…American “journalism” persists.
…American “journalism” persists.
Up and voting before dawn
❝ It’s not an accident that Doug Jones was so popular among black voters. He prosecuted two Ku Klux Klan members for the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham that killed four black girls in 1963. Mr. Jones also campaigned with quality black surrogates, like the former basketball player Charles Barkley, Senator Cory Booker, the former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick, Representative John Lewis and Representative Terri Sewell, Alabama’s only congressional Democrat. Mr. Obama even recorded a robocall for him. Mr. Jones visited black churches and historically black colleges, and focused much of his get-out-the-vote effort on black voters…
❝ Mr. Jones’s victory should wake up the Democratic Party. Black people made up 13 percent of Democratic voters in 1992, but that figure rose to 23 percent by 2014. Yet a majority of them think the party takes them for granted and doesn’t even try to win their votes, according to a 2017 survey. We are drowning in reports on how Democrats can win the white working class. But blacks are the ones who have a much more robust history of turning out to vote and winning elections for Democrats.
Nationally, I couldn’t agree more with this premise. Most places I’ve lived and worked throughout this nation, incumbent Democrats work hardest at joining whatever is the Old Guard…who, in turn, work hardest at absorbing insurgent candidates into that cadre which generally gets campaign funding in equal measure to Republicans. The closest either wing of America’s bourgeois democracy gets to classless. They both are led by and funded by the same class.
They have a tough time trying to fold the independence and courage of America’s Black Liberation soldiers into the Democratic Party. Outside of joiners willing to submit to any epoch’s white middle-class analysis. Whatever that pallid imitation of a platform may be that year. Include independent Hispanic thinkers into that army and you must recognize it takes politicians truly blinded by their self-importance to ignore the point of the spear that can puncture the stinking gasbag entity that is today’s Republican Party.
❝ In 2015, a blockbuster study came to a surprising conclusion: Middle-aged white Americans are dying younger for the first time in decades, despite positive life expectancy trends in other wealthy countries and other segments of the US population.
The research, by Princeton University’s Anne Case and Angus Deaton, highlighted the links between economic struggles, suicides, and alcohol and drug overdoses…Since then, Case and Deaton have been working to more fully explain their findings…
❝ In a new 60-page paper, “Mortality and morbidity in the 21st Century,” out in draft form in the Brookings Papers on Economic Activity…the researchers weave a narrative of “cumulative disadvantage” over a lifetime for white people ages 45 through 54, particularly those with low levels of education.
Along with worsening job prospects over the past several decades, this group has seen their chances of a stable marriage and family decline, along with their overall health. To manage their despair about the gap between their hopes and what’s come of their lives, they’ve often turned to drugs, alcohol, and suicide.
Meanwhile, gains in fighting heart disease have stalled, and rates of obesity and diabetes have ploddingly climbed.
Here are the five big takeaways from the researchers’ new opus.
❝ 1) Suicides, alcohol, and drug overdose deaths have gone up across the entire country…It’s not just a rural problem…
2) Deaths from chronic diseases such as diabetes have been rising…
3) The least-educated Americans are suffering the most…
4) Other nonwhite racial groups aren’t experiencing the same mortality uptick — so it’s not just about income…
5) This story is unique to the US…
❝ If American wants to turn the trend around, then it has to become a little more like other countries with more generous safety nets and more accessible health care, the researchers said. Introducing a single-payer health system, for example, or value-added or goods and services taxes that support a stronger safety net would be top of their policy wish list…
America right now is, of course, moving in the opposite direction under Trump, and shredding the safety net…
No one ever complained about American voters being quick to react to economic and political dangers threatening their lives and lifestyle. The opposite prevails courtesy of pundits, priests and – I would venture – a lockstep 2-party political hierarchy that severely limits opportunities for change outside the boundaries of obedience.
It may be that the contemptible, sneering class warfare now being inflicted in tandem by Trump and neo-con Republicans will provoke sufficient opposition to rise fast enough and deep enough to flush out the Democratic Party deadwood. I hope so.
That doesn’t mean I’m confident.
As the nation begins the process of electing a new president, the roles of the Republican and Democratic parties are undergoing fundamental shifts that are threatening their impact on both elections and policy.
Built in the 19th century, grown dominant in the 20th, they are largely out of date in this new age.
Folks ignorant of American political history need to know that up through the end of World War 2 alternative parties, third parties, even radical parties were often successful forces in local, state and national politics. Part of the purpose of McCarthyism and the domestic portion of the Cold war was the suppression of independent electoral politics. Americans have been thoroughly brainwashed into believing 2-party politics is God’s Will, the core of constitutional freedom.
They – the 2 old parties – still control the ballot and machinery such as the primaries. But they do not hold the loyalty of the people. The largest party in America now is no party – with the ranks of people calling themselves independents at the highest level in more than 75 years of polling. The parties do not control the message. People learn about politics from social media instead of traditional means such as mailings or campaign rallies. And the parties are no longer the sole banker of politics. Big-money interests now effectively create shadow parties with extensive networks of donors of their own.
The result: People are tuning out and turning away.
