martes, 30 de abril de 2019

Sizing Up Twitter Users

U.S. adult Twitter users are younger and more likely to be Democrats than the general public. Most users rarely tweet, but the most prolific 10% create 80% of tweets from adult U.S. users

Twitter is a modern public square where many voices discuss, debate and share their views. Media personalities, politicians and the public turn to social networks for real-time information and reactions to the day’s events. But compared with the U.S. public overall, which voices are represented on Twitter?

To examine this question, Pew Research Center conducted a nationally representative survey of 2,791 U.S. adult Twitter users who were willing to share their Twitter handles.1 The design of this survey provides a unique opportunity to measure the characteristics and attitudes of Twitter users in the United States and link those observations to actual Twitter behaviors, such as how often users tweet or how many accounts they follow.

The analysis indicates that the 22% of American adults who use Twitter are representative of the broader population in certain ways, but not others. Twitter users are younger, more likely to identify as Democrats, more highly educated and have higher incomes than U.S. adults overall. Twitter users also differ from the broader population on some key social issues. For instance, Twitter users are somewhat more likely to say that immigrants strengthen rather than weaken the country and to see evidence of racial and gender-based inequalities in society. But on other subjects, the views of Twitter users are not dramatically different from those expressed by all U.S. adults.

In addition to teasing out these differences between Twitter users and the population as a whole, this analysis also highlights the sizable diversity among Twitter users themselves. The median user tweets just twice each month, but a small cohort of extremely active Twitter users posts with much greater regularity. As a result, much of the content posted by Americans on Twitter reflects a small number of authors. The 10% of users who are most active in terms of tweeting are responsible for 80% of all tweets created by U.S. users.

Individuals who are among the top 10% most active tweeters also differ from those who tweet rarely in ways that go beyond the volume of content they produce. Compared with other U.S. adults on Twitter, they are much more likely to be women and more likely to say they regularly tweet about politics. That said, there are only modest differences in many attitudes between those who tweet frequently and those who do not.

How Pew Research Center linked survey data with social media accounts

Researchers recruited respondents from Ipsos’ KnowledgePanel, a probability-based online panel of U.S. adults. The sample included panelists identified by Ipsos as likely Twitter users. Respondents were screened for eligibility, and those who confirmed that they used Twitter were asked to share their Twitter handle in order to participate in the study. Out of 4,829 individuals who were screened, 3,649 (76%) confirmed that they used Twitter. Of these confirmed users, 3,293 (90%) agreed to provide their Twitter handle and completed the survey. Next, researchers reviewed each account and removed any that were nonexistent or belonged to institutions, products or international entities. This report is based on the remaining 2,791 respondents who both completed the survey and provided a valid handle (76% of confirmed Twitter users). Twitter users can choose not to post tweets publicly, but the Twitter API makes summary statistics about all accounts – public or private – available. The sample was weighted to be equivalent to a national sample of Twitter users identified on the November 2018 wave of the Center’s American Trends Panel. More information about the surveys used in this report appears in the Methodology section.
Twitter users are younger, more educated and more likely to be Democrats than general public

U.S. adult Twitter users differ in significant ways from the overall U.S. adult population. Most notably, Twitter users are much younger than the average U.S adult and are also more likely than the general public to have a college degree. The median age of adult U.S. Twitter users is 40, while the median U.S. adult is 47 years old. Put differently, the U.S. adult population is nearly equally divided between those ages 18 to 49 and those ages 50 and older. But Twitter users are nearly three times as likely to be younger than 50 (73%) as to be 50 or older (27%).

Although less pronounced than these differences in age, Twitter users also tend to have higher levels of household income and educational attainment relative to the general adult population. Some 42% of adult Twitter users have at least a bachelor’s degree – 11 percentage points higher than the overall share of the public with this level of education (31%). Similarly, the number of adult Twitter users reporting a household income above $75,000 is 9 points greater than the same figure in the general population: 41% vs. 32%. But the gender and racial or ethnic makeup of Twitter users is largely similar to the adult population as a whole.
Twitter users more likely to be Democrats

Twitter users are more likely to identify with the Democratic Party compared with U.S. adults more generally: 36% do so, compared with 30% of U.S. adults, according to a national survey of all adults conducted in November 2018. Similarly, 26% of U.S. adults identify as Republican, versus 21% of adult Twitter users. Political independents make up a similar share of the general public (27%) and Twitter users (29%).

Of course, many political independents actually lean toward one of the two major parties. Of the Americans who lean toward either party, 52% of U.S. adults identify as Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, while 60% of U.S. adult Twitter users say the same. Similarly, 43% of U.S. adults identify as or lean Republican, compared with 35% of adult Twitter users.

These partisan differences between Twitter users and the general public persist when looking across certain age groups. Specifically, nearly two-thirds (63%) of Twitter users ages 18 to 49 identify as Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, compared with the 55% of 18- to 49-year-olds who identify the same way. Among older users, these differences are similar. Some 53% of Twitter users age 50 or older identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, a figure that is somewhat higher than the 47% of U.S. adults in this age group who identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party.

In terms of political ideology, Twitter users are less likely than U.S. adults more broadly to characterize their views as very conservative. On an 11-point scale ranging from 0 (“very conservative”) to 10 (“very liberal”), 14% or Twitter users place themselves between 0 and 2, compared with 25% of the general public. At the same time, similar shares of Twitter users and U.S. adults identify as very liberal. And although Twitter users are somewhat more likely to report having voted in the 2018 midterm elections, these differences are relatively modest: 60% of Twitter users reported that they definitely voted in 2018, compared with 55% of all U.S. adults.
Twitter users have somewhat different attitudes than the general population

Twitter users as a group express distinct opinions relative to the public as a whole on some political values, particularly when it comes to views having to do with race, immigration and gender. A larger share of Twitter users – who as noted above are more likely to identify as Democrats relative to the population as a whole – say that blacks are treated less fairly than whites (64% of Twitter users vs. 54% of Americans). They are also more likely than the U.S. general public to say that immigrants strengthen the U.S. (66% vs. 57%) and that barriers exist in society that make it harder for women to get ahead (62% vs. 56%).

In other ways, the views of Twitter users differ only slightly from those of all U.S. adults. Twitter users are somewhat more likely to say that people take offensive content they see online too seriously (59% say this, compared with 54% of U.S. adults), and are somewhat less likely to report being “very attached” to their local community (12% vs. 17%).2
Those most active on Twitter differ from the rest of adult U.S. users

In addition to these differences between Twitter users and the rest of the population, there are also significant differences between the most active Twitter users (as measured by the quantity of tweets they post) and those who post less frequently.

By definition, the most active tweeters produce a large amount of content relative to the rest of the Twitter population. But the scope of these differences is profound. The median Twitter user posts just two times a month, but the most prolific 10% of Twitter users in terms of tweet volume produce a median of 138 tweets monthly. In fact, this analysis estimates that the top 10% of tweeters are responsible for 80% of the tweets created by all U.S. adults on Twitter.

The behaviors of these highly active tweeters also differ from the rest of the Twitter population in ways that go beyond tweet volume. The median user in the top 10% by tweet volume creates 138 tweets per month, “favorites” 70 posts per month, follows 456 accounts, and has 387 followers.3 By comparison, the median user in the bottom 90% of tweeters creates just two tweets per month, “favorites” one post per month, follows 74 accounts, and has 19 followers. And when asked to report how often they use the platform, fully 81% of these highly active tweeters say they do so every day; 47% of other Twitter users visit the platform with this regularity.

Members of the top 10% of tweeters also have distinct attitudes, behaviors and personal characteristics compared with those who use the platform less often. These prolific tweeters are more likely to be women: 65% are, compared with 48% of the bottom 90% of tweeters. And these most active tweeters are much more likely than others to say they post about political issues. Fully 69% of the top 10% most prolific tweeters say they have tweeted about politics, compared with 39% of Twitter users generally. And 42% say they have tweeted about politics in the last 30 days, compared with just 13% of other users.

