American Daily: April 11, 2014

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

11 April 2014


  • What do Obamacare critics mean when they say the law isn't "liberal enough"?

After replicating the CNN measures, HuffPost asked a simple open-ended follow-up question of the not-liberal-enough respondents: "In your own words, what do you mean when you say the health care law is not liberal enough?" Contrary to what many political observers have assumed, very few said they opposed the law because they would prefer a "single payer" system (6 percent of those answering) or would prefer either the "public option" or an alternative to ensure "healthcare for all" (4 percent). This sliver of ACA opponents amounted to just under 1 percent of all adults in the YouGov surveys.

But even if there’s no minority-majority it’s still true that the United States is becoming browner, with whites making up a declining share of the population. And if this Northwestern study is any indication, that could lead to a stronger, deeper conservatism among white Americans. The racial polarization of the 2012 election — where the large majority of whites voted for Republicans, while the overwhelming majority of minorities voted for Democrats — could continue for decades.

The connection between sprawl and conservatism comes through loud and clear in our analysis of more than 200 of America's metro areas. Our correlations suggest that sprawled America is Red America, while Blue America takes on a much more compact geography. The Sprawl Index was negatively associated with the share of voters in a metro who voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 (with a correlation of -.44); and it was positively associated with the percentage who voted for Barack Obama (.43). These were among the strongest correlations in our analysis.

  • Jerry Brown is on track to win a second term as governor of California. 
Riding a new high in popularity, Gov. Jerry Brown looks to be coasting toward re-election in November, with GOP Assemblyman Tim Donnelly moving solidly into second place in the June 3 top-two primary, according to a new Field Poll.
The survey "is overwhelmingly good for Brown, but, secondarily, it's good news for Donnelly," said Mark DiCamillo, who runs the poll. "Republicans are coalescing around Donnelly" as the candidate they want to see challenge Brown in the November general election.

Letterman, the longest-serving late-night TV host, announced his retirement on April 3. Colbert’s premiere date will be announced after Letterman determines a timetable for his final broadcast in 2015.“Stephen is a multi-talented and respected host, writer, producer, satirist and comedian who blazes a trail of thought-provoking conversation, humor and innovation with everything he touches,” Tassler added. ”He is a presence on every stage, with interests and notable accomplishments across a wide spectrum of entertainment, politics, publishing and music. We welcome Stephen to CBS with great pride and excitement, and look forward to introducing him to our network television viewers in late night.”


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Department of Credit Where It's Due: Heartbleed

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

11 April 2014


Health and human services secretary Kathleen Sebelius has announced she is resigning:

Kathleen Sebelius, the health and human services secretary, is resigning, ending a stormy five-year tenure marred by the disastrous rollout of President Obama’s signature legislative achievement, the Affordable Care Act.

Mr. Obama accepted Ms. Sebelius’s resignation this week, and on Friday morning, he will nominate Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, to replace her, officials said.

Few people will be looking to defend Sibelius; the website launch was a mess and, considering she was in charge of implementing President Obama's signature policy, it seems entirely appropriate the Secretary should take the fall for Obamacare's shaky start. (Even though she was able to announce before stepping down that the website had succeeded in enrolling 7.5 million Americans in new health insurance policies, beating the Administration's original target of 7 million enrollees.)

But as Americans bid Sibelius a not particularly fond farewell, let's give the program and its infamous web portal credit where it's due: Healthcare.gov was not subject to the Heartbleed bug, which potentially exposed websites using supposedly secure incryption to unauthorised access. This is from Mashable's round-up of Heartbleed-affected sites:

Healthcare.gov not affected

This puts the Obamacare site ahead of Yahoo, Gmail, and some Amazon services! If only it had always performed so well.


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American Daily: April 9, 2014

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

9 April 2014


A different, unexpected racial argument has taken shape. Race, always the deepest and most volatile fault line in American history, has now become the primal grievance in our politics, the source of a narrative of persecution each side uses to make sense of the world. Liberals dwell in a world of paranoia of a white racism that has seeped out of American history in the Obama years and lurks everywhere, mostly undetectable. Conservatives dwell in a paranoia of their own, in which racism is used as a cudgel to delegitimize their core beliefs. And the horrible thing is that both of these forms of paranoia are right.

