonal to media portrayal).

      Yeah, there’s actually a direct causal link here: the more the Establishment tries to sideline everything outside its tiny corner of bought-and-paid-for policies as weird freaks, the more people respond by supporting both those labeled as weird freaks, and actual weird freaks.

      There are two ways this can go: either a populist movement gains power while supporting a really weird freak, or the Establishment realizes it’s got a Weimar on its hands and eases up off the throttling of political discourse.

      • Nita says:

        Option three: polarization, more polarization, the modern equivalent of the struggle between fascists and communists, war and/or totalitarian state.

        • Eli says:

          That was the first thing I said, but at this point I think “libertarian/anarchist state” (internal contradictions included) is more likely than “totalitarian”.

        • Stezinech says:

          Or option four: the people continue to be politically disengaged and distracted by polarization on social issues, which allows the Establishment to continue to push its center-right economic policies in perpetuity.

          I think this might be closest to our future. I doubt the revolution is coming (look at what happened to Occupy Wall Street).

      • Anonymous says:

        IMHO the “establishment” has already caught up with this phenomenon and the countermeasure is to also support pro-corporate center-right candidates that market themselves as “outside the establishment”.
        I think this is what happened with Barack Obama in US and with Matteo Renzi in Italy.
        I expect this trend to make people disenchated with politics in general. In countries where economic conditions do not deteriorate too much I don’t expect anything consequential to come out of this. In Greece I imagine that eventually some paramilitary group will put together an army and make a coup.

        PS. I do not particularly like using the word “establishment”, it makes it seem like I believe there’s some sort of “illuminati”, some secret cabal, that rules the world from the shadows, when in fact I just believe it’s just the product of naturally aligning corporate interests.

        • Stezinech says:

          I agree with you on the term establishment. Although I would say its more about the alignment of corporate interests with political power (i.e. corruption).

          The vast majority of people are against corruption, but it’s a sort of Moloch tragedy-of-the-commons situation that is very hard to solve.

          • Eli says:

            Most people aren’t actually against corruption when it’s them getting corrupted. By which I mean, they often do not consciously hold the view “I am against corruption” in the first place, such that they would have to rationalize some reason to take a bribe.

  37. Max says:

    Trump is a Gemini. So is Corbyn. So is Scott Adams. Coincidence?

    Bow to your Gemini overlords!

    • Deiseach says:

      I am a Gemini. The fact that I share an astrological sun sign with Trump makes me want to renounce it and claim my Taurus rising sign instead.

      Trump strikes me much more as a Leo, e.g. they are noted for their hair and certainly The Donald’s barnet is unique to behold 🙂

  38. Radm says:

    On the one side you have Veep, and on the other Black Mirror, S2E3: The Waldo Moment.

    Geneeally considered the least effective episode of S2, although arguably that is mostly because Brooker made the mistake as in Nathan Barley; satirising a trend that hadn’t really happened yet.

  39. Simon says:

    I’m not sure that it’s that easy to compare Jeremy Corbyn and Donald Trump. While both are going for a populist “man of the people” rhetoric style, Corbyn isn’t anywhere the outsider Trump is.

    To start with, Trump doesn’t have any prior political experience and is obviously representing a significant break from business as usual for the Republican Party. Corbyn, on the other hand, is more of an older generation of Labour politician who is running on taking the party back to where it was before Tony Blair’s “Third Way” turn to the right, with his standpoints not being particularly controversial in that context.

    I’d say that Nigel Farage would be an easier comparison, but even he has prior experience in being a former Tory who left over the Maastricht Treaty in 1992 and neither is he coming from quite the same corner of the political right.

    • Deiseach says:

      So it might just mean the British Left was really really far left for a long time and nobody noticed before this.

      The really really far left element of the Labour Party was/is the Militant tendency, about whom dire warnings are still being uttered in conjunction with Corbyn. But they were eventually purged out of the party by Neil Kinnock, ironically in an effort to make Labour more electable (I say “ironically” as Kinnock eventually lost the leadership precisely because it was deemed Labour would never gain power under him).

      Kinnock was the one who started the process of making Labour more centrist and so more appealing to the ‘floating voters’ and electable; he achieved a great deal of personal popularity and even managed to raise Labour’s star to the extent that Joe Biden swiped a portion of his campaign speech to re-purpose it for his own 1987 presidential campaign, but he never managed to make Labour attractive enough to replace the Tories.

      Tony Blair, with “New Labour” and the “Thatcherism-lite” was really only following out to the end the logic of “How do we get Labour elected? We copy the Conservatives”.

      Corbyn is a throwback to people like Michael Foot and Tony Benn (who renounced his hereditary peerage as Viscount Stanhope in order to remain in the House of Commons, while later Labourites are all too eager to don the ermine as life peers) from Labour’s past; it’s no coincidence that the power of the unions in Labour internal elections, which was diluted under “New Labour”, is making a return in the open vote behind Corbyn.

      What Trump represents, on the other hand, I have no idea. I can see the Republican candidates being seen as “more of the same”, all pretty much middle-of-the-road party creatures, and so not appealing to any Democratic-inclined voters to switch while Republican-inclined voters may not see any one of them as particularly standing out above the others.

      But Trump? As a serious candidate? I’m half-afraid he will turn out to be one, and then I have no idea what happens after that.

      • Eli says:

        You know what’s really weird? I agree with everything you said about the Labour Party.

      • Simon says:

        Thanks for the correction, looks like I need to brush up on my British political history!

        For what it’s worth, I think Trump will split the US right wing the same way Ross Perot in 1992 and hand the presidency to the Democrats though I’ve got no idea if that will be Hillary Clinton. What do you say of me pattern-matching him to a Danish People’s Party/Front National-style national populist conservative? The closest British ideological equivalent would probably be the British National Party, then, except their much more connection to Oswald Mosley-ite capital-F Fascism throws that analogy off.

      • multiheaded says:

        Before going into this thread, I figured that you’d likely be the first one to bring up Tony Benn, hehe.

    • Adam says:

      Trump first openly considered running for president in 1988 and he actually did run for president in 2000. He also made overtures at running for governor of New York a few times, but never did. It’s kind of funny to me how people get viewed favorably as outsiders because they spent half their lives trying to be politicians but failing.

  40. Adam Casey says:

    If you think political opinion is divided in the US now go and read some biography of one of the Founding Fathers. Jefferson in particular was an utter party hack with a talent for partisan mud-slinging that makes the Tea Party look Establishment. The thing we seem to forget today is that you can do that and still be an utter genius and good for your country.

    • stillnotking says:

      Or, y’know, the Civil War. American politics went through a period of unnatural comity during the Cold War (with a blip over Vietnam), and has since been gradually returning to its accustomed state of constant bickering and paranoia.

      • Adam Casey says:

        I feel the civil war is slightly too large a whale in slightly too small a barrel. =p

        There’s a general rule that Americans (also holds for most democracies) are united only if :
        1) they’re facing a huge uniting war, or
        2) they’re under the sway of deeply exceptional single party hegemony.

        Neither state lasts very long, and they’re not always united when they do hold.

  41. stillnotking says:

    Trump’s appeal is not hard to understand. He’s a near-mythic figure who projects confidence and dominance. He gives voice to voters’ disgust with the establishment. He promises to restore America’s putatively-lost greatness, always a strong pitch due to certain peculiar quirks of human nature. (I fully expect that, when the Pan-Solar Republic has finished construction of a Dyson sphere, made everyone immortal, enlightened, and hedonically maximized, and eliminated all crime and war, the campaign platform of Senator Hlnn Argus Churchill Mandela Clinton-Bush 3.0 will be “Make the PSR Great Again”. Or whatever that is in Esperanto.)

    But none of that matters, because Republicans will correctly assess that he can’t win the general election, hence will not nominate him. The election will be between a mainstream Republican and a mainstream Democrat, because voters are basically rational.

    • Ben says:

      Rebonegiĝu PSR-n!

      • komponisto says:

        Rebonegiĝu PSR-n!

        (Close, but no -n with -iĝ-. You want Rebonegigu PSR-n with the transitive -ig-.)

      • Ryan Beren says:

        Skrour-rt’wauxthakskheandhu’řř opuxhfi PSR!

        ’cause they should be politicking in Ithkuil.

        (Approximate translation: “Rebuffing the naysayers, let the gathered members in their roles in the coalition of all peoples, the PSR, together begin once again, in manifold ways united by a common purpose, to act as overlords, as is our heritage. Let’s do it already!”)

  42. Eli says:

    Everyone knows that America is getting more ideologically polarized these days. The right is getting rightier. The left is getting leftier.

    Except that this isn’t true, and you know it. Any apparent “leftward swing” in left-wing politics is just now a swing back towards the center and center-left from decades of neoliberalization in which all mainstream parties had big invisible signs up in their conventions saying, NO LEFTISM ALLOWED.

    The votes for Corbyn are really easy to explain this way: Old Labour voters are turning out to vote for the Old Labour candidate for party leadership, and they can do so now that the Nu Labour cabal have finally let go of the party.

    Scott, your American/right-wing bias is showing. Just because American politics has been heavily shifted into the authoritarian-right since Nixon doesn’t mean that anyone who’s actually left-of-center is “leftier” or that politics is “more polarized”.

    (Ways to convince me Jeremy Corbyn is actually an extreme leftist: compare him to the Scottish Socialist Party or Galloway’s Respect bloc and show there’s very little difference in platforms. Otherwise, I’m going to continue pointing out that you can’t call it left-wing extremism when Labour members try to push the Labour party to the left of the British National Party, since frankly you shouldn’t be allowed to call yourself leftist until you’re to the left of neo-Nazis.)

    • AngryDrake says:

      Instead of analyzing political posturing, I’d use legislation to gauge the state of leftism. There’s a handy list of important laws and cases in the US here. I’m going to look at Supreme Court cases, because they list a summary, and I don’t have time to go on a wiki binge to look up the Laws list (maybe someone else can do so for me?). I’m going to use RIGHT SHIFT, LEFT SHIFT, STATUS QUO and UNCLEAR for appraisal (these are all my opinion, but I don’t think most will be controversial).

      Bold mine:

      Marbury v. Madison
      The Court decides that it is the ultimate arbiter of the U.S. Constitution.
      UNCLEAR

      McCulloch v. Maryland
      The federal government has implied power — and the states cant interfere with it.
      UNCLEAR

      Gibbons v. Ogden
      The Court makes the Commerce Clause very broad indeed.
      UNCLEAR

      Dred Scott v. Sandford
      In perhaps the worst decision in its history, the Court sides with slavery and declares that blacks cannot be citizens of the United States.
      RIGHT SHIFT (superseded by the Fourteenth Amendment)

      Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad
      An offhand remark creates the doctrine that corporations have rights just like people.
      UNCLEAR

      Plessy v. Ferguson
      The Court embarks on an era of separate but equal, allowing segregation in public places.
      STATUS QUO

      Lochner v. New York
      The Court rules against a group of bakers — and begins an era in which it strikes down progressive laws seeking to regulate working conditions.
      RIGHT SHIFT (informally ignored since 1937)

      Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States
      The Court strikes a blow for competition — and a blow against John D. Rockefeller.
      UNCLEAR

      Schecter Poultry Corp v. United States
      The Court makes an enemy of President Roosevelt by striking down a key provision of the New Deal.
      UNCLEAR

      Korematsu v. United States
      The Court allows the internment of Japanese Americans in camps during World War II.
      RIGHT SHIFT (officially deemed an error in 2011)

      Shelley v. Kraemer
      The Court invalidates restrictions on the ownership of property by non-whites.
      LEFT SHIFT

      Brown v. Board of Education
      The Court says separate is not equal — and begins the end of segregation in public life.
      LEFT SHIFT

      Mapp v. Ohio
      The Court says police must follow the Fourth Amendment — or have any evidence they find excluded from trial.
      UNCLEAR

      Baker v. Carr
      The Court enters the debate over voting districts — and reshapes the political landscape.
      UNCLEAR

      Engel v. Vitale
      Prayer in public schools violates the separation of church and state.
      LEFT SHIFT

      Gideon v. Wainright
      Criminal defendants have the right to an attorney, even if they cant afford to pay for one.
      UNCLEAR

      Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States
      The Court sides with Congress in the major constitutional challenge to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
      LEFT SHIFT

      New York Times v. Sullivan
      The New York Times runs an advertisement with factual errors — and gets First Amendment protection anyway.
      UNCLEAR

      Reynolds v. Sims
      Voting districts must be roughly equal in population.
      UNCLEAR

      Griswold v. Connecticut
      The Court rules that the First Amendment guarantees a right to privacy, even though it doesnt explicitly say so.
      UNCLEAR

      Miranda v. Arizona
      Miranda rights are born.
      UNCLEAR

      Frontiero v. Richardson
      The Supreme Court justices decide that discrimination based on gender is unconstitutional — but dont agree on much else.
      LEFT SHIFT

      In Re Gault
      Even juvenile defendants get certain constitutional rights when they are charged with a crime.
      UNCLEAR

