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Change Minds Or Drive Turnout?

I.

Current Affairs: The Democratic Party Just Admitted It Doesn’t Stand For Anything. Overall it makes some good points, but one passage caught my eye:

[Democrats believe that if you moderate your platform and swing toward the center] you might lose a few hardcore lefties, but you’ll more than make up for it in the number of Reaganites you peel away from the other side. (Or, as Chuck Schumer put it, “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia.”)

But this philosophy is a dead end. For one thing, it doesn’t work. Unless you have Bill Clinton’s special charismatic magic, what actually happens is that progressive voters just stay home, disgusted at the failure of both parties to actually try to improve the country. And the mythical “moderate Republicans” never seem to show up. (This is because there are no actual moderate Republicans.)

This has been a staple of recent leftist thought. Another example from Daily Kos (via the paper below):

The key data is this, and it’s important to re-emphasize if only to shut up the useless, overpaid political consultants who idiotically babble about “moving to the center” or “compromising with the other side”…What matters is turning out our voters. That’s it. The Democrats win when we fire up and turn out our base.

This sounds like a win-win situation. We can stick to our principles, and that actually makes us more electable. Big if true. But is it?

II.

First: do more extreme views increase base turnout? This is the subject of Hall & Thompson (2017). They examine 1658 House races from 2006 to 2012 and start by noticing that the more distant a candidate from the median voter in their district, the fewer votes they get and the lower their party’s share of turnout in the general election (ie the various other races that go on at the same time). This suggests that not only are the voters who do turn out less likely to vote for the extremist, but that many of their voters are staying home (or many of their opponents’ voters have been galvanized to show up).

These raw results could be driven by exogenous factors. For example, maybe in swing states, parties nominate more centrist candidates (to get a broader appeal) and have higher turnout (because people’s votes actually matter). To eliminate this possibility, the researchers try a regression discontinuity design – ie they compare districts where extremists won the primary by 0.1% to districts where extremists lost the primary by 0.1%. These sorts of tiny margins are likely to be pretty random, so it’s almost like an experimental trial of what happens when you randomly vary candidate extremism.

This better-controlled data set finds the same thing. The more extreme a candidate, the lower their party’s share of the turnout.

This actually makes a lot of sense – a lot of my normally non-voting friends turned out last November because they hated Trump so much, and a lot of #NeverTrump Republicans, unwilling to hold their nose and vote Hillary, just stayed home.

Hall and Thomspon conclude:

This paper engages with a longstanding debate over the relative strengths of extreme legislative candidates, thought to boost turnout among their party’s base, and moderate candidates thought to attract hypothetical moderate swing voters. Using several different empirical strategies, we have found consistent evidence that extremist nominees do poorly in general elections in large part because they skew turnout in the general election away from their own party and in favor of the opposing party.

They crunch a few more numbers and conclude that effects on turnout might be the entire reason why extremist candidates do worse. That is, there is no remaining effect from swing voters who switch from their own party to the other party. Turnout is the only thing that matters:

The results suggest that much of moderate candidates’ success may actually be due to the turnout of partisan voters, rather than to swing voters who switch sides. In fact, our regression discontinuity estimates are consistent with the possibility that the entire vote-share penalty to extremist nominees is the result of changes in partisan turnout. Seen in this light, the results are more consistent with the behavioral literature’s focus on turnout than they are with the institutional literature’s theoretical focus on swing voters. As such, we see this paper as helping to link the behavioral and institutional literatures together, suggesting that moderate candidates do possess an electoral advantage, but that this advantage may depend heavily on turnout-based mechanisms.

So Thompson and Hall disagree with the theory that a less compromising, more robustly leftist Democratic Party would get more votes. But they tentatively agree with Current Affairs’ claim that “moderate Republicans” are a myth and nobody ever switches sides.

III.

Second: Is base turnout really the only thing that matters?

I’m reluctant to disagree with real political scientists like Hall and Thompson, but I’m a little more optimistic about whether people can change their minds.

There’s little data on vote-switching, and the only directly relevant information I could find was this CNN exit poll from 2008:

Of people who voted Democrat for President in 2004, 9% went Republican in 2008. Of people who voted Republican in 2004, a full 17% went Democrat in 2008. Some analysts of this information caution us that people are bad at remembering their votes so some of this may be wrong. But I feel like this story also doesn’t fit well with with unchanging-eternal-partisanship narrative – if you’ve voted straight Republican for the last ten elections and loathe all Democrats with a burning fury, you’re not going to just forgot whether you voted Bush or Kerry in ’04.

Rasmussen doesn’t have a real exit poll, but they put a couple of different sources together to guess about how many people switched votes in most recent election. I don’t really understand their graphs – in particular, their use of the Other category doesn’t make much sense. But if I’m reading them right, of people who voted Democrat in 2012, about 13% voted Trump in 2016. And of people who voted Republican in 2012, about 4% voted Clinton in in 2016. These may seem like small numbers. But in the context of the tiny margins by which Trump won swing states (Michigan by 0.3%, Pennsylvania by 0.7%, Wisconsin by 0.8%), these sorts of changes are absolutely decisive.

So swing voters and moderates aren’t totally mythical. But how do they compare with turnout as a determining factor in elections?

This is hard to figure out. We know that total turnout decreased 2% between 2012 and 2016 [EDIT: More recent sources say turnout increased. Not clear on this right now. See here]. But it’s hard to interpret party turnout figures. If the number of Democratic votes dipped more than the number of Republican votes, how much of that is because the Democrats had a bigger turnout problem, and how much is because some Democrats crossed the aisle to vote Republican?

Nate Cohn of the New York Times tries to solve this by analyzing turnout of predicted partisan voters – eg a young black gay college graduate will probably vote Democrat, so if he doesn’t show up it suggests Democratic base turnout declined. Before the election, he made some mechanical projections about how much each demographic would turn out based on how often they’ve turned out before in situations like this. Sometimes this risks adjusting away exactly the factors we’re interested in – eg he predicts black people will have much lower turnout in 2016 because part of their record 2012 turnout was personal loyalty to Obama. But as far as I can tell he doesn’t adjust for anything about the candidate’s ideologies, making his predictions okay for our purposes of talking about the effects of candidate extremism.

Cohn finds that blacks voted a little bit less than he predicted, and Hispanics a little bit more. Whites likely to support Trump (eg older, less educated, etc) turned out about 7% more than expected. Whites likely to support Clinton turned out about 4% more (sic!) than expected. But overall, these differences were “only a modest effect”, and probably not enough to affect the election:

Turnout improved Mr. Trump’s standing by a modest margin compared with pre-election expectations. If the turnout had gone exactly as we thought it would, the election would have been extremely close. But by this measure, Mrs. Clinton still would have lost both Florida and Pennsylvania – albeit very narrowly…Democrats are right to blame many of their midterm election losses on weak turnout. They’re on far shakier ground if they complain about the turnout last November.

He thinks that it was the much-maligned swing voters who were more important:

If turnout played only a modest role in Mr. Trump’s victory, then the big driver of his gains was persuasion: He flipped millions of white working-class Obama supporters to his side.

The voter file data makes it impossible to avoid this conclusion. It’s not just that the electorate looks far too Democratic. In many cases, turnout cannot explain Mrs. Clinton’s losses.

Take Schuylkill County, Pa., the county where Mr. Trump made his biggest gains in Pennsylvania. He won, 69 percent to 26 percent, compared with Mitt Romney’s 56-42 victory. Mrs. Clinton’s vote tally fell by 7,776 compared with Mr. Obama’s 2012 result, even though the overall turnout was up.

Did 8,000 of Mr. Obama’s supporters stay home? No. There were 5,995 registered voters who voted in 2012, remain registered in Schuylkill County, and stayed home in 2016.

And there’s no way these 2016 drop-off voters were all Obama supporters. There were 2,680 registered Democrats, 2,629 registered Republicans and 686 who were unaffiliated or registered with a different party. This is a place where registered Democrats often vote Republican in presidential elections, so Mr. Obama’s standing among these voters was most likely even lower […]

Survey data, along with countless journalistic accounts, also suggest that voters switched in huge numbers.

Throughout the campaign, polls of registered voters — which are not subject to changes in turnout — showed Mrs. Clinton faring much worse than Mr. Obama among white working-class voters.

The postelection survey data tells a similar story: Mrs. Clinton won Mr. Obama’s white-working class supporters by a margin of only 78 percent to 18 percent against Mr. Trump, according to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study.

In the Midwestern battleground states and Pennsylvania, Mrs. Clinton had an advantage of 76 percent to 20 percent among white working-class Obama voters.

The survey data isn’t perfect. It relies on voters’ accurate recall of their 2012 vote, and that type of recall is often biased toward the winner. Indeed, the C.C.E.S. found that Mr. Obama had 54 percent of support among 2012 voters, compared with his actual 51 percent finish.

But the data all points in the same direction: Shifts in turnout were not the dominant factor in Mr. Trump’s success among white working-class voters.

I tried to model some of this myself to get actual numbers I could compare. It doesn’t work. If I apply the exit poll models of voter defections to the real numbers, I get implausibly high numbers for Trump and implausibly low numbers for Hillary. I would have to add a huge jump in Democratic turnout, and a corresponding crash in Republican turnout, to produce the modest Hillary popular-vote win we actually saw. Nobody’s claimed this and I don’t think that it happened. So I’m confused. I hate to have to go off of Cohn’s analysis, especially since he never really explains what goes into his projections, but right now it’s all I have. And it matches what Rasmussen thought in a lot of ways.

So I very tentatively conclude that swing voters might have changed the result of the 2016 election. I can’t directly compare to decreased turnout, but it seems at least as important, especially if you discount the non-ideology-related black turnout decrease.

Granted, the 2016 election was weird, we might be in some kind of unique realignment of the two-party system, maybe this doesn’t happen too often. But the Obama/Trump defections don’t seem much greater than the Bush/Obama defections on the 2008 CNN exit poll. And Current Affairs admits that Bill Clinton did pretty well attracting moderates and Republicans to his banner. I think there’s enough examples to think that a large effect from swing voters might not just be possible, but common.

As far as I can tell, the evidence leans against the win-by-extremism-turning-out-the-base argument. Extremists tend to do worse in elections. They don’t raise turnout of their base; in fact, they probably lower it. They may fire up their opponents’ base. And swing voters can make a big difference when a candidate appeals to them.

This doesn’t mean only boring centrists can win; Donald Trump is the obvious counterexample. But Trump’s extremism wasn’t just “Paul Ryan but much more so”. He won not by moving straight right, but by coming up with new ideas that held the attention of the Republican base while also appealing to some disaffected Democrats. And the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic Party might be able to do something similar from the left if it gets the chance.

Just don’t frame it as “extremism turns out the base”, and especially not as “swing voters don’t matter”.

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1,005 Responses to Change Minds Or Drive Turnout?

  1. AnonYEmous says:

    Shrug

    Current Affairs is an extremist, socialist magazine. It’s not surprising that the founder tries to push the left party into a more extreme direction – or that the reasoning behind this turns out to be wrong.

    The bottom line is that you can still go towards the center and improve the country; in fact I’d imagine that to be the more effective method. Problem is, “progressive voters” might not like that, even though I bet those are a minority, and only important in states like California, which already went for Hillary by like 8 million votes.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      “Current Affairs is an extremist, socialist magazine. It’s not surprising that the founder tries to push the left party into a more extreme direction – or that the reasoning behind this turns out to be wrong.”

      I think I’m against this kind of thought process. I’m a non-extremist, non-socialist blogger, so it’s not surprising that I think the opposite. But I hope people consider my evidence instead of just dismissing it as a product of my biases. I agree there are some people who are so crazy that this stops being valuable, but Current Affairs doesn’t seem to be among them most of the time.

      • reasoned argumentation says:

        I think I’m against this kind of thought process. I’m a non-extremist, non-socialist blogger, so it’s not surprising that I think the opposite.

        At one point you were in favor of open borders because it would cause unending ethnic warfare – you phrased it as “have so many different ethnicities that nobody can keep track of the coalitions” but that’s the essence of it. You are an extremist.

        • suntzuanime says:

          That’s an extraordinarily uncharitable reading.

          • roystgnr says:

            Almost comically so. It would be amusing to see how other political thoughts could be reinterpreted in the light of such ludicrous cynicism. Perhaps when Jefferson suggested that “Difference of opinion is advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office of a Censor morum over each other.” he was actually rooting for the European wars of religion to reignite in the USA?

          • albatross11 says:

            Extremist is a word without a fixed meaning.

            Take the reddest of mainstream Republicans in the US and move them to Afghanistan under the Taliban, and they will be a flaming extremist liberal in the areas of womens’ rights and religious liberties. Or move them back 200 years in the US and they’ll be antislavery and pro-womens’-rights extremists.

            Instead of talking about extremism, I’m interested in who’s right and how we can tell. Political ideologies have a long history of making smart people believe stupid things (socialism, fascism, eugenics), so there’s a lot of value in sidestepping the ideological battles in favor of narrow questions of fact or morality. And there’s huge advantage in separating the ideological and moral and values part of the discussion from the factual side of the discussion–incorporating your desired answer into your thinking about some factual question is just a fancy way of making yourself dumber.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          Within the debate that Current Affairs is alluding to, “centrist” means supporting a market economy plus government helping the poor. It doesn’t mean you don’t have any unusual ideas. I think this mostly describes me.

          Also, though I don’t want to get in a fight about it, let me just register my opinion that you’re misunderstanding my point about ethnic coalitions. I proposed that having many ethnic groups side-by-side would be less likely to lead to strife than two big ones, but I proposed it as a hypothesis, not as an explicit policy proposal / linchpin of my whole philosophy.

          • reasoned argumentation says:

            Also, though I don’t want to get in a fight about it, let me just register my opinion that you’re misunderstanding my point about ethnic coalitions.

            Consider the issue tabled.

            This part though:

            Within the debate that Current Affairs is alluding to, “centrist” means supporting a market economy plus government helping the poor.

            The “centrism” that Current Affairs alludes to also includes massive migration of hostile outsiders immigrants. This center takes care to [frequently] note the extremism of denying this position. Otherwise Donald Trump is a perfect example of Current Affairs centrism, no? He wasn’t out on the stump talking about gutting the welfare state, was he? His anti-market economy points aren’t any more substantial (some added tariffs) than those that are fully accepted as centrist (much more government control of industry), right? Basically what makes him non-“centrist” is that one issue and on that issue he’s much closer not only to the opinions of the voters (meh) but to the actual existing legal framework – that’s some very strong evidence that he’s not the extremist here.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            I understand your point, but I think if you removed every single thing Donald Trump said about immigrants he would still be an extraordinarily controversial politician loathed by many people on the right and left.

            And I think in practice Trump doesn’t support welfare programs as much as the sort of people Current Affairs considers centrists – for example, their hallmark of a centrist is supporting Obamacare (as opposed to rightist proposals like BCRA and leftist proposals like single-payer). And he’s not even that market economy – I think “fewer tariffs” is another thing Current Affairs would give as a basic centrist principle.

          • PDV says:

            Free migration is part and parcel of a market economy.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Free migration is part and parcel of a market economy.

            Market economies have never been tried!

          • reasoned argumentation says:

            I think if you removed every single thing Donald Trump said about immigrants he would still be an extraordinarily controversial politician loathed by many people on the right and left.

            I disagree.

            What else is there? His non-bugman style? Yeah, he’s an alien to the Acela class who find masculinity very uncomfortable and troubling (I’m put in mind NPR hosts getting their testosterone levels tested and the man with the highest level (274 ng/dL – more than twice the next highest) was still below the normal range and listening to the segment, yeah, it’s believable – it’s actually pretty tough to tell just from voices which are men and which are women (the reveal begins at 41:25 https://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/220/testosterone?act=3#play)) and Trump is an embodiment of a strongly masculine style and affect. Sure, I could see the jealousy accounting for distaste but nothing as hysterical as we’ve seen.

            And I think in practice Trump doesn’t support welfare programs as much as the sort of people Current Affairs considers centrists – for example, their hallmark of a centrist is supporting Obamacare

            That’s pretty amazingly strong evidence for my contention that there’s nothing “centrist” about centrism. It’s purely an applause light that has cultural appeal to, well, the type of people that listen to NPR and read Current Affairs. Obamacare passed with zero Republican votes and less than all Democratic votes. The left wing of the Democratic party is the center?

          • JulieK says:

            if you removed every single thing Donald Trump said about immigrants he would still be an extraordinarily controversial politician loathed by many people on the right and left.

            I think the loathing would be based more on his personal characteristics than on his political views. Other than immigration, in what way is he an “extremist?”

          • needtobecomestronger says:

            @JulieK: This sort of comment always baffles me. Did you not hear the part where he advocated torture “even if it does not work” and suggested killing the families of terrorists? If that does not sound extreme to you, then that’s because you are an extremist.

            Now, you can argue that he never meant that, but if you evaluate him on how he is running the country in practice then he does not come across as any more centrist. In fact he still frequently calls for controls on the media and greater authoritarianism in general.

            The criticism of Trump’s personality is ludicrously overemphasized by democrats, I agree, but it’s not exactly difficult to think of other reasons why the man ought not to be president.

          • FeepingCreature says:

            Maybe he’s a centrist on policy axis while being an extremist on authoritarian axis?

          • vV_Vv says:

            This sort of comment always baffles me. Did you not hear the part where he advocated torture “even if it does not work” and suggested killing the families of terrorists? If that does not sound extreme to you, then that’s because you are an extremist.

            So, he openly advocated for things that Obama did while pledging not to do? Was Obama an extremist as well? Or is extremism just matter of words rather than actions?

            My understanding is that most Americans don’t consider what Obama did “extremist”, that is, unusual and unacceptable, though some of them, especially on the mainstream left, may have a problem with open acknowledgment and advocacy for such policies. They prefer to maintain a political fiction where such things are done without official public acknowledgment, even though they are open secrets, while pretending to maintain higher moral standards.

            Trump didn’t care for such politically correct narratives and openly advocated for these policies. Some people responded to this message positively, as they perceived it as honest, while those who prefer politics to be more hypocritical, responded negatively.

          • needtobecomestronger says:

            @feepingcreature: That doesn’t work either. How is he a centrist on economic policy? For all that he sometimes made reasonable noises on the campaign trail, in practice he has proposed the most extreme budget ever, including a math error of 2 trillion dollars.

            Everything about the man is insane.

            @vV_Vv: Obama never advocated for doing either of those things, and it is blatantly dishonest to conflate killing civilians by accident with doing it on purpose. The first thing Trump did after coming in power is order a strike that Obama had SPECIFICALLY said should not be executed because it would result in civilian deaths and achieve nothing, and Trump did it anyway just to show he was tough. And then he had the gall to use the soldier whose life he threw away to get cheap PR, and the media just went with it.

            It’s true that Obama’s idea of “moving to the centre” involved incorporating horrible foreign policies from the right, but that error is the exact opposite of what we’re talking about right now, which is moving the centre to a new extreme.

          • Matt M says:

            Or is extremism just matter of words rather than actions?

            I feel like you’re saying this somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but I think there’s a lot of truth to it.

            Saying “we need increase funding to improve our efforts to secure the southern border” makes you a regular, boring, run-of-the-mill republican. Saying “illegal immigrants are rapists and we’re going to build a wall to keep them out” makes you an extremist.

            Having a secret kill-list that is not subject to any external or judicial review is fine so long as everyone agrees not to talk about it very much, but saying “I’m going to bomb the families of terrorists” makes you an extremist.

          • Iain says:

            Having a secret kill-list that is not subject to any external or judicial review is fine so long as everyone agrees not to talk about it very much, but saying “I’m going to bomb the families of terrorists” makes you an extremist.

            I share your qualms about unaccountable kill lists, but I do not think it is at all difficult to draw a moral red line with “deliberately killing innocent family members” safely on the far side of it. Foreign policy is less black and white, and more shades of grey — but that doesn’t mean all greys are equally grubby.

          • Matt M says:

            Is the line drawn based on whether you admit it’s deliberate versus whether it’s still deliberate but in public you insist it was totally an accident?

            I think the left and the right actually favor a lot of the same tactics when it comes to foreign policy, the left just goes through elaborate dances to make it seem a lot more palatable, while the right feels like that is apologizing or sympathizing with the enemy and would rather just have it right out there in the open.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Obama never advocated for doing either of those things,

            Yes, exactly.

            and it is blatantly dishonest to conflate killing civilians by accident with doing it on purpose.

            Killing by “accident” has a very vague meaning when you are talking about dropping huge bombs into densely populated areas.

          • John Schilling says:

            Killing by “accident” has a very vague meaning when you are talking about dropping huge bombs into densely populated areas.

            I believe it was under the Obama administration that the United States developed and deployed new types of bombs and missiles of almost unprecedented smallness for the purpose of attacking enemies hiding in densely populated areas. If it’s dropping huge bombs into densely populated areas that concerns you, that’s pretty much a Russian/Syrian thing now.

          • Iain says:

            @Matt M:

            There is a difference between taking a shot at a target when his family is around, and taking shots at the families of targets because “they care about their lives, don’t kid yourself. When they say they don’t care about their lives, you have to take out their families.” The former is bad, but might sometimes be the least bad option; the latter is monstrous.

            If you have evidence that the left secretly supports hunting down and murdering families, you might want to bring that up, instead of baldly asserting that all statements to the contrary are bad faith ritual dances.

          • VolumeWarrior says:

            @Ian

            Meh. I don’t have a strong opinion on the issue. But there are reasonable arguments for going against family members. A family that incubates and radicalizes their own children to terrorism isn’t innocent.

            I have a grossly small view of radical terrorism, but I’ve seen several anecdotes where families “sell” their children to go on suicide missions in exchange for large cash sums.

            Even in the case where the family is totally innocent and raises a bad apple by mistake, a general policy of targeting the family could disincentivize children to go radical or incentivize the family to actively moderate their children. You can make the counterargument that targeting families might have the opposite effect and increase radicalization, but in general I think people avoid negative consequences.

            TLDR: There are reasonable consequentialist arguments for killing “innocent” people. And since when did the left wing become deontologists?

          • Z says:

            @JulieK

            Other than immigration, in what way is he an “extremist?”

            How do you square Trump’s stance on immigration with Bill Clinton’s in 1995?

            Now, one might say that sure, they agree, but Trump has taken it to an extreme. But is Trump’s position out of line with the context of illegal immigration now compared to then?

            In 1995, there were an estimated 5.7 million illegal residents in the US. Now, it’s around 11.3 million. To be fair, it’s stabilized since 2009, but the fact remains: if you see the illegal immigrant population as a problem, it’s twice as bad now as it was in 1995.

            Also factor in that the Mexican drug war took off in 2006, and since then, drug cartels have grown in power. They operate in the US as well. Their brutality is comparable to ISIS. Not going to link to support that, but if you haven’t seen firsthand what they’re capable of, steel yourself and search “cartel funky town”.

            Whatever your stance on drug policies, how do you feel about those sorts of people operating in the US? How would you feel about living in a neighborhood where they do business? Want to raise kids there?

            Now, maybe there are reasons why illegal immigration should be less of a concern than in 1995. Maybe they counterbalance or outweigh the above. But if not, then how are the stronger rhetoric and policies “extreme”? How did “build the wall” survive as a slogan for the Trump campaign if it wasn’t popular with voters?

          • Matt M says:

            If you have evidence that the left secretly supports hunting down and murdering families

            It doesn’t necessarily map to left, but when are we going to start tearing down statues of William Tecumseh Sherman?

            “Target the families in the homeland and the men will stop fighting” is not exactly a new strategy, nor does it seem to be all that controversial so long as the “right” side is using it.

          • Iain says:

            @VolumeWarrior:

            TLDR: There are reasonable consequentialist arguments for killing “innocent” people. And since when did the left wing become deontologists?

            I like to think that my side is right for reasons other than the mere fact that I’m on it.

            On the consequentialist side, I suspect that the consequences of being a nation that goes around openly targeting innocent families are not as positive as you seem to think.

            @Matt M:

            If your best example of the left standing for collective punishment dates back to the Civil War, perhaps you should rethink your claim. The world has changed since then; among other things, there are these little documents I like to call the “Geneva Conventions”.

          • Matt M says:

            Iain,

            I concede your overall point, but I also think you’re not considering my whole argument. It’s not just that the example is old, it’s that the example is old but still held up as legitimate.

            The people who are coming after statues of slaveowners (a moral abomination to be sure) are NOT coming after statues of those who ordered and those who carried out total war. It would be one thing if people said “Yes, times have changed, and as such, we now denounce these tactics and consider Sherman to be a war criminal.” The problem is, no one is saying that.

            Hell, even the people who denounce Truman for nuking Japan still don’t seem too interested in going back to denounce total war against the South.

            But it’s not JUST a timing thing either. They’re happy to go back 1,000 years to denounce the crusades in the context of arguments about Christian vs Islamic warmongering.

          • VolumeWarrior says:

            @Ian

            The point is not to convince you to support bombing families. The point is to convince you that there are principled reasons for going after families, even if detailed analysis shows otherwise.

            You keep retreating to this “innocent” meme. But that’s a motte and bailey, since the original framing is “families or terrorists”, not “innocent families of terrorists”. Indeed there are plausible reasons to think terrorist families are not innocent.

            Also re: the left supporting collective punishment, social justice issues are a good example. Much ire is directed at straight white males who personally have never participated in history’s greatest racist/sexist crimes.

          • Iain says:

            @Matt M:

            You are presenting a skewed account. The idea that Sherman’s actions were war crimes is a mainstream position; indeed, this NYT article (one of the first hits for “sherman war criminal”) treats that stance as the received wisdom and then argues against it.

            Moreover, I am unconvinced by the substance of that claim. My understanding is that the civilian casualties of the March to the Sea were quite low; while Sherman targeted civilian infrastructure, he went out of his way to preserve civilian lives (another reason he is a bad example for your original thesis). As far as I can tell, the main reason anybody would put the March to the Sea in the same category as something like Hiroshima or the firebombing of Dresden is that they identify strongly with the victims; I don’t know what objective measure would merit its consideration as a particularly notable war crime.

            (Compare: the March to the Sea had a death toll of 3100, 2100 of whom were Union soldiers; Hiroshima alone killed 70K-126K civilians. When Truman is a figure of national shame and repentance, feel free to get back to me about Sherman.)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            To avoid getting mind-killed by American politics, consider Marine Le Pen. Her economic policies were left wing, basically typical European socialism. Welfare state, civil servants are great, 35 hour workweek, etc. The one and only thing you have to do to be labeled a “right wing extremist” is be against mass immigration.

          • @Conrad Honcho

            That’s why I think that principles/values/worldview are sometimes a lot more important to defining left vs right than actual policies are. The reason why someone is supporting a policy tends to matter as much or more than the policy itself.

            Compare the following (completely made up) statement:
            “We as a society have a responsibility to look after our poorest members, and to prevent working class people from being ground up in the drive for market efficiency and globalization. The gap between the rich and poor in this country should concern all of us, because whereever there is great inequity, tyranny is not far behind. Equality matters! This is why our party will always fight for a fairer society, and why today, we must support the passing into law of the Basic Income Act.”

            To this statement:
            “We as a nation have a duty to stand firm against the subversive forces gathering to undermine our culture and way of life. Every citizen is a soldier for his nation, and each soldier must have his rations. On the flipside of the Marxist coin lies the usurious unproductive capitalist who sells out his nation, exploits the working energies of his own race to benefit another, and serves his secret masters in their quest to destroy civilizations. In this fight, every man must be a comrade in the ranks to every other man, which is why today, no matter what the other traitorous parties say, we must support the Basic Income Act, so that none among us lack the vitality needed for the coming fight!”

            The first is pretty obviously left wing, and the second is pretty obviously far-right Golden Dawn tier rhetoric, right? This is true even though the exact same policy is being proposed.

          • carvenvisage says:

            Sure, I could see the jealousy accounting for distaste but nothing as hysterical as we’ve seen.

            Just because you have a novel point doesn’t mean you have to be a dick about it pun intended.

            (seriously though)

          • abc says:

            On the consequentialist side, I suspect that the consequences of being a nation that goes around openly targeting innocent families are not as positive as you seem to think.

            And what would those consequences be? This strikes me as a case of you engaging in the fine consequentialist tradition of resorting to rhetorical back-flips when the calculations tell you to engage in behavior you find morally abhorrent.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            abc,

            Perhaps the consequences of announcing a deliberate policy of killing innocent people might be to make more terrorists, whose innocent families you would then need to kill?

            That would tend to undermine a policy of terrorist reduction via the murder of non-terrorists.

          • abc says:

            Perhaps the consequences of announcing a deliberate policy of killing innocent people might be to make more terrorists, whose innocent families you would then need to kill?

            That would tend to undermine a policy of terrorist reduction via the murder of non-terrorists.

            If you look at history, that’s a rather dubious claim. Heck, this is what most Muslim countries do when fighting terrorists. Rather targeting innocent people at random is a bad idea. Targeting specifically the families of terrorists makes potential terrorists less likely to become terrorists.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            abc,

            I think you may need to do better than “if you look at history”, particularly since your comment immediately prior was “I cannot even conceive of the kinds of dis-benefits which could emerge from murdering people’s families”, suggesting that you haven’t given this issue much thought.

            For what it’s worth “because you unfairly murdered my family/coreligionists” is a pretty commonly cited motivation for terrorism.

            Maybe “but I’m scared my family will be murdered” would offset that effect, but plausibly not. And I think your “this is how Muslim countries successfully eliminated terrorism” line could use some work.

            Certainly each additional terrorist attack would generate another group of people with literally nothing to lose. It’s possible that they would consider terrorism.

          • abc says:

            I think you may need to do better than “if you look at history”, particularly since your comment immediately prior was “I cannot even conceive of the kinds of dis-benefits which could emerge from murdering people’s families”,

            Of course, it’s easy to conceive of potential disbenefits if one allows oneself arbitrary hypotheticals. Perhaps one of the family members is actually favored by the flying spaghetti monster, and he will destroy our country in retaliation if we hurt her. Apparently the FSM is a hypocrite who is willing to resort to collective punishment, but won’t let anyone else do so.

            suggesting that you haven’t given this issue much thought.

            I have. I particular, I’ve done the utility/game theory calculation. BTW, I wasn’t happy to discover the result either.

            For what it’s worth “because you unfairly murdered my family/coreligionists” is a pretty commonly cited motivation for terrorism.

            Well, most of the terrorists have actually been doing pretty well, before turning to terror, e.g., bin Laden was from a well-off Saudi family.

            Maybe “but I’m scared my family will be murdered” would offset that effect, but plausibly not. And I think your “this is how Muslim countries successfully eliminated terrorism” line could use some work.

            Certainly each additional terrorist attack would generate another group of people with literally nothing to lose. It’s possible that they would consider terrorism.

            By your logic, places like North Korea should have collapsed a long time ago.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            Of course, it’s easy to conceive of potential disbenefits if one allows oneself arbitrary hypotheticals.

            I’m not persuaded that “perhaps the friends and relatives of the people you murdered will be angry” is particularly arbitrary, but YMMV

            Well, most of the terrorists have actually been doing pretty well, before turning to terror, e.g., bin Laden was from a well-off Saudi family.

            Did any superpowers murder any of his coreligionists? Did he do something about it?

            I’ve done the utility/game theory calculation

            Did you remember to put the murdered family members into your payoff function? Did you consider America’s proven ability to accurately identify foreign-named terrorists, let alone trace their family trees?

            By your logic, places like North Korea should have collapsed a long time ago.

            Apparently not.

            Look, if your pitch is “we can reliably deliver North Korea-like results using Trump’s foreign policy”, I don’t think I disagree. But I hope no one holds your family members physically responsible for providing an environment which made that seem like a good idea.

          • abc says:

            I’m not persuaded that “perhaps the friends and relatives of the people you murdered will be angry” is particularly arbitrary, but YMMV

            At whom. You or their relative who brought your wreath down upon them. Also, they may be to concerned for their own lives to do anything about it.

            Did any superpowers murder any of his coreligionists?

            Yes, but not the one he attacked.

            Did you remember to put the murdered family members into your payoff function?

            Yes, actually. I think you’re ignoring the deterrent affect on other would be terrorists.

            Look, if your pitch is “we can reliably deliver North Korea-like results using Trump’s foreign policy”, I don’t think I disagree. But I hope no one holds your family members physically responsible

            And I hope no one in your family becomes a victim of Islamic terror. Also, this logic applies to suicide bombers much more strongly then any other crime, for obvious reasons.

            for providing an environment which made that seem like a good idea.

            Um, that environment already exists, it was created by people not dealing sufficiently forcefully with Islamic terror up to now.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            Yes, but not the one he [Bin Laden] attacked.

            Buddy, this stuff is just terrorism 101. The USSR killed a bunch of Muslims in Afghanistan, so Bin Laden sponsored attacks on them. Then the US killed a bunch of Muslims in, among other places, Iraq, and then Bin Laden sponsored attacks on them. I feel like, if your understanding of the issue doesn’t extend to what the United States did, or what Bin Laden did, this might be a conversation for another day, or another person.

            I think you’re ignoring the deterrent affect on other would be terrorists.

            Well, I mentioned it not two responses ago, so that feels like a wilful oversight on your part.

            I think you’re modelling a hyper-rational population of potential terrorists, and a hyper-effective innocent family identification and murder apparatus, and then concluding “maximal punishment leads to maximal deterrence leads to no crime and no need to implement punishment”.

            But I don’t think either of you assumptions really hold. Most terrorism, at base, is driven by emotion rather than utilitarian calculation – flying planes into the WTC in order to [?] is not a well-formed foreign policy, such that “guys, I’m going to murder your families” will not alter their utilitarian calculus in a predictable way. It might, just possibly, make them angrier.

            That goes double for “guys, I’m going to murder your families, but, like 80% of you are called Mohammed and your body has been reduced to several thousand pieces, could you please identify your family to our elite squad of guys who volunteered to become professional innocent family murderers and who posses the investigative skills you typically associate with enthusiastic murderers?”

            A deterrence-through-collective punishment policy is even more complex to model than remembering who-killed-who in the 1980s, is what I’m saying. There may be some holes in your model…

          • cassander says:

            @pdbarnlsey

            The usefulness of the deterrent effect of collective punishment isn’t in deterring committed terrorist, it’s changing the behavior of their fiends. You don’t deter billy from being a terrorist by threatening to murder his family if he’s caught terrorizing, what you do is convince his uncle to turn billy into the secret police.

            The point of collective punishment is that it turns previously passive bystanders into people who have a massive vested interest in things going the way you want them to go. The uncle doesn’t really care about billy one way or the other. with individual punishment, if billy goes off and does something terrible, the uncle doesn’t care, because it won’t really affect him. Under a collective punishment regime, though, all of a sudden billy being a terrorist will have massive negative consequences for the uncle, and sure turning him in will make the next family BBQ a bit awkward, but that’s a hell of a lot better than dying because the stupid kid blew something up.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            Sure, you can probably chip away at the intra-family support for terrorists, at least among those family members whose rational self interest outweighs their increased desire to punish the nation which is threatening them with death. Provided also that your policy of retribution is swift and certain, as to which see above.

            But you’ll also vastly increase the willingness of the community as a whole to assist with terrorism, since they are not uncle Billy, and the perceived evil of the great satan has just jumped several points.

            As I say, I can see what you’re going for, and in a sufficiently authoritarian state dedicated almost exclusively to the suppression of dissent you could probably save the lives of several dozen terrorist victims at the cost of the lives of only several dozen family members.

            But I don’t think you’re modelling a real world US State or real world supporters of terrorism.

            Your model really falls apart in the absence of dental records/teeth, just to pick a fairly obvious gap suicide bombers are likely to take advantage of.

          • abc says:

            But I don’t think either of you assumptions really hold. Most terrorism, at base, is driven by emotion rather than utilitarian calculation

            Yes, and fear for one’s family’s safety is an emotion.

            That goes double for “guys, I’m going to murder your families, but, like 80% of you are called Mohammed and your body has been reduced to several thousand pieces, could you please identify your family to our elite squad of guys who volunteered to become professional innocent family murderers and who posses the investigative skills you typically associate with enthusiastic murderers?”

            OK, now your just being deliberately stupid. We were perfectly capable of identifying the terrorists who blue up the world trade center pretty easily. Heck, after every terrorist attack it doesn’t take long to identify those responsible.

          • cassander says:

            pdbarnlsey says:

            But you’ll also vastly increase the willingness of the community as a whole to assist with terrorism, since they are not uncle Billy, and the perceived evil of the great satan has just jumped several points.

            Only if they value standing up to the great satan more than they value their lives plus the reward for turning people in. And remember, you don’t need to persuade everyone in the family/peer group, you just need one selfish judas to rat them all out.

            As I say, I can see what you’re going for, and in a sufficiently authoritarian state dedicated almost exclusively to the suppression of dissent you could probably save the lives of several dozen terrorist victims at the cost of the lives of only several dozen family members

            .

            There are dozens of examples in the modern era of not particularly well equipped states pulling off exactly this, with great success. It’s also also the basic organizational model for about half of the insurgencies in history.

          • pdbarnlsey says:

            I agree with you both that we should seriously examine the policies of nations with terror-prone populations which have successfully eliminated terrorism. Could you begin by specifying a few candidate nations perhaps? Did their strategies end up having any utilitarian downsides, such as arbitrary torture and execution? Abc has already identified North Korea as a role model, which conveyed a great deal of relevant information, but perhaps not of the sort he intended.

            abc, if you look back at your game theoretic model, you’ll find that ease of identifying a terrorist is inversely correlated with an announced policy of punishing their families. If you look at actually existing terrorist punishment programs, such as Guantanamo bay, you will find that they have a significant false positive rate and that these innocent accused terrorists seem to find themselves tortured to death at something like average terrorist rates. Adjust your model accordingly…

          • carvenvisage says:

            And what would those consequences be? This strikes me as a case of you engaging in the fine consequentialist tradition of resorting to rhetorical back-flips when the calculations tell you to engage in behavior you find morally abhorrent.

            this is why a lot of people shouldn’t be consequentialists. -It’s normal to equivocate between what you can figure out, and what is known to be the case, so people end up being ‘easily computable consequences -tialists’, or conceiving of it as such and staying well away. This is a good heuristic, but it doesn’t work out so well in cases like Scott often highlights. (gradually built up inefficiencies exploitation etc result in mass suffering in an unintuitive way).

            (I’m reacting to the “backflips” reaction here, which strikes me as clearly hysterical, not the mere disagreement)

          • carvenvisage says:

            >blue up the world trade center

            wow that’s a pretty hardcore wordplay

          • JulieK says:

            How many innocent alleged terrorists have been tortured to death at Guantanamo?

          • JulieK says:

            Does Orwell count as leftist?
            “If someone drops a bomb on your mother, go and drop two bombs on his mother.”

          • JulieK says:

            As aspiring rationalists, we ought to stop and reconsider if we consistently find ourselves concluding that the techniques we consider unethical [or ethical] are also, conveniently, ineffective [or effective].

          • Aapje says:

            @JulieK

            How many innocent alleged terrorists have been tortured to death at Guantanamo?

            Perhaps these 3 men.

          • Iain says:

            Beyond the narrow question of whether or not family-murder discourages more terrorist attacks than it causes, the pro-murder side of this discussion should spend some time thinking about the broader picture. Even from a strictly consequentialist perspective, ownership of the moral high ground is far from worthless; being on the side of good is a distinct asset when it comes to securing cooperation from others. Go ahead; publicly declare your intention to piss all over the Geneva Conventions. When public outrage in Europe forces foreign intelligence agencies to pull back on information sharing with America, along with any other form of international cooperation you might find valuable, I’m sure it will be very comforting that some fraction of the people you’ve bombed ended up more cowed than angry.