The Twitter platform provides multiple ways to post and share content, but the top 10% of tweeters are more likely to report using automated methods that allow others to post tweets on their behalf: 25% of highly prolific tweeters have done so, compared with only 15% of Twitter users in the bottom 90%.

Despite the differences between highly active tweeters and those who are less active, other instances show these active users differ only modestly – or not at all – from the rest of the Twitter population. Although prolific tweeters report tweeting about politics with great regularity, their overall partisanship is not out of sync with other Twitter users. Overall, 61% identify as Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, compared to 60% among other users.

And there are only modest differences between the top 10% of tweeters and the bottom 90% in other views. Identical shares of both groups (64%) say blacks are treated less fairly than whites. But the top 10% of tweeters are somewhat more likely than the bottom 90% to say that immigrant newcomers to this country strengthen American society (70% vs. 65%), or to say there are still significant obstacles in society that make it harder for women than men to get ahead (69% vs. 62%).

sábado, 27 de abril de 2019

America’s False Narrative on China


Washington has been loose with facts, analysis, and conclusions about China, and the American public has been far too gullible in its acceptance of this false narrative. The point is not to deny China’s role in promoting economic tensions, but to stress the need for objectivity and honesty in assigning blame – especially with so much at stake in the current conflict.

NEW HAVEN – In a rare moment of bipartisan agreement, America’s Republicans and Democrats are now on the same page on one key issue: Blaming China for all that ails the United States. China bashing has never had broader appeal.

This fixation on China as an existential threat to the cherished American Dream is having serious consequences. It has led to tit-for-tat tariffs, escalating security threats, warnings of a new cold war, and even whispers of a military clash between the rising power and the incumbent global hegemon.

With a trade deal apparently imminent, it’s tempting to conclude that all this will pass. That may be wishful thinking. Sino-American trust is now in tatters. The likelihood of a superficial deal won’t change that. A new era of mutual suspicion, tension, and conflict is a very real possibility.

But what if the US chattering class has it all wrong and the China bashing is more an outgrowth of domestic problems than a response to a genuine external threat? In fact, there are strong grounds to believe that an insecure US – afflicted with macroeconomic imbalances of its own making and fearful of the consequences of its own retreat from global leadership – has embraced a false narrative on China.

Consider trade. In 2018, the US had a $419 billion merchandise trade deficit with China, fully 48% of the massive overall trade gap of $879 billion. This is the lightening rod in the debate, the culprit behind what US President Donald Trump calls the “carnage” of job losses and wage pressures.

But what Trump – and most other US politicians – won’t admit is that the US ran trade deficits with 102 countries in 2018. This reflects a profound shortfall of domestic saving, owing in large part to the reckless budget deficits approved by none other than Congress and the president. Nor is there any recognition of supply-chain distortions – arising from inputs made in other countries but assembled and shipped from China – that are estimated to overstate the US-China trade imbalance by as much as 35-40%. Never mind basic macroeconomics and new efficiencies from global production platforms that benefit US consumers. Apparently, it is much easier to vilify China as the major obstacle to making America great again.

Next, consider intellectual property theft. It is now accepted “truth” that China is stealing hundreds of billions of dollars of US intellectual property each year, driving a stake into the heart of America’s innovative prowess. According to the accepted source of this claim, the so-called IP Commission, in 2017 IP theft cost the US economy between $225 and $600 billion.

Leaving aside the ridiculously broad range of such an estimate, the figures rest on flimsy evidence derived from dubious “proxy modeling” that attempts to value stolen trade secrets via nefarious activities such as narcotics trafficking, corruption, occupational fraud, and illicit financial flows. The Chinese piece of this alleged theft comes from US Customs and Border Patrol data, which reported $1.35 billion in seizures of total counterfeit and pirated goods back in 2015. Equally dubious models extrapolate this tiny sum into an aggregate guesstimate for the US and impute 87% of the total to China (52% to the mainland and 35% to Hong Kong).

Then there is the red herring emphasized in the Section 301 report published by the US Trade Representative (USTR) in March 2018, which provides the foundational justification for tariffs levied on China: forced technology transfer between US companies and their Chinese joint venture (JV) partners. The key word is “forced,” which implies that innocent US companies that enter willingly into contractual agreements with Chinese counterparts are coerced into surrendering their proprietary technologies in order to do business in the country.

To be sure, JVs obviously entail a sharing of people, business strategies, operating platforms, and product designs. But the charge is coercion, which is inseparable from the presumption that sophisticated US multinationals are dumb enough to turn over core proprietary technologies to their Chinese partners.

This is another shocking example of soft evidence for a hard allegation. Incredibly, the USTR actually admits in the Section 301 report (on page 19) that there is no hard evidence to confirm these “implicit practices.” Like the IP Commission, the USTR relies instead on proxy surveys from trade organizations like the US-China Business Council, whose respondents complain of some discomfort with China’s treatment of their technology.

The Washington narrative also paints a picture of China as a centrally planned behemoth sitting astride massive stated-owned enterprises (SOEs) that enjoy preferential credits, unfair subsidies, and incentives tied to high-profile industrial policies such as Made in China 2025 and Artificial Intelligence 2030. Never mind a large body of evidence that underscores the low-efficiency, low-return characteristics of China’s SOEs.

Nor is there any doubt that comparable industrial policies have long been practiced by Japan, Germany, France, and even the US. In February, Trump issued an executive order announcing the establishment of an AI Initiative, complete with a framework to develop an AI action plan within 120 days. China is hardly alone in elevating innovation to a national policy priority.

Finally, there is the time-worn issue of Chinese currency manipulation – the fear that China will deliberately depress the renminbi to gain unfair competitive advantage. Yet its broad trade-weighted currency has risen over 50% in real terms since late 2004. And China’s once-outsize current-account surplus has all but vanished. Still, the currency grievances of yesteryear live on, getting prominent attention in the current negotiations. This only compounds the false narrative.

All in all, Washington has been loose with facts, analysis, and conclusions, and the American public has been far too gullible in its acceptance of this false narrative. The point is not to deny China’s role in promoting economic tensions with the US, but to stress the need for objectivity and honesty in assigning blame – especially with so much at stake in the current conflict. Sadly, fixating on scapegoats is apparently much easier than taking a long, hard look in the mirror.


Stephen S. Roach, former Chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia and the firm's chief economist, is a senior fellow at Yale University's Jackson Institute of Global Affairs and a senior lecturer at Yale's School of Management. He is the author of Unbalanced: The Codependency of America and China.

sábado, 20 de abril de 2019

For many rural residents in U.S., local news media mostly don’t cover the area where they live

Americans in urban communities are more likely to say local news media mostly cover the area where they live, while rural residents say that their local news media mostly cover another area, such as a nearby city, according to a new Pew Research Center survey.

Roughly six-in-ten self-described urban residents (62%) say their local news media mainly cover the area they live in, while a majority of those who describe themselves as rural residents (57%) say the opposite is true – their local news media mostly cover some other area, a concern raised by many journalism watchers following newsroom cutbacks and media consolidation. Self-described suburbanites are more evenly split, according to the survey conducted Oct. 15-Nov. 8, 2018, among nearly 35,000 U.S. adults.

Urban residents are also more likely than those in rural and suburban areas to feel that their local news media have a lot of influence on their communities: 44% of urban residents say so, compared with 30% of those in rural areas and 38% in suburban areas.

Despite feeling that the local news media are less connected to their communities, rural residents express the same level of desire as urban and suburban residents for getting news from journalists who are personally engaged in their communities. Roughly equal shares of urban, suburban and rural residents –44%, 41% and 42%, respectively – say it is very important for journalists to be personally engaged in the local community they serve (an additional 37% of urban, 41% of suburban and 40% of rural residents say it is somewhat important). When asked how important local journalists’ understanding of local history is, 52% of urban, 46% of suburban and 47% of rural residents say it is very important (with an additional 33% urban, 38% suburban and 40% rural residents saying it is somewhat important).

