jueves, 29 de noviembre de 2018

Teens who are constantly online are just as likely to socialize with their friends offline

Close to half of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 say they are on the internet “almost constantly,” and more than nine-in-ten are social media users. These highly plugged-in youth, however, are just as likely as their less-connected peers to socialize regularly with their friends in person, according to a new analysis of Pew Research Center survey data.

In fact, when taking into account both online and offline interactions, highly connected teens report more contact with their friends compared with other teens, according to the analysis, which comes amid concerns that screen time is taking away opportunities for teens and others to socialize face-to-face.

Overall, 24% of teens who report being constantly online say they meet with their friends in person outside of school every day or almost every day. That is nearly identical to the 23% of less-frequently online teens who say they see their friends almost daily. And when it comes to online interaction with their friends, 69% of teens who are online constantly say they talk to their friends online every day or almost every day, compared with 52% of teens who visit the internet less frequently.

The survey also finds that teens who use five or more social media sites are significantly more likely than teens who use fewer sites to talk to their friends online every day or almost every day. Three-quarters of these social media users (75%) say this, compared with 41% of teens who use just one or two social media platforms. However, the frequency with which teens meet their friends in person does not significantly differ by the number of social media sites they use. Some 22% of teens who use one or two online platforms meet their friends in person on a near daily basis, compared with 26% of teens who use three or four social media sites and 23% of teens who use five or more sites.

It’s worth noting that regardless of how frequently they use the internet or how many social media sites they use, teens today are far more likely to maintain frequent contact with their close friends online than in person.

Additionally, the likelihood of teens having a close friend does not differ by their frequency of internet use. The vast majority of teens in each group say they have at least one close friend. And similar shares of teens who are constantly online (53%) and who are online less frequently (49%) say they tend to fit in pretty easily with other people their age.

When it comes to their broader attitudes toward technology, teens who go online almost constantly see a wider range of positive effects from social media than their peers who use the internet less frequently. For instance, they are substantially more likely to say that social media makes them feel a lot more connected to what’s going on in their friends’ lives and that they have people who can support them when going through tough times.

At the same time, this heightened connectivity can come at a cost for some teens. Constantly online teens are around twice as likely as other teens to report that they feel a lot of pressure to only post content on social media that makes them look good to others, or to post content that will gain comments and likes. And teens who are online on a near-constant basis are also more likely to report having experienced online harassment and cyberbullying than teens who are online less frequently.

Previous Pew Research Center surveys have similarly found that the use of internet and social media is linked to stronger social ties, both among teens and adults. A 2014 Center survey of teens ages 13 to 17 found that those who had access to a smartphone or used social media were more likely than non-users of those technologies to keep in touch daily with their close friends. And a survey of U.S. adults in 2004 found that adult internet users had larger social circles than non-internet users. A separate 2010 study found that Facebook users were more likely than non-users to have close interpersonal relationships and receive support from others.

In midterm voting decisions, policies took a back seat to partisanship

Partisan loyalty and dislike of the opposing party and its candidates were major factors for voters’ choices in this month’s midterm elections, with far fewer citing policies as the main reason why they voted for Democratic or Republican candidates.

Although partisan motivations dominated across the board, the tone of these partisan motivations differed somewhat between Republican and Democratic voters, according to a Pew Research Center survey conducted Nov. 7-13.

Asked an open-ended question about why they voted as they did, 36% of those who voted for the Democratic candidate in their district cited opposition to President Donald Trump, the Republican Party or the GOP’s candidate as the main reason for their vote – about the same share (37%) as said they were motivated primarily by support for their own party or party’s candidate. (For more on reactions to the election and expectations for the new Congress, see “Public Expects Gridlock, Deeper Divisions With Changed Political Landscape.”)

In contrast, 47% of Republican voters mentioned support of the GOP, Trump or the Republican candidate in their district, while fewer (28%) mentioned opposition to the Democratic Party or Democratic candidates.

A substantial share of Democratic voters who cited opposition as a factor – about one-in-five Democratic voters (21%) – said their vote was mainly in opposition to Donald Trump. By comparison, only about one-in-ten Republican voters (9%) said their vote was mainly in support of the president.

Republican voters were more likely than Democrats to cite policies or national conditions as factors in their voting decisions (17% vs. 9%). While economic policies were mentioned by 10% of Republican voters, only 2% explicitly mentioned “the good economy” as the main reason they voted for a Republican candidate. Just 9% of Democratic voters cited policies as the main factor in their vote, with 5% mentioning health care.

About one-in-ten Democratic voters said the main reason for their vote was to “change America” (6%) or to increase “checks and balances” (4%) in government.

lunes, 26 de noviembre de 2018

How religious groups voted in the midterm elections

Voters in North Carolina cast their ballots. (Logan Cyrus/AFP via Getty Images)

A preliminary analysis of the 2018 midterm elections finds considerable continuity in the voting patterns of several key religious groups. White evangelical or born-again Christians backed Republican candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives at about the same rate they did in 2014. Meanwhile, religiously unaffiliated voters (also known as religious “nones”) and Jewish voters once again backed Democratic candidates by large margins.

Three-quarters (75%) of white voters who describe themselves as evangelical or born-again Christians (a group that includes Protestants, Catholics and members of other faiths) voted for Republican House candidates in 2018, according to National Election Pool (NEP) exit poll data reported by NBC News. That is on par with the share who did so in midterm elections in 2014 (78%) and 2010 (77%).

At the other end of the spectrum, seven-in-ten religious “nones” voted for the Democratic candidate in their congressional district, which is virtually identical to the share of religious “nones” who voted for Democratic candidates in 2014 and 2010. Roughly eight-in-ten Jewish voters (79%) cast their ballots for the Democrats, higher than the share who did so in 2014, but somewhat shy of 2006 levels. (Data on Jewish voters were not available in 2010.)

The 2018 exit polls show a slight shift in Catholic voting patterns compared with recent midterm elections. This year, Catholic voters were evenly split between the parties: 50% favored the Democratic candidate for Congress in their district, while 49% favored the GOP’s nominee. In the past two midterm elections (2014 and 2010), Catholics leaned in favor of Republican candidates by margins of roughly 10 percentage points.

Among Protestants, 56% voted for Republican congressional candidates and 42% backed Democrats. Among those who identify with faiths other than Christianity and Judaism (including Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus and many others), 73% voted for Democratic congressional candidates while 25% supported Republicans.

Voters who say they attend religious services at least once a week backed Republican candidates over Democrats in their congressional districts by an 18-point margin. Those who attend services less often tilted in favor of the Democratic Party, including two-thirds (68%) of those who say they never attend worship services.

Analysis of the religious composition of the 2018 midterm electorate shows that 17% of voters were religiously unaffiliated, up from 12% in 2014 and 2010. Meanwhile, 47% of voters in 2018 were Protestants, down from 53% in 2014 and 55% in 2010. There was little change in the share of voters who identify as Catholic, Jewish or with other faiths. And the 26% of 2018 voters who were white and identify as born-again or evangelical Christians is similar to other recent midterm elections.

This preliminary analysis reflects data for 2018 as published by NBC News as of 11 a.m. on Nov. 7, 2018. If data are subsequently reweighted by the National Election Pool (NEP), the consortium of news organizations that conducts the exit polls, the numbers reported here may differ slightly from figures accessible through the websites of NEP member organizations.

domingo, 25 de noviembre de 2018

Millennials, Gen X increase their ranks in the House, especially among Democrats

Democratic Reps.-elect (from left) Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida, Abby Finkenauer of Iowa and Sharice Davids of Kansas join with other newly elected House members for an official class photo at the Capitol on Nov. 14. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The 2018 midterm elections not only sent a record number of women to the House of Representatives – at least 102 in total, including 36 newly elected members, with a handful of races still to be called – but also significantly boosted the number of Millennials and Generation Xers in the lower chamber, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

When the 116th Congress convenes in January, at least 26 House members will be Millennials (i.e., born between 1981 and 1996), up from only five at the start of the current Congress in January 2017 and six just before the Nov. 6 midterms. (Pennsylvania Democrat Conor Lamb, 34, won a special election this past spring for a seat that had been vacated by Tim Murphy, a Boomer; Lamb and the five other serving Millennials all were re-elected.) More than a fifth (20) of the 91 freshmen members-elect are Millennials, and 14 of those 20 are Democrats – including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, at 29 the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. (All figures in this post are as of Nov. 21, when three seats had yet to be called.)

The influx of younger representatives will bring the House’s median age down a bit, even with the 341 continuing members being nearly two years older than when the current Congress began. Come Jan. 3, 2019, the median age of the new House will be 58.0 years, compared with 58.4 when the 115th Congress began its term.

The age gap between continuing and new House members is widest among Democrats, a fact that’s coming into play in the debate over who should lead House Democrats going forward. The median age of the 173 Democrats who were re-elected will be 64.3 as of Jan. 3; the 60 newly elected Democrats will have a median age of 45.8. (By comparison, the median age for the 20 Democrats who retired or chose to run for some other office will be 60.4 as of that date.)

The 168 Republican House members who will be continuing into the new Congress have a median age of 58.4; the 31 new GOP representatives-elect joining them in January have a median age of 48.9. (The median age of the 64 retiring and defeated Republican representatives, excluding five seats vacant on Election Day that had been held most recently by Republicans, will be 58.9 as of Jan 3.)

The midterms also increased Generation X’s representation in the House: Just less than half (44) of the 91 newly elected representatives are part of America’s “middle child” generation (those born between 1965 and 1980). Almost a third (136 members, or 31.5%) of the next House will be Gen Xers, a net increase of 18 from the start of the current Congress.

Although the Baby Boom generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) remains the majority in the House, its numbers are shrinking, from 270 members (62.1% of the total) at the start of the 115th Congress to 233 (53.9%) as of next January. And despite the election of Donna Shalala, D-Fla., who at 77 is this year’s oldest incoming “freshman,” the Silent Generation’s House ranks continue to dwindle: from 42 at the start of the 115th Congress, to 40 on Election Day, and just 37 when the new Congress is seated in January. (Silents were born between 1928 and 1945.)

miércoles, 21 de noviembre de 2018

Early Benchmarks Show ‘Post-Millennials’ on Track to Be Most Diverse, Best-Educated Generation Yet

A demographic portrait of today’s 6- to 21-year-olds

As a new generation of Americans begins to take shape and move toward adulthood, there is mounting interest in their attitudes, behaviors and lifestyle. But how will this generation change the demographic fabric of the United States? A new Pew Research Center analysis of Census Bureau data finds that the “post-Millennial” generation is already the most racially and ethnically diverse generation, as a bare majority of 6- to 21-year-olds (52%) are non-Hispanic whites. And while most are still pursuing their K-12 education, the oldest post-Millennials are enrolling in college at a significantly higher rate than Millennials were at a comparable age.