            Blowing up families is the sort of idea you come up with when you want to play-act at hard-nosed consequentialist toughness, but aren’t interested in actually considering the consequences.

          • albatross11 says:

            reasoned argumentation:

            I don’t know about other people, but I find his tendency to speak boldly about things he clearly doesn’t understand very well pretty damned unsettling. This isn’t just how alpha or masculine he is, it’s how much he’s willing to spout off about stuff he’s never spent a whole unbroken hour thinking hard about, or read an entire book about. Trump seems to me to embody a lot of the stuff I like least about successful politicians–he’s amazingly good at getting media attention, he can give a good speech that really gets his supporters excited, he can project confidence and strength and certainty, but he often has only a vague idea what the hell he’s talking about.

            Add to that: he doesn’t actually know how the levers of power work. That’s largely because he’s an outsider, but he can’t do a whole lot without knowing that stuff, and there’s no indication he’s really tried. Also, he really needed some insiders to be willing to join his team, and he couldn’t find many. There’s a reason for that, and it goes beyond his policy preferences. The utter abandonment of Chris Christie is probably one explanation–he demonstrated he has no loyalty back, and that people who sell out their position as respectable members of the ruling class for him can expect a knife in the back for dumb internal reasons. But there’s also his whole history and his temperament.

          • Salem says:

            Hypotheticals make it easy to make exaggerated claims. Let’s discuss actuals.

            For instance, the Israeli government doesn’t assassinate terrorists’ families, but it does destroy their homes. This policy appears effective, and doesn’t (at least in itself) appear to cost Israel many friends.

            To the anti-retribution side:
            Why do you predict retribution would be counter-productive for the USA when it works well for Israel? Do you understand why people think you are engaged in motivated reasoning?

            To the pro-retribution side:
            Why do think assassination is necessary or proportionate when milder retribution appears effective? Do you understand why people think you are bloodthirsty?

            To everyone:
            Underlying almost every comment seems to be a viewpoint based on consistent behaviour, whether this be credibly committing to a strong deterrent, credibly committing to not engaging in barbarism, or forging relationships. In the current age, when US foreign policy swings wildly at elections, what makes you think there will be any coherent long-term policy at all?

          • Randy M says:

            publicly declare your intention to piss all over the Geneva Conventions.

            Do Geneva Convention protections apply to non-adherents like Isis or non-state actors?

            If so, how does it succeed in encouraging rogue actors to follow its proscriptions?

            (Edit: Obviously if terrorist family resides in a signatory nation this gets very difficult to untangle. Another reason that European citizens/residents fighting in Syrian, etc. wars is worrying)

          • Iain says:

            @Salem:

            “At least in itself” is carrying a heavy load for you there. To the extent that Israel’s policy of bombing homes does not lose friends, it is largely because Israel already has very few friends. Israel consistently chooses its own conception of security over respect for international law. This has arguable benefits, but easy cooperation with other states is certainly not one of them. There aren’t many states out there who have a harder time with international diplomacy. While there are certainly other reasons, it’s foolish to pretend that Israel’s approach to collective punishment doesn’t play a significant role.

            @Randy M:

            The Geneva Conventions don’t have any teeth built in to punish rogue actors. That doesn’t mean you have free rein to ignore them when facing an unscrupulous opponent. The distinctive factor of international law is that it lacks a hegemon with a monopoly on violence; there’s nobody out there to enforce it. It is therefore much more of a game theory situation: following the Geneva Conventions is Cooperate, and flouting them is Defect. It is to the benefit of anybody who values a stable world to encourage a norm of cooperation, even if defecting might be beneficial in the short run. If you nevertheless choose to defect, the other pro-social players have an incentive to find ways to punish you.

          • Jiro says:

            I’m not persuaded that “perhaps the friends and relatives of the people you murdered will be angry” is particularly arbitrary, but YMMV

            What is arbitrary is that

            — Their anger against you will outweigh their fear of you

            — The harmful (to you) effect of directing their anger at you will be worse than the beneficial effect of directing their anger at the people who encourage or force their relatives to become terrorists.

            — Their anger at you will be significantly more than the anger they would have at you for only killing the terrorists, if they are in a clan-based and honor-based society which makes them be angry at you for killing their terrorist family

          • reasoned argumentation says:

            Do Geneva Convention protections apply to non-adherents like Isis or non-state actors?

            Scene: March 1986, East Germany

            The Soviet high brass sees the collapse coming and decides to roll the dice and gives the order for the tanks to push through the Fulda Gap. The American 3rd Armor Division holds them off as best they can as the US prepares a counter-attack – but wait! A counter-attack would violate the NATO treaty! Why is that? Well, the NATO treaty forbids signatories from attacking one another. What difference does it make if the Soviet Union wasn’t technically a signatory party? Clearly the signing parties are still bound, right?

          • Randy M says:

            The distinctive factor of international law is that it lacks a hegemon with a monopoly on violence; there’s nobody out there to enforce it. It is therefore much more of a game theory situation: following the Geneva Conventions is Cooperate, and flouting them is Defect.

            Whether not following the prescriptions against a party that defects first or has not publicly declared to be following them is itself considered a defection is, it follows, based on what the dominant powers consider it to be–and may very well differ by article or point.
            Do you or anyone know if the particle wording used in the document spells out the obligations to adhere to the norms versus other defectors?

            I imagine the actual response will vary depending on if the infraction is “non-uniform soldiers” or “wanton use of chemical weapons”, of course.

          • albatross11 says:

            Randy M:

            My understanding is that the Geneva conventions put limits on what signatory states can do to *anyone* under their power.

          • Randy M says:

            Fair enough, thanks.

          • abc says:

            Even from a strictly consequentialist perspective, ownership of the moral high ground is far from worthless; being on the side of good is a distinct asset when it comes to securing cooperation from others.

            From a strictly consequentialist perspective to “be on the side of good” means to take the action that maximizes the global utility function. If that action killing terrorist families, killing terrorist families makes one on the side of good.

            When public outrage in Europe forces foreign intelligence agencies to pull back on information sharing with America, along with any other form of international cooperation you might find valuable,

            Ah yes, the other classic consequentialist dodge. “Thank God most people aren’t consequentialist, thus I can use their disapproval to justify not having to support utility-maximizing action X which I find morally abhorrent.”

            Do you understand why people think you are bloodthirsty?

            Yes, this happens whenever anyone actually takes utilitarianism seriously.

          • Nornagest says:

            Or, y’know, they disagree with you on what the global utility function outputs in this case. It’s not like we can just look it up.

          • hypnosifl says:

            From a strictly consequentialist perspective to “be on the side of good” means to take the action that maximizes the global utility function.

            Except that people are probably not very good at judging the effect of their actions on global utility on a case-by-case basis (since people are tremendously inclined to motivated reasoning and rationalizing their emotional preferences, like the desire for vengeance and us vs. them thinking), which is why there’s a good argument for preferring rule utilitarianism over act utilitarianism. And most rule utilitarians would probably agree that collective punishment or intentionally harming innocents to “send a message” to others is a bad idea.

          • GregQ says:

            I proposed that having many ethnic groups side-by-side would be less likely to lead to strife than two big ones

            Do you have even the slightest bit of evidence to support this position? The former Yugoslavia seems like an easy counter example. And multiple studies find the exact opposite. Here’s from the Financial Times:

            A bleak picture of the corrosive effects of ethnic diversity has been revealed in research by Harvard University's Robert Putnam, one of the world's most influential political scientists.
            His research shows that the more diverse a community is, the less likely its inhabitants are to trust anyone – from their next-door neighbour to the mayor.
            This is a contentious finding in the current climate of concern about the benefits of immigration. Professor Putnam told the Financial Times he had delayed publishing his research until he could develop proposals to compensate for the negative effects of diversity, saying it "would have been irresponsible to publish without that".
            The core message of the research was that, "in the presence of diversity, we hunker down", he said. “We act like turtles. The effect of diversity is worse than had been imagined. And it’s not just that we don’t trust people who are not like us. In diverse communities, we don’t trust people who do look like us.”
            Prof Putnam found trust was lowest in Los Angeles, “the most diverse human habitation in human history”, but his findings also held for rural South Dakota, where “diversity means inviting Swedes to a Norwegians’ picnic”.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            Check this out.

            In 1971, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau faced a crisis amid the rise of French Canadian separatism in Quebec. His party was losing support, and his country seemed at risk of splitting in two.

            Mr. Trudeau’s solution was a policy of official multiculturalism and widespread immigration. This would resolve the conflict over whether Canadian identity was more Anglophone or Francophone — it would be neither, with a range of diversity wide enough to trivialize the old divisions.

            It would also provide a base of immigrant voters to shore up Mr. Trudeau’s Liberal Party.

            Then, in the early 2000s, another politician’s shrewd calculation changed the dynamics of ethnic politics, cementing multiculturalism across all parties.

            Jason Kenney, then a Conservative member of Parliament, convinced Prime Minister Stephen Harper that the party should court immigrants, who — thanks to Mr. Trudeau’s efforts — had long backed the Liberal Party.

            “I said the only way we’d ever build a governing coalition was with the support of new Canadians, given changing demography,” Mr. Kenney said.

            He succeeded. In the 2011 and 2015 elections, the Conservatives won a higher share of the vote among immigrants than it did among native-born citizens.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @dndnrsn

            I almost didn’t see your post, not sure if that’s where you wanted to put it, but I think that my take away is that what Canada calls “Multiculturalism” and what literally everyone else calls “Multiculturalism” are not the same thing.

            When you talk about getting immigrants to buy into a sense of shared, communal identity, an overarching playbook of philosophical and cultural values (to include respect for and reverence of a civil libertarian approach to lawmaking and governance)…

            …You’re talking about what I and I think most academics studying the subject would call assimilation, not multiculturalism.

            If immigrants are saying “I am Canadian first”, that is by definition NOT multiculturalism.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Just registering my agreement with trofim. What you’re talking about is the polar opposite of “multi-culturalism”.

          • TheOriginalSpecter says:

            Scott said: “their hallmark of a centrist is supporting Obamacare…”

            Scott, I understand that you’re just trying to represent Current Affair’s outlook but Obamacare is anything but centrist:
            o It was passed over the strenuous objections of the opposition party and received no support from them what-so-ever;
            o It’s never polled positively with the general public; not before it was passed and not after (as a whole, I know individual parts have some support);
            o It was so extreme that the Democrats had to beg, bribe, and strong arm their own party members to get the thing passed and even then they could only do it with a procedural trick;
            o The whole thing was so unpopular that the Democrats were wiped out in the next election cycle and you could argue they’ve not yet recovered; and
            o Heck, you’ve even subconsciously bought into the Republican’s negative talking points; supporters of the act typically take pains to call it the Affordable Care Act or the the PPACA, not the pejorative Obamacare.

            I think a key issue for the Democrats as a whole right now is that they really really don’t understand how their brand looks to actual moderate Republicans/conservatives. The whole Obamacare thing is just one example of this. What’s happening in the whole ‘social justice’ space is another. The campus riots, attacks on free speech, crazy pronouns etc, look down right insane to these folks. If the Democrats want to get rid of The Donald then they’re going to have to take a real hard and honest look at what it means to be centrist.

          • Iain says:

            The important thing to recognize is that the Canadian model is being sold as multiculturalism. If you like, you can think of it as the difference between “You can keep your cultural identity, so long as you subscribe to these underlying principles” and “You must assimilate to these underlying principles, and then I suppose you can keep whatever cultural identity is left over”. The content is largely equivalent, but the former is a much more appealing way of putting it.

            My cousin married a third-generation Ukrainian-Canadian. Her family is thoroughly integrated into Canadian culture — think “the wedding invitation included joint plans to attend the football game the next day, where the bride heckled the opposing team in her wedding gown” — but her niece nevertheless started kindergarten with a slight Ukrainian accent, because her family still speaks a lot of Ukrainian at home. Are they assimilated? It probably depends on your definition of assimilation. But I vehemently reject any argument that they’re not properly Canadian.

            Canada is quite happy to let people say both “I’m Canadian” and “I’m Ukrainian” without hounding them about picking one true allegiance. Indeed, we practically encourage it. Canada also does an unusually good job of integrating immigrants. Maybe there’s something to be learned from that.

          • GregQ says:

            @PDV

            Free migration is part and parcel of a market economy.

            No, it isn’t. Many market economies allow some forms of free migration, but the definition of a nation starts with the ability to control ones borders, which is the definitional opposite of “free migration”.

          • GregQ says:

            @Iain

            You’re apparently not very familiar with either American history, or with current events.

            1: Assimilation == “the melting pot” == “you become an American. You bring along worthwhile parts of your culture (mainly the food), and add them to our culture, which you make your own.”

            You will find German / Italian / Polish / etc – American groups all over the US that “celebrate their cultural heritage” while being real Americans.

            2: Multiculturalism: MeCHA, OTOH, is an anti-America group for people who consider themselves to be Mexicans who happen to live in land that currently belongs to the US, but they want to steal back for Mexico. (I find it very amusing that people who are not descended from California Indians think that they have some sort of moral right to CA, because, i guess, they stole it fair and square from the natives, unlike what the US did to them.) The point of multiculturalism is to be anti-assimilation. It’s to tell people that, to take your example, they are still Ukrainians, and should always value Ukraine over Canada, and a mere 3 generations in Canada shouldn’t matter.

            Oh, and you should vote based on that Ukrainian “heritage” (i.e. obey the directions of your betters in the racial leadership), not based on your individual choices.

            IOW, your Canadian “multiculturalism” sounds a lot like pre-1960s US assimilation.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko @GregQ

            Got the avatars confused. Red gravatars are rare and I only thought one person had one here.

            Iain is right. Isn’t Canadian multiculturalism the original form? We certainly are the ones who trumpet it the most. Can the originator of something be a non-central example?

          • Iain says:

            Thank you for introducing me to these hyperbolic strawmen exciting new ideas, GregQ. I had certainly never experienced them before.

            You appear to be missing my entire point, which is that an official policy called “multiculturalism” which explicitly encourages people to retain their existing culture is a more effective mechanism to achieve what you call “assimilation” than any amount of yelling about how you should assimilate and become American, dammit. (Or, for that matter, accusing Mexican immigrants of trying to steal American territory back for Mexico.)

          • random832 says:

            No, it isn’t. Many market economies allow some forms of free migration, but the definition of a nation starts with the ability to control ones borders, which is the definitional opposite of “free migration”.

            I understood the statement to be referring to free internal migration, and your statement is simply a reason the world is not a market economy, at least not for labor.

          • GregQ says:

            @random832
            If all @PDV was talking about was that CA shouldn’t be able to stop Americans from moving to TX, then we’re in violent agreement.

            If, OTOH, what @PDV was claiming was that “keeping illegal immigrants out” == “not market economy”, then we’re in violent disagreement.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @dndnrsn
            It may perhaps be the original form, but it’s certainly non-central to the American debate over it. My stance is much closer to the Canadian definition of “Multiculturalism” than any American proponent of the term I am aware of, and here I’m firmly on the “anti-multiculturalism” side of the debate, though I also oppose the would-be nativists who I think could pose a danger to our ability to integrate and assimilate immigrants from the other direction of the spectrum.

            EDIT: To make it more clear, here in the US when I talk to a proponent of Multi-culturalism, the stance is:

            -People coming to the US should not be expected to change their language or cultural patterns at all.

            -In the desired multi-cultural society, [Ethno-Nationality]-Americans will be culturally, ideologically, and behaviorally identical to [Ethno-Nationality], and have not been changed by immigrating and living in the US even after multiple generations. They will remain distinct and apart, adding their culture’s value to the overall American tapestry while standing distinct and separate from “American” culture.

            -In fact, there is no legitimate or shared “American culture”, nor should there be one. In reality what we assimilationists call “American Culture” is really White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, Irish Catholic, and so on cultures that were imposed upon immigrants against their will. Going forward we should not attempt to impose these foreign values on our new citizens, but rather let -those- cultures stand apart as their own separate, distinct, and unintegrated blocs apart from “Mexican Culture” and “African American Culture” and “Ukrainian Culture” and so on.

          • GregQ says:

            @dndnrsn & @Iain

            The original definition of “Liberal” (and the way Europe & Australia still use it) describes people who are now American conservatives. Using the word “multiculturalism” in a discussion of the US, but meaning the Canadian version, makes about as much sense as a European calling Ted Cruz a “Liberal” when talking with an American audience.

            And @Iain, if you’re not familiar with MeChA, or what US Academics or the US Left mean when they say “multiculturalism”, then you might want to educate yourself before you engage in the snark. you might want to start here.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            What’s the American form of multiculturalism, then?

            Is this just something Canadians do better?

          • tscharf says:

            The argument gets complicated when parts of a culture are intolerant or anti-ethical to a list (not to be debated here) of American values.

            If the green moon people culture involved overt racism, subjugating women, blocking all roads on Tuesday, teaching their kids to beat classmates, and their immense wealth from cheese sales allowed them to put up huge numbers of billboards with porn and denigrating two legged people as inferior should they be allowed to keep it? Suppose their culture disallows vaccinations, forbids sewage lines, or other things that may cause a health crisis? Suppose they all vote Republican, every single last one of them, and their voting precincts reliably put out twice as many votes as their population? They win a majority on the school board which then teaches abortions cause climate change?

            It’s all fun and games until they start making up the rules for you and your family. If you are an absolutist on multiculturalism then that should be OK with you. If you start adding exceptions then you get as many votes as everyone else.

            It’s not about positive aspects of a culture, it’s what to do about perceived negative aspects, who decides which is which, and what is to be done about it. There is anything but agreement here. Laws can pick up a lot of this, but there are huge gray areas that matter.

          • GregQ says:

            @dndnrsn

            The closest America has to “Canadian multiculturalism” is “melting pot assimilationism”.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @GregQ

            Canadians contrast the two, though. The classic “grade 9 civics class” or whatever metaphor is that those poor benighted Americans want melting pot assimilation, whereas we enlightened and not at all smug Canadians have salad bowl multiculturalism.

          • Randy M says:

            There’s been a conscious effort since I was in college, maybe high school, to replace melting pot metaphors with salad bowl metaphors.

          • keranih says:

            Stew is a better American metaphor, imo.

            Everything is transformed and loses a bit of its original shape, but you can tell that the carrots still look different than the potatoes than the meat. Oh, and everything is in different proportions, but that’s ok.

            But the taste is pretty much a complete blend of all the original ingredients.

          • Brad says:

            Everyone here probably knows this already but just in case and because I found it surprising when I found out:

            The melting pot refers to alloying metals not cooking.

          • random832 says:

            @GregQ

            If, OTOH, what @PDV was claiming was that “keeping illegal immigrants out” == “not market economy”, then we’re in violent disagreement.

            My point is that nation-states restricting immigration* means the world is not a market economy, and any individual nation-state being like a market economy (except for the existence of imports and exports) isn’t really relevant.

            *saying “keeping illegal immigrants out” begs half of the question – there’s no platonic ideal immigration policy, sitting in a vacuum waiting for the government to choose to enforce it or not.

            @dndnrsn

            Canadians contrast the two, though.

            On what grounds?

          • GregQ says:

            @dndnrsn

            With all due respect, that’s because Canadians have a desperate desire to differentiate themselves from Americans, and therefore seek out incredibly minor differences and blow them up.

            In American multiculturalism, you’re a Mexican first, and an American second, or maybe even not at all. IIUC, that is nothing at all like Canadian multiculturalism.

            It was often that case that new American citizens would chose not to speak “the old language” around their children, and try to get their children to be English only. But that was something that came from within these new citizens, not something forced on them by the rest of America.

            The key point of the melting pot was that you were an American. You might bring on remembered bits of the old country, you might live in a neighborhood / “ghetto” (used in quotes because the meaning has changed a LOT in the last 150 years) with people from the old country, but you were an American, not a person from country X who happened to live in America.

            IIUC, that’s a lot more like “Canadian multiculturalism”

          • GregQ says:

            @random832 says:

            My point is that nation-states restricting immigration* means the world is not a market economy, and any individual nation-state being like a market economy (except for the existence of imports and exports) isn’t really relevant.

            “The world” isn’t any one thing. So?

            Are you claiming that the US doesn’t have a “market economy” because we don’t allow anyone who wants to just come here and set up business?

            If so, I disagree with you, and I think you’re abusing the term.

            *saying “keeping illegal immigrants out” begs half of the question

            No, it doesn’t. It establishes the principle that US has the absolute right to define who can, and who can’t, come to the US. Which is to say, it establishes the principle that the US is a sovereign nation.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @random832

            Contrary to below, it has nothing to do with Canadians seizing on differences between the two countries and being smug about them.

            @GregQ

            With all due respect, that’s because Canadians have a desperate desire to differentiate themselves from Americans, and therefore seek out incredibly minor differences and blow them up.

            Hey, you better watch what you say, folks ’round here are apt to get real passive-aggressive…

            The key point of the melting pot was that you were an American. You might bring on remembered bits of the old country, you might live in a neighborhood / “ghetto” (used in quotes because the meaning has changed a LOT in the last 150 years) with people from the old country, but you were an American, not a person from country X who happened to live in America.

            IIUC, that’s a lot more like “Canadian multiculturalism”

            When did “multiculturalism” start getting tossed around in the US? In Canada, if the article I linked above is correct, it’s 60s-70s, and was a more or less deliberate choice by Trudeau to attempt to cut the Gordian knot of friction (to say the least) between the French Canadians and the Anglos.

            It’s also useful to note that Canada was Anglo-first longer than the US was. The idea of the model Canadian being an English Canadian stuck around for quite a while.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            @Dndnrsn

            I thought that my edit above would help to lluminate some of the differences in what American proponents of “multiculturalism” are saying and how they differ from what a Canadian audience thinks of when they think of the term. I don’t know if you saw that as a satisfactory response to your question or not.

            I think there’s a good argument to be made (I don’t know if it’s true or not, but there’s enough evidence to make a cogent argument) that integration and assimilation is something Canada is better at NOW. My personal feelings on how this changed is that we (Americans) have increasingly lost faith in the concept.

            As far as when “Multiculturalism” became a popular National Conversation buzz word, my experience and memory is that while it was introduced in an academic context in the 60s and 70s (as part of a colonialist critique of American culture and racial politics), it didn’t really get currency as a prescriptive formula for our culture, our educational system, and our political policies until the mid to late 90s. In short, in the American political context the idea of “Multiculturalism” was and is part of the American version of identity politics and spawned from the same academic and tradition that now critiques the old “An end to racism means no one caring about color or ethnicity and being color blind and not seeing race” as ‘erasure’.

            For an example of a nice, mainstream, moderate version of this POV, see this HuffPo article and specifically the bits about

            “Assimilation efforts have changed over the years, yet they remain colonial, oppressive, and in 2015 these ideas go against the freedoms that are supposed to be at the core of what it means to be “American.”

            (linking integration and assimilation with Colonialism)

            And

            “While Jeb Bush may mean well, he missteps when he opts for colorblind rhetoric and ignores discussing the importance of race and ethnicity.”

            What I find striking is that the article tries to have it both ways. It makes both the arguments above and at the same time claims that immigrants would be assimilating just fine if it wasn’t for those wascally wepubwicans and their racist policies that actively prevent assimilation…even though assimilation is, per the same article, colonial, oppressive, and goes against the freedoms that are supposed to be at the core of what it means to be American.

            Note that “American”, “American Values”, and “American Dream” have scare quotes around them every single time they are used in that article, whereas Native American, African American, and most tellingly Anglo-American do not. I think that makes it pretty clear that in the author’s eyes, what people like myself claim as “American” culture is illegitimate and is really just “Anglo” culture being unjustly imposed in a direct extension of colonalism.

            Compare and contrast this with the position staked out in this National Review article.

            I think that gives you a pretty decent baseline for the mainstream rhetoric from the conservative and liberal sides of the aisle in America at the moment. In my opinion, there’s a certain amount of talking past one another going on.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Trofim_Lysenko

            You make it sound like an inferior, later American version of something us leaves did better earlier. You also make poutine with shredded cheese.

            Perhaps the current model in Canada was only possible as an attempt by Trudeau the elder (a slick political operator; one nickname was “The Northern Magus”, which is also the coolest political nickname ever) to outflank Anglo-French Canadian hostility, which doesn’t really map directly to anything in the US. It was its own thing, instead of what you make American multiculturalism sound like, a reaction to assimilationism.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            This thread is getting annoying long. We can take this to the current OT if you’d like and see if someone else wants to chime in with their own understanding or more information, but as far as American-style “multiculturalism” being later and inferior…sort of, yeah.

            I think it initially evolved in that same timeframe as the Canadian version (60s-70s), but whereas Trudeau picked up the ideas and ran with them then, it took longer to catch on here. In that intervening time, yeah, I think it became a far inferior version, and I think it’s absolutely tied to a pushback against assimilation and progressive critiques of American cultural history and race relations history.

            I’m not about to sit here and say that the US has a spotless record in those regards, but I think that the version of Multiculturalism being pushed down here has a tendency to throw the baby out with the bathwater in the name of dismantling structural oppression that to the critics is all of a piece: We now have people who see the very idea of a “melting pot” as of a piece with American Imperialism and Colonialism in the Philippines and Latin America, with our historical oppression and disenfranchisement of African-Americans, cases of injustice like Sacco & Vanzetti, etc.

            That’s bad enough, IMO, but even more frustratingly while there is still plenty of Conservative pushback that merely attempts to hold the line and defend the idea of assimilation and the melting pot concept, there’s also been a distinct rise in Nativist sentiment over the past 20-30 years or so.

            And from there, it has become one small Area Of Operations in the Immigration Theatre of the Great American Culture War, with polarization driving the two main camps apart and, again in my personal opinion, both of them AWAY from precisely the sort of approach that Canada employs now…

            …which ironically looks to me like nothing so much as mid-20th century American NON-multiculturalism with better marketing and a friendlier face, at least in terms of the end result.

        • Jaskologist says:

          “So many coalitions that nobody can keep track of them and gain total dominance” is basically the central idea behind the American system as originally founded.

          Yes, this is the exact opposite of what Moldbug wants. But we can uncharitably phrase his solution as well.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m fine with that so long as we’re talking about groups of people with different ideas, that can be debated and minds changed. When we have everyone voting on racial identity, that just become a disaster, because I can’t change my race.

          • reasoned argumentation says:

            What Conrad Honcho said.

            In multiracial societies, you don’t vote in accordance with your economic interests and social interests, you vote in accordance with race and religion. Supposing I’d run their system here, Malays would vote for Muslims, Indians would vote for Indians, Chinese would vote for Chinese. I would have a constant clash in my Parliament which cannot be resolved

            This isn’t some theoretical exercise – it exists and had to be managed by probably the best statesman of the last generation. “Hey, it’s never been tried, so let’s give it a shot” is at best reckless carelessness of known consequences.

          • albatross11 says:

            Conrad: +1

            Identity politics means voting for the crook because at least he’s *your* crook.

          • Trump seems to me to embody a lot of the stuff I like least about successful politicians–he’s amazingly good at getting media attention, he can give a good speech that really gets his supporters excited, he can project confidence and strength and certainty, but he often has only a vague idea what the hell he’s talking about.

            What you obviously want is a team–an able demagogue as front man, to get elected, and a competent executive/policy type whispering in his ear. The problem is that it doesn’t look as though Trump is willing to take direction from anyone more competent around him.

            Although I suppose he could be just hiding it well.

          • Supposing I’d run their system here, Malays would vote for Muslims, Indians would vote for Indians, Chinese would vote for Chinese.

            Likely enough. The same way Boston had an Irish mayor for quite a while, and similarly with other ethnicities. I’m not sure how many east Asians there are in the U.S. senate, but I don’t think it’s an accident that one of them is from Hawaii.

            I would have a constant clash in my Parliament which cannot be resolved

            That doesn’t follow, because there are a lot of issues to be decided in Parliament that don’t hinge on what race you are. You could have a conservative Malay or a liberal Malay, a conservative Indian or a liberal Indian, … . And where issues do hinge on race, you can still have deals–we will agree to something the Malays are strongly in favor of and the Indians weakly against, if you agree to … .

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @DavidFriedman

            The problem is that it doesn’t look as though Trump is willing to take direction from anyone more competent around him.

            General Mattis, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin, etc etc? These people seem to know what they’re doing. They may not share your political ideology, but these are not incompetent men. These are people who have reached the pinnacles of success in their fields.

          • random832 says:

            Apparently, Tillerson at least has been extremely frustrated with interference from the White House in his ability to do his job.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Conrad Honcho
            The problem is Trump DOESNT TAKE THEIR ADVICE.
            That is gobsmackingly obvious from the whole Qatar fiasco.
            And I’m sure the advice on the Israeli intel would have been DON’T.
            Mostly Trump DOESNT EVEN ASK THEIR ADVICE.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @random832

            I don’t believe anything from “anonymous sources.” Every time “anonymous sources” or “sources familiar with [X]’s thinking” say that Y is about to happen, Y never happens. Instead I watch the press conferences on YouTube and read the official statements and make up my mind that way. I’m very impressed with the work these people are doing. So I have exactly what I want: excellent people heading the departments while Trump eviscerates the propagandist media.

          • Bintchaos is more certain than I am that Trump doesn’t take their advice, as signaled by her capitals, but that was indeed my point. It at least looks as though he surrounds himself with competent people, very likely makes some use of them, but feels free to act without or against their advice when it feels right to him.

            If he were very competent that would be appropriate. If he is very competent at demagoguery but not at being president it might be appropriate for the objective of getting reelected but not for other objectives that the rest of us consider more important.

          • random832 says:

            @Conrad Honcho “Every time”? that’s a fairly ridiculous claim (surely even a stopped clock…) – and you’re of course limiting it to predictions, which can just as easily turn out wrong by the source being incorrect (or Trump changing his mind) as by being a fake source.

            And more to the point, this idea that you have that anything that contradicts the official state narrative in a way that would lead someone to fear for their career (at least) in revealing it and therefore choose to be anonymous must be disbelieved… I mean, Jesus, you’re accusing me of buying into propaganda.

            As for the specifics… How about looking at how many positions in the State Department have not been filled, how many confirmation-requiring positions have not even had a nomination?

            It is not in any way hidden information that the State Department is understaffed. A secretary who doesn’t find that frustrating would be incompetent, so what you are saying is that you believe that Rex Tillerson is less competent than I do.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @random832

            It is not in any way hidden information that the State Department is understaffed. A secretary who doesn’t find that frustrating would be incompetent, so what you are saying is that you believe that Rex Tillerson is less competent than I do.

            Not if your goal is the dismantlement of the administrative state. Trump’s proposed budget slashes funding the State Department. Stinking House Appropriations bill is only giving Trump half the cuts he wanted though. Isn’t that amazing? Executive branch says “give us less money” and the House says “no.”

        • jhertzlinger says:

          By that standard, you would call me an extreme leftist.

          Almost everybody else calls me a right-wing nutjob.

        • grifmoney says:

          He’s not an extremist, he’s a goddamn blue! We don’t tolerate people THAT blue!

      • AnonYEmous says:

        I hope people consider my evidence

        Sure, and I’d be willing to consider the evidence in that Current Affairs article. Where is it? The passage you quoted basically just contains some assertions that line up with the author’s ideological biases, and the article itself doesn’t go any farther than that. At best, you have an appeal to history which is barely fleshed out – the idea that “it doesn’t work”, an assertion backed up by not so much as a single example, and which actually tries to dismiss a counter-example via a type of special pleading.

        Anyways, I’m not going to dismiss even extremist socialists out of hand. But I do think that any extremist viewpoint can blind you to you being wrong, so it’s a lot more likely that you are. As a result, if I see a comprehensive, evidence-laden rebuttal of an assertion-driven article by an extremist socialist, I’m going to believe that they are wrong, and I’m willing to pay the price if I spoke too soon.

      • Rob K says:

        That said, with regards to the Current Affairs article, it’s remarkable how everyone trying to figure out how the Democrats can win, whether they’re Current Affairs or Mark Penn, has discovered that the answer is “adopt my preferred policies”.

        It’s hard to separate out your policy preferences from your assessment of the political lay of the land. I try to force myself to be honest about this – e.g., I support action on climate change because it’s the right thing to do, even though I don’t think it’s a political winner. Even so, I’m sure that I fall prey to a bit of motivated reasoning about what plays with the electorate. And most of the “here’s how dems can beat trump” pieces have seemed like almost pure motivated reasoning to me.

        • abc says:

          That said, with regards to the Current Affairs article, it’s remarkable how everyone trying to figure out how the Democrats can win, whether they’re Current Affairs or Mark Penn, has discovered that the answer is “adopt my preferred policies”.

          In my experience that is what all tactical political advise, especially between people on different sides, boils down to.

      • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

        It is not right to dismiss somebody’s argument just because they are socialists. However, I think it is right to dismiss arguments of somebody who argues along the lines of “Democrats may not support moderates because they are too worried about the country and too disappointed by the failure of their party (and, obviously, Republicans) to make immediate improvement, and Republicans may not support moderates because they are just a bunch of insane extremists”. This is not an argument, this is appeal to presumed reader’s partisan biases.

        • albatross11 says:

          Also, if I already have concluded that I don’t accept some model of the world or starting assumption, then I’m probably not going to be convinced by an argument based on that model.

  2. reasoned argumentation says:

    This doesn’t mean only boring centrists can win; Donald Trump is the obvious counterexample. But Trump’s extremism was something other than just “Paul Ryan but much more so”. He won not by moving straight right, but by coming up with new ideas that held the attention of the Republican base while also appealing to some disaffected Democrats.

    That sounds like the description of a centrist to me. Bill Kristol with the “maybe we should replace the white working class” and Hillary “we should have open borders” are the extremists. Just because both parties tend to agree on a particular issue doesn’t mean that it’s not extreme in the eyes of the voters.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think this is enough of a redefinition that anyone with an extreme view which isn’t exactly the same as the standard extreme views can call themselves a “centrist”. If Bernie Sanders ran and won, would we have to call him a “centrist” because apparently the median voter preferred socialism? I feel like it removes useful meaning from the term.

      • reasoned argumentation says:

        Open socialism isn’t nearly as popular as immigration restriction (although I suppose it’s more popular with potential immigrants) and one candidate really did stake out an extreme position – and it wasn’t the winning candidate.

        That was exactly the point of every “centrist” working together to exclude the issue from discussion, no? Bill Kristol saying that the white working class should be replaced is the extreme take. Hillary saying she believes in open borders is extreme. Trump saying that existing laws should be enforced is not.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Agree; left-right axis is bad. By this notion of “centrism”, we could come up with any number of “centrist” positions that were totally opposed to one another.

      • hlynkacg says:

        @Scott Alexander

        Fair point but I do think RA is on to something here. If the Overton Window for professional political scientists is substantially different form that of the wider electorate it is entirely possible for someone who someone poli-sci crowd consider “extreme” to win as a “centrist”.

      • gbdub says:

        I think it would help if we stipulated that a “centrist” position need not be popular, and an “extremist” position need not be rare, if we’re assuming (which I think Scott is) that “centrist” is a sort of platonic ideal midway between the most extreme plausible position on one side, and the opposite of that.

        I suspect on some issues, there is a large squishy middle that contains a large percentage of people. On others, it’s basically a binary choice and the only relevant axis is how important people think the issue is.

        • Randy M says:

          Also, one can be “centrist” by virtue of taking various extreme positions from either side rather than by being moderate on every issue.

          • Matt M says:

            Perhaps instead of just considering the mean position of someone on the issues, “centrist” should apply only to someone with a neutral mean and a low standard deviation.

          • gbdub says:

            @Randy: So centrist =/= moderate in your definition. Which is fine, but I think Scott is using centrist = moderate.

            But I do think it misses something. There’s for example no particular reason why “anti-abortion” must come along with “anti-immigration” for example, or why “pro gun control” requires “opposition to free trade agreements” etc. Whether one pulls the lever for D or R may just be a question of which of those views you find more important (or more likely to be impacted by the election).

          • Randy M says:

            Not necessarily my definition, but I think I’ve seen it used like that. Maybe I’m thinking of independent? By and large I think those three terms are used interchangeably to mean “I think for myself unlike those crazies driven by ideology”

      • abc says:

        If Bernie Sanders ran and won, would we have to call him a “centrist” because apparently the median voter preferred socialism?

        Yes, you start with hypotheticals based on fictional evidence, you reach false conclusions.

      • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

        If he would win, then I’d have no problem calling him a centrist. But exactly because it sounds absurd – because he’s not a centrist – he didn’t win. If you replace our universe with one where Sanders wins – I see no problem that in that universe Sanders is a centrist, since nothing is absurd there – it’s not our universe, so our intuition about how things go does not apply there. I think to use reductio ad absurdum, you have to make it in our universe, not in a fictional one.

    • harland0 says:

      What’s wrong with replacing the white working class? There are tons of benefits that I can see.

      Donald Trump is a deplorable candidate — to put it charitably — and anyone who helps him advance his racial, religious and ethnic bigotry is part of that bigotry. Period. Anyone who elevates a sexist is part of that sexism. The same goes for xenophobia. You can’t conveniently separate yourself from the detestable part of him because you sense in him the promise of cultural or economic advantage. That hair cannot be split.

      Furthermore, one doesn’t have to actively hate to contribute to a culture that allows hate to flourish.

      It doesn’t matter how lovely your family, how honorable your work or service, how devout your faith — if you place ideological adherence or economic self interest above the moral imperative to condemn and denounce a demagogue, then you are deplorable.

      In state after state that Trump won during the primaries, he won a majority or near majority of voters who supported a temporary ban on Muslims entering this country and who supported deporting immigrants who are in this country illegally.

      • cassander says:

        What’s wrong with replacing the white working class? There are tons of benefits that I can see.

        Easy to say if you aren’t one of them, and a hard thing to convince them to go along with. Hell, if you try, they might elect someone contemptible in a desperate bid to stop you!

        > if you place ideological adherence or economic self interest above the moral imperative to condemn and denounce a demagogue, then you are deplorable.

        So when bernie sanders was blaming all out problems on banksters, and promising to fix everything by taxing the rich, you were out there protesting him? How exactly do you distinguish “demagogue” from “loud person I disagree with”?

        • bintchaos says:

          @CASSANDER
          The problem is that those jobs ARE going away, and standing on the tracks of history hollering stop wont change that.

          How exactly do you distinguish “demagogue” from “loud person I disagree with”?


          I’ll go with Hamilton:

          The truth unquestionably is, that the only path to a subversion of the republican system of the Country is, by flattering the prejudices of the people, and exciting their jealousies and apprehensions, to throw affairs into confusion, and bring on civil commotion. Tired at length of anarchy, or want of government, they may take shelter in the arms of monarchy for repose and security.

          Those then, who resist a confirmation of public order, are the true Artificers of monarchy—not that this is the intention of the generality of them. Yet it would not be difficult to lay the finger upon some of their party who may justly be suspected. When a man unprincipled in private life desperate in his fortune, bold in his temper, possessed of considerable talents, having the advantage of military habits—despotic in his ordinary demeanour—known to have scoffed in private at the principles of liberty—when such a man is seen to mount the hobby horse of popularity—to join in the cry of danger to liberty—to take every opportunity of embarrassing the General Government & bringing it under suspicion—to flatter and fall in with all the non sense of the zealots of the day—It may justly be suspected that his object is to throw things into confusion that he may “ride the storm and direct the whirlwind.”