To mark “Equal Pay Day,” President Barack Obama plans to sign two executive orders on Tuesday. One would bar federal contractors from retaliating against employees who share salary information with one another. The other would extend the statute of limitations for equal pay claims. Lilly Ledbetter, who will be at Obama’s side on Tuesday and for whom the 2009 equal pay act is named, inspired both moves. Ledbetter worked for 20 years at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. before she found out from an anonymous tip from a fellow employee that she was earning less money than her male colleagues. By then, the statute of limitations had run out for her to reclaim most of her lost wages.

  • Democrats' big problem in this year's midterms: turnout.

According to Greenberg, only 64 percent of voters in the “Rising American Electorate” of 2012 (young people, unmarried women, and minorities) are “almost certain” to vote this November. That’s compared with 72 percent of all people who voted in 2012, and 79 percent of people outside the Rising American Electorate—older whites, married women, men—who lean Republican.

Science has long known that corn, out of all types of vegetation, is particularly adept at removing carbon emissions from the air. Now, using sophisticated satellite data, NASA reports it's got a new bead on just how much the silky plant is affecting the carbon cycle. For one thing, the fecundity of corn in the United States is a lot more than expected: Past research underestimated the plant's nationwide growth by as much as 60 percent, says the space agency.

Bob Dylan/Streetview


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African-American conservatism and gay rights

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

9 April 2014


Good point from Helen McDonald on African American support for gay marriage:

While historically Black churches have opposed same-sex marriages, using support of same-sex marriage as a measure of homophobia distorts the relationship between historically Black churches and queerness. In a study about views about homosexuality in U.S. religious traditions, the analysis found that 39% of historically Black churches think that homosexuality should be accepted by society, versus 46% that do not. These findings do suggest that historically Black churches are not eager to support queerness but when compared to other religious traditions, historically Black churches are far from the most homophobic. 64% of Evangelical Churches, 68% of Mormons, 76% of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and 61% of Muslims who participated in the survey think that homosexuality should be discouraged by society. If the reality of the situation is that historically Black churches are pretty split on the question of queerness, and it’s not like Black religious leaders are the largest population of Christians popping into other countries and preaching LGBTQ-hate (I see you right-wing Evangelicals), why are historically Black churches often deemed monolithic spaces of homophobia and the biggest proponents of anti-LGBTQ rhetoric?

This is a pertinent complication to the perennial and overly simplistic canard that black religious voters are out of step with the rest of the left on same-sex marriage. Sure, African American churches are ambivalent about marriage rights. But so are churches in general. And when it comes to gay rights, black churches are more liberal than other comparable institutions.


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American Daily: April 8, 2014

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

8 April 2014


This is the same conclusion Japan and South Korea, and other pro-US nations of the Asia-Pacific region are coming to. China’s assertiveness is having the effect of driving US allies in the region closer to Washington and to each other, even as they worry about American reliability in a crisis.

Change the words “Democrat” to “Republican,” “Israel” to “Iran” and “Palestinian” to “Jewish,” and that’s exactly what just happened. Leading contenders for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination spent last weekend wooing and feting a billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, whose views — if directed at Jews — would put him in the company of Louis Farrakhan and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

  • The less Americans know about where Ukraine is, the more likely they are to favour invading it.
However, the further our respondents thought that Ukraine was from its actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene militarily. Even controlling for a series of demographic characteristics and participants’ general foreign policy attitudes, we found that the less accurate our participants were, the more they wanted the U.S. to use force, the greater the threat they saw Russia as posing to U.S. interests, and the more they thought that using force would advance U.S. national security interests; all of these effects are statistically significant at a 95 percent confidence level. Our results are clear, but also somewhat disconcerting: The less people know about where Ukraine is located on a map, the more they want the U.S. to intervene militarily.
  • Rand Paul's weaknesses as a presidential candidate.

I get why the media loves covering Rand Paul. He’s actively challenging GOP orthodoxy. He likes talking to reporters. He’s multi-dimensional. But, that doesn’t automatically translate into “frontrunner” status. He has some significant hurdles he’ll need to climb before then. He’s like a house with instant curb appeal, but we don’t know if the house is sturdy until we start poking around at the infrastructure. At the end of the day, Rand Paul's biggest challenge won't be convincing people he can expand the base of the party. It will be in convincing the traditional and establishment Republican base of the party that he is truly presidential material.

  • And are Chris Christie's White House hopes toast?

