Thursday, July 11, 2019

The Myth of Liberal Fundamentalism

This is an excerpt from a 1989 report by the Progressive Policy Institute in response to the 1988 election. It's still relevant.
"The Myth of Liberal Fundamentalism: The oldest of these myths is that Democrats have lost presidential elections because they have strayed from traditional liberal orthodoxy. The perpetrators of this myth greet any deviation from liberal dogma, any attempt at innovation with the refrain "We don't need two Republican Parties." Liberal fundamentalists argue that the party's presidential problems stem from insufficiently liberal Democratic candidates who have failed to rally the party's faithful. The facts, however, do not sustain this allegation. Losing candidates Michael Dukakis and Walter Mondale were very successful, in fact in most instances more successful, than 1976 winner Jimmy Carter, in winning over the ideological (and racial) base of the Democratic Party. According to CBS/New York Times exit polls, Dukakis got 82 percent of the liberal vote and 89 percent of the black vote. This is better than Carter, who received 74 percent of the liberal vote and 83 percent of the black vote in 1976. Mondale's loss was so big that he did less well than Carter in most groups, but he still received 71 percent of the liberal vote and fully 91 percent of the black vote. The real problem is not insufficient liberalism on the part of the Democratic nominees; it is rather the fact that during the last two decades, most Democratic nominees have come to be seen as unacceptably liberal."
One of the authors of the report became a domestic policy adviser to Bill Clinton - Clinton used the lessons of this report to win in 1992 and 1996.
I keep hearing that "Clinton was a moderate and she lost." Here's the thing, most voters disagree. According to Pew, 58% of voters viewed Clinton as liberal on most or all issues. Only 28% viewed her as moderate. When it came to Trump, 44% viewed him as conservative and 40% viewed him as moderate.
Clinton lost for the same reason as Dukakis and Mondale - voters considered her to be too liberal.
In Nov 2008, 43% viewed Obama as Liberal, and 45% as Moderate. Compare those numbers to Clinton! Remember the 2008 primary. Obama positioned himself to the right of Clinton on a host of issues - especially health care.
It doesn't matter if polls show that voters agree with a candidate on specific issues. In the end what matters is how voters view the specific candidates.
In short, you win, when voters think you're more moderate...

Sunday, November 18, 2018

It's Possible to Oppose Nancy Pelosi AND to Not Be Sexist

Newsflash: It’s entirely possible to believe that Pelosi should not be Speaker without being a sexist. Especially given that the opposition extends to the entire leadership team (mostly men). The fact that her supporters are using sexism to guilt Democrats into voting for her is s sign of how worried they are that she won’t secure enough votes.

But what I find to be especially ridiculous is the claim the Pelosi deserves to be Speaker because she delivered the House majority to Democrats. There are several problems with this argument: 1) If she’s responsible for the 2018 win, then isn’t she responsible for the 2010, 2012, 2014, and 2016 failure to win the House? Why credit now and no blame then? 2) No one credibly claimed that John Boehner won Republicans the majority in 2010. It was Barack Obama who delivered the House majority to the GOP in 2010. 3) If the Speakership should go to the person responsible for Democrats winning the majority, then Donald Trump should be Speaker. He's the one who drove college educated suburban Republicans away from their party.

Democrats need to embrace a new generation of leadership. The problem being that that new leadership must come from the party’s center - and there is no clear candidate. Democrats won the majority because of the success of moderate candidates in the suburbs once dominated by the GOP. The recent threat by Ocasio-Cortez to recruit progressive candidates to challenge incumbent moderate Democrats is a surefire recipe for becoming the minority party again.

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Enough with the 2010 Obsession

Jealous keeps saying that if 1 million Democrats vote - he wins, because that's what happened in 2010 with O'Malley. There’s no reasonable scenario where fewer than 1 million Democrats turnout to vote in MD’s gubernatorial election. I don’t get the constant references to 2010 & needing 1 million Democrats. There are literally 500,000 more registered voters in 2018. It’s about crossover votes!

The most likely turnout scenario that I see predicts 1.2 to 1.3 million Maryland Democrats voting in this election. I’ve not even bothered w/ models that assume less. 2014’s loss wasn’t a result of low turnout. It was the result of Democratic crossover voters.

Jealous needs to hold Hogan to a lower share of Democrats than the 24% that he won in 2014 - under almost any realistic turnout scenario.

From day one, bringing wayward Democrats home should’ve been strategy number 1.

In the attached models, I assume that Democrats are 58% of all voters (that's better than in 2016) and I then assign Democratic votes to Hogan and Jealous based on various levels of support. Republicans and Other voters are assigned based on an average of the polls conducted in this race.

Jealous tops 1 million votes in each scenario, but loses any time Hogan tops 24% among Democrats.

I don’t offer these as a prediction. I’m only pointing at that everything, everything, comes down to crossover voters. Jealous needs to run against Trump for the next 4 days in an effort to bring Democrats home.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Maryland Politics 2018 - Can Larry Hogan Hold Back the Blue Wave

Maryland has not reelected a Republican governor in over 60 years. Despite that daunting history and clear evidence of Democratic enthusiasm as we near Election Day 2018, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan appears set to defy both history and the Blue Wave that is building nationally. 

How has Hogan managed to withstand the strong national headwinds? Will Hogan's popularity help other Republicans on the ballot in Maryland? 

Larry Hogan is the second most popular governor in the country, enjoys a 70% approval rating, and holds an 18-20 point lead over Democratic challenger Ben Jealous - all in a state where Democrats out number Republicans by a margin of 2 to 1. Will the Blue Wave cause so much as a ripple as it hits the Chesapeake Bay? 

These are just a few of the questions explored by Bryan Sears, Maryland Politics Reporter for The Daily Record, Mileah Kromer, Director of the Goucher Poll at Goucher College, and Todd Eberly, professor of Political Science at St. Mary's College of Maryland.
Bryan Sears - The Daily Record
Mileah Kromer - Director of The Goucher Poll
Todd Eberly, Professor of Political Science at St. Mary's College of Maryland
As Maryland’s public honors college, St. Mary’s offers an undergraduate liberal arts education and small-college experience like those found at exceptional private colleges.St. Mary’s is named for the place it marks: the 17th-century capital of Maryland. 

The Center for the Study of Democracy was founded in 2002 as a joint initiative of St. Mary’s College of Maryland and its partner institution, Historic St. Mary’s City, the site of Maryland’s first capital. The Center was created to promote public service and civic-mindedness, support research, and provide a forum for politicians, government officials, journalists, and scholars to address topics central to the Center's mission.

