• What Is There For Republicans to Dislike About Donald Trump?

    Oliver Contreras/CNP via ZUMA

    Suppose you’re talking to someone who says, sure, they hate Trump personally (the tweets, the rallies, etc.) but they like his policies. So they’re going to vote for Trump unless someone can convince them that his policies are bad or that Democratic policies are better. Let’s think about this. What are Trump’s major policies?

    • Cutting taxes.
    • Installing conservative judges.
    • Getting rid of Obamacare and replacing it with something else.
    • A border wall and, more generally, tough restrictions on immigration.
    • Tariffs on countries that are taking advantage of us.
    • Cutting regulations in ways that are friendly to big business.
    • More money for the military.
    • Strong support for Israel.
    • Opposition to gun control, abortion, and limitations on religious practice.

    It’s worth noting that almost all of these are just bog standard Republican policies. The two exceptions are the border wall and the tariffs. However, the wall is popular among the Republican base and the tariffs, judging from how they’ve been received, were always opposed more in word than deed.

    Bottom line: if you’ve already decided that (a) Trump’s bluster isn’t enough to turn you off and (b) his “corruption” is mostly just a bunch of bogus partisan hysterics from Democrats, what is there for an ordinary Republican voter to dislike?

  • Bernie Wins Nevada in a Landslide

    Despite the opposition of the Culinary Workers Union, Bernie Sanders did pretty well with workers along the strip. Apparently they know a generous universal health care plan when they see one.Kevin Drum

    Only about 5 percent of the votes have been counted so far, but everyone has called the Nevada race for Bernie Sanders, who appears to have won nearly half the delegates.  Joe Biden came in a distant second with a little less than 20 percent and Pete Buttigieg came in third at around 15 percent.

    This is obviously not good news for Elizabeth Warren or Amy Klobuchar, neither of whom did well. But Biden, at least, may have stanched his bleeding just in time for the South Carolina primary next weekend. Then it’s on to Super Tuesday, where Mike Bloomberg will finally enter the race. It’s gonna be exciting!

    UPDATE: According to an ABC News entrance poll, Sanders did well among Hispanics and independents. He won only a quarter of whites and blacks and only 30 percent of Democrats—though that was more than anyone else. I wonder if his relative weakness among Democrats will hurt him going forward?

  • Our Lizard Brains Still Reign Supreme

    From Alex Tabarrok, responding to a study of what patients value in a hospital:¹

    I do wish that patients paid more attention to the outputs of sophisticated statistical models when choosing doctors and hospitals, as I think this would improve quality, but mostly they don’t.

    Me too, Alex, me too. However, even among my pretty smart friends, I can’t get them to prioritize even a simple time-series chart over their gut feeling of what “must be true.” And even when I do make a tiny bit of headway on some subject or another, if I bring it up again a month later it turns out they’ve completely forgotten everything I said. They’re back to whatever barstool opinion they had before.

    We are overclocked primates. It takes intense training to get humans to overcome the constant mutterings of their lizard brains and pay attention instead to quantitative evidence—i.e., to produce scientists—and even among scientists this training works only in a pinch. This is why elections are won by appealing to people’s emotions, not trying to change their view of the facts. We may be proud of our massive prefrontal cortexes, but they’re merely a thin veneer over the billion years of evolution that produced the rest of our brain.

    ¹Quiet rooms and nice nurses, it turns out.

  • Bernie Sanders Is Way Ahead in Nevada

    As we head into the fine, bright morning of the 2020 Nevada caucuses, Real Clear Politics tells us that Bernie Sanders is way ahead of the pack:

    If we’re all being honest, what we’re really interested in is whether Nevada has botched its vote reporting tech the way Iowa did. I hope not. I don’t care all that much about the Nevada caucuses, but I am a technophile and this kind of thing gives tech a bad name.

    One warning: the RCP poll aggregation is based on only two recent polls, so take it with a grain of salt. It’s also worth noting that you have to reach a threshold of 15 percent in order to be viable, and there’s practically a trainwreck of candidates clustered around 10-15 percent. Second choices could be really important here.

  • Trump Is Descending Into Full-Scale Paranoia

    Brian Cahn/ZUMA

    One of the classic maneuvers in the intelligence business is to paralyze your enemy by making them think that moles are everywhere. Here in the US, for example, James Jesus Angleton became convinced during the Cold War that the Soviet Union had massively infiltrated the CIA and became so paranoid that he did considerable damage to the CIA with his endless hunts for Soviet spies that didn’t exist.

    But it doesn’t just happen in intelligence agencies. It can happen anywhere:

    President Trump has instructed his White House to identify and force out officials across his administration who are not seen as sufficiently loyal….Johnny McEntee, Trump’s former personal aide who now leads the effort as director of presidential personnel, has begun combing through various agencies with a mandate from the president to oust or sideline political appointees who have not proved their loyalty, according to several administration officials and others familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

    ….McEntee spent part of this week asking officials in various Cabinet agencies to provide names of political appointees working in government who are not fully supportive of Trump’s presidency, according to administration officials.