      Loving v. Virginia
      The Court strikes down laws prohibiting interracial marriage.
      LEFT SHIFT

      Griggs v. Duke Power Co.
      The Court fashions the concept of disparate impact, meaning an employer can be guilty of discrimination even without proof of intent.
      LEFT SHIFT

      Lemon v. Kurtzman
      The Court creates the Lemon test for deciding cases involving the separation of church and state.
      UNCLEAR

      Roe v. Wade
      Women have the constitutional right to terminate pregnancy.
      LEFT SHIFT

      United States v. Nixon
      The Court rejects Nixons assertion of unqualified executive privilege and orders the release of the Watergate tapes, ultimately toppling his presidency.
      UNCLEAR

      Gregg v. Georgia
      The Court finds that the death penalty is not cruel and unusual punishment.
      STATUS QUO

      Regents of the University of California v. Bakke
      [A]ffirmative action is okay, but quotas arent.
      UNCLEAR (because of its divisiveness, could be a small RIGHT SHIFT)

      Texas v. Johnson
      Flag burning is a form of expressive speech protected by the First Amendment.
      UNCLEAR

      Cruzan v. Missouri Department of Health
      There needs to be clear and convincing evidence of a patients wishes before ending life-sustaining medical treatment.
      UNCLEAR

      Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey
      A woman has the right to terminate her pregnancy, but the government can put a lot of restrictions on that right.
      STATUS QUO

      United States v. Lopez
      The Court curbs the Commerce Clause and strikes down a school gun ban.
      RIGHT SHIFT

      Reno v. ACLU
      The Court gives Internet content the highest level of First Amendment protection.
      UNCLEAR

      Boy Scouts of America v. Dale
      The Court allows the Boy Scouts to bar gays from becoming troop leaders.
      RIGHT SHIFT

      Bush v. Gore
      The justices end the Florida recount and put George W. Bush in the White House.
      UNCLEAR (but could be de facto RIGHT SHIFT, since it puts Bush in charge)

      Lawrence v. Texas
      The Court strikes down laws prohibiting sexual acts between consenting adults.
      LEFT SHIFT

      District of Columbia v. Heller
      The Second Amendment guarantees an individuals right to bear arms, at least in ones home.
      RIGHT SHIFT

      Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
      The Court uses the First Amendment to strike down limits on corporate campaign contributions.
      UNCLEAR

      From this, it looks to me like the right-wingers won on guns, while the left-wingers won on race (multiple points), religion, sex (gender), sex (acts) and abortion. If you add the recent SCOTUS case, add winning on homosexuals too.

      • Mary says:

        From this, I — don’t trust your judgment of right and left.

        • AngryDrake says:

          Why?

          • Eli says:

            Because he’s measuring “left” as “cultural liberalism” and using the Supreme Court as a barometer. This excludes the following dimensions of leftism: economic leftism (socialism and social democracy) and social leftism in the form of government programs (so, for instance, state universities). It also excludes, as clearly implied above, the following dimensions of actual governance: municipal government, state legislatures, state courts, state law enforcement, state governorships, Congress, the Presidency, and federal law enforcement. Or in other words, “everything except Supreme Court decisions on social issues.”

            Also, if you don’t label Bush v Gore, which put a Republican in the White House, or Citizens United, which made everything more corrupted by corporate campaign spending, as right-wing decisions, then you’re basically covering your eyes to the actually-existing Right and going, “Nah nah nah, only social issues matter!”

          • AngryDrake says:

            Bush v Gore, which put a Republican in the White House

            Elections also put Republicans in the White House. Should I be looking at the ratio of winnings of the Republicans vs the Democrats for whether things are going right or left?

            Citizens United, which made everything more corrupted by corporate campaign spending

            Are you suggesting that leftists are incompetent at business, cannot or will not use money to lobby for their side, or that corporations are entirely in the hands of rightists?

          • Zykrom says:

            Bureaucrats may not necessarily be leftist, but giving them money and power is.

            Converse sort of goes for giving corporations power, I guess.

          • Samuel Skinner says:

            ” Citizens United, which made everything more corrupted by corporate campaign spending”

            I’m not seeing how you expect them to rule otherwise. It was a nonprofit that was advertising a movie it was running about Hillary.

          • Eli says:

            I am indeed suggesting that leftists are not the party of business. By definition. “Left” means anti-capitalist.

          • Stefan Drinic says:

            We can just take the examples you named UNCLEAR and assign them left/right values anyway. A lot of them seem very right/leftist when you think about them.

            Mapp v. Ohio: definite leftward shift. Having pervasive police forces is very rightist.

            Gideon v. Wainright: another leftward shift. Positive freedoms in general, such as ‘right to get provided an attorney’, are leftist.

            United States v. Nixon: third left shift in a row. Allowing leaders/elites fewer privileges is a leftist ideal.

            Regents of the University of California v. Bakke: definite right shift. Affirmative action and quotas are extreme forms of positive freedom, and so striking these down is rightist.

            Boy Scouts of America v. Dale: another right shift, though more because of a political reason, sort of. You could argue it’s leftist because it might just as easily have been the right of the girl scouts to keep out mormons or whatever. More a case of right/left divides being hard to pin to either party than anything else.

            I’m not even really going into the ones you did label here. Rest assured, left/right is more complicated than whatever some college people and christians in 2015 make it out to be, though you didn’t do too bad a job despite that.

      • James Kabala says:

        Where did all the Unclears come from? The great majority of the twentieth-century ones are clear Left Shifts. (Which does not necessarily mean that the Court always moved left – it might also reflect the bias of the compiler as to which cases are important enough to list.) Citizens United is a clear Right Shift. You aren’t counting anything as a Left Shift unless it directly involves race or sex or religion. Are you non-American? (An honest question, not an insult – a non-American person might miss some of the nuances in these one-sentence descriptions. So might an American with not much knowledge of Supreme Court history – which is most Americans in reality!).

        • Marc Whipple says:

          Citizens United is not a clear Right Shift, as its primary beneficiaries have not been corporations and Conservative Super PAC, but unions and Progressive Super PAC. The Justices, who know more about their decisions and their ramifications than HuffPo and the Twitter Review of Law, were aware that that could be the case.

          • James Kabala says:

            I was focusing on the philosophy that produced the decision rather than any outcome or anticipated outcome. Conservatives today support unrestricted political money = speech and liberals support restrictions on it. That may not have been true forty years ago at the time of Buckley v. Valeo, but it is certainly true today. (For similar reasons, I think AngryDrake may be correct to designate Bush v. Gore as Unclear, since the outcome was pro-Right, and even the motivation for how each justice voted may have been pro-Right, but the actual legal reasoning was more ambiguous.)

          • Marc Whipple says:

            I must politely object to your assertion that Progressives object to unlimited campaign donations. They feel that groups they support (e.g. labor unions) should be able to make whatever donations they like, and groups they do not (e.g. corporations) should not.

            Freedom of speech is a liberal point of view. Not all liberals are Progressives, and not all Conservatives are illiberal.

      • James Kabala says:

        I could not restrain myself. I leave out nineteenth-century cases as from a political spectrum too different from that of today. These are my opinion but a lot closer to “I don’t think most will be controversial” than your list.

        Lochner v. New York
        The Court rules against a group of bakers — and begins an era in which it strikes down progressive laws seeking to regulate working conditions.
        RIGHT SHIFT

        Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States
        The Court strikes a blow for competition — and a blow against John D. Rockefeller.
        LEFT SHIFT

        Schecter Poultry Corp v. United States
        The Court makes an enemy of President Roosevelt by striking down a key provision of the New Deal.
        RIGHT SHIFT/STATUS QUO

        Korematsu v. United States
        The Court allows the internment of Japanese Americans in camps during World War II.
        RIGHT SHIFT/UNCLEAR

        Shelley v. Kraemer
        The Court invalidates restrictions on the ownership of property by non-whites.
        LEFT SHIFT

        Brown v. Board of Education
        The Court says separate is not equal — and begins the end of segregation in public life.
        LEFT SHIFT

        Mapp v. Ohio
        The Court says police must follow the Fourth Amendment — or have any evidence they find excluded from trial.
        LEFT SHIFT

        Baker v. Carr
        The Court enters the debate over voting districts — and reshapes the political landscape.
        LEFT SHIFT

        Engel v. Vitale
        Prayer in public schools violates the separation of church and state.
        LEFT SHIFT

        Gideon v. Wainright
        Criminal defendants have the right to an attorney, even if they cant afford to pay for one.
        LEFT SHIFT

        Heart of Atlanta Motel, Inc. v. United States
        The Court sides with Congress in the major constitutional challenge to the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
        LEFT SHIFT

        New York Times v. Sullivan
        The New York Times runs an advertisement with factual errors — and gets First Amendment protection anyway.
        LEFT SHIFT

        Reynolds v. Sims
        Voting districts must be roughly equal in population.
        LEFT SHIFT

        Griswold v. Connecticut
        The Court rules that the First Amendment guarantees a right to privacy, even though it doesnt explicitly say so.
        LEFT SHIFT/STATUS QUO

        Miranda v. Arizona
        Miranda rights are born.
        LEFT SHIFT

        Frontiero v. Richardson
        The Supreme Court justices decide that discrimination based on gender is unconstitutional — but dont agree on much else.
        LEFT SHIFT (This is out of chronological order – odd.)

        In Re Gault
        Even juvenile defendants get certain constitutional rights when they are charged with a crime.
        LEFT SHIFT

        Loving v. Virginia
        The Court strikes down laws prohibiting interracial marriage.
        LEFT SHIFT

        Griggs v. Duke Power Co.
        The Court fashions the concept of disparate impact, meaning an employer can be guilty of discrimination even without proof of intent.
        LEFT SHIFT

        Lemon v. Kurtzman
        The Court creates the Lemon test for deciding cases involving the separation of church and state.
        UNCLEAR

        Roe v. Wade
        Women have the constitutional right to terminate pregnancy.
        LEFT SHIFT

        United States v. Nixon
        The Court rejects Nixons assertion of unqualified executive privilege and orders the release of the Watergate tapes, ultimately toppling his presidency.
        UNCLEAR

        Gregg v. Georgia
        The Court finds that the death penalty is not cruel and unusual punishment.
        STATUS QUO/RIGHT SHIFT

        Regents of the University of California v. Bakke
        [A]ffirmative action is okay, but quotas arent.
        UNCLEAR

        Texas v. Johnson
        Flag burning is a form of expressive speech protected by the First Amendment.
        LEFT SHIFT

        Cruzan v. Missouri Department of Health
        There needs to be clear and convincing evidence of a patients wishes before ending life-sustaining medical treatment.
        STATUS QUO/RIGHT SHIFT

        Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey
        A woman has the right to terminate her pregnancy, but the government can put a lot of restrictions on that right.
        STATUS QUO

        United States v. Lopez
        The Court curbs the Commerce Clause and strikes down a school gun ban.
        RIGHT SHIFT

        Reno v. ACLU
        The Court gives Internet content the highest level of First Amendment protection.
        UNCLEAR

        Boy Scouts of America v. Dale
        The Court allows the Boy Scouts to bar gays from becoming troop leaders.
        STATUS QUO

        Bush v. Gore
        The justices end the Florida recount and put George W. Bush in the White House.
        RIGHT SHIFT/UNCLEAR

        Lawrence v. Texas
        The Court strikes down laws prohibiting sexual acts between consenting adults.
        LEFT SHIFT

        District of Columbia v. Heller
        The Second Amendment guarantees an individuals right to bear arms, at least in ones home.
        RIGHT SHIFT

        Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission
        The Court uses the First Amendment to strike down limits on corporate campaign contributions.
        RIGHT SHIFT

    • Simon says:

      I get the impression what really happened is that the mainstream left has in practice been assimilated by the technocratic power structure it formed in opposition to, hence the appearance of the cultural left winning but the economic left losing.

      So, a lot of progressive cultural norms have prevailed more so, and *that* is how “Cthulhu swims left” as the far-rightists say, but the economic nuts-and-bolts of traditional left-wing politics have been left behind. This leaves quite a few of the national-populist conservative movements I mentioned above now being to the left on economics of not just the libertarian part of the right, but also all but the most extreme left-wing parties.

      In my country (i. e. Denmark), the general public seems to have caught up with this last election: The centre-left parties have taken a major beating to the benefit of not only the far right, but the far left is now stronger than it has been the last many decades since they’re the only faction of the left you can count on to actually perform as advertised.

    • E. Harding says:

      Yup, every man and woman on the Left supported Trans marriage back in 1975. Also, while the whole rape culture stuff may simply be going back to 1970s feminism, the picoaggressions stuff is definitely new.

      Also, the BNP and Nazis aren’t exactly free-marketeers; they have this weird fetish for protectionism and agriculture, as well as reducing the power of finance. There’s no reason for why Labour should attempt to make Britain go back to fossil-fuel socialism.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Given the varying responses to the left-right-polarization thing in thread (each cherry-picking different evidence), it might be interesting to make a post on to what extent the polarization is really happening, and whether it varies on different dimensions.

