Friday, January 12, 2018

What's a One Point Dip Among Friends?

Is it just me, or am I rightfully a bit skeeved out by this Erik Loomis post on "which demographic has Trump best held his support"?
Since his inauguration, Trump’s support in every polled demographic has fallen. That includes groups where he had massive support (his own voters, evangelicals) and where he had very low support (Hillary voters, African-Americans). But there is only one group where his approval has fallen by a mere 1 point. What do you think that is? Christians? The wealthy? The South? Nope, nope, and nope.
It’s Jews.
Of course, Trump had low Jewish support initially. But those Jewish voters who care only about an aggressive, expansionist Israel love Donald Trump. If you were Jewish and a Trump supporter in 2016, you are still a Trump supporter. Which says a remarkable amount about a particular type of politics that makes you a stickier Trump supporter than literally every other demographic group in the nation.
And yet, among all religious groups, Jews still have the lowest overall Trump support, at 30 percent, although Trump now has a lower approval rating among atheists/agnostics, which he did not a year ago.
Loomis is drawing from this NYT article detailing how much Trump's approvals have dropped off across various demographic groups between inauguration day and today. These range from a 12 point drop for Democratic men and a 10 point drop amongst Latinos to a 3 point drop amongst Blacks and a 1 point drop with Jews.

One bit of context that is missing is that Jews were one of the few demographic groups that moved left from 2012 to 2016. Obama got 69% of the Jewish vote in 2012, versus 70% for Clinton in 2016. That's not a huge shift, obviously, but given that the country as a whole lurched right (most groups -- including Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and women -- gave Clinton smaller margins than Obama), it stands out. So one way of interpreting this data is that "NeverTrump" GOP or Independent Jews actually walked the walk in 2016 -- they disapproved of Trump and actually voted against Trump when it counted. Put another way, the Jews most likely to have been "soft" Trump supporters were already were turned off on him by election day, whereas other groups' "soft" supporters only turned against him later.

To be clear, there's nothing in Loomis' post that's inaccurate. We could say that writing a whole post on Jewish support for Trump dipping "only" 1 point seems like a weird thing to focus on given the extremely low baseline of support Trump had with Jews to begin with (although, as Loomis notes, some other groups where Trump also began with very low support rates saw those rates dip by much greater amounts). We could also question how much narrative weight should be put upon the difference between a 1 point drop amongst Jews versus a 3 point drop amongst Blacks (if we're comparing groups that began with low baselines of support). Indeed, since the demographic "voted Trump in 2016" also saw only a modest 3 point dip, maybe the real lesson here is "If you were [a Trump voter in 2016], you are probably still a Trump supporter" -- full stop.

But really, my discomfort stems from what to reads as a weirdly triumphant tone, as if Loomis is eager to have proven something particularly diseased about the Jews -- the one group whose Trump flunkies are sticking to Trump more than any other group in the nation.

Maybe I'm reading into it. But Loomis sure sounds excited to put "Jews" and "Trump diehards" in the same conversation, doesn't he?

Things People Blame the Jews For, Part XLI/Rate That Apology, Part 7: Puerto Rican Power Edition

It's a double-header!

As many of you know, Puerto Rico continues to suffer in the wake of a debilitating hurricane last year, with almost half of the island still lacking electricity. Island residents are justifiably angry at the lackluster federal response to their plight.

So why have repair efforts taken so long? Maybe it's because they're basically a colonized territory lacking full voting rights and so equal status as Americans. Maybe it's good old-fashioned racism (maybe explanations #1 and #2 are not mutually exclusive).

Or maybe, as an op-ed published in Puerto Rico's largest paper posited, it's the revenge of "the Jew":
Monday’s column by Wilda Rodriguez in the newspaper El Nuevo Día, titled “What Does ‘The Jew’ Want From The Colony?”, claimed that “Wall Street types” dictate U.S. policy, and that “Congress will do what ‘the Jew’ wants, as the vulgar prototype of true power is called.” 
“No offense to people of that religion,” she added. 
She went on to claim that Wall Street and “the Jew” are punishing Puerto Rico in order to get the island to pay its $70 billion debts.
I'm glad she added the "no offense" caveat. Who knows how it might have been interpreted otherwise?

