The Purple Republic

Monkey Cage explores the post-industrial landscape of the Heartland. Not surprising to those who live here, the political story is mixed (and for the cities, more Democratic).

Clinton lost crucial Midwestern swing states in large part because of a significant collapse of Democratic support outside of major city centers.

Author Jonathan Rodden goes on to conclude

One of the clearest lessons from 2016 is that the Democrats cannot win the crucial swing states just by running up the score in the biggest cities. They will need to reinvest in understanding the heterogeneous areas beyond the city limits.

‘Red’ America is an illusion. Postindustrial towns go for Democrats.
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Culture buildling as a political act

Matthew Lee Anderson takes stock of the election,

What people want is not handwringing when things don’t go “our way,” but hope.  And a sober and serious assessment of how things look along with something like a strategy to turn them around that stays true to our principles.  Or maybe I speak too broadly.  So let me narrow the scope:  that is what want from an evangelical leadership, not the sort of handwringing that we are currently experiencing.

Still, it’s not as if Evangelicals will abandon the Republican Party. The first reactions are less about policy than they are about disappointment and real grief. And in understanding  that this still part of a grieving process, several points come to mind.

As political scientists will remind us, political identity is rather stable; culturally evangelicals will continue to be a part of the Republican coalition, particularly in the South. That cultural identity is a trap as to the real transformational goals of the faith community (and this is what I hear you struggling towards). In this light, Evangelicals face something of a choice whether to reinforce this cultural and political identity, that is to take part as a political community, or to take part in something akin to culture-making.

I would opt for the culture making approach.

Evangelicals in the last election voted more intensely GOP than in 2008. If there is an electoral failure, it is not for their not trying. What is missing is their ability to find allies in the center. Here, the deep cultural identity as a wing of the GOP played against them, particularly in the polarized electorate and an election framed as a cultural war, a war the Right lost (per Jonathan Chait).

To advance a transformational approach will it seem, call for different approaches than those previously advanced. At the least, as you suggest, it calls for something like a cheerful engagement. I would suggest that you especially pay attention to Peter Leithart’s concern for justice; a second place to turn would be the sober approach of Alan Jacobs’ thinking on information deficits and global warming.

And Leithart is right in this also: culture making can only take place in the context of a deep faith in the sovereign God who claims our lives at the Cross. Sovereignty and sacrifice walk together, indeed are the proper fuel for hope. But if such hope were easy, we would have it already, wouldn’t we?

Friends and Politics

Matt Davis attempts to give a justification for the current storm surrounding Rep. Roy Schmidt’s last minute switch of parties. The media has been intense, fueled by a report by from the county prosecutor. Davis’ point appears to be that some one else could have also run, but because no one did, what Schmidt did was permissible, at least in hard nosed political sort of way.

So, Schmidt and House Speaker Jase Bolger tried to get someone to run for office. Judging from Kent County Prosecutor William A. Forsyth’s epistle, you would think that their effort was the precursor to Western civilization falling on its ear.
Piffle.
We deserve the government we get because we choose who represents us, regardless of how a candidate (legally) gets on the ballot. So what about recruiting people to run?

Now I can appreciate the hard-nosed truth. It would work except for one minor point: Roy screwed it up. If you’re going to do a dirty trick, you at least have to execute. Roy didn’t.

Underneath this there is a more significant question: representatives actually represent people (not simply corporations). Elected officials of all sorts necessarily build a strong network of others who support, encourage, and give of their time and money. Schmidt’s final crime was not electoral, but moral: running away from his friends without telling them.  Had he told them when he decided to switch, or had done so even earlier in April — few would have begrudged him, complain, yes, but there would have been understanding.

After all,  Roy was considered an adequate representative. He gave up that sense of adequacy in the  manner of the switch, by its timing and in the provision of a dummy alternative. He was treating the office like it was something owed, not as if it were a privilege given to him by his neighbors. Having surrendered his moral claim, then not surprisingly other voices have come forward: Bing Goei for the Republicans, Winnie Brinks for the Democrats, and even Keith Allard independent.

Politics is not a magical, frictionless activity no matter what they taught you in Civics class. It’s something that takes time, discipline, planning and the help of your friends. When Roy forgot his friends he got into trouble; without a network of friends running for office cannot really be done — something that I’m sure even Mr Davis understands.

Smart ALECs return

Voter suppression is again on tap as Dave Murray reports.

LANSING, MI – Proposed election law changes are based on Republican attempts to target black, Latino and possibly Arab voters, the head of the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus testified Tuesday.
But Republicans said there are loopholes in election laws that have allowed non-citizens to vote. They also said they want to prevent fraud by ensuring voters are properly identified and requiring training for groups registering voters.

Unlike so many conservative comments, the issue is not the voter, or voter ID.  There already are photo-ID laws in place, that’s not new. What this bill does is put barriers in the way of local voter registration efforts, efforts that not surprisingly are aimed at getting the unregistered and often poor voter on the rolls. Voter registration efforts can often be messy, as Mary Hollinrake notes. The downside of course, is that not registering voters further increases distance between the poor and their government. Not especially a good outcome.

This sort of restriction is a commonplace among conservative legislative agendas since after all the poor do have that unfortunate tendency to not vote for Republicans.

Three Percent Solution

Jonathan Bernstein over at The Plum Line asks, “Why Do They Do It?” with respect to the turn to the ideological. After all, there’s a cost:

The best estimates are that perceptions of a candidate as ideologically extreme will cost him about three points in a presidential election, everything else being equal.

His best thinking might be this:

In part, ideologues are the most likely to fall into information feedback loops, making it easier for them to believe that everyone out there is like them. It’s a rare ideological extremist who realizes that not everyone shares his or her issue positions; what he or she believes all seems so obviously true.

This phenomenon might also be an expression of radicalism generally. Years ago, Crane Brinton identified this phenomena in Anatomy of Revolution; and the process is generally understood. If status in the political community is gained by being outspoken (here status and not power), then the pursuit of power will naturally lead to increasing one’s outspokenness, to flank on the side of Truth, as it were. If one thing works, let’s do more of it. The same is true of policy and military strategy as well, only there it is framed in terms of overreach.

Now one cannot be blasé about all this, for radicalism and overreach can be quite damaging to others. The temptation is always to go to the other side, to match like with like, (verbal) violence with violence. The more difficult path is that of an aggressive or well-centered moderation. In times of extremism it is all the more important to know one’s self.