Month: November 2016

PhilosophyPolitics

Economic Localism is No Better Than Economic Nationalism

Americans clearly need a refresher course on economics and the principles of capitalism. I have been working on some longer essays in which I elaborate on some of the principles and the ways in which Trump’s campaign was based on arguments that sound good to some people in theory but which are deeply flawed in reality. Below is one article that outlines some of the arguments for free trade.  It is included in its entirety along with an image and a link to another short article supporting some of these themes.

Economic Localism Is No Better than Economic Nationalism

 by Steven Horwitz**

 

As Black Friday has continued to expand in recent years, one response to its orgy of discounts and deals has been to promote the following day as “Small Business Saturday.” The idea is to encourage people to shop at their local stores rather than at national chains or big-box stores, or perhaps on the Internet. Doing so, argue its proponents, is both moral and good for the local economy, as it keeps jobs and money in “our communities” rather than, presumably, in the hands of faceless and distant corporate masters.

Let’s ignore the irony that the sponsor of this movement is the international corporation known as American Express. Is a moral or economic case for shopping local, whether on the Saturday after Thanksgiving or in general?

There is not. Many of the same arguments made by progressives in favor of shopping local are the same as those made by Trump and his supporters in favor of what they call “economic nationalism.” For the same reasons that shopping local isn’t morally or economically superior to buying from chains and big boxes, neither is buying “Made in the USA.” The most moral and economic choice is to buy from whomever you want based on your preferences about price, service, or any other number of factors.

Big Boxes Employ Locally

If we only shopped from locally-owned businesses, we would be paying higher prices and overall employment and incomes would be lower.The moral and economic cases against buying local are intertwined. Consider the argument that buying local is better because buying from Walmart or Target doesn’t keep money and jobs in the local community. This argument ignores that the average Walmart Supercenter employs around 400 people and the numbers are similar for Target. Those jobs continue to exist because people shop at those stores. The hundreds employed at any given big box store are just as much members of the local community as are the owners of the small business that compete with the big boxes.

To the extent that the prices at the big box stores are cheaper, they enable those who shop there to have income left over to spend on other goods and services, including things from locally-owned businesses, creating jobs that would not exist otherwise. If we only shopped from locally-owned businesses, we would be paying higher prices and overall employment and incomes would be lower. Plus, consumers would not have access to the variety of goods available at chain and big box stores, forcing them to not only spend more but get less value for it.

Buy National?

The same logic applies to international trade. Those imploring us to “buy local” are falling for the same sorts of fallacies that Trump, and many who voted for him, implicitly accept when they argue for raising barriers to international trade. “Economic localism” is nothing more than a smaller scale version of the “economic nationalism” of Steve Bannon and other Trump advisors.

US Job Growth, 1086-2016

Increasing duties on imports, thereby forcing more Americans to buy “local” in terms of the global economy, does nothing to create jobs or improve the economic standing of Americans. “Keeping the money in the USA,” like “keeping the money in the community,” harms those it is intended to help, and does so for the same reasons.

Labor time 1973-2009

Comparing Prices Relative to Wages 1973 and 2009

Forcing Americans to buy only, or predominantly, American-made products means we will spend more to get less, and the net effect on jobs will be zero at best. Globalized trade certainly shifts the mix of jobs in the US economy, as we have shifted in relative terms from manufacturing to hi-tech or services for example, but does not reduce the total number of jobs. One need only look at the data on overall job growth, and the increased variety of cheaper and better goods available to even the poorest Americans, over the last 30 years to see this.

The moral case for buying local is similarly weak. It’s best seen by making the moral case for buying globally.

The promoters of buying local often argue that buying from international corporations is problematic because so many of their products are bought from China or other parts of the world where wages are low and working conditions are bad. The belief is that by buying from those firms, consumers are supporting the exploitation of workers in those countries, making such purchases morally questionable.

Here is where the economics entangles with the morality: large firms are morally suspect because of the supposed negative economic effects they create. But are those negative economic effects real? Without an extended discussion of so-called “sweatshops” (but do see Ben Powell’s excellent book), two quick points are in order.

How Wages Rise

That Chinese workers have factory jobs that pay as well as they do, compared to the other options available to them, is a result of firms like Walmart buying the products those factories create. Wages depend on the productivity of workers (and the capital they use) along with the value of what they create. When the demand for those Chinese products goes up, thanks to us buying at Walmart, wages for the workers in those factories rise. And the evidence is clear that rising wages and the pressure of large Western firms are key drivers of improved working conditions.

Buying Chinese made products at Walmart not only doesn’t further exploit Chinese workers; it is of positive help to them.

