Thursday, January 31, 2019

Second Thoughts: Election Day as Holiday?

I appreciate the sentiment behind Election Day As Holiday. But that alone won't fix everything - it may not even be the best way to fix things. We also need to carefully consider all the unintended consequences, especially to child care and public transit.

Think it all the way through. What if your kid's school and the bus line closes on Election Day Holiday and your job does not? Then you're in worse shape than you would be on a normal working weekday. And there's likely to be a serious class division as to who actually gets the holiday.

Public safety doesn't close. Hospitals don't close. Radio stations don't close (my main experience in working holidays). And increasingly, unfortunately, retail doesn't close.

I am privileged enough, thanks to my union, that I got a nice four days off, two with pay and two weekend days, at Christmas. But that was 21 through 25 and I had to work on the 26th, so my schedule had me driving home through rural parts of Wisconsin and Iowa on Christmas morning.

Nearly every gas station was open. If they make you work on CHRISTMAS, do you think you're getting Election Day off?

We need to stop thinking of Election "Day" and think in terms of Election Season. A nationwide extended early voting period like Iowa has, including nights and weekends and satellite locations other than government offices, would do more good than a single day holiday.

Personally, rather than a holiday, I'd like to see us do what most other Western democracies do: vote on Sunday. But most countries are more secular, and zero odds that churches will accept it.

One way I think an Election Day holiday would help: freeing up a pool of people to serve as pollworkers. If the schools close, that also addresses school security concerns (which I think are overblown, but I hear them)

But what we lose with closed schools: Kids seeing grownups vote and learning the behavior, and voters who may not have students seeing the schools.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Thoughts on Howard Schultz

My Howard Schultz take is heavily influenced by this graph:

There are very few voters in his economic conservative/social liberal elite niche, but you see a LOT of social conservative/economic liberal working class voters. Two entire generations of Southern Democratic New Deal segregationists lived in that quadrant of the graph.

Donald Trump was kind of this, or could have been, if he had followed through on his vague talk of infrastructure. But after two years of government and passing every tax cut for the rich McConnell and Ryan served up, no one takes that seriously anymore.

The Economically Liberal Socially Conservative platform almost writes itself:
  • It starts with a "Higher Wages For Real Americans" slogan: a minimum wage increase coupled to mass deportation (which I still think is End Game for the Steve King base).
  • Free college/voc ed? Sure - but with an end to tenure and affirmative action, curriculum restrictions on "political correctness," a military service requirement, and limited to citizens only.
  • Medicare For All but with with no abortion/family planning component and a strict work requirement - and again, citizens only.
  • A WPA style program replaces public assistance. The projects are rural highways (and definitely not parks, wind and solar power, or bike trails)
  • Pay for it with raised taxes on millionaires; but cut the gasoline tax. (Rural folks drive long distances in fuel-inefficient trucks.)
All that is interesting, if very scary. Not to go You Know Who Else but it applies: 1930s Germany expanded social programs - as long as you were a hetero non-disabled non-Jewish non-leftist ethnic German. If you weren't, well...

None of this has much to do with Howard Schultz. All he brings to the table is an excuse for Trump-queasy Republicans who can't quite bring themselves to go all the way and mark the D (and don't think that's an accident). He's Evan McMullin without the national security experience and without the Mormon connection that got him into double digits in Utah.

But you don't need double digits anywhere, you just need the right numbers in the right states, da?

Monday, January 28, 2019

Thoughts on Sanders version 2.020

At the risk of getting ratioed by trolls, some thoughts on Sanders version 2.020. All of this is analysis, as objective as I can make it, and I’m not planning to endorse before the caucuses.

First some setup. There are very few general election swing voters left. The floor for both parties used to be in the 37% range (Goldwater & McGovern). That left 25% of voters persuadable. Now that floor is closer to 45% and both sides were close to that at Hillary 48, Trump 46..

That leaves only 10% persuadable – but not persuadable in a traditional way. There are two remaining swing groups of about equal size, roughly 5% of the full electorate, and persuading these two groups is a mutually exclusive task.
(Aside: The Republicans in general and Trump in particular have moved far enough to the right that there is no breathing room for fringe parties of the far right; the Constitution Party polled just 0.15%.)
The first swing group is roughly in the center: the tiny handful of pure Independents, along with moderate-right suburbanites who were turned off by Trump.

