“Political attack ads call all of politics into disrepute, ultimately undermining trust in all politicians and eroding citizens’ confidence that democracy is the best system for choosing our leaders,” writes Peter Loewen. On the other side, “what voters need to know is not just what’s desirable but what’s possible, and how,” writes Rick Salutin. “It’s useful to see candidates pick each other and their proposals apart. Ads are just one way of doing that.”
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:
“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:
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.
Erdogan says Turkey is set to banish 10 Western ambassadors
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday he had ordered the foreign ministry to declare 10 ambassadors from Western countries ‘persona non grata’ for calling for the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala.
Expelling the 10 ambassadors, seven of whom represent governments from Turkey‘s NATO allies, would mark the deepest diplomatic rift with the West during Erdogan’s 19 years in power.
Kavala has been in prison for four years, charged with financing nationwide protests in 2013 and with involvement in a failed coup in 2016. He has remained in detention while his trial continues, and denies the charges.
In a joint statement on Oct. 18, the ambassadors of Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the United States called for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case, and for his “urgent release”. They were summoned by the foreign ministry, which called the statement irresponsible.
“I gave the necessary order to our foreign minister and said what must be done: These 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata at once. You will sort it out immediately,” Erdogan said in a speech, using a term meaning that a diplomat is no longer welcome in the country.
“They will know and understand Turkey. The day they do not know and understand Turkey, they will leave,” he said to cheers from the crowd in the northwestern city of Eskisehir.
The U.S., German and French embassies and the White House and U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Erdogan has said previously that he plans to meet U.S. President Joe Biden at a G20 summit in Rome next weekend.
The Norwegian Foreign Ministry said its embassy in Ankara had not received information from Turkish authorities regarding the matter at this time.
“Our ambassador has not done anything that warrants an expulsion,” the ministry’s head of communications, Trude Maaseide, told Reuters in an emailed statement, adding that Turkey was well aware of Norway’s view on this case.
“We will continue to call on Turkey to comply with democratic standards and the rule of law to which the country committed itself under the European Human Rights Convention,” Maaseide said.
Kavala was acquitted last year of charges related to the 2013 protests, but the ruling was overturned this year and combined with charges in another case related to the coup attempt.
Rights groups say his case is emblematic of a crackdown on dissent under Erdogan.
Six of the countries involved are EU members, including Germany and France. European Parliament President David Sassoli said on Twitter: “The expulsion of ten ambassadors is a sign of the authoritarian drift of the Turkish government. We will not be intimidated. Freedom for Osman Kavala.”
Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said his ministry had not received any official notification regarding the issue and that it was in close contact with its friends and allies.
“We will continue to guard our common values and principles, as also expressed in the joint declaration,” he said in an emailed statement.
Kavala said on Friday https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/philanthropist-kavala-says-no-possibility-fair-trial-turkey-2021-10-22 that it would be “meaningless” for him to attend his trial as a fair hearing was impossible given recent comments by Erdogan.
Erdogan was quoted on Thursday as saying the ambassadors in question would not release “bandits, murderers and terrorists” in their own countries.
The European Court of Human Rights called for Kavala’s immediate release in late 2019, saying there was no reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offence, and finding that his detention had been intended to silence him.
It issued a similar ruling this year in the case of Selahattin Demirtas, former head of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who has been held in jail for nearly five years.
The Council of Europe, which oversees the implementation of ECHR decisions, has said it will begin infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released.
The next hearing in the case against Kavala and others is due on Nov. 26.
(Additional reporting by Nora Buli in Oslo, Stine Jacobsen in Copenhagen and Foo Yun Chee in Brussels Writing by Daren ButlerEditing by Peter Graff, Kevin Liffey and Frances Kerry)
The Saturday Debate: Are attack ads bad for politics? – Toronto Star
Incoming director of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy
Negative politics — and its favourite tactic, attack ads — erode trust in our democracy, polarize voters, and cause enmity between citizens. Attack ads are not good for our politics.
Of course, in the short term, attack ads may be good for politicians. Attack ads can convey important and true information about an opponent’s past statements, their current policy positions, and even their future actions. In short, they may be informative.
Precisely because attack ads are cast in a negative light, they may attract more attention from voters, causing them to attend more closely. Humans, after all, are hard-wired to pay attention to that which makes us anxious or threatens us. Attack ads may also lead voters to think the stakes in an election are higher and that the divisions between parties are greater than they really are. In sum, they may be motivating.
Attacks ads may well work to serve the ends of one politician over another. In the business of getting votes and winning elections, then, they may be good for politicians. But are they good for politics?
Potato chips are wonderful for satisfying a craving hunger. They are a poor basis for a healthy diet and a long life. Attack ads may help in the short term. In the long term, they degrade our politics.
Here are principal ways attack ads are bad for our politics.
- First, they call all of politics into disrepute, ultimately undermining trust in all politicians and eroding citizens’ confidence that democracy is the best system for choosing our leaders. A small thought experiment makes this point.
