Monday Wake Up Call – Voter Registration Edition, July 13, 2020

The Daily Escape:

The comet Neowise, as seen from Heart Lake over Mt. Shasta, CA – 4:10am July 10 photo by smi77y_OG.

Democrats need to slow their victory lap according to Politico, who reports that Democrats are lagging Republicans in new voter registrations in swing states since the start of the pandemic.

A report from the Democratic-leaning data firm TargetSmart found people who are registering are older, whiter, and less Democratic:

“The study from TargetSmart was especially alarming for Democrats because it spotlighted not only falling registrations, but which party was damaged most in battleground states. In a majority of 10 states TargetSmart studied, registrations skewed older and whiter than before the pandemic.

TargetSmart finds Republican registrations edging Democrats’ in Florida, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. All of which adds another uncertainty to an election cycle that already is loaded with them.

The pandemic closures and stay-at-home orders have been a perfect storm for reducing voter registrations. Voter registration is normally a face-to-face, person-to-person activity. In this summer of COVID-19, there are no voter registration volunteers with clipboards registering voters at outdoor events because they have been cancelled. No one is camped out at downtown street corners on the weekends. DMV closures, stay-at-home orders and restrictions on large gatherings limit opportunities for new registrations.

In a report on the decline last month, the nonpartisan Center for Election Innovation & Research (ERIC) concluded that:

“…the steep decline in new registrations may prove to be a sizable obstacle to what was set, pre-pandemic, to be a record election for turnout.”

People of color and other marginalized communities have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and that’s undercutting registration efforts, and undercutting people’s ability to get registered, despite the energy that was created in the aftermath of George Floyd’s killing.

Tom Bonier, TargetSmart’s CEO, says overall new registration numbers have been so low during the pandemic that Republican gains during the period have been too small to offset the pre-pandemic Democratic advances. He thinks that Republicans although still behind, “got a couple of extra steps” closer to the Democrats.

But Politico says Republicans are pointing to their improved standing in registrations compared to 2016 in Florida, North Carolina and Pennsylvania, all states Trump won that year, despite Democrats holding a wider registration advantage than they do now. So, that’s a worry for Democrats.

OTOH, this is the first year that Republicans have fallen behind both Democrats and independent voters in registration in the 32 states and the District of Columbia that register voters by party, according to Ballot Access News, which tracks voter registrations.

If Trump has any chance of catching Biden by November 3, it will likely take registering and turning out more white, noncollege-educated voters, than in 2016. It’s a real question if they exist in large enough numbers to make a difference.

An interesting and positive (for Democrats) report from the Bulwark concludes that Trump has stopped trying to win the presidency. By analyzing his current direct marketing campaign, they conclude that he is instead focusing on building his list of followers for his post-presidency:

“My working theory is that Trump’s ads are telling us what that next scheme is. He’s tying himself more completely to the base of his base so that he can integrate them into Trump TV or Trumpstagram or whatever venture he’s planning for January 21, 2021.

After all, he’s got an installed user base of probably 30 million people he can start milking the minute he’s out of office. That puts him halfway to Disney Plus. At say, $9.95 a month, you’re talking about very real money.”

So there seems to be real questions about whether Democrats should be worried about Trump being re-elected. Democratic registrations should be the true measure of concern, not some media pundit’s speculation about Trump TV.

So, wake up America! There are less than four months to register more Democratic voters. Help out if you can. To help you wake up, here’s a throwback tune from 1983, “Vamos a la Playa(Let’s go to the beach) by the Italian disco group, Righeira. This was a huge hit in Europe in 1983. Despite its innocuous beach theme, the song actually talks about the explosion of an atomic bomb. And they’re singing in Spanish, but they’re Italians. And they appear to be wearing the Apple watch before it was invented:

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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The Coming Disaster for America’s Colleges

The Daily Escape:

New Navajo Falls, Supai, AZ – 2020 photo by wanderin-wally. These falls were formed by a flash flood in 2008.

Colleges and universities are scrambling to figure out what to do this fall if their students can’t return to campus. Some students are reconsidering going to college. If they don’t return, what will happen to schools that are tuition-dependent?