Some of these voters held their noses for Trump, and others scattered to McMullin or the Libertarians. Some, in 2016 and especially in 2018, went all the way to the Democrats, and that group may expand after four years of Trump and with a non-Hillary heading the Democratic ticket.

The other swing group is the left edge of the electorate. This brings us back to Sanders, and the unfortunate need to revisit 2016. 

Leave aside all the discussion about How 2016 Went Down (the word “rigged” gets you blocked). It’s not relevant to the point here.

The vote totals show Sanders with 43% of the primary vote. (That was NOT 43% for “Socialism”.) Round that up to half for the sake of this discussion: half the primary vote, and in a 50-50 nation that’s 25% of the general electorate.

Half of that Sanders primary vote was simply Not Hillary. Whether that is misogyny, 25 years of anti-Hillary propaganda, or just general distaste does not matter. If you wanted to vote Not Hillary, Sanders was the only option – and 2020 will not be a binary primary.

So take away half of Sanders 2016 support and scatter it a dozen ways. That gets you down to 25% of the Democratic primary electorate and 12-13% of the whole electorate.

Within this share, about half of Sanders support was based on a policy/ideology preference of moving the Democrats in a more progressive direction. Sanders won all of this in 2016, but will now have to compete for it with several other candidates: Harris, Warren, Brown, whoever.
(Gabbard is barely viable anyway, but if Sanders gets in she is done, since the biggest thing people liked about her was her Sanders support. No one is going to pick The Surrogate over The Dude Himself.)
This Move The Democrats Left share is actually bigger than 25% of the primary voters because many in this niche voted for Clinton anyway because of Woman President or various issues with Sanders (not a D, personal history, personal finances, etc). I count myself among this group.

So that’s ¾ of the 2016 Sanders voters. Now we are down to the ballpark of 12% of the primary electorate – which is VERY close to what Sanders is polling -  and 6% of the general election voters, which is the third party/write-in share of the 2016 vote.

This group is responding specifically to Sanders and his rhetorical style – the Millionaires And Billionaires, the Oligarchy, the specific word Socialism, and his historic hostility to, and refusal to join, the Democratic Party.

I understand this because I used to BE this. You may call me “establishment” now but I spend a whole grad school semester writing a Bernie Sanders paper – in 19-freakin-90, back when Jesse Jackson was considered the bleeding left edge.

So I think it’s a good thing that these voters have someone speaking to them, which I did not get to have during that stage of my political growth.

And Sanders and his supporters have pushed the left edge of the Overton Window quite a ways (but not as far as Trumpism has pushed it in the opposite direction).

Some share of these voters – let’s again say half – will, in a swing state or a close race, “hold their noses” for the Democratic nominee just as I did for Dukakis. This share will grow with a non-Hillary nominee. And as much as “hold my nose” grates on me, it’s a vote & we’ll take it.

This Hold My Nose vote is among that 10% that Sanders is polling now for the 2020 nomination. So that accounts for 7/8 of the Sanders vote. Let’s round that up to 90% of 2016 Sanders supporters: Reasonable people who play by the rules, written and unwritten. I have no quarrel with them.

Now we are down to the final group: Just 5 or 6% of primary voters, and 2 or 3% of the general election voters.

This group believes My Vote Has To Be Earned, but nothing can Earn it other than the Sanders issues worded in the Sanders style. They want The Revolution Now. They want to replace the Democrats with a Euro-style explicitly socialist party. Some get their kicks from disruption.

This fringe sliver also includes the personality cult. Every candidate has a little personality cult around them (Obama and Hillary both did and Trump sure does) but Sanders has a bigger share than any American politician other than the Pauls.
(Someone really needs to study the Libertarian-Socialist-Alternative-Bro-ЯevolutioИ dynamic. Bernie Sanders was the worst thing that ever happened to Rand Paul.)
This final 2-3% of voters is unreachable. They are going to do what they are going to do: a write in, a Stein vote, a Libertarian vote.

Or even a Trolling Trump Susan Sarandon Things Have To Get Worse So The ЯevolutioИ Happens Faster vote. At each stage of caucus and convention process, through self-selection, these toxic voters make up a bigger share of the people showing up.

The only way to win these votes is to nominate Sanders. And in a cost-benefit analysis, that’s a net loss of votes.