    • stillnotking says:

      Oh, it’s real, all right.

    • LTL says:

      Agreed.

      I’m finding it amusing that there are both many right-wingers and left-wingers in this thread complaining that their party is actually moderate (for good or for ill, in their opinion) and it’s the other side that has become radical and shifted the oveton window away from the poster’s side.

      • Luke Somers says:

        Seems obvious to me that both parties have pivoted so different parts have been dragged in different directions.

        On issues of sexual preference, and non-traditional gender identities? OMGWTFBBQ has the Overton window leapt left in a hurry. Race and gender discrimination have also been sliding that way, though less so.

        On taxes, though? Welfare and other aid programs? Labor unions? There’s a slide to the right. What used to be a Republican health-care proposal back in the ’90s was attacked from the right, vigorously, as if it were far-left. Any Republican supporting the tax level that many did in the ’80s would be primaried into oblivion today. Immigration – Republicans carried out more than one amnesty, back in the day.

        • LTP says:

          On welfare, a conservative could respond that government spending keeps going up, and that’s not going the military or infrastructure. I take your point on the others, though.

    • SUT says:

      It’s actually _reality_ that’s shifting underneath the feet of partisan policy goals.

      Greece’s politics shows what happens with a 9.8 reality quake: you start seeing neo-nazi, and marxist parties both being elected. The economic reality changed so fast that people will support a very wide range of policy options.

      What I’d call a centrist position in American Politics the ability to move policy in line, and at pace with updates on reality. The discussion of the Supreme Court case on the Voting Rights Act had a good example of this: While Mississippi used to have the lowest AA turnout (which gave the Fed legitimacy to oversee state elections), now it’s Massachusetts with lowest AA turnout, can we still use the same rationale? So nullifying some the law can be portrayed as “taking us back to a pre-civil-rights era” or I would say more accurately reflects the reality of moving past the necessity of race based protection legislation.

      • Eugine_Nier says:

        Greece’s politics shows what happens with a 9.8 reality quake: you start seeing neo-nazi, and marxist parties both being elected. The economic reality changed so fast that people will support a very wide range of policy options.

        Except what caused this quake is the cumulative effect of existing policies. Namely, political parties (including the “mainstream right” party) spending more and more money to buy votes and eventually running out of budget.

  44. It sounds like your theory of politics is the same as the one in “The Myth of the Rational Voter.” I’ve got a review of it here:

    http://hopefullyintersting.blogspot.com/2011/04/book-review-myth-of-rational-voter.html

    Also, I’ll say that I think open primaries are just a bad idea.

  45. Quixote says:

    I think one point this analysis missed is that on basically every single point that is not immigration, Trump is far more centrist than the republican leadership.

    The idea that the leadership wants all these sane electable things and the voters want these fringe ideas is not as accurate as the leadership would have you believe. The typical republican voter who works and ordinary job, pays in to social security each month and plans to retire with it doesn’t really have a personal sake in cutting social security to lower taxes for billionaires. The leaders, who need donations from billionaires do have a stake in this issue. Consequently on tax policy the leadership is way to the right of the base. Trump is much closer to the mass of voters than the republican leadership on most issues that are not immigration.

    • Brian says:

      Your phrasing got confusing at the end–I think you meant “Trump is much closer to the mass of voters than the republican leadership on most issues; on most issues other than immigration, voters are left of the republican leadership, while on immigration, they’re right of the republican leadership.”

  46. Bettega says:

    A good way to see if “the right is getting rightier and the left is getting leftier” is by analyzing the institutions that are more or less controlled by the right and the left respectively.

    Let’s see, is the military getting rightier? With open support for gay rights and feminism, I don’t think so. The police, maybe, is getting rightier as a reaction to anti-cop rhetorics, but they haven’t showed it yet by creating paramilitary death squads as in Latin America. Corporations are fairly divided these days, new industries favor not only social liberal causes, but even higher taxes for wealthy people, while people in stuff like energy industry remain steadfastly right-wing. Churches are also divided, some, like Mainline Protestants and Catholics have become “leftier”, but Evangelicans are still not surrendering their moral issues, though the decline of religion is soon to make them irrelevant. Regarding other social movements associated with the right, the militia movement of the 90s has mostly disappeared, it seens, and it was the only relevant one I can remember.

    On the left we have the universities. Have them become leftier? Well, it has happened so fast that the teachers themselves, the ones who purged conservatives from higher education a few decades ago are becoming scared, so I guess the answer is yes. The media outside of Fox News is also more leftist than years before, not only small venues such as Jacobin and Young Turks, who get a pass with sharing names with mass murderers, but the New York Times and Washington Post. Unions are still rightier than they used to be, tough, but once again they are just not that relevant anymore. Other social movements affiliated with the left have become more powerful, more relevant and more leftier though, if not in relation to the early 20th century or the 1960s, at least in relation to the 80s and 90s. I mean, the Black Panthers are back, there is even a new movie whitewashing their story on PBS.

    So overall, it appears that the institutions controlled by the right either have stayed in the same place, been divided with parts going to the left or just disappeared. The institutions controlled by the left have been getting leftier, and with the very important exception of labour unions, not been divided or lost any relevancy. The most powerful institutions in the United States, the universities, are firmly and even increasingly under left-wing control.

    Though yes, private property still exists, what the intelligentsia calls “neoliberalism” is still the most practiced economic policy in the Western world and there is even austerity policies in countries that have overspent in welfare policies, so there’s that too.

    • Zykrom says:

      Some large fraction of left leaning people will say that socjus is not necessarily to the left of what came before it.

      Socjus has grown, oldleft not so much. Does that mean society is left or right? Who gives a shit?

      I think left and right divide has gotten more intense is recent years, which I think confuses people into thinking the ideology is getting more radical.

      • Eli says:

        Some large fraction of left leaning people will say that socjus is not necessarily to the left of what came before it.

        Yep. “Social justice” these days isn’t left-wing. It doesn’t have an analysis of society in terms of class conflict. It’s basically just, “I don’t like this stuff! It hurts me!” This is a valid complaint, but only on an equal level with all other complaints of the form that people are being hurt by things.

        • Bettega says:

          Well, I see it as the opposite, social justice extends the terms of class conflict to their entire analysis of society, like gender relations or literaly production. They aren’t Anti-Marxist so much as they are Post-Marxist, which is exactly how their intellectual father, Ernesto Laclau, defined himself.

          And Laclau was very much left-wing.

          • Yakimi says:

            “Well, I see it as the opposite, social justice extends the terms of class conflict to their entire analysis of society, like gender relations or literaly production.”

            Simply expanding the proletariat-bourgeoisie analogy seems more neo- than post-Marxist.

          • Anonymous says:

            They aren’t Anti-Marxist so much as they are Post-Marxist

            I’d call them Madlib-Marxist: “The ________ is oppressed by the ________ through various means we must do a ________ revolution to fix this”.

        • Brian says:

          Are any of the people saying social justice isn’t left wing people who are on the left wing and support social justice? Because from here this looks like a post-hoc rationalization of a No True Scotsman claim. Unless you want to argue that all of the racial, feminist, and LGBT groups pushing social justice issues somehow aren’t left wing either…

          • Anthony says:

            Ralph Nader said something about “genital politics” being a distraction, so I’d say that’s someone on the left saying that SJism isn’t really leftism, but I’d bet given up/down referenda on pretty much every SJ issue, Nader would vote SJ.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            Saying “x is a distraction” isn’t the same as saying “x isn’t left-wing”, though.

    • E. Harding says:

      Finance has been getting rightier.

  47. david condon says:

    “The clearest example here would be Obama promising to close Guantanamo Bay by 2010, followed by him getting elected and someone asking “Okay, and exactly how are you going solve all of the legal hurdles to doing this?””

    The Senate forcibly blocking attempts to close the center seems like an odd definition of “legal hurdles.”

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      “Promising to do something you don’t have the power to accomplish” is exactly the thesis of Scott’s essay (as I read it, at least).

      Bush wanted to close Gitmo, too. This was pointed out, and the answer was some combination of 1) Obama could do it through sheer force of will, and 2) foreign countries would hate us less once we got rid of Bush.

      Well, Obama’s force of will wasn’t that strong, and foreign countries turned out to be self-interested parties who refused to take in Gitmo detainees before and refused to take it Gitmo detainees after. We took away one of their excuses, which with a buck will get you onto the subway.

  48. SUT says:

    What I don’t get: Romney says that whole “49% are takers” thing in private and basically loses the election over it. Trump seems like he’ll have a more offensive quote at least once a week…

    • Zykrom says:

      Trump offends people who were never going to vote for him anyway.

    • Zebram says:

      Probably what Zykrom said, but also people tend to have different expectations of Trump and Romney. People kind of expect Trump to say things that are offensive. He does it in a clownish type of way, so people give him some more leniancy. Romney never acted in any clownish way. He looked like a super serious Wall Street guy. People were less likely to overlook any statements from him they might find offensive.

    • stillnotking says:

      What sunk Romney was the perception that his true, inner beliefs were significantly different from his public professions. If he’d said that in a stump speech, it wouldn’t have been nearly as damaging. (Compare Obama’s remarks about “bitter clingers” in 2008, or, for that matter, Romney’s own “binders full of women”.)

      Ironically, the 47% quote probably did him more damage on the right; large portions of the GOP base were already suspicious of him, for, um, other reasons.

      • Joyously says:

        This is a tangent, but I still to this day don’t understand why “binders full of women” was offensive.

        • Zebram says:

          It’s not offensive. It’s clear to anyone with a brain what he meant and that he just jumbled up the words. It’s another manufactured controversy.

        • Hari Seldon says:

          Because he was a careful speaker and this was the only evidence that could be found of his obvious misogyny and hatred of anyone who wasn’t a rich white man like him. As weak as it was; it worked.

          Go on any Reddit forum and mention Romney. That quote will come up within minutes followed by an angry diatribe about everyone on the right being misogynists and racists.

          • SUT says:

            It sounded funny because the proper sentence is “binders full of women *candidates*”For Romney, that’s against character, which is probably the reason it got attention.

            If Biden had said it, it would have been just another “Ohh, Joe” moment. If Obama has said it, it would probably be something of a cult-classic phrase, embraced in popular feminism memes.

        • Jaskologist says:

          The nice thing about Argument by Wow Just Wow is that after a while it doesn’t even need to have any underlying logic. It is enough to show a quote in association with the designated uncool target, and Pavlovian responses take over. Jon Stewart made a lot of money off this model.

        • Galle says:

          Serious answer: it makes it sound like he was collecting women for office explicitly for the purpose of being able to say that he wasn’t misogynist. It’s sort of like how “some of my best friends are black” is a stereotypical thing racists say.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Yeah, trying not to sound racist/misogynist is a game you can’t win, Trump’s popularity comes from being smart enough not to play it.

          • Zebram says:

            When you continually get called things like ‘racist’, ‘sexist’, etc, then you start making defensive statements, whether you are guilty or not.

            And if some of your best friends are in fact black, then how racist can a person really be? Do you think people in the KKK have black friends?

          • Zykrom says:

            Dylann Roof had at least one black friend….

          • Joyously says:

            Okay. I guess you could read it that way if you’re being uncharitable. To me, inclined to be charitable towards him, it obviously came off as if he were actually expressing support for affirmative action–it keeps qualified people from falling through the cracks by not being noticed, etc. etc.

            How does what he did look different than someone who decided to set themselves a quota of female-filled positions for moderate-feminist reasons?

          • Zebram says:

            I would agree with Joyously. To me, that seems like the most uncharitable reading. I don’t even think that is a reasonable interpretation of the statement. I mean, what are you implying, that Romney literally asked for women to be shipped to him via FedEx in plastic binders?

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @joyously/@zebram:
            On “binders full of women”, the short answer is that it was an inartful phrase and politics, as a social status game, punishes inartful phrases. Go ask Howard Dean about how something coming out in an unintended manner can kill a presidential came.

            I think there is a deeper exploration of the topic that is possible. Why did the phrase seem inartful? There is the obvious, that it seems to reduce women to a stack of objects in the oh-so corporate seeming “binder”. It emphasized an aspect of his personality and history that he needed to sublimate in the minds of the voters, that of head of corporation who has no particular interest in other people, only pieces of paper.

            Then you have the meta-narrative. He was the standard bearer for a party that states that affirmative action is anathema. His answer essentially said “We don’t believe in affirmative action. We think people should identify under-represented groups and specifically target hiring them.”

            Then there is the further point that, the phrase does not emphasize all of the women he hired, but rather only having the resumes. Regardless of whatever his full answer was, the phrase leaves the impression that he only cared about having the resumes, not the actually hiring. IIRC, he actually put the modifier “whole” in front of binders, and emphasized how thick they were by spreading his thumb and finger, as if this in itself was supposed to be an accomplishment of some note, as to inspire excitement.

