Kevin Drum

Here's the Myth Donald Trump Might Ride All the Way to the White House

| Tue Feb. 2, 2016 7:39 PM EST

Bruce Bartlett has written a new paper that examines the role of "reverse racism" in the rise of Donald Trump. Bartlett touches on a number of topics—e.g., changing demographics, partisan realignment, the media promotion of race as an in-group marker—but the cornerstone of his narrative is a simple recognition that fear of reverse racism is deep and pervasive among white Americans. Here's the basic lay of the land from a bit of research done a few years ago by Michael Norton and Samuel Sommers:

As you can see, everyone agrees that racism was endemic in the '50s, and everyone agrees that it has improved since then. But among whites, a majority believe racism against blacks has improved so much—and reverse racism against whites has intensified so much—that today there's actually more bias against whites than against blacks.

The Norton-Summers study doesn't break down racial views further, but it's a safe guess that fears of reverse racism are concentrated primarily among political conservatives—encouraged on a near daily basis by talk radio, Fox News, and Republican politicians. Given this, it's hardly any wonder that Trump's barely coded appeals to racial resentment have resonated so strongly among Republican voters. Trump himself may or may not have any staying power, but his basic appeal is rooted in a culture of white grievance that's been growing for years and is likely to keep growing in the future as white majorities continue to shrink. No matter what happens to Trump himself, he's mainstreamed white victimhood as a political force to be reckoned with for the foreseeable future.

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Donald Trump Lost the Iowa Caucus. Now He’s Whining on Twitter.

| Tue Feb. 2, 2016 11:54 AM EST

This is such an awesome bit of whining from Donald Trump that I felt I had to share it. I think we need a new word for this. Trump+whining = Twining. Or Trump + griping = Triping. Or something. Maybe figure out a way to add the concept that he's actually a winner even when he's objectively a failure. That might take some kind of German construction, though.

Clinton Beats Sanders, 50-50

| Tue Feb. 2, 2016 11:34 AM EST

I'm not much of a horse-race guy, but it sure seems like the horse race is now key to the future of the Democratic primaries. The problem for Bernie Sanders is that he has an obvious structural disadvantage—superdelegates are almost 100 percent Clinton supporters—as well as a problem in the states following New Hampshire. So he needs to follow up his good showing in Iowa with electrifying results in New Hampshire.

But he can't. He started opening up a big lead in New Hampshire at the beginning of January, and the polls now have him 20 points ahead. To generate any serious shock waves he'd have to win by 30 or 40 points, and that's just not in the cards. Obviously anything can happen, but at this point it looks like Sanders wins in New Hampshire; it's entirely expected and ho hum; and Clinton then marches implacably on to the nomination. It's hard for me to see a likely scenario in which anything different happens.

Boring Mortgages Are Too Boring For Wall Street—Again

| Tue Feb. 2, 2016 10:56 AM EST

Liar loans are back!

These mortgages, which are given to borrowers that can’t fully document their income, helped fuel a tidal wave of defaults during the housing crisis and subsequently fell out of favor.

Now, big money managers including Neuberger Berman, Pacific Investment Management Co. and an affiliate of Blackstone Group LP are lobbying lenders to make more of these “Alt-A” loans....Many of these loans come with interest rates as high as 8%, compared with an average of about 3.8% for a typical 30-year fixed-rate mortgage.

....There has also been a rebranding effort: Most lenders prefer to call these products “nonqualified mortgages” due to the stigma attached to the Alt-A category. By backing these loans, money managers said they would reach an underserved corner of the housing market: Borrowers who have good credit but might be self-employed or report income sporadically.

Naturally, everything is different this time around. Everyone is being careful. It's just a small piece of the market. Borrowers have to produce some documentation. So don't worry: things are going to be fine. Wall Street knows what it's doing. No need to concern your pretty little heads about this.

Ted! Ted! Ted!

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 11:45 PM EST

Here are tonight's big messages as we all fondly say "Goodbye, Iowa":

  • Ted Cruz: I will have the shortest name of any president in history.
  • Marco Rubio: Benghazi!
  • Donald Trump: Finishing in the top ten is a great victory.
  • Jeb Bush: I have a short name too. And hey, I beat Carly.
  • Republican Party: We count votes a lot more efficiently than those loser Democrats.
  • Hillary Clinton: A win is a win. Let's get out of here.
  • Bernie Sanders: Hmmm. Maybe we're not that tired of Hillary's emails after all.
  • Democratic Party: We may be slow, but we make up for it with a stereotypically cumbersome and complex voting process.

Iowa is historically so unpredictive of anything that I honestly didn't have a lot of interest in tonight's results. I was mainly curious about how Donald Trump would somehow spin his second place finish as a victory. The answer, it turned out, was to drone on about how "they" told him to skip Iowa because he wouldn't even break the top ten. I assume this is the same "they" who repeatedly told Marco Rubio that he was too much of a schmuck to win. Whoever "they" are, they've been busy.

And now on to New Hampshire, a state inexplicably in love with Donald Trump. What's that all about, anyway?

UPDATE: The photo above is from season 4 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The name of the episode is "Goodbye, Iowa."

