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The Democrats have an operative vs. voter base problem

Both Ruy Teixeira and John Judis, authors of The Emerging Democratic Majority, have turned on the major public message of their book, that demography is destiny and the Democrats just had to wait for the future (the book itself is more subtle, but you can ask Francis Fukuyama how much people look beyond the title).

Teixeria’s essays of late have been very interesting though, as he doesn’t seem to keen on many partisan pieties. His latest, Did the Democrats Misread Hispanic Voters?:

… The reality of the Hispanic population is that they are, broadly speaking, an overwhelmingly working class, economically progressive, socially moderate constituency that cares above all, about jobs, the economy and health care.

Clearly, this constituency does not harbor particularly radical views on the nature of American society and its supposed intrinsic racism and white supremacy. Rather, this is a population that overwhelmingly wanted to hear what the Democrats had to offer on jobs, the economy and health care. But the Democrats could not make the sale with an unusually large number of Latino voters in a year of economic meltdown and coronavirus crisis. This suggests there was an opportunity cost to the political energy devoted to issues around race which simply were not that central to the concerns of Hispanic voters and the more radical aspects of which were unpopular with these voters.

This point struck me because in his conversation with Julia Galef David Shor emphasizes over and over how extremely left-wing Democratic operatives are. Shor claims that about 1/3rd of his team as Civis were Democratic Socialists of America members. One individual wasn’t DSA because DSA was too conservative. Shor also implies that Joe Biden’s flip on the Hyde Amendment was dictated by a staff revolt.

My personal experience with friends in academia is that many of them simply are not aware of how socially liberal they are. Their view of what a “conservative” view on a social issue is is just out of touch often. I know for a fact many academics were shocked that California rejected affirmative action again. It’s a majority-minority state. They had expectations.

I wonder about this same problem with Latinx voters, who are overwhelmingly Democrats, but unless they are part of the intelligentsia are not socially bleeding-edge liberal (and don’t consider themselves “Latinx”). A lot of times white academics I know just don’t want to admit that “BIPOC” and Latinx people don’t really agree with them on a lot of these cultural issues, since they believe their views are derived from antiracism, so when nonwhite people disagree it must be false consciousness.

For academics, “this is academic.” But what if the Democrat’s operative class is subject to the same problem?

(I assume the equivalent with Republicans is that they always believe they haven’t “explained” economic libertarianism well to a populace that really isn’t too keen on it)

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33 thoughts on “The Democrats have an operative vs. voter base problem

  1. It seems like the trend is for white academics (who are generally somewhere on the left) to let “academics of color” effectively speak for them because “being a good ally” means “listening and learning” and not questioning. Then they steelman further what they hear (because its acceptable to contribute if they confirm a view without challenging it), and they internalize the views as belief and take it as read that academics of color speak for PoC.

    Following the general rule that academics are further left than the public, and that minorities are further left than the majority, combining both trends linearly we would guess, rightly, that “academics of color” tend to be pretty radical (notable exceptions, talking averages). So WA assimilating to pretty radical beliefs and diverge further from the mainstream population, even minority populations.

    No feedback mechanism or error correction. May not be a whole reason, but I doubt setting in place rules that questioning certain people is seen as vaguely expressing some sort of “social dominance orientation” just doesn’t have any effect.

  2. Matt’s analysis seems generally correct. There is a great essay by Olufemi Taiwo about the issues surrounding intellectual deference to academics based on their race or other category:

    https://www.thephilosopher1923.org/essay-taiwo

    Among many other things, he makes the point that when you defer to a fellow academic because of their race, you are essentially using them as a stand-in for all people of that race. Given that person is an academic and thus elite and privileged in at least some ways, their thoughts, political priorities, etc are likely to deviate substantially from other people of that race.

    One explicit case of this: AOC is likely to be more popular with highly educated white liberals than with working class Latinos. This is somewhat borne out by the stats of who voted for her in her original primary win vs Joe Crowley (poster boy for boring white guy incumbent).