The parents of post-Millennials are more well educated than the parents of Millennials and those of previous generations, and this pattern most likely contributes to the relative affluence of the households in which post-Millennials live. More than four-in-ten post-Millennials (43%) are living with at least one parent who has a bachelor’s degree or more education. Roughly a third (32%) of Millennials in 2002 had a parent with this level of education.

The high school dropout rate for the oldest post-Millennials (ages 18 to 20 in 2017) is significantly lower than that of similarly aged Millennials in 2002. And among those who were no longer in high school in 2017, 59% were enrolled in college – higher than the enrollment rate for 18- to 20-year-old Millennials in 2002 (53%) and Gen Xers in 1986 (44%).

The changing patterns in educational attainment are driven in part by the shifting origins of young Hispanics. Post-Millennial Hispanics are less likely than Millennial Hispanics to be immigrants – 12% of post-Millennial Hispanics were born outside the U.S., compared with 24% of Millennial Hispanics in 2002. Previous research has shown that second-generation Hispanic youth tend to go further in school than foreign-born Hispanic youth. That is borne out in this analysis, as 61% of second-generation Hispanics ages 18 to 20 who were no longer in high school were enrolled in college in 2017, compared with 40% of their foreign-born counterparts. Overall, the share of post-Millennial Hispanics enrolled in college is significantly higher than the rate for Millennials in 2002 (55% vs. 34%, among 18- to 20-year-olds no longer in high school).1

More broadly, the post-Millennial generation is being shaped by changing immigration patterns. Immigration flows into the U.S. peaked in 2005, when the leading edge of the post-Millennial generation was age 8 or younger. The onset of the Great Recession and the large decline in employment led to fewer immigrants coming to the United States, including immigrant children. As a result, the post-Millennial generation has fewer foreign-born youth among its ranks than the Millennial generation did in 2002 and a significantly higher number who were born in the U.S. to immigrant parents, though this may change depending on future immigration flows.

The generation labeled “post-Millennials” in this report – referred to elsewhere as Generation Z, the iGen or Homelanders – includes those born after 1996. Pew Research Center uses the label “post-Millennials” as a placeholder until more consensus emerges as to their name.

For purposes of this analysis, the post-Millennial generation spans 16 years, the same number of years as the Millennial generation (now ages 22 to 37). That may change as well, as this new generation – and the factors that shape it – come into sharper focus.

This report compares the post-Millennials in 2018 with earlier generations when they were ages 6 to 21, examining their demographic characteristics as well as those of their parents and households.

Other key findings:
The oldest post-Millennials are less likely than their predecessors to be in the labor force. Only 58% of today’s 18- to 21-year-olds worked in the prior calendar year; this compares with 72% of Millennial 18- to 21-year-olds in 2002. And employment among post-Millennials is less likely to be full-time compared with earlier generations. This is likely due, in large part, to the fact that these young adults are more likely than their predecessors to be enrolled in college.
The living arrangements of post-Millennial children are similar to those of Millennials when they were growing up. About two-thirds (65%) of today’s 6- to 17-year-olds live with two married parents, slightly lower than the share (68%) of Millennials in that age range who lived in this type of household in 2002. Roughly three-in-ten post-Millennials ages 6 to 17 (31%) live with a single parent, somewhat higher than the share of Millennials growing up with a single parent in 2002 (27%).2
The median household income of post-Millennials exceeds that of earlier generations when they were young. The typical post-Millennial in 2018 lives in a household with an annual income of roughly $63,700 after adjusting for household size. That is slightly higher than the income for the typical household in which Millennials grew up – $62,400 in 2002 in inflation-adjusted dollars – and it far surpasses the income of Gen X and Baby Boomer households when they were growing up. This is consistent with the relatively high education of the parents of post-Millennials.

Post-Millennials more metropolitan and racially and ethnically diverse, less likely to be foreign born

A bare majority (52%) of post-Millennials are non-Hispanic white. One-in-four are Hispanic, significantly higher than the share of Millennials who were Hispanic in 2002. The share of post-Millennials who are black (14%) is nearly identical to the share of Millennials who were black at a comparable age (15%). Black representation among the nation’s youth has changed little since the early Boomers in 1968.

Asians account for 6% of the post-Millennial generation, up slightly from the 4% of Millennials in 2002 who were Asian. The remaining 4% of post-Millennials are non-Hispanics of another racial identity, mainly youth of two or more races.

Though post-Millennials are more likely to be Hispanic and Asian compared with prior generations, they are not more likely, at this point, to be immigrants. Some 7% of post-Millennials are foreign born, as were 8% of Millennials in 2002. However, post-Millennials are more likely to be U.S. born of at least one foreign-born parent (22%) compared with Millennials in 2002 (15%).3

In terms of sheer numbers, the Millennial generation was shaped to a much larger extent by young immigrants than the post-Millennials have been. When Millennials were ages 6 to 21 in 2002, they numbered 65.3 million.4 Their ranks that year included 5.0 million immigrants. By contrast, only about 4.4 million of the 66.5 million post-Millennials are immigrants – a pattern that more closely mirrors the experience of Gen X.

Even with the diminished flow of immigrants into the U.S., the racial and ethnic diversity of the post-Millennial generation is expected to increase in future years as new immigrants join their numbers. Today’s 6- to 21-year-olds are projected to become majority nonwhite in 2026 (when they will be ages 14 to 29), according to Census Bureau projections.
Majority of post-Millennials are nonwhite in urban areas and Western states

The geography and mobility of post-Millennials differ from earlier generations. Reflecting broader national trends, post-Millennials overwhelmingly reside in metropolitan as opposed to rural areas. Only 13% of post-Millennials are in rural areas, compared with 18% of Millennials in 2002. By comparison, 23% of Gen Xers lived in rural areas when they were ages 6 to 21, as did 36% of early Boomers.

In the nation’s urban areas and in the Western region of the U.S., post-Millennials are at the leading edge of growing racial and ethnic diversity. Two-thirds of post-Millennials living in urban counties are racial or ethnic minorities, with a plurality (36%) being Hispanic. Among Millennials, 59% who live in cities are racial or ethnic minorities. In rural (non-metropolitan) counties, only 29% of 6- to 21-year-olds are nonwhite – still somewhat higher than the share of rural Millennials who are nonwhite (27%). Minorities constitute 43% of suburban post-Millennials. Among those living in suburban counties, 39% of Millennials, 34% of Gen Xers and 23% of Boomers are nonwhite.5

In the West, post-Millennials are just as likely to be Hispanic as non-Hispanic white (both 40%). This stands in contrast to older generations. Among those residing in the West, 45% of Millennials, 50% of Gen Xers and 64% of Boomers are non-Hispanic white. Minority representation among post-Millennials is lowest in the Midwest, where roughly a third (32%) of 6- to 21-year-olds are racial or ethnic minorities.

When it comes to geographic mobility, Americans are not moving as they once did, and post-Millennials are no exception. About 11% of post-Millennials in 2018 had a different address from a year earlier, implying that they had moved. By comparison, 17% of Millennials and 20% of Gen Xers and early Boomers had moved in the past year when they were the ages post-Millennials are today.
Post-Millennials more likely to be pursuing college and less likely to be in the workforce

While it’s still much too early to draw conclusions, initial signs suggest that post-Millennials are on track to become the most well-educated generation yet.

As of 2017 (the most recent year available with school enrollment information) 80% of post-Millennial 18- to 20-year-olds had finished high school.6 That represents a modest improvement from previous generations. At the same ages, 76% of Millennials and 78% of Gen Xers had completed high school. Some of the overall post-Millennial improvement stems from the leap in high school completion among Hispanic youth. In 2017, 76% of Hispanic 18- to 20-year-olds had finished high school, outpacing the 60% of Hispanic Millennials attaining this benchmark in 2002. Black high school completion has also improved: 77% of black post-Millennials ages 18 to 20 had finished high school, compared with 71% of black Millennials in this age group in 2002.

Since white post-Millennial high school attainment is no higher than among white Millennials, some of the long-standing racial and ethnic gaps in high school completion are narrower among the post-Millennials than was the case for prior generations.

The share of post-Millennials who have dropped out of high school is significantly lower than it was for Millennials. In 2017, 6% of 18- to 20-year-old post-Millennials had neither finished high school nor were enrolled in high school. By comparison, 12% of Millennial 18- to 20-year-olds had dropped out of high school in 2002, as had 13% of Gen Xers in 1986.

One indicator suggests that younger post-Millennials are behind where Millennials were in terms of their progress in K-12 education. In 2017, 30% of post-Millennials ages 6 to 17 were enrolled below the “modal grade,” which is the typical grade a child is enrolled in given his or her age. By comparison, a quarter of Millennials and Gen Xers were enrolled below the modal grade in 2002 and 1986, respectively. This indicator is of value because it can foreshadow subsequent dropping out of school, particularly if the student is behind in school due to grade retention. It’s unclear from this data whether students are behind grade-wise due to being held back in school or whether their parents elected to have them begin kindergarten at an older age.

Beyond K-12 education, post-Millennials are more likely than earlier generations to be pursuing college. In 2017, 59% of 18- to 20-year-olds who were no longer in high school were enrolled in college. Among Millennials and Gen Xers at similar ages smaller shares were pursuing college (53% and 44%, respectively).

Some of the post-Millennial gain stems from Hispanic youth. More than half (55%) of Hispanic 18- to 20-year-olds who were no longer in high school were enrolled in college last year. Less than half of their Millennial (34%) and Gen X (28%) peers were pursuing college at a similar age.

Black post-Millennials are also outpacing the previous generations of black youth in terms of college enrollment. Among blacks ages 18 to 20 who were no longer in high school, 54% were enrolled in college in 2017, compared with 47% of black Millennials in 2002 and 34% of Gen Xers in 1986.

Post-Millennial women are showing major strides in college enrollment. In 2017, 64% of women ages 18 to 20 who were no longer in high school were enrolled in college. That’s up from 57% of similarly aged Millennials in 2002 and up substantially from 43% of Gen Xers in 1986. The trend, while more modest, has been upward among men as well.

It’s important to point out that future immigration patterns may affect the educational outcomes of post-Millennials, so these generational comparisons represent a current snapshot.
Post-Millennials are slower to enter the labor force

Post-Millennials are entering adulthood with less experience in the labor market than prior generations. Roughly one-in-five 15- to 17-year-olds in 2018 (19%) report having worked at all during the prior calendar year, compared with 30% of Millennial 15- to 17-year-olds in 2002. Almost half of early Baby Boomers (48%) in the same age group worked in 1968. Among 18- to 21-year-olds today, 58% were employed during the prior calendar year. At the same age prior generations were much more likely to have been employed. Among Millennial 18- to 21-year-olds in 2002, 72% reported working in the prior year. Among Boomer 18- to 21-year-olds in 1968, 80% worked in the prior calendar year.

