The conservative threat to American universities

The Washington Post reports: Frank Antenori shot the head off a rattlesnake at his back door last summer — a deadeye pistol blast from 20 feet. No college professor taught him that. The U.S. Army trained him, as a marksman and a medic, on the “two-way rifle range” of Afghanistan and Iraq.

Useful skills. Smart return on taxpayers’ investment. Not like the waste he sees at too many colleges and universities, where he says liberal professors teach “ridiculous” classes and indoctrinate students “who hang out and protest all day long and cry on our dime.”

“Why does a kid go to a major university these days?” said Antenori, 51, a former Green Beret who served in the Arizona state legislature. “A lot of Republicans would say they go there to get brainwashed and learn how to become activists and basically go out in the world and cause trouble.”

Antenori is part of an increasingly vocal campaign to transform higher education in America. Though U.S. universities are envied around the world, he and other conservatives want to reduce the flow of government cash to what they see as elitist, politically correct institutions that often fail to provide practical skills for the job market.

To the alarm of many educators, nearly every state has cut funding to public colleges and universities since the 2008 financial crisis. Adjusted for inflation, states spent $5.7 billion less on public higher education last year than in 2008, even though they were educating more than 800,000 additional students, according to the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association.

In Arizona, which has had a Republican governor and legislature since 2009, lawmakers have cut spending for higher education by 54 percent since 2008; the state now spends $3,500 less per year on every student, according to the progressive Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Tuition has soared, forcing students to shoulder more of the cost of their degrees.

Meanwhile, public schools in Arizona and across the nation are welcoming private donors, including the conservative Koch brothers. In nearly every state, the Charles Koch Foundation funds generally conservative-leaning scholars and programs in politics, economics, law and other subjects. John Hardin, the foundation’s director of university relations, said its giving has tripled from about $14 million in 2011 to $44 million in 2015 as the foundation aims to “diversify the conversation” on campus.

People across the ideological spectrum are worried about the cost of college, skyrocketing debt from student loans and rising inequality in access to quality degrees. Educators fear the drop in government spending is making schools harder to afford for low- and middle-income students.

State lawmakers blame the cuts on falling tax revenue during the recession; rising costs of other obligations, especially Medicaid and prisons; and the need to balance their budgets. But even as prosperity has returned to many states, there is a growing partisan divide over how much to spend on higher education. Education advocates worry that conservative disdain threatens to undermine universities. [Continue reading…]

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How Donald Trump ruined Thanksgiving

Politico reports: In the 10 months since his inauguration, President Donald Trump has been accused of torching everything from America’s stature on the global stage to the country’s most treasured political norms. He “ruined the eclipse,” noted one observer; he “ruined all my favorite TV shows,” lamented another. He’s been accused of destroying workplace morale, irony and Bachelor in Paradise, too.

It’s only natural: To be a leader is to accept your fair share of blame, and then some. No doubt Americans will spend the next four to eight years debating whether or not the president trashed U.S. foreign policy and reality TV and everything in between. But a new study by economists Keith Chen of UCLA and Ryne Rohla of Washington State University seems to have proved at least one point conclusively: Trump really did ruin Thanksgiving.

With the help of data-tracking service SafeGraph, Chen and Rohla traced the movements of more than 10 million Americans across the past two Thanksgiving holidays. They focused specifically on people who traveled from Republican-leaning areas to Democratic-leaning areas and vice versa, and found that politically divided families spent on average 20 to 30 minutes less time around the dinner table in 2016 than they did in 2015. That added up to a loss of 62 million person-hours of Thanksgiving time across the country—and specifically, the authors estimated, a loss of “27 million person-hours of cross-partisan Thanksgiving discourse.” [Continue reading…]

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Americans are officially freaking out

Bloomberg reports: For those lying awake at night worried about health care, the economy, and an overall feeling of divide between you and your neighbors, there’s at least one source of comfort: Your neighbors might very well be lying awake, too.

Almost two-thirds of Americans, or 63 percent, report being stressed about the future of the nation, according to the American Psychological Association’s Eleventh Stress in America survey, conducted in August and released on Wednesday. This worry about the fate of the union tops longstanding stressors such as money (62 percent) and work (61 percent) and also cuts across political proclivities. However, a significantly larger proportion of Democrats (73 percent) reported feeling stress than independents (59 percent) and Republicans (56 percent).

The “current social divisiveness” in America was reported by 59 percent of those surveyed as a cause of their own malaise. When the APA surveyed Americans a year ago, 52 percent said they were stressed by the presidential campaign. Since then, anxieties have only grown.