It Turns Out That Millennials Like Hillary Clinton Just Fine

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 3:37 PM EST

It's the first election day of the cycle, so I might as well go with the flow. Langer Research recently asked millennials how they'd feel if various candidates won the presidency. Here were the choices:

  • like declaring a national holiday
  • like there's a light at the end of the tunnel
  • like shrugging
  • like going back to bed
  • like fleeing the country

And here are the results:

Needless to say, Donald Trump elicited the most extreme reaction. More interesting, I think, is that even among millennials there's really no enthusiasm gap between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. This has decidedly not been the conventional wisdom, and most poll results seem to confirm that Sanders has more support among the young. But this one, which explicitly measures enthusiasm, shows no difference. Apparently young liberals are just as excited about a Clinton presidency as a Sanders one.

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The Political Generation Gap Has Become a Generation Chasm

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 2:37 PM EST

This is nothing new, but I continue to find it sort of fascinating. Here's Pew's breakdown of the voting generation gap over the past 40 years:

At the turn of the century, there was no partisan difference in the votes of young and old. But in recent elections, there has been a huge generation gap at the polls. Today 92% of Republicans are to the right of the median Democrat in their core social, economic and political views, while 94% of Democrats are to the left of the median Republican, up from 64% and 70% respectively in 1994.

There's more at the link. Approval ratings of presidents are now based almost entirely on party affiliation. Liberals and conservatives get their news from entirely different places. And they just flatly disapprove of each other more than ever.

And it apparently all started with George Bush. Even during the Clinton wars of the 90s, the gaps weren't that big. Only after Bush was elected—and the Republican Party became thoroughly Rove-ized—did all these trends really pick up steam. Thanks Karl!

Health Update—So Far Filed Under "Huh?"

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 1:19 PM EST

So what was the dexamethasone thing about last night? Here's the story.

During my first round of chemotherapy I took a three-med cocktail. One of the meds was dexamethasone, a corticosteroid. It helps the other drugs work better, and also seems to program cancerous myeloma cells to die on their own, which is a handy attribute. But one of the side effects is sleep disruption. For the first few weeks, it had no effect. But then it started disrupting my sleep on the day I took it. Then for a couple of days. Then all the time. Then even more. It was a pain in the ass, but for the most part kept under control with sleeping meds that varied over time.

Now I'm on a second round of chemo, and it's not working as well as we'd like. So a couple of weeks ago we added dex to the mix. It was half the dose I was taking last year, so I was hopeful the sleep disruption would take a long time to show up and would be milder than before. No such luck. Perhaps the first round created a heightened sensitivity to it? In any case, on the very first day I was up until 2 am. Hmmph. But maybe that was just a placebo effect I had talked myself into.

Again, no such luck. It's a weekly dose, and I took the second one on Saturday morning. I didn't sleep at all that night. Nor was I tired at all. In fact, kind of buzzed. I stayed awake all day Sunday, too. But last night I fell asleep normally and slept for nearly nine hours.

So how will this play out going forward? No telling. I'm in terra incognita. If it stays like this, it's not really a big deal. I'll just have a sleepless but otherwise pleasant night once a week. If it gets worse, though, I'll have lots of sleepless nights and start to feel like crap. We'll see! I'd just as soon not get back on the sleep meds, so hopefully it doesn't get worse. Unfortunately, I suspect that's a forlorn hope.

Here Are Your Final Iowa Poll Results Until 2020

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 12:55 PM EST

It's neck and neck in Iowa! Who will have the best ground game? What will the weather be like? Who will scoop up Martin O'Malley's votes in the absurdly convoluted Democratic caucuses?

You'll find out tonight. In the meantime, here are the final Pollster aggregates. I've turned off smoothing this time in order to provide the most current possible results.

Happiness Tip of the Day: Ditch the Commute

| Mon Feb. 1, 2016 12:01 PM EST

From Alex Tabarrok on homebuying:

One final point: behavioral economics tells us that we quickly get used to big houses but we never get used to commuting. So when you have a choice, go for the smaller house closer to work.

A thousand times yes. Obviously not everyone has this choice, and it's not practical to move every time you get a new job. But yes, if you have the option, try to keep your commute under 20 minutes.

Want something more quantifiable? Here are two of "The Rules" from Joel Garreau's Edge City, a dated but wonderful book about the building of suburbia:

The maximum desirable commute, throughout human history, regardless of transportation technology: 45 minutes.

Cevero's law of the value of time wasted in traffic jams: People view the time they waste in a traffic jam as equal, in dollar value, to half their hourly wage. For example, if you make $50,000 per year, that's $25 per hour. That means you'll pay $3.12 each way per day to cut 15 minutes off your commute. That's about $125 per month, which scales to about $30,000 in the price of a house.

That sounds low to me—in Southern California that's a rounding error in the price of a home—but it's at least a good starting point. If you can buy a house 15 minutes closer to work for $30,000 more, grab it. If it's $50,000 more, behavioral economics says you should ignore your financial angst and grab it anyway. If it's $100,000 more, you might need to think things through a little harder. Or, as Tabarrok suggests, settle for a small house near work at the same price as the bigger house in the burbs. You probably won't regret it.

Anyway, from personal experience I can tell you that short commutes are great. And the greatest commute of all? A walk down the stairs each morning. That's hard to beat.