Category Archives: Politics

The 2019 government shutdown is just the latest reason why poor people can’t bank on the safety net

Source: Jamila Michener, The Conversation, January 14, 2019

….People living in poverty are now bracing for that kind of chopping as a result of the partial government shutdown that began in December. By the three-week mark, most safety-net benefits were still being funded. But should the impasse drag on, that could change.

In my view, the added economic hardship brought on would highlight an enduring aspect of American public policy: Government benefits can be unreliable. They can be cut or eliminated arbitrarily….

Rethinking Middle America

Source: Christopher CimaglioLabor: Studies in Working-Class History, Vol. 15 no. 3, September 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
The emergence of “Middle America” as a meaningful political category is most commonly credited to the populist conservative politics of the late 1960s and to Richard Nixon in particular. This article presents an alternative origin story for the idea of Middle America, spotlighting liberal commentators and national journalists working in the same period. As these observers sought to understand and portray what they saw as a new and growing white backlash against African Americans’ gains and cultural change broadly, they helped to cement one of the most central and enduring claims in the period’s elite political and media discourse: white workers comprised the core of an alienated, traditionalist white majority—a group many called Middle America—separated from liberal white professionals by a deep cultural divide.

How to Save the Supreme Court

Source: Daniel Epps, Ganesh Sitaraman, Vanderbilt Law Research Paper 18-65, Last revised: December 10, 2018

From the abstract:
The consequences of Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court are seismic. The new conservative majority that Kavanaugh completes represents a stunning victory for the Republican party after decades of effort by the conservative legal movement. The result is a Supreme Court whose justices—on both sides—are likely to vote along party lines more consistently than ever before in American history. That development presents a grave threat to the Court’s legitimacy. If in the future roughly half of Americans lack confidence in the Supreme Court to render impartial justice, the Court’s ability to reach settlements of important questions that all Americans can live with is serious jeopardy. Raising the stakes even higher, many Democrats are already calling for changes like court-packing to prevent the new conservative majority from blocking progressive reforms. Even if justified, such moves could provoke further tit-for-tat escalation that would leave the Court’s image, and the rule of law, badly damaged.

The coming crisis can be stopped. But preserving the Court’s legitimacy as an institution above politics will require a complete rethinking of how the Court works and how the Justices are chosen. To save what is good about the Court, we must reject and rethink much of how the Court has operated for more than two centuries. In this Essay, we outline a framework for thinking about saving the Supreme Court, evaluate existing proposals, and offer two distinct reform proposals of our own, which we call the Supreme Court Lottery and the Balanced Court. Whether policymakers adopt these precise proposals or not, however, it is imperative that they search for some kind of reforms along these lines. Saving the Court—by transforming the Court—is our best hope.

The Impact of Protest on Elections in the United States

Source: Daniel Q. Gillion, Sarah A. Soule, Social Science Quarterly, Volume 99 Issue 5, November 2018
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Objectives:
The objective of this study was to understand the effect of citizen mobilization on both electoral outcomes and on the likelihood that new candidates will enter races to challenge incumbent politicians.

Methods:
This study uses quantitative, longitudinal data (at the congressional‐district level) on protest, electoral outcomes, and challengers entering races, which are analyzed using an autoregressive distributed lagged regression model.

Results:
Results show that protests that express liberal issues lead to a greater percentage of the two‐party vote share for Democratic candidates, while protests that espouse conservative issues offer Republican candidates a greater share of the two‐party vote. Additionally, results indicated that protest shines a light on incumbent politicians’ failure to address constituent concerns, which leads quality candidates to enter subsequent races to challenge incumbent politicians.

Conclusions:
Citizen activism, which has been shown to impact state and firm policy decisions, also impacts electoral outcomes.

Related:
Yes, protests really can sway elections
Source: by Edmund L. Andrews, Futurity, December 13, 2018

Protests really do have an effect on election results, according to a new study based on 30 years of data.

