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GOP embraces classroom politics, taking cues from Youngkin – POLITICO




Glenn Youngkin tapped into parents’ pandemic-era frustrations on his way to winning the Virginia governorship. Now fellow Republicans are betting big that they can also make education a winning midterm issue.

Youngkin started out as an underdog in a state where the GOP hasn’t won statewide for nearly a decade. But Republicans say his frequent messaging on education, stoking parental worries about progressivism in the classroom while urging them to play a greater role in schools, helped him pull ahead while his Democratic opponent, Terry McAuliffe, stayed stuck in the past trying to tie Youngkin to Donald Trump.

His win, along with that of other Republican candidates down-ballot in Tuesday’s Virginia elections, has the GOP giddy about its prospects for taking back Congress in 2022. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy publicly projected on Wednesday that Republicans could win back more than 60 House seats in the midterms next year.

Some party leaders are already taking notes on Youngkin’s blend of the standby GOP line on education — criticizing the outsized influence of teachers’ unions, backing school choice — with anti-liberal culture-war rhetoric.

“It was not just Virginia, but clearly Virginia was the loudest message,” House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) said in an interview. “The Youngkin victory is one more sign that issues like school choice, parental involvement in their kids’ education, and standing up to union bosses is going to continue to be a major issue all around the country … Issues like school choice are going to be even more powerful messages next year.”

House Republicans are moving quickly to capitalize on Youngkin’s invocation of education, including rolling out a “parental bill of rights” and making it a messaging centerpiece moving forward. The politics of learning was already on the GOP’s mind, with lawmakers saying parents’ eyes were opened to details of their children’s curricula during a pandemic that necessitated more online learning.

And as education rose on the Republican agenda, so did culture-war-fueled opposition to critical race theory, or CRT — a longstanding academic concept positing that centuries of slavery and segregation led racism to be systematically embedded in U.S. institutions. Many Republicans have begun using the term as a catch-all phrase to describe how schools teach about race or American history.

Virginia’s schools do not teach CRT in its original form, but Youngkin successfully made it a bogeyman in the election. And it’s not just Republicans acknowledging that: Progressive Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York said in an interview that “critical race theory, and their kind of weaponization [of it], was effective.”

“I do think that it certainly was a factor” in Youngkin’s defeat of McAulife, she added. “Because we continue to have extraordinary difficulties with having honest conversations about race in this country.”

On the campaign trail, Youngkin tapped into parental frustration over school closures during Covid and framed the gubernatorial contest as a debate about whether parents had a right to be involved in their children’s education. In particular, the Republican seized on McAuliffe’s comment during a debate that “I don’t think parents should be telling schools what they should teach kids” — which quickly became a GOP talking point.

Republicans in Virginia and on Capitol Hill have also seized on the Biden Justice Department’s announcement last month that it planned to combat violent threats against school board members. The GOP has cast that as an effort by Democrats to silence parents who want to protest against what’s happening in their local schools, from public health measures to lesson plans.

That push has only intensified after Youngkin’s win. On Wednesday, House Oversight Committee Republicans led by Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan sent a letter to the FBI demanding answers about how it planned to carry out Attorney General Merrick Garland’s memo directing DOJ resources to stop threats against school board members.

And Republicans are looking at proposals to scale back the federal government’s involvement in education as part of their forthcoming “parental bill of rights,” according to Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), the party’s top member on the House Education and Labor Committee. Foxx warned that the party is still hashing out the details.

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), who’s seeking a governor’s seat in a state that has swung more blue than Virginia for years, said he too has witnessed voter enthusiasm for a greater focus on education. He described Youngkin’s win as further reinforcement of what he’s already seen on the campaign trail.

The power of a specific education message hit home, Zeldin said in an interview, when he was “on the trail and speaking to a group of 700 Hispanics in the South Bronx about my positions on education — almost the entire group are Democrats — and they are emotionally, passionately responding to the message.”

Youngkin, a former private equity executive and political newcomer, made education a central part of his closing pitch to voters in recent weeks. His campaign dubbed its events “Parents Rallies.” And he flooded the airwaves with TV ads about parental involvement in schools, accusing Democrats and McAuliffe of trying to silence their voices.

