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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. Thegnskald says:

    bintchaos –

    What would it take to convince you that assassinating the family members of terrorists is the correct approach?

    Not because I think it is correct, but because your constant ranting about how unconvincable the right is is annoying me. You appear to be committing the cardinal sin of rationality – regarding rationality as the ability of people to see the correctness of your own views, of seeing argument and debate as being of the purpose of convincing other people to adopt your views. You appear to be the unconvincable one here.

    If you can’t be convinced of a different position, your position isn’t rational. And here, more than anywhere else, the first step to convincing anybody of anything is demonstrating that you can be convinced of their position – because it shows that your views are more than tribalism.

    • albatross11 says:

      As a parallel case, the best way we seem to have of preventing nuclear war is some variant of mutual assured destruction. In terms of death and suffering, this is like a million times worse than murdering terrorists’ families or torturing prisoners. But we honestly don’t have any better alternatives we know how to find. (We can do a lot to decrease the risk of nuclear war, but the ultimate fallback is that Russia doesn’t murder millions of Americans because if they do, we’ll murder millions of Russians.)

      I’m not saying this is a great outcome, or that it informs our choice of whether to torture or murder people. In fact, I haven’t even remotely seen a strong case made for doing those things that takes into account the long-term cost of establishing the relevant precedents and government programs and laws. But we do actually swallow morally awful policies when they’re the only way we can figure out to survive, and I can’t see a better alternative.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Comparative advantage suggests the US shouldn’t engage in these sorts of policies given Russia, even if they are effective; instead, each country should engage in complimentary strategies.

    • bintchaos says:

      My views are tribal. I just told you that.
      I can’t be convinced of a different position on killing terrorists families.
      I have been converted…its now a matter of survival to believe the other tribe is not just wrong, but evil.
      Association with others that don’t hold your views, race, class, or ethnicity is supposed to humanize the “other”.
      Its pushed me leftwards.
      Thats why I believe there has to be a biological component that is triggered by the current environment.
      Morally “killing-terrorists-families” is indefensible, but I don’t really care about morals. Morals are not biology, unless there is only one tribal identity (h. sapiens sapiens)
      Killing terrorist families has often been practiced as an expedient solution, like in Chechnya.
      Its just shocking to me that any educated American could support it.
      The Union was started by terrorists– one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.
      This isnt a debate club exercise.
      This is life and death for the World.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Sigh. No it isn’t.

        And now I know your age, because I have this exact same argument every eight years, when the latest generation discovers political partisanship anew, as the media convinces them that This Time It Is Important.

        And you don’t know what education means if you think education implies uniformity of thought.

      • schazjmd says:

        Association with others that don’t hold your views, race, class, or ethnicity is supposed to humanize the “other”.
        Its pushed me leftwards.
        Thats why I believe there has to be a biological component that is triggered by the current environment.

        You’re a sample of one.

        I’m blue tribe (not 100% on every issue but more so that than any other category). Reading the various discussions here, I’ve often felt challenged to rethink not just my positions, but also why I hold that position. In that rethinking, I’ve sometimes modified my view; other instances, I’m satisified with the reasoning behind my original position; a few times, I’ve decided to be comfortable holding an opinion based on something other than reason.

        • bintchaos says:

          I linked studies supporting my point.
          here and here

          • Thegnskald says:

            Studies can be found supporting any position. The real question is, could an opposing study change your mind?

            Science isn’t correctness, it is willingness to discard the incorrect.

          • bintchaos says:

            Link me the studie(s) then.
            I consider Edge a trusted source, and Vox is usually too.
            If you are going to link me AEI or FOX, save your breath.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I asked if you would change your mind. I have little interest in doing so, at least in part because you have already implied I couldn’t anyways.

            Because what I am showing you isn’t that you are wrong, but rather that you don’t know how to become less wrong.

      • My views are tribal. I just told you that.

        Have you now conceded that you are Blue Tribe not, as you earlier claimed, Science Tribe?

        • bintchaos says:

          I have adapted.
          Blue Tribe is the best for Science Tribe.
          What tipped my primary identity blue is a single issue.
          Killing-terrorist-families.

          • Thegnskald says:

            So you are a reactionary who defines yourself by the positions your enemies hold?

          • albatross11 says:

            bintchaos:

            Let’s imagine a thought experiment. I claim, based on the history of the Bush and Obama administrations, that this is entirely plausible.

            Tomorrow, it comes out via some leaker that the US has actually been quietly targeting the families of anti-US terrorists with its drone assassination program, in an attempt to dissuade terrorism, and that this program started (and was approved at the highest levels) in the Obama administration. The program involved purposely blowing up the homes of known/suspected terrorist leaders at night with the whole family at home, blowing up wedding parties of suspected terrorist leaders, etc[1].

            What is your estimate of the fraction of blue-tribers who will find themselves making excuses for why this is, after all, a hard but fair policy that we simply must do for our own protection?

            To come up with that estimate, I recommend you look at liberal vs conservative opinions on our mass surveillance and assassination programs under Bush and Obama, and note the pretty large shift in blue support for those programs when they were done under Obama. You should also check out how many blue-tribers found themselves supporting the attack on Libya, despite Obama’s violation of the War Powers Act.

            Personally, I found it amazingly depressing watching liberals who’d spent eight years agreeing with me that the Bush Administration’s war on terror was a nightmare, suddenly finding themselves justifying very similar policies when done by the Obama administration.

            [1] As best I can tell, this is consistent with what’s come out in public, though I have no reason at all to suspect it has really happened. That’s why it’s a thought experiment.

          • bintchaos says:

            Nope, I’m a sentient organism that just recognized my survival imperative.
            I think the Red Tribe is Reavers, that given the chance, would cook me and eat me, rape me to death, and patch their clothes with my skin.
            If you advocate killing terrorists families as a utilitarian good, why wouldn’t you kill me and my family for say, protesting?

            Zoe: If they take the ship, they’ll rape us to death, eat our flesh and sew our skins into their clothing. And if we’re very very lucky, they’ll do it in that order.


            It just got crystal clear to me.
            I understand Antifa perfectly– your threat of violence answered with our threat of violence.
            Cause, hei, violence works.
            I’m going to have re-read Arendt…
            engagés into enragés

          • bintchaos says:

            @albatross11
            The difference is partly Obama is taking actions based on what Bush had left him.
            The gamespace is narrowed by the past.
            Obama is is not a free agent.
            I guess neither was Bush in a sense.
            The other difference is publicly stated policy, like torture, which is what we get from Trump. Did Obama get up and publicly declare he would kill terrorists families or bring back torture?
            The Red Tribe says, oh, Trump doesnt mean that– he DOES. He absolutely does.

          • Thegnskald says:

            I am leftist and blue tribe.

            And from where I am sitting, you are the Reaver.

            Actually, I am pretty sure you are a far-right troll pretending to be a leftist to try to make us look bad. The obsession with fitness and biological inclination looks far more like all-right nuttery than far-fetched (edit: left) nuttery. But you aren’t that much worse than some genuine leftists I have met, so who knows for sure.

          • bintchaos says:

            I think the word you are looking for is “Moby”.
            And if you are really a skald I would never eat you, scandinavian food is dreadful.

            The obsession with fitness and biological inclination looks far more like all-right nuttery than far-fetched nuttery


            So I can’t be a left hereditarian? There are NO left hereditarians?
            That’s your position?

          • Thegnskald says:

            That is not my position, no. My position is that, given your claimed beliefs and revealed behavior, “troll” is more likely.

          • @bintchaos

            Try and explain “hereditarian” as a position detached from right wing nationalism to your new antifa buddies, and see what that does for your survival imperative.

            We’re far more forgiving of nuance than the molotov throwers you’re seeking the protection of.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I think the Red Tribe is Reavers, that given the chance, would cook me and eat me, rape me to death, and patch their clothes with my skin.

            She’s on to us!

          • CatCube says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Are you gonna do that Donald Sutherland scream, or should I?

          • keranih says:

            I think the Red Tribe is Reavers, that given the chance, would cook me and eat me, rape me to death, and patch their clothes with my skin.

            …I have seen nothing to persuade me that skin as thin as yours would be an adequate patch for any garment, you’re not my type, and I prefer real bacon to long pig, thanks.

            Having said all that, I still have to disagree with those who consider you a troll, on the grounds that such a tag would imply consistency, purpose, forethought, and adaptability.

            killing-terrorist-families

            Really now, you’re just ranting and rending your clothes. Consider instead making a principled, rational objection to this action, so as to convince those who might be wavering on the topic.

          • Matt M says:

            such a tag would imply consistency, purpose, forethought, and adaptability.

            Nah, there are bad trolls, just like there are people who are bad at all other hobbies/occupations!

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ keranih

            Well said.

  2. onyomi says:

    This may sound like a stupid question, but does Blue Tribe care much about anything anymore, politically and/or rhetorically, besides fighting for the oppressed? I know, there are worse things one could be myopically focused on, but other than maybe climate change, I feel like there is virtually no political rhetoric coming out of Tribe Blue nowadays that isn’t related to discrimination, poverty, preexisting conditions, etc. Like, can you build an entire political philosophy out of “always and only focus on doing what seems more compassionate”?

    Again, this may seem like a strange thing to say, but when I think of Tribe Red, I feel like they are simultaneously pursuing a bunch of different values and offering plays on a variety of different emotions: hard work, honor, family, law and order, patriotism, etc. etc.

    Which is not at all to say that I believe the Democrat Party is motivated purely or even primarily by compassion (nor the GOP by truth, justice, and the American way), nor that Blue Tribe members themselves are motivated purely by compassion (though I believe many are motivated at least in part by it), but simply that it feels rather hollow to me, personally, as a political philosophy: put another way, it’s one thing to be “the party of the oppressed.” It’s another to be “the party of nothing but the oppressed with no appeal to anyone else or any other values.” It really does start to feel like Nietzsche’s “slave morality” someone else mentioned re. social justice.

    I am, of course, exaggerating a little, but this is subjectively how it feels to me: every politics-related meme my Blue friends post has something to do with oppression or socio-economic disadvantage of some sort; the Red friends are at least varied, if a bit reactive (most of their posts are not putting forth much of a positive vision, so much as reacting against the various facets of Blue’s compassionate vision by saying “but guns prevent crime,” “but welfare destroys family values,” etc.).

    • bintchaos says:

      This post started with two examples (current Affairs & dKos) of how things are changing for the Blue Tribe. One thing that is ending is attempting outreach to the Red Tribe.
      Extreme identity politics is how Trump got elected — the Blue Tribe will copy that behavior going forward.
      I don’t think swing voters matter anymore.
      Identity matters.

      It is worth dwelling on what isn’t happening here: any persuasion about policies or ideas. These experimental cues trigger complex, multilayered identities. They do not make arguments about ideal marginal tax rates or America’s role in the world. Results like these do not make sense under the traditional or retrospective theories of democracy; they make perfect sense under the group identity theory of democracy.

      When we talk about group identities in American politics, we mainly mean nonpolitical identities: race, class, gender, sexuality. But there’s one identity that elections activate above all, and that identity is becoming more and more powerful: partisan identity.

    • This may sound like a stupid question, but does Blue Tribe care much about anything anymore, politically and/or rhetorically, besides fighting for the oppressed?

      This links to a question I sometimes put to people–how does “social justice” differ from “justice”? One of the answers I have come up with is that social justice is that approach that results in responding to every possible issue with “how does it affect the poor.”

      • Nornagest says:

        The answer I’m working with is “justice done at the social level, i.e. society organized such that relationships between social groups are just”.

        • What’s the difference between just relationships between individuals and between social groups?

          Suppose you have a society with a lot of undeserved income inequality. Further suppose that, for some reason, the average incomes of blacks and white are the same. Is that then socially just but individually unjust?

          • Nornagest says:

            I think SJ advocates would at least give lip service to the idea that it’s racially just but economically unjust — you can identify a social group based on the shared experience of unjust economic treatment. In practice, though, social groups and their grievances seem to be considered more or less legitimate and worthy of remedy depending on any number of factors. I’m tempted to round those factors off to something uncharitable, but instead I’ll say that the history of group advocacy, amount of academic support for the group, and proximity to currently fashionable causes all seem to matter.

          • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

            I’m not sure “undeserved” is a meaningful word. I mean, how we know how much money (or other resources) one “deserves”? To achieve justice, we have laws and procedures surrounding the laws. But beyond the basic law neutrality principles – which are clearly not considered enough – how do we define “deserved”?

          • how do we define “deserved”?

            I’ve discussed in the past the distinction between desert and entitlement, but that wasn’t the point I wanted to raise here. Presumably almost everyone believes that there are some income inequalities that are justified, although they will disagree about which and why. I wanted to focus on the ones that, for whatever reason, were not.

          • I think SJ advocates would at least give lip service to the idea that it’s racially just but economically unjust

            What about the flip case? Suppose there are income inequalities among individuals, but they are ones you believe are justified, on whatever basis you use–more pay for more dangerous work, more unpleasant work, work that produces more of value to others. It happens that one result of those inequalities is that whites, on average, make more than blacks. Is that situation then economically just but socially unjust?

          • tscharf says:

            Here’s what the NYT’s said today in an op-ed:

            The [rural] working class was once mainstream America, the most common and typical of all of us. It is now the residue of failed social mobility, when most have been mobile. After decades of social mobility, that residue is now more distinctive, it is those who are not willing to grab the ring, but rather to remain in the hometown and fear change and others. These people should be Trump voters.

            The dissonance one must have to declare one set of people’s economic problems solely caused by oppression and the other group as stated above is hard to fathom. To top it all off, the thinking apparently is the people who are doing all the oppressing is the above group of “social residue”.

            Surprisingly these mixed message aren’t very convincing to some. I would suggest that the title “The Closing of the Republican Mind” is an attempt at satire but sadly it is not.

          • schazjmd says:

            @tscharf

            I found the lead-in to the paragraph you quoted put it in even a more disturbing context:

            Stimson then poses another question: “Should the Democratic Party cater to these voters?” His answer is an unequivocal no:

            Now cater is a loaded term, but leaving that aside, the POV in the op-ed seems to be those people don’t matter. This is so wrong-minded. I don’t see how a healthy society can declare that for any subset of its population. (I know, who said we had a healthy society?) But I think the Democratic party taking that attitude is wrong.

          • tscharf says:

            There’s been a whole series of arguments about whether the left should even try to “appease” the white working class. There is nothing wrong with working out a political strategy and determining who you are going to appeal to and who you will probably burn bridges with. This type of argument, out loud and in the NYT, is a bit strange and unfortunately isn’t an anomaly. It’s basically “why should us winners appeal to a bunch of losers?”.

            This type of tone deafness is pretty amazing. The demeaning aspect serves no useful purpose. It is clearly related to why they lost in 2016, who doesn’t resent that type of statement? The Democrats have an underclass that votes for them, have they not noticed? They better hope they don’t read these stories.

            Taking for granted that the left and right underclass will never team up might be a mistake they live to regret. Imagine a figurative “Black Trump” uniting the underclasses. Worst case scenario for the cosmopolitans, and this type of rhetoric invites it to happen.

          • hlynkacg says:

            It’s especially egregious coming from people who purportedly view “inequality” and “oppression” as evils to be erradicated.

          • Nornagest says:

            It happens that one result of those inequalities is that whites, on average, make more than blacks. Is that situation then economically just but socially unjust?

            My SJ emulator outputs “yes”, but you’re kinda pushing the envelope on it.

          • AnarchyDice says:

            @tscharf
            “a figurative “Black Trump” uniting the underclasses”
            Kayne West?

          • Brad says:

            It is clearly related to why they lost in 2016

            No that isn’t clear. There’s way too much narrative building around the election outcome without any attempt at rigor. It was a close election, and in the last 40 years there’s been exactly one time that a single party controlled the white house for 12 years. That’s should be your prior. Not a just so story about how smug the New York Times is.

          • tscharf says:

            I said related, not a single causation. A close election win/loss can legitimately be caused by many different factors, and most of the reasons for Clinton losing are true, and all of them together combined matter of course.

            They are talking about it in this article because the WWC is deemed to be a significant factor. I’m just saying this smugness was quite apparent before the election and the term “cultural resentment” has been bounced around after the election.

            People resent this type of attitude because there is an attempt to create a social construct in which it is forbidden to say things just like this about the left’s base but it is tolerated (even in the NYT) to say these things about the right’s base. You don’t need to be a Harvard graduate to understand this is not fair and be offended by it.

            It’s ironic that they trot out a professor to say these things in an article about the decline in trust for academia from the right. Cause, meet effect.

            I believe that the majority of academia is not like this, it would be politically wise for that majority to not give this minority a megaphone.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            “Black Trump”

            This needs to become a meme.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Brad

            No that isn’t clear. There’s way too much narrative building around the election outcome without any attempt at rigor. It was a close election, and in the last 40 years there’s been exactly one time that a single party controlled the white house for 12 years. That’s should be your prior. Not a just so story about how smug the New York Times is.

            I agree with you, but you also need to explain the collapse of the Blue Wall. There was a shift greater than politics as usual. And there’s definitely a shift in the Democratic Party attitude towards the white working class.

    • Salem says:

      What do you mean by “Blue Tribe”?

      If you mean the Democratic coalition, then no, at least, not collectively. A big tent policy means you will only all agree on a couple of things, and Arnold Kling has persuasively argued for the oppressor/oppressed narrative as being key to their politics and rhetoric.

      But if you mean “Blue Tribe” in its proper sense, before bintchaos started running wild like Hulkamania, i.e. that we here are almost all blue tribe, then I don’t actually think “fighting oppression” is particularly high up the list. Self-actualisation is probably the highest concept.

      • onyomi says:

        Yeah, I mean Blue Tribe rhetoric, not what actually motivates Blue Tribe members, especially those here, who are not at all typical.

        I mean, do your social media feeds include memes to the effect of “a vote for Dems is a vote for you to become anything you want to be!” “a vote for Dems means the future of self-driving cars and robot butlers gets here faster!” “a vote for Dems means more stem cell research!” (yes, I occasionally get “a vote for GOP is a vote against science,” but usually only as relates to climate change, evolution, or abortion).

        That is, there is no future vision associated with voting for the Dem party outside one of “like today, but everybody gets to enjoy the privileges of white, heterosexual males.” Besides the fact that this holds no appeal to white, heterosexual males (both because we already have such privileges, if they exist, and are also skeptical that they do exist, at least as portrayed), it is just very uninteresting. Even if white, heterosexual males do have it great in the current society, is the best future vision we can offer really just “minorities enjoy the advantages currently enjoyed by the dominant group”?

        Which is not to say the GOP is very good at presenting a positive future vision. I think they are rightly accused of being too reactive: the liberal party ensures we keep making mistakes, the conservative party ensures that, once made, they never get fixed. But I think Trump sort of succeeded on this point, despite his party’s best efforts, even if many think his “positive vision” was really just a throwback to the 50s.

        • Salem says:

          That is, there is no future vision associated with voting for the Dem party outside one of “like today, but everybody gets to enjoy the privileges of white, heterosexual males.”

          Agree entirely.

          However, the Blue Tribe isn’t the Democratic Party. The Blue Tribe, remember, is educated professionals, many of whom are Republicans. For example, 47% of doctors, 55% of accountants, 55% of executives, and something over 27% of lawyers* are Republicans. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party gets lots of votes from union members, retail workers, the urban poor… and of course ethnic minorities, who are outside the Red/Blue divide to begin with.

          Perhaps self-actualisation thinking is so pervasive that you’ve missed it, like a fish in water, but if you’ve never seen a meme, for example, about “a woman’s right to choose” then your Facebook feed looks very different to mine.

          * Their figure includes paralegals, a large and heavily Democrat group.

          • onyomi says:

            I can see how “a woman’s right to choose” is about female self-actualization, yet it usually seems couched in oppressor/oppressed language: that is, if a woman can’t choose an abortion it’s because the white, male oppressors are keeping her down.

            In fact, this may be a more accurate way to express what I’m groping at: it’s not that rescuing the oppressed is the only issue Blue Tribe cares about; rather, it’s the only rhetorical mode they seem to know anymore. “Oppressor-oppressed” is a big enough brush that you can describe almost any issue in relation to that axis; doesn’t mean you should, though.

        • Matt M says:

          is the best future vision we can offer really just “minorities enjoy the advantages currently enjoyed by the dominant group”?

          Even this may be too charitable, as I feel like more and more, they are dropping any pretense that the method of achieving equality is by building minorities up instead of simply tearing white males down.

          Evergreen is probably an instructive example here (I know, I know, it’s just one college, and I don’t go there, therefore it’s totally irrelevant to anything and I should just shut up right now), as shit hit the fan when their “day of absence” went from “the minorities are going to leave so they can talk to each other about their problems” to “all the white males have to leave so we can feel safe.”

          Every day the plan seems less “minorities will get to enjoy the advantages of white males” and more “white males must share equally in the oppression and misery suffered by minorities”

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            That’s the Harrison Bergeron failure mode. If we’ve determined that the optimal outcome is “equality,” and we find ourselves unable to improve the underclass, that leaves only one option.

          • Brad says:

            Even this may be too charitable

            Heaven forbid someone be charitable to the hated enemy.

          • Nornagest says:

            I’d appreciate it if you cut back on the snark, Brad.

          • Iain says:

            In Brad’s defense, this entire thread is a tiresome pummeling of straw men. Congratulations, right-wing denizens of SSC — you have discovered outgroup homogeneity.

            If you choose to focus exclusively on left-wing rhetoric about oppression, and contort all left-wing arguments until you can cram them into that box, then yes, you will certainly perceive that the left only talks about one thing. This is a fact about your perception, not about reality.

            Consider: one of the hottest topics on the left these days is single-payer healthcare. Absent the framing of this conversation, is there any chance you would see that as a question of oppression?

          • tscharf says:

            If single payer (or any solution really) brings our healthcare costs in line with the rest of the world, basically cutting our costs in half, I’m in. If the solution doesn’t show any clear path, I’m not in. The ACA and Republican plan only put who gets insurance and who pays for it in a blender, it doesn’t address the real problem.

            As far as I can tell the only way to get our healthcare costs down is by government mandated cost controls. We just spent 40 years proving the current system is incapable of becoming a true market and I see very little hope it will reform itself.

            Is that right wing enough for you? Ha ha.

          • cassander says:

            @tscharf says:

            If single payer (or any solution really) brings our healthcare costs in line with the rest of the world, basically cutting our costs in half, I’m in.

            In what world do you imagine that the medial lobby, any part of it, will accept a 40% paycut?

            Hell, even if by some miracle you managed to pass legislation to that effect, we know from past experience that it won’t matter, the medical lobby will find ways to “delay” implementation forever.

            As far as I can tell the only way to get our healthcare costs down is by government mandated cost controls.

            This has been tried. It has utterly failed.

            We just spent 40 years proving the current system is incapable of becoming a true market and I see very little hope it will reform itself.

            It can’t be a market. The government makes it being a market illegal.

          • tscharf says:

            In what world do you imagine that the medial lobby, any part of it, will accept a 40% paycut?

            Um, no. Neither would device manufacturers, hospitals, pharmaceuticals, or insurance companies. It’s probably why Obama gave up on cost control early because he didn’t think he could win the battle.

            The US medical sector is way overcompensated by almost any measure relative to the rest of the world. There is no silver bullet to cost control, everything in the US system costs twice as much: drugs, hospitals, doctors, etc. Other countries apparently have gone down the “healthcare is different than cellphones, people cannot choose to not enter the market” route and imposed cost controls or socialized the entire system.

            The US medical system is the worst possible example for capitalism. Our “market” costs twice as much as socialized medicine and doesn’t provide comparably better outcomes. If it was the reverse the right would be screaming this from every mountain top about the glorious power of free markets. It has failed. FAILED.

            I believe that this market is really just horribly broken and entrenched, and it just isn’t going to fix itself. In this case I break my anti-big government stance and call for mandated cost controls.

            Healthcare is different.

            We cannot allow this level of cost to be imposed on our citizens. The answer is not taxing people to keep the sector overcompensated, the answer is lowering costs.

            At some point monopolies need to be broken up by government. What we have is some weird involuntary byzantine distributed monopoly in healthcare. There are no low cost options other than not getting healthcare, which is not an acceptable option.

            The medical sector better shape up, or this blunt tool will be imposed on them for lack of any alternative. People aren’t going to just give up and let this continue. It’s clear as day to me government mandated healthcare is coming.

            The left will win this argument, and they should on the merits. You have no idea how bitter that pill is to swallow for me, but I am not going to cover my eyes and ears on this one. The healthcare sector is f***ed and will not self correct. They have zero incentives to do so.

          • onyomi says:

            We just spent 40 years proving the current system is incapable of becoming a true market and I see very little hope it will reform itself.

            We just spent the past 50 years making the healthcare system less and less market-like and are surprised as it becomes less and less affordable.

          • onyomi says:

            @Iain

            Consider: one of the hottest topics on the left these days is single-payer healthcare. Absent the framing of this conversation, is there any chance you would see that as a question of oppression?

            My social media feeds are almost entirely left-wing academics and I see very little about single payer healthcare on there. The posts about healthcare still frame things in a oppressor-oppressed/compassion worldview by implying that greedy Republicans care more about saving a buck or two than saving the lives of people with pre-existing conditions.

            The only people who do talk about single-payer are the Bernie Bros, who are very much the Trumpkins of the left and an exception to what I’m talking about here, which is dissatisfaction with the rhetoric of the mainstream Dem party (Trumpkins also represented disaffection from the mainstream GOP, of course, but I don’t think the mainstream GOP rhetoric had become so single-note; it may also be that I’m exposed to more mainstream leftwing rhetoric than mainstream right wing rhetoric).

          • I believe that this market is really just horribly broken and entrenched, and it just isn’t going to fix itself. In this case I break my anti-big government stance and call for mandated cost controls.

            You have rejected the possibility that it has been broken by massive government intervention at every level, from the AMA using licensing to hold down the number of physicians through prescription requirements that sharply increase the demand for physicians’ services, drug regulation that greatly reduces the rate of introduction of new medical drugs and greatly increases their price, through insurance regulations, long predating Obama, that don’t leave customers free to decide for themselves what they want covered or which insurance company, including ones not in their state, they want to cover therm?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Iain

            Consider: one of the hottest topics on the left these days is single-payer healthcare.

            Where can I see this? I read Current Affairs, I read Mother Jones, I see Russia, Trump is the Devil, and identity politics. Where do I tap into the zeitgeist to observe that single-payer healthcare is the big to-do?

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            Single-payer seems to occupy a similar space in the mental economy of the left-liberal mainstream as, say, Social Security privatization does among Old Reaganites and the libertarian right: it’s not something they’ve stopped wishing for, but it’s something they’ve stopped seeing as politically possible in the forseeable future, and therefore see no profit in talking much about.

          • tscharf says:

            You have rejected the possibility that it has been broken by massive government intervention at every level

            I have entertained that possibility, and based on the evidence that those with even more intervention operate at half the cost with about the same outcomes I have concluded that the problem isn’t government intervention by itself. It’s possible that the US has the “wrong kind” of government intervention.

            The short version is I look at Japan or some countries in the EU and simply say “that is better”. We could argue the details but most citizens would take their $5K / year savings and the Japanese healthcare system in a heartbeat. Eventually the citizens are going to figure this out, and it’s going to be Sanders or Trump #2 that will run on it, and win.

            There are are obviously no easy answers, but I have not the patience nor the confidence to try to let this market start working. In fact I see no evidence anyone is even trying to make it work.

            Have you noticed that the healthcare sector is barely making any noise over the past decade? Their gravy train isn’t being affected. If they aren’t screaming, then the proposed answer is wrong.

    • SamChevre says:

      I think it’s important here to separate rhetorically and politically.

      Rhetorically, it’s all oppression, all the time.

      Practically, though, most of it ends up being policies to ensure that Dwayne the one-truck contractor doesn’t oppress Jamal, which have the odd result of Jamal being about as well off as before, but Dwayne paying Jane who went to college to do a lot of paperwork, which is reviewed by Janice who went to law school.

      • onyomi says:

        Yes, and Jane and Janice are my Facebook friends who only post memes about how important it is to stop oppressing Jamal (though I am skeptical he actually ends up better off, long-run, as a result of their rhetoric/efforts).

  3. yodelyak says:

    I think there’s no question that persuasion works, and that smart people think a lot about how well it works. Basically, you just talk to the people, and ask them after you’ve talked to them if what you had to say affected what they think. If not, ask why, and let that affect you and let them see that you don’t mind thinking through what was said, and then respond honestly with what you think. And then ask again if their mind is changed. Rinse and repeat until it’s time to talk to someone new. And then thank them for their time, and move on.

    I worked for many years as a field political staffer. I wore many hats, usually several at once, including door-to-door canvasser, field manager (and so responsible for training/supervising large teams of volunteer and/or paid door-to-door canvassers) and campaign message strategist or plain-out campaign manager. People are eminently, definitely, 100% persuadable… When it works, people are like boats on an ocean tide. Even the other campaign’s staff are eventually affected.

    The points about there being different types of minds are true, in the sense that there are people who are relatively open and trusting and people who are less so. Rinse and repeat for susceptibility to authoritarianism, and plenty of other traits I’m sure, all of them variously clustered in one party/team or the other, depending on who you ask. Lots of these relate more to early childhood factors, or even prenatal ones, than to genetics, if you ask some people. I have no dog in that fight, although I’m curious to see what I can learn. I agree clusters are self-segregating, somewhat–gays move to cities, for example–and voila: “divergence” or whatever. But, Rome wasn’t built in a day. I don’t really know, but I predict the difference-in-differences between two Romans of a particular social/economic class two generations after Romulus and two Romans of the equivalent social/economic class ten generations later *dwarf* the differences of two same-class Romans, alive at the same time, even of one who is “untrusting” and the other “trusting.”

    Sometimes it’s easy. Sometimes it’s hard. Even Moses and Pharaoh hard. Often the best canvassers are the ones (often very young people) who have no idea how hard it can be–and have no idea how stubbornly wrong most people are about at least one or two central things–because they are simultaneously confident in speaking their own truth, polite even to the point of being deferential, and open-minded to new information. It’s catching. I think it may be why the religions I most respect put a lot of stock in being “like a child.”

    If you want proof that persuasion is possible, look at things like the change in attitudes toward gays in less than a generation. I was once asked by a reporter for the Washington Blade “Who is the most influential gay person in the country?” I said something stupid, like Ellen DeGeneres or Barney Frank or something. The right answer was, “Somewhere in the country, in this instant, someone is coming out to their loved ones. Or building up to it. Or working through it. That person is doing more to change attitudes toward gay people than any famous person.”

