Prop 187: Still a Myth!

One of the nice things about having a blog is that I can write about anything that strikes my fancy. This morning, for no particular reason, I suddenly got interested in a question about California's infamous Prop 187. This was a 1994 initiative that denied public services to illegal immigrants, and it was eagerly promoted by Gov. Pete Wilson and other Republicans in a truly toxic campaign. In the aftermath of that campaign, Latino support for Republicans cratered and the California Republican Party never recovered. Today it's all but dead in statewide races.

That's the conventional wisdom, anyway. But when I pulled up the data, it didn't look like Prop 187 had much impact at all: Republican decline was due to the steady increase in the Latino population—which was always pro-Democratic—and that was about it. Unsurprisingly, I got some pushback about this. Let's take a look at it.

First, one reader suggested that instead of just charting the Democratic percentage of the presidential vote over the past few decades, I should chart the two-party share of the vote. That sounded reasonable. Here it is:

I still don't see anything. There's always going to be some noise in charts of voter behavior, but the surprising thing about this one is how little noise there is. The trend in support for Democratic presidential candidates is spectacularly steady and spectacularly well correlated with the increase in the non-white population. For the stat geeks among you, the Pearson's r between those two lines in the chart is .97, which is off-the-charts high. Basically, it says that demographic trends explain nearly the entire change in the GOP's fortunes.

So let's move on to another objection. Keith Humphreys—who I blame for getting me into this mess—passes along a 2006 paper that tries to quantify the effect of Prop 187. As the authors acknowledge, this is hard to do because the data you'd like to have just doesn't exist. They make do with Field polls over the period from 1980-2002, and the bottom line is this: they estimate that Latino support for Republicans dropped 11 percentage points following the passage of Prop 187.

I'll confess to some uneasiness about this result. Why? Because the same paper estimates that Prop 209, which banned affirmative action, resulted in an increase of support for the GOP among African-Americans. This seems kind of unlikely. At the very least, it suggests some fairly large error bars on the numbers.

That said, I don't really object to their results. A drop of 11 percentage points isn't huge in absolute terms, and if the real number is, say, more like six or seven points, then it could easily be consistent with the voting behavior in my chart. A drop of that magnitude among a quarter of the population would show up as a very small blip in overall voting.

Roughly, then, my conclusion is this: Prop 187 probably reduced Latino support for the California GOP by about six or seven points, or maybe a little more. This is a smallish amount, and is basically swamped by demographics. It might account for about 5 percent of the change in Republican fortunes over the years, with the other 95 percent explained by simple population changes.

Finally, one last objection. This one amounts to: "I was there, and it was a volcanic upheaval. Latinos were pissed!" I can attest that this is absolutely right. But the fact that the war over Prop 187 made a huge impression on all of us doesn't mean it changed voting behavior a lot. It just doesn't. For that, you have to look at data of some kind and be willing to accept the results. And the data really doesn't seem to support the conventional narrative about Prop 187. Prop 187 probably had an effect—it would be shocking if it didn't—but it wasn't that big. The basic story is simpler: Minorities don't support Republicans, and as their population increased in California the Republican Party steadily became more and more marginalized.

And now for a guess: Minority hostility toward the Republican Party doesn't depend very much on any particular insult. Prop 187, like so many other things, was just another piece of kindling on the bonfire of GOP contempt for every issue important to them. At this point, Republicans can nominate a guy like Donald Trump, and even that has only a smallish effect. It's just more of the same.

If Republicans want this to turn around, they have to cut the crap and stop basing their continued existence on angry white guys. They need to:

  • Support affirmative action.
  • Support comprehensive immigration reform.
  • Slap down racism in their own ranks whenever it rears its head.
  • Support changes that make the criminal justice system less bigoted.
  • Stop routinely dismissing minority complaints as "grievance mongering" or "race hustling."
  • Etc.

I can hear the objection of conservatives already: "Gee, Kevin, it sounds like you want Republicans to become Democrats." But I don't. Note that Republicans can continue to:

  • Support lower taxes
  • Support smaller government and less regulation.
  • Support gun rights.
  • Oppose abortion.
  • Support a strong military.
  • Etc.