Youngkin also touted his own education plan, which calls for increasing teacher pay and expanding charter schools.

Despite their admission that Youngkin benefited from channeling voter dissatisfaction with education during the pandemic, Democrats have yet to propose a more specific response beyond passing the infrastructure and social spending bills that form the core of their domestic agenda.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Chair Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) said Wednesday on MSNBC that Youngkin “appealed to parents in education” but argued that getting President Joe Biden’s signature bills through Congress could appeal to parents even more.

The party may yet mount a direct counterargument on education; Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers and a longtime Democratic ally, campaigned with McAuliffe in Virginia. Weingarten has blasted Youngkin and his anti-progressivism education message as using “lies, disinformation and fear to drive a wedge between voters.”

But Republicans like Utah Sen. Mitt Romney say McAuliffe miscalculated by campaigning with the face of the union in light of the fury shown by parents — over topics ranging from CRT to assault allegations.

“It was so completely out of touch with … the American people or the people of Virginia,” Romney said. “You had to shake your head.”

Democrats say they are appalled that the GOP is campaigning against CRT’s acknowledgment of the realities of institutional racism.

“Wow, that says a lot about who they are as a party, that they would use race as a dividing issue to try to take the majority back,” said Rep. Steven Horsford (D-Nev.).

Notably, the House’s two Black Republicans have forcefully pushed back against Democratic positions on education. Rep. Burgess Owens (R-Utah) said at a GOP education roundtable on Wednesday that a call for equity in schooling from some Democrats is centered on lowering “expectations for Black people,” which he called “as racist as you can get.”

One of Owens’ fellow freshmen took a bigger-picture view to describe Youngkin’s win as built on not just education messaging, but on meeting voters where they live.

“Youngkin’s playbook is sure to be an example of how to win in ‘22,” said freshman Kat Cammack (R-Fla.). “Focus on local issues, talk to voters — make what matters to them the focus.”

Burgess Everett and Nicholas Wu contributed reporting.

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Study: Politics Outweighed COVID Severity in Reopening Decisions – Inside Higher Ed



The political leaning of the county in which a college or university is located is the factor most closely associated with whether it offered in-person or remote instruction in fall 2020, research released Tuesday shows. The article, published in Springer’s Research in Higher Education, finds that the severity of the pandemic near a college and sociopolitical factors in its state were also associated with institutional decisions on how to offer instruction.

State political factors were a stronger factor for four-year public institutions than for four-year private or community colleges, while county political preferences had a stronger effect on four-year private and two-year public institutions.

“Given that in-person instruction was associated with increased COVID-19 incidence in the local area,” the authors write, “polarization, political identification, and institutions feeling compelled to operate as politicized entities (to stay close to the ‘in-group’) likely made the severity of the pandemic worse. These outcomes are aligned with the general findings [of previous research] that institutions seemed to give more weight to sociopolitical features over pandemic severity when choosing in-person instruction for Fall 2020.”

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Why American Politics Is So Stuck — and What New Research Shows About How to Fix It – POLITICO Magazine




Why does American politics feel so stuck these days, with bipartisan bills vanishingly rare and solutions seemingly taking a back seat to constant attacks?

Our newly published research suggests an answer — and maybe a way to get un-stuck.

Most policies are rife with trade-offs. They have an intended outcome and some regrettable side-effects. Our recent studies suggest that political polarization in the United States runs so deep that it leads partisans to see the other side’s intended outcome as a ruse and the side effects as the real intention. In other words, Democrats and Republicans not only disagree about policy matters; they believe the other party’s agenda is intentionally designed to do harm.

We call this tendency the partisan trade-off bias, and it applies to both parties. To a Democrat, the purpose of an environmental policy that reduces carbon emissions, for example, is to preserve the environment, and a corresponding loss of coal mining jobs is an unfortunate side effect. But a Republican, our research finds, might look at that same policy and see a plot to eradicate jobs in the fossil fuels industry. Meanwhile, a Democrat might presume a Republican push to lower corporate tax rates is more about helping the wealthy and hurting the poor than fueling economic growth.

