The politics behind right-wing climate change denial

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“Most Republicans still do not regard climate change as a hoax,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican strategist who worked for Senator Marco Rubio’s presidential campaign. “But the entire climate change debate has now been caught up in the broader polarization of American politics.”

“In some ways,” he added, “it’s become yet another of the long list of litmus test issues that determine whether or not you’re a good Republican.”

pub. 06/2017

A deep dive into Trump/Russia background and history, plus believable speculation

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You’ve probably heard plenty of hushed whispers or outright panic about Russia’s information warfare against the West, but it’s seldom been put in context. We’re going to fix that in our deep dive into exactly how the Trump/Russia saga unfolded. This is one of the most consequential stories of our lifetime, and it’s not over, so get ready to bookmark this piece now.

pub. 05/2017

Why the census is really, really important–and in jeopardy right now

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1. Literally every American social program uses census numbers to allocate resources.

Your fire department, your schools—the data gathered in the decadal census, determines, for example, whether new schools are opened or current schools are shut down. Transportation grants and education grants, among others, are distributed proportionally. If the Veteran’s Administration wants to place a hospital for elderly veterans, they obviously want to select a location heavily populated by elderly veterans. If the numbers are off, the hospital gets mis-sited—and the vets don’t get health care.

pub. 05/2017

Donate to candidates for flippable seats in state legislatures

Screen Shot 2017-03-22 at 11.03.26The folks behind flippable met working on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. They now focus on turning state legislative seats from (R) to (D) in an effort to influence such important policies as redistricting/gerrymandering and voter ID and registration laws. The site will direct you to some of the races that matter most, and you can donate to many of them directly through the site.

For more tips and resources, see the Resources lists, What to Do and What to Read.

Thoughts upon listening to my Representative defend Congress

I recently attended a town hall meeting with one of my representatives, a progressive who largely impressed me. They were preaching to the choir, a liberal audience grateful to be told they weren’t alone in today’s political landscape.

One of the few sticking points arose when audience members criticized Congress as a whole. Aside from pointing out a few policy misconceptions we had, our representative made what seemed to me an astute point: The overgeneralizing and emotionally laden statements we all make about Congress play right into the hands of the opposition.

Okay, so the current version of the Right wants to eliminate government, yes? It resists taxation, single-payer health care, corporate regulations, environmental regulations, firearm regulations, most any kind of regulations–well, other than those on women’s bodies and the violent kind a militarized police impose on minorities and immigrants. Politicians now run and win strictly on criticizing Congress and/or the entire concept of government, demonizing the first as a vague group of corrupt egotists (everyone except your own representatives, of course, people you know who are just doing their best by their constituents) and the second as an endless bureaucracy of faceless workers who don’t deserve their cushy jobs and are just getting in the way of your life (never mind your cousin the underfunded public school teacher or the fact that someone has to authorize your Medicare benefits). These politicians promise to come in as questionably defined “outsiders” who will shake things up, and they win. A lot.

The current president ran almost exclusively on this platform, all criticism of the establishment and few fully-formed policy suggestions. As we’ve seen, constituents hearing such rhetoric will in fact excuse a multitude of sins, even evidence that the politician is effectively part of the “establishment” (say, someone from a liberal city, born into wealth, with many powerful connections) or is himself benefiting from a lack of governmental oversight to the likely detriment of those same constituents (making personal business deals with foreign governments or using federal funds to pay rent on property he owns). Running against government is a winning strategy, as is continuing to dismantle it once you’re in power, because no one will be able to stop you from further using your money and connections to benefit yourself and others like you.

So what happens when those same politicians are involved in scandals? We don’t just say “ooh, that guy was the worst” or “giving people unregulated power is dangerous”, we say “Congress is awful.” Let me say that again: When someone who is actively trying to destroy our government to benefit themselves does something embarrassing or terrible, we imply that our system of government is irredeemably messed up. We grouse about it, looking for an “outsider” to come in and shake things up. And you know what? If those outsiders were all Bernie-style socialists looking for more regulation–thoughtful growth of the system–our loose words might be fine, but in this climate they further encourage voters to support the “government is bad” people. The people who want to eliminate regulations to their own advantage.

What’s the alternative? I’d say “A system in which [Politician] can do [that terrible thing] is messed up, and we need more regulation to prevent such acts in the future.” It’s not about censoring ourselves, it’s about being precise and accurate with our responses, saying exactly what we mean and not spewing our emotional frustration and stopping there. (And if you do believe in destroying the current system, then congratulations, it’s happening–but given the hands doing it, good luck getting a new system you like better.)

You don’t have to like that. You can say “it’s my right to make blanket condemnations of The Powers That Be” and “the establishment really is doing a shit job”. You wouldn’t be wrong, and no one’s stopping you. In fact, they’ll egg you on. And then they’ll vote for the next billionaire who promises to shake things up.

A visual guide to gerrymandering

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Algorithms like this one prioritize compactness — that is, ensuring that voters are geographically close together. One of the telltale signs of gerrymandering is dramatically non-compact districts that squiggle and squirm out in all different directions — evidence of lawmakers trying to bring far-flung voters into a single district in order to achieve the partisan mix that best favors their party. Or, as Obama said: districts that let politicians pick their voters, rather than the other way around.

pub. 01/2016

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Voter ID laws do benefit Republicans.

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In the graph below, we display the turnout gap between whites and Latinos, Asian Americans and African Americans in states with and without strict voter ID laws. In general elections in non-strict states, for instance, the gap between white and Latino turnout is on average 4.9 points….

…But in states with strict ID laws, that gap grows to a substantial 13.2 points. The gap between white turnout and Asian American and African American turnout also increases.

The right side of the figure shows that the same thing happens in primary elections — and more dramatically. For example, the white-black turnout gap grows from 2.5 to 11.6 when a state adds strict ID laws. The racial imbalance in U.S. voting expands.

pub. 02/2017