Show Notes for June 19, 2017

  • A Georgia Republican official has said the shooting at a Virginia baseball field will lead to the party's victory in a state special election.
  • Brad Carver told the Washington Post voters "tired of left-wing extremism" will pick Republican Karen Handel.
  • Democrat Jon Ossoff and Ms Handel are running for a House seat vacated by US health secretary Tom Price.
  • Five people were injured last week when a gunman opened fire at a Republican baseball practice.
  • House Majority Whip Steve Scalise was among those hurt and remains in a critical condition.
  • The suspect, identified as James T Hodgkinson, allegedly opened fire on Republican lawmakers as they practised for an annual congressional charity baseball game.
  • It emerged that Mr Hodgkinson, who died of his injuries following a gunfight with police, was a volunteer for Senator Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign and promoted anti-Republican rhetoric on social media.
  • Mr Carver, the Republican Party chairman in Georgia's 11th Congressional District, told the Post "the shooting is going to win this election for us".
  • He went on: "Moderates and independents in this district are tired of left-wing extremism. I get that there's extremists on both sides, but we are not seeing them.”
  • The much-anticipated election in the Atlanta suburban district between Ms Handel and Mr Ossoff is seen as a test of President Donald Trump popularity.
  • The showdown is also considered the most expensive US House of Representatives race in the nation's history.
  • Mr Carver praised Mr Ossoff for running a "brilliant campaign", but contended the baseball shooting would tip the outcome in Republican favour.
  • "We're seeing absolute resistance to everything this president does," he added.
  • "Moderates and independents out there want to give him a chance. Democrats have never given this president a chance."
  • His comments came as a Republican group released an advertisement attempting to link the congressional shooting to Mr Ossoff's Democratic campaign.
  • The television spot, produced by the Principled PAC, showed an image of Mr Scalise on a stretcher after the attack.
  • "The unhinged left is endorsing and applauding shooting Republicans," a narrator is heard saying in the ad.
  • "When will it stop? It won't if Jon Ossoff wins on Tuesday."
  • The ad, which includes an image of US comedian Kathy Griffin holding a fake severed head that looks like Mr Trump, claims "these same leftists are all for Ossoff, and he wins, they win".
  • Both Mr Ossoff and a spokeswoman for Ms Handel condemned the spot, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.Just as generals are always fighting the previous war, campaign strategists always seem to be fighting the previous election. And so every professional analyst and armchair pundit I’ve asked about how Democrats might win in 2020 has immediately offered me an answer to a subtly—but importantly—different question: “Here’s how you win back the white working class.” Which is really just shorthand for: “Here’s how you win back Michigan!”
  • Hillary Clinton, the standard story goes, lost the 2016 election because of some 80,000 votes in three Rust Belt states: Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. And she did poorly in those states in large part because a lot of white, working-class voters who had supported Barack Obama in the past voted for Donald Trump. The implication seems obvious: To take the White House in 2020, Democrats need to win back white, working-class voters in the crucial states that defected last time around. And so Katrina vanden Heuvel, the publisher of the Nation, has been musing aloud about “How Democrats can win back the working class.” To “get their mojo back,” David Leonhardt argued in the New York Times, “Democrats have to find a way to win more working-class votes.” (The piece makes clear that, while Leonhardt is talking about the working class, he mostly means poor whites.) John Stoehr summarized the emerging consensus most succinctly: “Democrats Need the White Working Class,” he wrote a few weeks ago. “No future Democrat should believe that he can win without them.”
  • I’ve increasingly become convinced that this thinking is wrong. While Democrats do of course need to win some support among the white working class, the idea that it is the key demographic to target in the coming years is based on a series of implicit assumptions that turn out to be highly implausible once they are made explicit—and therefore risk leading Democrats astray as they try to rebuild a winning coalition.
  • The first of these assumptions is that the political behavior of different states is relatively stable over time: If the basic political geography of America is pretty much the same at every election, then the route to 270 electoral votes will always involve going to battle over the same old regions. To have a good chance of winning in 2020, the Democratic candidate would have to recapture the states that delivered a previous victory for his or her party.
  • But a quick look at past presidential maps shows just how quickly the political geography of the United States can change. Would you be able to guess which seven states remained Democratic in Dwight D. Eisenhower’s 1956 blowout victory over liberal champion Adlai Stevenson? Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, and South Carolina. And do you know when, over the past century, California first voted Democrat in a competitive election? 1992.
  • Political historians often talk about moments of realignment, in which the main political cleavage that structures American politics shifts—and the relative strength that Democrats and Republicans have in different parts of the country rapidly transforms. Given how radically American politics has been changing over the past decade, there is every chance that 2020 will prove to be such a moment of realignment.
