The Guardian reports: A record number of Americans believe global warming will pose a threat to their way of life, new polling data shows, amid strengthening public acceptance that rising temperatures are being driven by human activity.
“I think a shift in public opinion and consciousness has been underway for several years now,” Michael Mann, a prominent climate scientist at Pennsylvania State University, told the Guardian.
A spokesman for 350 Action, the political arm of climate activist group 350.org, said meanwhile that politicians who cast doubt on climate science would soon have to take such polling into account. Republicans, he said, “are going to be screwed if they don’t change their tune”.
Polling firm Gallup, which has been tracking public sentiment on the topic annually since 1997, found that 41% of US adults feel warming will pose a “serious threat” to them during their lifetimes. This is the highest level recorded by Gallup, a 4% increase on 2015. [Continue reading…]
Since Catholics make up the largest religious denomination in the U.S. (69.5 million members, which is 22% of the population), it makes sense that their political leanings would be close to the average among Americans of all and no religious affiliations.
Still, since in the media there is a tendency to associate religious with right-wing, it’s worth noting that Catholics lean Democratic rather than Republican — 44% vs. 37% — by exactly the same proportions as do all U.S. adults.
Pew Research breaks down the numbers for all religious groups:
The New York Times reports: Mark Jebens, a veteran of 22 years in the Marine Corps, found no fault with Donald J. Trump’s scathing criticism that President George W. Bush “lied” about weapons of mass destruction while leading the United States into war in Iraq.
“At the end of the day, a lot of good Marines and sailors and airmen died over something that wasn’t there,” said Mr. Jebens, who served three combat tours in Iraq. “So you’ve got to ask tough critical questions. In the military we called it a debrief or a hot wash.”
Mr. Trump’s hot wash of Mr. Bush in a debate on Saturday, including a suggestion that he did not heed intelligence warnings before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, convinced many Republicans that Mr. Trump had finally gone too far, tarring a former president who is popular in military-friendly South Carolina, and uttering charges that Rush Limbaugh, for one, called “liberal Democrat lingo.”
But numerous military veterans interviewed at Trump rallies in South Carolina this week, including Mr. Jebens, said they had no problem with Mr. Trump’s comments, even if they did not entirely agree with him. [Continue reading…]
How do you stop states and cities from forcing more disclosure of so-called dark money in politics? Get the debate to focus on an “average Joe,” not a wealthy person. Find examples of “inconsequential donation amounts.” Point out that naming donors would be a threat to “innocents,” including their children, families and co-workers.
And never call it dark money. “Private giving” sounds better.
These and other suggestions appear in internal documents from conservative groups that are coaching activists to fight state legislation that would impose more transparency on the secretive nonprofit groups reshaping U.S. campaign finance.
The documents obtained by ProPublica were prepared by the State Policy Network, which helps conservative think tanks in 50 states supply legislators with research friendly to their causes, and the Conservative Action Project (CAP), a Washington policy group founded by Edwin Meese, a Reagan-era attorney general.
Dark money is the term for funds that flow into politics from nonprofit groups, which can accept donations of any size but, unlike political action committees, are not required by federal law to reveal the identities of their donors. The anonymity has been upheld by courts that cite as precedent a 1958 Supreme Court ruling that the state of Alabama could not demand that the NAACP turn over a list of its members.
David Axelrod writes: The Republican base is infuriated by Mr. Obama’s activist view of government and progressive initiatives, from health care reform to immigration, gay rights to climate change.
Beyond specific issues, however, many Republicans view dimly the very qualities that played so well for Mr. Obama in 2008. Deliberation is seen as hesitancy; patience as weakness. His call for tolerance and passionate embrace of America’s growing diversity inflame many in the Republican base, who view with suspicion and anger the rapidly changing demographics of America. The president’s emphasis on diplomacy is viewed as appeasement.
So who among the Republicans is more the antithesis of Mr. Obama than the trash-talking, authoritarian, give-no-quarter Mr. Trump?
His bombast allows no room for nuance or complexity. He proudly extols his intolerance as an assault against “political correctness,” and he vows to bring the world to heel, from Mexico to China to Syria and Iraq.
