My fellow partisans: How we can yell at each other more thoughtfully – Jason Lietaer

Building on the earlier column by Ian Capstick (Today’s political partisanship is hurting Canada’s best and brightest: Ian Capstick), Jason Lietaer provides some useful categorization and do’s and don’ts):

Over the past several years, fuelled by the rise of social media and an increasingly politically divided populace around the world, excessive partisanship has flourished. It’s a growth industry. If it were a stock, you would buy. You would mortgage your house to buy and then buy a little more on margin, just to be safe.

I think most thoughtful people consider this is to be bad. The tone of the last U.S. election campaign could be compared to a raging dumpster fire, but that would be an insult to dumpsters, to fires, and to dumpster fires.

One of the men in my line of work, a genuinely nice guy named Ian Capstick, wrote a piece in Maclean’s announcing he was done with partisanship. The piece calls for more empathy, more reasoned debate and a little bit of self-awareness. It’s better for our collective mental health, he argued.

He’s right. The problem, though, is that not all of us are ready to give up partisan politics. So I wanted to take Ian’s thought further, and present a user’s guide to stopping the madness—and who better to advise on reducing partisanship than the guy who ran Stephen Harper’s war room and called a Liberal op-ed “complete and utter horses–t” on Twitter just this week? (See? A little self-awareness and humour can go a long way!)

Since most of you out there aren’t TV or radio personalities, I’ll mostly use social media examples. But for those of you who are partisans on TV and radio: we see you too.

To fix the problem, we first have to identify the problem. As I see it, there are six major kinds of partisans we all run into. We could spend weeks subdividing them into kingdom, phylum, class and species…but that’s probably a job for the minister of science.

Here are the groups we’re dealing with:

The Bot: If you’re spending your day arguing with one of these, just delete your account. You cannot be helped. These, as evidenced by their name, are not actually quite … people. The account in question may be run by the Russians, the CIA, Mossad, or just a nerd in the school lunchroom, but it doesn’t really matter. Usually the avatar is a woman in a bikini, a man whose face is obscured by a scuba mask, or it’s a picture of a bumper sticker or billboard associated with some ridiculous issue.

The Troll: Although the Troll’s actions are virtually indistinguishable from the Bot, this is an actual person. Their defining characteristics are a density that is only approached by volcanic rock, and a penchant for non-sequiturs and whataboutism (the ancient science of dismissing any follies of your own party with seemingly analogous examples from your opponents). Despite Darwinism, they are surprisingly common. This is the kind of person who sits at a family gathering insisting that the local mayor is on the take because of a zoning variance, makes fart jokes and takes the last piece of pie for good measure. They are—simply put—jerks. There is nothing to be gained by entering into a dispute with them. Do not approach unless you like to be called names, have all day to debate a fool, or are in desperate need of more Twitter followers.

The Impenetrable Wall: A true hyper-partisan, this group has never seen their preferred party make a mistake, has never seen anything from the other side that might be a good idea, and never, ever, resorts to facts to buttress an argument. Often polite and well-mannered, they are the kind of person you meet for a drink but make damn sure you’ve built in an excuse beforehand so you can leave immediately at any moment. If they try to use facts, they are out of context or flat-out wrong. Do not try to approach one of these in the wild without a net or a gun loaded with tranquilizer darts.

The Phony Listener: A close cousin to the Impenetrable Wall, but a nicer version. They have the effect of a cross between a therapist and a teacher. They are just as attached to their positions, but they are presented with a sanctimonious “more in sadness than anger” tone. Oh, there will be pats on the head and subtle bridging: “I understand your point, but I think the most important thing is…” The effect is the same: minds are not changed. Ever. If you deal with this group, try to have some fun. Call out their hypocrisies and gently make fun of their biases. It drives them crazy. Personal note: I adopt this helpful persona when I try to drive progressives mad.

The Snake In The Grass: Perhaps the most infuriating group, but possibly my favourite because I sometimes inhabit this arena when I’m feeling frisky. Usually a “semi-retired” smug politico or a still-working certified media party elite, these folks use barely perceptible language shifts to push the point of view of their side, while seemingly flying above the fray. The worst part: they really don’t even know they’re being partisan. Many inhabit the salons of Ottawa or just simply Air Canada lounges congratulating themselves on how enlightened they are. The media members from the left will generally be found signing a contract with the Trudeau government within a few months to provide communications support; on the right, they are anxiously awaiting a Doug Ford premiership so they can get raises by working in the public sector.

The Prototype: This individual considers all points of view and emotional context before making an opinion. She reacts to opponents’ arguments with empathy and self-reflection. He thinks before acting and does not get angry or intolerant. Facts are brought forward and discussed. Every interaction they are involved in is collegial, minds are sometimes changed, and everybody feels great afterward. Note: As you know, this person does not actually exist.

So how do we move from Troll down to the Prototype? I’ve got a few handy rules. Some of them I even follow myself!

Do not ascribe motives to your opponents. This is more important than all the other rules combined. It’s the root cause of most problems. If you believe in your heart that your opponents are trying to destroy the country, you are a jerk. It’s just science. I can guarantee Stephen Harper wasn’t trying to wreck the country, and Justin Trudeau isn’t either. Mulroney, Chretien or Martin: ditto. Get it out of your mind. They might have the wrong ideas in your opinion, but these people are trying to do what they believe is the right thing and got into politics for the right reasons.

Be hard on the issue, not the person. Or disagree without being disagreeable—whatever cute phrase you want to use. Treat people online as you treat your colleagues at work. Too often we treat each other online as though we are warring spouses involved in a divorce filing. Treat people with respect, and if you can’t, go throw the ball around with your kids.