For this analysis, references to urban, suburban and rural communities are based on respondents’ answers to the following question: “How would you describe the community where you currently live?”

There are other areas in which residents of these three community types differ in their views of local news coverage.

Urban residents are more likely than suburban and rural residents to see certain local news topics as important for daily life. For example, roughly half of adults in urban areas (49%) say crime is an important topic to follow for daily life – higher than those who live in suburban or rural areas (43% each). Urban residents are also more likely to say news about jobs and unemployment is important to follow for daily life (21%) than those in suburban (13%) or rural (14%) areas. The same pattern of difference exists for government and politics and prices.

All in all, Americans living in urban areas see a greater number of local news topics as vital to their daily lives than do suburban or rural residents. Three-in-ten urban residents say at least five of the 11 local news topics asked about are important for daily life, compared with 21% of adults in suburban and 20% in rural areas.

Residents in the three types of communities also differ on how important they think the internet is for getting local news. Urban residents are more digitally focused in their local news habits, placing greater emphasis on the internet for local news. About four-in-ten urban residents (37%) say the internet is their most important source of local news, compared with 32% in suburban areas and 26% of those in rural areas. They are also more likely than rural residents to often get news from websites and apps (29% for urban vs. 23% for rural, along with 27% of suburban residents).

Previous research by the Center has shown that some differences in views of social and political issues can be attributed to differences in the partisan composition of urban, suburban and rural areas rather than in viewpoints rooted in a particular type of community. Still, when it comes to views of their local news media’s coverage of and influence on the community, news topics that are important to them, and their use of the internet to access local news, the significant gaps in attitudes between urban and rural residents persist even after taking into account party identification.

For example, among those living in urban areas, Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are as likely as Democrats and Democratic leaners to say the local news media cover the area where they live (61% and 65%, respectively). By comparison, about five-in-ten Republicans and Democrats in suburban areas and four-in-ten in rural areas say so.

martes, 16 de abril de 2019

Gender gap widens in views of government’s role – and of Trump

Gender differences about the size and scope of government have been evident for more than a decade, but they have widened in recent years.

And while the gender gap in presidential job approval also is not new, it is wider for Donald Trump than for his predecessors.

In a new Pew Research Center survey, nearly six-in-ten women (58%) say they prefer a bigger government providing more services to a smaller government providing fewer services (36%). Among men, the balance of opinion is nearly the reverse: 59% of men prefer a smaller government (37% prefer bigger).

The gender differences on this measure are as wide as at any point in more than a decade. The change is largely attributable to an increase in the share of women expressing a preference for bigger government, while men’s attitudes on this question are little changed.

During most of Barack Obama’s presidency, women were roughly divided on this question: As recently as September 2016, 44% of women preferred a smaller government providing fewer services, while 48% preferred a bigger government providing more services. Today, the percentage of women who prefer bigger government has risen to 58%. In September 2016, just prior to the 2016 election, 56% of men said they would rather have a smaller government. Today, 59% say they would rather have a smaller government.

Trump’s job approval rating has been more deeply divided along partisan lines – and across generations – than for other recent presidents. This also is the case when it comes to gender: There are wider differences between men and women in views of Trump’s job performance than for any president dating to George H.W. Bush.

Currently, 47% of men say they approve of how Trump is handling his job as president, with an equal share saying they disapprove (47%). By contrast, 32% of women say they approve of how Trump is handling his job as president; 63% say they disapprove.

Looking more broadly, over his first two years in office, Trump’s average approval rating was much higher among men (44%) than among women (31%). This 13-percentage-point gender gap is wider than for any of his recent predecessors, dating back to George H.W. Bush.

Sharp Rise in the Share of Americans Saying Jews Face Discrimination

Discrimination seen as widespread against Muslims, other groups

The public sees widespread discrimination against several racial, ethnic and religious groups in the U.S. And while most of these views are little changed over the last several years, the share of Americans saying Jews face discrimination in the U.S. has increased substantially since late 2016.

Today, 64% of Americans say Jews face at least some discrimination – a 20-percentage-point increase from 2016; the share saying Jews face “a lot” of discrimination has nearly doubled, from 13% to 24%. Democrats remain more likely than Republicans to say there is discrimination against Jews, but the shift in these views is evident in both parties.

The survey by Pew Research Center, conducted March 20-25 among 1,503 adults, also finds majorities continue to say there is a lot or some discrimination against Muslims, blacks, Hispanics, gays and lesbians, and women. Muslims, in particular, are seen as facing more discrimination than other groups in society; 82% say Muslims face some discrimination, with 56% saying they encounter a lot of discrimination – highest among nine groups included in the survey.

While overall views about discrimination against most groups in U.S. society are little changed since 2016, already wide partisan divides in many of these views have grown wider. For example, in December 2016, 57% of Democrats and Democratic leaners, compared with 20% of Republicans and Republican leaners said that blacks faced a lot of discrimination – a 37-percentage-point gap. That has increased to 50 percentage points in the current survey: 69% of Democrats now say blacks face a lot of discrimination, compared with 19% of Republicans.

Majorities in both partisan groups say there is at least some discrimination against many groups, including Muslims, blacks, gays and lesbians, and Hispanics. But the share of Democrats who say each of these groups face discrimination is significantly higher than the share of Republicans who say the same. For instance, 92% of Democrats, compared with 69% of Republicans, say Muslims face at least some discrimination.

In contrast, Republicans are about twice as likely as Democrats to say that evangelical Christians (70% vs. 32%), whites (58% vs. 25%) and men (48% vs. 27%) are subject to at least some discrimination.
Growing partisan differences in views of discrimination

Partisan differences in views of how much discrimination several groups experience have widened in recent years.

Democrats have consistently been more likely than Republicans to say most groups face a lot of discrimination. Since 2016, however, the share of Democrats who say blacks face a lot of discrimination has increased, while Republicans’ views are little changed.

Since 2013, when a similarly-worded question asked about discrimination against African Americans, the change is even more striking. Six years ago, just 28% of Democrats said African Americans faced a lot of discrimination; today, more than twice as many Democrats say blacks face a lot of discrimination. (Over this period, an increasing share of Democrats also say that racial discrimination is the main reason some blacks cannot get ahead.)

Since 2016, there also have been sizable increases in the shares of Democrats who perceive a lot of discrimination against Hispanics (14 percentage points) and women (11 points).

Republicans’ views of discrimination are little changed in recent years, with a few exceptions. Somewhat fewer Republicans now see a lot of discrimination against gays and lesbians than did so six years ago (22% now, 30% then). As result, the partisan gap in these views has grown from 16 percentage points in 2013, when 46% of Democrats and 30% of Republicans perceived a lot of discrimination, to 35 points today (57% of Democrats, 22% of Republicans),

There also is a wider partisan divide in views of whether evangelical Christians face a lot of discrimination. Currently, just 8% of Democrats say this, little changed from December 2016. By comparison, 30% of Republicans hold this view, up from 21% in 2016.

The partisan gap in views about discrimination against whites is little changed from 2016; Republicans remain more likely than Democrats to say there is a lot of discrimination against whites (21% vs. 6%).

Among members of both parties, the shares saying there is a lot of discrimination against Jews has roughly doubled since 2016 – from 15% to 28% among Democrats and from 9% to 20% among Republicans.

Overall, whites are less likely than blacks to say that blacks face at least some discrimination (77% vs. 91%). Among whites, there is a wide partisan gap in views of discrimination against blacks (91% of white Democrats and Democratic leaners say there is at least some discrimination against blacks in our society, compared with 66% of white Republicans).

A similar pattern is seen for Hispanics. Whites overall are less likely to say that Hispanics face discrimination (73% of whites say this, compared with 86% of Hispanics). However, 90% of white Democrats say that Hispanics face at least some discrimination compared with 59% of white Republicans.

When asked about discrimination against whites, whites are more likely than blacks or Hispanics to say that there is at least some discrimination against whites in the U.S. (44% of whites say this compared to 29% of blacks and 33% of Hispanics). Yet while 60% of white Republicans say society discriminates against whites, only 24% of white Democrats share this view.