          • cassander says:

            The problem is that those jobs ARE going away, and standing on the tracks of history hollering stop wont change that.

            They are going away in part because the democrats are deliberately destroying them. Voting for guys who stop doing that is not crazy.

          • vV_Vv says:

            The problem is that those jobs ARE going away, and standing on the tracks of history hollering stop wont change that.

            So what do all these illegal immigrants do, and what are they needed for, exactly?

          • The original Mr. X says:

            The truth unquestionably is, that the only path to a subversion of the republican system of the Country is, by flattering the prejudices of the people, and exciting their jealousies and apprehensions, to throw affairs into confusion, and bring on civil commotion.

            I don’t think that “unquestionable” at all. For example, judicial overreach of the sort we see from the Supreme Court seems like a good way to subvert a republican system.

          • The problem is that those jobs ARE going away,

            The Pew piece you link to is not about the loss of white working class jobs, it’s about the replacement of humans by machines across a wide range of jobs.

            And it’s not just about jobs that are repetitive and low-skill. Automation, robotics, algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI) in recent times have shown they can do equal or sometimes even better work than humans who are dermatologists, insurance claims adjusters, lawyers, seismic testers in oil fields, sports journalists and financial reporters, crew members on guided-missile destroyers, hiring managers, psychological testers, retail salespeople, and border patrol agents.

            I don’t see what it has to do with the argument. You can argue, as some here might, that practically all jobs will be replaced by AI and we need a world with a guaranteed income and most people spending their time doing things that don’t make them money, but that would impact everyone, not selectively the white working class.

            Or you can argue, as I would, that this prediction of doom is no more justified than earlier predictions along similar lines, going back at least to the Luddites. The jobs of the overwhelming majority of the population of developed countries have already been replaced by technological improvement and the result has not been an unemployment rate going up for two hundred years. As some things no longer need human labor, humans will be freed up to do other things. Insofar as the past shift was replacing muscle with machine and the current is replacing brains with machines, one might expect the ratio of brain jobs to muscle jobs, supposing one can make such a distinction, to go down, not up.

            We don’t know what people will be doing twenty years from now, when current AI progress is fully implemented and new AI progress being made, but I can’t see why you expect the white working class to be impacted any more than anyone else.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Hell, if you try, they might elect someone contemptible in a desperate bid to stop you!

          That’s why I think they should require people to pass a game theory 101 exam before letting them anyway near a polling station…

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        Most people are in favor of deporting immigrants who are in this country illegally– that’s how it became the law, after all. The only extreme thing about Trump voters on this issue is their optimism about the extent to which it can actually be done.

        • mankoff says:

          Your claim about what most people are in favor of is incorrect (see page 2 of these poll results in the linked pdf).

          “Do you think the government should attempt to deport all people currently living in the country illegally or should the government not attempt to do that?”
          71% says “Should not” as of March of this year.

          For reference, “Among the entire sample (of 1025 adults), 28% described themselves as Democrats, 25% described themselves as Republicans, and 47% described themselves as independents or members of another party” (Pp. 4 of linked pdf).

          So the extreme thing about Trump voters is that they’re by and large the only voters who want to deport immigrants who are in the country illegally.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            I’ll accept that as a refutation. Taken in isolation, the opposition to a mass deportation is not incompatible with the possibility that most people would support it if it were practical, but recognize that it isn’t. But I admit that this really can’t be squared with the (encouragingly high) support for amnesty.

      • Matt M says:

        What’s wrong with replacing the white working class? There are tons of benefits that I can see.

        But remember folks, it’s Trump who is the extremist!

        • Zorgon says:

          Eliminationism is a fun game that all the political family can play!

        • Brad says:

          If our standard for extremist is wouldn’t be the most extreme SSC poster I’m not sure any politician in any country would flunk it.

      • vV_Vv says:

        What’s wrong with replacing the [Jews]? There are tons of benefits that I can see.

      • Tracy W says:

        and anyone who helps him advance his racial, religious and ethnic bigotry is part of that bigotry. Period.

        I disagree with this. Imagine for example that someone attacks Donald Trump’s supporters in a condescending way, for example calling half of them a “basket of deplorables”. The attack is widely reported, particularly by Trump supporters, and confirms many Trump supporters in their support for Trump. That person has therefore advanced Trump’s bigotry, but that hardly means that that person is themselves a bigot.

        It doesn’t matter how lovely your family, how honorable your work or service, how devout your faith — if you place ideological adherence or economic self interest above the moral imperative to condemn and denounce a demagogue, then you are deplorable.

        Why do you think we have a moral imperative to condemn and denounce demagogues? Are you inclined to change your views when demagogues condemn and denounce you?
        (I have no idea what your religious, economic or cultural beliefs are but I’m sure that whatever they are there’s someone who has condemned and denounced them.)

        And, while we’re on the matter, do you think that Daryl Davis (the black guy who goes around befriending KKK members to thereby dissudae them) is violating his moral imperative?

      • The original Mr. X says:

        who supported deporting immigrants who are in this country illegally.

        I come across this view a lot from American progressives, but I’m interested to know: what, exactly, is wrong about kicking out people who’ve broken the law and have no right to be in the country in the first place?

        • Nornagest says:

          I’m not sure if this is the consensus view or not, but there’s an argument to be made that it’s kinda like speeding: we want to keep the average speed on our roads down, but people will always push it, so we set the official speed limit lower than we know people will go, and unofficially enforce it only if someone’s doing something really egregious. (Or if the cop’s having a bad day, or it’s a small department that needs the fine money. It’s not a perfect policy.)

        • Horkthane says:

          Man, I don’t know what happened. I ignored politics for a while, and when I started paying attention again, progressives were acting like totally open borders was a settled argument. Worse, supporting borders in any form was practically genocide and made you just as bad as Hitler.

          Did I miss some monumental sea change? When did this consensus among the political class solidify to the point where just saying “We’re going to enforce our borders” became dangerous, extremist, demagoguery?

          I feel like I left a cool party to go get beer, and when I got back, everyone had become Mormon. It’s confusing the fuck out of me.

          • abc says:

            When did this consensus among the political class solidify to the point where just saying “We’re going to enforce our borders” became dangerous, extremist, demagoguery?

            At about the same time “a marriage is between a man and a woman”, “claiming to be a woman doesn’t make you one”, or “men accused of rape have a right to a fair trial” became dangerous, extremist, *phobic unacceptable in current year. Basically, when the SJWs decided they can win any argument by calling opponents racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/islamophobic/ablist/whatever.

          • BBA says:

            In California, there was a large population of American-born descendants of Mexican immigrants (legal and otherwise) who perceived the hard-line anti-illegal immigration tactics of Republican Gov. Pete Wilson as anti-Latino bigotry. They responded by organizing en masse under slogans like “no one is illegal,” started voting religiously Democratic, and turned California from a swing state to deepest blue.

            So, since “border controls are racist” was a big hit in California, the literati have taken it national…except that message only plays that way in California.

          • abc says:

            In California, there was a large population of American-born descendants of Mexican immigrants (legal and otherwise) who perceived the hard-line anti-illegal immigration tactics of Republican Gov. Pete Wilson as anti-Latino bigotry. They responded by organizing en masse under slogans like “no one is illegal,” started voting religiously Democratic, and turned California from a swing state to deepest blue.

            As Steve Salier likes to point out that isn’t actually what happened.

          • Zorgon says:

            Open borders is the very least of it, given the post you’re responding to basically advocates for eradicating the white working class.

            If i was to actually think about it, I think the first sign I noticed that eliminationism was starting to gain ground on the left was Michael Moore’s book Stupid White Men. I bought the idea that they were specifically and solely talking about economic, political and social elites (rather than literally every A FUCKING WHITE MALE in existence) up until roughly the time when ethics in game journalism suddenly became important and they informed me that I was now Officially Unpersoned.

          • BBA says:

            Sailer offers no proof besides “California went for Clinton in ’92.” Yeah, so did Georgia. Republicans did quite well in California’s state-level elections in 1994, retaining the governorship and taking the State Assembly.

            I said nothing about Latinos switching parties. Sailer mentions that formerly apolitical Latinos were inspired to start voting, which also gets you to a Latino Democratic bloc pushing California over the edge from purple to blue.

            But my overall point is that this is something that can only work in California, with its large number of Mexican-descended US citizens who retain strong ties to Mexico and want the border erased. Elsewhere the immigration picture looks a lot different and liberals who blindly assume every state is like California are getting burned by the fact that open borders are extremely fucking unpopular.

          • Matt M says:

            I’ve heard anecdotally that surprisingly large numbers of (legal) hispanic immigrants support making it easier to immigrate, but oppose amnesty for illegals under the “I waited my turn and did it legally, and these assholes should too” logic.

            Not sure if true, or how true, that really is.

          • vV_Vv says:

            I’ve heard anecdotally that surprisingly large numbers of (legal) hispanic immigrants support making it easier to immigrate, but oppose amnesty for illegals under the “I waited my turn and did it legally, and these assholes should too” logic.

            Probably true. Many of these people are working class, and therefore in the same boat as the white working class. Illegal immigrants directly compete with them.

            Despite what the SJWs say, the illegal immigration issue has hardly anything to do with race.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @BBA

            In California, there was a large population of American-born descendants of Mexican immigrants (legal and otherwise) who perceived the hard-line anti-illegal immigration tactics of Republican Gov. Pete Wilson as anti-Latino bigotry.

            Maybe this is true at some detailed level, but let’s not miss the forest for the trees. How does this explain the support of the European elite and upper-middle class for illegal mass immigration from Muslim countries to Europe?

        • JulieK says:

          Also, even if actively deporting is taboo, what was so bad about saying “they will self-deport?”

          • Steve Sailer says:

            Romney’s term “self-deport” focus-grouped extremely badly, worse than “deport,” according to a friend who does research on political rhetoric.

            I don’t know why.

          • Aapje says:

            Isn’t ‘self-deport’ (perceived as): we’ll heap abuse on this group until they leave?

          • Matt M says:

            Ironically, we’re seeing more and more articles suggesting that illegal immigration is down dramatically, not because of anything Trump has done, but because the things he said have made potential illegals believe the environment will be inhospitable to them. Of course, this is spun as “Trump is so evil people nobody even WANTS to come to America anymore!” rather than “Isn’t it great he found a way to decrease illegal immigration without ACTUALLY rounding people up and breaking up families and everything.”

            Perhaps somewhat ironic that the best way to achieve self-deportation is to threaten actual deportation.

        • Brad says:

          I come across this view a lot from American progressives, but I’m interested to know: what, exactly, is wrong about kicking out people who’ve broken the law and have no right to be in the country in the first place?

          Consider the question:
          “What, exactly, is wrong about throwing away food in front of someone that is hungry and would eat it? They have no right to the food in the first place.”

          Now you may argue that it isn’t a fair analogy because in the immigration case you are balancing harms against harms rather then something that could help others at no cost to you, but that factual question is something that you and the progressives you are trying to understand disagree on.

          • vV_Vv says:

            “What, exactly, is wrong about throwing away food in front of someone that is hungry and would eat it? They have no right to the food in the first place.”

            Many grocery shops do it. Clothing shops are even known for shredding unsold clothes before throwing them away to make sure that nobody can collect them from the trash bin and use them.

            Do you think they do this because they are big jerks, or do they have a financial incentive to do so?

          • Matt M says:

            “What, exactly, is wrong about throwing away food in front of someone that is hungry and would eat it? They have no right to the food in the first place.”

            If you’ve ever dumped anything into a trashcan at McDonalds, you have probably done exactly this (the person may not be directly in front of you, but there’s almost certainly one nearby).

            And yet, people who throw away food are not seen as irredeemable monsters.

          • Jiro says:

            “What, exactly, is wrong about throwing away food in front of someone that is hungry and would eat it? They have no right to the food in the first place.”

            I objected to this reasoning a couple of threads ago.
            http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/06/21/open-thread-78-5/#comment-514939

          • Brad says:

            Do you think that the analogy fails to shed light on the puzzlement that Mr. X has regarding the feelings of American progressives vis-a-vis illegal immigrants or are you all just compulsive pedants?

          • Randy M says:

            Don’t rule out both.

          • The original Mr. X says:

            “What, exactly, is wrong about throwing away food in front of someone that is hungry and would eat it? They have no right to the food in the first place.”

            If you’re throwing the food away you clearly don’t want it for yourself, so it would be wasteful to dump it in the bin when somebody else would happily make use of it. I see no evidence that most Americans today don’t want their country, whatever that might mean.

          • Brad says:

            So you aren’t interested to know. You just want to argue. Why didn’t you say so?

        • vV_Vv says:

          Supporters of illegal immigration want to maintain and expand a class of disenfranchised inhabitants to exploit as cheap and easily blackmailed labor. This is because immigration laws are not completely unenforced, they are enforced selectively, which means that they can (and probably are) enforced as retaliatory measures.

          Illegal immigrants lack the rights that citizens and legal immigrants have. All the minimum wage rules, mandatory employee benefits, workplace safety regulations, etc. pretty much don’t apply to them, because they can’t sue their employers. (Well, I suppose that technically they can, but doing so would expose them to the risk of deportation).

          In fact, it’s not even a matter of initiating legal action. If you are an illegal immigrant, shall you enter in any kind of conflict with anybody that matters, anybody who can pick up the phone and speak to somebody at the immigration office, you can be pretty sure that you will be in trouble. This strongly reduces your bargaining power in all kinds of economic and social interactions. Hell, your employer could straight up rape you, on a regular basis, under the threat of having you kicked out of the country if you try to refuse.

          This hypothesis is uncharitable, of course, but probably mostly accurate. Notice how most supporters of illegal immigration don’t campaign to regularize the status of illegal immigrants, or to make legal immigration easier. They want to keep the illegal immigrants around as illegal immigrants.

          • Matt M says:

            This doesn’t really strike me as true at all. To the extent that we claim support for illegal immigration is a “blue tribe” issue, I don’t see the blue tribe’s primary motivation as being wanting to keep around a class of poor people they can exploit to promote the glory of capitalism.

            And the blue tribe is constantly pushing for “regularizing the status of illegal immigrants” in the form of “make them all citizens right now”, often with decent backing from the moderate/RINO faction of the red tribe.

            After all, we’ve been told in this very thread that “build the wall” is an extremist position, but “amnesty for illegals” is not.

          • vV_Vv says:

            I don’t see the blue tribe’s primary motivation as being wanting to keep around a class of poor people they can exploit to promote the glory of capitalism.

            Why not? Most “blue-tribers” (mainstream Democrats) seem to quite like capitalism. And support for illegal immigration is not just a Democrat thing. All the Republican candidates other than Trump were in support of it, or at least silent on the issue (which is essentially equivalent to being in support, given the existing policy).

            And the blue tribe is constantly pushing for “regularizing the status of illegal immigrants” in the form of “make them all citizens right now”,

            Not to any significant extent. Mainstream American politicians supported things like “sanctuary cities” and “dreamers”, which lack any path to citizenship and offer very vague protections. Hillary Clinton made some vague promises of a path to citizenship in her campaign.

            Similar things happen in Europe with the so called “refugees”.

          • Supporters of illegal immigration want to maintain and expand a class of disenfranchised inhabitants to exploit as cheap and easily blackmailed labor.

            As you go on to mention, this assumes that supporters of illegal immigrants don’t want to make them legal. As best I can tell, the same people who push against expelling illegal immigrants also support proposals to give them a path to becoming illegal.

          • vV_Vv says:

            As best I can tell, the same people who push against expelling illegal immigrants also support proposals to give them a path to becoming illegal.

            Do they?

            They may pay lip service to it, dangle the promise of citizenship in front of them to lure them, but in reality, why don’t they do anything like that when they are in office?

          • Matt M says:

            Nobody does anything to change the status quo when they’re in office. If you’re going to judge based on that, we might as well come to the conclusion that both the red tribe and blue tribe agree that 99% of the status quo is good and proper and should be preserved just the way it is.

          • Randy M says:

            Inaction is easier than making a choice in which either option is unpopular with a large group.

          • Iain says:

            They may pay lip service to it, dangle the promise of citizenship in front of them to lure them, but in reality, why don’t they do anything like that when they are in office?

            You mean, something like DACA? Or DAPA?

          • albatross11 says:

            vVVv:

            As far as I can tell, you’re just attributing the worst possible motives to your political opponents to justify your bad opinion about them. I don’t see how that makes you (or us) any smarter. In fact, it’s exactly the mirror-image of the bit where pro-immigration people look at immigration restrictionists and infer that they must all be racists.

            Can you steelman the arguments in favor of any of:

            a. Taking in more immigrants?

            b. Keeping immigration policy more-or-less as it was under Bush and Obama?

            c. Having something like open borders?

            I’m not suggesting you should start agreeing with people with those views, but can you at least show that you understand them? Otherwise, how can you know whether your ideas about what immigration policy we should follow are right? Do you believe there are no non-monstrous reasons to want more immigration, or less immigration enforcement?

          • BBA says:

            Believe it or not, there are more than two positions on immigration, and they don’t strictly line up with the Democrat/Republican and urbane/traditionalist dichotomies. vV_Vv is undoubtedly describing a dynamic that exists among employers of illegal immigrants. But it’s certainly not how Latino activists see it, or even a majority of either party.

            The most cost-effective way to crack down on illegal immigration is to beef up e-Verify enforcement. If it’s too risky to hire them, then they won’t be able to support themselves and they’ll have to leave. Of course this would be toxic to both left and right, for different reasons, so it’s never going to happen.

          • GregQ says:

            @Matt M
            While the Blue Tribe regularly argues for “regularizing the status” of current crop of illegal immigrants, they always argue for doing so in ways that will bring in more illegal immigrants to be abused.

            Look at how many Blue Tribe members argue “if you get rid of all illegal immigrants, industry X would be crushed!” (restaurants & farms being the ‘X’s I see most) Which is, straightforward, an argument that those industries couldn’t survive if they actually had to treat their workers legally, or, to put it a more honest way: They’re arguing that these industries must have exploitable workers, not protected by the labor laws of the US, to survive

          • They’re arguing that these industries must have exploitable workers, not protected by the labor laws of the US, to survive

            One possibility is that they want workers not protected by minimum wage laws. I’m not sure in what sense an employer is exploiting someone if he pays him five dollars an hour and the employee accepts because it is much more than he could get at home. I in that situation, it is the people who try to keep the employee out so they can get the job at minimum wage who are exploiting him–making him worse than he would be without their action in order to make themselves better off. Do you have a different definition of exploiting someone?

            An alternative interpretation is that there are jobs that don’t violate U.S. labor laws but that no, or not enough, U.S. citizens will accept.

          • random832 says:

            @GregQ

            They’re arguing that these industries must have exploitable workers, not protected by the labor laws of the US, to survive

            I don’t think they are. It’s possible to believe that they could survive the increased costs associated with having to pay them all minimum wage or even an increased minimum wage (especially if all their competitors have the same costs so it all gets passed on to consumers) etc without believing that they can survive an intractable labor shortage. Do you at least accept that these are situations that would have a different degree of impact?

            It’s also possible for them to simply be arguing that either without sincerely believing it or without having thought it through, which would still make you wrong about what they’re arguing.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @DavidFriedman

            One possibility is that they want workers not protected by minimum wage laws.

            Then they could campaign to lower/abolish the minimum wage for everybody, which is what libertarians propose, or only for legal immigrants, which I don’t think anybody proposes.

            I’m not sure in what sense an employer is exploiting someone if he pays him five dollars an hour and the employee accepts because it is much more than he could get at home.

            Sure it might benefit the illegal immigrants, it does not benefit the society overall, since the illegal immigrants can unfairly compete with citizens and legal immigrants. In particular, it promotes illegal rather than legal immigration.

            An alternative interpretation is that there are jobs that don’t violate U.S. labor laws but that no, or not enough, U.S. citizens will accept.

            If that was the case, the solution would be to make legal immigration easier. But it is probably not the case.

            If it was the case, then it would mean that illegal immigrants are actually being exploited, since if illegal immigration was impossible, businesses would have to hire them anyway as legal immigrants, offering better salaries and working conditions.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @albatross11

            Can you steelman the arguments in favor of any of:

            a. Taking in more immigrants?

            Yes.

            b. Keeping immigration policy more-or-less as it was under Bush and Obama?

            No. Can you?

            c. Having something like open borders?

            Yes.

            Can you steelman an argument in favor of the current de-facto EU immigration policy, which consists in:
            – Have the Africans cross the Sahara desert, pay thousands dollars per person to the human traffickers, and risk their lives at the sea by being towed off the Libyan costs on overloaded barges or inflatable boats.
            – Assuming that these boats don’t capsize and drown everybody on board, “rescue” them with navy or NGO ships, drop the immigrants in Italian rescue centers, where they “escape” before being identified and reappear in various European countries seeking asylum.
            – Deny most of these asylum requests, but do not bother to physically deport the failed seekers.

            What is the good humanitarian purpose of this policy?

          • tscharf says:

            vV_Vv,

            There’s a balance between humanitarian needs and the rights of citizens. We don’t live in a one world government. Economics matter. As one example citizens have spent decades paying into a social safety net system and it is economically unfair to allow refugees to come in and freeload on that investment. Some citizens agree that humanitarian needs should trump the social safety net, others do not. That’s why it’s controversial and why each nation’s society should choose its own path.

            If all the alleged humanitarians want to pay all the bills and let them construct tent cities in their back yards then there will likely be less resistance. When I see a tent city inside a gated community I will withdraw this criticism. I should also point out that the alleged humanitarians out there have the option of moving out of their gated community and relocating to these troubled countries and improving results on the ground.

            There are other solutions besides “come live in my backyard”. Providing assistance in the refugee’s home country being the most obvious one. Typically the underlying cause is short term (months, years) so there is no requirement for permanent relocation.

            Pontificating without sacrifice is hollow. It’s one thing to want all people to liver better lives, it’s another thing to open up your guest bedroom and sacrifice your second car. Many advocates think they are only asking for the prior, but citizens are hearing a request for the latter.

          • vV_Vv says:

            My point is that the activists, despite their alleged humanitarian goals, don’t actually campaign to make legal immigration any easier. Instead, they promote illegal immigration, for instance by supporting the NGOs that operate the trafficking rescue ships.

            What could their purpose be, other than creating a class of exploitable disenfranchised inhabitants?

            And of course, as you note, the activists tend to be well off, so they can reap the benefits of illegal immigration: cheap and blackmailable labor, without paying the costs: wage competition and living in the same neighbors as the immigrants, with all that it entails.

            Providing assistance in the refugee’s home country being the most obvious one. Typically the underlying cause is short term (months, years) so there is no requirement for permanent relocation.

            Note that most illegal immigrants to Europe are not refugees. They tend to be middle-class young men from poor but mostly peaceful countries.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @vV_Vv

            You’re assuming malice, or at least calculation, rather than incompetence. European immigration systems are a mess.

            -Europe needs people. So far, the glorious paperclip future has not happened, and you still need people for a society to run. They don’t seem to want to have children; evidence: they are mostly having children below replacement rate. So, if they’re not going to produce their own people at an adequate rate, they gotta bring them in from somewhere else, right?
            -but, they don’t really want immigrants, for the most part; they want to want immigrants. The most optimistic seem imagine some perfect scenario where foreigners arrive and are transmuted into locals. Even in places that are really good at integrating immigrants, it doesn’t work that way.
            -the migrant crisis is happening, and while they don’t really want to accept these people for the most part, neither do they want to do the ugly (and I mean ugly) things they would have to do to stop them from entering Europe.
            -likewise, mass deportations are really ugly. What’s going to happen if/when an anti-immigrant party gets in and tries to make good on its promise of mass deportation? How are photos and video of soldiers and police forcing crying people carrying their worldly possessions onto ferries and train cars going to play? As with immigration, the idea of something is more attractive than the thing itself.

            Isn’t the most likely conclusion to how things are currently playing out that Europeans, both leadership and voters, are responding to a situation where a lot of the choices are bad and the best choices (in my view, the best choice is a functioning immigration system, controlling borders while establishing ways to let in and integrate people; Europe should basically be more like Canada, and yes, I am aware Canada has various advantages in this Europe isn’t) are hard, by just sort of doing a little bit of this and a little bit of that and hoping the problem somehow goes away?

          • tscharf says:

            activists, despite their alleged humanitarian goals, don’t actually campaign to make legal immigration any easier.

            That’s a good point. It’s pretty hard to even tell what activists are really campaigning for a lot of times. Open borders would solve it for them, but they seem to be rather incoherent on what if any restrictions they are proposing. I don’t think they have any agreement between themselves so they choose to not drive a wedge into their team. It’s basically beat the opposition with a morality bat. Solving immigration is going to be a cat herding exercise of epic proportions.

          • If that was the case, the solution would be to make legal immigration easier.

            Yes. But your claim was not that people arguing that expelling illegal immigrants would be a problem but legalizing them wouldn’t be was evidence that industries were exploiting illegal immigrants, it was that the first half was evidence of that. As best I can tell, the same people who argue for expelling illegal immigrants argue against making them legal or loosening immigration restrictions. People who want to leave the illegal immigrants alone also tend to be in favor of a route to legalization.

            So your point is irrelevant to your original claim.

            it does not benefit the society overall, since the illegal immigrants can unfairly compete with citizens and legal immigrants.

            Your “unfairly” assumes the conclusion. Is it unfair for you to take a job that I would like when it pays a wage acceptable to you but not to me?

            And an illegal immigrant accepting a lower wage isn’t a loss to the society, since the society includes his employer and his employer’s customers. It’s a net gain, since they save the difference in wages and get the additional benefit from additional output bought because its price is lower.

          • vV_Vv says:

            @dndnrsn

            You’re assuming malice, or at least calculation, rather than incompetence. European immigration systems are a mess.

            I’m not assuming it, I’m inferring it from the available evidence. The EU is not passively receiving a migrant “crisis”, it actively promotes it, both at the level of government (Operation Triton) and ate the level of poweful private players funding the NGOs.

            How are photos and video of soldiers and police forcing crying people carrying their worldly possessions onto ferries and train cars going to play?

            No need for that. You could begin by not going to fetch them in the Libyian territorial waters, and deport on arrival those who make it to Maltese or Italian waters. And then deport those who commit crimes.

            Instead EU authorities refuse to deport even people like the driver of the tuck of peace that culturally enriched Berlin Christmas market last year: Anis Amri, arrived in Italy on a migrant raft in 2011 from Tunisia, participated in a violent riot in the migrant reception center, was jailed for 4 years in Italy, Tunisia didn’t want him back because he was a known criminal even there, so he was released and not deported. Then he moved to Germany, where he attempted to seek asylum (note that there are no wars in Tunisia) and was denied, but not deported, he committed various assaults and drug offences, but still was not deported. Moroccan even intelligence warned Germany that they suspected him of planning a terrorist attack, but again nobody bothered to kick him out, until he finally carried out his plan of intercultural exchange and flew to heaven to get his 72 virgins.

            And of course we only know of him because he became a terrorist. For each one like him, there are likely thousands, or tens of thousands, who remain in Europe indefinitely living on petty crime and drug dealing.

            Do you think there would be much popular outcry if these people were deported? If not, why are they not deported?

          • vV_Vv says:

            @DavidFriedman

            People who want to leave the illegal immigrants alone also tend to be in favor of a route to legalization.

            Nobody says that they want to keep the illegal immigrants as illegals, but there is very little political activism for legalization, compared for support to tolerance for illegal immigration.

            Your “unfairly” assumes the conclusion. Is it unfair for you to take a job that I would like when it pays a wage acceptable to you but not to me?

            Fair means equal opportunity.

            It’s unfair to pay me below the minimum wage if the minimum wage is enforced for you, so you can’t compete with me for that job. It’s unfair to fire you, hire me to replace you and then scrap workplace safety measures because I can’t sue while you could. And so on.

            Illegal immigrants have opportunities that citizens and legal immigrants don’t have.

          • GregQ says:

            @DavidFriedman

            I don’t believe that the US should have minimum wage laws, at all. But that’s entirely different from thinking that the US should have a minimum wage, it just shouldn’t apply to a certain class of people. That latter belief is the belief that that class should not receive the “protection” of the minimum wage laws.

            Which is to say, they thing minimum wages laws should protect them, and their kids, but not illegal immigrants. Which sounds like “we want to take advantage of those people” to me.

            I do not believe that there’s any job legal under US labor laws, that you can’t find US workers for, as long as you’re willing to pay enough. Now, it’s possible that there are jobs that aren’t going to exist, because it costs too much to pay people to do them. Shrug. Sounds like a job that shouldn’t exist.

          • GregQ says:

            @random832 says:

            They’re arguing that these industries will face an intractable labor shortage w/o illegal immigration

            1: That would argue for more legal immigration, or a guest worker program, not for more illegal immigrants

            2: The US labor participation rate is the lowest it’s been in > 30 years. The one things we’re not facing now is an “intractable labor shortage”.

            It’s also possible for them to simply be arguing that either without sincerely believing it or without having thought it through, which would still make you wrong about what they’re arguing.

            Anyone who wants to say “hey, you can ignore everything I’ve said because I’m too stupid to understand the consequences of my arguments” can have a free pass. Everyone else gets judged based on the inevitable consequences of their arguments.

          • Fair means equal opportunity.

            It’s unfair to pay me below the minimum wage if the minimum wage is enforced for you, so you can’t compete with me for that job. It’s unfair to fire you, hire me to replace you and then scrap workplace safety measures because I can’t sue while you could. And so on.

            Illegal immigrants have opportunities that citizens and legal immigrants don’t have.

            If that’s the problem, if those opportunities are good things, then the obvious solution is to abolish the minimum wage and accept freedom of contract with regard to workplace safety.

            What you are supporting is vastly more unequal opportunity–the Mexican has the opportunity to take jobs from Mexican employers but not to take the jobs being offered by American employers, which Americans workers can take.

            Can I conclude from your arguments that you have no objection to legalizing the current illegals, since that would mean that none of the arguments you offer would apply to them any more?

            Your arguments seems to assume that people want to tolerate illegals but not to make them legal or permit others to come legally, and your only defense is that you think more effort goes to the former project than the latter. There are, I expect, a lot of things you don’t campaign for, not because you are against them but because, given the costs of doing it and the probability of succeeding, other things are higher priorities.

          • Which is to say, they thing minimum wages laws should protect them, and their kids, but not illegal immigrants. Which sounds like “we want to take advantage of those people” to me.

            And at the same time, vV is arguing that not being covered by minimum wages is an unfair advantage that the illegal immigrants have. Why don’t you two argue it out, and then I can argue with the winner?

            Your argument assumes that what people want is to have illegals but keep them illegal, a position I have seen nobody argue for.

            I do not believe that there’s any job legal under US labor laws, that you can’t find US workers for, as long as you’re willing to pay enough. Now, it’s possible that there are jobs that aren’t going to exist, because it costs too much to pay people to do them. Shrug. Sounds like a job that shouldn’t exist.

            Why not? If picking tomatoes pays a wage at which immigrants are happy to do it and Americans aren’t, why is it better not to have tomatoes picked? Jobs shouldn’t exist if they pay enough to get some people to do them but not others?

            Can we generalize that? I don’t know what your job is, but odds are I would not take it at the pay. If so, does it follow that it shouldn’t exist? If not, why is it only jobs that Americans won’t take that shouldn’t exist?

          • dndnrsn says:

            @GregQ

            I’m not assuming it, I’m inferring it from the available evidence. The EU is not passively receiving a migrant “crisis”, it actively promotes it, both at the level of government (Operation Triton) and ate the level of poweful private players funding the NGOs.

            You’re inferring a motive that isn’t clearly visible. The government’s stated motive is to keep people from dying – presumably, because people dying on what is perceived to be their watch looks bad. The NGOs’ motives tend to be clearly stated – they think they are doing good work by helping people get from bad and dangerous situations to better and safer situations. What leads to you think that lefty NGO types really want to pump up the pool of cheap low-skill abuseable labour?

            No need for that. You could begin by not going to fetch them in the Libyian territorial waters, and deport on arrival those who make it to Maltese or Italian waters. And then deport those who commit crimes.

            And then you have rafts of people drowning, and people are saying “you’re letting them die” (which is technically true), and you have mass deportations of people, which brings bad some bad memories. Plus, I believe there are relevant EU court decisions preventing easy deportation.

            Instead EU authorities refuse to deport even people like the driver of the tuck of peace that culturally enriched Berlin Christmas market last year: Anis Amri, arrived in Italy on a migrant raft in 2011 from Tunisia, participated in a violent riot in the migrant reception center, was jailed for 4 years in Italy, Tunisia didn’t want him back because he was a known criminal even there, so he was released and not deported. Then he moved to Germany, where he attempted to seek asylum (note that there are no wars in Tunisia) and was denied, but not deported, he committed various assaults and drug offences, but still was not deported. Moroccan even intelligence warned Germany that they suspected him of planning a terrorist attack, but again nobody bothered to kick him out, until he finally carried out his plan of intercultural exchange and flew to heaven to get his 72 virgins.

            And of course we only know of him because he became a terrorist. For each one like him, there are likely thousands, or tens of thousands, who remain in Europe indefinitely living on petty crime and drug dealing.

            Do you think there would be much popular outcry if these people were deported? If not, why are they not deported?

            Well, again, there’s court rulings – if Tunisia wouldn’t take him back, what were they to do with him? There’s that, well, the German intelligence and police services do not come out of the whole thing looking hugely competent. There’s that forcibly deporting tens of thousands of people would look bad – when you’ve got the riot cops forcing ragged people onto ferries or trains or whatever, that brings up some nasty images from the past.

            Having an underclass of young men who live off of petty crime, drug dealing, etc is the opposite of what an objective of “let’s have some cheap labour!” would get you. It seems far more likely to be the result of a lack of coherent policies, general incompetence (after all, in Germany, having, uh, rigorous internal intelligence services is what the Nazis and the Commies did – double whammy!), and the general human tendency to do nothing and hope the problem fixes itself.

            Let’s assume that global warming is real and is human-caused: is the most likely case that the people running the show want the sea levels to rise?

          • GregQ says:

            @dndnrsn

            “Operation Triton” comment was by @vV_Vv, not me. 🙂 That said:

            You’re inferring a motive that isn’t clearly visible. The government’s stated motive is to keep people from dying – presumably, because people dying on what is perceived to be their watch looks bad. The NGOs’ motives tend to be clearly stated – they think they are doing good work by helping people get from bad and dangerous situations to better and safer situations. What leads to you think that lefty NGO types really want to pump up the pool of cheap low-skill abuseable labour?

            1: If the gov’t wanted to keep people from dying, it would turn back every refugee. Refugees set out on perilous journeys because they think it will have a positive outcome. If you let them know there’s no positive outcome, they won’t go.

            See “boat people” refugees trying to get to Australia. Conservative gov’t intercepted & turned back, or # trying dropped precipitously. Left wingers got in, reversed policy, and number of refugees went up, and number of refugees dying went up.

            2: I believe it’s been pretty conclusively proven that Labor changed UK immigration policies in order to import a more pro-Labor electorate. This was proven from private documents, not their public speeches.

            3: Do you know of any left-wing NGOs that are actually positive towards Western Civilization? Whether or not their goal is cheap, easily exploited, labor, I’m pretty sure we can all agree their goal will always be inimical to the current society.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @GregQ @vV_Vv

            This is the second time recently I’ve tagged the wrong person. I must be slipping in my old age.

            1: If the gov’t wanted to keep people from dying, it would turn back every refugee. Refugees set out on perilous journeys because they think it will have a positive outcome. If you let them know there’s no positive outcome, they won’t go.

            See “boat people” refugees trying to get to Australia. Conservative gov’t intercepted & turned back, or # trying dropped precipitously. Left wingers got in, reversed policy, and number of refugees went up, and number of refugees dying went up.

            Regardless of if this is true or not, it’s a matter of optics and law in Europe right now.

            2: I believe it’s been pretty conclusively proven that Labor changed UK immigration policies in order to import a more pro-Labor electorate. This was proven from private documents, not their public speeches.

            Bringing in ringers is different from bringing in cheap labour that can be paid under the table, abused easily, etc due to being scared they might get deported.

            3: Do you know of any left-wing NGOs that are actually positive towards Western Civilization? Whether or not their goal is cheap, easily exploited, labor, I’m pretty sure we can all agree their goal will always be inimical to the current society.

            What you interpret as “they want to destroy this society”, I think they interpret as “this society can/can be changed to handle this.” Read in the same manner, the decisions of some European governments – not all left-wingers, either; Merkel is not exactly a left-winger – come off as arrogant: “we’re so great, our societies are so great, that we can do this!” Isn’t that what Merkel openly said at one point?

      • abc says:

        There are even more benefits to replacing the black welfare recipients.

        At least the white working class actually works.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          You don’t actually spend much time around the working class, white OR black, do you?

      • Mary says:

        What’s wrong with replacing the white working class? There are tons of benefits that I can see.

        Replacing you might be quicker

      • tscharf says:

        To summarize, if an opposing candidate has a flaw, the only just moral thing for their supporters to do is vote for your side. Further more that flaw taints you for life. What on earth am I to do if both candidates have flaws? I’m so confused. It does help that you have given us divine guidance, it is rather important to be seen as righteous by the values of anonymous internet person harland0.

        I’m going to try something really radical and balance the views of the candidates with my own views and determine the optimal choice based on what I believe rather than what you believe. I very much fear that when I die I will be harshly judged by the scripture of harland0.

        Alas, it is too late for redemption. Woe is me.

      • GregQ says:

        Here’s a friendly suggestion: There’s a very simple, non-genocidal, way for you to “replace the white working class”: Move to someplace else.

        Might I suggest that your desire for more Mexican neighbors can easily be satisfied by moving to Mexico? Want more Hondurans? Awesome! Move to Honduras.

    • By this definition (“…coming up with new ideas that held the attention of the Republican base while also appealing to some disaffected Democrats”), Ron Paul is also a centrist. Thus, the definition is clearly lacking. To be a centrist, it would seem that you need to have policies that do not fall outside the mainstream of political discourse. Certainly this is subjective, but there are several policies we might point to that are distinctly not centrist that Trump holds.

      -He advocates the construction of a wall on the Mexican border and insists that Mexico will pay for it.
      -He has discussed (perhaps now recanted) that NATO allies will not be defended if they have not paid their fair share of defense spending.
      -He talked (albeit only during the campaign) about instituting a ban on Muslim immigrants specifically.

      Whether these policies are good or bad is irrelevant, but I believe we can agree they are all outside the mainstream. Perhaps one could argue they are not key parts of Trump’s platform, but the border wall was at least a centerpiece of his campaign.

      • Matt M says:

        Whether these policies are good or bad is irrelevant, but I believe we can agree they are all outside the mainstream.

        Not really. Border walls already exist. Some of them were constructed or at least repaired and definitely not torn down during periods of time when the Democrats controlled the presidency and/or both houses of Congress. While there’s some disagreement on what to do about people who make it over, virtually everyone agrees that there should be some sort of physical barrier and some sort of process deciding who gets to come in and who doesn’t.

        One could make a defensible argument that people who are not paying their fair share of defense spending as per the NATO treaty are in breach of the treaty, therefore not entitled to the protections thereof. This does not strike me as extremist. If you polled Americans as to whether we should start a war with Russia if they choose to invade Estonia, I think it’d be close (with the “no, let’s not do that, sorry estonians” side winning, in my opinion).