  3. “‘Majority Minority’ America? Don’t Bet on It” By John J. Miller on Feb. 5, 2021
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/majority-minority-america-dont-bet-on-it-11612549609

    * * *

    “The majority minority narrative is wrong,” says sociologist Richard Alba, … In his recent book, “The Great Demographic Illusion,” Mr. Alba, 78, shows that many “nonwhites” are assimilating into an American mainstream, much as white ethnic groups did before them. …

    “The surge in mixing across ethno-racial lines is one of the most important and unheralded developments of our time,” says Mr. Alba, a professor at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. … Today, more than 10% of U.S.-born babies have one parent who is nonwhite or Hispanic and one who is white and not Hispanic. That proportion is larger than the number of babies born to two Asian parents and not far behind the number of babies born to two black parents. “We’re entering a new era of mixed backgrounds,” Mr. Alba says. …

    “One of Mr. Alba’s favorite words is “assimilation,” … how assimilation actually worked in the years after World War II. “New religious identities—Catholic and Jewish—entered a mainstream that previously had identified itself as Protestant,” he says. “The mainstream expanded and diversified and even started referring to itself as ‘Judeo-Christian.’ ” As new ingredients entered the melting pot, they enriched the recipe and didn’t spoil it.

    “Something similar is happening today. “The rising numbers of people from mixed ethno-racial backgrounds is a sign of growing integration into the mainstream by members of minority groups, especially those of recent immigrant origin, such as Asians and Hispanics,” …

    “Government projections have obscured this picture by creating the false impression that many immigrants are failing to assimilate, …

    ” … about five years ago he spotted an error in how the Census Bureau classifies people by race and ethnicity …

    ” … as the federal government prepared for the 2000 census … The Census Bureau decided to let people … check off more than one racial box on their forms. Leaders of liberal civil-rights groups lobbied against the change. …

    The Office of Management and Budget devised an ironic solution to the dilemma. … The OMB decided that Americans who designated themselves as white and something else on their Census forms would be classified as nonwhite.

    “If you’re changing white to nonwhite, there’s a problem,” Mr. Alba says. As an example, he cites survey findings that Americans of mixed Asian and white descent tend to have more contact with white relatives than with Asian ones (in part because Asian relatives are likelier to live abroad). Moreover, 62% of Asian-whites say they feel “very” accepted by whites, compared with 47% who say the same about Asians. When they marry, 72% of Asian-white women and 64% of Asian-white men take white spouses. The government nevertheless counts them and their progeny as nonwhite.

    ” … says Mr. Alba. “We tend to believe that people can have only one ethno-racial background and that this identity is fixed when in fact it can be quite fluid.”

  4. Well, Economic libertarianism was explained to me very well. I prided myself on my grasp of it. I nodded along with George Will on Sunday mornings. Nowadays, I’ll help my Mexican brothers build the tumbrils.

  5. @Jason Munshi-South

    AOC is an interesting case of what you might call “brownwashing”. It’s well-known that she was a bartender prior to becoming a Congressional candidate, but what’s less well-known is that she was handpicked by high-ranking members of the DSA, mostly white and/or Asian, to run in the Democratic primary in a Bronx/Queens district that was increasingly gentrifying. The district had long been majority-minority, but had also long voted for the let’s-make-a-deal, establishment (and white) Joe Crowley with very low turn-out for primaries. The DSA, well-connected in online spaces and in the media, was able to effectively organize a savvy campaign aimed at younger, more left-leaning Jacobin-reading urban professional/art school-type white and Asian voters and to get them out in droves for AOC, then turn around and sell to the online media sites to which they had connections that “the brown people finally decided to vote for the brown girl, because they want democratic socialism.” Major media organizations like the NYT and WaPo were eager to eat this narrative up in the 2018 midterms.

  6. Have to add to this, although it almost goes unsaid, I think there’s definitely something I deemphasized in this dynamic where white academics (and similar types in the chattering class spheres) probably tactically use the deference hierarchy strategically to argue for what they want, politically. I made it sound too one way perhaps.

