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The New Politics of Race? – The New York Times

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Credit…Apu Gomes/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

President Trump famously won the 2016 election thanks to a surge of support from white voters. This year, Trump is trailing Joe Biden largely because some of those voters have swung back to the Democrats. In several recent swing-state polls, Biden is even winning a narrow majority of white voters.

But Biden is not quite running away with the election. He leads by six percentage points in The Times’s national polling average, down from almost 10 points earlier this summer.

What’s going on? In large part, Biden continues to struggle with Hispanic voters. Trump, despite making repeated appeals to white nationalism and castigating immigrants, has a chance to do better among Hispanic voters than he did in 2016, and win more than a third of them, even as he does worse with white voters.

One possible explanation — a worrisome one for Democrats in the long run — is that Hispanics are following a path not so different from earlier European immigrant groups, like Italian and Irish Americans. As they assimilated, they became less reliably Democratic. To oversimplify, they voted for F.D.R. and then for Reagan.

Ross Douthat, a Times columnist, argues that Trump’s relative strength among Hispanic Americans is a sign that Democrats are misreading the politics of race. Liberals often draw a bright line between whites and people of color (as the acronym BIPOC — for Black, Indigenous and people of color — suggests). But this binary breakdown doesn’t reflect reality, Ross argues.

For starters, about 53 percent of Latinos identify as white, Andrea González-Ramírez of Medium notes. Others do not but are conservative — on abortion, taxes, Cuba or other issues. In some states, Hispanic men appear to be especially open to supporting Trump, Stephanie Valencia of Equis Research, a polling firm, told my colleague Ian Prasad Philbrick.

A recent Times poll of four battleground states captured some of these dynamics. Most Hispanic voters said Biden had not done enough to condemn rioting, said he supported cutting police funding (which is not true) and said they themselves opposed police funding cuts. For that matter, most Black voters also opposed such funding cuts.

Credit…Based on a New York Times/Siena College poll of likely voters from Sept. 8 to Sept. 11

It’s a reminder that well-educated progressive activists and writers — of all races — are well to the left of most Black, Hispanic and Asian voters on major issues. These groups, in fact, are among the more moderate parts of the Democratic coalition in important respects. If Democrats don’t grapple with this reality, they risk losing some of those voters.

For more: Two recent podcasts — the FiveThirtyEight politics podcast and “The Argument,” from Times Opinion — delve into Trump’s relative strength among Hispanic voters.

Credit…Noah K. Murray/Associated Press

New Jersey is poised to become one of the first states to adopt a so-called millionaires tax, raising taxes on income over $1 million by nearly two percentage points. Phil Murphy, the state’s Democratic governor, and legislative leaders reached a deal on the tax as a way to alleviate a budget shortfall caused by the pandemic.

“We do not hold any grudge at all against those who have been successful in life,” Murphy, a former executive at Goldman Sachs, said. “But in this unprecedented time, when so many middle-class families and others have sacrificed so much, now is the time to ensure that the wealthiest among us are also called to sacrifice.”

Taxes on high incomes are likely to be central to the Democratic Party’s agenda if Biden wins the presidency. He has proposed raising tax rates on people who earn more than $400,000.

In other political news:


Credit…Go Nakamura for The New York Times

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outraged many public health experts last month by discouraging people without coronavirus symptoms from being tested. It’s now clear that Trump administration officials — and not C.D.C. scientists — wrote the recommendation, as a story by The Times’s Apoorva Mandavilli documents.

In other virus developments:


Credit…Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The writer Anand Giridharadas has written a fascinating response to my recent item on Biden’s vulnerability on so-called law and order issues. Giridharadas writes:

America does have a law-and-order problem, but it’s nothing new. And the nature of that law-and-order problem is being the most violent country in the rich world. And the genesis of that violence isn’t Black and brown communities rising up against friendly, overwhelmingly white suburbs of Minneapolis. It’s white America, from the founding days of the republic, committing to an economic and political model that made violence a daily, systemic necessity.

I’d add one point: It’s possible to agree with all of that and still think Biden is vulnerable. “Law and order” is indeed often a dog whistle for racism, but it can still be politically effective. And “law and order” issues aren’t only and always about racism. Just consider the views of Black and Hispanic voters about police funding (which are highlighted in the chart earlier in today’s newsletter).

Along with his response, Giridharadas includes an interview with Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. He’s the author of a new book, “The Violence Inside Us: A Brief History of an Ongoing American Tragedy,” which delves into the racist roots of America’s propensity toward violence.

