Democrats Still Fighting the Last Election

In his latest post at Sin/God Luciano argues that "Democrats Need To Stop Considering Backing Anti-Choice Politicians." He's right on so many levels and here's a sample:

The Democratic Party would strengthen itself if it reaffirmed a commitment to women’s rights and it would embolden many of its supporters who like me felt and feel incredibly disappointed by some within the Party reportedly considering this cowardly move.

Luciano González, Sin/God "Democrats Need to Stop Considering Backing Anti-Choice Politicians"

I agree that the Democratic Party needs to embrace reproductive rights more strongly. The vast majority of women holding legislative office, and virtually all women of color in Congress and state legislatures, are Democrats. The majority of women, thanks to the overwhelming support of women of color, voted for Hillary Clinton.

And yet, the Party as an institution is still trying to win elections by attracting the voters they don't have -and likely won't have ever again: religious conservatives. Those working and not-so-working class whites that once were the core of the Party before women joined the labor force en masse and people of color asserted their rights to equal citizenship. The ones who fell for Nixon and his Southern Strategy hook, sink, and liner. The ones who enthusiastically supported the Mediocrity in Chief.

Instead, Party leaders should focus on not diminishing the enthusiasm and activism that the Trump presidency has awakened. Rather than trying to replay the last election, they should focus in winning the next one. There's a constituency out there who will support a Party with principles. Just stop trying to be a nicer version of the other party because a Republican-lite Party is one that still throws the core of the Democratic Party under the proverbial bus. And that's no way to win an election.

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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.

Bernie, the Donald, and the Nones

A couple of weeks ago Mark Silk wrote about a Pew poll that found that majorities of nones supported Sen. Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump in their respective party contests. According to the poll, 61 percent of Democratic or Democratic-leaning nones favor Sanders over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Thirty-five percent prefer Clinton. On the Republican side, 57 percent of nones support Trump while Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich lag well behind with 17 percent each.

The survey confirms a hunch I’ve had for a while. In my social media feeds there are apparently more Sanders than Clinton supporters. Of course, my maybe 1,000 social media contacts (some of them repeated across platforms and not all of them secular) are not likely to be representative of the nones, but those suspicions now are confirmed.

Sen. Sanders’s support is strongest among young Americans of the Millennial generation. This happens to be the most secular generation as well. On paper, it is also a generation that is to the left of the general population on social/economic issues (in favor of more spending on government services and the social safety net). In this regard secular Millennials are the core of Sanders’s coalition.

Sen. Sanders’s support is strongest among young Americans of the Millennial generation. This happens to be the most secular generation as well

What I wasn’t sure, though I also had a hunch, was the preferred candidate among Republican nones. My social media contacts were no good for this since I barley have any Republicans, let alone any Republican nones (these are very rare). My hunch was that the GOP-leaning nones’ preferences were maybe leaning toward Trump, and that Kasich would be ahead of Cruz. And I was way off-target in that regard.

Two-thirds of Republican nones are men according to Pew’s Religion Landscape Survey.

My reading of the Republican nones assumes that this is a conservative group on economic matters but more liberal on cultural matters. That assumption is likely correct and will be the subject of a forthcoming post. Trump, depending on the day, is the least religious candidate in the Republican field, a positive for those who only care about Church-State issues. What I probably underestimated is the extent of the racism, sexism, and hatred to “pc dialogue” among many in the secular community.

 It’s fair to say that, for the first time in American history, the Nones making their influence felt on the presidential nominating process.

-Mark Silk, Spiritual Politics, “The Year of the Nones

I am aware that some communities such as men’s rights activists and even groups of white supremacists can be a draw for secular men. And  I think that is what drives Trump’s high numbers among the Republican nones, who are primarily young men. Two-thirds of Republican nones are men according to Pew’s Religion Landscape Survey.

Mark Silk interprets the Pew poll findings as part of a “year of the nones”making their influence felt on the presidential nominating process.” I partly agree with that interpretation. It is true that the nones are becoming larger portions of the parties’ coalitions. But the secular movement keeps waiting for the parties to knock on their doors instead of trying a hostile takeover of party structures. What I mean is that nones are not being organized as political blocs but rather as individual voters who happen to coincide in their preferences for particular candidates. That is no way to gain any sort of clout.

While I think the none vote will be decisive, it is less clear if politicians will care until there is a coordinated effort in the secular leadership to exploit their strength in numbers. In that sense I would modify Silk’s “year of the nones” to the “year of the none” because it is the coincidence of individual nones what may become decisive in this primary season, rather than the collective undertaking of the nones to affect the ouctome of the elections.

Image Source: ABC News

 

This Year Race Trumps Religion

My good friend and old colleague Dr. Mark Silk calls the end of religious identity politics a couple of weeks after declaring the Religious Right dead. Personally, I think race is trumping (no pun intended) religion this year, but as the natural progression (regression?) of an ideology rooted in white Christian supremacy. He writes:

In a crazy political year, perhaps we have one thing to applaud: the evident end of religious identity politics. Evangelicals have been decidedly lukewarm toward preacher’s kid Ted Cruz and fellow-traveler Rubio, and they showed no interest whatsoever in Mike Huckabee this time around. Jews, so far as we can tell, are not particularly feeling the Bern. And Catholics barely gave Jeb Bush and Rick Santorum the time of day.

I’m not so sure this end is a reason to applaud. The Republican Party is a Christian Party -or a party for certain types of Christians. All the candidates openly praised god, the Christian version of it. While it is true that some candidates were more a part of the Christian/Religious Right than others, at this point in history every potential GOP candidate knows what religious buttons to push.