Familiar Patterns Seen in Maryland Early Voting

After 2 days of early voting I estimated that Maryland was on track for 16% turnout. It ended up at 16.72%. Compared to the 8.33% in 2014, that’s a 100% increase in turnout. That's pretty much the same as the increase in 2016 over 2012. Based on past trends, I believe that we’re on track for overall turnout of 52% or 53%. That would be better than the abnormally low turnout level in 2014, but below 2006 and 2010.

Some folks have been comparing the increase in total early voters between 2014 and 2018. But such a comparison doesn’t actually measure turnout increases. Since 2014, the total number of registered voters in Maryland has increased by 250,000. So to calculate any change in turnout, one needs to compare the percent of registered voters who turned out in 2014 (8.33%) to the percent of early voters who turned out in 2018 (16.72%).

The fact that early vote turnout in 2018 increased by essentially the same rate as 2016 over 2012 offers a reminder that even though early voting doubled in 2016, overall turnout only increased by 5.6%. Early voting turnout is yet to be predictive of overall turnout in Maryland.

The partisan breakdown of early voting is in line with expectations based on prior elections. Democrats were 64% of early voters. This is common in early voting in Maryland. Democrats were 65% of early voters in 2016 and 62% of early voters in 2014. But once Election Day voters were included in the counts, Democrats were 56% & 57% of overall voters, respectively. In other words, Democrats vote early at a higher rate than do other voters.

Looking at the early vote totals by gender also reveals similar patterns. Women cast 57% of the early vote in 2018 as compared to 56% in 2014. Their high watermark was in 2016 when they accounted for 59% of early voters.

Competitive County Executive races appear to have driven turnout above the statewide total in Anne Arundel County, Baltimore County, Howard County, and Montgomery County. The contest between Jesse Colvin and Andy Harris may have helped boost turnout in the counties of the 1st Congressional District - but it's worth noting that Eastern Shore counties have traditionally outpaced the rest of the state in early voting.

Early voting turnout in Western Maryland was low - and it usually is. Baltimore City lagged behind the statewide total - and it usually does. Prince Georges County started out with lackluster turnout, but finished strong and above the statewide total. This is a promising sign for Ben Jealous because Prince Georges County is likely to offer his greatest source of voters.

Same Day voter registration was not a big hit during early voting. Out of the 661,000 early voters only 3,700 registered on-site. That's about one half of 1%. It's likely that folks were not aware of the same day registration option. I'd expect to see more people take advantage of it in the future as they become more aware - much as better awareness of early voting has led to increased turnout in successive elections.

What does all of this mean for the outcome of the governor's race between Larry Hogan and Ben Jealous? Who knows! The early voting patterns are so in line with past early voting patterns that it would be folly to read too much into them. From the very beginning of this election the polls have clearly indicated that the outcome will be determined by Democratic voters and their willingness to crossover and vote for Hogan. Polls since August have consistently shown Hogan receiving support from 30-38% of Democrats. When Hogan won in 2014 it's estimated that nearly 25% of Democrats voted for him. So Ben Jealous needs to have Democratic voters "come back home" and vote for their party. In the end, Jealous needs to hold Hogan to no more than 25% of Democrats. That's a tall order, but the last two weeks of controversy surrounding President Trump may well encourage many Democrats to cast a vote against Trump and his party.

We'll know all of the answers on Tuesday night!

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Hogan/Jealous Election will be Decided by Crossover Voters

In several prior posts I have offered models for the Hogan/Jealous election based on Absentee ballot requests, prior election trends, and allocation of voters based on polling data. In this post, I want to look at all of the early votes and all of the Absentee requests collectively to see if they suggests a Blue Wave is building in Maryland. The Good folks over at Seventh State have already poked some holes in the Blue Wave argument. It's true that early voting is on track to be double what it was in 2014, but that's hardly surprising. Early voting doubled between 2012 and 2016 as well. But that dramatic increase between 2012 and 2016 did not result in a boost in overall turnout. Likewise, 2014 is on track to see turnout at or just below the 2010 level.

The key for this election isn't turnout, it's Democratic crossover voters. Polls taken since August have consistently shown Hogan dominating among Republican voters, winning the vast majority of unaffiliated voters, and receiving the support of between 30 and 37% of Democratic voters. It's easy to apply those partisan breakdowns to the total number of ballots cast or requested as of 10/29/2018. The results are presented in the table below.

If Hogan receives the high end level of support among Democrats then he would theoretically lead among the early votes and absentees by a margin of 53.9% to 43.2%. If Hogan's support among Democrats is at the low end, then the margin would fall to 49.4% to 47.6%.

Under either scenario the news is bad for Jealous because Democrats tend to dominate the early vote. In 2014 and 2016 Democrats accounted for 63% of the early vote, but only 55% of the total vote once Election Day was included. In 2014, Anthony Brown won the early vote by 9 points, but ultimately lost by 5 points. So the early numbers are likely to have the best results for Jealous. In fact, if I allocate the early vote to Jealous, based on Brown's 2014 support and to Hogan based on his 2014 support, then Jealous moves in a 5 point lead - as compared to the 9 point lead that Brown had. 

If the polls are right, and many Democrats intend to vote for Hogan, then all of the focus on turnout has just been background noise.

The 2018 election is unlikely to be determined by turnout. It's going to be determined by how many Democrats crossover and vote for Hogan. If the crossover vote is anywhere near 30% then Hogan wins regardless of turnout. It's not enough for Jealous that Democrats turnout, those Democrats need to come home to their party when they fill in their ballot.  

Monday, October 22, 2018

Updated: Maryland Absentee Ballot Requests May Not Be Good News for Jealous

Originally published on October 11, 2018. Post has been updated to include Absentee Ballots submitted through October 22, 2018.

Faced with daunting poll numbers that suggest Larry Hogan holds a steady double digit lead over Ben Jealous, Maryland Democrats have looked for silver linings wherever they can. In a press release today, they touted an increase in Democratic absentee ballot requests relative to 2014. While it's true that Democratic absentee ballot requests are up significantly, ballot request are up among Republican and unaffiliated voters as well and in 2014, Republicans were more likely to return those ballots.

But the bigger problem for Democrats is the significant cross-over voting suggested by the polls taken thus far in the governors race. According to the most recent polls, Hogan is drawing support from about 33-35% of Democratic voters. Jealous, on the other hand, is only receiving support from about 5% of Republican voters. Among unaffiliated voters, Hogan is supported by 64% to Jealous' 31%. That means that while Hogan will win the lion's share of the Republican and unaffiliated vote, Jealous will share a significant chunk of the Democratic vote with Hogan, while receiving little from Republicans and unaffiliated voters.