Even before the pandemic hit, student enrollment for the spring 2020 had fallen for the ninth year in a row. Wolf Richter reports that the number of post-secondary students fell by more than 83,800 students (-.05%) to 17.18 million students. Worse, compared to the spring semester in 2011, enrollment is down by 10.6%, or 2.03 million students. Here’s Wolf’s chart:

Demo Memo says that college enrollment in the United States peaked in 2010 at just over 21 million, and as the chart shows, it has drifted downward ever since. For 2020s spring semester enrollment declined in all sectors compared to spring 2019:

  • Public two-year: -2.3%
  • Private for-profit four-year: -1.9%
  • Private nonprofit four-year: -0.7%
  • Public four-year: -0.6%

Public two-year schools have seen a 25% drop in enrollments since 2011, while enrollment in private for-profit colleges is down 55.2% for the same period.  The drop in for-profit enrollment accounts for 44% of the total drop in enrollment in all institutions since 2011.

Nathan Grawe says in the Harvard Business Review that demographics will not be a friend to higher education in the future:

“….since the onset of the Great Recession in 2008, the total fertility rate…has fallen by almost 20%….Tracing forward 18 years from the 2008 recession, we can anticipate a sizable decline in prospective college students beginning in 2026.”

He says that two-year colleges and non-selective four-year schools can expect to see falling enrollments, because these schools serve a demographically representative subset of students, so they will face the inevitable demographic arithmetic. This will be true particularly in the Northeast and Midwest, where declines are already well underway.

This will lead to price competition, which is precisely what Scott Galloway, professor at NYU’s Stern business school said on CNN recently. Galloway points out that schools in the top tier (Like Stanford, Oxford, Harvard and MIT) have deep waiting lists, and therefore will not be damaged by a smaller pool of college-age students. This means that the top-20 universities globally are going to become even stronger, as will universities between numbers 20 to 50.

At the other limit, for the Tier III schools who are tuition-dependent and who have no wait list, there will be carnage. The Upshot wrote about a college consultancy called Edmit that follows financial solvency of colleges:

“Edmit examined financial trends at 937 private universities and added a conservative estimate of the Covid-19 impact: tuition losses of 10% in 2020 and 20% in 2021, a 20% decline in endowment earnings, and an offsetting 10% reduction in spending on salaries.”

Their work shows that the number of colleges ranked with “Low” financial health (defined as being on track to run out of money within six years) was 345, more than one-third of all private colleges studied.

Beyond demographics, the fundamental question is today’s perceived value of a college degree. An MIT degree may be worth $250k in tuition, but is a Boston College degree worth that?

Since 1998, overall inflation is up 54%, while college education costs are up 150%. There’s now more student loan debt than credit card debt. Former students are in the hole for $2 trillion in student loan debt, a lot of which may eventually need to be written off. And the average price of a textbook has increased 812% in the last 30 years.

Galloway says that higher education has raised its prices at a faster rate than the health care industry! This, for a product/experience that is substantially unchanged in the past four decades.

The four-year public schools will survive, because they provide a better price-to-value proposition than the mid-tier private schools.

Dozens, maybe hundreds, of private middle tier schools will close, or partner with other schools, or possibly with businesses. They face huge price pressure, with many competitive alternatives available to the dwindling pool of students.

Many of the third-tier private, tuition-driven schools will simply shut down, continuing a trend that is already under way.

Change is sometimes the only way to make a service more efficient and affordable. The physical store is on the verge of disappearing. The physical office is disappearing. Similarly, colleges and universities need to understand the economic logic they’re facing, or else Mr. Market will educate them.

The questions to wrestle with are:

  • Is the statement “everyone should/needs to go to college” still true?
  • Does higher education still require a physical presence to be effective?

If the paradigm changes, what should it change to?

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Can Seniors Decide the 2020 Election?

The Daily Escape:

Mount St. Helen’s, exactly 40 years to the day after the explosion – May 18, 2020 photo by debuggerfly

Wrongo and a small online group have been trading ideas on how to best support candidates in the 2020 election. We decided that our limited financial resources can be used most effectively by directing them to candidates running for the House and Senate in states and districts that can potentially be flipped to the Democrats from the Republicans.

People suggest possible candidates that are then researched. But the decision to support a candidate is left entirely to the individual, no money is pooled.

One of those candidates is Mark Kelly, running for Senate in Arizona. When he announced, Kelly was rated a “toss-up” in his race against incumbent Republican, Martha McSally.

McSally is no slouch. She served in the United States Air Force from 1988 to 2010 and was the first female commander of a USAF fighter squadron during the Iraq war. She was later deployed to Afghanistan. So, they have some career similarities. Kelly is a former US Navy captain who served in the Gulf War. He is also a former astronaut who commanded several space shuttle missions.

Their differences lie in politics and ideology. McSally is tightly tied to Trump, but she’s been seeing her standing in the polls steadily drop in the past few months. From Arizona Republic columnist Laurie Roberts:

“Arizona Sen. Martha McSally is sliding in the polls, dropping four percentage points in a month. McSally now trails Democrat Mark Kelly by 13 points, according to the latest tracking poll by OH Predictive Insights. While the April poll of 600 likely voters favored Kelly 51% to McSally’s 42%, in May it’s now 51%-38%.”

