Who Do Republicans Listen To?

The lovely folks at the Princeton University Press sent me a copy of the 2nd edition of Larry Bartels' Unequal Democracy today. "Completely revised and updated," they promise. I haven't read it yet, of course, but I figured I'd browse through all the charts and find something interesting to post. Here's one:

When Democrats took control of Congress in 2007, one of their first initiatives was a bill to raise the minimum wage, which had been eroding downward for more than a decade. Republicans refused to support an increase unless it was paired with a tax break for small businesses, and they made this stick by filibustering the bill.

This is despite the fact that literally everyone supported raising the minimum wage except for one tiny group: well-off Republicans, who were slightly opposed. Nevertheless, this tiny group controlled the entire process, with Republicans doing their bidding even though 70 percent of their own party wanted the minimum wage to go up. In the end, small businesses got their tax break and the bill passed. It was the only way to get Republican legislators to pay attention to the will of literally the entire country except for rich Republicans.

Bill Clinton at Center of Limegate Scandal

A couple of years ago Bill Clinton gave a one-hour speech to the perfume industry's trade association. Afterward he stuck around to take a few questions:

In an answer to a question after the speech, Mr. Clinton said he didn’t wear cologne, prompting audible gasps in the room, according to Women’s Wear Daily.

Now that's some fine investigative reporting. It comes in the middle of a story about how Bill Clinton made money from the speech, and then, a while later, cunningly allowed a fragrance supplier to contribute a bunch of money to the Clinton Foundation in Haiti to set up a project that helps Haitian farmers plant lime trees (apparently limes are a key ingredient for perfumes). It's honestly not clear what the problem is with this, and author James Grimaldi admits that Clinton "has given so many speeches to companies and groups in recent years, and the Clinton Foundation has collected donations from so many corporations and organizations, that this kind of overlap seems almost inevitable." Nevertheless, he concludes that this incident "represents the kind of overlapping of private and charitable interests that has become a political liability for his wife as she runs for office."

Okey doke.

You can buy left-handed scissors, left-handed pens, and left-handed can openers. Life is good these days for left-handed civilians. But what about left-handed soldiers? Enter the ET-MP:

Unlike traditional grenades, the Enhanced Tactical Multi-Purpose (ET-MP) hand grenade is designed to be thrown with either the right or left hand. "Current grenades require a different arming procedure for left-handed users," said a statement by the US Army.

It's about damn time. And speaking of lefties, I was chatting with a left-handed friend the other day and he said that the final frontier for southpaws was cameras. Everything is on the right, and needless to say, nobody makes left-handed cameras. Even after decades of using cameras, he says it's still a pain. Do other lefties concur? And how expensive would it be for Nikon or Canon to gear up the injection molding for a lefty version of a few of their cameras? Maybe they could corner the market.

Here's the latest from Pew:

The U.S. unauthorized immigrant population — 11.1 million in 2014 — has stabilized since the end of the Great Recession, as the number from Mexico declined but the total from other regions of the world increased, according to new Pew Research Center estimates based on government data. ...Mexicans remain the majority of the nation’s unauthorized immigrant population, but their estimated number — 5.8 million in 2014 – has declined by about half a million people since 2009.

The immigration hawks claim that this all changed in 2015, and once we get that data we'll see that the ravaging hordes are back. You betcha. But until we get that data, the actual facts remain about the same as always: the population of unauthorized immigrants in the US has been stable for nearly a decade, and it's well below its 2007 peak. As crises go, illegal immigration is a pretty poor one.

Hillary Clinton vs. the Press, Part 5,348

Hillary Clinton has an icy relationship with much of the press. Here's why:

Clinton's icy relationship with the press corps is really no surprise. What's surprising is that she's managed to refrain from smacking them silly. Isn't it long, long past time for national reporters to cut the crap and stop enabling Donald Trump's idiot tweets? I know he's entertaining. But this is a presidential campaign, not Access Hollywood.

Trump Foundation Involved in Yet More Corruption

Donald Trump's foundation is in the news again:

Donald Trump spent more than a quarter-million dollars from his charitable foundation to settle lawsuits that involved the billionaire’s for-profit businesses, according to interviews and a review of legal documents.

In one case, from 2007, Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club faced $120,000 in unpaid fines from the town of Palm Beach, Fla., resulting from a dispute over the size of a flagpole. In a settlement, Palm Beach agreed to waive those fines — if Trump’s club made a $100,000 donation to a specific charity for veterans. Instead, Trump sent a check from the Donald J. Trump Foundation, a charity funded almost entirely by other people’s money, according to tax records.