          • Galle says:

            Regardless of whether or not it’s a charitable or reasonable reading, that is how people read it. It should really not be surprising that people read the statements of their political opponents in an uncharitable way.

          • kerani says:

            @Galle

            It should really not be surprising that people read the statements of their political opponents in an uncharitable way.

            Quite true. However, I would expect people to be surprised when all the members of the media are ‘political opponents’ of a particular candidate, and broadcasting only the uncharitable version of the statement.

        • DanC says:

          Andy Burnham keeps getting picked on for having said that now is not the time for a woman leader of the Labour party; as he’s standing as a candidate for leadership of the party, you have to assume he wants to win. I still cannot get over how idiotically manufactured this particular thing is

    • Galle says:

      Romney didn’t lose the election because of any one thing he said. Romney lost the election because Obama is the Incredible Hulk of winning elections.

    • Eugine_Nier says:

      Romney says that whole “49% are takers” thing in private and basically loses the election over it. Trump seems like he’ll have a more offensive quote at least once a week…

      Trump’s quotes aren’t offensive, at least not unambiguously so.

      Everybody agrees Romney’s quote was offensive, even Romney implicitly agrees since he tried to keep it private and back-paddled when it came out.

      Trump on the other hand says his things in public and doesn’t attempt to back-paddle, hence his opponents claim what he says is offensive, he and his supporters claim it isn’t; conclusion: not unambiguously offensive.

      • HeelBearCub says:

        That “Mexico sends us their rapists, but I assume some of them are nice people” quote seems objectively far more offensive. It’s just not as broadly targeted.

        • Eugine_Nier says:

          My point is that you have this weird idea that offensiveness is in some sense “objective”. It is in fact a pretty pure example of a social construct, far more than the things the cultural Marxists normally apply the term to.

          After all looking at both statements objectively all one can say is that both are true. The difference being that Romney and his supporters acted like he alieved his statement to be offensive, whereas Trump acts like it isn’t.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            You think the vast majority of Mexican immigrants are criminals? And this is only subjectively offensive to Mexican immigrants?

            Well, thanks for clarifying, I guess.

          • Erik says:

            A quick google returned the following two stats:

            “There were 5.9 million Mexican unauthorized immigrants living in the U.S. in 2012, down from 6.4 million in 2009, according to Pew Research Center estimates.”

            “As of 2013, approximately 11.6 million Mexican immigrants resided in the United States—up from 2.2 million in 1980—and Mexicans accounted for 28 percent of the country’s 41.3 million foreign born.”

            That looks like about half of Mexican immigrants are criminals right there. (5.9 out of 11.6 million, some variance year on year.) Throw in all the non-trespassing crimes and it probably is a majority. “Vast” majority is conceivable if you think these stats are systematically distorted in some direction.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Erik:
            You think the mere fact they immigrated illegally warrants putting them in a reference class that includes rapists?

            You are also making an argument that Trump did not, so it’s not a good counter to the contention that the statement is offensive.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            In a sense, calling undocumented immigrants “criminals” is approaching The Worst Argument In The World.

            In another, pointing out that illegal aliens are not defying unjust laws for the benefit of society, but for personal gain, and therefore may reasonably be referred to as “criminals” is not unreasonable.

            You buys your ticket, and you takes your chances.

            Maybe we need a new word for criminals who are actively and directly hurting other people to distinguish them from people who are causing indirect harm or acting against general public policy. Since the system we’ve created makes all of us criminals one way or another, such a word might actually be very useful. The floor is open to suggestions.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Marc Whipple:
            You may be looking for the term victimless crime,

          • Protagoras says:

            But we want a word for the perpetrators of victimless crimes. “Victimless criminal” somehow doesn’t sound good to me (though perhaps it is just me). Perhaps just call all perpetrators of victimless crimes “jaywalkers,” to identify it with one of the crimes we’re nearly all guilty of?

          • Marc Whipple says:

            Protagoras pointed out the technical problem, but there’s another one:

            I used the words “actively and directly hurting other people” for the exact reason that “victimless crime” is a subjective assessment and at this point not much more than an invitation to argue/signal.

            For instance, if you watch the show “COPS,” it’s extremely common for the cops to go into a house whose adult occupants use drugs, find some adorable toddler who’s distraught about Mommy being hauled off to jail, hold them up, and declaim, “And they say using drugs is a victimless crime.”

            Mommy using drugs is not actively and directly harming the toddler in most cases. However, claiming that the toddler is not a “victim” of the crime is not a very sympathetic position, and will appeal only to those who already agree with you that the problem is prohibition, not drugs per se.

            (If you want an even better example, now I think of it, it’s prostitution. Prostitution itself is pretty much the definition of a victimless crime, but people on both sides of the Culture War will claim indirect effects make it obvious that it shouldn’t be allowed.)

          • brad says:

            Entering the country without authorization is not, in general, a crime. It’s a civil offense, like parking in a no parking zone.

            Do you call people with parking tickets criminals?

          • Marc Whipple says:

            What happens if you don’t pay your parking tickets?

            In any event, hairsplitting of that sort is exactly what I was trying to show was not helpful in anything but signalling to your own side. The law says they’re not supposed to be here: they’re here. And the ones who cross illegally overland, which rightly or wrongly is who most anti-illegal-immigrant types are mad about, are trespassing, often damaging property, and participating in criminal conspiracies. Putting on your gold-rimmed law-professor spectacles and chuckling, “Tut, tut, don’t these xenophobic rubes know illegally entering the US is but a mere civil infraction?” is not useful.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Marc Whipple:
            It still doesn’t put them in the reference class “rapists”. You asked for some terms for the proper reference clas, were given some, and now seem to be complaining that, no, the only proper reference class is criminal so that is what we should call them.

            If that isn’t your point, then you are far afield of what Trump meant.

          • John Schilling says:

            Entering the country without authorization is not, in general, a crime. It’s a civil offense, like parking in a no parking zone.

            Entering the United States without authorization generally is a misdemeanor per § 275 (8 USC 1325) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, punishable by up to six months in prison for the first offense.

            Specifically, it is a crime to cross the border at a place not designated for border crossing by immigration officials, to deliberately elude immigration officials, to lie to immigration officials, or to conceal any material fact from immigration officials.

            Entering the United States with authorization and then staying longer than authorized is not a criminal offense. There are other mechanisms by which one may find oneself an illegal immigrant without having committed a crime, but they are fairly rare. Mostly, illegal immigrants come to the United States in a manner that the United States has defined to be a misdemeanor crime.

  49. Brian says:

    Romney said it when the election was already one-on-one, so pissing off a majority of voters necessarily hurt him. Trump’s still in a 15 candidate race that he’s leading with about 30%, so it doesn’t matter if he pisses off the other 70%. Note that in all head-to-head polls putting a Trump against Hillary or any other major Republican candidate, Trump loses.

    Also, by spewing a lot of offensive things, the ones that offend a given voter can be quickly replaced by ones that the voter supports. We saw that with the Univision incident; a lot of Republicans offended by Trump’s “Mexico sends us their rapists” comments loved Trump’s shutting down of a leftist reporter who refused to follow the rules to score points, and started thinking “maybe this Trump guy’s got something…”

  50. Lumifer says:

    Alexis Tsipras is another excellent example of what you are talking about.

    In fact, he is by far the clearest case I know of a firebrand who was elected on the basis of his radical rhetoric, spent a few months running his face into the brick wall of reality over and over again, and then fully capitulated to that reality.

    • DanC says:

      Re populist left-wingers elected on a wave of rhetoric & reaction (maybe without quite such striking volte-face), there’s also Mitterand in 1981. And Francois Hollande. Maybe France, full stop, but electable starting point is different to everywhere else. Mário Soares in Portugal in 1976. Andreas Papandreou in Greece. Long, long lists of unkept promises & backtracking once in & reality hit (generally good mixed in with bad, but v0v)

  51. onyomi says:

    I think another interesting comparison might be between Trump and Putin. Trump strikes me as very much a “strong man” character who basically promises to help Americans regain the tough, manly bravado Obama has hurt so much. And like Putin, he reminds me uncomfortably of a fascist dictator. We haven’t had one of those in the US for 70 years, so we might be due.

    • Zebram says:

      Perhaps he’s the strong man Hayek warned us about in the Road to Serfdom.

    • Stefan Drinic says:

      The United States have more often than not been compared to the Roman Republic. As the Roman middle class declined and became the proletariat, making their living off of joining the army and political gangs, they ended up becoming the perfect tool for enterprising people to flip off the establishment and make them politically toothless. It makes the images on the internet of Trump dressed as some Greek god all the more amusing.

  52. onyomi says:

    I do recall reading a Facebook meme recently in which a prominent New Zealand political commentator stated how New Zealanders viewed Trump as so ridiculous, to which I commented “for Trump voters, the fact that it pisses off New Zealand is a feature, not a bug.”

  53. Oscar_Cunningham says:

    We can compare the odds of winning the nomination to the conditional odds of winning the presidency given nomination:

    35% vs 49% -Bush III
    15% vs 46% -Trump
    08% vs 45% -Walker
    05% vs 44% -Carson
    07% vs 43% -Kasich
    14% vs 39% -Rubio
    05% vs 33% -Fiorina

    It seems to me that Republicans favour the candidates who are more likely to win the presidency if nominated. (With the exception of Rubio.)
    For the Democrats:

    70% vs 60% -Clinton II
    12% vs 52% -Biden
    12% vs 48% -Sanders

    Seems the same as far as three data points go.
    (all odds from Betfair)

  54. moridinamael says:

    I don’t know what the policy is on linking to our personal blogs, but here’s what I say: http://mattnote.com/2015/09/04/trump-dynamics-lessons-from-media-criticism/

    In short, the entire basis of to Trump phenomenon is that he intentionally makes statements and takes actions he knows will be viral. This makes sense because he’s fundamentally a marketer.

    • DanC says:

      That’s the impression I got, it’s the main problem I have with the comparison between him and Corbyn (though if you wanted to be reductionist about it, by sticking very closely to a set of principled issues, Corbyn markets himself very effectively, it’s just that it isn’t done cynically)

  55. Odoacer says:

    Are you familiar with Peter Turchin’s work and cliodynamics?

    http://peterturchin.com/cliodynamics/

    He analyzes history through mathematical modeling. He’s done some interesting work, particularly political instability and the US as cycles of various functions. E.g. here:

    http://peterturchin.com/blog/2013/02/08/the-double-helix-of-inequality-and-well-being/

    http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2013-11-20/blame-rich-overeducated-elites-as-our-society-frays

    Journal article here:

    http://jpr.sagepub.com/content/49/4/577.short

  56. ad says:

    The smart money still says Trump will crash and burn before getting the nomination. But everyone saying this should have to add “however, he’s certainly lasted much longer than we originally predicted.”

    Except Nate Silver: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/donald-trumps-six-stages-of-doom/

    So far, Trump has not even made it through Stage One, as so many unelectable mediocrities have before him.

  57. John Schilling says:

    I’m surprised nobody has brought up H. Ross Perot as a predecessor or prototype for Trump. The only difference between them that I can see is that Trump thinks he can claim the Republican nameplate (which is all he wants from the party), whereas Perot understood that the only way he could actually get on the general election ballot in 1992 was as an independent. Trump, though he has promised not to do that, I fully expect to try and run as an independent when he fails to win the Republican primary.

    And Perot managed ~20% of the popular vote even in the general election.

    The bit where Americans are fed up with the candidates the major parties are offering, that’s not at all new. The desire for a maverick outsider to come in and reform or at least shake up the system, goes way back. So does the understanding that a presidential campaign can’t win unless it has hundreds of millions of dollars behind it, which means the choices are a mainstream Democratic machine candidate. a mainstream Republican machine candidate, and whatever maverick billionaire wants to run for President this year.

    In years where there is no maverick billionaire, everybody offers a bit of early enthusiasm for the non-billionaire mavericks (Saunders, Carson, etc) when it doesn’t really matter, then sighs and gets down to supporting the Right Boring Machine Candidate to make sure the Wrong Boring Machine Candidate doesn’t get in. If there’s a maverick billionaire, he polls at 20% all the way to the general election or until he does something really stupid.

  58. Brian says:

    If Donald Trump wins, will we admit that he is the greatest rationalist ever “sitting atop a large mountain of utility?”

  59. Hari Seldon says:

    We seem to have some basic, broad conception of right vs. left. But, when it comes right down to it, nobody seems to be able to pin it down. You want to match American right / left to European right / left? Forget it. You want to match right / left of today to right / left of 75 years ago? Forget it.

    Everyone claims the things that have been deemed good for their own side and the bad things for their foes.

    The left will claim credit for civil rights, but the right will point out that it was almost entirely Republican votes that brought that about.

    The left will pin National Socialism as obviously right wing because of the “national” in the name. The right is quick to point out the “Socialism” part as obviously left wing.

