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Show Me, Missouri

Donald Trump’s presidential campaign went into serious decline on September 26, after his disastrous debate with Hillary Clinton. The decline was so steep that the infamous videotape of Donald Trump and Billy Bush, released on October 7, had relatively little additional effect on the presidential probabilities. But release of the tape (and other events, like Trump’s conspiratorial ranting about rigged elections) has had a major impact on Democrats’ efforts to re-take the Senate majority.

Most dramatically, we see this in the Missouri race between incumbent Republican Senator Roy Blunt and his Democratic challenger, Jason Kander. On October 9, gave Blunt a 74 percent chance of winning, if the election were held that day. As of this morning, Blunt’s winning probability has collapsed to 34 percent. In just nine days, Blunt’s seat has gone from almost out of reach for Democrats to almost safe for Democrats. Kander would be Missouri’s first Jewish senator, and his victory would give Missouri two Democratic senators for the first time since Stuart Symington retired in December 1976.

North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr has consistently led his challenger, Deborah Ross, although the projected vote margin has been relatively close. On October 9, Burr showed a 68 percent chance of winning; today, for the first time in the campaign, Ross is more likely to win than Burr, at 53 percent.

In Nevada, the seat now held by retiring Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid is being contested by Republican Joe Heck and Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto. Heck has polled ahead all year. On October 9, FiveThirtyEight gave him a 70 percent chance of victory; Masto went ahead on October 13, and her probability of winning stands at 65 percent.

The FiveThirtyEight “now-cast” has a Democratic take-over of the Senate at 81 percent probability, up from 47 percent on October 9. Democrats need to pick up four seats to take control, provided they lose none of the seats they now hold, and provided that Democrat Tim Kaine becomes Vice President and breaks ties in Democrats’ favor.

Three Democratic pick-ups look safe, meaning that each is more than 70 percent likely in the “now-cast”: Illinois, Indiana and Wisconsin. (A win by Democrat Evan Bayh would give Indiana two Democratic senators for the first time since Vance Hartke was beaten by Richard Lugar in 1976.)

Now, all of a sudden, three more Democratic pick-ups look probable, meaning a “now-cast” probability of winning greater than 60 percent: Missouri, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire. And a Democratic “hold” of the Nevada seat now looks probable.

On top of all that, a Democratic pick-up in North Carolina is now plausible, giving Democrats an outside chance of picking up seven seats. This would more than reverse the Democrats’ disastrous showing of 2010, when Republicans picked up six seats in one of the worst ever mid-terms for Democrats.

If Republican Senate candidates have taken a hit since October 9, it’s likely that other “down-ballot” Republicans have, also. House races are hard to gauge, both because they are less thoroughly polled than Senate and presidential races and because polling of smaller electorates is inherently less reliable. But the fear level of Republican insiders is high enough to convince me that control of the House of Representatives is not beyond Democrats’ reach.

Democrats need to pick up 30 seats to take the House majority, and the pre-October 9 consensus was that Democrats could hope to gain no more than 15 seats. But some insiders are now projecting Democratic pick-ups in the range of 20 seats, and the campaign has three weeks to go.

I’ve pointed out that Republicans hold majorities in 23 state legislative chambers in states that President Obama won twice, and that Republicans’ margin in 10 of those chambers is four seats or fewer. The egregious gerrymandering that was done after the 2010 Republican victories and the 2010 census will protect a lot of Republican state legislatures (and, for that matter, Republican members of the U.S. House), but for many Republicans, the weight of The Donald at the top of their ticket will prove too much to carry.


The Bounce Continues

Two weeks ago, I noted that Hillary Clinton’s convincing defeat of Donald Trump in the first presidential debate had improved her probability of victory from 52.1 percent as of the day of the debate to 71.9 percent three days later. I used the “now-cast” index developed by Nate Silver of as the most accurate reflection of the short-term impact of election-related events.

As of this writing, the “now-cast” gives Clinton a 90.8 percent chance of victory, meaning that her chances have improved by as much after the initial post-debate bounce as they did in the bounce itself.

The “now-cast” also shows an important shift in the states seriously in play. In addition to its national projection, the “now-cast” assesses the probability of each candidate winning in each individual state. Where neither candidate had a winning probability of 70 percent or greater, I considered the state to be a battleground state. Two weeks ago, the battleground states were  Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio. As things stood then, even if Trump won every one of them, he would lose the electoral vote by a narrow margin.