Since all of them love Jesus, they have to differentiate each other by expressing who they hate the most. The foreign policy proposals of all the GOP candidates are about blowing up anything that is outside of our borders. Only Trump stands out by viciously (and explicitly) attacking and threatening violence against their domestic others: religious minorities, black, brown, red, and yellow, independent women. That’s why Trump is so appealing. And that’s no reason to applaud.

Photo credit: Donald Trump at 2015 CPAC. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The Nones are an Important Super Tuesday Bloc

Last week Public Religion Research Institute published a short report on the religious affiliation of self-identified Democrats and Republicans in states with contests on Super Tuesday (tomorrow).

It is not surprising that the nonreligious comprise a larger portion of the Democratic Party coalition than the Republican’s. According to the data collected for the American Values Atlas, more than 1-in-5 (22 percent) Democrats are nones, but only 1-in-10 Republicans are.

In three states the nones comprise at least 3-in-10 Democrats: Colorado (34 percent), Massachusetts (31 percent), and Minnesota (30 percent). Among Republicans, Alaska has the highest rate of nones in their coalition. One-in-five (20 percent) of Alaska Republicans are nonreligious.

Considering that the PRRI analysis divides the party coalitions in large racial and religious groupings, it is fair to assume that in most of these states the nones represent the largest segment of the Democratic Party.

Unfortunately, contrary to most of those racial/ethnic/religious groups, the nones are not as well organized politically. We do not have a well-organized secular left even though the nones have been consistent supporters of Democratic candidates for nearly 4 decades and were an important part of Barack Obama’s coalition. But until we take party politics seriously, we will not be more than a vote taken for granted but not actively mobilized. The time is due for a powerful and strong Secular Left to serve as an antidote to the damage the Religious Right has done to this country.

Photo Credit: Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton facing off in the Democratic debate at St. Anselm College, December 19 2015; Ida Mae Astute ABC News via Flickr.

Iowa and the Future of Secular Politics

Many Iowans (on the Democratic side) felt the Bern, leading the former Independent-turned-Democrat Senator from Vermont to virtually tie Hillary Clinton in the caucuses there on Monday.

While Sanders’s lefty populism has been the catalyst fueling his surprising rise, I think his support also tell us a lot about the future of secularism and its relationship to US politics. In my opinion, Sanders is also benefiting from a more secular Democratic electorate. His message, in other words, is resonating with the rising secular left that is mostly comprised of young people with no religious affiliation.

The entrance polls confirm that Sanders’s base is among young people. The CNN results show that Sanders’s support was concentrated among those under the age of 40. Indeed, more than 8-in-10 Democrats under 30 claimed to support Sanders.

The poll did not show results by religious affiliation. But as a proxy we can use the American Values Atlas, a project of the Public Religion Research Institute. PRRI’s analysis of Iowa religious demographics show that the fastest growth has been among young secular people. Moreover, secular people are largest religious cohort in the Democratic coalition in the state. Still, Iowa is not a very secular place. The size of its secular population is similar to the U.S. percentage, and the secular proportion of its Democratic coalition is similar to the proportion of the Democratic Party nationally.

The next stage is New Hampshire, which is terrain favorable to Sanders because is his turf (New England) and is above-average in its secular composition. The question is whether Sanders’s secular economic populist message can fare better once it moves away from New Hampshire and into more religious states. A friend once argued that candidates like Howard Dean (also from Vermont) had a problem reaching out to more traditional Democratic (religious) constituencies such as Catholics and African American Protestants. If Bernie, with a largely secular message can give Hillary a run for her money without major religious outreach, goes far in this race he will show that secular politics are possible the Democratic Party, even if he falls short in the end.

 

 

The Donald’s Latino Support is not “Suprising”

A recent piece at The Daily Dot tries to explain Donald Trump’s “surprising” 13 percent support among Latinos. The “explanations” are that Latinos are a diverse bunch and that because Trumps scapegoats Mexicans, many Latinos still “mysteriously” favor him. Of course, 13 percent is small. In a sample of 250 voters (the number of Latinos in the survey cited), this is about 35 people.

I don’t think that fining 13 percent of Latino voters supporting Trump is surprising at all. Trump has a high level of name recognition among all Americans. Many Latinos in the US and people in Latin America recognize Trump for his Miss Universe pageant. I still recall during my teenage years when I was living in Puerto Rico and Miss Universe was a big deal and the local press would highlight whatever the Donald said about our representative. His statement was always flattering the beauty of the contestant since the Donald only cares about the looks of women. The pageant was not just popular in Puerto Rico, but through the region.

Rather than the 13 percent who would vote for Trump, I am surprised by how much attention his statements about Mexican immigrants have received. A recent Univision poll shows that 90 percent of Latinos know about the statements, 71 percent of Latinos have an unfavorable opinion of Trump, and that 79 percent of Latinos find the comments offensive. This latter number includes 77 percent of Latinos who are NOT of Mexican descent. Many Latinos are savvy enough to realize that ignorant bigots use “Mexican” to refer to any type of brown person with an accent where the “Rs” are rather strong.

The Donald’s campaign is highlighting an ugly side of the Republican coalition. At a time when the GOP thinks it is necessary to improve relations with Latino communities, Trump’s surge to the lead at the polls shows the disconnect between some of the party elites’ goals and the rank-and-file feelings. Most Latinos do not identify as Republican and most people in general do not pay attention to the Presidential Elections until they are well underway. But Trump’s statements have made Latinos pay attention to what would be an obscure affair to most of them. And that’s the real surprise of Trump’s run.

Featured image: Donald Trump tours the US-Mexico border (Source: NBC News)