And McSally is doing worse than that: First, independents are breaking more than 2-1 for Kelly. Second, Maricopa County is the GOP’s largest base of support in Arizona, and McSally is now losing Maricopa County by 18 points.

Mitch McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund plans to spend $9.2 million to try to boost McSally in the fall. Meanwhile, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) plans to begin a $5.7 million ad campaign in June to help McSally. We’ll have to see if all of that is enough.

Politico reports that the NRSC has $30.4 million in cash on hand, compared to $19.9 million for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. So, Democrats leading in swing states are still in grave danger.

McSally’s problems may be part of a national theme, Trump’s collapse among senior voters. From the LA Times:

“Trump’s significant deficit among seniors shows up in poll after poll, nationwide and in key states, including surveys done by nonpartisan groups and by pollsters in both parties,”

In 2016, Trump won voters 65 and older nationwide by 53% to 44%. Today, that’s reversed. Instead of a nine-point lead among seniors, Trump now has a similar deficit in many polls.

The LA Times points out that’s critical, because seniors made up slightly more than a quarter of the electorate nationwide in 2016. Importantly, their support was key to Trump’s victory in each of the major battleground states.

Look at Trump’s must-win state of Florida. In 2016, he won voters over the age of 65 in the Sunshine State by 17 points. Today, he trails among them by 10 points, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll. Here’s a hot Twitter take:

This represents a 27-point swing in senior support in less than four years among the most engaged voting bloc in the country. Nationally, Trump won senior voters by nine points in 2016, according to the Pew Research Institute’s post-election study of voters. Today, he consistently trails among seniors by large margins in most national polls.

Eric Boehlert points out:

“Democrats have lost seniors in every presidential race since 2004 by at least 5 percentage points. Al Gore in 2000 was the last Democrat to carry senior voters.”

Is this a campaign-defining voter migration? There is plenty of time between now and November for that Biden bulge to erode.

OTOH, people turning 65 this year were born in 1955. They remember the anti-war protests and watched Watergate happen. Those aged 66 voted for the first time in 1972, when Nixon defeated McGovern, and we were clearly losing in Vietnam. That cohort has also seen many past presidents deal with crisis. They probably see Trump as a failure, particularly with the pandemic.

Trump’s policy of “let the virus kill grandma” and his desire to cut health care benefits may not convince seniors to vote for him again.

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Monday Wake Up Call – April 27, 2020

The Daily Escape:

Harvest Moon over Bisti Badlands, south of Farmington, NM – 2019 photo by navidj.

Question: How many Americans have died from COVID-19? A: 54,024 as of Sunday.

Question: How many Americans died in the Vietnam War? A: 58,220.

Barring a miracle, we will pass that Vietnam milestone this week. By then, there will be more than one million confirmed cases, and 60,000 deaths in the US. Can we take a minute, and try to place the Coronavirus in the context of the dead and broken bodies from Vietnam?

Vietnam took ten years to reach that horrible number, while COVID-19 has met it in less than three months. Wrongo served during the Vietnam War. It was a trying time for all Americans. We were disunited at home, at much at war with each other, as with the Viet Cong. It scarred at least a generation, and there are still victims of both the domestic and foreign fights among us.

Today’s fight against the Coronavirus may become the current generation of 20-something’s Vietnam. Jobs won’t come back quickly, friends and family are dying, and the lack of testing and a vaccine will make life scarier for young people than for any other group.

Like Vietnam did to the boomers, Coronavirus could scar young people for years to come.

As we head into month four of the outbreak, we know that we are undercounting deaths. The Economist reported on one aspect of the undercount early in April, comparing cardiac arrest deaths in NYC to the historical average:

Are the increased rate of cardiac arrest deaths really COVID-19 deaths? A strong case can be made that they are. Back to the Economist, who says that the outbreak will be worse in the South: (emphasis and parenthesis by Wrongo)

“Places with older residents and more diabetes, heart disease and smoking have higher CFRs (case-to-fatality rates)…..Counties with lots of poor or black people tend to have more health problems, less social distancing and fewer ICU beds. Yet CFRs in such areas are even higher than you would expect from these factors alone.

Together, these variables leave a geographic footprint….the highest death rates will probably…be…in poor, rural parts of the South and Appalachia with high rates of heart disease and diabetes. Worryingly, the three states that announced plans this week to relax their lockdowns (Georgia, Tennessee and South Carolina) are all in this region.”

