Why we should thank Donald Trump for making a Hillary Clinton presidency possible.

By Blog Admin Now that the imminent danger of a Donald Trump victory in November is not so imminent, Rajesh Venugopal writes that perhaps now we can look beyond the fear and outrage to reflect on the legacy that Trump’s candidacy leaves behind. Let us for a minute leave aside the alarm, anger and anxiety about Donald Trump’s bizarre presidential campaign. The Donald’s unutterable utterances, his repulsive personal conduct, his embodiment of a Batman villain, his extraordinary combination of arrogance and ignorance, and the persistent rumours that he is some kind of Manchurian candidate all make it horrifying to imagine that he might ever ascend to the most powerful office in the world. But the reality is that his candidacy is doomed. Barring some devastating eleventh hour shock from Wikileaks, the odds that Trump will become the 45th president of the US are very low. And now that this imminent danger is not so imminent, perhaps we can look beyond the fear and outrage to reflect on the legacy that the Trump candidacy leaves behind. David Keen, the scholar of modern war, has argued persuasively that there is more to war than winning and that it is important to look for its hidden functions. In this spirit, let us try to go beyond the manifest awfulness of the Trump campaign, and examine what functions it has served, what legacies it leaves behind and what it reveals. Firstly, Trump should be given the credit for giving the US its first woman president. Hillary Clinton, with her extraordinarily high negative ratings, could have quite simply not won an election against any ‘normal’ Republican candidate like John McCain, Mitt Romney or even Jeb Bush. The reasons for this are many, but plain old fashioned misogyny is a large part of it. The only way Clinton can win is if her opponent is someone as appalling as Trump – that is, someone with even worse negative ratings. Trump systematically eliminated every electable Republican candidate in the primaries and has since gone on to run a campaign that is so chaotic and hateful that it has terrified large numbers of voters into uniting behind Clinton as the only viable, sane alternative. Former Clinton antagonists and doubters from the left and right are now solidly behind her and will, despite their misgivings, help her to break that glass ceiling and become president. None of this would have been possible without Trump’s timely intervention: America owes him that. Secondly, and no less importantly, we should be very grateful to Trump for saving the US and the world from the only slightly less noxious and dangerous Ted Cruz. Lest anyone forgets, Cruz was the runner-up to Trump in the primaries. He was the furthest to the right among the Republican candidates on virtually every issue: healthcare, gun control, reproductive rights, minority rights and LGBT rights. Cruz famously demanded that the police should ‘patrol and secure’ Muslim neighbourhoods. With greater powers of coherent thought and articulate speech, authentic roots Continue reading

The 1980s Republican roots of Hillary Clinton’s early voting strategy

By Blog Admin Despite extensive coverage of early voting as a campaign tool this election cycle, it is not a wholly new phenomenon. In fact, the Clinton campaign’s exploitation of early voting as a part of her ground game has roots in similar efforts by Republican candidates during the 1980s. As Mara Suttmann-Lea explains, candidates can – and do – exploit early voting to their advantage, as it can enable them to more strategic with often limited campaign resources. In recent presidential election years, early voting has played a prominent role in the top-ticket candidates’ voter mobilization strategies. They have taken advantage of laws that allow citizens to cast ballots before Election Day without having to provide an excuse. In 2008, Barack Obama launched what was thought to be a pioneering early voting strategy, at least in terms of its sheer scale. In 2012, Obama replicated his 2008 efforts to mobilize early voters. The eventual Republican nominee Mitt Romney followed suit, marshaling an impressive (and expensive) early voting strategy during the Republican primaries that bested many of his opponents, which he carried over into the general election. Early voting mobilization efforts have featured as heavily, if not more so, in the 2016 presidential election cycle. Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s campaign is doubling down on the efforts made by her predecessor in 2008 and 2012. Though it is still too early to definitively measure, it is likely that Clinton’s efforts will ultimately outpace those of Obama’s in the previous presidential election cycles. Unique about this election cycle is that her efforts appear to be so intense that representatives from her campaign and preliminary analysis of early voting returns suggest her victory may be “locked” in some battleground states well before the first ballots are even cast on Election Day. To be sure, the Republican nominee Donald Trump’s campaign has not neglected early voters. But the two campaigns are using remarkably different strategies. Clinton’s campaign has relied on a traditional ground game and is engaging in a data driven Get Out the “Early” Vote effort. Using data from voter rolls to target likely supporters to which to send absentee ballots, her organization has also made extensive efforts to follow up with individuals requesting ballots to make sure they actually return the marked ballot. For in-person early voting, Clinton’s campaign is using large rallies in multiple locations featuring not only Clinton herself, but also high-profile figures like Elizabeth Warren, Michelle and Barack Obama, her husband, Bill Clinton, and her daughter Chelsea, to turn out early voters. After the rallies, supporters are walked to early voting polling places to cast their ballots. Trump’s organization, however, has relied almost exclusively on his well-attended rallies to turn out early voters, neglecting a focus on a more traditional ground game. Particularly problematic about this strategy is that Trump and his running mate, Mike Pence, can only be two places at once. He does not appear to be relying on other popular figures to head up early voting Continue reading

