Category Archives: Politics

The Voting Behavior of Labor Union Members in the 2016 Presidential Election

Source: Daniel J. Gillis, All College Thesis Program, 2016-present, Spring 5-7-2018

From the abstract:
The conventional wisdom surrounding the 2016 United States presidential election suggests that Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, received significant support from labor union members. This has drawn attention, as labor union members have long been considered a crucial Democratic voting bloc. Previous studies have shown that Democratic support from organized labor groups has been declining over time. The stereotypical labor union member has long been a white working class male with a high school level of education in a private sector union, and recent work has primarily focused solely on these individuals. However, those traditional labor union members have been found to make up a declining share of labor union members. Therefore, there is a considerable gap in the understanding of who labor union members in the United States are. This paper will consider the changing demographics of labor union members, and analyze ANES data to consider their behavior in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Truth Decay: An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life

Source: Jennifer Kavanagh, Michael D. Rich, RAND, Document Number: RR-2314-RC, 2018

From the abstract:
Over the past two decades, national political and civil discourse in the United States has been characterized by “Truth Decay,” defined as a set of four interrelated trends: an increasing disagreement about facts and analytical interpretations of facts and data; a blurring of the line between opinion and fact; an increase in the relative volume, and resulting influence, of opinion and personal experience over fact; and lowered trust in formerly respected sources of factual information. These trends have many causes, but this report focuses on four: characteristics of human cognitive processing, such as cognitive bias; changes in the information system, including social media and the 24-hour news cycle; competing demands on the education system that diminish time spent on media literacy and critical thinking; and polarization, both political and demographic. The most damaging consequences of Truth Decay include the erosion of civil discourse, political paralysis, alienation and disengagement of individuals from political and civic institutions, and uncertainty over national policy.

This report explores the causes and consequences of Truth Decay and how they are interrelated, and examines past eras of U.S. history to identify evidence of Truth Decay’s four trends and observe similarities with and differences from the current period. It also outlines a research agenda, a strategy for investigating the causes of Truth Decay and determining what can be done to address its causes and consequences.

Political Consequences of Survival Strategies among the Urban Poor

Source: Matthew Desmond, Adam Travis, American Sociological Review, Volume: 83 Number: 5, October 2018
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From the abstract:
Combining ethnographic and statistical methods, this study identifies interlocking mechanisms that help explain how disadvantaged neighborhoods influence their residents’ political capacity. Support systems that arise in low-income neighborhoods promote social interaction that helps people make ends meet, but these systems also expose residents to heavy doses of adversity, which dampens perceptions of collective political capacity. For the poorest residents of these neighborhoods in particular, the expected positive effect of informal social support is suppressed by the negative effect of perceived trauma. These findings present a micro-level account of poverty, social interaction, and political capacity, one that holds implications for scholarship and public policy on participatory inequality.

Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest – Details and news coverage of the Trump Family’s business and financial dealings

Source: Sunlight Foundation, 2018

This database is part of the Sunlight Foundation’s ongoing “Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest” project, funded by the Lodestar Foundation. As we continue to learn about the First Family’s business holdings, this database will be updated. Learn more about the project or our methodology and download the data. Get involved and help with the updates by contacting us here.

On the Supreme Court, difficult nominations have led to historical injustices

Source: Calvin Schermerhorn, The Conversation, September 28, 2018

Far from being unusual, the hurried and partisan Supreme Court confirmation process for Brett Kavanaugh mirrors several notable examples of similarly politicized confirmations in U.S. history.

Those conflicts, which ultimately placed justices on the court, yielded some of the most damaging civil rights decisions in our nation’s history.

Unlike any other branch of government, Supreme Court justices do not have to face voters at the polls. They have no term limits. Yet the high court is the final arbiter of constitutional rights and protections.

Controversial appointees who were rammed through hearings, or political careerists nominated for strategic reasons and confirmed despite scant vetting, handed down decisions that expanded slavery and rolled back civil rights.

Bad processes do not by themselves yield bad decisions. There have also been thinly vetted justices who have protected and extended civil rights, but such cases are in a minority.

Socialism in America

Source: The Economist, August 30, 2018

The increasing popularity of socialism is more about stiffening Democrats’ spines than revolution. ….

…. Looking past the label, however, American socialists are more progressive Democrats than Castros in waiting—and their rise poses more of a challenge to the Democratic Party than to capitalism.

Still, socialism is having a moment in America unlike any since, perhaps, 1912, when Eugene Debs, the socialist candidate, won 6% of the popular vote. Between the DSA’s founding in 1982 and the election of 2016, its membership hovered at a relatively constant 6,000—the same people, says Maurice Isserman, a professor at Hamilton College and charter DSA member, “just getting greyer”. Since President Donald Trump’s election, however, its membership has risen more than eightfold, and may soon exceed 50,000 (see chart). DSA members have lost nearly all of the primaries they have contested, but two will almost certainly be elected to the next Congress: Ms Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, from Detroit. A recent Gallup poll showed that 57% of Democrats have positive views about socialism.

But the poll never defined “socialism”, so precisely what people were expressing support for remains unclear. For decades, the cold war defined it, at least for most Americans. They were capitalist and free, while socialism was a step removed, at best, from Soviet communism. Americans under 30 have no memory of the cold war. To them, socialism may be little more than a slur they have heard Republicans hurl at Democrats—particularly Barack Obama. They may well have reckoned that if supporting universal health care, more money for public education and policies to combat climate change are all socialist, then they are happy to be socialist too……

Records, Papers, Decisions: Kavanaugh Records and the Presidential Records Act

Source: Meghan M. Stuessy, Congressional Research Service, CRS Insight, IN10959, August 27, 2018

Since Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court was received on July 10, papers detailing his activities in the George W. Bush Administration and the Office of Independent Counsel Kenneth W. Starr have been the subject of ongoing congressional interest. Specifically, many Members of Congress have discussed the public release of Judge Kavanaugh’s records and whether the scope and volume of records released is similar to the records of previous Supreme Court nominees.

The release and maintenance of records pertaining to Judge Kavanaugh’s tenure in these offices is governed by the interaction of the Federal Records Act, the Presidential Records Act (PRA), and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). While the Federal Records Act applies to all federal records, such as Judge Kavanaugh’s attorney work files from his tenure with the Office of Independent Counsel, the PRA applies only to records created on behalf of a president, such as records created during the George W. Bush Administration….

Calling Balls and Strikes: Ethics and Supreme Court Justices

Source: Cynthia Brown, Congressional Research Service, CRS Legal Sidebar, LSB10189, August 20, 2018

At his confirmation hearing in 2005, Chief Justice Roberts famously described his view of judges as umpires, pledging that, if confirmed, he would “call balls and strikes” when applying the law. Chief Justice Roberts emphasized the constitutional structure that underpins the Supreme Court and the rest of the federal judiciary, which is based on independence from political influence. The Court’s independence and its insulation from political influence is a perennial issue, which has received heightened attention with Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s pending nomination. What mechanisms ensure the integrity of Justices as federal officials? Are Justices subject to any rules of ethical conduct? How might such ethics rules be enforced? This Sidebar examines these questions and Congress’s potential role in regulating the ethics of the Supreme Court Justices…..