Tomorrow I will meet my fall 2017 semester students for the first time. Though I am teaching three different courses, all three of my opening day lectures will focus on the same point. All of my students will read a concise description of the dangers of political amateurism written last month by political science professor and blogger Julia Azari.
Azari’s thesis is simple and her perspective widely shared by political scientists. Democracy is not easy and widespread public political ignorance and apathy has long created fertile ground for populist calls for the elevation of political outsiders to power. The problem is that political outsiders inevitably promote what Azari calls “the pernicious myth of populism that beneath elite squabbles there exists widespread unity of principles” among average Americans. Of course, there is no such consensus. Americans are committed to broadly defined ideals, like freedom, equality, and individual rights, but not agreed on precise definitions of these ideas or on how to realize them. For that, they need professional help.
Move over Jeff Jacoby, Eric Fehrnstrom’s appears to be gunning for your beat over at the Globe. A couple weeks back I gently debunked Fehrnstrom’s transparently weak argument that Trump could beat Clinton. This week, he has published an even more transparently weak attack on Hillary Clinton’s candidacy that I will herein debunk a bit less gently. Frankly, Mr. Fehrnstrom writes like a graduating senior taking a course pass-fail, though I’m not sure he deserves credit for giving it “the old college try.”
Speculation about when or if Senator Elizabeth Warren would endorse one of the candidates battling for her party’s nomination has been hot and heavy. Sanders’ backers, in particular, have been confidently speculating that Warren would eventually side with Bernie. The truth is that Warren will not endorse until the nomination is a fait accompli. She will not put her foot on the scale to help the now faltering protest candidacy of Bernie Sanders primarily because she believes in the Democratic Party. She believes that a strong united Democratic Party is the key to electoral victory and policy accomplishment.
Candidates, campaign operatives, high profile donors and endorsers, media analysts, and reporters all have very strong incentives to base their electoral projections primarily on factors that their target audiences both understand and believe credible. Unfortunately, that means willfully discounting the single most potent and predictive factor in election outcomes, party identity. Of course, if campaigners, pollsters, and media pundits took the role of party leanings more seriously, most of them would be out of a job.
Here are a few topics left on the cutting room floor of political discussion: how progressives are like the Direct TV ads The Settlers; funny things Marco Rubio says; Donald Trump, voting rights activist; and Ted Cruz, progressive.