    I have had a door-to-door conversation with a woman gun owner (and not just one gun; she owned at least five, including an AK) where we talked about magazine limits, Gabby Giffords, and where I admitted I have loved ones I suspect of having suicidal thoughts, and that’s part of why I don’t own a gun, and don’t mind having a society where trained (and, ideally, screened-for-mental-health-issues) cops, not citizens, carry, but have no problem at all if citizens have guns for hobbies, home defense, or because they are preppers–history is weird, and preparing for contingencies is a public service, not least because the more people who are prepared, the less likely most unpleasant contingencies become. Actually, in that case I think I mostly persuaded her to stop stockpiling guns, and focus on food, water, some useful books, and smart friends close at hand. I’ve had door-to-door conversations with climate-change deniers where I’ve admitted I suspect some high-profile Dems of publicly talking catastrophe while being deliberately ineffectual in private, because if they haven’t quite managed to act in keeping with the responsibilities of their offices, we’ll keep pressuring them, which works to keep them in office. I’ve had conversations with educated men who nonetheless listen to Rush Limbaugh because they know how much they relied on strident conservativism to hold their marriages together in hard times–and how grateful they are for that, in hindsight–about how maybe I’d be happily married now, if more men in my life had been pushier about the sanctity of marriage, and admitted I have some residual sadness about love lost–but then gone on to say that I don’t think trying to pressure gay men into marrying straight women is anyone’s idea of a solution, nor is treating them as second-class citizens because of who they are. Now that we’re aware gay men are born that way, let’s do the smart thing and let them marry each other.

    There is a problem of socialization of cost and privatization of benefit that eventually made doing the heavy lifting unprofitable for me. It gets old–doing all the work to change people’s minds–and some people really need a generation–maybe two or more–of steady investment to come around on single questions, and there isn’t really a need for every person to come around on every issue, so most of us have a default of “go along to get along” on everything, because it isn’t worth *my* trouble to change *your* mind, when “your” is the 20,000 voters or so it takes to swing even a relatively swing-able single Congressional election, and success is so much more cheaply obtained by playing turnout games. And campaigns can’t easily differentiate between volunteers and staff that scarcely work, but hang around soaking in the do-gooder points, versus volunteers and staff that make every interaction and every minute count.

    • spkaca says:

      This is the sort of comment that makes me keep coming back here. We surely would disagree about much, but in the end that isn’t so important. Thank you.

    • bintchaos says:

      I think there’s no question that persuasion works, and that smart people think a lot about how well it works.


      I just think it doesnt work anymore.
      If you look at the studies Haidt cites the strongest prejudice has changed over time.

      If you were on a selection committee tasked with choosing someone to hire (or to admit to your university, or to receive a prize in your field), and it came down to two candidates who were equally qualified on objective measures, which candidate would you be most likely to choose?

      __A) The one who shared your race
      __B) The one who shared your gender
      __C) The one who shared your religion
      __D) The one who shared your political party or ideology

      The correct answer, for most Americans, is now D. It is surely good news that prejudice based on race, gender, and religion are way down in recent decades. But it is very bad news—for America, for the world, and for science—that cross-partisan hostility is way up.
      My nomination for “news that will stay news” is a paper by political scientists Shanto Iyengar and Sean Westwood, titled “Fear and Loathing Across Party Lines: New Evidence on Group Polarization.” Iyengar and Westwood report four studies (all using nationally representative samples) in which they gave Americans various ways to reveal both cross-partisan and cross-racial prejudice, and in all cases cross-partisan prejudice was larger.


      success is so much more cheaply obtained by playing turnout games


      Someone asked a snide question about if this was how I persuaded people on OFA– the answer is, we didn’t. OFA was a “turn-out” game. The DreamTeam behavioral science relational database microtargetted potential voters that were deemed sympathetic to voting Dem based on a large slate of parameters– like how their neighbors voted, how many children they had, shopping habits, educational attainment (lol), age, library card ownership, etc. We were just sent to encourage them to vote, not to persuade them to vote a certain way. In a way, a social physics application that amplified turnout based on data mining– and from small local decentralized centers, relying on shoe leather and personal contact.
      I have no idea what IVY was supposed to accomplish– all I saw was centralized phone banks here. I presume our call lists were generated from the same data bases but the technique was a fail.
      I think persuasion just doesnt work in the age in the age of polarization.
      My commenting here was a sort of experiment to discover if there was some persuasion space left in hyper-polarized US politics. I think the answer is no. My experience here has pushed me hard left.
      Sure, people were persuadable in the past– not so much anymore. The environment has changed.
      I talked about fitness landscapes and adaptive and non-adaptive behaviors– the internet, globalism, stagnant economies, demographic shift, technology, all environmental changes.
      And change is accelerating, the news cycle is faster, trends move faster.

      most of us have a default of “go along to get along” on everything


      Thats not the default anymore– in the age of polarization identity solidarity is the prime directive. Red Tribe have been better at this in the past, and at base enthusiasm. Blue Tribe must adapt to a changing environment.
      No more outreach to the other side is a new strategy for the blues. Because people aren’t persuadable.
      Not now.

      • Skivverus says:

        I can’t help but notice the lack of an option E, “The one who was less of an asshole”. Or a “none of the above” option. If I had to pick one of A-D, yes, I’d pick D, no question. But I’d rather flip a coin.

        • Matt M says:

          It’s a stupidly phrased question beyond just that, because nobody ever actually sees “two candidates whose qualifications are equal in literally every way.”

          The whole point is that discrimination doesn’t work like that. Nobody says to themselves “These two candidates are exactly equal, but let me pick the white one because he’s more like me.” The actual accusation is that someone would allow whiteness to cause them to consider the white candidate “more qualified” than the non-white candidate.

          The entire framing of this question is pointless, as it specifically invokes a scenario that will literally never happen in real life.

      • yodelyak says:

        @bintchaos

        I think we’re not actually disagreeing. I agree that the vast majority of the work that goes on at field campaigns (especially Presidential campaigns in high-turnout years) is about turn-out. Anyone who was going to be persuaded in a Presidential year is going to have *lots* of information, and is comparatively unlikely to be persuaded by a volunteer at their door.

        Another story I’ll tell you is of a county-level race in 2010, adjacent to one I was working on, where I knew the D-candidate–let’s call her Jane–as a friend. After the 2010 race, in which Jane lost, I talked to her about how it went. Jane had been elected to a large, county-wide seat in 2008. I had sorta assumed that going in to 2010, she knew the writing was on the wall, because the county they were in has about as many voters as a Congressional district, and is light purple in blue years–but deep red in red years. The stakes for the county-wide race aren’t that high (it’s a seat that is fairly powerful, but most voters don’t know just how important it is). The upshot of it being so big a district, but voters not paying attention, is that voters just vote the letter after the name of the candidate. Less than 1 in 50 voters in the district can name any person at the county government. And Jane wouldn’t have enough money to even teach her voters her *name* (a single mail piece to 1,000,000 voters costs something on the order of $500k, even if you do all the labor in-house and get some great deals) even if she had 5x the money she raised. For Jane, running a winning campaign was totally out of the question. If the other guy can run a 3-minute mile, and you are a human being stuck with what your legs can give you, you lose unless the other guy falls down and stays down–and in that case, you’re just as likely to win if you jog as if you sprint and risk injury your own self. That’s what *I* knew, and what I assumed Jane knew also.

        But Jane had never run before, and her campaign couldn’t afford consultants. Compared to previous candidates for her seat, Jane had run a stellar, unparalleled effort. She’d raised almost $200k, had personally knocked >2,000 doors, and had impressively mobilized many of her friends to go door-to-door, talking about issues that mattered to them, and gotten a huge swath of her network to donate. I had chalked up all the effort to her being an awesome, hard-working soul who believed in working hard, even if she was going to lose. (Also, she’s older than me and it maybe didn’t occur to me I might know better than she.) But actually, a D-operative had “gifted” Jane with a campaign plan “to give her a good prospect for winning.” (Actually it was tailored to match the approximate ceiling for a high-achieving, go-getter person with middle-class friends and eight months to campaign, before they collapse into exhaustion/depression and/or all their friends start hating them or thinking they are weird.) It didn’t move the needle meaningfully, in terms of Jane’s own race–which went R in her race by like .2% less than the generic congressional ballot–because *of course it didn’t*. After the race, the same D-operative who had given her the plan, told her something to the effect of

        Yeah, sure, your race was a loser from the start, and people paying attention knew that. But think of how much good you did for (upticket D. U.S. Senate candidate, who narrowly won).”

        [What she heard: yes, I screwed you. But think how much credit I got with the party for delivering all your effort to the turnout game?]

        Blue team and red team both are not purely teams. I’m not sure what image to summon… Call it dueling Ponzi schemes. Call it the old eating the young. It’s an ecology, but it’s not healthy to mistake what’s going on in a lot of political arenas for “teams.” Part of what’s causing polarization is that inquisitions make fast (shallow) converts, whose self-worth is then grounded on something very, very shallow. (I’m reminded of the Ray Bradbury quote about flowers trying to grow on flowers.) Healthy looks like a small church with a good sense of humor. Or a curious person with a new library card. Or a small plant in a big pot. Some campaigns achieve something like that–and I think OFA was a pretty great organization, in terms of how well volunteers and low-rung staff were treated. I think that tells you something about the fellow at the top, also. And I contrast that with how our current Pres has a reputation for not even paying many of his senior-level staff, and for not even bothering to have low-level staff.

        Also, in case the story ended too sad, or too dispiriting for anyone considering running for office: Jane now is a certified leader in some kind of Buddhist mindfulness (I admit the distinctions she explains all elude me), and for a day job she runs a county-wide intervention program for at-risk youth. Sure, she cooked through eight months of her life with 80-hour-weeks, and she burned a few bridges with friends, but the experience also opened a bunch of doors and was a surprisingly varied experience–not just work and sacrifice, though there was a lot of those–and, for all that she didn’t make the difference she wanted, she did make a difference. Of course, actually, there are many, many people in politics who are amazing, wonderful people. If there’s someone who inspires you who you’re thinking of helping, or if you’re thinking of running, I think you should be encouraged, as well as be encouraged to keep your eyes open about what you are in for.

        • bintchaos says:

          Yeah, I agree.
          Dueling Ponzi schemes is pretty good, but I think its really a CCP (cooperation competition paradigm) thats dis-equilibriating.
          When the reds and the blues had roughly equal demography and roughly equal power US worked pretty well. But internet and technology and globalism have resulted in the Red Tribe losing relative fitness.

    • Conrad Honcho says:

      Phenomenal comment. Both moving and insightful.

      One correction:

      Now that we’re aware gay men are born that way

      We do not know this to be the case. We don’t actually know why people are homosexual, but “born that way” is highly unlikely.

      • Paul Zrimsek says:

        I’ve always understood “born that way” to take in everything except “deliberately decided to become homosexual”.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I agree that people are not deliberately choosing to become homosexual. But there also is apparently no gay gene. So it could perhaps be epigenetic/hormonal, or it comes down to cultural conditioning. Perhaps I’m disgusted by the thought of homosexual acts because I grew up in a time when homosexuality was considered gross and weird and perverted by my culture, and calling another boy a “fag” on the playground got you punished for insulting the other boy, not for being homophobic. If perhaps I had grown up watching Glee and Modern Family and watching people on the news waving rainbow flags about how amazing it is to be gay, I would be like the kids these days, less than half of whom identify as entirely straight.

          How else did these teens get this way? Immediately coinciding with the cultural normalization of homosexuality? Did their genes retroactively become gay?

          Given that homosexuality is correlated with a lot of negative outcomes in life (alcoholism, drug use, disease, depression and other mental illness, suicide), if the Sexuality Fairy comes to you and says “you must choose your child’s sexual orientation,” the correct answer is “straight.” (See Louis CK’s bit about choosing to be white because you can go anywhen in a time machine and get a table at a restaurant). Life will just be easier for your kid, and you’re more likely to get grandchildren. For this reason, I will not be exposing my children to homosexual propaganda.

          • Aapje says:

            See Louis CK’s bit about choosing to be white because you can go anywhen in a time machine and get a table at a restaurant

            Except for much of Asia for most of history. And I’m not sure I would want to teleport into Africa as a white guy before colonization. Or S-America before the same.

      • Douglas Knight says:

        Here is a paper that directly addresses the question of “born that way.” I don’t think it is a very well done study, but its directness makes it much better than anything else.

        (One should distinguish males from females. Twin studies show that female sexuality does have a substantial shared environment effect.)

      • yodelyak says:

        Conrad,

        I don’t have the time right now to argue, but I see you’ve raised a doubt on something I took as given, and I appreciate a good link whenever one is included. When I think about sex and gender, I incorporate things like having somewhere run across a study that suggested that there were effects on grand-child mouse IQ (as tested with mazes) when the grandparents had good diets (I forget the initial test condition–maybe it was folic acid? Something to do with myelination / myelin sheaths, I think, resulting in different activity at the DNA transcription -> protein synthesis stage, I think, but that persisted w/o “genetic differences” across the first couple generations.) I also think about the bible verse about “daughters of Jerusalem, please do not call up love before it is ready” and about how important for most people a feeling of security is, for young men to pop questions and become lifelong husbands, and how we’re all taught from a young age that the best marriages are *first* marriages, and why that might be so. I also think about what I’ve read about how young women are much more likely to be years ahead of average, in terms of their first period, if their dad is abusive or not around and their mom brings lots of strange men by. I also think about how I read about a pretty reliable, in terms of methodology, study found that younger male siblings are more likely to be gay than older male siblings, and identified a specific prenatal compound that women’s immune systems sometimes learns to make when exposed to male hormones in male fetuses–which explains why the effect is more common in younger brothers than older ones. I think I learned a few years back that there’s never been a president who wasn’t an oldest brother or an only child–as #4 of 5, I guess the Don breaks the mold. But maybe I’m wrong thinking there’s an oldest/only-child effect in politics. I don’t really think I know very much about how this all works, but I also think of some comments Bill Clinton dropped in his autobiography–his message to any ex-girlfriends from before Hillary is that he “wasn’t ready”… I am pretty sure this is above my pay-grade, for the moment, and mostly I’m trying to exercise good epistemic hygiene by not pumping more ideas in until I have time to sort out what I currently think might be true, and why.

        I guess what I’m saying is, I’m confused on this, but I’m much harder to persuade than I think we have time for right now.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I agree, the issue is complex. There seems to be something more at work than hormones, however, as I linked in my other comment about the study from last year that teens today are, as Vice put it “queer AF,” with less than half identifying as entirely straight. This remarkable change in people “born that way” coincides with the cultural normalization of homosexuality.

          Given the correlation between the homosexual lifestyle and poor life outcomes like drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, suicide, disease, etc, I’m getting a very Chesterton’s Fence vibe about the whole business.

          • Nornagest says:

            How many of those queer-identifying teens actually end up spending much time dating the same sex? I recall from OKCupid stats that something like 80% of bisexual-identifying users only ever message one gender or the other; those stats predate the current crop of teens coming of age, but I think something similar might be going on.

            Anecdotal evidence from “bi-hackers” in the West Coast rationalist scene (i.e. people who’ve tried to turn themselves bi) suggests that a lot of people can talk themselves into seeing their initially non-preferred gender as sexually attractive to a limited extent, but that a strong preference remains and it’s pretty much impossible to get rid of. Which seems consistent with historical evidence from e.g. Greco-Roman culture.

          • albatross11 says:

            Well, we know that situation has a big influence on homosexual behavior, because there are a lot of guys who sleep with men in all-male environments (prison, all-male boarding school, the British Navy, etc.) but not when they’re in mixed-sex environments.

            My not-very-informed guess is that people fall along a bell curve. On the left side are people who are strongly gay by inclination–perhaps the only way they’re ever going to have a romantic or sexual relationship with a woman is with massive social pressure. On the right side are people who are never going to have a voluntary homosexual relationship even if they’re locked away in an all-male environment for life. People in the middle have some flexibility. It’s not even clear how much this would be voluntary. (Personally, I can’t decide whether to find someone sexually attractive, and I certainly can’t decide to fall in love with someone.) Maybe the environment just shapes your preferences.

            A lot of the British upper class seems to have gone to boarding schools with a lot of homosexuality going on. Maybe that’s a good place to look for the long-term developmental effects of that sort of thing, although they were also presumably pretty clear about the idea that this was something that was okay at boarding school, but not as a lifestyle.

          • I would be extremely surprised if there wasn’t a genetic underpinning to sexuality, for the simple reason that if animals did not have this, they would be outcompeted by animals that spent more time putting their penises in females than flailing about randomly not having any particular inclination about where to stick it. Without a sexual orientation, any random object in the environment would be as erotic as any other object. The absence of sexual orientation is asexuality, and it’s an extremely hard sell that animals are socialized into having a sexuality. How could this happen for animals who do not have society? Humans coming later and building on what their predecessors had must have found themselves with some kind of basic orientation to start with.

            I do think that there must be some adjustable component in addition to the basic drive. The madman in the papers who steals women’s shoes to masturbate over them probably doesn’t speak to a “shoesexual” gene. If we all start with some innate sexual orientation then perhaps some kind of drift can occur through pavlovian association of new targets with orgasm, so weird shoe-sexuals gain their new sexuality by the proxy of women’s shoes to their innate target of women. That orgasm feels good in the first place should factor into this.

            @Nornagest

            Which seems consistent with historical evidence from e.g. Greco-Roman culture.

            Did the Greeks or Romans ever say anything about orientation?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Nornagest

            How many of those queer-identifying teens actually end up spending much time dating the same sex?

            Don’t know yet. But I just have this sneaking suspicion that if one raises a child to attend parades where they wave rainbow flags to show their joy about how amazing homosexuals are, and every time they see a homosexual on TV they’re portrayed as kind, funny, attractive, smart and in healthy relationships and the only bad people are those who don’t just love gays (can you imagine the backlash if you made a modern TV show that featured an evil gay character?), don’t be shocked when the kids try out the gay lifestyle.

            I’m fine with tolerance. It’s the acceptance and then preference that seems to come with these social movements that bothers me. No, one should not demonize single motherhood. But it’s not good, and is associated with all kinds of awful life outcomes for mother and child. And then last year on the campaign trail Bernie Sanders is calling single mothers “heroes.” No, no they’re not. They’re people who are in a suboptimal arrangement that presents a lot of challenges. The situation itself should be avoided, and the people in it treated compassionately to try to alleviate some of the deficiencies in their situation. But holding up suboptimal arrangements with high likelihoods of poor outcomes as something as good as or even better than the more optimal arrangements with less likelihood of bad outcomes is a poor choice. It’s like training someone wrong, as a joke.

          • Nornagest says:

            I just have this sneaking suspicion that if one raises a child to attend parades where they wave rainbow flags to show their joy about how amazing homosexuals are […] don’t be shocked when the kids try out the gay lifestyle.

            Sure. But if I’m right about the OKCupid analogy, I’d expect “trying” to look in practice like a girl dating another girl for four months in high school — or not even “dating” — then a couple guys for a few years each before settling down with a different guy. I have a hard time taking this kind of thing seriously as a problem, even accepting for the sake of argument that there’s a real problem with gay lifestyles.

            (Incidentally, Game of Thrones has had several evil gay characters, although it has so many evil characters that that might be cheating.)

          • lvlln says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            To what extent is the correlation between the homosexual lifestyle and poor life outcomes actually causal, and to what extent is the causal part due to extrinsic factors like societal bigotry causing their suffering rather than intrinsic factors like direct result of such a lifestyle? Same goes for single motherhood.

            I think these are empirical questions to which we don’t have clear answers. Coming from the left, I’ve observed that our belief is that it’s close to 100% extrinsic due to societal bigotry, and once we remove all such bigotry, we should fully expect homosexuals and single mothers to achieve outcomes exactly as good as heterosexuals and married mothers. It’s only recently that I’ve realized that this is just a faith unsupported by evidence, but I think you may be making the same error in the opposite direction: I don’t think it’s evident that it’s close to 100% intrinsic.

            Now, obviously, if there’s ANY non-zero intrinsic component, then one could argue that these things are bad nonetheless and shouldn’t be accepted and at best merely tolerated. But that would be ignoring the real positives experienced by those who are accepted instead of merely tolerated. On balance, if there are intrinsic negative outcomes, then are those negative outcomes outweighed by the positives of acceptance over mere tolerance?

            I do agree that it’s bad to hold these up as better, but I think when such people are called heroes, it’s not a statement that others should emulate them in their single motherhood or homosexuality, but rather that others should emulate them in their ability to overcome the (presumably extrinsic) struggles caused to them due to their being single mothers or homosexuals. I do think there’s definitely some rhetoric of these being explicitly and strictly better than the traditional alternatives going on, but I don’t think that’s nearly as common as the other meaning. I do think it’s disconcerting that such rhetoric doesn’t really get much push back, though.

            In short, I don’t think it’s as simple as saying that since X behavior is empirically correlated with poor outcomes, we shouldn’t accept X behavior. Any more than saying that since publicly criticizing Putin as a Russian journalist is correlated with poor outcomes, we shouldn’t accept Russian journalists criticizing Putin.

          • Nornagest says:

            To what extent is the correlation between the homosexual lifestyle and poor life outcomes actually causal, and to what extent is the causal part due to extrinsic factors like societal bigotry causing their suffering rather than intrinsic factors like direct result of such a lifestyle?

            It can be tricky to pick apart intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Adaptations that people or cultures make to environmental stress can persist after the stresses go away, like the war veteran who hits the deck when he hears a loud noise even though he’s 500 miles from the nearest IED (and that one’s on a closed range belonging to General Dynamics, being used to test new armor designs).

          • Same goes for single motherhood.

            I have no opinion on the case of homosexuality, but for single motherhood the conjecture you offer seems very implausible, for two reasons. The first it that in the areas where it is common, I don’t believe there is much if any social stigma left–it’s hard to regard something as horrible if more than half the women you know are doing it. As of a few years back, 68 percent of black women who had given birth in the past year were unmarried.

            The second is that rearing children, especially small children, is a lot of work, as anyone who has done it knows. That makes life hard for someone who has to do it by herself while doing all the other things that are part of an ordinary life. The only plausible case I can think of where that problem could be avoided is a single woman in a family, possibly her parents, whose members are willing to provide a lot of help.

          • Randy M says:

            There used to be some stigma attached to single motherhood, but that ship has sailed, hit the iceberg, sunk, been salvaged, and has it’s remains residing in museums that sell miniature versions as novelties.

            While smart umc people know that raising children outside of marriage is more difficult (to say the least) the mantra is that single mothers are literally heroic, so much so that they get father’s day too, although looking at google images it’s hard to tell how many of these memes are genuine and how many are sarcastic. Of course, there plenty of the reverse, but that doesn’t refute the point that single parenthood isn’t seen negatively.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @lvlln

            I think you may be making the same error in the opposite direction: I don’t think it’s evident that it’s close to 100% intrinsic.

            I am not saying it’s 100% intrinsic, which is why I said “correlated with” and not “caused by.” But I would find it hard to believe that societal shaming is what causes the greater chance of STDs in homosexual men, or the club drug scene, and the case for dual parenthood rather than single parenthood seems intuitively obvious to the most casual observer.

            At the end of the day, I have children to raise, and I cannot in good conscience tell my son “living a homosexual life is just as good as living a heterosexual life,” nor can I tell my daughter “don’t worry about getting married before you have kids.” This sort of social mindset has produced good results for people of my culture and lineage for countless generations, so it seems unwise to start teaching them something different without a really good reason to, and I’m not seeing one.

            This gets difficult in a society where the nuanced difference between “what someone else is doing is a bad idea” and “personal hatred of anyone who does that thing” is assumed not to exist.

          • Randy M says:

            This gets difficult in a society where the nuanced difference between “what someone else is doing is a bad idea” and “personal hatred of anyone who does that thing” is assumed not to exist.

            Well sure, but if you are already screening out two irrational ideas, might as well make it three.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            As of a few years back, 68 percent of black women who had given birth in the past year were unmarried.

            Unmarried is not the same as single!

            @All

            AFAIK the current scientific majority belief is that men raise children very differently from mothers and thus that a person being raised by a single gender is missing out on part of normal human socialization.

            Now, this doesn’t automatically mean that single mothers or homosexual parents socialize their children poorly, as the missing element can plausibly be replaced by a non-parent substitute/role model. Highly educated single mothers and homosexual parents seem to generally try to do this.

            On the other hand, this may mean that the current lack of male teachers may be messing up the socialization of children to some extent.

          • lvlln says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            I am not saying it’s 100% intrinsic, which is why I said “correlated with” and not “caused by.” But I would find it hard to believe that societal shaming is what causes the greater chance of STDs in homosexual men, or the club drug scene, and the case for dual parenthood rather than single parenthood seems intuitively obvious to the most casual observer.

            Fair enough, but to what extent is the greater chance of STDs in homosexual men driven by their behavior in response to societal bigotry, i.e. having to rely on hidden-away methods to find partners for deniability to others and even to oneself? Knowing what I know about human biology, I would intuit that even if there were exactly 0 bigotry against homosexual men, they would obviously tend to get STDs at a higher rate than heterosexual men, but I’ve observed that human intuition is an absolutely terrible guide for determining what’s true about the world.

            At the end of the day, I have children to raise, and I cannot in good conscience tell my son “living a homosexual life is just as good as living a heterosexual life,” nor can I tell my daughter “don’t worry about getting married before you have kids.” This sort of social mindset has produced good results for people of my culture and lineage for countless generations, so it seems unwise to start teaching them something different without a really good reason to, and I’m not seeing one.

            This seems like a good heuristic and appears to me to be a fine application of Chesterton’s Fence. I don’t think it’s inconsistent with full acceptance of homosexual behavior or single motherhood, though? It’s possible to be fully accepting of certain behaviors while still preferring that one’s own offspring follow different behaviors based on heuristics, right? Or maybe that’s where you drew the line between “tolerance” and “acceptance,” in which case I suppose I was just misunderstanding you from the start.

            @All
            WRT single motherhood, I do think just from a purely mathematical perspective, it’s hard to argue that having 2 parents isn’t strictly better than having 1, all other things being equal, even if there were absolutely zero stigma attached to single motherhood (which I’d agree we’re about as close to now as is practical).

            Where I’m coming from, though, is the perspective that the fact that children of single mothers tend to have worse outcomes isn’t an immutable law of nature but is rather dependent on the society that surrounds that family, and the fact that society is structured such that those children have worse outcomes can be considered something we ought to fix. Or, if, due to reasons of math, children of single mothers will always tend to do worse than children of married couples, the fact that society doesn’t provide single mothers the resources to make up for that mathematical disparity – e.g. by handing them enough money to hire a full-time father figure to help raise their kids, or coercing men at gunpoint to fill such roles effectively – can be considered something we ought to fix.

            I’m guessing the vast majority of people, especially on this site, would find the above paragraph absurd, and for good reason. I don’t actually condone any of those specific arguments. I just think that, because society something we can direct to some extent, the argument that “behavior X [in society it is today] leads to worse outcomes, therefore I won’t accept behavior X” is a bad argument.

            Now, I do think it can be transformed into a good argument, by making the case that society isn’t sufficiently mutable, or that it isn’t mutable in the right ways, or that reforming society in order to make behavior X not lead to worse outcomes would cause negative consequences that outweigh the positives for people who engage in behavior X. Maybe that’s just the implicit argument that people are actually making, though, and it went over my head.

          • Randy M says:

            @lvlln I don’t know exactly if you are arguing for this, but you are suggesting society could enact solutions to allow people to live free of negative consequences that follow naturally from their behavior. That we could and should eliminate all moral hazard.

            Ironically in the next thread there is an argument that society shouldn’t have much sympathy or help for those that don’t want to move to be more economically efficient. Why would the negative consequences of being gay or a single parent be worth ameliorating but not those of wanting to live in the town one grew up in?

            Generally society evolves to encourage long term stable behaviors that could scale up, because to do otherwise encourages the accretion of inefficiencies, which is compounded by the fact that what you subsidize you will get more of.

            Marriage and parenthood in a state of nature involve significant constraints on your behavior that generally pay off (with reasonable partners) in greater efficiency. I need to share resources with my wife, but in return she watches the children. I care for my children now, they care for me later. If someone were to receive the resources I would provide as a husband (financial, emotional, etc.) without needing to provide anything in return due to society being rearranged to do so, they could become single mothers (/fathers, etc.) without many of the negative repercussions. But does this behavior scale? Does it work long-term? How does it change incentives?

            An increasing amount of moral hazard can be eliminated as technological progress decreases scarcity. I do not think it is proved that already all such negative consequences can now be eliminated across the board with the proper application of cash or stigma, even leaving aside matters of desert or whether humans are psychologically well suited for such an environment.

            Fair enough, but to what extent is the greater chance of STDs in homosexual men driven by their behavior in response to societal bigotry, i.e. having to rely on hidden-away methods to find partners for deniability to others and even to oneself?

            STD rates could be compared among the gay population in areas with high tolerance and areas with low tolerance to check this theory.

  4. albatross11 says:

    One thing that strikes me about the existing left/right or Democratic/Republican or liberal/conservative[1] split in politics is that the current alignment of the two parties fell out of the civil rights movement and the cold war. But the whole alignment of different factions and regions and such was a response to old issues that don’t even much apply anymore.

    I keep thinking that the Tea Party, Occupy, BLM, the SJWs, the alt-right, Trump and Sanders–they’re all sort of a symptom of the fact that these old political divisions and parties don’t actually make a lot of sense in the modern world, and they mostly aren’t addressing the kind of issues we need to address now.

    [1] All three of these are somewhat different, and I think if we tried to use red tribe/blue tribe, we’d have yet another messy set of categories.

    • Randy M says:

      Maybe this is what political re-alignment looks like in real time. At least with this level of technological development and so on. Outmoded party leadership championing issues that no longer excite a sizable coalition of their party challenged by various fringe groups testing the waters for their issues.

      • albatross11 says:

        Yeah, it’s quite possible that the future political parties (almost certainly still marketed under the brand names Democratic and Republican in the US) will be two variants of populism, the urban/suburban and the rural/suburban. It’s also quite possible that the urban/suburban one will take a lot of positions that now are strongly red tribe. For example, let the crime rates head up substantially, and a hell of a lot of wealthy high-IQ types who are currently recolonizing the cities and gentrifying away the poor blacks and hispanics will suddenly be *extremely* strongly in favor of strict policing and harsh punishments. That’s my best prediction of how a custodial state might arise in the US, in fact.

        • Nornagest says:

          That’s one option. I’ve been thinking for a while that we’re likely to realign from liberal/conservative to populist/technocratic factions. For a long time it was up in the air how that would shake out in terms of party branding — it would have been possible for example to see a Giuliani-style technocratic GOP vs. a Sanders-style populist DNC — but Trump’s victory pretty much locks down the GOP for right populism; the only question is how the Dems swing in response.