It's fairly easy to apply those partisan levels of support to the absentee ballot requests. If you remove the undecided voters from the poll (there aren't many) and use the Gonzales Poll as a guide, then Jealous receives 60% of the Democratic vote, 5.5% of the Republican vote, and 31% of the unaffiliated vote. Hogan receives 37.7% of the Democratic vote, 93% of the Republican vote, and 64% of the unaffiliated vote. The remaining votes from each group go to third party candidates (according to the Gonzales Poll).

As shown in the table, applying those partisan margins to the requested absentee ballots would net 35,288 for Jealous, or 44.4% of the total, and 42,093 for Hogan, or 53% of the total.  Historically, Democrats have dominated the early vote in Maryland. In 2014, Anthony Brown won the early vote by 9 percentage points. 

***Updated with data as of 10/22/2018, Hogan's position has improved. Hogan now receives 53.7% to 43.7% for Jealous. In this model, Jealous doesn't overtake Hogan unless Hogan's share of the Democratic vote drops below 29%. And again, Democrats tend to dominate early voting in Maryland. 

There's no way to tell how the folks who have requested absentee ballots will vote and I'm certainly not predicting a 54% to 44% margin for the election or even among actual absentee ballots. I am saying that any assumption that the absentee ballot requests point to good news for Jealous... is not a safe assumption.

Friday, October 19, 2018

57% Isn't Enough for Jealous to Win

In a recent call with reporters, the Ben Jealous campaign said that they expect Democrats to make up 57% of voters in the gubernatorial election. That would be noticeably better than 2014 when Democrats accounted for only 54.5% of voters. The last time Democrats made up 57% of the electorate was in 2006 when Martin O'Malley defeated Republican incumbent Bob Ehrlich. So would 57% be enough for Jealous to defeat Hogan? Probably not.

Shortly after the 2014 election Jared McDonald with the Center for American Politics and Citizenship at the University of Maryland analyzed the 2014 election results to test the theory that Anthony Brown had lost to Larry Hogan because of poor turnout among Democrats. In his analysis, McDonald substituted the 2002, 2006, and 2010 turnout levels for the actual levels in 2014. He found that Hogan still would've won under any of those scenarios. According to McDonald the reason was clear - it wasn't because Democratic turnout was low, it was because nearly 25% of Democrats had voted for Hogan. In other words, Brown still would've lost under each of the 3 turnout scenarios because of the number of Democrats who crossed over to vote for Hogan.

In the following tables, I update McDonald's analysis by applying the 2006 turnout model (which assumes that 57% of voters are Democrats) to the 2018 electorate. In the first table, I assume that Jealous receives the same level of support from Democratic, Republican, and Unaffiliated voters as had Brown. Hogan receives the same level of support that he received in 2014 as well. Under that scenario, Hogan wins by a margin of nearly 60,000 votes and 2 percentage points. But in 2014, Hogan only received support from 23% of Democrats. Polls conducted thus far in the 2018 race suggest that Hogan will do much better among Democrats as compared to 2014. The Gonzales Research and Marketing poll released a few weeks ago showed Hogan receiving well above 30% of the Democratic vote. If I apply the levels of partisan support from the Gonzales poll to the 2006 turnout model with a 57% Democratic electorate, Hogan wins by over 430,000 votes and 19 percentage points (which is where polls put his lead right now).

Table One: 2006 Turnout Model with 57% Democrats
If we assume that overall turnout will rise to 2006 levels and that the electorate is composed of 57% Democrats then Hogan wins even if he simply maintains his level of support among Democrats from 2014. The Jealous campaign said that their goal is to hold Hogan's support among Democrats to less than 30%. My models suggest that Jealous needs to hold Hogan to less than 23% support from Democrats.

Table Two: 2006 Turnout Model with 61% Democrats
Does this mean that all hope is lost for Jealous? Not quite. Oddly enough, the best case scenario model for Jealous comes from the Goucher poll that found Jealous to be 22 points behind Larry Hogan. Though the poll showed Hogan with a commanding lead, it assumed the electorate would be 61% Democrat and only 27% Republican - a decidedly strong showing by Democrats. Hogan led in that poll because of the high level of support he received from Democrats, but, as shown in Table Two, if Jealous could hold Hogan to his 2014 level of support among Democrats then Jealous would win by 41,000 votes and 2 percentage points. If, however, Hogan receives the level of support suggested by the Gonzales poll then Hogan wins by over 311,000 votes and 14 percentage points. In fact, if Hogan received the support of only 26% of Democratic voters he'd still win even if 61% of voters were Democrats.

So Jealous needs two things to break his way, Democrats need to make up more than 57% of the electorate and Hogan's support among Democrats needs to be at or below its 2014 level. Either of those alone will not suffice. Jealous needs both to happen.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Making Sense of the Hogan/Jealous Polls - Update

Update - The Washington Post poll has Hogan ahead by 20 points, 58% to 38% with a MoE of +/- 4.5%. Factor in the upper and lower bounds of the MoE (as detailed below) and the Post poll is seeing the same race as are the prior polls in Maryland. 

Across all 4 polls, Hogan has an average lead of 18.25 points. I had estimated his lead to be between 16 and 18 points in the original post.

Original Post:

In the span of five weeks, 3 separate polls have been released in the Maryland governors race between Larry Hogan and Ben Jealous. The head to head numbers in each poll looked like this:

Gonzales: Hogan 52% / Jealous 36% - a 16 point gap
Goucher: Hogan 54% / Jealous 32% - a 22 point gap
Mason Dixon: Hogan 52% / Jealous 37% - a 15 point gap

I'm a professor of Political Science and in addition to Public Policy, American, and Maryland Politics I teach statistics, probability, random sampling, and survey design. Before becoming a professor I worked for the state of Maryland and conducted survey research of Maryland residents. One of my studies even helped to convince the Census Bureau to change the way in which they measure the number of folks receiving publicly financed health insurance in their annual Current Population Survey. 

After seeing the Mason Dixon poll I took to social media and wrote that the Goucher, Gonzales, and Mason Dixon polls all saw a similar race. That there really wasn't a difference among them. Needless to say, this observation didn't sit too well with folks who don't study polls or probability. So I thought I'd spend a little time explaining why these surveys are seeing essentially the same race.

It all comes down to the margin of error (MoE) and the level of reported confidence in each survey. Because polls rely on a random sample of the population, researchers can never be 100% certain of the results. The MoE tells us that were the poll to be conducted 100 times the observed results would fall with +/- 3.5 of the results reported in the poll in 95 of the polls. The remaining 5 would fall outside that range. The other way to think of this is that researchers are 95% confident that the true results, were they to survey everyone, would fall with the MoE of the results reported from the random sample. A common way of expressing that is to say that we're 95% confident that the true value falls within +/- 3.5% of the reported result.

