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A new paper says candidates don’t pay a price for extremism –



The conventional wisdom in American politics is that moderates like former Vice President Joe Biden are more “electable” than radical ones like Sens. Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren. This theory, arguably bolstered by recent events in the UK, actually has a solid amount of political science research backing it up. Historically speaking, candidates on either party’s more extreme wing seem to pay a price for their views come Election Day.

But there’s reason to think that this has changed recently, at least in the United States. Over the past several decades, American politics has gotten much more polarized, transforming the way American politicians and voters approach politics at a deep level. A new paper suggests that this shift, together with several other changes, might have wiped out the extremism penalty.

The research, by Boise State University political scientist Stephen M. Utych, looked at data on House voting and ideology between 1980 and 2012. Using a metric of ideology that ranks candidates from both parties on a scale from zero (most centrist) to five (most radical), he put together a model that assessed the likelihood of a candidate winning an election in each election year in the sample dates.

The following chart shows the results. As you can see, candidates who rank a relatively extreme three on the ideology score have become increasingly likely to win over time while the success rates of uber-moderates (who rank a zero) have gone down pretty dramatically. By 2008, radicals are even with moderates — and, by 2012, maybe even a little more likely to win:

Stephen Utych

“Ideological candidates are becoming increasingly likely to win US House elections over time,” Utych writes, “while moderate candidates are becoming increasingly less likely to win.”

Given that polarization is asymmetric — Republicans have moved far more to the right than Democrats have moved left — you might think that this effect is driven primarily by one party. But that’s not what Utych found. It seems that both right-wingers and left-wingers have started doing better over the course of time:

Stephen Utych

It’s possible, then, that voters may not punish extremists like they used to.

Before you throw out the conventional wisdom entirely, there are two very important caveats about Utych’s findings.

First, this is only one paper. Given the inherent difficulty in measuring complex social phenomena, it’s never a good idea to draw sweeping conclusions from a single piece of social science research — especially when there’s a fairly solid body of evidence in the opposite direction.

Second, even if Utych’s findings are replicated by other researchers, his data only concerns House elections. Other research has found that the extremism penalty is particularly strong in gubernatorial elections, and Utych’s research doesn’t really challenge that. Presidential elections are very hard to study with any degree of precision, and it’s not obvious whether voters behave more like they do in House elections or gubernatorial ones when it comes to the White House.

All that being said, there are reasons to believe that Utych’s findings are at least plausible on their face — and not just anecdotal ones like the individual victories of Tea Party and democratic socialist candidates.

The obvious one is polarization. More ideological parties leads to more ideological candidates winning office. Another important issue, one subtly distinct from polarization but deeply related to it, is what political scientists call “partisan sorting.”

This is the idea that, as the parties have gotten more ideological, voters have started to move into the party that best fits their underlying ideological beliefs. You used to have a healthy number of liberals voting Republican and some conservatives voting Democratic; now, that’s exceptionally rare. This sorting means that candidate are less likely to lose voters from their own party due to a perception of extremism — and less likely to win over voters from the opposite party due to a perception of moderation.

A fourth issue might be the rise of ideological primaries, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s challenge to Joe Crowley in 2018. Old guard moderates may be getting defeated by new upstarts better suited for their districts’ increasing liberalism or conservatism, meaning that more extreme candidates are doing better because they’re choosing the right districts to mount challenges. Geographic sorting likely makes this even easier.

“The most competitive districts for a party should be ‘outlier’ districts— those with a Republican (Democratic) advantage in the electorate but a moderate Democrat (Republican) serving as the representative,” Utych writes. “These districts are most ripe for partisan change and may attract more ideologically extreme candidates to replace the current ideologically moderate representatives.”

Utych’s research is not designed to test any of these theories. He doesn’t explain why it seems like extremists are doing better and moderates are doing worse; only that it really does seem like they are. If this effect applies to presidential elections as well as House ones — to be clear, that’s a big “if” — then maybe Democrats don’t need to be as cautious in their 2020 nomination choice as some pundits think.

