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Saturday, April 2, 2016

Kasich Offers GOP's Best Chance of Beating Clinton

If only one poll showed Trump losing to Clinton, perhaps you could dismiss as a bad poll. But when 50 out of 56 polls show Trump losing, often in spectacular fashion, you can't dismiss the results as inaccurate. Trump would be a disaster for the GOP - perhaps costing them the House and definitely the Senate. The reason Trump is behind and the reason he will lose is simple - only 35% of voters have a favorable opinion of him. Fully 63% do not like him - that's a deficit of 28 percentage points. Clinton is unpopular as well, but her unfavorable number is 55% and her favorable is 41% - so her deficit is 14 percentage points, exactly half the size of Trump's.
Folks need to remember that primary voters and general election voters are very different. So far, Trump has carried about 40% in the primaries, primaries in which about 17% of Republicans have voted. That translates to 7% of all Republicans. Only about 30% of registered voters are in the GOP. They key to winning is winning over non-GOP voters. And Clinton's unavailability is driven large by exceptionally high unfavorable ratings from registered Republicans - voters she was never going to win. Trump, however, has high unfavorable numbers from Democrats as well as Independent AND Republican voters. 
Republicans seem to think that a majority of voters dislike Clinton as much as they do. They think there is no way voters would choose Clinton. This belief is driven by the echo chamber effect - the anti-Clinton folks talk with other anti-Clinton folks so they only hear about disapproval. They also think everyone hates Obama, but Obama's approval rating has rebounded and is back over 50% - it's actually 53%. One clear indicator of whether the party in power will win an election is the approval rating of the president - if it's above 50% the party in the White House usually wins.
If Trump is the nominee, I think a lot of Republicans are going to be completely dumbfounded on election night as they watch Clinton win, Democrats retake the Senate, and possibly the House. At this point, the GOP's best hope for defeating Clinton is a contested convention that picks a nominee other the Trump (or Cruz who loses to Clinton in 44 out of 56 polls and has an unavailability deficit of 20 percentage points.)
So who beats Clinton? John Kasich. He leads in 11 out of 16 polls and in 10 of 10 of the most recent polls. What's Kasich's favorability deficit? He doesn't have one. He actually has a favorability surplus of 7 percentage points - interestingly, his average lead over Clinton is just about 7%. Kasich may not winning among the 7% of Republicans who have voted in primaries, but he's clearly the preferred choice among those folks who will vote on Election Day.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Of Course People Are Offended By the Confederate Flag: It Was Literally the Symbol of Segregation

Recent events at St. Mary's College have garnered some unfortunate news coverageLast week, as part of an Easter tradition, students hid decorated beer cans all around campus. Unfortunately, some of the beer cans were adorned with Confederate flags and with racist, sexist, and homophobic statements. There can be no defense of the statements that were written on the cans, but many folks have a hard time understanding the offense that people take with the Confederate flag. This is understandable - because most people don't know the actual history of the flag or how it came to be part of American culture. Once that history is made clear, people tend to understand why displaying the flag is not something that anyone should ever do proudly. 

Many will tell you that the "confederate flag" is simply a symbol of Southern Pride, or that it represents the ideals of limited governments and "state's rights." But such claims are not supported by the flag's actual history. In reality, the confederate battle flag pretty much disappeared from view and memory after the war. The flag truly became a symbol of the south during the late 1940s and the 1950s - and racial prejudice played the key role in its reemergence. In 1948, Southern Democrats split from the Democratic party over the issue of civil rights. Strom Thurmond ran under the banner of the States Rights Democratic Party, or the Dixiecrats. They adopted the battle flag as their symbol and their party platform declared "We stand for the segregation of the races..." "States rights" and segregation were understood to be synonymous. Thurmond won in South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. In fact, he topped 70% in AL, MS, and SC.

In 1956, Georgia incorporated the confederate flag into its state flag. Why did GA make the change? To protest the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education ruling which outlawed school segregation. Then, in 1962, George Wallace, governor of Alabama and proud segregationist, raised the battle flag over the State house. Why? To link the south's battle against integration to the "glorious Civil War." Wallace ran for president as a third party candidate in 1968 and segregation was a central theme of his campaign. He carried 5 southern states and came in a close 2nd in 4 more. So the reemergence of the confederate battle flag was driven by opposition to integration and civil rights. The flag was then and is now a symbol of segregation and oppression.

Why do so few people know the real history of the flag? Because of what they learned in school.  Text books up through the 1960s and into the 1970s provided a very distorted picture of the Civil War and the Jim Crow south. Text book companies knew they could not sell books in Southern markets if they told the whole truth. And they were not going to produce Northern versions and Southern versions of their books. So generations grew up thinking that the Civil War was over "states right" and that slavery was a marginal issue. They also learned that Southern politicians opposed integration simply because they believed in a limited federal government. That the Dixiecrats were simply defending states' rights. Now, all of those folks are hearing things that don't fit with what they learned and many are claiming that people are just trying to rewrite history. In reality, people are actually trying to right history.

Now, I don't think that every person who displays the flag is a racist who endorses the flag's history. Rather I think they are unaware of its true history and have accepted the popular myth that the flag simply symbolizes southern culture or heritage. It may be that many of the folks who display the Confederate flag today do so with no racial motivation. They may believe that it represents limited government or state's rights. But their intentions and motivations cannot undo the flag's true history and purpose. Nothing can separate the symbol from its past. Those who proclaim that the flag is about "heritage and not hate" should know that the history of the flag makes clear that it represents heritage AND hate.