There’s a new think tank, The Center for the Study of Partisanship and Ideology, that recently started up. It caught my attention because it’s headed by my friend Richard Hanania, and Zach Goldberg, of “Great Awokening” fame is a research fellow. I just got done recording a podcast with David Shor and we talked about the role of culture and economics in the modern political parties (the full podcast will be posted this week for subscribers to my Substack, and free in a few weeks on the main podcast site, but you can listen to a few minutes of Shor talking about his Sephardic Jewish background here).
One of the things that Shor mentions is that activists and academics have priors that shape the way questions are asked and therefore the answers that come out of those questions. So, for example, Shor does not accept the idea promoted by many Democrats that the public fundamentally has left-wing economic views. Rather, he seems to think that the perception is due to the manner in which questions are couched and framed by motivated activists and scholars.
Go where the data go, even unto China!
The first report produced by CSPI is not one whose conclusions I am particularly congenial to, The National Populist Illusion: Why Culture, Not Economics, Drives American Politics:
During the Trump presidency, some of the most interesting and innovative thinking on the center right has come from writers and politicians sometimes called “national populists.” This group challenges Republican orthodoxy on questions of economics and suggests that a new policy agenda, focused more on working-class concerns, could realign the U.S. electorate. We consider the plausibility of their claims, examining the relevant scholarly literature and recent trends among voters. The data show that most voters who supported Trump were overwhelmingly driven by cultural rather than economic concerns. This implies that the national populist vision is unlikely to provide major electoral gains for the Republican Party. Trump’s popularity among his supporters suffered very little due to his governing mostly as a conventional Republican politician, and those of his party who have adopted more redistributive voting patterns in Congress in recent years have not realized resulting gains at the ballot box. In fact, the American public gave Trump higher marks on the economy than any other major issue, contradicting the claim that more free market economic policies create an electoral cost. We also note that continuity with previous trends, rather than electoral realignment, was the norm in recent election cycles, meaning that the idea that there has been a major shift towards Republicans becoming the “working class party” is mostly a myth. Republican success in the future will depend on the party speaking to the cultural, rather than economic, concerns of its voters, whether symbolically or in more tangible terms. This can mean championing issues that Republicans have ignored in recent years like opposition to affirmative action, in addition to facilitating the kind of backlash politics towards cultural liberalism among non-white voters that has worked so well among whites in recent decades. Economic policies that seek to address working-class concerns but hinder overall growth can alienate both voters and donors for little gain.
Well, Hanania and company are offered up a prediction. Perhaps in ten years, they’re be profiling them in The Atlantic. I hope they have their crayon drawn charts handy.
Also, if you want 100 proof shit-posting, I recommend Richard’s Twitter account. It’s based.