More knowledgeable electorates secure more representative policy outcomes for everyone  

By Blog Admin Having an informed electorate is traditionally considered a necessary prerequisite for realizing participatory democracy, as this enables voters to make meaningful choices about who they elect and to hold officials accountable for their actions. But do more informed electorates lead to more favorable policy outcomes? In new research which uses state-level data, William P. Jaeger, Jeffrey Lyons, and Jennifer Wolak find that the strength of the correlation between voter ideology and policy outcomes does indeed increase as the electorate’s knowledge rises. They suggest that state elected officials are particularly responsive to well-informed electorates whilst in office. Knowledge has been argued to be a form of political power, where citizens rely on their knowledge of public affairs to monitor elected officials and hold them accountable for their decisions. When Americans lack basic knowledge about current events, it becomes much more difficult to ensure that political outcomes align with the public interest. While we often assert that a politically-informed electorate is essential to a well-functioning democracy, we have not yet had much evidence to confirm that informed electorates are any more successful at securing more representative political outcomes. In fact, we often find a high degree of correspondence between public preferences and policy outcomes even given evidence that Americans are uninformed about many aspects of politics and current events. We believe that political knowledge helps promote policy representation in the aggregate. We demonstrate this by explaining differences in the quality of policy representation across the fifty states. Each state varies in the degree to which policy outcomes align with the ideological preferences of state constituents. Some states show close alignment between the liberalism of the electorate and the ideological tenor of policy outcomes, while in other states the correlation is lower. We explore the degree to which these differences can be explained by the level of political knowledge held by each state’s electorate. While very few surveys ask people about their specific knowledge of matters of state politics, we are able to create two measures to approximate the collective political knowledge of the state electorate. The first summarizes the percent of the state that can name their governor, while the second set of measures reflects knowledge of partisan control of the governor’s office and state legislature. Figure 1 – Estimates of state knowledge of name of Governor (link to interactive version) We consider whether the correspondence between citizen ideology and the liberalism of state policy outcomes increases as a function of the state’s level of collective political knowledge. We find that the strength of the correlation between citizen ideology and state policy outcomes increases with the political knowledge of the state’s electorate. In states where levels of citizen knowledge is very low, the correspondence between citizen ideology and state policy outcomes is modest and not distinguishable from zero. As a state’s electorate is increasingly knowledgeable about state matters, the correspondence between state preferences and state policy increases. Figure 2 – Conditional effects of citizen ideology on policy outcomes across Continue reading

A Trump defeat would be a relief to many. But it should not cloud the need for serious action on serious problems.

