Morning Ed: Politics {2018.01.12.F}

[Po1] Sharon Lerner has a profile of EPA Director Scott Pruitt.

[Po1] A deeper look at apocalyptic rhetoric, and the risks it assumes. This is about the actions and attitudes it can spur (false moral clarity, unjustified extreme measures, etc), but there is also the issue of apocalypse fatigue, which I think has played a role in allowing things to reach they point they have in multiple arenas.

[Po3] When it comes to non-competitive congressional elections, the fault may lie not in the stars or gerrymandering but in ourselves.

[Po4] I might lament it becoming more common for executives to enter politics if we weren’t starting from a position so overwhelmingly populated by lawyers.

[Po5] Sometimes I have wondered if Eliot Spitzer got a bit (just a bit) of a raw deal. No, it appears.

[Po6] Jay Cost argues that the presidency is driving us nuts.

[Po7] Chris Beck argues that Trump-hatred is rational, but the hysteria needs to be dialed back because it’s not helping.

[Po8] According to Matthew Gertz, there is more to the feedback loop between Trump and Fox than we even think.


Editor-in-Chief
Home Page Twitter Google+ Pinterest 

Will Truman is a former para-IT professional who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He is also on Twitter. ...more →

Please do be so kind as to share this post.
Share

94 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Politics {2018.01.12.F}

  1. Po4: The politics of what sort of career is good for politicians before their first election is interesting. Most other democracies have a much more diverse career range for their politicians. Margaret Thatcher was a chemist and food scientist. Four members of Clement Atlee’s government started as coal miners. I think Italy had a porn actress in their parliament. America does not. Liberals famously made fun of Reagan and Sonny Bono for being an actor and semi-rock star respectively. We generally don’t like it when business people become politicians but would probably be fine with other non-lawyer career choices. Conservatives generally seem better with accepting non-orthodox pre-political career.

    Report

  2. Po7: Based on recent election results and the numbers of Republicans retiring from Congress, I’d say that the hysteria is working just fine and that hysteria is a bad word choice. When your life is on the line than your going to fight.

    Report

  3. I found this amusing:

    My book shows both the promise and the dangers of apocalyptic rhetoric. At its best, this rhetoric can rouse people to action. Hans Morgenthau tried to use it to get Americans to confront the danger of thermonuclear war. And right now, the world faces a huge existential threat – climate change. As any climate change activist will tell you, they need ways to motivate people to respond to this threat.

    New York City becoming, over a century, as warm as Washington DC is not what I would term an “existential threat”, since people in DC are thriving, not dying in droves on the sidewalks because of the temperature. If people in DC were collapsing on the sidewalks, well, I wouldn’t really be upset about that either.

    An existential problem is one where it’s quicker to count your surviving friends and relatives than the dead ones, not one where you need to collect two decades of precision temperature records and run them through a suite of statistical software to see if you can even detect a meaningful change in your local climate. More simply, if New Yorkers were unable to survive 2 C of warming they wouldn’t keep flying to Miami for vacations.

    Report

    • The existential threat isn’t really to far north (or south) first world nations*, but to third world populations who are unable to undertake migration (because politics).

      *It’s more of an expensive threat to the first world, not existential.

      Report

      • How is it more expensive? Living costs decrease as the temperature goes up. Eventually you find yourself near the equator needing just a T-shirt, a pair of flip flops, and an optional open hut with a grass roof. We evolved in such a climate. Living in Norway or Iceland is another matter entirely.

        Report

      • How would you be unable to mitigate 2 C over a century? You’re not even going to have the same buildings by then.

        To see what my personal impact would be, I ran decades worth of my local daily temperature data through a spreadsheet and added 2 C to it. I’ll be outside my accustomed range of temperatures for about 3 afternoons – during an entire decade. My plan is to watch a few Stargate re-runs and skip the whole catastrophic warming BS, assuming I live to be 130 or so.