Why, for example, does McDonald’s not run advertisements running down Burger King’s products? Surely, they believe their own are better and that consumers ought to choose them. Why not simply “raise an interesting question” about where exactly Burger King’s beef comes from? At least one reason is that this could erode the total market demand for hamburgers. If Burger King is bad for you, maybe McDonald’s is, too.
Politicians are in a different business, though. The party that takes power does so irrespective about how many people vote in absolute terms. All that matters is the share of votes received. The steady decline in turnout we have seen over the past half century has at least something to do with the persistent negativity of our politics.
- Second, negative ads likely increase polarization. Politics — even in Canada — is increasingly polarized around issues. This polarization can happen in at least two ways.
One way is that voters take increasingly extreme views on issues, rather than centrist views. This is at least partially caused by political rhetoric that emphasizes stark positions.
The other is that voters are more consistently ideological in their views, so voters who have a certain position on one issue — say abortion — will have a certain position on another unrelated issue — say, capital gains taxes. By engaging negative campaigning on issues, parties increase the stakes of those issues, compelling partisans to get in line with other partisans, rather than entertaining a diversity of opinions. This polarization, as my colleague Eric Merkley has shown, is not limited to the United States.
- Third, negative advertising and campaigning increases enmity between people. Attack ads that call into question the fundamental motivations and values of politicians cause voters to hold more negative opinions of those leaders. But the effect is not contained. Instead, it bleeds into their evaluations of the people who support those leaders.
Again, as my colleague Eric Merkley has shown, voters in Canada have increasingly negative feelings not only about politicians in other parties, but about the people who vote for them.
One of the great tricks of democratic politics is that it allows us to solve a big problem — who will make and enforce the rules for our lives — in a peaceful way. And by doing it only every few years, it allows us to otherwise go about our lives peaceably and productively.
If negative politics threatens that, it does so by deceiving us into believing that this is a bad way to govern ourselves and by leading us to think that our fellow citizens are not deserving of our respect because we disagree over some small set of issues. This may well be good for politicians seeking to be elected, but it is bad for us and for our politics.
Freelance contributing columnist for the Star
Bad for politics? Attack ads are politics in our system, more or less. We have an adversarial politics, just as we have an adversarial legal system. So there’s a loyal opposition, with the emphasis on opposing. Scrapping attack ads would be like eliminating cross-examinations in court.
Different systems are surely possible. Some countries have “neutral” judicial bodies that investigate and judge crimes. We have places in Canada — Nunavut or the Northwest Territories — that operate on consensus politics without an opposition, the way municipalities are supposed to.
But there’s something to be said for attack strategies in politics. Long ago I studied with a Marxist, Herbert Marcuse, who called his book, “One-Dimensional Man,” an “exercise in the power of negative thinking.” That itself was an attack on a sappy bestseller of the time called “The Power of Positive Thinking.”
It’s too easy in politics to burble on positively, making promises. What voters need to know is not just what’s desirable but what’s possible, and how. They often say that their vote comes down to choosing the least worst option. So it’s useful to see candidates pick each other and their proposals apart.
Ads are just one way of doing that, and they should certainly be regulated. But the plus is that we’ve all seen so many ads, essentially since birth, that we can be judgmental ourselves, and learn things even from dubious cases.
Take the stupid Willy Wonka ad that Conservatives put out before the last federal campaign, with Justin Trudeau’s face ineptly superimposed on a film character. It was like saying, “If we can’t even make a competent ad, why would you trust us to run Canada?” Their own MPs were embarrassed and it got pulled.
Or take the current flood of ads about Ontario’s coming election.
The PCs are running a radio ad of Doug Ford saying, “I hear it all the time, politicians are famous for finding reasons to say no. That’s not me … we are the party saying Yes.”
My first thought was: what a weird assertion, that I’m the Yes man. Who said you weren’t? Oh wait, there are long lists of things he cut, even during the pandemic. (Though he does say Yes to his developer buddies on building Hwy. 413, where they own big plots of land along the way.)
In effect, he’s become his own attack ad against himself. So this week, when he told immigrants not to come to Ontario to rip off “the dole,” you think, that doesn’t sound very Yessy. Or last week: “Folks, I’m gonna tell you something, the worst place you can give your money is to the government.” That’s a pretty big No from Mr. Yes.
The NDP have dropped a pile of ads against Ford and Liberal leader Steven Del Duca. No one who knows them will be surprised that the emotion in the anti-Liberal ads is fiercer than the anti-Ford ones, though Del Duca’s a minuscule player in the legislature — without even a seat — and apparently no money for ads. The NDP have always hated Liberals for usurping what they see as their rightful place as progressive leaders. It’s only human; most of us have been there.
The ads drip with sarcasm and are voiced by what sounds to me like an actor directed to personify a worker. The result reads to me like a middle class actor’s notion of straight-talking workers. It rings like a caricature. The music under it is arch and cute, like “Only Murders in the Building.” The NDP’s always had a problem with a sense of humour. It doesn’t have one but doesn’t know it.