By Blog Admin A Hillary Clinton landslide, with even control of Congress surprisingly in play? A definite possibility. Cause for relief and celebration in the face of the Trump phenomenon? Much less certain. Ron Pruessen speculates about the potentially troubling consequences of a “happy” ending for the bizarre 2016 election. Will Donald Trump be the political arena’s Samsung Galaxy 7 phenomenon – a product so flawed (and un-pivotable) as to be unfixable? Will the market forces dear to Republicans convince them that they need to start over by pulling the 2016 model after Election Day. (Some stalwarts have already voted on this proposition with their anti-Trump declarations, creating something of a virtual counterpart to Samsung’s airport “drop-off” booths.) Samsung has a strong enough record to suggest it may survive the Galaxy 7 calamity. It’s less clear that the “Trump 2016” disaster will be temporary for the Republican Party – or even for the country. Once upon a time there were better Republican models on offer. Iconic leaders like Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt gave the GOP a strong foundation for 20th century political success – and enough momentum to survive the mixed records of later standard bearers. “Mixed” as in Dwight Eisenhower’s 1950s tendency to veer from often moderate foreign policy positions toward covert operations, thoughts of massive retaliation, and early involvement in Vietnam (as well as half –hearted leadership on civil rights). “Mixed” as in Richard Nixon’s combining shrewd intellectual awareness of new global realities in the 1970s with paranoia about the loss of personal power and national prestige (plus scandal, e.g., Watergate). “Mixed” as in the way Ronald Reagan paired his talent for affability and capitalizing on the Soviet Union’s grave problems with romanticized rhetoric about “morning in America,” damaging action on deregulation and taxes, and machinations in Central America (plus scandal, e.g., Iran-Contra). The balance went terribly askew with George W. Bush, then careened wildly with the slash and burn obstructionism of the Tea Party and Congressional GOP leaders determined to stymie Barack Obama. (Remember Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”?) Now we have the 2016 crescendo: a Götterdämmerung /circus hybrid where scary clowns keep emerging from the Trumpmobile – and where many Republican leaders have shamefully applauded the performance. Whether the Republicans can have (or deserve) a Samsung-like hope of recovery will be seen over time. Perhaps voters will have the same short memories so often discernible in American political life. Perhaps, on the other hand, Trump will have catalyzed the kind of major party demise that hasn’t been seen since the days of the Federalists and Whigs (relevant to the GOP’s own birth in the 1850s). The fate of a political party is one thing – and it may even be that something will be gained by a Samsung 7 trajectory for the Republican Party. It’s more disturbing to contemplate the possibility of broadly national aftershocks following a Continue reading

The new president will face a crescendo of voices in Washington DC urging a restart to American interventions abroad.

By Blog Admin The decade after 2001 saw US military interventions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, with the relative failure of the aftermath of the Libyan intervention leading President Obama to adopt a more soft-power approach. Adam Weinstein writes that despite previous disastrous interventions, whoever enters the White House next January will face a chorus of calls from DC-based think-tanks for the US to become involved in the Syrian civil war, demands that the new Commander in Chief may find difficult to ignore. The events of 9/11 triggered a manic phase for US interventionism. Saddam Hussein, the Taliban, and later Muammar Qaddafi all fell from power with American military might as the catalyst of their demise. This era of intervention ended with a bang as post-Qaddafi Libya descended into chaos in 2011. Obama’s second term responded to this emerging reality by shifting to a projection of soft American power. The most criticized manifestation of this approach has been the administration’s restraint in intervening in Syria. In response to this perceived failure proponents of American military intervention abroad are clamoring for its revival—not in the name of security—but morality. Proponents of American intervention as a moral duty include Shadi Hamid of Brookings, Michael Doran of the Hudson Institute, and Charles Lister at the Middle East Institute. Hamid recently wrote in the Atlantic that the “more just world that so many hope for is simply impossible without the use of American military force.” He goes on to assert that despite the mishandling of the 2003 invasion of Iraq, American intervention abroad is in fact necessary. Meanwhile General John Allen and Charles Lister recently coauthored a piece in the Washington Post advocating US military intervention in Syria. They note that the “United States should not be in the business of regime change” and then refers to Assad’s departure as the stated policy objective of the US in the very next paragraph. Ultimately Allen and Lister advocate an aggressive military campaign targeting Assad that is justified primarily in moral terms. But it is not simply the disaster of the 2003 invasion of Iraq that has proved the ill-effects of US force abroad. Rather a parade of blunders including the Vietnam War, support of the contras in Nicaragua, the Somalia fiasco, and the unintended creation of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan warn us of its risks. There is a disconnect between D.C. think tanks and the fighting men and women of the military as revealed by the lack of veterans—save the occasional retired general—present in their ranks. Perhaps if more D.C. policymakers experienced war as participants they would not so blatantly omit US casualties as a consideration of intervention. More importantly they would understand the dangers of injecting a savior complex into the military. In war for every action there is an equal reaction. Yes, the US effectively prevented Saddam Hussein from annexing Kuwait in the first Gulf War. But had the US not emboldened Hussein through its material assistance of his brutal war to annex parts Continue reading

