How About “Frighteningly Unpatriotic” as a Label for the Trump Operation’s Newly Revealed Behavior

Obviously, the astonishing developments of the last few days remove from the Trumps any intent or mens rea defenses.  All that is left is that “nothing happened,” which in politics, or in adultery, does not really get you very far.

The developments have also caused the first upswing in  the use of the word “treason.”  There may well be a legal case, perhaps ultimately a compelling one, but for the target population of traditional low information Republicans, it may be a wall too far right now.

So let me suggest that the concept we should be pushing is “patriotism,” or rather the astonishing lack of it.  How can anyone truly patriotic, if and when approached by a foreign and hostile power offering partnership in interfering with our sacred democratic election process, do anything other than say “no,” and then call the FBI.  Nor, would we expect any patriot of another country to do anything other than that country’s equivalent.

Obviously, such an idea never occurred to anyone in the Trump operation.  But, I am sure that the vast majority of Trump voters, while happy to get hear of dirt on Hilary, would not want to be in partnership with Russia to get that dirt.  They are better and more patriotic people than that.

So I would experiment with phrases like “frighteningly unpatriotic to even consider participating with Russia to undermine our election system,” or “at best shockingly unpatriotic and maybe at worst treasonous behavior.”

The point is to use words that resonate with the Republican base.



‘Europeans Can’t Think of Building a Future Without the Americans’ — You Won’t Have To, But We Do All Have to Think Differently

Politico has a great article, with the self-explanatory title, itself a quote from the French Ambassador to the US – ‘Europeans Can’t Think of Building a Future Without the Americans’

Nor can I imagine a US without Europe deeply engaged with us.  (I am coming to be able to understand a Europe without the UK, or rather parts of it, but that is a much simpler matter, more related to Britain’s 150 year decline.)

What North Americans and Europeans have to do is understand that together we are one political  system, although not one nation.  Politics in one of these two mega nations (lumping Canada in with the US for now) are already deeply intertwined, and will get more so.  That is much more the case than any other large countries dyad.

As recent elections have shown, political events in one of the mega-nations trigger and influence those in the other — and not always in fully predictable ways.  Skilled demagogues, well actually all demagogues, will try to use events in one as a source of fear or reactionary possibility in the other, and building a positive “liberal system” vision will always require more nuance and time.

In short, in order to leverage each other, ideas have to flow between the two groupings as easily as capital already does.  We in the US have so much to learn about managing technology to limit the forces of inequality, and our friends in Europe have so much to ,learn about building greater flexibility into their economic system.

In the end, however, we have to learn to think about the impact on the European system of all that we do, and they have to do the same about us.  Think about how Trump’s failure to understand the nuances of this have enhanced European integration, and perhaps even saved Europe from disintegration.  The more Trump embraces Putin, the more the rest of Europe fears him, or rather both of them. I personally will not get tired of these kinds of winning.




Polls Say Trump Voters Are Happy With Him — But We Know Trump Voters Can Not Easily and Reliably Be Polled

There has been a lot of reporting of how Trump has not lost much support of those who voted for him.

But do we know how reliable the self-reporting of prior voting behavior is.  I wonder if anyone has been checking if the self-reporting of Trump voting is consistent with the actual votes.

We know hat Trump voters are low education, we know that they are often hard to get to answer polls, and we suspect that they may be less prone to tell the truth (at least to pollsters.)

So there may be lots of hidden dissatisfied Trump voters out there.  I remember the moment during Watergate when Nixon’s reputation became so poisonous that more people remembered that they had voted against him than for him.

If this theory is right, it holds particular danger for Republlicans facing reelection in 2018, because it will make it harder to track the Trump voters whose reason for turning against a Republican incumbent is his or her support for Trump.

Worth keeping an eye on.


NBER Report Suggests We Should Not Blame Polarization on the Internet.

The National Bureau of Economic Research has long been a highly respected and independent source of analysis on economic and statistical matters.  So it is well worth paying attention when they focus on the impact of the Internet on polarization.

A recent Report concludes:

We find that the increase in polarization is largest among the groups least likely to use the internet and social media.  .  .  .  Across intermediate age groups, the growth in polarization is consistently higher among older respondents. Polarization increases more for the old than the young in eight of the nine individual measures. A similar pattern emerges for groups of respondents divided by our broader index of predicted internet use.

The paper admits that there may be ways of explaining the phenomenon to dissolve the inconsistency, but, given its breadth of measures, that seems unlikely.

