Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Conservatives Think Trans Rights Are Their Wedge To Peel Off Democratic Voters

I made the mistake of donating money to a few campaigns this cycle, and now I'm bombarded daily with emails and texts which virtually all are variants on the theme "we're LOSING and it's your fault for not donating even more money." It is a bit interesting to see how they're varied to try and get you to click open the email though.

Anyway, 99% of these messages are from Democratic campaigns and operations, which makes sense given that I have to imagine everything in every database available to political operatives confirms I'm a liberal. But the other day I did start getting texts from someone who claimed to be a "Democrat working for APP PAC" claiming that Joe Biden is a monster. It gives a bit of a window into what message conservatives think will be most effective at convincing liberal-leaning voters to vote for Trump (or at least not vote for Biden). 

And the answer is: trans rights. All of the texts I've received from this outfit have been on transgender issues (perhaps needless to say, the claims in the messages are lies).

I think I'm going to write back and thank them profusely for sending me this message, claiming I was undecided before but now am firmly convinced to vote for Biden, and hoping that they take pride in knowing that at least one more vote is going to Joe Biden's camp.

Probably stupid of me to even engage, but I need something to pass the time.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Packing Preparation

I continue to think that adding more states is more likely to occur during the next Democratic administration compared to adding more Supreme Court Justices. But it will be controversial, and, following Machiavelli, anything especially controversial should be done at the very outset of one's tenure as a ruler.* What that means is we want any new state admissions to be part of H.R. 1 (which most people already expect to be a voting rights bill). And in particular, we want the new states set to be added to be ready to go on inauguration day.

This is especially important if we want to extend statehood beyond the most obvious candidate, D.C.. Puerto Rico is a complicated case because statehood has been actively debated there and remains controversial. But there seems to be relatively little discussion of statehood for other American territories, such as Guam or the U.S. Virgin Islands. Yet if those territories also were ready to announce, on day one of a Biden administration, that they were applying for statehood, it would be much easier to roll them into a larger bill than trying to mobilize them on the fly.

*  Machiavelli also suggests delegating the task to an underling and then, once it's complete, executing him in a high-profile fashion. Not all of his advice is applicable to the modern day.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

2020 Predictions Post!

It's time to put my money where my mouth is! How do I think election 2020 will turn out? I'm going to list my state-level predictions for both the presidential and (competitive) Senate seats. How will I do? We'll find out election day -- or more likely, several weeks after election day!

Presidential (Biden 335 - Trump 203)

Biden: Arizona, Florida, Maine-02, Michigan, Nebraska-02, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin.

Trump: Georgia, Iowa, Ohio, Texas

Senate (Democrats net five seats)

Alabama: Tuberville (R) over Jones (D-inc) [R flip]

Alaska: Sullivan (R-inc) over Gross (D) [R hold]

Arizona: Kelly (D) over McSally (R-inc) [D flip]

Colorado: Hickenlooper (D) over Gardner (R-inc) [D flip]

Georgia-A: Perdue (R-inc) over Ossoff (D) [R hold]

Georgia-B: Warnock (D) over Loeffler (R-inc) in a run-off [D flip]

Iowa: Greenfield (D) over Ernst (R-inc) [D flip]

Kansas: Marshall (R) over Bollier (D) [R hold]

Kentucky: McConnell (R-inc) over McGrath (D) [R hold]

Maine: Gideon (D) over Collins (R-inc) [D flip]

Michigan: Peters (D-inc) over James (R) [D hold]

Minnesota: Smith (D-inc) over Lewis (R) [D hold]

Mississippi: Hyde-Smith (R) over Espy (D) [R hold]

Montana: Daines (R-inc) over Bullock (D) [R hold]

North Carolina: Cunningham (D) over Tillis (R-inc) [D flip]

South Carolina: Graham (R-inc) over Harrison (D) [R hold]

Texas: Cornyn (R-inc) over Hegar (D) [R hold]

Friday, October 16, 2020

Kicking and Screaming: Trump's Path on White Supremacy

Some Republicans, including Donald Trump, are exasperated that people say Donald Trump doesn't condemn White Supremacy. He has, they say, several times. But the crux of the problem was well on display in Trump's latest town hall, where he was asked whether he condemns White Supremacists and QAnon. On the former, he curtly intoned "I denounce White Supremacy" before proceeding to whine that the media isn't asking Joe Biden about antifa. On the latter, by contrast, he was more evasive:

“I hate to say that I know nothing about it,” Trump said. “I do know they are very much against pedophilia.”