    It’s maybe a lot easier to argue that college debt leads to underrepresentation of PoC in academia and an education gap, than it is to argue “Can the government please give me, an upper middle class person, a college tuition write off?”. It’s perhaps a lot easier to argue for that it’s white supremacy for the government not to fun urban social housing for PoC than it is to argue “Can the government please give me, an upper middle class person without housing equity, new build low rent housing with an eventual purchase option, so I can spend more on upper middle class affluent consumption?”. It could be a lot easier to argue that neglecting transport funding for public transport links to poor neighbourhoods is white supremacist than it is to argue “Can the government please fund nice, plush public transport for me, an upper middle class person who does not drive and who wants to take advantage of cheap rents in low income neighbourhoods?”.

    It’s often pretty expedient to simply make the arguments for these things the way some more conventional centre-lefty like Yglesias would make them, for conventional reasons like growth, which would be open to technical challenge that the calculations simply don’t add up and moral challenge of being ultimately regressive and so on. And they can convince themselves. So they will perhaps select academic figures that they can use for these arguments. The trouble is of course that all this eventually (or immediately!) will catch up with them…

  7. The pre-Trump GOP could have picked up a lot of non-white voters (especially Muslims, Asian Americans, and Hispanics) if it wasn’t so dedicated to making non-whites and non-Christians uncomfortable and threatened. Trump made it worse for the GOP, driving out of a lot of establishment conservatives, if not to the Democratic Party, at least to independent status, because they didn’t want to be associated with crazy.

    The Democratic big tent is straining the the seams. But mysteriously, very few on the right seem interested in organizing socially moderate non-whites and non-Christians, and rational conservatives. I don’t really get why this doesn’t happen very often.

  8. In leftist movements, cadres are always more orthodox to their ideology than the rank-and-file members are. I don’t think this is a problem for the Democrats. Their cadres have been very successful in moving their rank-and-file to their orthodoxy over the past several decades. Present today’s Democratic agenda to an average Democrat of the 1980’s, let alone the 1950’s, and he would think that you lost your marbles.

    In contrast, Republican political insiders, in general, have been economically much more libertarian and socially more liberal than the Republican rank-and-file. Arguably, this provides at least one explanation why they have steadily lost support from the rank-and-file. Even the much vaunted Reagan administration was full of non-Reaganites (does this ring a bell?).

    Can you imagine how a personally more attractive political candidate with Trump’s policies (which, despite the mainstream media hysterics, were broadly popular with the electorate) would do? There is a reason why the media has gunned for, and tried its best to destroy, Josh Hawley.

  9. The pre-Trump GOP could have picked up a lot of non-white voters (especially Muslims, Asian Americans, and Hispanics) if it wasn’t so dedicated to making non-whites and non-Christians uncomfortable and threatened. Trump made it worse for the GOP

    What are you talking about? Trump did better among nonwhites in 2016 compared to Romney and did better still in 2020. Lots of Asians and Hispanics didn’t buy the “literal Hitler” routine from the media and turned out for Trump. He did, however, lose white college graduates in droves. This is consistent with the political realignment going on in the country, with the Democrats increasingly becoming the party of corporatists and the entitled and the Republicans that of the downscale (and dwindling) middle class voters.

    But mysteriously, very few on the right seem interested in organizing socially moderate non-whites and non-Christians, and rational conservatives. I don’t really get why this doesn’t happen very often.

    Have you seen what happens to be “socially moderate” nonwhites who don’t toe the leftist party line? You seem to be under the delusion that there is a neutral or fair “marketplace of ideas” in the U.S. The left dominates all the major institutions including academia and media. They hammer you down pretty fast and hard if you don’t throw your support behind their chosen minority designates.

    Movement conservatives have tried very hard to protect and foster nonwhite conservatives (it’s even explicitly in one of their activist training “rules”), but all but few are reluctant to raise their heads and face the withering attacks from those who dominate the institutional power in this country.

  10. you can ask Francis Fukuyama how much people look beyond the title

    1. What a blast from the past (at least for me).
    2. Very droll comment!
    3. Can’t feel too badly for Frank Fukuyama. He rode that audacious (arrogant, even) title for a good while, even if he eventually became a parody of himself and crawled back to the booing leftists. I wonder what the late Samuel Huntington would think about what happened to his protege were he alive today.

  11. While I agree that the 2020 results are a cause for concern for the Democrats – they show that demography is not destiny – it has been pointed out that Trump did no better – and likely significantly worse with Latinos than George W. Bush did in 2004 (where exit polls suggest he hit 40%).