It didn’t have to be like this. There’s plenty of blame to go around, but in the end, the single most important factor in America’s disaster of a response was the lack of early testing. That will be a greater disaster if we fail to keep growing testing as the lockdowns end.

One thing that’s difficult to comprehend is the lack of empathy for the dead and their families and friends by some Americans. Most can rouse themselves to celebrate the first responders, health care workers, and “essential” workers, but not all can.

The WaPo has analyzed all of Trump’s Coronavirus briefings, and found this:

“The president has spoken for more than 28 hours in the 35 briefings held since March 16, eating up 60% of the time that officials spoke….Over the past three weeks, the tally comes to more than 13 hours of Trump — including two hours spent on attacks and 45 minutes praising himself and his administration, but just 4½ minutes expressing condolences for coronavirus victims.”

Trump has not even ordered American flags lowered in tribute to the dead, while some governors have. New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy and New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo both did in April. As Susan B. Glasser said in the New Yorker:

“Trump, who has in the past personally asked for the flags to be lowered after a shooting or a politician’s death, can’t even bring himself to do this much for victims of the coronavirus.”

Time to wake up, America! We must tread carefully for the next few months, because we truly know very little about the virus. For example, there’s no evidence that Coronavirus antibodies prevent reinfection.

To help you wake up, listen to “Road to Nowhere” written by David Byrne for the 1985 Talking Heads album “Little Creatures”. Here, it’s performed in 2012 by David Byrne and St. Vincent, live in Paris with a brass band:

Sample Lyric:

Well, we know where we’re going
But we don’t know where we’ve been
And we know what we’re knowing
But we can’t say what we’ve seen

Those who read the Wrongologist in email can view the video here.

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Super Tuesday Turnout Wasn’t So Super

Many in the media echoed this from Newsweek:

“Turnout was higher overall in every state except for Oklahoma, but the percentage of voters who were 17 to 29 years old was lower than in 2016.”

That’s true as far as it goes, 2020 was higher than 2016. But 2020 turnout was nearly one million fewer than in 2008, 972,443 to be exact. So Democrats shouldn’t be getting their hopes up just yet.

Here’s a helpful chart from Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball:

Sabato says:

“Turnout overall is definitely up when compared to 2016, but not when compared to 2008, the blockbuster Barack Obama-Hillary Clinton primary…remember that population size naturally grows almost everywhere, so even matching 2008 doesn’t necessarily mean turnout was better.”

(California is excluded in the above, because so many votes remain to be counted. States marked with an asterisk have not fully reported yet.)

What does it all mean? That’s TBD, but everyone should look clearly at these turnout numbers. We know that Bernie’s reason for running is that he can turnout young voters, and other disaffected non-voters. But Sanders hasn’t performed consistently with his strategy. He hasn’t turned out more young voters, nor has he expanded his base. It’s now clear that at least some of his support in 2016 was a function of being the alternative to Hillary Clinton.

Biden’s surge shows our pent-up demand for a return to normalcy, a place where we wouldn’t be shocked by politics 24/7.

But Biden’s winning won’t fix the problems underlying our politics. A vote for Joe is a vote for the status quo, and that’s not going to work out so well for the millennials or younger Americans. Biden’s nomination will not do anything to deal with the malaise among America’s youth, who worry about climate change and college debt, and the minimum wage all of which will get back-burnered by Biden and the DNC. So, how can we get them excited enough to turn out and vote?

What’s Biden’s strategy to do that in November?

 

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2020 Census Brings Scams, Confusion

The Daily Escape:

Florida Beach in February – 2015 photo by Wrongo

(Posting will be light and variable until March 8th, as Wrongo and Ms. Right spend a few days warming up in Florida)

The 2020 census is about to start. That’s the way we estimate the number of people living in each location in our country. The census is more than just a headcount; it shapes the distribution of political power and government funding for the next 10 years. It will inform the redistricting process at every political level across the country. So Congressional seats and Electoral College votes hang in the balance.

The Census Bureau is running more than 1,000 census ads in the US through July 2020 to encourage all households to participate. The Census Bureau confirmed that all advertisements will include a disclaimer underscoring that participants’ information will not be shared with any other parties, presumably, like ICE.

It’s expected that scams will be everywhere. According to AARP:

– 70% of respondents were incorrect or unsure about whether the Census Bureau would use email to contact them. Actually, all correspondence is sent via US mail

– 35% expect or are unsure whether the Census questionnaire will ask for their Social Security number, bank account information or passwords, or that it will require payment of a fee

It’s clear that the AARP crowd skews older, so you might expect that there would be some level of confusion that could make them susceptible to scams.