Sorry Donald. You're not allowed to use your charity to pay off your business obligations:

“I represent 700 nonprofits a year, and I’ve never encountered anything so brazen,” said Jeffrey Tenenbaum, who advises charities at the Venable law firm in Washington. After The Post described the details of these Trump Foundation gifts, Tenenbaum described them as “really shocking.”

“If he’s using other people’s money — run through his foundation — to satisfy his personal obligations, then that’s about as blatant an example of self-dealing [as] I’ve seen in a while,” Tenenbaum said.

I don't think I can count the number of reporters who have investigated the Clinton Foundation or the number of pieces they've written. The net result has been (a) no actual serious misconduct uncovered, but (b) a steady drumbeat of stories implying that something improper was going on.

Now then: how many reporters have been investigating the Trump Foundation? I might be missing someone, but basically the answer is one: David Fahrenthold of the Washington Post. The net result has been (a) plenty of actual misconduct uncovered, but (b) very little in the way of public attention to it.

This is why so many people can somehow believe that Hillary Clinton is less trustworthy than Donald Trump. In truth, it's not even close. Trump is probably the world champion in the sport of lying; he cares about nothing but enriching himself and getting even with his enemies; and his political positions change with the wind. He's just about the least trustworthy person on the planet.

But he's entertaining. Gotta give him that. And really, isn't that what matters?

Atrios:

The savvy thing for liberal pundits to do is to write think pieces that millennials will never read about how stupid millennials are for considering voting for 3rd parties, even though millennials (according to polls) are voting for Team D in a higher proportion than any other age group. Amazingly they figured that out without the sage wisdom from their elders, who are voting for Trump. Stupid Kids Today!

I've been ignoring the sudden popularity of this meme, but enough's enough. As it happens, millennial support for Hillary Clinton isn't higher than any other age group when you poll a 4-person race—which is, after all, the actual race being contested. But even if it were, the issue isn't raw support. Young voters are far more liberal than older voters and have voted heavily for Democrats for years. The issue is relative support compared to previous years.

The chart on the right compares exit polls from 2012 with a recent Quinnipiac poll. It's not a perfect match with the exit polls, but it's close. And what it shows is that millennial voters prefer Hillary Clinton at far lower levels than they preferred Barack Obama four years ago. Other age groups are down too, but just a few points. Only among young voters has support plummeted, and it's plummeted by enough to put the election in genuine doubt.

So yes, Hillary Clinton really does have a big problem with millennials. As for third parties, I'll say only this: in 1980, when I was 22, I voted for John Anderson. That sure was stupid. Eight years of Ronald Reagan because Jimmy Carter didn't quite meet my idealistic standards of excellence for presidents. I've never made that mistake again.

The Case for Calm

A couple of worried Democrats are coming over for dinner tomorrow. Since I'm the voice of calm, my job is to explain why they probably shouldn't be panicking over polls showing that Hillary Clinton's lead is shrinking. This is pretty easy to do, but first this year's standard disclaimer:

This is the weirdest presidential campaign in my lifetime. Everything I know might be worthless. Caveat emptor.

OK, so why am I still feeling pretty calm? I could show you the pretty picture from Pollster, which really doesn't show much change over the past year, but I've already done that—and anyway, haven't I said that Sam Wang is my preferred pollster? Indeed I have. So here is Sam Wang:

Roughly speaking, Hillary Clinton has had a steady 3.5 percent lead over Trump all year. Then she got a boost from the Democratic convention, followed by a few bad weeks for Trump. That wore off and she dropped back to a little below where she's been all along. In the last few days, Clinton has started rising again, and my guess is that over the next few weeks she'll meander back to her longtime lead of 3.5 percent. Pollwise, the single most remarkable thing about the Clinton vs. Trump race is how stable it's been ever since the day Trump took his famous escalator ride down to the ground floor of Trump Tower to announce his candidacy.

To the extent that Democrats are panicking, I think it's because a few weeks ago Clinton was ahead by 7 percent or so, and everyone was licking their chops and wondering if a landslide was possible. It was deflating when that turned out to be a mirage. I got caught up in that a bit too, and it was probably foolish. In reality, it was just a temporary bump and was never likely to last.