    At the time George W. Bush’s relative success with Latinos was chalked up to idiosyncratic reasons, like his record as governor of Texas, his relatively pro-immigrant stances, and his pitiful attempts to speak Spanish. But Trump shared none of these commonalities, is a very different president in terms of both style and substance, and seemed to do quite well with Latinos regardless.

    It’s possible that what we’re really seeing here is more a bit of pro-incumbency bias among a certain subset of Latino voters, rather than a permanent shift towards the GOP. We really should not project off a single data point. We need at least one more electoral cycle to be clear what this represents.

  12. @ohwilleke

    This is a common talking point. “Black and Hispanic voters are more socially conservative on LGBT rights, sexual mores, and religion than white voters generally, so why doesn’t the GOP compromise on racial issues and get some of their votes?” Why would the GOP do this though? Religious, sexual, “family values”-style moral conservatism is declining across the board in all races, so it’s not like there is any long-term future in adopting this strategy, and compromising on racial issues would mean giving up other deeply held GOP positions like opposition to affirmative action, adopting critical-race-theory rhetoric on America as a fundamentally racist society, and a lot more. There’s no future in the Republican party becoming a rainbow coalition of devout Christians, Mormons, Orthodox Jews, and Muslims, demographics that within a decade will probably amount to less than a quarter of the population.

  13. deeply held GOP positions like opposition to affirmative action

    Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

    As far as I know, Republicans have made absolutely no effort to get rid of any affirmative action program.

    Their opposition has the same deeply held status as my wife saying, “I shouldn’t hit the snooze button so many times in the morning. I should train myself to get up as soon as the alarm goes off.”

  14. @Roger Sweeny

    It’s true that Republicans have been squishy on this issue, but what about about all those initiatives and referenda in the 90s and 2000s against affirmative action in which Republican activists and politicos were heavily involved? I meant more that many Republicans loudly broadcast opposition to quotas, “racial beancounting”, and proudly proclaim their dedication to colorblindness, which a lot of the people who vote for them do believe in. The GOP at the federal level haven’t done anything legislatively against affirmative action since H.W. Bush vetoed the original 1990 civil rights act, aside from nominating judges who are skeptical of affirmative action/diversity/like initiatives.

  15. @mekal

    I am unaware of many initiatives and referenda against affirmative action that were pushed by Republicans. My impression is actually the opposite. In 1996, Californians passed Proposition 209 56-44. One might have thought the national party would have tried to take the color-blind issue national, and that other state parties would have jumped on the bandwagon. But it just didn’t happen.

  16. @mekal

    I almost forgot. In the last election, in which millions of Californians came out to vote against Donald Trump, Proposition 16 would have repealed Proposition 209. It lost, once again 56-44. So color blindness is hardly a vote losing lost cause. Yet no Republican that I know of has attempted to do anything about it.

  17. @Roger Sweeny

    Look at the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative as an example of Republican involvement in promoting colorblindness. After Republican activists (not legislators, but Republicans nonetheless) got the initiative on the ballot, and it was approved in a referendum by the voters of Michigan, the state AG, a Republican, defended the initiative in court, taking it all the way to the Supreme Court, and winning. In the wake of Hollingsworth v. Perry, where the Democratic California AG refused to defend Prop 8 in court (thus dooming Prop 8), state attorneys general arguing on behalf of a popular referendum passed by the majority of the voters does count as “doing something.” No, it’s not every Republican Congressman in the House and Senate voting for a total ban on affirmative at the federal level, but it’s not nothing.

    But I agree, color-blind policies like opposing last year’s Prop 16 in California or the similar initiative earlier in the year in Washington are puzzlingly not a cause Republicans have rallied around, given the success in defeating those initiatives. Thus the point in my post above, that it would be foolish for the GOP to “give in” on racial issues, which are issues that they can actually win on in the long-term because policies like affirmative action aren’t popular even in heavily Democratic states, rather than chasing the dwindling religious/sexual/moral conservative demographic. I hope this clarifies things.