Geography and Morality

The best path toward enriching everyone is allowing everyone to trade with everyone else.It is not clear why people more near to us geographically should have moral weight than those further away. Given the choice between helping a middle-class small businesswoman in our neighborhood or increasing the chances of better employment at a higher wage for much poorer men and women in China, why should we believe that the former is necessarily morally superior?

If human beings deserve our moral consideration by virtue of their humanity, and if those who are worse off economically are deserving of more such consideration, then it would seem that if there is a moral case for anything, it’s for buying in ways that help the least well-off, regardless of their nationality or ethnicity.

Certainly most of the progressive proponents of shopping local do not imagine themselves to be guilty of the same prejudices as Steve Bannon and other partisans of Trump’s economic nationalism, but the underlying logic is the same. The best path toward enriching everyone is allowing everyone to trade with everyone else.

Buy Wherever

To be clear, my argument is not that buying local is somehow wrong. It’s not. But it’s also not morally or economically superior to buying from Walmart or Target or even Amazon. Many local businesses offer better products or superior service, or perhaps fill a unique niche that large stores cannot. They also provide better opportunities to socialize with friends and neighbors. Those are all good reasons to buy from local businesses.

But don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are somehow benefitting your local economy or doing something that’s morally superior. You’re just doing what globalized markets with a range of alternatives allow you to do: deciding what elements of your economic activity matter to you and choosing accordingly. Restricting those alternatives, whether through well-intentioned progressive “economic localism” or the darker, reactionary forces of “economic nationalism,” harms people, and often those who can ill-afford worsening poverty.


**Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions. He is spending the 2016-17 academic year as a Visiting Scholar at the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise at Ball State University.

He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

 

Politics

Word of the Year: Post-Truth

post-truth-usage-2016The Oxford 2016 Word of the Year

A book, The Post-truth Era, by Ralph Keyes appeared in 2004, and in 2005 American comedian Stephen Colbert popularized an informal word relating to the same concept: truthiness, defined by Oxford Dictionaries as ‘the quality of seeming or being felt to be true, even if not necessarily true’. Post-truth extends that notion from an isolated quality of particular assertions to a general characteristic of our age.

Oxford’s Explanation for its 2016 Word of the Year

The Art of the Lie

Mr Trump is the leading exponent of “post-truth” politics—a reliance on assertions that “feel true” but have no basis in fact. His brazenness is not punished, but taken as evidence of his willingness to stand up to elite power.”

“But post-truth politics is more than just an invention of whingeing elites who have been outflanked. The term picks out the heart of what is new: that truth is not falsified, or contested, but of secondary importance. Once, the purpose of political lying was to create a false view of the world. The lies of men like Mr Trump do not work like that. They are not intended to convince the elites, whom their target voters neither trust nor like, but to reinforce prejudices.

“Feelings, not facts, are what matter in this sort of campaigning. Their opponents’ disbelief validates the us-versus-them mindset that outsider candidates thrive on. And if your opponents focus on trying to show your facts are wrong, they have to fight on the ground you have chosen.”

Whoever Wins the Presidential Election, There is No Going Back Now

“Why are you defending her, Erin?” Baldwin’s Donald asks the network interviewer in the sketch. “Are you a lez with her? Because I’ve heard from a lot of people that you’re lezzing her?” “That doesn’t even make sense.” “It doesn’t matter, Erin, because I said it. And now half the country believes it.”

Trump Lies about Obama’s Reaction at Rally

//players.brightcove.net/624246174001/82f79524-152c-485f-bcb0-09197a216c87_default/index.html?videoId=5198649671001

“A few days ago, at Barack Obama rally for Hillary, the crowd turned on a Trump fan in their midst. Obama being Obama, he asked them to hush. “You’ve got an older gentleman who is supporting his candidate. He’s not doing nothing,” said the Prez, the only possible criticism of that being the use of a double negative. That apart, he was entirely positive about the man’s perfect right to support Trump. “We live in a country that respects free speech …  we got to respect our elders. Don’t boo. Vote. Don’t boo. Vote.””

All of this was filmed, of course. The truth of the incident was instantly available for anyone with internet access.

Later that  day, however, Trump wove his bespoke take on it into the rich tapestry that was his stump speech. ”You have to go… and see what happened,“ he told a rally in Pennsylvania. ”[Obama] spent so much time screaming at a protester, and frankly it was a disgrace.” If not the Baldwin version’s “half of America”, many millions of Americans will have actively decided to believe this idiotic invention. It fits perfectly, after all, into the insane, Obama the Tyrant narrative that is such a central building block of the Breitbart alternative reality.”

No one sharing the same postal code as their right mind could imagine Obama berating anyone in the way that Trump, that grandmaster of projection, has bullied protesters at his rallies. Yet although the lie was blatant and silly – and instantly exposable as such – there was no risk to him in telling it. Inhabitants of internet-created bubbles, where algorithms feed their prejudices and misconceptions with cosseting confirmations of whatever they have selected fit their bespoke truth, are axiomatically beyond the reach of fact.