Anyway, before I got to this Rodriguez issued an ... well, let's decide whether we'll call it an apology:
“I’m profoundly sorry that some have interpreted one of my pieces as anti-Semitism,” she wrote. “My career as a writer has been clear, and prejudice and racial and religious hostility have never been a part of it. I can understand the strong reaction that some of have had to the mere usage of the word ‘Jew.’ My intention was not to offend, but to provoke a public discussion. With that clear, I ask for forgiveness from those of good faith that were hurt by my political allusion. I have not and never will intend to offend them.”
Call me crazy, but I'm not convinced that the "mere usage of the word 'Jew'" was what set people off here. Had she written the sentence "At the age of 13, a Jew undergoes a Bar or Bat Mitzvah and becomes a full adult member of his or her community," I dare say everybody would be cool. I'd say the objection is 25% to the invocation of "the Jew" as a general archetype, and 75% to the content of that archetype being unbridled financial greed and power.

But hey -- public discussion provoked!

Grade: 2.5/10

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Issue is (Jewish) Power

Andrew Mark Bennett has a searing piece in the Forward detailing Jewish Voice for Peace's antisemitic obsession with Jewish power. One striking aspect of it is that it self-consciously does not focus on BDS. JVP has plenty of other sins that can be hung on its head, and Bennett does a good job detailing many of them.

Let me put it this way: reading this article made me want a cigarette. And I don't smoke. That's how good it felt.

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

Many People Are The Real Threat To Free Speech, Part 2

Last Fall, I noted that while we basically only hear about "threats to free speech" on campus when the alleged perpetrators are liberal, attempts to shut down distasteful speech are quite bipartisan in flavor. In the Chronicle of Higher Education, Aaron Hanlon collects some right wing instances of speech suppression on campus -- including the striking statistic (drawn from FIRE) that, while campus liberals are more likely to try to disrupt or shutdown speakers, conservatives are more likely to succeed in doing so. This doesn't really surprise me -- on the one hand, there are more liberals than conservatives on campus, and on the other hand, if there's one thing conservatives are really good at, it's working the refs.

Again, the moral of this story isn't to simply flip things on their heads -- conservatives are the only threat to free speech, and liberals are as pure as driven snow. The right lesson is, to reiterate, that threats to free speech come from all sides of the political spectrum, and that genuine commitment to the principles of free expression -- as opposed to opportunistically crying "free speech!" only to swiftly abandon it once it ceases to be politically convenient -- is actually a rare beast.

Monday, January 08, 2018

Lacking God's Time

Jelani Cobb has a great profile of Wayne A. I. Frederick, the President of Howard University, and the difficult dynamic even elite HBCUs face as they seek to navigate Trump-dominated political waters.

Cobb does a great job giving historical context to an ongoing dilemma HBCU leaders often face between directly challenging White supremacist power structures in America versus accommodating White leaders who control desperately-needed resources and access. It grates -- obviously it grates -- for students on these campuses to see their President, say, appear in a photo-op with President Trump, or to watch as Betsy DeVos uses their campus as a backdrop to prattle on about "school choice", or (in a particularly extreme example) to hear that Lee "Willie Horton" Atwater may join the university's  board. Such moves are, to say the least, way out of step with the prevailing sentiment of the campus community.

On the other hand, "Pragmatic" leaders often consider the putative conciliation to be its own form of power. What could be more revolutionary than extracting money and support from inside the belly of the beast?  Yes, it might be ideal to not have to make such compromises. But, Cobb quotes Frederick as saying: "People think we’re doing God’s work, on God’s time, with God’s money. The problem is, we don’t have access to the latter two."

The paradox of being an HBCU leadership position is that "pragmatists are in the business of producing new generations of fierce idealists." It's a difficult issue, without clear answers. But Cobb's piece is well worth a read to begin unpacking it, at the very least.