Indeed un-linking Internet access statistics from polarization does not exclude the possibility that the existence of the Internet incentivizes the taking of extreme positions, and that those incentives work on populations regardless of their internet access.  It may be, or example, that what the Internet did was make it possible for marginal voices to be amplified much more by mainstream media who reach lower information people.  In other words, we would be worse off without the Internet.

However, when you think about it, the “beauty” of the “Internet did it” meme is that no one needs to take responsibility.  Not the commentators, not the politicians, not the newsfolks, not the religious leaders.  Not the increase in inequality, not the massive insecurity, not the reduction of need for those with traditional blue collar jobs.  Not the increasing costs of housing and education and the impossibility of getting both.

Holding people responsible for what they say and advocate — and what they said yesterday, and weeks, months and years ago is easier than ever before.  Understanding economic change should also be easier than ever.

So, while the Internet alone may have some second order effects, its much more important to look at the big picture of ideas and leadership.



Why “Americans by Birth” Are Threatened by “Americans by Choice” and How to Fix That

Its clear that many “Americans by Birth” are deeply threatened by “Americans by Choice,” also known as “immigrants.”   But, why?

Traditional explanations cite job fears, cultural threat, fear of the unknown, not to mention simple racism.  All surely play their role.

But let me suggest that some of the reaction is explained by the fear insight buried inside “Americans by Birth,” that they have actually shown less committement to this country that “Americans by Choice,” most of whom have displayed determination, ambition, risk-taking, and sometimes extraordinary courage to get here.  (I certainly exclude my own privileged path here from this description.)

I wonder if “Americans by Choice,” particularly those already public about their status, should explicitly make the point that: “We Americans by Choice thank you, Americans by Birth, for building this into the country we want so much to stay in and help continue to build.”

That is a hard message to reject, and while perhaps implicit in the desire to stay, not necessarily yet heard by those in fear.

A Reflection on America’s Long Term Strength

I should start by acknowledging that there are no new ideas in the post.  I just want to remind us all of something its easy to forget in the news cycle.

Notwithstanding our largely paralyzed political process, a party and President with plans to effectively destroy our openness and our generosity to the less fortunate, and an international environmnt with several major players whose committement to the values for which we have stood is, dubious to say the least, our overall assets are such that any other country and leader could only dream that their nation will possess them in their children’s time, if ever.

Not only do we still have massive economic power now backed by a powerful innovation machine, we have most of the leading educational institutions, speak the utterly dominant language, have a human capital pool from every country in the world, democratic values that remain a beacon for those of goodwill throughout the world, a political system with checks and balances that usually work, although not always as quickly as they have in the last three weeks, and not just a free free press but a system in which multiple layers protect that essential ingredient of freedom and progress.  (If you have any doubt about how all those interact in a time of crisis, just look at the list of amici in the immigration case in the Ninth Circuit, as discussed here.)

Now, lots of terrible harm is going to happen to lots of people.  The sate net will take vicious hits.  There will be serious limits on voting rights.  Government support of education and research will be very seriously hit.  Only by a miracle will the damage to our health care system be less than the good that is done — although “repair” might end up giving us a better system in some states.  One could add to this list.

But, unless our entire political system is destroyed (and I am actually less worried about that right now) most of our essential uniqueness will remain.  Unless things get much worse, people will still want to study, teach, and invest here.  They will still see English as the only non-native language they need to speak.  Above all, we will remain the only country that large groups of people in every country see as the model to emulate.

If we are really lucky, or rather if we really deserve it, the way we ultimately overcome our current challenges will enhance our uniqueness and appeal.  Few countries have the capacity for defense in depth of democracy that we have already shown.  It may take four years, or even eight, but this too will pass.  To quote Lee Hayes from an earlier era: “I’ve had kidney stones and I know.”




We Need the Voter Fraud Investigation — Assuming It is Fair and Real

Its hard not to be freaked out by Trump’s call for a voter fraud investigation, and to worry that it might lead to more suppression efforts.

But I ask you to think forward four years, and where we will be likely be with a President who has just been defeated in the election, and is now publicly doubting the result, and is suggesting that he should not leave.

We would like to hope that Republican colleagues would shut that down, but given their repeatedly demonstrated inability to resist the lures of craven self-interest, I find it hard to be confident about that.  (It is true that so far they have not gotten onto this particular anti-fact bandwagon, but not at much risk.)

Obviously, such a study/investigation would have to be truly bi-partisan and fact based, and willingness to engage in such a process, also critical to restore the overall legitimacy of our political process, should be a test of ability to transcend narrow interests.

If such a process were successful, it might be a model for other shutdowns of fact-free expeditions.

P.S. I have to emphasize that this assumes that such a project would be open, fair and real.  I had added the last qualification to the title to make this clear. (added Jan 26, 2017)