        Everything said about the wall also applies to the travel ban. We already refuse a lot of visas for people we suspect of having potential terrorist ties. If you polled “should we prioritize christians over muslims when deciding refugee status” I also think that one does a lot better than you think.

        A position that seems extreme because nobody on CNN or working for the New York Times would ever advocate it is not necessarily extreme among the American people as a whole. The blue tribe strategy of “denounce everything to the right of Hillary Clinton as unacceptable extremism” didn’t work before the election, and it damn sure isn’t going to fly after it either.

        • beleester says:

          I feel like you’re stretching Trump’s words (and the mainstream positions) pretty far to make them line up. “Secure the border by some means or another” is mainstream, “Build a ten-foot concrete wall running the length of the border, and make Mexico pay for it,” is not.

          Kind of like how “Tax the rich to help the poor” is a mainstream idea, but “Send the rich to the gulags and give their wealth to the proletariat” is not. To get outside the mainstream, you don’t necessarily need a difference in kind, just a large difference in degree.

          • Matt M says:

            I don’t think he ever claimed what the wall would be made of or how high it would be. He said we would build “a wall.” Which is so non-extreme that we already have one and nobody cares. Who is paying for it seems to be a trivial aside that has little to do with how extreme of a position it is.

            Who built the wall that’s already there? Were they an extremist?

          • suntzuanime says:

            He definitely claimed how high it would be. These claims may have been obvious to a reasonable person as puffery, and he did provide the caveat that the final height would be the result of negotiation, but the intended height of the wall was definitely a topic he covered repeatedly.

          • Matt M says:

            Allow me to partially answer my own question.

            According to this LA Times article, construction of an 18-foot high fence (which I’m sure is totally different and far less extreme than a wall) was authorized by GWB with construction completed in 2008.

            As far as I can tell, the Democrats, when in power, made no effort to remove it or tear it down.

          • Matt M says:

            suntzu,

            How high does a wall have to get before it becomes EXTREME?

            Like, extremists want a 12-foot wall, but normal and rational people recognize that 11 is sufficient?

          • suntzuanime says:

            I’m not making any judgments, I have no bone to pick with the Big Beautiful Wall. Just correcting a factual inaccuracy.

          • Jaskologist says:

            I feel like you’re cheating here by adding specifics to make the position seem to have less support. It’s like saying “‘raise taxes on the rich’ is a popular opinion, but ‘raise taxes on the rich by 3.827%’ is held by very few people, so anybody who advocates that is an extremist!” The specifics of The Wall are assumed by supporters to be up for negotiation; they’re not going to be upset if it’s 9ft or 11ft rather than 10.

          • abc says:

            “Secure the border by some means or another” is mainstream, “Build a ten-foot concrete wall running the length of the border, and make Mexico pay for it,” is not.

            So what your saying is that “Secure the border by some means or another” is only mainstream as long as one doesn’t specify how it is down. A “ten-foot concrete wall running the length of the border” strikes me as one of the less extreme means of doing so. Can you give an example of another one method of securing it?

            Because, the things I can come up with tend to be along the lines of “have a system of drones patrolling it set to shoot anything with a heat signature that moves”.

          • Jiro says:

            A “ten-foot concrete wall running the length of the border” strikes me as one of the less extreme means of doing so. Can you give an example of another one method of securing it?

            A 9 foot or 11 foot wall? A fence? Barbed wire?

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        For each of those positions, with a well-framed question and proper caveats, one could easily show 60%+ of people supporting them. They simply are not extremist positions outside of the Blues and Neocons welcome in polite society and on TV.

        This is the disconnect. For regular people just living their lives out in flyover country, not wanting illegal Mexicans crossing the border with impunity, not wanting to fight and die for freeloading Europeans who mostly hold us in contempt and not wanting lots of people coming into the country from a religion that seems to hate everything that isn’t it are perfectly reasonable and common sense ideas.

    • notpeerreviewed says:

      Immigration policy has historically cut across partisan and ideological coalitions (see http://press.princeton.edu/titles/7288.html) which makes it’s non-central to a definition of…errr…”centrism.”

    • pdbarnlsey says:

      I think it’s fair to argue that some significant portion of Trump’s mutually-incompatible promises were left/centrist/bipartisan in the results they promise, if not necessarily the means they would employ.

      A secret plan to defeat ISIS in 30 days without generals is, politically-speaking, pretty neutral, as are health care plans which are “unbelievably great”, even if the means – torture, targeting families, relaxed ROE, selling policies across state lines – code as conservative.

      Similarly, he promised both to tighten and loosen banking regulation.

      Honestly, a great deal about Trump’s campaign success shatters traditional left/right analysis, maybe for good. Just promise “great thing, amazing things” and then do culture/signalling.

      And then govern as a fairly standard mainline republican who as experienced a serious aneurysm.

      • abc says:

        Similarly, he promised both to tighten and loosen banking regulation.

        The two are not mutual exclusive.

        • pdbarnlsey says:

          Yes, one can do both simultaneously, but it’s then hard to map it back to an overarching philosophy towards financial regulation.

          You would need to look at whether both actually happen once he takes office…

  3. suntzuanime says:

    The steelman, which the article gets close to but then swerves away from to get in the required digs at the loathsome Republicans, is “you need to offer people something they actually want to get them to vote for you”. There’s three types of centrism, the stuff everybody wants, the stuff nobody wants, and the stuff nobody cares about, and the Democratic platform is charitably the third kind.

    Part of the problem, I think, is the perfidious media narrative that decides what qualifies as “extreme”. Broadly popular initiatives like public healthcare and immigration enforcement get tagged far-left and far-right because the elites don’t want them. And that confuses the discourse about “centrism”.

    So when someone says “if we want to win elections we need to abandon centrism and move to the left” they’re not saying “we need to adopt policies that only a diehard commie would love”, they’re saying “we need to be courageous in adopting policies that people want even if they might be called extreme”. Worked for Trump.

    • reasoned argumentation says:

      Gets at the same thing as my phrasing above – the (self declared) “center” is extremist.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Yeah, but I’m not as much an asshole about it.

        • reasoned argumentation says:

          I’m sure you can improve with some practice.

          • albatross11 says:

            To a large extent, the Overton window is determined by the powerful people of both parties, plus news media and entertainment (both very skewed toward blue tribe). That definitely makes it more common to hear Trump’s populist bluster as being more extreme than Sanders’ populist bluster, even though both may be equally unwise. But it’s really hard to have a meaningful definition of extreme, since we don’t all agree on a reference frame. Extreme compared to what? Trump and Sanders are pure 100% vanilla compared to the weirdness of Elezier’s ideas.

      • axiomsofdominion says:

        I also agree that the centrist position is extreme. Woohoo, agreement between far right and far left.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree and this is part of what I tried to do with the second to last paragraph. But I think the particular way it’s phrased is wrong and destructive. By all means steelman it, but I worry that the particular ways the non-steelmanned-version are wrong are actually important.

      • suntzuanime says:

        They explicitly say “it’s less that the party needs to ‘move toward the left’ than that it needs to ‘move toward something'”. It’s just that they don’t believe in the possibility of broadly popular policies, because Republicans are evil mutants who only want to destroy everything that actual human beings love. So the best you can do is policies that appeal to the actual human beings.

        Which is wrong and destructive, but not I think in the way you identify.

        Specifically I think you are right that they’re wrong to discount the possibility of swing votes, but wrong to treat them as if they think just turning up a dial marked “extremism” will solve their problems.

        • needtobecomestronger says:

          I agree with all the views you stated above, and I just want to say I’m very happy to see a Trump voter here who actually explains what he believes and why instead of ranting about how everyone on the left is evil. :p

          But now I gotta know: Do you really disagree with the notion that Republican politicians are evil? I mean, obviously you don’t think of them as evil mutants, but what about “corrupt and cowardly scumbags who are bought by powerful interests, refuse to stand up for the things their voters actually care about and represent everything that’s wrong with politicians everywhere”?

          Please help me out here. My small-minded liberal worldview cannot handle the idea that a sane and kindly Otaku gentleman such as yourself would actually think of republican politicians as good people overall. :s

          • gbdub says:

            corrupt and cowardly scumbags who are bought by powerful interests

            Trump was quite popular among people who think this about the more standard Republicans. It’s part of why he won the primary.

            The only place we diverge is with the idea that Democrats are by and large any better.

          • needtobecomestronger says:

            Aren’t they? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I totally agree that Democrats are mostly bought and paid for as well. But could you really see them ever stooping to the levels that republicans have now reached? Could you see them proposing a budget with a 2 trillion math error, for example? Or cheer an attack that achieved nothing but the deaths of innocent people, and then try to cover it up with lie after lie after lie? Or allow their elected leader to blunder about revealing top secret information by accident and endangering their own agents? Or dismiss the possibility of a foreign power interfering in the election so casually?

            For all their flaws, democrats still adhere to a basic level of human decency that the republican politicians appears to have entirely abandoned.

          • Sandy says:

            For all their flaws, democrats still adhere to a basic level of human decency that the republican politicians appears to have entirely abandoned.

            Obama literally had his Justice Department formulate a way to execute American citizens without a trial.

          • Iain says:

            @Sandy:

            You’re talking about a context in which it’s an everyday occurrence to kill non-Americans without a trial, and this state of affairs has robust bipartisan support. Speaking as a non-American, I question the degree to which also killing American citizens counts as a major increase in depravity.

            (I am also quite dubious of the implied assertion that the exact same thing would not have happened under Presidents McCain or Romney, had the Republicans been in charge when drone technology came of age.)

            You can use this as evidence that American politicians are bad, if you like, but it doesn’t count as an example where Democrats are worse.

          • Rudbek says:

            I get that it’s easy to charicature politicians of all stripes but if you really think this is an accuarate description of Republicans (or Democrats) who represent roughly half of a country, which honestly has a pretty narrow spectrum of mainstream views, then you may want to consider that you’ve completely failed to understand what Republicans think and believe.

          • MugaSofer says:

            There’s a pretty big difference between “Republican politicians are evil” and “all Republican voters are evil, so we shouldn’t bother trying to persuade them we’re right.”

          • bintchaos says:

            @MUGASOFER
            That is the consensus the democrats are now arriving at– stop reaching out to the base, because the GOP base is unpersuadable.

            The centrist think tank Third Way is focusing on the Rust Belt in a $20 million campaign that its president, a former Clinton White House aide, says will address the question of how “you restore Democrats as a national party that can win everywhere.” Here is one answer that costs nothing: You can’t, and you don’t. The party is a wreck. Post-Obama-Clinton, its most admired national leaders (Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren) are of Social Security age. It rules no branch of federal government, holds only 16 governorships, and controls only 14 state legislatures. The Democrats must set priorities. In a presidential election, a revamped economic program and a new generation of un-Clinton leaders may well win back the genuine swing voters who voted for Trump, whether Democratic defectors in the Rust Belt or upscale suburbanites who just couldn’t abide Hillary. But that’s a small minority of Trump’s electorate. Otherwise, the Trump vote is overwhelmingly synonymous with the Republican Party as a whole.

            That makes it all the more a fool’s errand for Democrats to fudge or abandon their own values to cater to the white-identity politics of the hard-core, often self-sabotaging Trump voters who helped drive the country into a ditch on Election Day. They will stick with him even though the numbers say that they will take a bigger financial hit than Clinton voters under the Republican health-care plan. As Trump himself has said, in a rare instance of accuracy, they won’t waver even if he stands in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoots somebody. While you can’t blame our new president for loving “the poorly educated” who gave him that blank check, the rest of us are entitled to abstain. If we are free to loathe Trump, we are free to loathe his most loyal voters, who have put the rest of us at risk.

            Like even here, in the bastion of the “rationalists” I don’t see much difference between the Red Tribe high IQ SES cohort and the GOP base. “American Exceptionalism” rules and any criticism of Trump is dismissed as sour grapes Trump-booing or excused by pontius pilate handwashing (as in I voted for Gary Johnson not for Trump).
            Red Tribe and Blue Tribe are different, as in asymmetrical polarization and Dr. Alexander’s outgroup post. There just isnt a common description of extremism that covers both divergent sub-populations.

          • Brad says:

            Like even here, in the bastion of the “rationalists” I don’t see much difference between the Red Tribe high IQ SES cohort and the GOP base.

            Probably because you are willfully ignorant of what ‘Red Tribe’ means and so go looking for it in all the wrong places (i.e. here).

          • bintchaos says:

            @BRAD
            I’ve been clear all along that I’m still forming my soldiers/explorers model of the CCP.
            But I am incorporating a whole body of evidence (which I have linked previously) into defining Red Tribe/Blue Tribe hypothesis, including work by Haidt, Starbird, Bar-Yam, Degen, and our host’s own definitions from his Outgroup and Thrive/Survive posts.
            If I can quote Blade Runner–
            “How can it not know what it is?”– Deckard
            This isnt just cultural tourism for me…I’m trying to do work here. Thats why I’m trying to find neutral topics for debate…video games and anime/manga are places that have potential– sci-fi is one that unfortunatly does not.
            AI is the first topic I feel comfortable with here– I really liked Millers podcast and his approach– cant wait to read the paper.

          • Brad says:

            As previously discussed, the scientific literature you like to cite doesn’t use the terms “blue tribe” and “red tribe”.

            It would be one thing if you were trying to substitute a definition that came from the literature for the definition in wide spread use here, but that’s not what is going on. Instead you are using a definition that is wholly idiosyncratic. No one else shares your definition of those terms.

            This type of behavior is a deliberate anti-social subversion of the inherently collective activity of communication. It is also incredibly irritating. If you wish to have your own special snowflake definitions the very least you could do would be to coin your own neologism instead of appropriating existing ones.

            This isnt just cultural tourism for me…I’m trying to do work here.

            I hope you have approval from an IRB for that.

          • bintchaos says:

            Soldiers/explorers is my own neologism.
            I’m just using Red Tribe / Blue Tribe as a catchall for a lot of different models at this point– Scott uses Red Tribe/ Blue Tribe (Outgroup post) or Thrive/Survive…Haidt uses openness/conscientiousness, Starbird uses globalist/anti-globalist, degen uses conservative/liberal, foragers/farmers is another model…I’m not operating fron a fixed definition yet.
            Work in progress.
            😉

          • Brad says:

            I’m just using Red Tribe / Blue Tribe as a catchall for a lot of different models

            Don’t do that.

          • bintchaos says:

            Lol!
            Who do you think you are?
            Dr. Alexander is free to hit me with the ban stick. Its his House.

          • Brad says:

            I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that someone that utilizes an anti-social communication style is at Kohlberg’s pre-conventional stage of moral development.

          • bintchaos says:

            ad hom.
            I just don’t believe moral suasion has any traction with the Maths.

          • gbdub says:

            But could you really see them ever stooping to the levels that republicans have now reached? Could you see them proposing a budget with a 2 trillion math error, for example?

            I mean sure, if we accept a string of partisan talking points as gospel truth, then one party looks way more evil. But Democrats look pretty awful if I listen only to Paul Ryan, Donald Trump, and Rush Limbaugh…

            On the particular issue of the budget, the Democrats e.g. pretty openly manipulated Obamacare to give it an unrealistically good score from the CBO (front loading benefits, back loading costs, assuming a cut to Medicare rates that they never planned to actually pass, etc.). That has real impact. Actually one of my beefs with the current Repubs is that they didn’t do nearly as good a job with this CBO manipulation, making their own health plan DOA.

          • tscharf says:

            For all their flaws, democrats still adhere to a basic level of human decency that the republican politicians appears to have entirely abandoned.

            Shall we just assume any policy the left comes up with is human decency in action? What if someone thinks “human decency” is not having abortions? Most of the human decency you are likely referring to comes with a price tag. I assume you consider yourself an indecent human being when you don’t give your kids everything they want.

            If we had an infinite budget and resources we would all unanimously be really decent people. As of now government fills the role of attempting to allocate scarce resources (tax revenue) for a lot of competing justifiable causes.

            There is disagreement over which projects deserve the most funding and how much we can tax the people to support these efforts. It is improper to call this a decent/indecent divide. What you should notice is how little actually changes when the party that controls government changes. There is realistically not that big of a difference between the parties in execution.

            We miraculously in 2017 still have social security, the ACA, Medicaid, an education system, roads, welfare, military, etc. The indecent people have not lead to the collapse of a decent society. If you think it is easy to be more decent you should probably attend a school budget meeting sometime.

          • phil says:

            @tscharf

            this is really well said

            this comment is worth bookmarking for future reference

          • suntzuanime says:

            When I said “Republicans” I meant Republican voters, not Republican politicians. I apologize for the confusion. All politicians are of course irredeemably evil.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Do you really disagree with the notion that Republican politicians are evil?

            An awful lot of them certainly are. This is why the Tea Party was a thing, and why the term “RINO” was coined and how Trump beat out 16 Republicans with long histories in the party and politics. The Republican base came to realize the Republican leadership was not their friends, was not actually implementing their agenda, and did not have their best interests at heart. See Bill Kristol’s quips about replacing the white working class. The further disconnected they are from the people, they more weasely they become, so there are a decent number of patriots in the House, but practically none in the Senate.

            How do you rate the Democratic politicians? What’s the True Believer to Weasel ratio there?

          • abc says:

            I mean, obviously you don’t think of them as evil mutants, but what about “corrupt and cowardly scumbags who are bought by powerful interests, refuse to stand up for the things their voters actually care about and represent everything that’s wrong with politicians everywhere”?

            I think that’s a better description of the typical democrat politician than the typical republican. I think the problem with typical Republican politicians is that they’re too afraid of getting called “racist” or not getting an invitation to a cocktail party to go against the entrenched interests in Washington, DC.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ needtobecomestronger
            In in regards to your last paragraph…

            I think you need to consider that whether or not a politician is bought by powerful interests is less important to a lot of people than whether those interests are aligned with thier own. The infamous What’s the matter Kansas argument goes that the problem with making a “War on coal” part of your platform is that coalminers (and thier friends families neighbors etc…) vote. So to piggy-back on what Conrad Honcho said, there is definitely a sense among the Republican base that thier interests and the interests of those in Washington are no longer in alignment and I would argue that that Trump, the Tea Party, and the general growth of populism in US (including Sanders on the DNC side) are all reactions to this.

            Anecdotally, I’m a solid God and Guns “Red tribe” Republican, Yet I voted for Obama in 2008 because I was simultaneously pissed off at the GOP for passing TARP and impressed by his DNC address.

          • albatross11 says:

            abc:

            I’m not sure I actually care whether a politician sells me out because he’s evil or merely too weak to refuse to go along with evil. It seems like the outcome’s going to be the same either way.

          • Like even here, in the bastion of the “rationalists” I don’t see much difference between the Red Tribe high IQ SES cohort and the GOP base.

            It would be helpful if you would say which posters you identify as Red Tribe and which you don’t. I challenged you some time back to predict my position on a variety of issues that tend to distinguish red and blue tribe, and you never replied. It almost looks as though you assume that anyone who disagrees with you must be red tribe, perhaps on the theory that not voting for Hilary is the same thing as voting for Trump, so only someone who secretly supported Trump would fail to vote for Hilary.

            There are Red Tribe Trump supporters among the commentariat but, as best I can tell, not very many.

          • albatross11 says:

            My goodness, it’s almost as though a one-parameter model isn’t enough to completely describe all opinions on questions of fact, morality, and policy held by hundreds of different people with different background, education, life histories, and basic beliefs.

    • sohois says:

      Reminds me of this paragraph from a brexit analysis:

      One of the most misleading stories in politics is the story of ‘the centre ground’. In this story people’s views are distributed on an X-axis with ‘extreme left’ at one end, ‘extreme right’ at the other end, and ‘the centre ground’ in the middle. People in ‘the centre’ are ‘moderate’. ‘Extremists’ are always ‘lurching’ while ‘sensible moderates’ are urged to ‘occupy the centre’.

      Swing voters who decide elections – both those who swing between Conservative/Labour and those who swing between IN/OUT – do not think like this. They support much tougher policies on violent crime than most Tory MPs AND much higher taxes on the rich than Blair, Brown, and Miliband. They support much tougher anti-terrorism laws than most Tory MPs AND they support much tougher action on white collar criminals and executive pay than Blair, Brown, and Miliband.

      One of the key delusions that ‘the centre ground’ caused in SW1 concerned immigration. Most people convinced themselves that ‘swing voters’ must have a ‘moderate’ and ‘centre ground’ view between Farage and Corbyn. Wrong. About 80% of the country including almost all swing voters agreed with UKIP that immigration was out of control and something like an Australian points system was a good idea. This was true across party lines.

      from here, (about the 60% mark) which has been posted a couple of times on SSC in the past.

      Whilst the author speaks only of focus groups, which is not going to be a respresentative sample and so may not be reliable, it does feel like something which has an element of truth. Why should ‘moderate’ voters have policy views that are in the middle of the left right axis? Why not have moderates with some strong right wing views, some strong left wing views, who end up torn between the two parties?

      That being said, I suppose this is essentially what populism is. And if we look to the French elections, Le Pen in some ways embodied the mix of left and ring wing populism, with tough on immigration and crime policies combined with almost socialist economic ideals. She still handily lost to Macron, the embodiment of the traditional centrist view that was rubbished in the above quote.

      Of course, there were a great many factors involved in the French election and it would be foolish to just pick out one thing and make it the defining reason, so this is only a weak counterpoint.

      • suntzuanime says:

        Of course, there were a great many factors involved in the French election and it would be foolish to just pick out one thing and make it the defining reason, so this is only a weak counterpoint.

        And of course this applies to the American election as well, just in the opposite direction.

      • Anon. says:

        This raises the question: why aren’t there more Le Pens?

        • Tracy W says:

          In my observation populist politicians aren’t socialists. I’m no fan of socialism but socialists do have a kind of economic model. I think their model is wrong, and of course there are a fair number of self-proclaimed socialists who wouldn’t be able to sketch their model on a used napkin, but there is a basic coherence to their economic thinking. The more intellectual socialists have at least thought about things for at least 5 minutes. There are ideas about say, the dangers of the profit motive that run through many policy prescriptions of socialists, and they have a structural explanation for why government has so far failed to do as well as they recommend (eg corruption, false consciousness).

          Populists however are like whack-a-moles with policy: propose whatever gets an audience to roar with approval.

          So I suspect socialists are in their ways as horrified by populists’ policy making as free marketers like myself, so both groups will vote against populist politicians, limiting their appeal.

        • sohois says:

          I would suspect that the utter failures of socialism in the Soviet Union, China, Cambodia, North Korea, Venezuela, etc. largely immunized western democracies from socialism as populist response – plus the success of the Thatcherite/Reaganite neoliberal model for some decades.

          Now that we are several decades removed from the worst communist/socialist failures and only a few years removed from the massive ‘neoliberal’ failure of the financial crash (note: in terms of its perception, I’m not personally arguing that neoliberal policies were the cause), socialism can once again be a respectable populist position – which might explain why the likes of Corbyn and Sanders have risen in popularity with Le Pen, though I that’s a fairly broad category.

        • cassander says:

          In the US or in general? Because it seems to me that most European countries have their national front-eque party these days.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Yes, but all you have to do to be labeled “right-wing extremist” is be against mass immigration. “Free abortions, free college, free healthcare, free everything, soak the rich…just no muslims” and you’re Literally Hitler to the media.

          • suntzuanime says:

            So what you’re saying is that combining socialism with nationalism makes people see you as similar to Hitler?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well, when you put it like that…

          • @suntzuanime

            What’s weird about that is that you can have moderate entirely propositional nationalism and combine it with free market economics and you’re more less good, and you can have moderate social democratic economics and combine it with internationalism and you’re good, but the national and socialist combination is the one that isn’t allowed to have a moderate form.

            There is a moderate left and a moderate right, but there’s no moderate third position that doesn’t set off the alarm bells. The third position just matches to “far-right” anyway.

          • Creutzer says:

            Aren’t the Dutch, German and Austrian anti-immigration parties not particularly economically leftist? All of them get labelled as “extreme right” because that label really is just about immigration.

          • Aapje says:

            Geert Wilders seems to be right wing economically at heart, but his voters tend to be further to the left. The end result is that the rhetoric is often different from the how his party votes in parliament.

    • hlynkacg says:

      @ suntzuanime

      I was just logging in to make a similar comment, but I’ll cop out and leave it at “Well said”.

  4. bzium says:

    I don’t understand how the regression discontinuity thing works. Maybe somebody who does could provide a more in-depth explanation than the short summary in the post?

    • ManyCookies says:

      If political parties loved our authors, they would just flip a coin between an extremist and a moderate while completely ignoring what the district looks like. But parties care quite a lot about what the district looks like, and they’ll adjust their strategy accordingly. If a district is close with a lot of swing voters, they’ll field a moderate that won’t strongly alienate those key voters. In particular, the authors suspect that parties prefer moderate candidates in both even and easy elections, which would mean the extremists’ poor performance is because they typically get the most difficult races.

      Now if a moderate wins her primary by a good margin, there’s a decent chance her district is moderate biased. The larger the margin, the more likely there’s a bias. Same deal with an extremist candidate. But if the primary was very close, the party likely isn’t biased in either direction and smaller “noise” just happened to push one candidate over the edge. In other words, the party is flipping a coin between extremist and moderate in that district, exactly what the authors wanted them to do in the first place! So the authors narrowed their search from all districts to probably-unbiased-coin-flippy districts, which eliminates the potential bias from party strategy or whatever.

    • Regression discontinuity is a concept from an area of social science methodology called causal inference. The idea is that they want to find a random process that determines a treatment effect. For example, with placebo and control groups in medical trials you would be biased if you gave all men the control and all women the placebo, so randomization of treatment solves this.

      A similar example above (I’ll explain this one because I read the paper) is based on monetary benefits to holding an electoral office, by Andrew Eggers (on my phone so no link). The idea is that comparing the salary of an ex-politician to a normal guy won’t help us really understand whether being a politician makes you richer, because the type of person to become a politician might be more talented.

      In the past a researcher might try to solve this issue by using a regression that matches ex-politicians to people who were never politicians based on concepts such as the quality of their school, graduate education, field of work (etc). But this still is a weak research design! Perhaps the type of person to become a politician is simply in the top 0.0001% of gregariousness, in which case it could be social skills that explain the ability of an ex-politician to make more money (rather than, say, corruption or rent seeking).

      Regression discontinuity comes to the rescue. What if instead of comparing ex-politicians to non-politicians with just basic controls, we compare them to people who were *almost* politicians? Here is the key insight: we are assuming that winning or losing an election by, say, 0.1% comes down strictly to luck.

      That is to say, the loser and winner we will now assert are both the *type* of person who could be a politician, but one got lucky.

      So now we restrict the set of people we want to study to both ex-politicians and almost-politicians. Once we do this we are comfortable that we are working within a sample framework of people who have these hard-to-control for attribute of being electable (remembering names, kissing babies, shmoozing with elites). Once we do this we can match them on normal metrics like career, education, age, etc.

      The take-away is that a clever design allows us to ‘discover’ this randomization process in order for us to obtain an unbiased measure.

      The paper above follows similarly, with the assumption that winning or losing by 0.1% comes down to luck. And this is tantamount to a randomized treatment effect!!! Cool stuff!

      • Froolow says:

        Really sorry, I’m still not getting this, but (I think) I understand your Eggers example perfectly. Am I being dense or is there a genuine subtly that makes the extremist/moderate case different to the near winner/near loser case? You and Scott and ManyCookies imply that the inferential step is obvious, so I guess the first!

        The reason to use regression discontinuity is that we make the assumption that the difference between 0.1% win and 0.1% loss is basically so small as to be almost entirely determined by random factors. So if a 0.1% election winner goes on to earn more than a 0.1% election loser we can fairly safely conclude that getting into politics improves your earning potential.

        In the extremism study, the authors conclude “The more extreme a candidate, the lower their party’s share of the turnout.”. I don’t get how this is the same inferential step – I would have thought that turnout is highly highly relevant to whether a party wins so you can’t safely assume that the difference between a -0.1% loss and a +0.1% win is purely random (if you can pick a ‘turnout vs extremism’ signal from the noise over -0.1% against 0.1% then it can’t have been random to begin with). And in any case, the two extremists aren’t randomised through the discontinuity, the authors are just looking at people around the discontinuity (whichever side of it they land) which seems to be different to how Eggers describes the use of the design.

        Is the idea that parties can predict close races and are therefore indifferent whether they run extremists or moderates in those races? Because that seems unsound – I would have thought candidate selection would be even more of a factor in close races.

        • Iain says:

          I think what you’re missing is that candidates are being filtered based on close results in the primary. If the primary election was an effective coin flip between a moderate and an extremist, then presumably the choice of a moderate / extremist candidate was not a deliberate party strategy, and the results in the general election will be unbiased by party strategy.

          • AnonYEmous says:

            Ah, thanks for clarifying that – I didn’t really get that part myself.

          • Froolow says:

            Brilliant, thank you. You’re completely right that’s the bit I missed. I feel stupid now but I’m glad to have the misconception cleared up!

          • bzium says:

            I was also confused by this. I wonder if other similarly confused people also live in countries where primaries aren’t a thing.

    • D.O. says:

      The idea is very simple. An extremist and a moderate fought in the primary and one side has prevailed by a trivial number. But only one of them went to the general and we can assume that whether an extremist or a moderate represent their party in general is essentially a random 50/50 proposition. If then results are strikingly different (discontinuity!) then extremism/moderation has large influence.

      But! In this case the data doesn’t show it. At all.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      Regression discontinuity is like figuring out the effect of summer school by comparing people who got 39 on the final exam and people who got 41 on the final exam, assuming you needed 40 to pass. The point is, the 39 pointers are pretty similar to the 41 pointers, but only the 39 pointers ended up going to summer school. So it’s a kind of natural experiment where similar people were assigned to different arms of a study.

      Or comparing North and South Korea.

  5. James Green says:

    Some thoughts:
    People don’t vote along a single axis of issues from left to right.
    What Democrat “extremists” actually advocate is often very popular.
    What Trump actually said was often very popular.
    What Trump was obviously going to do was very extreme and unpopular.
    Trump won by speaking about a progressive platform + adding assorted racism.

    I think the relative successes of Sanders and Trump show that if you speak about what people want you will get turn out and swing voters both. Extremism is never a winning move, but what is actually considered extreme by the population and what is considered extreme by corporations?

    Edit: Another point, consider Corbyn, he seems pretty extreme and yet he fared fairly well against the moderate May. Then look to France, Macron is very moderate, but he demolished the old moderates. Duterte in the Philippines is very extreme and yet he is more popular at home than all the above.

    I think what voters want at the moment is “new” and they don’t really care about how extreme or moderate that is. The new split is between those who want “new” but are generally more educated and have a long term view (new left), and those who want “new” but are generally less uneducated and have a short term view (new right).

    • disciplinaryarbitrage says:

      As a blue-ish/liberal-ish person I’m inclined towards sympathy to the idea that this ‘new left’ has a responsible, long-term vision of society but comparing key views of the two sides I think that’s a bad misreading of differences between populist right and whatever ‘new left’ is supposed to be. What’s newest in the left coalition is the current brand of social justice, which whatever your sympathies might be seems very present-focused on expansion of rights, protections, or benefits to segments of the left coalition. It seems oriented towards righting wrongs of the past, not on a coherent vision of the future. Sanders’ add-ons like free college also strike me as short-sighted, or at least not the type of policy you would pursue if seriously focused on long-term prosperity.

      The new right vision expressed around here, and by at least some folks in Trump’s circle, is for better or worse very long-term focused in some key elements. The present focus on immigration, at the level of partisan strategy, is very focused on shaping the electorate for generations to come. More coherent defenses of Trump in the run-up to the election focused on the long-term prospects for limiting the extent of difficult-to-roll-back entitlements. This looks to me to resonate in a different way on the ground with the median Trump voter, but nevertheless is about long-term, multi-generational prospects for economic security. The most long-term strongly left-aligned issue area is global warming, but this appears to be fairly dead as a useful partisan motivator in the last several cycles.

    • GregQ says:

      @James Green

      What Democrat “extremists” actually advocate is often very popular.

      That proves not to be the case. Destroying religion, stamping out patriotism, pretending that you can change your sex by “feeling different”, destroying due process whenever a woman accuses a man of rape, judging everyone by their skin color, rather than by the content of their character, none of those are “very popular”. All of them are core beliefs of the Democrat Left.

      What is very popular is conservative views. Which is why you almost always see politicians pretend to the voters to be more conservative than they actually are.

      How many Democrats in 2006 & 2008 ran on passing a law like ObamaCare? How many Democrats voted for it?

      How many Republicans ran on repealing ObamaCare? How many are actually willing to do it?

      If left-wing ideas were popular, you a: wouldn’t have to lie about them all the time, & b: wouldn’t have to “no-platform” those who disagree with you, because you’d be confident you’d actually win public debate.

      • Horkthane says:

        As critical as I am of all the “core beliefs of the Democrat Left” that you mention, I think it’s a slight mischaracterization. I’d say the belief that you should generally be good to people, no matter who they are, is very popular.

        What’s unpopular is the massive top down, authoritarian overcorrection the hard left is taking. And I have a feeling if the Republicans over correct to that we’ll see politicians posturing less conservative but acting more conservative because they don’t want to put people off.

        In fact, arguably I’d say abortion is leading the way on that. You see a lot of lip service being paid by Republicans about respecting a woman’s right to choose, while also passing any legislation they can get away with narrowing the alley that choice can legally be made. And what may have been liberal overreach, with government subsidized abortions, is the club they constantly use to rile up the electorate on this.

        Man, I remember when the stink went up over Trump XO’ing away a Federal program to fund abortions internationally. And liberals went up about how it was a horribly blow to women’s rights and women’s health. And I’m sitting here thinking “Why did that exist in the first place?”

        • Brad says:

          Did you then follow up and try to discover if there was a such a federal program to begin with?

          Spoiler: there was no such program.

          • Horkthane says:

            My apologies. I shorthanded it. He instituted a policy of not directing federal funds to international NGO’s that provide abortions.

          • albatross11 says:

            Horkthane:

            Wasn’t that also in place during the Bush administration? I have the vague notion that this is one of those things that swings back and forth depending on the party in the white house.

          • Horkthane says:

            It does indeed. In my cursory reading it’s been imposed by ever R since Reagan and rolled back by every D. The thorough predictability of it made the outrage all the more pantomime.

        • GregQ says:

          @ Horkthane

          I’d say the belief that you should generally be good to people, no matter who they are, is very popular.

          Yes, it is. but not with the Left, which things you should destroy people’s lives for having any beliefs you disprove of (see Memories Pizza, Brendan Eich, Milo, Charles Murray, etc. et al).

      • James Green says:

        Yeah, I meant Democrat politicians, the ones standing for election, who as far as I can tell from my position outside the US hardly ever mention those extreme socially liberal views. The economic axis is what I’m really looking at.

        Compare the most extreme Democrats in Congress to the most extreme Republicans there. From an international perspective at least there doesn’t appear to be an extreme Democrat there while almost every Republican seems extreme to me.

        Trump was the most moderate on economic views and the most extreme on social views (in general) and he won the wide open Republican primary. Sanders and Warren seem to be the most popular Democrats these days and they have fairly left wing economic views and average Democrat politician social views.

        Anyway, my best point is that electors all around the world are voting for new politicians, they have been for a while, but we are finally starting to get ones that actually are different rather than just saying they are.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I wonder what the difference in the parties’ ability to rig the system and produce fake votes is. I’m cynically sure that both practice this to some extent.

    • GregQ says:

      Well, Republicans fight to make vote fraud harder, and Democrats fight to make vote fraud easier. I think that should pretty much answer your question.

      (Note: you can not function in America today w/o a photo ID. Anyone who actually cared about the poor / minorities would fight to get them ID, not fight to keep ID from being checked.)

      • Anonymous says:

        @GregQ

        That just tells me who PROFITS more from vote fraud, unless I’m missing some detail I should be able to reason out.

        • GregQ says:

          If Republicans were engaging in vote fraud on a regular basis, they wouldn’t be pushing efforts to make it harder to commit vote fraud, no?

          Person A occasional spanks his kids. Person B beat two of his kids to death. Both parents “strike their kids.” Should we consider both parents to be the same?

          No? Well, the answer to your question is that Democrats are so in love with vote fraud they fight every effort to reign it in. That tells you which Party thinks it benefits from vote fraud

      • Bugmaster says:

        Democrats have claimed that Republicans are trying to make voting harder (at least, for poor people, who tend to vote Democrat), under the guise of combating vote fraud. I’m not saying they’re necessarily right, but I want to at least acknowledge their perspective. Without compelling evidence, it’s their word against yours.

        • Horkthane says:

          I’ve never been convinced by this argument. Not because I doubt Republicans might do weird shit to keep poor people from getting proper ID to keep them from voting. But because the answer is to fix that! Not completely get rid of the ID requirement. That just stinks of ulterior motives.

        • Iain says:

          As evidence that Republicans really are engaged in partisan vote suppression, I give you North Carolina:

          Significantly, the appeals court noted that the restrictions were enacted by the state within weeks of the Supreme Court ruling that struck down a crucial part of the Voting Rights Act — the requirement that states with histories of racial discrimination obtain preclearance from the federal government for any voting changes. The Legislature moved quickly, the appellate judges found, and first “requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices.” The General Assembly then enacted an “omnibus” bill of restrictions, “all of which disproportionately affected African-Americans,” the court found.

          • Horkthane says:

            The North Carolina law had imposed new photo identification requirements on voters and ended procedures favored particularly in black and Democratic political drives, including allowing voter registration on Election Day, and early voting. It also blocked out-of-precinct voting and preregistration of 16- and 17-year-olds.

            I have to admit, reading this my gut reaction is “There are states that actually let you register to vote on the day of the election?”

            I know in my state, there was a highly contentious report, which some believe is discredited although I don’t think so, where someone was exhaustively going through the voting records and discovering hundreds of non-citizens who had cast votes. The voter registration process only checked for a driver’s license, which non-citizens can easily get.

            The researchers then claim our governor got wind of this investigation and ordered all the bureaucrats in the state of VA not to cooperate with it. So much of the discrediting comes from the fact that the researchers were only able to comb through the voter data from a small number of precincts in VA, and the number of non-citizens voting they found would not have changed the outcome of any election.

          • tscharf says:

            NC does some strange stuff. At the moment they are the US’s crazy uncle. I would say it is pretty much a wash between the right trying to restrict voting and the left trying to let people vote without identification. From my viewpoint people who haven’t bothered to get an ID were unlikely to vote anyway (not engaged politically), and I’ve seen no evidence that either of these is significant. I think in most states even if you show up without ID you have to vote provisionally so it’s much ado over nothing.

            If we imagine that we make voting super easy (cell phones, internet, months to cast a vote, etc.) it’s quite unclear if that would be a win for citizens or not. I can’t even say if this would help either side. If people totally unengaged with politics voted in big numbers does that make politics better? I’m not against it, just thinking it probably just inserts more randomness in the equation instead of improving results.

          • GregQ says:

            Let’s see, in the Motor Voter Act, the Democrats made a lot of changes to voter registration rules designed to aid their candidates.

            This, we are told, is good.

            In North Carolina, the Republicans decided to do the same.

            This, we are told, is bad.

            Bzzt

            Type 1 error: Someone who should have gotten to vote, didn’t
            Type 2 error: Someone who should not have gotten to vote, did

            Type 1 errors disenfranchise one individual, who knows it, and has the ability to fix it

            Type 2 errors disenfranchise everyone, and the only way we have to fix it is to pass laws like the Republicans did.