The Post-Truth World

Mr. Trump appears not to care whether his words bear any relation to reality, so long as they fire up voters. PolitiFact, a fact-checking website, has rated more of his statements “pants-on-fire” lies than of any other candidate—for instance his assertion that “inner city crime is reaching record levels”, which plays on unfounded fears that crime rates are rising (see chart 1).

Even after controlling for party identification, religion and age, there was a marked correlation with support for Mr Trump (see chart 2): 55% of voters who scored positively on our conspiracism index favoured him, compared with 45% of their less superstitious peers. These measures were not statistically significant predictors of support for Mitt Romney, the far more conventional Republican presidential candidate in 2012.”

But though Facebook and other social media can filter news according to whether it conforms with users’ expectations, they are a poor filter of what is true.  Filippo Menczer and his team at Indiana University used data from Emergent, a now defunct website, to see whether there are differences in popularity between articles containing “misinformation” and those containing “reliable information”. They found that the distribution in which both types of articles were shared on Facebook are very similar (see chart 3). “In other words, there is no advantage in being correct,” says Mr Menczer.

Facebook and the Trouble with Being Everything to Everyone

One problem might be that people treat news found at Facebook with the authority of news gleaned from publications generally, even though news found at Facebook more often resembles the news gleaned from conversations with friends and family. People might practice a sort of mental discounting when encountering new information in different settings; I am less inclined to fully trust a factoid passed along by a stranger at a bar than I would be to trust something reported in a major newspaper. Facebook could throw this sort of discounting off, and lead users to too readily accept “news” (which after all is appearing on a major media platform) which is only a little more informative than what one receives in an email forward.”

Trump Supporters More Likely to Be Reading and Re-Posting Fake News

SOME OF FAKE STORIES POSTED AND SHARED ON FACEBOOK

$375,000 Deposited To The Khan Law Account From The Clinton Foundation

Mike Pence Says That Michelle Obama is the “Most Vulgar First Lady That We Have Ever Had”

Trump Won the Popular Vote

Hillary Clinton Wanted Donald Trump to Run for President

Hillary Clinton Sold Weapons to ISIS

Pope Francis Endorses Trump for President

2. Obama cut $2.6 billion from programs for veterans to support Syrian refugees in the US

Obama Uses Executive Order to Ban the Pledge of Allegiance

Fake News Stories that Went Viral During 2016 Election

Media Trying to Confront Fake News Stories

 Paul Horner, a writer who makes his living off writing fake news stories that go viral, told the Washington Post that he believes Donald Trump won the election because of him.

“I think Trump is in the White House because of me,” Horner said. “His followers don’t fact-check anything — they’ll post everything, believe anything.”

During the campaign, several of Horner’s intentionally false pieces were picked up and shared on Twitter by members of Team Trump. In March, Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager at the time, posted Horner’s story about an anti-Trump protester supposedly being paid $3,500 to protest at one of his rallies.

“I’ve gone to Trump protests — trust me, no one needs to get paid to protest Trump,” Horner said. “I just wanted to make fun of that insane belief, but it took off. They actually believed it.”

Student Don’t Know When Fake News is Fake

Fake News is Both Cause and Effect of Distrust of Mainstream Media

Facebook Admits to Fake News Problem and Vows to Combat It

Useful List of Fake News Sources

Bit by Bit It Takes Shape: Media Evolution for the ‘Post-Truth’ Age

“But when significant political players are willing to say things that flat-out are not true — and when they’re not slowed down by demonstrations of their claims’ falseness — then reporters who stick to he-said, she-said become accessories to deception.”

Post-Truth and Other Trendy Words in 2016

2016-ing: verb. To feel intense stress and helplessness as you watch everything inexplicably go horribly, horribly wrong around you.

HistoryPolitics

Trump’s Republican Party is Not a Party for the Future-or the Past

LincolnTrumpshoes

White-elevators

In an election with mostly unsatisfactory choices, the one thing that we can do as a country is avoid making the worst possible choice.  This year, it is clear the Donald Trump is the worst possible choice for president of the United States.  Old, white, and uneducated is not the future of this country.  A vote for Trump is not a vote for the future.  It is a vote for a past that never really existed. To the extent that it did, we should be seeking to leave these elements behind- not seeking to restore them.  We cannot escape the world and whites cannot escape living in a multi-racial, multi-cultural country and international community.  It is not possible, and it is not desirable.  We have been at our best as a country when we have embraced the world and sought to make it better.  This was the dream of our founding fathers and it has always been the goal of our greatest leaders from George Washington to Abraham Lincoln to Teddy Roosevelt to Ronald Reagan.

