What I’m Reading…

Can we just stop fantasizing about the South winning the Civil War? (Sean O'Neal The A.V.Club)A new alternate-reality show wonders what would have happened if the South had won the Civil War. If black people need to get over slavery, shouldn't white people get over the Civil War (or the Nazis, for what is worth).

Democrats Are Trying to Win the 2018 Midterms in All the Wrong Ways (Steve Phillips The Nation) White working class obsession among Democratic Party leaders has not reached its peak yet. Phillips shows why they are wrong about the strategy to bring back WWC voters, when they need to make sure the working class voters they do have (and who are not white) don't stay home come election time.

We Are Living in the Coen Brothers’ Darkest Comedy (Jeet Heer The New Republic) If you haven't seen the Coen Bros brilliant "Burn After Reading" you should. They may be suing the Trumps soon over copyright issues.

You Keep Using That Word… (Sincere Kirabo The Humanist) A very meta piece in which he reviews James Croft's review of Anthony Pinn's latest book. All are an excellent read about how humanism can become the greatest force of good in American politics. My words, not theirs.

What I’m Listening…

The Benito Juárez Experience #15: "America Last"Luciano and I discuss the decline of good will toward the United States as a consequence of the Trump presidency.

Ben Franklin's World #144: "Robert Parkinson, The Common Cause: Creating Race and Nation in the American Revolution" Amazing interview of a new book on how colonists in the original 13 used media to create a distinct American identity, one that was defined as exclusively white.

Latino USA #1730: "The Stolen Child" Very powerful episode about the consequences of authoritarianism with a story on the case of one of the children of the disappeared during the Argentinian Dirty War.

The Weeds: "A deep dive on basic income" I've been thinking about basic income as a policy for a while and this long-ish episode gives a good primer on Dylan Matthews very long Vox article on the subject.

In the Thick #72: Will the Real Democrats Please Stand Up?: If you liked our Benito Juárez z Experience episode 13 about Democrats in the age of Trump, you will like this discussion.

La Voz del Centro #752: "El concepto de americanización en las primeras tres décadas del Siglo XX" [In SPANISH] Historical discussion about how the U.S. government and civil society organizations shaped the policy of forcing Puerto Rican's to become "Americans" in the aftermath of the 1898 invasion.

Homophobia and the Secular Boom

Phil Zuckerman discusses a new study of college freshmen and their views on same-sex relationships as an explanation for their increasing secularism.

Simply put: Younger Americans are the least homophobic generation in our nation’s history, with a clear majority of millennials being accepting and affirming of homosexuality. And what do they see? That most major religions condemn homosexuality as sinful and wrong. Given this situation, these anti-gay and anti-lesbian religions are losing members in record numbers. Younger Americans are simply walking away from beliefs and institutions that they see as intolerant, unloving, and immoral.

There's some truth to this. In 2014, PRRI released "A Shifting Landscape: A Decade of Change in American Attitudes about Same-Sex Marriage and LGBT Issues" and the poll found that…

Among Americans who left their childhood religion and are now religiously unaffiliated, about one-quarter say negative teachings about or treatment of gay and lesbian people was a somewhat important (14%) or very important (10%) factor in their decision to disaffiliate. More than 7-in-10 Americans who have disaffiliated from their childhood religion report that was not too important (17%) or not at all important as a factor (54%).

However, I think that religion-based homophobia is just a gateway to secularism. It is the way in which many young people start questioning the tenets of their religion when they encounter LGBTQ individuals and realize they are (GASP!) human. From there, I think there's a snowballing process of questioning other teachings and, ultimately, abandoning identification. This is why membership among liberal religious groups is not blossoming despite increasing acceptance of homosexuality. Young people realize that they don't need religion, no matter how hip and abstract you want to make it.

The Benito Juárez Experience #15 (America Last)

This week Luciano discusses how the world view’s America in the Trump era looking at a recent Pew Global poll conducted around the G20 meeting where Trump ranks last among the 4 main leaders of the G20 (China, Germany, Russia) in terms of confidence. Juhem analyzes some of the global public opinion while also finding time to discuss global First Ladies.
Download this episode (right click and save)

Related Links

U.S. Image Suffers as Publics Around World Question Trump’s Leadership (Pew Global Attitudes & Trends)

Tracking U.S. favorability and confidence in the U.S. president, 2002 to 2017 (Interactive Chart by Pew Global)

First Lady Incidents

Poland (Vanity Fair)

Japan (The Hill)

USA (Boston Globe)

Lack of Diversity Among Capitol Hill Unpaid Interns

A recent report in WAMU, the DC NPR station out of American University, explored the widespread use of unpaid interns in the halls of Congress. This is an issue I have often brought up in conversations with friends here inside the beltway.

The DC area is very expensive to live in and most people here are not native to the area. This means that to come and work for free you either need some startup resources (often parental help) or make ends meet some other way. This method has consequences, eloquently put by one of those interns.