            Voting is a zero sum game. Anything that helps your side, hurts mine, & vice versa. So there’s no moral difference, in the abstract, between what the Democrats did & what the Republicans did.

            In the non-abstract, the Republican changes help the people who put effort in, and hurt the ones who don’t. The Democrat changes help people not willing to put much effort in, and harm those who are willing to put some effort in.

            IMAO, harming the lazy & helping the industrious, is far more morally acceptable than the reverse.

          • GregQ says:

            I have absolutely no problem with making people put in a little bit of effort to register to vote, and to vote. If you’re not willing to put any effort into voting, I can’t believe that you’ll put any effort into learning anything about who and who you should be voting for.

            If your argument is “Democrat voters tend to be pin-headed ignoramuses with no interest in putting any effort into the political process, and mean old Republicans are making it harder for these people to vote!” My response is “Good! They should!”

          • GregQ says:

            A simple set of scenarios:

            A is a Democrat supporter, B is a Republican supporter. For the purpose of these scenarios, B is a US Citizen who took the effort to get himself registered well before hand, and votes every election day. WE will vary on “A”.

            1: A didn’t bother to get registered until after the deadline (6 weeks before the election) passed. A doesn’t get to vote.

            A screwed up, A was harmed. IMAO: Justice

            2: A is an illegal alien who got a driver’s license & a fake SS number, used that to register to vote, & voted

            B did nothing wrong, but B was effectively disenfranchised by A voting for the other candidate. IMAO: massive injustice

            3: A is a NC college student from CA. A will be going home to CA every summer, has access to a car there, doesn’t have access to a car in NC, so doesn’t want to give up his CA drivers license, which he would have to do in order to get an NC one.

            NC tells A he’s not an NC resident, he can’t vote there, he has to vote absentee in CA.

            IMAO: Justice. A isn’t an NC resident, his home is CA. There’s no reason why A should get to inflict his ideology on the people of NC, then blow town when the costs come due.

            Got any other scenarios?

          • Horkthane says:

            Playing devil’s advocate, there is option 4.

            An impenetrable bureaucracy is constructed that manages to deny IDs to people they have an interest in denying IDs to. This is essentially the accusation D’s lob at R’s when they are pressed to justify voter ID laws beyond “Well it disproportionately affects people who vote D”.

            I don’t buy “disproportionately affects” as a valid argument myself. I mean, our entire tax code is set up to “disproportionately affect” people with kids, people with mortgages, people who make too much money, people who make too little money, etc, etc. But, presumably, there are things that “disproportionately affect” groups that are morally justified, and in fact, that disproportionate affect is the entire point. So just going “Look, this affects one group more than another” isn’t enough for me.

            And this is when the news trots out someone sympathetic like an old black southern windowed grandmother raising 8 kids who can’t seem to prove to the DMV that she exists, who get’s stuck playing phone tag with 40 different bureaucrats and who can’t afford the multiple $10-20 fees the bureaucracy demands to obtain copies of the proper documentation.

            Because there is a gap between “Theoretically everyone should be able to get a government issued photo ID” and then the bizarre circumstances reality has to offer that violate that simple premise.

            Although IMHO the leap from that problem to “Voter ID is racist, get rid of it, identification for voting shouldn’t be required” is too great.

            Man, I didn’t play devil’s advocate that well, did I?

          • GregQ says:

            @Horkthane

            1: Every state i know of with a photo ID requirement also gives free photo IDs to the poor

            2: Every gov’t bureaucracy I know of is populated by Democrats more than Republicans. So it would be a pretty impressive trick for Republicans to get a DMV to act to disenfranchise likely Democrat voters

          • abc says:

            NC does some strange stuff. At the moment they are the US’s crazy uncle.

            Like what? All the stuff I’ve seen from NC makes it seem like the US’s sane uncle.

            I would say it is pretty much a wash between the right trying to restrict voting and the left trying to let people vote without identification.

            So you don’t see any difference between attempting to create basic voting validation checks and trying to stop all attempts at doing so and even all attempts at researching it?

        • GregQ says:

          How does requiring people to have a State photo ID, and requiring them to register to vote ahead of time, disproportionately disadvantage poor people? Esp. when the law makes it possible to get a Photo ID for free?

          The problem with the Democrat claim is that it doesn’t pass the laugh test.

          The Republican proposals disadvantage people who don’t give a shit about politics, aren’t willing to think ahead, or who aren’t actually residents of the State where they want to vote.

          IOW, they disadvantage people who SHOULD be disadvantaged.

    • cassander says:

      If you want a genuine empirical measure, you might look at which way very close elections (i.e. a few hundred votes, a few thousand at most) are more likely to break.

  7. John Nerst says:

    Echoing some other commenters here, but I’m so tired of the whole left-right thing and various attempts at classifying positions, issues and people as left or right. And for what purpose other than trying to tell yourself and others what to think about them? What insight does it add?

    The conventional wisdom seems to be that there is one fundamental dimension, and those on either end are “extreme” and therefore anything “extreme” must be at one end and people not one either end must have views in the middle of those two on every issue.

    Lots of ink is spilled trying to define what left and right “really means”, and I doubt it means much at all. As Scott’s post about politicization implies: issues can often go either way depending on details and initial conditions, and they become staples of a particular side later. Sometimes they can switch through narrative shifts resulting from a change in salient issues or coalition structure.

    I suspect the belief in one fundamental dimension of political opinions is little more than an artifact of game theory: any conflict with a win-lose outcome will come down to two sides because of the strong incentives to form coalitions until there are only two sides left. Each coalition will have some kind of broad consensus with a cluster of positions tied together by narratives emphasizing their commonalities and minimizing internal contradictions. This makes their political philosophies seem artificially coherent.

    Regardless of exactly what positions and issues are bundled up on the same side, we will always be able to draw a line between the two main centers of gravity in policy-space and get a “spectrum”. So, the fact that we do get a left-right axis is hardly any evidence at all of a fundamental political dimension – we’d get than no matter how multidimensional reality is.

    Note that this applies during political stability, and when economic conditions and coalitions are shifting things are going to look messier and there’s going to be lots of unproductive talk about what “left” and “right” “really” means.

    • vV_Vv says:

      I suspect the belief in one fundamental dimension of political opinions is little more than an artifact of game theory: any conflict with a win-lose outcome will come down to two sides because of the strong incentives to form coalitions until there are only two sides left. Each coalition will have some kind of broad consensus with a cluster of positions tied together by narratives emphasizing their commonalities and minimizing internal contradictions. This makes their political philosophies seem artificially coherent.

      It’s more a specific artifact of first-pass-the-post voting systems. Proportional voting systems incentivize politicians to differentiate the political offering, resulting in many small, sometimes single-issue, parties.

      • John Nerst says:

        Yes, but then multiparty coalitions have to be formed to get a working government, meaning you effectively get two sides once everyone’s preferred partners becomes obvious. Between elections you get “the government” vs “the opposition” and that tends to be left vs right or vice versa. You do get to vote for sub-faction of your favorite side, which is nice. Still, I assure you the idea of left and right still exists in proportional systems. And even when it makes little sense (like with Marine Le Pen for example) people still feel the need to apply the left-right model.

        However, it is true that voting systems that lead to two-party systems make it worse. And it does seem to obfuscate shifts in alignment, which are much more obvious when there are many parties and changes in support and coalitions are more visible. The situation in my own country (Sweden) is a prime example.

    • Gobbobobble says:

      Echoing some other commenters here, but I’m so tired of the whole left-right thing and various attempts at classifying positions, issues and people as left or right. And for what purpose other than trying to tell yourself and others what to think about them? What insight does it add?

      Seriously. For all people protest criticisms they see as false equivalence, this false dichotomy is what I am truly sick of.

      • bintchaos says:

        But its not false.
        You just wish it was.

        • Gobbobobble says:

          [citation needed]

          • bintchaos says:

            @Gobbobobble
            Partisan Identity.

            This is one way polarization amplifies identity: The two parties are now so far apart ideologically that even an unusual nominee like Trump is a safer bet than the Democrat. Many Trump voters appear to have made this calculation. According to exit polls, Trump won among voters who said their vote was motivated by dislike for the other candidates in the race.
            This is the answer to the normalcy of the 2016 election: As abnormal and unqualified and erratic as Trump showed himself to be, with Clinton’s help, he still activated pro-Republican and anti-Democratic identities, and that left him a stone’s throw, or a Jim Comey letter, away from the presidency. Yes, there were a few Obama-to-Trump voters on the margins, but overwhelmingly, even an election this weird was forced into normalcy by the power of our partisan identities.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            I don’t see how that proves it’s anything other than a useful fiction, to the powers that be. Politics is extraordinarily multifaceted, yet every goddamn issue gets chewed up and shat out into the Left- and Right-sanctioned positions.

            Like if we abstract the issues as:
            * Thing A, positions 1 or 2
            * Thing B, either for or against
            * Thing C, positions 1, 2, or 3

            What possible goddamn reason is there that people HAVE TO either subscribe to {A1, B+, C2} or to {A2, B-, C1}??? It’s nonsense.

            The only ones I can think of who benefit are politicians who can erase the existence of C3 and media shills who can twist everything into pandersome banging of their team’s drum (oh look a Vox quote). And vapid signallers who want to shit on the other team on social media, I guess.

            It may be a current reality that most people are propagandized into actually subscribing to one of 2 Properly Endorsed position slates. But we can and must do better.

            ETA: Actually, I was being unfair to Vox. They’re just describing the same problem. My point is that Partisan Identities Are Terrible, and people should be encouraged to not blindly follow them because “there’s no other options”.

          • Matt M says:

            What possible goddamn reason is there that people HAVE TO either subscribe to {A1, B+, C2} or to {A2, B-, C1}??? It’s nonsense.

            Because each and every issue is not totally independent?

            Because how you feel about one issue is to a very large extent informed by your general opinions of life, human nature, the laws of the universe, etc.

            We didn’t get to where we are by random chance. There is a general theme that typically connects A1, B+, and C1, usually something like “individual rights vs collective rights” or “planned economy vs market economy” or “freedom vs protection” or things like that.

          • John Nerst says:

            The idea is that there are many such dimensions (as you mention), not just one that everything else comes down to. If that was the case the nature of that one fundamental dimension wouldn’t be so elusive.

          • Nornagest says:

            There is a general theme that typically connects A1, B+, and C1, usually something like “individual rights vs collective rights” or “planned economy vs market economy” or “freedom vs protection” or things like that.

            To some extent. But there’s plenty of historical contingency and path dependence mixed in too.

            Take environmental protections for example. These are more economically centralized than market-driven, true, but also more socially authoritarian than libertarian, more conservative than progressive in a risk-tolerance sense, more pastoral than cosmopolitan. On emotional valence they really ought to be a conservative cause, and indeed they were, back in the early 1900s when the first round of protections were happening. Yet now they’re part of the left coalition.

            Why? Well, they’ve brought up issues that are hard to handle with conservative methodology, but that’s hard to reconcile with the timeline. And they’re certainly consonant with the mainstream left’s image of itself as the faction of science and rationality, but that’s also pretty modern, and in any case it’s easy to tell a story where the opposite’s true. I think the real reason is a Cold War hangover: the modern environmental movement essentially grew out of Sixties-era anti-nuclear activism, a straight left-wing cause, and it hasn’t been able to shed its alliances or shibboleths.

          • @Nornagest:

            Two perhaps clearer examples of the point.

            Support for free markets ought to go with support for easy immigration and support for free trade, for obvious reasons. At the moment, the Republican party is more in favor of free markets and less in favor of immigration than the Democrats. The party alignment on free trade has varied over the decades, but currently the Republicans are more against it than the Democrats.

  8. nestorr says:

    I met a black Trump voter who would’ve voted for Bernie if they’d let her, so definitely some people wanted a nontraditional candidate and weren’t too pushed about the details. Trump’s volubility helped, I think because everyone could squint and see what they wanted in him, like some sort of political Rorschach inkblot.

    • Matt M says:

      Yes, I agree that there’s a non-trivial amount of people whose decision is less “red or blue” and more “stay the course or change things.”

      It’s far easier to be the “change things” candidate when you aren’t the incumbent party. Consider that Trump’s best debate moments were the ones where he basically said “Hillary keeps saying we need all these changes, but she’s been in political power since the 1990s, why hasn’t she done them already then?” Because of this dynamic, I discount almost any analysis that claims one party has a permanent advantage over the other. I predict that it’s pretty darn unlikely we’ll see either party win three consecutive national elections anytime soon. It’s basically like the “handicap mode” in racing games where the farther behind you are, the faster your car goes, in order to keep things interesting and competitive. I know quite a few people who generally lean left, but basically said “Well things aren’t exactly perfect today, might as well give the other guys a chance” and I’m willing to bet that in 4-8 years when Trump hasn’t magically fixed everything, they (as well as some people who generally lean right) will say the same thing again.

  9. Chalid says:

    has been a staple of recent leftist thought

    It has been a staple of wishful thinking on both left and right for *generations*. The first national election I paid any attention to was in 2000 and I think we’ve heard it from one side or the other in every election since, possibly excepting 2008.

    “A Choice Not An Echo” makes a similar case from the right, and it was published in 1964.

  10. Brad says:

    I think the debate about technocratic candidates versus real leftists papers over the stark differences between the Old Left and the New Left (i.e. Progressives). That papering over allows those arguing for the firebrands to assume their preferred candidate will get the enthusiastic support of the other part of the left. But when it comes down it they probably won’t. Milquetoast technocrats not only appeal to the wonkish professional class that plays an important role in practical politics (viz. money) but also serve as a second choice for both parts of the left.

    A Bernie Sanders democrat, yearning for the days when unions actually mattered, would get pushback exactly along the lines that he got (Bernie Bros, etc). If John Conyers*, with his support for reparations, ran for President that would alienate the entire part of the party that was enthusiastic about Bernie Sanders. In terms of policy positions Hillary Clinton was exactly the candidate that was needed. A little less baggage and a lot more charisma was needed.

    *I know, he’s makes Bernie Sanders look like a spring chicken, just go with it.

    • Aapje says:

      Isn’t one of the causes of populism that the milquetoast technocrats have become less accepted as good second choices?

      Despite their insistence to the contrary, the technocrats actually do want to substantially restructure society and the many losers of their policies want something different.

      • Brad says:

        I can’t speak to Europe, I don’t know enough about what’s going on over there, but I don’t think the rise of populism narrative fits in the United States. It is taking a single highly contingent win and making too much of it.

        Maybe that’s overstated — I do think there might be something there in terms of the Republican primary, but Trump’s competitiveness and ultimate win over Clinton had more to do with: it was generic Republican’s turn and Clinton’s unsuitability as a candidate than any kind of major shift in the electorate towards populism.

        It was a really close election, so maybe the Bernie voters that stayed home are large enough to have swung it, but I don’t think that they were especially larger than similarly motivated voters that stayed home or voted third party in say 2000 or 1992.

        • Aapje says:

          In the 2008 Democratic primaries, weren’t all (major) candidates technocrats? Obama, Clinton and Edwards, for example. Yet in 2016, the oldskool socialists weren’t willing to just pick one from an array of technocrats.

          The last primary where it was the Republicans turn was in 2000 and a socialist did run against Al Gore, but Lyndon LaRouche got far less support than Sanders got.

          • Brad says:

            John Edwards had his Two Americas message. As for Sanders, despite his self identification, if you look at the details of what he proposed he wasn’t really an oldskool socialist. Certainly not like Lyndon LaRouche. 2000 also had Ralph Nader whose economic positions were closer to 2016 Sanders.

            Were there more Bernie supporters in 2016 that stayed home than Nader voters in 2000?

          • Aapje says:

            Fair enough. BTW, the first line of an Edwards speech:

            ”I stand here tonight ready to work with you and John [Kerry] to make America great strong again.”

            Hmmm…

            AFAIK, both Nader and Sanders got a lot of support from independents, who were less charmed by the Gore and Clinton, respectively. So you can’t just count them as natural supporters of the Democratic candidate.

        • gbdub says:

          Trump’s competitiveness and ultimate win over Clinton had more to do with: it was generic Republican’s turn and Clinton’s unsuitability as a candidate than any kind of major shift in the electorate towards populism

          .

          This seems like a good take. And it’s not as if Trump’s negatives didn’t play a role – they certainly did. I’d wager generic Republican + Trump’s immigration policy – Trump’s general boorishness wins in a landslide.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I don’t know about that. The problem is you have to be able to weather the storm that comes with Trump’s immigration policy. And what happens over and over again is you say “I think we should limit the number of people coming here illegally” and the left and media (but I repeat myself) screams “RAAAAACIST!!!!” And then the polite Republican apologies, and hems and haws and tries to explain and gracefully loses. Only Trump says “well, somebody’s doing the raping” and tweets out a picture of him with a taco bowl and says “I love Hispanics!” and wins.

          • Matt M says:

            And then the polite Republican apologies, and hems and haws and tries to explain and gracefully loses.

            Right. Trump’s extremist-sounding rhetoric was necessary to prove he wasn’t secretly the same breed of boring, cowardly, apologist RINO that the conservative base was so sick and tired of watching lose time and time again.

            It was like a gang initiation that requires you to kill someone in order to prove you aren’t a cop. “If you’re REALLY not a progressive, do something progressives would never, ever, forgive you for.” *calls Mexicans rapists* Yeah, that’ll do nicely, you’re in!

          • gbdub says:

            I think the “not apologizing” part was the key. Trump took it a step further and went out of his way to antagonize, and also just in general doesn’t seem to be particularly careful about what he says. I think you could deliver the same firm message without being quite as much of a dick or a loose cannon about it. “Build the Wall” doesn’t require “bleed out of her wherever” etc.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Gbdub

            Nominally I agree, but I also think that think Trump’s antagonism has in fact helped him by driving the media’s subsequent meltdown. To what degree is the question.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yes. I think Trump’s amazing success in the primaries was mostly based on exploiting the fact that most media sources, especially cable news channels, run on outrage. By just being himself, he could reliably generate outrages every few days. And since the cable news channels basically live on week-long outrage fests, they found themselves putting Trump’s face on the TV screen every day, saying his name, and doing the fake-outrage thing. And since pretty much everyone over the age of 12 understands that the outrage is fake, and lots of voters at least heard him making strong-sounding statements and being attacked by people they didn’t like very much, it worked out for him.

            Now, if you were a candidate who wanted to talk about actual policies or issues, you didn’t get any attention. But then, the cable talking heads weren’t going to be able to have an intelligent discussion of any issues or policies anyway, whereas *anyone* can emote outrage on demand.

        • axiomsofdominion says:

          The research is in. It was Obama voters staying at home that lost Hillary the election. Black turnout in critical states was down, among other issues.

        • vV_Vv says:

          The election could have gone either way, but how can the explain that somebody like Trump, with the platform he ran on, could even stand a chance, if not for the rising tide of populism (anti-establishment/anti-globalism/whatever you want to call it)?

          • Brad says:

            See the second paragraph. There may have been something there in the Republican primaries, but the general is what we would have expected with generic republican and generic democrat and so isn’t in need of an explanation.

          • Matt M says:

            but how can the explain that somebody like Trump, with the platform he ran on, could even stand a chance, if not for the rising tide of populism

            Because it was the Republican party’s “turn” and policy didn’t matter?

            Because people hated her and policy didn’t matter?

            Because the Russians hacked the election?

            I mean take your pick but there’s plenty of plausible theories as to how he could win that have absolutely nothing to do with his platform.

          • vV_Vv says:

            Because it was the Republican party’s “turn” and policy didn’t matter?
            Because people hated her and policy didn’t matter?

            But Trump wiped the floor with the other Republican candidates. Party loyalty and dislike for Clinton are not sufficient explanations for Trump’s success.

            Because the Russians hacked the election?

            LoL

      • Anon. says:

        At least in Europe I’d say one cause of populism is that the “technocrats” are comically incompetent. Growth is pathetic compared to the US even though the Eurozone is has a much lower GDP per capita, European stocks are still below their pre-crisis peak, the Greek crisis has been “handled” for a decade now by doing nothing and kicking the can down the road at the cost of hundreds of billions, and for 5 years the ECB has apparently completely forgotten about its mandate, to the point where we had deflationary periods.

        Meanwhile, out technocrats are busy looting American tech companies and debating whether they should refurbish the European Parliament’s building or not. If this is technocracy, naturally people look for an alternative.

    • scherzando says:

      A Bernie Sanders democrat, yearning for the days when unions actually mattered, would get pushback exactly along the lines that he got (Bernie Bros, etc). If John Conyers*, with his support for reparations, ran for President that would alienate the entire part of the party that was enthusiastic about Bernie Sanders.

      My feeling is that many Sanders voters who supported him over Clinton for general ideological reasons (that is, because they were to the left of Clinton overall rather than because they thought Sanders’ specific economic policies would be best for them) would support Conyers over Clinton given that choice. Now, I’m in this group, so maybe I overestimate its size, and certainly there are Sanders voters who Conyers would be unlikely to win. But I think of Conyers and Sanders as both on the left wing of the Democratic Party in a way that Clinton isn’t, and I expect their bases would have some overlap there.

  11. S_J says:

    I’ve seen this comment several times: the most influential voter, the one most likely to have an impact on the election, is the voter who makes up their mind in the voting booth on election day.

    Advertising dollars for votes are (in theory) spent heavily in influence the least-politically-aware, low-information voter as election day approaches.

    The simplistic version of this assessment is that 40% of the voters would vote Democrat, even if a re-animated Hitler ran on Democratic party ticket. Another 40% of voters would vote Republican, if the re-animated Hitler had decided he liked that party. (Or if a long-time Democrat decided to run as a Republican.)

    The remaining 20% are the people who politicians try to sway by making speeches, airing TV ads, and having shadow-brokers create FaceBook buzz about.

    • Matt M says:

      Yep, totally agree with this. And when you consider that half the country doesn’t vote at all, and the amount of people who are underage or otherwise ineligible, it turns out our entire collective fates are decided by about 5-10% of the population.

    • cassander says:

      I agree, with one caveat, a huge amount also depends on whether or not people who only vote for one party actually bother to show up election day. Barack Obama got 4 million fewer votes in 2012 than 08, Romney got a million more votes than McCain. That’s at least 3 million democrats who just didn’t bother to show up, which while not enough to make a difference in 12, would surely be enough to swing closer elections.

    • @Matt M
      Given that your fates are decided by an essentially binary choice, I wouldn’t worry too much about the small number who contribute to that choice. Elections might as well be decided by the televized flipping of a giant coin.

      • Matt M says:

        That would definitely be preferred. At least then everyone would be forced to openly acknowledge how arbitrary the entire system is. AND I wouldn’t have to read a series of 5,000 word articles explaining why the coin landed the way it did and what significance this has for the future of humanity.

      • The supposed value of democratic systems versus absolutist ones is that voters can correct the government’s stupid mistakes, and express “the will of the people”. If instead, they just form into tribal blocks that vote for anyone with a D or an R in front of their name*, then that would not be so. These are not informed and intelligent consumers affecting the market in government, but drones.

        In this vein, the actual value of democracy would simply be to pit two big parties against each other and prevent one concentrating too much power for too long. It could be that neo-absolutists are correct that the stories we tell about democracy are total horseshit, but the system we have is still better than absolutism, only for completely different reasons.

        If we’re really going to be formalists, then the actual way to formalize democracy wouldn’t be to replace it with monarchy, but to have some sort of system that automatically switches between the biggest left and the biggest right wing party every four years… forever.

        The problem with democracy is that it seems like it leads to inherent polarization on a cultural level*(2). People have to care about politics, because politics cares about them. The problem with absolutist monarchy is that it only worked in a historical environment of weak ability to project power. A modern absolutist system is a totalitarian one party state, that without other parties to check it, concentrates all power, and controls everything without limits.

        A third position with respect to these two options could be to have auto-democracy/two party absolutism (!), where you have two ideological blocks which check each other through a pre-agreed automatic term system, without forcing the public to split up into rival teams and ruin thanksgiving dinner with rants about reds/blues.

        *I’m not sure if this is actually true.
        *(2) Not sure if this is true either, but strongly suspect it is. Take this post with a mountain of sodium chloride please.

        • Aapje says:

          There are also democracies with more than two (realistic) options.

        • Proportional representation systems? Instead of two big formal parties, you get multiple parties on either side forming into left and right coalitions. The left vs right difference is extremely robust and seems to break down all barriers put in its way.

          • Aapje says:

            In The Netherlands, the traditional coalition consisted of the center-right Christian-Democrats (CDA) who would then alternate with the conservative-liberal VVD or the center-left labor party (PvdA).

            Then in 1994 there was a breakthrough as the VVD and PvdA shut out the CDA to form two successive coalitions which pushed through a neoliberal agenda (privatizations & more free market like solutions, gay marriage, euthanasia, etc)*.

            So having more parties allowed the sidelining of a part of the right to push through an agenda that had been blocked before. In the US, you see a total stalemate on many topics.

            * And these coalitions resulted in a populist reaction.

        • carvenvisage says:

          Why can’t we just have monarchy with acknowledged veto by assassination + a sliding scale of punishment for that crime based on how much people liked the monarch?

          Monarchy mediated by assassination mediated by punishment mediated by democracy.

          • 1soru1 says:

            Which part of that system isn’t a description of contemporary Syria?

          • carvenvisage says:

            the part where syria is total chaos and there isn’t a system at all let alone this specific system.

        • Tarhalindur says:

          I think democracy has at least two key advantages, and neither of them line up closely with the textbook view:

          1) I suspect a version of the old Chinese Mandate of Heaven is correct, and the fundamental social contract boils down to something like the following: “If things are going well for you, then whoever is in charge probably knows what they’re doing; don’t rock the boat, and in fact the leaders probably have a better idea of what to do than you do and you should imitate them. If things aren’t going well and especially if they’re not making a good-faith effort to fix it, then they have lost the Mandate of Heaven and should be replaced.” If this is correct, then democracy offers a built-in outlet for replacing leaders who have lost the Mandate of Heaven without tearing down the entire system and a farm team of potential new leaders with governing experience.
          2) Relatedly, democracy offers a proprioceptive system: if the voters are willing to throw the existing leaders out of power, something is probably wrong and the new leaders need to fix it. Of course, sometimes the problem is HMS Random Factor* and the only thing the new leaders need to do to fix things is to wait for regression to the mean. In fact, I think part of our current issues is that that strategy was tried (with a side helping of doubling down) and hasn’t worked.

          … Actually, wait, what am I saying? That last sentence is nothing less and nothing more than a reframing of the extremist versus centrist debate, provided that you accept that the centrists (socially liberal, fiscally conservative) have been in power for some time. The status quo isn’t working for a large number of people on both sides of the political divide, and the easy options of waiting for things to improve and voting in the other party haven’t changed that so it’s probably not a problem that can be solved by regression to the mean. By this frame, the public has been electing charismatic outsiders to implement new policies instead of the failed centrist consensus… and they keep governing as centrists. Which would explain Trump (and Sanders, and the Tea Party) – voters want their candidates to signal that they will actually implement new policies once in office, and since previous candidates have signaled that they would implement new policies and then failed to do so the voters are looking for more extreme signals – like, say, explicit anti-immigration and protectionist rhetoric and a general lack of filter.

          (This thesis would also explain the Brexit results – in fact, Brexit strikes me as better evidence than US elections, since Britain doesn’t seem to have the same confounding factor of tribal polarization that the US does. For that matter, the recent British election results also seem consistent with this thesis – May wasn’t changing enough, and Corbyn had the strongest signal that he would actually implement new policies.)

          • Jiro says:

            (This thesis would also explain the Brexit results – in fact, Brexit strikes me as better evidence than US elections, since Britain doesn’t seem to have the same confounding factor of tribal polarization that the US does.

            Are you sure they don’t have that factor? I’ve seen an awful lot of news media reports on how Brexit proves how the racists are taking over in Britain.

          • I think the problem with the mandate of heaven in a modern context is that people’s standards for what counts as the social contract are all over the place, being highly individualized.

            Peasants had no need to wear their politics as a fashion statement or an expression of quirky uniqueness, so upholding the mandate of heaven just meant protecting people from being slaughtered or starving to death.

            It’s also a de facto thing since if sufficient people are revolting to cause you to be overthrown then you’ve lost the mandate regardless of why they are revolting. Maybe you lose the mandate of heaven if you don’t lower tuition fees. Only heaven knows.

            I think you’re right about the signalling theory of electing extreme candidates. It’s not necessarily that they want extreme policies. They just know that there’s some high ratio between rhetoric and results, and in desperation are pushing for more extreme rhetoric hoping for some kind of change at all.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think this is basically the best argument for democracy. Rephrasing it a bit: in order to keep power, I need to keep a lot of people happy. When things seem to be going badly, fewer people are happy, and soon, I’ve announcing to the press how I’ve decided to spend more time with my family. This at least more-or-less aligns the incentives of the powerful with the voters.

            A small downside is that random factors or outside things sometimes put an otherwise good leader out of power. That’s life.

            A big downside is that politicians have to worry about the next election, so they may have incentives to do things that make the voters happy now and will make them very unhappy in a decade or two, when the politician in question is happily retired. The classic example of this is local governments inflating their public pensions–the lower salaries and happier civil servants appear now, the financial crisis shows up in 30-40 years. Endless entitlement spending growth, deficit spending, and foreign policy missteps that blow up sometime in the future fall into the same category.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @Tarhalindur

            Your argument reminds me of commentor “Ken’ichi” (over at Dreher’s) defense of the “dominant party” democracies of East Asia, such as Japan and the LDP, which since 1955, when it was founded, has only not been in power in 1993-1994 and 2009-2012 periods. The argument runs that government policy is best left to the elite government experts (analogies to doctors and lawyers were made), and should be kept out of the hands of the electorate (more specifically, that letting the “ignorant masses” have a say in policy is another “Western delusion”). That the proper role for elections is to essentially grade the ruling elite on how well they do the job of government, providing order, security, prosperity, etc., not on how (by what policies) they achieve those ends. In short, to provide feedback about the “Mandate of Heaven” with something less severe and disruptive, and capable of greater variation in intensity, than outright rebellions. Therefore, while Western multi-party democracies have the parties differentiate and campaign on policy, in an Asian-style dominant party system, policy is set by the elite of the dominant party, and elections become about “grading” the dominant party, and whether it may be losing hold of the Mandate of Heaven and need to correct itself.

            Edit: did a quick Google; for some of the original comments by Ken’ichi, see here, here, here, here, here, and here.

          • Tarhalindur says:

            Are you sure they don’t have that factor? I’ve seen an awful lot of news media reports on how Brexit proves how the racists are taking over in Britain.

            I mean, it’s possible that I’m wrong, especially since my knowledge of Britain is long-distance, but I don’t think so? The specific confounder I had in mind basically boils down to Albion’s Seed dynamics and the American North/South history; the most similar effect I’m familiar with in British history is the English/Scottish/Welsh(/Irish) split, and that seems to be mostly orthogonal to Brexit.

            I think the media calling Brexit voters racist is a combination of a general trend towards xenophobia when things are getting worse (you might be able to restate that as “we’re already having trouble providing for everyone, why are we taking more people in?”, though that’s very speculative) and the media porting a rhetorical strategy from American politics across the pond.

        • Mengsk says:

          given all of this cynicism about democracy, I wanted to briefly offer a minimal justification for it. Basically, I think democracy is good because it is one of the few forms of government where the people who could conceivably lead a popular uprising, with all of the violence and bloodshed these things entail, do not have an incentive to do so.

          The logic is roughly this: winning an election and leading a popular uprising require a similar skill sets- charisma, resources, political talent. The difference is that it’s a lot easier to convince people to check your name in a box on election day than it is to convince them to take up arms, march into battle, and risk death and dishonor to overthrow the government on your behalf.

          There may have been figures in American politics who had the wherewithal to accomplish the latter. But they had no incentive to try, because their skill, charisma, and resources- the very things that would give them a credible shot at overthrowing the government- would also make it incredibly easy for them to achieve power through electoral politics. Put another way, if a figure with presidential aspirations couldn’t handily win a somewhat fair election, it would not bode well for their ability to lead a popular revolt.

          All of this hinges on the fact that self-interested, ambitious, power-craving plotters in the United States look at the world and decide that their best interests are served by playing the game by the rules that are set up- and all this requires is that our institutions aren’t obviously rigging elections, and that spoils of elections are real enough to be coveted.

  12. CMShroeder says:

    This is interesting as far as it goes, (thanks for it) but a few notes from my lens from my home in this den of iniquity here in DC: 1) it doesn’t take into account what has been happening in local elections and gerrymandering etc. significant ramifications on federal elections and the political tenor generally; 2) nor extremely low turn outs in off year elections that have helped these; 3) what this all means in governance certainly at the federal level (which then has ramifications on future election laws) — i.e., the extremists have been incredible effective at either gumming up the process or getting small, incremental but impactful change once IN office that we too often ignore. I also would be intrigued how you think Reagan Democrats fit into this model if cross over isn’t a viable goal?

  13. Alex Richard says:

    > We know that total turnout decreased 2% between 2012 and 2016.

    No we don’t. You didn’t give a citation for that figure; but total turnout increased by 5.9% from 2012 to 2016, which is larger than the population increase from 2012->2016. My best guess would be that the 2% figure comes from early reports, after the election but before all votes were counted, but it is definitely significantly wrong.

    • Ruminist says:

      ^ This.

      If you Google around for analyses of the 2016 election, most of the results are (still) based on incomplete vote tallies from November, which people naïvely compared to the complete 2012 tallies. We now have the complete tallies, but the low turnout meme survives.

      • Alex Zavoluk says:

        According to the wikipedia articles on each election, turnout was down about 0.2 percentage points compared to 2012, which isn’t a lot, but Clinton did manage to end up with fewer *total* votes than Obama, despite increased population. The fact that she was not even able to muster all of Obama’s voters despite the specter of Trump probably says something about Clinton in comparison to Obama, even if it doesn’t seem like it explains much mathematically.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Wikipedia compares two sources with different methodologies. If you compare apples-to-apples, it’s up at least a point.

    • Jaskologist says:

      This deserves to be highlighted in an edit to the OP.

    • Aevylmar says:

      The statement “Donald Trump got fewer votes than Mitt Romney did in 2012” is wrong, at least by Wikipedia’s count: It says that Romney got 60,933,504, while Trump got 62,984,825. Running that and a population through a calculator suggests that this is higher (though not much higher) than population increase, though I checked population and not registered voters.

      (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2012

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election,_2016)

  14. OptimalSolver says:

    I’m surprised that no one ever mentions the obvious regarding the most recent election: Americans just will not vote for a woman President. Specifically, American women (who are the voting majority) will not vote a woman into the top job.

    The Democrats really miscalculated on that one. They assumed an old grandma has the same ability to drive votes as a young, charismatic black guy.

    • needtobecomestronger says:

      I don’t see how that’s obvious, given that I have seen no evidence of this. I do think that calling Bernie supporters “Bernie Bros” and claiming them to be sexist probably didn’t endear them much to Clinton (though most voted for her anyway). Also, running on the platform “Hi I am a woman” is maybe just not a very effective way at mobilizing anyone but feminists who were going to vote for her regardless. Perhaps if she had drunk just a bit less of her own kool aid…

      The charisma part you mention played a much bigger part, I suspect.

      • reasoned argumentation says:

        Perhaps if she had drunk just a bit less of her own kool aid…

        … or whiskey.

    • Aapje says:

      They did a re-enactment of a debate with the genders swapped (so Trump was a woman and Clinton a man). People really, really hated male Clinton.

      So perhaps the issue was not that Clinton was a woman, but that she was the wrong woman.

    • gbdub says:

      Who is this “no one”? I literally have hardcore Hillary supporters still pushing this on my Facebook feed from time to time, and immediately after the election it was non stop. Somebody is writing the articles they share.

      The problem is these tend to be the same people for whom “I’m a woman, and it’s my turn” was all they needed from Clinton to get on board.

      Women have won plenty of elections (including 41 who have served as governor) so clearly “no one will vote for a woman” is a myth.

      Hillary just happened to be a woman who turns people off as a campaigner, and came with 3 decades of dirty laundry to boot. Obama was a fresh, charismatic face to project your hopes and dreams on. Dems need to find another one of those, of any gender, if they want to win in 2020.

      • Matt M says:

        When South Carolina is willing to elect a female first-generation immigrant as governor, I think any and all “X type of person can’t win in America because of prejudice” arguments should be considered null and void.

        • gbdub says:

          Oddly, most of the people blaming sexism for Hillary’s loss are not big fans of Nikki Haley, let alone Sarah Palin.

      • BBA says:

        Even before the election, I was already exasperated with the Clinton narrative that she was The Most Qualified Presidential Candidate Ever and any criticism of her was 100% misogyny. “Uncharismatic” is a misogynistic slur, don’tcha know.

        This will continue until we finally elect a Democratic woman to the presidency, which I don’t expect to happen for a very long time.

        • Aapje says:

          It’s even more silly since this election came after having a Black president. If Obama had lost, the narrative would have obviously been the same (Americans don’t accept a Black president).

          It should be obvious that being Black is at least as much of a hurdle as being a woman, so if Obama could do it, then the first explanation when a woman loses should be her attributes, not her gender.

          • Matt M says:

            Also weird coming from the same type of people who despise Sarah Palin, and actively promote the narrative that McCain might very well have won if it wasn’t for her.

    • Sandy says:

      I’m surprised by the confidence with which liberals assert that America will never vote for a woman President while simultaneously alleging that the drop in black turnout was the product of gerrymandering/voter ID laws/etc. rather than black voters deciding not to vote for an old white lady trying to replace a black man, or at least being disinclined to turn out for said old white lady.

      • Brad says:

        What makes you think OptimalSolver is a liberal?

      • Steve Sailer says:

        Hillary lost because blacks didn’t turn out for her like they turned out for Obama. Why? Because she’s not black.

        If you want to understand politics, watch the fourth episode of the miniseries “The People vs. O.J. Simpson” that’s about jury selection in the O.J. trial. (Currently on Netflix.) If Johnny Cochran were alive today, he could explain to the Democrats how things really work.

        • Lirio says:

          You keep saying this like it explains everything, but i do not think that it does. Yes it is true that if blacks had turned out for Clinton like they did for Obama she would have likely won, but the margin of her loss was so narrow that this is also true of other groups. Many Democratic voters of various demographics stayed home or voted Third Party. The latter is particularly true of young people, who by and large did turn out, but only to protest vote. If those voters had stayed Democratic, then Clinton would have very likely won Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and with them the election.

          In fact, since it frustrates me when other people make assertions without numbers to back them up, i’m going to go ahead and put some numbers here. Clinton lost Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin by respectively 44 292, 10 704, and 22 748 votes.(1) The difference in third party votes between 2016 (2) and 2012 (3) in those states is 135 266 in Pensylvania, 148 847 in Wisconsin, and 199 766. You can see that with but one third of the increase in third party votes staying with her, Clinton would be President.

          Fact is people in general didn’t vote for Clinton like they did for Obama because she simply isn’t the calibre of politician that Obama is and had a lot of baggage to boot. What’s more the margins by which she lost are so narrow that she didn’t even need Obama level turnout. If blacks had turned out for Hillary like they did for Bill she would have very likely won. So even the notion that you have to be black to earn the black vote doesn’t really hold up.