In 2012, average voter turnout for statewide primaries for president, governor and U.S. Senate plunged to its lowest level since the modern primary system became popular in 1972…
Just 29 percent called themselves Democrats last year, it found, “making it safe to conclude that the current (number) is also the low point in Gallup polling history.” Republican loyalty was only 1 percentage point above its recent low of 25 percent three years ago.
The bloc of independents reached 40 percent in 2011, and it has stayed at or above that level ever since…
Most indifferent to parties: young Americans. Nearly half the millennials identified as independents in 2014, Pew found, more than the combined total of those willing to be called either Democrats or Republicans…
Historically, children adopted their parents’ political views, including identification with the two major parties. Not anymore.
Millennials get information from sources other than from family dinners, neighbors or campaign brochures. If something piques their interest, they turn to Twitter, text messaging, The Skimm and other modern forms of instant communication…
Political parties are seen as too narrowly focused, too interested in keeping incumbents in office.
They gerrymander congressional districts to maximize their chances so that election after election only a handful of House of Representatives races are true contests. Of the House’s 435 seats, 402 incumbents are considered safe bets for re-election this year, said the nonpartisan Rothenberg & Gonzales Political Report.
Those safely partisan seats help keep Washington gridlocked – and turn off more Americans…
The parties now thrive by firing up the fringes. Republicans once had a strong bloc of abortion-rights supporters, for example, but in 1976 the party formally included in its platform support for a constitutional amendment “to restore protection of the right to life for unborn children.”
It’s now unmistakably the anti-abortion party, the comfortable home for conservatives and therefore the party that dominates the South and the Rocky Mountain West. Democrats are the party of the Northeast and the West Coast…That generally includes lots more folks with better than a 6th grade reading level.
While independents are gaining clout, so are the big-money groups that now operate as virtual political parties…Take Freedom Partners, an organization sponsored by brothers Charles and David Koch of Wichita, Kansas. Last year, the group committed to spend $889 million on politics and policy in 2015 and 2016…
And the Koch network does more than just spend money. Twice each year it hosts about 400 executives, who pay dues of $100,000 each, for meetings on politics and policies. And its spending goes beyond the planned $250 million to help candidates, to include grants to organizations to help promote small-government policies as well as college scholarships and fellowships.
As Peter White, a cabin manager in Nottingham, N.H., put it, “You feel the two parties both work for Wall Street and don’t care who wins.”
The chunk of the article I left out is mostly ideological pimping for the wonders of middle-of-the-road folks who feel left out nowadays. They still are the group the two old parties try to rope into obedience. True independence of thought and progress – which includes fiscal conservatism as often as progressive social and structural reforms – scares the crap out of party loyalists of either Republican or Democrat flavor.
Segments of the discussion about new media, the facile communications available with amazing speed, nowadays, are something everyone now understands as part of the matrix of coming change. Personally, I think the biggest significant conflict still lies between top-down leadership and grassroots activism. Conflicts as critical to the Left as the Right – though I think the Leftish flavor of populism, equal rights and personal liberty will succeed in grassroots building. Rightwing ideologues ranging from Ayn Rand out-of-date to Ted Cruz/Donald Trump out-of-date should fail and will.
Cartoon of the day – and more years than I’ve been alive.
Same as it ever was.
Years back, a law professor told me that when she teaches a class on the drawing of legislative districts, she leaves the issue of multi-member districts for last because it solves all the problems too well and makes the rest of the material uninteresting.
I was reminded of that when I read Kim Soffen’s Upshot column about the way geography rather than gerrymandering disadvantages Democrats in Florida when it comes to the US House of Representatives.
Everything she writes is true. Given the concentration of the state’s Democratic Party voters in high-density, deeply blue areas around Miami, it is extremely “natural” to draw a map that has a heavy GOP tilt.
But even though every state in the union does it this way, it’s not a law of nature that you have to allocate Florida’s 27 House seats by dividing the state into 27 equal population slices. You could easily treat the state as one 27-member district whose members are elected proportionately. That’s how they do it in Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, and many other countries that prefer not to be beset by highly politicized district boundary questions. A really big state like California or Texas you might want to split into two or three multi-member districts…
The point, however, is that how to create a fair system, in which the number of seats in a legislature that a party receives is proportional to the number of votes it receives, is a solved problem.
The trouble for the United States is a deeply misguided 1967 law that banned multi-member districts. The government’s concern was that a state like Georgia might say, “We’ll just elect all 14 of our House members at large,” and that way no African Americans would get elected. Of course this concern doesn’t apply to a proportional system, which, if anything, would have the opposite result — you could ensure that black and Latino members would get elected without needing to resort to funny-looking majority-minority district boundaries. So the problem of holding fair elections in Florida isn’t unsolvable, but it will take an act of Congress to fix — which is almost as bad.
Doing anything up to and beyond reason to keep the 2 useless parties in power gets you into quandaries like this. There are a few folks in Congress with the gumption to introduce legislation to correct this. Maybe – as we sneak up on the next census – there may be a for-real attempt to sort out democracy.
Who knows? Maybe even lose the silliness of the Electoral College designed to protect white men who also were major land owners/slave owners.
Nice piece of writing from @mattyglesias.