        Report

          • Sea levels would rise anyway because we’re recovering from an ice age. The extra sea level rise might require a city’s road crew to work an extra week – at least once a generation. It’s very hard for humans to work at the almost immeasurably slow rate of geological change. We tend to knock such projects out in a few days instead of milking them for forty years.

            And of course agriculture will benefit because of lengthened growing seasons and less severe winters. The climate zones on the back of seed charts don’t even track highs, they track lows. What and when you can grow is divided up by the frost dates.

            And climate change theory predicts very slightly more rain, but only slightly. This, combined with the longer growing seasons, should be a boon to agriculture. Also on the plus side is massively decreased heating bills.

            2 C is not going to affect building codes or much of anything else because that gets swamped by normal variations. A building designed for New York is already perfectly fine for Philadelphia or DC.

            In Appalachia there’s already a bigger temperature difference than that between hills and valleys due to the surface lapse rate. Yet we don’t have different building codes or insulation requirements depending on where someone is building on a hill, even though the difference is bigger than a century’s worth of man-made climate change.

            An increase of 2 C is what you get in the temperate regions, on average, by driving 180 miles closer to the equator. If the climate scare stories were true, the House and Senate wouldn’t be debating climate change, they’d be arranging mass evacuations of entire southern states as the bodies piled up in the road. Driving from Minneapolis to Baton Rouge you get almost seven times more “climate change” than alarmists claim will be a civilization-destroying catastrophe. Perhaps they’re crazy.

            So where are the costs, other than in the apocalyptic fantasy the people are selling?

            Report

  4. [Po7] Looks like a pretty well-written, and well-intentioned, exercise in the Pundit’s Fallacy, and one which actually mentions a lot of the evidence (Republican response to Obama from ’09-16) that seriously undermines it.

    Report

  5. [Po1]: Lincoln didn’t say this:

    Two centuries later, as the Civil War loomed, Abraham Lincoln cast the battle against slavery in apocalyptic terms. God, Lincoln said, could no longer put up with slavery: “And now the cup of iniquity is full, and the vials of wrath will be poured out.”

    This quote is from a posthumous recollection of a private conversation, disputed by Lincoln’s law partner as entirely manufactured to paint Lincoln as a deeply religious man in his private life. Back then newspaper writers just wrote what they thought their readers wanted to read, not necessarily the truth.

    Report

  6. Po3 – Potential problem with Mr. Hunt’s analysis. (potential, because it may not be a problems depending on the actual underlying facts)

    Xenocrypt discussed the other day (maybe in response to this very piece) of the weaknesses using county level data. Namely, county population data follows pretty much a power law curve – there are a few counties with lots and lots of people, many counties with some people, and at the end, several counties with very few people. So that 1000 county swing from swing to safe probably represents a fraction of the population of the US. The confounding factor that needs to be analyzied – have the big counties (particuarly ‘swing’ ones) been split up between Congressional districts for partisan advantage.

    Another quirky thing about the data – why are there data points for both 2016 and 2017?

    The time series itself makes the analysis kinda limited (especially if he’s trying to concur with the 40 year timeframe of another analysis he cites). The trend the data showed can be explained by (but is not necessarily explained by) Bill Clinton being a son of the South, George Bush being the last ‘fusionist’ Republican, Obama getting hammered in the counties in Appalchia (which had been Democratic for decades before that), and then Trump doing very well in this area and unusually well (compared to the recent past) in the rust belt.

    Report

    • I don’t believe he’s using county-level data to project national outcomes in politics; he’s using it to show that people are living in more Republican or Democratic dominated spaces. It seems strongly suggestive of the point that sorting exists, even if the point is simply that voting patterns are becoming more a reflection of residential densities.

