I think it's still too early to know the extent to which Donald Trump won because of his appeal to the white working class. These folks have been moving steadily into the Republican camp for a long time, and 2016 merely continued this trend. At the same time, the upward spike this year was pretty big, and it appears to have been especially pronounced in several swing states in the upper Midwest. So it's hardly unfair to suggest that Democrats need to do more to reach out to rural, blue-collar whites.

At the same time, it's worth remembering exactly what Donald Trump's economic pitch was to the white working class:

  • He demonized foreigners for "stealing our jobs."
  • He promised to build a wall to keep out Mexicans.
  • He promised to start trade wars by levying insane tariffs on countries he disapproves of.
  • He promised to rain down hellfire on companies that move jobs overseas.
  • He promised to essentially repudiate the entire postwar edifice of free trade.
  • He promised not to touch Social Security.
  • He promised to create blue-collar jobs by building $1 trillion worth of infrastructure.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but it hits all the high points. Here's the dilemma it presents to the progressive community: it is 100 percent composed of either (a) demagoguery that Democrats just aren't willing to engage in, or (b) things that Democrats already support. And when you add racial dog whistles and conservative social issues to the mix, the problem grows even worse. All we get is yet another list of things that Democrats flatly can't appeal to.

In other words, even if the white working class is the problem for Democrats, it's not clear what the solution is. That's especially true since Trump isn't going to do most of the stuff he talked about, and the rest of it is unlikely to help struggling blue-collar workers anyway. J.D. Vance, author of Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, says most working-class whites know this perfectly well:

My view is that folks are pretty clear-eyed about what Trump is actually going to do. I don't see many people saying, "Well, Donald Trump is going to fix these problems."

What he's offering them is a proverbial middle finger to all the people that they're frustrated at. If you think about what folks have been doing for 20 or 30 years, they have been bottling frustration and resentment that the political elites don't understand them, that the political elites don't care about them, that the political elites judge them in various ways.

All Donald Trump does is provide the opposite of those things. He seems to care about them. He seems not to judge them. He seems to understand them, and most importantly, he is willing to scream and yell at the people who have been judging them and misunderstanding them for a generation.

Progressives understand this language pretty well when it comes to their own constituencies. Even if there's not a lot that you can concretely do, at least you can show some respect and make it clear that you care. If a New York billionaire, a Vermont socialist, and an Ohio mega-liberal can do it, surely the rest of us can do it too?

In the near term, the Donald Trump shitshow is going to unfold on a daily basis as we learn who will be running things in the new administration. The bad news starts at the top: Mike Pence is replacing Chris Christie as head of Trump's transition team. Christie may be an intolerable prick, but he's not a conservative ideologue and might have played a slightly calming role. Pence is nothing of the sort. He's a stone right winger who will be perfectly happy to put the Heritage Foundation in control of the country.

As for the lower-level folks, it turns out that Trump doesn't hate lobbyists all that much after all. That whole "Drain the Swamp" thing was just red meat for the rubes. The Associated Press reports that far from hating lobbyists, Trump absolutely adores them. Here's the Trump transition team:

The behind-the-scenes transition operation is being run by Ron Nichol, a senior partner at The Boston Group, a management consulting firm where 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney launched his business career.

Ken Blackwell...senior fellow at the Family Research Council...Veteran agribusiness lobbyist Michael Torrey...Energy industry lobbyist Mike McKenna...David Bernhardt...represents mining companies seeking to use resources on federal lands...Lobbyist Steven Hart, who focuses on tax and employee benefits, is leading the transition team for the Labor Department.