Of course, skepticism about motives is sometimes warranted. But, oftentimes, it is misguided, and the deeper it runs, the harder it is to get anything through the policymaking process. Unless politicians find a way to lessen the effects of the partisan trade-off bias, we’re likely to keep seeing stalemates on important policy issues.

We documented the partisan trade-off bias across five studies using online samples of a total of 1,236 participants, a mix of Republicans and Democrats. As an example, in one of our studies participants were randomly assigned to view a set of policy trade-offs, some proposed by Republicans and some proposed by Democrats. The policies dealt with taxes, environmental regulation, gun control and voting rights. Participants then rated how intentional they perceived the negative side effects of each policy to be. The more participants identified with the Republican Party, the more intentional they perceived the side effects of the Democratic-proposed policies to be, and the more participants identified with the Democratic Party, the more intentional they perceived the side effects of Republican-proposed policies to be.

In a nutshell, our studies showed that the negative side effects associated with different policy trade-offs are not interpreted by opponents as side effects at all, but as intended goals of the policy.

To date, the political science literature has shown that political polarization leads partisans not only to dislike each other, but to see the other side increasingly as a threat to the country. Our identification of the partisan trade-off bias reveals a psychological tendency that might help to explain this perception of threat. After all, how can you get along with someone who you perceive as intentionally trying to do harm?

The good news is that by identifying the partisan trade-off bias, our research points a path forward: Policymakers who pay more attention to this bias might be better equipped to achieve compromise. This means that rather than focusing only on the main goal of a policy, they need to communicate clearly to the public what is intentional and what is a regrettable side-effect of that goal.

Fortunately, our studies also suggest this might be achievable. The partisan trade-off bias happens not because people don’t understand a given policy, but because they don’t trust the policymakers who are pushing that policy. We found that the level of trust a person feels toward a policymaker proposing a policy is a crucial driver of the partisan trade-off bias. And when we were able to increase people’s trust in the policymaker in our studies, we saw the partisan tradeoff bias decrease substantially.

Existing research suggests there are many ways politicians can earn others’ trust, but one of the most powerful is also the simplest: making sure people feel their voices are heard and listened to before a policy is announced, including both those inclined to like and dislike a policy. When we told participants in our studies that a policymaker spoke with stakeholders from all sides of the political spectrum before rolling out a proposal, the partisan tradeoff bias subsided.

Practically speaking, these findings suggest that announcing a big policy goal, and then doing press tours and campaigns to tout its benefits, likely does little to build trust. What happens before the policy is announced is crucial to building broad support for the policy. Politicians need to make it clear that they are speaking with and listening to those likely to be affected by a policy’s side effects. In the context of climate policy, a politician might visit coal miners in West Virginia or oil and gas workers in Texas while in the process of formulating a plan to reduce emissions, for example. The more widely the politician can advertise these efforts — across multiple types of media and across the ideological spectrum — the better.

Giving people a voice in the process does not mean they will change their minds about the value of the policy. But it does increase the chances that they will see the policy as a sincere attempt to solve problems rather than a form of hidden malice. That, in turn, can help lower the temperature and de-escalate the cycle of polarization. The same lesson holds for those of us who are not policymakers but ordinary citizens who want to have better conversations about politics. If you think you know what the other side’s real intentions are, think again. What you see as malice might be an unintended side effect. And if you want someone to give you the benefit of the doubt, put in the work of making them feel heard before you make yourself heard.

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A new reason to move: politics – Yahoo Canada Finance



Blue states will get bluer, and red redder, in coming years, as more Americans factor political issues into their relocation decisions and head for places with like-minded tribes.

That’s the forecast from real-estate brokerage Redfin, which included “more migration for political reasons” in its outlook for the housing market in 2022. The deepening political polarization of the country includes new city- and statewide laws likely to attract adherents and repel detractors, driving political issues deeper into community life. Texas this year passed the nation’s strictest anti-abortion law, for instance. A Mississippi anti-abortion law could lead the Supreme Court to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that made abortion legal everywhere. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe, states will once again be free to set their own abortion statutes, creating a drastic dividing line between permissive and restrictive states.