Post-Millennial workers are less likely to work full-time compared with prior generations. In 2018, only 15% of 15- to 17-year-old workers worked full-time, down sharply from the 26% of 15- to 17-year-old workers in 1968 who worked full-time. The pattern is similar among 18- to 21-year-olds.

Over the decades the earnings of American workers have increased modestly, and teens and young adults are no exception. If they worked full-time in 2017, a 15- to 17-year-old typically earned about $5,000 (the median). Adjusting for inflation, a similar early Millennial earned slightly less, $4,200. The median earnings for a full-time 18- to 21-year-old today is $19,000, somewhat higher than the median pay of a similarly aged full-time Millennial worker in 2002 ($16,700).

A common indicator of “at-risk” behavior in the transition to adulthood is the share of youth who are neither enrolled in school nor working. Youth who are detached from school and the workplace may not be acquiring valuable learning experiences and networking opportunities. Post-Millennials are less likely to be detached than earlier generations. The shift has been more significant among young women. Only 9% of 16- to 21-year-old post-Millennial women are detached in 2018. About 12% of Millennial women and 16% of Gen X women were neither in school nor working at a comparable age. Post-Millennial women who are detached are far less likely to be married than detached Gen X women were at a similar age (12% vs. 37%).

Post-Millennial women are more likely to be engaged in school and work than earlier generations in part because they have fewer parenting responsibilities. Teen births have been falling, even recently, and post-Millennial women are more likely to be childless than earlier generations. In 2016, 88% of women ages 18 to 21 were childless, compared with 79% of Millennials and 80% of Gen Xers at a similar age.
Post-Millennials’ family lives are similar to those of Millennials when they were young

Steady gains in college completion among U.S. adults are reflected in the households of post-Millennials. Fully 43% of post-Millennials ages 6 to 17 have at least one parent with a bachelor’s degree or more education. This compares with 32% among similarly aged Millennials in 2002, 23% among Gen Xers in 1986 and only 16% among early Boomers in 1968.

Roughly two-thirds (65%) of post-Millennials ages 6 to 17 live in a household with two married parents; fully 31% live with a single parent.7 The share of 6- to 17-year-olds living with two married parents is down slightly from the share of Millennials who were growing up with two married parents in 2002 (68%). Gen Xers were even more likely to live with two married parents – 73% did so in 1986. And for the early Boomers, this type of arrangement was very much the norm: 85% of early Boomers ages 6 to 17 were living with two married parents in 1968.

Of those children and teens who are living with two married parents, most live in dual-earner households. Slightly fewer post-Millennials have two working parents compared with Millennials in 2002 (63% vs. 66%). In 1986, 59% of Gen X youth (ages 6 to 17) with married parents had both parents in the labor force, up substantially from 37% among similarly aged Boomers in 1968.

Post-Millennials have the same number of siblings living with them as Millennials did at a similar age – 1.5, on average. This is down substantially from what the early Boomers experienced in their youth. Among those ages 6 to 17 in 1968, the average number of siblings was 2.6. By the time the Gen Xers came along, that number had fallen to 1.6 (in 1986).

Older post-Millennials appear to be postponing marriage even more than Millennials were at a similar age. Among those ages 18 to 21, only 4% of post-Millennials are married. Millennials in 2002 were nearly twice as likely to be married (7%), and the rate was higher still among Gen Xers in 1986 (12%). In 1968, 26% of early Boomers ages 18 to 21 were married.

Some measures of economic well-being indicate that post-Millennials are growing up in more affluent circumstances than previous generations did. The median or typical household income of 6- to 21-year-olds is $63,700. After adjusting for inflation the typical Millennial grew up in a household with a slightly lower income level ($62,400). The typical household income resources of Gen Xers ($52,800) and early Boomers ($42,000) growing up were significantly below these levels.8 By the official poverty measure, 17% of post-Millennials live in families that are below the poverty line.9 This may exceed the share of Millennials in poverty in 2002 (16%) but is below the share of Gen Xers in 1986 (19%).

Because the most recent available data on educational attainment come from October 2017, the analysis of high school completion and college enrollment is based on post-Millennials who were ages 18 to 20 in 2017.
The typical 17-year-old is enrolled in 12th grade and most reside in the parental home. Some young adults ages 18 and older live in a household that does not include their parents, and thus marital status of their parent or parents is not available.
The Current Population Survey did not begin to collect information on place of birth on a consistent basis until 1994.
This is based on the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey, which covers the civilian, non-institutionalized population.
Comparisons between generations in the regional analysis are based off U.S. Census Bureau vintage 2017 county population estimates and all generations are as of 2017. Historical comparisons of each generation at similar ages are not possible using this data set.
The school enrollment supplement of the October Current Population Survey is the standard source for historical analyses of school and college enrollment. The school enrollment supplement has been collected since at least 1955. Easily accessible repositories of the data (such as IPUMS and the National Bureau of Economic Research) only have the school enrollment supplement from 1976 on.
Prior to 2007 a second parent in the household can only be identified if he or she is married to the first parent. Children residing with two unmarried parents are classified as single parent families. Step and adoptive parents are included as well as biological parents.
If they have the same income, holding other factors the same, households with fewer members are better off financially than larger households. So, the household income calculations follow a standard practice of adjusting for the size of the household. The Census Bureau revised the income questions in 2014 so the post-Millennial household income and poverty figures are not strictly comparable with earlier generations.
The Census Bureau publishes an alternative poverty measure called the supplemental poverty measure. Among other differences from the official poverty rate, the supplemental measure includes the value of noncash transfer payments (such as food stamps) and adjusts for geographic differences in the cost of housing. The supplemental poverty rate for 6- to 21-year-olds in 2018 is 16%. The supplemental measure is not available before 2010.

How Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Plain Black Jacket Became a Controversy

The backlash against the incoming congresswoman’s “very nice” outfit is both tedious and predictable.

Incoming Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez waits for a House of Representatives member-elect welcome briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington

Earlier this week, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez posted a tweet: At congressional events, she shared (the representative-elect of New York’s 14th Congressional District is currently in Washington for a series of orientations on the workings of the House), she keeps being mistaken for an intern. Or sometimes for the spouse of the person who must be the true new member of Congress. Ocasio-Cortez, a young woman who is also a woman of color who is also a democratic socialist—a politician who won her election, earlier this month, with 78 percent of her district’s vote—keeps getting told that she doesn’t quite belong in Congress. Her tweet sharing that experience was punctuated by a face-palm emoji. It went viral.

The next day, Eddie Scarry, formerly a blogger for the gossip site FishbowlDCand currently a writer for the conservative Washington Examiner, posted a picture of Ocasio-Cortez, taken from behind, seemingly without her knowledge, as she walked through a hallway wearing a tailored black jacket and carrying a coat. He accompanied it with a note that doubled as a caption: “Hill staffer sent me this pic of Ocasio-Cortez they took just now. I’ll tell you something: that jacket and coat don’t look like a girl who struggles.” This tweet went viral, too—not because of the insight it offered, but because of the opposite. People mocked it and memed it and objected to it, some indignant at the creep shot Scarry shared, many others referencing the obvious fact that it is possible to advocate for the working class and wear clothing at the same time.

Scarry’s tweet, on its own, isn’t worth much more discussion; it was a bad thought, posted in bad faith. What’s notable, though, is the way his tweet tangled with Ocasio-Cortez’s observation about the way she has been treated during her congressional orientation. Both tweets were asking questions about power and representation and belonging. Ocasio-Cortez was making a wry observation about how she has been seen, as a newcomer to the halls of Congress; Scarry was proving her point. He was suggesting that Ocasio-Cortez, the public servant who chose to don a well-cut jacket rather than a dirt-streaked potato sack to do her serving, must somehow be deceiving the public. He was insinuating that, the system being what it is, the success she has found within it must be its own evidence of manipulation. Don’t look like a girl who struggles: The comment was about the clothes, but at the same time it wasn’t about the clothes. It is never, really, about the clothes. It is about belonging. It is about power. It is about who is assumed to look like a congressperson, and who is not.

Ocasio-Cortez is well aware of the absurdities of that tautology. In the short time that has found her as a fixture on the national stage, she has been a target for precisely such questions—membership, difference, disruption—joining the ranks of Hillary Clinton and Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters as a bogey(wo)man for the right. Many have challenged her own challenge to the status quo by questioning her legitimacy as an advocate for change. She is not what she seems, many pundits have suggested. She is a fraud, they have insisted. That has been the best way—the most convenient way, the least disruptive way—to make sense of her political success. Power that knows what it looks like; power that knows what an outsider looks like, too.

Shortly after Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in the NY-14 primary, the conservative TV-show host John Cardillo shared an image, taken from Google Maps, of the home Ocasio-Cortez grew up in outside New York City, dubbing it a “far cry from the Bronx hood upbringing she’s selling.” Her general upbringing, her family, her college education, and more have been called into question since then, all of it offered up as evidence that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the political identity if not the person herself, is on some level a lie. (A suit-and-stilettos outfit she wore for a photo shoot with Interview magazine in early September—a $3,500 combination that was, as such outfits generally will be, merely borrowed for the occasion—inspired similar accusations.) In a recent New York Times interview, Ocasio-Cortez mentioned how hard it is to find affordable housing in Washington; conservative pundits alternated between laughing at this and dismissing it as spin. Judy Miller, on Fox: “I think what she’s talking about is all of the money in Washington, all of the wealth in Washington, all of the power—and a little, simple person like her from New York can’t find a place to live. It is a brilliant political line.”

A little, simple person like her. This is the strain of rhetoric Scarry was both capitulating to and amplifying when he sent his tweet on Thursday. “I know what it’s like to be a poor intern in D.C.,” he told Talking Points Memo in an interview, “and I can tell you—and I’m a male, obviously—but you tend to not look like that. She looks very well put together, looks very nice.” As its own form of spin, it’s a crafty rhetorical move: The niceness itself assumed to be the liability. The fact that Ocasio-Cortez’s outfit fits in—the plain suit, the black heels—treated as its own evidence of her difference. Dressing the part presented as proof of her ultimate unfitness for the part.

The move is, in its own way, a conventional outfit. Hypocrisy is a common thing to weaponize—particularly in politics, which makes so many competing demands of its practitioners. One must be authentic, but widely appealing. One must be careful, but relatable. Smart, but not off-puttingly so. Charming, but not trying too hard. And for women politicians, of course, the demands amplify: Attractive, but not too attractive. Put-together, but not excessively. Well dressed, but. Made up, but. Confident, but. The competing demands can transcend one’s party; very occasionally, they can transcend one’s gender. In 2008, Sarah Palin was widely criticized for having spent $150,000 on designer duds to wear on the campaign trail as John McCain’s running mate. (“Sarah Palin, small-town hockey mom and everywoman? More like Sarah Palin, pampered princess,” the Los Angeles Times scoffed of the move.) John Edwards, in the 2008 primary, faced similar accusations after reporting emerged about his expensive haircuts and clothing. (The AP on the matter: “Looking pretty is costing John Edwards’ presidential campaign a lot of pennies.”) And then there is the human catch-22 that is Hillary Clinton, living out the demands of being Hillary Clinton: For decades, pundits have used her sartorial choices as evidence of her unfitness—for the office of the first lady, for a seat in the Senate, for the leadership of the State Department, for the desk in the Oval Office.