Trump’s electoral map has gotten quite a bit worse in the last two weeks. As of today, the “now-cast” indicates that there are five battleground states: Alaska, Arizona, Iowa, Georgia, and Ohio. Florida and North Carolina have moved from the battleground to Clinton’s column in the “now-cast,” and Alaska and Georgia have moved from Trump’s column to the battleground.

When Alaska and Georgia are in play, Republicans are in serious trouble. But I guess we already knew that.

The “now-cast” has Clinton slightly ahead in Arizona, Iowa and Ohio. But even if Trump were to win all five of the current battleground states, he would be 54 electoral votes short of victory. In other words, Trump would have to sweep the battleground PLUS win 54 electoral votes in states where the “now-cast” gives him less than 30 percent chance of victory.

Oh, and just for yuks, a Utah state poll released today shows Clinton and Trump tied at 26 percent each in that state, with third-party candidate Evan McMullin taking 22 percent. Utah, like Alaska, hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964. (Due disclaimer: the poll in question is by Y2 Analytics, which FiveThirtyEight rates as a C+ polling firm.)

The “now-cast” is a portrait of where things stand now; it is not a prediction of the actual election vote. But as the election comes closer, the “now-cast” becomes more of an election forecast. In fact, to the extent that voters have cast or are about to cast early ballots, the “now-cast” is an election forecast.


The Conversation Begins

Barack Obama will leave a legacy of historic achievement in areas like health care, energy independence, and climate change. His approach to important decisions will be a model for study in political science classrooms for generations, as was John Kennedy’s handling of the Cuban missile crisis. But President Obama’s greatest achievement, even though we won’t be able to measure its full scope for decades to come, has been the American conversation about race that his presidency has prompted.

In retrospect, I freely admit, I was naïve about President Obama’s election in 2008. I was focused on his election as an indicator of racial progress. What I failed to see was that his election would also provoke a massive racial backlash.

I think it is to the credit of race liberals generally, and African-Americans in particular, that we were slow to say out loud that President Obama was being treated differently than previous presidents on account of his race. It was right, tactically and historically, to let the backlash prove its own racial bias.

The Tea Party phenomenon that grabbed hold of the Republican Party within a few months after Obama took office was an early indication of the scope of the racial backlash to come. The backlash has never relented.

Certainly by 2012, we understood that the Tea Party, birtherism, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s promise to keep President Obama to a single term, Congressman Joe Wilson’s “you lie,” absurdly innumerable and futile attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, two shut-downs of the federal government, an all-too-credible threat to default on American credit, and a thousand other acts of hostility to the President were motivated at least in very large part by deep racial biases that remain in this country.

Bill Clinton famously tried to start a “national conversation about race” in 1997, but the conversation never really took off. It turned out that saying we needed to have the conversation wasn’t an effective way to start the conversation. President Obama started the conversation simply by being African-American and occupying the White House.

Obama has taken heat for not talking enough about race, but I don’t agree with that criticism. Just by being our first African-American president, Obama is talking about race 24/7/365.

The Obama presidency – more precisely, the backlash against the Obama presidency – has prompted the previously elusive national conversation about race. The conversation is nearly ubiquitous – it happens on the opinion pages of newspapers, in workplaces, on cable news shows. We have seen an explosion of scientific research into the nature and scope of unconscious biases, racial and otherwise, that changes the conversation from an unproductive conversation about racism to a much more productive conversation about implicit bias.

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On Friday, the Washington Post published a three-minute segment of a conversation between Donald Trump and Billy Bush that was videotaped in 2005. Bush, a minor TV star who is the son of George H. W. Bush’s younger brother and a first cousin of Jeb and George H. Bush, adopted the role of fan-boy and wingman, letting Trump lead the conversation. Trump played the role of himself. The subject was women, in particular Trump’s manner with women, and the tone was vulgar.

The bulk of the conversation consisted of fairly crude objectification of women, and Bush freely joined that part of the conversation, speaking just as crudely as Trump did. But at one point Trump went farther: he described his compulsion “like a magnet” to kiss beautiful women, either without their consent or relying on his celebrity to gain their consent; and he said his celebrity enabled him to “do anything” with or to women, including “grab them by” their genitals.

