Kevin Drum

Hispanics Really, Really Hate Donald Trump

| Tue Aug. 25, 2015 12:57 PM EDT

Gallup posted a pretty dramatic chart today. It shows net favorability among Hispanics for the Republican presidential candidates, and for 16 of them it ranges from +11 (Jeb Bush) to -7 (Ted Cruz). That's a fairly narrow band. But for Donald Trump, net favorability clocks in at -51.

-51! For Hillary Clinton, net favorability is +40.

How much does this matter? Potentially a lot. Between 2012 and 2016, the Hispanic share of the US population will increase by about 2 percentage points. That doesn't sound like a lot, but recent elections have all been close calls. If the Hispanic share of the population grows and they vote in ever greater numbers for Democrats, that could easily make a difference of 1 or 2 percentage points. And that could end up being the difference between victory and defeat.

And it could be even worse than that. In some swing states like Florida and Nevada, the Hispanic share of the population will increase by 3 percentage points between 2012 and 2016. Those states will soon be out of reach for Republican candidates if Hispanics flock to the Democratic Party in ever greater numbers.

"Amateurs talk strategy, professionals talk logistics." There's a lot of blather right now about how Trump is appealing to populism, appealing to the disenfranchised, appealing to all the anger out there. But that's strategy. If you're smart, you'll let the amateurs keep blathering while the professionals look at the cold realities of demographic trends and voter turnout. On that score, Trump is doing nothing but damage to the GOP.

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"Accident" vs. "Crash": Round 2

| Tue Aug. 25, 2015 12:03 PM EDT

I never thought I'd be writing about this a second time, but here goes: Round 2 on "accident" vs. "crash." Here's a sample of Twitter reaction to my post on the subject yesterday morning:

@emilymbadger: advocates would say this [i.e., drivers are rarely punished for killing pedestrians] is one consequence of a culture of "accidents": http://t.co/dJVUnJNcKi

@DroptheAword: 30k people die on US roads each yr. Acceptance of this as inevitable come from the “accidents happen” mindset.

@jakekthompson: Calling a crash an "accident" takes blame away from the cause, and removes incentive to fix the problem.

The problem is that these are just assertions, not arguments. There doesn't appear to be any evidence at all to back them up. I myself doubt that the word "accident" has any significant effect on how people view traffic safety, but then, I don't have any evidence either.

Now, it's not as if everything in the world demands a battery of rigorous studies. There's nothing wrong with just trying to persuade people. But in this case, a lot of energy and attention will be spent on this that could be spent on other campaigns to improve road safety, so it would be nice to have at least a little bit of research that's on point. It wouldn't be too hard to get a start on this, either. Read this paragraph:

A teenager from Smithville is in critical condition after a Monday morning accident in Jonesville that is being investigated as a hit and run. The teen's car was struck from behind by an Oldsmobile and then crossed into the northbound lane, where it was struck in the side by a Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck. The driver of the Oldsmobile left the scene of the accident, and his or her identity has not been determined.

Now read this one:

A teenager from Smithville is in critical condition after a Monday morning collision in Jonesville that is being investigated as a hit and run. The teen's car was struck from behind by an Oldsmobile and then crossed into the northbound lane, where it was struck in the side by a Chevrolet Silverado pickup truck. The driver of the Oldsmobile left the scene of the crash, and his or her identity has not been determined.

Does this alter your perception of what happened? Social scientists do this kind of research all the time, showing random subsets of subjects slightly different write-ups and then asking follow-up questions to see if the changes make any difference. This would hardly be conclusive, but it's relatively easy to do and would provide at least a bit of evidence one way or another.

So: are there any enterprising grad students out there who want to take a crack at this? Or, better yet, someone who's already done it?

