Category Archives: Politics

Repressing Radicalism

Source: Chip Gibbons, Jacobin, June 15, 2017

The Espionage Act turns 100 today. It helped destroy the Socialist Party of America and quashes free speech to this day. …. A century later, as socialist politics gain favor again in the United States, it’s important to remember the role that brute repression played in the SP’s downfall — and the continued threat the Espionage Act poses to democratic freedoms today. ….

What Can Performance Information Do to Legislators? A Budget Decision Experiment with Legislators

Source: Labinot Demaj, Public Administration Review, Volume 77 Issue 3, May/June 2017
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Studies on the influence of performance information on budgeting decisions have produced contradictory findings. This article offers a framework of the parliamentary context that links performance information to legislators’ budgeting decisions. The framework suggests that the impact on politicians’ allocations will differ depending on whether performance information is reflected in the budget proposal, whether the allocation issue concerns a politically difficult trade-off for the decision maker, and whether information falls into a receptive partisan mind. The experimental study uses 57 actual legislators. The results show that the introduction of performance information into legislators’ deliberation process leads to stronger deviations from the status quo allocation. This difference occurs because performance information highlights more clearly the expected consequences of budgetary changes and allows for more pronounced reactions. More informed decisions, however, might make compromise among legislators more difficult because individual positions will become more polarized.
Previous version:
What Can Performance Information Do to Legislators? A Budget Decision Experiment with Legislators
Source: Labinot Demaj, University of St. Gallen, Law & Economics Working Paper No. 2015-04, September 9, 2014

From the abstract:
Existing studies on the influence of performance information on budgeting decisions are limited and have produced contradictory findings. This paper argues that most previous work has somewhat problematically focused on self-reported use of performance information rather than on the legislative context into which performance information is introduced. This study offers a framework that links performance information to legislators’ budgeting decisions. I argue that the impact will differ depending on whether performance information is reflected in the budget proposal, whether the allocation issue concerns a politically difficult value tradeoff for the decision-maker, and whether the implications of the performance information fall into a receptive partisan mind. This paper studies these aspects by manipulating the first two of these factors in an experimental setting involving budgetary decision-making by 57 actual legislators. The control groups consist of 65 undergraduate students. The results show that the introduction of performance information into the legislators’ deliberation process leads to stronger deviations from the status quo allocation. I argue that this difference occurs because performance information highlights more clearly the expected consequences of budgetary changes and allows for more pronounced reactions. This paper concludes that more informed decisions based on good performance budgets might also create a situation in which it is more difficult for legislators to compromise because individual positions become more polarized.

Swing Left

Source: Swing Left, 2017

Swing Districts are places where the winner of the last House of Representatives election was determined by a thin margin. Swing Left helps you find and commit to supporting progressives in your closest Swing District so that you can help ensure we take back the House in 2018. Find your closest Swing District and join the team to learn about actionable opportunities as they become available.

From the FAQ:
What is Swing Left?
Swing Left is an online community that connects you with your nearest Swing District. This is a district where the winner, an elected official who is now serving a two-year term in the House of Representatives, won the November 2016 election by a thin margin, or is otherwise vulnerable in 2018.

Why do we need Swing Left?
Voters in “safe” districts tend to feel powerless about their impact on local elections that have national repercussions. At the same time, House midterm elections, including in Swing Districts, tend to receive less attention than other races. We formed Swing Left to provide a simple way for voters living both inside and outside of Swing Districts to come together and channel their time, resources, and ideas to help progressives prevail in these critical races.

What is Swing Left’s goal?
Swing Left’s goal is to flip the House of Representatives in the 2018 midterm elections and put a check on the Trump and GOP agenda. We will achieve this by organizing and supporting volunteers to have an impact Swing Districts across the country….

Until Death Dues Us Part?

Source: Jim DeWan, Rockefeller Institute of Government, June 1, 2017

One of the most immediate impacts of Neil Gorsuch’s appointment to the Supreme Court may be on a case that could have a major impact on public employee unions right here in New York.

CASE OVERVIEW
This case, Janus v. AFSCME, deals with state laws that allow public employee unions to automatically withhold fees or dues from all represented employees’ paychecks, even those who are not members of the union. The plaintiff in the case, Mark Janus, is an employee of the state of Illinois. He is suing his union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), because he believes the Illinois state law allowing AFSCME to deduct monies from his paycheck violates his First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and association. New York has a similar law on its books. Illinois and New York are two of 22 states that allow for arrangements under which all represented employees must make payments to a union as a condition of their employment, even if they affirmatively elect not to join the union….

The Entire Public Sector Is About to Be Put on Trial

Source: Naomi Walker, In These Times, Views, May 25, 2017

The Right’s assault on public-sector workers is an assault on the public sector itself.

Within the next year, the Supreme Court is likely to rule on the latest existential threat to workers and their unions: Janus v. AFSCME. Like last year’s Friedrichs v. CTA—a bullet dodged with Justice Antonin Scalia’s unexpected death—the Janus case is a blatant attack on working people by right-wing, moneyed special interests who want to take away workers’ freedom to come together and negotiate for a better life.
For years, the Right has been hammering through state-level “right-to-work” laws in an effort to kill public sector unionism; it would see victory in the Janus case as the coup de grace. ….