Trump’s immediate defense of his videotaped comments was that the conversation was just “locker room banter,” presumably implying that such “banter” is harmless. But subsequent events confirm the accuracy of Trump’s description of kissing women whose consent was at best dubious, making that part of the conversation a description of actual conduct, not just “banter.” (No one has yet come forward to say that Trump grabbed her genitals.)

The “locker room” defense was deeply offensive, and not just to women. Professional male athletes, who spend a lot of their time in locker rooms and other all-male environments, expressed indignation at Trump’s implicit assertion that Trump’s brand of predatory sexual crudity is routine.

I’ve been in all-male environments, gym locker rooms and elsewhere, and I can attest that Trump-like objectification of women is quite common. But I can’t remember any instance of “locker room banter” where men talked in the predatory terms that Trump used to describe conduct with women. Men often talk as if their ability to obtain consent is nearly unbounded – which can lead to conduct that is based on a false assumption that consent has been obtained – but I can’t remember any instance where a man talked about proceeding without a woman’s consent.

It’s been just four days since the Trump-Bush videotape was released, and we’re already deep into a national conversation about how men talk about women and how men treat women. The Twitter hashtag #notokay is trending with women’s accounts of sexual abuse at the hands of entitled men. The phrase “rape culture” has begun to appear in the mainstream media.

I’ve long thought that gender biases are even more powerful than racial biases – in fact, I think that’s one way to understand Barack Obama’s defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2008. Both sexual and racial biases are founded on assumptions of differences, whether between the sexes or between the races. Assumptions of race-based differences have become harder to rationalize over the years; assumptions of sex-based differences have proved more stubborn.

Actual race-based differences boil down to the relatively trivial – things like color of skin, texture of hair, timber of voice. But sex-based differences are more profound, most importantly the different reproductive roles of the sexes. Given the objective fact of such a profound sex-based difference, it remains comparatively easy in 21st century American to retain assumptions about other sex-based differences by attaching them to the undeniable differences in reproductive function. Thus we retain biases about a whole range of intellectual and emotional differences, even as we look back with some amusement at the more extreme assumptions about “the fairer sex” of our forebears.

Women are expected to dress and to decorate their faces in a way that appeals to men, to a much greater degree than is expected in reverse. Even (especially?) in formal settings, women are expected to bare more of their bodies than men. Women are expected to wear shoes that unnaturally contort the feet and legs; men’s shoes can be uncomfortable, but they are designed primarily to protect the feet, not to enhance sex appeal. Women are expected to conceal the effects of aging because age diminishes feminine value; male aging is more often a symbol of wisdom and authority. Women are expected to remain as svelte as teenagers – as Trump recently reminded us – whereas men are allowed to conceal weight gain, as Trump does, with loose clothing. Women are expected to compete in beauty pageants that seem always to involve outfits that combine bathing suits and spike heels; the closest male equivalent is bodybuilding competition, involving freakishly muscular men competing for the approval of other men, not of women.

Men are entitled to express anger more freely than women – in fact, men are entitled to express any thought at all more freely than women. Women are expected to pay careful attention when men speak, to wait for their turn and to speak softly when it comes; men are entitled to speak more loudly, to interrupt, to contradict, to curse, to brag, even to taunt. During my career I sat in countless meetings in which men talked over women and ignored their ideas; if women tried to force their way into the discussion, they were dismissed as shrill or emotional – or worse, emasculating.

For about half of American history, women were largely deprived of agency: denied the vote, legally unable to enter into contracts, and treated as property of, and subject to, first their fathers and then their husbands. At the altar, the father “gave” his daughter to the groom; the bride promised to love, cherish and obey, but the groom promised only to love and cherish. That legacy has been no easier to shake than has been the legacy of African-American slavery; both retain powerful influence on all of us to this day.

Women remain badly underrepresented in high positions, both corporate and governmental, and especially so in high executive positions – four percent of Fortune 500 CEOs, 12 percent of state governors, and zero percent of American presidents, ever.

As Barack Obama’s election was an important marker of racial progress, Hillary Clinton’s election will be an important marker of gender progress. But we should assume that the sex-based backlash against Clinton’s presidency will be as pervasive and powerful as was the race-based backlash against Obama’s presidency, and maybe more so.