Election 2018: Midterm Analysis

Source: Tim Storey and Wendy Underhill, State Legislatures Magazine, November-December 2018

Republicans Still Control Most of the Nation’s Legislative Seats, but the Gap Between the Parties Narrowed Considerably

Related:
Voters Make Policy
Source: Patrick Potyondy, State Legislatures Magazine, November-December 2018

Citizens Had Their Say on More Than 150 Ballot Measures That Could Transform Their States

Republicans Brazenly Gut Voting Rights in Lame Duck Before They Lose Power

Source: Ari Berman, Mother Jones, December 3, 2018

Four states are taking unprecedented steps to strip power from Democrats and make it harder to vote.

Related:
Case Studies in Voter Suppression: Profiling Voter Suppressors
Source: Danielle Root and Aadam Barclay, Center for American Progress Action Fund, November 26, 2018

The John Birch Society is still influencing American politics, 60 years after its founding

Source: Christopher Towler, The Conversation, December 6, 2018

The retired candy entrepreneur Robert Welch founded the John Birch Society 60 years ago to push back against what he perceived as a growing American welfare state modeled on communism and the federal government’s push to desegregate America.

Although Welch’s group has never amassed more than 100,000 dues-paying members, it had garnered an estimated 4 to 6 million sympathizers within four years of its 1958 formation.

As a scholar of political history and social movements, I find many parallels between today’s far right and its predecessors. Just as the John Birch Society emerged in the midst of the civil rights movement, today’s far-right movements formed as a reaction to the election of Barack Obama – a milestone for racial equality…..

…. Even though Welch understood racism and bigotry would hurt his cause, the John Birch Society’s opposition to the civil rights movement attracted Americans sympathetic to racist paranoia. For example, it consistently published reports accusing civil rights leaders of communist subversion and alleging that people of color were plotting to divide the country and control the world. ….

…. The John Birch Society is also directly linked to conservative politics today.

Most notably, Fred Koch, the father of David and Charles Koch, was among the Birch Society’s first 11 members and its main financial backers. The billionaire Koch brothers have pumped massive amounts of money into libertarian causes and conservative political campaigns for decades. ….

Wisconsin, Conquered

Source: Luke Savage, Jacobin, November 26, 2018

Republicans could not have conquered the labor stronghold of Wisconsin without the complacency of the Democratic Party.

A review of The Fall of Wisconsin: The Conservative Conquest of a Progressive Bastion and the Future of American Politics by Dan Kaufman (W.W. Norton, 2018).

….Its significance as a target of Republican belligerence should therefore not be understated. Indeed, as Kaufman shows, the state became a key battleground during the Tea Party ascendancy and a veritable laboratory for the power of big donors and unrestricted dark money following the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision. Using their astroturfed American For Prosperity advocacy fund, Charles and David Koch spent tens of millions on the 2010 elections — the latter making a personal donation of $1 million to the Republican Governors Association. Even more money was poured into subsequent elections, with Walker out-fundraising his Democratic opponent in the 2012 recall contest by a whopping $30 million to $4 million.

Another institutional antagonist is the American Legislative Executive Council (ALEC), a nonprofit charity whose donors include Exxon, Koch Industries, and major pharmaceutical interests. An example of lobbying at its most efficiently dystopian, ALEC assembles conservative ideologues, lawmakers, and corporate interests with the goal of crafting model legislation, targeting unions, environmental laws, public schools, and voting rights, to be imposed on jurisdictions throughout the country. Versions of several laws, including a right-to-work bill with virtually identical language, were successfully implemented during Walker’s control of the statehouse.

Wisconsin’s story is therefore an alarming illustration of the Republican Party’s long-term strategy at work and what its vast political and financial infrastructure is ultimately capable of even in the face of strong opposition. Its goal, as Kaufman’s book makes clear, is not just the passage of specific pieces of conservative legislation and laws that favor corporate interests, but the destruction of all obstacles to permanent Republican control of the legislative process and the reconfiguring of politics with the aim of consolidating those interests in perpetuity…..