The first poll, released by Gonzales Research and Marketing found that Larry Hogan led Ben Jealous 52% to 36% - a difference of 16 percentage points in a poll with a margin of error (MoE) of +/-3.5%. Again, were the survey to be conducted 100 times, the results would fall with a range of +/- 3.5% in 95 of the surveys.

Two weeks ago, Goucher College released a poll reporting a Hogan lead of 54% to Jealous' 32% - a gap of 22 percentages points, with an MoE of +/- 4.5%. 

This week, Mason Dixon released a poll of the race and found Hogan ahead of Jealous by 52% to 37% - a 15 percentage point gap with an MoE of +/- 4%. 

The three polls caused some confusion. Some questioned how the polls could show a lead ranging from 15 points to 22 points. As one would expect, the Jealous campaign pointed to the Mason Dixon poll as evidence that the candidate had gained 7 points on Hogan in the time since the Goucher Poll had come out.

That's good spin, but the truth is a bit more complicated.

The Gonzales Poll had Hogan at 52% and Jealous at 36%. That 3.5% MoE applies to each candidate's reported level of support. So in 95 out of 100 surveys we'd expect the level of support for Hogan to fall within an upper bound of 55.5% and a lower bound of 48.5% (just add and subtract 3.5%) and Jealous would have an upper bound of 39.5% and a lower bound of 32.5%. That means, it's possible the true gap between Hogan and Jealous could be as high as 23 percentage points or as low as 9 percentage points - that's because the MoE for each individual candidate (3.5% in the Gonzales poll) must be doubled when applied to the distance between the candidates, so it becomes an MoE of +/- 7%. Add 7 percentage points to 16% and you get 23%. Subtract 7 percentage points from 16% and you get 9%.

We can easily apply these basic rules to the Goucher and Mason Dixon polls and then see how it is that they are all in the same universe. Goucher had an MoE of +/-4.5% among likely voters. So Hogan's actual possible range was 58.5% at the upper bound to 39.5% at the lower bound. Jealous had a possible range of 36.5% at the upper bound to 27.5% at the lower bound. The MoE for the distance between them would be +/- 9% so that 22 percentage point gap could be as high as 31% or as low as 13%. 

Mason Dixon had an MoE of +/- 4% so Hogan's actual possible range was 56% at the upper bound and 48% at the lower bound. Jealous had a possible range of 41% at the upper bound and 33% at the lower bound. The MoE for the distance between them would be +/- 8% so that 15 point gap could be as high as 23% or as low as 7%. 

The standards for whether or not poll results are significantly different from one another are high in survey research - typically requiring that 95% level of confidence to declare what we call a statistically significant difference. In order to state that the Gonzales, Goucher, and Mason Dixon polls show statistically significant different results there would need to be no overlap in the results after applying the MoE to get the upper and lower bounds of each poll. The Mason Dixon and Gonzales polls had nearly identical results, so it's easy to see that there wasn't a significant difference. It's the Goucher poll that seems to be confusing people. But consider Goucher's 22 point gap and Mason Dixon's 15 point gap. The upper bound of Mason Dixon is 22 percentage points, the lower bound of Goucher is 13 percentage points. They quite clearly overlap. As a result, we cannot say with 95% certainty that the results are statistically different. Obviously, the ranges of the upper and lower bounds of the polls show that were we to repeat these surveys 100 times, there would be times when the upper and lower bounds would not overlap. Because of that we can say that the results may be different, but we'd need to lower our level of certainty or confidence below 95% to a level not considered to be an acceptable test of statistically significant difference within survey research. 

As a result of these basic rules of survey research, the best conclusion is that these 3 polls - spread across the past 5 weeks - are seeing essentially the same race. As a matter of simple politics, it would be wise of the Jealous campaign to tout the Mason Dixon poll as evidence that Hogan's lead is narrowing. Politics is about spin. But as a matter of math, the mathematics of surveys and random sampling, it would be more spin than reality. Based on the results of these 3 polls, and the regions of overlap, I'd place the the likely gap between them in the neighborhood of 16-18 percentage points.

Rumor has it that Gonzales Research and Marketing has a new survey in the field. Once we know those results, we can throw the new numbers into this mix.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Summary Reaction to Hogan/Jealous Debate

At times, the debate seemed like a rehash of the major themes of the 2016 Presidential race but with the party roles reversed - Make Maryland Great Again v. Maryland is Already Great so let’s stay the course. Hogan offered a vision of Maryland as a success and an example to the nation, but Jealous countered with a portrait of a state struggling with job creation, violent crime, drug addiction, & failing schools. It was hard to not see the parallels to the competing visions of America offered by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The strategy worked for Trump, but will it work for Jealous?

A majority of Marylanders believe that the state is heading in the right direction and two-thirds approve of the job that Hogan is doing. It would take more than a single debate to change those perceptions.

Overall, the debate was a draw. I argued that Jealous needed to stop the bleeding in his campaign. I believe he did that. But I didn't see or hear anything that was likely to alter the overall trajectory of the race. The best hope for the Jealous campaign is that his debate performance will result in better fundraising numbers so that it can afford to counter the advertising barrage financed by the Republican Governors Association and the Hogan Campaign.  

Full reaction here.

Reaction to Hogan/Jealous Debate

Four years ago, Larry Hogan and Anthony Brown met for a series of debates in mid-October at a point in campaign where polls showed that the race was tightening as Hogan closed the gap with Brown. Hogan's goal in that debate was clear - he needed to close the deal and convince voters, the majority of whom had tired of Martin O'Malley, that they could trust a Republican to lead the state. Hogan accomplished his goal and won the election.

Hogan and Ben Jealous met for the only debate of 2018 with a very difference election outlook. Jealous trails Hogan by 22 points according to the most recent poll and the gap between Hogan and Jealous is growing. At this point in the election, Jealous doesn't need to close the deal he needs to stop the bleeding.

The exchanged between Hogan and Jealous were testy from the start. In response to a question on economic growth in Maryland both men used their time to accuse the other of citing incorrect data and misleading the voters. Hogan said that Jealous' plan to implement universal healthcare in Maryland would double the state's budget while Jealous argued that rising healthcare costs were keeping businesses from relocating to Maryland. The exchange was a draw.