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Green Party in turmoil, leader resists calls to step down



Canada‘s Green Party was increasingly mired in an internal dispute over its position on Israel on Tuesday, and a news report said the bloc would hold a vote next month on whether to oust its leader, Annamie Paul, who was elected just eight months ago.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corp (CBC) reported that the Greens had triggered a process that could remove Paul, the first black person to head a mainstream Canadian party, beginning with a vote next month.

A Green Party spokesperson declined to comment on the report, but said the party’s “federal council” would meet later on Tuesday. Earlier in the day, Paul, 48, rejected calls from the Quebec wing of the party for her to resign after a member of parliament left the Greens due to the Israel controversy.

“I believe that I have been given a strong mandate. I believe that I have been given the instructions to work on behalf of Canadians for a green recovery,” Paul said at a news conference in Ottawa.

Paul herself is not a member of parliament. The Greens – who champion the environment and the fight against climate change – had only three legislators in the 338-seat House of Commons and one, Jenica Atwin, abandoned the party last week to join the governing Liberals.

Atwin has said that her exit was in large part due to a dispute over the party’s stance on Israel. Atwin on Twitter has criticized Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, while a senior adviser to Paul, Noah Zatzman, has posted on Facebook that some unspecified Green members of parliament are anti-Semitic.

The party’s executive committee voted last week not to renew Zatzman’s contract, local media reported. Paul converted to Judaism some two decades ago after she married a Jewish man.

While the Greens are the smallest faction in parliament, they perform well in British Colombia and hold two seats there. The current turmoil may favor their rivals ahead of a national election that senior Liberals say could be just a few months away.

The Greens would win about 6.7% of the vote nationally if a vote were held now, according to an average of recent polls aggregated by the CBC.


(Reporting by Steve Scherer and Julie Gordon; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Hope, anger and defiance greet birth of Israel’s new government



Following are reactions to the new government in Israel, led by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett.


“We’ll be back, soon.”


“On behalf of the American people, I congratulate Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, and all the members of the new Israeli cabinet. I look forward to working with Prime Minister Bennett to strengthen all aspects of the close and enduring relationship between our two nations.”


“This is an internal Israeli affair. Our position has always been clear, what we want is a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem as its capital.”


“On behalf of the UK, I offer my congratulations to

@naftalibennett and @yairlapid on forming a new government in Israel. As we emerge from COVID-19, this is an exciting time for the UK and Israel to continue working together to advance peace and prosperity for all.”


“I look forward to working with the Government to advance the ultimate goal of a lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.”


“Congratulations to Prime Minister @naftalibennett and to Alternate PM & MFA @yairlapid for the swearing in of the new Israeli government. Looking forward to strengthen the partnership for common prosperity and towards lasting regional peace & stability.”


“Regardless of the shape of the government in Israel, it will not alter the way we look at the Zionist entity. It is an occupation and a colonial entity, which we should resist by force to get our rights back.”


“With all due respect, Israel is not a widower. Israel’s security was never dependent on one man. And it will never be dependent on one man.”


“So, there’s a new Administration in Israel. And we are hopeful that we can now begin serious negotiations for a two-state solution. I am urging the Biden Administration to do all it can to bring the parties together and help achieve a two-state solution where each side can live side by side in peace.”


“Congratulations on the formation of a new Israeli government, Prime Minister @NaftaliBennett and Alternate Prime Minister @YairLapid. Together, let’s explore ways to further strengthen the relationship between Canada and Israel.”


“We are aware that this step has a lot of risks and hardships that we cannot deny, but the opportunity for us is also big: to change the equation and the balance of power in the Knesset and in the upcoming government.”


“I think it’s very exciting for Israel to have a new beginning and I’m hopeful that the new government will take them in the right direction.”