    It’s becomes a futile and endless No True Scotsman game. In an ideal world we would have a democracy where we actually talked about ideas and their merits without worrying about whether it was presented by someone with an R or a D in front of their name. Oh well, hopeless to fantasize. That well has been poisoned and there will be no cleaning it up in my lifetime.

    • Hari Seldon says:

      My own warped lens tends to filter things as forcing-your-will-on-everybody-else-with-government-as-your-cudgel vs. letting-people-live-their-own-blasted-lives. It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot more elucidating than calling things right and left.

      • Zebram says:

        I would say that’s my own warped lens as well. If I were to run for president, my slogan would be ‘Live and Let Live’

    • Urstoff says:

      “Only when he realizes that his social beliefs are the product of tribalism and historical contingency can a man truly be free.” – John the Baptist

    • HeelBearCub says:

      @Hari Selden:
      You seem to be saying that you wish everyone would stop caring about whether they get their ideas implemented, in favor of just talking about their ideas.

      You will perhaps protest that you in fact want the emphasis specifically and only on each individual idea and whether it gets implemented. My response to that is you leave no room for compromise, which is usually essential to actually getting things done. Coalition building is where most of the compromising gets done.

      It’s all very well and good to take a view of serene and unemotional angels in white duly considering each idea and letting them rise and fall on their own merits. Reality doesn’t seem to let that exist for long.

  60. Willy Chertman says:

    While Trump’s outsider status is obviously an attraction to many, his most loudly trumpeted policy issue is immigration and border control. He has the most conservative views on this, and has attacked Bush especially for not being conservative on this issue. He’s also conservative on defense– he’s a hawk. And yet on other issues he’s not conservative compared to the rest of the GOP– medicare, social security, has praised single-payer healthcare systems in other countries, etc.

    Its fun to say Trump is a symbol for polarization, but he’s also a symbol for Nativist sentiment.

    He’s right-wing on exactly the stuff few other mainstream GOP figures are actually right-wing about– immigration, borders, and globalization.

  61. & says:

    *throws hands in the air*
    That’s it! I’m done! Politics is way to confusing!

    I’m just gonna vote for Lessig. At least I’ll know what that means.

  62. Peter says:

    Labour? Leftist???

    It’s not all that long since we were anagramming “Tony Blair MP” to “I’m Tory Plan B”, and mixing Blue Curacao and Cherry Brandy to make a New Labour (OK, that last one might just have been me, but the Red+Blue mix makes sense even with the silly backwards colour scheme that you have on the other side of the Pond). Corbyn only looks hard left because he stands for principles the rest of the party abandoned in the mid-to-late 90s.

    (Says the person who routinely voted for, and is now a member of, a party that happily went into coalition with the Tories…)

  63. DanC says:

    I basically agree with this: with Corbyn (I’m UK, can’t really comment on Trump in any detail – though is there actually anything beyond the caricature that appears in the media?) it seems to be the public certainty of his convictions*, combined with a series of shibboleths (Iraq, Trident, Iraq, ‘neoliberalism’, Iraq, bank bailouts, Iraq) that push those left-wing buttons. And every criticism, valid or not, is being painted as an establishment attack upon him. He is morally pure. He’s actually saying something, and saying it straightforwardly, whereas his opponents are being politicians, full of ambiguity/compromise (+ terrible campaigns). And he doesn’t look like a politician, which helps quite a bit.

    (Reading that back, I could have replaced ‘Corbyn’ with ‘Farage’ and the paragraph above almost works word-for-word: he’s currently utterly toxic, so as to long-term trends, this is all possibly meaningless…)

    * even though, and i think this is the huge difference between his & Trump’s style, literally everything he says is couched in ‘we could try this’, or ‘I think this might be a good idea to look at’, not that that makes any difference to either the media coverage or to his more vocal supporters scoped view of him.

    Also, it took about a month into the Labour leadership election (I’m a member of the party, and consider myself relatively left-wing) for me to hit the point Scott described in the ‘Right is the New Left’ post from April last year – I found myself moving very, very quickly toward agreeing with a variety of conservative viewpoints (I think mainly via exposure to large amounts of good historical literature that’s in opposition to the vast amount of crap bouncing around the various echochambers I’m a member of, but anyway…).

  64. Alex says:

    This strikes me as the right explanation:

    Trump is succeeding because he is articulating views that are widely held among American voters but normally suppressed in the political system due to the power of the donor class.

    I am interested in what Trump’s view is on criminal justice reform (for American citizens). I can only assume he is tough on crime, since if you want to use state power against one group you may want to use it on others.

  65. jaimeastorga2000 says:

    Worse, once they’re elected they’ve got to deal with reality. If you try to be too liberal (like raising the minimum wage to $15) or too conservative (like building an immigration wall), then businesspeople with a vested interest in the economy continuing to work start yelling at you, and maybe you back down. There’s this archetypal image of the new President-elect walking into the White House on day one and very serious men in suits telling him “Okay, here are the planks of your campaign platform which don’t have a snowball’s chance in Hell of working and which you are going to drop,” and probably he listens.

    I am reminded of the latest episode of Ascending the Tower, in which the question of Trump’s ability to deliver on his campaign promises almost immediately turned into a question of his ability to lead the military into an auto-coup against USG. Because, seriously, how the hell else is he gonna get anything done with the rest of the federal government determined to undermine him at every turn? About the only other thing which occurs to me is for Trump to pull an Abbott and send troops a few miles south of the border to stop immigrants before they can reach American soil. That wouldn’t do anything about the immigrants currently in America, of course, but it would stop any more from coming illegally (well, except for the ones who visit legally and then overstay their visas).

  66. Donttellmewhattothink says:

    The most salient feature of Trump – I would say the only salient feature of Trump – is that the establishment hates him. …”Only vote for him if you’re a real Republican.” And Republicans are eating it up. It doesn’t even matter that he’s not that conservative in real life, the media has conducted his campaign for him. Every bad thing the media and the establishment say about him will just make him more popular.”

    I don’t think sanders and trump are equivalent. Sanders is the only dem to go up against the corrupt, incompetent and unlike able Hillary. Other than that, he has a locall following among the occupy wall list crowd, which is a tiny subset off the dem coalition – no appeal to blacks or Hispanics, without which the dems are nothing.

    Trump is bigger and has something to offer independents and blacks and even legal Hispanics. His followers are not tea party (small government constitutional consevatives), or evangelicals or fiscal conservatives. He is a populist, with demagogic appeal as is true of many pop it’s. He is fun because he is one of the most free men in America, not PC, on a narcissistic romp, having a great time. Low information types, who mostly don’t vote in primaries and may not vote for him, like his promises of Hope and change – oh, that was our last narcissist in chief.

  67. Who wouldn't want to be Anonymous says:

    I am just going to leave this here. Trump leads all major contenders in a head to head poll.

    I don’t have any personal knowledge about the subject, but a quick look says the pollster that conducted it is pretty good.

    • Oscar Cunningham says:

      It always amazes me how far prediction markets stray from the polls. They still only give Trump a 7% chance of winning. What gives?

      • Erik says:

        Prediction markets are wrong because they’re run by sober and professional Very Serious People rather than anything vaguely resembling the general population, and Trump is not a Very Serious Person so he’s being mass-underestimated.

        Polls are wrong because at this stage they’re mostly measuring name recognition and media attention a year away from the election, something which has practically no bearing on winning down the road.

        Split the difference to taste.

        Also, prediction markets are wrong because they have no good reference class for Trump. And polls are wrong because people are [ab]using them to signal in a way different from how they’d vote.

      • Steven says:

        There’s a big difference between the sort of results prediction market players expect from a random phone survey in September and the results they expect from asking the sort of people who go out on a weekday morning in an Iowa winter in early February to spend two hours listening to political speeches after exposure to a few weeks of carefully-crafted attack ads.

  68. Fairhaven says:

    the comments section demonstrates that the issue of illegal immigration actually does elicit a lot of interest and passion, even here.

    the focus on whether illegal immigration is slower (for the moment, because of Obama’s big government suppression of the job market) is immaterial to people’s concerns. 70% of Americans are unhappy about the level of immigration – and I suspect that includes legal as well as illegal. it is a bi-partisan issue and the ruling class in both parties have been ignoring ordinary citizens on this for decades. that is why Trump is a phenomenon. he is giving voice to people and that is intoxicating.

    I think the thesis that all or most issues are immaterial and this is about empty signaling of group membership has some serious flaws. yes, of course this is true sometimes. the evidence is when people are willing to turn on a dime and betray their deeply held principles of yesterday in order to fall in line with their group. prime example, Democrat unity behind the Iran Deal. While the Democrat party has become increasingly anti-Israel and even anti-Semitic, most Democrat Congressmen have supported the containment of Iran, sanctions, and the notion that any ‘deal’ and ending of sanctions would be based on the dismantling of their nuclear program and the ending of their sponsorship of terror. yesterday it was unthinkable to give Iran $150 billion to spend on mayhem and terror. then Obama, for his own reasons, says to forget all that, that it is glorious to give Iran a terror fund, and all Dems fall in line like little robots.

    the trump phenomenon doesn’t fit into the theory of signaling at all. his followers are a heterogeneous group with some independents, some black Democrats, some conservatives, some Reagan Democrats and so on. they aren’t a cohesive identity group at all. perhaps that is the most hopeful indication he may be short lived.

    • HeelBearCub says:

      What the heck are you on about with the phrase “terror fund”? Because sanctions will be lifted, allowing new economic activity?

      • Doctor Mist says:

        He’s talking about Iranian assets they will suddenly have access to when the sanctions are lifted. Israel’s ambassador said that was $150 million; the Treasury department says it’s more like $100 million.

        It is implausible that every penny will be spent on terror.

        But it certainly is a big boost to the economy of a country that many view as a significant source of terror. If one could really believe it would reduce the chances of, say, an Iranian nuclear arsenal, it would be a great thing. Many do not so believe.

        • HeelBearCub says:

          Calling it a terror fund is false.

          Saying they are being “given” it is false.

          I will bite my tongue for a little while before I say something unkind.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Calling it a terror fund is false.

            I agree.

            Saying they are being “given” it is false.

            I don’t actively disagree. 🙂 Still, when you said

            Because sanctions will be lifted, allowing new economic activity?

            it struck me as rhetorically on the other side of the true situation. Lifting the sanctions does not just let them trade freely and rebuild their economy, it also makes available to them a sum of money that is quite large compared to their previous running money. No, we didn’t “give” it to them, in the sense of it coming out of our pocket, but it gives them a big running start. If one is inclined to doubt their sincere desire to be a good actor in the global community, it’s logical to wonder how sensible that is.

            I have tried but failed to come up with a fair analogy to someone being released on parole. There are various restrictions placed on such a person: no consorting with previous associates, limitations on travel, (significantly) no owning a firearm. If the parolee was a bank robber, he cannot use what he stole, but that’s totally not a fair analogy to Iran’s frozen funds.

            Well analogies are hard, especially if I’m trying to steelman somebody else’s position from a passing snippet of over-the-top rhetoric. Basically, what I think it comes down to for someone like Fairhaven is the feeling that we’ve given Iran the whole kit and kaboodle, with nothing in return: Iran is not on parole, it is the new mayor.

            I will bite my tongue for a little while before I say something unkind.

            I thank you. I am not always successful at doing that!

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Doctor Mist:
            I wouldn’t have said anything unkind about you. And I asked about the supposed terror fund because I literally had no idea what was being talked about, so I thank you answering.

            It simply struck me that the whole OP does not pass the true, kind, necessary test. It basically uses an outright lie in place of argument.

        • $150 million is a lot of money to you or me, but it’s rounding error when you are considering the assets of a country the size of Iran, with a GNP of $1.2 trillion.

          • Eric says:

            It seems to be between $50 and 150 billion, not million, so sizable chunk of change for Iran either way, maybe 10% of its GDP

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Whoops, I did get that wrong. It’s 100 billion, not 100 million. Pretty soon we’re talking about real money. 🙂

            Wikipedia says Iran’s GDP is:

            Nominal: $367.098 billion
            PPP: $1,244.328 billion

            where PPP means “purchasing power parity”. I’m guessing the difference is that things are cheaper in Iran than the U.S.? If so, which one do I compare $100 billion in released assets to? If it’s the first, it’s not small change; if it’s the second, well, it’s still not small change.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Since it’s real cash, compare it to the real GDP, not the PPP.

            Here’s a simple heuristic: when looking at totals, use nominal. When per capita, use PPP.

            There are occasions in which nominal per capita is useful. I have never seen a use for aggregate PPP.

      • Fairhaven says:

        when you ‘release’ $150 BIILLION dollars to a terror sponsoring state that is announcing it will continue to sponsor terror, that it will buy ballistic missiles and a missile defense system, that it will annihilate Israel and kill every Jew on the planet…expect them to spend some of that money on what they are telling you they plan to do. Obama admitted some of it would be spent on terrorism. he doesn’t care. normal people do. that’s why he couldn’t follow the norms of democracy and call it treaty and get bi-partisan support. he has to do it as an unenforceable deal – you do know that don’t it? it has no force of law, not in Iran, not internationally, not here. so we are ‘giving’ them a $150 BILLION DOLLAR FUND TO SPEND AS THEY LIKE ON WEAPONS AND TERRORISM. point of comparison: we give Egypt $3 billion a year to defend itself, same to Israel.