The upside is this: every morning, afternoon, evening and night, the President of the United States will be a woman. As a generation of American children – black and white – has grown up with an African-American president, a new generation of boys and girls will grow up with a female president. The backlash against our female president will prompt a more serious national conversation about gender. Donald Trump’s antediluvian views of women have given that conversation a head start.


Ralph Nader’s Conscience

It is generally accepted that Ralph Nader’s presidential candidacy on the Green Party ticket cost Al Gore the election in 2000 although Nader took only 2.7 percent of the vote. Gore won a small plurality of the popular vote (48.4 percent to 47.9 percent for George W. Bush). But for only the fourth time in American history, the popular winner was the electoral loser.

The Electoral College voted for Bush over Gore, 271 to 266. Flipping any one state from Bush to Gore would have flipped the election. And in fact, Bush won two states by exceedingly small margins: Florida and New Hampshire.

The vote in Florida got the post-Election Day attention, with its hanging chads and enough litigation to warm the heart of the coldest attorney. The final, official result in Florida awarded the state to Bush by 537 votes out of more than 5.8 million votes cast – a victory margin of less than one-hundredth of one percent. Nader took more than 1.6 percent of Florida’s votes, more by many times than Gore needed to win the state.

Less famously in New Hampshire, the popular vote went for Bush by less than 1.3 percent. Nader did especially well in that state, with 3.9 percent of the vote. Although perhaps less certainly than Florida, Nader’s candidacy probably cost Gore the electoral votes of New Hampshire – and therefore the election.

It’s impossible to know how a Gore presidency would have handled unforeseen events like 9/11. Whether Gore would have invaded Afghanistan in order to capture Osama bin Laden, whether Gore would have followed up with an invasion of Iraq to “disarm” Saddam Hussein – these are not knowable things.

But it is certain that Al Gore’s secretary of defense would not have been Donald Rumsfeld, and therefore it is certain that if Gore had invaded Afghanistan and Iraq the invasions would not have been overseen by a man who was hell-bent to disprove the Powell Doctrine that American military force should never be committed except as a wholehearted commitment of overwhelming force.

It is also certain that Gore would not have pushed tax cuts for the wealthy, would not have disarmed American financial regulatory authorities, and would not have passed off No Child Left Behind as serious national education policy.

Bush turned a large, long-term federal budget surplus into a large, long-term deficit that has cramped federal spending ever since, and will continue to impair critical investments from infrastructure to Social Security for decades to come.

In other words, elections have serious consequences.

Today’s New York Times publishes a letter to the editor from Ralph Nader, listing a number of “sine qua non” causes of Gore’s defeat by Bush: Nader blames Governor Jeb Bush’s secretary of state for misidentifying thousands of Floridians as ex-felons, barring them from voting; deceptive “butterfly ballots”; Gore’s loss of his home state of Tennessee; and the “political” Supreme Court decision to stop the statewide recount and award the state, and the election, to Bush.

All four of these were serious problems, and two of them were responsible for the election outcome. But none of them would have been an issue at all had Nader not taken 3.9 percent of Floridians’ votes.

There is something in the nature of youth that makes us prone to believe we have discovered things our parents never considered. This is usually a good thing, leading to social progress and technological innovation. But this youthful zeal to change the world also leads us to rash thinking and, sometimes, big mistakes.

In politics, young people are especially prone to the appeal of third parties. In my day as a young Baby Boomer it was John Anderson’s independent candidacy in 1980. Anderson, a moderate Republican congressman from Illinois, did unexpectedly well in the early Republican primaries, but ultimately fell to the conservative juggernaut of Ronald Reagan’s campaign. Running as an independent, he appealed largely to moderate voters who were disillusioned with Jimmy Carter’s economy. Reagan clobbered Carter, of course, and Anderson’s 6.6 percent of the popular vote came nowhere close to making a difference. (For the record, I voted for Carter.)

Gen X had its third-party fling with Nader’s Green Party. Now it’s Millennials’ turn.

The rhetoric of Millennial fans of Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson has a familiar ring to those of us who remember the John Anderson and Ralph Nader candidacies. It’s about new choices and rejection of the old, stale, limiting alternatives.

Millennials are especially drawn to Johnson’s social libertarianism – expanded freedom of personal choice manifested in reduced regulation of civil liberties, abortion, immigration and recreational drug use. Millennial Johnson supporters tend to overlook Johnson’s economic libertarianism – Johnson’s boundless faith in unregulated market capitalism and his libertarian “hands off” approach to economic policy and jobs, climate change, health care, gun ownership, education and campaign finance.