In addition to scams, Republicans are taking the opportunity of the census to collect information and raise funds with a form letter labeled “Census”. Here’s a sample:

The document asks questions, some of which are leading and biased, such as:

“Do you approve or disapprove of the Democrats’ agenda to raise taxes, provide free health care and college tuition for all, open our borders to all immigrants, enact dangerous abortion policies, pack the Supreme Court, allow inmates to vote and abolish the Electoral College?”

There is also continuing confusion about whether the census is asking a citizenship question, despite the fact that the US Census Bureau was directed by the Supreme Court not to include it.

A Pew Research Center survey just found that most Americans believe, incorrectly, that the 2020 census will ask about whether each individual in the household is a citizen:

“A 56% majority of the public thinks the census will include a question about citizenship, according to the Pew survey. Another 25% are not sure. Only 17% know that a citizenship question will not be on the census. By demographic segment, here’s who knows there will be no citizenship question on the census:

14% of women, and 20% of men

20% of Democrats and 14% of Republicans

15 to 16% of adults under age 65 and 21% of those aged 65 or older

18% percent of Hispanics and non-Hispanic Whites, but only 9% of blacks

21% of foreign-born Hispanics versus 16% of native-born Hispanics

26% of those with a bachelor’s degree and 13% of those with less education”

Whether this mistaken belief will suppress participation in the census, which is just a few weeks away, remains to be seen. Also, Pew says that certain groups are more hesitant to participate, including black and Hispanic adults. The Census Bureau says it is targeting black and Hispanic populations, as well as some groups of young adults, for additional outreach because they have been hard to count in the past.

The 2020 Census will be the first to be completed largely online, assuming that the Census Bureau’s plan goes off without complications. And Pew says that 60% are interested in doing so. But, the possibility of scamming will be ever-present.

People do have the option to request a paper form. One way to verify that the document received in the mail is an official Census Bureau form is to see if the enclosed envelope to mail it back is addressed to Jeffersonville, IN, or Phoenix, AZ, locations of the Census Bureau’s processing centers.

Like in the 2020 national elections, turning out for, and completing the census is very important to the future of the country.

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Facebook Could Destroy Democracy

The Daily Escape:

Pond, Greenville County SC – February 2020 photo by Ninjiteex. It’s rare to see snow in SC

On Facebook, Wrongo mostly reads the posts of friends who are involved in showing dogs at AKC events. People who show dogs skew older and female, and thus, so do Wrongo’s Facebook friends. Many share a constant amount of pro-Trump (dis)information.

So, Wrongo tried a week-long experiment, letting some of those posters know that their posts were factually incorrect. Let’s focus on one, a picture of a very young Bernie Sanders being hauled away by police:

The photo’s caption says:

“In 1963 Bernie Sanders was arrested for throwing eggs at black civil rights protestors. This is the side of Bernie that CNN and the fake news media don’t want you to know”

The picture is real, the caption is false. Sanders was actually protesting police brutality and segregation, and was arrested for “resisting arrest”. Facebook has now taken down the post, but it was up for over a week.

When Wrongo told friends that their posts were false, everyone deflected, and minimized their intent. One, a fervent Trumper, said, “I just wanted to post a picture of him when he was young”. Never mind that this photo is available all over the internet with the simplest of searches, all with the correct reference.

Despite a week’s worth of trying, no one was willing to delete a false post. Many of these people post disinformation six or more times a day, so it was an exercise in futility to try and make these “friends” admit the truth about their posts, much less show any awareness about their biases.

This is a small example of what McKay Coppins wrote in his Atlantic article, “The Billion-Dollar Disinformation Campaign to Reelect the President.” As an experiment, Coppins signed up at many pro-Trump social media sites, and soon was deluged with alternative facts: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“What I was seeing was a strategy that has been deployed by illiberal political leaders around the world. Rather than shutting down dissenting voices, these leaders have learned to harness the democratizing power of social media for their own purposes—jamming the signals, sowing confusion. They no longer need to silence the dissident shouting in the streets; they can use a megaphone to drown him out. Scholars have a name for this: censorship through noise.”

All of this is helped by Facebook’s excellent micro-targeting tools. They allow an advertiser to slice the electorate into narrow and distinct niches and then reach them with precisely tailored digital messages. More from Coppins:

“An ad that calls for defunding Planned Parenthood might get a mixed response from a large national audience, but serve it directly via Facebook to 800 Roman Catholic women in Dubuque, Iowa, and its reception will be much more positive.”