  69. Adam says:

    That 538 ‘Six Levels of Doom’ article has the right of it. I’m not going to take anything at all of whichever early-stage primary candidate is getting attention over a year before the general. You ask why not Santorum? Santorum was leading Republican primary polls as late as March in the last election cycle. Until Trump lasts that long, you can’t ask why not Santorum. Looking real fast at the HuffPo Pollster roundup, the total number of Republican voters polled in the last round was 4,776 people across seven polls (assuming none of them polled the same people). How much do you really want to extrapolate from that?

    The last time there wasn’t a clear frontrunner before the primaries began, in 2008, look at the September polling:

    Rudy Giuliani 32%, Fred Thompson 20%, John McCain 14%, Mitt Romney 9%, Newt Gingrich 7%, Mike Huckabee 4%, Sam Brownback 2%, Chuck Hagel 1%, Ron Paul 1%, Tom Tancredo 1%, Duncan Hunter 0%, Someone else 1%, None (vol.)/Unsure 8%

    • Corey says:

      Looking real fast at the HuffPo Pollster roundup, the total number of Republican voters polled in the last round was 4,776 people across seven polls (assuming none of them polled the same people). How much do you really want to extrapolate from that?

      This is the wrong question — when extrapolating from a representative-in-expectation sample (e.g., random sample) to a population, it’s the size of the sample that matters and not the size of the population or even the proportion of units sampled. An extrapolation from a random sample of 4,776 people to a population of any finite size is going to be pretty reliable. The better question is (as you allude), even assuming that the sample was roughly representative, what relevance does a current poll (or set of polls) have to the outcome of actual interest?

      • HeelBearCub says:

        Yeah, extrapolating from 4,776 Republicans is not an issue (as long as they are representative). That’s actually a pretty damn big sample.

        But this far out its not very predictive of what will happen 6, 7, 8 months from now.

      • Adam says:

        I don’t believe they are representative samples, though to be fair, this is based on background knowledge of political polling methodologies, not specific scrutiny of these actual polls.

  70. TheOmnivore says:

    So–long time reader, first time poster. I have a political blog (link above). This analysis is more or less spot on. From a branding perspective, Trump is the *product* that Republican media has been selling since 2007. The base has been monetized and weaponized:

    Monetized into a frenzy of spending on sucker-bet products (look at the big-budget ads on conservative web-sites: BUY GOLD, BUY FOOD SUPPLIES, and the ammo sell-off). This is more or less done with Fear.

    The Weaponization was done with anger–which tracks directly to engagement (link below). This boosted turnout and activities in elections and gave them excellent partisan cohesion (gerrymandering helped).

    The net result is a base who has been told for a long time–by people (Talk Radio, TV Hosts) they trust–that the GOP Establishment must be destroyed.

    This is great most of the time–Game Theory (which, around voting, means you try to maximize the power of your vote) means that most GOP voters can’t stray. A 3rd Party vote is throwing your vote away and most people won’t do that, even if fairly “induced.”

    The problem comes in when you have a candidate who CAN “destroy the party” and is NOT controllable by them–and is actually a member OF the party. This may be why Trump signed the pledge: he knows the’s stronger as a GOP member–where Game Theory supports him–than an outsider where he’d have much lower chances of a voter’s vote being meaningful.

    Monetization and Weaponization of the Base

    Donald Trump as an agent of dignity

    Anger tracks to engagement (this is about the Sad Puppies–but applies)

    • FacelessCraven says:

      I read the “anger tracks to engagement” one. You do a good job of sounding disinterested, but the content indicates that you fundamentally do not understand the concerns of those you disagree with. If you think they are an insignificant minority with no real power to effect the world you live in and no valid concerns worth being engaged, I suppose that’s fair enough. Certainly that’s the conclusion that seems likely from your out-of-hand dismissal of their point of view.

      What you don’t appear to get is that the phenomenon you’re looking at isn’t about “gaming” a system, any more than rioting and looting are about “gaming” criminal justice and economic systems. When a system is used to generate benefits for group A at the expense of group B, group B has no incentive to maintain that system. They can fight for redistribution of the costs and benefits, or alternatively they can burn the fucker to the ground and piss on the ashes. Insufficient “Immune systems” don’t solve that problem any more than more cops solve ethnic riots; in fact, I’m pretty sure that’s how you accelerate the trend. No Awarding the Hugos, for example, was the explicit goal of the Rabid Puppies from the beginning, and it’s implementation has likely convinced most of the Sad Puppies that the Rabids were right all along.

      [EDIT] – Read the other two as well. Your basic narrative seems fairly accurate: a lot of people are very angry, and that anger has reached a point where they can’t abide even their own leaders. Your apparent conclusion, that this is some sort of madness ginned up by the conservative media, doesn’t match my own experience on the Left during Bush’s two terms. The parallels between the rage of the grassroots left and the grassroots right (under consecutive presidents, even!) are so perfectly symmetrical that it astonishes me that your analysis ignores them.

      A very large chunk of both parties see themselves as betrayed by the establishment, and the partisan narratives that have kept them from joining forces appear to be failing. The idea that “things will be better if we just get our guys in” is bleeding credibility on both sides of the aisle.

      • Marc Whipple says:

        You were far more charitable than I would have been. I wouldn’t even say they do a good job of sounding particuarly disinterested.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          Charity is the main thing they’re missing. A viewpoint that boils down to “everything would be fine if just that big group of yucky, awful people could be somehow permanently suppressed or gotten rid of” is generally speaking not a constructive one.

          • TheOmnivore says:

            I’m not seeing an ounce of charity anywhere in the partisan debate. Find me some and I’d be happy (more like relieved) to write on it.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            I won’t speak for FC, but the “they” I was referring to was you, not the Puppies/Trumpeters/etc. Your post on the Puppypocalypse was pretty clearly coming from an anti-Puppy position starting with the article you linked to to bring the reader up to speed.

            All arguments are about definitions: Who makes the definitions, wins the argument.

            It’s fine with me, by the way, if you want to write blogposts arguing for or against any particular position. Even if I objected, which I don’t, I don’t see why you should care. 🙂 I was merely indicating a difference of opinion as to whether your post was “disinterested.”

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @TheOmnivore – “I’m not seeing an ounce of charity anywhere in the partisan debate. Find me some and I’d be happy (more like relieved) to write on it.”

            The “Partisan Debate” is pretty much uncharitable by definition. It is also fruitless and pointless. You can generate charity yourself by remembering that people on the other side are actually human, no matter how unlikely their behavior or reputation might make that seem.

            http://www.npr.org/2014/11/14/363896136/the-silver-dollar-lounge

            You can attempt to communicate their reality to your side, or you can figure out how to communicate your views to them in a way that they can hear. Right now you don’t seem to be doing a good job of doing either, if you’ll forgive my saying so. I’m pretty sure you don’t understand the people you’re talking about very well, given that the best description of them you can give is a mass of crazed, rabid morons. If you don’t understand them, why would your analysis of them be sound? If your analysis isn’t sound, why should people listen to you other than to have their biases confirmed?

            The Republican establishment has had the bad fortune of presiding over both a disastrous presidency, two ugly recessions, a fruitless period as opposition, and the more or less total loss of the culture war. It has proved chronically and fundamentally incapable of addressing the concerns of its base, who see themselves beleaguered by a world sliding into chaos abroad and a viciously hostile political tribe at home. This is not a line from talk radio, this is their daily reality: by all evidence their leaders are losers, idiots, and mediocrities who have failed them utterly. Why should the base continue to support them?

            The effects of that turmoil carry downstream. You see apocalyptic products being sold to Republicans because they are living through an emotional apocalypse, just as it was for the left under Bush. Everywhere they look, the world hates and is actively working to destroy them. This is, again, not a Talk Radio meme; the world we are living in now is pretty damn close to what they see as a worst-case scenario. Advertisers know this, and advertise accordingly. It’s not a hard sell either, since Conservatives are and more or less always have been pessimistic about the long-term odds of society. Survive versus Thrive, yes?

            You are correct that Conservative media have made things much worse, much as liberal media eagerly fed the paranoia and cynicism of the grassroots left during the Bush administration. Feeding paranoia and cynicism is what the media does, left or right. It’s even arguable that the paranoia and cynicism are warranted in both cases. Looking over the actions of the last several administrations, it is hard not to conclude that the Government, Republican or Democrat, is not our friend.

            Your point about supporting Trump as a grasp for dignity is by far your most insightful analysis, and I thank you for it. Republicans and conservatives have been taking it in the teeth for years, and they’re sick of it. They want to see their enemies bleed, and they will instinctively support anyone who looks like they can make that happen. Even if that means a better chance of losing the election; after all the loses they’ve suffered, what’s one more if they can at least keep their self-respect?

            In short, you’re largely right about the facts, but this isn’t a strategy backfire. It’s the culmination of a long-term crisis for the entire conservative worldview. The base is desperate for a hope of victory, even if the only victory available comes from fighting themselves.

            [EDIT] – Forgot to mention, ammo is *never* a “sucker-bet” purchase.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            Even if that means a better chance of losing the election; after all the loses they’ve suffered, what’s one more if they can at least keep their self-respect?

            Nailed. It.

            While I am not particularly Conservative, I did not support Jesse Jackson Jr. as a candidate for Congress. However, since I lived in his district, and he would not have lost if God Himself had appeared in the sky and pronounced that anybody who voted for Jesse was going into the Lake of Fire ten minutes later, I had no incentive to vote for his opponent on political grounds. (Besides, I usually didn’t like them much either.) So I would vote for the Green candidate or the Libertarian candidate as a gesture of spite.

            As Sun Tzu said, “To a surrounded enemy you must leave a way of escape.” Because an enemy who sees no way out will fight desperately and to the death. Every day, the “ways of escape” traditionally offered to those outside the mainstream grow more circumscribed. When they believe there are none left, they will react accordingly. Fortunately for the mainstream, their assesments are not very uniform, and so it is unlikely that they will pose any significant threat as a group. The individual paroxysms of their failures of belief – which the mainstream can call irrational or extinction behavior, if it makes them feel better – will be ugly, but will not, in my opinion, threaten the system itself. In fact, they will only strengthen it.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Faceless Craven:
            “the world we are living in now is pretty damn close to what [the Republican base] see as a worst-case scenario”

            Is this hyperbole? Or do really see this as true? That the world is a worst case scenario for conservatives?

            Or were you just saying it feels that way?

          • Marc Whipple says:

            Again, won’t speak for FC, but in my opinion, yes, it’s reasonably accurate. With the caveat that the trends are a worst-case scenario, not the actual and current state of affairs. A rational Conservative would readily admit that things could be a lot worse. However a rational Conservative would probably say that while it could be worse, the situation is bad, it is deteriorating, the trend is accelerating, and there is absolutely no chance of the trend reversing itself.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HeelBearCub – “Is this hyperbole? Or do [you] really see this as true? That the world is a worst case scenario for conservatives?
            Or were you just saying it feels that way?””

            I grew up conservative, and some of my family still are. The current situation feels that way for them, and in many ways is that way. They’ve had too many shocks too fast, with no cool-off period to acclimatize and regroup. In my experience, the left was the same way under Bush, but the Bush era wasn’t all that great for the conservatives, and it’s been a non-stop nightmare ever since.

            The smart thing to do right now would probably be to beat them in the next election, but then back the pressure off, let them have a few years of relative stability and prosperity to get used to gay marriage and fetal-tissue markets, long enough for them to internalize that this new world might not be their choice, but at least it’s livable. But that would require it not being super fun to jail dumb wacko Christians who engage in civil disobedience over their sincerely held beliefs, so I’m not exactly holding my breath.

            It’ll all sort out eventually, probably after both sides make it as ugly and miserable and drawn-out a process as they possibly can.

            [EDIT] – A comparison occurs. People up in the thread have been discussing Trump’s stance toward illegal immigrants, whether it’s acceptable or unacceptable, ugly or racist or whatever. But at the end of the day, those immigrants at least have a place to be deported *to*. Imagine if you felt yourself the recipient of hostility of a similar scale, but there was no way out and no end in sight.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            But at the end of the day, those immigrants at least have a place to be deported *to*. Imagine if you felt yourself the recipient of hostility of a similar scale, but there was no way out and no end in sight.

            Very well put.

            I occasionally get so pessimistic about America’s future that I google around the map looking for a potential safer haven. Invariably what I find is that the rest of the world is farther gone than we are. That would be reassuring except that we seem to running full-bore to catch up.