          At the end of the day, there were multiple paths to victory for the a Democratic candidate in 2016, and frankly i think all of them are “Don’t be Hillary Clinton running against Donald Trump”. Even the results of that were very much on the margins, and entirely due to the quirks of the electoral college. With less than 80 000 votes deciding the election, it’s entirely possible that it was down to random variation, and a do-over without changing any of the initial conditions could just as easily given us President Clinton.

          (1) http://www.weeklystandard.com/the-election-came-down-to-77744-votes-in-pennsylvania-wisconsin-and-michigan-updated/article/2005323
          (2) https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/133Eb4qQmOxNvtesw2hdVns073R68EZx4SfCnP4IGQf8
          (3) https://transition.fec.gov/pubrec/fe2012/federalelections2012.pdf

          • gbdub says:

            But could Hillary have gotten even a third of the third party voters? I don’t think even 100% of Jill Stein gets her there, and I don’t think too many people “protest voted” Hillary by picking Johnson – I know a lot more people who voted Johnson but would have picked generic Republican over Hillary in a hot second if they had the option.

          • Lirio says:

            Not a third of third party voters, but a third of the increase in third party voters. In fact, she only needs that much in Pennsylvania, in Wisconsin she needs a sixth, and in Michigan only six percent.

            The point is, if Clinton hadn’t been a candidate about as exciting and trustworthy as a truckload of mystery meat, it’s very likely she would have gotten both greater black turnout and more people voting for her instead of third party. That probably would have been enough to put her over the top, because at those margins she really doesn’t need much.

            In other words, it seems to me that Clinton being a thoroughly mediocre and uninspiring candidate was the problem. Well that and random bad luck, but you can’t control your luck, only hedge against it.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            If blacks had turned out for Hillary like they did for Bill she would have very likely won.

            Black turnout in 2016 fell back to 2004 levels, higher than 1992/2000 levels, much higher than 1996.
            Here is a source that has the whole time series. Most sources look a little different, matching my text, but this puts 1992 closer to 1996 than to 2000. Maybe it puts eligibility in the denominator and most don’t.

          • Lirio says:

            Ugh, that’ll teach me to assume i’m remembering all my numbers correctly. Nevertheless, i still think there’s an intermediary black turnout position between Hillary Clinton and Obama that you don’t have to be black to achieve. Like, 2004 was when the Democrats ran a wooden plank in a suit as their candidate. While i don’t dispute that Clinton may have had better odds if she had been black, she would have had better odds if she’d been all sorts of other things too. The problems with Clinton were who she is, not what she isn’t.

            And also the vagaries of fortune, which i feel i must again emphasize because no one else even deigns to mention them. Perhaps people just don’t seem to like admitting that sometimes we’re at the mercy of a cosmic random number generator.

          • Steve Sailer says:

            “Black turnout in 2016 fell back to 2004 levels”

            In other words, with a white Democrat in 2016, black turnout fell back to the last time the Democrats ran a white candidate: 2004.

    • Tracy W says:

      Why do you assume that? Margaret Thatcher won three elections in the UK, Helen Clark three elections in NZ, what’s the difference between those two electorates and the American one that makes you think the US in particular would never vote for a woman President?

      • Steve Sailer says:

        I recall hearing on the radio when Margaret Thatcher became the leader of the Tory Party over 40 years ago.

    • AnonYEmous says:

      https://www.nytimes.com/2016/10/25/upshot/the-problem-for-women-is-not-winning-its-deciding-to-run.html?_r=0

      A variety of research has found that women are as likely as men to win, and that voters decide based on a candidate’s party, not gender.

      They include some equivocation right afterwards, but it’s the NYT; what do you expect?

    • deadpan says:

      She won the popular vote by 2%… the result was so close that any number of minor events might have tipped the balance. Drawing that conclusion is insane.

    • Alex Zavoluk says:

      Clinton won the popular vote.

      That fact is mostly irrelevant because we have the EC, but I think the idea that Americans won’t vote for a woman is preposterous.

      • Matt M says:

        And, to get at my point above, even in the specific places where she didn’t win, many of them have voted for women in other political contests.

    • vV_Vv says:

      I’m surprised that no one ever mentions the obvious regarding the most recent election: Americans just will not vote for a woman President.

      Muh sexism!

      Specifically, American women (who are the voting majority) will not vote a woman into the top job.

      They will not vote for a woman just because she is a woman. This is what the Democrats really miscalculated.

      • reasoned argumentation says:

        They will not vote for a woman just because she is a woman. This is what the Democrats really miscalculated.

        Nah, the Democrats were right about that. Hillary the woman gets more votes than Henry the man with the same background.

        Clearly it isn’t possible to have a controlled experiment to show this but the NYU gender bent debates play is really really suggestive.

        • Matt M says:

          Just think, Trump may be the only thing that spared us from Hillary vs Jeb! (who is basically “the man with the same background”)

          • Nornagest says:

            I doubt it. Jeb! was never doing well, even if you took Trump out of the field — it would have been Cruz or Rubio or maybe Kasich at a long shot.

            Positioning-wise, Cruz would probably have been the most likely guy to pick up Trump’s delegates, but on the other hand he might have even less charisma than Hillary.

        • vV_Vv says:

          Nah, the Democrats were right about that. Hillary the woman gets more votes than Henry the man with the same background.

          Maybe in some circles, but not enough to provide a decisive advantage, and possibly overall the whole vote-for-her-because-vagina strategy might have backfired and be a net loss of votes.

          • Aapje says:

            I think it was a major mistake to make this a campaign issue. The people who (strongly) favor a female president have eyes and don’t have to be told. The others weren’t going to vote for her just for this reason and would generally just be turned off by the sexism.

  15. CMShroeder says:

    Sorry, one more and probably where I should have begun. All this based on polling and panel data is iinteresting (though I am suspect of any general polls today as it’s so hard and even illegal to reach folks on mobile devices making which says something about reliability of age demographic). Anyhow, the role of money in all this, and how this skews outcome and mindset iin the hands of each of the end of the spectrum using iit creatively strikes me as an essential part of the analysis.

    • Yeah, Hillary spending twice as much as Trump made her win inevitable.

      Perhaps if one looked at where the spending occurred, this could help explain the result. But I think the vast disparity between spending and results made the 2016 presidential race a very good example to show that spending is over-rated as the cause of election results.

  16. bintchaos says:

    The problem with this whole argument is you are assuming uniform homogeneity of phenoptype and neurotype (brain chemistry) between the Red Tribe (conservative tendency) and the Blue Tribe (liberal tendency). The sub-populations are not the same, and they have been diverging since the mid 90s. Swing voters would be cross-migration– is that happening?
    Can’t it just be that extremism is more effective for one side (the Red Tribe) ?
    Your examples from Current Affairs and Daily Kos express the same sentiment that Frank Rich does here:

    In a presidential election, a revamped economic program and a new generation of un-Clinton leaders may well win back the genuine swing voters who voted for Trump, whether Democratic defectors in the Rust Belt or upscale suburbanites who just couldn’t abide Hillary. But that’s a small minority of Trump’s electorate. Otherwise, the Trump vote is overwhelmingly synonymous with the Republican Party as a whole.
    That makes it all the more a fool’s errand for Democrats to fudge or abandon their own values to cater to the white-identity politics of the hard-core, often self-sabotaging Trump voters who helped drive the country into a ditch on Election Day. They will stick with him even though the numbers say that they will take a bigger financial hit than Clinton voters under the Republican health-care plan. As Trump himself has said, in a rare instance of accuracy, they won’t waver even if he stands in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoots somebody. While you can’t blame our new president for loving “the poorly educated” who gave him that blank check, the rest of us are entitled to abstain. If we are free to loathe Trump, we are free to loathe his most loyal voters, who have put the rest of us at risk.


    Like Frank Rich says, there is evidence that the Red Tribe votes against their own self-interest (the interests of their offspring in environmental preservation and education) in large numbers.
    I understand that your desire is to nurture a persuadable cohort of conservative tendency upper IQ and SES here by allowing them to express themselves and debate in a safe environment with strict formal rules for discussion.
    What I see here is just doubling down.
    We just aren’t the same.
    I would say democrats are catching on to that…getting wiser.
    Here is a postmortem from the election on the white working class from Harvard Business review.
    I thought it was really good.

    Understand How Class Divisions Have Translated into Geography
    The best advice I’ve seen so far for Democrats is the recommendation that hipsters move to Iowa. Class conflict now closely tracks the urban-rural divide. In the huge red plains between the thin blue coasts, shockingly high numbers of working-class men are unemployed or on disability, fueling a wave of despair deaths in the form of the opioid epidemic.
    Vast rural areas are withering away, leaving trails of pain. When did you hear any American politician talk about that? Never.
    Jennifer Sherman’s Those Who Work, Those Who Don’t (2009) covers this well.


    Like I said before, Dr. Alexander, you are prescribing “talk-therapy” for a raging schizophrenic.
    Its not going to work.

    Had Hochschild conducted her Louisiana experiment, as Williams suggests, in Iowa or the Rust Belt towns hollowed out by factory closings and the opioid epidemic, the results would have been no more fruitful. You need not take a liberal’s word for this. The toughest critics of white blue-collar Trump voters are conservatives. Witness Kevin D. Williamson, who skewered “the white working class’s descent into dysfunction” in National Review as Trump was piling up his victories in the GOP primaries last March. Raised in working-class West Texas, Williamson had no interest in emulating the efforts of coastal liberals to scale empathy walls. Instead, he condemns Trump voters for being “in thrall to a vicious, selfish culture whose main products are misery and used heroin needles.” He chastises them for embracing victimhood by blaming their plight on “outside forces” like globalization, the Establishment, China, Washington, immigrants — and “the Man” who “closed the factories down.” He concludes: “Donald Trump’s speeches make them feel good. So does OxyContin.”
    Though some in Williamson’s ideological camp recoiled from his blunt language, he’s no outlier among conservatives. The popular blogger Erick Erickson tweeted last year that “a lot of Trump voters have failed at life and blame others for their own poor decisions.” His and Williamson’s line of attack echoes the conservative sociologist Charles Murray, most recently famous for being shouted down at Middlebury College in Vermont, where some remembered his co-authorship of The Bell Curve, a Clinton-era slab of spurious science positing that racial genetics play a role in limiting blacks’ performance on I.Q. tests. In a 2012 Obama-era sequel titled Coming Apart: The State of White America 1960–2010, Murray switched his focus to whites and reprimanded those in the lower strata for abandoning family values and civic virtues. (This time, the culprit was not the genetic code but the anything-goes social mores wrought by leftist 1960s counterculture.)


    Divergence.

    • Sandy says:

      People like Frank Rich never seem to consider that white working class voters may vote in accordance with what they consider to be their racial interests. Or they may consider it, but they just find it uncouth to express or acknowledge the fact that people have racial interests.

      And if it needed to be said, Kevin Williamson is an evil, soulless piece of garbage and people like him have no right to whine about how their brand of “principled conservatism” has been replaced by Trumpism.

      • bintchaos says:

        You are just proving my point with your kill the messenger argument.
        The Red Tribe has been unpersuadable for a while–they wont even listen to their own standard bearers.
        The Blue Tribe is learning this, as the Current Affairs and Daily Kos point out.
        There is a lot of this post election analysis.
        The liberal consensus is that its useless to try to reach GOP base voters.

        • Sandy says:

          I’m saying those are not standard bearers. Nobody fucking reads National Review or RedState. I most commonly see them linked on liberal sites like The Atlantic or NPR where some liberal cites them as an example of “Look, this is what conservatives think!”. You’d do better citing radio hosts like Mark Levin and Laura Ingraham, but liberals don’t listen to them and it’s not as easy to link people to their shows in an Atlantic article.

          Freddie deBoer actually had a tweetstorm a couple of days back where he argued that while the left might scoff at people like Mark Lilla, Mark Penn and (to some extent) Jon Haidt who say the Democratic Party should “moderate”, they should engage with these people seriously because their arguments, even if they are stupid, are devoured eagerly by the neoliberal thinktanks and strategists in the Democratic Party who determine the party’s direction and are averse to Sanders-style politics.

          As for whether that’s “the liberal consensus”, I’d say you’re wrong, because as near as a few weeks ago you had the GA-06 election where Democratic strategists like Brian Fallon openly declared they were going to win by going after “Romney voters”; moderate Republicans averse to Trump, since the district has a lot of well-off suburban Republicans. That didn’t work either. But they’ll look at the race’s margins and they’ll try again, that’s how consultants and pundits make their money.

          • bintchaos says:

            I am saying there is a trend in the democratic standard bearers to quit trying with the GOP base.
            The base has rejected the GOP establishment and GOP public intellectuals as “cucks”.
            Freddie deBoer is just a grievous waste of spacetime.
            Ossoff improved on performance in GA-06 by 15% points– if dems get an 8% switch or above they get the House at midterms.
            I am saying, the new trend is to reject engagement with the GOP base because they are unpersuadable.

          • gbdub says:

            I doubt a more extreme Democrat would have won GA-06 either. Bigger issue there is they tried to turn a local race into a national referendum, and the first step toward swing Congress – not surprising that Republicans, moderate or otherwise, aren’t going to jump on board for losing the House.

            But they might have swung for a Dem that promised them something locally sweet enough.

          • Sandy says:

            I am saying, the new trend is to reject engagement with the GOP base because they are unpersuadable.

            I’m saying you have absolutely no idea that this is actually a trend. As late as 2 or 3 weeks ago, it wasn’t a trend. Since then you’ve read a Current Affairs article about “the new trend”. But it’s paid strategists who decide what course the party’s going to follow, not people who write articles for Current Affairs. People like Brian Fallon still think the path to victory runs through the Panera Breads of America.

            Ossoff improved on performance in GA-06 by 15% points– if dems get an 8% switch or above they get the House at midterms.

            Yeah, and come 2018, Karen Handel will win that seat by double digits, because the Democrats won’t spend 5 bucks there when they have 200-odd other seats to defend and more to vie for. $30 million on the most expensive House race of all time actually has an effect on the result. But good luck to you.

          • bintchaos says:

            Since then you’ve read a Current Affairs article about “the new trend”.


            ??
            I just quoted extensively from a New Yorker article published in March, and from Harvard Business Review.
            I have repeatedly linked Arlie Hoschild’s book Strangers in Their Own Land. I can link a whole lot more if you like, published in the months since the election. Democrats are giving up on reaching the GOP base– they are unpersuadable. Your money-speak proves this, doesnt it? Even though dems spent 30 million they couldn’t win in Jesusland. 😉

            But good luck to you.


            Best of luck to you as well.

          • Winfried says:

            @bintchaos

            If deBoer is a waste of spacetime, what are you?

          • bintchaos says:

            If deBoer is a waste of spacetime, what are you?


            duh.
            a revolutionary heretic.

          • Nornagest says:

            If deBoer is a waste of spacetime, what are you?

            This argument is stupid, but you aren’t helping.

      • jhertzlinger says:

        Other than that he’s okay?

    • cassander says:

      If you’re a white guy without a college degree, there is no economic interest in voting for democrats. They don’t benefit from subsidies to higher education, you didn’t go, and if you or your kids tried you’d be actively discriminated against.

      They don’t benefit from the means tested welfare state because you make too much money, but you do have to pay moderately high taxes to fund it.

      You are much more likely than any other demographic to work in a brown industry like resource extraction that the democrats openly brag about legislating out of existence, and if you don’t, you probably know or work with people who do.

      In what way is it rational to vote for people who will tax you, give the money to others, make your job illegal, and do it all while lecturing you about how privileged you are because of your race and sex? Whites with no college degree are the most republican demographic in the country, and it isn’t mass delusion, it’s hard economic reality. The republicans don’t offer them much, but they at least aren’t actively and publicly plotting against them.

      • bintchaos says:

        You and I agree.
        Unpersuadable.
        So why waste resources trying? Thats the point Frank Rich and Kos, Harvard Business Review, and CurrentAffairs and scores of other articles are making. The number of actual swing voters is vanishingly small in the Age of Polarization.
        If polarization is increasing then doesnt that mean the appeal of extremism is increasing?
        Scott’s better angels arguments are past their sell by date.

        • cassander says:

          Unpersuadable.

          “Cannot be persuaded to vote to abolish their own existence” is not a synonymy for “unpersuadable”.

          Thats the point Frank Rich and Kos, Harvard Business Review, and CurrentAffairs and scores of other articles are making.

          No, it isn’t. They argue that those voters are very persuadable, and are actively being persuaded by cultural issues.

          • bintchaos says:

            Strawman.
            So beneath you.
            Those GOP base voters are unpersuadable to Blue Tribe membership.
            Shall I use unreachable for clarification?

            The centrist think tank Third Way is focusing on the Rust Belt in a $20 million campaign that its president, a former Clinton White House aide, says will address the question of how “you restore Democrats as a national party that can win everywhere.” Here is one answer that costs nothing: You can’t, and you don’t. The party is a wreck. Post-Obama-Clinton, its most admired national leaders (Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren) are of Social Security age. It rules no branch of federal government, holds only 16 governorships, and controls only 14 state legislatures. The Democrats must set priorities. In a presidential election, a revamped economic program and a new generation of un-Clinton leaders may well win back the genuine swing voters who voted for Trump, whether Democratic defectors in the Rust Belt or upscale suburbanites who just couldn’t abide Hillary. But that’s a small minority of Trump’s electorate. Otherwise, the Trump vote is overwhelmingly synonymous with the Republican Party as a whole.

          • cassander says:

            As has been repeatedly explained to you, the democratic party is not synonymous with blue tribe, nor the GOP with red. We are discussing how red tribers can be recruited by Democrats, not conquered by blue tribe. Most of us here consider out and out tribal warfare a bad thing, even if it’s mediated through democratic politics.

          • albatross11 says:

            There are three kinds of persuasion that matter:

            BEST: I convince you to stop voting for the other guys and start voting for my side

            GOOD: I convince you to stop voting for the other guys and stay home, if you were previously voting for them.

            GOOD: I convince you to come to the polls and vote for my side, when you were previously staying home but broadly supported my side.

            All three of those are kinds of persuasion political campaigns try to do. For example, I’ve read the claim that the Trump campaign expended a lot of effort convincing black voters to stay home on election day. I have no idea how successful that was–fewer black voters showed up, but who knows whether that was from Trump’s ads or Hillary’s negative charisma.

      • bintchaos says:

        You are much more likely than any other demographic to work in a brown industry like resource extraction that the democrats openly brag about legislating out of existence, and if you don’t, you probably know or work with people who do.


        So you vote for people that are openly lying to you about their ability to “bring back” brown industries and “good manufacturing jobs” while mercilessly farming you for votes and cruelly and rapaciously exploiting your environment?
        I have sympathy for the Red Tribe…just no empathy.

        • Matt M says:

          The person who promises to try to bring back your dying industry is probably more likely to do so (even if this isn’t likely in an absolute sense) than the one who announces that your industry is destroying the Earth and plans to do everything possible to bring about its demise as quickly as possible.

      • Brad says:

        They don’t benefit from the means tested welfare state because you make too much money, but you do have to pay moderately high taxes to fund it.

        Per the link at least a quarter of them don’t make too much money to qualify.

        Also: is this a straight cut and paste of a prior comment?

        • cassander says:

          It’s a mishmash of a couple previous comments. The point remains true, and relevant whenever people bring of the what’s the matter with Kansas nonsense.

          A quarter is a pretty small minority, and while those people don’t make too much money now, they almost certainly will in the future, and know that.

          • Brad says:

            I had a weird sense of déjà vu when I read it.

            To your point: you think the percentiles are strongly correlated by age? That there’s only trivial numbers of fifty year old white guys without a college degree making $20k a year?

          • cassander says:

            That’s my belief, yes. Hard to say for sure because while I’ve often found figures broken down by age, race, and education level, or any two of the three, I’m not aware of any broken down by all three to give you income percentiles for white men over 40 with no college degree.

          • Brad says:

            You can get detailed data from here:
            https://cps.ipums.org/cps/index.shtml

            I picked the 2016 Annual Social and Economic (ASEC) supplement to the Current Population Survey. I requested only White men between the ages of 45 and 54 (inclusive). From the resulting data set I selected only non-Hispanic people with high school diplomas (no college). I then looked at total pre-tax personal income.

            4.5% had zero or negative income. 21.5% had income less than $20k, 27.7% below $25k. The median was between $40k and $45k.

            If I instead included everyone with less than a bachelor’s degree the numbers are:
            4.44% zero or negative, 20.80% less than $20k, 26.36% below $25k, and the median is right around $45k.

          • cassander says:

            @Brad

            Household income would be a better measure, I think.

          • Brad says:

            I didn’t use the weight variable like I was supposed to either. I’m going to give it another shot but this thread may be buried by the time I get back to it.

      • pdbarnlsey says:

        In what way is it rational to vote for people who will tax you, give the money to others

        Maybe take a look at the distribution of Trump’s proposed tax cuts by wealth. Part of the genius of the republican Kansas strategy is to make generalised dislike of “taxes” an all-purposes stand in for any attempt to redistribute money from the ultra rich to, well, anyone else really.

        If you can foster an innumeracy around tax burden in your base, so much the better…

        you probably know or work with people who do

        You probably also know or work alongside immigrants, the poor, people who might one day want an abortion, etc, etc. But it’s not an accident that empathy is more likely to be directed at coal miners than school teachers.

    • tscharf says:

      It amazes me that people say these things out loud and simultaneously believe they are tolerant and fair minded. You might want to review our host’s previous post on “I Can Tolerate Anything But The Out Group”. I don’t think our host is trying to convert anyone.

      Along the way you might be very surprised to notice that a sizable portion of the left’s voter base aren’t Nobel laureates and have some cultural dysfunction of their very own. See how easy it is to punch down? I could even try to paint the entire blue tribe with that irredeemable brush. My guess is you would find that objectionable.

      The fact you bring up and demonize Murray’s “slab of spurious science” while making a “phenoptype and neurotype” argument without evidence for the left’s non-extremism is cognitive dissonance of the highest order.

      • bintchaos says:

        The fact you bring up and demonize Murray’s “slab of spurious science” while making a “phenoptype and neurotype” argument without evidence for the left’s non-extremism is cognitive dissonance of the highest order.

        Thats a quote.
        I always recommend Dr. Haier’s book on the neuroscience of intelligence.
        My position is isomorphic with his.
        I also never said the left has some “non-extremism” trait…I just said extremism isnt uniform (neither in form or function) across the two tribes.
        But my main point is that actual swing voters and/or independents are vanishing in an age of increasing polarization.

    • @bintchaos

      Can’t it just be that extremism is more effective for one side (the Red Tribe) ?

      In America specifically? As a general theory of political history it wouldn’t work, as we’ve seen extreme left movements have great success outside America, and even more so outside the West altogether.

      • bintchaos says:

        Jeez must I reset context everytime I comment?
        Yes, in America.
        Current Affairs and dKos are writing about America.
        The studies cited are conducted in America.
        Can America just be the default here?
        I haven’t even begun to to try to extend my model globally.

      • The brain chemistry of American rightists and leftists being so different from their counterparts in Europe and elsewhere does warrant an explanation. Or maybe it’s nothing so intractable and innate sounding as that?

    • foggen says:

      There’s an suggestion of uncertain credibility that more-educated people tend to skew blue vs red. If that’s the case, it may also be true that more-educated people are somewhat more likely to have decent critical thinking skills and will therefore require more nuanced positions from their candidates. That’s not to say that bad ideas and arguments don’t flourish on the left, just that maybe there are a couple of percentage points’ difference in aggregate when it comes to the effectiveness of extremist/partisan rhetoric.

      • bintchaos says:

        Its not “uncertain credibility”.
        I have linked multiple studies that correlate educational attainment with liberal voting in the last election.
        If I wanted to be really offensive I could point out that educational attainment is commonly used as a proxy for IQ in GWAS.
        EDIT:
        Related– just came up on my TL
        Most republicans think college is ruining America

        The poll, conducted by Pew Research Center, found that 58 percent of Republicans feel colleges and universities “have a negative effect on the country,” with just 36 percent supporting higher education. The proportion of Republican-leaning voters who are anti-college has shot up in recent years, spiking by 21 percentage points from 2015 to 2017. That figure jumped 13 percentage points over the past year alone.


        Colleges and Universities (educational attainment) are now another polarized issue in a country where the middle ground has been burnt and sewn with salt.
        I have seen the “rationalist community” here call for the US university system to be “burned to the ground.”
        No significant differences in the Red Tribe.

        • albatross11 says:

          bintchaos:

          You have seen some people on SSC say that. You haven’t seen everyone or even a majority say that.

          The world really, truly can’t be understood very well by lumping everyone on SSC (or everyone who voted for Trump, or everyone who watches NASCAR) together into an undifferentiated lump with a single uniform opinion and set of emotions. There is not actually all that much intellectual uniformity among SSC commenters.

          • Aapje says:

            We can’t even agree whether bintchaos should be banned, for example.

          • bintchaos says:

            This isnt a “democracy”, Aapje.
            You dont get to vote me away.

          • Randy M says:

            There’s two kinds of people in the world, those who divide people into groups and… wait, I’m slipping off my moral high horse here…

          • bintchaos says:

            All the red-brain biochemistry reps on SSC are entirely isomorphic.
            I dont see much protest about the find-Kevin-a-mail-order-bride or kill-all-the-terrorist’s-women-and-children or burn-down-the-universities.
            No significant difference.

          • Iain says:

            All the red-brain biochemistry reps on SSC are entirely isomorphic.
            I dont see much protest about the find-Kevin-a-mail-order-bride or kill-all-the-terrorist’s-women-and-children or burn-down-the-universities.

            There are many ways to accurately characterize the discussion upthread about killing the families of terrorists, but “not much protest” is not one of them.

          • bintchaos says:

            BS.
            Some weak protest from the token liberal mouthpieces here.
            Its all about identity, all the way down.
            Nothing else matters.

          • Skivverus says:

            I dont see much protest about the find-Kevin-a-mail-order-bride or kill-all-the-terrorist’s-women-and-children or burn-down-the-universities.

            If your standard for whether people think differently is based only on what they object to, rather than what they say, your standard could stand a refinement.

            Edit: Also, what Iain said. (positive evidence in favor of your groupthink hypothesis, I suppose…?)

          • bintchaos says:

            This isnt a rationalist community…its a rationalizing community.
            Theres a rationalization for every Trump grotesquery, every propped dictator, every US aggression, injustice, or “pre-emptive strike”.

          • Brad says:

            Feel free to go away.

          • Iain says:

            “Everybody here is hard-right, except the people who aren’t, who obviously don’t count” is not a compelling claim.

            Of course, I suppose you are only making it because of your own identity politics. It is, after all, identity all the way down.

          • bintchaos says:

            Of course, I suppose you are only making it because of your own identity politics. It is, after all, identity all the way down.


            This is correct.
            We have no shared language, no common ground. I thought SSC was a place where there was a potential for common ground. The ugliness of the kill-terrorists-families discussion has totally fragged that hypoth.
            Well, it was fragile anyways.
            We are not all one, are we?
            My take-away is biology always wins.
            Thats where I came in I guess.

          • albatross11 says:

            bintchaos:

            Do you think your own positions on issues are determined entirely by your identity as a member of the blue tribe? If the blue tribe shifts its general position on, say, trans rights[1] or free trade, will you follow suit?

            [1] I would be utterly unsurprised by such a shift, because the forces pushing the blue tribe toward greater recognition of trans rights seem to me to be unlikely to remain in the driver’s seat for all that long.

          • Nornagest says:

            bintchaos, if you can’t change your mind and won’t change the subject, can you at least find some new catchphrases? This business about “rationalizing community” and “standing on the tracks of history hollering stop” is beginning to wear a little thin.

          • bintchaos says:

            @ALBATROSS11

            Do you think your own positions on issues are determined entirely by your identity as a member of the blue tribe?


            No. My membership is determined entirely by my opposition to the hateful policies and beliefs of the Red Tribe.
            Red Tribe members are forced into the Red Tribe because its the only way they can win going forward. They have lost culture and academe, retaining only the military and the government.
            I do not care about transgender bathrooms.
            But the ugliness, injustice, inhumanity and …well…stupidity… of common Red Tribe positions means I’m forced into the Blue Tribe.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, everyone knows that in the rationalist community, you don’t stand on the tracks hollering “stop,” you go look for a fat man to push onto the tracks!

          • Gobbobobble says:

            My membership is determined entirely by my opposition to the hateful policies and beliefs of the Red Tribe.

            Either there’s a 3rd option – which you have been strenuously denying – or this is isomorphic to “identity as a member of the blue tribe”

          • tscharf says:

            The moral dilemma gets a lot easier depending on who we are pushing on the tracks…

          • albatross11 says:

            bintchaos:

            Do you imagine that there might be anyone who identifies with the red tribe who would make the same kind of statement in the other direction? Because I think I could find a few here in the SSC comment threads. Indeed, that’s a major thread running through commentary about SJW issues here, right–lots of people who find themselves opposing SJW types because their methods are so destructive and nasty, even while agreeing with many of their goals.

            A model of the world is nice to have–it helps you make sense of your environment. But it’s important to remember George Box’s wonderful line: All models lie, but some models are useful. The red tribe/blue tribe model seems to me to have very little predictive power in this environment. You can sort-of hammer everyone here into it, but reality isn’t actually a good fit for that model.

          • bintchaos says:

            Gobobbole, albatross11:
            No, I just finally get it…its about survival.
            When I started commenting here I was unconvinced that the middle ground was all gone. I thought there might be dialog and persuasion.
            You convinced me thats not possible…I just don’t think transgender bathrooms and gay wedding cakes are comparable to carpet bombing whole Sunni neighborhoods or bulldozing Palestinian houses.
            Those horrible SJWs want to make you bake gay wedding cakes!
            yeah, right.
            But it is all about survival. You just demonstrated my survival depends on tribalism. So, Blue Tribe for me all the way.
            I might have been agnostic before, but the sheer pure-D ugliness of the kill-the-terrorists-families thread convinced me.

          • Nornagest says:

            Funny, I think I’ve heard that exact rant from rightists on here before, just with the pretexts swapped.

            I might even have heard it in this thread.

          • The ugliness of the kill-terrorists-families discussion has totally fragged that hypoth.

            One of the things I like about SSC is that you can have a civil discussion with someone who is offering an intelligent defense of a position almost everyone is against. That apparently makes you uncomfortable.

            I suggest a simple calculation. Look down the thread, count up how many people were arguing in favor of killing the families of terrorists, how many against. Compare that to an estimate of the total number of posters, or perhaps the number who post fairly often, which we’ve seen given in past comments.

            Then rethink the question of how solidly based your beliefs are.

          • Red Tribe members are forced into the Red Tribe because its the only way they can win going forward. They have lost culture and academe …

            I’m still waiting to discover whether you regard me as a member of the Red Tribe, but my guess from some of your rants is that you do. I don’t think I have lost academe–unwonted modesty forbids me from offering details.

          • @bintchaos

            the token liberal mouthpieces here.

            You seem to be continually playing up the right wing nature of SSC. Apparently, you came here to give rightists one last chance even.

            The comment section is very slightly right biased vs the left at least, but not massively so (32% left-wing, 36% right-wing, 18% libertarian (note: of both kinds), 6% other, 8% unknown):
            http://slatestarcodex.com/2017/03/17/ssc-survey-2017-results/#comment-478188

            …and it’s hardly a den of extreme reactionaries where the few leftists are merely for show. The fact that we will debate things that are on the extreme right shouldn’t be any more consequential than the fact that we’ve debated the merits of Stalin’s central planning and industrialization program before (I’d argue that Stalin on net saved more lives than he cost). A rationalist community should come with a content warning that nothing is sacred. We try to be polite, but we’re not wimps here.

            Our non-rightists are not token posters. They are valuable members of the community.

            No hard feelings.

        • tscharf says:

          There is an assumption here that educated people / high IQ must be better at governance of the uneducated than the uneducated would be at governing themselves.

          What happens if having a high IQ is not a magic inoculation from greed and self serving power hoarding?

          Perhaps lower IQ people have noticed that they are not being served well by those that profess to have superior skills. It’s possible they may be correct about this even though they apparently only have the critical thinking skills of a rock according to the “educated”.

          I would suggest that is exactly what we are seeing. The uneducated have noticed their lot in life isn’t improving and those with this magical elixir of education are doing quite well. When the educated tell the uneducated they just need to drink more magic elixir it is being received with a dose of skepticism.

          It may be that the uneducated are a victim of their own circumstances and global forces, it may also be that the educated have constructed a system of governance and economics that is self serving.

          What is very probable is that the educated have lost the mandate to rule the uneducated. The demeaning attitude by some is quite unhelpful, one would expect that the self professed geniuses in society would know better.

          Bottom line is the educated believe the “eliteness gap” is much larger than it actually is and they attribute to it a superiority on all things that is improper.

          • albatross11 says:

            It’s quite likely that high-IQ people who overwhelmingly associate only with other high-IQ people are generally pretty bad at recognizing situations that are a minor pain in the ass to smart people, but a huge impediment to dumb people.

            Consider adding a requirement that every kid has to pass Algebra 2 in order to graduate high school. This wouldn’t have been a problem for me, my wife, my sister, any of my coworkers, or probably anyone I hang around with in my normal life. If you want passing Algebra 2 to mean anything in terms of being ready for precalc, then it is a very big problem for a kid with an IQ of 85.

            A big theme of _Coming Apart_ was that we’ve separated out on cognitive ability and education enough that it’s pretty common for smart people (especially at the top of society) to not even know anyone who isn’t at least of average intelligence. And that makes it easy to make policies that seem plausibly like they will work out okay. And then there’s this guy who just barely scraped through high school because the work was just so damned *hard*, and he’s been driving a delivery truck for a living for the last twenty years, and the smart but isolated people making rules for the society have just made some task he could previously do okay into an ordeal he can just barely complete. (“Read this ten page document full of complex instructions in bureaucratese written at a 12th grade reading level, and then use it to fill out this eight page form.”)

          • tscharf says:

            Right, or they use the smarts to automate trucks and put all truck drivers out of business. Yeah team!

            I don’t see this as some Snidely Whiplash evil plan from the central committee, but I think too many fail to realize why all this progress may not end up with them being worshiped as heroes for their efforts.

            It will be quite interesting, very interesting, to see how this pans out when their ox starts getting gored. AI starts automating their jobs out of existence.

          • hlynkacg says:

            So has anyone else here seen the The Man In The White Suit?

          • Aapje says:

            Yeah, the ending is very good.

    • Like Frank Rich says, there is evidence that the Red Tribe votes against their own self-interest (the interests of their offspring in environmental preservation and education) in large numbers.

      You are assuming that the Democratic view of both those subjects is correct. One obvious alternative is that the best way to vote for the education of your kids is to support vouchers. Red Tribe voters elected a president in favor of them, over a candidate strongly supported by the interest group that has been doing all it can for many years to block them.

      The argument translates as “if left wing views of what is good for the country are correct, then right wing voters are voting against what is good for the country.” True, but neither surprising nor interesting.

      • bintchaos says:

        You assume vouchers are good for children.
        Some of my cousins went to a private christian school on the western slope– the history text started with the birth of Jesus.
        They were taught creationism in the curriculum as an alternative to evolution.
        None of them are in college now.
        But idc really. Knock yourselves out. I’m an adherent of the Frank Rich doctrine at this point.
        I respect your right to choose.

        who are Democrats to stand in the way of Trump voters who used their ballots to commit assisted suicide?
        So hold the empathy and hold on to the anger. If Trump delivers on his promises to the “poorly educated” despite all indications to the contrary, then good for them. Once again, all the Trump naysayers will be proved wrong. But if his administration crashes into an iceberg, leaving his base trapped in America’s steerage with no lifeboats, those who survive may at last be ready to burst out of their own bubble and listen to an alternative. Or not: Maybe, like Hochschild’s new friends in Louisiana’s oil country, they’ll keep voting against their own interests until the industrial poisons left unregulated by their favored politicians finish them off altogether. Either way, the best course for Democrats may be to respect their right to choose.

        • You assume vouchers are good for children.

          I believe vouchers are good for children. My reasons for that belief are mostly economics, the general advantages of a competitive market over a government run industry, although there is by now a fair amount of data–I could point you at a source if you are interested.

          My point, however, was that you assume they are bad for children. When I questioned that assumption your response was to offer talking points from the anti-voucher movement, which is mostly the teachers’ unions. You wrote:

          DeVos was roundly criticized in Denver when she told obvious lies about the Denver public school system.

          Following your link–I’ve wondered how often bother to follow the links you post–I found that a defender of the school system she had criticized defended it. Not a single lie was mentioned, nor did you provide any when I pointed that out. You deny being blue tribe and claim to be science tribe, but in fact your response was straight tribalism uninformed by any look at the data.

          The two children of my present marriage went first to a small and unconventional private school, then were home schooled, and both went to top colleges. I went to a private school and then to a top university. That’s as much evidence as your cousins–which in both cases is not very much.

          You write as though “I know of one case where privately schooled students didn’t do very well” is enough to resolve the issue of which approach to schooling works better. That’s not science. But it’s on that level of evidence that you conclude that Red Tribe voters are voting against their interest.

          • bintchaos says:

            Vouchers may be great for urban areas where there many schools to choose from, but in rural parts of the country the choice will only be a christian school, public school, or homeschool.
            Look…the kill-the-terrorists-families, let Assad kill hundreds of thousands of of his own citizens, thats convinced me.
            I had an epiphany– you’re utterly alien to me– I can’t even begin to assimilate your positions.
            Thats why there has to be a biological component to the divergence.
            Who thinks like that?
            And I don’t care…burn the country down like the Assadists– Assad or we burn the country, thats their slogan.
            Teach kids creationism and climate science denialism.
            Poison the ground and the air and the water for jobs.
            I respect your choice.
            But don’t be surprised when the pendulum swings back.

          • cassander says:

            @bintchaos

            choose from, but in rural parts of the country the choice will only be a christian school, public school, or homeschool.

            Average salary for a teacher in the US is about 60k, average cost of k-12 education is about 12k. 5 kids with vouchers can hire a full time teacher to tutor them if they want. The idea that there won’t be schools to meet people’s needs is frankly laughable.

            But even if you’re absolutely right, that means the worst possible case is vouchers don’t make things any better. So there’s no downside and huge upside, and you’re against this why?

            let Assad kill hundreds of thousands of of his own citizens, thats convinced me

            Your ability to be convinced by arguments that no one has made is truly fascinating.

            I had an epiphany– you’re utterly alien to me– I can’t even begin to assimilate your positions.

            You might start by learning what they actually are.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Friedman
            You are so dishonest.
            How come you can use anecdote and I can’t?
            You’re ONE professor, so what?
            That christian school intellectually crippled my cousins.
            You guys whine about the blue wall of academe all the live-long day.
            Shouldn’t I believe you?
            No, you go right ahead, kill off an (older sicker) chunk of your base with the AHCA, let KSA and Russia run Trump like a toy poodle.
            I respect your choice.

            @CASSANDER
            Like I said, whatever.
            I just finally understand the implications of polarization.
            I hate you.
            You convinced me.

          • tscharf says:

            Are these the persuasion strategies you used when working for OFA or IVY? They don’t seem very effective.

          • @bintchaos

            hate
            hate
            hate

            That easy is it?

            Well, I and the rest of the commenters love you and wish you well. Have a happy and long life full of productive relationships and mutual understanding.

          • Nornagest says:

            Hey, the report button works for me again.