As of today, Hillary Clinton’s odds of winning the election are better than four to one; if the election were held today, she would have a slight edge even in Arizona, where Democrats haven’t won since 1996. But of course it’s not certain that things will stay that way, so it’s not clear yet whether Gary Johnson will be the John Anderson of 2016 or the Ralph Nader.

I do know this – if Donald Trump wins, and if the margin of victory is less than Gary Johnson’s vote total, then Johnson voters, like Ralph Nader in today’s Times, will have to explain themselves to the next generation – desperately trying to disown the millennial disaster of President Donald Trump.


Clinton’s Post-Debate Bounce

Polling shows that Americans who watched the first 2016 presidential debate on Monday thought, by landslide margins, that Hillary Clinton bested Donald Trump. Trump couldn’t have chosen a less opportune time to choke – the debate was watched by more Americans than any previous presidential debate. So the question isn’t so much whether the debate will help Clinton’s campaign, it’s really how much it will help.

The best gauge of the short-term impact of discrete events like the debate is the “now-cast” measure of election outcome probabilities on Nate Silver’s A day’s now-cast gives the percentage chance that each candidate would have to win the election if the election were held on that day – it is not a prediction how the vote will go on Election Day.

The now-cast is much more sophisticated than indexes like the much-noted polling average maintained by – first, because the now-cast is based on computer modeling and statistical analysis much more sophisticated than RCP’s simple averaging, and second, because the now-cast is based on state-by-state analysis, not just national polling.

The period after the two national conventions was a disaster for Trump. On July 28, the last day of the Democratic convention, the now-cast said that Trump’s chances of winning the election were 52.9 percent. But after the conventions, Clinton took off, peaking on August 6, when 538 rated her 96.4 percent likely to win the election if it were held that day. Clinton more than doubled her odds of winning in nine days, from less than 50-50 to the next thing to a dead certainty. From the August 6 peak, Clinton went into a steady decline, falling to a 52.1 percent chance to win on September 26, the day of the debate.

Then Clinton whomped Trump in the debate.

In the three days since the debate, as of this writing (538 updates its election prediction indexes as polls come in, often several times a day), Clinton’s now-cast chances of winning the election have risen to 71.9 percent.

Even more important is the now-cast’s state-by-state breakdown. This is important because while Silver’s record for predicting election outcomes is perfect at the national level, it is very nearly perfect in predicting how each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia will vote – not just in presidential elections but also in senatorial elections.

As of now, the now-cast gives one candidate or the other more than 70 percent odds of winning all states except six: Arizona, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, North Carolina, and Ohio. But here’s the thing: counting only states where one candidate has more than a 70 percent chance to win, Clinton would have 272 electoral votes if the election were held today – two more than needed to win. (I’m counting one of Maine’s electoral votes as up for grabs, because Maine awards electoral votes by congressional district, and I’ve seen reporting that Trump is viable in one district.)

In other words, even if Trump won all six states that are in play he would still lose the election. And there is no reason to believe he will win all six – the now-cast awards Florida, Nevada, and North Carolina to Clinton.

The bounce is especially timely because early voting, which tends to favor Democrats, opened in two more states today, including the swing state of Iowa. With each passing day, the extent to which the election has already happened increases, and the number of votes remaining to be cast decreases.

It’s Not the Economy, Stupid!

The commentariat has largely accepted the faulty premise that Donald Trump’s success reflects economic anxiety in the white working class, and the noxious corollary that Trump’s candidacy represents change while Hillary Clinton’s represents the status quo.

In fact, the American economy under Barack Obama has stacked up a steady sequence of superlatives. Last week’s news included the report that low and middle household incomes showed record growth in 2015 – the highest percentage growth since the Census Bureau began tracking in 1968.

Meanwhile, gun sales have nearly doubled during the Obama administration. Although the percentage of American households with guns continues its long-term decline, from a peak of 51 percent in 1977 to 31 percent today, gun ownership is increasingly concentrated among conservative white Americans. And the average number of guns owned per gun-owning household has soared.

Gun buying by conservative white Americans is not a manifestation of economic anxiety; it’s a manifestation of racial anxiety. If an African-American is in charge of our government, we need to arm ourselves for protection against that government.