      • TheOmnivore says:

        I’m certainly not disinterested–I’m thrilled. Trump is the most excitement ever. His rise is a kind of scientific test-case for a lot of things people have argued about. As for the Puppies, the sad ones aren’t especially toxic–but Vox Day, by his own admission is tryin’ hard.

        Trump isn’t a Klansman–and I am sure certainly doesn’t think of himself as racist–but he’s certainly running a campaign based on the ideology from conservative blog comment-sections–like right down the line. This is why he’s so annoying to conservative blog (most: exceptions Brietbart, Last Refuge, and explicitly white-nationalist blogs) authors. They tend to view their comments sections as poor sample overly worked up hyper-partisan voices. It turns out, they’re a pretty substantial part of the GOP voting base.

        As for Bush: nothing like Rush Limbaugh and Fox News existed (or, even, exists today) during the Bush era. Certainly not with the (extreme) levels of *trust* that conservatives report (high for Fox–near absolute for Talk Radio).

        I would like to see a test-case to compare, of course.

        EDITED TO ADD: A big part of my thesis that things are different lies with the advertising. I think that the ads that make money represent a “buying decision” (i.e. a lot more than telling a pollster you think Obama was born in Kenya). The fact that–and I have screen caps in the articles–we see these premium-space ads for end-of-the-world stuff means that the people consuming the conservative web-site (and Fox, and Limbaugh, and Alex Jones) content were making *irrational* buying decisions–and have been for some time.

        What do you think explains that behavior?

        • Marc Whipple says:

          The fact that their opinions differ from yours. While I’m closer to yours than to theirs on that score, I don’t dismiss theirs as “irrationality.” If for no other reason than they only have to be right once. 😉

          I’m sure the good citizens of places like Sarajevo and Syria were told that hey, this is modern times, we have government, the world would never allow things to descend to anarchy and chaos in a whole civilized country. Anyone who stocked up on staples, or decided to bug out, was probably viewed as irrational by those who made different decisions.

          If you think that there’s some intrinsic property of the United States that makes such events so unlikely that preparing for them is per se irrational, I’d be interested to know what it is.

          This doesn’t even address the fact that people of Conservative bent have less confidence that the government will be able to adequately take care of large numbers of people during a catastrophic natural disaster, and thus targeting them with such ads makes perfect sense even if they don’t believe the Apocalypse is imminent. Is that also irrational?

          • TheOmnivore says:

            I think America is MUCH more stable than other places–based on the fundamentals (size, wealth, civilian military, military culture, etc.). The scenarios that are being played out are also ABSURD–and designed to, well, cheat the viewers.

            Here’s an analysis of the Ron-Paul video that’s making the rounds.

            The Food4Patriots food was way over-priced and sold with the message that FEMA was coming for them. This stuff isn’t rational (see also the perpetual motion energy generators and such).

            Gold certificates won’t save you in a crisis (even gold won’t–once the dollar collapses it’d be, yes, bullets. In decades or even a century, after a global collapse gold might be useful again.

            I don’t think “being prepared” is irrational, no. But I think the reported levels of trust in conservative media guys like Glenn Beck (“I’m going to be murdered in my bed!”) along with them selling out their (massive) audiences is pretty damning.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            You could’ve just said “no.”

            In any event, you’re not arguing about their fundamental premise – that the world is an unstable and unpredictable place, and the US is part of the world – you’re arguing about their relative threat assessments. Again, I’m closer to your side of the argument than theirs. However, I still haven’t seen anything indicating why your threat assessment ability is so superior to theirs that your referring to them as “irrational” is justified. The ones who buy perpetual motion machines and worry about FEMA camps, yeah, they’re probably on the Express Train to Looney Town. But they are a fringe, whose main purpose is to give less fringe-y members of the group the reassurance that “hey, I’m not that far gone, I’m okay.” (And of course to pay for Glenn Beck’s private airplane or whatever it is he spends his money on.)

            Dismissing the fears of the larger Conservative population based on fringe wackiness is exactly the same as dismissing the fears of the larger Liberal population based on the fact that Kim Davis got put in jail so of COURSE the system works to protect the rights of homosexuals and society is firmly on the side of right, don’t worry your pretty little heads about it.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            I’d agree that America is very stable… but that realization has taken a long, long time to sink in for me. My wife and I left America for Canada in 2004 because of how freaked out we were with the madness of the Bush administration, and for the next several years we were watching the news daily for news that the balloon had gone up. Were we crazy? Well, the US is still here, so I guess we were. It sure didn’t feel like it at the time, though.

            you underestimate the utility of gold, too. Read some accounts from Vietnam or Cambodia, how civilians there used gold to pay to have themselves smuggled out ahead of the executioners. Likewise, twice this decade the economy has shit the bed on a massive scale. Yes, the idea of a currency crisis is pretty farcical simply because everyone else in the world stands to lose more than we do by creating one… but that was not a very reassuring argument when Wall Street was imploding and our government was underwriting what seemed like incalcuable loses.

            Part of what you should understand is that the people you’re looking at are profoundly distrustful of the media and our information culture in general. Ideas get rooted when supported by overwhelming, unfakeable evidence; the subprime crisis, for example. Once the idea is cemented, it’s very, very difficult to update and remove it, because you don’t trust the channels that are providing new info. Speaking from personal experience, it’s a crummy way to live but it’s very hard to escape. You have to have an open mind, watch predictions and results for a long, long time before you get enough confidence to climb out of your bolt-hole. If you’re getting your position reinforced daily by a trusted source, it’s even harder.

            The problem is, as much of a charlatan as, say, Glenn Beck is, the picture he’s spinning for them is likely closer to their lived experience than any other source they can get. They are actually fighting for their survival and their nation, they are actually losing, they are actually proper fucked. Compare that to the hollow mannequin Jeb. At least Beck exhibits an awareness that there is an actually a war happening.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          “What do you think explains that behavior?”

          The key is the “…and have been for some time”. The Goldbug memes were planted in the recession in the early 2000s, with the terror threat, paranoia about Bush and the Katrina fallout sowing the seeds for the Prepper stuff for left and right alike. When the subprime crisis hit, a lot of people thought that was The Big One and we were going Mad Max for realsies. We didn’t, but a constant stream of defeats and crises since have kept conservatives in particular from updating. Their entire world seems to be coming apart, so they’re locked in survival mode. Given their position, I can’t say it’s entirely irrational.

          Also, as Marc noted, conservatives are a good audience for canned food and shotguns even in flush times. That’s sorta what “Conservative” means.

          • TheOmnivore says:

            The gold being hawked is (a) often a certificate (not actual gold unless you send for it) and (b) over-priced and sold with the fear that Obama is about to ban its sale under an obscure law. The people (Beck, others) who were doing this had near absolute trust of their viewership.

            This is entirely predatory. A scam run-rampant over a group that has been weakened by an echo-chamber of preposterous fears (not all fears conservatives have are preposterous–but the ones these preyed on were). The FEMA ads didn’t just run on back-water sites. They ran, constantly, in the big-bucks places (pop-ups, premium space) on mainstream conservative sites.

            Here’s the article I did on it: When Winning Doesn’t Win/

            The ads were so pervasive because they worked.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            The point is not that the specific offers are a good idea. You are right, they are definitely scams. The point is that they are susceptible to scam-gold and scam-preparedness because they are a demographic with a disproportionate need for actual gold and actual preparedness. The fact that they are susceptible to cynical exploitation does not make their desperation artificial.

          • A general point that I think is relevant here …

            Almost nobody bases his opinion on political or scientific issues on his own knowledge.They form most of their opinions on the basis of what they are told by those they trust, and it is reasonable to do so, given the difficulty of knowing enough to form reliable conclusions on your own observation and analysis. It follows that they don’t have to be crazy to hold crazy beliefs.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Faceless Craven:

            You seem to be equivocating between two positions, and I’m not actually sure which one you hold.

            Position A seems to be that conservatives are losing ground on policies as implemented by both private organizations and government. This leaves them feeling emotionally stressed and behaving irrationally, amd therefore vulnerable to certain scams

            Position B is all of the above, but that conservatives are in actual, literal danger and may be forced to live off the land in some post-apocalyptic scenario. FEMA or Obama’s Czar’s or someone is about to put them in imminent danger of losing their freedom, therefore it’s completely rational to prep and be ready to “move out”

            Do you understand what I am getting at?

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HeelBearCub – “You seem to be equivocating between two positions, and I’m not actually sure which one you hold.”

            Position A is definitely true. Position B is false in the formulation you give; I think conservatives and Christians needing to go “Inna woods” is sufficiently unlikely that I would label such worries irrational. What they do have to worry about is sub-apocalyptic problems of undefinable scope in the near-term future, and some of the possible scopes seem bad enough that “moving out” might be arguably rational, provided there were somewhere to move *to*.

            [Edit] – To frame it from a liberal perspective, position B might be “Fascist takeover of the government”, and position A might be “Entitlement spending has been cut by 50%, and might be cut by another 40% in a year or two”, or some really serious changes to free-speech law.

          • Autonomous Rex says:

            You’re a talented blogger, TheOmnivore.
            I don’t know if i’ve ever read that far into a conservative blog without encountering any stark nuttery.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Faceless Craven:
            Your answer makes sense, but the following is one of the statements I was reacting to:
            “The point is that they are susceptible to scam-gold and scam-preparedness because they are a demographic with a disproportionate need for actual gold and actual preparedness.”

            Natural disasters happen. I don’t think conservatives have more need to prepare for them then other demographics. I don’t see how that sentence make sense unless you left off a “that feels as if” (they have a disproportionate need).

            My sense of today’s conservative mindset is one that is committed to the idea that the world/society/the US/our town/our schools/this neighborhood has gone to hell in a hand-basket, or will soon. In many individual cases this is actually true. Small rural towns really are dying off, you really can’t help your kids with their match homework, gays really can get married now.

            Once firmly convinced of this, confirmation bias then works its magic, and stories of how horrible things are readily believed, while counter claims are not. You said earlier that conservatives are deeply distrustful of “the media”, and I would amend that to say that they are distrustful of media that does not say things they agree with. This, of course, is not a conservative thing, just a human one, but it hits conservatives harder right now.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @HeelBearCub – “Natural disasters happen. I don’t think conservatives have more need to prepare for them then other demographics. I don’t see how that sentence make sense unless you left off a “that feels as if” (they have a disproportionate need).”

            I was kinda waffling on it, sorry. Comes from writing all this off the top of my head while up with the insomnia. Having thought it out in detail while formulating replies to Omnivore below, I don’t think it’s rational to expect conservatives’ lives to be materially all that different from liberals’ lives over the foreseeable future, so no, they don’t actually need gold and canned goods any more than liberals do.

            Thinking it through in detail and forming it into sentences was an interesting experience, a real emotional roller-coaster. From the other side of it, the whole thing seems a lot less scary. I imagine it’s still going to suck in a number of ways, but provided the moderate left keeps Social Justice more or less in check, it all seems pretty survivable.

            “My sense of today’s conservative mindset is one that is committed to the idea that the world/society/the US/our town/our schools/this neighborhood has gone to hell in a hand-basket, or will soon.”

            This. There’s an apocalyptic narrative that’s been a core part of Conservative thought probably since the 60s, that if society slides far enough into liberal degeneracy, some sort of collapse is inevitable. Having lost the culture war pretty much totally, sooner or later they’re going to realize that the country is still here and probably isn’t going anywhere. But first the fighting has to cool down enough for them to poke their head out of the foxhole and take a look around. Political conflict just feeds the narrative. If we go straight from gay marriage to, say, a fight over removing tax exemptions for anti-gay churches, that’s a perfect pattern-match to the narrative for another decade or more while it works its way through the courts.

            Apologies for the paranoia, and thank you for being such a nice person.

          • Anthony says:

            “The point is that they [conservatives-ish] are susceptible to scam-gold and scam-preparedness because they are a demographic with a disproportionate need for actual gold and actual preparedness.”

            I’d doubt much more need for actual gold, but preparedness? I’d buy that. Conservatives live in less densely-populated areas than liberals, with only a few exceptions. They are more susceptible to “small” disasters, because the infrastructure is more fragile and the capacity to recover is slower. People in more densely-populated areas will find things which are “small disasters” in the country to be major short-term inconveniences, but not even disasters, and generally shorter-term than in the country. However, while the risk of a big disaster is lower in the cities, the recovery will take longer.

            Compare what happens after a tornado hits a small town versus Katrina hitting New Orleans. To be prepared for Katrina takes a lot more, but it’s a lot less likely to hit you.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Anthony: I think that if you think through what you are really saying, you’ll find that it means roughly the opposite of what you stated at the beginning.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @Faceless Craven:
            It’s easy to be kind when engaged with someone who clearly is arguing in good faith. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that you are self-describing as a liberal who is essentially reporting your experience with your relatives.

            As to the “since the 60s” part, I’m guessing it’s “since forever”. Hellfire and brimstone preaching goes way back, not just in the US, but worldwide. The apocalyptic tradition in Christianity goes back to Jesus himself, who was simply representative of many Jews of that day.