Guthrie pressed Trump, describing the group’s delusions. Trump would not accept her description.

“What I do hear about it, is they are very strongly against pedophilia, and I agree with that,” Trump said.

Here we have a classic Trump maneuver. Asked about his various extreme-right supporters, he'll initially refuse to condemn them based on a supposed lack of knowledge, often paired with at least a tacit nod of approval (the only thing he's heard about QAnon is good). If people keeping harping on the issue, eventually he can be dragged -- kicking and screaming -- into a grudging denunciation; but then he simply repeats the game with his next collection of fascist and/or neo-Nazi hangers-on. This is what happened with David Duke ("I just don’t know anything about him", followed by "David Duke endorsed me? OK. Alright. I disavow. OK."), with the Proud Boys ("Stand back and stand by," followed by "I don’t know who the Proud Boys are", and then finally "I don’t know much about the Proud Boys, almost nothing, but I condemn that."), and now, one suspects, we're beginning a new cycle with QAnon.

This is why the "repeated denunciations" don't shut the door on these questions about Trump's White Supremacist supporters, nor should they. The amount of energy that has to be expended to drag out one of these denunciations, and the sulky tone once he finally does it, are themselves indicative. It's Corbyn-esque, in a way -- Jeremy Corbyn surely "repeatedly denounced" antisemitism, but the reason he had to do it "repeatedly" is because before, during, and in between the repetitions he made it beyond obvious that he'd rather do anything but denounce antisemitism. The sort of person for whom extracting these denunciations is like pulling teeth is the sort of person whose sincerity in making the denunciations is going to come under question.

Monday, October 12, 2020

The Man Who Presided over the Fall of the Supreme Court

When John Roberts was first starting as Chief Justice, I remember a lot of commentators describing him as an "institutionalist", someone who was deeply committed to preserving the Supreme Court as a respected, non-partisan fixture in American life.

So I wonder what he's thinking now.  John Roberts is on the cusp of being the man who presides over a Supreme Court whose basic public legitimacy has become so compromised that court packing -- long an obvious non-starter in American politics -- now feels close to inevitable upon a Democratic victory (indeed, in a different sense, has already begun under a Republican presidency).

It's not entirely the Chief's fault. But it's certainly more than one-ninth his fault. Under his stewardship, the conservative faction of the Supreme Court has grown increasingly emboldened in acting as essentially an arm of the political right, with a particular eye towards undermining voting rights in a nation where the GOP has lost the popular vote in seven of the last eight presidential elections. Shelby County is the most egregious example, but the Court has hardly covered itself in glory in adjudicating elections controversies during this administration. At this stage in the game, Democrats are well-justified in worrying that the Supreme Court as its currently constituted (particularly with the soon-to-be rubber-stamped confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett) will not allow small-d or large-D democratic governance -- not because of anything in the Constitution, but because they've committed themselves to protecting perpetual minority rule.

The thing is, I do believe that -- in some non-trivial sense -- Chief Justice Roberts is an "institutionalist" in the way these commentators described, and that the loss of the Court's legitimacy is something he feels as a loss. It's not an act. But all that means is that he is a man who could not rise to the moment history placed him in.

Sunday, October 04, 2020

Paper By Ariel Univ. Scholar Rejected Over Whether Ariel is in Israel

This is a very interesting story that pulls me in several different directions.

The thrust of it is as follows: an academic at Ariel University, an Israeli institution in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, had a paper set to be published in the chemistry journal Molecules. As part of the publication, she needed to provide an address for correspondence, and she listed Ariel as being in Israel. The journal asked her to delete "Israel", the author refused, and the journal pulled the paper.

