About that basket, by the numbers

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Vox has produced what looks to me like the definitive summary of the contents of the “basket of deporables” that constitutes Trump’s support for the White House. To summarize, Clinton is right. Here are the details as compiled by Vox.

On Islamophobic attitudes, Clinton may underestimate the breadth of animus for Muslims among Trump backers.

A poll conducted by Reuters and Ipsos in June and July looked at broad views on Islam, finding Trump supporters are more than twice as likely as Clinton supporters to have negative views of Islam. About 58 percent of Trump supporters said they have “somewhat unfavorable” or “very unfavorable” views of Islam, compared to 24 percent of Clinton supporters.

On Trump’s proposal to ban Muslims from entering the United States, a poll in June from the Texas Politics Project showed that 76 percent of Republicans support the idea compared to 26 percent of Democrats. Meanwhile 44 percent of Democrats said they strongly oppose the idea compared to only 6 percent of Republicans.

Trump supporters hold strongly anti-immigrant views more generally, but especially fear the cultural impact of Mexican immigrants specifically.

We do know, based on an analysis by Jonathan Roswell at Gallup, that Trump backers are more likely to live in areas that are farther from Mexico and have smaller Mexican populations. That suggests Trump supporters are generally people who live in native, white communities and may, perhaps, fear those communities are changing.

This is why a Trump surrogate warned that if Clinton wins the election, there will be “taco trucks every corner.” The worry isn’t that delicious food will be everywhere, but that the cultural makeup of America will dramatically change if the country maintains policies that are friendlier to immigration — and it will change to a culture that Trump regularly describes, as he did at the launch of his campaign, as dangerous and criminal.

This complicates Clinton’s claim that up to half of Trump supporters are “xenophobic.” They aren’t in the sense that they don’t seem to mind a French immigrant, even an undocumented one. But many are potentially xenophobic in the sense that they fear Mexican — and perhaps other Latino — immigrants, because of the cultural impact that may have on America.

Trump supporters are also more likely to hold racist views. While Clinton may miss the mark when she claims that half of Trump supporters are racists, she doesn’t miss by much.

A poll from March and April by Reuters and Ipsos took a close look at this issue. It found that Trump supporters are more likely to say that, compared to white people, black people are viewed by Trump supporters as less intelligent, more lazy, more rude, more violent, and more criminal. About 40 to 50 percent of Trump supporters held at least one of these views, while fewer than 35 percent of Clinton supporters did.

Alongside these explicitly racist views, Trump’s white supporters exhibit a far higher rate of what sociologists call racial resentment than do Clinton’s white supporters.

An analysis from Daniel Byrd and Loren Collingwood found white Trump supporters are much more likely to show high levels of racial resentment than Clinton’s white supporters.

Again, white Clinton — and Bernie Sanders — supporters still show fairly high levels of racial resentment, as do white Americans generally. But Trump supporters are simply at another level.

This doesn’t mean that a majority or even half, as Clinton suggested, of Trump supporters are racist. But these views are much more prominent among the Republican nominee’s supporters than those who back the Democrat in the presidential race.

So on the core of Clinton’s charge that half of her opponent’s supporters fall into a “basket of deplorables” based upon their Islamophobic, xenophobic, and racist views, when we look at the data we see she’s mostly right. Sure, that leaves plenty of Republicans and conservatives who are supporting Trump because they believe they have no other choice. He is their nominee after all.

And understandably, these folks resent being associated with the other contents of the basket. Fair enough.

But you can also tell a lot about someone by the company they keep. This is Trump’s company. Republicans should just own it.

Seven things (revisited)

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Almost exactly a year ago (July 9, 2015 to be precise), I posted a little piece called “Seven things I want to believe.” These weren’t predictions, per se, more like short observations, hopes, and expectations.

Even so, I thought it was worth it to look back and see how these panned out. In case you don’t want to read any further, here’s the short take:

I got some right (Clinton-Sanders and the Iran nuclear deal), I got some incredibly wrong (Trump and the Grateful Dead), some partly right but wrong in tragic ways (Confederate flag and dialogue on race, ISIS sympathizers and domestic terrorism), and one (Han Solo origin pic) where it’s too soon to tell but the signs are promising.

On to the original list, with an update for each.

1) Republican voters are not so completely alienated from the political process that they will actually cast their ballots for Donald Trump.

Wow, did I get that one wrong. It’s some comfort knowing that virtually everyone else got it wrong too, but still. Come next week the billionaire (maybe) blowhard (definitely) with authoritarian tendencies will officially go from presumptive to official Republican nominee for the White House. Who saw that coming a year ago? I sure didn’t.

2) The chances of reaching a deal with Iran on its nuclear ambitions are better than 50/50.

This one did pan out, despite intense political opposition in Congress. But in the end, Iran agreed to terms, it’s nuclear weapons program has been almost completely dismantled, most economic sanctions have been lifted, and the way is clear for the country to re-enter the international community.