One result of offering only unpaid positions, Vera said, is a noticeable lack of diversity within the intern pool.

“There’s a reason why, if you walk around the halls, all the interns look like me,” said Anthony Eliopoulos, a current House intern from Ohio. Eliopoulos, who describes himself as “a white, straight male,” said the financial strain caused by unpaid internships means that other well-qualified young people can’t make it to Washington, like he did.

But Eliopoulos didn’t get to D.C. on luck alone. To afford his time away from home, he saved up the money he earned from completing basic training with the Ohio National Guard. He also was able to live rent-free with family in Maryland. Even with all the planning and outside support, he said the costs of parking, Metro, food, and business clothes added up quickly in a city as expensive as Washington.

Unpaid public service warps the view of what public service means. Right now the children of the dominant classes use it as a stepping stone to find more lucrative work in the lobbying industry or helps perpetuate a power elite in political parties. It will ensure that as more people country continue to descend into poverty the ruling class remains insulated from it. And that's not good for democracy.

Conservatives Like the Police State

A new Gallup Poll finds that confidence in the police is returning to its historical average, something that does not bode well for any type of reform of police practices. According to Gallup: 

Confidence in police … dropped to a record-tying low of 52% in June 2015, as the Black Lives Matter movement gained national attention with a series of protests against police shootings of unarmed blacks in New York City; Ferguson, Missouri; and North Charleston, South Carolina. (Emphasis mine)

Two years ago confidence dropped as some people started realizing that maybe, just maybe police forces should be held to some sort of accountability. But not anymore. After Trump’s victory and the confirmation of former Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as Attorney General in the new administration has restored the confidence in the police among certain types. You know the types. Gallup gives a snapshot of who they are. 

Confidence among Republicans and Republican leaners, whites, conservatives and those aged 55 or older has been stable or has increased slightly.

That’s not the case among young people, particularly those who are people of color as this table published by Gallup shows.

Source: Gallup

Confidence among conservatives has increased since 2015. Basically when confidence was dropping nationally because the reports of abuse were being documented in film, conservatives decided that shooting unarmed black people is what police should be doing.

Gallup further reports that in the June 2017 survey they base most of their analysis on, conservative confidence in the police is 73 percent, the highest it has been since 2000. Not surprisingly, an era where mass incarceration and abuse was reaching its apex and the type of policies that AG Sessions wants to return to. Since the only institutions conservatives have more confidence on are the military and businesses, we can be pretty confident that they are pretty cool with fascism as well.

Episode 10: Pittsburgh > Paris

President Trump got the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord(s) earlier this month. This week, in the first of two episodes dedicated to analyze this event, Luciano explains what is the Paris Climate Accord, why it is important, and the limits of this international agreement. Juhem discusses the public opinion on climate change and introduces the concept of “Trumpslating”: the art of translating the President’s statements into something that makes sense.

Related links:

PRRI/AAR Religion, Values and Climate Change Survey

Yale Program on Climate Change Communication

President Trump’s speech on Paris Climate Agreement (annotated by NPR)

Cover image source: NASA

American Exceptionalism in Climate Change Opinion

This week in The Benito Juárez Experience we digest the news from earlier this month about the United States withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreements. Luciano does an excellent job explaining the importance and the limitations of the Paris agreements. I pitch in with some comments about the complexity of American public opinion regarding climate change.

I draw from two main data sources: the Religion, Values, and Climate Change Survey published by Public Religion Research Institute and the American Academy of Religion on November 2014 (I worked on the design and analysis of this poll back when I was at PRRI); and the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Survey from the Spring 2015. The PRRI poll says a lot about what Americans think about climate change while the Pew poll puts some of those opinions in a global context.

The PRRI survey developed three categories of attitudes about climate change: believers (who think it is happening), sympathizes (who agree it is a thing but not very concerned), and skeptics (who doubt CC is an actual thing). Luckily, the largest group is the “believers.” Unfortunately, less than half the USA population fits in this category.

We know that most Americans do not fully believe climate change is an actual event worth acting upon. But it gets worse. Even those who are classified as “believers” are not particularly concerned. This second chart, from the same poll, shows that when asked about their level of concern, less than half of believers say they are very concerned. Only 3-in-10 Americans are very concerned about climate change. Among “sympathizers” just 4-in-10 have some level of concern (a combination of “very” and “somewhat” concerned).

The reason for why even those Americans who think that climate chants an issue are not very concerned about the issue is due to a very weird strand of “American Exceptionalism.” In this case, most Americans think that climate change is a problem that the rest of the world has to deal with because it is not an American problem. The figure below shows how this plays out.