          • I had an epiphany– you’re utterly alien to me

            Possibly–but you might grow up, adopt the science based policy you imagine instead of the “let’s have fun pretending to be a brilliant original thinker and anyone who questions me is obviously ignorant and probably Red Tribe” one you have adopted.

            A good, if difficult, first step would be to stop bluffing, stop pretending expertise you don’t have. Along with that a little humility would go a long way.

          • Vouchers may be great for urban areas where there many schools to choose from, but in rural parts of the country the choice will only be a christian school, public school, or homeschool.

            Probably true in at least some rural areas. That’s two more alternatives than without vouchers, at least for parents who can’t presently afford those two.

          • How come you can use anecdote and I can’t?

            We can both use anecdote. As I just said in the comment I assume you are responding to, my anecdote proves as much, which is to say as little, as yours.

            You’re ONE professor, so what?

            I have spent my life as an active, productive, successful part of the academy that you insist is lost to the Red Tribe. People I have known with views at least roughly similar to mine include five Nobel prize winners in my field.

            That’s only a problem for you if you think I am part of the Red Tribe, but you have so far been unwilling to commit yourself on that, despite implying in some of your rants that practically everyone here is, that Johnson voters are really Trump supporters, and the like.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            bintchaos is banned indefinitely

          • hlynkacg says:

            I disagree with Scott in this in this particular matter but respect his decision.

            Praise the true caliph!

          • Jaskologist says:

            @Scott,

            Since you can presumably see IPs, is there any evidence that bint was Moon or NIP?

          • cassander says:

            Bint was almost certainly not going to get better, but I’m opposed on principle to perma-bans without warning. Making her write a report on one of the topics she has been criticized for before using it again would be more my style.

            @Jaskologist

            I suspected that briefly, but the style was very different. if it was, it was an impressive acting job.

          • BBA says:

            As I’ve implied before, I strongly suspect b*ntch**s is a poster who used to annoy another blog I read some years back. The posts here are somewhat more coherent, but they share enough quirks – a weeaboo-like obsession with Islam, a tendency to describe the world in terms of Firefly references, apparent experience in equestrianism – that it just seems like an incredible coincidence for there to be two young women from that part of the country who are posting on blogs I read in that manner.

            So if it was you, farewell, m*t*k*_ch*n. Maybe we’ll cross paths again in a few years.

  17. John Schilling says:

    As far as I can tell, the evidence leans against the win-by-extremism-turning-out-the-base argument. Extremists tend to do worse in elections. They don’t raise turnout of their base; in fact, they probably lower it. They may fire up their opponents’ base. And swing voters can make a big difference when a candidate appeals to them.

    I agree with most of this, reserving a bit of skepticism only for extremists actually lowering base turnout.

    But it is also worth noting that it isn’t just extremists who “fire up their opponents’ base”. By the standards of the Democratic party, Hillary Clinton is not an extremist candidate. That was Bernie Sanders this time around, could just as well have been e.g. Elizabeth Warren. But it was Hillary Centrist Clinton who fired up ten million or so Republicans who really, really didn’t want to go out and vote for Donald Trump, to show up anyway and vote for Not Hillary Clinton.

    Apparently, people matter. Your party apparatchiks can come up with the perfect blend of mostly-centrist election-winning policies, deliver them through the mouth of the wrong person, and lose to Donald Trump. That’s going to be a much harder variable to measure going forward, but probably as important to predicting election results as anything involving moderate vs. extreme policies.

    • bintchaos says:

      Hillary was deeply flawed…her hubris, her sense of destiny, and most of all her vanity. She picked Kaine as VP (instead of someone charismatic that could have helped us like Booker, Castro or Warren) because he could never overshadow her.
      I voted for her, because I understand exactly what Trump is.
      But what I can never forgive her for is that she ruined OFA.
      I worked on Obama’s campaign, and OFA was just magical– we turned out voters the GOP didn’t even know existed– witness Karl Rove melt-down on Fox.
      So I was excited to work on Ivy, supposedly the extension of OFA for down ballot races. Imagine my despair when I showed up to find centralized phone-banks instead of distributed shoe-leather neighborhood personal contacts.
      And I was even more horrified when the RNC gave their carefully crafted over 4 years OFA style database to Trump when he won the nom and then his team ported it to Facebook. Genius.
      So Hillary absolutely deserved to lose.
      EDIT: when ORCA turned out to be such a failboat (insert whale pun here) in 2012, the GOP slavishly copied the OFA style relational database built by the DreamTeam, only for potential conservative voters. That is probably the difference btwn Romney and Trump voter margins.

      • I really hate all the acronyms in SSC, and bintchaos you are the worst in this. Please tell me what is OFA, Ivy, and ORCA? I do know what RNC refers to I think, Republican National Committee?

        • hls2003 says:

          I don’t know Ivy, but OFA is probably “Organizing For Action,” a morphed continuation of the Democratic campaign apparatus from the initial Obama campaign; and ORCA was, I believe, Mitt Romney’s voter data and targeting operation in 2012 that was much-hyped and then produced poor results.

          • bintchaos says:

            IVY was the continuation of OFA, and supposed to extend the magic to down ballot races.
            There was no Big Data involved that I ever saw.

  18. gbdub says:

    Some of the “extremism wins!” narrative is probably just losing politicians believing their own hype about how extreme their opponent was, compared to their own centrist pragmatism (“everyone I know agrees with me!”).

    • Matt M says:

      And the extreme wing of the winning side wanting to push their own party in the more extreme direction. I know a whole lot of far-left Democrats who took the 2008 results as “this is proof that America is ready for socialism now!”

  19. Sandy says:

    Trump got about 2 million votes more than Romney, so that point is wrong.

  20. Matt M says:

    But Trump’s extremism wasn’t just “Paul Ryan but much more so”. He won not by moving straight right, but by coming up with new ideas that held the attention of the Republican base while also appealing to some disaffected Democrats.

    This sentence gives me great cause for concern about the methods of these surveys. How exactly do they categorize someone as “extremist”? Because by popular definition, most people would characterize Trump as such, but as you (correctly) point out, that’s not entirely correct. Trump is extremist on some issues, but very much not so on others (favors raising the minimum wage, economic protectionism, has no problem with gay marriage, etc.).

    If we can’t trust people’s assessment of whether or not one of the most famous political candidates of the modern age is “extremist” or not, then how can we trust a similar assessment of people trying to rank some unknown dude in Kentucky’s third congressional district? And if that determination is not being made accurately, the entire exercise becomes pointless and we end up with a “garbage in, garbage out” situation.

    • gbdub says:

      And the things he’s extreme about don’t map well to the left-right axis. I suspect immigration restriction is much more popular among traditional Democrats than the party leadership would care to admit, and I’d further guess that the people who do care about it, care about it a lot – maybe enough to make them swing to Trump.

      • Z says:

        Yep. Watch Bill Clinton get a standing ovation for talking about border enforcement in 1995.

        • gbdub says:

          Heck, the 700 mile border fence passed the Senate 80-19 in 2006. The political context is certainly different now, but acting like the DREAM Act and sanctuary cities are a solid status quo that everyone to the left of the Trump is on board with is a mistake.

          Trump’s actual immigration policies, such as they are, don’t seem all that “extreme”, relative to what the median voter would want.

          If he’d bother to dress them up a bit instead of being as uncouth as possible about it, he’d probably have won by 5 points. Heck if he’d have closed his Twitter account his “Muslim ban” would have stood too.

          • abc says:

            If he’d bother to dress them up a bit instead of being as uncouth as possible about it, he’d probably have won by 5 points.

            As someone pointed out in another thread, his position on immigration was going to get him called “racist” no matter what. At that point his only choices were to apologetically walk it back, or do what he in fact did.

            Heck if he’d have closed his Twitter account his “Muslim ban” would have stood too.

            Evidence? The lefty judges who tried to block it would find some excuse to block it no matter what he said. And the sane judges would, and in fact did support it.

          • BBA says:

            Hard to prove a counterfactual, but there is precedent that an otherwise neutral law whose sponsors admitted targeted adherents of a particular religion was a First Amendment violation. I think this is a good call, even though I don’t practice Santeria.

          • abc says:

            Well, one piece of evidence is what happened to the bad when it did in fact go to the Supreme Court.

          • gbdub says:

            You are confusing the argument for the form of the argument. “Build a wall” will be called racist, yes. But you can hold that position and be unapologetic about it without ridiculous grandstanding about “and make Mexico pay for it!”, without “they don’t send their best, they send rapists”, and without implying that Hispanic judges shouldn’t be allowed to consider your immigration laws. You certainly don’t need “bleed out of her wherever” or making mocking gestures of a crippled guy. You don’t actually have to troll the sketchier parts of Reddit for campaign material. I don’t think any of those things matter one way or the other in terms of whether his policies are good ideas, but he is a blustering asshole fairly frequently.

            The necessary response to overuse of the “racist” narrative is to ignore it, to be unapologetic. You don’t need to actively feed it.

            Maybe the Republicans really have let hostile media define the narrative for too long, to the point where the base needed an asshole champion to get their groove back. But I’m hoping they can walk it back and keep the “unapologetic” attitude without the off-the-cuff bluster.

            Heck, just read Trump’s inaugural address and recent Polish speech. Both are strong, unapologetic expressions of the Trump worldview while still being coherent, even eloquent, and not at all assholish.

          • gbdub. +1 on 10:30 post

          • abc says:

            You are confusing the argument for the form of the argument. “Build a wall” will be called racist, yes.

            So what does he gain from not grandstanding?

            But you can hold that position and be unapologetic about it without ridiculous grandstanding about “and make Mexico pay for it!”, without “they don’t send their best, they send rapists”, and without implying that Hispanic judges shouldn’t be allowed to consider your immigration laws.

            Look at how mild the only examples you can site are, and even so you need to pad out your list by making up your third one.

            Heck, just read Trump’s inaugural address and recent Polish speech. Both are strong, unapologetic expressions of the Trump worldview while still being coherent, even eloquent, and not at all assholish.

            Ok, now you’re just concern trolling. Anyone saying “build the wall” gets called a “racist asshole” by the left, apparently that includes you. They then proceed to use and make up any excuse to justify that label. Sort of like how you conflated him objecting to a *La Raza* member judge with him objecting to a Hispanic judge. If he hadn’t made the comments you currently use for justification, you’d probably be objecting to his polish speech as “white nationalist”, just as many liberals are indeed doing.

          • gbdub says:

            So what does he gain from not grandstanding?

            Well, I might have voted for him instead of Johnson were he not quite so much of a loose cannon foot-in-mouth ass, and I suspect I’m not alone in that (or those who stayed home). I would have voted for basically any of the other Republican candidates except Cruz (and Carson) over Hillary in a hot second. I’m a soft-libertarian sort of conservative of the “I hope one day gay couples can protect their marijuana fields with suppressed AR-15s” variety, not a progressive or even particularly liberal.

            Ok, now you’re just concern trolling. Anyone saying “build the wall” gets called a “racist asshole” by the left, apparently that includes you.

            And now you’re just deliberately misreading me. I don’t think he’s a “racist asshole”, I think he’s just an asshole. Also tacky as hell, a demagogue, and a lot less (outwardly) thoughtful than I’d generally prefer a president to be. I believe you can stand up to illegitimate claims of racism without being quite so damn uncouth about it.

            I’m not sure what basis you have to say I would have turned against the Polish speech since I went out of my way to praise it.

            I framed my objections in a deliberately uncharitable way because Trump makes it so damn easy to interpret him uncharitably. Or rather, you tend to have to go out of your way to interpret him charitably even when he has a good point. Yeah, various media figures have repeatedly beclowned themselves overreacting, but my reaction to Trump is still usually:
            1) Trump: says something ridiculous on Twitter
            2) Me: “uggh, I wish he hadn’t said that, or had said it more tactfully”
            3) Media: wildly overreacts. Impeach now!
            4) Me: “a pox on both their houses”

            Again, there’s a difference between being firm, having convictions, even unpopular ones, and being a dick. Trump seems most popular among those who don’t think there is, or don’t care and just want to stick it to some liberals and RINOs. While I understand that can be cathartic, that doesn’t mean I think having the country run by a Tweet-first-think-later geriatric reality show star is a particularly great idea.

            Enough people disagreed with me to get him elected, but then again the alternative was an unlikable career politician with zero campaign charisma, no particular vision other than “things are going okay now for the most part, it’s my turn, also have you heard my opponent is a big meanie?”, and 30 years of baggage.

          • abc says:

            Well, I might have voted for him instead of Johnson were he not quite so much of a loose cannon foot-in-mouth ass, and I suspect I’m not alone in that (or those who stayed home). I would have voted for basically any of the other Republican candidates except Cruz (and Carson) over Hillary in a hot second.

            Well since you are apparently willing to believe whatever the media tells you, for example you seem to believe that Johnson was libertarian, you would probably have believed the media telling you Trump was an asshole. And the media would have found any number of excuses to call him an asshole as long as he refused to bow in the face of accusations of “racism”.

            I believe you can stand up to illegitimate claims of racism without being quite so damn uncouth about it.

            Examples? Preferably, examples you considered uncouth at the time, none of this leftists “discovering a strange new respect for George W Bush” now that he’s safely out of power nonsense.

          • CatCube says:

            @abc

            I realize this might blow your mind, but it’s entirely possible to come to the conclusion that Trump is an asshole without reference to biased reports; direct Twitter statements and media reports that Trump and his supporters own up to are sufficient to prove. For example, there are absolutely no circumstances under which speculating in the media whether a woman is on her period is acceptable. He could very well have waved away Megyn Kelley without going there.

          • abc says:

            For example, there are absolutely no circumstances under which speculating in the media whether a woman is on her period is acceptable.

            Why not?

  21. Ruminist says:

    > Donald Trump got fewer votes than Mitt Romney did in 2012

    This was a common meme that went around immediately after the election, but it was based on comparing the available data in November 2016 (not all votes counted yet) to the complete data from 2012. If you look instead at official sources (or Wikipedia), you’ll see that Trump in fact received 62,984,825 votes vs. Romney’s 60,933,504.

  22. Jay Searson says:

    A point to consider is that fivethirtyeight’s election model was one of the few that actually gave trump reasonable odds — about a third — and part of the reason that it did is that it found a lot of voters polled reported being undecided for a long time.

    • ManyCookies says:

      I think most of 538’s higher odds came from not assuming independence between the toss up races (e.g a win in Florida makes a win in Ohio much more likely). A lot of outlets did something silly like “Oh Trump needs to win these X tossup states, therefore he needs to win X coin flips and that’s not very likely at all!”.
      /tangent

      • Douglas Knight says:

        No one reputable made that mistake. I think 538 included a parameter for midwest correlation, while Wang just had a national parameter, but I’m not sure that made much of a difference. (In particular, the important point was the correlation between MI and PA, which isn’t midwest.) I think Jay’s point is almost right, except I don’t think it was voters claiming to be undecided, but that 538 didn’t believe all the people claiming to vote for third parties and treated them as undecideds.

        • Matt M says:

          The pollsters may have accounted for this, but I think ManyCookies is right in that a whole lot of journalistic ink was spilled on “For Trump to win, he needs to win 5 out of these 7 battleground states, the polls show him trailing in all of them, even if you assume the polls have a 5% margin of error, that makes it 99% likely Hillary will win” or something like that.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Did such journalists actually produce numbers? I thought that they were all quoting Sam Wang, which is why I mentioned him.

  23. Egon Maistre says:

    I am deeply skeptical of any attempt to make predictions based on the 2016 election.

    Both the Libertarian Party and the Green Party ran the same candidates in 2012 and 2016. Both more than tripled (!) their vote totals. Johnson (LP) from 1,275,971 to 4,489,221 and Stein (GP) from 469,627 to 1,457,216. In addition, Evan McMullin put together 731,788 votes on quite short notice.

    I don’t think anyone seriously thinks these numbers will be replicated in future races. But the question is how the people who voted for Johnson, Stein, and McMullin will break in 2020 and beyond. Stein voters will likely vote for the Democrat if that candidate is sufficiently left-wing, and McMullin voters were almost certainly Never Trumpers who just wanted generic GOPer, but it’s tougher to tell with Johnson. I personally know Bernie supporters who went Johnson in the general, people who voted for Johnson with Trump as their second choice, and ideological libertarians who will only vote LP. I do not know what the proportions of those camps are among the nearly 4.5 million people who voted Johnson though. The difference between Johnson’s vote totals in 2016 and 2012 is large enough to swing almost any election if it’s in the right states and moves as one.

    • Matt M says:

      lol @ the idea of anything remotely associated with the LP “moving as one”

      For what it’s worth, I actually know plenty of libertarians (including myself) who voted for Johnson in 2012, and stayed home this time around because they viewed him as a sellout that was trying his best to help Hillary win.

      • Egon Maistre says:

        I know plenty of people (I won’t necessarily call them libertarians, but some definitely are) who voted for Johnson in 2012 and never really considered voting for anyone other than Trump in 2016.

        As you indicate, people open to voting libertarian can be weird.

        • I voted for Johnson only because my state seemed to be lock for Hillary. I figured I might as well give the LP another vote. My state turned out to be closer than I expected, although it still went blue. But from what I heard around, I think my approach in red and blue states to voting 3rd party is increasingly common. If so, the increase in 3rd party votes may be somewhat permanent, but also means that a number of those votes did not affect the final result. These votes for 3rd parties only occur BECAUSE they don’t affect the R vs D vote.

          I would be curious if anyone’s done a study of the percent of 3rd party votes in strong red or blue states vs battleground states.

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      I voted for Johnson despite being somewhat disappointed with him relative to 2012 because I want a LP with >5% of the popular vote, forcing the GOP to pivot in their direction to steal back voters, basically.

      I can at least theoretically picture the GOP putting up a candidate I’d vote for, though I’ll stay at home or “waste” my vote for a no-hoper third party candidate before I compromise.

      I cannot imagine a Democratic candidate I would vote for any time in the next few decades surviving primary challenges (e.g. there is only one Dem. Senator with an A+ NRA rating that I’m aware of any NONE with even a B GOA rating, and that’s just one issue).

      I remember when there was rosy talk of a left-libertarian/liberaltarian alliance from Democrats in the late 90s, but having won a lot of the culture war victories on the issues that would’ve formed the basis for such an alliance, I think that libertarian-leaning voters (not necessarily doctrinaire big-L Libertarians) have pretty much no prospects with any left-of-center American political group or coalition going forward, absent major changes.

      • Brad says:

        The drug war is still very much on at the federal level, and even at the state level it has only been dismantled with respect to pot and only in some states. Prostitution is still illegal everywhere in the US. Abortion is still under attack in a variety of states. The fourth amendment is in worse shape than it has been in decades. Free trade is under attack from the right. Likewise free movement of labor.

        I don’t think it was some tremendous victories (are you thinking Lawrence v Texas?) that made a left-libertarian alliance no longer make sense, but rather a dramatic change in the population of self identified libertarians and what issues they cared most about.

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          The drug war is still very much on at the federal level, and even at the state level it has only been dismantled with respect to pot and only in some states.

          My interpretation is that the the decriminalization and/or legalization of pot represents the first cracks in the dam. To the extent that ANY major political coalition is going to change this one, the changes are already happening as the younger generations grow and reach voting age.

          That said, Democrats are overwhelmingly pro-drug war, they just want to couple that with an emphasis on treatment/education/rehabilitation welfare/social program spending vs. the conservatives’ “get tough on those fuckers and lock ’em up” law enforcement heavy approach. Neither party is significantly interested in taking a stance AGAINST the War On Drugs.

          Neither of those stances is particularly Libertarian-Friendly. They’re just Libertarian-Hostile to different extents on different axes (while being offensive on both).

          Prostitution? Mainstream Democrat opinion and popular opinion of Democrats nationally (60+%) is still firmly against legalization.

          And that pattern continues with the rest of the issues you listed, with the mainstream Democrat positions more “Libertarian-Friendly” than the mainstream Republican positions on…let’s see…check recent records…one of them:

          That one is Abortion, and even there it runs into fundamental philosophical issues of personhood and conflicting rights where there are grounds for libertarian arguments multiple ways. I’ll agree that on Abortion the Democrats come out ahead of Republicans in my personal opinion…which is great for all those libertarian-leaning voters for whom Abortion Rights are their single issue.

          Me, I’m a multi-issue voter, but the ones near the very top of my list are (in order):

          1) 2nd Amendment Rights (clear advantage: GOP)

          2) 1st Amendment Rights (neither party is virtuous here)

          3) School Choice/Education Reform (sliiight GOP advantage, to the extent that private schools, vouchers, and other alternative solutions are on the table for GOP politicians in a way that they aren’t for most Democrats)

          4) Reinvigorated Federalism and a commitment to taking the 10th Amendment seriously. (neither party is virtuous here). This one would actually be higher on my list as it’s so foundational to my personal philosophy except that I think that the horse is so long gone that it died of old age, the barn it was in burned down, and the farm where the barn used to be was bought, paved over, and is now the site of a mixed-use commercial development.

          Anyway, as I said, I can at least envision a GOP candidate that would survive to election that meets my own criteria for support.

          Given the current ideological climate of the Democratic Party, I have a hard time to imagine anyone with a voting record I could stomach surviving without being removed by internal challenges. Which is a shame, but it is what it is.

        • BBA says:

          Prostitution is still illegal everywhere in the US.

          [pedantic]Except for rural Nevada![/pedantic]

        • Matt M says:

          I’m pretty confident that prostitution will switch sides, as red tribe becomes more redpill influenced (and less christian), and blue tribe becomes more feminist influence (and less hippy). At the very least I think you’re already starting to see blue tribe favor legalizing prostitution strictly under the terms of the “nordic model” (legal to sell, illegal to buy).

          Of course the issue is also very much clouded by the seemingly 100% successful attempt by various coalitions of moral busybodies and all too willing to go along law enforcement of re-branding any and all prostitution as “sex trafficking” regardless of whether any particular evidence of force or kidnapping or abduction has even taken place or not.

        • Brad says:

          Trofim_Lysenko:
          I think the fact that guns are your number one issue goes to my point. It’s my impression that would be an unusual ranking for a self identified libertarian in the 90s but isn’t today.

          Separately, I think you are underselling the Democrats’ relative strengths on the drug war, the first amendment, and the fourth amendment. Certainly the maximalist position on each doesn’t dominate the party, but there are significant advantages over the GOP in each of them. Prostitution I’ll agree is pretty grim on both sides. On school choice the GOP has the clear edge and of course on guns.

          The very fact that self identified libertarians have overwhelmingly not allied themselves with Democrats means that they don’t influence its agenda. The GOP doesn’t ‘naturally’ lean any more libertarian, but it has a small but influential group of libertarian activists pushing their positions. I don’t see how their very modest successes are proof that a con/lib alliance was the correct strategy all along when a similar effort was never even made on the other side.

          Finally, I don’t see what federalism has to do with libertarianism at all. That seems like an obsession of Ron Paul’s that has so how managed to be conflated with libertarianism. What difference does it make if Arkansas is violating your rights or the federal government is?

          • Controls Freak says:

            I don’t see what federalism has to do with libertarianism at all.

            From Justice Kennedy:

            The federal system rests on what might at first seem a counterintuitive insight, that “freedom is enhanced by the creation of two governments, not one.” Alden v. Maine , 527 U. S. 706, 758 (1999) . The Framers concluded that allocation of powers between the National Government and the States enhances freedom, first by protecting the integrity of the governments themselves, and second by protecting the people, from whom all governmental powers are derived.

          • Matt M says:

            Agreed. One of the most argued benefits of federalism in the federalist papers was that the various power centers would keep each other in check. The system wasn’t meant to be some sort of strict hierarchy where X is superior to Y all the time. I think the idea was that the states would be superior in some things, the federal in others, and in the “gray areas” they’d fight it out which would result in both keeping the other from getting too far out of hand. (Of course what actually happened is that they “fought it out” with rifles, the federals won a decisive victory, and the rest is history)

        • Trofim_Lysenko says:

          Once again, to be clear, I wouldn’t call myself a “Libertarian”. I’m not isolationist enough, and I think I’m less strictly minarchist than a “True” Libertarian would be. To

          I think you are underselling the Democrats’ relative strengths on the drug war, the first amendment, and the fourth amendment. Certainly the maximalist position on each doesn’t dominate the party, but there are significant advantages over the GOP in each of them.

          Please explain, especially on the drug war. Bear in mind that if you try to frame it as “sure, the Democrats want to expand government scope and power, but government power used for social programs, education, and cultural reform is obviously less dangerous or immoral than government power used to imprison and kill” you’ve already lost me. I’d rather deal with controlling and restraining a government that deals primarily in hard power than one dealing in soft power. Allowing the state to get into providing basic food and health care needs in the first place is one of the things that has made it so damnably hard to restrain.

          Likewise, Originalism in supreme court nominees is absolutely non-negotiable. If the price of a pro-4A judge is a Living Constitutionalist, then the price is too high. Past that it tends to come down to six of one and half a dozen of the other, with the Democrats pulling ahead on, say, body cam legislation, and Republicans on asset forfeiture reform, and so on.

          EDIT: To explain a bit more clearly, I’m certain that a compelling theoretical case can be made for a big, powerful central government with robust protections of individual rights (at least some rights). I find this fundamentally unconvincing because from my perspective, history is clear: Once the power is sufficiently aggregated, it WILL be abused. The only question is how and when. The best safeguards against that are thus strong structural restrictions and cultural norms on the use of what power you allow to aggregate so that it will be hard to boil the frog without setting off people’s alarms and getting yourself thrown out, and not allowing too much power and influence to aggregate together in the first place.

          The GOP doesn’t ‘naturally’ lean any more libertarian

          You really think that Democrats are just as easily swayed as Republicans to make fundamental reductions to both the scope and the scale of government?

          Finally, I don’t see what federalism has to do with libertarianism at all.

          Reducing the scale of government makes it easier to control the scope for a variety of reasons.

          1) It puts a lower upper ceiling on the amount of money that government can gather.

          2) It prevents the government from taking advantage of economies of scale to become the most efficient solution for problems (again, you may be forgetting that to people like me, cases where the optimum solution to a social ill is “create a big and powerful central government”, the cure is worse than the disease).

          3) Because sub-units of government are naturally smaller than large ones, this makes opposing them if they DO overstep their bounds easier because you’re fighting a smaller and less well-funded organization.

          If your goal is to prevent aggregations of power and authority, smaller is better. I’ll add to that in my personal opinion, representative and democratic government scales terribly, meaning that I would much rather be one voter in a political unit of 20-40 million than one in 300-400 million (or god help us 6-7 billion, for those who want to see united world government some day).

          • Brad says:

            I’m not trying to tell you that you should be voting for democrats. I accept that you have picked the correct candidates and parties to support given your beliefs.

            And there’s nothing at all wrong with having some libertarian beliefs and some strong views that come from elsewhere.

            Inasmuch as my point relates to you at all it’s in these ways:
            * Despite the fact that don’t wish to claim the name of Libertarian per se because you don’t think isolationist or minarchist enough, I think that the median of self identified libertarian + libertarian-leaning people in the US in 2017 has views that look a lot like yours.
            * In my observation the universe of self identified libertarians and libertarian leaners in 1997 had a significantly different set of view, particularly with respect to the saliency of various issues.
            * Just because your orthogonal or tactical preferences (originalism, federalism, preference for hard power vs soft power) and the ordering of liberties you care most about preclude you from supporting the Democrats over the Republicans, doesn’t mean that a principled libertarian couldn’t come to a different conclusion.

          • Trofim_Lysenko says:

            I agree that in principle a principled Libertarian could choose to tactically ally with the Democratic party in an attempt to influence them. In fact I would expect that sort of thing to come out of places like Silicon Valley.

            I just have a hard time picturing them getting much traction or influence. In fact I would expect the reaction to them to be pretty damn hostile.

          • When Obama first ran, I had hopes that he might revise the Democratic party and the left more generally in ways that would make it more attractive to libertarians. A number of the U of C intellectuals connected with him, such as Cass Sunstein, had some libertarian inclinations and were familiar with and sympathetic to some libertarian arguments.

            But it didn’t happen, so far as I could see, at all.

        • I don’t think it was some tremendous victories (are you thinking Lawrence v Texas?) that made a left-libertarian alliance no longer make sense, but rather a dramatic change in the population of self identified libertarians and what issues they cared most about.

          As a self-identified libertarian, I’m curious. Are you thinking specifically of the Ron Paul campaign? I haven’t noticed a big change in the libertarians I interact with over the past decade or two, although there seem to be more of them now.

          • Brad says:

            Thinking back to the 90s, do you remember a lot of self identified libertarians that considered gun rights their top issue or even close to it? On the other hand, don’t you remember a lot more people back then opening with drugs and prostitution then than do today?

            My guess as to what happened is that at some point it became trendy for not-especially-religious GOP voters to pick up the libertarian or libertarian-leaning label.

          • Matt M says:

            I was a kid in the 90s so my memory isn’t worth much. I think your observation is correct, that the libertarian of the 90s is much more concerned with say, legalizing marijuana, and the libertarian of today is more concerned with gun rights.

            But I would argue that this is a direct result of society generally moving towards greater acceptance of marijuana and less acceptance of gun rights.

            The libertarian position on marijuana is now basically mainstream. It hasn’t been legalized everywhere yet, but public opinion polling seems to indicate that like gay marriage before, it’s just a matter of time.

            Meanwhile, gun rights become increasingly threatened every time there’s a public shooting. If libertarians decide to focus on whichever right is most threatened by the government, it’s no surprise that their focus will shift over time, not necessarily because they’ve changed their mind about what rights are important, but because the threat level for individual rights has changed.

            I’d also throw “free speech” out there as something libertarians are very concerned with now that they weren’t before. Not because they didn’t care about it in the 90s, but because half the country wasn’t going around insisting that criticizing Islam isn’t actually protected by the first amendment back in the 90s.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t know about “societal acceptance”, that seems slippery to the point of meaninglessness, but the actual legal landscape for gun rights is dramatically better today than it was in the 90s. Back then the Heller position was still something fringe that only federalist society types talked about, today it is the law of the land. Back then the AWB was firmly in place, this decade it wouldn’t have had snowball’s chance in hell in even in 111th United States Congress. Many more states have stand your ground laws. And so on and so forth.

            As for your free speech claim, I’m not aware of a single hate speech statute that’s been passed (and perforce struck down) anywhere in the country. Meanwhile the 90s had The Communications Decency Act and the followup Child Online Protection Act on the federal level, as well as raging debates over violence in video games, tv, and music.

            I’m afraid I don’t find your theory very persuasive.

          • Horkthane says:

            RE: Free speech

            I saw a fascinating post on popehat lately talking about this. Legally, Free Speech has never been stronger. The Supreme Court has consistently and nearly unanimously sided with free speech. From a legal perspective, it’s been a phenomenal decade for free speech.

            Culturally and institutionally? Not as much. All the major silicon valley companies are employing various algorithmic nudges to speech. Colleges are getting more and more radical about what can’t be said for fear of violence, expulsion or firing. Seems not a week goes by I don’t see people in industries parallel to mine getting fired for something they’ve said online. The meme that “hate speech is not free speech” keeps spreading more and more, along with the meme that speech can be violence.

            The supreme court might not buy that argument. But that won’t help you much if you’ve gotta get to them first, and you’ve already become an unperson on a campus, on social media, at your job, etc.

            Free speech might never be stronger as a legal principle. But as a cultural principle? I’m less sure about that.

          • Brad says:

            Yes, Horkthane, I’m fully aware that having never been especially strong supporters of the First Amendment in the past, and still to this day being only half hearted supporters*, the new right nonetheless thinks it is entitled self righteously wrap itself in “free speech” because it wants to control what private institutions–specifically the ones they have had a bug up their asses about for decades–can and can’t do. How very libertarian.

            * See e.g. Trump’s claim that he is “looking at” the libel laws and the deafening silence that followed. Or the omission in hagiographies of Justice Thomas of the fact that he would overrule Tinker v Des Moines. Or look at polling on the question of a flag amendment for something concrete.

          • Matt M says:

            Free speech might never be stronger as a legal principle. But as a cultural principle? I’m less sure about that.

            Right, and gay marriage might be the relevant example here. Protection of heterosexual marriage had “never been stronger” than in the mid/late-2000s, what with the defense of marriage act, and every major presidential candidate saying they believed marriage was exclusively between a man and a woman.

            And then, all of a sudden, it wasn’t. Popular opinion hit a critical mass and that was that.

            The worry is that gun rights and free speech will go the same way. Judges only resist popular opinion for so long. Eventually they cave, and when they cave, things fall apart quick.

          • Brad says:

            From 1993-1999 Hawaii had same sex marriage. California had limited domestic partnerships and Vermont full domestic partnerships from 1999. Massachusetts had full equivalent, including the name, same sex marriage starting in 2004. Obergefell wasn’t until 2015.

            That was not exactly a thunderclap in the middle of the night.

            Inasmuch as there’s more worry now then there was then about either guns or free speech, it isn’t justified by external reality. It’s convenient paranoia based on anecdotal assertions concerning the gestalt.

          • Thinking back to the 90s, do you remember a lot of self identified libertarians that considered gun rights their top issue or even close to it? On the other hand, don’t you remember a lot more people back then opening with drugs and prostitution then than do today?

            I think you are correct that gun rights would not have been at the top of the list, drugs and prostitution would have been higher. But I’m not sure that for the libertarians I interact with at things such as Students for Liberty Events that is any different now.

            It might be worth looking at an issue of Reason from then and one from now to compare what they were talking about. Checking the current web page, there are thirty “top stories.” Two have some connection to gun issues. One is about a court case in California over the confiscation of large magazines, pointing out that it is both a 2d Amendment issue and a property rights issue. One is commenting on the NRA having finally come out criticizing the shooting by a police officer, with no good reason, of someone who was legally carrying. There is one clear gun rights article, about a new Oregon law.

            There are four drug related articles (counting one on vaping). Several on economic issues. Three touching on police misdeeds. One immigration related. A couple free speech related. Doesn’t look all that different from what I would expect to see twenty years ago, but I haven’t actually checked.

            My guess is that you are looking at a different population of libertarians than I am.

          • Matt M says:

            Brad,

            Do you really think it’s paranoid to suggest that free speech has become more contentious (culturally, not legally) now than it was in the 1990s, and that marijuana use has become less so?

            I mean fine, if you want to say that the laws are rock solid and that suspicion that the laws might quickly change is delusional paranoia, such is your right. But I suspect that your opinion of what “libertarians are worried about” is heavily informed by your interacting with libertarians, and that you mostly interact with them in cultural, rather than legal venues. Therefore, it would make sense that they focus on culturally contentious issues rather than on legally contentious ones.

          • Brad says:

            I don’t see what you are trying to get at with “cultural”. If you are talking about colleges and employers again–in my experience libertarians have in the past and still to this day on most issues been focused on government power because they have a monopoly on the legitimate use of force.

            Why the sudden focus on universities and employers instead? Are we living in libertarian paradise vis-a-vis the government and it is time to go after secondary objectives?

            To me it looks driven by plain old conservatives that have just started calling themselves libertarian as opposed to a consistent libertarian pool that has changed its mind based on changing facts on the ground.

            To give another example, outside of speech, where this dynamic plays out, I don’t think an old school libertarian would support laws that allow a property owner to forbid concealed carry on his premises (by either customers or employees). Today’s libertarians? I’m not so sure.

          • I don’t think an old school libertarian would support laws that allow a property owner to forbid concealed carry on his premises (by either customers or employees).

            Speaking as an old school libertarian, I think you have that wrong–either you miswrote your meaning or you don’t understand libertarian principles. As a libertarian, I would support laws that allowed a property owner to forbid anyone from coming onto his property who was carrying a firearm. Or smoking, or for that matter wearing clothes (or, alternatively, not wearing clothes–a more common restriction). It’s his property, so he gets to decide who comes on it.

            I can imagine exceptions in extreme circumstances, but that’s part of the general observation that if you try to push stated principles to the limit you often run into problem.

            To me it looks driven by plain old conservatives that have just started calling themselves libertarian

            I expect some of that happened with the Ron Paul campaign. If you were a conservative who didn’t like what the Republican party had been doing, a charismatic Republican outsider might have seemed very attractive.

          • SamChevre says:

            The largest change I have seen in the position of self-identified libertarians over the last 2 decades is that support for freedom of association by self-identified libertarians has almost completely disappeared. When Rand Paul suggested that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was a clear violation of liberty, then walked it back, it really changed the conversation in my experience.

          • Brad says:

            Speaking as an old school libertarian, I think you have that wrong–either you miswrote your meaning or you don’t understand libertarian principles. As a libertarian, I would support laws that allowed a property owner to forbid anyone from coming onto his property who was carrying a firearm. Or smoking, or for that matter wearing clothes (or, alternatively, not wearing clothes–a more common restriction). It’s his property, so he gets to decide who comes on it.

            Yes, I missed a negation. I meant

            I don’t think an old school libertarian would support laws that allow forbid a property owner to from forbiding concealed carry on his premises (by either customers or employees).

            Sorry about that.

    • Eric Rall says:

      I’m a pragmatic, incrementalist libertarian who has usually voted Republican in the past. Currently registered Libertarian, previously registered Republican. I favored Forbes in the 2000 Republican primary, Thompson in 2008, Huntsman in 2012, and Kasich in 2016.

      I voted for Johnson in 2012 and in 2016. If I lived in a swing state, I would have held my nose and voted for major-party candidates in both elections (Romney in 2012 and Clinton in 2016). I cast a protest vote in 2012 because Romney was flirting too much with protectionism and crony capitalism for my tastes, and I went hard NeverTrump in 2016 because Trump’s far worse than Romney on those same issue, in addition to his positions on immigration and his temperament issues and the borderline-socialist positions he advocated on fiscal issues back around 2000. And because I expected a Trump presidency would do lasting damage to the Republican party, pulling it in ideological directions I dislike as well as badly tarnishing the brand which would make it easier for Democrats to win the next few elections and push through policies I strongly oppose.

      I tentatively plan to change my registration in 2020 to whatever it needs to be to vote in the most interesting primary. If Trump runs again and is renominated, how I vote will depend heavily on the Democratic nominee and whether there’s a credible third party candidate I could support. I would very likely support a moderate or “neoliberal” Democrat over Trump, but I don’t think I could bring myself to vote for someone like Sanders or Warren.

    • abc says:

      and ideological libertarians who will only vote LP.

      Well, every ideological libertarian I’ve met will insist that he’s a small “l” libertarian and because the LP has completely abandoned libertarian principals.

  24. VolumeWarrior says:

    I don’t see Trump as an extremist. The coverage of Trump is extreme, but as far as republicans go, he’s very moderate. For example, he’s the most pro-LGBT republican president anyone could have hoped for. Now Trump is even saying he wants to reform health care in a way that covers all Americans. And I’m not sure how the left reacts when Trump favors economic protectionism, but it must be with a severe amount of cognitive dissonance.

    If you try to google a list of “worst things Trump has ever done”, the list is fairly mild. Trump’s travel ban is the most dictatorial thing he’s done and even that has polls showing ~49.99% approval.

    What was the latest outrage? That Ivanka sat in some chair at G20? And this had no downstream policy implications whatsoever? The profitability of manufacturing Trump outrage shouldn’t cause one to conclude that the USA elected a radical.

    • neaanopri says:

      Speaking as a leftist, it seems like Trump is totally uninterested in policy, and it’s made by his subordinates. The most “extreme” thing I’ve seen is the travel ban, and still that’s infused with Trump weirdness because it exempts the countries that do business with Trump. The leftists I know don’t think Trump is an ideologue, they think he’s an “empty chair” in terms of policy.