The “evidence” that the US Presidential Election will have been stolen

By Blog Admin With his fortunes flagging in the polls, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has increasingly spoken of the 2016 election as being ‘rigged’. Dan Cassino looks at how ‘evidence’ of voter fraud might begin to circulate on and after Election Day; evidence which will be fueled by misunderstandings over exit polls, precinct sizes, and how election results are recorded. The 2016 US Presidential election will not be stolen. The decentralization of the system and the many layers of oversight and control mean that any attempt to engage in voter fraud widespread enough to impact the result is doomed to failure. That reality, however, won’t stop many Americans from believing that it was rigged, and the past gives us a good indication of exactly what the “evidence” of vote rigging will look like. It’s important to start off by noting that Americans are generally open to believing that voter fraud is widespread. In a 2013 PublicMind poll, 23 percent of Americans (and 37 percent of Democrats) said that it was “probably true” that President Bush’s supporters stole the election in Ohio in 2004; almost identical numbers of Republicans said the same about President Obama in 2012. For whatever reason – motivated reasoning, a willingness to believe in the nefariousness of political opponents, lack of social contact with members of the other party – Americans commonly believe that our elections are rigged, even without a major party candidate encouraging such beliefs, as Republican nominee Donald Trump has done. Because of this predisposition, it’s likely that “evidence” of voter fraud will begin to circulate on Election Day, and continue to swirl around the internet for weeks and months afterwards, fueling beliefs that the likely winner, Democrat Hillary Clinton, is illegitimate, and hardening opposition to her. The first piece of evidence that’s likely to be used to demonstrate fraud is early exit polls. While exit poll results from the consortium funded by the major news outlets aren’t officially released until after the polls close (in order to avoid influencing voters), the first data from them is released around 11 AM on Election Day. This data isn’t supposed to be made public, but at least some results from it generally leak. These results will, in some cases, be very different from the official vote tallies, and those differences will be taken as proof that the election was stolen. After all, if the early exit polls show Trump winning in Ohio by 5, and he winds up losing by 3, either the exit polls or the vote must be wrong, right? Such “evidence” is mostly the result of misunderstanding how exit polls work. Exit polls, unlike most surveys, are not designed to be representative of voters. Rather, they sample precincts which have served as good indicators in the past, with the results then carefully weighted in order to project results for a state as a whole. In addition, early exit poll results only include voters who go to the polls in the morning, a Continue reading

If the next president wants to put an ideologue on the Supreme Court, they will have to sacrifice their initial domestic policy goals.