A majority of the more than 3,400 Americans polled, 59 percent, said “they consider this to to be the lowest point in our nation’s history that they can remember.” That sentiment spanned generations, including those that lived through World War II, the Vietnam War, and the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11. (Some 30 percent of people polled cited terrorism as a source of concern, a number that’s likely to rise given the alleged terrorist attack in New York City on Tuesday.) [Continue reading…]

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Standing up to Donald Trump and the meanness that he has promoted across America

Ronald A. Klain writes: For decades, conservatives labored to make their movement more humane. Ronald Reagan put a jovial face on conservative policies — more Dale Carnegie than Ayn Rand; George H.W. Bush promised a “kinder, gentler” tenure; George W. Bush ran on “compassionate conservatism.” As a progressive, I opposed many of their specific proposals. But as a country, we benefited from a debate between competing ideas — liberal and conservative — on how to soften the hard edges of American life and create a more inclusive country.

That was then. Today, we are living the Politics of Mean. In the Trump presidency, with its daily acts of cruelty, punching down is a feature, not a bug. And the only thing more disquieting than a president who practices the Politics of Mean are the voters who celebrate it.

President Trump’s decision to put some 700,000 “dreamers” in limbo, his snarling statement that athletes protesting policing abuses are “sons of bitches,” his opposition to bipartisan efforts to maintain health coverage for low-income families, his feud with a Gold Star widow are all recent examples — not of conservative policies — but of a basic nastiness. Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans still lack water, most are without electricity, leptospirosis is spreading, and Trump talks about withdrawing federal aid and belittles local leaders. Nine months into his presidency, Trump is not even paying lip service to the compassionate ideals — such as improving low-performing schools or combating homelessness — that previous Republican presidents pursued.

Trump always will be Trump. He won the White House on a campaign of insults and taunts, urging rally attendees to punch protesters and threatening to jail his opponent. We have known who he is. But what is his presidency saying about the rest of us? [Continue reading…]

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Almost half of Republicans want war with North Korea, a new poll says. Is it the Trump Effect?

Aaron Blake writes: There was a pretty striking finding in Thursday’s Quinnipiac University poll: Fully 46 percent of Republicans — a plurality — said they would support a preemptive strike against North Korea.

That’s nearly half of President Trump’s party that is ready for war — today — with Kim Jong Un, his nuclear weapons and all. (Forty-one percent said they opposed a preemptive strike.)

It’s no surprise that Republicans are more hawkish on this than Democrats are; that’s generally the case on foreign policy. But basically nobody is talking about the prospect of a strike right now. Even when Trump talks about it, he’s responding to North Korea threatening the United States or its allies.

Yet it also seems possible that Trump’s ramped-up rhetoric on this could be having an effect on his base. Trump in August promised “fire and fury” if North Korea ran afoul of him. Last month, he threatened in his speech at the United Nations to “totally destroy” the country — a threat that seemed to tie average North Koreans to their government’s demise. He has repeatedly called Kim “Rocket Man” and generally proved fond of the kind of saber-rattling we expect from the other side of this standoff. [Continue reading…]

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By rejecting ‘inflammatory’ ad, Twitter gives candidate free publicity boost

Molly Roberts writes: By rejecting an ad for the Tennessee congresswoman’s fledgling Senate campaign that mentioned Planned Parenthood selling “baby body parts,” the platform provided Blackburn an early publicity boost.

“@Twitter continues campaign against @GOP,” former White House press secretary Sean Spicer tweeted.

“Here’s the Marsha Blackburn video Twitter banned. It would be a shame if this went viral & helped her win!” winked the alt-right activist known as Baked Alaska.

“The conservative revolution won’t be stopped by @Twitter and the liberal elite. Donate to my Senate campaign today!” the Blackburn campaign account implored.

Twitter did not, as some coverage has suggested, “ban” Blackburn’s ad entirely. It simply refused to sell her space for promotion. That means Blackburn’s ad is still viewable to anyone who searches for it, and the controversy Twitter has provoked means plenty of people will. The best part for Blackburn? She won’t have to pay a penny. [Continue reading…]

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Steve Bannon privately slammed Pence VP pick

BuzzFeed reports: Steve Bannon privately slammed the selection of Mike Pence as Donald Trump’s running mate a month before taking over the Trump campaign, according to emails obtained by BuzzFeed News.

The email exchange during Bannon’s first stint as executive chairman of Breitbart is of new relevance as Bannon — two months removed from his role as President Trump’s chief strategist — rolls out his plan for a wide-ranging attack against establishment Republicans in 2018. And it reveals that Bannon regarded the Pence pick as something of a deal with the devil necessary to bolster Trump’s standing in the GOP.