Republicans Will Survive Their Destruction Derby Primary Just Fine

| Tue Aug. 25, 2015 11:04 AM EDT

I would like to highlight two common claims about presidential primaries that I see a lot:

  • Having lots of candidates and a long race is a big problem. When the Republicans have finished beating each other up this year, the eventual winner will be too exhausted to win in November. All that Hillary Clinton will have to do is roll the tape of her opponent being slagged by fellow Republicans, and she'll waltz into the White House.
  • Having no competition is a big problem. Democrats would be much better off if Hillary Clinton had some serious challengers who sharpened her campaign skills and took a little bit of the spotlight off her.

As near as I can tell, there is zero evidence for either claim. Off the top of my head, I'd say you can very occasionally make the claim that a primary battle matters—the 1968 Democratic race comes obviously to mind—but most of the time the candidate who emerges at the end seems to be unhurt by either too much or too little competition.

Does anyone know of any backup for either of these claims? I've never seen any. Republicans are putting the first one to a kind of destruction test this year, but even so I'll bet the eventual winner is in pretty normal shape by Labor Day.

Jeb Bush Gives Away the Game on "Anchor Babies"

| Mon Aug. 24, 2015 6:33 PM EDT

Jeb Bush wants us all to chill out about his use of the term "anchor babies":

What I was talking about was the specific case of fraud being committed. Frankly it’s more related to Asian people coming into our country, having children, and....taking advantage of a noble concept, which is birthright citizenship.

Um....no. Bush initially used the term in a radio interview with Bill Bennett. The conversation was entirely about Donald Trump's immigration plan, securing our southern border, and dealing with our third-largest trading partner. In other words, it was all about Mexico. Bush was very definitely not talking about Asians.

And if he was, there's already a perfectly good term to use: birth tourism. It's well known, well documented, and clearly a growing phenomenon. There's no need to describe it using a term that many people find offensive, since there's already one available.

Basically, Bush is tap dancing here. But he's also doing us a favor. In my tedious discussion of "anchor babies" on Saturday, I concluded that its offensiveness depended on whether it was an actual problem in the first place. Bush is pretty much conceding that it's not—at least as it refers to illegal immigration from Mexico. But if it's rare or nonexistent, then you're imputing offensive behavior to immigrant mothers for something they don't do. And that does indeed make it offensive.

It's Now Open Season on China

| Mon Aug. 24, 2015 5:56 PM EDT

In the midst of Trumpmania, it's good to see that some things never change. Here is Scott Walker today:

Americans are struggling to cope with the fall in today's markets driven in part by China's slowing economy and the fact that they actively manipulate their economy....massive cyberattacks....militarization of the South China Sea....economy....persecution of Christians....There's serious work to be done rather than pomp and circumstance. We need to see some backbone from President Obama on U.S.-China relations.

China bashing is the little black dress of presidential campaigns: always appropriate, always in style.

Of course, Donald "China is killing us!" Trump got there before Walker. And more than that: he not only bashed China, but was able to claim that he'd been warning of this all along. If only we'd sent Carl Icahn over there from the start, things would be OK today.

"Crash" vs. "Accident" Doesn't Seem Like It Matters Very Much

| Mon Aug. 24, 2015 3:18 PM EDT

Emily Badger passes along news of a group trying to get us all to stop talking about traffic "accidents":

An "accident" is, by definition, unintentional. We accidentally drop dinner plates, or send e-mails before we're done writing them. The word also suggests something of the unforeseen — an event that couldn't have been anticipated, for which no one can be blamed. That second connotation is what irks transportation advocates who want to change how we talk about traffic collisions. When one vehicle careens into another or rounds a corner into a pedestrian — call it a "crash," they say, not an "accident."

"Our children did not die in 'accidents,'" says Amy Cohen, a co-founder of the New York-based group Families for Safe Streets. Her 12-year-old son was hit and killed by a van on the street in front of their home in 2013. "An 'accident,'" she says, "implies that nothing could have been done to prevent their deaths."

I remember this from my driver's ed class 40 years ago. Our instructor told us endlessly that they were "collisions," not accidents. But we're still talking about accidents 40 years later, so apparently this is a tough habit to break.