On criminal justice reform, Hogan highlighted the response to the corruption problems that he inherited and the reform efforts already undertaken by the state. Jealous highlighted his work on criminal justice reform with the NAACP and his work with other governors and mayors. Jealous offered a strong response to Hogan's record, but his frequent references to Donald Trump and Willie Horton (from the 1988 presidential contest between George Bush and Michael Dukakis) seemed out of line and desperate. Hogan won the exchange.

In response to a question about the opioid epidemic, Jealous criticized Hogan for waiting too long to address the problem as overdose deaths increased. Jealous said that the governor should suing pharmaceutical companies instead of accepting campaign donations from them. Hogan deflected by pointing to the task force that he formed to study the problem and being the first govern to declare a state of emergency over an opioid epidemic. The exchange was a draw.

A discussion of the Red Line project in Baltimore City prompted Hogan to defend his record on mass transportation and justified his rejection of the Red Line based on estimates that it would cost too much and deliver too little. Jealous accused Hogan of wanting fast lanes for rich people who can afford the tolls and said that residents in the City feel that the bus system has gotten worse with too much time spent traveling. The exchange was draw.

On closing the achievement gap, Jealous advocated higher pay, qualified teachers, and universal pre-K funded by legalized marijuana. Hogan highlighted record K-12 funding and a lock-box for casino funds dedicated to education. But Jealous spoke more directly to the issue of closing the achievement gap and brought up the challenges faced by schools with inadequate heating and cooling while state money was being sent to private schools via vouchers. Jealous won the exchange.

A question about counties lagging behind in the national economic recovery prompted Hogan to point to the bipartisan More Jobs for Marylanders Program and the fact that job creation is up and unemployment down in all counties. Jealous countered that the state lags neighboring states in job creation and pressed for a higher minimum wage and free college. Jealous then linked economic growth to a need to defend the Affordable Care Act. Hogan responded by reminding that the state has passed access to free community college and pointed to the recent bipartisan deal reached between Hogan and the General Assembly that has resulted in insurance premium reductions under the Affordable Care Act. The exchange was a draw.

A follow-up question asked what each candidate would do for those kids who live outside of the major metropolitan regions. Jealous proposed $2 billion in additional school funding, universal health care, universal broadband, and expanded public transportation in rural areas. Hogan pointed to the transportation and redevelopment money directed to western Maryland. Jealous responded by discussing the work of his parents and the fact that he was raised in California because his parent's marriage was illegal in Maryland. Hogan replied with a clear statement of respect for all that Jealous and his family have endured as well as their service, but reminded that Jealous first registered to vote in Maryland in 2012. The exchange was a draw.

A final question asked what each candidate would say to Donald Trump if they had a chance. Hogan said that he and Jealous have in common that neither of them supported or voted for Donald Trump. Jealous said that he would tell Trump that he'd no longer have a governor who aids and abets his policies. Jealous won the exchange.

On closing arguments, Jealous promised a Maryland where it was easier for voter's children to reach the American dream. Under Hogan, Jealous argues that schools are losing ground, job growth is failing, and health care costs are rising. Then he reiterated his pledge to use casino moneys for schools, bring universal health care, and reduce the prison population. Hogan reminded voters of his pledge to usher in bipartisanship in Maryland and to end extreme partisanship. Hogan offered Maryland as an example to the nation. On closing statements, each candidate offered a vision of Maryland. Jealous portrayed a Maryland moving in the wrong direction and in need of new leadership. Hogan argued that Maryland was moving in the right direction and asked for four more years. The recent Goucher Poll found that most Marylanders believe that Maryland is headed in the right direction and they feel that they are better off than they were four years ago. In order to win, Jealous needs to convince voters that they are wrong about Maryland. Hogan, on the other hand, needs to convince voters that they are right. That's a far easier task. Hogan won the exchange.

At times, the debate seemed like a rehash of the major themes of the 2016 Presidential race but with the party roles reversed - Make Maryland Great Again v. Maryland is Already Great so let’s stay the course. Hogan offered a vision of Maryland as a success and an example to the nation, but Jealous countered with a portrait of a state struggling with job creation, violent crime, drug addiction, & failing schools. It was hard to not see the parallels to the competing visions of America offered by Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. The strategy worked for Trump, but will it work for Jealous?

A majority of Marylanders believe that the state is heading in the right direction and two-thirds approve of the job that Hogan is doing. It would take more than a single debate to change those perceptions. 

Overall, the debate was a draw. I argued that Jealous needed to stop the bleeding in his campaign. I believe he did that. But I didn't see or hear anything that was likely to alter the overall trajectory of the race.The best hope for the Jealous campaign is that his debate performance will result in better fundraising numbers so that it can afford to counter the advertising barrage financed by the Republican Governors Association and the Hogan Campaign.  

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Does Maryland Really Need Revolutionary Health Care Change?

A lot of folks are talking about the need for a Medicare-for-All style health care reform in Maryland. I've said in the past that I support a Federal single-payer health care system. But I do not support such reform at the state level.
Trying to create a single-payer system at the state level is made problematic owing to the federal programs that exist. Those 65 and over, qualified disabled people under 65 years of age, and people with end-Stage Renal Disease are covered by Medicare and cannot opt out - so they would not be part of a state-based single-payer plan - that's 16% of the state. Then you have those in Medicaid or SCHIP (MCHP in Maryland) which is a Federal and State partnership with each covering part of the cost. The Federal government covers about half of the cost for those 900,000 folks, or about 15.5% of the population.
The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services would need to approve any program that would opt Maryland out of the Medicaid program and the Federal government may decide to stop providing half the cost of coverage (billions of dollars) if Maryland opts out of Medicaid/SCHIP. About 6% of Maryland is covered by the ACA and receive subsidies from the Federal government. There's no way to know if the Federal government would pay subsidies once those folks moved to a state single-payer plan. The answer is likely "no" as there would suddenly be "affordable" insurance available to them.
So that's over 1/3 of the state covered by some form of public insurance that would require Federal permission to alter and that could result in billions of lost Federal money to Maryland. If, however, all of those folks remain outside the single-payer state program... well you don't actually have single-payer. Rather the single-player plan would focus on the remaining 2/3 of Marylanders.
Of those who remain, most (60% of state residents) get their insurance through their employers. So that network would be disrupted and there's no way to be certain that folks could keep their current doctors or provider network. But with that 60%, plus the 1/3 on Federal programs, we are now at about 92% of the state with health insurance coverage. Add military coverage and we're at 94% of Marylanders with insurance. Of the 6% who lack coverage, roughly 2/3 are eligible under the ACA but have not enrolled.
So 98% of Marylanders are either covered or are eligible for coverage. That leaves 2% who need to be reached. It seems a bit of stretch to suggest that Maryland should completely upend the insurance market, disrupt the coverage of millions, and risk losing billions in federal dollars all to reach that remaining 2%. And keep in mind that unlike the Federal government, a state cannot run a deficit. So if the single-payer program runs out of funding before the fiscal year ends... there's no money to pay for services. Which is why a single-payer system should be run at the Federal level and not the state level. In recent years, California and Vermont considered and ultimately abandoned plans to pursue state based universal coverage. The TennCare program in Tennessee offers a significant cautionary tale.
Maryland doesn't need revolutionary policy change. It doesn't need an overhaul of the state's entire health care system. It needs a pragmatic and reasonable approach to reach the 2% with no options while protecting and stabilizing markets for those with coverage. It needs the type of policy and bipartisan approach that recently secured a waiver to protect the state's individual market under the ACA. Maryland needs its famous middle temperament. Calling for revolutionary change may be a great way to rally voters, but it's not necessarily the most responsible way to govern a state or make policy.