“It’s a sad day today, it’s not a legitimate government. It’s pretty sad that almost 86 (out of 120 seats) in the parliament, the Knesset, belong to the right-wing and they sold their soul and ideology and their beliefs to the extreme left-wing just for one purpose – hatred of Netanyahu and to become a prime minister.”


“Congratulations to PM @naftalibennett and alternate PM @yairlapid for forming a government. I look forward to working with you. Austria is committed to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state and will continue to stand by Israel’s side.”

(Reporting by Stephen Farrell; Editing by Andrew Heavens, Daniel Wallis and Lisa Shumaker)

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Boris Johnson hails Biden as ‘a big breath of fresh air’



British Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday as “a big breath of fresh air”, and praised his determination to work with allies on important global issues ranging from climate change and COVID-19 to security.

Johnson did not draw an explicit parallel between Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump after talks with the Democratic president in the English seaside resort of Carbis Bay on the eve of a summit of the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies.

But his comments made clear Biden had taken a much more multilateral approach to talks than Trump, whose vision of the world at times shocked, angered and bewildered many of Washington’s European allies.

“It’s a big breath of fresh air,” Johnson said of a meeting that lasted about an hour and 20 minutes.

“It was a long, long, good session. We covered a huge range of subjects,” he said. “It’s new, it’s interesting and we’re working very hard together.”

The two leaders appeared relaxed as they admired the view across the Atlantic alongside their wives, with Jill Biden wearing a jacket embroidered with the word “LOVE”.

“It’s a beautiful beginning,” she said.

Though Johnson said the talks were “great”, Biden brought grave concerns about a row between Britain and the European Union which he said could threaten peace in the British region of Northern Ireland, which following Britain’s departure from the EU is on the United Kingdom’s frontier with the bloc as it borders EU member state Ireland.

The two leaders did not have a joint briefing after the meeting: Johnson spoke to British media while Biden made a speech about a U.S. plan to donate half a billion vaccines to poorer countries.


Biden, who is proud of his Irish heritage, was keen to prevent difficult negotiations between Brussels and London undermining a 1998 U.S.-brokered peace deal known as the Good Friday Agreement that ended three decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters aboard Air Force One on the way to Britain that Biden had a “rock-solid belief” in the peace deal and that any steps that imperilled the accord would not be welcomed.

Yael Lempert, the top U.S. diplomat in Britain, issued London with a demarche – a formal diplomatic reprimand – for “inflaming” tensions, the Times newspaper reported.

Johnson sought to play down the differences with Washington.

“There’s complete harmony on the need to keep going, find solutions, and make sure we uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement,” said Johnson, one of the leaders of the 2016 campaign to leave the EU.

Asked if Biden had made his alarm about the situation in Northern Ireland very clear, he said: “No he didn’t.

“America, the United States, Washington, the UK, plus the European Union have one thing we absolutely all want to do,” Johnson said. “And that is to uphold the Belfast Good Friday Agreement, and make sure we keep the balance of the peace process going. That is absolutely common ground.”

The 1998 peace deal largely brought an end to the “Troubles” – three decades of conflict between Irish Catholic nationalist militants and pro-British Protestant “loyalist” paramilitaries in which 3,600 people were killed.

Britain’s exit from the EU has strained the peace in Northern Ireland. The 27-nation bloc wants to protect its markets but a border in the Irish Sea cuts off the British province from the rest of the United Kingdom.

Although Britain formally left the EU in 2020, the two sides are still trading threats over the Brexit deal after London unilaterally delayed the implementation of the Northern Irish clauses of the deal.

Johnson’s Downing Street office said he and Biden agreed that both Britain and the EU “had a responsibility to work together and to find pragmatic solutions to allow unencumbered trade” between Northern Ireland, Britain and Ireland.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Andrea Shalal, Padraic Halpin, John Chalmers; Writing by Guy Faulconbridge; Editing by Giles Elgood, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Mark Potter and Timothy Heritage)

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