And the truth is that I didn't really get it back then. I still don't. "Accident" doesn't imply that something is unforeseeable, or that no one can be blamed, or that nothing could possibly have been done to prevent it. Here's the definition:

noun. an undesirable or unfortunate happening that occurs unintentionally and usually results in harm, injury, damage, or loss; casualty; mishap.

"Unintentional" is the key word here. If you drop the dinner dishes, it's unintentional unless you're pissed off at your family and deliberately threw the dishes at them. Then it's not an accident. Ditto for cars. If you deliberately run over someone, it's not an accident. If it's not deliberate, it is.

Nearly all "accidents" are foreseeable (lots of people drop dinner dishes); have someone to blame (probably the person who dropped the dishes); and can be prevented (stop carrying the dishes with one hand). The same is true of automobile collisions. Driving while drunk, or texting, or speeding are all things that make accidents more likely. We can work to prevent those things and we can assign blame when accidents happen—and we do.

I have a tendency to use the word "collision" because I was brainwashed 40 years ago, but it's hard to see that it makes much difference. Here is Caroline Samponaro, deputy director at Transportation Alternatives:

"If we stopped using that word, as individuals, as a city, in a national context, what questions do we have to start asking ourselves about these crashes?" says Caroline Samponaro, deputy director at Transportation Alternatives. How did they happen? Who was to blame? An erratic driver? A faulty vehicle? A perpetually dangerous intersection?

I'm mystified. We already do all that stuff. Collisions are routinely investigated. Fault is determined. The NTSA tracks potential safety problems in vehicles. Municipal traffic departments make changes to intersections. We pass drunk driving laws. We suspend the licenses of dangerous drivers.

So it doesn't seem to me that use of the word "accident" is either wrong or perilous. If we had a history of ignoring automobile safety because it was common to just shrug and ask "whaddaya gonna do?" you could make a case for this. But we don't.

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Good Stuff on the Intertubes Today

| Mon Aug. 24, 2015 1:26 PM EDT

Everyone is writing about my pet topics today!

  • Aaron Carroll busts the myth that you should drink eight glasses of water every day.
  • Kiera Butler sings the praises of food irradiation.
  • Dylan Matthews writes that Intuit and H&R Block continue to oppose any effort to make taxes easier to file.
  • Larry Summers makes the case for continued low interest rates because "the global economy has difficulty generating demand for all that can be produced."

Go read them all.

President Obama Is the Anti-Lame Duck

| Mon Aug. 24, 2015 12:13 PM EDT

Quentin Tarantino really likes President Obama:

You supported Obama. How do you think he’s done?

I think he’s fantastic. He’s my favorite president, hands down, of my lifetime. He’s been awesome this past year. Especially the rapid, one-after-another-after-another-after-another aspect of it. It’s almost like take no prisoners. His he-doesn’t-give-a-shit attitude has just been so cool. Everyone always talks about these lame-duck presidents. I’ve never seen anybody end with this kind of ending. All the people who supported him along the way that questioned this or that and the other? All of their questions are being answered now.

Rapid fire indeed. In no particular order, here's a baker's dozen list of his major actions in the nine months since the 2014 midterm elections:

  1. Normalized relations with Cuba.
  2. Signed a climate deal with China.
  3. Issued new EPA ozone rules.
  4. Successfully argued in favor of same-sex marriage before the Supreme Court.
  5. Put in place economic sanctions on Russia that have Vladimir Putin reeling.
  6. Pressured the FCC to approve net neutrality rules.
  7. Issued new EPA coal regulations.
  8. Issued an executive order on immigration.
  9. Got fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership and seems poised to pass it.
  10. Signed a nuclear deal with Iran and appears on track to get it passed.
  11. Won yet another Supreme Court case keeping Obamacare intact.
  12. Issued new rules that increase the number of "managers" who qualify for overtime pay.
  13. Presided over the birth of twin giant panda babies at the National Zoo in Washington, DC.

I sure hope those baby pandas survive. It would be a shame if Obama's legacy were marred by insufficient maternal attention from Mei Xiang.