Mr. Trump has found an audience with Americans disgruntled by the rapid, disorderly change they associate with national decline and their own uncertain prospects. Policies be damned, who better to set things right than the defiant strong man who promises by sheer force of will to make America great again?
Yes, we can? Hell, no!
Just leave it to me, Mr. Trump says. Yes, I can!
The robust condemnations Mr. Trump has received from media and political elites have only intensified the enthusiasm of his supporters, many of whom feel disdained and forgotten by the very same people who regularly mock and chide their man for his boorishness. To his base, he’s a truth-teller, thumbing his nose at conventional politicians, whether they are liberal or conservative. Rebukes from fact checkers and purveyors of civil discourse? They’re just so much establishment claptrap.
Relentlessly edgy, confrontational and contemptuous of the niceties of governance and policy making, Mr. Trump is the perfect counterpoint to a president whose preternatural cool and deliberate nature drive his critics mad. [Continue reading…]
Dana Milbank writes: Late Thursday night, National Review, the storied conservative magazine founded by William F. Buckley, published an issue denouncing Donald Trump.
“Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones,” the editors wrote. “Donald Trump is a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it underfoot in behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as the Donald himself.”
The Republican National Committee reacted swiftly — immediately revoking the permission it had given National Review to host a Republican presidential debate next month. “Tonight, a top official with the RNC called me to say that National Review was being disinvited,” the magazine’s publisher wrote online. “The reason: Our ‘Against Trump’ editorial.”
That soft flapping sound you hear is the Grand Old Party waving the flag of surrender to Trump. Party elites — what’s left of the now-derided “establishment” — are acquiescing to the once inconceivable: that a xenophobic and bigoted showman is now the face of the Republican Party and of American conservatism.
In recent days, influential Republicans including Bob Dole, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, Rupert Murdoch and, as my Post colleagues reported, Rudy Giuliani and Rep. Peter King (N.Y.) have made noises about being able to stomach Trump. Republican donors are trying to insinuate themselves in the billionaire’s orbit. Trump himself said Thursday: “I have received so many phone calls from people that you would call ‘establishment,’ from people — generally speaking, conservatives, Republicans — that want to come onto our team.”
The Wall Street Journal editorial page had long criticized Trump’s candidacy, publishing an editorial in July arguing that the conservative media who applaud Trump “are hurting the cause.” The editors opined: “If Donald Trump becomes the voice of conservatives, conservatism will implode along with him.”
A week ago, the Journal reversed course. “Mr. Trump is a better politician than we ever imagined, and he is becoming a better candidate,” the editorialists wrote, speculating that “he might possibly be able to appeal to a larger set of voters than he has so far.” [Continue reading…]
I didn’t watch President Obama’s State of the Union speech on Tuesday, but news reports alerted me to this passage:
A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security.
But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.
It’s easy to view politics as a marketplace in which trading is taking place as competing constituencies haggle over power. From that perspective, the only question is which group best represents your interests and if no such group exists, politics then becomes a dull spectator sport. Such a marketplace is inevitably dominated by the loudest voices.
Even if that characterization is reasonably accurate, it is likely to have a constricting effect.
Politics seen as jostling power groups, makes those groups into somewhat static entities and it saps a spirit of inquiry.
If the activity of asking and answering questions — an activity that needs to be driven by curiosity — seems pointless, it gets replaced by a much less constructive exercise: the solidification of opinion through affiliation.
In other words, politics is reduced to the question of who you want to stand with and who you stand against.
In the Republican response to Obama’s speech, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley said:
Some people think that you have to be the loudest voice in the room to make a difference. That is just not true. Often, the best thing we can do is turn down the volume. When the sound is quieter, you can actually hear what someone else is saying. And that can make a world of difference.
It would be easy to dismiss these appeals from Obama and Haley to reduce the level of rancor in politics as simply calls for a cosmetic change — as though politics can be reformed by making it more pleasant. But I don’t think these calls for a tone change should be trivialized.
The dynamic at issue is driven by the cycle of attention-seeking and attention-giving.
Donald Trump’s success has had less to do with either his financial independence or his alignment with a large segment of the population, than it has with his skill in co-opting the services of the mass media.
He took reality TV to the next level (cliche intended) by turning a presidential campaign into a form of mass entertainment. Trump supporters commonly say that a significant part of his appeal is that they find him entertaining. The tedium of politics has been turned into a raucous circus with Trump as ringmaster.