    ….Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law and a senior adviser in the White House, has played a central in the push, concentrating more power in the West Wing and working to combat leaks, officials said.

    Fabulous. I hope Trump becomes so paranoid that he fires every semi-competent official working for him, thus becoming even less able to execute any of his nutball plans. It’s true that there’s danger in having a bunch of inept toadies running the executive branch, but in this case it’s probably a blessing overall.

  • Poll: Bloomberg Down Only Slightly After Debate Disaster

    Here’s the first of the post-debate polls I’ve been waiting for:

    The good news for Mike Bloomberg is that debates seldom affect poll numbers much. So even though he bombed horribly, he only went down three points in the post-debate poll. He still has plenty of time to dust himself off and do better in next week’s debate.

    BTW, it’s obvious that I was way out of step in my assessment of Bloomberg’s performance. Even my friends are laughing at me. I think a couple of things explain it. First, I tend to discount loud attacks because I’ve seen them so many times before and they bore me. So the fact that Warren went hard after Bloomberg didn’t really affect me much. Second, I assumed going in that Bloomberg would be attacked mercilessly, so I had already priced that in. His listless response merely meant that he had done a little more poorly than I expected, not that he had bombed.

    The rest of the world obviously disagrees, giving Bloomberg approximately a -5 on a scale on 1 to 10. But I have to admit that even two days later I’ve only moved a little bit. I’ll concede that Bloomberg did worse than I thought, but I still don’t think it was a catastrophic performance. But he’d better improve next week.

  • Crime in New York City

    I had lunch with a friend yesterday and I promised him that I’d dig up the violent crime figures for New York City. Here they are:

    This chart alone should provide you with pretty good clues to the answers to these questions:

    1. Did David Dinkins have a pretty good record on crime?
    2. Was Rudy Giuliani’s adoption of broken windows policing responsible for NYC’s crime decline in the 90s?
    3. Did Mike Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policing reduce crime in the 2000s?
    4. Did Bill de Blasio preside over an upsurge in crime in the aughts?

    Here are the answers:

    1. Yes: violent crime declined 20 percent on his watch. But nobody knew it at the time because no figures later than 1991 were available during the 1993 mayoral race.
    2. No. Nothing special happened to the crime rate when Giuliani took over. Violent crime was already declining strongly when he became mayor and continued declining after he left. There’s no reason to think that Giuliani had any special impact.
    3. No. Violent crime declined only modestly during his three terms in office.
    4. No. Stop-and-frisk ended and nothing happened. Violent crime stayed low.

    Conversely, the lead-crime hypothesis predicts very precisely that violent crime should peak right around 1991 and then decline through 2010 as more and more birth cohorts are raised in a lead-free environment.¹ By 2010 an entire generation has reached its most crime-prone years after being raised in a lead-free environment and there are few improvements to be expected going forward. And that’s exactly what happened.

    ¹Mostly lead free, anyway.

  • Will America Elect a Socialist President?

    Pretty much everyone agrees that Mike Bloomberg did a terrible job last night. However, there was a one-minute segment where he went after Bernie Sanders:


    This is what I’m afraid of in the general election. Sanders doesn’t get a lot of pushback from his fellow liberals for being a socialist, but Republicans will have no qualms about thrashing him to pieces over it. If Sanders wins, I suspect this attack from Bloomberg is just a tiny little taste of what he’ll get in the fall when the campaign gets going. What’s more, I think it will be more effective than we lefties are willing to admit to ourselves.

    Maybe I’m wrong. We’ll see.

  • Intel Official Says Russia Is Trying to Re-Elect Trump

    The great thing about Vladimir Putin is that he always looks kind of shifty. That makes it easy to find file photos of him looking kind of shifty.Alexei Druzhinin/TASS via ZUMA

    Last week an intelligence official named Shelby Pierson gave a classified briefing to the House Intelligence Committee. Russia, she said, was already interfering in the 2020 election to try to get Donald Trump re-elected. Shortly thereafter, Trump met in the Oval Office with the acting Director of National Intelligence, Joseph Maguire, and went ballistic on him. A few days later Trump announced that he was replacing Maguire with Richard Grenell, a loyalist who has no intelligence experience.

    White House officials insisted that the timing was just a coincidence.

    You betcha. The New York Times reports that Trump was angry because he was afraid Democrats would use this information against him. And I suppose he’s right. Another alternative, of course, would be for Trump to do something about Russian interference, which would neuter any possible Democratic complaints. Apparently, though, that’s out of the question. Don’t you know there’s an election coming up?