It’s not about the clothes. It’s never, really, about the clothes. For those who seek power in places that have not previously been welcoming, the clothes can become cudgels. They can serve as an easy shorthand for who belongs, and who does not. They can be ratifications of progress and of backlash, used by people who think they know what power should be, and act like, and look like, and dress like—people attempting to enforce, on and for everyone else, the narrowness of their own perspectives.

This is a time that is challenging that myopia. Ocasio-Cortez, before and since she was elected into office, has been making a point of doing precisely what her campaign promised she would: doing things differently. Not fitting in. The representative-elect has been, along with several other of her fellow freshmen, Instagramming her experiences of the congressional orientation. She has participated in a protest about climate change in the office of Nancy Pelosi. She has drafted legislation on the same subject, as part of her campaign-platformed “Green New Deal.” She has been reveling in disruption, in change, in difference, all the while suggesting that a girl who struggles—and indeed that several such girls, newly elected to the halls of power—will struggle above all to change the appearance of power itself. Which is also to say that Ocasio-Cortez is being treated as a threat, in some quarters, because that is precisely what she is. “Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Will Push Washington,” the headlineof her postelection interview with the Times read. “Will Washington Push Back?”

This week, in the most tedious of ways, the paper got its answer.

lunes, 19 de noviembre de 2018

Berliners have shown how to stop the march of the far right


Musa Okwonga

The demise of German fascist group Wir für Deutschland shows that citizens can unite to banish hatred

Something significant has just occurred in Berlin. The far-right group Wir für Deutschland (We for Germany), which has been marching in the capital since 2016, has just announced that it will no longer protest there. Explaining the decision in a frustration-filled statement on Facebook, Wir für Deutschland credited three factors in particular.

First, there was fatigue; it no longer wished to march round in circles, which had been a fitting metaphor for the spiralling hatred of their ethos. Second, there was discomfort: its members had grown tired of being screamed at by anti-fascists. Third, there was the nemesis whose compassion towards refugees had made them take to the streets in the first place. “[Chancellor Angela] Merkel has defeated us,” said Kay Hönicke and Enrico Stubbe, the organisers of the demonstrations. “We must accept that.” Their deflated tone suggests that, for now at least, hate is too much like hard work.

Of course, hope is hard work too. Wir für Deutschland’s efforts were vigorously resisted by several grassroots groups in the city, perhaps the most persistent of which is Berlin gegen Nazis (Berlin Against Nazis), whose members march at least once a week: it hailed the retreat of Wir für Deutschland as “a clear success”. Its achievement cannot be overstated: Wir für Deutschland, at its peak, could raise a crowd of 3,000 extremists to march through the heart of the city. Its final demonstration, by contrast, attracted barely 100.

The demise of this organisation is notable for two reasons. The first is a reminder that citizens across the world, at a time when many may feel powerless, can still come together to make the atmosphere in their towns less toxic. It is frequently said that the majority of people are decent, but that decency is worth nothing if it remains silent. In this case, we have seen what happens when the majority chooses to speak up. Second, and most crucially, it disrupts the narrative that the rise of the far right is inevitable.

Thousands turn out for Chemnitz anti-racism rock concert

That account is one that the far right has been understandably keen to push, with its videos amassing millions of views on YouTube and its string of international conferences. Yet some of the most critical confrontations are arguably not taking place online or in debating chambers, but in public. And in Berlin, as in Charlottesville, we have seen the same pattern: of the far-right mobilising large numbers, only to meet with the resistance of vast crowds, drawn from diverse and mutually supportive groups.

In the German context, this resistance seems to be reverberating at a political level. In the 2017 general election, the AfD (Alternative for Germany) party took an unprecedented 12.6% of the vote, and by now might have expected to be riding yet higher in the polls. Yet it is the Greens, with a pro-immigration and pro-environment stance, who have instead enjoyed such a surge. They now stand at 22% in the polls, making them the second-most popular party in Germany behind the Christian Democratic Union, or CDU.

What is driving this progressive revival? Well, at both political and street level, the answers appear to be the same: a clear, positive vision of the future, and an endless supply of patience. And the results have been encouraging. In the last few months, Berlin has seen anti-racism marches of 70,000 and 240,000 people; and in Chemnitz, to counter a protest of 6,000 extremists, 65,000 attended an anti-racism concert. German social media marked the latter of these events with the defiant hashtag Wir Sind Mehr (We Are More).

Yet Anetta Kahane, chairwoman of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, warns against complacency. “We should start a campaign called ‘We are more, but not enough’,” she says. The challenges, particularly in rural areas, remain substantial – and so, while a presence on the streets is essential, it must be tied to long-term work in communities. In Dresden last week, Kahane’s foundation helped to host the 10th anniversary of Saxony’s civil society awards, to honour those who had done most to promote inclusivity in the region. There, as the audience celebrated the brave and unrelenting endeavours of local people, the golden rule of activism became clear: that every painstaking collective effort matters, no matter how minor or futile it may seem. If this rule is borne firmly in mind, then hatred and ignorance can be firmly marched back to the margins of society; and then onwards, into the past.

• Musa Okwonga is a poet, journalist and musician; he is one half of the group BBXO, and is a co-host of the Rabona football podcast. He lives in Berlin

domingo, 11 de noviembre de 2018

Pelosi, McCarthy are the frontrunners in House leadership elections

Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Zach Gibson

House Republicans and Democrats will soon elect their leaders to take them through the 2020 elections. Here’s a read of the field, from well-placed Republican and Democratic sources.

What's happening: Republicans go first, holding their leadership elections on Wednesday.
Kevin McCarthy is expected to be the minority leader. His only challenge comes from the Freedom Caucus' Jim Jordan, and nobody seriously expects Jordan to trouble him. This will be McCarthy's first time in charge of the Republican conference. But he has experience helping Republicans win back power. As chief deputy whip, McCarthy played a key role in recruiting the class of Republican candidates that flipped the House in 2010.
Steve Scalise, who is popular within the conference, will be the minority whip. There was plenty of speculation that he would challenge McCarthy for the top job, but he's chosen not to.
Liz Cheney of Wyoming is expected to be the House Republican Conference chair.
Insiders consider Rep. Tom Emmer of Minnesota the leading contender to run the House Republicans' campaign arm, the National Republican Congressional Committee.

House Democrats plan to hold their leadership elections on Nov. 28.
Nancy Pelosi is the overwhelming favorite for speaker and doesn’t currently face a serious challenger. Many Democrats consider her the best person to keep the caucus disciplined enough to balance investigations of the Trump administration with an ambitious agenda. And some of the most powerful progressive groups and leaders — including EMILY's list, Planned Parenthood and AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka — have endorsed her.
Steny Hoyer of Maryland is expected to continue as majority leader.
Jim Clyburn of South Carolina is expected to be the house majority whip. Colorado Rep. Diana DeGette is challenging him, running on the idea that Democrats need to "repay" the trust of female voters by electing more women to leadership. The Congressional Black Caucus backs Clyburn, and DeGette’s bid seems ill-fated.
Cheri Bustos of Illinois is a favorite to lead the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. She'd be the only member of Democratic leadership from a Trump district, and she has made that understanding of red America a key part of her pitch for the job. Reps. Denny Heck, Suzan DelBene and Sean Patrick Maloney are also vying for the job. All four are members of the moderate New Democrat Coalition.

Younger voters are better than older voters at telling factual news statements from opinions

Rubén Weinsteiner

While some say wisdom comes with age, younger Americans are better than their elders at separating factual from opinion statements in the news, according to a new analysis from Pew Research Center.

In a survey conducted Feb. 22 to March 4, 2018, the Center asked U.S. adults to categorize five factual statements and five opinion statements. As a previous report revealed, about a quarter of Americans overall could accurately classify all five factual statements (26%) and about a third could classify all five opinion statements (35%).

But age matters, according to this new analysis, as younger adults were more likely than older Americans to correctly categorize all five of the factual statements, and also more likely to do so for the five opinion statements.

About a third of 18- to 49-year-olds (32%) correctly identified all five of the factual statements as factual, compared with two-in-ten among those ages 50 and older. A similar pattern emerges for the opinion statements. Among 18- to 49-year-olds, 44% correctly identified all five opinion statements as opinions, compared with 26% among those ages 50 and older.

When looking at the 10 statements individually, younger adults were not only better overall at correctly identifying factual and opinion news statements – they could do so regardless of the ideological appeal of the statements. (In selecting statements, the study strived to include an equal number that would appeal to the sensitivities of each side of the aisle; to learn how the Center determined the ideological appeal of the statements, see the methodology.)

For example, 63% of 18- to 49-year-olds correctly identified the following factual statement, one which was deemed to appeal more to the right: “Spending on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid make up the largest portion of the U.S. federal budget.” About half of those ages 50 and older (51%) correctly classified the same statement. Additionally, 18- to 49-year-olds were 12 percentage points more likely than those at least 50 years of age (60% vs. 48%, respectively) to correctly categorize the following factual statement, which was deemed to be more appealing to the ideological left: “Immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally have some rights under the Constitution.”

Among the opinion statements, roughly three-quarters of 18- to 49-year-olds (77%) correctly identified the following opinion statement, one that appeals more to the ideological right – “Government is almost always wasteful and inefficient” – compared with about two-thirds of older Americans (65%). And younger Americans were slightly more likely than older adults (82% vs. 78%, respectively) to correctly categorize this opinion statement, one appealing more to the left: “Abortion should be legal in most cases.”

This stronger ability to classify statements regardless of their ideological appeal may well be tied to the fact that younger adults – especially Millennials – are less likely to strongly identify with either political party. Younger Americans also are more “digitally savvy” than their elders, a characteristic that is also tied to greater success at classifying news statements. But even when accounting for levels of digital savviness and party affiliation, the differences by age persist: Younger adults are still better than their elders at deciphering factual from opinion news statements.

Beyond digital savviness, the original study found that two other factors have a strong relationship with being able to correctly classify factual and opinion statements: having higher political awareness and more trust in the information from the national news media. Despite the fact that younger adults tend to be less politically aware and trusting of the news media than their elders, they still performed better at this task.

When age is further broken down into four groups, the two youngest age groups – 18- to 29-year-olds and 30- to 49-year-olds – are almost matched in their ability to correctly categorize all five factual and all five opinion statements, and both outpaced those in the two older age groups – 50- to 64-year-olds and those ages 65 and older.