      As for the travel ban, there’s just no way to justify exempting Saudi Arabia. It’s just not possible. I view travel restrictions as reasonable if they are making a liberty vs. safety trade-off, especially in the wake of a shocking event. By all means do more searches of immigrants from a list of countries with possibilities of terrorism risk, but FUCKING INCLUDE SAUDI ARABIA. But, if policies aren’t coherently expressed and backed by evidence, they just strike me as “we want to punish those muslims,” which I’m willing to go to culture war to oppose.

      I have to admit I was disappointed by Trump. When he got elected, I thought, “this might be bad, but he’s promised more spending on infrastructure and more healthcare, it’ll be interesting to see that happen.”. But the degree to which he’s surrendered control to Paul Ryan totally removes any upsides.

      • cassander says:

        still that’s infused with Trump weirdness because it exempts the countries that do business with Trump.

        Of the the countries on the list, 5 are enduring ongoing civil wars and one, Iran, was illegal for the US to do business with until a couple years ago. Basically no one does business with those countries.

        >As for the travel ban, there’s just no way to justify exempting Saudi Arabia.

        Again, Saudi Arabia is not undergoing a war and is not Iran. It’s not unreasonable for them to be off the list.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            And your point is? The article you cite is a history of US-KSA relations over decades. From the conclusion:

            The relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, throughout history has influenced U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. What began as a relationship reliant on mutual economic gain, evolved into a relationship that was also reliant on mutual national security interests.

            It can hardly be evidence of any sea change Trump has instituted.

          • bintchaos says:

            The change is that Trump has allowed himself to be manipulated by KSA in their 30-yr old regional slap flight with Qatar to take sides against our ally who is hosting a US airbase critical for the war on ISIS.
            KSA cant host a US airbase to bomb Sunni muslims. The last time we tried that we triggered OBL and created al-Qaeda.
            KSA is not our friend, and does not have US interests at heart.
            Much like Russia.
            Maybe playing the vanity-stricken buffoon and useful idiot for KSA and RU is part of some amazing covert plan on Trump’s part, but somehow I doubt it.
            New US motto–

            Pris: Then we’re stupid and we’ll die. — Bladerunner

      • Matt M says:

        But, if policies aren’t coherently expressed and backed by evidence, they just strike me as “we want to punish those muslims,” which I’m willing to go to culture war to oppose.

        Um, you can say it makes no sense to exclude Saudi Arabia if your main goal is to prevent terrorism.

        But surely it makes even less sense to exclude Saudi Arabia if your main goal is to punish Muslims, no?

        “Trump rigged this to support his business interests” seems at least somewhat supported by plausible evidence (even though the list was made by the Obama administration, not by him). But “Trump did this solely to spite Muslims” is supported by nothing, and is actually contradicted by the evidence.

        • suntzuanime says:

          IIRC the countries in the travel ban came from a list generated by the Obama administration, so it’s not clear that you can read much into Trump’s intent in including/excluding specific countries.

          • Matt M says:

            Oh I agree, but maybe it’s possible he picked that specific list for that specific reason or something, I dunno.

            It’s not even REMOTELY defensible to say “Trump just did this to harass Muslims” while leaving the literal Islamic homeland untouched.

      • VolumeWarrior says:

        it exempts the countries that do business with Trump

        So you think…

        1) Trump stands to gain a lot of money from giving a free pass to otherwise dangerous countries where he does business
        2) The travel bans would significantly affect his cash flow
        3) Trump cares more about being 10% more wealthy than he does about the presidency
        4) Trump got his cabinet to go along with it, either by convincing them to protect his business interests, or by using detailed arguments that would exempt these specific countries.

        A much simpler explanation is that business is common with functional more westernized countries. So the probability of Trump doing business in an area with ongoing civil war is low.

        they think he’s an “empty chair” in terms of policy.

        Most leftists seem to think that Trump is rolling back all the “good” stuff obama passed. The fact that they’re complaining he’s doing nothing while making lots of policy changes strongly implies that they just hate Trump.

  25. Salem says:

    This can’t be right, because I would be pleased if my political party nominated more extreme candidates, and therefore it must be in their self-interest.

  26. bean says:

    I’ve seen a lot of this sort of talk from the other side of the aisle. “The problem is that if we attempt to imitate the Democrats, they voters will decide they prefer the real Democrats over the Democrats-lite, and we’ll lose. The only option is to run more to the right.” I refer to this delusion as Goldwater Syndrome.

  27. zima says:

    The Economist had an interesting article a while back at how Angela Merkel is a master at depressing her opponents’ turnout by being moderate and inoffensive on everything: https://www.economist.com/blogs/kaffeeklatsch/2017/06/merkelology-101

    Considering she’s by far the longest-serving head of a major Western democracy, I’m surprised more of our politicians don’t study her.

    • Aapje says:

      One reason why she is the longest-serving is that there are no term limits on her position.

      • 1soru1 says:

        Who ever thought term limits are a good idea? They seem to fundamentally break democracy, in that they make the ‘govern well and get re-elected’ strategy illegal.

        As far as I can see, the only factor that benifits from them are the media, because ‘sensible government continues to govern competently in line with what most people want’ doesn’t sell newspapers or drive click-thrus.

        • John Schilling says:

          Who ever thought term limits are a good idea?

          George Washington and Frank Capra.

          They seem to fundamentally break democracy, in that they make the ‘govern well and get re-elected’ strategy illegal.

          Presidents-for-life also fundamentally break democracy, even if they nominally have to stand for election every few years . Problem is, “govern well” is not the only or even best strategy for getting re-elected, even if the votes are fairly counted in each election.

  28. D.O. says:

    Figure 3 is irredeemably horrible. Even simple eyeballing shows that there is no effect (visible in the data, whether there is some effect in reality is unclear, of course).

    My thought was to use split ticket voting to estimate the party switch.
    1) Split ticket voter actually did vote. We know at least that.
    2) Split ticket voter is capable to vote for the other party under right circumstances. We know that for sure as well.
    -1) There is no single-voter data on this. Which obviously sucks.
    3) But if we can get our hands on precinct-level data and make some reasonable model (say, a person voting for her representative has a propensity not to vote on president + propensity to switch party for president, etc. and do it on the lowest level with no overwhelming noise or, if we feel bold and knowledgeable, build an hierarchical Bayesian model (better yet, nudge Prof. Gelman to do it, probably)) … Maybe even county-level data will suffice.
    0) I am too busy/lazy to do it myself, but there are people who are paid to do this stuff, right? Then again, they publish figure 3 and oh.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I agree that Figure 3 is unconvincing, but I don’t really understand regression discontinuity that well. The authors write:

      “As the table shows, we find large effects on vote share and electoral victory, consistent with Hall
      (2015). Nominating an extremist drastically reduces the party’s electoral fortunes in the general
      election. Although the estimate does move around from specification to specification, likely because
      of the reduced sample size when only focusing on data from 2006–2012, it is consistently negative
      and statistically significant.”

      This makes me think that my own eyeballing (ie the drop on the graph is smaller than the 95% confidence interval) doesn’t map well to whatever they’re actually studying. Anyone who understands this better want to weigh in?

      • Swimmy says:

        The confidence interval for the predicted values are based on the size of standard errors, while the confidence interval for the difference between the predicted values is the square root of the sum of squares of the standard errors (ie, sqrt(SE1^2+SE2^2)). This is what they’re calculating in table 2. It’s not depicted in Figure 3.

        Since sqrt(SE1^2+SE2^2) < (SE1+SE2), there's a small window where the estimated value of the difference between the predicted values can be statistically significant even if the confidence intervals for the predicted values themselves overlap. Confusingly. Feel free to make up some standard errors to prove to yourself.

        That said, this is just another reason that "statistical significance" frequently isn't the best way to tell the size of an effect. That graph looks way too noisy to make strong conclusions. And I don't see enough work done to show an RD is the best model to fit this data. I see work in the appendix showing it's at least a plausible model, but I'm not sold.

        The stuff about the high order polynomial specifications is mostly useless but it’s bog standard in social science. I recommend ignoring it completely.

  29. Douglas Knight says:

    We know that total turnout decreased 2% between 2012 and 2016.

    Only if you don’t include people who voted for third parties. The proportion of people who turned out to vote increased by 1.6 points from 2012 to 2016. (But presidential votes cast only increased 1.3 point because blanks were up from 0.6 to 0.9%.) Still 2 points below 2008, but the second highest turnout since lowering the voting age.

    You should count people who turned out to vote because they vote for other offices. Moreover, turnout is the easily observed basic category and many of your other statistics includes these voters.

    Why is it so widely believed that turnout was down? As I said above, one way to get that result is by not counting third party votes. But I think the main cause is that many sources (eg, wikipedia) only included votes counted and it took California a month to count its votes.

  30. tscharf says:

    Meh. I have another theory. Candidates matter.

    If anything the worshiping of numerics probably hurt Clinton and going by the seat of his pants helped Trump. Show me any numerics in February 2016 that showed Trump winning. This is not a case of revenge of the election nerds.

    There is nothing in all this numerology about email servers or 10 year old video interviews. The “most boring” candidate is also losing a lot of elections recently, a cult of personality estimate might be a better predictor.

    As for the left going more extreme, I would welcome that as a person on the right. Crank up those identity politics even more! “There is no such thing as a moderate Republican” is a silly statement. I suppose if you are on the far left your definition of a moderate Republican is someone who votes Democrat.

  31. This doesn’t mean only boring centrists can win; Donald Trump is the obvious counterexample. But Trump’s extremism wasn’t just “Paul Ryan but much more so”. He won not by moving straight right, but by coming up with new ideas that held the attention of the Republican base while also appealing to some disaffected Democrats.

    If the trick to being is extreme is to be extreme in a way that doesn’t easily map straight to left or right, then does this bode well for the radical centrist ideologies being floated around on the internet if they were to find themselves in a party program?

  32. bintchaos says:

    Dr. Alexander

    Just don’t frame it as “extremism turns out the base”, and especially not as “swing voters don’t matter”.


    In the age of epic polarization, do swing voters matter?

    In a presidential election, a revamped economic program and a new generation of un-Clinton leaders may well win back the genuine swing voters who voted for Trump, whether Democratic defectors in the Rust Belt or upscale suburbanites who just couldn’t abide Hillary. But that’s a small minority of Trump’s electorate. Otherwise, the Trump vote is overwhelmingly synonymous with the Republican Party as a whole.


    Current Affairs and dKos arguments are adaptive behavior– if its not cost-viable to reach out to the GOP base, for whatever reason, stop doing it.

  33. rin573 says:

    “of people who voted Democrat in 2012, about 13% voted Trump in 2016”

    I’m pretty sure it’s the other way around: of people who voted for Trump, 13% voted Democrat in 2012. The percentages in the rows of the table sum to 100, whereas the columns do not.

    • arabaga says:

      This is correct, hopefully Scott sees this.

      It doesn’t change any of his major points, but if he was trying to use these numbers for his own calculations, it explains why it wasn’t working out.

  34. yoshi says:

    The studies seem to discuss two slightly different scenarios, the first one looks at the case of switching a candidate in the same election, the second compares two different elections four years apart. A model were people switch party allegiance all the time, but are not lingering as undecided voters for long during the switch would fit that well. For example, if 10% of the voters switch in any given four year interval, but before the switch are unhappy democrats for say a year, then switch in a matter of month and after that linger as uncomfortable republicans for some time, say again a year, would allow for both substantial movement between elections and a not very strong effect of pushing voters away by extremist candidates during each single election, since there are not many undecided voters at any given time.

  35. mankoff says:

    If you look closely at Figure 2 in Part II of this post, you’ll see that the graph is based on the difference between the candidates ideological CFScore (which is itself based on the candidate’s donor base) and the district’s ideological score. H&T’s paper doesn’t look at the correlation between extremity and turnout, it looks at the correlation between ideological distance from one’s voters and turnout of those voters.

    So the paper essentially re-states and argues for the first maxim of political science: if you want somebody to vote for you, make your policies as similar as possible to that person. The paper does not investigate whether being far left motivates lefty turnout or whether being far right motives righty turnout. It rather investigates whether lefties win elections in righty districts or rights in lefty districts. The answer shouldn’t surprise anybody.

    My own view for voter turnout is that the Democratic Party, in Europe, would be considered a centre-right party, not a centre-left party like most Democrats think it is. Any party that wants to advance free trade and doesn’t advocate for guaranteed healthcare for all is not a pro-labor party! This leaves the Democratic Party without a true voting base, and thus inconsistent or, even worse, consistently low turnout. I believe that any investigation like the paper referenced above buries the lede–American political discourse takes place in a thimble.

    Almost every national argument (with the exception of the censorship/don’t hurt people’s feelings debate) is confined to the right side of the traditional political spectrum and the open side of the closed-nativist/open-globalist society spectrum. The working class and poor are and have for decades been totally disenfranchised. They’re starting to notice.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      How is your framing of Figure 2 different from mine?

      Suppose we’re talking about the US as a whole. The “average voter” is in the center kind of by definition. The further a candidate is from the center, the less likely they are to win / have high turnout.

      This applies just as well in a far-right district. If the Republicans nominates someone just as far-right as the voters, they’ll do well. If they nominate someone even further right, they’ll do worse. If the Democrats nominate someone who’s pretty far right for a Democrat (ie centrist, willing to compromise with Republican principles), they’ll do (relatively) well. If they nominate someone far to the left, they’ll do worse.

      I agree this is pretty obvious, but I thought that the Current Affairs position was that the seemingly obvious thing isn’t true, for counterintuitive reasons.

      I agree that if the entire country is far to the right, both candidates should nominate a far-right candidate to have the best chance of winning. But I feel like in that case we’ve just redefined “center”.

      • mankoff says:

        To clarify, the ideological position of the average American is centre-left. The ideological position of the average American political candidate is centre-right. Public opinion data confirms this, and political scientist Thomas Ferguson’s work does as well.

        Nathan Hale (of Current Affairs) is arguing that the Democrats (centre-right) need to stop trying to appeal to moderate Republicans (far-right) and instead focus on turning out their base, which Hale assumes (correctly) is mostly centre-left, though increasingly far-left. What Hale (and at least 90% of both the mainstream media and academic establishment) misses is that in the status quo, the Democratic Party is centre-right, not centre-left. This means that even if everybody relevant were persuaded by Hale’s article, they would come to conclusions that led to pushing the Democratic Party from the centre-right to a totally centrist position. Moving to the left side of the spectrum, where most voters are, would require Democratic leadership to:
        1) act to get the US out of NAFTA and TPP,
        2) pardon Marijuana offenders, abandon the “too big to fail” insurance policy that American taxpayers gift to the financial sector each year,
        3) embrace union leadership as the co-leaders of the party,
        4) embrace guaranteed healthcare as a right, and
        5) embrace a state-guarantee for affordable high-quality education.

        The research you presented in your post suggests that candidates should make their policy proposals as similar to the desired policy proposals of the people who are eligible to vote for the candidate. I just want to make sure that we are all on the same page that doing that would constitute a revolutionary shift to the left (commonly referred to as Democratic Socialism, which is a dirty phrase in the US), not the modest shift that we usually confine ourselves to in political discourse with peers.

        My only critique of your interpretation of the research was that you were incorrectly articulating the operationalization of the “extremity” variable. You seemed to understand the research as referring to raw extremity of position rather than extremity of position relative to voters in that district. By this research’s account, a moderate Independent running in a red-state is more extreme than a radical Republican running in the same state. That’s an important caveat, which I felt that you didn’t explain, though I may not be being charitable enough.

        I guess my main issue is that Hale, the researchers, and even you have buried the lede here. The people want tariffs and healthcare. That’s why they voted for Trump, who promised both. Neither party offers these things in truth, and this divide between legitimate public opinion and representation causes various societal ills, which you address frequently and with great skill.

        It seems like the whole country is vigorously discussing the 5% of politics that exists confined by the Democratic and Republican platforms, and it is exactly BECAUSE the conversation is so narrowly focused that so few participate in it (i.e. low turnout, low political awareness, high defection to candidates with 0% chance of victory, etc.).

      • Bugmaster says:

        What do you mean by “average” ? If the distribution of voters is bimodal, then very few people would be “average”; instead, most people will belong to one of the two sub-means under each peak.

        • mankoff says:

          Distribution of opinion related to implementation of policy (MIRCRO) is indeed bimodal for the reasons you’re thinking about. But distribution of opinion related to MACRO issues like trade and healthcare are unimodal. Yes, most Republicans don’t want an individual mandate for healthcare, but the fact that most of them do want guaranteed affordable healthcare for the poor, elderly, and those with pre-existing conditions renders their separate opinion about individual mandates obsolete. That they are unaware that their paramount desire that the vulnerable be covered is predicated on their support for the individual mandate is a product of tactical GOP misinformation, not a stable belief based on some value held by the individuals.

          On trade/immigration, the distribution of opinion is of course uni-modal. If you’re in the working poor or involuntarily unemployed you are pro-tariffs, anti-immigration. The wealthier your are, the more you stand to benefit (in terms of cost of the goods and services you want) from lower tariffs and higher immigration. The distribution is skew right.

          If you ask people whether they want the government to guarantee healthcare for the vulnerable, you can line individuals up on a simple conscientiousness scale and opinion would again be unimodal, though again skewed, not normalized.

          If you ask people whether they think the government should mandate that healthy individuals pay a fine if they don’t buy into insurance markets and you line them up in terms of how staunchly they are a member of political party X, then yes, the results would be bimodal.

  36. foggen says:

    Maybe my attunement to dog whistles is out of whack, but I didn’t interpret the Current Affairs article as a claim that extremism is the unique way to produce better turnout. Rather, I took it to mean that undirected blandness gets you nowhere. I tend to fall under what I’ve hear described as “liberaltarian”, which is to say that I put a premium on personal freedom and civil liberties, but also believe that government can and should have a significant role in protecting citizens from the sociopathic edge of market forces. Which is to say I am probably a great candidate to be a centerey Democrat voter. However, I also have no patience whatsoever for “lesser of two evils” voting. Obama was an inspiring figure in his first election, and he got my vote. Hillary Clinton was an undisguised creature of the party machine, and despite the looming horror of Trump I voted for Johnson. And in the Georgia 6th District runoff, despite my overwhelming antipathy for Republican Congress, I could not bring myself to vote for the smug empty suit and party tool John Ossoff, and instead turned in a blank ballot.

    Basically, “lesser of two evils” arguments are so weak as to be insulting to people like me, and I took the Current Affairs article as an expression of that.

    • I’ve never understood anyone who does not do the “lesser of two evils” calculation. Although it is true, I can’t ever remember any candidates that I could vote for that I haven’t thought of as more bad than good.

      So if you don’t like any candidate you stay home? From what you say above, you won’t vote for the better of the two candidates that could win if you aren’t fond of both. That just seems illogical and irrational to me. Say you get a traffic ticket that you think is unfair. Don’t you think about whether it is worth going to court or not to dispute it? You are then picking the best of two bad options. Say you interview for three jobs — two of them you don’t like but you love the third. You get offers from the two you don’t like but not the one you do. Do you stay unemployed because you don’t want to pick the better of the two? Do you go to the dentist to get your teeth cleaned or stay home and get cavities? It seems to me that life is full of unpleasant choices. Picking the best of bad choices is to me maybe the definition of emotional health. Those who ignore them are generally not successful in life. Maybe I’ve over-stated my point, but I don’t get you here.

      • hlynkacg says:

        Refusal is a signal and has value in itself, that does not appear in ordinary utilitarian/consequentialist calculations.

        • Doctor Mist says:

          Refusal is a signal and has value in itself

          Yeah, that’s why the election results in November always include counts of the people who didn’t show up.

          I mean, even a vote is a pretty damned weak signal. I can see deciding not to vote because your vote is meaningless. But don’t kid yourself about it.

      • Matt M says:

        Yeah, staying home is also a choice, and could also be considered “the best of bad choices.” It’s entirely possible my ordinal preference ranking is:

        1. Vote for a good candidate
        2. Stay home and play video games
        3. Vote for a bad candidate
        4. Vote for a really bad candidate

        If a good candidate is not an option, video games it is!

        • albatross11 says:

          If all the voters vote for the lesser evil with no other conditions, that creates an incentive for politicians to move toward their more evil opponents until they’re just an epsilon less evil, thus capturing whatever benefits (keeping the banks and intelligence agencies happy, raising funds from rich people with more money than morals, lining the pockets of your critical supporters with pork) are available from being evil without paying any cost.

          In 2008, I voted for Obama. In 2012, I went back to voting libertarian, because of Obama’s war on terror policies–especially the program of assassinating citizens on the president’s say-so alone. If you want to put US citizens on a hit list and send death squads and killer robots to murder them, or to shelter war criminals from prosecution because it would be politically costly to do otherwise, you don’t get my vote.

          • If all the voters vote for the lesser evil with no other conditions, that creates an incentive for politicians to move toward their more evil opponents until they’re just an epsilon less evil, thus capturing whatever benefits (keeping the banks and intelligence agencies happy, raising funds from rich people with more money than morals, lining the pockets of your critical supporters with pork) are available from being evil without paying any cost.

            Except that then his opponent becomes a little less evil so that he gets the votes, and then he gets a little less evil, and … . You want to think of it as a dynamic equilibrium. The standard example is Hotelling’s Median Voter Theorem.

      • Gobbobobble says:

        Is writing in Mickey Mouse not a thing anymore?

    • Trofim_Lysenko says:

      The difference is in the freedom of action you have, Mark.

      There is absolutely zero difference between a voter who holds their nose and votes tactically for the lesser evil while deploring some subset of their policies, and the voter who enthusiastically endorses every single one of those policies.

      Within the context of an election there is no way to qualify or hedge your vote. You cannot communicate or signal partial approval. It’s all or nothing.

      This is precisely why two-party/candidate equilibria are so unpleasant.

      • The difference is in the freedom of action you have, Mark.

        I don’t think this is true at all. I don’t have much freedom of action when it comes to several bad choices. I can either go the dentist or not; both are terrible choices but I suffer going because the alternative is worse in the long run. I’ve kept working at some pretty horrendous jobs because the alternative was worse. I don’t see how this is different from two terrible candidates.

        @Matt. Yes staying at home may well the most rational choice. But the downside of voting is not because when both candidates are bad; it is the difference between the candidates that counts. If I consider a range from 1 to 3 to be good candidates, and anything in the range of negative to be bad, then it makes more sense to go to the polls to pick a -2 over a -12, than to pick a 1.5 over a 1. Or even a 1.5 over a -1. If all the candidates are pretty equivalent, then it makes sense to stay at home or vote for a 3rd party that can’t win. But that doesn’t make sense if you dislike both, but one a lot more than the other.

  37. AnthonyC says:

    Wow, there’s a lot of genuinely interesting hypotheses in the comments above. I have no idea what I do or should think, here. I do have some questions, though, in case anyone knows if anyone has tried to answer them.

    1) What “would have” happened in various elections if every eligible voter had voted (or, say, if voting were compulsory like in Australia)?

    2) Do similar extremism penalties hold in multiparty/parliamentary systems as in the US’ two party system?

    3) Not sure how to quantify this, but my gut impression is that the Democrats (at least among the elites, in the US, in the last several decades) are somewhat more willing to adopt good conservative ideas than Republicans are to adopt good liberal ones (which makes some intuitive sense since openness to new ideas is itself somewhat antithetical to conservatism). I’m thinking of the ACA/Obamacare, pollution markets (cap and trade), free trade, welfare reform (under Clinton), and monetarist and neoclassical economics. I can’t think of good examples in the other direction, but that might just be my own biases.

    • mankoff says:

      1) Gerrymandering in the US has made it such that many more districts than in the past are highly lopsided politically, dis-incentivizing individuals from taking the time out of their day (and money out of their wallets to purchase a state-issued ID) to vote. Those who would be most likely to be affected by this dis-incentivizing would be those most economically vulnerable, least willing to spend time/money to vote in an election that they don’t perceive themselves as having a true say in. If voting were mandatory in the US and felons could vote, it seems clear to me at least that we would have a long string of Democratic presidents before the Democratic Party eventually had to fracture into two parties itself, replacing the Republican Party.

      2) In Parliamentary systems, they have a different problem with extremism. Depending on how low the thresholds are in these systems (how much of the vote must you get in order to win a seat), many of these states have small enclaves of extreme opinion on either side of the spectrum. In the US we have the freedom caucus on the far right, which is totally corporatist, anti-government, pro-business. We call these “Libertarians,” but based on the traditional European school of Libertarianism, these Americans are actually anti-Libertarian (alas). There is no equivalent group on the left that has been elected to federal government. In France there is both a relevant Communist Party and a relevant far-right, nativist Trumpian party (National Front/Marine le Pen). In totally representative parliaments like Netherlands and Israel, the governments are at risk of allowing genuinely, explicitly hateful, anti-liberalism groups to accrue seats, like a kick our immigrants out party or a burn down the capital party or a religious party.

      3) Not only is conservatism ideologically opposed to incorporating new arguments, but liberalism is ideologically in favor of incorporating new arguments. That being said, your observations about compromise of Democratic politicians with Conservative ideas incorrectly diagnoses the situation. Bill Clinton and Obama are neo-liberals, not liberals. They are right-wing, pro-business capitalist CONSERVATIVES borrowing ideas from their DONORS. (See: Obama drone terrorism campaign against Iraqi civilians; Clinton’s law & order crusade; the 1998 repeal of the second act of Glass Steagle allowing Commercial Banks to act as Investment Banks; Obama’s bailout large enough to save the banks but not large enough to help the economy recover; etc.) They are not reaching across the aisle with an olive branch, they are sneering at liberalism and masking their anti-labor policies with the language of compromise, which appeals to the liberal psyche.

      • cassander says:

        1) Gerrymandering in the US has made it such that many more districts than in the past are highly lopsided politically, dis-incentivizing individuals from taking the time out of their day (and money out of their wallets to purchase a state-issued ID) to vote.

        One, the increased partisanship of districts is not really a result of gerrymandering.

        Those who would be most likely to be affected by this dis-incentivizing would be those most economically vulnerable, least willing to spend time/money to vote in an election that they don’t perceive themselves as having a true say in.

        How does that work? if your district is now composed of 90% of people of your party, you aren’t getting dis-enfranchised, your party wins automatically.

        >Bill Clinton and Obama are neo-liberals, not liberals.

        Clinton I’ll give you, but with the excption of its relatively weak efforts towards free trade, there was nothing neo-liberal about the Obama administration.

        • mankoff says:

          OP’s comment asked what we should reasonably expect if everybody in the US voted, or, in other words, what is actual mean public political opinion in the US. The question was misleading because support for a party in a two-party system doesn’t imply support for that party’s policies, only preference for those policies over the other party’s policies, but alas. Your rebuttal to my response isn’t relevant to OP’s question. I wonder if you agree with my conclusion anyway?

          On your second point: where gerrymandering sorts individuals into a district with 95% people very similar to them, those people have not been disenfranchised. The 5% with minority opinion have been disenfranchised. Additionally, if most of the 95% majority doesn’t vote because they don’t think they have to in order to have their preferred outcome, these individuals will have commenced a habit of non-voting, which is heritable (functionally, not literally), persistent, and contagious. And lastly, most felons would vote Democrat and no felons can vote. If everybody were required to vote…well you see the logic. Same conclusion.

          On your last point: I define neo-liberals as being globalist (as opposed to protectionist), socially progressive (as opposed to traditionalist), and pro-markets, anti-interventionist for the poor (ACA) while anti-markets, pro-interventionist for the rich (big banks bailout). Perhaps our definitions are different, but by my definition, Obama is a neo-liberal.

          • cassander says:

            >The 5% with minority opinion have been disenfranchised.

            Ok, but then in a 55% district, 45% of the electorate is disenfranchised, so by your logic gerrymandering actually makes people more enfranchised, not fewer.

            On your last point: I define neo-liberals as being globalist (as opposed to protectionist),

            I’ll give you that.

            socially progressive (as opposed to traditionalist),

            sure, but no more so that non-neo-liberals, so that’s a wash.

            and pro-markets, anti-interventionist for the poor (ACA)

            Unless your definition of the poor excludes people on medicaid, this simply isn’t accurate. at worst it’s a wash for the poor, to the extent it screws anyone, it’s the working young. the ACA had a little neo-liberal rhetoric around it, but policy wise, it’s not neo-liberal at all, it merely shovels subsidies at the existing system to expand coverage.

            while anti-markets, pro-interventionist for the rich (big banks bailout). Perhaps our definitions are different, but by my definition, Obama is a neo-liberal.

            there are definitions of neo-liberal that are not mere terms of abuse, I’d suggest using one of them. There are qualitative differences between the policies enacted by Clinton and Obama, lumping them together just muddies the waters.

          • mankoff says:

            I failed to point out the (what I see as relevant) distinction between being nominally disenfranchised (the 45% in your example) and being a victim of disenfranchisement (the 5% in my example). In a tight election, especially as tight as the one in your example, candidates must consider the opinions of most of the constituency when proposing policies. In a wide election, especially as wide as the one in my example, the Primary essentially is the election. The 95%’s candidate does not need to moderate her views to appeal to the 5%, unless she believes the districts will be relevantly re-drawn during her career. When the Primary is for all intensive purposes the election, those who aren’t in the about-to-win party not only don’t determine the outcome, but don’t influence it either. By my view, they have been disenfranchised by gerrymandering (imagine the district was consistently in the 60-40 range and was just changed, explicitly by gerrymandering, and explicitly for political gain), but the people in your example have merely participated in a normal political process.

            On your second point about neo-liberals, I agree that I need a more meaningful definition of neo-liberalism to even participate in a discussion of whether the ACA or Obama are neo-liberally inspired or neo-liberal, respectively. Thanks for pointing this out to me.

      • AnthonyC says:

        Thanks, this helped me put things I hadn’t connected in a better context.

        In regards to mandatory voting, I’d been thinking about people currently without time or money to vote (and assuming any such system would, in practice have to mandate paid time off, or online or early voting, etc.). I was totally not thinking about felons, even though in the end that is probably the more important effect. Prisons are more likely to be in conservative areas, filled with people who a) can’t vote, but b) are (IIRC) counted as residents of the prison rather than their home communities for census/redistricting purposes. It’s a tad like the 3/5 compromise – you can’t vote, but your existence increases the political power of those that control your life.

        I will say, in regards to gerrymandering… my impression was that the goal was to maximize the number of safe-enough districts, 55-45 not 95-5. Meaning, the Republicans want a couple of super-democratic districts (“eh, it’s fine if they consistently have these XY% of seats) and a lot of moderately majority Republican districts (but we’ll consistently get 95% of the rest). In your definition from the “what counts as disenfranchisement” discussion, that would mean they’re actually disenfranchising Republicans in Democratic districts, which seems like an odd conclusion but not necessarily inaccurate.

        • Iain says:

          The standard terminology for gerrymandering involves “packing” and “cracking” the other side’s voters. Packed districts end up as a super-majority for the other side; cracked districts end up as narrow wins for your side. There’s a particularly impressive example in Wisconsin that is currently under examination by the Supreme Court.

        • mankoff says:

          I don’t think we plebs know half as much about the nuance of gerrymandering as the gerrymanderers and those who control the relevant legislation do. Perhaps there are myriad strategies of gerrymandering and disenfranchisement (race-based or not) that we aren’t aware of and that perhaps occur on smaller scales than what we’re used to.

          I think our discussion of “who” is getting disenfranchised unfairly attaches victims to wrongs without our knowing the connection. That may be why we have a counterintuitive result. I put forward that everybody who is discouraged from voting by an intentional manipulation of voting incentives (i.e. gerrymandering, which lowers the reward of voting while keeping the cost the same) has been partially disenfranchised. Their self has a lower expected value in the political system because the reward for their casting a vote has decreased, making them en masse less likely to vote. Maybe it would help us to consider populations as partially disenfranchised, not individuals.

      • but based on the traditional European school of Libertarianism, these Americans are actually anti-Libertarian (alas).

        Persuade the liberals to give us our label back and we’ll be happy to give the one we are using back to the left anarchists. At least, I will–I can’t speak for all libertarians.

        • mankoff says:

          But modern American “Libertarianism” isn’t liberal at all. Post-de-regulation (which I assume would be one of the first items on the agenda), we would be left with a tyranny of capital. Corporations aren’t democratic. You do what your superior says or she replaces you with somebody who will. The 10 (or however many) heads at the top (on the board or in upper-management) control what the corporation does with the profits, and the rest of the employees (who are actually responsible for generating the profit in the first place) are cut out of the decision making process. This seems obvious and like a throwaway point because we’re so used to it, but factory workers actually used to take it as a given that they were being dehumanized by working as wage slaves in a factory in which they didn’t own or even control the means of production.

          All in all, “Libertarianism” as I understand it is liberal only for the incumbent owners of capital, who will never be able to have their grip on power taken from them so long as they can manipulate institutions in a vicious feedback loop ($ influences politics, which in turn influences the means by which money may influence politics, etc.). Nobody who is actually victimized by any of this can offer meaningful opposition because they risk being fired for it (no regulations protecting workers).

          This “Libertarianism” is thus anti-liberal in function for most people (those who don’t own capital) because they don’t have freedom of expression guaranteed by the government. Sure, the government won’t prosecute them for dissent, but they can get fired for it. If you want the government to protect workers from that outcome, then, well, I’m afraid you don’t have “Libertarianism” at all.

          So what am I missing, or which will it be, liberalism or “Libertarianism”?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            So what am I missing

            The bit where we tie the heroine to the railroad track.

          • But modern American “Libertarianism” isn’t liberal at all. Post-de-regulation (which I assume would be one of the first items on the agenda), we would be left with a tyranny of capital. Corporations aren’t democratic.

            Classical liberalism wasn’t chiefly about democracy, certainly not democracy within firms, although there was a push for a broader franchise, which isn’t much of an issue nowadays. It was mainly about laissez-faire economics, including free trade, with some element of non-interventionist foreign policy, opposition to slavery, and similar positions. It was opposed to government intervention in the economy, which is what you presumably see as the democratic solution to corporate non-democracy.

            Aside from the franchise issue, it was essentially the same package as modern libertarianism. Modern ideological libertarians tend to offer somewhat more extreme versions–but there was a French 19th c. liberal offering an early version of anarcho-capitalism. Someone like Bastiat fits well into libertarianism and is popular with libertarians. Similarly, of course, for Adam Smith.

          • cassander says:

            All in all, “Libertarianism” as I understand it is liberal only for the incumbent owners of capital, who will never be able to have their grip on power taken from them so long as they can manipulate institutions in a vicious feedback loop ($ influences politics, which in turn influences the means by which money may influence politics, etc.). Nobody who is actually victimized by any of this can offer meaningful opposition because they risk being fired for it (no regulations protecting workers).

            Ah, the underpants gnomes theory of political economy.

            Step one: assert the capitalists control the state
            Step two: support expanding the power of the state
            Step three: ????
            Step four: the capitalists somehow end up with less power.

            If you fear that money can buy control of the state, the last thing you should want is a powerful state.

            Sure, the government won’t prosecute them for dissent, but they can get fired for it. If you want the government to protect workers from that outcome, then, well, I’m afraid you don’t have “Libertarianism” at all.

            If you fire all your dissenting workers, you’ll end up with a much worse work force and lose money.

            So what am I missing, or which will it be, liberalism or “Libertarianism”?

            You’re assuming that workers are both powerless and of little value to their employers. Neither is accurate.

          • Doctor Mist says:

            the underpants gnomes theory of political economy

            I love it. I hear this line of reasoning a lot these days (not under this name — in its simplest form there’s the “wants more gvernment/more government” meme). From my sympathetic position it seems like a slam-dunk. Why aren’t left-leaners universally convinced to become libertarians?
            What do they see as the hole in the argument?

          • Thegnskald says:

            Doctor Mist –

            It is an argument from incredulity -“I don’t understand how this could work, therefore it can’t”.

            Apply the same logic to the situation of violence/crime, the area libertarianism holds government is rightful, and you end up with the same question – how can giving one party more capacity for violence solve the problem of parties using violence against weaker parties to achieve their selfish ends?

            And yet it works.

            I can’t speak for all leftists, but I regard it as a matter of balancing selfish interests in government against selfish market forces. Yes, you end up with a similar situation as with violence – some people use their government-granted power for selfish ends – but ultimately they are constrained by the requirement of keeping voters happy. Given universal suffrage, this means keeping some percentage of the populace happy, and discounting nobody unduly.

            Which is why universal suffrage is important, as well. If we could construct a market such that everybody was either a customer or a shareholder of every market, capitalism might be more self-correcting, but in practice competitiveness forces negative externalities onto whoever cannot effectively stop them, being neither customers nor owners.

          • Nornagest says:

            Apply the same logic to the situation of violence/crime, the area libertarianism holds government is rightful, and you end up with the same question – how can giving one party more capacity for violence solve the problem of parties using violence against weaker parties to achieve their selfish ends?

            The short answer is that the same power relationships don’t hold. Socialists think moneyed interests control political power; it would be one thing if the government was an agent and giving it more power would give it more ability to stand up to those interests, but it isn’t an agent; its goals are entirely defined by those with political access and sway. Meanwhile, libertarians don’t think wandering Mad Max-esque warlords hold the reins of government coercion.

            Although it’d be pretty metal if they did. You’re running for Congress next election? The gates of Valhalla are open. I witness you, brother!

          • Aapje says:

            Capitalism empowers the few. Democracy empowers the many. They balance each other out (if everything works correctly).

            The problem with money controlling politics happens when politicians raise money with the few, when big media companies push a narrative, when companies become more powerful than government, etc. Leftists tend to fight against big/secret donors and stuff like that.

            In my country we have Airtime for Political Parties, which gives all parties some airtime on public television. It’s a bit obsolete now with so many channels & other media, but that is an example of how the not-so-rich can be empowered to spread their message.

          • cassander says:

            @Aapje says:

            Capitalism empowers the few. Democracy empowers the many. They balance each other out (if everything works correctly).

            An assertion not in evidence. Bill Gates has a considerably smaller share of the total income in the country than the president, and congress and the president together certainly have more of the power than the fortune 500 list has of the money

            The problem with money controlling politics happens when politicians raise money with the few, when big media companies push a narrative, when companies become more powerful than government, etc. Leftists tend to fight against big/secret donors and stuff like that.

            Great. Once you’ve solved that problem, THEN we can talk about expanding the power of the government, but not before.

          • Aapje says:

            @cassander

            An assertion not in evidence. Bill Gates has a considerably smaller share of the total income in the country than the president, and congress and the president together certainly have more of the power than the fortune 500 list has of the money.

            Whether there is balance or not is far more complex than that. The politicians:
            – have to renew their mandate every X years. This is not true for stockholders.
            – tend to be (both by design of democratic systems and because the incentives are different) less aligned with each other/have fewer interests in common than stockholders.
            – be organized in a system with fairly strong checks and balances.
            – etc

            There is also no particular reason why the optimal outcome is perfect balance, rather than have the government a bit dominant. The issue is not that the only good outcome happens on a knife edge, but rather that you want to prevent runaway processes.

            Great. Once you’ve solved that problem, THEN we can talk about expanding the power of the government, but not before.

            My argument doesn’t require that the government is bigger or the same size as it is now. Determining the optimal size requires more elaborate arguments than I made in my previous post.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            Why would the politicians be analogous to the stockholders here? The stockholders are the ones that the company needs to justify its policy to, similarly to how