          • albatross11 says:

            I am not at all convinced that Trump’s victory is actually going to lead to some kind of Republican populism. I suspect what we will see instead is respectable Republican opinion shift toward more immigration restriction and less free trade and more support for entitlements (especially for old white people who make up a large chunk of their voters). But Trump is unique, and I don’t see him leading a large movement of orange-faced blustering billionaires making America great again.

      • tscharf says:

        Backlash against the meritocracy. We are going from revenge of the nerds to revenge on the nerds.

        • Conrad Honcho says:

          I think it’s more like backlash on the technocracy. Technocracy ultimately fails because real life and culture and nations depend on lots of things that cannot be measured, and as we saw in Seeing Like a State, those things which cannot be measured do not exist.

          I’m reminded of 1 Chronicles, when David takes a census and is punished by God. Sure you can say it’s because Satan tempted David to pride, but really I think God just doesn’t like technocrats.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Yes, this is all well-trodden ground. Some history in this article:

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-intellectualism

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Well, the intellectuals don’t seem to be doing a very good job for anyone except the intellectuals themselves. It’s almost as if they’re primarily engaged in rationalizing the pursuit of their own self interest…

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            The intellectuals are certainly out pursuing their self-interest — aren’t you?

            The question is, if you aren’t into technocracy, who do you want running things? Some other people pursuing their self-interest who are also idiots?

            You just got done telling me that you aren’t so sure about “pie charts” and “spreadsheets.” What are you going to use instead?

            People being self-interested is the _problem statement_ for organizing society.

            Re: “not doing a very good job,” how much do you actually understand of what academics/intellectuals do? For example, do you understand what my job is? Am I doing a bad job? Why?

          • Horkthane says:

            Re: “not doing a very good job,” how much do you actually understand of what academics/intellectuals do? For example, do you understand what my job is? Am I doing a bad job? Why?

            I can’t speak for anyone but myself. But if I were to articulate where academia has gone off the rails, I’d say it seems more about indoctrination than education.

            First warning signs I saw were comedians no longer going on college tours. Almost universally they began claiming colleges were too humorless. Then there were all the speech codes, that got hand waived away as college campuses being private institutions that can do whatever they want.

            But things have exploded recently into full on mob enforcement. People with conservative views no longer feel safe attending college. Faculty with conservative views keep getting drummed out of academia. To say nothing of faculty that are merely less left. Colleges appear to have an unspoken rule that you can be as far left as you wish. You could advocate for literally committing genocide against all white people. But if you dare to imply that the 77 cents to the dollar wage gap meme isn’t 100% totally accurate and all there is to it, get ready for your Title IX charges.

            I see more young people getting indoctrinated with radical views than I see anything else. Shit, just recently I lost a friend who went to the University of Colorado to become a teacher. He slowly got sucked into a social justice cult, and now that’s 100% of his being. And the fucking insane stories he tells about managing his white guilt, and trying to be a good ally… it’s infuriating what’s been done to him.

            But, this probably unfairly generalizes all colleges and all of academia. I can’t speak for how any particular college is doing, or how any particular faculty is doing. But from the outside looking in, it looks like an absolute joke. And a dangerous joke at that.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Conrad Honcho seems to have a bigger problem with academics than what you are describing. He isn’t just upset about what he sees as the social justice takeover of University campuses.

            He also has a problem with “technocrats” more generally, and (if I understood him correctly) scientific approaches to problems. Just read some of his other comments.

            I mentioned anti-intellectualism, and he didn’t say “no I wouldn’t go that far, but here are problems A, B, C I see.” No, he said: “what have intellectuals done for us? They seem to just be fucking up, to me.”

    • yodelyak says:

      If you want to look back for how class might relate to or explain this re-alignment…

      6. The three main classes (labor, gentry, and elite) are three different ‘infrastructures’. To be in labor you need skills, to be in gentry you need education, and to be in elite you need connections. There’s no strict hierarchy (eg not all gentry are above all labor), but you can picture them as offset ladders, with the lower gentry being at the same rung as the higher labor and so on.

      7. The Elite control everything; the constant threat is that Gentry and Labor will unite against them, which might very well work. The Elite neutralize this threat by making Labor hate Gentry as “effeminate” or “pretentious”; they also convince Labor that the Gentry are probably secretly in cahoots with the underclass against Labor. Elites also convince Labor that Elites don’t exist and it’s Gentry all the way up, which means that “anti-1%” sentiment, which should properly get Labor and Gentry to cooperate against the Elites, instead makes Gentry hate the Elites but Labor hate Gentry. Politics boils down to Gentry being good people trying to improve things, and Elite conning Labor into hating Gentry to prevent things from being improved.

      8. While all classes can have good and bad people (except E1, which is wholly bad), Elites have a generally negative influence on society, and Gentry are generally positive. After the World Wars, everybody got angry at the Elites for all the war and killing and stuff, which convinced them to lie low for a few decades and forced the Gentry to take over. This was why the country did so well during the 50s and 60s. Whether the country goes in a good or bad direction now depends on whether the Elites manage to take it back or not. One reason Silicon Valley works (used to work?) so unusually well was that it was mostly a native project of the Gentry that hadn’t yet been infiltrated by the Elites.

      Trump is a weird Elite-Labor hybrid. He’s electable because of his tight connection with labor. He’s destructive and lazy, because he’s E1. Or, if you prefer, because his is a hunter-gatherer chieftain approach to dominance-as-governance, and a case in contrast with more hardworking, lawful types. The gentry put up Hillary, and got owned at the same time that they won the most votes cast. Now it’s a question of whether the gentry win the next couple rounds, and this is a temporary event, or whether the old days of rule by Es are coming back in.

      • Thegnskald says:

        Hillary is “Elite” in this paradigm as much as Trump if not more so, but whereas he caters to Labor, she caters to Gentry.

      • dndnrsn says:

        Something to consider is that by some accounts, while Trump is very wealthy, he has never fit in with New York high society. By some accounts, the Clintons never have either.

  5. bintchaos says:

    The first example was a joke (and was explicitly explained to you as such)


    I don’t get your jokes.
    I already explained that.
    And NEways, much like Killer Klowns from OuterSpace…it wasn’t funnie.

  6. mondsemmel says:

    The core point of your essay is interesting and was new to me, but for the love of all that is good, please don’t adopt the language of the paper regarding “extremists” and “centrists”. I felt like I read a level-headed and balanced essay on the relative merits of “rationalists” vs. “irrationalists” or “rationalists” vs. “idiots” or “moderates” vs. “terrorists”: the connotation of “extremist” is sufficiently negative that I don’t think the word should be used in this context. Its usage here reminds me of EY’s “37 Ways That Words Can Be Wrong”.

  7. Alex M says:

    I voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, and I fully plan to vote for Trump in 2020. The reason why is because the Left has gone utterly insane with “social justice” extremism. Public campuses (funded by the taxpayer) are censoring speakers because a bunch of whiny students protest about it. Antifa is allowed to operate freely because putting them in jail would make them ineligible to vote, and Democrats don’t want to lose that voting block. That’s why they coddle these anarchists.

    It baffles me to hear Trump or his supporters described by some of the people here as “extremist.” I just want to be able to walk down the street without worrying that a terrorist will stab me or that an antifa protester will hit me with a bikelock for having the “wrong” views. I’m totally willing to use the political system to jail or kill as many people as I have to in order to accomplish that goal, but jailing or killing is not the desired effect – it’s only an unfortunate byproduct because peaceful methods have already been tried and have failed. All I want is law and order.

    But I guess that not wanting to be a victim of violence – and being willing to push back forcefully against it – makes people like me “extremists,” while brick-throwing black-clad thugs with their faces concealed are just reasonable folks “exercising their right to free speech.” Perhaps it’s OUR fault, for not engaging thoughtfully with these rioters. There might be some thought-provoking dialogue written on the bricks that they throw through windows.

    • Horkthane says:

      I’m in a similar boat. Voted for Obama in ’08 and ’12. I voted for Trump in ’16. Although that was largely a default vote as I decided in ’08 that I would never in my life ever vote for Hillary Clinton. Following her email scandal only further enraged me. As a person with a clearance myself, I hit the roof almost every time she opened her mouth about them. Her excuses played well to an ignorant electorate. But anyone who’s ever been involved in cleared work knew they were bullshit.

      But the liberal reaction to Trump just… I don’t know man. I keep hearing about “Trump Derangement Syndrome” and I can’t think of a better phrase to describe it. I honestly, sincerely wished the DNC would get their act together by 2020. But that just doesn’t seem likely. They appear to be doubling down on identity politics, open borders, violence, enforcing censures for blaspheming Islam, and further alienating or marginalizing the rural vote.

      I’m not sure what’s going on. DNC losses, intellectually, philosophically, electorally, organizationally under Obama are profound. My gut read is that this is a consequence of clearing the path for Hillary Clinton for 8 years. An entire generation of up and coming DNC stars was smothered in the crib to clear her path. Now that she’s lost, they’ve got nothing.

      • bintchaos says:

        So you have a clearance…how do you feel about Trump compromising classified intel to the Russians? or on Twitter?
        Red Tribe.

        • abc says:

          So you have a clearance…how do you feel about Trump compromising classified intel to the Russians?

          Assuming you’re rather inaccurate description refers to what I think it refers to. The president has the power to declassify that kind of information. He was talking to the Russians in the context of coordinating activities against ISIS. (You do oppose ISIS, or are they your relatives?) So the information he gave them was in fact relevant.

          • bintchaos says:

            it was shared intel from another sovereign nation. Does that make a difference?
            And the Brits got pretty pissed when Trump tweeted about Manchester w/o being sanctioned.
            IDC, really.
            I respect your choice.
            But this is more proof…Trump can do absolutely anything, and you will defend him.
            There is nothing left but identity politics.
            Like Haidt says, Partisan identity rules.
            Sux for democracy, non?

          • abc says:

            And the Brits got pretty pissed when Trump tweeted about Manchester w/o being sanctioned.

            Yes, Trump called the guy killing people while shouting “Allah Akbar” an Islamic terrorist. I’m sure Trump needed a lot of classified information to make that assessment.

            There is nothing left but identity politics.

            Yes, given that the left has done nothing but play identity politics for nearly a quarter century, it was inevitable that the right would eventually embrace it.

          • Controls Freak says:

            it was shared intel from another sovereign nation. Does that make a difference?

            Not really. The point of having it be the CIC’s call to make is that it’s the CIC’s call to make. There are certainly anonymous sources saying that they didn’t like his call, but this is going to be firmly in the category of “we can’t really have the appropriate information” for multiple decades.

            But this is more proof…Trump can do absolutely anything, and you will defend him.

            No. Absolutely not. It is proof that the Commander-in-Chief is the Classifier-in-Chief; he can do anything he wants with classified information, and I will defend him (in the formalistic sense). That’s extremely different from your characterization.

          • Horkthane says:

            To follow up RE: Classified information.

            What bothered me with Clinton is the way she wholesale mishandled classified information that would land any normal person in jail. Literally every single thing we are taught when we’re briefed on handling classified info, she violated. In fact, at least at my work, we all had to be briefed again… and again… and again, reminding us that all the things she did are wrong, have always been wrong, and not to get any idea.

            I watched Comey’s press conference, and then Comey’s senate testimony concerning this, and I nearly hit the roof. They had her dead to rights, sending clearly marked Classified information, not to mention all the stuff she just removed the classification markings from. And her response was “I didn’t know it was wrong” or “I didn’t know what the classification markings meant”. And Comey just took that at face value! For an entire unauthorized and unsecured data repository!

            And then there is the fact that she deleted everything before the FBI could get it’s hands on it after the subpoena. Once again, we are briefed that if you should ever accidentally find yourself with mishandled classified information, do not attempt to destroy it. You must hand it over to security officials, so that they can assess the potential damage a leak of that information would cause.

            To say nothing of destroying evidence after it’s been subpoenaed. Clinton might be able to claim ignorance of security procedures despite being Secretary of State. Can she really claim ignorance about destruction of evidence when she started her career as a Lawyer?

            The characterization of Trump’s sharing of intelligence is that he shared something relevant to a joint operation with the Russians. The most valid criticism I heard is that it may have tipped our hand about means and methods of gathering that intelligence, but that’s only coming from anonymous sources. Everyone in the room at the time of the disclosure has gone on record saying it didn’t happen that way.

            Still, given that Trump has a far less rigorous security background that Clinton, I would not be shocked if he mishandles it at some point. We see politicians do that from time to time. But rarely on the systematic scale Hillary Clinton did.

          • Iain says:

            @Controls Freak:

            From a legal perspective, Trump was well within his rights to (apparently) burn a highly valuable Israeli source to the Russians. Granted.

            Assuming that the anonymous reports are anywhere close to correct, though, it seems very hard to provide a substantive defense of Trump’s actions. For reference, here’s the claim:

            Trump described details to Lavrov and Kislyak about how ISIS hopes to use laptop computers as bombs on planes.
            “I get great intel. I have people brief me on great intel every day,” said Trump, according to one official with knowledge cited by the Post, before the President reportedly relayed specific intelligence.

            This is not what a carefully planned sharing of information looks like. This looks like a conversational blunder in which a man who loves tooting his own horn inadvertently over-tooted.

            Would you like to go beyond the narrow legal formalisms and defend the substance of Trump’s action? It’s his call. He made the call. Are you really trying to claim that he made the right call?

          • bintchaos says:

            I get all that. And I dont really understand how classified got on an unclassified system, unless it was aggregated. Which means e-docs got marked classified in situ? Or classified sent over open channels?
            Thats all illegal and would have to be deliberate.
            I understand your concern.
            But I’m far more worried about the relative potential damage and Trumps’ inexperience and malleability to Russian and KSA influence and resistance to advisors.
            He’s not careful…I dont get that he understands the idea of protection and compromise.

            yeah, what Iain said.
            There’s a pattern here. In the Qatar incident as well– that Trump is being manipulated by unfriendlies to benefit themselves, not the United States.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “From a legal perspective, Trump was well within his rights to (apparently) burn a highly valuable Israeli source to the Russians. Granted.”

            This type of defense is bizarre.

            Is the standard here “the president can ACTUALLY avoid jail time for doing X”? How about “is doing X a good idea?” Or even “harms/benefits cancel out if you do X.”

            It’s like arguing between a D+ and a C- grade, when we should be arguing between A and A-. Sure, you may be able to argue for a C-, but it feels like you lost the larger competence argument.

          • Matt M says:

            it seems very hard to provide a substantive defense of Trump’s actions.

            Giving the Russians tips on how to avoid having their airliners blown up by terrorists strikes me as a plausibly good thing.

            Like, I guess maybe you can make an argument that burning the Isreali intel source will, in the long run, cost more lives than this action saves. But it doesn’t strike me as a clear and obvious act of evil.

          • Horkthane says:

            Do we know for a fact that Trump burned a source to reveal that information? Or is that just an anonymous allegation? Last I heard it was purely anonymous, and that everyone in the room went on the record saying it point of fact did not happen.

          • bintchaos says:

            MATT M
            Like, I guess maybe you can make an argument that burning the Isreali intel source will, in the long run, cost more lives than this action saves. But it doesn’t strike me as a clear and obvious act of evil.
            Our presence and influence in MENA rely on a carefully constructed misdirection that the US is not primarily allied with Israel. Because one thing that unites muslims is hatred of Israel, and obvious alignment with Israel destabilizes US favored dictators and monarchs alike.
            Its not evil…nothing Trump does is actively evil I think…its just stupid and dangerous.

          • tscharf says:

            Are you really trying to claim that he made the right call?

            If the Russians had specific information about ISIS airline attack methods I suggest we would be thankful to hear it. The Russians already had an airliner downed by ISIS.
            http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/18/middleeast/metrojet-crash-dabiq-claim/index.html

            People who are allegedly on Team Caring And Decency might be able see the logic here, lest they be accused of being bigoted Russianaphobics.

            Would this disclosure have been deemed appropriate if the IC had OK’d it? I suggest it would, and much of this is just emotional entanglement because Trump decided this in his usual blustery way. It is an almost certainty that if Obama had done this the discussion would be reversed.

            Specific accusations such as source disclosure are contested by people actually there, and one should note the media immediately proudly disclosed this source the next day after criticizing Trump for it.

            Small potatoes.

          • John Schilling says:

            What bothered me with Clinton is the way she wholesale mishandled classified information that would land any normal person in jail.

            This isn’t really true.

            Literally every single thing we are taught when we’re briefed on handling classified info, she violated. In fact, at least at my work, we all had to be briefed again… and again… and again, reminding us that all the things she did are wrong, have always been wrong, and not to get any idea.

            I get the same briefings. Including the part where they tell you that you will for sure go to federal prison if you break the rules.

            That’s a lie. What almost always happens is, you get fired with a big black mark on your record saying “never ever hire this person for government work again”. That, plus you being scared in advance, is all they really care about. And there may be a criminal conviction involved to make it extra scary, but with a plea bargain and no prison time.

            So Comey got that part right. Trying to put Hillary in prison, in addition to being impractical given the level of legal firepower she could muster, would have been selective prosecution of the worst sort, seeking an unusually vindictive sentence because of someone’s political views or status. Firing her from her government job was a moot point, she’d already quit. Never hiring her for government work again, well, Comey got the word out to the people who were thinking of hiring her for another government job and they decided to go with a different candidate, so mission accomplished.

          • bintchaos says:

            @TSCHARF
            I see you are willing to dismiss this as more Trump-booing.
            No-Drama Obama would never have done anything like this– if anything he was overcautious.
            This is a pattern for Trump– casual and careless.
            Goes with his gut first.
            I just don’t think that will play well for foreign policy.
            Israel is demographically unsustainable going forward. I understand Kushner is going to solve that problem.

            But I respect your choice.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            “Giving the Russians tips on how to avoid having their airliners blown up by terrorists strikes me as a plausibly good thing.”

            Yes, we can have the argument about whether throwing [ally] under the bus to benefit Russia is a plausibly good thing. I think it’s not, and most agree — in large part because [ally] now knows you defected, and defecting against allies to benefit enemies is a bad strat.

            Part of the reason Trump has staffing problems is people noticed he will stab them in the back for [stupid reasons], so they see no reason to suffer reputation loss for associating with him. Christie is a good example here — he licked a lot of boot and it got him nothing in the end.

            Do you think Russia is a friend of ours?

          • random832 says:

            @tscharf

            Specific accusations such as source disclosure are contested by people actually there, and one should note the media immediately proudly disclosed this source the next day after criticizing Trump for it.

            The detail that allegedly could have burned the source is the city the source was located in, which Trump did disclose to the Russians, which disclosure does not serve any apparent purpose to the goal of communicating to them information on the threat, and which the media has not disclosed to the public.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Our presence and influence in MENA rely on a carefully constructed misdirection that the US is not primarily allied with Israel.

            Wat.

            With regards to the “burning of the Israeli source,” this narrative relies entirely on anonymous sources, which seem to be almost always wrong. Also, Trump telling the Russians about the threat to airliners doesn’t burn the source, the leaking of the telling of the Russians burns the source, so even if I thought the source was more important than the airliners (I don’t), I would be mad at the leaker, not Trump.

            This is not a case of “I will defend Trump for anything.” This is a case of “you will attack Trump for anything.”

          • Iain says:

            @Horkthane:

            Last I heard it was purely anonymous, and that everyone in the room went on the record saying it point of fact did not happen.

            This is maybe not a good day to be making arguments that rely on the honesty of people associated with the Trump administration — even if they are, sad to say, made on the record.

            Moreover, the denials were carefully worded to say that he had not discussed the details of sources or methods, which is not what he was accused of doing. McMaster’s defense also confirmed that it was a spur-of-the-moment decision, which is hardly reassuring.

            @Matt M:

            Giving the Russians tips on how to avoid having their airliners blown up by terrorists strikes me as a plausibly good thing.
            Like, I guess maybe you can make an argument that burning the Isreali intel source will, in the long run, cost more lives than this action saves. But it doesn’t strike me as a clear and obvious act of evil.

            Did I say it was an act of evil? I said it was a blunder, and implied that it was incompetently done.

            It is incredibly easy to figure out ways that burning Israeli sources might lead to more deaths in the long run. I think you can manage it, if you try. Beyond putting the individual source at risk, this kind of impulsive action makes foreign governments think twice about sharing sensitive information with the US at all.

            @tscharf:

            Would this disclosure have been deemed appropriate if the IC had OK’d it?

            Well, yeah — that’s the whole point. The IC would presumably not have OK’d it without carefully scrutinizing the wording and making sure that Israel had given the thumbs up. Trump didn’t do that; instead he just blurted it out without forethought. You can dismiss this as Trump’s “usual blustery way”, but if you have a tendency to disburse state secrets without thinking about it first, maybe President of the United States is not the right job.

          • random832 says:

            @Conrad Honcho

            Also, Trump telling the Russians about the threat to airliners doesn’t burn the source, the leaking of the telling of the Russians burns the source,

            How? What possible threat model is there in which this is true?

            The threat model that the versions of the story I have seen are working with is the Russians putting the information they got from the meeting (including the specific city the source is located in, which was not released to the public, though it was leaked to the media) together with their own networks to find the identity of the source, which they then use for their own purposes (e.g. blackmailing the source to turn them into a double agent, or selling them out to improve their own agent’s cover).

          • tscharf says:

            In a press briefing on the same day, National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster strongly denied The Washington Post report, saying, “At no time, at no time, were intelligence sources or methods discussed. And the president did not disclose any military operations that were not already publicly known. Two other senior officials who were present, including the secretary of state, remember the meeting the same way and have said so. And their on-the-record accounts should outweigh those of anonymous sources.” He concluded by saying, “I was in the room, it didn’t happen.”[30] McMaster said that “it was wholly appropriate to share” the information because of a similar ISIL plot two years earlier.[14]

            AFAICT anonymous sources say the city was divulged, but several named sources known to be actually in the meeting claim it was not. One can assess that as they like.

            It’s unclear if the argument here is Trump should not have divulged it at all (which I disagree with) or that Trump was sloppy doing it (totally believable). The weight of the evidence suggests he did not divulge the source as claimed. One can always choose to believe the named sources are lying.

          • albatross11 says:

            A friend of ours (the US) or a friend of Trump’s?

          • bintchaos says:

            @Conrad

            Our presence and influence in MENA rely on a carefully constructed misdirection that the US is not primarily allied with Israel.


            What about this statement is false?
            Isnt it important to protect the existence of our covert alliance with Israel from the largely muslim populations of our allies?
            This is absolutely a case of “You will defend Trump for anything. ” Even something that is SO OBVIOUSLY damaging to US interests, like involving Israel in the War on ISIS.

          • tscharf says:

            @Iain

            If the conclusion is that anonymous sources are always to be believed over anything the Trump administration et. al. says, then it becomes a pretty uninteresting discussion. No possibility that this kind of power would be abused in this environment.

            Trump’s word by itself should not be relied on, but an anonymous source isn’t much better when there is no way to judge the veracity or agenda of the source. There have been several instances of these sources being wrong, and always in the anti-Trump direction.

            The reason I asked the IC question is get to what the argument actually is. If it is OK for the IC, but not for Trump then it doesn’t make sense from a legal point of view. I accept Trump just blurting it out without review is a bad idea.

          • Iain says:

            @tscharf:

            The source for this story made detailed claims about an event that was previously not public. Many of those claims were subsequently confirmed by participants in the event. The Trump administration’s denials were remarkably non-specific about which of the Washington Post’s claims were incorrect. Slate has a good rundown of the details.

            Can you find me an example of a Trump administration official going on the record and denying a specific factual claim in the Washington Post’s report?

            Edit to add: I have been very clear throughout this discussion that I do not question the legality of Trump’s action, with or without the intelligence community’s seal of approval. I am just trying to get people to stop hiding behind the fig leaf of legality and either defend Trump’s actions on the merits, or admit that there’s a problem here. If you accept that what Trump did was a bad idea, then we’re on the same side of the argument.

          • tscharf says:

            No offense, but I won’t be going to Slate to find the TRUTH.

            I literally just gave you the quote you asked for, it explicitly says the “”At no time, at no time, were intelligence sources or methods discussed”. It’s OK if you choose to not believe this, it’s not OK for you to pretend it doesn’t exist.

            The only worthwhile point here is that one cannot assert that Trump divulged a source as fact. It is a contested fact and a very important one for the discussion at hand. If Trump divulged a source that was bad judgment. What is your view if Trump did not divulge the source?

          • Iain says:

            It’s not a long article. If Slate is too icky for you, here’s the same argument from WaPo itself:

            McMaster says that “at no time were intelligence sources or methods discussed.” But The Post’s reporting doesn’t say that they were.
            Instead, the report states clearly only that Trump discussed an Islamic State plot and the city where the plot was detected by an intelligence-gathering partner. Officials worried that this information could lead to the discovery of the methods and sources involved, but it didn’t say Trump discussed them.

            McMaster’s denial is completely compatible with the Washington Post’s account. Try again.

          • random832 says:

            AFAICT anonymous sources say the city was divulged, but several named sources known to be actually in the meeting claim it was not.

            No, they do not. They assert “sources and methods were not discussed”, but not that the city was not named. It was a non-denial denial, more specifically a denial of something that was not actually claimed, meant to sow confusion about what was claimed.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @bintchaos

            What about this statement is false?

            Not false, just the part about

            covert alliance with Israel

            What exactly about our alliance with Israel is covert?

            @random832:

            meant to sow confusion

            Yes, that’s the problem with all of this stuff. “Here’s a bunch of confusing and contradictory statements from anonymous people and analysis by politically motivated non-expert “journalists” about what bad things could possibly happen (but haven’t) if the things we can’t prove are true are true and taken in the most uncharitable way possible. Please hate Trump now.” No.

          • bintchaos says:

            Why do you think Israel isnt officially part of the coalition?
            It cannot be advertised to muslim populations.

          • bintchaos says:

            Why do you think Israel isnt officially part of the coalition?
            It cannot be publicized to muslim populations.
            Do you think muslim populations are just fine with Israel?

            Don’t you think the Red Tribe hated Obama just as much as the Blue Tribe hates Trump?
            Its isomorphic.
            I think students protesting Murray are really using him as a proxy for Trump. I would love to design a study for that.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            When McMaster was asked whether Trump named the city, he more or less conceded this. But then he more or less said that the revelation did not damage sources and methods. This might be a lie, but it is a denial of something that was specifically claimed.

          • Nornagest says:

            Why do you think Israel isnt officially part of the coalition?
            It cannot be publicized to muslim populations.
            Do you think muslim populations are just fine with Israel?

            Everyone knows Israel is a US ally, Muslim populations most of all. There’s a world of difference between common knowledge and diplomatic acknowledgement, though; a great deal of diplomacy consists of maintaining a thin veneer of silence over things that everyone in the room knows.

            Take Taiwan for example. It’s a de-facto independent state, we treat it as such, China knows we treat it as such, we know China knows we do. But bringing that out into the diplomatic open is a very big deal, as Trump found out the hard way a couple months ago.

          • Iain says:

            @Douglas Knight:
            Sure, but that’s not a specific factual claim. Reasonable people can disagree on how likely it is that a particular bit of information is likely to expose a source.

            Even if Trump only revealed the threat and the city in which the source lived, it is clearly the case that the added risk of exposure is non-zero. (Consider, for example, the possibility that Russian operatives had already infiltrated the same terrorist cell in the same city, but were previously unaware that it had also been infiltrated by the Israelis.) When McMaster says that sources were not revealed, he is claiming that in his opinion the added risk was minimal. Whether or not he is correct, it is not a claim that puts his honesty at stake: nobody but McMaster knows how honestly his assessment was presented.

            In other words: McMaster’s account and the Washington Post’s account are not mutually exclusive.

          • tscharf says:

            it is clearly the case that the added risk of exposure is non-zero

            The risk of exposure became exactly 1 when the NYT revealed the source a few days later which I think was improper. They try to explain it here.

            So for reasons involving diplomacy and relations with a crucial ally, we considered the fact that Israel was the source to be newsworthy and in the public interest.

            Nobody seems to have a problem with this, ha ha. So I guess what we have is Trump probably named a city which he obviously should not have as it served no useful purpose, some people claim that was enough to connect the dots to Israel, and the people in the room responded with blanket denials that appear to say that was not enough to connect those dots.

          • Iain says:

            @tscharf:

            You’re deflecting. The NYT doing something dumb is not mutually incompatible with Donald Trump also doing something dumb. I would think that, as President, Donald Trump has a more stringent duty to keep state secrets than the media does.

            Moreover, the case against the NYT is completely dependent on the case against Trump. If you don’t think that Trump did anything wrong, then it can’t hurt to let people know. If you think that it is potentially damaging for Israel to find out that Trump is casually passing out bits and pieces of their top-secret information, then maybe he shouldn’t have done it. (Once it’s happened, you’re more or less committed to telling Israel. There were enough people in that room to make it likely that Israel would find out anyway, and the only thing that’s worse than accidentally burning an Israeli source is not even having the decency to warn them about it.)

            Also, while nobody in this conversation has sufficient information to know for sure, my understanding is that the name of the city in which the source is located (which has not been leaked, except by Trump) was the real problem. It’s not a case of connecting the dots back to Israel. It’s a case of handing Russia a new set of dots, which they might conceivably be able to combine with their existing dots to narrow down the identity of the source himself (or herself).

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Sorry, maybe I should have indicated that this was a response to random: this was a response directly to what was claimed, not a “non-denial denial.”

          • tscharf says:

            @Ian

            I’m not deflecting anything. I brought up the media in my first comment. If people get all excited about Trump allegedly naming a city in a private meeting and yet give a complete pass to the NYT for publicly and intentionally divulging the actual source to the world exposes that this is simply about Trump bashing. They are both bad, and the latter is demonstratively worse by any reasonable measure. Equivocate all you want.

            I think we have beaten this dog as much as it needs to be. Thanks for enlightening me on the non-denial denial, I wasn’t aware of that aspect.

          • Controls Freak says:

            @Horkthane

            What bothered me with Clinton is the way she wholesale mishandled classified information that would land any normal person in jail.

            Pretty much what John said. Those cases aren’t brought unless you do something to really piss off your superiors; you get fired and never get a clearance again (her only superior wasn’t terribly concerned about her use of email). If they had brought a case, getting a conviction would likely have been closer to a 50/50 than an 80/20 in either direction. As much as I think having a private server was careless/reckless/whatever, I’m completely fine with the refs swallowing the whistle on a 50/50 call in the third period of a playoff game.

            @Iain

            Would you like to go beyond the narrow legal formalisms and defend the substance of Trump’s action? It’s his call. He made the call. Are you really trying to claim that he made the right call?

            I wrote:

            There are certainly anonymous sources saying that they didn’t like his call, but this is going to be firmly in the category of “we can’t really have the appropriate information” for multiple decades.