**For what it's worth. Before joining the faculty at St. Mary's College of Maryland I spent a decade in the world of health policy - specifically in the world of Medicare, Medicaid, and SCHIP policy. I was an analyst for the Hilltop Institute at UMBC and the main author of the annual HealthChoice Evaluation conducted for the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. I evaluated public health care programs for Maryland and other states and consulted with states such as Georgia and New Mexico. My doctoral dissertation examined whether Maryland's Medicaid program reduced racial and ethnic disparities in the receipt of health care services. It won the 2006 Annual Dissertation Award from the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration. I spent two years developing fiscal notes for the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. All of which is to say, I don't take discussion of health policy lightly.

Friday, June 29, 2018

A Free Society Dies without a Free Press

I talk a lot with the great folks who cover Maryland politics. I’ve often said to a reporter “I won’t talk about that", "I’d rather not discuss that person", or, "this is not for attribution". Simply because I wanted to avoid controversy or because I didn't want to piss off a legislator with a fragile ego and put the college's funding at risk. Reporters don’t have the luxury of silence or the protection of anonymity.
The Capital Gazette wrote a story about a court case involving a man, Jarrod Ramos, who had cyber stalked and harassed a former classmate.He was convicted. The paper conveyed the facts and quoted the judge. Ramos blamed the paper for ruining his life and sued. He lost.
He spent years harassing the paper and issuing threats that went up to the line, but did not cross. On Wednesday, he made good on his threats. 5 people died. 5 people who had nothing to do with the original story. 5 people who worked everyday, directly or indirectly, dedicated to informing their community. 5 people who deserved our respect.
Reporters are routinely berated and belittled for reporting the news. They're made scapegoats. They're an easy target because they can't fight back. And they are known. They are public figures who must be out and among the public to do their jobs. They stand next to people who are protected by armed guards, totally exposed. They make mistakes. They get things wrong. We all do. But a free society dies without them.
Yesterday was a stark reminder of what they do & risk - daily.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Further Unraveling of Obama's "Legacy"

President Donald Trump pulled another thread on the tapestry of President Obama's rapidly unwinding legacy today by announcing an end to the Iran Nuclear Deal. Whether we're talking the Paris Accords or the Iran Deal, President Obama took the easy and politically expedient route of bypassing the Senate and negotiating an Executive Agreement - a legally meaningless agreement if not backed up in some way by law. When you do such things, YOU put the credibility of the US at risk.Even when what you did is undone by a petty vulgarian - because you made it possible for the petty vulgarian to undo you.
"...non-treaties lack the imprimatur and broad-based acceptance that treaties, by design, tend to enjoy. If the president wanted his arrangement to be more permanent, he should have gone to the Senate. And if he didn’t go precisely because he knew the Senate would say no, then he knew all along he was building on sand. Whose fault is that, pray? His successor’s?"
And before you start hand-wringing and protesting that the mean old Senate just wouldn't work with Obama... let me stop you with a "too damn bad" response owing to our Constitutional order. After losing the House in 2011 Obama set about doing whatever he could via executive orders, memos, and agreements. In so doing, he set the stage for the chaos of the undoing of his legacy. In short, Obama gifted his successor with an easy path of reversal - even if that successor was an incompetent dolt. Whether or not Obama's policies were "good ideas" is really pointless sentiment. Process matters. And in a system governed by rules and not by men the only measure of a "good policy" is whether or not the proper process was followed. Obama sowed the seeds of his own legacy's undoing. He made it easy for Trump.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Polarization in America Is Not Ideological

Across two books and multiple blog posts I have argued that Americans ARE NOT ideologically polarized nor are they more partisan. Rather we're less attached to party and most Americans lack a cohesive ideology. Ideological polarization and entrenched partisanship are instead reserved for political elites.
A new study by Eric Groenendyke makes the case far more eloquently: In short, he finds no evidence to support claims of mass polarization along ideological lines. In fact, their is widespread policy agreement among Americans on all be a few issues. Additionally, there is no evidence of Americans becoming more attached to their parties. Instead, he finds few people love, or even like, their own party or think it represents their interests well. Nevertheless, voters increasingly hate the other party, and this is enough to keep them in their respective parties. The more frustrated folks become with their own party, the more they denounce and demonize the other party. Demonizing the other party makes voters feel better about sticking with a party that doesn't do a good job representing them. And the more a party acts out of fear and loathing toward the other party there is less cooperation and compromise and more reasons for voters to dislike their party and more reasons for the other party to demonize their party.
Think of it this way, many folks who voted for Trump didn't care what policies he proposed or his character flaws. They cared that he wasn't a Democrat. Much as many voted against him not because of who he was or love of Clinton but because he was a Republican. That means as well that should he run for re-election, many voters will be motivated to vote AGAINST the Democrat with little care for what Trump has done or not done.
This type of polarization and partisanship is especially unhealthy. Because folks are voting against the other party instead of for their own party the winning party receives no mandate to govern. Rather once the "other" party loses voters tend to focus on the reasons why they dislike their own party. If Groenendyke is correct then the more dissatisfied voters become with their own party the more they will look to demonize the other party.
This suggests that Trump's frequent tirades against Republicans and well as Democrats may be a very effective way to keep his base.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

The Courage of Meagan Simonaire

I'll just link to the story, but what an incredibly powerful and courageous speech by Delegate Meagan Simonaire as she prepares to vote for a ban on so-called conversion therapy in MD. You cannot fix what is not broken.

Behind the Scenes in the White House...

