Category Archives: Politics

How to Rebuild the Labor Movement, State by State – What progressives can learn from conservative anti-union advocacy

Source: Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, American Prospect, Spring 2019

Last year’s strikes and direct action by workers, especially red-state public school teachers, have rightly been celebrated for injecting new energy into the American labor movement. Yet these mobilizations should not distract progressives from the magnitude of the challenges facing unions and their supporters in the Democratic Party. The next time Democrats regain control of Congress and the White House, they will need to put major reforms of federal labor law front and center. In the meantime, they ought to learn from conservative anti-union efforts about pursuing change through the states and developing a politically minded strategy for labor reform.

In particular, Democrats need to think about labor law reform not just as yet another area of public policy, but rather as conservatives do: as a set of reforms that can build durable political power that enables further policy wins on other issues. Before spelling out the specific lessons that the left can take from the right’s victories, it is helpful to step back to see just how differently Democrats and Republicans think about unions.

All-Out Republican Opposition versus Democratic Ambivalence

Over the past four decades, conservative political activists and donors, often bolstered by private-sector businesses, have fruitfully used public policy as a political weapon to weaken unions, especially public-sector unions. Crucially, these cross-state conservative coalitions, above all the conservative “troika” of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the State Policy Network, and Americans for Prosperity, have never seen their anti-labor efforts as simply an end in themselves. Instead, right-wing advocacy against unions recognizes the inherently political role that the labor movement plays—and thus that efforts to weaken unions will eventually redound to conservatives’ long-term political victories. …..

2020 and the Democrats’ Theory of Change

Source: Paul Starr, American Prospect, March 21, 2019

The Democrats can and must think big, but they have to frame their ideas around the realities of a coalition party that includes suburban moderates.

Related:
Getting Serious About Power
Source: Caroline Fredrickson, American Prospect, April 17, 2019

Can we learn something about the right’s strategic coherence without emulating either their ideas or their contempt for democracy?

Secrecy versus sunshine: Efforts to hide government records never stop

Source: Brent Walth, The Conversation, May 15, 2019

….All 50 states give the public the right to see government records and documents, but many state legislatures are weighing changes in their open-records laws.

These changes rarely end up making our government more transparent. Instead, lawmakers often try to conceal public records from the people who own them – that is, you and me.

Public records laws exist to allow us to see into the decision-making of our government. When bureaucrats make efforts to obscure our view into their actions, it serves only to undermine government officials’ accountability.

It also diminishes the public’s understanding of, and faith in, democracy. ….

“Left-Wing Haters and Angry Mobs”: Primers for the Trump Resistance

Source: Patrick Dixon, Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas, Vol. 16 no. 2, May 2019
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From the abstract:
The results of the 2016 election presented a crisis for American progressives that has given birth to a new genre of popular nonfiction literature focused on resistance to the Trump administration. These primers seldom consider labor to be an important element of resistance, and while they include many policy prescriptions, these are often lacking in imagination and ambition. This genre is nonetheless an instructive source, offering a historical snapshot that reveals the fissures and dilemmas facing the American Left in the early days of the Trump presidency.

Picking Winners: How Political Organizations Influence Local Elections

Source: Andrea Benjamin, Alexis Miller, Urban Affairs Review, Volume: 55 issue: 3, May 2019
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From the abstract:
Endorsements have become a part of most election cycles. They come from a variety of sources (civic organizations, elected officials, newspapers, etc.) and are intended to signal voters that one candidate is preferential to another. Yet, there is still a lot that we do not know about endorsements. In this article, we provide insight into the process of how organizations and newspapers endorse candidates, provide evidence that demonstrates candidates believe these endorsements are important, and test the claim that voters are aware of these endorsements even when controlling for factors such as partisanship, ideology, and education. We also test the claim that issue positions explain vote choice better than endorsements. We rely on interview data and exit poll data to test our claims. Using data from an at-large municipal election, in which voters selected up to three candidates, we find that awareness of endorsements explains vote choice better than issues.

Authoritarianism Reimagined: The Riddle of Trump’s Base

Source: David Norman Smith, The Sociological Quarterly, Latest Articles, April 22, 2019
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From the abstract:
Social scientists are often reluctant to think that cruel words express actual personal cruelty—so when they hear people speak harshly about minorities or women, they tend to blame stress and anxiety, not hate. In that spirit, it is often said that voters who favored Donald Trump in 2016 supported him not because they vibrated with his vindictive rhetoric but rather because they were fearful about their finances. However, many recent studies, including my papers with Eric Hanley, undermine that claim. Financial worries were widespread and did not distinguish Republicans from Democrats in 2016. Rather, what typified Trump partisans was the vehemence of their prejudices—for a domineering leader who would “crush evil” and “get rid of rotten apples” and against feminists, liberals, immigrants, and minorities. My contention here is that grasping this point is essential if we hope to understand the kind of authoritarianism that Trump represents.