            I’d pretty much like to leave it there. It’s about like watching a QB/coach argue over a play call. Everyone will flock to the side of whoever they liked to begin with, and no one knows particulars about personnel, game planning, etc. (The hopeful difference, as I pointed out, is that we’ll likely have very thorough records which get released a few decades down the line.)

            Would this disclosure have been deemed appropriate if the IC had OK’d it?

            Well, yeah — that’s the whole point.

            That has it the wrong way round. The IC gets their ability to ok/not-ok it from the President. Those I’ve talked to who are closer to the IC than me have said that if something happened along the lines of what the sources said in this story, it’s a failure of the IC to appropriately inform the President of the equities he needs to protect. Their job is to make sure he’s properly informed. His job includes the authority to take that information and determine what needs to be protected and what can be shared.

            McMaster’s account and the Washington Post’s account are not mutually exclusive.

            This has been a common refrain, but I want to slap a caution on it… from personal experience. I often try to come up with similar such cases where everyone’s statements could be simultaneously true, because it’s good to at least try to assume that everyone is mostly telling the truth. However, first, we have to be realistic about the full domain of possibilities within that category. Early on in the Russia collusion story, I said to my co-workers, “There are ways where everyone is saying technically true things, and it’s not a problem at all for the Trump administration… and there are ways where everyone is saying technically true things, and it’s devastating for the Trump administration.” I hate to say it, but when you’re motivated to focus on one of these subsets…

            Second, it may actually be the case that some of them are flat wrong. When Comey testified, he said that basically an entire “bombshell” NYT article from earlier this year (on the Russia story) was totally false. This blew quite a few of my “well, these things could be true if” theories.

            This is a difficult enough problem for facts. When it comes to taking second-order analysis from anonymous sources (“He just blurted it out to sound important”), I basically discount the reporting to zero.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Iain

            If you don’t think that Trump did anything wrong, then it can’t hurt to let people know.

            Proves too much. “If you don’t think there’s anything wrong with Allied command faking a Patton invasion at Dover, it can’t hurt to let the German High Command know about the ruse.”

            As for the president bearing more responsibility than the media, what about the leakers? These are not people exposing unconstitutional or criminal activity ala Snowden, but leaking sensitive government information for the purposes of politically harming the president.

          • Iain says:

            @tscharf:

            If people get all excited about Trump allegedly naming a city in a private meeting and yet give a complete pass to the NYT for publicly and intentionally divulging the actual source to the world exposes that this is simply about Trump bashing.They are both bad, and the latter is demonstratively worse by any reasonable measure.

            Don’t feel obliged to respond, but for the record I don’t think this is even remotely true. You appear to be (probably inadvertently?) equivocating between two different meanings of “the actual source”.

            Assume I have told you that a valuable source in the Middle East has given me information about an upcoming terrorist plot. The information I absolutely do not want to convey is the identity of that source: “Adnan, living at such and such an address in Raqqa”. If you are trying to pinpoint my source, which piece of information is more valuable?
            a) The source is working for Israel.
            b) The source lives in Raqqa.
            Israel is not “the actual source” in a way that must be protected, except insofar as you don’t want Israel to find out you’ve been violating their trust. In that sense, though, the burden falls on the president not to violate Israel’s trust, not on the NYT to cover it up for him.

            @Controls Freak:

            That has it the wrong way round. The IC gets their ability to ok/not-ok it from the President. Those I’ve talked to who are closer to the IC than me have said that if something happened along the lines of what the sources said in this story, it’s a failure of the IC to appropriately inform the President of the equities he needs to protect. Their job is to make sure he’s properly informed. His job includes the authority to take that information and determine what needs to be protected and what can be shared.

            I agree that this is the expected interaction between the President and the intelligence community. There is lots of evidence, thought, that it has broken down — that the intelligence community has repeatedly informed Trump of the “equities he needs to protect”, and Trump has ignored them. It would be one thing if he had taken them into account and then carefully chosen another course, but that does not appear to be the case. I admit that “blurted it out to sound important” is a bit of editorializing on my part, but the spur-of-the-moment part is straight out of McMaster’s defense. There is no way to spin that that isn’t troubling.

            Second, it may actually be the case that some of them are flat wrong. When Comey testified, he said that basically an entire “bombshell” NYT article from earlier this year (on the Russia story) was totally false. This blew quite a few of my “well, these things could be true if” theories.

            Off the top of my head, I can think of this example, in which “four congressional sources” claimed that Comey asked for additional resources shortly before being fired, which he later denied. That’s bad, certainly, and I hope nobody trusts those congressional sources again, but it hardly justifies throwing your hands up in the air and abandoning all efforts to discern truth. Even if you choose to completely disregard the unsubstantiated accusations, I think there are enough cases like this one, in which some anonymous claims are confirmed and the rest are unconvincingly denied, to paint a pretty clear picture.

            Time, as you say, will tell — but for now I’m pretty confident what that telling will look like.

          • random832 says:

            and I hope nobody trusts those congressional sources again

            The problem with this is that the narrative that Trump constantly pushes (and that certain commenters here seem to have wholeheartedly bought into) is that the sources don’t exist at all.

            Frankly, if reporters were really going to make up a story, why wouldn’t they just attribute it to their friend Jim? It seems to work for the President.

          • Iain says:

            People who claim that the sources don’t exist at all are fooling themselves, probably for partisan reasons. I’m not going to waste my time trying to convince them the sky is blue.

            Controls Freak does not appear to be one of those people.

            (Would it be clearer if I had written “I hope no journalist ever trusts those sources again”?)

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            random832

            The problem with this is that the narrative that Trump constantly pushes (and that certain commenters here seem to have wholeheartedly bought into) is that the sources don’t exist at all.

            I don’t think anyone’s asserted that in this thread. I don’t think it matters one way or the other though.

            It does seem surprising that they can’t find and fire the leakers, though. Process of elimination, how many people are listening to the President’s phone calls at any given time who could possibly be the sources? And it keeps happening over and over again. Either the President and his insiders are mind-numbingly incompetent at figuring out who’s listening to their conversations and blabbing…or the press is making stuff up. Or the press will believe any idiot who calls up and says “yeah I’m totes a White House insider and Trump’s a crazy meanie who gets two scoops of ice cream when everyone else gets one and you should print that in your respected newspaper.”

            Regardless, they’re so often wrong that I put about as much stock into them as those from random posters on 4chan.

          • tscharf says:

            The press screens their sources for reliability. It hurts them immensely to get it wrong with an anonymous source. The problem is there are no independent means to judge the source itself other than trusting the media source. The bigger problem is the anonymous source gets to frame his leak the way they like, only including damaging parts and potentially leaving out exonerating parts, etc. Almost by definition these political anonymous sources are biased. Do we get the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth? The media themselves often don’t know this, and the reader has no way to know.

            What we don’t see is how often and on what basis the media chooses to not print stuff they are given.

            It helps if they have multiple sources even if anonymous and they always try to do this. They do work to confirm it in ways they can. All that being said it would be a lot better world without the media using these.

          • Jaskologist says:

            The press screens their sources for reliability. It hurts them immensely to get it wrong with an anonymous source.

            For context, the WaPo in particular has a bad track record with Trump and anonymous sources. It’s hard to keep up, but some early ones: the deputy AG didn’t actually threaten to resign over Comey’s firing, which didn’t come right after he requested more resources to probe into Trump campaign collusion.

            This was at least 3 CNN-scandals ago, but they similarly fell down when it came to their anonymously-sourced preview of Comey’s testimony (I have to link to Zero Hedge for this one, because CNN has since altered the original article).

            I’ve seen some theorize both that Trump is letting all these leaks go on to further discredit the media, and others that they are feeding false info to identify the leakers. Neither would surprise me, but that doesn’t excuse the journalists who keep falling for it. You guys don’t exactly have credibility to burn right now.

          • tscharf says:

            Right. The WP reporting on the Ruskies break-in to the “national grid” was totally bogus as well. My opinion of the WP and CNN has dropped accordingly. I’m guessing that their standards for using anonymous sources are dynamically adjusted depending on the information. It’s no coincidence that the most virulently anti-Trump MSM outlets have gotten it wrong more often. They are crying all the way to the bank of course.

          • Iain says:

            @Jaskologist:
            I count three legitimate examples in that link where WaPo trusted the wrong anonymous sources: the story about Comey asking for more resources, the story about mass resignations at the State Department, and the story about Bannon confronting Kelly.

            What’s the denominator here?

            The Washington Post has published a lot of stories this year with anonymous sources. A lot of them have been proven true. The fact that you can find a handful of cases where the source turned out to be unreliable does not really seem like a big deal. Can you point to another source of information with a better track record?

          • tscharf says:

            The NYT seems to be more reliable, if not hyper-partisan. Their most embarrassing recent episode was the editorial accusing Palin of being a factor in the Giffords shooting. NBC news (not to be confused with MSNBC). NPR. WSJ. Part of the reason is that these other outfits don’t really specialize in breaking news / scoops / investigative reporting.

            You need to be almost perfect with anonymous sources, because how else is a reader to tell the difference between true and false? These are doubly bad because of their relative frequency (3 wrong headline stories in 6 months is BAD) and their impact.

            Reporters don’t get fired when news organizations aren’t taking it seriously, although I imagine there is more to retracted CNN story than we know about.

            I doubt these organizations got a handful of high profile political stories wrong during the entire Obama presidency. It’s clearly happening more often.

          • Controls Freak says:

            There is lots of evidence, thought, that it has broken down — that the intelligence community has repeatedly informed Trump of the “equities he needs to protect”, and Trump has ignored them.

            You’ve got this story and what else? After you point to your additional evidence, can you explain why the story it tells is of the relationship “breaking down” rather than that they’re both learning (the IC is learning how to produce information tailored to Trump, and Trump is learning how to respond to the information he’s given)?

            the spur-of-the-moment part is straight out of McMaster’s defense. There is no way to spin that that isn’t troubling.

            McMaster’s defense also was that Trump simply wasn’t informed of the equities which needed protecting. Again, supposing the factual reports of the release (and its sensitivity) are accurate, it’s still unlikely that we’re going to know who dropped the ball here with any degree of certainty (…anytime soon).

            Comey was referring to the February 14 story.

            For the record, I’m not throwing my hands up and abandoning all efforts to discern truth. Instead, I’m trying to take a rational approach to uncertainty from different types of claims in news sources.

          • Iain says:

            I’d say the part where the intelligence community keeps telling Trump that Russia interfered in the election and Trump refuses to believe them is evidence of a problem, personally.

            There have also been a number of reports of Trump demanding big-picture briefings without the details. This is a legitimate approach, but puts the burden on Trump to request the important details (like “who told us this?”) when he actually needs them. If Trump’s daily briefings are not the time for details, and Trump decided on the spur of the moment to share the information, when precisely was the IC supposed to warn him?

            Anyways, I don’t think we’re getting any further on this topic. I think your assessment is somewhat biased by partisanship; you presumably think the same of me. Time will tell who is right.

          • Controls Freak says:

            I’d say the part where the intelligence community keeps telling Trump that Russia interfered in the election and Trump refuses to believe them is evidence of a problem, personally.

            Agreed, but we probably wouldn’t agree on the root of the problem.

            There have also been a number of reports of Trump demanding big-picture briefings without the details.

            That’s not particularly supported by your link. I mean, I know it’s WaPo, and they’ve decided to choose a framing, but pay attention to just the facts that they’ve reported (not the opinions of anyone on the outside looking in). He takes briefings nearly every day. They usually run overtime. His briefers praise his intelligence-consuming habits. He prefers conversations with short documents as opposed to lectures and long documents. This leaves ample room for “the details” to be learned through oral communication rather than in written form. Nothing in that link support either claim that he demands just “big-picture” or that this is at the expense of details.

            Here is a good historical view of the PDB over time; this all sounds well within the realm of, “Different presidents have different preferences, and the IC accommodates them.” I don’t think this is a partisan position.

            I agree that Trump had a steeper learning curve on these matters coming into office, and that’s not a partisan position either. That’s pretty unquestionable. I just don’t think you’ve presented any reason to challenge the neutral, institutionalist position that would apply to an incoming president of either party.

      • cassander says:

        I’m not sure what’s going on. DNC losses, intellectually, philosophically, electorally, organizationally under Obama are profound. My gut read is that this is a consequence of clearing the path for Hillary Clinton for 8 years. An entire generation of up and coming DNC stars was smothered in the crib to clear her path. Now that she’s lost, they’ve got nothing.

        As much as I like to dump on Hillary, a generation of up and comers did get smothered but not by or for Hillary. They got smothered by the massive decline in democratic representation at the federal and state levels. If there’s anyone to blame for that, it’s some combination of the Obama administration, senior democratic congressional leadership, and the senior party apparatus who were unwilling or unable (I’m genuinely uncertain which) to do anything to stop the decline.

        • Nornagest says:

          Yeah, the Hillary theory doesn’t make sense. DNC losses have been worst at the state and local levels, and Hillary hasn’t been operating there for more than a decade. Even if she was, everyone knows you want an heir and a spare, in case the heir gets hit by a bus or runs into a scandal she can’t overcome. The push for Hillary has done damage, but the weak Democratic bench is something more structural.

          The Democratic talking point about it — seemingly the only one, which is kinda odd in itself — is “gerrymandering”, but I don’t find that convincing as a full explanation for reasons too complicated to go into here.

        • Horkthane says:

          It is manifestly difficult to assess the causes of the decline of the DNC. People like to blame gerrymandering and voter suppression. But that seems like the sort of thing that can be used to maintain a slipping status quo. Not something that can be used to flip the table. But maybe I’m just ignorant of how effective gerrymandering can be at allowing a minority group to utterly wipe out representation of a majority group.

          I can’t help but look at all these special elections R’s keep sweeping despite the DNC funnelling enormous extra resources into them. It makes the D’s look like a bunch of carpetbaggers.

          I’m also reminded of an article, I’ll see if I can’t dig it back up on request but I think it was in the Atlantic, about how Clinton’s big data approach to the election utterly failed. She had people on the ground in swing states telling her campaign they were dying out there. No volunteers, no enthusiasm. The response from the campaign is that their data specialist say those states are a lock, so no extra resources to shore them up. And we know how that turned out. Maybe the lack of a new crop of DNC stars has to do with them completely abandoning bottom up grassroots leadership.

          • albatross11 says:

            Okay, but remember that with a 1% shift in votes in about three states, we’d all be talking about how Clinton’s big data approach to the election was a brilliant success, and Trump and the GOP were clearly unable to adapt to the new data-driven world.

          • Nornagest says:

            It takes longer than an election cycle to develop talent, though. Maybe the Big Data approach was a disaster — it’s a plausible story but I don’t have the information to evaluate it. But that’s one campaign, one strategy. It only accounts for the last two-ish years at most, and the Democratic declines at low levels have been going on a lot longer than that.

          • tscharf says:

            The simplest explanation is that governing is hard. When promised miracles fail to materialize the electorate punishes them. It is very unlikely the right will be able to maintain what is has for very long. Politics is more like a pendulum in my view and it just hit peak Republican.

          • tscharf says:

            It takes longer than an election cycle to develop talent

            I can think of at least one recent example that disproves this.

          • Nornagest says:

            Sure, Trump happened. But that’s a black swan; if you’re a party strategist, you can’t just assume that there’s going to be a Trump coming out of the woodwork in every important election. There are too many important elections for that, and not enough Trumps; and besides, outsiders tend to do nasty, unpredictable things to your strategy.

            Conventional strategy demands conventional candidates, and that demands the usual cursus honorum. Which takes a couple decades or more: Obama was one of the youngest recent Presidents and even he had that much under his belt.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Albatross11
            I worked OFA and IVY.
            There were plenty of volunteers on the ground for IVY but we were directed to centralized phone banks instead of neighborhood ground ops.
            One reason HRC lost was hubris and her effing sense of destiny. Plus everyone told her she would win.
            Thats the main reason Trump won, imho– everyone thought it was impossible.
            And thats the main reason it won’t happen again.

            The GOP slavishly copied the OFA Dreamteam relational DB after Failboat ORCA, and then Trump and his team ported it to Facebook.
            That was genius.
            HRC totally deserved to lose.

            @Nornagest
            Trump will never happen again.
            Macron is proof of that.

          • Horkthane says:

            @tscharf

            I wonder if it has more to it than “governing is hard”. Although I could be easily convinced that’s a lot of it.

            I’ve heard a lot about how Trump had a message. It was simple and easily mockable. But he had one. “Make America Great Again.”

            Hillary had… what? What really? And it’s not just Hillary. What does the DNC even stand for anymore, besides constantly telling people what they can’t say, can’t do, can’t enjoy? They’ve morphed into a party of scolds. They don’t just not stand for anything, they only stand against things.

            And most people’s exposure to what passes for DNC thinking is when someone tells them that something they just said or did was really offensive and they need to educate themselves about exactly why. Although that’s being charitable, we all know it’s far more hostile and inarticulate than that.

            Maybe in 2020 the roles will have flipped, and Trump’s unchained nationalism will metastasize in millions of people who voted for Trump being turned off at how Trump fans are now hectoring them about being “real” Americans, or to go back where they came from even though they were born here.

          • cassander says:

            @tscharf says:

            The simplest explanation is that governing is hard. When promised miracles fail to materialize the electorate punishes them. It is very unlikely the right will be able to maintain what is has for very long. Politics is more like a pendulum in my view and it just hit peak Republican.

            there’s definitely something to this, there’s a natural ebb and flow. But republicans haven’t had as many governors/state legislatures in almost a century. Now, maybe it’s just a run of bad luck, that’s far from impossible, but I suspect there’s something more to it.

          • tscharf says:

            @Horkthane

            I agree. I’m not really even sure what the Democratic priorities really are at the moment, although I’m not the right to person to opine on it. They seem to be defining themselves as anti-Republican. I don’t have the faintest clue what their immigration stance is and I don’t think they do either.

            It’s pretty easy for an electorate to be frustrated with the status quo and simply vote for (hope and) change. Rainbows and butterflies. If you are out of power and you put up a likable inspiring candidate your chances are pretty good at success. It’s pretty rare that a party can hold onto power for more than 8 years in the modern era.

          • tscharf says:

            @cassander

            Some of this is dumb luck, some is the opposition pursuing a bad strategy by misjudging the electorate, and some is having a good strategy. The left appears to be all in on coastal strategies and seems a little too much in love with demographic targeting.

            The left keeps putting off vibes they are entitled to power which is not very endearing. Being mad is not a strategy, although a motivated electorate will pay off in 2010 is my guess, maybe not enough to take the house but they will make serious inroads. The right was really motivated in 2010 and it was a massacre for the left.

            The left can screw this golden opportunity up though, ha ha. Doubling down on identity politics would be very unwise.

          • bintchaos says:

            Wise or not, its happening.
            Identity politics is all there is now.
            I’m convinced…plus, it worked for the Red Tribe.
            Why shouldn’t it work for the Blue Tribe?

            Also see Haidt– The Strongest Prejudice.

            This is extremely bad news for America because it is very hard to have an effective democracy without compromise. But rising cross-partisan hostility means that Americans increasingly see the other side not just as wrong but as evil, as a threat to the very existence of the nation, according to Pew Research. Americans can expect rising polarization, nastiness, paralysis, and governmental dysfunction for a long time to come.

            This is a warning for the rest of the world because some of the trends that have driven America to this point are occurring in many other countries, including: rising education and individualism (which make people more ideological), rising immigration and ethnic diversity (which reduces social capital and trust), and stagnant economic growth (which puts people into a zero-sum mindset).

          • abc says:

            One explanation I’ve seen for why the Democrats are doing badly locally is state pensions. Over the decades Democratic politicians in blue states have promised government workers ever more generous pensions, without actually setting aside the money to pay for them. Now the bill is coming due and the pension payments are starting to crowd out all other expenditures. The Democratic machine relies on the public sector unions so they don’t dare cut the pensions, and instead want to raise taxes (on the private sector). The private sector workers are understandably non exited about paying higher taxes to provide public sector workers with pensions more generous then their own. Thus a series of Republic politicians are winning at the local level on a platform of public sector union reform.

          • Jordan D. says:

            @abc-

            Your analysis seems pretty sound, but I’m not sold on the ‘how we got here’ bit. I honestly have no idea how it was in other states, but in my own the public pension crisis was grown largely under (admittedly moderate) Republican legislative and executive powers. In our case, it was a pretty classic double case of kicking the can down the road and believing that the high times of the early 90’s were going to last forever. The legislature wanted to be able to keep raises down and wanted a slush fund, so they over-promised on pensions and robbed the fund blind on the basis that high returns would keep it going even underfunded.

            I definitely agree that there has been a lot of Republican consolidation of power here on promises to fix the pension without raising taxes, but the Democrats were really only accomplices in the first instance.

          • Brad says:

            Those promising to fix the pension problem in many cases are going to end up disappointing their supporters. Outside of bankruptcy, which doesn’t even exist at the state level, there’s nothing that can be done about vested pension obligations (or vested retirement medical benefits for that matter). Any change is going to take many years to show up in the cash accounting budgets states use, even if the state in question doesn’t use the California rule. If it does, the change years to decades.

          • cassander says:

            @Jordan D. says:

            It can be true both that the democrats and republicans are equally responsible for the problem and that the problems they are causing are worse for democrats. when it’s not an issue (i.e. when the promises are being made) both sides go alone for pure public choice reasons. When it later becomes an issue, democrats are faced with directly attacking one of their single largest sources of donations and campaign, which means if they do, it costs them double what it costs the republican.

      • tscharf says:

        Now that she’s lost, they’ve got nothing.

        What? I hear Pelosi is going to run in 2020, ha ha.

    • Brad says:

      Alex M

      I just want to be able to walk down the street without worrying that a terrorist will stab me or that an antifa protester will hit me with a bikelock for having the “wrong” views.

      Are these things you are actually worried about? What do you think the chances of either of them happening to you are in the next six months?

      • albatross11 says:

        Alternatively, can I interest you in some insurance policies I’m selling against fatal accidents involving chairs?

        • hls2003 says:

          This is actually an interesting point. If it’s true that terrorism is usefully compared to chairs, and that somewhere around 60 million voting-age Americans are vastly, ridiculously, emphatically over-estimating the risk of terrorist attack, then pricing insurance policies against terrorism should be simple – price them just below the expectation point of overly-timid Americans and make a mint.

          Instead, you find that terrorism is excluded from most normal policies, and special policies are backstopped by the government under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act, because insurance companies find the risk extremely hard to price (given the potential fat tail risks).

        • tscharf says:

          If you give chairs a rogue nuke or bioweapon, they don’t do go set it off in NYC. The trends for furniture and car accidents are very predictable, they don’t have 9/11’s. So the fear of a black swan event may be worth debating. There are probably better things to spend money on than rooting out lone wolves who spend too much time on youtube.

          • albatross11 says:

            Right, terrorism has two elements that aren’t present in chairs and yet matter for risk assessment:

            a. The distribution of deaths from terrorism is weird–most years it’s 0, one year it’s 3000. It’s hard to know what the upper bound is, which means assessing the risk is hard.

            b. Any given terrorist group is a group of humans who can be reasoned with, negotiated with, or threatened.

            In fact, foreign countries are immensely scarier than terrorist groups in terms of capabilities. Venezuela could kill *way* more Americans than Al Qaida or ISIS can dream of. But we know how to deal with that risk pretty well by (b)–even if the folks at the top of Venezuelan government would really like to blow up a bunch of Americans[1], they presumably have a pretty good idea what would happen next, so they’re not going to do that.

            [1] They might have other things on their minds just now.

          • tscharf says:

            For those of us who lived through the Cold War days, terrorism isn’t that scary. Nuclear annihilation is scary. That term provokes accusations of irrational paranoia these days, but it was quite real and everyone took it seriously.

            I did a term paper in high school on nuclear war, it was a bit distressing to start doing the math on how 10,000+ nuclear warheads would likely be distributed in an attack. Let’s just say the red tribe would win in massive landslide after that happened because the blue counties would suffer some serious population decline.

            We still do not want to go poking the Russian Bear.

          • Matt M says:

            a. The distribution of deaths from terrorism is weird–most years it’s 0, one year it’s 3000.

            Why should this matter to any one given person though? I’m sure approximately 0% of people who die in chair-related incidents think that’s how they were going to go. I’m sure their friends and family see it as an unbelievably unlucky fluke. Similar to the families of those who die in terrorist attacks.

            b. Any given terrorist group is a group of humans who can be reasoned with, negotiated with, or threatened.

            If anything, this makes chairs scarier IMO. They are basically the terminator. They cannot be negotiated with or reasoned with. They are cold blooded killing machines incapable of empathy or compassion!

          • Civilis says:

            Why should this matter to any one given person though? I’m sure approximately 0% of people who die in chair-related incidents think that’s how they were going to go. I’m sure their friends and family see it as an unbelievably unlucky fluke. Similar to the families of those who die in terrorist attacks.

            Most unusual causes of death are disproportionately distributed. We expect that people killed by tornadoes will be disproportionately in the American midwest, and few people in Alaska will drown in a swimming pool as compared to Florida. I’m fairly certain more parishioners at my church have died due to terrorist activity than due to chairs… but I live in the DC suburbs, surrounded by a fair number of military officers that work in the Pentagon. There’s a statistic that you are most at risk to be in an auto accident within a certain distance of your home, but people look at that and realize you still need to drive safely outside that area because the statistic is deceptive because most people drive within a short distance of their home.

            Likewise, the risk due to ‘bad luck’ (such as chairs) is disproportionately distributed, most frequently to the old (who are at risk from a lot of common things anyways) and to those with a lack of common sense. Everyone believes they are not going to be killed by a chair, either because they aren’t engaged in risky behavior or because there’s a Dunning–Kruger effect at work where they are unable to assess risk and therefore are at risk.

            I’m not at risk from a chair, because either I’m smart enough to recognize what not to do or I’m too stupid to recognize what risky chair behavior is. I don’t have that luxury with things dependent on other humans, like drunk driving and terrorism.

          • Horkthane says:

            RE: Fear of Terrorism as a motivator for voting for Trump

            Is there an opposite of a Motte and Bailey argument?

            What a lot of people, myself included, are afraid of is Islamization of society. Terrorism is just a single part of that. What are others?

            Others are how my girlfriend, who is Jewish with a Persian last name, always gets asked by the large Muslim community here where she’s from, and then cold shouldered when they find out she’s Jewish. Happens everywhere we go. Happens when she bought a car and the guy working the auto loan was Muslim. Happens when she’s shopping and the clerk ringing her up is Muslim. Happens in the ER when she’s suffering from a migraine and the nurse in Muslim.

            And then there is just the constant cultural aggression. Muslims are here now, stop drinking and eating pork so publicly. It’s offensive. Stop exercising your rights to free speech, Muslims are here now, it’s offensive. Stop criticizing our religion the same way you’d criticize Christianity, Scientology or Hinduism, it’s offensive.

            And the constant, slow, creeping, loss of liberty in response to terrorism. Constant small impediments to travel, speech, organizing gatherings. To say nothing of the larger impediment imposed by the increased security costs, or the lifelong security costs that can come with being a high profile critic of Islam. When Islam marks you for death, it has to be taken seriously. You never know when some “lone wolf” will take matters into their own hands.

            And then there is just the constant loss of that, I don’t know, sense wide open possibility, when every public event you attend won’t let you bring any bags in, and has to park garbage trucks along all the street entrances, and has armed guards posted everywhere.

            And the only rebuttal to all of this is just to endlessly drone in “Diversity is our strength. Diversity is our strength. Diversity is our strength.”

            Yeah, thing’s seem really strong right now. Really solid. Rock solid.

          • Matt M says:

            or I’m too stupid to recognize what risky chair behavior is.

            Nobody thinks they’re too stupid to recognize what risky chair behavior is. Therefore, nobody is at risk. But we know chair deaths happen, therefore, that can’t possibly be true.

            Put chairs aside for a second. The reason many people are more afraid of terrorism than they are of auto accidents is precisely because they think they are good drivers who don’t take dumb risks, and, therefore, are unlikely to die in auto accidents.

            Chairs is like that times several orders of magnitude, because you have to be REALLY dumb to die to a chair, right?

          • tscharf says:

            Part of it is we are simply hard wired by evolution to greatly fear being hunted. Hence the fear of sharks, bears, etc. Sharks take out many fewer people than terrorists and everyone thinks about when they step into the ocean.

          • Civilis says:

            Nobody thinks they’re too stupid to recognize what risky chair behavior is. Therefore, nobody is at risk.

            Nobody thinks they are at risk. I don’t think I’m at risk from a vending machine, I do still occasionally buy something from one, and yet I still know enough not to try tipping the machine over.

            ‘Stupidity’ might not have been the right word. There’s a combination of lack of experience, lack of knowledge of both the failure modes of things we commonly interact with and our own bodies, and willingness to accept risks. I don’t think people that take up relatively dangerous sports are stupid, and the thrill may very well be worth the risk.

            People may think it highly unlikely they will die in car accidents, yet they still take what precautions they consider reasonable, and what they consider unreasonable will vary from person to person. I had a otherwise intelligent but somewhat unwise immigrant millenial co-worker that had to be forced to use a seatbelt while driving, and even then the justification that worked was ‘I don’t want to get a traffic ticket’, not ‘you might get hurt’. Other than that, though, he was a remarkably safe driver.

          • Civilis says:

            Others are how my girlfriend, who is Jewish with a Persian last name, always gets asked by the large Muslim community here where she’s from, and then cold shouldered when they find out she’s Jewish. Happens everywhere we go. Happens when she bought a car and the guy working the auto loan was Muslim. Happens when she’s shopping and the clerk ringing her up is Muslim. Happens in the ER when she’s suffering from a migraine and the nurse in Muslim.

            I have a lapsed Jewish friend (is there the equivalent of a Christmas-and-Easter-Christian for Jews?) who was always slightly paranoid about the religious right (despite me being nominally a member of the religious right) and the reasons he gave were all things he was seeing that were all analogous to past events in Jewish cultural history. To some degree, it’s one of the advantages of having a relatively tight culture with a long and well preserved history.

            When you had several really bad events happen in your history, and those events were all preceded by warning signs, and you’re starting to see those warning signs again, you take note. And it wasn’t just the Holocaust; one of the things he was complaining about was the alleged practice of Mormons of baptizing people in hospitals without their (or their families) explicit consent. As a Catholic, to me this isn’t a concern, since if it happened to me, God knows I didn’t have a say in the matter. But I could see why it mattered to him; he was seeing definite parallels to the Spanish Inquisition. Since I don’t expect a Mormon Inquisition (obligatory: “No one expects the Mormon Inquisition!”), it still seems like not a big deal, but I can understand the ‘this happened in the past, and it was part of something worse, now it’s happening again! We must make sure this stops before it gets any worse’ line of risk aversion.

          • Civilis says:

            Part of it is we are simply hard wired by evolution to greatly fear being hunted. Hence the fear of sharks, bears, etc. Sharks take out many fewer people than terrorists and everyone thinks about when they step into the ocean.