While majorities of both men and women say there is at least some discrimination against women, this view is more widely held among women (76%) than it is among men (62%). Both men and women are substantially less likely to see discrimination against men. Men are slightly more likely than women to say there is a lot or some discrimination against men (43% of men, 36% of women).

Within partisan groups there are no gender gaps in views about discrimination against men: About half of Republican men (51%) and a similar share of GOP women (44%) say that there is at least some discrimination against men. Both Democratic men (29%) and Democratic women (26%) are much less likely say this.

In views of discrimination against women, fairly comparable shares of Republican women (58%) and men (47%) say women face at least some discrimination. Democrats – both women (86%) and men (81%) – are far more likely than Republicans to see discrimination against women. However, a greater share of Democratic women (51%) than Democratic men (35%) say women face “a lot” of discrimination in our society.

martes, 9 de abril de 2019

What Coolidge can teach Trump about 2020: If the economy is good, just ignore the other stuff

President Calvin Coolidge poses between actor John Drew, left, and, singer Al Jolson at the White House in October 1924.

The Last Time a President Got a Pass on a Scandal-Plagued White House

Alice Roosevelt Longworth, a writer and the eldest child of President Theodore Roosevelt, had it right when she said, “[Warren] Harding was not a bad man. He was just a slob.” Whether he knew it or not, the 29th president’s administration had been a ticking time bomb since the moment he won the presidency. He kept bad company, a group of friends and hangers-on who ran amok and enriched themselves on the Harding name. Some of the highest-profile American scandals, including Teapot Dome, happened under his watch. Sometimes he knew, sometimes he didn’t; sometimes he was a participant and other times guilty only by association. Regardless, Harding died in office on August 2, 1923, and the fact that he was still extremely popular and not yet a man in disgrace gave the Republicans a lifeline.

Harding’s vice president and successor, Calvin Coolidge, seemed a nonentity. The Nation described him as a “midget statesman” and Alice Longworth popularized an observation from her doctor that Coolidge “look[ed] as if he had been weaned on a pickle.” Upon learning that Harding died, a number of senators responded with disbelief—Henry Cabot Lodge bellowed, “My God! That means Coolidge is president!” Peter Norbeck of South Dakota said Coolidge could “no more run this big machine at Washington than could a paralytic.” And Harold Ickes, the Chicago Republican who would later play a major role in Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, disparagingly observed, “If this country has reached the state where Coolidge is the right sort of a person for president, then any office boy is qualified to be chief executive.”

But Coolidge, despite all of these expectations, sailed through his first one-year term to a smooth election in 1924. While he may have been saddled with his predecessor’s scandals, the public was more interested in enjoying the prosperity that he had also inherited. Distancing himself from the scandals and associating himself with that prosperity proved a winning strategy for Coolidge during both his campaign and his presidency. The Republican Party’s reputation did not appear to suffer from the scandals, either. In fact, it wasn’t until the stock market crash of 1929 that voters started to turn against the party.

The circumstances that allowed Coolidge’s political survival and the smooth sailing of the entire Republican Party are worth revisiting today as a different scandal-plagued president—albeit one who, unlike Coolidge, is reaping the whirlwind of his own scandals—looks to win a second term during relatively prosperous times.


It was only a matter of weeks into his term before Coolidge suspected that trouble was brewing. It took just three months from the time of Harding’s funeral for the scandals to break. The first to explode was the Veterans’ Bureau, which during Harding’s time had wielded an enormous amount of influence with a $500 million budget and 30,000 jobs to dish out. Its previous secretary, Charles Forbes, had been involved in a lucrative kickback scheme in which he pillaged his own department to spruce up his ranch. Terrified of the embarrassment this could mean for the administration, Harding quietly asked Forbes to resign and then asked him to leave for Europe, from where he resigned, so as not to attract attention. The plan was not entirely successful, however, as details began to trickle out, which resulted in a Senate investigation of Forbes on March 2, 1923. But like all things, the coverup is sometimes as bad as the crime, and Harding must have been deeply concerned that the Senate would learn he had pushed the scandal under the rug. The Senate spent six months gathering facts and finished just at the time Harding died. Three months later, Forbes returned from Europe to stand trial. He was convicted and sentenced to a $10,000 fine and two years in prison.

The Forbes scandal was a hiccup, but not an insurmountable challenge for Coolidge. Harding had done enough and justice had been served, so the president could tell a story of accountability and move on so long as it remained an isolated incident. Unfortunately, it didn’t.

The next shoe to drop was Teapot Dome, which until Watergate would be considered the greatest political scandal in U.S. history. The scandal centered around three oilfields that in 1909 had been legally allocated to the United States Navy—a safeguard against possible shortage of oil in time of emergency. They were Naval Reserve No.1, at Elk Hills, California; No. 2, at Buena Vista, California; and No. 3, at Teapot Dome, Wyoming.

Albert B. Fall, left, and oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny shake hands after they were acquitted of conspiracy to defraud the government by a Supreme Court jury in Washington on Dec. 16, 1926. Fall was later convicted for accepting bribes.

Harding’s interior secretary, Albert Fall, had his own plan and had persuaded Harding to transfer authority over the reserves to his department. Rather than receive competing bids for the leases of the reserves, he would sole-source the leases under a national security justification. He would then lease the three reserves to three separate friends with terms that were disproportionately favorable to the oil companies. The punch line of Fall’s scheme was that by making the oil companies richer, he would earn kickbacks in the form of no-interest loans, Liberty Bonds, livestock and cash that would make him a very rich man. Fall would then retire from government and use the money to build out his Three Rivers Ranch in New Mexico.

When the scandal emerged, Coolidge, who had heard whisperings while serving as vice president, quickly understood the implications of Teapot Dome but didn’t realize in the initial months of his presidency that the scandal went all the way up to his predecessor. He just knew he had some shady characters in the Cabinet and some housecleaning was in order. The former Interior secretary was damaged goods, and it was becoming increasingly clear that both the Navy secretary and the attorney general were equally complicit. He would deal with these individuals, but he needed to simultaneously ensure that any further investigation remained bipartisan so as not to taint him or the Republican Party going into the election.

The appointment of a bipartisan commission was a stroke of political genius. It implicated both Democrats and Republicans and achieved the more important goal of playing for time as the various trials dragged out long enough to avoid impact on the election. That June, the commission called for the prosecution of Fall and his cronies, but most convictions and subsequent sentencing occurred after the election. By that point, the public had largely lost interest and moved on. Albert Fall was less fortunate, as he earned the distinction of being the first Cabinet secretary in U.S. history to serve prison time.

The third major scandal to break—this time at the Department of Justice—had the most sweeping implications for Harding’s legacy and was potentially the most threatening to Coolidge’s election prospects. Attorney General Harry Daugherty was a shady, crooked individual who abused his office repeatedly and unabashedly for personal gain. He personally ran a bootlegging operation in which his henchmen accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars from bootleggers in exchange for immunity, which was not always granted.

Daugherty also ran the Justice Department as a ruthless tyrant and drew the ire of many enemies. As attorney general, he obstructed justice, most notably during the Teapot Dome investigations. When, on February 20, 1924, Montana Senator Burton Wheeler introduced a resolution specifically calling for an investigation of the attorney general, Daugherty responded—or at least the FBI chief did on his behalf—by harassing him both publicly and privately. As Wheeler pursued the investigation, witnesses were physically intimidated, had their rooms ransacked and their documents stolen, all with the goal of preventing them from testifying. When that failed to halt Wheeler, Daugherty manufactured bribery charges against him in his home state of Montana.

Daugherty’s misdeeds eventually caught up with him and while he escaped prosecution—mainly because some of the key figures had mysteriously died or committed suicide—Coolidge had had enough. Harding may have been blinded by loyalty, but Coolidge knew exactly who Daugherty was and pushed him out on March 28, 1924.