            I’m sure the Ancient Summerians had their get-off-my-lawns codgers just the same as us. I think it’s a human tendency.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      I found your conclusions based on advertising buys a mite overambitious. The makers of the Poke Boat presumably know what they’re doing when they advertise in the New Yorker, but it would be foolhardy to conclude that any very large percentage of the New Yorker’s readership owns a Poke Boat.

      • TheOmnivore says:

        Well, maybe–but consider this: a premium space ad in a high-traffic space costs money. The kind of person you want to see it is the kind of person who will be inclined / induced to buy it (and if the ads remain, they’ll stay–and stay they did–for a long time–I’ve started ad-blocking so I don’t know if it’s calmed down).

        The kind of person who might buy a Poke Boat (I had to google it) seems like someone who would think of themselves as an outdoorsy type who would like a low-cost way to enjoy a lake. The kind of person who will induced to buy over-priced gold because they are told that Obama is about to ban it–or thinks that FEMA is trying to PREVENT them from having adequate food supplies–or that hundreds of millions of American lives are about to be destroyed in six months by a ‘new Benghazi’ is … what?

        I mean, I’m not exaggerating. Here’s the link I posted above When Winning Doesn’t Win

        Here’s another one along the same lines: Obamacare vs. The Origination Clause.

        Yeah, I might be over-selling my point–but people are paying real money for those ads–as crazy as they are.

        I’ll also note for what it’s worth that I don’t think ALL people who go to the sites are [ whatever ]–just like the Poke Boats guys don’t think everyone who buys a New Yorker owns one (or wants to). They just think it’s fertile ground for those ads–worth paying for.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @The Omnivore – “The kind of person who will induced to buy over-priced gold because they are told that Obama is about to ban it–or thinks that FEMA is trying to PREVENT them from having adequate food supplies–or that hundreds of millions of American lives are about to be destroyed in six months by a ‘new Benghazi’ is … what?”

          It’s the kind of person whose visual field is flooded with chaos and disaster, and is desperate for anything that looks like a proactive solution. They feel powerless, so they are susceptible to any narrative that promises to restore even a portion of control over their circumstances and environment. At that point, even disaster scenarios become attractive. You can feel the doom coming, you feel powerless, so you try to regain power by forming a strong opinion on exactly how the doom is going to work, because if you know what’s going to happen then you can plan ahead. And of course it’s much more comforting to think that society as a whole is going to collapse, rather than to think that your tribe specifically are going to be quietly strangled to death while the rest of society rolls merrily on into a happy future without you.

          Yes, they are in fact being rooked by cynical assholes. Yes, the products being offered to them are in fact scams. But the chaos and disaster are real, even if the only people willing to address them are charlatans amplifying that chaos to manipulate them for personal gain. The need for some measure of control is real, even if that control is practically impossible in the current circumstance. You see people acting irrationally and seem to conclude that they are stupid and their concerns are irrelevant, when in fact there is *no positive rational action available to them*. You attribute this fear to an artificial right-wing-narrative that the people are too stupid to see through, when the narrative is only an amplified version of their very real lived experience.

          And note that this is the people who actually buy those overpriced MREs. That group is probably a small minority out of the total audience, which is all you need to keep the advertisers well into the black. High-value items like gold certificates and “preparedness kits” are the sort where even a very small conversion rate can mean significant profits.

          • TheOmnivore says:

            I … do not think the chaos-and-disaster are real. I think the chaos and disaster sells the media and the advertisers figured that out and went deeper. Look at all those quotes in one of my articles saying Obama was planning or in process of executing a literal coup.

            That wasn’t real–but I bet people believed it.

            To be clear: the chaos and disaster is–to make a gross over-generalization–a creation of Fox News (and, specifically, some Fox News hosts) to launch their mega-careers. The 2008 meltdown was horrible (and, yes, could have been much worse)–but it wasn’t Mad Max.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @The Omnivore – “I … do not think the chaos-and-disaster are real.”

            A sibling of mine is a humanities professor at a fair-sized Christian university. I would estimate a strong likelihood (~75%) that their school will be driven out of business entirely within five years, and they will be out of a job. Will they be able to find a new one? I’m given to understand that the Humanities are a crowded field, and call me cynical but I suspect their previous institutional affiliation may be considered a mark against them. They have a great spouse and three smart, awesome kids, and I’m considering whether I’m saving enough money because they may need my help financially in the near future. Is that sufficiently real for you?

            Moving to the general, what if conservationism is actually dead? What if the loss of cultural and political influence they’ve sustained is actually enough to render them permanently irrelevant? There is a loud, highly-visible group of people that considers them de-facto subhuman and loudly advocates persecuting them at any opportunity, and they may have just lost their last hope of official consideration for their concerns. You don’t think that qualifies as chaos and disaster?

            And finally, we come back to your puppies-related article.

            “In the case of the Hugo awards, the anger was channeled against ‘Social Justice Warriors.’ This is an amorphous category of people whose crime is generally scolding someone else on the Internet. Of course there are cases where people have been fired from their jobs for saying improper things–and stirring up a social-justice mob–but statistically speaking, this is extremely rare and limited.

            Simply put, most people have not ever been harmed by even extreme social justice advocates and, in the cases where someone has had their feelings hurt, it’s generally in either specific communities or on, like, Tumblr.”

            I had never heard of SJWs until last fall. I considered myself a liberal and a feminist, had voted for Obama the first time and declined the second because I considered him too much like Bush, and thought Rape Culture was a serious problem that had been ignored for far too long. Two or three encounters with Social Justice were enough to move me way, way, WAY to the right, convince me that feminism is a terminally poisoned movement, and get me to seriously consider voting Republican again. it’s only in the last few weeks that I’ve started thinking that maybe SJ is fringe and reviled enough that they aren’t a primary threat to my existence.

            I don’t watch FOX news or listen to conservative radio, or indeed consume any form of mainstream news at all. Up until last year, my main news source was the Penny Arcade Report headed by Ben Kuchera, reddit, and whatever Daily Show gifs I came across on Imgur. I don’t think you understand people like me at all, much less people way out of the actual right. That doesn’t stop you from having interesting insights on some issues, like your spot-on call about Trump support being motivated by a hunger for dignity, but it makes you not-even-wrong on anything to do with your blind spots.

          • At only a slight tangent … .

            “In particular I worry about the neoreactionary assumption that leftism always increases with time, and that today’s leftism confined to a few fringe idiots whom nobody really supports today becomes tomorrow’s mainstream left and the day after tomorrow’s “you will be fired if you disagree with them”. Without me ever really evaluating its truth-value it has wormed its way into my brain and started haunting my nightmares.

            Certain versions of it are certainly plausible. In 1960, only a handful of low status people were arguing that “sodomy laws” should be repealed, and they were all insisting that c’mon, obviously it would never go as far as gay marriage, we’re just saying you shouldn’t be put in jail for it. Meanwhile, fifty years later people are enforcing a rule that if you’re not on board with gay marriage, you shouldn’t be allowed to hold a high-status job.”

            http://slatestarcodex.com/2014/04/22/right-is-the-new-left/

            Think about how that vision looks to someone who, unlike Scott, is an actual conservative.

          • Autonomous Rex says:

            But I’ve never even seen an SJW comment here?
            Wouldnt we occasionally see one come by for a row with Scott and the bad lads of commentville?

            No one I know has ever encountered one of these folk devils. Ive been making a living in the music world for 25 years, sometimes alongside originators of the riot grrrl scene of yore, in squats, universities, youth centers, yet i’ve never been rebuked or censored by a feminist. I dont like radical politics and im not above calling a woman i dont like a” cunt” out loud!

            Now that time has passed is anyone willing to speculate on whether they were taken in by a moral panic?

            The whole fantasy of a future feminist state depended on never explaining how a population of heavyset foureyed female grad students would be able to subdue the military and America’s 30 million gun owners..

            Seems to me the panic that took hold of some of the commenters here was of a kind with that string of irrepressible and unfalsifiable rightwing panics that never pan out, and are never tallied and never reflected upon in toto by the right.

            David Friedman comments:
            “Almost nobody bases his opinion on political or scientific issues on his own knowledge.They form most of their opinions on the basis of what they are told by those they trust, and it is reasonable to do so, given the difficulty of knowing enough to form reliable conclusions on your own ..”

            I totally agree. Yet it seems in the case of those who consume conservative media, that trust has been terrifically abused.

            When Obama leaves office without a caliphate in place,
            without an illegal third term, will it be the last straw for any of these people?

            I don’t think so. And so I dread another Democratic President.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Autonomous Rex – “But I’ve never even seen one of these SJWs comment here?”

            Veronica D doesn’t seem to comment much here any more. My entirely subjective impression is too many militantly anti-SJ types started hanging out here, and they and some of the other stronger pro-SJ types left as a result. They were very reasonable examples of the movement. You can probably still find them on Ozzy’s Thing of Things blog; I haven’t been there in a while so I can’t say for sure.

            To quote a post made here some months ago:
            “Logically we could have a world with gay right and with Eich not-fired. However, in practical terms I think they come together. Politics is messy, and it ain’t like the anti-gay crowd made an effort to keep this fight clean. LGBT rights have a long way to go. We still do not have marriage in ever state, never mind the globe. We still lack good anti-bullying policies or other protections for queer kids. Queers still get treated terribly in all kinds of ways. Moreover, trans rights are WAAAAAY behind gay rights, probably where gay rights were in the 80’s. We need to keep pro-queer cool and anti-queer way uncool. Lives depend on it. The culture war is a real thing. It matters.”
            (Apologies to the original poster for quoting them; the comment struck me as a good steel-manning of the Social Justice position, and I saved it for use in that context.)

            “Was it not another instance of manufactured hysteria?”

            Being told directly that you are a bad person and deserve to be treated differently because of your skin color or sexual configuration, and seeing that view take over your community and shout down or drive out all opposition is not “manufactured hysteria.” Having witnessed it first-hand from my native community and from a close personal friend, you are going to have a hard time convincing me it’s a fever dream from the right-wing media.

            “The whole fantasy of a future feminist state depends on never explaining how a population of heavyset foureyed female grad students would be able to subdue the military and America’s 30 million gun owners.”

            You are not even wrong. Briefly, we are talking about a fight over the rules by which society is run. Standards of conduct, adjudication of disputes, what evidence consists of and how it is to be weighed, what the rules of acceptable speech are within institutions. Personal firearms, much less the military, have nothing to do with this conversation, nor have they ever. Comments like this lead me to think you are not really interested in a productive conversation.

          • TheOmnivore says:

            As a first-time-poster, I’m not sure how the threading works here–but: They have a great spouse and three smart, awesome kids, and I’m considering whether I’m saving enough money because they may need my help financially in the near future. Is that sufficiently real for you?

            Yes, it’s real–but it’s also anecdata. Don’t get me wrong: (a) I am sympathetic and (b) I have written about this sort of thing as well. I think changes are coming and a a lot of people could find themselves out of a job.

            HOWEVER: (a) I see the changes that are coming as having technological (automation) and social-evolutionary drivers (more women being educated) and (b) I don’t think it’s an actual war. I am also not sure it’s exactly “chaos and destruction.”

            There are two basic questions here
            * How bad will the likely future be?
            * Is this being driven by hostility?

            HOW BAD WILL IT BE?
            I was asked to do a thought experiment on the next 35 years. This is the is the future I came up with. It has the GOP evolving rather than dying–but the current strain of battle is a non-starter. It also has a major down-shift in religion–something I am not happy with–but it isn’t all grim either. I think we will need to be on-the-ball societally–but I think that’s possible.

            IS IT A WAR?
            My brother’s church in NYC meets in a school. Someone(s) moved against them because ‘separation-church-and-state’ to try to kick them out. Definitely a war–except, (a) they failed (and this is in a deep-blue-city) and (b) again, it’s ancedata.

            Here I analyzed a list of charges from Fox on The War On Religion. I might have confirmation bias–but every time I see one of these big lists of attacks and do some research the whole “war thing” boils down to propaganda.

            I do want to say something about Brendan Eich. What happened to him was somewhat disturbing and high profile, yes. However, I think it was very, very specific to FireFox’s business model and userbase (they serve a very young, very socially liberal demographic). I (still) don’t think this is enough to be a larger trend.

            Now, that said, I’m no fan of “SJWs” such as they are (I think my white-privilege and not self-identifying as an “ally” allows me to ignore SJW stuff online (and in real life it doesn’t seem to be a problem either). My take on the Bernie Sanders BLM thing is that trying to be an ally of social justice makes you more likely to be attacked than if you’re not.

            So, no–I don’t think there’s a hot-war starting between the left and the right. I think changes are coming and everyone is going to have to deal with them. Some of these changes are ugly and there is ugliness on all sides but it’s not always rabid (here’s my piece on Shirtgate).

            I do want to say that while I’m linking a lot–I didn’t come here just to pimp my blog. I have thought a lot about this stuff and while I can’t claim to be right about everything (and don’t expect *anyone* t