It also represents an impressive diplomatic victory for Obama’s legacy which will make the US safer and the region more stable. Assuming some psycho blowhard doesn’t become the next president and tear the thing up.

3) Removing the Confederate battle flag from the lawn of the South Carolina statehouse will be the start of a meaningful national dialogue on race.

We’re having dialogue, that’s for sure. But black men are still dying at the hands of police, protests are still roiling American cities in ways reminiscent of the late 1960s, and racial politics still seem paralyzed. And we still have Rudy Giuliani.

4) The Grateful Dead are done.

Dear God, they’re actually on tour. Well, at least the creaky remnants.

5) Bernie Sanders will force Hillary Clinton to actually compete for the Democratic nomination.

Nailed this one. Not only did Clinton have to compete, she had to compete all the way into June before locking up the nomination. Sanders has dragged his feet on endorsing Clinton for the last month, trying to use every last ounce of the influence he won during the primaries to try to push her and the Democratic Party as far to the progressive left as possible.

And it has worked. Clinton has embraced a number of the proposals he championed, like a $15 national minimum wage and free (public) college education. Tomorrow Sanders and Clinton hit the campaign trail together.

6) FBI arrests of supposed ISIS sympathizers actually foiled July 4th terror plots.

Who knows if they did or didn’t. Doesn’t really matter, I suppose. After all, we still got San Bernardino and Orlando. Given the nature of domestic terrorism and patterns of radicalization, we would be foolish to assume that those will be the last.

7) The Han Solo origin movie will be awesome.

This one is too soon to call. But based on Star Wars: The Force Awakens and the trailers for the upcoming Rogue One, I am more than cautiously optimistic.

Hell, I’m downright giddy.

Two years, 800 pages, and four dead Americans later

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The House Select Committee on Benghazi released its final report today. The revelations are less than earth-shattering. Per the New York Times:

Ending one of the longest, costliest and most bitterly partisan congressional investigations in history, the House Select Committee on Benghazi issued its final report on Tuesday, finding no new evidence of culpability or wrongdoing by Hillary Clinton in the 2012 attacks in Libya that left four Americans dead.

That’s not to say there isn’t some new information in the report, but it is the US military’s response, not the former Secretary of State’s, on whom the harshest light of criticism now falls:

The 800-page report found that despite President Obama and then Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s “clear orders,” the military failed to immediately send a force to Benghazi and that nothing was en route to Libya at the time the last two Americans were killed — almost eight hours after the attacks began.

I first wrote about the Benghazi investigation back in October, when Clinton was yet again called to testify before Rep. Trey Gowdy’s committee. By that point, eight other investigations had already been conducted, beginning in May 2013.

By that point the nakedly political and partisan aspects of the House Select Committee’s work were well known.

You can read my original post in full here. But as a reminder, let me repost an excerpt to put in context today’s report:

Just how unprecedented is the Benghazi investigation? Well, the nearly three years and counting that have supposedly been devoted to learning what happened on that night in 2012 is far longer than a whole bunch of other investigations, like the one into the attack on Pearl Harbor (9 months), or the Kennedy assassination (10 months), or the Beirut Marine barracks bombing (6 weeks), or even 9/11 (21 months).

But don’t take my word for it. Follow the links below and see for yourself.

Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack — Sept. 11, 1945 – June 20, 1946. 9 months to investigate and issue final report on the Dec. 7, 1941 Japanese surprise attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Warren Commission — Nov. 29, 1963 – Sept. 24, 1964. 10 months to investigate and report on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.

Holloway Commission — May 1980 – August 1980. 3 months for a commission appointed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to investigate and report on the failed Iran hostage rescue mission, Operation Eagle Claw, which resulted in the death of eight US service personnel.

DOD Commission on Beirut International Airport Terrorist Act of 23 October 1983 — Nov. 7, 1983 – Dec. 20, 1983. 6 weeks to investigate and report on the terrorist truck bombing of the US Marine barracks at Beirut International Airport which killed 241 US military personnel.

Investigations Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee — Nov. 1983 – Dec. 19, 1983. 6 weeks to investigate and report on the terrorist truck bombing of the US Marine barracks in Beirut.

Tower Commission — Nov. 26, 1986 – Feb. 26, 1987. 3 months to investigate and report on the CIA’s illegal covert program to sell weapons to Iran and funnel the proceeds to the anti-communist Contra rebels in Nicaragua.

House October Surprise Task Force — Feb. 5 1992 – Jan. 13, 1993. 11 months to investigate and report on allegations that the Reagan campaign had conspired with the Iranian government to delay release of American hostages in order to deny President Carter a boost in the polls in the final weeks leading up to the 1980 presidential election.

9/11 Commission — Nov. 27, 2002 – Aug. 21, 2004. 21 months to investigate and issue its final report on the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 which killed more than 3,000 Americans.