I dunno. Maybe 95 percent of the Republican platform isn't enough for them. Maybe changing even one smallish piece is too much to ask. But until that happens, minorities simply aren't going to support Republicans. At this point, Republican stock among minorities is so low that even overtly hostile acts probably don't hurt them all that much. Likewise, though, merely refraining from overtly hostile acts probably wouldn't help them much. It's just not nearly enough. If Republicans want to make any inroads, they have to actively support minority concerns. That's a hard battleship to turn around, but it's their only hope.

Sen. Lindsey Graham today:

[Graham] urged Republicans who have backed Mr. Trump to rescind their endorsements, citing the remarks about Judge Curiel and Mr. Trump’s expression of doubt on Sunday that a Muslim judge could remain neutral in the same lawsuit, given Mr. Trump’s proposed ban on Muslim noncitizens entering the country.

“This is the most un-American thing from a politician since Joe McCarthy,” Mr. Graham said. “If anybody was looking for an off-ramp, this is probably it,” Mr. Graham added. “There’ll come a time when the love of country will trump hatred of Hillary.”

Now, this is easier for Graham than for most Republicans since (a) he's always loathed Trump, (b) he never endorsed Trump, and (c) he's not up for reelection. But all props to him anyway. More Republicans should have the spine and common decency to follow suit.

WTF, Donald?

Donald Trump and his mysterious STAR tax credit are back in the news. STAR is a New York state program that lowers the property tax bill for owners of primary residences. This year the amount of the credit is $304, and it's available to anyone with a household income of less than $500,000.

Trump has been getting this credit for years. When it became public earlier this year, he naturally claimed it was all because of a city error and it was being fixed. Nothing is ever Donald's fault, after all. But June 3 was property tax day in New York, and guess what? Aaron Elstein of Crain's New York Business discovered that Trump was still getting his $304. Weird, huh? I mean, you have to apply for this credit, which means that Trump actively sought it out in the first place. But why would a guy with an income in the tens of millions do that? We'll never know: the city of New York says that Trump's application has gone missing. On the other hand, there's this:

Hmmm. No need to reapply, but the city does check your income every year to make sure you still qualify. Trump did—and apparently still does. That's just damn peculiar, isn't it?

Now, unlike some folks, I don't think Trump is too big a liar about his wealth. It's probably nowhere near what he says it is, but there's pretty good reason to think that his net worth is at least $1-2 billion and that his annual income is in the tens of millions. There's just no way that he qualified for STAR. And yet, the state of New York checked for many years in a row and said he did. What does it all mean? Here's my guess:

  • His income is pretty substantial, but he takes advantage of fancy tax accounting to reduce his taxable income to approximately zero. This is why he doesn't want to release his tax returns. Even for his fans, this might seem a little obnoxious.
  • When he's in the public eye, he's a pathological show-off about his wealth: gold plated toilets, private jets, etc. But when he's outside the public eye he's a pathological skinflint. He applies for a $304 tax credit. He tries to weasel out of a $1 million donation to vets. He transfers the salary of his longtime personal bodyguard to his campaign. He's bizarrely unwilling to make charitable contributions.

The guy's just—wait. What's that? We're receiving more Trump news over the transom before I can even finish this post? Sigh. Sock it to me, Bloomberg:

An embattled Donald Trump urgently rallied his most visible supporters to defend his attacks on a federal judge's Mexican ancestry during a conference call on Monday in which he ordered them to question the judge's credibility and impugn reporters as racists.

"We will overcome," Trump said, according to two supporters who were on the call....When former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer interrupted the discussion to inform Trump that his own campaign had asked surrogates to stop talking about the lawsuit in an e-mail on Sunday, Trump repeatedly demanded to know who sent the memo, and immediately overruled his staff.

"Take that order and throw it the hell out," Trump said.

Told the memo was sent by Erica Freeman, a staffer who circulates information to surrogates, Trump said he didn't know her...."Are there any other stupid letters that were sent to you folks?" Trump said. "That's one of the reasons I want to have this call, because you guys are getting sometimes stupid information from people that aren't so smart."

"We will overcome"? Seriously, Donald? That's the first phrase that comes to mind when you're orchestrating an obscenely racist campaign to smear a judge of Hispanic heritage? Apparently so: "The people asking the questions—those are the racists," he told the folks on the conference call. So I guess "we shall overcome" is totally appropriate.