Trump is Repudiating Traditions of the Republican Party

Trump is also causing Republicans to abandon the principles that made the party great and has allowed it to dominate presidential politics for most of the 150 years since it was founded. As a life-long Democrat who appears to have had an epiphany late in life that he is both Christian and conservative, it should not surprise anyone who has followed his public life that Trump is not really a principled conservative.

But his efforts to move the Republican Party away from conservatism has been particularly jarring to watch.

As Ross Douthat, conservative columnist for the New York Times writes in his editorial  “An Election Is Not a Suicide Mission”

“A vote for Trump is not a vote for insurrection or terrorism or secession. But it is a vote for a man who stands well outside the norms of American presidential politics, who has displayed a naked contempt for republican institutions and constitutional constraints, who deliberately injects noxious conspiracy theories into political conversation, who has tiptoed closer to the incitement of political violence than any major politician in my lifetime, whose admiration for authoritarian rulers is longstanding, who has endorsed war crimes and indulged racists and so on down a list that would exhaust this column’s word count if I continued to compile it.

It is a vote, in other words, for a far more chaotic and unstable form of political leadership (on the global stage as well as on the domestic) than we have heretofore experienced, and a leap unlike any that conservative voters have considered taking in all the long years since Roe v. Wade.

Most voters agree that Trump has little or no respect for our country’s democratic institutions.

Most voters say Trump has little or no respect for nation's democratic institutions

Slide1

Young Voters are Turning Away From Republicans

This is not an approach that is going to win the Republican votes over the long term. Young voters are increasingly turning to Democrats and will continue to do so in this election.  For the 3rd consecutive election, K-12 readers of Scholastic magazine have chosen the Democratic candidate over the Republican.

“Since 1940, the results of the student vote have usually mirrored the outcome of the presidential election. In fact, Scholastic readers have been wrong only twice. In 1948, kids picked Thomas E. Dewey over President Harry S. Truman. And in 1960, more students voted for Richard M. Nixon than for the eventual president, John F. Kennedy.”

scholastic-popular-vote-map

2016 Popular Vote from K-12 Scholastic Readers:  This vote has mirrored the winner of the popular vote for president in every election since 1940 with only two exceptions- 1948 and 1960.

scholastic-2016-electoral-map

Electoral Map from 2016 Scholastic Vote:  The areas where Trump does best are not growing as rapidly or as populated as the areas where Clinton is winning.

Millennials, the generation currently between 18-30, have been supporting Democrats consistently in the past several elections and appear to be supporting Hillary Clinton in 2016 almost as strongly as they did Obama in 2008 and 2012.  Some thought that Hillary Clinton was at risk of losing this support this year, but Trump’s campaign has appeared to energize young people in particular to favor Clinton over Trump as a reaction against Trump’s obvious bigotry and sexism.  Millennials are expected to provide record-low support for Republican candidates this year. 

Even young Republicans are repudiating Trump in favor of Hillary Clinton.  The Harvard College Republicans endorsed Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, the first time that the group has favored a Democrat since it’s founding in 1888.

Here’s the Harvard Republican Club’s statement:

Dear Members and Alumni,

In every presidential election since 1888, the members and Executive Board of the Harvard Republican Club have gathered to discuss, debate, and eventually endorse the standard-bearer of our party. But for the first time in 128 years, we, the oldest College Republicans chapter in the nation, will not be endorsing the Republican nominee.

Donald Trump holds views that are antithetical to our values not only as Republicans, but as Americans. The rhetoric he espouses –from racist slander to misogynistic taunts– is not consistent with our conservative principles, and his repeated mocking of the disabled and belittling of the sacrifices made by prisoners of war, Gold Star families, and Purple Heart recipients is not only bad politics, but absurdly cruel.

If enacted, Donald Trump’s platform would endanger our security both at home and abroad. Domestically, his protectionist trade policies and draconian immigration restrictions would enlarge our federal deficit, raise prices for consumers, and throw our economy back into recession. Trump’s global outlook, steeped in isolationism, is considerably out-of-step with the traditional Republican stance as well. The flippancy with which he is willing to abdicate the United States’ responsibility to lead is alarming. Calling for the US’ withdrawal from NATO and actively endorsing nuclear proliferation, Donald Trump’s foreign policy would wreak havoc on the established world order which has held aggressive foreign powers in check since World War II.

Perhaps most importantly, however, Donald Trump simply does not possess the temperament and character necessary to lead the United States through an increasingly perilous world. The last week should have made obvious to all what has been obvious to most for more than a year. In response to any slight –perceived or real– Donald Trump lashes out viciously and irresponsibly. In Trump’s eyes, disagreement with his actions or his policies warrants incessant name calling and derision: stupid, lying, fat, ugly, weak, failing, idiot –and that’s just his “fellow” Republicans.