Thanks to the Bridgegate scandal, and the torrent of e-mails, internal documents, and unvarnished interviews it unleashed, we have been able to see the real Christie, and it isn’t an edifying sight. It’s so ugly, in fact, that Christie will almost certainly not survive its public display. “I really don’t know about the Presidency,” Joy Behar, the former co-host of “The View,” said to Christie at a recent political roast in Newark, which Ryan recounts in his piece. “Let me put it to you this way, in a way that you’d appreciate: You’re toast.” Behar may have been joking: she is a comedienne. But, with a federal grand jury busy hauling in Christie’s aides to explain what they know about the Bridgegate scandal, there can’t be many people who disagree with her analysis.


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American Daily: April 7, 2014

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

7 April 2014


As I started piecing together Mobile Accord’s past on Thursday—and that of the State Department that encouraged and hired them—I found that a project like ZunZuneo wasn’t out of the ordinary at all. In 2009 and 2010, the president and the secretary of state both celebrated pro-democracy web projects like ZunZuneo. Hillary Clinton delivered multiple major policy speeches about the virtues of Internet freedom and social networks abroad.

As ludicrous as the phrase ‘fake Cuban Twitter’ might sound, projects like ZunZuneo were meant to be a major focus of U.S. diplomacy. If it sounds like a risible plan, now—as it does to some commentators and, apparently, at least one Democratic senator—that only shows how much has changed since the Arab Spring was still blooming.

In one sense, at least two things about tomorrow’s game are unprecedented. Every national championship game since the men’s tournament first began to be seeded in 1978 has featured at least one team seeded No. 3 or better; this year broke that record. Furthermore, Connecticut is the first No. 7 seed to make the finals out of 144 teams who had the opportunity. (Kentucky is the fourth No. 8 seed to do so, out of 144 attempts.)

But these very features of "patrimonial capitalism" were once criticized by figures that today we would say are "on the right." Their opposition provides insight not only into early critiques of an economic system that was then still up for debate, but also into what contemporary conservatives should strive for when they speak of economic freedom.
Patrimonial capitalism was criticized not as a technical bug in an otherwise benign system, or a managerial problem to be ameliorated by socialist dreams. No, it was criticized in moral terms as a demonic attack on the freedom of the family and an assault upon man's dignity. For Hilaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton, the English Catholic distributists, the problem wasn't inherited wealth leading to patrimonial capitalism: it was the mass of men being re-impressed into slavery within "the Servile State."
At the core of this phase are the Vox Cards. They’re inspired by the highlighters and index cards that some of us used in school to remember important information. You’ll find them attached to articles, where they add crucial context; behind highlighted words, where they allow us to offer deeper explanations of key concepts; and in their stacks, where they combine into detailed — and continuously updated — guides to ongoing news stories. We’re incredibly excited about them.

On the Stoop of a Brownstone You Do Not Own

West Village, New York 10014

Spring crying is here!!!!! There is no better way to take advantage of the warmer weather than spending an afternoon crying on a great stoop! Plus - knowing the owner could come home at any moment and see you sobbing on their property is flat out exhilarating. You must try this cry immediately! The only downside is that you’re not fooling anyone - everyone walking by will know you don’t live here. People who own brownstones in NYC have absolutely zero reasons to cry in life and everyone knows this. Regardless, it’s still a wonderful crying spot, especially if enjoyed with an artisan cupcake and thinking about some recent mistakes you’ve made!!!! A+


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American Daily: April 4, 2014

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

4 April 2014


  • How a Supreme Court campaign funding decision will primarily help white men.

These superdonors — those who are now freed to open their wallets even more to as many candidates, party committees and political action committees they deem worthy — include conservative billionaires David and Charles Koch, director Steven Spielberg and banking titan Charles Schwab.

Only a quarter of these donors were women, according to the analysis. Almost half of them lived in the richest 1 percent of neighborhoods, as calculated by per capita income. Fewer than 1 in 50 lived in a majority African-American or Hispanic neighborhood, as compared to 1 in 6 of the general population. And 28 percent of them worked for Wall Street or had roots in the financial sector.

When I heard that my 21-year-old son, a student at Harvard, had been stopped by New York City police on more than one occasion during the brief summer he spent as a Wall Street intern, I was angry. On one occasion, while wearing his best business suit, he was forced to lie face-down on a filthy sidewalk because—well, let’s be honest about it, because of the color of his skin. As an attorney and a college professor who teaches criminal justice classes, I knew that his constitutional rights had been violated. As a parent, I feared for his safety at the hands of the police—a fear that I feel every single day, whether he is in New York or elsewhere.