On July 15, 2016, the day the Trump campaign announced that it had selected Pence, Breitbart’s former technology editor Milo Yiannopoulos wrote to Bannon and Breitbart editor Alex Marlow.

“Seems like a bad pick. Should I tweet something ambivalent about him? People are telling me Trump likely didn’t want this. …What’s our party line on this?”

“This is the price we pay for cruzbots and #nevertrump movement,” Bannon responded. “An unfortunate necessity…very. feel free to do whatever u want. we, as always, will remain above it all.” [Continue reading…]

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Corker’s blast at Trump has other Republicans nodding in agreement

The New York Times reports: For nearly nine months, Senate Republicans have watched their new president with a mix of aggravation and alarm. But it took Senator Bob Corker to take those concerns public and confront President Trump with his most serious challenge from within his own party.

In unloading on Mr. Trump, Mr. Corker, a two-term senator from Tennessee, said in public what many of his Republican colleagues say in private — that the president is dangerously erratic and unstable, that he treats his high post like a television show and that he is reckless enough to stumble the country into a nuclear war.

Mr. Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, evidently feels liberated now that he has decided not to run for re-election, while other Republican senators with concerns keep quiet fearing the retaliation of a Twitter-armed president and his allies in the conservative media. But Mr. Corker’s passionate statements reflect growing troubles for a president attempting to govern with a narrow and increasingly disenchanted Republican majority. [Continue reading…]

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How computers turned gerrymandering into a science

Jordan Ellenberg writes: About as many Democrats live in Wisconsin as Republicans do. But you wouldn’t know it from the Wisconsin State Assembly, where Republicans hold 65 percent of the seats, a bigger majority than Republican legislators enjoy in conservative states like Texas and Kentucky.

The United States Supreme Court is trying to understand how that happened. On Tuesday, the justices heard oral arguments in Gill v. Whitford, reviewing a three-judge panel’s determination that Wisconsin’s Republican-drawn district map is so flagrantly gerrymandered that it denies Wisconsinites their full right to vote. A long list of elected officials, representing both parties, have filed briefs asking the justices to uphold the panel’s ruling.

Other people don’t see a problem. Politics, they say, is a game where whoever’s ahead gets to change the rules on the fly. It’s about winning, not being fair.

But this isn’t just a politics story; it’s also a technology story. Gerrymandering used to be an art, but advanced computation has made it a science. Wisconsin’s Republican legislators, after their victory in the census year of 2010, tried out map after map, tweak after tweak. They ran each potential map through computer algorithms that tested its performance in a wide range of political climates. The map they adopted is precisely engineered to assure Republican control in all but the most extreme circumstances. [Continue reading…]

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An exodus from Puerto Rico could remake Florida politics

The New York Times reports: Every day dozens of Puerto Ricans straggle into the Orlando area, fleeing their homes and lives ravaged by Hurricane Maria. In the months to come, officials here said, that number could surge to more than 100,000.

And those numbers could remake politics in Florida, a state where the last two presidential and governor’s races were decided by roughly one percentage point or less.

There are more than a million Puerto Ricans in Florida, a number that has doubled since 2001, driven largely until now by a faltering economy. But their political powers have evolved slowly in this state, and the wave of potential voters from the island could quickly change that calculus.

If the estimates hold, and several officials said they might be low, the Puerto Rican vote, which has been strongly Democratic, could have rough parity with the Cuban vote in the state, for years a bulwark for Republicans in both state and national races.

“What’s clear is that this is going to be a more powerful swing group,” said Anthony Suarez, a lawyer here, who has run for office as both a Republican and a Democrat. “Just like everybody has to go to Miami and stop in Versailles to have coffee to court the Cuban community, that is going to start happening here.” [Continue reading…]

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The partisan divide on political values grows even wider

Pew Research Center: The divisions between Republicans and Democrats on fundamental political values – on government, race, immigration, national security, environmental protection and other areas – reached record levels during Barack Obama’s presidency. In Donald Trump’s first year as president, these gaps have grown even larger.

And the magnitude of these differences dwarfs other divisions in society, along such lines as gender, race and ethnicity, religious observance or education.