            That’s because the risk of being killed by a shark is roughly a billion times greater in the ocean than it is on land. It would be higher, but I would assume a tornado could hit a seafood market or something.

          • Brad says:

            (is there the equivalent of a Christmas-and-Easter-Christian for Jews?)

            Two day a year Jew. Generally the two days are the high holidays — Rosh Ha Shana and Yom Kippur. However, even beyond that there are people that don’t belong to and never go to any synagogue but do presents on Chanukah and have a family meal on Passover. I don’t think there’s any name for that.

          • Matt M says:

            but I would assume a tornado could hit a seafood market or something.

            Didn’t the Sci-Fi channel make a few movies about this?

          • Jiro says:

            If anything, this makes chairs scarier IMO. They are basically the terminator. They cannot be negotiated with or reasoned with. They are cold blooded killing machines incapable of empathy or compassion!

            You can’t reason with a chair to prevent it from killing you, but the chair isn’t going to be programmed to specifically kill you either, and it’s not going to respond to anti-chair measures by trying to figure out how to get around them, which is unlike either the Terminator or terrorists. Also, chairs don’t try to recruit other chairs to kill people (which admittedly the Terminator doesn’t bother with in most films, but terrorists do.)

          • eccdogg says:

            Why should this matter to any one given person though? I’m sure approximately 0% of people who die in chair-related incidents think that’s how they were going to go. I’m sure their friends and family see it as an unbelievably unlucky fluke. Similar to the families of those who die in terrorist attacks.

            The issues is that it is really hard to estimate the true mean of a very skewed distribution from observed data.

            Maybe you just haven’t seen a tail event yet and once the tail event is factor in the probability of death by terrorism is greater than death by chair.

            Chair deaths per year probably have a pretty stable normal looking distribution terrorism deaths are highly skewed.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @Civilis

            There’s a statistic that you are most at risk to be in an auto accident within a certain distance of your home, but people look at that and realize you still need to drive safely outside that area because the statistic is deceptive because most people drive within a short distance of their home.

            If most accidents occur within 5 miles of home then the solution is simple: just move 10 miles away.

          • Iain says:

            I have a marvelous technique to protect yourself against chairs using paper clips, which this margin is unfortunately too narrow to contain.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Good news! You can use paperclips to attach additional pages to the current page, allowing effectively infinite margins.

            There’s really no problem that can’t be solved by adding more paperclips.

          • Randy M says:

            So their utility is only limited by their finite quality? Someone should do something about that.

          • Iain says:

            Unfortunately, my technique is quite detailed. I would require many paper clips to create a sufficiently large margin.

            I estimate that if you can help me find or produce a mere 0x16345785D8A0000 paper clips, I will be able to explain my chair protection technique to you.

            Chairs are everywhere, so act fast! Your life and the lives of your loved ones may depend on it.

          • Civilis says:

            There’s really no problem that can’t be solved by adding more paperclips.

            The risk of accidental death by paperclip can’t be reduced by adding more paperclips.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Civilis

            A weak, fleshy hominid perishing is not a problem as far as paperclips are concerned. Source, please.

          • Iain says:

            A single nail sticking up out of the floor is a hazard; you could step on it and die of tetanus. A dense array of nails sticking up out of the floor, on the other hand, is a comfortable, relaxing bed.

            In the same way, the risk of accidental death by paperclip can be reduced by adding more paperclips. Indeed, it may be the only way to do so.

      • Hyzenthlay says:

        I just want to be able to walk down the street without worrying that a terrorist will stab me or that an antifa protester will hit me with a bikelock for having the “wrong” views.

        Does anyone actually have numbers on this? How many deaths or injuries have there been as a result of antifa activity? I mean, my guess is not many, and, like “hate incidents,” I think any existing numbers are likely exaggerated to rile people up. But I am honestly curious about whether there are any stats.

        Granted, that’s going to be hard to answer because defining “antifascist” is as difficult as defining “fascist.” Both of those are vague terms that people can stretch to apply to anyone they disagree with. GWB, Obama, and Trump have all been labeled as fascists at one point or another, and their views and approaches differ pretty wildly.

        • Horkthane says:

          I’m pretty sure Antifa hasn’t killed anyone. But they have beaten plenty of people, rioted, destroyed property, shut down events, intimidated people, and generally LARPed as some sort of SA in Wiemar Germany. Their entire stated purpose is to restrict people’s political rights “By any means necessary” But the worst of Antifa seems to be confined to the west coast.

          Still, American Antifa has nothing on European Antifa which spent the G20 conference beating up journalist, looting and burning in the thousands.

          I actually have a mentally ill brother in law who’s fallen in with Antifa. All he ever talks about is beating people up as a mob. Every single day it’s new stories about Nazi’s and Fascist he’s beaten up and left dying in the street. But, due to his mental illness he’s prone to lying. A lot. So it’s hard to tell how much of this is just talk, fantasy, wishful thinking, or appropriating other people’s stories.

        • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

          You can’t see it only as statistics. Sure, everybody will eventually die, and mostly of cancer, heart attack and similar causes. That doesn’t mean I won’t be worried about, say, going into a violent part of town known for frequent shootings – because statistically speaking, shootings are still orders of magnitude behind cancer. Just as well, if I am going to express my political view in a peaceful and regular way for the society, I’d be worrying about domestic terrorists like antifa harming me even if statistically they are but a blip on the statistical graph of things that get people hurt, in general. Because it’s me that is risking to be hurt, not a statistical unit, and the threat is specific to what I am doing, not just randomly spread over all billions of people.

          Yes, antifa didn’t murder anyone yet, afaik. There’s always the first time. I think they did plenty of other things to prove they consider violence and terror (in its direct meaning – committing violent acts to a few in order to make a political statement and inspire fear in many) acceptable, and it’s just a matter of time and luck before something bad happens. Or a decisions of antifa members that the level of violence they are creating now does not make an impact, and they need to up the ante.

        • John Schilling says:

          Does anyone actually have numbers on this? How many deaths or injuries have there been as a result of antifa activity?

          I do not believe that antifa’s plan or goal is to physically beat up every fascist in the civilized world. The hope, as I understand it, is to create a general climate of intimidation wherein those holding the denegrated political belief are afraid to speak or show themselves in public. The method is to use violence in a manner calculated to cause fear disproportionate to quantitative risk.

          If Alex M’s testimony is accurate, then mission accomplished. Which is a bad thing.

          I think any existing numbers are likely exaggerated to rile people up. But I am honestly curious about whether there are any stats.

          Very few people are going to approach this from a POV of honest intellectual curiosity, and rightly so given the stakes.

          It is wrong to defend, dismiss, denegrate, or ignore antifa on the grounds that they generate more terror than they do physical injury. And while “you shouldn’t be as afraid of antifa as they are” may be a true statement, it will be largely ineffectual as a counter either to antifa itself, or to people whose fear of antifa causes them to pursue policies you disapprove of, e.g. supporting Donald Trump.

          Same goes for other sorts of terrorists, Mexican rapists, campus rapists, or for that matter satanic cults.

          • Hyzenthlay says:

            It is wrong to defend, dismiss, denegrate, or ignore antifa on the grounds that they generate more terror than they do physical injury.

            If their entire goal and their entire power is to generate terror and create a climate of intimidation, then ignoring them (and encouraging other people to ignore them) seems like the most logical option to me. I mean, what’s the proposed alternative?

            If their goal is to discourage people from speaking out, then people should just continue speaking out and refuse to let a small, relatively powerless group of bullies manipulate the entire conversation.

            And yes, that’s how all terrorism works; by creating a climate of fear that’s way out of proportion to the actual risk. I’m not sure how giving them more attention is supposed to make them less powerful.

          • tscharf says:

            Let’s say the antifa really hate blueberries and those that grow them. A minority of the group go into grocery stores and severely beat a few random people who attempt to buy blueberries and it is highly publicized. There are a few shootings outside of stores of blueberry apostates in the parking lot, even in your city.

            You go to the grocery store, there’s an antifa van in the parking lot and a person with an antifa shirt on legally hanging out in the produce section doing no apparent harm.

            Do you buy blueberries?

            Don’t even try to tell me blueberry terrorism can’t happen.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I do, but only because I’m an innately stubborn blueberry loving fascist.

          • John Schilling says:

            If their entire goal and their entire power is to generate terror and create a climate of intimidation, then ignoring them (and encouraging other people to ignore them) seems like the most logical option to me.

            And yet, here you are, talking about them, which is the opposite of ignoring them. So I suspect your actual plan has to be a more sophisticated one where some people ignore antifa, while other people talk about them, but only smart rational people who will say the right things to each other. And maybe the people who are about to have their heads bashed in are allowed to defend themselves or at least run away, but are then not supposed to talk about it afterwards?

            I see enormous difficulties at the implementation level.

            I mean, what’s the proposed alternative?

            The usual solution for people who go about whacking people upside the head with clubs in order to suppress political dissent (or most any other reason) is, we lock them in steel cages for five or ten years and see if they’ve aged out of it.

    • Ilya Shpitser says:

      “I just want to be able to walk down the street without worrying that a terrorist will stab me or that an antifa protester will hit me with a bikelock for having the “wrong” views.”

      I think your evaluator for micromorts is completely crazy. If you are worried about dying you need to worry about things statistically likely to kill you. This is probably things like cars, diet, and common diseases. If you pie chart micromorts, you will find that terrorism + antifa is a tiny tiny tiny tiny sliver, on the same order as lightning strikes.

      “I’m totally willing to use the political system to jail or kill as many people as I have to in order to accomplish that goal, but jailing or killing is not the desired effect – it’s only an unfortunate byproduct because peaceful methods have already been tried and have failed. All I want is law and order.”

      Congratulations, you are just another brick in the wall of fascism. You don’t see it that way, of course, but that is ok.

      Or you are trolling, there’s been a lot of that these days.

      • MostlyCredibleHulk says:

        > Congratulations, you are just another brick in the wall of fascism

        And that’s how that wall is built – antifa riots, citizens cry for law and order, law and order politicians (mostly conservatives, of course) come in, antifa sees that it’s not working and ups the degree of violence, citizens are scared shirtless and cry for stronger law and order politicians, because regular ones are clearly ineffective, etc. etc.

        There’s an out – if we can agree that we can maintain rights and freedoms while swiftly and soundly rejecting those that violate them and seek to impose their point of view with violence – for whatever reason. So far it is not happening on the left – not with antifa, not with James Hodgkinson. Yes, there are all appropriate words said by appropriate figureheads, but if you look beyond that to how the masses and the ground level reacts to it – you see nothing like universal rejection. Some rejection, yes, but in no way universal. Even mainstream papers allow themselves to publish articles blaming the victims and making cheap political digs at them.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          I think this particular’s gentleman’s cry for law and order reeks of playing possum.

    • Nornagest says:

      Antifa is allowed to operate freely because putting them in jail would make them ineligible to vote, and Democrats don’t want to lose that voting block.

      How many antifa do you think there are in the US? I’d estimate no more than a couple hundred thousand that’d even wave the flag; only a small fraction of those would have done anything you could arrest them for, and only a fraction of those would be living in states where it’d matter. (It’s a highly urban phenomenon, which means deep Blue.) And they’re mostly young, so their turnout probably sucks anyway.

      There might be other reasons to tell the cops to look the other way, but doing it to keep the voter rolls up doesn’t make sense.

      • Bugmaster says:

        I could steelman his position as something like, “a sizable portion of Democratic voters support Antifa, despite not belonging to the organization itself; and those voters will be less likely to turn out if their party starts throwing Antifa in jail”.

        • Brad says:

          I’d guess that more Trump and Johnson voters could identify what ‘antifa’ means than Clinton and Stein voters. And of the latter a significant number are old enough to remember the 70s and would be surprised to find out that there’s anything left.

          • Nornagest says:

            Maybe that’s true where you come from, but it’s not true where I come from. I know something like two dozen active antifa. I don’t know a lot about the internals of the scene, but I’ve gone to movies with them, I’ve attended a couple of their parties, I’ve had people try to recruit me to go stomp on Nazis. And I know damn well this isn’t representative, but these are almost all people I know through my hobbies; I didn’t go out looking for them. So I’d wager a fair fraction of people in my area, and other, similar areas — who are almost all Clinton and Stein voters — have had similar experiences.

            Antifa might be a boogeyman, but it isn’t just a boogeyman. It’s a small but significant movement, and it’s got enough momentum to be at least a little scary to me.

          • Brad says:

            I’ll take your word for it, but as you say it is non-representative. The question is how many people are living in areas there that are similar to your area (Bay?) keeping in mind that it can’t just be all major cities because antifa is a non-factor in the biggest metro area in the country — which is where I come from.

            Regardless of how rational it is for you to be a little scared, Bugmaster’s steelman is still ridiculously weak because the only sizable portion of democratic voters that could even plausibly have positive feelings for antifa live in CA, WA, and OR — which are not in any danger of being lost to the GOP.

            And Alex M’s position is even more absurd. He’s going to vote for the GOP in national races, in part, because he is upset that the San Francisco and Berkeley PDs aren’t acting sufficiently aggressive against antifa? How does that make any sense?

          • Civilis says:

            Regardless of how rational it is for you to be a little scared, Bugmaster’s steelman is still ridiculously weak because the only sizable portion of democratic voters that could even plausibly have positive feelings for antifa live in CA, WA, and OR — which are not in any danger of being lost to the GOP.

            It’s very tempting to look at a claim and treat it in the most specific way possible when it benefits your argument (I’m just as guilty at this as times; this is a general and not a specific observation).

            From last week’s Washington Post (https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/dc-politics/washington-has-become-the-capital-of-political-dissent/2017/07/05/e39281f6-5b4f-11e7-a9f6-7c3296387341_story.html?utm_term=.76318fa05217):
            One out of every three Washingtonians has marched in protest against President Trump or his policies at least once since January, making the District the capital of national dissent, a new Washington Post poll finds.

            Yes, the vast majority of these protestors don’t have any connection to the violent rhetoric made at these protests or the fringe groups that take advantage of these protests to engage in actual violence. Still, it’s not irrational to draw a connection between these protests and the risk from violence that comes with it. I haven’t worked in DC proper in more than a decade, but I remember the barricades and warning notices circulated about the threat during the Clinton administration, where groups with the same ideology were protesting the WTO/IMF/World Bank.

            The 1992 LA riots caused (per Wikipedia) around one billion dollars in property damage and resulted in 55 deaths. BLM didn’t exist at the time, yet it doesn’t strike me as irrational to consider the costs of the LA riots when looking at the risk from a BLM protest getting out of hand. Likewise, Antifa has become a shorthand for the leftist protest block, or at least those willing to be confrontational with the authorities.

            This morning’s Washington Post had an article about how Montgomery County Maryland was dealing with the threat of racist graffiti in several of the county’s schools, and there have been articles about the threat posed by several nooses (or things which look like nooses) left in various places in the region. We’ve seen universities close down the rights of students because of the threat of someone in a Halloween costume, or the threat of a right-wing provocateur speaking his mind, or the threat of a moderate social scientist saying something which people disagree with.

            And Alex M’s position is even more absurd. He’s going to vote for the GOP in national races, in part, because he is upset that the San Francisco and Berkeley PDs aren’t acting sufficiently aggressive against antifa? How does that make any sense?

            He’s going to vote for the GOP because to him Democrats don’t adequately deal with the threat of lawlessness by left-leaning groups, of which Berkeley and San Fransisco and Portland are just examples. To him, the lawlessness from the left is a risk; it might be the risk to his employability more than his personal safety, but still a risk. We either let people individually weigh risks, or we try to do it rationally as a group with everyone involved; we can’t expect everyone else to be rational when we are irrational.

          • Brad says:

            Civilis

            We either let people individually weigh risks, or we try to do it rationally as a group with everyone involved; we can’t expect everyone else to be rational when we are irrational.

            Yes, we let people individually weigh risks. We also let other people critique those choices.

            When I see a new poster, Horkthane, going on about how he feels so betrayed by the Clinton emails, especially coupled with pushing back on the idea that Trump ought not to have disclosed the Israeli ISIS source to the Russians, I don’t think to myself well there’s naturally going to be a range of different opinions on how big a deal email security is, someone has to be on the far end this must just be that guy. Instead I think here’s a Fox News watcher. It’s the correct prior to have, even though of course it is no guarantee.

            Similarly, if I see someone going on and on about antifa, it could be that he happens to live in Oakland and likes to listen to the same type of music that’s popular with the antifa groups there but more likely he’s sitting in a Houston suburb watching Hannity play the clip of Berkeley over and over again. He is legally entitled to fear whatever he wants to fear, but I am legally entitled to have contempt for those fears. And to think that those fears have an awful lot in common with the people that feel “unsafe” because they see a pride flag with a Star of David on it.

            Again if Nornagest has to live in a very particular area because of his work, and that particular area has a serious problem I can understand being upset about it. Ditto for actual college professors.

            It’s the people with zero personal experience and zero personal exposure that are nonetheless obsessed with the issues and know all kinds of details that I think have got issues. I mean if you are going to be worried about small, geographically isolated violent groups that are far away from you, why not the Gambino crime family or MS-13 instead? I think it is because it is convenient for your preexisting political and ideological ends to be worried about antifa.

            The paranoid can always spin out some theory about how a series of events could lead to their personal pet nightmare scenario. On this website they take advantage of the fact that the rest of us can’t say that such a thing is impossible because of our norms around epistemology.

          • Civilis says:

            When I see a new poster, Horkthane, going on about how he feels so betrayed by the Clinton emails, especially coupled with pushing back on the idea that Trump ought not to have disclosed the Israeli ISIS source to the Russians, I don’t think to myself well there’s naturally going to be a range of different opinions on how big a deal email security is, someone has to be on the far end this must just be that guy. Instead I think here’s a Fox News watcher. It’s the correct prior to have, even though of course it is no guarantee.

            At this point, I think it reasonable to assume that nobody knows both the whole truth behind Clinton’s emails and Trump’s leak about ISIS, and those that know the whole truth behind one aren’t going to talk about it, and given that, anything people say has to be taken with a grain of salt. I know enough people with a cleared background that have expressed similar sentiments as Horkthane that wouldn’t be caught dead watching Fox News that I take him at face value. I’ve got no real idea what they know beyond that they had a clearance, and their opinions as to exactly what was wrong differ, but the logic is similar.

            When my Jewish liberal friend talked of long-term fears of another Holocaust or another Inquisition, I didn’t assume he was actually clinically paranoid, but that it was rational for him to consider the risk of an extremely low-probability but potentially highly dangerous long term threat, and that doing that risk analysis of long term risks is always rational. That’s what Scott’s AI fears are; he doesn’t fear his smartphone becoming SkyNet, he fears for the long term risk, which may occur long after he dies. It’s rational for people to fear for family and friends and even humanity itself. Anyone who’s right wing and is considering what happens when their children – who might not even be conceived yet – make it to college has a stake in the current campus debate, even if they are sitting in a bar in Houston and never intend to set foot on a campus again.

            Further, if inner city blacks are going to consider a small number of geriatric rednecks griping around the trailer park a threat, or my Jewish friend to consider a couple of powerless crypto-fascist wannabes a threat, then it’s more rational for the guy sitting in the bar in Houston to consider people on the other side of the country running around with the symbols of groups responsible for millions of deaths of people like him (and unlike the KKK and the neo-Nazis, seemingly being given free reign to break laws) a threat.

            I mean if you are going to be worried about small, geographically isolated violent groups that are far away from you, why not the Gambino crime family or MS-13 instead?

            MS-13 is active in Northern Virginia, and the paper tends to have at least one story a week about the latest murder trial. Still, I’m not Hispanic and I don’t flash gang signs, so I’m not likely to be mistaken for a gang member, which seems to be the leading risk factor for MS-13 related death. I have flown on an airplane, and worked in a government office building, both of which elevated my risk of terrorism related death, and I have friends and coworkers still in those positions.

          • Horkthane says:

            RE: MS-13

            Current resident of NoVA. The murders might make the headlines. But it ignores the constant threat of random violence that keeps happening. The last neighborhood I lived in was getting crazy. There was a string of home burglaries all around my particular street. Homes were randomly being shot into. Going on walks, we started finding spent shell casings on the trail between neighborhoods we’d usually take.

            Sure, these things aren’t as flashy as a full on MS-13 style machete murder with the body dumped in the park. But they don’t scream out “I like the way this neighborhood is going. Open borders are great” either.

          • Salem says:

            I think it is because it is convenient for your preexisting political and ideological ends to be worried about antifa.

            There’s definitely some of that.

            But also, your political and ideological methods of understanding legitimately cause you to be worried about antifa. The two are intertwined.

            You’d recognise this right away if we turned this around and put the microscope on liberals. Why get so exercised about trans rights? It’s a tiny number of people, the vast majority of people putting rainbow flags on Facebook aren’t remotely affected, and having to go to a different bathroom is not exactly the Farhud. Republicans say that liberal concern is expressed due to convenience (“professionally offended”), and there’s some truth in that analysis, at least for some people.

            But it would be foolish to say that’s all there is, or that the concern is purely convenient. If you understand the world in terms of solidarity and oppression, then this looks like nasty bigotry that needs to be fought. The same ideology that makes it convenient for you to look for new protected classes makes you genuinely want to root out forms of oppression that you hadn’t previously thought about. And sure, sometimes convenience wins out (as when the anti-war movement stopped when Obama got elected), but that’s not some gotcha – liberals aren’t faking their commitments, they’re just human beings with all the bias that entails.

            If you buy that, it doesn’t take a great leap of imagination to understand why someone who understands the world in terms of civilisation and barbarism would be particularly concerned about violent mayhem being perpetrated, and – worse – tolerated. Sure, it’s convenient to be able to portray your enemies as thugs. But the reason you’re so worried about this kind of thuggery is because it undermines our social order.

            Frankly, when you mock someone for watching Hannity in a Houston suburb, it makes you look very small.

          • Civilis says:

            Why am I not surprised Horkthane is a fellow Fairfax County resident? Could even be someone I know, for all that anonymity. (Despite my encouragement, I don’t think any of my limited circle of friends is a SSC reader.)

            The population of Fairfax County is 1.1 million people. It’s very possible for two people living in the same county, so almost certainly within 20 miles of each other, to assess the risk from MS-13 completely differently. I think I saw MS-13 graffiti once on one of my longer walks, and I’ve never seen spent shell casings or heard of shootings. Local crime in my section of the county is rather low.

          • Brad says:

            @Civilis

            When my Jewish liberal friend talked of long-term fears of another Holocaust or another Inquisition, I didn’t assume he was actually clinically paranoid, but that it was rational for him to consider the risk of an extremely low-probability but potentially highly dangerous long term threat, and that doing that risk analysis of long term risks is always rational. … It’s rational for people to fear for family and friends and even humanity itself.

            FWIW I feel the same way about my contemporaries that see the next holocaust behind every door (i.e. that they are unreasonable). I give people of my parents’ generation, and especially my grandparents’ generation, a pass because of the closer personal connection.

            I guess I just fundamentally disagree about how rational it is do a (tiny risk * big loss / far time discount) exercise. There is so much uncertainty and such sensitivity that you end up just picking an answer you like for other reasons. (Yes, I’m aware this has implications for global warming and yes I’m okay with biting that bullet.)

          • Brad says:

            @Salem

            I like the fact that your post brings in the concept of a feedback loop and adds nuance to bad faith / good faith, but I don’t like the above-it-all / relativist view of ‘ways of understanding the world’.

            I neither need to nor want to accept “someone that understands the world in terms of civilisation and barbarism” as some sort of value free fact about the world that I just have to deal with. I want to, and will continue to, interrogate and push back from time to time against my interlocutors’ ways of understanding the world where they don’t match mine.

            Also, this

            Frankly, when you mock someone for watching Hannity in a Houston suburb, it makes you look very small.

            seems to me to lack semantic content. If it was intended to make me feel bad it missed the mark.

          • Salem says:

            @Brad:

            I’m not saying all ways of looking at the world are equally valid. But I am saying that your hypothetical suburban Fox News viewer has a valuable way of looking at the world, and you look silly when you dismiss it. The world is built out of culture, institutions and norms, and it’s quite right to judge them by how well they civilise us, or how much they give free rein to our most barbarous instincts. The reason we have a (mostly) peaceful and prosperous society isn’t that we’re (much) genetically different from our dirt-poor ancestors, it’s that we’re exposed to more civilising institutions. Yet it could break down at any time, and each new generation is a fresh invasion of savages. Mob violence is pure barbarism. Civilisation vs barbarism is an extremely important way of understanding the world.

            But it’s not the only way with value.

        • abc says:

          Well, the reason the democrats don’t want to fight antifa is because those people are their core activists and enforcers.

          • Civilis says:

            I don’t think this sort of language helps. The mainstream left, including the Democratic party establishment, is smart enough to realize that antifa isn’t helping them; it just provides the right evidence and justification. There are some on the party fringe (the mayor of Berkeley for one) that might feel this way, but the democratic-dominated DC city government took a massive hit for letting the inaugural protests getting out of hand. You could say that antifa is the campus leftist’s group of core activists and enforcers, but that’s a small part of the party.

            The problem is that there really is no way to deal with antifa that doesn’t hurt the left in the short term, so it’s easier to hope they go away. It’s easy to confuse antifa with the leftist fringe, in part because both antifa itself and the firebrands on the right have a vested interest in making the two look identical, because it helps both causes recruit. Anything you do to harm antifa is going to also have a lesser impact on the left’s ability to protest. To the left, Trunp’s also a bigger problem.

          • dndnrsn says:

            This doesn’t line up with the fact that antifa and adjacent types tend to dislike mainstream Democrat politicians. “Liberals get the bullet too” after all.

          • abc says:

            You could say that antifa is the campus leftist’s group of core activists and enforcers, but that’s a small part of the party.

            But an extremely important one. The campus left is responsible for making sure that future members of the nation’s ruling class get indoctrinated into the leftist worldview during their time at college and that any “experts” asked to give advise on a policy question put a leftist spin on it.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @abc

            How strong is leftism doing? Not “the left”, not liberalism, not the liberal/leftist mishmash popular in many circles that think of themselves as radicals, but actual economic leftism?

      • Matt M says:

        I’d be willing to bet that there are more antifa than there are KKK members

        • Nornagest says:

          I agree; I’d ballpark the KKK as at least an order of magnitude smaller. Maybe more than that if you count old guys that rode with them in the Sixties, but not big.

        • dndnrsn says:

          The KKK are pretty small potatoes nowadays in the world of white nationalism and white supremacism, aren’t they? They’ve still got the name recognition, but their heyday (well, I’ve read they had 3 heydays) is long gone. A fairer bet would be “all antifa” compared to “all white nationalists and white supremacists.” Even in that case, I would bet more antifa, although it depends who you count as members of either group.

    • lvlln says:

      This post is an example of the nightmare scenario for me. Push comes to shove, most people most of the time will value their own safety and well-being over high-minded principles and will sacrifice the latter for the former. Furthermore, I can’t in good conscience say that there’s anything irrational or unethical about this; one’s own consciousness is literally the only thing one truly has, and the loss of or even just harm to that is such a devastating thing that I can’t blame anyone for wanting to protect that at all costs.

      And as long as the loudest voices in the left continue to escalate the violence and to transparently do little more than to pay lip service to protecting people from outside violence, people will be drawn to those who they believe can provide them with safety, even if that’s fascism. People might ethically and rationally vote in fascism.

      It’s frustrating, because it seems entirely an own-goal for my side; it’s trivially easy not to enact violence against those with whom one disagrees. It’s fairly easy to separate fear of terrorism from hatred of people and to engage with people on the former terms rather than blaming them for the latter. Do these things, and the rational ethical path to fascism disappears or is at least greatly damaged.

      This is why I think it’s so important for us on the left to speak out against the loudest people on our side who are celebrating the harming of others or are indifferent to the harm others suffer. What’s especially galling is the mocking of the fear of harm, as if they know the REAL truth, and the people who are fearful are just ignoramuses who don’t know statistics. It’s transparently dishonest in its assessment of future risks (e.g. the idea that the overall population rate of death by anything is a good predictor of one individual’s risk of death by that) or its denial of trends (e.g. as best as I can tell, the risk of a professor being assaulted and suffering concussion for daring to bring to her college a scientist whose research was characterized as bigoted, while having her assailants get off with nothing more than slaps on the wrists was infinitely higher in 2017 compared to 2016; there’s no reason to believe the trend will go negative, and the rhetoric of the left provides ample reason to believe the trend will be positive, though the shape or asymptote, if one exists, are anyone’s guess). People can see right through this sort of deception, and that will tend to turn them off the people who are attempting to deceive.

      Obviously Trump is far worse than anyone on the left when it comes to deception. The man lies so consistently and contradictorily that I doubt that the very concept of truth exists in his mind. This dishonesty combined with his clear incompetence means that, to my eyes, he’s obviously not someone who can be counted on to provide the protection that people want. But his rhetoric does communicate the desire to protect people from harm, as dishonest as that rhetoric is and as incapable as he is of carrying it out, and many people seem to see that good enough because the alternative is so terrible. The nightmare scenario is that enough people feel this way due to the actions of the loudest people on the left such that they do bring about fascism while completely following their rational, ethical self-interest.

      • albatross11 says:

        The problem here (and it comes up with terrorism and hate crimes and mass shootings and police shootings, too) is that the actual risk to you is really, really small. These are threats to your life that get a huge amount of media attention, and so they *feel* like big risks. But they’re not. The set of people who seriously have to worry about this kind of violence is really small. I mean, if you’re Charles Murray or Richard Spencer, yes, you do. (Also if you’re an abortion provider in some places, you should probably worry about it.) But for most of us, it’s a tiny tiny risk compared to all the normal risks we run every day of our lives.

        Now, I agree that violent protests need to be stopped, and in particular that people who go to political rallies to bust heads need to have the law land on them like the proverbial ton of bricks. After a few guys find themselves spending a year or two in jail for felony assault[1], or getting expelled from their university, or even just spending the night in jail and picking up trash along the road for their next several weekends while wearing a charming orange vest, the appeal of this kind of political violence will go way down. We need this because turning politics into a question of which gang of thugs will win is a really bad idea. It’s probably fun for various thugs who like busting heads and getting into fights, but hey, that’s why we have policemen and jails and prosecutors.

        And I think the broader no-platforming and protesting and shunning and doxing thing that a lot of people (especially SJW types on campus) does some real damage to the world. But that’s not mainly because of the physical danger posed by these folks, but rather because of the incentives they create and the way people respond to these incentives. (Partly from the same screwy risk assessment that leads midwesterners living in farm towns to fear death from terrorist attack[2].)

        [1] Hello, bike-lock guy!