  18. I’m Latin American and here “false consciousness” is exclusively a term used by leftists to refer to low class and middle class people that identify with high class people (or at least that is the accusation they make when poor and working class people don’t vote the way the left wants them to vote)

    In the USA, the democrats, that don’t identify as communists, or don’t want a socialist revolution (as far as I know), seem to have coopted that term for race issues instead of class issues.

    Perhaps the USA has turned class issues into race issues because the Cold War and the American victory over communism has repressed any kind of talk about class, since that kind of talk belongs/ed to the greatest enemy of the USA, so class issues mutated into race issues because there was no other outlet available.
    I also think American businessmen probably prefer to have race issues instead of class issues. The support of corporations for woke stuff isn’t just companies following a social fad, woke stuff benefits them directly.
    Immigration hurts the American workforce, if you are undereducated, competition from unqualified central americans hurts you, but Americans who decided to study and become a programmer or an engineer probably aren’t very happy about having to compete with the best minds from the rest of the planet that are willing to move to the USA.
    Now companies can say they really really value diversity and reshape their workforce any way they want without criticisms from unions or workers, because criticizing that would be racist.
    Companies have learnt how to use feminist or racial or lgbqt angles to make themselves immune from criticism.

  19. With regards to Latinos and Trump, I simply think many Latinos were scared of the destruction and lootings during the BLM demonstrations, and the discourse of Democrats that justified it, which went something like “Property can and will be replaced Black lives can not. To be more outraged by the lootings than the innocent murders of black people is unacceptable. History shows civil disobedience is necessary and works” repeated in an unreflecting manner on social media by an army of White middle class democrats from the safety of their suburbs.

    Many latinos are immigrants, they moved (legally or not) to the USA in search of a better life, Cubans and Venezuelans very often are very anticommunist, and what they saw sent shockwaves into them, because it reminded them of the third world they left. It’s not something that should happen in the USA.
    So, it’s not that Latinos like Trump, the main issue is democrats scared them.

  20. Mekal: But I agree, color-blind policies like opposing last year’s Prop 16 in California or the similar initiative earlier in the year in Washington are puzzlingly not a cause Republicans have rallied around, given the success in defeating those initiatives.

    Is that an issue that they simply don’t have the “boots on the ground” in California, or capacity to win even with that issue on their side? So there’s no real incentive for them to get involved.

    Tactically, it might also be smarter to let more a coalition of old-fashioned “Opportunity But Not Equity” and aspiring (often locally born and raised) minority Democrats slug it out with the “Anything But Equity Is Structurally Racist Oppression” young, white-leaning(?) left (who’ve often migrated in for tech and media jobs).

    If Repubs put their hat in the ring, seems like the opposition to these propositions could immediately get tarred with claims that “White Supremacist Republicans are trying to destroy social justice andd equality and to maintain their White privilege apartheid social dominance hierarchy!”, and it might not even help the cause. Not getting involved avoids the story, if we doubt that they’ll get any positive credit in the media for it. Doubt they’re actually smart and organized enough to knowingly refrain from involvement for that reason though!

  21. In the last election, in which millions of Californians came out to vote against Donald Trump, Proposition 16 would have repealed Proposition 209. It lost, once again 56-44. So color blindness is hardly a vote losing lost cause. Yet no Republican that I know of has attempted to do anything about it.

    That’s because most Republican pols are establishmentarians who are terrified of being called racists. There is much less overlap between party insiders and activists in the GOP. Until rather recently, the party insiders saw the activists as a barely-contained mob, which they hoped to coopt for harvesting votes, but whose interests and goals were best kept closeted in polite company. Preserving the status quo (an ever-moving goal post thanks to the left) is a victory to the insiders.

    There is now going to be a civil war in the GOP, because Trump finally made the activists and populists with the GOP orbit much more confident of their role as kingmakers on the political right. The empire (establishment GOP) is going to try to strike back and turn back the clock, and it’s going to be a fight.

    So, it’s not that Latinos like Trump, the main issue is democrats scared them.

    Do you think anyone really liked Biden and that’s what got him elected? It was the relentless demonization of Trump in all institutional parts of the society that got this lightweight corpse (with a running mate who is probably one of the least liked politicians even among Democrats) elected.