The results can be overwhelming. The Trump campaign runs hundreds of iterations of ads. In the 10 weeks after the House of Representatives began its impeachment inquiry, the Trump campaign ran roughly 14,000 different ads containing the word impeachment.

No one has the bandwidth to sift through all of them, and then call them out.

It gets worse. Coppins says that the Republican National Committee and the Trump campaign have compiled an average of 3,000 data points on every voter in America. They have spent years experimenting with ways to tweak their messages based not just on gender and geography, but on whether the recipient owns a dog or, a gun.

Raw Story quotes former Rep. David Jolly (R-FL) saying that Donald Trump intentionally wants America to be anxious: (emphasis by Wrongo)

“I had a colleague that was in a meeting in the Roosevelt Room and….he heard Trump say, ‘Have you ever seen the nation so divided?’ My colleagues and others said, ‘No, we haven’t.’ Trump said, ‘I love it that way.’’

He thinks this how he’ll be re-elected!

Last Sunday, Walter Schaub, former director of the US Office of Government Ethics had a remarkable tweet thread on this, saying: (emphasis and brackets by Wrongo)

“…we’re in a dangerous new phase of Trump’s war on democracy. What do we do now?

….the greatest threat we face is despondency. The enemies of democracy…want you drowning in hopelessness. A hopeless populace is a helpless one. To that end, a hostile foreign power set up an infrastructure to weaponize social media against you.

Compounding the assault on your senses, he [Trump] also wields a corrupted government, which follows his lead in disseminating lies to sow confusion…

In the face of this psychological warfare, our most urgent mission—our civic duty—is to reject despondency. Everyone has a bad day, so we may need to take turns leading the charge. But our job as citizens is to resist the temptation to spread defeatism on social media.”

You said it, Walter!

We gotta keep hope alive.

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Important Lessons About the Youth Vote in Iowa

The Daily Escape:

Left Mitten, Monument Valley NP, AZ – photo by Enigma Fotos

The Iowa caucuses are just around the corner. On February 3, Iowans will kick off the primary season. With so many candidates still running, it may only take 40,000 votes to “win” the caucus. Vox quotes Norm Zterzenbach, former Iowa Democratic Party official:

“Maybe the top candidate ends up with 20%, because you’ve got six strong candidates going into caucus night….that’s only 40,000-50,000 votes.”

538 says that it’s likely that Sanders finishes first in Iowa. It’s a little complicated, since Iowa has 41 delegates, of which 14 are decided by the state-wide vote, and 27 by the vote in each Congressional district. Here’s 538’s forecasted vote tally:

Sanders:   13.0

Biden:       12.4

Buttigieg:   8.0

Warren:     5.4

All other:   2.2

An important factor affecting the outcome could be Iowa’s youth vote. Tufts University reports:

“Young people are poised for a potentially historic turnout in the upcoming Iowa caucuses, and young Democrats prefer Sen. Bernie Sanders…”

This is based on a poll by Tufts and Suffolk University who surveyed 500 young Iowa residents ages 18-29, who are eligible to vote, regardless of their voter registration status. The survey was conducted between Jan. 15 and Jan. 20, by telephone. The margin of error is +/-4.4%.

The key findings were:

  • More than a third (35%) of young Iowans (ages 18-29) surveyed say they are “extremely likely” to caucus on Feb. 3, 2020
  • That would represent a 300% increase over youth voter participation in 2016, when 11% participated
  • Moreover, the last two times that only one party had an active nominating contest, youth turnout in the Iowa caucuses was only 4%
  • 39% of young Iowans polled intend to caucus for Sanders, followed by 19% for Warren, and 14% for Buttigieg
  • Among young Iowans, Yang was favored by 9% while Biden only had 7%
  • Among all Iowa youth polled (Democrats, Republicans, and independents), 41% support, and 49% don’t support Trump’s impeachment and removal
  • On the issues, those polled said the following issues were most important: health care (18%), the environment (12%), taxes, (mostly mentioned by young Republicans) at 12%, and international relations (9%)

The youth vote played a decisive role in the 2008 caucuses when 57% of young caucus goers supported then-Senator Obama, helping propel him to a win in Iowa. In 2016, according to the exit polls, 84% of Iowa youth supported Bernie Sanders at the Democratic caucuses, giving Sanders a virtual tie with Hillary Clinton (who won 49.9% to 49.6%) and kicking off a trend of national youth support for Sanders throughout the 2016 Democratic primaries.

Winning any election depends on turnout, and Iowa is no exception. In the Tufts poll, 72% of Iowa youth said they have been personally contacted and asked to support a specific candidate or party. That included 82% of young Democrats, and 75% of those who are Independent or unaffiliated.