These Protesters Are Hitting Trump Where It Actually Hurts

Source: Mattea Kramer, The Nation, May 23, 2017

Could the president be influenced by threats to his profit margin? ….

…. Since Donald Trump’s election in November, and especially since his January inauguration, hundreds of small and not-so-small organizations have sprung up to oppose the president. They joined the ranks of established left-leaning and liberal groups already revving up their engines to fight the administration. Among all the ways you can now voice your dissent, though, there’s one tactic that this president will surely understand: economic resistance aimed at his own businesses and those of his children. He may not be swayed by protesters filling the streets, but he does speak the language of money. Through a host of tactics—including boycotting stores that carry Trump products, punishing corporations and advertisers that underwrite the administration’s agenda, and disrupting business-as-usual at Trump companies—protesters are using the power of the purse to demonstrate their opposition and have planned a day of resistance against his brand on June 14th.

Such economic dissent may prove to be an especially apt path of resistance, especially for the millions of Americans who reside in blue states and have struggled with a sense of powerlessness following the election. After all, it’s not immediately obvious how to take effective political action in the usual American way when your legislators already agree with you. But what blue-state dwellers lack in political sway they make up for in economic clout, since blue states have, on average, greater household incomes and more purchasing power than their red-state compatriots. The impact of coordinated blue-state boycotts could be enormous. That’s why Grab Your Wallet, along with Color of Change, a racial-justice group, and numerous other organizations are encouraging individuals to see their purchasing power as political muscle. ….

…. At first glance, Grab Your Wallet is a modest website: a Google spreadsheet that lists about 50 companies to boycott. Included are the department stores Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s, and Lord & Taylor, as well as online retailers like Overstock.com, Zappos, and Amazon, all of which sell some type of Trump swag. (The precise number of companies listed continues to decline, as retailers dump the Trump brand.) The site gets an impressive two million unique visitors every month, and when I spoke with Coulter, she told me that 22 retailers had dropped Trump products since the start of the boycott. She believes that this is just the beginning…..

Symposium: Court clarifies review of racial gerrymandering, but does not impose strict scrutiny on every intentional creation of a majority-minority district

Source: Kristen Clarke and Ezra Rosenberg, SCOTUSblog, May 22, 2017

As we prepare for the upcoming round of 2020 redistricting, the opinions in Bethune-Hill v. Virginia State Board of Elections and Cooper v. Harris make clear that what constitutes unlawful racial gerrymandering will prove critical. Although states and localities can act intentionally to preserve and create majority-minority districts, they must do so in a way that complies with the Constitution. First, and put simply, race cannot predominate over every other consideration. And, second, unlawful racial gerrymandering cannot be justified as an attempt to achieve partisan ends.

The decisions provide a workable approach for addressing allegations of unconstitutional racial gerrymanders, while at the same time rejecting the proposition that the intentional creation of a majority-minority election district automatically triggers strict scrutiny. This is clear from the sum and substance of the majority opinions, and from the explicit language in the separate opinions of Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas in Bethune-Hill and that of Thomas in Cooper. A contrary result would have imperiled legitimate attempts by state legislatures to create majority-minority districts….

Resistance School

Source: Resistance School, 2017

From about us:
We are a group of progressive graduate students at Harvard who came together in response to the election of Donald Trump, with a desire to help transform our country to better reflect our shared values…..

Resistance School is a free four-week practical training program that will sharpen the tools we need to fight back at the federal, state, and local levels. Our goal is to keep the embers of resistance alive through concrete learning, community engagement, and forward-looking action.

We believe that both long-time activists and new additions to the movement need to forge effective offensive strategies to secure progressive victories. Throughout April, we invite you to join with neighbors, friends, or classmates to participate in livestreamed interactive workshops with renowned political campaigners, communicators, and organizers. Each of the skills they’ll showcase is critical to amplifying our collective impact.
Together we’ll learn how to:
– Communicate our values in political advocacy (Session One)
Summary
Readings
Worksheets
– Mobilize and organize our communities (Session Two)
Summary
Readings
Worksheets
– Structure and build capacity for action (Session Three)
Summary
Readings
Worksheets
– Sustain the resistance long-term (Session Four)
Summary
Readings
Final Assignment

The Delegate Paradox: Why Polarized Politicians Can Represent Citizens Best

Source: Douglas Ahler, David E. Broockman, Stanford University Graduate School of Business Research Paper No. 17-30, April 24, 2017

From the abstract:
Many advocate political reforms intended to resolve apparent disjunctures between politicians’ ideologically polarized policy positions and citizens’ less-polarized policy preferences. We show these apparent disjunctures can arise even when politicians represent their constituencies well, and that resolving them would likely degrade representation. These counterintuitive results arise from a paradox whereby polarized politicians can best represent constituencies comprised of citizens with idiosyncratic preferences. We document this paradox among U.S. House Members, often criticized for excessive polarization. We show that if House Members represented their constituencies’ preferences as closely as possible, they would still appear polarized. Moreover, current Members nearly always represent their constituencies better than counterfactual less-polarized Members. A series of experiments confirms that even “moderate” citizens often prefer ostensibly polarized representatives to many less-polarized alternatives.