        [2] Yes, terrorists might conceivably carry out more ambitious and destructive attacks in the future. And similarly, we could have our politics transition to something where gangs of thugs break up rivals’ political rallies all the time. We should take sensible measures (like sending the cops to arrest the thugs) to prevent that stuff, without freaking out or letting those fears become a justification for any and every crazy or evil thing some politician wants to do.

        • lvlln says:

          @albatross11

          Now, I agree that violent protests need to be stopped, and in particular that people who go to political rallies to bust heads need to have the law land on them like the proverbial ton of bricks. After a few guys find themselves spending a year or two in jail for felony assault[1], or getting expelled from their university, or even just spending the night in jail and picking up trash along the road for their next several weekends while wearing a charming orange vest, the appeal of this kind of political violence will go way down. We need this because turning politics into a question of which gang of thugs will win is a really bad idea. It’s probably fun for various thugs who like busting heads and getting into fights, but hey, that’s why we have policemen and jails and prosecutors.

          [2] Yes, terrorists might conceivably carry out more ambitious and destructive attacks in the future. And similarly, we could have our politics transition to something where gangs of thugs break up rivals’ political rallies all the time. We should take sensible measures (like sending the cops to arrest the thugs) to prevent that stuff, without freaking out or letting those fears become a justification for any and every crazy or evil thing some politician wants to do.

          Well yes, that’s the hope. Regular rule of law being implemented so that people can feel mostly safe most of the time. The issue is one side being perceived as celebrating egregious exceptions to rule of law just because it allows them to violently harm people with whom they disagree (a perception that I believe is accurate based on my experiences being a blue-tribe leftist whose social circles are generally dominated by blue-tribe leftists), which drives people to the other side, even if that other side is fascism, rather than just regular rule of law. And it would be entirely justified for those people to do so. Again, this is why I wish there were a movement on the left to call out such celebration of violence – I’ve tried to speak out against it where I can, but seeing the punishment enacted on those who speak out and the punishment enacted on me for what little speaking out I’ve done has convinced me that it’s in my best interests to minimize such speaking out.

          On the subject of violent protests, it’s far more than just notable figures like Spencer or Murray who have to fear for their safety. Violent protesters have demonstrated that they’re fine with attacking people who want to listen to such figures in public, as well as people who appear like someone who would support such figures (i.e. “Make Bitcoin Great Again” at Berkley). And the loudest people on my side, from what I can tell, have been at best minimizing the problem, and at worst celebrating it. It’s perfectly reasonable to desire that one can attend a talk made by ANY figure, no matter how controversial or downright evil, without fearing for one’s safety any more than if one were attending a talk made by the least controversial, most milquetoast figure. If one side doesn’t treat protestors creating exogenous increase to that risk as unacceptable, people will be justifiably drawn to the other side, even if it’s fascism.

      • tscharf says:

        This a very good post. From the right I see the left’s violence as mostly just a temper tantrum by those, mostly young people, who just haven’t experienced being on the losing side of an election and irrationally assumed it would never happen because they were convinced of their moral ascendancy. Why they would think this is another conversation. I confess to being rather confused after the election by all the fear for physical safety and so forth, I was surprised to see that many really believe we are monsters. One story was about a mom who’s sixth grader was inconsolably crying, I was thinking “What on earth did you tell your sixth grader?”. I’m hopeful that they will learn the will of the people has much more power than an election, but the will of others needs to be respected. Social change is a marathon, not a sprint, and it won’t always go in a direction you like, nor should you expect it to.

        It’s always sketchy to extrapolate and I’d say most of this violence will be self resolving, perhaps at exactly the moment their side regains power, or more likely when external events remind us we are really on the same team.

        Attacks on free speech just aren’t supported and counter productive to one’s goals. I totally excuse insane students, but faculty and administration not so much. I just had two daughters go through college (Clinton voters, ha ha) and they never reported any insanity I see in the news so it seems to be a very small minority.

        • lvlln says:

          @tscharf

          I confess to being rather confused after the election by all the fear for physical safety and so forth, I was surprised to see that many really believe we are monsters. One story was about a mom who’s sixth grader was inconsolably crying, I was thinking “What on earth did you tell your sixth grader?”

          This phenomenon has been one of the most upsetting things for me. People are taking some of the least well-off in society, such as minorities, people with mental disabilities, children, and feeding them outright falsehoods which only serve to increase their fear and suffering. There are enough problems in this world that cause them unnecessary suffering – there’s no need to contribute more. And it’s perfectly possible to call out and fight against the anti-progress policies likely to be enacted under Trump and the Republican congress without making people think that they’re literally going to round people up just for falling into the wrong demographic.

          Similarly with claims of rise in hate crimes – no study I’ve seen has done the analysis necessary to conclude ANYTHING about the trend in hate crimes in the past few years, yet there’s plenty of reporting that gives the impression that there’s been a verifiable increase. Which, again, just increases fear and suffering of people who are vulnerable to hate crimes – some of the least well-off in our society – without gaining anything.

      • Jaskologist says:

        In the nightmare I see, the right responds to the left’s militias and the tacit support given them by leftish institutions and governments by forming their own street gangs for protection. (We’re already seeing some of this; things are accelerating.)

        The right-gangs are hardly going to limit themselves to just the people in the left-protests who are throwing rocks. So the left can’t disarm at this point, because now they need their gangs for protection, too. Both sides then rationally escalate violence; bringing things back down would require trust that is gone now that we’re on war footing.

        I had some hope that the whole CNN thing kerfuffle might be an improvement over the current trend, if it succeeded in channeling this energy from street violence into online fights to find dirt on people.

        • Matt M says:

          So the left can’t disarm at this point, because now they need their gangs for protection, too.

          Of course, to hear them tell it, this is the antifa origin story. The only reason they exist in the first place is to protect minorities in their community from the day to day violence of roaming white supremacist and neo-nazi street gangs.

          • dndnrsn says:

            Is this, to hear them tell it, their origin story? It’s not like you have to do a great deal of digging to find out that modern antifa, or at least the Anglo variety, coalesced around various attempts (ultimately mostly successful, I think) to kick neo-Nazis out of punk music scenes. A lot of things make more sense once you know that.

          • tscharf says:

            I think the funniest thing I have heard in the last year is the term “preemptive violence” used with a straight face.

          • Nornagest says:

            Is this, to hear them tell it, their origin story? It’s not like you have to do a great deal of digging to find out that modern antifa, or at least the Anglo variety, coalesced around various attempts […] to kick neo-Nazis out of punk music scenes.

            Yeah, that’s accurate — I’ve got a “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” button somewhere that a future antifa gave me, years before this election cycle kicked off. Not all of the current batch are former left-leaning punks and skins, but that’s what it grew around.

            But that’s not inconsistent with Matt M’s version, it’s just more specific: the punk scene was the community for those people, or at least the closest circle of it. And if you ask them why they did it, they’ll tell you it was to protect the minorities in it.

          • dndnrsn says:

            “Day to day violence of roaming white supremacist and neo-Nazi street gangs” goes significantly beyond “neo-Nazi members of a subculture causing trouble (and getting kicked out of that subculture)” to the point that it doesn’t provide very much useful information. Knowing about the whole “Nazi punks fuck off” thing actually provides a whole lot of useful information.

            The only person I know who thinks there’s neo-Nazi street gangs out there right now is not an antifa, but rather was having a complete meltdown in response to Trump getting elected.

          • Nornagest says:

            Point. Maybe the next period of their history’s a closer match, though. There have been no Nazi punks to speak of for a decade-plus, so the people that used to spend a jolly Saturday evening beating skinheads (subtype: white laces) at their local punk venue with a bar tray found other ways to direct their efforts.

            In that period, before they pointed themselves at the All Trite, their favorite targets were neo-Nazi rallies. Lurk Stormfront or similar sites until you find someone advertising one, arm yourself with something deniable, roll up in bandanas and black hoodies, and have yourself a street fight until the cops show up. The Nazis were expecting it too; it was almost a symbiotic relationship.

            That’s not “roaming white supremacist and neo-nazi street gangs”, either, but you might be able to talk yourself into thinking it was, if you’d invested enough of your identity in rearranging Nazi faces.

          • dndnrsn says:

            @Nornagest

            I think your take on things is basically accurate. There’s also the “no platform for fascists” thing, which actually worked reasonably well, up until the internet. Now it arguably is counterproductive.

        • Horkthane says:

          I do fear the track to de-escalating the violence has been missed. Local stories, like the Mayor of Berkeley personally intervening on behalf of violent members of Antifa who’ve been arrested are a bad look. They erode trust, nationally I should add, that you can count on the rule of law to protect you. The only rational response is to have your own armed thugs, since you can’t count on the cops or other institutions to do their jobs.

          And then like you say, the other side can rationally say “Well, we need MORE armed thugs”. And now you have a classic arms race. And this is why it’s so important that Justice is Blind. If the Mayor of Berkeley had just let the police and the prosecutors do their job, perhaps this could have been avoided.

          You can say it’s irrational for people who do not live in Berkeley to think this affects them. Or that it’s irrational for people who don’t go to Evergreen college to grow more fearful. Or that it’s irrational for people in a city without an active BLM cohort to worry about riots.

          But if we applied this to gay marriage, we sound insane. So what if gay marriage isn’t legal in Texas? You live in Colorado. It doesn’t affect you. So what if Texas has effectively made abortion illegal by closing down all the clinics. You live in California, you have nothing to worry about.

        • eccdogg says:

          And the thing is, in a war of Republicans against Democrats I have a pretty good idea who wins. Republicans have majorities among gun owners, the military, the police, and men in general.

          The last thing you ought to want as a leftist is for things to be settled by violence.

          • Horkthane says:

            That would be the predictable result if you take the situation at face value. But, without endorsing it as the most likely outcome, there is potential for leftist to come out on top.

            I mean, look at the election. Democrats largely took what they thought were their strengths for granted. And it’s hard to argue that Trump didn’t just want it more. He campaigned like a madman, holding rallies almost every day, sometimes multiple. Clinton just assumed she’d win and took it a bit easier.

            Concerning who wins if things get violent, I can easily see a similar tactic playing out. Red Tribe just assumes they hold all the cards, where as Blue Tribe is far more motivated. Or it could be that the assumed support from the armed institutions of our society doesn’t materialize when push comes to shove. Or sides with Blue Tribe. Or splits and mostly fights amongst itself or sits things out. Or that while they personally might identify with Red Tribe, they identify with a paycheck and/or the chain of command more, and Blue Tribe controls that.

            Think of when the Cossacks finally turned on Imperial Russia and joined the revolutionaries.

            If I’ve learned anything from this election, it’s not to assume anything.

          • bintchaos says:

            @Horkthane

            Concerning who wins if things get violent, I can easily see a similar tactic playing out. Red Tribe just assumes they hold all the cards, where as Blue Tribe is far more motivated. Or it could be that the assumed support from the armed institutions of our society doesn’t materialize when push comes to shove. Or sides with Blue Tribe.


            Yeah, I pulled out my copy of Arendt.
            One thing that motivates Antifa is engagés into enragés, the idea that it is hypocritical for the Red Tribe to protest violence against them, when they continually threaten violence themselves.
            And again, survivalism isnt what I’m talking about.
            Fitness is reproductive success– the Neanderthals were outbred and interbred. We have Neanderthal genes surviving in our genomes…but there are no pure Neanderthals anymore.

          • Kevin C. says:

            @eccdogg

            And the thing is, in a war of Republicans against Democrats I have a pretty good idea who wins. Republicans have majorities among gun owners, the military, the police, and men in general.

            And once again, I find myself having to push back against this nonsense, so let me again link to David Hines’s excellent writing with his review of Days of Rage and his essay “ Political Violence is a Game the Right Can’t Win“. From the latter:

            You see this attitude reflected over and over again, to the point that it’s probably something engrained in the right-wing psyche. Pajama Boy vs. tactical deathbeast? Pffft. No contest. Look, righties have the guns, righties have police and they have the military. If one day the balloon ever goes up, righties will just organize behind a leadership of their veterans, coordinate with the active service, give all the lefties free helicopter rides, and live happily ever after. Right?

            That’s pretty much what the Confederacy thought about the Yankees, and it didn’t exactly work out well for them.

            From the perspective of a mainstream righty who’s a right-to-keep-and-bear-arms guy, this dismissive attitude is remarkably familiar. It’s the same attitude of somebody who buys a gun “just in case” but never goes to the range, which is a great way to discover when somebody kicks your door in at three a.m. that you don’t know the difference between the magazine release and the safety. Organization requires time, communication, networking, and above all practice, and vanishingly few right-wingers are interested in doing the necessary work.

            The organizational capacity required to build a new world is the same organizational capacity have Lefties built to pressure government. So who’s in a better position to shape the big moment when it comes? Hell, if tomorrow civilization goes completely Mad Max: who’s got existing local networks of people who they’re used to turning out and doing stuff with on a regular basis? Answer to both questions: not the Right.

          • eccdogg says:

            I am not convinced.

            What are some historical examples that we can draw on? The Spanish civil war is one. Various South American military dictatorships are some other examples. Probably Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy are other examples.

            I guess counter examples are the Russian revolution (but in that case the army rank and file were on board with the revolution). The Chinese Communist Revolution is probably the best counter example where the rightist did not lose support of the military and still lost.

            I hold to my prediction that if the current levels of support for the right in the military/police (and among men and the better off) held you would not want to settle things with violence if you were a leftist.

            Just to be clear, as a semi pacifist libertarian my hope is that it would never come to any of that and that the folks that fantasize about it are crazy.

          • dndnrsn says:

            The Chinese revolution followed a long civil war. Mao and Kai-Shek both had their own armies.

            I’ve read Days of Rage and I think Hines misrepresents it. The lesson of that book is more “if you are middle-class, educated, and preferably white, you can get away with being a terrorist; if you are poor, uneducated, and probably black, you will end up dead or in prison.”

          • tscharf says:

            The right has the food. The Northeast would be going cannibal within a week, ha ha.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Pretty sure Cali would go blue. Cali grows a LOT of food.

          • Horkthane says:

            CA’s food supply probably depends on how long things drag out. Because they might have the food, but the water to grow it…

          • hlynkacg says:

            @ Kevin C.

            And once again I’m going to push-back against the push-back. David Hines’s argument essentially boils down to “If we ignore the Right’s ability to organize, the Left will quickly defeat them in detail.” That’s a mighty big “If“.

            The Left may be more organized in Hines’ view but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be effective. The NRA, VFW, Catholics, Mormons, etc… all have far better track records when it comes to accomplishing specific objectives than any equivalent group on the other side.

            @ Ilya Shpitser

            In addition to what Horkthane said, a lot (if not most) of that food is grown in red counties bordering red states. If the balloon really did go up I would expect a sizeable chunk of eastern and possibly northern California to pull a West Virginia.

      • Conrad Honcho says:

        This is why I think it’s so important for us on the left to speak out against the loudest people on our side who are celebrating the harming of others or are indifferent to the harm others suffer. What’s especially galling is the mocking of the fear of harm, as if they know the REAL truth, and the people who are fearful are just ignoramuses who don’t know statistics.

        Yes, the “indifference” is the problem. Horkthane primarily expressed concern for his own safety, and I grant him that.

        I’m a white guy in a white collar job who lives in a white neighborhood in a red state (and I’m well armed and experienced). There is essentially zero risk I will be the victim of Islamic terrorism, Antifa violence, MS-13 turf wars, Nazi anti-Semitic attack, or a KKK lynch mob. However, there is a 100% chance my countrymen, my ingroup called “Americans” will be victims of these things. And certainly we can at least do something about the causes of this violence that come from non-Americans who shouldn’t even be here, and we can oppose the, for lack of a better word, “anti-American” ideologies of those who are here.

        Paraphrasing Aquinas’ concentric circles of duty, it’s my wife before my cousin, my cousin before my neighbor, my neighbor before the stranger. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about the stranger, but if the stranger is a threat to my neighbor, my neighbor comes first. So yes I want a border wall, and strict border enforcement, and the deportation of illegal aliens, because sometimes they do things like kill Jamiel Shaw Jr, when they shouldn’t have even been here.

        The left accuses the right of xenophobia, but I think so long as you don’t hate the stranger, that’s not xenophobia. That’s having your circles correctly concentric. When the neighbor and the stranger have conflicting interests, support the neighbor. The left I think has their circles mixed up and elevates the stranger over the neighbor. As long as we’re pathologizing dissent, this sounds like oikophobia. When our countrymen are killed by foreigners and the right is outraged, and the left says “that’s stupid to worry about because you’re probably not going to get killed,” this indicates to me the speaker cares about themselves and foreigners but not about their countrymen. They don’t even seem to be able to comprehend the right-winger caring about his countrymen, so he must actually be motivated by hatred of the foreigner.

        • albatross11 says:

          Conrad Honcho:

          I’d make a distinction here. It’s not that anyone is saying terrorism isn’t bad, or that we shouldn’t be doing some stuff to prevent it. The argument comes up when someone proposes some new policy to combat terrorism, one with substantial costs.

          The real question is, how big is the actual problem? And that puts an absolute upper bound on how much good we can do with this proposed policy in addressing the problem.

          As an example of this, consider campus rape. To address the scourge of campus rape, many people think we should relax the requirements for the presumption of innocence in rape accusations–at least for university internal investigations, and perhaps for deciding whether to send the accused rapist to prison.

          We can all agree campus rape is a bad thing. Real people are hurt, badly, by some creep raping them when he gets them alone while they’re on a date.

          And yet, we still need to figure out how big the problem is, and how much good the proposed new policy would do, and balance that against the costs. One of the costs in this case is violating a pretty important principle that a lot of us hold dear–the idea that the accused in a criminal case gets the presumption of innocence, rather than being tasked to somehow prove his innocence. (Particularly in a date rape case, where there’s no way to prove anything.)

          In a similar way, when I say terrorism is a very small risk, I’m not saying terrorism isn’t awful or doesn’t hurt anyone or doesn’t matter. I’m saying I think we give the damage done by terrorism too much weight in deciding what policies to pursue. I think that’s true because the nature of terrorism is to try to get maximum attention and spread maximum terror, and media tends to do the saturation-coverage thing when there’s a terrorist attack, even one far away[1].

          So when someone proposes policies that seem to have huge costs (like constant surveillance of everyone all the time forever) or violate important moral/legal principles (like torturing prisoners or murdering family members of terrorists in retribution for attacks), one of the first things I think is “Wait a minute, it’s not even all that big a problem, why do we want to throw away our principles and our rights for this?”

          [1] Other similar threats that feel a lot bigger than they are, because of media attention and the nature of how people assess risk intuitively, are mass shootings, strangers kidnapping and molesting kids, and policemen shooting innocent black men. And in all those cases, I think we ought to be trying to prevent those bad things, but not let the huge public fear and outrage triggered by those crimes stampede us into doing stuff where the costs are massively bigger than the benefits.

          • Horkthane says:

            Combatting terrorism is just, no matter what we do we lose. We either give up our national myth as a melting pot where all are welcome and all are treated equal, or we become a security state because “nobody” can be trusted not to try to murder a few hundred people if given the chance. I mean, it’s not totally random, we know who we’re talking about. But to act on that would be discriminatory so you know…”Could be anybody”. Everyone give up your guns, speech, and privacy.

            It’s essentially the difference Eastern and Western Europe have taken. Western Europe went all security state, even more so than here. They’ve gotten to the point where the governments of Western Europe are getting involved in the things people say online, lest it sparks something and their vaunted multiculturalism turns violent.

            Meanwhile Eastern Europe just decided to keep the wrong people out by keeping everyone out. And supposedly, their societies haven’t been burdened with the excessive security and peacekeeping required in Western Europe. But, Eastern Europe is not burdened with a national ethos founded in being a melting pot. And it could be argued their hardline immigration stance has held their economies back as well.

          • tscharf says:

            We do need to protect against large scale attacks, the surveillance state occurred after 9/11 and people thought that was the new normal. Fortunately not.

            It’s the government’s job to keep its citizens safe. One could debate whether they should address the “true” statistical threats or they should protect against what their citizens fear the most. To the extent that the citizens are the government you have your answer.

            The best path is to convince the citizens of the costs and have them agree to spend the money on something more important. It is pretty clear that politicians aren’t willing to do that, I can only conclude it is a capital L loser argument for them.

        • RobJ says:

          I wanted to respond to this last paragraph of your comment:

          The left accuses the right of xenophobia, but I think so long as you don’t hate the stranger, that’s not xenophobia. That’s having your circles correctly concentric. When the neighbor and the stranger have conflicting interests, support the neighbor. The left I think has their circles mixed up and elevates the stranger over the neighbor. As long as we’re pathologizing dissent, this sounds like oikophobia. When our countrymen are killed by foreigners and the right is outraged, and the left says “that’s stupid to worry about because you’re probably not going to get killed,” this indicates to me the speaker cares about themselves and foreigners but not about their countrymen. They don’t even seem to be able to comprehend the right-winger caring about his countrymen, so he must actually be motivated by hatred of the foreigner.

          I do think there is a pronounced difference in how central the left and right consider a “countryman” in our circles . But I also think you mischaracterize the logic of the left’s position. If we could posit a 1 to 1 ratio of deaths of our “neighbors” with, say, refugees in the US then, sure you’re characterization makes sense. But if it’s one death of an American to hundreds or thousands of refugees the calculus is a lot different and I think much more analogous to the reality of the situation. How many refugees is a countryman worth? Obviously that depends on a lot of things and is way more complicated than simply looking at how many people have been killed by refugees, but you get my point.

          • Horkthane says:

            Once again, I feel the need to push back against this binary black and white, alive or dead dynamic.

            The risk isn’t just from terrorism. The risk is us continuing to give up real and perceived freedom to the threat of terrorism. The risk is us continuing to feel less and less safe expressing ourselves because of Islamic backlash. The risk is having a literal rape culture take root in a society that did a pretty ok job of getting respect for women to a better place than it used to be.

            The balance isn’t people killed by terrorist versus refugees who died for lack of anywhere to go. The balance is all the horrible things Islamism causes including but not limited to terrorism, which the refugees are fleeing but still bringing along with them because you don’t just data dump the only culture you’ve ever known, versus letting nature takes it’s course.

            People compare the refugee crisis to the Jews fleeing the Nazis. To me it seems more like the Nazis fleeing the Communist.

          • RobJ says:

            Well, as I mentioned in the last sentence I realize it isn’t that simple. At the same time, the fear of Islamism in the US just seems entirely misguided to me. I work for a large progressive city government alongside quite a few Muslim coworkers and our group has a damn Christmas party every year which they attend. They’re nice folks, good engineers, and plenty integrated. I know this is anecdotal and I’m sure there are some counterexamples, but I just can’t wrap my head around worrying about Islamism or Sharia or any of that stuff here in the US.

          • tscharf says:

            I’m pretty agnostic on this subject.

            There is probably a lot of degrees of freedom in this computation. I’m sure part of this is a whizzing match based on who gets to decide and who bears the brunt of the downsides. These two groups are perceived to be mutually exclusive. The downsiders see the equation as:

            Right Answer = (DownsiderOpinion * 0) + UpsiderOpinion.

            Sacrifices = (Upsiders * 0) + Downsiders.

            It goes off the rails when instead of having empathy for those who are on the receiving end of the (mostly perceived) downsides, they are demeaned and labeled. Not helpful.

          • Horkthane says:

            For me, personally, I’m swayed by a handful of datapoints.

            Lately Christian and Jewish refugees from the Lebanese Civil War have been on the talk circuit, and their accounts are chilling. To hear them tell it, when they were growing up, Lebanon was a Christian majority nation. The “Paris” of the Middle East. And they were so proud of what they’d achieved, and their multicultural utopia, that they threw open their borders to share it with as many Muslims as wanted in. They were so certain that the new immigrants would see the obvious benefits of multicultural Lebanese culture. Next thing they knew, the call to Jihad went out, and their new Muslim neighbors were trying to murder them at worst, assisting the people trying to murder them at best.

            Another data point are all the Muslims I know and work with who came here in the 80’s. They are all devout, but secular. They got out before the Islamic revolution remade the societies of the places they left. Hell, most of them left because of it and can’t go back! But the new refugees who’ve grown up post Islamic revolution just can’t be compared. Pew research consistently shows they are actively hostile towards secular values, and the story of Europe shows them imposing Islamic law in any way they have access to. Frequently through street justice or in petty ways. But also violently. How many people self censor now after Charlie Hebdo?

            Now you may say, and accurately, that the US, due to obvious geographical difference to Europe, has historically gotten better educated, and thus more secular, Muslim immigrants than Europe. And this is true. But then this is used as justification to actively import Muslims, be they economic migrants or refugees, on the scale which Europe is experiencing. That’s like saying “This guy hasn’t gotten fat because nowhere sells candy within 50 miles of him. So clearly he won’t get fat if you open a candy store next door to him.”

        • Brad says:

          However, there is a 100% chance my countrymen, my ingroup called “Americans” will be victims of these things.

          Does ‘American’ ≡ ‘US Citizen’?

          Paraphrasing Aquinas’ concentric circles of duty, it’s my wife before my cousin, my cousin before my neighbor, my neighbor before the stranger. That doesn’t mean I don’t care about the stranger, but if the stranger is a threat to my neighbor, my neighbor comes first. So yes I want a border wall, and strict border enforcement, and the deportation of illegal aliens, because sometimes they do things like kill Jamiel Shaw Jr, when they shouldn’t have even been here.

          This is different from what you’ve said above. The illegal immigrant may well be your neighbor while plenty of US citizens live 2000 miles away.

          Also, it makes no sense to include harms to your neighbors but omit benefits to them. You can rattle off Jamiel Shaw Jr’s story, but are you sure that no illegal immigrant has ever saved an American’s life?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I’m equating “neighbor” “American” “US Citizen or permanent lawful resident” and “countryman.” Essentially, “the people who have bought into our way of life and live in accordance with our laws.”

          • Brad says:

            It seems to me that you and I don’t much “buy into” the same “way of life” and sometimes I speed. So how come I’m in the in-group?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Because you may be an insufferable leftist, but you’re my insufferable leftist.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          “That’s having your circles correctly concentric.”

          The reason the left accuses the right of xenophobia is the same reason the right accuses the left of irrational gun control legislation: because the stated reasons don’t check out if you do a little math.

          There is undoubtedly some number of deaths that is caused by terrorists, but in the West this number is so low, it might as well be zero. If you are worried about terrorist deaths over things like car deaths, what you are worried about is the theatre, not about the actual deaths.

          It’s fine to worry about theatre, but keep in mind that if you then suggest policy (such as restriction immigration, or enacting security theatre TSA stuff in airports) what you are doing is imposing concrete tradeoffs to get your worry about theatre taken care of. A lot of folks who come from Iran are amazing, smart, and would contribute in a lot of ways. Your worry about theatre will now throw away all the upsides of having them come.

          To put it concisely, navigating tradeoffs on immigration in the way that the right does is what makes the right xenophobic. Xenophobia is the occam’s razor explanation, because the actual explanation involving math and pie charts does not check out.

          Similarly, restricting mag sizes and handle shapes of guns contributes precisely nothing, re: the pressing issue of gun violence in the US. What it does do is piss off gun owners.

          The thing I find amazing about the recent immigration thing from the right is how this conversation is one the US has every few decades or so. The results of an immigration wave are always the same (and always vastly more positive than not). But who wants to read boring history, and also This Time It’s Different ™.

          • albatross11 says:

            I think the better explanation is that:

            a. People are really bad at risk calculations.

            b. It’s easier to argue toward conclusions you like than conclusions you dislike.

            Thus, the urgent campaign to ban Muslim immigration to stop terrorism seems kinda plausible because our screwy risk-evaluation circuitry makes terrorism seem like a big scary risk, and maybe you already started not much liking Muslims or immigration, so the cost seems very small to you.

            Alternatively, the urgent campaign to ban handguns to stop mass-shootings seems kinda plausible because our screwy risk-evaluation circuitry makes mass shootings seem like a big risk, and maybe you started out already disliking handguns and the kind of people who own them, so the cost seems very small to you.

            In both cases, making yourself back up and think in terms of actual risk (micromorts, say) is a good way of forcing yourself out of System 1 (where you know the right answer because you can feel it in your gut) and over to System 2 (where maybe you can reason about what the right answer is).

            The secondary issue then comes out into the open–a big part of the argument is less about the danger of terrorism than about the costs and benefits of Muslim immigration or private handgun ownership.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I completely agree — people generally can’t math and will go along with any seemingly reasonable argument for something they kind of prefer anyways. The reason they might prefer less immigration or Muslims is xenophobia, e.g. not liking weird dress, traditions, language, skin color.

            Hence the accusation basically checks out, by my lights.

          • Creutzer says:

            A lot of folks who come from Iran are amazing, smart, and would contribute in a lot of ways.

            But Iran is special, and having it on a list supposedly inspired by terrorism risk seems very silly anyway.

            The thing I find amazing about the recent immigration thing from the right is how this conversation is one the US has every few decades or so.

            This makes sense for the US situation with respect to Mexicans (because every other kind of immigration is more a trickle than a wave), because, sure, if Sicilians turned out to be fine, why wouldn’t Mexicans?

            Less clear for Europe, where the initial cultural distance for other immigration waves that could serve as comparison points was much lower. I’m thinking of Slavs going to Germany and Austria; don’t know anything about other large 19th/20th century migrations. Given this different starting situation, it’s not so unreasonable to worry that maybe this time is different.

            Maybe one could make an argument for a difference in both cases based on a change in zeitgeist regarding assimilation. That is something one would have to research – how much assimilation pressure past host societies actually exerted.

          • albatross11 says:

            Ilya Shipster:

            Are there any reasons anyone might object to more immigration that aren’t xenophobia? Or more immigration from predominantly Muslim countries? Because it sure seems like there are a lot of other reasons someone might have for that, and inferring xenophobia from their policy preference seems about as valid as inferring that you don’t care about victims of terrorism from your lack of support for a Muslim immigration ban.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            (a) Since we are talking in the context of an actual muslim ban, the right doesn’t just not want more immigration, they also want less immigration.

            (b) The entire point is that when one tries to infer stuff from policy preferences, actual effects of policy preferences matter a great deal. Terrorist deaths live in the same ballpark as “lightning strikes” rather than “public health crises.”

            So — if you say your policy preferences have to do with concern for victims of terrorism rather than xenophobia, and if we then math it out and notice that this makes about as much sense as concern for victims of lightning strikes (modulo the theatre of terrorism, of course), then we are forced to look for other reasons.

            So no, it’s not “just as valid,” because math is important.

            In case it’s not clear: death is awful, and we should mourn most deaths, especially deaths of innocents. But when we are doing policy we are hopefully doing consequentialism. If you are worried about death, why are you not lobbying for speed limit reductions on freeways?

            Maybe gun control is a clearer example of this, as opposing it is a hobby horse of the right.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            There are more downsides to mass immigration than just deaths due to terrorists or illegals.