By mid-1924, Coolidge was forced to confront the undeniable truth behind many of the accusations, particularly the suggestion that senior members of the Cabinet had been deeply involved. This was a dilemma for the new president, who in addition to having been at least nominally part of Harding’s Cabinet had retained his advisors. So much had unfolded in just his first few months as president and now, with the 1924 presidential election fast approaching, Coolidge knew he had to distance himself from his predecessor. Harding had been good to him, but the scandals occurred on his watch, and it was much easier for a dead man’s head to roll.

With Harding unable to defend himself and those responsible for the many scandals hardly eager to out themselves, Coolidge didn’t wait long to throw his dead predecessor under the bus. It was a good strategy. Not only did he get a free pass on the scandals, but the more the press and some politicians attempted to connect him and his administration to the past, the more unpopular such opponents became. Perhaps the greatest victim was John W. Davis, the 1924 Democratic presidential nominee, who foolishly misread the public and tried to connect Coolidge to the Harding scandals. He paid a heavy political price at a time when the electorate found this in poor taste.

Coolidge didn’t have to lift a finger to win the 1924 presidential election with the second-largest popular vote in Republican history. It was fortunate, too, as the unexpected death of his son left him too emotionally distraught to campaign. But as William Allen White observed: “In a fat and happy world, Coolidge is the man of the hour. Why tempt fate by opposing him.” His ascension to the presidency in 1923 fulfilled the country’s desire for a return to normalcy, making for an easy case to the American people that they should “Keep It Cool with Coolidge” and vote for a continuation of prosperity—even as scandal after scandal was continuing to land on the morning newspapers.


If the Coolidge presidency seemed uneventful, it’s because it was. He bickered a bit with Congress, but by and large he sat back and let the good times roll. The country, intoxicated with the perks of prosperity, mortgaged its future at every level as it marched blindly toward the greatest economic catastrophe in history.

Meanwhile, the late president lay six feet underground and was saddled with the growing reputational damage that came with each new revelation. When it came time to dedicate his memorial on July 4, 1927, President Coolidge was “too busy,” lest he risk any association with his radioactive predecessor. Nan Britton’s publication of The President’s Daughter dealt the dead president a devastating blow as she detailed their torrid affair in 440 pages of salacious anecdotes of sex and scandal. Successive biographies and autobiographies followed, each deepening the narrative of Harding’s failure. In many respects, Warren Harding became a lightning rod for the Republican Party. All that was bad was attributed to the late president, while all that was good and prosperous could be associated with Republican policies.

Harding was undoubtedly flawed and a failure of a president, but his death was exploited in the most Machiavellian terms by the very political opportunists he had elevated. Harding was corrupt, but so were many others in the Republican Party. His tragic death probably saved the party from implosion by giving it a fall guy. Had he survived, it all would have exploded just as he was gearing up for reelection, and unlike Coolidge he would have had no way to escape. There were simply too many scandals involving too many cronies and public servants, and had he not died it is unlikely he would have finished his term in office.

Not only did Coolidge not suffer the political consequences of his predecessor’s scandals, but the prosperous times similarly insulated the entire party against voters’ discontent—at least until the end of the decade.

It was tempting for Coolidge to consider a run in 1928, and at the time the country was so prosperous that he probably could have won. The 1920s was the Republican era, a period in which the prosperity was so great that it overshadowed the man in the White House. The party cared little if the president was Calvin Coolidge or Herbert Hoover, so long as he was Republican and the party could build on its political endowment. Little did they know that this political endowment was resting on a far shakier foundation than they realized. The approach was nearsighted, and as the writer Henry “H.L.” Mencken observed at the time, “[Coolidge’s] chief feat during five years and seven months in office was to sleep more than any other President—to sleep more and say less … While he yawned and stretched the United States went slam-bang down the hill—and he lived just long enough to see it fetch up with a horrible bump at the bottom.”

Harding, Coolidge and Hoover had all been architects of the policy that put American business first. Each bears responsibility for rebuffing demands to regulate the financial sector and for permitting rampant stock market speculation. Both the financial sector and the stock market were in dire need of regulation, and we know in hindsight that the trickle-down effect of booming economic times had created a bubble that was ready to burst. The success of the economy was in fact widening income inequality and further depressing the persisting agricultural crises. In truth, it all could have come crashing down during any one of the three presidents’ administrations. But by a stroke of bad luck and opting into a continuation of the same policies, Herbert Hoover was left holding the bag and to navigate the impossible.

Hoover’s election in 1928 was seen as a vote for prosperity, and by all accounts he had the right pedigree to continue the momentum. As a star member of both the Harding and Coolidge Cabinets, in which he served as Commerce secretary, Hoover distinguished himself as both a savvy and competent executive. With the country’s economy continuing to boom and a nasty anti-Catholic campaign targeted at the Democratic nominee, Al Smith, Hoover had an easy time winning in a massive landslide that even flipped some Democratic, Southern states.

The celebration was short-lived. Less than a year after taking office, calamity hit. As the market crashed in October 1929, so too did the Republican era of good and plenty.

sábado, 6 de abril de 2019

Joe Biden Created the Culture He Is a Target Of

Joe Biden appears at Syracuse University in 2015 during an "It's On Us" event to raise awareness of sexual assault on campuses.

As vice president, Biden sought to remake the rules of sexual culture on college campuses and beyond. He succeeded—and now is suffering for it.

Joe Biden is now living in the world of accusation he helped to create. It is one of peril for the accused, in which they are subjected to expansive definitions of sexual misconduct and little benefit of the doubt. Biden helped to bring it about as the leader of the Obama administration’s cornerstone effort to end sexual assault at colleges and universities, a worthy undertaking that quickly spiraled into overreach. The goal, as Biden often says, was to remake sexual culture on campuses and in society at large—a goal that’s reached remarkable fruition in the #MeToo era. Now, as he mulls whether to enter the presidential race, Biden is finding himself ensnared by some of the doctrines he has advocated over the past several years.

In the past few days, Biden’s not-yet candidacy has been rocked by accusations of unwanted touching. Last week, Lucy Flores, a former Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor of Nevada, said that at a campaign rally in 2014, the then-vice president, standing behind her, placed his hands on her shoulders, sniffed her hair and gave the back of her head a “big slow kiss.” A few days later, Democratic former congressional aide Amy Lappos said that at a 2009 event, Biden put his hands on her face, pulled her to him and rubbed his nose with hers. This week, two more women have come forward—a student who said he touched her thigh and hugged her “just a little bit too long,” and a writer who said his hand strayed from her shoulder and moved down her back before her husband intervened.

These women’s accounts have been bolstered by the many circulating videos—under the label “Creepy Uncle Joe”—largely compiled from swearing-in ceremonies at which Biden presided as vice president, and where he welcomed incoming officials’ families. On view is the oddly ritualized way that Biden interacts with women and girls: the hair stroking and sniffing, persistent whispering, touching and insisting that young female family members stand near him.

Biden, whose spokesman did not respond to requests to comment for this article, has many defenders, including women who say they welcomed his touch. And while the accusers say they feel he violated their personal space, they generally agree that what he did was minor, and they do not call it sexual. Most everyone seems to agree that Biden’s actions fall into a gray zone. And yet these gestures are raising questions about his candidacy. The New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg wrote recently that she doesn’t think Biden is a sexual harasser, but that the accusations and his response help to demonstrate that his “time is up.” There is an irony at work here: Biden helped to make possible a world in which long-ago and trivial accusations can upend one’s reputation and career.

When Biden became vice president, one of his early acts was the announcement in June 2009 of a new position under his aegis: White House adviser on violence against women. Addressing violence against women has been career-defining for Biden. As a senator, he oversaw the passage of the Violence Against Women Act in 1994, what he calls his “proudest legislative accomplishment.” He continued with the cause as vice president, with the Obama administration’s focus on what it said was an epidemic of sexual violence by male students against their female classmates on college campuses. Biden became the top advocate and White House point man for much of the administration’s policy on the issue.