The Sanders Style that turns on the hipsters in the grad student proletariat (again, this is only about 10% of ALL Sanders voters) turns OFF that 5% chunk in the middle that is trying to choose between the Democrat, a McMullin-style independent, or a reluctant Trump vote.

That’s where Hillary made gains in 2016 – and another candidate will be better positioned to build on those. That’s where we gained seats in 2018 – in the suburbs.

These reluctant Against Trump rather than For The Democrat voters will recoil at Revolution Rhetoric. Most Americans hear “socialism” & think of what the parlance of the left calls “tankies”: old-school Stalinists. Doesn’t matter if that’s “fair,” since when does “fair” matter?

It’s a tradeoff: If the Democratic nominee says the things s/he needs to Earn X number of Bernie Or Bust Votes, or is the person they want, s/he will lose Y number of Reluctant Moderate Against Trump votes. The idea is to get the largest number, and I contend that Y > X.

In short:
Electorate ½ D ½ R.
Ds ½ Hillary ½ Bernie.
Bernie 2016 was ½ Not Hillary ½ Move Ds Left.
Move Ds Left is ½ Open To Other Progressives ½ Core Bernie.
Core Bernie is ½ Hold Nose for Nominee ½ Bernie or Bust.
Don't waste energy on ½ of ½ of ½ of ½ of ½.

So candidates, reach out to the reasonable 90% of the 2016 Sanders vote – the Move The Democrats Left voters, and even to the Hold My Nose voters. But push back against the forces of destruction. They make noise out of all proportion to their numbers.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Feenstra (and more?) vs. King

Well, the inimitable Steve King has finally put his foot in his mouth one too many times, and now he has a serious primary challenge coming up from state senator Randy Feenstra.

This isn't a token challenge like Cyndi Hanson ran last year, or even a half-serious effort like Rick Bertrand tried in 2016. As you can tell from the state and even national Republicans poling on, this is the real thing.

And it's the correct strategy. You can't win a GOP primary running as a moderate, and Feenstra, who represents the number one Republican district in the state senate (the Orange Free State of Sioux County)  is as conservative as they get.  He'll get the moderate's votes anyway, just for being Not Steve King.

If elected, Feenstra will have exactly the same voting record, with none of the embarrassment. He's Steve King without  the Geert Wilders retweets - and without the weakness of running 10%  behind the ticket in a general election.

That weakness is King's real crime in the eyes of Republican leaders. This challenge is not happening because it's the right thing to do. It's happening because of Democrat J.D. Scholten's near miss last year proved that King has become an under-performing liability to the rest of the party.

The GOP is worried that in a presidential year, King could actually lose the seat, and losing one vote in the US House for two years (because a Democrat would certainly lose next cycle to a non-King R) is a higher price then they are willing to pay. Without King IA04 is rock solid Safe R.

So Democrats  need to be careful what we wish for in the primary. If we want to hold the seat on a fluke for two years, cross our fingers, and see what happens in 2022 redistricting, the best scenario is a narrow King primary win. Or, better yet - a primary where King wins with under 50% because of multiple opponents (the technical term is "Clown Car Effect").

But if we just want to exchange King for an equally conservative but less offensive Republican, that may be worth crossing over. (Personally I'm opposed to crossing over in primaries, for any reason, but I seem to be one of the few any more.)

Democratic voters considering a crossover also need to think about a possible US Senate primary. If there's an interesting race developing, voters will have to choose between Beat King Now and Who Can Beat Ernst Later.

The Senate primary may also look suddenly attractive to Scholten or another northwest Iowa Democrat. If you get into the 4th District race, and King loses the primary, you just lost 10 points off your general election tally and the race is over. You also lose all the out of district and out of state money you can raise with the concise fundraising pitch "I'm running against Steve King."

This discounts the possibility of strategic voting, Democrats crossing over to stick Republicans with the weaker candidate, King. (The technical term is "ratfucking.") Very  few voters think or vote like that. They cross over to sincerely vote  for (or against) someone.

If there's a big crossover in Story County of students and professors eager to dump King, his team will get a heads up and have time to react- because of the primary being at the spring semester/summer session break, a lot of folks will have to vote early.

Closer to home for Feenstra, his state senate seat is on the presidential cycle, so it's up or out. That means an open seat primary for that job on his home turf, and the turnout spike helps him. When this seat was up in 2004, it saw general election level turnout in the Republican primary, because in Sioux County the primary is the de facto general election. Kind of like my county only opposite and more so.