Rubén Weinsteiner

viernes, 9 de noviembre de 2018

The 2018 midterm vote: Divisions by race, gender, education

Voters at Franklin Elementary School in Kent, Ohio, on Nov. 6. (Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

The stark demographic and educational divisions that have come to define American politics were clearly evident in voting preferences in the 2018 congressional elections.

There were wide differences in voting preferences between men and women, whites and nonwhites, as well as people with more and less educational attainment.

Nationally, voters favored Democratic candidates for Congress over Republican candidates by a margin of about 7 percentage points, according to a preliminary estimate by The New York Times. (With votes still being tabulated in some states, this margin may change.) Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives for the first time since 2010, while Republicans appear to have added to their majority in the Senate.

The gender gap in voting preference is not new, but it is at least as wide as at any point over the past two decades, according to exit polls by the National Election Pool, as reported by CNN. Women favored the Democratic candidate in their district by 19 percentage points (59% to 40%) while men voted for the Republican 51% to 47%. (The exit polls offer the first look at the electorate; the portrait will be refined over time as additional data, such as state voter files, become available).

The exit polls show divisions across racial and educational groups, too. As was the case in the 2016 presidential election, white men voted Republican by a wide margin (60% to 39%) while white women were divided (49% favored the Democratic candidate; as many supported the Republican).

Blacks voted overwhelmingly (90%) for the Democratic candidate, including comparable shares of black men (88%) and black women (92%).

(For more on long-term trends in voters’ party identification, see “Wide Gender Gap, Growing Educational Divide in Voters’ Identification.” For a detailed study of demographic divisions in the 2016 electorate based on voter records, see “For Most Trump Voters ‘Very Warm’ Feelings for Him Endured.”)

When gender, race and education are considered together, women college graduates stand out for their strong preference for the Democratic candidate (59% favored the Democrat while just 39% voted Republican). Whites with less education – particularly men – supported the Republican. White men who do not have a college degree voted Republican by about two-to-one (66% to 32%).

The age divide in voting, which barely existed in the early 2000s, also is large. Majorities of voters ages 18 to 29 (67%) and 30 to 44 (58%) favored the Democratic candidate. Voters ages 45 and older were divided (50% Republican, 49% Democrat).

Among voters who said this was the first midterm in which they voted, 62% favored the Democrat and just 36% supported the Republican.

As is typically the case with midterm elections, views of the president were a major factor in the outcome. In September, Pew Research Center found that a majority of registered voters (60%) said they viewed their vote as either a vote for or against President Donald Trump.

The national exit poll found that more voters said their midterm vote was to oppose Trump (38%) than said it was to support him (26%); 33% said Trump was not a factor in their vote. The midterm vote also was highly correlated with views of Trump’s job performance: Among those who approved of the president (45% of all voters), 88% voted for the Republican. Among the larger share who disapproved (54%), an overwhelming percentage voted Democratic (90%).

In a year in which issues around gender and racial diversity have been key issues in politics, voters were divided in their opinions about whether whites or minorities are favored in the country today and whether sexual harassment is a serious problem in the U.S.

Overall, 41% of voters said whites in the country today are favored over minorities; 19% said that minorities are favored over whites, while 33% said that no group is favored. Attitudes on this question were strongly correlated with vote choice. Among those who said whites are favored in the U.S., 87% voted for Democrats. By contrast, large majorities of those who said minorities are favored (85%) or that no group is favored (69%) voted for Republican candidates.

Views of the seriousness of the problem of sexual harassment also were closely tied to midterm preferences: 72% of those who said it is a very serious problem supported Democratic candidates. Among those who said it was a somewhat serious problem, Republican candidates held a slim edge (50% vs. 48%). And while relatively few voters said sexual harassment is not too serious a problem (11%), this group voted overwhelmingly Republican (79% vs. 20%).

Key takeaways about Latino voters in the 2018 midterm elections

Destiny Martinez, 18, voted for the first time on Oct. 24 at an early voting event for students in Norwalk, California.

Latinos make up an increasing share of the U.S. electorate. A record 29 million Latinos were eligible to vote in this year’s midterm elections, accounting for 12.8% of all eligible voters, a new high. While it’s too soon to know how many voted and their turnout rate, Latinos made up an estimated 11% of all voters nationwide on Election Day, nearly matching their share of the U.S. eligible voter population (U.S. citizens ages 18 and older). Here are key takeaways about Latino voters and the 2018 elections.

1In U.S. congressional races nationwide, an estimated 69% of Latinos voted for the Democratic candidate and 29% backed the Republican candidate, a more than two-to-one advantage for Democrats, according to National Election Pool exit poll data. These results largely reflect the party affiliation of Latinos. In a Pew Research Center pre-election survey, 62% of Latinos said they identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party compared with 27% who affiliated with the Republican Party. Among other racial and ethnic groups, a lower share of whites (44%) voted for Democrats in congressional races compared with blacks (90%) and Asians (77%). (Exit polls offer the first look at who voted in an election, a portrait that will be refined over time as more data, such as state voter files, become available.)

2About a quarter of Hispanics who cast a ballot in 2018 (27%) said they were voting for the first time, compared with 18% of black voters and 12% of white voters, according to the exit polls. Meanwhile, many new voters this year were young. A majority of voters younger than 30 said they were voting for the first time.

3Hispanics had a gender gap in voting preference, with 73% of Hispanic women and 63% of Hispanic men backing the Democratic congressional candidates – a reflection of the election’s broad gender differences. In a pre-election Pew Research Center survey of Hispanics, differences by gender extended to views of the country. For example, Hispanic women were significantly more dissatisfied with the way things are going in the country today than Hispanic men.

A gender gap also existed among white voters, with 49% of white women backing the Democratic congressional candidate compared with 39% of white men. By contrast, few gender differences existed among black voters, with about nine-in-ten black voters of both genders backing Democratic candidates.

4Latinos made up a notable share of eligible voters in several states with competitive races for U.S. Senate and governor, including Texas (30%), Arizona (23%), Florida (20%) and Nevada (19%). In these states, Democrats won the Latino vote, sometimes by a wide margin. In the Texas Senate race, 64% of Latinos voted for Democrat Beto O’Rourke while 35% voted for Republican incumbent Ted Cruz. In the state’s race for governor, about half of Hispanics (53%) voted for Democrat Lupe Valdez and 42% backed the Republican, Greg Abbott.

In Florida, Republican candidates often win a larger share of the Hispanic vote than elsewhere, in part due to a large population of Cubans that has tended to vote more Republican than other Hispanic groups. In the Senate race, 54% of Hispanics voted for Democrat Bill Nelson and 45% backed Republican Rick Scott. Latinos voted similarly in the race for governor, with 54% of Hispanics voting for Democrat Andrew Gillum and 44% voting for Republican Ron DeSantis.

Meanwhile, Latinos voted for Democratic candidates by wide margins in Nevada. About 67% of Latinos voted for Democrat Jacky Rosen in the Senate race, compared with 30% who voted for Republican Dean Heller. In the race for governor, Latinos voted in a similar manner.

5In Florida, a record 2.2 million Hispanics registered to vote this year, an 8.4% increase over 2016. This is nearly double the increase from the previous midterm election in 2014, when Hispanic voter registration increased 4.6% over 2012.

Counties with some of the largest Puerto Rican populations had some of the fastest growth in registered voters, including Polk, Pasco, Osceola, Lake, Marion and Volusia – all counties where Hispanic voter registration grew by 15% or more over 2016.

6Nine U.S. House districts in which Hispanics make up at least 10% of eligible voters changed parties. These include Florida’s 26th and 27th districts, California’s 25th District, Arizona’s 2nd District, Texas’ 7th and 32nd districts, Colorado’s 6th District, New York’s 11th District and New Jersey’s 2nd District. In all of these congressional districts, the Democratic candidate won a seat previously held by a Republican.

The number of representatives of Cuban origin representing South Florida districts fell from three to one. (South Florida holds more than half of the nation’s Cuban-origin population.) In Florida’s 26th District, Democrat Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, an immigrant from Ecuador, defeated incumbent Republican Carlos Curbelo, who is of Cuban origin. In addition, a Cuban no longer represents Florida’s 27th District, where longtime Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen did not seek re-election. Democrat Donna Shalala defeated Republican Maria Elvira Salazar, who is of Cuban origin. Meanwhile, Republican Mario Diaz-Balart, who is of Cuban origin, won re-election in Florida’s 25th District.

The Populist Morass

Why liberal policy savants deplore rule by the people

© Lindsay Ballant

THE LIBERAL INTELLIGENTSIA HAS MET THE ENEMY, and it is you. As the shockwaves of Donald Trump’s presidency continue to shudder through our institutions of elite consensus, a myopic, profoundly self-serving narrative is taking shape across the politically minded academy: the rude, irrational, dangerously xenophobic and racist rites of popular sovereignty have swamped the orderly operations of constitutional government. What’s more, this upsurge in mass political entitlement isn’t confined to America’s notoriously demotic, chaotic political culture. No, the democratic world at large is succumbing to the darker siren songs of human nature, elevating authoritarian strongman leaders, dusting off ugly and divisive nationalist slogans, and hastily erecting trade barriers in the desperate, misguided hope of restoring some mythic, nostalgia-steeped, ethno-nationalist gemeinschaft

The name for these distressing, backward-reeling political trends, our liberal solons agree, is populism. The hallmarks of populist movements, we’re instructed, involve the rampant scapegoating of racial, religious or ethnic minorities, and the fierce rejection of mediating institutions seen to obstruct the popular will—or, in a pinch, the will of this or that Great Leader. The resulting, chilling political dispensation works out to an elegant sort of strongman syllogism, in the view of Harvard government professor Yascha Mounk:

First, populists claim, an honest leader—one who shares the pure outlook of the people and is willing to fight on their behalf—needs to win high office. And second, once this honest leader is in charge, he needs to abolish the institutional roadblocks that might stop him from carrying out the will of the people.

And once these populist goons ascend to power, all bets are off when it comes to preserving the cherished canons of liberal democracy. They cavalierly pack courts, suppress independent media, and defy the separation of powers—all in the name of you, the people. The populists now storming the world historical stage “are deeply illiberal,” Mounk writes. “Unlike traditional politicians, they openly say that neither independent institutions nor individual rights should dampen the people’s voice.”

To be sure, the present world order doesn’t lack for strongmen, hustlers, and bigoted scoundrels of all stripes, from Donald Trump and Viktor Orban to Recep Erdogan and Nigel Farage. But it’s far from clear that anything is gained analytically from grouping this shambolic array of authoritarian souls under the rubric of populism. Indeed, by lazily counterposing a crude and schematic account of populist rebellion to a sober and serenely procedural image of liberal democratic governance, Mounk and his fellow academic scourges of new millennial populism do grievous, ahistorical injury to populist politics and liberal governing traditions alike. Let’s survey the damage in order, starting with an abbreviated look at the history of modern populism, chiefly as it took shape here, where it’s been most influential, in the United States.