      (I think the data comes from the Cook index reports which are irregularly published)

      Report

    • On Friday afternoon the SCOTUS agreed to hear two additional redistricting cases, these from Texas, one involving Congressional districts and one state legislative districts. Last summer the lower court ordered Texas to be prepared to draw new districts by September, possibly requiring a special session of the legislature. The SCOTUS stayed those orders, and has now accepted both cases (redistricting cases are appealed directly from federal district court to the SCOTUS, bypassing the usual stop at the Circuit court level). That brings the number of redistricting cases to four, including the Wisconsin and Maryland gerrymandering cases. Earlier in the week a federal district court panel invalidated some of North Carolina’s district maps; the state has indicated that they will appeal to the SCOTUS.

      Going to be an interesting group of decisions.

      Report

      • Tea leaf reading on that is all over the map. Technically, you have at least 5 votes saying “Partisan gerrymandering is unconstitutional” (or at least that the milquetoast version of partisan gerrymandering from 15 years ago was suspicious enough), but one of those votes (Kennedy) was “We have no way to test for it”.

        Who knows how Kennedy is feeling today?

        Partisan gerrymandering can, of course, pinch either foot nice and hard. However, at the moment, it’s really propping up Team Red a lot more than Team Blue, and however much we like to pretend the court is non-partisan — it ain’t. Adding in a partisan gerrymandering test like the Efficiency Gap (or something similar) is going to smack the hell out of the GOP right now, no question.

        I think looming over it all is — 2020’s a census year. So the question is — do they want to put this thing in the ground, and not have to deal with god knows how many appeals over it (ie: either say “Sure, it’s fine” or give a test lower courts can apply if it’s not). Are the more partisan minded trying to figure out who is going to have the advantage of drawing the things in 2020? Will that factor in?

        Report

  7. Po6: I don’t know if research has been done on the issue (it probably has) but my own anecdotal observations make me think that lots of people yearn and/or have a strong psychological need for a kind of messiah/monarch/leader figure*. Someone who will come in and fix all that is wrong in the world. There are also lots of Americans who don’t really understand how American government works or the limits on what a President can or cannot do. Our education system is set up to create worker bees, not citizens.

    It doesn’t help that a lot of the history out there is people talking about Presidents with bully pulpits and stressing the Presidency as a kind of monarch.

    On the left, there was a certain kind of lefty who was very angry at the ACA. This lefty didn’t understand why Obama couldn’t will an American equivalent of NHS into being. On the right, you are going to have a lot of people disappointed when Trump fails to deliver on many things but is campaign was clearly a strongman coming in to fix all the “problems” type.

    One of the reasons I am down on comic-book culture is that I think a lot of fans do adopt this kind of messiahism. More than once, I’ve seen people yearn sincerely for Superman to be real and in charge of everything.

    *There are lots of Americans who seem to love following the ins and outs of the royal family. This always perplexes me because we had a whole war for independence against the idea of monarchy and for self-government. Monarchy is a deeply silly idea in my book but lots of people seem to just give it credence and give the Queen or Prince Whoever authority just out of the randomness of birth.

    I’m starting to adapt an ornery and radical response: No Messiah, No Heroes, Against Messiah, Against Heroes!

    Report

    • I always think I sound like a crackpot when I say stuff like this because royal watching is probably just harmless fun to most people and I don’t find it harmless. At best I am bemused by it. At worse, I think it subverts democracy and self-rule.

      I also think I sound like a crank when I rail against Internet headline writing. Maybe I am just becoming ornery and cantankerous.

      Report

    • “This always perplexes me because we had a whole war for independence against the idea of monarchy and for self-government.”

      Well, some of this nation’s ancestors did. Just from my small orbit of people I speak with routinely, I would say very few are supportive of the democratic enlightenment aims of those radicals.

      Report

      • I presume Saul would argue that everybody who dwells in the United States is heir to the Revolutionary Spirit of 1776 regardless of whether their ancestors arrived on the May Flower, disembarked at Ellis Island, or entered through LAX with an approve immigrant visa.

        He is wrong about why the Revolutionary War was fought. Most of the people involved in the Continental Congress saw Parliament as their enemy than King George III. Until the time of the Declaration of Independence, colonial leaders petitioned King George to protect them from Parliament. Many of the founders wrote about the majesty of the King in fawning tones during the 1760s.