For the record, Trump hired Erica Freeman six weeks ago to coordinate with his surrogates. I guess he's already forgotten. Presumably she takes orders from Paul Manafort or some similar mucky-muck, so I guess they're all idiots too.

I don't think I've ever come across another person more a slave to their hormones than Donald Trump. No matter what the stakes, he just can't rein himself in. He has to attack in the most boorish way imaginable and he can't stop. Or maybe it's worse: his hormones are OK except when the stakes are the highest. Jesus. Can you imagine what might have happened if Trump had been president during the Cuban Missile Crisis? That's assuming you'd be alive to ponder this question, of course.

In other news, Hillary Clinton acted like a normal human being today and therefore got no press attention. All for the best, I suppose. When your enemies are digging themselves a hole, why take away the shovel?

The current full retirement age for Social Security is not 65. It is 66. For those born in 1960 or later, your retirement age is not 66, it is 67.

This post comes as a suggestion from reader DR, who suspects that most people still think of 65 as the normal retirement age. It's not. You get Medicare at age 65. You can get 86.7 percent of your full Social Security benefits at age 65. But if you want full benefits, it's age 66+ for the 12 percent of us born between 1950-59 and age 67 for the 73 percent of us born after that.

It is not age 65 for any of us.

Ralph Nader Is Tired of You People

Ralph Nader doesn't think much of the kids these days. He wants all you millennials to stop your damn texting and Facebooking and build some lasting institutions instead. Here is his Pacific Standard interview with Lydia DePillis:

Do you think Trump has a point about political correctness? That we’ve gotten too uptight?

Oh, yeah. You see it on campuses — what is it called, trigger warnings? It’s gotten absurd. I mean, you repress people, you engage in anger, and what you do is turn people into skins that are blistered by moonbeams. Young men now are far too sensitive because they’ve never been in a draft. They’ve never had a sergeant say, “Hit the ground and do 50 push-ups and I don’t care if there’s mud there.”

....Do you think social media has been a benefit or a harm to organizers?

Well, it’s been a great benefit to Sanders. But I think, on balance, it’s destroying the brains of your generation. In terms of sheer time and sheer trivia and sheer narcissism and sheer emotional pain, it’s unparalleled....This isn’t just like you’re watching television. This is total immersion. And it’s just going to get worse. That means shorter attention spans, less sociability.

....But what if they’re talking to each other through their phones?

Yeah, but it’s not voice. They don’t like to talk by voice. They’re too sensitive.

....What about something like Black Lives Matter, which I think has made quite an impact on the discourse?

Yeah, but how far does Black Lives Matter go? Is it raising money for offices and permanent staff?...And what will happen when the press turns on them? The press finished off Occupy. The minute they were ejected it was no longer news. Not that they knew how to organize anything. Not that they knew how to take any advice from the ’70s and ’60s.

....Do you see any promising young movements or leaders that you think are the real deal?

Well, how do you see them? Those kinds of people don’t get on the talk shows anymore....They don’t appear on television anymore. The media’s been completely commercialized and corporatized. It’s so bad that people like you don’t even watch it. Like, do you ever watch Saturday afternoon network shows?

I never watch TV.

None of your generation does. Do you know what’s on it? You can’t believe how bad it is. About an hour of these bicycle gymnasts competing. Then you have paid infomercials. Then you have horrible third-run B-grade movies.

Bicycle gymnasts? Is he talking about the X Games? But they're typically on cable, aren't they?

No matter. Basically, all you kids need to listen to Ralph Nader more. He's gotten very tired of the fact that you refuse to take his advice these days.

In no particular order:

  1. A tour of the warehouse full of Bibles that people have sent him.
  2. All the news clippings from 2003 about his strong opposition to the Iraq War.
  3. The final report of his Hawaii investigators about Barack Obama's place of birth.
  4. The income tax returns he promised to release several months ago.
  5. A detailed description of the "surgical" strike he supported against Libya.
  6. His directive to all Trump properties that they allow guns on their premises.
  7. Whether he would ever use nuclear weapons against ISIS.
  8. An explanation for why he quietly removed the graphic from this tweet.
  9. An accounting of how much money he made from Trump University, and why he never gave it to charity, as he promised.
  10. His "little retort" to Hillary Clinton's entirely accurate representation of his foreign policy views. (In fairness, he still has a few hours left to make good on this.)

