Editors' Blog

You Can't Understand American Politics Without Reading This Study

I don't say this lightly or often. But this is one of the most important studies in years in terms of understanding the current state of American politics and society. The study is the work of two Princeton University scholars, Ann Case and Angus Deaton, who analyzed vast quantities of federal government data about mortality rates across age cohorts, racial and ethnic groups and genders. They made a startling discovery. As you would expect, every age and ethnic/racial grouping has continued to see a steady reduction of morbidity (disease) and increase in lifespans for decades. But there's one major exception: middle aged (45-54) white people. Since roughly 1998, disease and death rates for middle aged white men and women has begun to rise.

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The Great Convergence

Here is a fascinating and disturbing look at the effort to weave together various different narratives about different people to hate and be afraid of. This morning former Rep. Michele Bachmann tweeted that 70% of refugees are "gang-age males." At least in terms of the 10,000 Syrian refugees that are currently roiling the national political debate, my understanding is that this clearly wrong - quite apart from defining what is presumably 15 to 25 year old men as "gang-age".

But what is really amazing is the article Bachmann links to.

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Are We Really in Doubt?

Everything I mentioned yesterday in this post ("Malign Hesitation") seems only more relevant today. Colorado Springs police continue to refuse any comment on the possible motives behind the Planned Parenthood massacre over the weekend. For probative evidence, we know that he attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic, an organization which is a potent and pervasive symbol of the abortion rights debate across the country. We also have police sources telling journalists that Dear ranted about "no more baby parts" after being taken into custody. Absent some dramatic, game-changing new details, it's very difficult to imagine this wasn't what it looks like: a domestic terror attack targeting abortion rights - both a specific facility and to terrorize people trying to exercise these rights.

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Malign Hesitation

Caution in the light of factual uncertainty is almost always a laudable stance for journalists and public officials. But from the beginning of yesterday's attack on the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs there's been an odd reluctance to state what appears to be obvious: that the attacker, now identified as 57-year-old Robert Lewis Dear, was motivated by extremist anti-abortion politics. The Denver Post headline states "Planned Parenthood shootings increasingly seem politically motivated" - and this after numerous accounts state that Dear was ranting about "no more baby parts" after his arrest, almost certainly a reference to the incitement earlier this fall over a doctored anti-Planned Parenthood sting video. Let's remember, false claims and incitement about selling "body parts" were a staple of Fox News segments and tirades from Republican presidential candidates all through the fall.

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Lemme Help

If you're surprised that Donald Trump isn't apologizing for mocking a reporter's physical handicap and doesn't seem to be paying any price for it, let me help. Half of rightwing politics is about resentment over perceived demands for apologies. Apologies about race, about fear of Muslims, about not being politically correct, about not liking the losers and the moochers, about Christmas, about being being white. This will hurt Trump about as much as going after Megyn Kelly did. Remember: his biggest applause line at the first GOP debate came for calling Rosie O'Donnell a fat slob.

About half the juice of far-right politics in this country is rooted in refusing to apologize when 'elites' or right thinking people reprove you for not being 'politically correct.'

"It's Alive. It's Alive ..."

Read the editorial and news pages today and you'll find a mix of hand-wringing and demands about an uncouth and outrageous outsider who is threatening to wrest the Republican party from its rightful owners. Liar, racist, clown, fascist, vigilante. There is no shortage of labels for Trump being bandied about in late November. But they're all negative - at least in the mainstream press. He seemed to be losing steam in the face of a surging Ben Carson. But then the country's politics, especially on the right, pivoted hard toward fear and rage against Muslims in the aftermath of the Paris terrorist attacks. And with that and a series of Carson stumbles, Trump stormed back into hefty leads basically everywhere.

This report in The Washington Post gives us a look at the waiting game members of the GOP donor class are playing, resisting calls to spend money on a Stop Trump movement because they remain convinced that GOP base voters will eventually reject Trump's brand of politics. The article raises a number of interesting themes, which we'll return to. But for now the most notable is the focus group data suggesting that there's basically nothing Trump can say or anything that can be revealed about him that will sway his supporters.

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What Matters

For all of those writing articles announcing that Donald Trump has now officially become or embraced "fascism", I regret to inform you that there's really no clear definition of fascism, much as the harder left and right has imagined otherwise for decades. In any case, labels hardly seem relevant. What is relevant is that roughly a third of the voters Republicans will need to win the presidency next year now support Trump - this version of Trump, a candidate running a campaign which is increasingly open in its racism and militant in its nonsense.

Thinking About the Syrian Refugee Nonsense

There are so many levels of nonsense tied to the current hysteria about accepting some ten thousand Syrian refugees into the United States. But here's one. And it's a big one. If you want to be scared and xenophobic, at least apply some level of logic. To hear the current debate, you'd think the United States is a hermetically sealed immigration Ziploc bag. And now we're letting in 10,000 refugees from a war zone crawling with violent jihadists. Let's set aside the reality of that claim for the moment. Are these really the only flows of immigration to the United States? I just the Visa office's record of non-immigrant visas issued last year by the United States.

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Here's What To Watch

As I noted last night, Trump isn't some sideshow or joke in the GOP nomination race. You may think he's a joke personally. But he's bringing to the fore the central issues and drives currently motivating Republican base voters. That doesn't mean I think he's going to be the Republican nominee, though. I'd say for the first time, in the last two or three weeks, he has opened up a real path to the nomination. But I would say it is still quite unlikely. That's why the real race to watch right now is between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

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You probably didn't hear about it but it's probably the most important thing that happened yesterday. Outgoing Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear restored the voting rights of 100,000 Kentuckians.

That's Why We Do This

At TPM our coverage of politics has always tended toward the bizarre and outrageous in American politics, what we in-house sometimes call 'The Crazy'. Some of this is just a product of my interests and obsessions about contemporary politics and American history, ones that shaped how I built the organization and people I hired who in term helped define what we do. But this is only part of it and not that part which I think is important. We cover the weird, dark, outrageous and surreal in our politics because these things are much more important than most people - especially most political observers - care to admit. I thought of this when I read this high-minded and starchy editorial in yesterday's Washington Post, the upshot of which is that while they've tried to do the right thing and ignore Donald Trump's clown car campaign, they simply can't do it anymore. The time has now come to stand up to Trump's bullying! And, the Post insists, Republicans must now do so too.

Here's an extended quote from the editorial ...

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