Enmity for the People

Ever since the dismal heyday of Joseph McCarthy, liberal intellectuals have adopted populism as an all-purpose synonym for cynical, bottom-feeding demagoguery, particularly when it takes on a racist or nativist guise. McCarthy himself was undoubtedly a populist in this version of historical inquiry, as were his many spittle-flecked progeny in the postwar world, such as George Wallace, Pat Buchanan, and Ross Perot. For that matter, the preceding generation of opportunist panderers outside the political mainstream were populists as well: the FDR-baiting radio preacher Charles Coughlin and the quasi-socialist Bayou kingmaker Huey Long; the definitely socialist Upton Sinclair and a motley array of Southern Dixiecrats and Klan sympathizers—populists all, and dangerous augurs of how minority rights, civic respect, and other core liberal-democratic values can be deformed in the hands of charismatic, divisive sloganeers.

The only trouble with this brand of populist-baiting is that it’s ideologically and historically incoherent. Inconveniently for the prim, hectoring postwar sermons of populist scourges like Richard Hofstadter and J.L. Talmon, populism originated not as a readymade platform for strongman demagogues, but as an economic insurgency of dispossessed farmers and working people. America’s first (upper-case P) Populist dissenters didn’t set out to traduce and jettison democratic norms and traditions; they sought, rather, to adapt and expand them, in order to meet the unprecedented rise of a new industrial labor regime and the consolidation of monopoly capitalism in the producers’ republic they described as the “cooperative commonwealth.”

Far from rallying to this or that fire-breathing strongman orator, the Populists of the late nineteenth century summoned their political insurgency out of a vast network of purchasing-and-marketing cooperatives, known as the National Farmers’ Alliance and Industrial Union—a movement that would come to employ more than forty-thousand lecturers nationwide and organize at the precinct level in forty-three states. Because the Farmers’ Alliance sought to promote both the economic independence and civic education of its members, it began life as an urgent campaign of political pedagogy. The pages of its widely circulated newspaper, the National Economist, outlined the history of democratic government in the West, harking back to Aristotle and Polybius. Alliance lecturers also found themselves advancing not merely political literacy, but literacy itself, since the gruesome exploitation of Southern tenantry usually involved getting farmers to sign usurious contracts they were unable to read.

In time, Populist organizers came to realize that simple economic cooperation would never, by itself, countermand the kind of economic power accruing to Gilded Age capitalists. So they began to organize a political arm, aimed at providing the sort of infrastructure that economic democracy requires. In addition to advocating the kind of procedural reforms to be taken up by a later generation of Progressive era reformers—such as direct election of senators, legislating by popular initiative, and public ownership of utilities—Alliance organizers proposed an alternate currency and banking system, known as the Subtreasury Plan. The idea behind the Subtreasury was to re-engineer America’s currency—and thereby the American economy at large—to reward the interests of laborers over those of capital. Economic reward would be directly weighted to crops harvested, metals mined, and goods manufactured, as opposed to wealth amassed and/or inherited.

Populists, in other words, took the country’s founding promise of democratic self-rule seriously as an economic proposition—and understood, as few mass political movements have done before or since, how inextricable the securing of a sustainable and independent livelihood is to the basic functioning of democratic governance. True to the incorrigibly procedural form of liberal political appropriation, however, the Subtreasury Plan would survive as a rough blueprint for the introduction of the Federal Reserve in 1914—with the significant caveat that the Fed would serve as a subtreasury network to fortify the nation’s currency for bankers, manufacturing moguls, and stock plungers, not ordinary farmers and workers.

Class and the Color Line

As a movement taking root among tenant farmers in the South and West, the Farmers’ Alliance also began to defy a foundational taboo of the white postbellum political order. Alliance lecturers recruited black tenant farmers into the movement’s rank and file, and began advancing a sustained attack on the mythology of white supremacy gleefully exploited by the region’s planter class. This attack was halting and culture-bound, with many lapses on the part of white Populist leaders into patrician condescension and (at times) uglier private sentiments. But the movement’s halting lurch toward an integrationist strategy prior to the rise of Jim Crow segregation and voting-suppression laws throughout the South grants a bracing view on the unsettled nature of racial politics in the region at the height of Populist organizing. After the Alabama Populist party adopted a plank in its 1892 platform supporting the black franchise “so that through the means of kindness . . . a better understanding and more satisfactory condition may exist between the races,” a white farmer wrote to the Union Springs Herald: “I wish to God that Uncle Sam could put bayonets around the ballot box in the black belt on the first Monday in August so that the Negro could get a fair vote.”

It’s not clear that anything is gained analytically from grouping today’s shambolic array of authoritarians under the rubric of populism.

It was also in 1892 that the national People’s Party was founded—and soon became known as the Populist Party in the political shorthand of the day. In their landmark Omaha Platform, the insurgent leaders of the Populist movement declared “that the civil war is over, and that every passion and resentment which grew out of it must die with it, and that we must be in fact, as we are in name, one united brotherhood of free men.” Georgia Populist lawmaker Tom Watson, who would go on to be the party’s vice-presidential candidate in 1896, announced that the Populists were determined to “make lynch law odious to the people.” Addressing white and black working Americans, he pronounced an indictment of racism that had to sound ominous indeed for the white planter elite: “You are made to hate each other because on that hatred is rested the keystone of the arch of financial despotism which enslaves you both. You are deceived and blinded that you may not see how this race antagonism perpetuates a monetary system which beggars you both.” To black audiences, he pledged that “if you stand up for your rights and for your manhood, if you stand shoulder to shoulder with us in this fight,” then Populist allies “will wipe out the color line and put every man on his citizenship irrespective of color.”

This is not to say that Populists, in launching such salvos against the battlements of racist identity in the South, were remotely successful. Indeed, Watson himself, having seen conservative Bourbon forces cynically marshal black voting support behind segregation platforms in repeated election cycles, would go on to become a hateful paranoiac bigot in the mold of other racist Southern demagogues. C. Vann Woodward chronicles this hideous transformation in his biography Tom Watson: Agrarian Rebel, which stands eighty years on as one of the most heartbreaking and unflinching studies of an American political career ever published.

Watson’s career is also significant because, in the hands of Richard Hofstadter’s revisionist portrait of Populists in his 1955 book The Age of Reform, figures such as Watson—in his late-career moral dotage—are made to stand in for the entire Populist movement. By selectively quoting the outbursts of Watson and other bigoted Populist orators, Hofstadter veers right by the Alliance’s legacy of mass political education and financial reform, and depicts the Populists as nothing more than a downwardly mobile assortment of racist and xenophobic cranks. What ailed these unhinged souls, Hofstadter argued, was a condition he diagnosed as “status anxiety”—together with other demented reveries arising from their own terminally waning cultural prestige. Without Populists, the clear implication of his argument runs, you’d never have the whole backward, bigoted spectacle of the modern Southern regime of racial apartheid, hellbent on subverting any movement toward black self-rule in the name of a sainted white Protestant Populist tradition.

Here’s the thing, though: the institutionalized system of postbellum white supremacy in the South came in response to the threat of the cross-racial class alliances that Populists sought to build—not as an outgrowth of any pre-existing bigotries on the part of Populist leaders. Hofstadter and his many latter-day epigones like Yascha Mounk get the causation here precisely backwards—and in the process, misdiagnose just how and why the regime of Jim Crow took hold so deeply in the American South. It’s not that the Populists were losing status in the South after Reconstruction had been dismantled; it’s that they were gaining political power on an explicit platform of cross-racial solidarity to combat the market forces that were dispossessing poor white and black tenant farmers alike. Given how readily Northern liberals and Progressives of the era adapted to the reign of Jim Crow and endorsed its racist underpinnings, it’s curious—though, alas, not surprising—to see how populism has become the byword of choice for racist demagoguery in respectable liberal debate.

By 1896—nearly two decades after the Alliance’s emergence out of the earlier agrarian Grange movement—national Populist leaders agreed to fuse with the Democratic ticket, which nominated the free-silver boy orator from Nebraska, William Jennings Bryan, for president.

Bryan’s thunderous “Cross of Gold” nomination speech at the 1896 Democratic Convention served in the popular imagination to anoint the idea of (small-p) populism as an emotional exercise in high-voltage speechifying. But as Lawrence Goodwyn made clear in his masterful 1976 history of the movement, Democratic Promise (a work that neither Yascha Mounk nor any of today’s other name-brand populism-baiters has apparently bothered to consult), the radical, grassroots phase of Populist organizing had crested four years prior to the 1896 fusion ticket—and while Bryan was undoubtedly a breath of fresh air in the economically reactionary Democratic Party of Grover Cleveland, his free-silver crusade was but a faint shadow of Populist reform. Free Silverites had assumed national leadership of the party via the financial support of Western mining interests keen to see the United States go off the gold standard—and so what had been an ambitious bid to realign the entire orientation of the nation’s political economy became dumbed down into the sort of money-driven shadowplay all too familiar to students of major party politics: via the alchemy of campaign cash, the domesticated hobby horse of a cherished set of donors becomes tricked out into the spontaneous expression of the popular will. Free-silver was no more likely to deliver long-term prosperity to the toiling masses than today’s Republican tax-cutting boondoggles do (particularly since the price of gold declined shortly after the election in the wake of newly discovered global reserves, easing financial pressure on debt-burdened farmers and industrial workers). And yet there it was, marketed as the panacea of first resort to the many economic and political derangements of Gilded Age capitalism. The Populist insurgency was likely always doomed to fail at the national level, but to have it fail in such an inert, compromised form was a gratuitously cruel body blow to the Alliance-aligned side of the movement. In this light, it was somehow fitting that Bryan would end his long public career as a fundamentalist crank and a Florida real estate tout-for-hire at the height of the 1920s stock market boom.© Lindsay Ballant

System of a Down

All this bears revisiting in such detail because today’s anti-populist writers have shown themselves to be every bit as ignorant of Populist political economy, and its richly instructive course in American history, as Hofstadter had proven to be back in 1955. Far from addressing the real scourges of economic privilege, the populism of liberal lore is, as Hofstadter taught, first and foremost a movement of ugly and intolerant cultural reaction. Even a writer like UC Berkeley economist Barry Eichengreen, who manages to descry legitimate economic grievances in today’s political revolt against neoliberal orthodoxy, delivers up this magisterially nonsensical gloss on the immediate legacy of Bryan: “Whether William Jennings Bryan is properly viewed as a populist is disputed . . . since Bryan, while positioning himself as anti-elite, did not prominently exhibit the authoritarian and nativist tendencies of classic populism.”