A new study by Pew Research Center, based on surveys of more than 5,000 adults conducted over the summer, finds widening differences between Republicans and Democrats on a range of measures the Center has been asking about since 1994, as well as those with more recent trends. But in recent years, the gaps on several sets of political values in particular – including measures of attitudes about the social safety net, race and immigration – have increased dramatically. [Continue reading…]

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Republicans cannot disown Trump without repudiating themselves

Edward Luce writes: Republicans are paralysed on two counts. First, the party cannot disown what Mr Trump is doing without repudiating themselves. His victory was the logical outcome of the party’s “southern strategy”, which dates from the late 1960s. The goal has been to siphon off southern whites from the Democratic party. Most Republicans have preferred to keep their tactics genteel. The signal of choice has been the dog whistle rather than the megaphone. Thus, in one form or another, most Republican states are reforming their voter registration systems. The fact that such laws disproportionately shrink the non-white electorate is an accidental byproduct of a colour-blind crackdown. Even without proof of widespread fraud, voter suppression has plausible deniability. Over the years, the same has applied to various wars on crime, drugs and welfare fraud, which were never discriminatory by design. Mr Trump has simply taken that approach into the open. He is the Republican party’s Frankenstein. The age of plausible deniability is over.

The second Republican problem is fear. Because of gerrymandering, most Republicans — and Democrats — are more vulnerable to a challenge from within their ranks than to defeat by the other party. As the saying goes, American politicians choose their voters, rather than the other way round. Unfortunately that gives the swing vote to the most committed elements of each party’s base. Though Mr Trump’s approval ratings are lower than for any president in history, he still has the backing of most Republican voters. Any elected Republican who opposes Mr Trump can be sure of merciless reprisal. It is a rare politician who would invite vilification from their own side. [Continue reading…]

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Donald Trump is a racist — there is no mystery

Yesterday, CNN reported:

A coalition of major civil rights and faith groups on Sunday called on President Donald Trump to “directly disavow the white supremacists” who participated in violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend — a reference to Trump’s remarks condemning the deadly clashes on Saturday.

“It represents a failure of leadership from the nation’s chief executive,” the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, an umbrella group, said in a statement. “It is long past time for Trump to personally and unequivocally denounce white supremacy, violent extremism, and hate in all its forms.”

The group also called for the ouster of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon and deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka, who have drawn criticism from civil rights organizations for their associations with the alt-right, a hodgepodge of far-right, white nationalist groups that drafted off the President’s 2016 campaign to rise to national prominence.

For Trump to disavow white supremacists — to claim he has no connection with their current rise even while selecting the likes of Bannon, Gorka, and Stephen Miller as close advisers — would be dishonest. For him to denounce them after having persistently courted their support would be disingenuous.

What civil rights leaders are calling on Trump to do is something he cannot with credibility claim: that he is not a racist.

The unpalatable truth is that when Donald Trump was elected president, he won the support of voters who either welcomed his racism or at the very least were willing to turn a blind eye to it.

Just over a year ago, during the presidential campaign when Donald Trump repeatedly attacked Gonzalo Curiel (the Indiana-born judge presiding over a case against Trump University) who Trump believed couldn’t be impartial because of his Mexican ancestry, House Speaker Paul Ryan had no difficulty in describing Trump’s remarks as the “textbook definition” of racism.

Long before then and up to the present day, Trump’s racism has been no harder to detect than the odor of a man with insufferable foul breath.

And yet, in spite of this and in spite of a mountain of evidence that no one can dispute, Trump’s racism is still treated by many politicians, journalists and pundits like one of those ultimately unanswerable questions — like whether a dog has a soul.

This issue is sustained as a question on the basis that we lack enough knowledge about Trump’s interior life, which is to say that in order to know whether he is a racist we would supposedly have to be able to gain insight into what animates his very being. Only God knows whether Trump is a racist, so the implicit argument seems to turn.

This is nonsense.

Why?

To determine whether someone is a racist is a determination, first and foremost, about behavior.

To doubt, for instance, whether the birther campaign that Trump led was anything less in substance, appearance, and intent, than a racist attack on Barack Obama is a form of denialism — a refusal to accept the implications of evidence that very few people ever had any difficulty in interpreting.

Even though racism is defined in terms of beliefs, it is clear that in practice we only attach significance to such beliefs if they result in some kind of tangible expression.

If somewhere there are racists who racism leaves no discernible trace in the world, such a subtle form of racism would hardly be worthy of the name.

Since Trump on countless occasions has acted like a racist, we don’t actually have to know anything about what he thinks in order to say unequivocally that he is indeed a racist.

Under pressure or political guidance, any statements that he might make now to distance himself from the hatred he has with such determination fomented, will be utterly hollow words.

