After President Trump won the 2016 election, there was a big debate over the role “identity politics” played in his victory. Some scholars argued that many white voters without a college degree — a group that proved pivotal in that election — jumped from supporting then-President Barack Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016 largely because they liked Trump’s framing of identity issues, such as immigration, more than Hillary Clinton’s.<a class="espn-footnote-link" data-footnote-id="1" href="https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/if-talking-about-race-hurts-democrats-why-is-biden-so-far-ahead/#fn-1" data-footnote-content="
That finding is disputed by other scholars, who argued that Obama-Trump voters were not that conservative on identity issues.
“>1 After the election, some (usually white) liberal and Democratic-leaning voices said that Democrats needed to abandon “identity politics” or face more defeats like Clinton’s. Other liberal voices (often Black) said that Trump had successfully tapped into the racist views of many white Americans. Both of those perspectives implied that debating issues of identity and race was bad for Clinton and good for Trump, and in the future it would be good for the GOP and bad for Democrats.
Never mind all that, at least for now. America is talking about identity and race, and so are both presidential candidates. And all that racial talk seems to be helping Democrats, not Republicans. Joe Biden led Trump by about 6 percentage points in national polls on May 25, the day a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd. Biden leads Trump by an average of nearly 10 points now, after weeks of race and racism dominating the national discussion.
Obviously a lot of factors could explain Trump’s decline in the polls, most notably the coronavirus outbreak and the president’s failure to come up with any real plan to limit the virus’s spread.
But it’s worth exploring this question: Why aren’t identity politics backfiring on Biden and helping Trump? It’s hard to say for sure, but here are five theories, ordered roughly from strongest to weakest.
Trump is in the White House now
Some political science research suggests that public opinion on major issues tends to move against the sitting president. So if President John Doe says he hates Granny Smith apples, Americans will begin consuming them by the bushel. And that pattern has already played out with Trump, with Americans becoming more supportive of immigrants and Obamacare, likely in reaction to the president’s attempts to limit immigration and repeal the health care law.
Current polling — and even polls from earlier in the Trump presidency — has shown Americans expressing more liberal views on racial issues. Those numbers might suggest real change in racial attitudes among Americans. (More on that in a bit.)
But what looks right now like increasing racial liberalism may really just be anti-Trump sentiment. If Americans, particularly Democratic-leaning Americans, perceive that Trump is opposed to the Floyd protests and to racial justice causes more broadly, they might become more supportive of such causes, consciously or unconsciously, simply as a reaction to the president’s sentiments.
So in terms of identity politics and their role in presidential elections, it may have been that a racialized discourse was electorally bad for Democrats when their party controlled the White House, like in 2016. But this kind of discourse is fine and perhaps even electorally beneficial for Democrats with a Republican president in office.
Also, the story here could simply be that Trump is a flawed candidate who was going to struggle in 2020 no matter what issues were dominating the news at the time. After all, he was viewed unfavorably by 60 percent of voters on Election Day in 2016, according to exit polls, and he has remained fairly unpopular throughout his presidency. In 2019 and earlier this year, Democrats spent a lot of time debating which of their potential presidential candidates was most “electable.” But Biden’s almost-10-point lead suggests that basically any of the other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates would likely be leading Trump right now if he or she were the presumptive Democratic nominee.
2016 was a fluke and identity politics don’t always hurt Democrats
Part of the focus on identity issues as an electoral liability stems from the current makeup of swing states and the Electoral College. White voters without degrees have become increasingly Republican-leaning and represent a disproportionate share of the electorate in key swing states like Michigan and Wisconsin. So Democrats need to worry more about appealing to white voters without degrees to win an Electoral College majority than they would if presidential elections were decided by a simple national plurality vote. Thus, a lot of post-2016 coverage started from the assumption that Democrats have an identity and race problem because they must appeal to white voters without degrees and that voting bloc — at least based on the 2016 results — seemed to be put off by Democrats’ approach to identity issues.
But that framing might be wrong, or at least a bit overstated. Why? First, there’s an alternate reading of the 2016 results that suggests race wasn’t an unusually important factor in motivating the white voters who switched to Trump. Second, the overall racial dynamics of American politics are not that bad for Democrats and perhaps even favorable to them.
Zoom out beyond 2016 and take the long view: The last seven presidential elections have featured four Democratic victories in both the popular vote and the Electoral College (1992, 1996, 2008, 2012); one instance where the GOP won the popular vote and Electoral College (2004); and two kind of fluky GOP wins in which Republicans lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College (2000, 2016).