To begin with the least risible part first: there was of course no such thing as “classic populism” at the time of Bryan’s elevation to the Populist-Democratic presidential ticket, since the Populists had only emerged as a national political force four years earlier. Not even FM radio franchises or cable art-house channels throw around “classic” with such militant indifference to the word’s actual meaning. But more damning, of course, is Eichengreen’s casual ascription of authoritarian and nativist sentiments as the essence of American populism—a tic everywhere on display in the contemporary liberal effort to diagnose the baneful spread of populism across the globe. The Populist movement is here indicted for helping to originate the very apartheid system of class rule that, as the historical record plainly shows, it had originally sworn to dismantle; to claim that Populist figures are by definition sowers of racial resentment is a bit like reading the modern GOP’s full-frontal assaults on voting rights back into the historical record to proclaim the Republicans as the party of the Confederacy.

The late-Populist descent into race-baiting is instead better understood as the embittered, tail-chasing phase of moral inquiry that awaits all too many disappointed reformers in our Kabukified two-party political scene. To hold these excrescences of Populist failure forth as first-order definitions of populist political leadership is more than sloppy scholarship; it’s an interested falsification of the past, directly in line with the discredited Hofstadter school of drive-by populist caricature.

And alas, Eichengreen is only getting started; the unsupportable generalizations billow on and on. Ticking off the alleged anti-democratic, “antisystem” perils of contemporary “populist” movements, he rears back and delivers this word-picture:

Because populism as a social theory defines the people as unitary and their interests as homogeneous, populists are temperamentally impatient with the deliberations of pluralist democracy, insofar as this gives voice to diverse viewpoints and seeks to balance the interests of different groups. Since the people are defined in opposition to racial, religious, and ethnic minorities, populists are intolerant of institutions that protect minority rights. To the extent that populism as a political style emphasizes forceful leadership, it comes with a natural inclination toward autocratic, even authoritarian rule.

No, no, and again no. Far from displaying a telltale impatience with the protocols of representative democracy and the delicate balancing of “diverse viewpoints,” the People’s Party of the 1890s sought to expandsuch deliberations and such political participation, at a time of virulent white racism and class privilege in every other sanctum of American political leadership. Eichengreen doesn’t say much about alleged populist hostility toward minority rights and the populist masses’ swooning predilection for authoritarian leaders, but none of his sympathetic readers will much expect him to. As is the case in all these tracts, it’s sufficient to name check a few global strongmen, a Hugo Chavez here, a Marine Le Pen or Nigel Farage there, and the specter of intolerant strongman populists on the march across the globe is effectively conjured, in much the same way that saying “Candyman” in front of the mirror three times will cause a bug-filled supernatural predator to materialize out of thin air.

This procedure is the globally minded academics’ version of one of the pet talking points favored among lazy pundits during the 2016 presidential primaries: Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders both appear to champion the cause of forgotten citizens in the face of corrupt and self-dealing political establishments, ergo, they must be the same kind of troublemaking rebel!Never mind that Trump’s substantive platform departed radically from Sanders’s governing plan in nearly every particular, from health care provision to foreign policy to marginal tax rates; no, the notion of a shared populist birthright binding the Queens-bred Prince Hal figure of Trump and the Brooklyn-bred movement socialist Sanders was simply too irresistible to pundits weaned on a historical frame of reference that lasts about as long as your average cable commercial break.

Brexit Ghost

In the same way, liberal political savants are now marketing a one-size-fits-all explanation of the spreading mood of disenchantment with the Eurozone and globalizing capital more generally, the challenges of immigrant assimilation, the rise of tech monopoly and the decline of social mobility and fairly rewarded wage labor. In the brisk, mansplaining chronicles of Mounk, Eichengreen, et al., current uprisings now get reflexively written off to the irrational forces of mystic, metastasizing global populism, and all the thorny, substantive questions of policy and political persuasion that might otherwise be marshaled to address each in its turn likewise get swept under the general heading of populist reaction. Among other things, this interpretive schema is a bizarre brand of political fatalism, offering little more in the way of concrete remedy to these challenges to neoliberal governance than a prayerful hope that the misguided souls making up the base of global “populism” will return spontaneously to their appointed roles as rational, norms-abiding endorsers of the neoliberal status quo.

To get some rough idea of this procedure’s intellectual bankruptcy, consider the 2016 Brexit vote. Here was, yes, a brashly nativist campaign to roll back the Eurozone—but by all accounts the pitch that put the Leave vote over the top was Nigel Farage’s canny though deeply dishonest argument that exiting the Euro would free up vast sums of money for Britain’s national health service. In other words, the would-be “populist” merchants of invidious ethnic, racial, and cultural division were egged on to victory by an appeal to continue funding at a lavish level . . . the most successful social-democratic model of universal health care provision in the industrialized West. Yes, there was no small amount of Leave-camp agitprop targeting immigrant populations as a drain on the NHS’s resources and quality of care—but the fact remains that no one, after a decade-plus of senseless austerity cuts to the British social safety net, was down for even a right-wing culture crusade that might reduce health care expenditures. Indeed, the Yes campaign prevailed in no small part by latching on to NHS spending as a badge of British cultural identity, which might itself suggest a fertile brand of forward-looking organizing for leftists and social democrats possessed with a scintilla of imagination.

In lieu of any such analysis, Eichengreen dotes on the higher rates of unemployment and the lower rates of support for “multiculturalism and social liberalism” in the Leave camp. This is, in part, fair enough—and as an economist, Eichengreen is properly attuned to larger economic forces at play behind shifts in popular opinion. At the same time, though, there’s no clear historical basis to contend, as he does, that the downwardly mobile makeup of Leave supporters is in line with “other instances of populism,” which plainly “suggest that an incumbent group will react most violently—that its members will be most inclined to feel that their core values are threatened—when they are falling behind economically.” That is, at most, just half the picture in any “instance of populism”—or in any broad economic mandate put before a popular vote, which is, in reality, what was up for discussion in the Brexit campaign. As the NHS part of the Brexit campaign made all too plain, aggrieved Leave voters were upset about more than declining incomes, immigrant demands on social services, and the putative excesses of multiculturalism: they intensely disliked the legacies of neoliberalism, as Labour and Conservative governments alike have packaged and promoted them over the past three decades.

Second Time Farage

Indeed, there is no more potent symbol of neoliberal governance and its many social-democratic blindspots than the EU itself, which all but commanded the bankruptcy of the Greek economy and denied Greece’s leftist Syriza party functional control over the nation’s own currency so as to the bolster the EU’s own preferred terms of maximum austerity in the comically misnamed Greek bailout. Yet it’s easy to forget in postmortems like Eichengreen’s that membership in the EU was precisely the question at stake in the Brexit vote. Eichengreen does cite the sluggish performance of the British economy in the wake of its admission to the EU, but notes in a bizarre footnote that, among the “big three” continental economies of France, Germany, and the UK, the fact “that [economic growth] decelerated by less in Britain suggests the EU membership and Thatcher-era reforms had a positive effect.” That would be in the same sense, one supposes, that it’s a “positive effect” to be kicked in the shins rather than strangled from behind.

Eichengreen puzzles over why issues of inequality loomed larger over the Brexit ballot than they had during the retrograde policy reign of Margaret Thatcher. He notes greater maldistribution of per capita income in Britain as opposed to other major EU member nations and briefly references the disastrous austerity-driven response to the 2008 meltdown orchestrated by the Cameron government. Still, it’s principally the familiar Hofstadter specter of “status anxiety” and tribally fomented economic nationalism that drive Eichengreen’s anatomy of the Brexit campaign—so much so that he depicts Tony Blair’s vastly liberalized immigration policy at the EU’s behest not as an inflection point in the consolidation of labor markets under the aegis of global capitalism, but rather as the natural continuation of the market revolution ushered in under Thatcher. England had already, by the late 1990s, been taking in a greater share of its population growth from former UK colonies than it had through natural biological increase—with new immigrants mostly from former colonial holdings of the former British empire. But, Eichengreen notes:

This changed . . . with Tony Blair’s decision in 2004 to allow unrestricted access to the U.K. labor market for citizens of the EU’s eight new Central and Eastern European member states. The U.K. labor market was tight, and Blair had the backing of business. The policy was part of his strategy to reposition the Labour Party as business friendly and pro-globalization. The decision to open the doors to the new EU8 was, in fact, part of a broader set of government initiatives that included also more permits and visas for young people seeking work in the tourist trade and for seasonal agriculture

The reason that wages for all workers have been stagnant for so very long is that our predatory managerial and owning classes have kept the vast share of economic gains in this country for themselves.

Put another way: after Margaret Thatcher spent the better part of a generation cutting the once-robust British union movement off at its knees, Tony Blair pledged his fealty to global capital by casualizing his country’s low-wage service economy. But Eichengreen, in spite of his own economic bona fides, dismisses any class-based animus in the backlash to the immigration wave that followed hard upon Blair’s decision. EU8 immigrants were comparatively better educated than their forerunners in the former British colonial sphere and so couldn’t be seen as a threat to low-skilled, native-born job holders, he argues—and besides, “the foreign-born share and the proportion of a region’s voters supporting Leave were in fact negatively correlated. It’s as if regions where knowledge of immigrants was least, fear of immigration was greatest.”

Here we are again, in other words, in the reassuring liberal world of declining cultural status. Populists are nativists by definition, and nativists are hostile to immigration because they simply don’t know any better; they live in regions where the presence of a smattering of immigrants is likely to be more upsetting or disorienting than in higher-density outposts of the global knowledge economy. It’s hard not to note the affinities here between Eichengreen’s culturally determinist gloss on the Brexit outcome and Hillary Clinton’s principal alibi for her 2016 election defeat: that Democratic voters are clustered, via their own assortative genius, in places that “are optimistic, diverse, dynamic, moving forward,” while the sad-sack, downwardly mobile Trump base “was looking backwards” in its Ghost-Dance style mission to make America great again.

Meanwhile, Eichengreen’s other telltale metric of populist distemper—the weak-at-the-knees reaction to strongman leaders retailing sagas of cultural restoration—is quite comically absent from the Brexit referendum and its aftermath. Nigel Farage was a C-list media personality prior to the Brexit vote and now resides much further back in the celebrity alphabet. Theresa May nearly lost a heretofore ironclad-seeming Conservative majority by trying to jerryrig an early vote on her party’s Leave agenda, while mop-topped demagogue Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London, was driven into premature private-sector retirement by the sheer political unworkability of any and all Brexit plans presently on the books.