He couldn’t have done this without the help of a media which salivates at each and every opportunity to boost ratings and make more money.
Ultimately, this is an issue of American values. If creating wealth is the axis around which American life turns, then the media will inevitably function like every other branch of commerce.
The health of any society, however, requires a balance between self-interest and collective interests.
If government, the legal system, the media, education, medicine, and the arts, are controlled by commerce then we all end up as the slaves of profit.
John Brockman asked contributors to The Edge: what do you consider the most interesting recent scientific news? Jonathan Haidt responded: If you were on a selection committee tasked with choosing someone to hire (or to admit to your university, or to receive a prize in your field), and it came down to two candidates who were equally qualified on objective measures, which candidate would you be most likely to choose?
__A) The one who shared your race
__B) The one who shared your gender
__C) The one who shared your religion
__D) The one who shared your political party or ideology
The correct answer, for most Americans, is now D. It is surely good news that prejudice based on race, gender, and religion are way down in recent decades. But it is very bad news—for America, for the world, and for science—that cross-partisan hostility is way up.
My nomination for “news that will stay news” is a paper by political scientists Shanto Iyengar and Sean Westwood, titled “Fear and Loathing Across Party Lines: New Evidence on Group Polarization.” Iyengar and Westwood report four studies (all using nationally representative samples) in which they gave Americans various ways to reveal both cross-partisan and cross-racial prejudice, and in all cases cross-partisan prejudice was larger.
First they used a measure of implicit attitudes (the Implicit Association Test), which measures how quickly and easily people can pair words that are emotionally good versus bad with words and images associated with Blacks vs. Whites. They also ran a new version of the test that swapped in words and images related to Republicans vs. Democrats, instead of Blacks vs. Whites. The effect sizes for cross-partisan implicit attitudes were much larger than cross-race. If we focus just on White participants who identified with a party, the cross-partisan effect was about 50 percent larger than the cross-race effect. When Americans look at each other or try to listen to each other, their automatic associations are more negative for people from the “other side” than they are for people of a different race. [Continue reading…]
Alexander Hurst writes: In 2012, a team of academics from Europe and the U.S. — Yoel Inbar, David Pizarro, Ravi Iyer, and Jonathan Haidt — published a paper titled “Disgust Sensitivity, Political Conservatism, and Voting,” looking at the role disgust plays in political orientation. The researchers posited three different types of disgust: interpersonal disgust (i.e., the feeling produced by drinking from the same cup as someone else); core disgust (the response to maggots, vomit, dirty toilets, etc.); and animal-reminder disgust (how we react to corpses, blood, anything that evokes our animal nature).
Disgust, they write, “serves to discourage us from ingesting noxious or dangerous substances,” but also plays a role in moral and social judgments. Those who feel more disgusted by unpleasant images, smells, or tastes judge more harshly that which violates their subjective moral code.
The team had respondents position themselves on a political scale from conservative to liberal. The respondents then stated how strongly they agreed or disagreed with statements like “I never let any part of my body touch the toilet seat in a public washroom,” and rated other hypotheticals according to the level of disgust they generated. Even when controlling for age, education, geography, and religious belief, individuals with higher “disgust sensitivity” were found to be more likely to tolerate wealth inequality, view homosexuality negatively, and place more belief in authoritarian leaders and systems.
Most strikingly, interpersonal disgust was an important predictor of anti-immigrant attitudes.
Trump, of course, is a well-known, admitted germaphobe. “One of the curses of American society is the simple act of shaking hands,” he wrote in The Art of the Deal. “I happen to be a clean hands freak. I feel much better after I thoroughly wash my hands, which I do as much as possible.”
Trump even described shaking hands as “barbaric” in an interview with Dateline in 1999, saying, “They have medical reports all the time. Shaking hands, you catch colds, you catch the flu, you catch it, you catch all sorts of things. Who knows what you don’t catch?”
Beyond the aversion to hand-shaking, Trump used to pre-test his dates for AIDS, and reportedly avoids pushing elevator buttons.