One-fifth (21%) of all in the poll said that they want to register to vote, but didn’t know how. Tellingly, more than half (55%) didn’t know that they have to register with a party in order to participate.

Can anything be more depressing than learning that 55% of kids over 18 in Iowa don’t have a basic understanding of civics? Wrongo suspects that this is true in most states. Insuring that all people are registered to vote should be every politician’s job #1. The best way to achieve this is automatic voter registration (AVR).

Oregon was the first state to implement an AVR system in 2015. And in 2016, it saw 44% of automatically registered voters cast a ballot. Since Oregon, fifteen more states, and DC, have followed suit.

In general, states that have implemented AVR have higher voter turnout rates.

There are two main types of AVR implementation: front-end and back-end. In a back-end system like Oregon’s, eligible voters are automatically added to the voter rolls when they interact with a government agency. They are given the chance to opt out via mail afterward.

In a front-end system, like California’s or Colorado’s, individuals are required to decide whether they want to register to vote, or indicate if they want to update their address while interacting with an agency. While there are advantages to each approach, front-end systems do not register as many people as back end systems. Maybe people hate spending more time at the DMV.

Nothing is more sacred to our democracy than the right to vote, but, our national electoral system is broken by gerrymandering and partisan purging of the voter rolls.

If voter rolls are missing certain groups (such as low-income voters, rural voters, and young voters) those people will not be canvassed, or mobilized, and will not turn out to vote at election time.

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Military is Less Supportive of Trump

The Daily Escape:

The Olympic Range from Mt. Elinor trail – 2019 photo by malevolint

A new poll by the Military Times (MT) shows that half of active-duty service members are unhappy with Trump as their Commander-in-Chief. This represented a  decline in his approval rating since he was elected in 2016.

The top line numbers show Trump is viewed very favorably or favorably by 41.6% of those surveyed, while 49.9% view him very unfavorably or unfavorably. 8.5% were neutral on the question. By comparison, when the MT surveyed the troops after Trump won in November 2016, 46% of troops surveyed had a positive view of Trump, while only 37% had a negative opinion.

The poll surveyed 1,630 active-duty MT subscribers between October 23 and December 2, 2019, in partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University. The numbers have a margin of error of ± 2%. The survey audience was 92% male and 8% female. Respondents identified themselves as 75% white, 14% Hispanic, 13% African American, 5% Asian and 5% other ethnicities. Here is a chart of the top line changes over time:

Trump’s overall favorability is similar to what he receives in the civilian population.

Some of the big drivers of the increase in his unfavorability have to do with military decisions. While troops supported Trump’s steps to disengage in Afghanistan (59% approve of negotiating with the Taliban), 58% disapproved of his decision to withdraw US forces from northern Syria. When asked about using military funds to build the southern border wall, 59% disapproved of his decision. More than half rated current US relations with “traditional allies” like NATO as poor.

Some other findings:

  • Military men are more supportive of Trump than military women: 43% of men rate him favorably, while among women service members, 53% expressed a “very unfavorable” rating, and 56% responded negatively.
  • By race, there were key differences: 46% of whites had a favorable view, versus 45% unfavorable. Among non-white service members, about 66% held a negative view of Trump.
  • 33% of respondents identified as conservative, outnumbering liberals (25%).
  • There was a shift toward more service members identifying as political independents. They now are 45% of respondents, up by 3% since 2018.
  • There was a 3% increase in the number of Democrats, and a 7% decrease in the number who considered themselves Republicans, or Libertarians.
  • Regarding impeachment, 47% backed impeachment, while 46% were opposed, roughly the same as the rest of the American public.
  • More than 75% said they think the military community has become more politically polarized, with about 40% now saying they have seen significantly more division in the ranks.

While historically male, white and Republican, the military is changing rapidly. The swing in the numbers of self-declared Democrats and Republicans is important. Many are confused about the military’s role, and America’s global mission.

Mark Bowden has a current article in The Atlantic about the negative view of Trump held by recently retired generals. Here is the key takeaway:

“In 20 years of writing about the military, I have never heard officers in high positions express such alarm about a president.”

Bowden is a highly respected military historian who wrote Black Hawk Down, and Huế 1968. He quotes a general saying that Trump: (brackets by Wrongo)

“…doesn’t understand the warrior ethos…it’s sort of a sacred covenant not just among members of the military profession, but between the profession and the society in whose name we fight and serve…. Trump [just] doesn’t understand.”