By Blog Admin One of the first tasks for the new president this January – whoever they may be – could be to nominate a new justice to the Supreme Court. But how should the next president go about this? In new research, Anthony J. Madonna, James E. Monogan III, and Richard L. Vining, Jr. find that the more a president supports a particular Supreme Court nominee, the lower the chance that they can get a major new policy initiative through the Senate. If the new president wishes to focus on achieving their policy goals in their first 150 days, they argue, they should compromise by appointing a moderate to the Supreme Court, rather than an ideologue. On January 20, 2017, when America’s next president takes the oath of office, one year and seven days will have passed since Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died. How to fill this longstanding vacancy has become a fundamental issue in this election. Although Judge Merrick Garland was nominated to fill this vacancy in March 2016, Senate inaction has all but assured that the seat will be vacant when Americans select the next chief executive. How should the next president address this issue? To understand what makes strategic sense for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump upon winning the election, it is important to understand whether a president’s efforts to push a Supreme Court nominee through the Senate are costly in other parts of his or her agenda. Our research indicates that presidents who battle overtly for their Supreme Court nominees see fewer congressional successes for their major policy proposals and fewer confirmations for their lower court nominees. Major policy initiatives in particular are less likely to be enacted at all, and the Senate moves much more slowly on those bills that it does pass. In particular, our study shows that for every 12-sentence speech the president gives in support of a Supreme Court nominee, the odds of Senate passage of a major policy initiative drop by 65 percent in a given month. Thus, the more effort a president has to put into a nominee, the less likely his or her domestic agenda will succeed. If the Senate Does Not Act in a Lame Duck Session It is possible that the Senate will confirm Garland to fill the Supreme Court vacancy during a lame duck session between November 8 and January 20, in which case the issue will be moot for the new president. However, let us consider what makes sense if the vacancy is not filled when the new president takes office. What strategies might Clinton or Trump pursue? The first option is to immediately nominate a strong ideologue to fill the vacancy. If the new president takes this strategy, then the nominee will most likely be confirmed, but after a prolonged fight and at the cost of some major domestic policy initiative the president wants to see. This approach makes sense if the new president has a limited domestic agenda and wants Continue reading

Book Review: Why Aren’t They Shouting? A Banker’s Tale of Change, Computers and Perpetual Crisis by Kevin Rodgers

By Blog Admin In Why Aren’t They Shouting? A Banker’s Tale of Change, Computers and Perpetual Crisis, Kevin Rodgers, former global head of Deutsche Bank’s foreign exchange, offers a lively account of the transformations to the financial sector over the last thirty years, drawing on personal anecdotes, interviews and news articles to give the reader an engaging insight into the realities of contemporary banking, writes Maria Zhivitskaya. Why Aren’t They Shouting? A Banker’s Tale of Change, Computers and Perpetual Crisis. Kevin Rodgers. Penguin Random House Business. 2016. Find this book: She has heard about trading floors. She had thought she knew what to expect. There would be excitement. There would be people on two phones simultaneously… ‘Why aren’t they shouting?’, asks someone from the delegation to Deutsche Bank’s trading floor, whom the book’s author Kevin Rodgers, head of foreign exchange, was giving a tour. Computers. The answer is computers: hardly a spoiler as the answer is given in the book’s subtitle. Now that you know the answer, why would you read on? The main reason is to experience an animated first-person narrative about the reality of banking, with relatable anecdotes as well as bits of interviews and news articles sprinkled throughout. Rodgers’s writing style is very clear and conversational, and financial concepts are explained in a way that is understandable regardless of how much you know about banking. The book will particularly resonate with anyone who has worked in financial services, who is curious about working for a bank or who is interested in understanding what many of the people wearing suits in the city of London spend their time doing day to day. Like many other graduates from top universities, when Rodgers started out in banking he ‘rather foolishly imagined it would be glamorous. Seventeen years of staring fixedly at screens, arguing interminably in glass-walled meeting rooms and being patted down over and over again while jet-lagged in foreign airports had rather tarnished that idea.’ Rodgers started his career as a trader with Merrill Lynch before joining Bankers Trust, and finally spent the last fifteen years of his career as a managing director of Deutsche Bank, latterly as the global head of foreign exchange. Overall, the narrative is lively and engaging – Rodgers takes your hand and walks you through the history of finance over the past thirty years in as effortless a way as if you were sat near him at a dinner party. (Though that is assuming you are keener to listen than a character in one of his post-financial crisis stories: she sat near him at dinner party, and when she asked what he did, he joked he was a child slave trafficker. She was understandably shocked; but after he explained that he was a banker, she exclaimed that she would have preferred for Rodgers to be a child slave trader. Indeed, the author also cites a German poll of public attitudes where the bankers were seen as the antepenultimate profession to be friends with, coming Continue reading