Cindy Hayden...top lobbyist for Altria, the parent company of cigarette-maker Philip Morris...Homeland Security Department. Jeff Eisenach, a consultant and former lobbyist...Federal Communications Commission....Michael Korbey...former lobbyist who led President George W. Bush's effort to privatize America's retirement system....Shirley Ybarra...champion of "public-private partnerships" to build toll roads and bridges....Myron Ebell...man-made global warming is a hoax...David Malpass...Bear Stearns' chief economist...Dan DiMicco...former chief executive of steel company NUCOR and a board member at Duke Energy...Former Rep. Mike Rogers...serves on boards for consulting firms IronNet Cybersecurity and Next Century Corp.

Kevin O'Connor...partner at the law firm of close Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani...Jim Carafano...Heritage Foundation's vice president for Foreign and Defense Policy Studies...retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg...chief operating officer for Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq...Mira Ricardel...vice president of business development for Boeing Strategic Missile & Defense Systems.

Buckle up. This is going to be a rough ride.

A Fresh Start?

David Frum is persuading me this morning that the tweetstorm can be a valuable medium after all. He is not buying Michael Smerconish's suggestion that we should all give Donald Trump a fresh start:

Trump economic advisor Anthony Scaramucci took to the pages of the Financial Times yesterday to tout the bold, innovative plans in store for the American economy:

This could literally have been written by Paul Krugman any time in the past eight years. Needless to say, Republicans in Congress refused to give it the time of day. It was socialism! It was reckless! It was debt busting! It would lead to hyperinflation! And maybe worst of all, it was Keynesianism!

But now it's edging closer and closer to Republican orthodoxy. I wonder how long it will be until Paul Ryan issues an entire roadmap explaining how fiscal stimulus is just what the country needs, and now that Republicans are in charge the country will finally get it?

Shorter Kelly Kleiman: Before Democrats devolve into internecine warfare, let's actually figure out what happened on Tuesday. Was it a whitelash? Sulky Bernie supporters? Lack of enthusiasm from blacks and Latinos? Voter suppression? Right now, we're flying blind, with only some crude data from exit polls and a few first attempts to make sense of the county-level data.

I'll add one thing: whatever the answer turns out to be, it's going to involve a shift of only a few percentage points. Everyone should be careful not to draw overly sweeping conclusions from this, even if it does make for good clickbait.

Hopper wants to hide and pretend that Tuesday never happened. Hilbert is still a bit out of focus at the moment, but he's facing the future with purpose and determination. Which cat are you? Which cat will you be next week?

Dean Baker:

Trump got elected by making many promises that he will not be able to keep. Rebuilding an economy in which the benefits of growth are broadly shared is a great idea, but Donald Trump is not going to bring back the coal mining jobs lost in West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio and elsewhere....We should make sure that people regularly are informed about President Trump’s progress in bringing back coal mining jobs to Appalachia.

This is absolutely true. But I wonder if it matters. Ronald Reagan got credit for the economic boom of the 80s merely by loudly and persistently taking credit for it. He said his tax cuts would hypercharge the economy, and when the economy finally recovered he took a victory lap. It didn't matter that his tax cuts had barely anything to do with it.

I suspect Trump can play the same game. He will make extravagant promises, and make them loudly enough that a lot of people are convinced. If he passes an infrastructure bill, for example, he'll tout it as the greatest job-producing machine for blue-collar workers ever in American history—and there's a good chance his fans will believe him even if they don't personally get a job building infrastructure.

The same may well be true of lots of other things. I can easily envisage Trump enacting a lot of fairly modest bills but selling them as a huge sea change in the way America is run.1 If he says it often enough, people will believe it. Maybe.

1Along with some big ones, of course. I'm just saying that even in the areas where he can't do the stuff he promised, he'll simply lie about it and lots of people will believe him.

The Trump Era Begins

Today brings three miscellaneous harbingers of life in Trump's America. First, here is Harry Reid on Trump:

I have heard more stories in the past 48 hours of Americans living in fear of their own government and their fellow Americans than I can remember hearing in five decades in politics. Hispanic Americans who fear their families will be torn apart, African Americans being heckled on the street, Muslim Americans afraid to wear a headscarf, gay and lesbian couples having slurs hurled at them and feeling afraid to walk down the street holding hands. American children waking up in the middle of the night crying, terrified that Trump will take their parents away. Young girls unable to understand why a man who brags about sexually assaulting women has been elected president.