There is an opening for Democrats here. Plenty of issues are up for grabs, like the fact that the military spouse unemployment rate floats around 20%, or that homeless veterans are overrepresented at 11% of all homeless adults, and commit suicide at 1.5 times the rate of their non-veteran adult counterparts.

There are serious problems with lead in both military housing paint, and in their drinking water. Reuters did a special report on this last year.

Democrats have pushed policies for limits on payday lenders, while Trump and the Republicans support them.

Military sexual assault, energized by Sen. Gillibrand (D-NY), still has yet to pass. Gillibrand’s law would require that all sexual assault cases are placed in the hands of experienced military prosecutors, outside the chain of command.

So far, Democrats haven’t offered a clear alternative that our military can endorse. Dems need to speak in a voice that conceptualizes the military not just as a special interest looking for a pay raise, but as a unique community that defends us against all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Can the Democrats running for president embrace the military?

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Can Dems Beat Trump In The 2020 Battleground States?

The Daily Escape:

Buttermilk Falls, Ithaca, NY – October 2019 photo by mattmacphersonphoto

Some news was made by pollsters yesterday. The NYT and Siena College are out with a poll of 2020 battleground states that shows Trump is highly competitive in head-to-head matchups with the top Democratic candidates. Even though Trump is by far the most unpopular president in American history, these polls indicate that he could get re-elected.

Here are the top line results. Among registered voters, Biden narrowly leads Trump in four of them, Sanders in three, Warren in one:

These states were the key contests in 2016 between Hillary and Trump. Trump’s approval ratings have long been in the high 30s to low 40s, and he trails Biden by almost nine points in an average of national polls. But as the 2016 race showed, the story in the battleground states can be quite different. Mr. Trump won these six states even while losing the national vote by two percentage points.

In this poll, Trump trails Biden by an average of two points, but that result is within the margin of error in the individual states. And we know how erroneous the polls were in November 2016. You can look at the current poll’s cross-tabs here.

Hate to pour cold water on Democrats, but Trump could lose the 2020 popular vote by upwards of ten million, and still win in the Electoral College.

This is reality – it will come down to six states. This is why people get so disengaged from presidential politics. Then, by not voting in election years, the Congress, state houses, and state assemblies stay with the Republicans.

Ten years from now, the demographics will be different. Consider Texas, where Latinos will outnumber non-Hispanic whites by 2022. OTOH, we have a census next year, and some states are deploying multimillion-dollar efforts to ensure their population gets counted correctly. But in the South, only three states have allocated state funding for census outreach, with just eight months to go.

It may take time, but much of the South will again come back into play. Maybe people won’t feel like they’re overlooked if presidential campaigns actually required the votes of people in most states in order to win.

Just six states. That should infuriate everyone. We remain at the mercy of the Electoral College.

But there’s more. Nate Cohn says in the Times article:

“Nearly two-thirds of the Trump voters who said they voted for Democratic congressional candidates in 2018 say that they’ll back the president against all three named opponents.”

The crossover by Republicans to vote for a Democrat in 2018 was a factor in taking back the House. So, losing two-thirds of them sounds terrible for Dems, until you realize that it means 1/3 of Trump’s 2016 voters in those states say they’ll stay with the Dems in 2020. And Trump’s margin in PA, MI, and WI was just 80,000 in 2016

We’re at a point where the Democratic field is narrowing. Four candidates have moved clear of the field, Biden, Warren, Sanders and Buttigieg. Biden and Buttigieg represent middle-of-the-road liberalism, while Warren and Sanders represent a more liberal, anti-corporate philosophy. Only Buttigieg is under 70, but that doesn’t matter if the opponent is over 70 himself. The rest of the field barely polls at 2%.

It’s likely that the Dem nominee will be one of these four, but it’s way too early to be concerned about how they perform vs. Trump’s relative strength in the battleground states he won in 2016.

It’s smart for Democrats to fight as though every poll has them way behind. And the figures on advertising dollars spent per campaign show that Trump is currently spending as much money as all the Democrats combined.

A year from now, we’ll be entering a different world. But since we can’t know the future, it could be either wonderful news, or more of the brain-melting hell in which we currently reside.

To make sure it’s a new world, we have to do everything we can to ensure that someone new is elected, someone who will oppose with every vote, every fiber of their being, the policies and hate spewed by Trump and his GOP fellow-travelers.

This means we have to work to turn them out not only from the presidency, but from every other elected office, from county commissioner to the House and Senate.

How?  There are a lot of ways, from donating money, to donating time at the local Party office; to writing letters to the editor, or making your voice heard through whatever means you can.

The How is important, but the Why is what should energize every one of us.

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