        Report

    • Or, as I learned years ago in Sunday school: “put not your trust in princes.”

      I find the “somebody should DO something!” mindset can lead to danger. I am suspicious of any one person having too much power because people are weak and selfish and prone to venality.

      (I said “2017 will turn me Calvinist” but I was probably already much of the way there)

      And as for royals: yes, real royals are more celebrity than ruler these days. But I worry that in this country we’ve gone down the path of making existing celebrities our leaders/rulers, and that’s not going to lead anywhere good.

      Report

  8. Po4: People who study law are interested in becoming legislators and writing law, big shocker!!! Though I think lawyers make better legislators is that they are used to negotiating under adverse circumstances especially if they were seasoned litigators. There is a lot of negotiation and compromise in litigation and you need this in politics.

    Politics is the art of the possible and the art of deep moral compromise. I think engineers would be horrible politicians because they would be too rigid in finding the “right” answer.

    Po1: I’m generally repulsed by inflamed rhetoric but was told on LGM that this attitude is condescending.

    Report

    • You make a better argument for why lawyers should be staffers and regulators and not necessarily legislators.

      Sort of like Oscar’s Engineer Politician… there are lawyers who might possess the skills to be a good legislator, but they won’t, in my opinion, be the ones needed to be a good lawyer. In the realm of negotiation, I can say from experience that Lawyers are good at the narrowest form of negotiation – the one where all the rules and parameters have been set and then exercising the leverage set by those rules.

      Political (and lots of other negotiation) involves defining the game itself: the rules, the timelines, the benefits and the outcomes… that’s really a pretty hard thing to do and as far as I can tell almost accidental in how we select our politicians… much to our current regret. This is an entirely different skill set and it can even be learned by engineers (and the occasional lawyer). I might be tempted to go so far as to say that seeing legislation as a sort of rules mongering as a failure of legislating. I might.

      Report

  9. Politics is the art of the possible and the art of deep moral compromise. I think engineers would be horrible politicians because they would be too rigid in finding the “right” answer.

    If we just randomly selected people to run for office, you might have a point, but we don’t. If an engineer went into to politics and was successful enough to be in the national stage, it would not be because they were too rigid in their thinking.

    Report

    • Potentially. I can’t think of any engineers who ran for office though. Can you? There have been physicians. I wonder if engineers are just not likely to run.

      But I’ve been cynical lately and wondering if a lot of people just never get rid of the hyper sense of justice that you usually find in kindergartners.

      Report

      • I’ve known lots of engineers to try their hand at politics. Problem is (IMHO), engineers are resistant to the whole trend in politics of ‘over-promise and under-deliver’, since doing that professionally will, at best, get you fired, and at worst, potentially get people killed.

        So they don’t get very far, since making wild campaign promises they can’t ever hope to keep is just not a thing they do naturally.

        Report

        • That exactly. Plus, we’re more often introverts who would totally hate campaigning.

          On the local level I’ve seen engineers go into politics, but much like doctors, the ones who go into politics are more often than not the ones who weren’t suited to the profession. They are almost always sales engineers who hated engineering and only got the degree because it was the way into a sales position with higher pay and better benefits they might get in non-tech sales. (They are good at over-promising, and in some cases, leave for politics because they did it so much that they were about to get canned at work).

          Report

          • My friend the anthropologist always tells me that to understand a particular profession/sport/whatever, one should look at the jokes that get told about it. I simply note that I have heard the old joke “How do you tell that an X is lying? Their lips are moving” applied to both politicians and vendor reps (sales engineers).

            Report

      • Hypothesis: Physicans are much more likely to work in a situation that supports early retirement. A casual sampling of current Congress critters who were physicians comes up with a pretty high percentage of them who went into politics at the age of 55-60. There are enough articles on the internet regarding how physicians should arrange things so they can sell their practice for me to believe that’s a thing. My professional experience was that engineers are much more likely to be wage/salary slaves than to operate a profitable small business.