Another Supreme Court case, involving gun rights, could make it easier to carry concealed weapons in New York and 7 other states, eroding gun-control efforts propagated largely by Democratic governors and mayors. On the other hand, marijuana is now legal in 19 mostly blue and purple states. Cities such as Philadelphia, San Francisco and New York are experimenting with police reform meant to cut down on lower-level arrests. Public-school curricula is a new flash point between parents who want racial and social justice taught in schools, and traditionalists who feel threatened by “wokeness.”

A U.S. Supreme Court police officer walks past its building as rulings are expected in Washington, U.S. November 22, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

A U.S. Supreme Court police officer walks past its building as rulings are expected in Washington, U.S. November 22, 2021. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The Covid pandemic led to sharp disparities in masking rules, school opening policies and business restrictions among states and cities. That’s on top of longstanding differences in regulation and taxation between traditionally Democratic and Republican states. While there’s nothing new about regional differences in governing styles, policy polarization is making it easier for Americans to live in areas they find ideologically compatible. It’s also getting harder for liberals to find a comfortable enclave in conservative states, and vice versa.

[Click here to get Rick Newman’s stories by email.]

Moving patterns reflect politics

Americans seem increasingly likely to sort themselves into ideological groups by geography. “We know people are leaving blue counties and moving to red counties,” says Daryl Fairweather, chief economist at Redfin. “I think this will start to happen at the state level and at the neighborhood level. After next year’s midterm elections, we’ll be able to see if neighborhoods become more polarized.”

Up till now, the migration from blue states to red states has largely been driven by affordability. Blue states along the coasts typically have higher living costs and taxation levels than, say southern red states such as Texas and Florida. More and more, however, moving patterns reflect overt political choices.

An October Redfin survey of people who recently moved, for instance, found that 40% said they would prefer or insist on living in a place where abortion is fully legal. The portion taking the opposite view—saying they would prefer or refuse to live in an area where abortion is fully legal—was 32%. It’s not unusual for survey respondents to express strong opinions on abortion, but it may be new for people to factor such views into moving decisions. If the Supreme Court overturns Roe and more states ban or severely restrict abortion, it could become a bigger factor in relocation.

HOUSTON, TEXAS - AUGUST 12: A newly sold home is shown on August 12, 2021 in Houston, Texas. Home prices have climbed during the pandemic as low interest rates and working from home has become more abundant. Home prices around the country continue to surge in the second quarter as strong demand continues to overwhelm the supply of homes for sale. Nationwide, the median single-family existing-home sales price increased by 22.9% in the second quarter. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)HOUSTON, TEXAS - AUGUST 12: A newly sold home is shown on August 12, 2021 in Houston, Texas. Home prices have climbed during the pandemic as low interest rates and working from home has become more abundant. Home prices around the country continue to surge in the second quarter as strong demand continues to overwhelm the supply of homes for sale. Nationwide, the median single-family existing-home sales price increased by 22.9% in the second quarter. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

A newly sold home is shown on August 12, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

The Redfin survey of movers also gauged attitudes toward other touchy political topics. Larger percentages favored living in areas with liberal policies such as strong voter protections, gender anti-discrimination laws and legal weed. But 23% said they don’t want to live in places with strong anti-discrimination laws, 22% don’t want to live in a state with legal weed, and 16% don’t want to live where there are strong voter protections.

Americans consider many factors when deciding where to live, and some of those factors have political overtones. Many parents base home-buying decisions on the quality of schools, which drives up home prices in the best school districts and creates de facto segregation. The white-flight phenomenon has a similar effect, with whites who can afford to leaving urban areas for places where they consider quality of life better.

But those types of location decisions are based more on family-first attitudes than the liberal-conservative divide that’s taking root now. Americans choose a political tribe when they vote, donate money to political causes and decide which cable-news station to watch. Perhaps it’s only natural that Americans want to live among their political comrades, as well. Like much of America, real-estate listings are trending toward liberal or conservative.  

Rick Newman is the author of four books, including “Rebounders: How Winners Pivot from Setback to Success.” Follow him on Twitter: @rickjnewman. You can also send confidential tips.

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