Almost since the night of the attack in 2012, Republicans have been trying to pan political gold from the bones of Ambassador Chris Stevens and the three other dead American diplomats. I’m glad their shameful exercise has failed on that score.

But there are important points to take away from the report, real policy failures, and those ought to be acknowledged and addressed. Failures such as the following, as detailed in the introduction to the report:

Despite President Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s clear orders to deploy military assets, nothing was sent to Benghazi, and nothing was en route to Libya at the time the last two Americans were killed almost 8 hours after the attacks began. [pg. 141]

With Ambassador Stevens missing, the White House convened a roughly two-hour meeting at 7:30 PM, which resulted in action items focused on a YouTube video, and others containing the phrases “[i]f any deployment is made,” and “Libya must agree to any deployment,” and “[w]ill not deploy until order comes to go to either Tripoli or Benghazi.” [pg. 115]

The Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff typically would have participated in the White House meeting, but did not attend because he went home to host a dinner party for foreign dignitaries. [pg. 107]

A Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team (FAST) sat on a plane in Rota, Spain, for three hours, and changed in and out of their uniforms four times. [pg. 154]

None of the relevant military forces met their required deployment timelines. [pg. 150]

The Libyan forces that evacuated Americans from the CIA Annex to the Benghazi airport was not affiliated with any of the militias the CIA or State Department had developed a relationship with during the prior 18 months. Instead, it was comprised of former Qadhafi loyalists who the U.S. had helped remove from power during the Libyan revolution. [pg. 144]

The picture the report paints isn’t pretty. But it doesn’t reflect the charges of dereliction of duty, deceit, criminal negligence, or professional misconduct that routinely spewed from the mouths of the Republican lawmakers leading the investigation and their right-wing media echo chamber.

The report finds no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of Hillary Clinton, but that the administration was unprepared to respond on the night of the attack. That’s bad enough, even if the eight other federal investigations into Benghazi had already laid most of this out.

If the House Select Committee’s only goal had been to bring these failures to greater light and recommend remedial policy, that would have made a meaningful contribution.

Instead, they’ve made it their consolation prize.

Clinton’s WVa. defeat in context

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West Virginia welcomes Pres. Barack Obama in 2015. (NPR photo)

 

A lot of hay was made over Hillary Clinton’s big loss to Bernie Sanders in yesterday’s West Virginia primary. Especially the contrast between this year and 2008, when Clinton took 67 percent of the vote over Barack Obama’s 25 percent.

The Washington Post put it this way:

Once a Clinton stronghold, West Virginia’s political preference has shifted dramatically since she won by a landslide against Obama in the 2008 presidential primary.

Sanders himself, in a victory speech delivered in Salem, Oregon, last night hyped the contrast between Clinton’s support in 2008 and 2016:

This is a state, West Virginia, where Hillary Clinton won by more than 40 points against Barack Obama in 2008.

West Virginia is a working-class state and like may other states in this country, including Oregon, working people are hurting and what the people of West Virginia said tonight … is that we need an economy that works for all of us, not just the 1%.

Maybe that’s what voters in West Virginia were saying, including the one third of Sanders supporters who told exit pollsters that in a general election contest between he and Trump they’d cast their ballot for the demagogue billionaire. But maybe the size of Clinton’s win in 2008 is far less meaningful than anyone cares to acknowledge.

So let’s put Clinton’s comparative numbers in context.

In 2008 Clinton had a singular advantage over her primary opponent: She was running against a black man. In that contest 2 in 10 white West Virginia voters said race mattered in their vote, second only to Mississippi. And 8 in 10 of those backed Clinton.

As the New York Times reported, Clinton wasn’t especially shy about playing to that sentiment:

The voter surveys showing a strong racial component to the West Virginia voting suggest that Mr. Obama would still face pockets of significant Democratic resistance if he does become the party’s first black nominee. … Obama supporters accused Mrs. Clinton of playing the race card last week when she explicitly said that she had more support among “white Americans” than he did.

Animus toward Obama in West Virginia is so great that in 2012, a convicted felon serving time in a Texas penitentiary won 40 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. A consequence of Obama’s environmental policies, for sure, but also his race.

I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that the scale of Clinton’s defeat in West Virginia is shocking only if you fail to put into its proper context. Clinton, as The Guardian points out, is running on a pledge to aggressively push the hated Obama’s environmental policies.

That’s a recipe for defeat in West Virginia even while its probably an asset elsewhere in the country. And just as in 2008, when Clinton’s landslide in West Virginia couldn’t change the inevitable trajectory of an eventual Obama win, Sanders’ victory won’t change the outcome either. The Guardian’s summary nails it:

Sure, coal country doesn’t love her. Sure, voters there don’t believe she simply “misspoke” when talking of her clean-energy plan. Sure, states with a 91% white electorate like West Virginia don’t love her.

She doesn’t need them to.