Related:
The Politics of Cruelty
Source: Peter Kivisto, The Sociological Quarterly, Latest Articles, April 22, 2019
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From the abstract:
The authoritarian tendencies evident in the Trump campaign and administration are framed by the idea of a “politics of cruelty,“ drawing on Judith Shlkar’s idea of the ”liberalism of fear,” current research using authoritarianism theory, and arguments concerning the impact of the political theology of white Christian nationalism.

Reactionary Tribalism Redux: Right-Wing Populism and De-Democratization
Source: Robert J. Antonio, The Sociological Quarterly, Latest Articles, April 22, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
This article addresses the question of whether the social impacts, especially increased socioeconomic inequality, and formalization of democracy generated by the neoliberal economization of politics is an important albeit not singular driver of resurgent ethnocracial populism and illiberal democracy.

Political Moderation and Polarization in the Heartland: Economics, Rurality, and Social Identity in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election

Source: Ann M. Oberhauser, Daniel Krier & Abdi M. Kusow, The Sociological Quarterly, Latest Articles, Published online: April 12, 2019
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The 2016 U.S. presidential election was a watershed event that signaled decreasing political moderation and increasing partisan polarization, authoritarianism, and ethno-nationalism. Iowa, located at the center of the American Heartland, swung to the political right more than any other state. Multivariate regression analysis of county-level data is used to determine the relative contribution of factors reputed to have caused voters to support Trump: rurality, economic distress, and social identity. We find that rurality and social identity, but not economic distress, were significantly correlated with Iowa’s swing to Trump. Polarization along these social divisions must be addressed if the Heartland is to return to political moderation.

Related:
What made voters flip parties in 2016?
Source: Angie Hunt, Futurity, April 22, 2019

Iowa had more counties flip from Democrat to Republican than any other state, and the reason why had little to do with economic anxiety, research finds.

Corporations and the American Welfare State: Adversaries or Allies?

Source: Mark S. Mizruchi, Studies in American Political Development, FirstView, Published online: February 18, 2019
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One of the most widely held views about American political life is that business is hostile to the welfare state. In the 1970s, David Vogel asked why American businessmen “distrusted their state.” Kim Phillips-Fein has written of the “businessmen’s crusade against the New Deal.” Jane Mayer and Nancy MacLean have recounted the efforts of the Koch Brothers and their wealthy allies to remake American politics in a more conservative direction. What could be more uncontroversial than the view that American business is broadly opposed to government social policies?

Related:

Ascertaining Business’s Interests and Political Preferences
Source: David E. Broockman, Studies in American Political Development, FirstView, Published online: February 26, 2019
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Medicare is one of the largest social programs in the world. Did organized industry favor Medicare’s passage in 1965? If it did, this would represent powerful evidence in favor of the theory that social programs typically require cross-class alliances to pass, such as alliances between business and labor. However, in a previous article in this journal, I argued that answering questions about political actors’ preferences—such as whether organized industry favored Medicare’s passage—can be surprisingly difficult due to the “problem of preferences”; that is, political actors might misrepresent their true policy preferences for many reasons. For example, when their ideal proposals are not politically feasible, political actors may wish to bolster support for a more politically viable alternative to a disliked proposal—even if they do not truly support this alternative to the status quo. To better understand political actors’ true policy preferences, I argued, scholars should trace how those actors’ expressed preferences change as a function of their strategic context—just as scholars seeking to understand the impact of any other variable trace the effects of changes in it.

Business Interests and the Shape of the U.S. Welfare State: From the Insurance Company Model to Comprehensive Reform
Source: Christy Ford Chapin, Studies in American Political Development, FirstView, Published online: February 18, 2019
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Peter Swenson’s excellent article is a welcome correction to the consensus argument so often found in welfare state literature. That interpretation depicts a never-ending, dualistic struggle between capitalists and “the people,” as represented by welfare reformers. Swenson sorts through the evidence surrounding post-1960 health care debates, particularly Medicare, to demonstrate that “business” is not a fixed, homogeneous group that conforms neatly to class-based analysis. He finds significant business backing for federal programming and also shows that where trade associations took conservative, anti-reform stands, they often did so without strong member support.