Moreover, as the white father of an African-American son, I am keenly aware that I never face the suspicion and indignities that my son continuously confronts. In fact, all of the men among my African-American in-laws—and I literally mean every single one of them—can tell multiple stories of unjustified investigatory police stops of the sort that not a single one of my white male relatives has ever experienced.

But this conservative vision of social insurance is wrong. It’s incorrect as a matter of history; it ignores the complex interaction between public and private social insurance that has always existed in the United States. It completely misses why the old system collapsed and why a new one was put in its place. It fails to understand how the Great Recession displayed the welfare state at its most necessary and that a voluntary system would have failed under the same circumstances. Most importantly, it points us in the wrong direction. The last 30 years have seen effort after effort to try and push the policy agenda away from the state’s capabilities and toward private mechanisms for mitigating the risks we face in the world. This effort is exhausted, and future endeavors will require a greater, not lesser, role for the public.
  • Los Angeles might not be quite as sprawling as you think.

Among U.S. metro areas of at least a million people, the Los Angeles/Long Beach/Glendale statistical region ranks as the 7th-most compact and connected. It trails far behind New York and San Francisco, of course, but scores better than Chicago, Oakland, and San Jose. Orange County (Santa Ana/Anaheim/Irvine) comes in even higher at 4th. The laggard among Southland statistical regions is the Inland Empire (Riverside-San Bernardino/Ontario), which ranks as the nation's 7th most sprawling metro, regardless of size.

  • Which Major League Baseball teams overperform in terms of popularity?

The Yankees rank third even by this standard. But the Red Sox are a clear No. 1 and are about three times as popular as you’d guess from the size of the Boston media market. The Cardinals, Cubs, Giants, Pirates and Reds also over-perform relative to their market size.


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American Daily: April 1, 2014

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

1 April 2014


A report by the Senate Intelligence Committee concludes that the CIA misled the government and the public about aspects of its brutal interrogation program for years — concealing details about the severity of its methods, overstating the significance of plots and prisoners, and taking credit for critical pieces of intelligence that detainees had in fact surrendered before they were subjected to harsh techniques.
The report, built around detailed chronologies of dozens of CIA detainees, documents a long-standing pattern of unsubstantiated claims as agency officials sought permission to use — and later tried to defend — excruciating interrogation methods that yielded little, if any, significant intelligence, according to U.S. officials who have reviewed the document.
This is a transformative agenda that would resonate with visionary American presidents like the two Roosevelts and Woodrow Wilson. But while Mr. Obama embraces a powerful and compelling global vision, he also seeks reduced American commitments and engagements overseas. He wants substantial cuts in military spending and wants to reduce America's profile in Europe and the Middle East.
What Bush has been up to, including giving relatively high-profile policy speeches and meeting with important people within the party, is exactly what he would have to do to remain viable. We can probably say he’s running for 2016, even if he winds up not running in 2016, and keeping in mind that he isn't as far along as several of the other candidates … but then again, he probably doesn’t need to be.
So over America's history, we see a steady march of improvement in African Americans' lives. At the same time, we see a steady series of collective attempts by American society - by black Americans, and also by other Americans who simply don't want our society to be a racist one — to improve life for black America. Whether the latter caused the former is almost beside the point. The point is that white supremacy has been desperately fighting battle after political battle — and losing many more battles than it wins. Again and again, America has been faced with a choice of more white supremacy or less, and most of the time, it has chosen less.

For sure, similar symptoms of color-coded poverty were happening in cities all across the country, and no doubt many cities were hit harder stats-wise by the violence, but in the case of my city, those numbers mislead. Depending on which poll you cite, blacks have made up a whopping 3% to 5% of Portland’s population for decades, with most of them clustered in two quadrants. What that meant for melanin-blessed residents was this: When someone was robbed or stabbed or shot or beat or killed, there was a chance you knew the assailant and the victim and almost a sure bet that you were no more than a third person removed from both, e.g., the time in high school when the point guard on my hoop team, a guy I considered a homeboy, shot my cousin. Our communion was such that in aftermaths our allegiance was often confused. Our intimacies made most of our outcomes feel preordained.


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American Daily: March 28, 2014

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

28 March 2014


In the Hobby Lobby case, the owners of the craft store chain make the same mistake. The owners claim that their personal religious beliefs would be offended if they have to provide certain forms of birth control coverage to employees. Yet Hobby Lobby’s owners aren’t required by the law to do anything. The legal duty falls on Hobby Lobby, the company, not its owners. If Hobby Lobby fails to provide the required insurance, the company, not the owners, is responsible.
 