That long view doesn’t look great for Republicans, and identity and race help explain why. Democrats have been handily winning the vote among Asian, Black and Hispanic Americans, who combined are growing as a share of the electorate. (The share of nonwhite U.S. voters was about 26 percent in 2016, compared to about 13 percent in 1980.) Democrats’ status as the party of minorities helps them in some ways, requiring the GOP to consolidate an increasingly high percentage of the country’s white voters to win elections.
But it isn’t easy or necessarily guaranteed that the Republicans will overwhelmingly win the white vote overall or the white non-college vote specifically — even in an election that’s centered on race. The 2017-2018 period was full of racialized political debate, most notably on immigration policy, but the exit polls suggest Democrats lost white voters without a college degree by 24 percentage points in 2018, compared to 37 points in 2016. So far in 2020, polls show Biden losing white voters without a degree by a margin closer to 20 points.
Meanwhile, Biden might carry white voters with a college degree by a large margin, in part because those voters have been turned off by Trump’s approach to racial issues. Indeed, white voters with a college degree or postgraduate education have been trending Democratic for years, and the GOP approach to race and ethnicity is likely a factor.
In short, the evidence suggests that Trump’s approach on racial issues never really appealed to people of color in the first place and, outside of November 2016, it has also been really off-putting to white voters with degrees and not that appealing to white voters without degrees.
It’s harder to use Biden as a wedge
On policy issues, including those around identity and race, Biden’s positions are clearly to the left of the ones Obama ran on in 2008 and arguably to the left of Clinton’s in 2016. In explicitly promising to pick a woman as vice president and a Black woman as Supreme Court justice, Biden has gone beyond Clinton or Obama in terms of allocating very important government posts based on gender and race. And Biden’s rhetoric on racial issues is similar to Clinton’s in 2016. After Floyd’s death, while Trump largely dismissed the protests, Biden called for “an era of action to reverse systemic racism.”
But Biden is an older white man. So his identity likely makes it harder for Trump to run an identity-based campaign against Biden than against Clinton and, to some extent, incumbent president Obama. (The Atlantic’s Adam Serwer made this argument explicitly in a recent piece.) Biden does not visually symbolize a changing America the way President Obama did and the way a President Hillary Clinton would have.
Also, Biden has self-consciously positioned himself as a more moderate Democrat and has distanced himself from more liberal elements of the party, including the causes favored by more liberal Black Americans, like defunding the police.
The electorate has really shifted on racial issues
It’s possible that Trump’s identity politics are less effective in 2020 than they were in 2016 because the events of the last four years have resulted in a real leftward shift on racial issues among Americans. And that shift is fundamental and real, not just about partisanship or anti-Trump sentiment, as I suggested above. After all, in interviews with reporters, more liberal-leaning people and even some former Trump voters are suggesting that they understand racial inequality more deeply now than ever before.
Institutions are aligned with Biden on these issues
Major U.S. businesses, corporations and other elite institutions are typically wary of being perceived as partisan. But in the wake of Floyd’s death, corporate America seems to have decided, for whatever reason, that support for Black Lives Matter and comprehensive, aggressive efforts to reduce racial inequality are either not that partisan or that they’re stances worth taking even if they annoy some Republicans.
So at least right now, it’s not really Biden and Democrats versus Trump and Republicans on issues of identity and race in America; rather, it’s Biden, Democrats, Facebook, Merck, JPMorgan Chase, Netflix, Nike, Stanford and lots of other major institutions versus Trump and Republicans.
This dynamic is not totally unique to the spring and summer of 2020. Major companies in America are often aligned with liberal cultural values — for example, supporting gay marriage even before the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that invalidated any remaining bans on same-sex unions.
But even if corporate America’s recent posture on racial issues isn’t that surprising, it’s still important. With a lot of major institutions in America echoing his general message, it’s not surprising that Biden’s identity politics are resonating more than Trump’s.
I’m writing this article at a particular moment in time. Perhaps there will be a backlash to the Floyd protests and public opinion will shift. Maybe Trump will benefit from that. If Biden picks a female vice presidential nominee, particularly one who is also a person of color, perhaps Trump’s identity tactics will resonate more with voters because he’ll then have a foil who is more like Clinton and Obama. Alternatively, Trump could make up ground in the polls due to unrelated issues and factors.
And even if Biden wins, that won’t totally answer the question of whether identity politics is bad or good for Democrats. LIke I said, perhaps basically any Democratic candidate would beat Trump amid a viral outbreak the president mishandled.