Donald Trump began his 2016 presidential campaign in the early years of the Obama presidency, with his whole-hearted embrace of the “birther” cause, and his pretense that his alleged investigators were uncovering evidence of the truth of that cause. Critical to Trump’s appeal is a desire to negate the Obama presidency, as if to deny that it every existed.

But negating the first African-American presidency is only one instance of Trump’s embodiment of much broader hostility to marginalized Americans. The centerpiece of Trump’s campaign platform has been hostility to immigrants – first Mexicans, then Muslims. To be clear: Trump does not condemn immigration from, say, Norway or New Zealand. His condemnations are appeals to fear of the “other,” and to the anxiety that many white Americans feel about losing their position of social and political predominance in this country.

Since winning the Republican nomination, Trump has added “law and order” to his campaign. Although the American homicide rate is at historic lows and dropping – lower than at any time since the 1950s – Trump has created a fantasy world in which our cities are burning and people can’t walk to the corner store without getting shot.

Widespread and occasionally violent protests of questionable police killings of African-American men, mostly unarmed, create the visceral basis for the fantasy. In this fantasy world, police represent the power structure of white male authority and protests against police actions represent usurpation of that authority.

The subtext of Trump’s “law and order” rhetoric is unarguably racial. Trump’s clear intention is to appeal to white racial anxieties. (One of the more laughable “tells” is Trump’s use of the racially coded term “inner cities.” By itself, the word “cities” could mean Billings, or Boise. “Inner cities” refers specifically to the places where brown people live.)

Trump does propose policies: cutting corporate taxes, increasing military spending, leaving NAFTA and the Paris climate control agreement, canceling the nuclear agreement with Iran, building a Mexican border wall, banning Muslim immigrants. Trump also states policy goals without specifying means – he will create 25 million jobs, for instance.

But Trump’s campaign is not primarily about policy, it’s about identity. His fundamental appeal is to a white, male identity that is threatened by cultural pluralism. Trump’s campaign is about re-marginalizing America’s racial and religious minorities, women, people with disabilities, and re-empowering white Christian men. Trump’s campaign is about shifting the burden of accommodation back onto the marginalized groups.

Trump fans like his disinterest in “political correctness,” by which they certainly mean the obligation of white men to behave respectfully, to filter their thoughts before speaking, and to consider other perspectives than their own. Trump would place that obligation elsewhere; he would restore whiteness and maleness to their traditional American position as normative – the objective, neutral perspectives from which non-normative identities, beliefs and cultures are variant, even deviant.

In Trump-world, as in the America of times past, being white or being male did not explain one’s beliefs or behavior, but being black or being female – like being gay, or Muslim, or Mexican, or disabled – explained not just a person’s beliefs, but almost everything else about a person. In Trump-world, a white male believes and behaves as he does because he has taken in information and come to a neutral, objective conclusion, but others believe and behave as they do because they are biased by their race, sex, sexual orientation, religion, or nationality. The views of white men are to be taken seriously on their merits, and the views of others are to be trivialized as mere manifestations of their identities.

I saw an MSNBC interview with a white thirty-something working class guy in Youngstown, Ohio, who explained his support for Trump simply: “He’s just like me.” The surprised interviewer responded, “But he’s a billionaire!” Youngstown guy answered, “He’s a billionaire, but he’s just like me.”

The interviewer didn’t ask how Youngstown guy thought that Trump was just like him, but I’m betting the answer had to do with race – Youngstown guy is probably concerned about white men’s increasingly precarious hold on predominance in America.

Cultural pluralism is hard. At a minimum, it requires a willingness to attribute good faith to people who believe different than oneself. It requires an ability to believe that people of other groups are as reasonable and capable as oneself.

White American men are not accustomed to cultural pluralism; we are accustomed to a country where deference to other points of view is work to be done by others, not by us. Trump’s central appeal is to those who are uncomfortable with cultural pluralism and are struggling against the new burdens that cultural pluralism imposes.

If Trump’s core appeal isn’t based on economic anxiety, then economic growth won’t diminish that appeal – even record income growth in middle and lower income households. Job growth won’t diminish Trump’s appeal, and neither will near-record low mortgage interest rates, nor near-record high 401(k) share values.