What the owners want is for the Supreme Court to “pierce the corporate veil”—legalese for looking behind the corporation’s legal identity and basing a ruling on the interests and desires of the owners of the firm. But Hobby Lobby’s owners only want to pierce the veil for this one issue. They want the court to vindicate their personal beliefs on birth control, yet they still keep the protections of the corporate form for everything else, including limited liability.

In perhaps the purest culture war moment ever recorded on video, he stood in front of a wall of mounted deer heads and told a church group in 2012 that evolution and the Big Bang were “lies straight from the pit of hell,” that “the Earth is but about 9,000 years old” and that the Holy Bible determined his votes in Congress (Broun sits on the Science Committee). He’s not afraid to wade deep into conspiracy theories, suggesting in 2008 that President Obama, who he likened to Adolf Hitler and Karl Marx, was plotting an armed takeover with a civilian military force. Broun’s fundraising letters boast that he was “the first Member of Congress to call [Obama] a socialist who embraces Marxist-Leninist policies” and he said last month he’d vote to impeach the president.

Despite his wilder quotes, Broun has a reputation as a disciplined retail politician. The Congressman rarely forgets a face and ends virtually all conversations with a personal plea for support. “Please vote for me,” he told this reporter, apparently out of habit, after a brief chat before the Macon debate.

  • Is the new FiveThirtyEight treating data as a buzzword?
In sum, this so-called "data-driven" website is significantly less data-driven (and less sophisticated) than Business Insider or Bloomberg View or The Atlantic. It consists nearly entirely of hedgehoggy posts supporting simplistic theories with sparse data and zero statistical analysis, making no quantitative predictions whatsoever. It has no relationship whatsoever to the sophisticated analysis of rich data sets for which Nate Silver himself has become famous.
  • How ignoring Afrofuturism contributes to Hollywood's race problem.
You hear less about an Afrofuturist revival in film and literature, but if there’s not been a resurgence in other areas of pop culture, it might be because, hey, Afrofuturism never really went away. Octavia Butler was writing right up until her death in 2006, and produced as rich a body of work as any of her white male contemporaries. And once you start digging, there’s a wealth of writing that addresses the future from the perspective of people of color, from the reasonably well-known to the fascinatingly obscure.
The problem, of course, is that none of this stuff is getting made into the sort of big-budget Hollywood extravaganzas that the layman calls to mind when he thinks of sci-fi. There are certainly entirely worthy films that look at the future and/or the present through the lens of race — Berlatsky rightly cites John Sayles’ excellent The Brother From Another Planet as an example — but they’re by and large all indie/low-budget films. As far as Hollywood goes, the future is either post-racial (The Matrix, for instance, portrays a world where the impressively diverse remnants of humanity are more concerned with surviving the depredations of being used as a giant battery than they are with worrying about skin color) or suspiciously white.


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American Exceptions: Where Americans love voting

By Jonathan Bradley in Sydney, Australia

28 March 2014


One of the results of the United States being such a large and diverse place is that, even when they're accurate, any generalisations you might make about the country don't apply everywhere. As such, I thought it might be a fun idea to start a series of posts I'm calling American Exceptions. This is about those ideas everyone has of America that, in general, are accurate, but aren't accurate everywhere. Sometimes it might be a single state that disproves the rule, others an entire region, and on other occasions a mere city or metro area. 

Why does this matter? Because rarely does any observation about America apply to all of America. And to treat the country like a monolith is to misunderstand it in a fundamental way.

Exception #1: Americans have low-turnout elections...

It's absolutely true that, for the high value it places on democratic institutions, voter participation rates in the United States tend toward the dismal. Australians particularly notice this because we're used to compulsory voting ensuring turn-out rates in the 90s. But even democracies that don't require their citizens to vote tend to have higher turn-out rates than the US. In lower house elections between 1960 and 1995, Iceland, for instance, averaged an 89 per cent turnout rate, Canada 74 per cent, and Japan 71 per cent. The US, meanwhile, averaged 55 per cent for general elections in presidential years (with 48 per cent if you take midterms into account.) The turnout rate in 2008, 61.6 per cent, was the highest since 1964, when 61.9 per cent of elegible voters cast a ballot. The 49 per cent rate in 1996 was a notable low.

