Category Archives: Politics

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
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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
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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.

Hiding in Plain Sight: PAC-Connected Activists Set Up ‘Local News’ Outlets

Source: Alex Kasprak, Bethania Palma, Snopes, March 4, 2019

On 6 February 2017, a website of uncertain origin named “The Tennessee Star” was born. At the time, it was unclear who funded or operated this “local newspaper,” which was largely filled with freely licensed content from organizations tied to conservative mega-donors. After some prodding by Politico in early 2018, the Tennessee Star revealed its primary architects to be three Tea Party-connected conservative activists: Michael Patrick Leahy, Steve Gill, and Christina Botteri.

Now, a Snopes investigation reveals in detail how these activists used the appearance of local newspapers to promote messages paid for or supported by outside or undisclosed interests. Gill, for example, is the political editor of the Tennessee Star, but he also owns a media consulting company that at least one candidate and one Political Action Committee (PAC) paid before receiving positive coverage in the Tennessee Star. Several Star writers have in the past or currently work for PACs or political campaigns that they write about, without disclosing that fact. Though its owners claim that the Tennessee Star is funded by advertising revenue, it appears to be supported by wealthy benefactors. Whatever the Tennessee Star is, it is not a local newspaper producing transparent journalism.

But this story is about more than just the Tennessee Star. Leahy, Botteri, and Gill have been expanding their version of journalism to other battleground states in the run-up to the 2020 presidential election. They are, they say, co-founders of a new, Delaware-registered company, Star News Digital Media, Inc., whose explicit strategy is to target battleground states with conservative news. So far, Leahy, Gill, and Botteri have added The Ohio Star and The Minnesota Sun to their network of purportedly local newspapers. These papers are effective carbon copies of the Tennessee Star.

The shutdown: Drowning government in the bathtub

Source: William E. Nelson, The Conversation, February 12, 2019

…. Shuttering the government for the third time since Trump took office remains possible, but is less likely now, given Monday’s progress towards a deal in Congressional talks over securing the border. Meanwhile, bipartisan support, including among prominent Republicans like Sens. Chuck Grassley, Lisa Murkowski, Lamar Alexander and Rob Portman, is rising for bills that would prohibit shutdowns.

The president’s observable objective in this political conflict is getting money from Congress to build the border wall.

As legal scholars who have spent much of our careers analyzing the interaction between government and society, including the economy, we believe that intentionally or not, the shutdown also was consistent with a goal long sought by a subset of the Republican Party – not to be confused with traditional, moderate Republicans – that wants to dismantle the government.

Starve the beast

These advocates of limiting government’s size have a traffic cop theory of the state, featuring a minimalist state focused on safety and security.

Many believe that government is at best superfluous and at worst a drag on a free market. It has long been their aim to cut taxes to “starve the beast.” ….