The scripts are worse. They tell people what they should feel: Del Duca is “back for power, not for you.” What does that mean? If you’re trying to make up your mind, it gives you no help. My own experience writing for workers in, say, leaflets for union drives or strikes, is that they want information that’s specific (but concise), not attitudes. Give them info; they’ll provide opinions.
Del Duca’s response, by the way, to those attacks is to say something positive about the other leaders. It’s often smart to march in the other direction.
I’ve run out of space here but I must say, now that I’ve started reacting to these angry, hostile, attack ads, that it’s lots of fun. Keep them coming!
O'Toole's Tories outliers in Canadian politics for keeping vaccination status secret – CKPGToday.ca
A spokeswoman for New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs says all members of the governing Progressive Conservative caucus are fully vaccinated, except for one who is undergoing cancer treatment and had to delay their second shot until later this month.
All but two MLAs in Manitoba’s Progressive Conservative government say they’re fully immunized. The two refuse to reveal their vaccination status.
Mandatory vaccination rules have also been announced for admittance to Nova Scotia’s Province House and Quebec’s National Assembly.
A similar policy was unveiled federally this week by the board of internal economy, the multi-party governing body of the House of Commons. It announced a double vaccination requirement for entering buildings in the Commons precinct, including the House of Commons chamber itself.
Nothing has yet been decided for the Senate, which sets its own rules.
The move appears to leave Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole in a predicament: He didn’t make vaccination against COVID-19 a rule to run as a Conservative candidate in the recent federal election and he won’t say now how many of his 118 MPs are fully vaccinated. At the same time, he wants to return to an in-person Parliament when it resumes Nov. 22.
O’Toole, who contracted COVID-19 and personally promotes the value of vaccinations, says he respects an individual’s personal health choices.
The most recent analysis by The Canadian Press found at least 80 Conservative MPs are fully vaccinated, while two said they couldn’t be immunized for medical reasons. Two others refused to disclose their status on principle and the others did not respond.
Some in O’Toole’s caucus champion the need to keep their vaccination status private, like backbench Saskatchewan MP Jeremy Patzer. He wrote a recent op-ed saying he rejects “bully tactics” to cajole people into divulging private medical information, but then later confirmed he is himself vaccinated.
Similarly, Alberta MP Glen Motz posted on his website: “As strongly as I support the use of vaccines in our fight against COVID-19, I am as equally opposed to coerced vaccination.”
Just as the Liberals drove mandatory vaccinations as a wedge during the election campaign, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has continued criticizing the Conservatives. He suggested this week that his decision to wait another month to recall Parliament was to ensure all of O’Toole’s team had time to get vaccinated.
Conservative spokesman Mathew Clancy said the official Opposition doesn’t believe the nine-member board of internal economy “has the jurisdiction to infringe on a member’s right to take their seat in the House of Commons,” but didn’t elaborate on whether it would challenge the decision.
Carleton University professor Philippe Lagassé, an expert on the Westminster parliamentary system, said the rules weren’t designed to deal with public health, but it’s up to MPs to lay down their own laws in their parliamentary house.
“The fundamental principle remains the same — this is a collective right and if as a collectivity the House determines that its safety and ability to perform its function needs to be protected against some external force — a disease, or a police officer, or a court — well, then that’s the way it is,” he said.
“The reality is we’re not a pure democracy, we’re a parliamentary democracy.”
He said the issue some Conservative MPs may raise is whether the board of internal economy can speak for the entire House of Commons.
However, if they compel the Commons to vote on the issue, it’s clear the mandatory vaccination policy would easily pass, with the support of Liberal, Bloc Quebecois and NDP members.
Federal parties must also decide whether the Commons should resume all normal in-person proceedings or continue with a virtual component, allowing MPs to participate by videoconference.
At B.C.’s legislature, there is a hybrid option for the assembly itself and a rule that all MLAs, staff and guests must show proof of vaccination to gain admittance to the building.
In Saskatchewan and Ontario, visitors must be double vaccinated or show a negative COVID-19 test result before entry.
In Manitoba, many continue to participate remotely. Speaker Myrna Driedger said in an email that the legislature hasn’t yet dealt with the issue of vaccination requirements for its chambers.
In Alberta, Speaker Nathan Cooper said decisions around whether to exclude an MLA from the assembly must be made by the assembly alone.
“This has been a very complicated and fascinating time to see our democracies wrestle with this very foundational building block of our society in terms of our democracy, and the very real and active concerns around public health,” he said.
The Alberta NDP, which says all of its MLAs are fully vaccinated, has pushed United Conservative Premier Jason Kenney to ensure the same of his caucus. Cooper said it’s been “widely reported” all UCP members are vaccinated, except for one seeking a medical exemption.
Kenney has said he favours making sure all MLAs are either vaccinated, or show a negative result from a COVID-19 test to enter the assembly, which begins sitting Monday.
Lagassé said when it comes to introducing any new set of rules for Parliament, an important question is how long they will last, particularly when it impacts the abilities of the public and parliamentarians to access these spaces.
“We’ve got to be careful with it, but you almost have to deal with it on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
— with files from Steve Lambert and Dirk Meissner
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Oct. 23, 2021
Stephanie Taylor, The Canadian Press
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