  • But the truth is that, even if the next election turns out to be reasonably ordinary, Democrats could win with a very different geographical configuration. Sure, they could flip Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Michigan. But they could also win by flipping Florida as well as North Carolina or Arizona or Georgia—states where appealing to the white working class is not as important as increasing turnout among minority groups and appealing to moderate voters in the suburbs. Which path is easier for them? This is a key question for campaign strategists to answer as they plot the easiest path back to the White House, not something for them to assume based on what it would have taken for Hillary Clinton to win an election that is already lost.
  • But let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that campaign strategists go all out on a plan that has never worked before: winning the exact same configuration of states that delivered their party’s latest victory. The second big assumption is that they should then focus on increasing their support among the kinds of voters who deserted them last time—which is to say, on white, working-class voters in the declining industrial towns of the Rust Belt. Is that a realistic path to winning back those states?
  • Probably not. In both Ohio and Pennsylvania, white, working-class voters have become about a quarter less likely to vote for the Democratic candidate over the past eight years. This is part of a much larger trend. Across the United States, the share of the white working class that votes for the Democratic candidate has dropped from 40 percent to 29 percent over the same time period. And the working-class migration toward the far right has been even more marked across much of Europe: In France, support for Marine Le Pen’s National Front party among the working class doubled from 16 to 33 percent between 2007 and 2012. In 2017 it nearly doubled again, rising to 63 percent. In Austria’s 2016 presidential election, 86 percent of working-class voters cast their ballots for Norbert Hofer, the candidate of the far right.
  • Would it be easier for Democrats to turn the clock back by reversing trends? Or would it be easier for them to lean into changes that have been a long time in the making, trying to capitalize on the trends that helped to get Barack Obama elected in the first place?
  • Put like that, the answer seems obvious. Instead of channeling most their energies into increasing their share of the vote among a shrinking portion of the American population that has long been growing more hostile to them, Democrats
  • should seek to keep growing their vote share among expanding portions of the American population that are becoming more friendly to them. This would include the “coalition of minorities” to which Barack Obama’s two resounding victories have often been credited. But it also includes the large number of white, educated, suburban voters who are growing increasingly horrified by Donald Trump’s extremism—and its embrace by the GOP.
  • Once we dispense with the two big misconceptions dominating the Democratic conversation about its future coalition, two important insights become obvious: Democrats should focus on growing, not on shrinking, parts of the population. And they should try to win new states, not just recover old ones.
  • One key advantage of this new strategy is that it gives Democrats a lot more geographical flexibility. The number of swing states in which the white working class has historically voted Democrat and makes up a large portion of the state is relatively small. So if Democrats aim to assemble a winning coalition by making a play for Michigan but end up falling a few thousand votes short again, they are likely to lose the White House—even if they once again gain a popular majority.
  • By contrast, there are many states in which elections will, in the coming decades, be decided by a mixture of suburban and minority voters. A forward-looking strategy would thus allow Democrats to make a serious play for Florida, Georgia, and North Carolina—all states that have both a rapidly growing minority population and plenty of political moderates disappointed by Trump’s performance in office. Much sooner than most people realize, this might even put them in a position to turn supposedly unwinnable states like Arizona or Texas blue. And since those same groups are also ascendant in Rust Belt states, this strategy may, paradoxically, even give them a better shot at winning back Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin than a single-minded focus on the white working class.
  • A final point: The trauma of 2016 is in danger of making Democrats focus on the wrong states and the wrong demographic groups. It’s important for them to avoid this easily avoidable misstep. But in talking about this state and that, and contrasting this demographic with that demographic, I fear that I’m encouraging an even bigger mistake. For the real problem with Hillary Clinton’s strategy was not that she focused on the wrong set of voters but rather that she had so little by way of an exciting vision to offer to all voters. And by the same token, the biggest lesson from last year’s election lies not in recognizing the danger of slicing and dicing the electorate in the wrong way—but rather in relying so heavily on slicing and dicing the electorate in the first place.
  • The best way to be happy, some psychologists have suggested, is to forget about your desire to be happy—and put all your energy into a project about which you’re passionate. I increasingly think that the task of building a winning electoral coalition is rather similar: Trying to predict the exact states that will turn out to be close, and figuring out how to woo the exact demographic groups needed to win those states, is almost certain to fail. And so the most promising way to win 270 electoral votes in 2020 remains perfectly simple: Democrats will have to craft an optimistic, forward-looking message that speaks to a large number of Americans across the nation—white or black, poor or affluent, Floridian, Arizonan, or Michigander.