Book Review: Against Elections: The Case for Democracy by David Van Reybrouck

By Blog Admin If democracy is in a bad state and marred by chronic distrust, what is the remedy? In Against Elections: The Case for Democracy, David Van Reybrouck suggests an ancient solution: sortition, or the selection of officials from the general public through a lottery system. While the book does a great job of opening up discussions of elections, democracy and political power through comprehensive and well-presented historical research, Ben Margulies questions whether the solution to debates over political representation lies in a process of mere chance. Against Elections: The Case for Democracy. David Van Reybrouck. Bodley Head. 2016. Find this book: Against Sortition The public sphere is full of analyses and lamentations about the inability of Europe’s current political parties and elites to represent their peoples/electorates/nations. Peter Mair’s Ruling the Void provides an excellent history of the problem. The end of the Industrial Revolution in the 1960s-70s saw the decline of large class structures, and thus the identities that allowed parties to represent big class or occupational groups; the end of Communism and the triumph of neoliberalism left existing parties with only one ideology to choose from. Parties became state-funded agencies run by media or policy experts as there was no mass base to provide a wider pool of leadership recruits; they became a ‘cartel’ of parties and a ‘caste‘ of party leaders. These are despised by an increasingly disengaged, volatile, capricious and angry electorate. The end result is nasty or irresponsible populism. This review looks at one author’s novel approach to solving our crisis of representation. David Van Reybrouck, a Belgian author and public intellectual, wrote an excellent history of The Democratic Republic of Congo. In his newest book, Against Elections: The Case for Democracy, he reprises some of Mair’s points about the decline of party-electorate linkages. His solution is to bring back sortition – that is, the selection of public officials through the drawing of lots. To Van Reybrouck, the problem isn’t democracy, it is ‘electoral-representative democracy’ and ‘electoral fundamentalists’. Van Reybrouck argues that the electoral principle has long been understood as undemocratic. The ancient Athenian polis, whose constitution he discusses in great detail, only deployed election to offices requiring specific expertise, such as military positions; otherwise, magistracies were chosen by lot. This system found endorsement by Montesquieu and Rousseau, but was abandoned for the more aristocratic principle of election by the bourgeois meritocrats of the French and American revolutionary eras. It became the election of ‘men who possess the most wisdom to discern, and the most virtue to pursue the common good of society’ (The Federalist Paper #57). This mechanism eventually became embedded in a system of mass parties: a ‘democratisation of elections’ Van Reybrouck condemns as ‘a bogus process’ aided by the redefinition of the word ‘democracy’ and the association of sortition with military conscription. Image Credit: (Jeff Turner CC BY 2.0) Key to Van Reybrouck’s diagnosis and proposed solutions is a specific idea of democracy, and an implicit idea of how society is Continue reading

The Ballpark podcast needs your help! Take our listeners’ survey

By Blog Admin The Ballpark is the LSE US Centre’s regular online audio show on US politics, policy, and research. In each episode, hosts Denise Baron, Sophie Donszelmann, and Chris Gilson take a closer look at American politics, economics, policy and news. We’ve really enjoyed putting the podcast together and bringing it to nearly 20,000 listeners so far this year, but we’d also like to make it better. So, we want you to tell us what you like about it and what you don’t. We’ve put together a quick listener survey at www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/LSEBallpark. It only takes 5 minutes to fill out, and for an extra enticement, you can also go into a draw to win a £25 Amazon voucher. You can listen to the back catalogue of The Ballpark and Extra Innings podcasts here. Featired image credit: Pixabay, CC0 Public Domain