Credit…Michael Kraus for The New York Times

In honor of the start of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, here’s a recipe for a delicious brisket. Coca-Cola, along with chunks of fresh ginger, are the ingredients behind the sweet-and-sour sauce. For more ideas, the Cooking team curated a collection of holiday recipes.


Our weekly suggestion from Gilbert Cruz, The Times’s Culture editor:

Less than two months before a presidential election, it might seem odd to recommend a series about politics, given that it’s everywhere. But I am locked into watching “Borgen,” now available on Netflix.

The three-season drama follows Birgitte Nyborg, a moderate Danish politician who becomes that nation’s first female prime minister. The tone falls somewhere between the often-too-idealistic “The West Wing” and the always-too-self-serious “House of Cards.” It’s a peek into a system in which compromise and deal-making between multiple political parties are often as necessary as pure power plays.

And, as our TV critic Margaret Lyons wrote recently in her Watching newsletter (subscribe!), “Alongside the political material, ‘Borgen’ is a grounded, rich domestic drama, and Birgitte’s seemingly #relationshipgoals marriage becomes something much messier and more fraught.”


Credit…Jill Frank for The New York Times

The nature of fame on TikTok is inherently different from other platforms like Instagram: It has an algorithm that propels kids to stardom overnight, and entire fandoms are often built around creators of relatively mundane videos.

In The Atlantic, the writer Kaitlyn Tiffany explains how fame on TikTok serves as a reflection of what modern girlhood looks like. Videos often spotlight activities girls have been doing for decades, from dancing in their bedrooms to fighting with parents.

“TikTok is a massive network of girls talking primarily to one another,” she writes. “Every major cultural trend that has come from TikTok is a girl-culture trend: VSCO girls, e-girls, the dances created by girls and copied by other girls.”



Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Birthplace of the Renaissance (five letters).

Or try this week’s news quiz.

You can find all of our puzzles here.


Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you on Monday. — David

P.S. The word “gympietides” — the minute, pain-causing molecules of Australia’s giant stinging trees — appeared for the first time in The Times this week, as noted by the Twitter bot @NYT_first_said.

You can see today’s print front page here.

Today’s episode of “The Daily” is about the reopening of schools in New York City. On “The Argument,” Opinion writers talk about Bob Woodward’s new book and QAnon.

Lalena Fisher, Ian Prasad Philbrick and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at themorning@nytimes.com.

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Shifting norms on gender and leadership: are ambitious women punished in politics? – British Politics and Policy at LSE

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Sparsha Saha and Ana Weeks show that while ambitious women are not penalised by voters overall, the aggregate results hide differences in taste for ambitious women across parties. They find that in the US, left-wing voters are more likely to support women with progressive ambition than right-wing ones, while in the UK parties are not as divided.

In a major milestone for women, the US Democratic party recently nominated Kamala Harris as the first Black and Asian-American woman for vice president, making her the party’s second female VP pick in nearly 200 years of history. But the run-up to her nomination was fraught with claims that she was disloyal and somehow `too ambitious’ for the role. It’s a story we’ve heard before. In 2016, Hillary Clinton was criticised for her `unbridled ambition’. Way back in 1975, Margaret Thatcher faced similar claims that she was `ruthlessly ambitious’. All politicians must be ambitious in order to run for office, so why do we see, again and again, women criticised for a quality that seems to be prized in men?

In our recent study, we investigate the notion that ambitious female political candidates are punished by voters in a way that similarly ambitious male political candidates are not. Building on role congruity theory and studies from negotiation and dominance, we hypothesized that “ambitious” women might be punished for transgressing gender stereotypes. We conducted five survey experiments over the course of three years in both the US and the UK, asking almost 4000 people to vote in hypothetical elections involving made-up resumes of male and female candidates with varying levels of ambition. We were surprised to find that, overall, voters are just as likely to vote for an ambitious female candidate as they are an ambitious male candidate. We looked at several types of ambition – from ambitious personality traits like “determined” and “assertive” to ambitious political agendas and ambitious office-seeking – and combinations of these traits. Across all the surveys, we did not find evidence that ambitious women are any less preferred than ambitious men.

While, overall, ambitious women aren’t punished, we found differences in preferences for ambitious women across parties. In the US, Democrats are more supportive of women candidates with presidential aspirations than Republicans are (a difference of 7 percentage points). Democrats are particularly enthusiastic about women with office-seeking ambition, but Republicans are not. This finding is in line with previous work, which finds that bias against a potential woman president is concentrated among Republicans, and that women candidates on the right face greater challenges in the political pipeline and during elections. In the UK, however, it is Conservative voters who appear most favourable towards ambitious female candidates (although differences across parties were not statistically significant). Our interpretation of these cross-national differences is that context – the history of women in leadership – matters. The UK has had two female Prime Ministers, both of them Conservatives. Even far right voters (respondents who said they had voted for UKIP) did not penalise ambitious women, although they especially favoured “assertive” men. UKIP and the newer Brexit party have also both had women leaders.