He isn’t eschewing political correctness. He is eschewing basic human decency.

Donald Trump, despite spending more than a year on the campaign trail, has either refused or been unable to educate himself on issues that matter most to Americans like us. He speaks only in platitudes, about greatness, success, and winning. Time and time again, Trump has demonstrated his complete lack of knowledge on critical matters, meandering from position to position over the course of the election. When confronted about these frequent reversals, Trump lies in a manner more brazen and shameless than anything politics has ever seen.

Millions of people across the country are feeling despondent. Their hours have been cut, wages slashed, jobs even shipped overseas. But Donald Trump doesn’t have a plan to fix that. He has a plan to exploit that.

Donald Trump is a threat to the survival of the Republic. His authoritarian tendencies and flirtations with fascism are unparalleled in the history of our democracy. He hopes to divide us by race, by class, and by religion, instilling enough fear and anxiety to propel himself to the White House. He is looking to to pit neighbor against neighbor, friend against friend, American against American. We will not stand for this vitriolic rhetoric that is poisoning our country and our children.

President Reagan called on us to maintain this, our shining city on a hill. He called on us to maintain freedom abroad by keeping a strong presence in the world. He called on us to maintain liberty at home by upholding the democratic process and respecting our opponents. He called on us to maintain decency in our hearts by loving our neighbor.

He would be ashamed of Donald Trump. We are too.

This fall, we will instead focus our efforts on reclaiming the Republican Party from those who have done it considerable harm, campaigning for candidates who will uphold the conservative principles that have defined the Republican Party for generations. We will work to ensure both chambers of Congress remain in Republican hands, continuing to protect against executive overreach regardless of who wins the election this November.

We call on our party’s elected leaders to renounce their support of Donald Trump, and urge our fellow College Republicans to join us in condemning and withholding their endorsement from this dangerous man. The conservative movement in America should not and will not go quietly into the night.

A longtime student of American democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville once said, “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

De Tocqueville believed in the United States. Americans are a decent people. We work hard, protect our own, and look out for one another in times of need, regardless of the color of our skin, the God we worship, or our party registration. Donald Trump may not believe in that America, but we do. And that America will never cease to be great.

The Harvard Republican Club

But despite the fact that young people appear to be turning away from Republicans in general, and Donald Trump in particular, young people have not traditionally been opposed to conservatives.  Pew Research shows that that “young people haven’t always been so enamored with the Democrats. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, 18-to-25-year-olds were more Republican than older age groups.” Republicans have rarely lost among this group by more than a few percentage points and actually won majorities among this group of voters in 1972, 1984, and 1988.

young-people-voting-democrat

Trump is Driving C0llege-Educated Voters Out of the Republican Party

 

Donald Trump is on track to become the first Republican candidate in a generation to lose to the Democratic candidate among college-educated whites.  

“His entire approach to the world is off-putting to college-educated whites, particularly college-educated white women,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican pollster. “The fact that they are so negative on Trump is what keeps him from getting the proportion of white votes he needs to put together a majority coalition.”

David Wasserman, an election forecaster with the Cook Political Report, said that losing white college graduates “could be catastrophic” for Trump’s chances.

Trump is accelerating a long-term trend that has been occurring over the last several decades, with Republicans increasingly attracting whites with lower levels of education, and voters with college degrees and post-graduate degrees increasingly voting Democrats.  This year will be unique, mostly due to the degree of this split and the margins which Clinton is expected to defeat Trump among this group.  

“There have been similarly modest differences in the vote choices of college graduates and those with less education in other elections in the past few decades. The largest gap was in 1996, when voters without college degrees backed Bill Clinton over Bob Dole by a 14-point margin (51% vs. 37%), while voters with less education were more closely divided (47% Clinton vs. 44% Dole). Today, it is the more educated voters who are more likely to favor the Democratic candidate, and the gap between the groups is far wider than it was 20 years ago.

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-6-45-41-pm

The loss of college-educated whites has the potential to be devastating over the long-term to the Republican party, particularly when seen in the context of the growing racial diversity of the country, the voting trends among non-whites, and the trends among younger voters- both whites and non-whites, which are all favoring the Democratic Party over the long term.  The last line of defense for the Republican Party, short of adapting its policy approaches to make it more appealing to younger and non-white voters, is to protect its advantage among college-educated voters.  Trump’s approach is clearly not working, and is not likely to work over either the long or short-term among this group, which will make it virtually impossible for the Republican Party to cobble together a majority coalition in coming elections.