Trump: I just told the American people that I'm sending the military to defend the border.
Adviser: Mr. President, the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 prevents using the military to enforce domestic policy, so you can't use them on US soil.
Trump: No problem, I'll put them on the Mexico side. And Mexico will pay.
Adviser: Technically that would be an invasion and an act of war.
Trump: Just figure out a way to make what I said actually happen. Again.
Adviser: We could send the National Guard?
Trump: You just said no military because of the Possibly Communist Act of 1978
Adviser: The National Guard is a reserve unit that can act in states, with the state's permission.
Trump: Great, send the Washington Nationals to the border to detain and arrest illegal crossers.
Adviser: The National Guard cannot detain or arrest people unless they are deployed by the Governor and not the President.
Trump: Look, I just need you do something so that the voters don't think that I'm clueless. Again
Adviser: Don't worry, they already know that you're clueless. Luckily your supporters just don't care. They just need us to do something vaguely related to what you promised so that they can pretend that the lamestream media is promoting fake news when it points out that what you said wasn't possible and wasn't what ultimately happened.
Trump: It'll be huuge.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Revised Version of Maryland, My Maryland that Actually Reflects the State's History

As the General Assembly debates a watered down bill to reconsider Maryland's pro-secessionist state song I wonder how many folks know that the Union wrote an alternate version - one that better reflects Maryland's actual history? Maybe we should consider interspersing the lyrics to create a song that reflects the actual divisions in Maryland at the time?

For those not in the know, Maryland, My Maryland was a poem written by Marylander living in Louisiana during the Civil War and it is (was) is a battle cry for Maryland to join the South. It was adopted in 1939, the centennial of the author's birth and during a vibrant period of civil rights activities in Baltimore City.

Maryland, My Maryland - A merged version featuring the Union's Lyrics featuring the original lyrics by James Ryder Randall and the Union response by William Horner

The despot's heel is on thy shore,
His torch is at thy temple door,
Avenge the patriotic gore
That flecked the streets of Baltimore,
And be the battle queen of yore,
Maryland! My Maryland!

The traitors feet are on the shore
Of Maryland, my Maryland;
They walk the streets of Baltimore,
Maryland, my  Maryland.
They rose en masse not long ago,
The Union for to overthrow -
But this they found they could not do
In Maryland, my Maryland.

Hark to an exiled son's appeal,
My mother State! to thee I kneel,
For life and death, for woe and weal,
Thy peerless chivalry reveal,
And gird thy beauteous limbs with steel,
Maryland! My Maryland!

April the 19th, '61,
In  Maryland, my Maryland,
Those traitorous acts were first begun
In Maryland, my Maryland;
But lo! behold, it was not long,
The Union men said this is wrong ,
We'll give a new key to the song
Of Maryland, my Maryland.

Thou wilt not cower in the dust,
Thy beaming sword shall never rust,
Remember Carroll's sacred trust,
Remember Howard's warlike thrust,-
And all thy slumberers with the just,
Maryland! My Maryland!

The Union flag, twas torn down,
In Maryland, my Maryland;
By traitors' hands all over town,
In Maryland, my Maryland;
And Geo. P. Kane to Johnson said,
Come on, my boys, and give us aid,
For this old State it must secede ,
Maryland, my Maryland

Come! 'tis the red dawn of the day,
Come with thy panoplied array,
With Ringgold's spirit for the fray,
With Watson's blood at Monterey,
With fearless Lowe and dashing May,
Maryland! My Maryland!

The Legislature then did meet,
In Maryland, my Maryland;
Soon as the members took their seat,
In Maryland, my Maryland;
An order came from Washington,
To Frederick boys and arrest each one
And send them all to Fort Warren,
From Maryland, my Maryland.

Come! for thy shield is bright and strong,
Come! for thy dalliance does thee wrong,
Come to thine own anointed throng,
Stalking with Liberty along,
And chaunt thy dauntless slogan song,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Jeff tried to break the loyal chain,
In Maryland, my Maryland;
But found his labor all in vain,
In Maryland, my Maryland;
The Potomac and Chesapeake
He cannot cross, he's tried for weeks
Virginia holds him and his cliques
From Maryland, my Maryland.

Dear Mother! burst the tyrant's chain,
Virginia should not call in vain,
She meets her sisters on the plain-
"Sic semper!" 'tis the proud refrain
That baffles minions back again,
Arise in majesty again,
Maryland! My Maryland!

X-Governor Hick's, God bless his race,
In Maryland, my Maryland;
And Bradford, too, who took his place
In Maryland, my Maryland;
The Ship of State he'll guide aright,
Her loyal sons are pluck in fight,
They watch the traitors day and night,
In Maryland, myaryland.

I see the blush upon thy cheek,
For thou wast ever bravely meek,
But lo! there surges forth a shriek,
From hill to hill, from creek to creek-
Potomac calls to Chesapeake,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Thou wilt not yield the Vandal toll,
Thou wilt not crook to his control,
Better the fire upon thee roll, Better the blade, the shot, the bowl,
Than crucifixion of the soul,
Maryland! My Maryland!

Secession, O' that cursed thing,
In Maryland, my Maryland,
The first essay was in the spring
In Maryland, my Maryland;
Secession first took place from Heaven,
And traitors from that place were driven,
So will it be when time is given
From Maryland, my Maryland.

I hear the distant thunder-hum,
The Old Line's bugle, fife, and drum,
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb-
Huzza! she spurns the Northern scum!
She breathes! she burns! she'll come! she'll come!
Maryland! My Maryland!

The Stars and Siripes I hope will wave,
In Maryland, my Maryland,
When every traitor's in his grave,
In Maryland, my Maryland;
She is not dead, nor deaf, nor dumb,
Therefore she spurns the secesh scum,
And says to Jeff, you cannot come to
Maryland, my Maryland

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Madaleno Scores Key Labor Endorsement

It was announced today that the Baltimore/Washington Laborers District Council of LiUNA was endorsing state Senator Rich Madaleno in Maryland's Gubernatorial primary. The union represents more than 3,000 members in the state. The Baltimore/Washington Laborers District Council of LiUNA endorsed Democratic victor Ralph Northam in the 2017 gubernatorial primary and general election in Virginia. LiUNA contributed approximately $600,000 to the coordinated state Democratic campaign in Virginia in an election that yielded major gains for the party in the state legislature.  Though recent statewide polls show Madaleno trailing Rushern Baker, Ben Jealous, and Kevin Kamenetz, he has won several straw polls taken after candidate forums. In a recent post, I argued that the Democratic race to succeed Larry Hogan was far from settled. The endorsement suggests that LiUNA believes Madaleno to be in a stronger position than statewide polls suggest. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

I'm Back, for Good or for Ill...