All that said, it appears right now that the identity politics of 2020 are a net plus for Democrats — and perhaps they weren’t too big a problem for Democrats in the first place. It’s hard to prove any of this, but it’s an important discussion to have. In 2008, it seemed like Democrats won a presidential contest that was largely about race. But even though the presidential nominees were white in 2016 and 2020, those may have been more racialized campaigns. And if the current polls hold up, Democrats, after losing a very racialized campaign, may show that they can win one.
The politics of fiscal relief is failing Americans – Financial Times
In one of its worst-ever years in peacetime, the US has been able to nurse a consolation. As badly as it handled the Covid-19 pandemic, it was quick to soften the economic effects. Fiscal relief for a shuttered economy achieved bipartisan support in March. The $2tn Cares Act — worth roughly a tenth of national output — raised unemployment benefit, offered credit to companies and shored up state governments. Given the initial defeat of the 2008 bank bailout in Congress, none of this was inevitable.
Even this solace, it seems, is shortlived. Another round of fiscal intervention is clearly necessary. Continuing hardship, a surge in infections and the re-closing of many businesses that had opened put that beyond doubt. This time, however, the politics is failing.
Democrats and Republicans cannot agree on the size or duration of another bill. Among the unseen victims in this tiff are the recipients of the extra $600 in weekly unemployment aid that passed in March. It ran out on July 31. Democrats want to extend it until the end of the year, while Republicans cite the moral hazard of disincentivising work. Democrats propose $3.4tn in total stimulus. Republicans balk at that cost.
It is not frivolous to worry about intervention on this scale. It can have distorting effects and lead to waste. A return to some semblance of normality will involve unpicking this tapestry of fiscal transfers and lines of credit. Such is the nature of the crisis, however, that politicians must for now err on the side of action. Congress debates at leisure: the human cost in lay-offs and home-evictions mounts at pace. In haggling over aid, to the unemployed for instance, the bias of lawmakers should be towards generosity, and towards speed.
Ideally, it would be enough to appeal to conscience. If this is not enough, then lawmakers should remember that the jobless rolls include many of their own voters (they are simply too large not to) and that an election is less than three months off.
As well as the domestic suffering, Congress should also heed the implications for a world economy that America helps to drive. The first bill was an international event. If it transpires, this one will be, too. Jay Powell, chosen to chair the Federal Reserve by President Donald Trump and hardly a notorious socialist, urges against premature withdrawal of government support.
It would help matters if Mr Trump took a lead. He is less of an ideological free marketeer than many of his partisan colleagues, including Larry Kudlow, his economic adviser. Tellingly, the president made sure to associate himself with the original stimulus in the Cares Act. With the presidential election in the offing, he has an interest in what is proving to be popular intervention in the economy.
Of late, though, Mr Trump’s contribution has been to suggest a cut in payroll taxes. (“What payroll?” those without jobs will ask). He also repeated insinuations on Wednesday that Democrats want to bail out states they run. The first notion is one his own side say they will not support. The second just sours the cross-partisan mood that is needed for a deal.
In the end, this unprecedented intervention will have to be paid for through some blend of tax, borrowing and cuts to spending. Politicians who dread the growth of government, or of the deficit, should certainly set out a path to a more “normal” state of fiscal affairs. In the meantime, however, a devastated economy needs their help. An often traduced Washington salvaged some of its reputation in the spring. It is close to forfeiting it all over again.
Timeline: Thailand's turbulent politics since 2014 military coup – Reuters Canada
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thai protesters, led by student groups, are returning to the streets calling for the ousting of the government less than two years after a general election was held. One group has openly criticised the monarchy, in a rare show of defiance.
FILE PHOTO: Thai students protest against a court’s decision that dissolved the country’s second largest opposition Future Forward party, less than a year after an election to end direct military rule, at Mahidol University, outside Bangkok, Thailand February 25, 2020. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun/File photo
Here are the major events that have led up to these protests:
May 22, 2014 – Military stages a coup, ousting an elected government for the second time in a decade, citing the need to restore order in the face of street demonstrations against a populist government linked to telecoms tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra, who himself was ousted in a coup in 2006.
Oct. 13, 2016 – Constitutional monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej dies after a 70-year reign. His son becomes King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
April 6, 2017 – A military-backed constitution is ratified after being approved in a referendum, with changes requested by King Vajiralongkorn that increased his powers, paving the way for an election.
Feb. 7, 2019 – The king rebukes his sister, Princess Ubolratana, over a Thaksin-linked party’s nomination of her as its candidate for prime minister. The party is later dissolved by a court before the election.