The undertaking was laudable. There is no doubt that for too long, on too many campuses, too many women who had been sexually violated and had their claims diminished or dismissed. But from the beginning, the demands the administration made on schools, and the way schools carried them out, alarmed civil libertarians.

In April 2011, Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the release of a bombshell letter, with the bland greeting “Dear Colleague,” to the country’s 4,600 institutions of higher education. It laid out new directives for how campuses were to root out and punish sexual assault. It was the beginning of a concerted effort that radically remade how students could interact sexually, with severe penalties for those who violated increasingly expansive codes of conduct. The accused were to be judged under the lowest standards of evidence, the definitions of misconduct were widely broadened, third-party reports could trigger an investigation even if the alleged victim did not think there had been a violation, and more. Title IX is the federal law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in education. Under Obama administration insistence, college offices tasked with administering Title IX became vast and powerful bureaucracies, and students were encouraged to report any perceived violation.

In a 2015 speech at Syracuse University about sexual harassment and assault, Biden made his oft-repeated assertion that, “We need a fundamental change in our culture. And the quickest place to change culture is to change it on the campuses of America.” In other words, campuses were laboratories where government officials could impose their vision of how males and females should interact.

Among the cultural shifts orchestrated by the Obama administration was the assertion that evaluation of campus claims of sexual harassment and assault rest on the subjective feelings of the accuser. That meant it was irrelevant whether the accused had an intention to abuse, harm or offend. This was codified in 2013, with the joint release by the departments of Education and Justice of what they called “a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country to protect students from sexual harassment and assault.” An analysis by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, a civil liberties group, found that the administration had abandoned the principle that claims of harassment should be evaluated based on an “objective” or “reasonable person” standard.

The Obama administration’s efforts to expand the definitions of what constituted a possible sexual violation were thoroughgoing. In 2014, the White House issued a report called “Not Alone,” which provided schools with a model “climate survey” that gave this definition of punishable behavior: “Sexual violence refers to a range of behaviors that are unwanted by the recipient and include remarks about physical appearance; persistent sexual advances that are undesired by the recipient; unwanted touching; and unwanted oral, anal, or vaginal penetration or attempted penetration.” In other words, the Obama administration expanded the definition of sexual violence to include compliments, or the kind of touching—often unasked for, and sometimes unwelcome—that Biden has engaged in for years.

Because of all these edicts, accusations that emerged from consensual encounters, false reports or trivial contact have resulted in investigations and sometimes severe penalties for accused young men. (I wrote about some of these cases in a series in the Atlantic and in another article in Slate.) During Biden’s years as vice president and since, he has characterized most of the cases adjudicated by Title IX offices as criminal in nature. But that isn’t so. Instead, these disputes often arise out of sexual encounters that both parties agree began consensually—often lubricated by alcohol—and that turn on whether the accused explicitly got the continuous stream of consent required by the now widespread campus rule known as “affirmative consent.” Biden, a fervent advocate of affirmative consent, has not asked for permission from the people, often strangers, he touches. He has just assumed his touch is welcome.

Biden has also failed to acknowledge that male students punished under the system he helped to create have been increasingly fighting back. They have filed more than 400 civil suits, contending that they have been unfairly accused and deprived of their rights. These suits have been getting increasingly favorable—sometimes outraged—rulings from judges. In a recent City Journal article, historian KC Johnson points out that “Biden responded with fury to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ attempts to create fairer procedures for adjudicating campus sexual-assault claims.”

Biden continues to insist that male college students are crude brutes, ever ready to attack their female classmates. In an April 2017 interview in Teen Vogue, he said that when he explains consent to male students, they are astounded: “I’ve had young men on campuses say to me, ‘I’ve never thought of it that way. … As long as she wasn’t screaming and kicking me and yelling help, then it was probably OK.’ It’s not OK. It’s not OK unless she can affirmatively consent.” In that same interview, he explained what he believes consent entails. “We’re trying to let young men understand that without consent, meaning saying, ‘Yes, it is OK to touch me’ … then it is not consent,” he said. Biden also seems to have no recognition that campus encounters can be filled with ambiguity and mixed signals. In an April 2016 speech at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, he mocked the idea that sexual assault allegations might be “complicated,” and told the assembled students that they should “ostracize the abusers” and “make them the pariah on campus.”

In a statement in response to the Flores and Lappos accusations, Biden wrote, in part, that over many years, “I have offered countless handshakes, hugs, expressions of affection, support and comfort. And not once—never—did I believe I acted inappropriately. If it is suggested I did so, I will listen respectfully. But it was never my intention.” But if Joe Biden were a college student, the very stroking, smelling and touching he now characterizes as “expressions of affection”—ambiguous as those actions might be—could easily result in his being investigated by the Title IX office, and subjected to education-disrupting punishment.

As a demonstration of the success of Biden’s efforts to engender a cultural shift, he is now being told—even by women of his own generation and his own party—that he doesn’t understand the new unwritten rules he helped to bring about. In response to the Flores accusation, Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, praised Flores’ courage in telling of her encounter with Biden and said, “All of us, including the vice president, need to continue to work on changing our culture.” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who apparently understands better than Biden the new terms of engagement, said in a Politico interview this week, “He has to understand, in the world that we’re in now, that people’s space is important to them, and what’s important is how they receive it and not necessarily how you intended it.”

He now says he’s gotten the message. In a video released Wednesday on Twitter, Biden explained that throughout his life he has touched people with gestures of support and solace—as many have similarly reached out to him. But he understands, he said, that “social norms have begun to change. They’ve shifted, and the boundaries in protecting personal space have been reset. And I get it.” He said he will always believe that governing, and life, are about connecting with people—but that he will adjust his own way of connecting in light of changing times.

Biden appears to have been blindsided by the reaction to his own behavior, but he has been making the case that it’s time to overhaul the assumptions on which our legal system is built. Just last week, at a ceremony for the Biden Courage Awards honoring student sexual assault activists, he said, “This is English jurisprudential culture, a white man’s culture. It’s got to change.” Anglo-American jurisprudence regarding women, Biden argued, is founded on the ancient concept of “rule of thumb.” As he explained it, in 14th-century England, a man was limited to beating his wife with a stick no bigger than the circumference of his thumb. But his assertion about the origins of that phrase is a canard. (It is thoroughly debunked in this video by American Enterprise Institute scholar Christina Hoff Sommers.)

Biden is a lawyer, and once was the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, so he should know that Anglo-American jurisprudence has brought us hard-won principles such as the rule of law, due process and the presumption of innocence. Whether or not Biden makes another run for the presidency, it would be salutary if his recent, painful experience of accusation makes him consider that we should honor these principles. In a world of accusation, all are potentially vulnerable.

martes, 2 de abril de 2019

What campaign design reveals about the race to 2020

With the exception of Barack Obama, candidates have rarely invested in original design. A group that tracks the way politicians market themselves shows that is changing.

American politicians love soaring eagles. The same goes for eternal flames, fluttering flags, and spangles of stars. They also love a good speech bubble–especially if it looks kind of like an iMessage. They adore Futura.

Those are some of the findings of the Center for American Politics and Design, a fledgling group of designers interested in campaign marketing and design. The group collects thousands of logos, color schemes, and marketing campaigns, adding them to a growing archive of imagery that anyone can download and use as they see fit. Founder Susan Merriam plans to build tools for fledgling candidates that may not have a budget for design–and connect young candidates to designers who want to help.[Image: courtesy Center for American Politics and Design]Campaign design tends to serve as an engine for hot takes in the political media, driven as much by the 24-hour-a-day news cycle of network TV as the huge sums of money most politicians spend on marketing. Criticisms tend to fall along pretty predictable political lines; a candidate’s taste becomes a stand-in for their party alignment. (Surprise! When candidates don’t run on policies, they end up being judged on aesthetics.) A scroll through the CAPD archives. [Image: courtesy Center for American Politics and Design]

But it also offers a vantage on how American politics has evolved. Some of the CAPD’s new research, analyzing roughly 900 campaigns from 2018 and 2019, reveals both political parties’ search for identity and ideological direction. Look at the hundreds of campaigns run over the past year, and you’ll see candidates using design to market themselves as anti-establishment outsiders or friendly, normal, would-be neighbors. You’ll also see evidence of the influx of corporate money, as well as candidates signaling their traditionalist values or “likability,” a quality so often described as lacking in women candidates.