I started the FreeStater Blog in 2009 because I believed that there were too few websites/blogs dedicated to the fascinating world of MD politics. In the years that followed, I used the blog to write about Maryland and national politics. About 4 years ago, my blog posts became fewer and fewer and in 2017 I only managed 7 posts - each about national politics. It's not that I lost interest in MD politics, rather my day job just got in the way. I became Chair of the Political Science Department at St. Mary's College and wrote several books on national politics. I'm proud of the fact that I have published 3 books since 2013, but the work on those books really precluded any meaningful focus on Maryland. But now, my term as Chair has ended and the books are done (except for updated editions) and I want to get back to Maryland politics - especially Maryland politics in 2018 when Larry Hogan may become the only Republican in 60 years to win a second term.

If you're interested in what I've been doing:

American Government and Popular Discontent: Stability Without Success

Polarized: The Rise of Ideology in American Politics

The Trump Presidency: Outsider in the Oval Office

Democratic Race to Succeed Hogan is Far from Settled

No fewer than seven candidates are vying for the opportunity to take on Larry Hogan in November. Polling shows that a significant number of Democrats are undecided as to who should be the party's standard bearer in 2018. That being said, three names consistently top the polls - Prince Georges County Exec Rushern Baker, Baltimore County Exec Kevin Kamenetz, and former NAACP leader Ben Jealous. Those his lead varies, Baker tops the other other two in every poll.

Situated well behind the top three, mired in single digits, you'll find State Senator Rich Madaleno, tech entrepreneur Alec Ross, attorney and Democratic party insider Jim Shea, and Krishna Vignarajah a former policy aide to Michelle Obama.

Precious little has changed in each candidate's polling standing since the first surveys were conducted in September of 2017 even though candidate name recognition is steadily improving. The latest Goucher poll found that nearly half of Democrats were undecided while the new Mason Dixon poll placed the share closer to one-third. Either way, such a high share of undecideds in a 7 person race suggests that much remains to be settled in this contest.

There is reason to suspect that Baker, Kamenetz, and Jealous top the polls because they enjoy much greater name recognition than do the remaining candidates. In fact, Kamenetz and Jealous have closed the gap with Baker as their name recognition numbers have risen. Among the grassroots, however, the state of the race looks a bit different.

New Poll Finds Hogan Gaining Strength in Maryland

In September 2017, Mason Dixon released a poll showing Larry Hogan with a 61% approval rating. He led all potential challengers in head to head match ups, but was below the critical 50% threshold for an incumbent. Hogan led Rushern Baker 46% to 39%, Kevin Kamenetz 48% to 35%, and Ben Jealous 49% to 33%. Name recognition certainly played a roll in the results given that only 60% of respondents had heard of Baker as compared to 45% for Kamenetz and 48% for Jealous.

Several months have passed and a new Mason Dixon poll was just released - and Larry Hogan could not have hoped for a better set of findings. Each of the major Democratic candidates experienced a significant boost in name recognition (Baker at 71%, Kamenetz at 59%, and Jealous at 55%) but fared worse against Hogan than they did in September. Hogan (with a 63% approval rating) tops Baker 51% to 36%, Kamaenetz 49% to 34%, and Jealous 50% to 33%. Perhaps of greater significance, Hogan has hit the critical 50% threshold in two out of the three match ups.

To summarize, each of Hogan's potential challengers are more well know than they were in September, but Hogan's lead over each has grown. His lead over his best known challenger, Rushern Baker, has literally doubled.

A lot can happen between now and November, but it's hardly a positive sign for Democrats that their potential successors to Larry Hogan - in a state where Democrats have a 2-to-1 advantage over Republicans - aren't getting any stronger as more voters get to know them.

Related Post:
Democratic Race to Succeed Hogan is Far from Settled

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Quick Thoughts Following the Shooting of Steve Scalise

Perhaps we need to stop accusing our political opponents of being a threat to our democracy? 
Perhaps we need to stop using the language of war when discussing politics? 
Though a thriving democracy demands a loyal opposition to any governing majority it does not need a resistance - losing an election (whether 1992, 2000, 2008, or 2016) is not the same as living in occupied territory. 
There are too many people out there who will take this heated rhetoric as a call to arms - arms that are plentiful and readily available.
This current era of treating the opposition as the enemy really took hold under Clinton, grew under Bush, exploded under Obama, and has now simply become commonplace.

What can we do? 
We can start by calling out our friends, family members, and elected officials when they choose to go down this path.
We think before we speak or type.
We can realize that those things that unite us as Americans are far stronger than those that divide us.
We can refuse to give in when others seek to divide us for political gain.

We can agree that this must to stop. We are not at war.

Friday, June 2, 2017

The Left's Anti-Intellectualism Problem

Much is made of the anti-intellectualism on the Right. But I think there's a deeper story there and the recent campus "incidents" brings that deeper story to light. Conservatives aren't anti-intellectualism, they're anti-intellectual. And who can blame them? Those who proudly wear the banner of intellectual are often the same self-righteous and self-appointed guardians of of what can and cannot be said and who cheer when anyone who challenges liberal orthodoxy is chased off of a college campus. The real problem I see is that the Left, for all it's "I believe in Science" bumper sticker chanting, is pro-intellectual but anti-intellectualism. Intellectualism means that one is dedicated to study, reflection, and speculation - reflection and speculation.

But when it's decided that Charles Murray's words must not be heard or that a progressive professor cannot question the appropriateness of asking an entire class of people to leave a campus or that anyone less than a progressive must not be permitted to speak at a commencement there is no reflection going on. Speculation and reflection encourages free thinking and can result in people questioning established dogma. Too often now this is not tolerated. One must toe the line or be ostracized and declared an enemy.

It's like watching the Mountain Jacobins battle the Girondins - talk of moderation or inclusion are met with the guillotine of exclusion and condemnation. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of ridiculous stuff going on with the Right. Their complete willingness to become cheerleaders and apologists for a man who has absolutely no commitment to conservative principles is but the tip of the iceberg. But watching the Left react to being powerless (they control no aspect of the federal government and very few state governments) has been illuminating. Those with the loudest voices are using those voices to reinforce the anger of like-minded souls. Efforts to empathize or to reach out and build the coalition are met with angry dismissals - "why should we talk to those people? why should we care what they think?" So instead, the energy is dedicated to actions that only reinforce the worst aspects of what "those people" think about the Left.

If their goal is to attract new adherents and win back power then the tactics are all wrong. If their goal is to commiserate with an insular group of dedicated followers... then job well done.

I encourage all of the true believers to read this excellent essay by Freddie DeBoer.