Just curious. He's a busy guy, and definitely not a liar. I'm sure he'll get around to all this stuff eventually.

With no offense meant to Washington DC, the 2016 primary season is finally over tomorrow. Finally. Here's what California looks like in the last polling before the big day. My prediction: Sanders wins 52-48 percent.

California and the Myth of Proposition 187

Keith Humphreys points out today that California used to be a solidly Republican place. But then Republicans reacted to the state's growing non-white population by supporting the infamous Proposition 187:

Like any Californian I can attest to the venomous, racially-divisive nature of the debate that surrounded it. Republican Pete Wilson publicly embraced the measure at every campaign stop, and rode anti-immigrant sentiment to re-election with strong support from White voters. In the process, Wilson and those who advised him to double-down on white voters permanently crippled the California Republican Party. Subsequent Democratic Presidential candidates have not even bothered to campaign in this minority-majority state; why should they?

....The California lesson for the national GOP as party leaders debate whether to not to embrace Donald Trump? Racially divisive appeals to alienated white voters can work, but pursuing such short-term electoral rewards is a route to long-term political oblivion in an increasingly diverse America.

This is the conventional wisdom, and I've never questioned it. For some reason, though, I got curious about it today. Here's what California has looked like in presidential elections over the past 35 years:

Unless I made a mistake somewhere, Prop 187 had precisely zero effect. As the non-white population of California rose, the Democratic share of the presidential vote rose in almost perfect tandem. After 1994, it continued growing at the same rate as ever.

This is just the presidential vote, and maybe things are different in other contests. But I'd be interested to see someone take a more detailed look at this. The real lesson here seems to be that Donald Trump's racist blatherings are likely to have no effect at all on the Republican Party. Non-whites don't like Republicans, and will go on not liking them.

Bottom line: Extra doses of racism probably don't hurt Republicans. Minority voters already know the score, so they don't care much. Until the Republican Party actively goes after the racism in its ranks and actively tries to appeal to non-white voters, it doesn't matter much what else they do.

An Armada of Geese Is Coming For You

This is a very purposeful-looking armada of geese in our local pond. It reminds me of pictures of the Battle of Jutland, all sea and fog with lines of battle wagons in the far distance steaming toward some horrible final confrontation. Tomorrow, perhaps, I will have some pictures of our latest crop of baby geese, who are more reminiscent of an armada of fuzzy dinghies. Soon you will get very tired of geese. But at least it distracts me from writing about Donald Trump.

Here is the start of a Jake Tapper question to Donald Trump this morning. Trump has just gotten done lying yet again—and at length—about his support for the Iraq War, and Tapper finally decides to move on:

TAPPER: At a rally in Sacramento, you accused [Hillary Clinton] of lying about your foreign policy as it relates to expressingsupport for Japan being able to get nuclear weapons.

TRUMP: A hundred percent.

TAPPER: Well, let me just read from you....This is from an April 3 interview with Chris Wallace of Fox News. You said: "North Korea has nukes, Japan has a problem with that. I mean, they have a big problem with that. Maybe they would in fact be better off if they defend themselves from North Korea."

And Chris Wallace says, "With nukes?"

And you say, "Including with nukes, yes, including with nukes."


This is followed by nearly a thousand words over the course of three minutes of Tapper vainly trying to get Trump to address his question at all. It's not that Trump tap dances or makes excuses or pretends he really meant something different. He just flatly insists on talking about something else and bowls over Tapper whenever he tries to get him back on track. Finally Tapper gives up and moves on again.

This is not a criticism of Tapper, who has been more aggressive than most about trying to hold Trump accountable for the things he says. But what can you do? Trump very plainly has expressed support for Japan getting nukes. It's on tape. He's been explicit on multiple occasions that we should withdraw our military presence from Japan unless they're willing to pay us a lot more money. That's on tape too.

Hillary Clinton responded with this: "It's no small thing when he suggests that America should withdraw our military support for Japan, encourage them to get nuclear weapons." That's 100 percent accurate. It's not even slightly exaggerated. And yet Trump blithely insists that she's lying and then refuses to answer questions about it. Eventually exhaustion sets in and everyone just lets it go.

How do you handle someone like that?