The connection between modern xenophobia, disgust sensitivity, and the strength of Trump’s campaign is fairly easy to make. As Inbar, Pizarro, Iyer, and Haidt point out, “Disgust evolved not just to protect individuals form oral contamination by potential foods, but also from the possibility of contamination by contact with unfamiliar individuals or groups.” And after all, Trump’s success has come not from presenting voters with detailed policy proposals, but from connecting with them on a gut level. [Continue reading…]
Peter Beinart writes: By the time Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008, in part because of her support for the Iraq War, the mood inside the party had fundamentally changed. Whereas the party’s most respected thinkers had once urged Democrats to critique liberal orthodoxy, they now criticized Democrats for not defending that orthodoxy fiercely enough. The presidency of George W. Bush had made Democrats unapologetically liberal, and the presidency of Barack Obama was the most tangible result.
But that’s only half the story. Because if George W. Bush’s failures pushed the Democratic Party to the left, Barack Obama’s have pushed it even further. If Bush was responsible for the liberal infrastructure that helped elect Obama, Obama has now inadvertently contributed to the creation of two movements — Occupy and Black Lives Matter — dedicated to the proposition that even the liberalism he espouses is not left-wing enough.
Given the militant opposition Obama faced from Republicans in Congress, it’s unclear whether he could have used the financial crisis to dramatically curtail Wall Street’s power. What is clear is that he did not. Thus, less than three years after the election of a president who had inspired them like no other, young activists looked around at a country whose people were still suffering, and whose financial titans were still dominant. In response, they created Occupy Wall Street.
When academics from the City University of New York went to Zuccotti Park to study the people who had taken it over, they found something striking: 40 percent of the Occupy activists had worked on the 2008 presidential campaign, mostly for Obama. Many of them had hoped that, as president, he would bring fundamental change. Now the collapse of that hope had led them to challenge Wall Street directly. “Disenchantment with Obama was a driver of the Occupy movement for many of the young people who participated,” noted the CUNY researchers. In his book on the movement, Occupy Nation, the Columbia University sociologist Todd Gitlin quotes Jeremy Varon, a close observer of Occupy who teaches at the New School for Social Research, as saying, “This is the Obama generation declaring their independence from his administration. We thought his voice was ours. Now we know we have to speak for ourselves.”
For a brief period, Occupy captured the nation’s attention. In December 2011, Gitlin notes, the movement had 143 chapters in California alone. Then it fizzled. But as the political scientist Frances Fox Piven has written, “The great protest movements of history … did not expand in the shape of a simple rising arc of popular defiance. Rather, they began in a particular place, sputtered and subsided, only to re-emerge elsewhere in perhaps a different form, influenced by local particularities of circumstance and culture.”
That’s what happened to Occupy. The movement may have burned out, but it injected economic inequality into the American political debate. (In the weeks following the takeover of Zuccotti Park, media references to the subject rose fivefold.) The same anger that sparked Occupy — directed not merely at Wall Street but at the Democratic Party elites who coddled it—fueled Bill de Blasio’s election and Elizabeth Warren’s rise to national prominence. And without Occupy, it’s impossible to understand why a curmudgeonly Democratic Socialist from Vermont is seriously challenging Hillary Clinton in the early primary states. The day Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy, a group of Occupy veterans offered their endorsement. In the words of one former Occupy activist, Stan Williams, “People who are involved in Occupy are leading the biggest group for Bernie Sanders. Our fingers are all over this.”
It’s true that Americans have grown more conservative on some issues over the past few years. Support for gun control has dropped in the Obama era, even as the president and other Democrats have pursued it more aggressively. Republicans also enjoy a renewed advantage on combatting international terrorism, an issue whose salience has grown with the rise of the Islamic State. Still, in an era when government has grown more intrusive, African American activists have grown more confrontational, and long-standing assumptions about sexual orientation and gender identity have been toppled, most Americans are not yelling “stop,” as they began doing in the mid-1960s. The biggest reason: We’re not dealing with the same group of Americans.