Norms Follow Function

So again: if these omniscient accounts of the latter-day scourge of global populism aren’t actually about populism, what are they about? Well, they’re doing what neoliberal intellectual work has been doing for the better part of a generation now—making the logic of market-driven policy appear to be a species of the highest political wisdom. This mission is at the heart of Mounk’s puzzlingly influential book, which tilts again and again at straw-man avatars of the “populist” menace in order to confirm what he and his cohort of think-tank apparatchiks knew all along: that the expert-administered dictates of the neoliberal market order are not simply the optimal arrangements for global capitalist enterprise; they are also, and far more urgently, the last, best hope for rescuing our fragile, Trump-battered democratic norms from the populist abyss. It’s right there in the book’s subtitle: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It.

However, on closer inspection, the task of saving our freedom isn’t a call to the barricades, the town hall, or the picket line; it is, rather, a closely modulated accord among postideological elites to keep all currents of opinion within their appointed lines. This pronounced and insular vision of elite governance for its own sake explains why Mounk and other self-appointed prophets of the gathering populist storm consistently fail to highlight what is in fact a central, and deeply anti-populist, bulwark of conservative rule over the past generation—the activist right’s militant embrace of state-based voter suppression, which has no remote historical affinity with a movement devoted to the expansion of the franchise via direct election of senators, legislation by initiative, and preliminary challenges to racist disenfranchisement of postbellum black voters. Astonishingly, Mounk devotes a section of his book to bemoaning the decline of judicial review in Western democracies without coming to grips with the substantive impact of the Roberts Court’s irresponsible gutting of the enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, and the staggeringly counter-empirical Trumpist obsession with the threat of race-based “voter fraud.” Then again, such first-order assaults on basic democratic participation at the grassroots level have no clear place in a tract devoted to what Mounk is pleased to call “the miraculous transubstantiation between elite control and popular appeal.”

It gets worse. Highlighting the penchant of strongman demagogues to translate power relations into conspiracy theories, Mounk surreally argues that the best rejoinder to such unhinged public reveries is “to re-establish traditional forms of good government.” And the way to do this, it turns out, is to bow once more before the well-worn governmental shibboleths of the neoliberal information age:

To regain the trust of the population once Trump leaves office, politicians will have to stick to the truth in their campaigns; avoid the perception of a conflict of interest; and be transparent about their dealings with lobbyists at home and government officials abroad. Politicians and journalists in countries where norms have not eroded to the same degree should, meanwhile, double down with renewed zeal: As the American case shows, such norms can erode frighteningly quickly—and with terrible consequences.

After Trump won the 2016 election, Barack and Michelle Obama were mocked in some quarters for having insisted throughout the campaign that “when they go low, we go high.” It is, of course, easy to mock a team that continues to play by the rules when the opposing team turns up with goons in tow and clubs in their hands. But for anyone who wishes to keep playing the game, it’s not clear what the alternative is: if both sides take up arms, its nature changes irrevocably. Unlikely as it might seem at the moment, the only realistic solution to the crisis in government accountability (and most likely the larger crisis in democratic norms) is therefore a negotiated settlement in which both sides agree to disarm.

It’s hard to conjure a better rhetorical example of high-church proceduralism in the neoliberal age. There’s the notion that the excesses of Trumpism can be effectively dispelled by the self-policing moral rehabilitation of our leadership caste, as opposed to any expansion of political-economic freedoms that an aggrieved citizenry might demand on their own behalf. There’s the fanciful notion that Democrats blew the 2016 election by “going high” and adopting a morally superior campaign rhetoric, when in point of fact the Clinton campaign devoted its final general election push to a blizzard of harsh negative attacks on Trump—in part because even at that late date, Clinton couldn’t give a clear account of why she wanted to be president beyond it being the next logical entry on her resume. (Anyone who thinks “going high” is second nature to Hillary Clinton in campaign mode clearly slumbered through the 2008 primary season, when she and her surrogates mounted an unrelentingly vicious counteroffensive against her upstart opponent Obama.) Finally, there’s the broader depiction of political discourse as a formalist byplay of norms upheld by force of liberal leadership—norms that are at once the bedrock foundation of responsible public inquiry and yet somehow also prone to instantaneous collapse once a billionaire pseudo-populist and his retinue of goons start whaling away on them.

This ritualized fetish of norms and rules is but the extension of the habits of mind exemplified by Davos-style neoliberalism into the sphere of political morality. The notion that representative democracy best expresses itself in formalist modes of compromise and mutual disarmament is the mode of agreement best disposed to bargaining parties whose own social power is assured and ratified well beforehand. The formalist dream of government exclusively by rules and norms is a minuet among privileged arbiters of polite conduct who can afford the luxury of believing they are “going high” by deigning to enter the public sphere in the first place. All that’s missing here is a ritual call for greater “civility” among the surly ranks of Trump resisters—but Mounk completed his manuscript before that procedural plaint became de rigueur among right-thinking liberals.

Keep in mind, too, that Mounk lays out his proceduralist playbook of elite deference as the best response to the plague of conspiracy thinking on the “populist” left and right. Why, if you simply increase your transparency, the reasoning goes, your virtues will become self-evident—as though conspiracy-mongering has overtaken our common world only because we’ve all needed a firmer pedagogic hand at our social-media cursors. Among other things, this sunnily didactic view of truthful-leadership-by-example overlooks the Obama administration’s commitments to official secrecy, leak prosecutions, and extralegal drone assaults of all description, despite its frequent rhetorical invocations of its own exemplary commitments to “transparency” and plain-dealing. It’s hard to see, in other words, how assurances of improved probity coming from our leadership class would be greeted with anything other than a chorus of disbelieving guffaws—or why they should be.© Lindsay Ballant

Productivity for What?

Mounk’s analysis grows yet more evidence-averse and saucer-eyed when he addresses what had been the great strength of historical Populist organizing: the condition of the political economy. He devotes much of the discussion to the mandate to increase worker productivity, while also asserting that “the role that inequality has played in the stagnation of living standards has sometimes been overstated.” Productivity gains, he insists, are the best hope for the improvement of economic conditions across the board: “if productivity had grown at the same rate in the past few decades as it had in the postwar era, the average American household would now be able to spend $30,000 more per year.”

Well, duh—the gains in both productivity and income over the first flush of the American economy’s postwar expansion were without precedent in human history. (This would be why French economists refer to the three decades following World War II as the trentes glorieuse.) But what Mounk isn’t telling his readers is that wages have failed to keep pace even with more modest productivity increases for American workers over the past four decades—which is why wages for those workers have remained essentially stagnant since the mid-1970s. So if you coax higher productivity numbers out of the U.S. wage economy as it’s presently configured, that’s the least likely path to improving the lot of the average worker.

But of course productivity gains are catnip to neoliberal managers and tech entrepreneurs—the same readers who’ve elevated Mounk’s tract into Hillbilly Elegy status for the TED Talk circuit. So once again we’re marched through alarmist talk of the grievous state of American public education as a training ground for knowledge workers and the anemic state of STEM funding. Sounding for all the world like Bill Gates cooing into Mark Zuckerberg’s ear, Mounk announces that an “ambitious set of educational reforms is needed to prepare citizens for the world of work they will encounter in the digital age.” Then it’s on to true gibberish, as Mounk seeks to apply his stunted apothegms on productivity to the world of work as it now actually exists. Militantly ignoring the last forty years of American wage stagnation, Mounk offers this otherworldly snapshot of what an improved social contract for American workers might look like:

After all, low productivity and high inequality tend to be mutually reinforcing. Workers who have low skills don’t have much bargaining power. This, in turn, depresses their wages, and makes it more likely that their children will also fail to acquire sufficient skills to succeed.

The reason that workers lack bargaining power, regardless of their skill levels, is that most forms of union organizing have either been outlawed or drastically curtailed under the neoliberal economic policymaking of the past four decades. And the reason that wages for all workers have been stagnant for so very long is that our predatory managerial and owning classes have kept the vast share of economic gains in this country for themselves. Latest figures from the Economic Policy Institute show that the pay gap separating CEO salaries from those of average workers now stands at 312 to 1.

Uber, But for Plutocrats

All the STEM curricula and Task Rabbit apps in the world won’t set that imbalance to right. But in lieu of a policy directive along the lines of organize your workplaces and tax the living shit out of the wealthy, Mounk again counsels the stately and measured trimming of differences between workers and rapacious managers—er, excuse me, dynamic entrepreneurs. And presto: a plan “to structure the world of work in such a way as to make it possible for people to derive a sense of identity and belonging from their jobs—and to remind the winners in globalization of the links they share with their less fortunate compatriots.” How might this staggering conceptual breakthrough be coaxed into being? Well, let global laborcrat Yascha Mounk sketch it out for you:

Take the example of Uber. It seems relatively clear that governments should neither forbid the service, as some countries in Europe are proposing, nor allow it to circumnavigate key protections for their workforce, as most parts of the United States have effectively done. Rather, they should steer a forward-looking middle course—celebrating the huge increase in convenience and efficiency that ride-sharing offers while passing new regulations which ensure that drivers earn a living wage.

Never mind that the entire business model of Uber is organized around the idea of denying its casualized workers a minimum wage (the median wageof Uber and Lyft drivers now works out to $3.37 an hour); or that recent studies indicate that, once vehicle maintenance and gas costs are factored into the equation, nearly a third of Uber drivers are actually losing money. The larger point is that this daft “forward-looking middle course” mimics in structure and substance alike virtually every misguided neoliberal policy that has beggared the living conditions of workers and debtors throughout the world, and sparked the very far-flung rebellions against globalizing capitalism that Mounk’s book purports to describe. With selected phrasing substitutions, this Goldilocks-style prescription of punitively wage-starving policies might have been lifted, say, from Al Gore’s heroic defense of the NAFTA accords while debating Ross Perot in 1995, when the former third-party presidential candidate prophesied a “giant sucking sound” of vanishing American jobs would follow hard on the new trade deal. Or it could have been taken from any number of Silicon Valley photo ops for candidate Hillary Clinton in 2016, as she celebrated the “convenience and efficiency” of an economic sector that doubles as both a wage-suppressing labor cartel and a libertarian cult.

Mounk’s Third Way policy prescription also echoes an especially distressing blindspot of neoliberal labor thinking: it’s taken for granted here that “governments” serving undefined constituencies are the right economic actors to be shaping the optimal labor relations for the ride-sharing market, and not, say, drivers themselves. Never mind that New York’s Taxi Workers Alliance managed under its own organizing steam to get the number of app-based drivers capped in the nation’s largest market for ride-sharing—thereby helping secure the livelihoods of a union membership that’s seen six taxi drivers kill themselves under the race-to-the-bottom logic of rampant ride-sharing. No, re-organizing your productive life in your own interest is too hopelessly divisive, and could even prove to be dangerously “populist” over the longer term. So just lie back and let above-the-fray global bureaucrats manage your working lives on your behalf, and you can thank us later.

This is, at bottom, the vision of expert-mediated civic life that the Yascha Mounks of the world are seeking to repackage as our imperiled tradition of “representative democracy.” Talk about your giant sucking sounds.