            The very reliance on pie charts and spreadsheets is part of the problem. It’s difficult to quantify cultural cohesion and the benefits of a high trust society, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

            Would you like a section 8 development for muslim refugees built next to your neighborhood? Why or why not?

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            I live in a mixed income (combination of section 8 and regular housing) neighborhood in Baltimore, btw. By choice.

            If you don’t like math, you are using your gut. It’s fine to use your gut sometimes, but one disadvantage of doing so is people will suspect your gut is xenophobic, or other bad things. Why wouldn’t it be? Gut doesn’t care, it’s biased as hell. The entire point of math is taking your gut biases out of policy.

            Policy people who like math are called “wonks,” policy people who don’t like math are called “ideologues.” Which are you?

            I am not a huge fan of policy ideologues, as I come from the Soviet Union originally, and I am well aware of where too much ideology in policy leads.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            I live in a mixed income (combination of section 8 and regular housing) neighborhood in Baltimore, btw. By choice.

            Why?

            And what about people who don’t want to live in such an area? Should they be forced to, even if they don’t want to, or else they’re evil?

            ETA: Also, how do you figure that someone who consults his gut (or, really, considers factors beyond numbers) is an ideologue? I’ve never heard such a definition.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Look, you can live wherever you want. If you say “I want to restrict immigration from X because we will be flooded with icky-sticky-people who will turn the entire US into a third world style section 8 hellhole” that’s fine, we can have this conversation. But you better be willing to bring something to the table other than what your gut tells you.

            Because I have data, and historical record, and I will say your icky-sticky-people sentiment is rooted in xenophobia in your gut. It’s not borne out by data. We have lots of historical record on the effect of immigration waves in the US.

            edit: Because your biases live in your gut. If you start saying that pie charts are a problem, and want to consult your intuitions (shaped by historical context) instead, you have surrendered claims of objectivity, and thus raised the black flag of ideology. Ideology is inherently a non-empirical thing. Empiricists change their mind based on data, and data doesn’t care about anyone’s ideology (despite what some folks on the left would like to believe).

            This might be one of those “founder’s effect” things. Moldbug isn’t a statistician or an empiricist, he is a wanker.

          • There are more downsides to mass immigration than just deaths due to terrorists or illegals.

            Upsides too.

            We do have a little experimental evidence. During the years before and after WWI, immigration was running at about one percent of the population every year. The current immigration rate is less than half that.

          • albatross11 says:

            Yeah, the strongest argument for immigration being a net benefit for the US is our history, in which we’ve benefitted massively from large-scale immigration. It’s possible that either the situation within the US or the set of immigrants coming at this point have changed in such a way that this won’t be true of the current wave of immigration, but that’s an argument I think you have to make if you want to convince people of the idea that immigration is a net bad, or immigration from some specific country is particularly bad.

            However, that also leaves a lot of room for other discussions–like, should we have more or less immigration at the margins, or should we shift how we decide which people will be let in? (Canada has a much more meritocratic scheme for letting immigrants in than we do; would we be better off copying it?)

        • and the deportation of illegal aliens, because sometimes they do things like kill Jamiel Shaw Jr, when they shouldn’t have even been here.

          Your argument assumes that the illegal aliens on net make things worse for your neighbors. All your concentric circles give you is that you can ignore or weight more lightly the welfare of the aliens themselves.

          How sure are you it’s true? For most of this country’s history there were no restrictions on immigration from the New World and until the 1920’s few restrictions on people from elsewhere, with the notable exception of Chinese starting in the late 19th century. On the whole, the result was a pretty attractive country. Economic theory suggests that, as a general rule, immigrants benefit both themselves and the previous inhabitants, aside from cases such as the European discovery of the New World that involved new diseases and military conquest.

          So what is your reason for being confident that we are better off expelling the current illegal immigrants and blocking further immigration of people like them?

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            So what is your reason for being confident that we are better off expelling the current illegal immigrants and blocking further immigration of people like them?

            Because the poor people who have to live alongside of the illegal immigrants say so? And the whole point of American self government is for the people to decide how they want to live and not be told what to do by their betters, even if those betters are economists. There is more to life, such as culture and safety, than GDP.

            If you demand technocracy, fine there’s the US Civil Rights Commission report that illegal immigration hurts poor black workers.

            Largely, though, I reject the technocracy. Economists who work for rich people produce studies that show cheap labor makes rich people richer than it makes poor people poorer (ignoring all the aspects of life you can’t put on a spreadsheet, natch), say “see, on average things are better, the only reason anyone’s against this is because they’re stupid and evil, case closed.” They keep their jobs, get richer, feel good about themselves, and the poor blacks who are being ethnically cleansed by Mexican street gangs in the SW, the poor whites whose neighborhoods are being flooded with cheap Mexican heroin are out of sight out of mind and if they complain it can only be because they’re stupid and evil because I just got a raise and haven’t they seen these cheap tomatoes?!

            Just saying, I bet if illegal migrants were producing cheap economics reports instead of picking tomatoes for cheap the economists would be singing a different tune.

          • Brad says:

            If you demand technocracy, fine there’s the US Civil Rights Commission report that illegal immigration hurts poor black workers.

            I already pointed out to you that this document is not a result of a neutral process but was a result of a 4-3 vote on a board that at the time had a majority of appointees of Republican Presidents.

            The first time was an understandable mistake. Repeating the citation without caveat is dishonest.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            Brad, I haven’t seen anything that indicates the study is not accurate. The fact that Democrats don’t like it because they pander to latinos doesn’t discredit the survey. Or are you suggesting the Republicans are biased because of their long history of pandering to blacks?

            Alternatively, you agree then that “studies show X economic result” isn’t the end-all of policy making?

          • Brad says:

            It isn’t a study or a survey. It’s the findings of a partisan board of non-experts.

          • tscharf says:

            The first time was an understandable mistake. Repeating the citation without caveat is dishonest.

            The voting committee has political leanings, therefore the argument is invalid and dishonest. By this reasoning dishonest people need to stop quoting the Supreme Court as an authority.

          • Brad says:

            You certainly shouldn’t quote the Supreme Court as an authority on economic facts.

          • tscharf says:

            Brad,

            The problem with immigration arguments is that they are almost never arguments, they are assertions.

            It is intuitive that a highly skilled immigrant can be a net plus. Pay their taxes, help the economy, be good citizens.

            It is intuitive that if a bunch of unskilled people come into the country that will work for very low wages and use social services that they don’t pay for that is a net negative. If someone crosses the border and has 9 kids, uses social services, medicare, sends their kids to school, either doesn’t work at all, works off the books, or sends a lot of income out of country this is a not a win from their taxpaying neighbor’s point of view.

            The counter argument to that example is apparently highly technical and not very intuitive. In fact the argument is almost never made at all, it is only asserted that it is so.

            The people that make these assertions don’t live by the illegal immigrant with 9 kids who can see with their very eyes that the numbers don’t add up.

            Perhaps this counterargument is valid (their kids grow up and pay taxes, they pay rent and buy goods, etc.), my point is that because it is only asserted and it is fighting against intuition, it legitimately loses the political battle. More effort needs to be made in the argument, not the assertion of the conclusion with an appeal to authority, and labeling of those who disagree.

          • Brad says:

            @tscharf

            It is intuitive that if a bunch of unskilled people come into the country that will work for very low wages and use social services that they don’t pay for that is a net negative. If someone crosses the border and has 9 kids, uses social services and medicare, either doesn’t work at all, works off the books, or sends a lot of income out of country this is a not a win from their neighbor’s point of view

            There’s a few problems with this right off the bat. First, 9 kids is a big exaggeration. Second, as you allude to later on, those kids may well be a positive not a negative. Third, illegal immigrants aren’t eligible for medicare.

            It’s true that people that use a lot of social services and don’t produce much can be net negatives, but by and large the people that do that aren’t illegal immigrants. They don’t qualify for most programs and even when they do they are often scared to use them. There are people that fly into the country and immediately go to the hospital and apply for emergency medicaid, but they are overwhelmingly parents of US citizens not border hoppers.

            The people that make these assertions don’t live by the illegal immigrant with 9 kids who can see with their very eyes that the numbers don’t add up.

            I’m willing to bet that more illegal immigrants live within a half a mile of my house than yours.

            Perhaps this counterargument is valid (their kids grow up and pay taxes, they pay rent and buy goods, etc.), my point is that because it is only asserted and it is fighting against intuition, it legitimately loses the political battle. More effort needs to be made in the argument, not the assertion of the conclusion with an appeal to authority, and labeling of those who disagree.

            I’m sure David Friedman has lots of papers he can point to. Will you read them if he does?

            What’s odd to me about this whole debate is why now? Net inflows have been flat for several years now — mostly due to improving conditions south of the border. Legal immigration meanwhile is both a mess and produces significant net inflows every year. And it isn’t as if they are all Indian programmers either — check out the idiotic DV program. I know there’s some energy on the right for reforming legal immigration but it seems to be swamped by a not-quite-rational purity reaction about illegals that seems to have arisen without any external trigger.

          • tscharf says:

            Brad,

            I’m actually very ambivalent on immigration, it’s pretty far down on my priority list. I can take it or leave it. I will say that David Friedman is one who does make actual arguments. He made an actual argument on free trade (growing cars in Iowa) that made a lot of sense.

            I don’t really need to be convinced, I’m OK with it on a strictly humanitarian basis as long as the numbers remain modest. My comment is mostly an observation on why I think other people are not convinced and I can understand why.

            It may very well be that a convincing argument cannot be made in a talking point and one must have technical skill to be convinced. Then the battle is being trusted which is a big problem in 2017.

            Yeah, I have no idea why now either. I would say mostly it was being exploited by Trump but there obviously was something there to be exploited.

          • @Conrad:

            You are misunderstanding part, but not all, of the economic argument. The conclusion isn’t primarily from studies–there may be studies that support it, but I would distrust studies on either side of a politically loaded issue unless I had looked at them pretty carefully, for the sort of reasons Scott has pointed out in the past with regard to multiple published articles on other subjects.

            The conclusion comes from economic theory, worked out more than a century ago, and it’s the same underlying logic as the standard case for free trade and free markets more generally.

            What you have correct is that the theory tells us there will be net gains to the present residents of the U.S., not how they will be distributed. There is no economic impossibility to the claim that the net gain consists of benefiting rich people by more than it hurts poor people, although I don’t know of any reason to predict that particular distribution. I would expect free immigration to bring in immigrants both at the top, into Silicon Valley, and at the bottom as farm laborers and casual construction labor and the like. The gain ultimately comes mostly as lower prices for goods and services, which benefit both rich and poor.

            The rest of your argument is the claim that immigrants produce net costs in forms that don’t come out of voluntary transactions and so are not captured in the economic analysis of the market. That again is possible, but I don’t see any good reason to think it is true. The U.S. has a long history of mass immigration, at a rate more than twice the current immigration rate relative to population, and we seem to have managed pretty well with masses of ignorant Poles, Italians, Irish, Russian and Polish Jews, Chinese, … .

            Finally, you put your argument in terms of illegal immigrants. What I am arguing for is legal immigration, which includes making the current illegal immigrants legal. That would eliminate some of the problems associated with illegal immigrants, since they would no longer be in a situation where law enforcement was an enemy.

          • Horkthane says:

            A part of this conversation reminds me of the Ship of Theseus.

            Hypothetically, if you completely displace the residents of a country, and it’s economy improves 1000%, are the original inhabitants of that country really better off? Or is it now a different country occupying the same land?

            Or put more real world, the economy of the American Continent improved enormously after the Europeans immigrated here. But it’s clear as day to any student of history how much that was at the expense of the Native Americans.

            And you can run it back down to economics. The Native Americans that are left now enjoy a higher quality of life than they enjoyed pre-European immigration. They have a government that provides more services. All the European migrants ended up pumping more on average into the social services than the natives.

            But… I mean we all realize that misses a huge point, right?

          • Randy M says:

            But… I mean we all realize that misses a huge point, right?

            I don’t think there is agreement that the non-economic preferences of the population merit consideration. “You can’t rebuild your country with other people’s children” was denounced as racist because in the current year it is wrong to prefer kin over strangers or to believe that people aren’t fundamentally interchangeable.

          • I’m sure David Friedman has lots of papers he can point to. Will you read them if he does?

            The economic theory, which is what I am relying on, only applies to voluntary transactions. Legal immigration could be a negative if the immigrants are coming into a society with a generous welfare state, getting payments for which they offer nothing in exchange. I expect there are studies on that–I think Julian Simon did some on legal immigration quite a while back, concluding that the migrants were a net plus–but I’m not familiar with the recent literature and would be disinclined to trust it, in either direction, for the reason I mentioned earlier.

          • Aapje says:

            @DavidFriedman

            There is no economic impossibility to the claim that the net gain consists of benefiting rich people by more than it hurts poor people, although I don’t know of any reason to predict that particular distribution. I would expect free immigration to bring in immigrants both at the top, into Silicon Valley, and at the bottom as farm laborers and casual construction labor and the like.

            It’s extremely unlikely that well educated and poorly educated immigrants have equal incentives to migrate. My perception is that that poorly educated immigrants tend to be much more motivated by economic reasons, while well educated migrants are much more motivated by other reasons. For example, a major reason why so many well educated Iranians migrated to the US was due to political reasons (Iranian revolution), not to get rich.

            So the actual distribution of top migrants vs bottom migrants seems to be complex and variable, not something that just follows from an economic formula.

            Also, pretty much all nations have policies that impact this distribution. For example, my brother got a US work permit due to his quality education & lack of US workers with that education. Some nations, like my own, had policies which explicitly selected for poorly educated workers, with the predictable result of importing the lower class of another nation (high unemployment and high crime in this ethnic group).

            It’s logical to assume that nations which more heavily select for top migrants will see relatively more bottom migrants if they open their borders to all.

            The U.S. has a long history of mass immigration, at a rate more than twice the current immigration rate relative to population, and we seem to have managed pretty well with masses of ignorant Poles, Italians, Irish, Russian and Polish Jews, Chinese, … .

            At the time many people seem to have been severely pissed off with these groups. In the case of the Italians, they seem to have brought not just pizza with them, but also the Mafia.

            According to Wikipedia, it took about 50-80 years for the Italians to go from the bottom rungs of society to the national average. You seem to argue that the short term problems don’t count as long as the migrants eventually don’t become (much) worse than average.

            However, actual people live in the short term. Why would they care if these migrants stop being a problem later, when they are a problem to them now? ‘My policy will make your life worse, but will be neutral or slightly positive for your grandchildren’ is not exactly a great sales pitch.

            I also don’t think that merely looking at the immigration rate relative to population is enough. The more sparsely populated a country is, the less friction you’d expect from new migrants coming in, as there is less (forced) interaction.

          • tscharf says:

            Legal immigration could be a negative if the immigrants are coming into a society with a generous welfare state

            The New Zealand (who doesn’t want to retire there?) solution to this problem is pay to play. If you are over 50 and want to become a citizen you need to make an “investment” in New Zealand. They have a $1M and $10M threshold that give you different things. Bottom line if you want emigrate you need to show up with a suitcase of money.

          • So the actual distribution of top migrants vs bottom migrants seems to be complex and variable, not something that just follows from an economic formula.

            I agree. There is also the fact that there are many more poor people in the third world, by our standards or anything close, than well off people. On the other hand, I would expect educated foreigners to be more aware of options abroad, more part of an international culture, hence find migrating easier. Quite a lot of them, after all, study in the U.S. then have to leave because of our immigration restrictions.

            I had written:

            The U.S. has a long history of mass immigration, at a rate more than twice the current immigration rate relative to population, and we seem to have managed pretty well with masses of ignorant Poles, Italians, Irish, Russian and Polish Jews, Chinese, … .

            Aapje replied

            At the time many people seem to have been severely pissed off with these groups. In the case of the Italians, they seem to have brought not just pizza with them, but also the Mafia.

            According to Wikipedia, it took about 50-80 years for the Italians to go from the bottom rungs of society to the national average. You seem to argue that the short term problems don’t count as long as the migrants eventually don’t become (much) worse than average.

            However, actual people live in the short term. Why would they care if these migrants stop being a problem later, when they are a problem to them now? ‘My policy will make your life worse, but will be neutral or slightly positive for your grandchildren’ is not exactly a great sales pitch.

            It’s clear that when new immigrants came, many of those already here reacted negatively. You take that as evidence that the new immigrants made the current residents worse off for a considerable period of time. I take it as evidence that humans are tribal, tend to assume that foreigners are inferior and hence will be a corrupting element in the society.

            Do you have any evidence that the earlier migrations actually made things worse, as opposed to being expected to by the past equivalent of modern people hostile to immigration?

            I also don’t think that merely looking at the immigration rate relative to population is enough. The more sparsely populated a country is, the less friction you’d expect from new migrants coming in, as there is less (forced) interaction.

            The Netherlands is more than ten times as densely populated as the U.S., so that is more likely to be an issue for you than for us. The usual U.S. pattern is that new immigrants are not randomly spread through the population. They congregate in enclaves–Chinatown, the Polish district, … . So unless you happen to be on the border of the enclave, the new immigrants are probably not your neighbors.

            Also, your argument seems to assume that new immigrants are a net loss until they reach the population average income. Unless you are assuming a welfare state that tries to equalize incomes–which the U.S. didn’t have–there is no reason that should be true.

            What is true is that the existence of the welfare state provides an argument against open borders. Since preventing very poor people from moving to places where they won’t be poor any more does a great deal more harm, does much more to maintain inequality, than any plausible welfare program does in the opposite direction, I take that as a strong argument against the welfare state.

          • Conrad Honcho says:

            @DavidFriedman

            we seem to have managed pretty well with masses of ignorant Poles, Italians, Irish, Russian and Polish Jews, Chinese, … .

            Yes, and we did that by beating the Pole, Italian, Russia, and Chinese right out of them until they became “American.” We did not coddle them and say “yes, keep every facet of the culture that produced the society you’re fleeing from.” And this counts for my ancestors, too.

            It’s one thing to abuse a bunch of European Christians into acting more like other European-descended Christians. It’s something entirely else to take Somali Muslims and browbeat anyone who dares suggest the Somali Muslims might want to maybe consider acting a little more like the European-descended Christians.

        • I wrote a blog post about this idea of concentric circles of loyalty recently, although I had no idea that Aquinas already had this idea a long, long time ago. Thank you for that reference!

    • lbThingrb says:

      I don’t know if hard data would bear this out, but it sure seems as though, historically, the best way to quiet down the violent fringe left in the US is to elect a mainstream left-wing president. Of course, that then fires up the violent fringe right, who don’t settle down until a mainstream conservative is elected. This is consistent with a model in which the fringe are overestimating the extremism, and thus the threat posed to them, of mainstream politicians, and rising up in reaction.

      Of course, I don’t expect the people who are most scared of the militant [left | right] to start strategically voting for mainstream candidates of that persuasion in order to mollify the militants. How scared one is of militant groups seems to be correlated to how distant one is from them ideologically, so the people who express the greatest alarm about, say, left-wing political violence, tend to vote conservatively, which may make the problem worse, but is closer to their preferences w.r.t. other political outcomes. And this is probably rational, because, in the US at least, political violence has been a relatively minor cause of death for the past 150 years or so.

      It might even be the case that non-violent, politically mainstream voters are in more danger from the militant radicals on their own end of the left-right spectrum than they are from the militants on the other end, if for no other reason than that the militants who are nearer to us ideologically also tend to be nearer to us geographically, and while they make some effort to target their attacks at “the other side,” you can’t count on them to be all that precise about it (e.g. that guy who killed three cops because he thought Obama sent them to confiscate his guns). Plus, even if you aren’t on the other side, they might still perceive you as not radical enough and therefore a legitimate target. This is a bit of a stretch, but, if true, it would mean that the irrationality of voting based on fear of political violence from the other side is canceled out by the irrationality of perceiving voting for one’s own side as a remedy to the other side’s political violence.

  8. There was an article I can’t find anymore that suggested that previous studies of moderate, centrist, independents etc were misleading because rather than it being that all of these people had mild preferences for left or right, they actually supported extreme policies from both sides. Most centrists in polling data were actually the extreme or radical center rather than the commonly understood moderate center. Does anyone know the article I’m talking about?

  9. Bugmaster says:

    I guess I’m a little confused, because I was assuming all along that neither political party stands for anything. Both of them are just trying to grab as many voters as they can, which is pretty much the entire point of political parties (in a 2-party system, at least). What’s wrong with that ?

    That said, a percentage of swing voters (who actually changed their minds) in the 8%..17% range sounds astonishing to me. Are you sure there isn’t some sort of a selection bias going on ?

    • bintchaos says:

      Both parties only stand for identity anymore.
      Democracy is no longer representative.

      If, however, we consider multiple peaks of a distribution, there may not be many present near the center of the public opinion. For two peaks, if individuals near the center of the peaks are voted upon, and one wins, people in the other peak are not going to be represented (Fig. 1B). If one peak is larger, even slightly, it would make the smaller peak never be represented, i.e. the views of this group would not affect adopted policies. If there is a close balance between them then small variations determine which peak “wins.” The variations might include changes in population or nuances in the differences between those running for office. It might also include variations in the rules (simple majority versus electoral system, for example), preventing people from voting, ballot manipulation, and different levels of engagement.

    • Fossegrimen says:

      In my country, party loyalty is regularly measured and reported on* and we seem to get headlines whenever it goes above 90 or below 70 for any party, so 13% swing votes seems completely reasonable.

      *: and I find it really curious that it’s not so in the US, the number of voters that are in play seems like a rather helpful metric to know.

      • Nornagest says:

        Unless you’re voting by mail, and theoretically even if you are, ballots in the US are anonymous — there’s nothing on them to indicate who you are or what party you belong to. Fraud protection is done (at least in my state) by checking your registration against local voter rolls when you enter a polling station. Because of that, there is no totally reliable data on whether you voted according to your registration or not; exit polls are the closest thing.

        On top of that, it’s common for people to be registered to vote as independent of any party — something like 30% of the electorate is. Many independents are liberal or conservative in practice, though, which makes it hard to determine the true strength of a political party from its registration statistics.

  10. bintchaos says:

    Dr. Alexander
    Extremism is irrelevant.
    Partisan identity.

    “Our view is that conventional thinking about democracy has collapsed in the face of modern social-scientific research.”
    Most of Democracy for Realists is Achen and Bartels systematically, ruthlessly demolishing traditional theories of democracy. Neither their arguments nor their evidence is surprising, at least not exactly. What’s unusual is their willingness to admit what the research actually reveals. This book is the political science equivalent of being told Santa doesn’t exist: It makes sense once you think about it, but everyone has spent years telling you otherwise, and so the revelation comes as a trauma.


    Extremism matters far less than identity.

    There is one overwhelming fact that structures American politics, and it is this: People who vote for Republicans vote for Republicans, and people who vote for Democrats vote for Democrats. It might sound tautological, but it isn’t. A few decades ago, people who voted for Republicans often voted for Democrats, and vice versa. Split-ticket voting was common, and even hardcore, self-described partisans were often persuadable.
    Not anymore. There are a few findings that rocked my understanding of politics, and one of them came from political scientist Corwin Smidt. Looking at decades of election data, he found that self-described independent voters today are more loyal to a single party than voters who described themselves as “strong partisans” were in the 1970s. This bears repeating: The people who say they’re free from either party today are more partisan in their voting habits than the people who said they were strong loyalists of a single party in the ’70s.


    America will go on exactly like this until the Blue Tribe achieves a permanent majority significant enough to overwhelm the heartland red states.

    • Janus says:

      America will go on exactly like this until the Blue Tribe achieves a permanent majority significant enough to overwhelm the heartland red states.

      And when Philip of Macedon wrote thus to the Spartans:

      “If once I enter into your territories, I will destroy ye all, never to rise again.”

      …they answered him with the single word,

      “If.”

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        bint: leaving aside the internet badass above, the existence of two tribes of roughly equal strength is due to “lawlike regularities” in how large groups behave. If you expect demographics to magically vanquish your hated outgroup, you will be disappointed to see the tribes morph and evolve with demographics over time until we are back to two tribes of roughly equal strength.

        They may not resemble red and blue as you understand them, though (but red and blue haven’t been stable over time historically, anyways).

        • bintchaos says:

          That doesnt really happen in Nature.
          One species with a superior fitness landscape in a particular environment can wipe out another species.
          Complex Adaptive Systems Dynamics 101.
          Look what happened to the Neanderthals.

          • Thegnskald says:

            Which, considering your survivalist rhetoric, suggests you think red tribe is more fit. Combined with your implications that tribalism is biological, there’s furthermore nothing you can do about it.

          • One species with a superior fitness landscape in a particular environment can wipe out another species.

            That assumes that the tribes are species. They aren’t. I don’t think even you claim that tribal membership is biologically heritable, although you sometimes write as if you did.

            The Fatimid caliphate collapsed in the 12th century. There are still Ismailite sects out there–about twenty million Nizari and a scattering of others.

          • bintchaos says:

            Two diverging sub-species without cross migration will undergo speciation– Sewell Wright again.
            I think red tribe and blue tribe may be pseudo-species at this point.
            Friedman: blah..blah…irrelevent islamic history reference.
            And there still are no surviving Neanderthals.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Your analogy doesn’t work. The species is the same, we are talking about “memes/ideas” presumably. That will change, over time, and bad memeplexes presumably get outcompeted. *

            But what I am saying is, regardless of what the idea landscape looks like, people tend to coalesce around two tribes of roughly equal size that don’t like each other very much. This happens often, and that ought to make us suspicious, re: “a lawlike regularity” operating.

            What I am saying, the best you can hope for is what you currently are thinking of as “red tribe” becoming something else you will also not like very much.

            (*) Incidentally, the only way the “Cthulhu always swims left” thing made sense to me was as a strangely self-serving way of saying “I notice memes I like get outcompeted over time”. But even that only has to do with “you” and things “you don’t like” not with Cthulhu. Most people don’t share this take on how memeplexes evolve. So it has to do with how our edgy friends like weird things.

            Evolution is blind. Like statistics, you can’t take it personally. Cthulhu just swims around randomly, but for any random trajectory some small set of people you might select will think Cthulhu is out to get them.

          • bintchaos says:

            Cthulhu just swims around randomly


            thats interesting…but does it have to do with increasing complexity or tech advances or socio-entropic decay?…I like thinking about this.
            Do you have a source for the mathematics of “lawlike regularity”?

            people tend coalesce around two tribes of roughly equal size that don’t like each other very much. This happens often, and that ought to make us suspicious, re: “a lawlike regularity” operating.


            I kind of agree with this because I am a fractalist– the coarsest scale of h.sapiens is N>= 2– that means there will always be at least two tribes fighting. And it also agrees with the dual nature of the CCP. I think genomics acquired in the EEA is the discriminant– and so it makes sense to me that the system goes out of equilibrium when one tribe loses relative fitness.
            Which is why it APPEARS that Cthulu is swimming left– because the adaptive landscape has changed.

        • bintchaos says:

          The Red Tribe seems unable to adapt to increase reps.
          That is what a fitness landscape is– the interaction of the “culture genes” with reproductive success.
          I’m not talking about “survivalists”.

          • Thegnskald says:

            So we’re you lying when you called it a matter of life or death, or are you lying now?

            Or do you just not understand that you cannot simultaneously be in a fight for survival and also guaranteed to win on the basis of fitness?

            For your survival to be threatened, red tribe must be more fit. If you are more fit, it is their survival in hazard, not yours.

          • bintchaos says:

            ?? I dont understand your question.
            Fitness is relative to and shaped by continuously changing environment.
            Thats why its called complex adaptive system DYNAMICS.
            Its a hyperdimensional fitness landscape, not a single fitness point.

            And both sides believe their survival is at stake.

          • Thegnskald says:

            My survival is not at risk.

            But if I thought my survival was at stake, I wouldn’t tell anybody that, because the rational response to an existential risk is whatever means necessary to end it, and revealing that is showing my hand prematurely, and more, suggesting I am a threat to society.

            Anybody who genuinely believes their survival is at risk is a threat to civil society. Spreading such beliefs poses a threat to civil society.

            Which says something about you.

          • Nornagest says:

            That is what a fitness landscape is– the interaction of the “culture genes” with reproductive success.

            No, that’s not what a fitness landscape is. A fitness landscape is the graph of a fitness function, which takes as inputs certain parameters of an agent and outputs a scalar measure of its inclusive fitness. For genetic programming or serious evolutionary modeling these can have any number of dimensions, but they’re often visualized as 3D (two dimensions of input and a dimension of fitness) for teaching purposes, making the graph resemble a physical landscape.

            It’s possible to imagine a fitness landscape for the space of human genetics under particular environmental conditions (of which your “culture genes” are a hypothetical part), but if you’re saying you know what it looks like, you’re either lying or mistaken.

          • bintchaos says:

            No, that’s not what a fitness landscape is. A fitness landscape is the graph of a fitness function, which takes as inputs certain parameters of an agent and outputs a scalar measure of inclusive fitness. These are usually high-dimensional for any kind of serious evolutionary modeling, but they’re often visualized as 3D (for two dimensions of input and a dimension of fitness) for teaching purposes.


            This is my own model that is under development– I’m taking the concept of a hyper-dimensional cube representing a fitness landscape from Sewell Wrights work and using culture genes (memes) instead of genes. I’m also referring to Cavelli-Sforza mathematical models of cultural transmission and replication.
            But even you must admit its not “survivalism” (who’s got the most guns, police, military) in the sense being discussed here.

    • America will go on exactly like this until the Blue Tribe achieves a permanent majority significant enough to overwhelm the heartland red states.

      I think that you, like most people, badly underestimate the degree to which the world changes over time. I don’t know what the political issues or ideological divisions are going to be fifty years from now, but I doubt they will map very closely to the current ones.

      One suggestion, by Virginia Postrel, is a division between stasists and dynamists, between people who believe change can be prevented or controlled and people who believe the world will change in ways we cannot control and the appropriate response is to optimize against a changing world.

      But I expect there are lots of other alternative divisions.

      On your blue brain/red brain theory, as I understand it, the blue tribe should be dynamists. But one of their biggest issue at the moment is climate change, on which they take the stasist position–preventing climate change (actually slowing it) rather than adapting to it.

  11. axiomsofdominion says:

    What most people in politics are totally ignorant of, even supposedly involved and educated ones, is the 4Ps. Everyone is always so damn focused on Policy. The more important Ps are Party/Priority/Personality.

    I almost want to analogize to the Killer/Achiever/Explorer/Socializer personality set in games.

    Naively you might assign 25% to each P. That’s the best it gets for Policy people. Realistically I see it as 40% Party, 20% Personality, 20% Priority and a mere 20% Policy. I might kick some off of Party to spread to Personality and Priority. That’s because Priority so often parallels Party since we have a 2 party system so its hard to really get good numbers.