Trump is Truly a Reactionary- Reacting Against Inevitable Change

Trump’s ideology, to the extent that there is one, is based on a reactionary attitude toward change. Trump’s Republican Party is a party of racial and cultural resentment.  He is banking on maximizing support among whites by playing on their perceived sense of loss, or deprivation, relative to other groups.  Trump is, as Francis Wilkinson argues, the last gasp of a conservatism that never was and never will be again.

“But it’s conservatives who feel most threatened these days, as demographic and cultural change tests their racial tolerance, traditional values and very concept of America. It’s hardly a coincidence that a white male candidate steeped in racist and sexist language and conduct is running against the first female major-party nominee, or following the first black president. Trump is the embodiment of reaction.

Under cultural threat, conservatives have been making stark departures from longstanding political norms — suppressing the votes of people who disagree with them, deliberately promoting government waste and dysfunction — that they might find abhorrent under less stressful circumstances.

Trump arguably represents the most egregious break from political norms yet. He is a wildly dangerous and unstable figure, which is why many fellow Republicans have declared him beyond the pale. For some, denouncing Trump was a political decision. For most, however, it appears to have been made on grounds of national security, morality or both, which required refuting an evolving, adaptive moral narrative spun by conservative allies. 

Win or lose, Trump will receive tens of millions of votes next Tuesday. His tally will be analyzed for its political content. But it will also represent the latest push in moral relativism sweeping conservative America and, as Shiller perceived, threatening vital American institutions.

Once a system has become sufficiently elastic to accommodate, rationalize and even champion a Trump, there’s no telling where the boundaries move next.”

Change is Coming Whether Trump and His Supporters Like It or Not

Yet regardless of this effort to stem the tide of change by changing the rules and boundaries of American political discourse, the change is coming and there is nothing that can or will be done to change it regardless of the outcome of this election.  Demography is destiny and Trump’s America is not America’s future. Trump’s strategy of running up the white vote in order to win this year’s election appears destined to fail. Over the long term, the strategy is disastrous.  Whites, especially older ones, might not like that the future of this country is non-white.  But that cannot be changed.

Screen Shot 2016-11-03 at 1.43.10 PM

Every year, whites are becoming a smaller and smaller share of the population. Immigrants are accounting for increasing share of population and having children at higher rates than those born in the US.

st_2016-10-26_fertility_1-02

Republicans Cannot Win by Trying to Maximize the White Vote

Every election, whites make up a smaller and smaller share of eligible voters.

Image result for voting patterns by race and ethnicity

Image result for voting patterns by race and ethnicity
And these voters are becoming increasingly Democratic.  The GOP can continue to do well among whites and, perhaps even improve its position among them, and still lose national elections.  Romney, for example, did better among whites than any candidate since Ronald Reagan in 1984.
Image result for voting patterns by race and ethnicity

But, as well as Obama did among  Hispanics in 2008 and 2012- much better than Democrats had ever done among this group before- Hillary Clinton is likely to exceed this margin, not as much because of her strengths as much as Trump’s obvious weaknesses.  In just one example, Clinton is leading Trump among Hispanics in Florida by 30%.  

“Republican politicians from Miami-Dade County — Florida’s most-populous county with the largest share of Hispanics — are keeping their distance from Trump.

Rubio and Miami-Dade’s three Cuban-American U.S. House members won’t campaign with him. Miami-Dade’s mayor, a Cuban-American Republican, said he’d vote for Clinton.

The takeaway, Amandi said, is that Trump’s poor standing with Latinos underscores a broader problem with the Republican Party, which has blocked immigration reform and has done little to court the Hispanic vote.

“The Republican Party has an unwillingness to learn the lessons of 2008 and 2012,” Amandi said. “Donald Trump is a symptom of the Republican Party’s problem. He’s not the cause.”

This is not just confined to Florida, but is a national phenomenon.

The Republican Party cannot win elections now or in the future by alienating the constituencies that will soon constitute the majority of the population of this country.  Democrats are winning growing majorities of college-educated voters, women, young voters, and minority voters.  Every election that passes, these groups will constitute a growing share of the electorate, making it harder and harder for Republicans to win without winning a larger share of an ever-shrinking population.  The party will have to do this without being able to fall back on the principles and traditions that have served it well over its more than 160 year history, as Trump has in some cases deliberately and in some cases inadvertently tried to shift the party away from these values.  It is hard to see how this can be a winning formulation for the Grand Old Party, and it is even harder to see why anyone should regret the demise of a party that would self-consciously try to win this way.

As  Alex Nowrasteh, an immigration policy analyst at the conservative Cato Institute wrote in an editorial in the Wall Street Journal in 2014,

Modern history doesn’t supply the only lessons against a nativist political strategy. Three early American political parties committed suicide partly due to their intransigent nativism.