The findings reflect shifting norms on women and leadership. This is good news. Our work is one of many recent studies which suggest that explicit voter discrimination is not the cause of women’s underrepresentation in politics. In fact, voters actually prefer women by about 2 percentage points, on average. So then, what can explain the persistent narrative that ambition is bad for women candidates? One of the reasons could be that women perceive that they will face additional discrimination. Another reason may be that political gatekeepers (who tend to be older male politicians) are oversensitive to the idea that women candidates might not do as well. For example, in the case of Kamala Harris, it was reportedly Chris Dodd who was concerned that Harris was “too ambitious”. Likewise, Elizabeth Warren shared that Bernie Sanders told her in a private meeting that he didn’t think the US was ready for a female president. Finally, by reporting on stories about women’s ambition, the media itself perpetuates stereotypes.

There are some important caveats to our work. First, we need more research on the role of race. Minority candidates themselves have noted the potential role of race, and it is possible that voters are more accepting of ambitious white female candidates since we did not include race as a factor in our experiments. Second, our study provides experimental evidence. It is possible that in real life, when voters are exposed to high-profile “ambitious” women over weeks and months, attitudes might be different. If women are portrayed as having overtly negative “power-hungry” or unethical types of ambition, we might be particularly likely to see gender-based discrimination emerge. Interviewing candidates themselves, to see if their experiences and perceptions of voter bias match what we find, would be a great next step. Still, the findings reflect a great deal of “real world” data that when women run, they win. The finding that ambitious women are not punished is important for both men and women to know so that women are not discouraged from running, and male gatekeepers are not afraid to let them in.

_____________________

About the Authors

Sparsha Saha is Preceptor in Expository Writing at Harvard University.

Ana Weeks is Lecturer in Comparative Politics at the University of Bath.

Photo by DK Dykstra-Lathrop on Unsplash.

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Politics and Fiction and Other Letters to the Editor – The New York Times

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To the Editor:

Your appealingly conceived Sept. 13 feature on political novels might disappoint some readers for ultimately confining itself to so few of the great political novels of the last 100 years.

Here are some titles that might help redress your focus on a mere handful of books: Robert Coover’s “The Public Burning” and Philip Roth’s “The Plot Against America” and, moving abroad, Arthur Koestler’s “Darkness at Noon,” Alberto Moravia’s “The Conformist,” Thomas Mann’s “Dr. Faustus,” Boris Pasternak’s “Doctor Zhivago,” Mario Vargas Llosa’s “Conversation in the Cathedral,” V. S. Naipaul’s “A Bend in the River,” Yukio Mishima’s “Runaway Horses,” George Orwell’s “1984” and Nicholas Mosley’s “Hopeful Monsters.”

Alexander Hicks
Atlanta

To the Editor:

There is a back story to Klaus Mann’s novel “Mephisto,” which is not noted in Margaret Atwood’s delightful short essay about reading the novel while living in Germany in 1984 (“Politics in Fiction,” Sept. 13). The novel is a roman à clef based on the legendary German actor and director Gustaf Gründgens, who had worked with Mann in the theater and briefly married his sister Erika, before making a Faust-like pact with the Nazis and becoming a protégé of Hermann Göring and director of the Prussian State Theater.

Mann committed suicide in 1949. A rehabilitated Gründgens resumed his career in postwar Germany. I recall seeing him as a teenager perform Friedrich Schiller’s “Don Carlos” in the early 1960s in Hamburg’s Deutsches Schauspielhaus, where he served as director. And of course Mann’s novel inspired Istvan Szabo’s brilliant film adaptation in 1981 of “Mephisto.”

Synnöve Trier
Brooklyn

To the Editor:

I enjoyed reading Jon Meacham’s overview of histories of white supremacy in your Sept. 6 issue, and the facing review of Seyward Darby’s “Sisters in Hate.” I’m sure most other educated, liberal readers of The Times did as well. These are well-researched, necessary histories of a crucial thread within American politics. But they probably don’t explain everything.

Fifty percent of Americans identify as “politically disengaged.” Some of them no doubt consciously align with the white supremacist tradition in American history; others do so unthinkingly, by default. Still others probably resist it in diffuse and internally contradictory ways. Until critics (historians, sociologists, journalists) successfully grapple with the race politics of this very large, very banal middle of the bell curve, we are unlikely to have a fully informed discussion of the topic.