UPDATE: Greg Sargent comments: "What’s particularly striking is how many of these major moves have been embraced by likely Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and have been opposed by the 2016 GOP presidential candidates." In other words, Obama's late-term actions will provide much of the contrast between the likely Democratic and Republican nominees next year.

That’s partly because Clinton is reconstituting the Obama coalition of millennials, minorities, and socially liberal, college educated whites, who are more likely to support (and care about) action to combat climate change, immigration reform, relaxing relations with Cuba, active government to expand health coverage, and so forth. It’s also partly because the Clinton camp genuinely sees these issue contrasts as useful to the broader mission of painting the GOP as trapped in the past. It’s possible the Clinton team thinks it can pull off a balancing act in which she signals she’d take the presidency in her own direction while vowing to make progress on Obama’s major initiatives and excoriating Republicans for wanting to re-litigate them and roll them back.

Also, too, because Obama and Clinton are both liberals, and are naturally likely to agree on the general direction of the country in the first place. It's worth remembering that a lot of Democrats struggled in 2008 to find much daylight between the two.

Fragile Global Economy Is Starting to Crack Up

| Mon Aug. 24, 2015 11:06 AM EDT

I woke up a little late this morning, but maybe that turned out to be a good thing. The Dow Jones plunged a thousand points within minutes of opening, but by the time I saw the news it had already recouped about half of that loss:

You can probably guess what triggered this:

The stock drop was fueled by what China’s state media is already calling “Black Monday,” in which markets there recorded their biggest one-day plunge in eight years amid growing fears over an economic slowdown.

On Friday, China reported its worst manufacturing results since the global financial crisis, a new sign of woe for the world’s second-largest economy, which surprised investors earlier this month by announcing it would devalue its currency. China’s benchmark Shanghai Composite index has fallen by nearly 40 percent since June, after soaring more than 140 percent last year.

Markets around the world are crashing, and as usual that means seeking safety in the good old US of A:

Investors stampeded into relatively safe assets such as U.S. government bonds, the Swiss franc and the yen. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note dropped below 2% during Asian trading and recently was 1.976%, the lowest level since April.

....“A lot of markets abroad have seen a low amount of liquidity so investors are turning to the U.S. market to hedge,” said Jeffrey Yu, head of single-stock derivatives trading at UBS AG....While the selloff began as an emerging markets story, with China’s stock market offering very little liquidity to investors due in part to technical stock-trading halts, investors have had to turn to the most liquid market to sell, which is the U.S., Mr. Yu said.

Now can we finally get a statement from the Fed saying that they no longer have any immediate plans to raise interest rates? Please?

Black Lives Matter Comes Through With a Plan

| Sun Aug. 23, 2015 5:32 PM EDT

A few weeks ago, after the disruption at Netroots Nation, I wondered aloud what the Black Lives Matter movement actually wanted. What were their demands? What did they want from candidates for president? I found a list of items on their website, but they were vague enough and broad enough to keep me a little puzzled. What sort of concrete initiatives were they interested in?

I'm happy to see that they've now come up with exactly what everyone's been asking for. It's called Campaign Zero, and it even comes with its own nifty graphic:

Some of these are easy: police body cams, for example, have become widely supported on both right and left, and by both activists and police. Others are a little harder: independent investigations of police shootings and better representation of minorities on police forces aren't universally supported, but they do have fairly wide backing already. And some are more difficult: it will be tough to wean police forces off their up-armored humvees and challenging to end the vogue for broken-windows policing.

That said, these are all specific and achievable goals. They even have a fact sheet here that tracks some of the presidential candidates and where they stand on each issue. Ironically, Bernie Sanders has positions that at least partly address eight of the ten items—more than anyone else. Martin O'Malley has seven and Hillary Clinton has two so far.

This is good stuff. BLM won't get everything it wants—nobody ever does—but Campaign Zero should allow them to avoid the fate of Occupy Wall Street, which generated a ton of passion but never really offered any place to channel it. BLM has now done both, and has a good shot at making their issues important ones during the upcoming presidential campaign.