Trump could say something about this if he wanted to. The election is over, after all. Hell, it would make him look statesmanlike. But apparently he doesn't want to.

Second, here is James Fallows on foreign trade:

I suppose plenty of liberals are happy with this state of affairs, but Fallows is right. If your beef with TPP revolves around intellectual property issues, then fine. But if you're pretending it's bad because it would hurt American workers, you're engaging in the same cheap populism as Trump. Ceding trade leadership to China will do no one in the United States any good.

Finally, here is Caitlin Owens on Obamacare:

The pre-existing conditions ban will stay? Huh? How do you do that without also keeping the subsidies and the individual mandate? It would bankrupt every insurance company in America. Most likely, I suppose, this is just standard Trumpian deception. He'll keep the pre-existing conditions ban, but surround it with so many qualifiers that it's meaningless.

The Medicaid thing, however, is actually interesting. There's no reason that Trump couldn't keep the Medicaid expansion in place, arguing that it's not "really" Obamacare. What's more, I wonder how many red states would adopt it? If Trump endorses it, and holding out is no longer a big middle finger to Obama, a whole lot of red-state governors might suddenly discover that it's a pretty good deal for their residents after all. This will come right after they decide that a big slug of deficit spending to stimulate the economy is also a great idea.

From The Hill:

Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, communications director Jennifer Palmieri and other Clinton aides sought to provide explanations during a private conference call Thursday with supporters of the Democratic nominee for a loss that to many came out of nowhere.

....At one point on the call, Podesta noted that Comey is the guy “who we think may have cost us the election,” according to one Clinton surrogate who relayed details about the call to The Hill.

Another unidentified aide also seemed to blame Comey. “We saw turnout down and didn't do nearly as well as we thought. Something happened and it happened in a pretty steady way late in the race,” the aide said, according to the surrogate.

Maybe we're all just kidding ourselves. Who knows? But what else happened in the final ten days of the campaign that would explain a sudden, steady erosion like this?

UPDATE: I missed this earlier, but before the election Nate Silver estimated that Comey's letter produced something like a 2 percent drop in support for Hillary Clinton. Needless to say, if this is really the case it's more than enough to account for her loss.

Several months ago I wrote about a new study that compared lead poisoning and crime rates at the census tract level in St. Louis. This is one of the most detailed, neighborhood-level studies I've seen, and the authors reached a simple conclusion: "We uncovered a relatively strong effect of lead on behavior, especially violent behavior."

Today, Andrew Gelman took a look at this study. My first response was "Uh oh." Gelman tends to specialize in debunking bad statistics, so this might not go well. But in the end, Gelman was convinced:

I had a bit of a skeptical reaction—not about the effects of lead, I have no idea about that—but on the statistics....So I contacted the authors of the paper and one of them, Erik Nelson, did some analyses for me.

First he ran the basic regression—no Poisson, no spatial tricks, just regression of log crime rate on lead exposure and index of social/economic disadvantage....Then I asked for a scatterplot: log crime rate vs. lead exposure, indicating census tracts with three colors tied to the terciles of disadvantage....He also fit a separate regression line for each tercile of disadvantage. As you can see, the relation between lead and crime is strong, especially for census tracts with less disadvantage.

....In summary: the data are what they are. The correlation seems real, not just an artifact of a particular regression specification. It’s all observational so we shouldn’t overinterpret it, but the pattern seems worth sharing.

As I said in the original post, this is yet another ecological study, which shows correlation but not necessarily causation. Still, there are a lot of ecological studies from all over the world, with more coming on a regular basis, and they all show the same thing. So it's reassuring that this particular study passes the Gelman test. The relationship between childhood lead poisoning and violent crime is getting stronger all the time.