The Federalist Party turned against Irish and French immigrants in the late 18th century, who then turned against them, thus eroding their base of support in Northeastern cities. The Whig Party self-destructed over opposition to immigration and disagreements over slavery. In the 1850s, the nativist American Party (also known as the Know-Nothings) quickly rose but then failed after a few successful elections. Anti-immigration positions may have helped those embattled parties for an election or two but in the long run they turned off more voters than they attracted.

Abraham Lincoln would have none of this when he helped build the Republican Party. In an 1855 letter he wrote to Owen Lovejoy, an Illinois state representative and an abolitionist, “I am not a Know-Nothing. That is certain. How could I be?” Lincoln continued, “Of their principles [Know-Nothingism] I think little better than I do of those of the slavery extensionists.”

Lincoln divorced the new Republican Party from nativism. German voters in the Midwest were attracted to the party’s support for immigration and laws, like the Homestead Act and speedy naturalizations, that rebuked the nativists. Modern Republicans would be wise to learn from Lincoln’s inclusive vision. A nativist turn would rebuke the party’s principles while paying a high long-term political cost.

trump-and-lincoln

Politics

Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump and the FBI Mess

UPDATE:  With the Fox News retraction of its story about leaks and FBI Director Comey’s announcement that the FBI is not recommending charges against Hillary Clinton, this post is outdated.  There is no question that the two central issues raised by it:  1)  Hillary Clinton’s

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A Good Summary of the FBI Investigation of Hillary Clinton and the Associated Controversies Surrounding It

Perhaps the most central issue in the election right now concerns the status of the FBI’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.  While the issue was never going away simply because the poor judgment exercised by Clinton in choosing to use a private server in the first place, the questionable legality of her decision to do so, and the unknown implications of the possibility that classified materials were acquired by foreign, and possibly, hostile foreign, actors, there had appeared to be some resolution of the issue in terms of its political effects, particularly with regard to this election. The issue had been seemingly thoroughly investigated by official sources, dissected by political, legal, and media analysts, and debated in a public forum. Voters had an opportunity to consider its importance and make their decisions accordingly.

Yet, the revelation last week that the FBI had grounds for reopening the investigation, coupled with a series of leaks from the FBI about the current status of the investigation, has not only brought the issue back to the forefront, but has also created considerable uncertainty about the implications of this issue for the presidential election.  If the leaks turn out to be correct, it is possible that we could have a newly-elected president who might very soon be facing federal indictment.  However, it is also possible that the leaks are politically motivated attacks by FBI employees who are either frustrated that higher ranking officials did not believe that their investigations had produced sufficient evidence of wrongdoing to pursue a case against Hillary Clinton or who are using their positions in government and anonymity to impact the outcome of the election.  Of course, if the latter were to be demonstrated, the people leaking the information might very well be more guilty of criminal behavior than the person that they are accusing.

No matter which theory is closer to the truth, however, it is highly unlikely that it will be possible to shed much light on the issue prior to the election next week.  Voters will ultimately have to decide based on incomplete information and dramatically conflictual accounts without the ability to process either the probability that either side is more likely to be accurate or the possible implications of one version of events being closer to the reality.

Further complicating this process is that most people are locked in news source “echo chambers” were only side of any issue is presented and then sourced and re-sourced so that it appears that a sparse bit of information is widely known and widely circulated.  People are persuaded by the fact that the same information appears in the several different news sources that they check and use this to conclude that it is more likely to be true.  Because they never bother to examine other news sources, partially because they have convinced themselves that these sources are “biased”, they are never exposed to the other side of the argument or potentially contradictory evidence.

Provided below is my best effort to find sources that are commenting on the issue in reasonably intelligent ways.  The list is not comprehensive and include arguments about fact, interpretation of fact, and implication of possible facts that would certainly be disputed by either side.  The decision about what sources to include revolved around meeting at least one of these two criteria.

1)  Was the news source the original reporter of a story?  In other words, it is a report based on a source, even if the source was anonymous.  Part of the problem with some news sources is that they take a claim made in original news source and exaggerate the claims made in it and then as these claims get further and further from the original news source, the arguments being made become further and further from reality.

2)  Does the news source attempt to consider both sides of the issue?  Does the news source attempt to provide the factual evidence or arguments used by both sides of the controversy, even if it ultimately take a position on the claims being made?

Sources that Suggest that This Story is a Serious Issue for Hillary Clinton

Fox News reports that Clinton indictment over Clinton Foundation is “highly likely”

Bret Bair: Anonymous FBI sources say Clinton case is likely moving toward indictment

Bret Bair says that there is “high confidence” in FBI that Clinton investigations will continue after the election.

