Category Archives: Politics

How Democrats can win back workers in 2020

Source: Thomas Kochan, The Conversation, August 16, 2019

Labor unions and the workers they represent were once the heart and soul of the Democratic Party.

The 2016 presidential election revealed just how much that has changed. Hillary Clinton lost in key battleground states like Michigan and Wisconsin in part because she took labor support for granted.

A survey my team of labor scholars at MIT conducted about five months after the election showed that most workers feel they lack a voice at their jobs. Many Americans apparently felt that Donald Trump did a much better job than Clinton showing he was on their side and had a plan to help them.

As I watch the 2020 presidential debates, I wonder: Will Democrats make the same mistake? Or will they return to their roots and put the full range of workers’ needs and aspirations front and center in their campaigns?

Some of the candidates vying to be the 2020 nominee have offered plans to support organized labor, but they mainly endorse bills already in Congress to shore up collective bargaining rights. None have offered a clear vision and strategy for assuring workers have a voice in the key decisions that will shape the future of work.

This won’t be enough to give workers the stronger and broader voice at work they are calling for today.

In our 2017 survey, we learned two key things about what workers actually want…..

Voter Purge Rates Remain High, Analysis Finds

Source: Kevin Morris, Brennan Center for Justice, August 1, 2019

Using data released by the federal Election Assistance Commission (EAC) in June, a new Brennan Center analysis has found that between 2016 and 2018, counties with a history of voter discrimination have continued purging people from the rolls at much higher rates than other counties.

This phenomenon began after the Supreme Court’s 2013 ruling in Shelby County v. Holder, a decision that severely weakened the protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The Brennan Center first identified this troubling voter purge trend in a major report released in July 2018.

Before the Shelby County decision, Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act required jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to submit proposed changes in voting procedures to the Department of Justice or a federal court for approval, a process known as “preclearance.”

After analyzing the 2019 EAC data, we found:
– At least 17 million voters were purged nationwide between 2016 and 2018, similar to the number we saw between 2014 and 2016, but considerably higher than we saw between 2006 and 2008;
– The median purge rate over the 2016–2018 period in jurisdictions previously subject to preclearance was 40 percent higher than the purge rate in jurisdictions that were not covered by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act;
– If purge rates in the counties that were covered by Section 5 were the same as the rates in non-Section 5 counties, as many as 1.1 million fewer individuals would have been removed from voter rolls between 2016 and 2018.

The Anti-Public Administration Presidency: The Damage Trump Has Wrought

Source: Charles T. Goodsell, The American Review of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, July 25, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
President Trump and his Administration have gravely damaged the institutions and values of American public administration. Harm has been done to the federal workforce, the policymaking process, the integrity of missions, agencies and programs, and the government’s relation to science.

The Courts Won’t End Gerrymandering. Eric Holder Has a Plan to Fix It Without Them.

Source: Ari Berman, Mother Jones, July/August 2019

While Democrats are fixated on 2020, Holder is fighting for fairer maps in 2021 and beyond. ….

….So Holder is pursuing a new strategy, trying to elect down-ballot candidates who can deliver fairer maps and voting laws. The NDRC invested $350,000 in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, hoping that a liberal majority on the seven-­member court might strike down any egregious gerrymanders in the next round of redistricting in 2021. “I don’t think that 10 years or so ago, you would have a former attorney general campaigning for a state Supreme Court justice,” Holder told me. “This is a recognition on the part of the Democratic Party, on the part of progressives, that we need to focus on state and local elections to a much greater degree than we have in the past.”

But if Democrats are belatedly recognizing this need, few besides Holder are acting on it. He is playing a long game in a party driven by instant gratification and consumed by the mess in the White House. While the party’s presidential contenders are attracting big crowds, donors, and volunteers determined to defeat President Donald Trump in 2020, Holder is focused on 2021…..

Autonomy matters: Insights from U.S. water utility managers on governance structure

Source: Jennifer C. Biddle, Karen J. Baehler, AWWA Water Science, Vol. 1 no. 3, May/June 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Organizational autonomy and insulation from political interference were cited as key attributes of governance influencing managers’ perceptions of utility performance according to 22 U.S. water utility managers. The further removed from direct management by local government, the more likely utilities were to experiment with true‐cost pricing and innovative management strategies that may lead to improved whole‐system performance. In addition, findings from this qualitative study support claims made by water sector professionals of the growing need for a shift in water utility governance systems to adapt to changing conditions and better respond to stressors and shocks. This research is part of a larger study that seeks to contribute to our understanding of which governance features are important for improving water utility sustainability. It also raises important questions for further research into the linkages between governance structure, larger sociopolitical factors, and water system performance.