March 24, 2019 – General elections held amid complaints of cheating and vote-buying. Former army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the 2014 coup and was then prime minister of a military government, heads a pro-army party that wins the most votes.
Nov. 20, 2019 – Court disqualifies rising opposition figure Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of the Future Forward Party, from parliament prompting thousands to rally in Bangkok.
Jan. 12, 2020 – More than 12,000 people join an anti-government “Run Against Dictatorship” in the biggest show of dissent since the 2014 coup. A rival group holds a run in support of Prayuth.
Feb. 21 – Future Forward Party is banned for illegally taking a loan from its billionaire leader, Thanathorn, prompting small student protests on university campuses.
March 22 – Given restrictions to stop the novel coronavirus, student protests peter out but online criticism of government continues, with some also directing criticism at the king. The hashtag “#whydoweneedaking?” is posted more than 1 million times.
June 8 – Small protests held to call for an investigation into the disappearance of an exiled government critic in Cambodia.
June 15 – Prayuth warns political activists not to criticise the monarchy.
June 24 – Protesters gather to mark the anniversary of the end of absolute monarchy in 1932.
July 18 – About 2,500 protesters gather at Democracy Monument, one of the largest demonstrations since the coup, calling for the dissolution of parliament and new elections.
Aug. 4 – Speakers call for the monarchy’s power to be curbed at a rally attended by hundreds in Bangkok.
Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Robert Birsel
Exclusive: Fauci says regulators promise politics will not guide vaccine timing – Reuters
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. regulators have assured scientists that political pressure will not determine when a coronavirus vaccine is approved even as the White House hopes to have one ready ahead of the November presidential election, the country’s leading infectious diseases expert Anthony Fauci said on Wednesday.
“We have assurances, and I’ve discussed this with the regulatory authorities, that they promise that they are not going to let political considerations interfere with a regulatory decision,” Dr. Fauci told Reuters in an interview.
“We’ve spoken explicitly about that, because the subject obviously comes up, and the people in charge of the regulatory process assure us that safety and efficacy is going to be the prime consideration,” he said.
President Donald Trump, a Republican, is behind Democrat Joe Biden in public opinion polls ahead of the Nov. 3 election. Trump has lost ground in part due to voter concerns over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
A vaccine announcement in October could help Trump’s chances in the nationwide vote.
“I’m certain of what the White House would like to see, but I haven’t seen any indication of pressure at this point to do anything different than what we’re doing,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“I mean obviously they’ve expressed: ‘Gee, it would be nice, the sooner the better.’”
Trump has suggested publicly that a vaccine could be ready long before the end of the year. In the interview Fauci offered a more conservative view, suggesting drugmakers will likely have tens of millions of doses of coronavirus vaccines in the early part of next year.
Fauci and other doctors on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, including its coordinator Deborah Birx, have come under criticism from the president for portraying the pandemic in less rosy terms than he has sought to emphasize.
Trump said in a recent interview with Axios that the virus was “under control.”
Asked if he shared that assessment, Fauci said some parts of the country were more under control than others.
“We’re a big country. You can pick out some parts of the country that are looking good and you could say is under control; you could pick some parts of the country that are on fire, in the sense, I mean you’re having outbreaks that you know you don’t get 70,000 cases a day when nothing’s going on.”
More than 157,000 people have died in the United States from COVID-19 and more than 4.7 million cases have been reported in the country and its territories, according to Reuters tallies.
Earlier this week the president criticized Dr. Birx for giving a sobering description of the state of the pandemic.
Fauci said the doctors try to focus on the science rather than political distractions.
“What we try to do, you know maybe some could do it better than others, is to focus like a laser on what we’re supposed to be doing: getting this epidemic under control,” he said.
Fauci said differences in the seriousness with which people had taken the virus in the United States had hampered the response to the pandemic in comparison to other countries.
“We have somewhat of a disjointed approach to things,” he said. “If we had a uniformity of it, and everybody rode together in the same boat, we probably would do much better.”
Fauci and other medical professionals have urged Americans to wear masks and maintain a social distance to prevent the spread of the virus. He lamented the fact that mask-wearing had become political earlier in the pandemic.
Trump declined to wear a mask in public for months and Vice President Mike Pence faced criticism for not wearing one when he visited the Mayo Clinic in April.
“Thank goodness that’s changed,” Fauci said. “I’m very pleased now that we’re seeing the vice president consistently wearing a mask, the president tweeting that you should be wearing masks. That’s a good thing. That’s a step in the right direction.”
Video: Reuters interview with Anthony Fauci here
Reporting by Jeff Mason in Washington and Michael Erman in New Jersey; Editing by Howard Goller
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