Fox News reports that there is a 99% chance that up to 5 foreign intelligence agencies hacked Clinton email server, citing anonymous FBI sources

Conflict in FBI over how aggressively to pursue Clinton investigation

Debate over whether Comey letter was unprecedented

The Full Text of the Comey Letter

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Sources that Suggest that This Story is being Exaggerated for Political Purposes

Bret Bair retracts statements about pending indictment and high degree of certainty about foreign hacking of Clinton emails.

Public FBI statements seem to be driven by “fear of leaks”

Doubts emerge about Fox News reports on FBI Clinton Foundation investigation

FBI leaks motivated by pro-Trump FBI agents acting without authority of FBI

Claims that Hillary Clinton is going to be indicted over Clinton Foundation are just “not true.”

The FBI is “Trumpland” and leaks are politically motivated

FBI examining “faked” document being used to discredit Hillary Clinton ahead of election

Guiliani brags about ties to FBI, hinting at possibility of more scandals for Clinton.

Guiliani acknowledges that FBI sources are leaking information to Trump campaign

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Donald Trump’s “fanboy” in FBI New York field office

The White House supports Comey’s “character” but questions his “intentions”

The Very Political James Comey

Last 3 Attorney Generals, including 2 Republicans, Criticize FBI Director James Comey

Bush Attorney General Alberto Gonzales Critical of FBI Director James Comey

30 State Attorney Generals, Both Republicans and Democrats, Criticize FBI Director James Comey

Republican criticism of FBI Director James Comey is growing

What’s a Voter to Do?

Probably the most rational perspective to take on this is not to draw ANY new conclusions about this issue prior to voting unless an official statement is made of formal legal action by the Department of Justice.  The FBI does not have prosecutorial authority and cannot make decisions about prosecutions under any circumstances.  The fact that the FBI is not making any official public announcements about any of these investigations means that, by default, there is, at best, disagreement and uncertainty within the department about these ongoing, and perhaps, completed investigations, and, at worst, no ongoing investigations and these current leaks are simply politically motivated efforts to effect the election.

Trump has considerable motivation to promote this story, as it appears to be the one of the few winning arguments for his candidacy relative to Hillary Clinton that has gained traction with voters all year and could conceivably help him win the election next week.  Yet, voters should keep in mind that Trump has consistently misrepresented basic facts about the FBI investigation.  So it is difficult to trust his interpretations of this issue when he has not been trustworthy in the past in  accurately stating what is known and unknown about the past and current investigations.

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It is probably also important to keep in mind that these new stories are appearing in the context of accusations made about Donald Trump with regard to his relationship with Russia and its role in hacking into the Democratic National Committee. There are inquiries being made about the ties of current and former Trump advisors and their connection to the Russian government. There have been accusations that Trump has his own server problem in that there were links between a Trump campaign server and a Russian government server, suggesting possible communication between the two. It is possible that these stories are being generated either from within or from outside of the FBI to detract attention away form possible Trump scandals.

There are also reports of ongoing FBI investigations into an outside source providing faked documents to the FBI to provoke new investigations into the Clinton campaign.  The existence of these documents has not been confirmed by the FBI and obviously, if they do exist, their source would not be known.  However, it is possible that the news stories relating to the FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton over the past week have been orchestrated by the Trump campaign to produce to the “game-changing” event that it needed to save itself from what was almost certain defeat.

It is still possible that there is evidence that will lead to a future indictment against Hillary Clinton.  But there has been no new information that has been made public suggesting that this is any more likely than it was one month ago.  Indeed, the most disturbing accusations came from Bret Bair’s Fox News Report which he has subsequently retracted.

The problem with Hillary Clinton and the integrity of her conduct has always been an issue in this election and it continues to be one.  However, a voter that believed that the integrity issue was not serious enough to prevent him or her from voting for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump should likely not change his or her mind now based on these news reports.  There is no good reason to think that these reports are indications of any change in the investigation or new revelations about her conduct that would change how one perceives the issues or the candidates.  Both candidates come with great risk.  If one concluded before the past two weeks that Clinton was a safer choice than Trump, the events of the past two weeks should probably do nothing that alter that assessment.

Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and the FBI Mess

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Politics

Great Leaders

One of the basic lessons that we can learn from world history that is almost irrefutable is that those who build walls or seek to isolate themselves or withdraw to protect and preserve and prevent or limit inevitable change ALWAYS lose in the end. We will either look back on this in 20 years and laugh at the absurdity of what Trump has been proposing or someone else will look back in 200 years at the ruins of a crumbled civilization and wonder how we could have inflicted such damage upon ourselves. Either way, there is no chance that anyone will be looking back at this moment and reflecting positively on Donald Trump or what his campaign says about our country or its citizenry. We owe ourselves and our children something much better than this.