But four years later, when Dave Mulder retired, Feenstra walked into the seat unopposed, and in three terms he has never had a primary OR general election opponent. In fact, he may not even have had an opponent when he was Sioux County treasurer before that. So he's somewhat untested as a candidate. You know who else was a county treasurer in that same era - a certain governor.

Feenstra briefly considered a run for state treasurer in 2009 but didn't; instead the GOP ran one Dave Jamison, who was both a county treasurer and a close "ally" of Kim Reynolds, but has had, well, a few problems of late...

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Why Romney Can Speak More Freely

A lot, maybe too much, is being made of Mitt Romney's Washington Post piece attacking Donald Trump on character:
To a great degree, a presidency shapes the public character of the nation. A president should unite us and inspire us to follow “our better angels.” A president should demonstrate the essential qualities of honesty and integrity, and elevate the national discourse with comity and mutual respect. As a nation, we have been blessed with presidents who have called on the greatness of the American spirit. With the nation so divided, resentful and angry, presidential leadership in qualities of character is indispensable. And it is in this province where the incumbent’s shortfall has been most glaring.

I will support policies that I believe are in the best interest of the country and my state...
 (Which leaves him room to tsk-tsk Trump while voting for his agenda)
...and oppose those that are not. I do not intend to comment on every tweet or fault. But I will speak out against significant statements or actions that are divisive, racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, dishonest or destructive to democratic institutions.

There's a reason why Romney is able to go after Trump on his way (back) into office, instead of on his way out which is the only time most other Republican officials suddenly find fault. And that reason is not Romney's standing as the Republicans' presidential nominee once removed.

It's his current home state (he's so rich he has three), Utah.

Utah, and to a lesser extent the next-door Mormon part of south Idaho, was the only place where social conservatives rebelled against Donald Trump over character issues. Trump took only 45% in one of the most conservative states in the nation. Conservative independent Evan McMullin, a fellow Mormon and a Utah native, won 21% of the statewide vote.

It's possible that because Utah is SO red, with such a low ceiling for Democrats, that people felt comfortable with a protest vote. If a third of Republicans had defected to a third party in South Carolina, Louisiana, or Mississippi, Hillary Clinton could have relied on a strong black Democratic base in those states and squeaked by with 40% plurality wins. You can kind of see why Republicans stayed in line there.

But that doesn't explain Tennessee, where the Democratic base is smaller with Clinton at 35%. That's beyond reach and safe enough that more Republicans who were truly disturbed by Trump's style and behavior could have safely bolted. Yet Trump was at 61% there, with Gary Johnson just short of 3%. Alabama (Trump 62, Clinton 34) is similar, though Roy Moore has since proved that even Alabama has its limits.

It also doesn't explain the difference between Utah and a couple of other similar red states with similar racial demographics and similar mid-sized cities -  but different religious demographics.
Oklahoma is the clearest example. Hillary Clinton won 29% in Oklahoma, about the same as her 27 in Utah. Yet in Oklahoma, predominantly Southern Baptist, Trump was at 65%.

Nebraska is mixed Catholic and mainline Protestant. It's a less clear example because of their congressional district elector system, but the state as a whole was uncompetitive. Hillary was only at 33, but Trump was still at 59.

The big trade-off - ignoring "grab them by the pussy" in exchange for the judges who will overturn Roe v. Wade - kept social conservative Republicans in the Republican column in most of the country. The only place you see defection at the double digit level is Utah. And that has to be more than just "McMullin is from here" or "it's safe to vote third party in Utah." I don't know exactly what, but that seems to be something uniquely and specifically Mormon.

What all this means is that a substantial part, at least a third, of the Utah Republican base is legitimately Never Trump. So unlike most Trump critics within the GOP, Mitt Romney is not vulnerable to a challenge for re-nomination, which is a bigger threat to most red state Republicans than losing to a Democrat. And that, more than any residual stature from his presidential campaign, is why he is more free to go after Trump than any other Republican with aspirations toward re-election.

That's assuming he would even want to run again in 2024 at age 77. If this Senate term is a one-and-done career valedictory and Romney is an instant lame duck 🦆 he may feel even more free to rhetorically challenge Trump. This will probably not, however, affect his actual voting record.