So a few things:

  • Obviously, there's something off-putting about papers on chemistry being (not) published not on the basis of chemistry, but based on geopolitical debates over the proper assignment of sovereign authority in the West Bank.
  • This does not appear to be a "boycott" of Ariel University or its scholars. The journal was willing to publish the article by the professor, with the notation that she taught at Ariel University, so long as it didn't claim that Ariel was in Israel.
  • The article indicates that some activists wanted the journal to go further and require that the address be formatted as "Ariel University, illegal Israeli settlement of Ariel, Occupied Palestinian Territory." But it doesn't look like the journal was going to demand that formulation.
  • Ariel simply isn't in Israel. That isn't me wearing my anti-occupation hat -- Israel has not annexed Ariel (unlike, say, East Jerusalem). So to some extent, the journal is simply enforcing a rule that statements in its journal have to be accurate. It's undoubtedly rare that this comes up with respect to correspondence addresses -- but this is one of those rare cases. The same rule should apply if a far-left writer in Israel proper tried to render her address as "Acre, Palestine". It would simply be inaccurate.
  • In some ways, the journal's proposal was similar to the long-standing American rule that persons born in Jerusalem have "Jerusalem" (rather than "Jerusalem, Israel") listed as their birthplace on their passport. This was famously litigated in the Zivotofsky case. One could argue it's more contentious there because Israel has annexed East Jerusalem (and has relatively uncontested sovereign jurisdiction over West Jerusalem). Ultimately, I'm not convinced that this solution was unreasonable under the circumstances.
  • How does one mail a letter to Ariel University? Must one put "Israel" in the address for the letter to arrive? Can one put "West Bank" or "Palestine" or leave that portion of the address blank?
  • I wonder if there was any explicit or implicit pressure on the author from her university (or the Israeli government) to refuse to accept the deletion of "Israel" from the address. Certainly, the Israeli government has been more than willing to punish academics whom it sees as insufficiently resistant to, or cooperative with, BDS.

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Nobody Expects the Muslim Trump Supporter!

There's a fascinating tidbit in a newly released poll about various religious groups' political opinions: Muslims and Jews hold very similar views about the presidency of Donald Trump. Specifically, for both groups his approvals are in the low 30s (30% for Muslims, 34% for Jews).

The poll is a bit dated -- it was apparently conducted in March just before the coronavirus lockdown, so certainly politics have ... evolved since then -- but it still raises a fascinating question: why does one never hear about Muslim Trump supporters? Compared to Jewish Trump supporters, who seemingly have an outsized presence in the media and in the public eye, one virtually never sees Muslim Trump supporters interviewed in the press, or internal debates within the Muslim community about Trump vs. not-Trump aired. (And it's worth noting that, unlike Jews, Muslims have historically been a lean-conservative voting bloc -- it was only after 9/11 and the immense wave of Islamophobia that poured out of the GOP that they shifted to the Democratic camp).

Why the disparity? Here are some hypotheses, which are just spitballs at this point:

  • Republicans are less likely to highlight Muslim support than Jewish support, which lowers the salience of their Muslim backing.
  • Despite their historically (and consistent) progressive voting patterns, there is a strong narrative that Jews are a politically conservative group (wealthy, White, entrenched and invested in preserving the existing order) which makes people assume that Jews are more conservative than they are.
  • The high-profile nature of Donald Trump's anti-Muslim actions (most notably the travel ban) makes it really hard for the media to imagine "Muslims for Trump" as a live phenomenon, whereas the high-profile nature of his (nominally, at least) "pro-Jewish" measures (e.g., the embassy move) makes it seem plausible that he'd garner a non-trivial proportion of Jewish support.
  • The major Muslim political organizations are decisively anti-Trump in a way that the major Jewish political organizations are not. Jewish Trump supporters have far more prominent positions within the institutional Jewish community than do their Muslim counterparts.
  • The media has less experience delving into the weeds of intra-Muslim communal splits, and so is less likely to pick up on smaller (but still extant) political factions.
Fortunately, I wrote a whole article on the distinctive political status of dissident minorities such as Muslim Trump backers (though I didn't address that example specifically). I'm not saying that it's good that such persons are completely ignored -- I'm curious as to what makes them tick! -- but I do think it's a good thing that our public dialogue does not treat them as if they're equally representative of the Muslim community when they're clearly not.