Obama’s presidency has been pervasively and unavoidably about change. Even had Obama’s policies been seamlessly continuous from those of George W. Bush, the mere fact of his being the first African-American president of a country founded upon African slavery and plagued by the persistent pervasiveness of racial prejudice makes the Obama presidency radical. In that respect alone, it will be a generation until we can even begin to measure the scope of change Obama’s presidency will have made.

A Hillary Clinton presidency would look a lot like a continuation of the Obama Administration, and not just in the substance of policy: our first female president would challenge gender stereotypes as fundamentally as Obama’s presidency challenged racial stereotypes. Simply by being our first female president, Clinton would continue the pluralization of America.

It is odd to characterize the continuation of change as the status quo. And therefore it is baffling that the commentariat accepts the notion that Clinton is a candidate of the status quo. It is even odder to characterize opposition to change as change. And therefore it is baffling that the commentariat accepts the notion that Trump is a candidate of change.

I reject Trump for his policies. But even if I didn’t, I would reject Trump for his appeal to identity. Trump stands for denial of cultural pluralism and reversion to a white predominance that verges on white supremacy. By contrast, Clinton stands for acceptance of our multi-cultural heritage and embrace of our demographic future.



American Gladiators

Of National Football League players, 68.7 percent are African-American, a percentage that has held remarkably constant over the 25 years that The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) has issued annual race and gender report cards for American professional sports leagues.

Given their 12.2 percent share of the American population, African-Americans are hugely over-represented among professional football players. But that overrepresentation does not extend throughout the sport.

According to the TIDES NFL report for 2015, there are no African-American majority owners of NFL teams and no African-American football team chief executive officers or presidents; African-Americans hold only 8.9 percent of team vice presidencies and 9.4 percent of league office management posts. Although 34.7 percent of assistant coaches are black, only 15.6 percent of head coaches and 21.9 percent of general managers are black. But those head coaches and general managers account for 43.8 percent of the last 16 Super Bowl teams, suggesting that, as elsewhere, in the NFL an African-American must be better than his white colleagues to do as well.

Racial disparities in football apply on the playing field as well. Although African-Americans make up 68.7 percent of all players, they include just 19.0 percent of quarterbacks and 15.8 percent of centers. African-Americans fill a miniscule 1.1 percent of special teams positions. By contrast, 99.4 percent of cornerbacks and 88.2 percent of wide receivers are African-American.

In the NFL to this day, African-Americans are respected for strength, speed and aggression, but not for intellect, leadership or judgment.

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On August 26, African-American back-up quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers sat through the pre-game playing of the Star-Spangled Banner before a pre-season game against the Green Bay Packers. After the game, Kaepernick explained his position:

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

On September 2, Kaepernick knelt through the national anthem, which he said was intended as more respectful to veterans than sitting, while maintaining his protest.

Kaepernick’s protest has generated enormous attention, requiring comment even from President Obama half a world away in Laos. The conservative white condemnation of Kaepernick’s protest is most notable for its venom. Some have twisted Kaerpernick’s protest against unpunished police shootings of African-American men into denigration of the American military. Some of suggested that, because Kaepernick is paid “millions of dollars” he should keep his opinions to himself – if we pay you enough, in this view, you’re to think approved thoughts. Donald Trump opined that Kaepernick should consider leaving the country. 49ers home fans booed Kaepernick from the stands.

It’s hard not to wonder how different the reaction would be if the racial dynamic were reversed – if Kaepernick were white, of course, but even more so if the cause of Kaepernick’s protest were, say, unpunished police shootings of young white men. But that thought experiment yields no results, because we can’t imagine a true reversal of the racial dynamics at play here. We can’t imagine an America in which government employees regularly shoot unarmed white men and routinely go unpunished; we can’t imagine a white quarterback sitting out the national anthem in protest against police bias against his race.

To me, that is proof enough that reaction to Kaepernick’s protest has a substantial racial component.

I’m sure there has been some white athlete in some sport somewhere who has declined to stand for the national anthem. I’m certain that white athletes have objected to government actions or political policies. But the protests that stand out in our history have been protests by African-American athletes.

Muhammad Ali refused to be drafted in 1966, at a time that the Vietnam War was still popular. Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised black-gloved fists while the Star-Spangled Banner was played at their 1968 Olympics medal ceremony. Watching American reaction to Kaepernick now reminds me a lot of those events; distressingly little has changed about how well we handle dissent, or at least African-American dissent.


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