    20% policy voters explains such a massive amount about our elections I can’t see how it could be otherwise. Hillary’s entire problem was she only had Party and Policy. You have halfsies on Party. So 19%/21% of voters go Party, she gets 10% from Policy vs 0% for Trump, putting them at 19% Trump and 31% Hillary. Then she gets 5% Personality mostly from being a “strong woman” vs Trump getting 15% from Personality for being Trump. So its 36% Hillary and 34% Trump. Then she gets 15% from Priority because suburb Republicans go her way and Trump gets 15% by drawing in new voters and pushing on political correctness and immigration and trade. So they are at 49/51. Her voters are just in the wrong states so he wins.

    Again some of the numbers are a little iffy based on separating Priority and Policy from Party. Trump basically hoovers up the Personality and Priority vote while she barely leads on Party and slaughters him on Policy.

    This is why I think Sanders could have won. Basically neither of them are amazing on Policy so its a dead heat, or all Policy goes Bloomberg since he claimed he would enter a Trump/Sanders race, but lets put that aside. 10/10 for Policy. 19/21 for Party. 9/11 for Personality. 8/12 for Priority. That leaves Sanders with a 54% to Trumps 46%. Especially since Sanders neutralizes many of the voters Trump scores off of Clinton on Priority/Personality. I’d expect a higher turnout also since both of them bring in new voters from unique areas.

  12. WarOnReasons says:

    the more distant a candidate from the median voter in their district, the fewer votes they get

    The same principle applies to media outlets. If Current Affairs and Daily Kos distance themselves from their median reader they would get simply fewer readers. The median reader of Current Affairs and Daily Kos does not want to be told that their preferred candidates are unelectable.

  13. Jaskologist says:

    Somewhere in the comment archives I talked about viewing moral codes as either velocity-based or positional, but not both. That happens in political analyses of “extremism” as well.

    Suppose ten years ago party A was a -1 on the political spectrum, and B was a +1. Since then, B has become a +3 and A has become a -2. B then shellacs A, winning a whole bunch of election.

    A might look at B’s movement and conclude that they won because they got extreme twice as quickly, and conclude they need to move to -3 just to keep up. But what if the population is at +2.5, or even +3.5? In that case, B won because they got closer to the voters’ position.

    I think the left tends to reason in terms of velocity rather than position. But what if it matters what position extremism moved the politician towards or away from?

    • andrewflicker says:

      This is the standard argument of the “centrist” wing of the Democratic party, except the idea is more like “the population is at 0.5, Reps went from +1 to +2.5 while we went from -1 to -1.5, so they won the tie. We should go to 0!”.

  14. fightscenegrades says:

    As a longtime conservative (though no longer a GOP voter, thanks to Trump), I was struck by how insanely similar the Current Affairs passage was to the boilerplate, self-serving “we just need to stick to our guns and the voters will turn out for us every time! ‘Moderate’ Republicans are just RINO wimps who nobody likes!” right-wing cheerleading I’ve been reading for years. With the parties & names swapped, of course.

    To the point where I had to actually click on the link because I thought you were going to pull some switcheroo and reveal that you had done exactly that: swapped the identifiers to prove some point or another.

    Meanwhile, I’m sure all those same True Conservative Warriors are patting themselves on the back for their supposed vindication in Trump’s victory, not grokking the fact that they just elected the least ideologically pure “conservative” in history.

    • suntzuanime says:

      The lesson of the 2016 Republican primary was that ideologically “pure” conservatism had become disconnected from the actual ideology of conservatives. People grokked that he wasn’t the sort of guy a think tank could love, that’s why they voted for him.

      • tscharf says:

        It’s possible that Trump forcing the party to implode/explode might have been a yuge favor in the long run. Demographics are destiny doesn’t look so great when it starts to become about economic class instead. Those “pure conservatives” are probably worried they are going to be left wondering in the political wilderness, they face difficult choices. It’s anyone’s guess how this is going to shake out from here but I doubt things are going to return to circa 2004 for conservatives. It seems to be pointing to a rural party / city party recasting. The losers in too much globalism aren’t going to sit by and get shat upon, they still get to vote. OTOH it could go completely sideways.

        The rural voters are probably going to keep throwing grenades into DC until things start changing for the better. Conservatives must choose between being grenade throwers or grenade catchers. Turbulent times for Republicans.

      • bintchaos says:

        No, it became disconnected from the actual identity of conservatives.
        Trump isn’t an extremist, he’s an identitarian.

    • they just elected the least ideologically pure “conservative” in history.

      For me this is a plus.

      I really really really like the idea of a non-conservative right (taking all the bits I like about the right and leaving all the bits I don’t like behind), but unfortunately Trump had to be its representative.

      • fightscenegrades says:

        As Frank J Fleming said on Twitter, Trump’s rise is like if somebody wished on a Monkey’s Paw for a Republican who doesn’t care about social issues.

    • bintchaos says:

      I think this is true.
      Trump isnt an extremist candidate, he’s an identity candidate.

      Trump understood all this, even if he didn’t embody it — he is a political independent, a lifelong Manhattanite, and a billionaire libertine who spent the campaign affirming evangelical, rural, working-class identities. He routinely contradicted or dismissed longtime Republican ideas, but what he never, ever did was disrespect Republican identities. Liberals laughed when Trump said, “I love the poorly educated,” but his tribe knew what he meant — unlike those smug liberals, he was on their side and thought they deserved more respect.
      Viewed this way, Trump’s communication style makes more sense. His extemporaneous, rambling, quasi-factual speeches confuse pundits — including me — who are used to hearing politicians make careful arguments. But his speeches do work to establish which side he’s on, which groups he admires, and which enemies he’s going to humiliate. Perhaps more effectively, his tweets and insults drive his opponents into frenzies, and make the battle lines clear — you may not like Trump, but if you’ve spent years hating the Democrats and the media and condescending professors and rich cultural elites, at least he’s pissing them off and, in doing so, proving he’s on your side.
      And even if you didn’t like Trump — and many Republicans didn’t — fear and mistrust of the other side was a perfectly rational reason to vote for him. There was a Supreme Court seat up for grabs, after all, and conservatives reasonably feared whom Clinton would appoint. 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.

  15. RohanV says:

    I think a lot of the dissonance some of the commentators are feeling comes from using Donald Trump as an example. Trump may be an “extremist”, and he may be “Republican”, but I’m not sure he’s a “Republican extremist” as most people understand the term.

    Another example would be Ron Paul or Rand Paul. Paul is an “extremist”, and he is a Republican, but most people wouldn’t say he’s a “Republican extremist”. His extremism is on a different axis than the traditional left-right axis. And as such, he has some support from both sides (for example, Paul’s views on police powers).

    Similarly, Trump may be an extremist on immigration/borders, but a lot of people view that as a different axis than traditional left-right, and one which gets support from different sections of population on the left-right axis, notably what was the working-class center-left.

    • Nornagest says:

      I think he is (or at least he’s perceived as such by the left, which amounts to the same thing), but not because of his personal ideology.

      One of the more interesting revelations of the 2016 election to me was the extent to which the left/right axis is aesthetic rather than substantive. I should have figured this out back in the Bush II era, but at least there the dumb cowboy image had an unpopular war based on faulty intelligence behind it; Trump meanwhile hasn’t even tried to do anything that wasn’t in the Overton window sometime in the last fifteen years, but filter that through his bombastic style, crude personality, and tendency to run his mouth and suddenly he’s off the scale. He’s openly white supremacist. He’s going to start a nuclear war. His election means that women and LGBT people should literally fear for their physical safety. None of this relates in any way to his actual policy (well, okay, “white supremacist” sort of does, but I shouldn’t need to say how much of a stretch it is); it’s just what it seems like a guy like Trump with an [R] by his name would do.

      To be fair, that election was probably the lightest on policy of any I’ve seen in my lifetime, but I would have expected that to make it a personal match, not an extra-partisan one. More fool me, I guess.

      • tscharf says:

        Any sane person would run against Trump’s personality as an election strategy. Most sane people would have won, ha ha. I don’t think there is much credibility left in “X is going to happen if you elect Trump”. A lot of energy was lost trying to convince voters the Trumpocalypse was coming, and it still is.

      • Ilya Shpitser says:

        Did you see Trump’s proposed budget? Did you see Trump’s thoughts on the judiciary? A lot of the reason Trump hasn’t done much is the entire system was setup to oppose precisely people like him.

        Trump wants to be a king, by temperament. He can’t quite get it done, but I feel like he shouldn’t get points for not being able to get it done.

        • Nornagest says:

          I saw his budget, and don’t consider his thoughts on the judiciary relevant.

          This doesn’t seem germane to my comment, though. I’m not saying Trump’s got a statesmanlike temperament, or a winning personality, or an agreeable aesthetic. I’m saying that he doesn’t, but that these fundamentally nonpartisan issues — maybe serious, but not party-aligned — seem to translate in pop culture into a very strong but otherwise conventional rightist ideology that he’s shown no evidence of seriously pursuing.

        • Ilya Shpitser says:

          You are now changing the subject. The issue is not partisanship but where the Overton window sits.

          To quote you: “Trump meanwhile hasn’t even tried to do anything that wasn’t in the Overton window sometime in the last fifteen years.”

          Trump’s budget is a pretty partisan issue. Getting rid of the EPA is within the Overton window? Or an aesthetic issue?

          Re: left vs right, broadly Tories were pro king power, and Whigs (of “Whig history” fame) were against.

          • cassander says:

            Trump’s budget is a pretty partisan issue. Getting rid of the EPA is within the Overton window? Or an aesthetic issue?

            Trump’s budget doesn’t get rid of the EPA.

          • Nornagest says:

            You are now changing the subject. The issue is not partisanship but where the Overton window sits.

            With respect, I wrote the damn post and I know what its subject is. I can’t control what you see in it, and if you want to have an argument with somebody else about Trump’s budget then that’s fine, but don’t tell me I meant something I didn’t.

          • Ilya Shpitser says:

            Ok, I think you are going Humpty Dumpty (words mean what I want them to mean), so bowing out of this.

            If you think Trump sits within the last 15 years’ Overton window, I think that’s bordering on delusional (partnering with Russia on cybersecurity was his recent Big Idea that was a favorite of mine, but there are a ton of others). But luckily, we don’t have to argue, we can just wait.

          • Nornagest says:

            Not “words mean what I want them to mean”, more “I have a point in mind, and I want to talk about that and not something else”. My second post was meant as clarification of my first, not as a change of subject. I can even give you the budget issue, if you want; I still don’t think it’s sufficient to justify the pictures people paint of the dude in their partisan aspect. Not that he’s a good guy or a good President, but that he holds anomalously strong right-wing views about anything other than vague nativism and maybe the power of the executive. Even the latter I think is more ignorance than conviction.

            I don’t think Trump’s inside the last 15 years’ Overton window in all aspects; in fact, I strongly feel that he’s not. I do think however that he hasn’t pushed the preexisting GOP platform — you know, the partisan school of thought he inherited — substantially on anything except for immigration, and that only as a return to something circa the post-9/11 state of affairs. It would take a lot more for e.g. fears about the physical safety of LGBT people to be justified.

            But I’m getting a strong whiff of hostile reading here, so forget it.

          • suntzuanime says:

            Ilya Shpitser has lost his mind over Trump, it’s really not worth trying to reason with him.

          • onyomi says:

            I’m still trying to figure out how Trump is anything but extremely middle-of-the-road for US politics in any respect other than (lack of previous) political experience and personal style (use of twitter, being a loud mouth TV star, etc.).

        • AnthonyC says:

          A lot of the reason Trump hasn’t done much is the entire system was setup to oppose precisely people like him.

          Very true, and I only hope those parts of the system are strong enough to last. They certainly look flimsy sometimes, but I know that can be deceiving.

  16. Plucky says:

    A couple points

    – An important thing to understand about undecided swing voters is that they are not the typical stereotype presented. The stereotypical undecided voter is usually socially liberal, fiscally conservative, and well-educated. Such voters do exist, but as undecided voters in the center they are outnumbered 3:1 by socially conservative, fiscally liberal, and HS-only/some-college-educated voters.

    – The vote-my-side-or-stay-home undecideds in each party’s base are not necessarily more extreme than definitely committed voters. If anything they tend to be less extreme because they are less ideological in general. The number of people who refuse to vote as an ideological statement of protest is vanishingly tiny. Voters who make an intentional choice to not vote almost always do so out of personal disgust for “their” candidate, i.e. due to scandal, particularly odious comments, or the general vibe of politician sliminess. The typical way campaigns motivate such voters is not so much by having “their candidate” take extreme positions but by highlighting the extreme positions taken by the opponent, inventing such things or blowing them out of context if that’s what it takes (both sides do this all the time, don’t act like either side is worse).

    – This is maddeningly, infuriatingly frustrating to people with any investment in politics (who are almost by definition more ideological than those who aren’t), but genuinely undecided votes mostly make their choices based on personal affect and likability, with very limited sense of “the issues”. They typecast people for offices. They vote for the candidate, not the party and often judge candidates on superficial or trivial things. These are obviously a minority of voters overall but they are a high percentage of the undecided voters reasonably available to the candidates. “Find the one secret issue that they care about” is the chimera of gnostic politics nerds. You win those votes by finding the candidate that makes them feel good about themselves.

    – When people switch party votes in ideology, it’s rarely because they have themselves changed their minds on any particular issue, and when they do change their minds on an issue it’s due to personal life events (e.g. voters tend to get more fiscally conservative when they get married, more socially conservative when they have children, more fiscally liberal when their personal finances get precarious, etc) than persuasion. What will change is the salience and relative importance of issues when their preferences are split between parties. Bush ’04 got a lot of undecideds because they trusted him over Kerry on security/terrorism issues. Obama ’08 got a lot of boomer-age soft R’s who really wanted to “close the book” so to speak on the Civil Rights era by electing the first African-American president.

    – Presidential elections are infrequent enough and close enough that you have a massive statistical problem of over-determined/over-fitted results, and because they are so high profile they aren’t all that comparable to congressional races, where you can get enough data to to do statistics

  17. Speaker To Animals says:

    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.

    Maybe your computer has been hacked.

    Are the Rs and Ns back to front?

  18. mupetblast says:

    Many on the left are confusing Trump’s boorishness with extreme Republican ideology. But the fact that he peeled away more Democrats than Romney did suggests they have it wrong.

    • mankoff says:

      Republican ideology is strength-based. Strength is rooted in dominance hierarchies. In western history, straight, christian, white males who claim to be males are at the top of every single dominance hierarchy (with modest exceptions in the modern day). Every Republican since WWII has has race-baiting as a main tenant of their campaign strategy. The strategy used to focus on domestic populations which could be blamed for the plight of the dominant class described above. Now, the strategy has shifted to immigration from domestic race issues. The race-baiting of the 60s-00s of course activated sentiments in individuals which were passed down to children and persist today, so how we have hatred toward Black Americans and immigrants, which have been identified by Trump as Mexicans even though they are Hondurans, Guatamalans, Nicaraguans, Vietnamese, and basically mostly those whose parents’ lives were slaughtered by American terror campaigns/sponsorship of brutal dictators all over the world. It’s better for Trump to tell people it’s the Mexicans because then nobody can say “Well maybe we have to let them in because we burned their farmland and killed their priests.” My point, meanwhile, is that Trump’s demeanor is not anomalous of the GOP, it is characteristic.

      • bintchaos says:

        This is exactly, historically true.
        Its really just unbearable to read the comments through here on how America should slaughter “terrorists” families.
        Reading SSC makes me more Wenjie than ever.
        Trump is the perfectly realized avatar of the Red Tribe, the GOP, however you want to describe it.
        The only thing that matters is the Win.

        • Nornagest says:

          Trump is the perfectly realized avatar of the Red Tribe, the GOP, however you want to describe it.

          For the hundredth time, these are not synonymous and Trump is not representative of either one.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            “Trump is the perfectly realized avatar of people bintchaos doesn’t like”

          • mupetblast says:

            In my own admittedly not-very-long-so-far lifetime, I’ve seen Bush depicted as distilled Republicanism because he was evangelical. Then Romney, because he was the kind of guy orders middle-management to give you the pink slip. Now it’s Trump, apparently.

        • JonathanD says:

          What is Wenjie? I’m not clear even after reading the entry on Urban Dictionary, which may not have been the correct reference in the first place.

          • Nornagest says:

            Probably a Three-Body Problem reference. I haven’t read it, so couldn’t say more.

          • bintchaos says:

            Ye Wenjie is the girl who kills the world because she has lost faith in humanity.

            “The fate of the entire human race was now tied to these slender fingers. Without hesitation, Ye pressed the button.”
            ― Liu Cixin, The Three-Body Problem

          • Nornagest says:

            …there are so many things I could say to that.

          • Gobbobobble says:

            Clearly didn’t watch enough Mr Rogers

          • Nornagest says:

            It’s a shame Deiseach isn’t here. I think she’d have a field day.

          • hlynkacg says:

            I was just thinking the same thing.

          • JulieK says:

            …there are so many things I could say to that.

            Like “Have you heard of spoiler warnings?”

          • Doctor Mist says:

            Like “Have you heard of spoiler warnings?”

            Heh. Good for you.

            Still, spoiling Three-Body Problem is bringing coals to Newcastle. It’s self-spoiled. Spoiling it does every potential reader a huge favor. And I don’t consider that a spoiler.

      • cassander says:

        > Every Republican since WWII has has race-baiting as a main tenant of their campaign strategy.

        Really? Dewey was the race baiter in an election where Strom Thurmond got 39 electoral votes? Eisenhower won everywhere but the south two elections running by exploiting racial grievances? Bush the elder won 40 states by race baiting?

        > so how we have hatred toward Black Americans and immigrants

        Also puppies, I totally heard them say they hate puppies.

        Trump’s demeanor is not anomalous of the GOP, it is characteristic.

        And you know this because the republican leadership hasn’t repeatedly tried to pass immigration reform! Oh, wait….

        • JonathanD says:

          Bush the elder won 40 states by race baiting?

          Um . . .

          • cassander says:

            So your theory is that majorities of 40 states were just begging for a racist candidate? Including California, Connecticut, and Maine?

          • JonathanD says:

            @cassander, I don’t have a theory per se, I just think that saying that Bush the Elder didn’t race bait is, to say the least, questionable.

          • Martin says:

            How is that race baiting?

          • JonathanD says:

            @Martin, if you can’t see it, I literally can’t explain it. Maybe someone else will see this and give it a go.

          • Paul Zrimsek says:

            “It is known.”

          • Martin says:

            if you can’t see it, I literally can’t explain it.

            You can’t give me a definition or description of race baiting and explain to me why it applies to this case? Have you ever even thought about the matter?

            Is the supposed raice baiting playing on a fear for black people? Because I don’t see that here, I see playing on a fear for convicted murderers committing violent crimes on weekend leave.

        • JonathanD says:

          As far as Eisenhower, I know nothing about his campaigns and of course it was a different time, but one of his successes as president was an operation to get the border under control. It was certainly unfortunately named, and one might draw the conclusion of some slight racial animus.

        • mankoff says:

          I forgot about Eisenhower. Also, after reviewing my mistake, I saw that Bob Dole also didn’t do much race-baiting.

          What I am suggesting with the second bit you cited is that in the past we moved from scapegoat to scapegoat as a country. For example, we got over the anti-Italian, anti-Irish thing and moved onto Asian immigrants and leftists/hippies, then from that to Blacks. Now that the Trump has been stoking anti-Mexican (and by extension, anti-Mexican-looking, and thus anti-non-white-Hispanic), I would have expected anti-black rhetoric (whistled through Fox News et al by an emphasis on the individual responsibility frame) to diminish. Ultimately, it’s too soon to tell on this.

          On your last point: I said that Trump’s demeanor is characteristic of the GOP, and you responded by commenting on his actions rather than his demeanor. I think we agree that his administration has not behaved as a typical GOP administration. He persistent failure to accomplish anything at all from the White House kind of mimics typical GOP administrations in that they do not govern, they anti-govern. They spend most of their terms dismantling the New Deal and whatever the Dems accomplished in the last 8 years because God forbid the population becomes lazy and dependent (our poor work the longest hours of any lower class in the “Democratic Capitalist” world). In terms of their positions, I think Trump’s team is much more pro-workers than any Dem or GOP administration since FDR, actually. But none of that matters so long as the establishment GOP, establishment Dems, and Freedom Caucus run the legislative branch.

          But yah, I do think Trump’s demeanor mimic’s at least Nixon’s and Reagan’s. Bush Jr. was more deferent and Bush Sr. more buttoned up, but I think my point stands.

        • bbeck310 says:

          Also puppies, I totally heard them say they hate puppies.

          You joke, but this was an effective Democrat strategy against Mitt Romney.

        • tscharf says:

          If one was concerned about terrorism and immigration and wasn’t a racist, what would that look like? How would you be able to tell the difference?

  19. 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 politicians need to justify their policy to the voters.

            The politicians would be the board of directors, who do have to maintain a mandate.

          • Aapje says:

            The stockholders are the actual capital-owners and where corporate power ultimately resides in the capitalist system.

            The voters are where political power ultimately resides in a democracy.

            A perfectly-functioning capitalist system gives power proportional to productivity, which is valuable for various reasons. However, I reject that those with no or very little productivity should have as little power as the capitalist system provides. Also, I think that the capitalist system can’t function perfectly and in fact has a strong tendency to turn into a system where power begets power.

            I believe that a reasonably well-functioning democracy can keep a capitalist system functioning reasonably well and prevent very negative outcomes for those who were born with traits that condemn them to low/no productivity.

            I believe that democracy is more stable, because if a group rewards themselves disproportionately, this results in push back from the voters who lose out. If people in a capitalist system set things up so that they get more money(=power) than their productivity justifies, then they can use this power to increase their power further, etc. In a strong democracy, those who most benefit from political decisions don’t get more voting power than those who get less benefit.

          • cassander says:

            @Aapje says:

            – have to renew their mandate every X years. This is not true for stockholders.

            They have to renew their mandate every day. The company they own is constantly bleeding money. If it stops making sales, it will die almost immediately, and then the stocks the holders hold will be worthless.

            – be organized in a system with fairly strong checks and balances.

            The market, people willingly giving you their money, is a far stronger check than that on any politician

            A perfectly-functioning capitalist system gives power proportional to productivity, which is valuable for various reasons. However, I reject that those with no or very little productivity should have as little power as the capitalist system provides.

            Do they have less power than the average voter does?

            Also, I think that the capitalist system can’t function perfectly and in fact has a strong tendency to turn into a system where power begets power.

            this is demonstrably a bigger problem with government than it is with capitalism. There are about as many billionaires in the country as congressmen, how many congressmen are holding seats their parents held? How many of those billionaires inherited their billions from theirs?

            I believe that democracy is more stable, because if a group rewards themselves disproportionately, this results in push back from the voters who lose out.

            the entire field of public choice literature begs to differ.

            If people in a capitalist system set things up so that they get more money(=power) than their productivity justifies, then they can use this power to increase their power further, etc.

            Money isn’t power though. Power can forbid, money cannot. If you want to wear orange pants no matter what, all the money in the world can’t stop you. But a politician, with actual power, can ban orange pants.

          • moonfirestorm says:

            @Aapje:

            The stockholders are the actual capital-owners and where corporate power ultimately resides in the capitalist system.

            The voters are where political power ultimately resides in a democracy.

            This is the exact point I was trying to make. You started comparing stockholders to the politicians, not the voters, which I objected to. And it doesn’t seem like a mistake, but a core of your argument. Stockholders don’t have to renew their mandate, but boards of directors do.

          • Aapje says:

            @cassander

            The market, people willingly giving you their money, is a far stronger check than that on any politician

            Yes and no. Theoretically the market can enforce preferences very well. In practice we see that the ‘average person’ has societal preferences that they don’t manage to enforce by market mechanisms, but do by choosing politicians who act on those preferences.

            One reason for this is that markets incentivize selfish behavior. If all people agree that it’s societally good if everyone does X, but if a person who doesn’t do X has a larger personal benefit than personal cost for his defection, while the combined harm of that defection to all people is larger than the benefit to the defector, then defection is incentivized even as it leaves everyone worse off. Modern market mechanisms and living patterns actually reduce the power of mechanisms that people would traditionally use to discourage defection (like social disapproval). Hence the greater need for government.

            Do they have less power than the average voter does?

            I’m talking about relative power in this case. If I have 10 power and you have 5 power, then I get my way much more. If we both have 1 power, then we both get our way just as much.

            Both absolute and relative power are valuable, as well as collective and individual power, which is why I favor combining both systems.

            this is demonstrably a bigger problem with government than it is with capitalism. There are about as many billionaires in the country as congressmen, how many congressmen are holding seats their parents held? How many of those billionaires inherited their billions from theirs?

            You misspelled ‘American government.’ My country doesn’t have these problems to any meaningful extent, although the lower classes are underrepresented.

            Secondly, I was talking about those who hold the actual power, not their representatives. If you get big benefits from government, you still only get one vote.

            Money isn’t power though. Power can forbid, money cannot.

            What is power but the ability to get what you want? The more money one has, the more one you can get what you want. The less money one has, the less they can get what they want.

            @moonfirestorm

            You are correct that I was sloppy, but incorrect in that I don’t think my sloppiness is due to a fundamental problem with my argument.

            In a well-functioning democracy the voters keep having equal power to choose a representative. In a market system, a rich investor has more power to set corporate policy and if the corporate policy gives a good payout, this makes the investor capable of projecting more power and/or investing in more companies, gaining more power, etc.

            The majority of Walmart stock is in the hands of Sam Walton’s heirs and its policies impact the lives of 2.3 million employees plus many more consumers. If Sam Walton’s heirs want to implement a policy that harms many people a bit, causing large collective harm, then the power of each individual heir is much larger than the power of each individual employee or consumer who is impacted by this change to stop them. Many consumers may not have any alternative or the individual cost of avoiding the individually small harm may large, so then Walmart could keep doing the bad thing, even if it’s societally beneficial if they avoid the bad thing at a cost to themselves which is much smaller than the cost of the collective harm.

          • What is power but the ability to get what you want? The more money one has, the more one you can get what you want.

            There is a large difference between my getting what I want by giving you what you want, which describes a normal purchase for money, and my getting what I want by forbidding you from doing what you want that I don’t want you to do, which describes political power.

            But you are making a much more fundamental mistake. The basic problem, the coordination problem, is how to get every individual to take the action that maximizes social benefit. The centralized solution is to have some mechanism for deciding what people should do and then make them do it. The decentralized solution is to set things up so that each person receives the net social benefit of his action as a private benefit, and then let each person decide what he will do.

            The market is an approximate version of the decentralized solution. It’s approximate because there are some cases, such as burning coal in London in the 19th century, where one person’s action has significant net effects on others. But the beauty of the price system is that that is the exception, not the rule–in ordinary voluntary transactions, prices paid are a measure of the cost to others of your using the things or services you paid for, prices received of the value to others of what you are doing and being paid for. A full explanation of how that works requires a semester or two of price theory–if anyone is sufficiently interested I have a webbed text that attempts to explain it.

            It’s imperfect, but the political alternative is vastly more imperfect. We don’t have any all knowing benevolent despots to decide what we should do and make us do it. Instead we have a political market in which almost nobody ever bears anything close to the net cost of his actions. A steel firm that successfully lobbies for a tariff gets the benefit and transfers all of the cost to its customers and producers of export goods. A voter whose vote affects the outcome of an election–an unlikely situation–is affecting it for everyone, so gets only a tiny fraction of the net gain or loss from the outcome, while paying all of the costs of deciding who is the better candidate.

            Think of the problem not as “are there things governments can do which improve on the market outcome” but “are there mechanisms for deciding what government does that come as close as the market to making the right decisions.” I think you will find it difficult to construct a political system that comes close to satisfying that requirement.

          • hlynkacg says:

            There is a large difference between my getting what I want by giving you what you want, which describes a normal purchase for money, and my getting what I want by forbidding you from doing what you want that I don’t want you to do, which describes political power.

            I just want to point out that this is an unsubstantiated claim. You may see an ethical distinction between the two but the assumption that this difference is objective, universal, or obvious is sophistry.

        • anyonymouspoliticalmusings says:

          It’s not entirely clear to me that there wouldn’t be an equivalent if not greater inequality of power under a high government system.

          In a socialist system, sure the Soviets were fighting over a smaller pie but they had plenty of consumer/economic inequality e.g. the Nomenklatura (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nomenklatura). I haven’t studied Soviet history/society *that* deeply but what it suggests to me is that you got into the Nomenklatura in one of two ways – either you were born into it, or you possessed excellent military (encompassing military intelligence as well). And perhaps a small cadre of educated/intellectual elite for appearance’s sake.

          Contrast that to America, where whatever the problems with our quasi-market system, in about a generation, we’ve seen millions of Indians, Koreans, Chinese, Vietnamese, etc. immigrants basically go from growing up as peasants to seeing their kids reach the top income decile (age-adjusted). The experience of the Jews from the Great Depression to present and of Asian-Americans from say 1980 to present suggests that at the very least, some mobility into the class of people with power is possible. (For examples of people w. power now, see Sundar Pichai)

          Put another way, ~70% of America’s billionaires didn’t inherit their wealth: https://www.forbes.com/sites/afontevecchia/2014/10/02/the-new-forbes-400-self-made-score-from-silver-spooners-to-boostrappers/#8c87d832aff6

          Whatever the statistics were for the Soviets, it wasn’t anything close to 70% getting into the Nomenklatura by virtue of non-military. And even if you say that the Military was *just as good* at creating upward mobility as capitalism, which system is preferable? One that rewards militarism or one that rewards entrepreneurs?

      • Nornagest says:

        totally corporatist, anti-government, pro-business

        “Corporatism” has an established meaning and this isn’t it. It usually refers to government directing the actions of industry, and of other groups like unions, for the supposed common good; the etymology goes through “corpus”, as in “body”, not through “corporation”.

        Particularly annoying since the word often comes up in discussions of fascism; it’s correct to call e.g. Mussolini’s regime corporatist, but incautious modern readers often take this to mean it adopted laissez-faire policies, which it very much didn’t.

        • mankoff says:

          Learning a lot since I starting snooping around here. Thanks friend, and to everybody else for sharing and knocking heads a bit.

          • cuke says:

            mankoff, speaking as a mainly-lurker, I’m glad you’re here. I appreciate your clarity and steadiness.

  20. 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.

  21. 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.

  22. 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.

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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?

  26. 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.

  27. 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.

  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. 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.

  30. 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.

  31. 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.

  32. 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.

  33. 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.

  34. 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.

  35. 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.

  36. 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?

  37. Sandy says:

    Trump got about 2 million votes more than Romney, so that point is wrong.

  38. 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!”

  39. 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.

  40. 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.