A majority of Americans think that “people in poorer developng countries” will be impacted “a great deal” by climate change. Only one-third of Americans think that climate change will climate change will impact people in the USA a great deal. It is a very selfish and foolish position. On one level, it is quite arrogant to believe that your country will be spared of the effects of something that will affect the whole damn planet. On another level it is also very foolish…in what ways is our country insulated from something that’s going on globally? 

The Pew poll provides some context of how out of line Americans’ opinions are compared to the rest of the planet. As Luciano points out in the podcast, the USA is one of the largest polluters in the planet. So, we bear a lot of the responsibility for this problem. And that’s what the rest of the planet thinks. A majority of people in the rest of the world think that rich countries should bear more of the cost of addressing the climate change crisis compared to developing countries. Only in the USA more people say that developing countries should bear more of the cost. This suggests that Americans are just afraid that they’ll have to give up their gas guzzlers and all-night Christmas lights.

The USA is also a bit of an outlier in how imminent the harm caused by climate change will start affecting people. Only the Middle East (an oil-producing region, I may add) is less likely to say the danger is “now” than “in the next few years”. Moreover the USA and the Middle East also have the largest proportions of denialism since just about 7-in-10 gave an answer that indicate they think climate change is a threat.

I hope this post puts some of my comments in a better context. These charts and the reports they come from (as well as other public opinion data) also stress the need for more action, including political organization around this issue. While the Peoples’ Climate March was a great idea, these opinion patterns precede the Trump presidency. And I fear they will get worse.

Evangelical Demographics and Trump Support

In the Financial Times, Gary Silverman explores why Evangelical Protestants in the Bible Belt “lost God and found Trump.” He rightly points out that

Trump was backed by 81 per cent of white voters who identified themselves as evangelical Christians, more than recent Republican candidates such as Mitt Romney and John McCain, according to the Pew Research Center, and more even than George W Bush, whose strategist Karl Rove made wooing them a priority of the campaign. 

Silverman interviews various evangelical figures in his quest for a satisfactory answer but he’s missing two of the most important variables in the equation: age and partisanship. Evangelicals didn’t support Trump because they “lost God.” They are as devout as they’ve always been. But their politics have become more conservative. They are the Republican base.

They’re Older

A comparison of white evangelical Protestants in the 2007 and 2014 Pew Religious Landscape Surveys shows that overall the cohort has become much older in the near decade between the surveys.

In 2007 a majority of white evangelicals were under the age of 50 but in 2014 a majority were older than 50 years of age. This has made them a prime Fox News constituency (white and old).

They’re more Republican and conservative 

As they have gotten older, they here also become more conservative. Their ideology has become slightly more conservative (60 percent In 2014 vs. 55 percent in 2007). The movement is the result of a decline of moderates

Their conservative shift was accompanied by an even stronger shift toward the Republican Party as it relates to partisan preference. A 9-percentage point gain to be exact. In 2007 a majority (56 percent) said they were Republicans but in 2014, nearly two-thirds (65 percent) said so.

On the Democratic side there was an identical 9-percentage point loss. Thus, the GOP party ID advantage increased from +26 to +44. An incredible 18-point gap in just under a decade. These political changes in identification have policy consequences. 

White evangelical’s attitudes toward government have soured accordingly. In 2007 a little over one-third (36 percent ) of evangelicals preferred a bigger government with more services while a majority (53 percent) prefund a smaller government.

The 17-point gap in preference for small government became a whopping 50-point gap in 2014. Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of white evangelicals prefer a smaller government. Just about 1-in-5 (22 percent) went a bigger government.

Still worship the same God 

Contrary to Silverman’s assessment, evangelicals haven’t lost God. If there’s one area where this cohort is consistent it’s on their views on God and the Bible. Nearly 8 in 10 consider religion to be “very important” in their lives.

Other aspects of religious life have also remained constant. They report praying at least daily at similar rates in both surveys. They also report nearly identical rates of participation in prayer services.

Moreover , in both surveys evangelicals report identical weekly church attendance rates (57 percent). Considering what we know about over reporting of church attendance this means they’re very good at lying.

Unfortunately, Silverman omits any discussion about race. The evidence that Trump’s support was driven by racism has moved from the anecdotal to the empirical. Not all evangelicals supported Trump as such high rates, only white ones.

This primarily old, white, and Southern cohort wanted  America to be “great” again. That included harking back to the days of segregation and a less “politically correct” time when attacks on racial minorities were extralegal. It is not surprising then, that white evangelicals are the most likely to want to turn the clock back to 1950. Until we admit the fact that politically white evangelicals are driven by bigotry and prejudice , we will continue seeing these “deep” analyses that say a lot and not too much simultaneously.

Evangelicals never lost God. With Barack Obama in the White House, the yearning for a glorious age when black Americans knew their place and the only brown men theyknew was Ricky Ricardo became stronger. Trump promised restoration. He may be an unlikely Messiah, butif  you know their politics, you know the piety is just for show.