Local Elections and Representation in the United States

Source: Christopher Warshaw, Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 22, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
In recent years, there has been a surge in the study of representation and elections in local politics. Scholars have made progress on many of the empirical barriers that stymied earlier researchers. As a result, the study of representation and elections in local politics has moved squarely into the center of American politics. The findings of recent research show that local politics in the modern, polarized era is much more similar to other areas of American politics than previously believed. Scholars have shown that partisanship and ideology play important roles in local politics. Due to the growing ideological divergence between Democrats and Republicans, Democratic elected officials increasingly take more liberal positions, and enact more liberal policies, than Republican ones. As a result, despite the multitude of constraints on local governments, local policies in the modern era tend to largely reflect the partisan and ideological composition of their electorates.

Race and Authoritarianism in American Politics

Source: Christopher Sebastian Parker, Christopher C. Towler, Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 22, 2019
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From the abstract:
Authoritarianism, it seems, is alive and well these days. The Trump administration’s blatant dismissal of democratic norms has many wondering whether it fits the authoritarian model. This review offers a framework for understanding authoritarianism in the American past, as well as the American present. Starting in the early twentieth century, this analysis seeks to provide a better understanding of how authoritarianism once existed in enclaves in the Jim Crow South, where it was intended to dominate blacks in the wake of emancipation. Confining the definition of authoritarianism to regime rule, however, leaves little room for a discussion of more contemporary authoritarianism, at the micro level. This review shifts focus to an assessment of political psychology’s concept of authoritarianism and how it ultimately drives racism. Ultimately, we believe a tangible connection exists between racism and authoritarianism. Even so, we question the mechanism. Along the way, we also discuss the ways in which communities of color, often the targets of authoritarianism, resist the intolerance to which they have been exposed. We conclude with a discussion of why we believe, despite temporal and spatial differences as well as incongruous levels of analysis, that micro- and macro-level authoritarianism have much in common.

Bias and Judging

Source: Allison P. Harris, Maya Sen, Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 22, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
How do we know whether judges of different backgrounds are biased? We review the substantial political science literature on judicial decision making, paying close attention to how judges’ demographics and ideology can influence or structure their decision making. As the research demonstrates, characteristics such as race, ethnicity, and gender can sometimes predict judicial decision making in limited kinds of cases; however, the literature also suggests that these characteristics are far less important in shaping or predicting outcomes than is ideology (or partisanship), which in turn correlates closely with gender, race, and ethnicity. This leads us to conclude that assuming judges of different backgrounds are biased because they rule differently is questionable. Given that the application of the law rarely provides one objectively correct answer, it is no surprise that judges’ decisions vary according to their personal backgrounds and, more importantly, according to their ideology.

Partisan Bias in Surveys

Source: John G. Bullock, Gabriel Lenz, Annual Review of Political Science, Vol. 22, 2019
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From the abstract:
If citizens are to hold politicians accountable for their performance, they probably must have some sense of the relevant facts, such as whether the economy is growing. In surveys, Democrats and Republicans often claim to hold different beliefs about these facts, which raises normative concerns. However, it is not clear that their divergent survey responses reflect actual divergence of beliefs. In this review, we conclude that partisan divergence in survey responses is often not due to sincere, considered differences of belief that fall along party lines—but determining what it due to is difficult. We review the evidence for possible explanations, especially insincere responding and congenial inference. Research in this area is still nascent, and much more will be required before we can speak with precision about the causes of partisan divergence in responses to factual questions.

Fostering Civic Health: An Analysis of the Generative and Mediating Activities of Community-Based Organizations

Source: Kandyce Fernandez, Robbie Robichau, Jennifer Alexander, The American Review of Public Administration, OnlineFirst, Published June 19, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Civic engagement in U.S. political life has declined since the 1950s resulting in a deluge of studies that explore its causes and implications. Research to date has directed little attention to the institutional role of associations as the foundation for civic engagement in all of its forms. This article utilizes institutional theory as a lens to examine the ways in which community-based organizations (CBOs), in tandem with local government, foster civic engagement, and enhance representation in their communities. Through interview data obtained from stakeholders of 18 local education foundations (LEFs) in Florida, we examine the ways in which CBOs nurture civic health with client communities (generative role) and represent their interests in local policy arenas (mediating role). Based on the results of this initial study, we argue that greater attention should be directed to the relationships between CBOs and measures of civic health given their unique capacity to foster it. Results indicate the relationship between generative and mediating activities is such that CBOs’ engagement with client communities establishes the foundational knowledge necessary for representing their interests in the interorganizational arena. In addition, CBOs were found to establish both bridging and bonding capital in the interorganizational arena through their efforts to exert influence on behalf of client communities.