Still, even if Clinton has a fairly reliable 3.5 percent lead, isn't that pretty disappointing? I mean, she's running against a clown like Trump. This isn't some normal Republican like John McCain or Mitt Romney. She should be ahead by 6 or 7 points. What the hell is wrong with America?

I'm not sure about that. But keep in mind that election fundamentals—Democrats have held the White House for eight years; the economy is in adequate but not great shape; Obama's approval level has been only fair until very recently—suggest that this should be a Republican year. Alan Abromowitz, whose forecasting model has had reasonable success, figures that Trump should win the popular vote by 3 percent. If, instead, Clinton wins by 3-4 percent, it means she's outperformed the fundamentals by 6-7 percent. That's not bad.

Ahmad Khan Rahami appears to have been a pretty incompetent terrorist. One of Josh Marshall's readers says this is no surprise:

Good intelligence work, good police work, more aware citizenry and other measures set up since 9/11 have limited — for now, and hopefully far into the future — the ability of major terrorist plots to get off the ground in the US. Major cells get disrupted, chatter on social media leads to arrests, and then great police work over this past weekend gets the bad guy in no time. There simply isn't any scope for large-scale, mass-casualty events at the moment in the US. Our strategy is working.

If all the serious plotting gets discovered and broken up, the only plots left are small, poorly thought out ones. That's the good news. But there's no way to stop every single one of these penny-ante Osamas, so it's inevitable that we'll periodically get hit with smallish-scale attacks. That's the bad news—especially since Ed Kilgore thinks Ross Douthat might have been right about which candidate benefits most from pint-sized terrorist attacks. Here's Douthat:

I don’t think it’s a simple case of “the worse the blow, the better for Trump.” The Man From Mar-a-Lago is many things, but he isn’t a reassuring figure or a steady hand, and the prospect of putting him in charge in the midst of an enormous national security crisis might give many undecided voters pause.

....What Trump benefits most from, I suspect, is a more limited sense that things are out of control — a feeling of anxiety about the world that pulses through your TV set or your computer screen but hasn’t yet hit your neighborhood or family or bank account directly....He would benefit more from another spate of Islamic State beheadings than he would from a terrorist attack that required a major military response,

Maybe so. It's an interesting, if unsettling theory, anyway.

Patrick Caldwell summarizes the effect of third-party candidates on Hillary Clinton's standing among millennials:

In a Quinnipiac poll from last week, when Stein and Johnson were included, Clinton received just 31 percent support from likely voters 18-34. Johnson came in second with 29 percent, while Trump garnered 26 percent and Stein 15 percent. When Stein and Johnson weren't offered as options, that age cohort sided with Clinton over Trump by a 55-34 margin.

Oof. She loses 24 percent of the millennial vote to Gary Johnson and Jill Stein. But wait. Jacob Levy says that, on net, Johnson helps Clinton because he's also taking away votes from Trump. On a net basis, it's only Stein who's really hurting her:

Quinnipac is unusual in directly comparing people’s answers in the two-way and four-way match-ups. Of people who chose Clinton in the head-to-head, 85% stay with Clinton in the 4-way, 8% go to Johnson, and 7% go to Stein. But of people who chose Trump in the head-to-head, 90% stayed Trump, 9% went to Johnson, and 1% went to Stein.

....What this suggests to me is: Clinton’s widely-reported overall loss in the switch from two-way to four-way polling match-ups is entirely due to Stein. Although Johnson is polling much higher than Stein and seems like he should therefore be having a bigger effect on the race, that effect is largely neutral between the two leading candidates, or perhaps favors Clinton slightly.

Hmmm. Maybe. The question is whether you can take the behavior of all voters and extrapolate it to the behavior of young voters. I'm not so sure about that. But even if we assume we can do that, I think it misses something.

Among people who are left of center, Jill Stein is a pretty obvious choice if Hillary Clinton isn't your cup of tea. That's especially true among former Bernie Sanders supporters who are far to Clinton's left. But Gary Johnson doesn't make any sense at all. At a policy level, he's a left-wing disaster. Bernie Sanders would rather cut off his big toe than put Gary Johnson in the White House. So why is Johnson getting any love from voters on the left?

From an electoral point of view, my guess is that it's a waste of effort for Clinton to try to peel off young Stein voters. Stein makes sense for them. But peeling off Johnson voters should be pretty easy. Just point out that he wants to repeal Obamacare, slash Social Security, supports Citizens United, and doesn't want to do anything about climate change. He's a pretty ripe target.