        I have long maintained that the group most grossly underrepresented in both Congress and state legislatures are the wage/salary slaves…

        Report

        • Running for office is kind of like getting a big loan from the bank on favorable terms. You can’t get the loan from the bank until you can show that you don’t really need the loan from the bank, likewise, you can’t get the support of a national party to run for office until you can show that you don’t really need the support from the party to run.

          Report

    • Seems easy enough how to end it. You elect a congress full of reps from the opposing party and then the constitutionally mandated separation of powers will greatly limit Trumps ability to cause much trouble beyond mild embarrassment. Hell, elect the Senate Democratic too and who knows how much stuff Dems would be able to roll Trump on?

      Report

      • That is neutralizing but not getting rid of him and there is still plenty Trump can do via his powers as an executive/administrative in terms of roll backs, corruption. Trump will still destroy our international relations.

        Report

        • It ends the tire fire. The only reason Trump is terrifying is because he has a whipped majority in Congress and the Senate that has every incentive to back him up and cover for him. Take that away and Congress has enormous powers to rein the executive in both legally and by flat out threatening him behind closed doors.

          Foreign policy wise, Trump can embarrass sure but short of trying to fire off nukes his ability to impact FP long term will be limited as foreign states will recognize a neutered Executive when they see it.

          Report

          • Unsurprisingly, I disagree. Bush II was an embarrassment but far less so than Trump. The world seemed quick to forgive because we elected Obama and there was a financial collapse going on in 2007-2009 or thereabouts.

            I doubt that the world will be so quick to sweep Trump’s actions and statements under the rug. They will probably be thinking “Are we destined to get 4-8 years of someone decent vs. 4-8 of someone horrible” in regards to the American President.

            If the next President is Democratic, they are going to need to spend a lot of political capital to undue the damage that Trump has done. I also think it is going to be hard to get people applying for civil servant positions based on the demoralizing and mass resignations. Dedicated people are going to wonder about whether it will be a repeated cycle as well and not want Fed jobs.

            Report

        • To echo what North just said, I’m not all all worried about Trump destroying international relations – destroying the world is a bigger (though still small) (though non zero) risk.

          Countries will continue to do what is in their best interest, (like they always have) and continue to have relations with the US that matches whatever those interests are.

          Report

          • Arranging it so taxpayer dollars are routinely directed to the Trump Organization, and using the Trump Organization as a way to sell access to Trump.

            Both things happening now.

            Report

      • This makes (IMO) unwarranted assumptions about how functional Congress can be.

        Most importantly, it would require the Senate to pass bills with a 51 vote majority, regardless of their content, which would, in and of itself, be violating a longstanding (if terrible) norm.

        Report

        • I agree, and the GOP knows how to do mindless obstruction pretty well. But a wily group of Dem leaders could cause much mischief with the GOP model because Trump is a GOP President and has more popularity with the low info high emotion GOP base than the rest of the GOP does. Cut some deal with him on infrastructure or something and if the GOP filibusters then they’re enraging their own base and hurting Trump. That’s win/win for Dems.

          Report

  10. I walked by CNN in the office lobby, they are reporting that WH Staffers think the shithole comments will “resonate” with Trump’s supporters.

    Which everyone knows but holy shit talk about saying the quiet parts loud!!!

    Report

  11. Those of you who were holding your breath waiting for a bombshell to come out about the Trump colluding with Russians story, you can now exhale.

    Moby has come forward saying that the CIA reached out to him and asked him to tell all of his social media followers that the Fusion GPS dossier is 100% real.

    Report

  12. Aaaaaaand all of Hawaii just an SMS message on their phones warning them that there was a missile incoming and it was not a drill.

    Quickly corrected. There is *NOT* a missile incoming to Hawaii. Some guy doing a drill of the emergency SMS message thing messed up.

    2018 is not yet two weeks old.

    Report

Comments are closed.