  • They call themselves the Downtown Athletic Club (the closest downtown is 30 miles away) and are a mix of independent contractors in construction trades, an independently employed auto mechanic, and several retired public school teachers. They have a mix of political leanings among them, but most of them openly support Donald Trump.
  • You might not always guess it. After the cost of healthcare and gas, the most frequent topic of conversation is economic inequality – which many of the group blame on corporate CEOs. “The other big issue I think for our whole nation is the discrepancy [between workers and bosses],” says one of the retired teachers, Gary. “The top of the corporations are taking off profits greater than ever before in history. And that’s really driving a bigger separation between the richest in America, and the common belief is that we’re losing the middle class.”
  • Does he share this belief? “Well the business element is: the town is dying,” he says, as if it were both so obvious and so familiar to him that it was barely worth comment. “All the small towns in the area are having a hard time keeping grocery stores, and gas stations, and everything.”
  • Look at the old service station here, with its pumps no longer in operation because they no longer made money, and you can see what he means. The boarded-up buildings along the street say the same thing. So too do the worries in the group about the local schools disappearing through school consolidation.
  • These groups have a class analysis of what is going on in their country; and what’s going on is essentially about where things are going: to the cities.
  • There is a sense in conversations that people in rural America are not getting their fair share of attention, resources, and respect. They think they deserve more, and that cities and the people within them are getting more than they deserve. They mainly blame racial and ethnic minorities, but also white urban elites.
  • People living in rural communities across the US face difficult odds. American economic growth and recovery is concentrated in a small number of highly populated urban counties, such as LA County in California and Miami-Dade in Florida. The rural population is declining, from more than half of the US population in 1910 to just 20% in 2010. The abandoned main streets show the wear and tear of an economy that has shifted away from rural people, and of public policy that has forgotten to pay attention.
  • It is the cities that are home to the decision-makers who have brought on this mess, according to rural Wisconsin. This includes corporate CEOs, but more importantly, in their view, it includes government, and Democrats who say more government is the answer.
  • The same conditions that might lead you to believe people in such places would turn towards government are instead seemingly causing a desire to overhaul it – to “drain the swamp”.
  • Even in one left-leaning group, the “Brunch Bunch”, who meet in an artsy tourist enclave in the north-west corner of the state, I have heard women talk with resentment about the advantages that city people have, directly attributed to public policy.
  • But Democrat or Republican, they regularly wonder aloud about the unfairness of their location. Sally believes cities get too much public money. “The cost of the water and sewer here is outrageous compared to what they pay in Madison,” she said. “So here is big rich Madison, with all the good high-paying jobs, getting the cheapest water, and we have people up here who have three months of employment [because of the short tourist season], what are they paying? There should be more sharing – less taxes going to Madison.”
  • The wealth is in the cities, as they see it, and they are consistently on the short end of the stick. They admit that their community – and others like it – benefits from the tourism industry when city folks “bring some of that fresh money up”, as one man in a northern Wisconsin diner put it. But urbanites also get blamed for taking that money away. When I first met the Brunch Bunch, in June of 2007, one of the women showed me a roster of all of the families who had moved out of town. She said those people could no longer afford to stay, because wealthy urbanites’ holiday homes had driven up property taxes.
  • “It just doesn’t seem right,” said one of the Brunch Bunch. Another added: “Because of the high cost of living, people – especially families – aren’t moving in because there is not a job to support them to be able to live here. So the school enrolment doesn’t increase, and we still have to pay the burden of the school as part of the taxes.”
  • She mapped it like this: “The money is collected here, it is sent to Madison, and it is dispersed to Milwaukee and Madison primarily. So our return on what we spend is very little, you know?”
  • The sense of unfairness regarding resources was widespread, but so was a sense of urban arrogance.
  • “As a former educator, I highly resented comments such as: ‘There is no education north of Highway 8’,” said one of the Brunch Bunch, referring to a highway that bisects the state east-west. “We send them such absolutely excellent and well-prepared students there that the attitude that [we are] the hick area of the state was painful.”
  • The perspective that people in rural communities don’t get their fair share of attention from decision makers in cities, public dollars or respect, set the stage for Donald Trump. These people were saying that government is basically an urban entity, driven by decisions made in cities. Their “dying” towns were evidence that whatever government was doing: it was not working for people like them.
  • They work hard, they said, often in multiple jobs, and they still couldn’t afford healthcare. Their resentment towards cities and the governments within them is not the same as a desire for smaller government. It is a desire for something drastically different, because in their eyes, the system is rigged against them.
  • And Donald Trump told them they are right. His prepared comments for a rally last August in West Bend, Wisconsin, north-west of Milwaukee, said this:

I am fighting for you. When we talk about the insider, who are we talking about? It’s the comfortable politicians looking out for their own interests. It’s the lobbyists who know how to insert that perfect loophole into every bill. It’s the financial industry that knows how to regulate their competition out of existence. The insiders also include the media executives, anchors and journalists in Washington, Los Angeles, and New York City, who are part of the same failed status quo and want nothing to change.”

  • Observers wonder when “these people” will wake up and realize that Trump does not have their interests at heart. But rural folks have gotten used to a system that does not have their interests at heart.
  • In fact, the Trump supporters in rural communities don’t seem to believe that even their president is going to do much for them.
  • Ron, a logger, replied: “Nothing. Nothing. We’re used to living in poverty, we’re used to it. It ain’t never going to change. How many times we got to tell you that? But you don’t listen.”
  • “This country has got to change. It’s wrong. And when you got guys that are on these programmes driving around $60,000 pick-ups, it’s not fair to the people who have been going to work all their life.”
  • The Downtown Athletic Club had told me essentially the same thing several days earlier when I’d asked how Trump would improve life. “We’re not sure” and “nobody knows” were two of the answers.
  • What are they hoping for? “I don’t think no matter what president gets in it’s going to change any lifestyle around here for us,” said Fred.
  • It is no secret that Trump benefited from the support of voters in rural places. But the rural resentment is bigger than Trump. It preceded him, and will outlast him. The system is rigged against many workers, in most types of places. But because it is currently a winning strategy to draw voters’ attention to “undeserving” others, who are conveniently associated with cities in the public mind, and because so many of our cultural divides correspond with geographic ones, we should expect to keep hearing that the injustice is not between the people and the system, but between rural folks and our cities.

-Sensitive personal details relating to almost 200 million US citizens have been accidentally exposed by a marketing firm contracted by the Republican National Committee.

 

  • The 1.1 terabytes of data includes birthdates, home addresses, telephone numbers and political views of nearly 62% of the entire US population.
  • The data was available on a publicly accessible Amazon cloud server.
  • Anyone could access the data as long as they had a link to it.
  • The huge cache of data was discovered last week by Chris Vickery, a cyber-risk analyst with security firm UpGuard. The information seems to have been collected from a wide range of sources - from posts on controversial banned threads on the social network Reddit, to committees that raised funds for the Republican Party.
  • The information was stored in spreadsheets uploaded to a server owned by Deep Root Analytics. It had last been updated in January when President Donald Trump was inaugurated and had been online for an unknown period of time.
  • "We take full responsibility for this situation. Based on the information we have gathered thus far, we do not believe that our systems have been hacked," Deep Root Analytics' founder Alex Lundry told technology website Gizmodo.
  • "Since this event has come to our attention, we have updated the access settings and put protocols in place to prevent further access."
  • Apart from personal details, the data also contained citizens' suspected religious affiliations, ethnicities and political biases, such as where they stood on controversial topics like gun control, the right to abortion and stem cell research.
  • The file names and directories indicated that the data was meant to be used by influential Republican political organisations. The idea was to try to create a profile on as many voters as possible using all available data, so some of the fields in the spreadsheets were left left empty if an answer could not be found.
  • "That such an enormous national database could be created and hosted online, missing even the simplest of protections against the data being publicly accessible, is troubling," Dan O'Sullivan wrote in a blog post on Upguard's website.
  • "The ability to collect such information and store it insecurely further calls into question the responsibilities owed by private corporations and political campaigns to those citizens targeted by increasingly high-powered data analytics operations.”
  • Although it is known that political parties routinely gather data on voters, this is the largest breach of electoral data in the US to date and privacy experts are concerned about the sheer scale of the data gathered.
  • "This is deeply troubling. This is not just sensitive, it's intimate information, predictions about people's behaviour, opinions and beliefs that people have never decided to disclose to anyone," Privacy International's policy officer Frederike Kaltheuner told the BBC News website.
  • However, the issue of data collection and using computer models to predict voter behaviour is not just limited to marketing firms - Privacy International says that the entire online advertising ecosystem operates in the same way.
  • "It is a threat to the way democracy works. The GOP [Republican Party] relied on publicly-collected, commercially-provided information. Nobody would have realised that the data they entrusted to one organisation would end up in a database used to target them politically.
  • "You should be in charge of what is happening to your data, who can use it and for what purposes," Ms Kaltheuner added.
  • There are fears that leaked data can easily be used for nefarious purposes, from identity fraud to harassment of people under protection orders, or to intimidate people who hold an opposing political view.
  • "The potential for this type of data being made available publicly and on the dark web is extremely high," Paul Fletcher, a cyber-security evangelist at security firm Alert Logic told the BBC.

 

 

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