On issue after issue, it is the young who are most pleased with the liberal policy shifts of the Obama era, and most eager for more. In 2014, Pew found that Americans under 30 were twice as likely as Americans 65 and older to say the police do a “poor” job of “treating racial, ethnic groups equally” and more than twice as likely to say the grand jury in Ferguson was wrong not to charge Darren Wilson in Michael Brown’s death. According to YouGov, more than one in three Americans 65 and older think being transgender is morally wrong. Among Americans under 30, the ratio is less than one in five. Millennials — Americans roughly 18 to 34 years old — are 21 percentage points less likely than those 65 and older to say that immigrants “burden” the United States and 25 points more likely to say they “strengthen” the country. Millennials are also 17 points more likely to have a favorable view of Muslims. [Continue reading…]
Still, these measures are relative.
In a recent poll of support for Trump among Millennials, 32.2% of young adults aged 18-24 said they would support his ban on Muslims entering the U.S. They were outnumbered by 46.4% being opposed, but the fact that opposition was not found in an overwhelming majority is telling.
As much as it might be true that the Bush era provoked a backlash that pushed America leftward, the ideology of the war on terrorism can be viewed by its advocates as a success in this sense: the core issue perceived by most Americans is their experience of insecurity and any remedy for that insecurity must make them feel safe.
Many Americans express opposition to policies instituted in the name of counterterrorism and yet simultaneously harbor the multifaceted fears which have become a core component in American consciousness.
Insecurity comes in many forms — economic insecurity, fear of police brutality, fear of terrorism, fear of immigrants — but whenever the problem is fear, the remedy is security.
The fact that fear has become the foundation of the American zeitgeist is evident in the varieties of isolationism found across the political spectrum.
Isolationism on the right calls for increased defense spending and stronger borders, while on the left it promotes anti-interventionism and a broad disengagement from global affairs.
This inward turning has happened not only collectively, but also individually. No generation has become less trusting of others than are Millennials.
Where trust is so lacking, how can mass movements grow? Where will a sense of human solidarity take root?
Consider the tepid response to Donald Trump’s proposal to exclude Muslims from America. As much as he might have provoked many expressions of principled outrage, why has he not been countered by calls for a massive increase in refugee intake?
The United States is almost 30 times the size of Germany and has four times the population. If the U.S. was to match Germany in its willingness to welcome refugees, President Obama, following Chancellor Merkel’s lead, would be saying we need to accept four million and not a paltry 10,000.
There are 300 cities larger than 100,000 population across America and if all were to accept an average of 500 refugees, this would only amount to a modest intake of 150,000.
The number of Syrian refugees granted asylum in the U.S. in 2015 amounted to one per 172,000 Americans.
Let’s suppose that Americans were to feel collectively strong enough that 1,000 would still feel safe if they were to welcome just one refugee in their communities. This would result in an intake of 322,000 refugees.
The issue here has much less to do with an economic burden or national security, than it has with xenophobic paranoia.
That paranoia might be at its highest concentration in Trump’s America, but it seems to exist in varying dilutions across much of the rest of this nation.
Among the presidential candidates, as the self-declared socialist, Bernie Sanders should have taken the boldest stand on Syrian refugees and he has called on his supporters to sign a petition saying “we should not turn our backs on these refugees escaping violence in the Middle East” — a feel-good sentiment. But when it comes to a call for action, all he appealed for was this:
Support continuing the refugee program that promises to resettle 10,000 Syrians, mostly women and children, who are escaping violence in their home country.
Perhaps he and those in his campaign who arrived there from the Occupy movement personally favor a more radical response to the refugee crisis but have refrained from advocating for this because they believe it would undermine Sander’s electoral viability. Or perhaps this timidity is their own.
Either way, this purported antidote to “anti-immigrant hysteria” nevertheless seems to accommodate rather than challenges America’s more pervasive fears.
The Washington Post reports: Making friends is no easy task for modern white nationalists.
In an era of gay marriage and a black president, more than a half-century after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law, separatists can’t exactly swan dive into conversations with strangers about the white-power cause.
But Rachel Pendergraft — the national organizer for the Knights Party, a standard-bearer for the Ku Klux Klan — told The Washington Post that the KKK, for one, has a new conversation starter at its disposal.
You might call it a “Trump card.”
It involves, say, walking into a coffee shop or sitting on a train while carrying a newspaper with a Donald Trump headline. The Republican presidential candidate, Pendergraft told The Post, has become a great outreach tool, providing separatists with an easy way to start a conversation about issues that are important to the dying white supremacist movement. [Continue reading…]