    While BLM and the Democratic support for the lawlessness and destruction of cities definitely played a strong role in increased Hispanic support for Trump, let’s not forget that, prior to the Covid pandemic, the Trump era was characterized by rising wages for not just white manufacturing workers, but also low wage minorities. A large segment of Hispanic voters is not ideological – they vote for those who bring jobs and security.

    The GOP had been steadily losing Hispanic and Asian voters since the Clinton years, and Trump reversed that trend – twice! Imagine if (and hopefully when) a political candidate with less baggage who was far more politically attractive (humble beginnings, supportive family, never been divorced, no scandal, etc.) repeated the same populist message.

  22. @Walter

    Yes, the conventional takeaway from both parties regarding the GOP’s massive decline in California, namely that Prop 187 and Prop 209 doomed them with Asians and Latinos who saw it as racist, seems very wrong. California had been a pro-business, fiscally conservative, tough-on-crime, socially liberal solidly Republican state for most of the 70s, 80, and 90s, but the middle class greatly declined between the 70s and the 2000s as the cost of living, the price of real estate, and regulations on business made middle-class way of life increasingly difficult. So the state is left with very wealthy people invested in social liberalism and politics-as-spectator-sport, who naturally find their home in the post-Clinton Democratic party, and a ton of poor or working-class people, many of immigrant background, who need at least some level of public services, another natural constituency for the Democrats.

    But the GOP in California continues to stick with the policies of Deukmejian and Rick Riordan, even though the people who would vote for those policies either died or, in a lot of cases, left the state.

  23. Walter, in the US ‘false consciousness’ is also usually used in a class context (poor/working class people who vote Republican), e.g., that was the whole point of the oft-discussed book “What’s the Matter with Kansas.” It’s just also used in a racial context, perhaps because race is a much more salient category in the US than in most other countries (in Latin America, Brazil is an exception of course).

    I’m not convinced that corporations support woke stuff as part of a scheme to distract from ‘class issues.’ I don’t think big corporations plan that far ahead with their marketing campaigns; they’re just trying to sell shoes or whatever right now. Besides, the wokest corporations/rich people also tend to be the most inclined toward economic leftism. If they thought it would help sell cheeseburgers in Brooklyn McDonalds would quote Lenin in their commercials. That’s certainly what a rational, heartless, self-interested corporation would do, since it’s not like any one company’s political stances are going to make a difference in whether a revolution happens or not, it’s really just a question of whether it’s profitable for each company to ride the wave.

  24. @Twinkie

    “Imagine if (and hopefully when) a political candidate with less baggage who was far more politically attractive (humble beginnings, supportive family, never been divorced, no scandal, etc.) repeated the same populist message.”

    We had that in Josh Hawley but the left is trying its best to destroy him. And they will probably succeed because they own all the institutions. I am still hopeful about Tom Cotton though.

  25. Walter:
    “Perhaps the USA has turned class issues into race issues because the Cold War and the American victory over communism has repressed any kind of talk about class”

    One test for this hypothesis is to take a look at this graph of word usage in the New York Times from 1970-2018: http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/myl/MillerNYT_WordFrequencyGraphs.jpeg

    Then read this: https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/media-great-racial-awakening

    Do the timelines in those sources match up with the Cold War?

  26. “The GOP had been steadily losing Hispanic and Asian voters since the Clinton years, and Trump reversed that trend – twice! Imagine if (and hopefully when) a political candidate with less baggage who was far more politically attractive (humble beginnings, supportive family, never been divorced, no scandal, etc.) repeated the same populist message.”

    I don’t think this is something Trump specifically deserves credit for. He also won more of the black vote than Romney and McCain did, but this would have been true for almost any Republican candidate. The overall Asian vote would have swung away from voting Democratic by Obama-level margins just based on foreign policy concerns (i.e. China) alone. Although disinformation networks and fake news certainly helped.

  27. We had that in Josh Hawley but the left is trying its best to destroy him. And they will probably succeed because they own all the institutions. I am still hopeful about Tom Cotton though.

    Cotton is no Hawley. I suspect Hawley will survive yet.

    https://www.forbes.com/sites/alisondurkee/2021/01/22/poll-most-gop-voters-still-support-josh-hawley-ted-cruz-after-capitol-riots/?sh=40d0dc9256c6

    Hawley’s approval rating with Republican voters in Missouri dropped by nine points after the Capitol attack, falling from 72% on Jan. 5 to 63% on Jan. 18, and fell from 42% to 36% among all voters statewide.

