Category Archives: Politics

Welcome to the App-Based Resistance … Used by Both Sides

Source: Molly Fosco, Ozy, November 20, 2018

….Hustle is just one of a number of startups — on both sides of the aisle — that have emerged in recent years and are leveraging technology beyond traditional social media platforms in grassroots and political organizing. As national political debate gets increasingly heated, they’re witnessing growing traction, with unprecedented usage in the just-concluded midterms. For liberals, they’re tools to resist the Trump presidency. For conservatives, they’re weapons to fight back against those progressive efforts.

Ragtag, founded in 2016, connects people who have technical skills to left-of-center campaigns and organizations that need them. The Action Network, started in 2012, is using an advanced digital toolkit to mobilize more volunteers in the progressive movement than ever before. OpnSesame and RumbleUp, both founded last year, are texting platforms similar to Hustle but are focused exclusively on conservative campaigns and causes. And i360, which started in 2009, is a Koch brothers–backed technology used by several conservative organizers that connects voter information with data from credit bureaus and previous voting records…..

When Political Mega-Donors Join Forces: How the Koch Network and the Democracy Alliance Influence Organized U.S. Politics on the Right and Left

Source: Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, Theda Skocpol and Jason Sclar, Studies in American Political Development, Advance Access, Published online: October 22, 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
As economic inequalities have skyrocketed in the United States, scholars have started paying more attention to the individual political activities of billionaires and multimillionaires. Useful as such work may be, it misses an important aspect of plutocratic influence: the sustained efforts of organized groups and networks of political mega-donors, who work together over many years between as well as during elections to reshape politics. Our work contributes to this new direction by focusing on two formally organized consortia of wealthy donors that have recently evolved into highly consequential forces in U.S. politics. We develop this concept and illustrate the importance of organized donor consortia by presenting original data and analyses of the right-wing Koch seminars (from 2003 to the present) and the progressive left-leaning Democracy Alliance (from 2005 to the present). We describe the evolution, memberships, and organizational routines of these two wealthy donor collectives, and explore the ways in which each has sought to reconfigure and bolster kindred arrays of think tanks, advocacy groups, and constituency efforts operating at the edges of America’s two major political parties in a period of intensifying ideological polarization and growing conflict over the role of government in addressing rising economic inequality. Our analysis argues that the rules and organizational characteristics of donor consortia shape their resource allocations and impact, above and beyond the individual characteristics of their wealthy members.

Voter Suppression During the 2018 Midterm Elections: A Comprehensive Survey of Voter Suppression and Other Election Day Problems

Source: Danielle Root and Aadam Barclay, Center for American Progress, November 20, 2018

During the 2018 midterm elections, voter participation was more than 10 percentage points higher than it was in the 2014 midterm elections, demonstrating Americans’ demand for change and increased enthusiasm for exercising their civic duty to vote. That said, nearly 120 million eligible Americans did not participate in the November elections.

Widespread voter suppression—particularly against historically marginalized groups—is a reoccurring problem in the United States. Each election cycle, untold numbers of eligible Americans are prevented from voting due to barriers in the voter registration process, restrictions on casting ballots, and discriminatory and partisan-rigged district maps. Voter suppression measures can differ by state and even by individual county. And while some voter suppression measures actively seek to discriminate against certain groups, others result from innocent administrative errors and glitches. Regardless of its form or intent, however, voter suppression is relentlessly effective in preventing voting-eligible Americans from contributing to the electoral process.

This year—perhaps uncoincidentally—severe voter suppression occurred in states with highly competitive political races, including Georgia, Texas, Florida, and North Dakota. Policies and practices that limit participation by even a few thousand votes can mean the difference between victory and defeat in competitive elections. When voters cast a ballot, they expect their votes to matter in choosing representatives who are responsive to, reflective of, and accountable to the communities they represent. Yet when voter suppression occurs, election results may be less reflective of constituents’ actual will.

This report describes some of the voter suppression measures and other Election Day problems that potentially kept millions of eligible Americans from participating in the 2018 midterm elections. These include:
1. Voter registration problems
2. Voter purges
3. Strict voter ID and ballot requirements
4. Voter confusion
5. Voter intimidation and harassment
6. Poll closures and long lines
7. Malfunctioning voting equipment
8. Disenfranchisement of justice-involved individuals
9. Gerrymandering

This report also offers recommendations for combating voter suppression and making voting more convenient for all eligible Americans.

The United States Is Becoming a Two-Tiered Country With Separate and Unequal Voting Laws

Source: Ari Berman, Mother Jones, January/February 2019

But the midterms showed that voting rights may finally be a political winner.

…..Voters in Georgia and other states faced onerous barriers to performing their civic duty this year. As these voters were running into obstacles, residents of other states were passing ballot measures to strike down voting restrictions and make voting easier for many more people. These parallel worlds mean voting in America today looks a lot like it did more than half a century ago. We’re becoming two Americas again: one where casting a ballot is a breeze, and another where it’s a pitched battle…..

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
(subscription required)

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.