Such books are already methodologically challenging to write. It would be nice if The Times encouraged their production by reviewing them once in a while.

Trysh Travis
Gainesville, Fla.

The author is a professor at the Center for Gender, Sexualities and Women’s Studies Research at the University of Florida.

To the Editor:

Several readers wrote in to your Sept. 6 letters page to complain about Anand Giridharadas’s use of the word (or nonword) “saxophonely” to describe Kurt Andersen’s new book.

While I don’t find his coinage especially appealing either, it’s worth noting that The Times has a long and impressive history of offering up new words to the public. In fact the Oxford English Dictionary, by its own tally, credits The Times with 730 “quotations providing first evidence of a word.”

Among the terms that made their print debut in The Times are “ritzy” (1919), “pizzazz” (1937), “grunge” (1965) and “digerati” (1992), all of which must have sounded highly suspect to many readers at the time.

Even more relevant in this case, it so happens that the O.E.D.’s earliest example of the word “sax” as shorthand for “saxophone” comes from The Times, in 1923. It seems unlikely that “saxophonely” will catch on like these other words, but then again the English language has always developed in surprising ways.

Benjamin George Friedman
New York

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When it comes to identity politics, there are multiple identities. Look at Marty Walsh. – The Boston Globe

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Marty Walsh will face at least two formidable women when he runs for a third term. And, yes, he is running.

Mayor Marty WalshJonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

City Councilor Andrea Campbell formally announced her candidacy for mayor Thursday, joining fellow councilor Michelle Wu in what history suggests is an uphill battle to replace a popular incumbent.

By the way, Marty Walsh intends to run for a third term.

He wouldn’t confirm that when I spoke to him Thursday, but I’ve talked to people close to him, and they say he’s in.

Those confidantes say Walsh will wait until after the presidential election to announce. The timing has nothing to do with the speculation that if Walsh’s longtime friend Joe Biden wins the White House, Biden would offer Walsh some position in his administration.

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Given his and his family’s long association with organized labor, Walsh would make a fine labor secretary. Given that his parents grew up in Ireland and his enduring affinity for the land of his forebears, he’d be a natural as ambassador there.

But that presumes a Biden victory, and all the speculation ignores the reality that Walsh is the main caregiver for his elderly mother, Mary, who still lives in the Dorchester three-decker where he grew up. The idea of leaving his mom behind or uprooting her — not to mention his partner, Lorrie Higgins — for some new job in Washington doesn’t make a lot of practical sense.

At this point, he will face at least a couple of formidable women. Given that they are women of color, this could be the city’s deepest dive to date into what the political wise guys call identity politics.

But then, all politics are identity politics. Candidates’ identities — the ones they want to project, the ones voters perceive — are at the heart of electoral politics and always have been.

Identity politics has become something of a perjorative, because if taken to extremes, it can reduce candidates to one- or two-dimensional figures.

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So if you accept one definition of identity politics, voters should be expected to vote for or against Michelle Wu because she is an Asian-American woman, or Campbell because she is a Black woman, or Walsh because he’s a white male.

But if you take the literal definition of identity politics — a tendency for people of a particular religion, race, or social background to form political alliances, moving away from traditional broad-based party politics — that doesn’t sound like an effective way to win an election in a city like Boston.

If Bostonians were given to the standard definition of identity politics, it would be hard, given the shift in demographics here, to explain how Marty Walsh was elected once, much less twice.

Walsh will be tough to beat, not just because of the power of incumbency, which is arguably greater in the midst of a pandemic that most voters say Walsh has handled well, and not just because of his substantial war chest, now at more than $5 million.

No, Walsh will be hard to beat because he has a compelling narrative of his own, which illustrates that the most successful politicians have multiple identities, that they appeal to all sorts of different people on different levels.

He is the son of immigrants who arrived in this country with nothing. He beat cancer when he was 7. He went into alcoholism recovery when he was 28. He went to BC at nights to get his degree. He grew up working-class in relatively conservative St. Margaret’s parish and ended up as a progressive who supports same-sex marriage and opposes the death penalty. As a union leader, he brought hundreds of people of color into the trades.

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That’s a lot of identities.

Three years ago, running against a very popular Black former city councilor in Tito Jackson, Walsh won by more than 30 percentage points, winning 20 of the city’s 22 wards, meaning he got a lot of votes from all kinds of people.

Has Boston really changed that much since 2017?

If they’re to have any realistic chance of knocking off Marty Walsh, Michelle Wu and Andrea Campbell better hope so.


Kevin Cullen is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at kevin.cullen@globe.com.

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