    Cruz’s approval rating among Texas Republicans fell from 81% to 76%, and from 48% to 45% statewide.

    The two are still slightly more popular with Republicans than the other senators in their states: 61% approve of Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt and 72% approve of Texas Sen. John Cornyn.

    Hawley’s popularity with Republicans nationwide actually improved after the riot as he gained more name recognition: 23% viewed him favorably Jan. 4-5 as compared with 27% on Jan. 20-21

  28. I assume the equivalent with Republicans is that they always believe they haven’t “explained” economic libertarianism well to a populace that really isn’t too keen on it

    Economic libertarianism is a philosophy that promises improvement at a somewhat cosmic level while permitting harm (or loss) in the here and now. This is in stark opposition to the commonly held view that “a bird in hand is worth two in the bush”, so it’s not surprising that people aren’t too keen on it. At an individual level, no single person is promised a better future despite the fact that many will get that, whereas the people who will lose are all too acutely aware of that fact. (Examples: loosening regulations, abolitions of subsidies, free trade, all of which hurt some people in the near term while improving the situation globally.)

  29. @Numinous, yes it is a problem for economic liberalisation that gains are often, at least for rich “frontier” countries, either diffuse and vaguely linked in time and space to policy change, because it makes them inevitably less empirically founded. It’s hard to argue strongly for the urgency of a policy that might do something a bit useful 80 years hence.

    Compounding the problem is obviously that short term benefits of liberalisation often favour those with pre-existing deep pockets (of financial and technical capital), economies of scale and inside information to prepare for liberalisations which are introduced. Immediate beneficiaries are often big market incumbents (“Big Business”). Less of a problem if liberalisations are in poor countries which have high income growth potential and high potential for growth to impact happiness and health (“rising tide lifts all boats, even if not equally”). But if they mainly serve to immediately redistribute to high capital incumbents who are “prepared”, given that these people are always well represented by clubbable lobbyists, it can look an awful lot like corruption.

    Compounding as well is that advocates of further liberalisation have often argued on moral grounds that “It’s right that people keep what they have earned” / “Taxation is theft” / “Labour market income is earned through merits” / “Regulation breaches freedom” and such, regardless of who benefits, which tends to involve invoking ideas that are as naive as any Labor Theory Of Value (and similar in form “A man deserves the product of the sweat of his brow”). Those ideas are easily attacked and ridiculed when offered up in a naive form, and again, dismissed as smokescreen for interests.

  30. @Matt:

    Yes, libertarianism put into practice can have diminishing returns or even be counterproductive. But then, so can tariffs and regulations 🙂 . The trick (or wisdom) lies in knowing what lever to pull when (sounds like a banal statement, but it’s probably true, isn’t it?)

    I’ll add that in practice, we never quite get libertarianism. Liberalization happens in carefully chosen ways, which, as you say, benefit certain (chosen?) people, and this can be indistinguishable from corruption in practice. Full anarcho-libertarianism will likely produce a more globally optimal result but that would be a politically non-starter (because of the “bird in hand” mentality almost all of us possess.)

  31. Yeah, I think it’s about that, but also I guess I’m emphasizing being realistic about real returns and trade offs, like strategic risk from outsourcing, and distribution of gains. Being a bit too boosterish about prospects of large, evenly distributed gains from tax cuts, deregulation, reduction in trade barriers, and low risks from unintended consequences, maybe why “Neoliberalism” and kindred “Libertarianism” is a popular scapegoat to place current problems on.

    We’re in a sort of “Counter-Neoliberal” moment where Left and Right don’t have much good to say about liberalisation, even though much of it was probably good, perhaps because of over-promising short term broad gains. Makes it easy to blame a host of issues on it (like high house price clustering in world cities, which is maybd quite a bit due to clustering of the economy, and about an aging population in trying to find safe stores of value for retirement in a world with lower growth in productivity and high savings, but often blamed on only on “Neoliberal state retreated from building social housing” where I am).

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