There are a variety of reasons for why elections in the US might be low–turnout affairs. Southern states have historically put great effort into disenfranchising black citizens, and, in the process, disenfranchised many white ones as well. Though these overt efforts ended with the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many states retain measures that make it difficult for citizens, particularly poorer ones, to cast a ballot, including photo identification requirements and inadequate voting infrastructure. The practice of holding elections on Tuesdays might also make it tougher for some citizens to get to a polling booth, and the sheer number of public positions filled by elections (including, in certain jurisdictions, sheriffs, judges, and attorneys-general) requires voters to put in more effort if they want to fully participate in the democratic process. Historic and cultural expectations of the responsibilities of a democratic citizenry also influence turnout rates.  

Minnesota

...except in Minnesota.

If American polls in general bring to mind faulty machines, long lines, and a population that can barely be bothered showing up, Minnesota is the exact opposite. Citizens of the North Star State not only love to vote, they do so in elections that are models of comity and efficiency. Consider a 1962 gubernatorial contest that ended with the top two candidates separated by just 58 votes. Initially the two sides went to court to battle over the form a recount would take, but they quickly decided it would be better if they put aside their differences and hashed out together a recount system that all parties involved could consider fair and valid.

Minnesota has had the highest voter turnout in 13 of the past 17 elections,[1] including the past nine straight[2]. According to the United States Elections Project, between 1980 and 2012[3], Minnesota averaged 72.4 per cent turn out, compared to 56.5 per cent for the country as a whole. In 2012, three in four eligible Minnesotans showed up to the polls, while in 2004, a high of 78.4 per cent cast a vote. That's not the level of participation we see in Australia, but it's perfectly respectable by international standards. And since those are average figures, they obscure even higher turnouts in particular districts, where more than 90 per cent of eligible voters turned out.

So why are Minnesotans so enthusiastic about voting? It's a combination of culture and smart election laws.

Read More

These laws include permitting same day registration, which lets Minnesotans with certain types of identification — or an already registered voter willing to vouch for them — to add themselves to the roll and cast a legal vote on the day of the election. (Wisconsin, which regularly ranks second in turn-out rates, allows the same process.) The result, according to an Ohio State University study [PDF] is a system that "facilitates voter participation, while it also avoids the potential of contentious post-voting disputes over the eligibility of provisional ballots." Close to 20 per cent of voters in 2004 used same day registration, and yet Minnesota elections have very few cases of electoral fraud.

Other good voting practices conducted by Minnesota, according to the OSU study, include efficient use of its Optical Scan Ballot voting machines and no law requiring voter identification. But although Minnesota runs its elections well, and other states could benefit from adapting its practices, the state also has a long history of a participatory civic culture that encourages voting. In Minnesota Politics and Government, Elaar, Gray, and Spano argue Minnesotans' "political participation is rooted in the moralistic political culture." Minnesotans, they say, demonstate many characteristics associated with high participation, including:

...keen interest in politics, high attachment to community, and strong faith in state and local government. Minnesotans also believe in a positive role for government in solving problems, although they do not think of themselves as liberals. We believe Minnesotans are closer to the communitarian position; that is, they want to balance individual rights with community responsibilities. They take public service seriously. Minnesota also exhibits the socioeconomic characteristics associated with high participation — above-average income, above-average levels of education — though it is far from the highest state in either category. Finally, Minnesota exhibits the legal and political characteristics associated with high participation — faciliative voting laws, moralistic political culture, and intense party competition. All these factors together seem to produce the Minnesota ethic of participatory citizenship.

Elsewhere, the authors call Minnesota

"the archetypical example of a state informed and permeated by the moralistic political subculture: both the general public and the politicians conceive of politics as a public activity centered on some notion of the public good and properly devoted to the advancement of the public interest. The tone set by the state's political culutre permeates Minnesota's civil society, its politics, and government, giving Minnesota a 'clean' image."

They attribute this to the state's emergence as a civil society in the ideologically intense years leading up to the Civil War, and to a moralistic political culture brought by Yankee settlers and the Scandinavian immigrants who initially populated the state.

So, sure, Americans in general vote at a lower rate than many other advanced democracies. But in November every two years, up there in the frozen north, Minnesotans trudge through the cold to defy a national stereotype. 


1. Note that though this link says 12 of the past 16, the story in question was written before the 2012 election had been held.

2. A Census survey suggests Minnesota's standing slipped in 2012, but there are good reasons to doubt its findings. 

3. This is a different data series used to the one mentioned earlier in the post, covering a different time period, and so isn't directly comparable. Nonetheless, the numbers for each are similar, though there has been an uptick in voter participation rates since the low of the 1996 election: 60.4 per cent on average nationally.

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