“At least at the presidential level, there’s a lot more focus on [design] in terms of differentiating yourself,” Merriam says, as opposed to the generic branding of the 1990s. “Maybe that’s a symbol of the polarization that we’re in as well.”In 2018, women candidates were four times as likely to emphasize their first names than male candidates. [Image: courtesy Center for American Politics and Design]

That doesn’t mean that every politician is investing in designers, necessarily. After Barack Obama’s successful and well-designed campaigns, many subsequent candidates have simply tried to copy Obama’s iconography, using the same fonts and cribbing other aspects of the former president’s campaigns. Even Mike Huckabee, a politician who once said that Obama’s “new domestic terrorism plan probably requires Americans to memorize Koran verses,” debuted an Obama-esque logo for his ill-fated 2016 campaign. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s successful campaign design has already become a touchstone like Obama’s did–and may end up being widely mimicked, too.

Other trends are harder to pin on one source: Merriam says that Bernie Sanders’s 2016 logo fueled an influx of campaigns focused around first names, which could also be related to many candidates wanting to seem similarly friendly or relatable. Gender also seems to be a factor here: In 2018, Democrat women were more than four times as likely to emphasize their first names than men.
[Image: courtesy Center for American Politics and Design]

Unsurprisingly, many Republican campaigns are trying to broadcast traditionalism: They’re three times as likely as Democrats to use red over any color, and Republican men are almost seven times more likely to emphasize their last names than Democratic women candidates–one notable exception being the failed campaign of Jeb! Bush (which might explain why so few of his peers have followed his lead).

The CAPD also analyzes design in terms of FEC candidate fundraising data, as well as by each district’s gross domestic product. In high-GDP areas, candidates tend to favor design that Merriam compares to tech company branding; in lower-GDP areas, politicians choose logos that are more akin to local businesses.

Either way, campaigns look more and more like businesses–hinting at the ever-narrowing difference between corporations and politics in American life.The lowest (left) and highest (right) fundraisers, according to FEC data. [Images: courtesy Center for American Politics and Design]The CAPD plans to continue publishing reports on the way politicians present themselves to the public–and do more research with campaign operatives about how they think about the design process. Eventually, Merriam hopes they’ll evolve into a resource for small candidates looking for help. She points to the importance of state legislature races, and envisions publishing a tool kit for campaign design that could help candidates who don’t have the backing of the Democratic or Republican party establishment–a “tool for everybody,” regardless of how much funding they have.[Image: courtesy Center for American Politics and Design]Merriam is watching the fledgling 2020 campaigns for president closely. She describes Kamala Harris’s campaign design as strong–last week the former California attorney general unveiled a logo based on Shirley Chisholm’s 1972 presidential campaign, connecting Harris to Chisholm’s history as the first black woman to run for president. As to the mint greens, pinks, and yellows of other 2020 hopefuls, including Elizabeth Warren and Kirsten Gillibrand? They’re another example of Democratic candidates hoping to present themselves as counter to conventional party wisdom.

“If you look at presidential logos from 20 years ago, they all look very similar; many of the candidates tended to be more middle-of-the-road,” she says. Even more centrist candidates are trying to present themselves as counter to party establishment. “I think there’s a lot of sentiment right now to sort of confront the status quo” both on the left and right, she adds. Hopefully that sentiment will go further than appearances.

'Friendly grandpa' or creepy uncle? Generations split over Biden behavior

2020 Elections

'I come from a different generation,' said one female septuagenarian donor, 'when people were really friendly and were not afraid to show it.'

Longtime Democratic donor Susie Tompkins Buell, 76, has met Joe Biden several times over the years and says he's a hand-holder and a hugger; physically, but innocently, affectionate.

“He’s just like a friendly grandpa, what can I say,” Buell said.

Lucy Flores, 39, a former Nevada assemblywoman and 2014 candidate for lieutenant governor, described her interaction with Biden — his kissing her on the head — as uncomfortable and unacceptable.

"He needs to have an awareness and — after all of those years where he was acting inappropriately — someone around him should have said to him, ‘Joe Biden, stop doing that,” Flores said.

Now that Biden’s past physical interactions are under the microscope, there are signs that the behavior is being viewed through vastly different lenses, in many cases based on generational differences: What’s creepy to one person is welcome, or at least not bothersome, to another. The discussion of inappropriate touching, however, comes just as Biden is preparing to announce whether he’ll enter the 2020 field against a historically diverse roster of Democrats. It’s the latest sign of a new playing field to which the 76-year-old Biden must adapt, even as factions within the party have expressed a hunger for fresh faces.

“I come from a different generation, people were really friendly and were not afraid to show it," Buell, who supports Kamala Harris in the Democratic primary, said. "He’s a hand-holder, he’s appreciative of people who’ve done good things. And if he appreciates you, he likes to show it. He’ll hold your hand, he’ll hug you. I hate to see that being chased off.”

Massachusetts Democratic Party vice chairwoman Deb Kozikowski described a deep disconnect between generations, to the point where she said she feels the need to have a broader discussion about today’s rules of conduct. In her view, some of the complaints today are of behavior she's long considered acceptable.

“All I know is if you can’t touch someone without their permission anymore, then put my picture on the wall at the post office,” Kozikowski, who is neutral in the Democratic primary, said. “How do we know how to behave with each other? Do we walk into a room and say ‘hey, are you a hugger? I’m a hugger.’ … I just need to understand what the parameters are and how do we deal with it.”

Nelini Stamp, a 31-year-old director of strategy and partnerships for the Working Families Party, said she was disappointed that those who reacted to Flores’ statement by saying they always felt comfortable around Biden didn’t get the “nuance” that younger progressives do.

“I do think that there is a generational divide. This is about the future of not just the Democratic Party but our community at large that wants to see a world in which we have no tolerance for inappropriate behavior and sexual assault,” Stamp said. “The point is that Lucy did feel uncomfortable. This is not about negating your experience [with Biden] but about elevating hers.”

The difference in perception presents a strategic challenge to Biden as he weighs a presidential bid and whether he can push back against a “creepy Joe” labeling along with a montage of photos of Biden plastered across social media. A conversation about how to characterize Biden’s past interactions with women raged across social media and cable news after Flores and a second woman from Connecticut said he touched them in a way that was unwanted and made them feel uncomfortable.

“Anyone who knows Biden knows that he is a very warm and tactile personality. There are a million examples of it,” says David Axelrod, longtime adviser to Barack Obama. “It’s not lasciviousness. It’s just his style. The problem he has is that these gestures, which he and most of the recipients viewed as benign, are now being judged in a different time and through a different lens.”

Biden’s camp has aggressively pushed back at suggestions that the former vice president had a deeper history of being too touchy with women, referencing a “cottage industry of lies” and specifically pointing to public rebuttals of online memes surrounding Stephanie Carter, the wife of former Defense Secretary Ash Carter, and the daughter of Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.).

“The Vice President has issued a statement affirming that in all the many years in public life that he has shaken a hand, given or received a hug, or laid his hand on a shoulder to express concern, support, or reassurance, he never intended to cause discomfort. He has said that he believes that women who have experience any such discomfort, regardless of intention, should speak and be heard, and that he will be among those who listen,” said Biden spokesman Bill Russo.

“But the important conversation about these issues are not advanced, nor are any criticisms of Vice President Biden validated, by the continued misrepresentation of the Carter and Coons moments, or a failure to be vigilant about a cottage industry of lies.”

Still, Alyssa Miller-Hurley, a Democratic operative from South Carolina, said the stories about Biden's interactions — and how they're being perceived by people of different generations — calls attention to his age. That's not necessarily a good thing for him, since Democrats generally want in a potential president a fresh face talking about the future.