The real question is for the Republican party itself: whether it chooses to remain America’s white party, or whether it’s ready break away from the many currents of bigotry it has harbored for so long.

If it chooses the latter, it’s time for the Republicans to dump Trump.

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Poll: Half of Republicans say they would support postponing the 2020 election if Trump proposed it

Ariel Malka and Yphtach Lelkes write: Critics of President Trump have repeatedly warned of his potential to undermine American democracy. Among the concerns are his repeated assertions that he would have won the popular vote had 3 to 5 million “illegals” not voted in the 2016 election, a claim echoed by the head of a White House advisory committee on voter fraud.

Claims of large-scale voter fraud are not true, but that has not stopped a substantial number of Republicans from believing them. But how far would Republicans be willing to follow the president to stop what they perceive as rampant fraud? Our recent survey suggests that the answer is quite far: About half of Republicans say they would support postponing the 2020 presidential election until the country can fix this problem. [Continue reading…]

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McCain: ‘We are not the President’s subordinates. We are his equal!’

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No one cares about Russia in the world Breitbart made

Joshua Green writes: The revelation that Donald Trump’s son, son-in-law and campaign manager met with a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer promising information that would “incriminate” Hillary Clinton was a true bombshell in an era when we have become almost inured to them. Here was proof that members of Mr. Trump’s presidential campaign had, at the very least, been eager to collude with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

No one could gainsay the facts: Mr. Trump’s own son published them on Twitter.

As recently as five or 10 years ago, every major news outlet would have treated this set of facts as front-page news and a dire threat to Mr. Trump’s presidency. The conservative press and Republican voters might disagree on certain particulars or points of emphasis. But their view of reality — of what happened and its significance — would have largely comported with that of the mainstream. You’d have had to travel to the political fringe of right-wing talk radio, the Drudge Report and dissident publications like Breitbart News to find an alternative viewpoint that rejected this basic story line.

Not anymore. Look to the right now and you’re apt to find an alternative reality in which the same set of facts is rearranged to compose an entirely different narrative. On Fox News, host Lou Dobbs offered a representative example on Thursday night, when he described the Donald Trump Jr. email story, with wild-eyed fervor, like this: “This is about a full-on assault by the left, the Democratic Party, to absolutely carry out a coup d’état against President Trump aided by the left-wing media.”

Mr. Dobbs isn’t some wacky outlier, but rather an example of how over the last several years the conservative underworld has swallowed up and subsumed more established right-leaning outlets such as Fox News. The Breitbart mind-set — pugnacious, besieged, paranoid and determined to impose its own framework on current events regardless of facts — has moved from the right-wing fringe to the center of Republican politics. [Continue reading…]

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Vladimir Putin’s Republican soul mates

The New York Times reports: Years before the words “collusion” and “Russian hacking” became associated with President Vladimir V. Putin, some prominent Republicans found far more laudatory ways to talk about the Russian leader.

“Putin decides what he wants to do, and he does it in half a day,” Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York mayor and longtime friend and adviser to President Trump, gushed in 2014.

Mr. Putin was worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize, K. T. McFarland said in 2013, before going on to serve a brief and ill-fated stint as Mr. Trump’s deputy national security adviser.

“A great leader,” “very reasoned,” and “extremely diplomatic,” was how Mr. Trump himself described Mr. Putin that same year.

Though such fondness for Mr. Putin fell outside the Republican Party’s mainstream at the time, it became a widely held sentiment inside the conservative movement by the time Mr. Trump started running for president in 2015. And it persists today, despite evidence of Russian intervention in the 2016 American election and Mr. Putin’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies at home.

The veneration of Mr. Putin helps explain why revelations about Russia’s involvement in the election — including recent reports that members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle set up a meeting at which they expected a representative of the Russian government to give them incriminating information about Hillary Clinton — and Mr. Trump’s reluctance to acknowledge it, have barely penetrated the consciousness of the president’s conservative base. [Continue reading…]

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Why Republicans won’t work for the Trump administration

The Washington Post reports: The array of legal and political threats hanging over the Trump presidency has compounded the White House’s struggles to fill out the top ranks of the government.

Trump’s firing of FBI Director James B. Comey last month and the escalating probe into Russian interference in the presidential election have made hiring even more difficult, say former federal officials, party activists, lobbyists and candidates who Trump officials have tried to recruit.

Republicans say they are turning down job offers to work for a chief executive whose volatile temperament makes them nervous. They are asking head-hunters if their reputations could suffer permanent damage, according to 27 people The Washington Post interviewed to assess what is becoming a debilitating factor in recruiting political appointees. [Continue reading…]

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