“It just brings the two sides to what is inevitably going to be a clash between those who want something comfortable and something they know and something they’ve seen win, versus folks who want something new and [someone] that looks more like them and has had experiences that are closer to what their experiences in the White House,” she said. Miller-Hurley added, “People love him. I love him. But a lot of folks don’t want him to run for the same reasons they don’t want to vote for Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. They don’t want octogenarians representing them."

A conversation about how to characterize Joe Biden’s past interactions with women raged across social media and cable news on Monday.

lunes, 1 de abril de 2019

Chasten Buttigieg Is Winning the 2020 Spouse Primary

The first same-sex husband of a major-party presidential candidate is a historic figure, but he’s also a surprisingly traditional one.


Maybe the most noteworthy thing about Chasten Buttigieg’s sudden internet fame is that he has a public profile at all. At this stage in a presidential race, most candidates’ spouses are ornamental figures, taken gingerly out of the storage box for major announcements and gauzy videos, then stashed away until the call for the “60 Minutes” sit-down.

By contrast, the husband of South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg is a constant presence, at least on Twitter, where he posts a steady stream of commentary in fluent millennialese. Follow his account — as, at this writing, more than 108,000 people do — and you’ll learn that he is a father of dogs, a Harry Potter fan, a theater geek, an enamored husband with a knack for choosing the right GIF. You’ll also see why, in some circles, he has taken on the status of folk hero. “Pete Buttigieg’s husband Chasten is the Twitter celebrity we deserve,” read a recent headline in Mashable.

Few would have expected that the early stars of the 2020 race would be the gay millennial mayor of a mid-size Midwestern city and his 29-year-old husband. Through his very presence, Chasten Buttigieg is breaking ground. But at the same time, what’s most unexpected about Chasten is how conventional he is. At a time when campaigns are treading cautiously, and spouses are navigating a new set of gender minefields, Buttigieg seems relaxed, unscripted, free to be himself. And that freedom has turned this historic figure, the first same-sex husband of a major-party presidential candidate, into something surprising: the most traditional political spouse in the field.

Being married to a presidential candidate is the most thankless role in politics. It’s a choice that’s generally foisted upon you, a directive to be second fiddle, an expectation that you’ll conform to centuries-old gender stereotypes. The first lady, to this day, is tasked with choosing china patterns, points out Kelly Dittmar, a political science professor at Rutgers University.

For years, there has been acute interest in political spouses who deviate from gender norms. When Elizabeth Warren pointedly noted, in a 2015 Facebook post, that she had proposed to her husband, Bruce Mann, Vanity Fair picked it up. This season, the candidates and their spouses seem especially attuned to presentation. Amy Klobuchar's husband, John Bessler, carried his wife’s binder to the lectern at her campaign rollout event, then quickly slipped away. At Bernie Sanders’ official campaign launch, his wife, Jane, nearly apologized for their relationship: “I feel honored to be his wife, and I know that might not be politically correct to identify myself a ‘wife.’”

Historically, a candidate’s wife—she was always a wife—was expected to do something gender-bound: reflect her husband’s masculinity, underscore that he could handle the work of a masculine job. Hillary Clinton’s 1992 cookie-baking saga—she spoke dismissively of baking cookies, angered American housewives, and was forced to pay penance by presenting a chocolate chip cookie recipe—was proof of how rigid the rules were. For decades, they haven’t changed.

This year, though, feels different. In the cycle after Hillary’s own presidential nomination, in a year filled with multiple women candidates, expectations for a spouse have become more fraught. For a wife, there’s now so much pressure to avoid the traditional role that a slip into gender stereotypes can look like a betrayal. See the uproar over Beto O’Rourke’s campaign announcement video, in which his wife, Amy, stares admiringly at him for three long minutes, mute for the entire time.

For the husband of a female candidate, meanwhile, the urge not to overshadow a spouse leads to greater invisibility. At today’s campaign events, male spouses seem directed to stand behind their wives, not beside them, notes Don Haider-Markel, a political science professor at the University of Kansas whose recent research focuses on LGBTQ politicians.

Heterosexual candidates and their spouses face a host of social expectations. One mark of responsible adulthood is getting married and having kids, so voters might raise questions about a straight candidate who doesn’t fit the norm — say, child-free Rep. Tulsi Gabbard or unmarried Sen. Cory Booker. But for a young gay couple, there are fewer assumptions to meet, Haider-Markel says, which means a guy like Chasten Buttigieg is “not bound by any particular rules about how to behave.”

That leaves him ample room to be himself — and to indulge his innate talent for social media. His Twitter feed is AOC-savvy without the combative edge; light on policy and partisanship, heavy on the personal. He chronicles his life at home while his husband is out on the road. (“Peter: Crushing townhalls in SC,” reads one recent tweet. “Chasten: staring out the window waiting for UberEats.”) He understands, implicitly, what pushes readers’ buttons: pop culture references and dog pics (he runs a separate Twitter feed for the couple’s two rescue dogs). He sparked a frenzy when he announced that he and his husband are both Hufflepuffs. (Of course, they are.) And he artfully pokes fun at his husband’s outsized accomplishments, as he did in a tweet about their first date that managed to both celebrate and mock Mayor Pete’s implausible résumé.

Tweets like these fill a traditional function of a candidate’s spouse: to humanize a candidate who, by the very nature of the process, has to present himself as self-aggrandized and larger than life.

And in a nation that’s still coming to terms with the swiftness of social change and the rapid adoption of same-sex marriage, that humanizing has a broader purpose. Though Chasten’s tweets are largely free of gender politics, they’re also unapologetically affectionate, projecting unswerving support and full-on adoration. In January, when Pete Buttigieg announced his exploratory committee, Chasten tweeted: “I am so proud of my husband … Let’s go show the world why I fell in love with you.” It wouldn’t be surprising if he posted his favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe tomorrow.

The Buttigiegs are practically newlyweds: After meeting on the dating app Hinge, the couple got married in South Bend last June. (Adorable tales of their courtship have been well-chronicled.) Perhaps as a result, Chasten’s feed reflects the kind of fresh, easygoing affection that some candidates work hard to re-create: It’s still hard to unsee that awkward Al-and-Tipper Gore kiss at the 2000 Democratic convention. (Though, had Sen. Sherrod Brown decide to run for president, he and his wife, Connie Schultz, might have given the Buttigiegs a run for their money.)

Voters are moved by compelling life stories and narratives about overcoming; that’s why so many wealthy candidates dig deep into their ancestry to find a blue-collar worker or a coal miner. For gay candidates, a sense of hardship is baked into the contours of life. Both Pete and Chasten have talked publicly about the difficulties of coming out to family and community. “Actually being out and representing themselves as such,” Haider-Markel says, “gives an authenticity that many candidates often struggle to provide.”

Campaigns spend ample amounts of money on image consultants; they hire staffs to develop multifaceted social media strategies and strategize endlessly about publicity stunts. At this early point in the 2020 race, Chasten seems to be lapping other campaigns on all of those fronts, while lounging in slippers in his living room. It all feels a little unfair — like bringing Mozart in to join the high school orchestra.

And his appeal has spread beyond the political arena — he’s been featured in a gushing mini-profile in Marie Claire and lionized in the Twitter feeds of humor columnists. His popularity stems partly from the relief of reading a politically related feed that doesn’t feel like politics, and partly from the mildly subversive glee of imagining that feed someday transferred to official White House accounts. And partly, it’s the function of the narrative itself, which reads like the happy ending of a rom-com. “I love this future first family so much. I am all in,” one Twitter fan recently wrote.

That’s the ultimate purpose of the presidential spouse: to sell the entire package, letting us imagine the family in the White House as a symbol of success, a national ideal. As a potential first husband, Chasten would be historic but also a comforting throwback, someone who took his husband’s last name and unwaveringly supports his ambitions without wondering how they have affected his own. In politics, it’s not hard to find tales of awkward relationships, distant spouses, sidelined destinies, marital betrayal. Everybody really wants a love story. Maybe one that leaves us all a little chastened.