Speaking of:

Get an identity outside of politics. Pick up a hobby. Take up interpretive dance. Go exercise. Go for a drink with somebody who can’t recite the names of all the current premiers. Just get off your phone. This is key for young political staffers—trust me, your life is better when politics is part of your life, not your whole life.

Get some friends on the other side. I implore you: meet some people of the opposite political persuasion. You’ll be shocked how much it will broaden your horizons. By the way, this advice goes for pretty much everything in your life. If you’re homophobic, hang out with some gay people. If you find yourself thinking racist thoughts, go meet a more diverse group of people. Shocking what you may learn.

Admit when you’re wrong. It’s tough. I get it. But it’s freeing. If you mess up, put your hand up and move on. If fewer people are entrenched, real discussions can happen.

Watch your tone. The last federal election was all about tone. It’s easy to forget these lessons. For conservatives: we got off track with our tone. For progressives: you identified it and campaigned on it almost exclusively. Don’t forget these lessons. Canadians expect a level of civility from everyone.

Media is not the enemy. For conservatives: most media doesn’t love us. Get over it. It’s not changing. For Liberals: you’re governing the country. There’s gonna be tougher questions for you. Drop the sanctimony and get back to what you do best. For the NDP: sorry guys, if you want to be considered to lead the country, the stakes are higher. You have to get ready for the scrutiny and be better.

Get off the talking points already. This is mostly for TV and radio folks, but man, it’s tiresome. Spend an extra couple of minutes to put it in your own words. Listen as much as you talk. Respond to debate. Ask a question or two of your fellow panelists. Try to say something nice about your opposition. You’ll be surprised how much better you will be.

Use the Google machine. Before you accuse somebody of bias, read what they wrote. Look online for a few objective facts. Before you beak off, just give yourself five minutes to walk away from your computer, read an article or two, and take a breath.

So there it is: A starting point for all you beginners before going to your first Partisans Anonymous meeting. A nine-point plan that could make you a happier partisan.

Ian quit cold turkey, but you don’t have to. Let’s just be better.

via My fellow partisans: How we can yell at each other more thoughtfully –

Today’s political partisanship is hurting Canada’s best and brightest: Ian Capstick

While written in the context of partisan politics, some broader lessons for us all in terms of the need for reflection, empathy and being open to others:

For eight years, I was a commentator on CBC News Network’s Power & Politics, speaking on issues ranging from the state of the economy to breaking-news stories. My job, in effect, was to think analytically about the political issues of the day, and predict where things would go. Yet something I couldn’t predict was just how much partisanship would have a profound effect on my life.

It was, in effect, making me sick.

I realized it after an awkward on-air back-and-forth led to a heated off-air interaction with our guest host, Terry Milewski. He was asking about NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh’s condemnations of violence as he grappled with reports about his attendance at Sikh independence rallies, and though I felt I’d given a solid answer, he kept pressing me on the issue.

Ultimately, he kept his cool—and I did not.

Over and over on the show, I have railed against entitlement—and yet there I was, berating a semi-retired award-winning journalist in the commercial break. Angry or not, right or wrong, I knew in that moment it’s not who I wanted to be. No matter how legitimate my issue might have been with his questions, I lost any real ability to address it once I’d led with anger instead of empathy. But why was I so upset?

After that encounter, I reviewed clips from various years, and watched myself over the last year experience small lapses in attention on air; forgetting familiar political words and remote locations was especially distracting.

For the first time, I recognized some of my signature knee-jerk confrontational behaviour on- and off-air was because of what therapists call rejection sensitive dysphoria (RSD), or an acute sensitivity to criticism that is found in many adults with attention deficit disorder. I had let my routines slip, my self-care slide and the constant barrage of negativity overwhelm me.

As I reflected on these moments with family and friends, I realized how similar my entitlement and anger was to the actions of many of the politicians and staff who had berated me—online and off—for whatever they saw fit.

I noticed, ultimately, that I was failing to comment with empathy. I decided to leave the show on Mar. 20.

Empathy is fundamental, both personally and for our lives at large. The ability to see value in two diametrically opposed ideas is critical to creating a thriving, pluralistic democracy.

But partisan politics in the social media age is increasingly leaving little room for contemplation. Political parties seek out smart people who have been encouraged to think outside of the box for their entire careers, and then shoehorn them into the smallest of “message boxes” and expect them to cease thinking for themselves. When debate becomes about taking entrenched sides, intransigence and invective become the order of the day.

That empathy seems to be missing even when it comes to debating ideas with people on the same side. Look no further than how Hamilton MP David Christopherson was just treated online and off for breaking ranks with the NDP caucus in voting against new rules for the Canada Summer Jobs program, which asks groups to attest that their core mandate respects the values of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including abortion rights. As a result, the NDP has punted Christopherson from his role on the standing committee on procedure and House affairs, responsible not only for the rules and practices of the House but also passing judgement on MP conflicts of interest; there is hardly a better parliamentarian for this critical (and equally mind-numbingly boring) committee assignment.

Christopherson is an ally of LGBTQ people; he is pro-choice and an ardent feminist. He has stuck his neck out on more issues than most in his caucus have even voted on. And yet last week, the leadership of the NDP felt it needed to punish him for articulating a carefully considered and nuanced view.

“If the law is an ass, you have right to say so,” Christopherson told his local paper in Hamilton. “You have to obey the Charter; you have to obey the laws. But you don’t have to bow and scrape and commit fealty. You don’t have to say, ‘I love the law.’ ”

He’s right, of course—but you wouldn’t know it from the state of political debate in Canada today.

Progressives rightly railed against a values test when former MP Kellie Leitch demanded it be imposed on refugees and immigrants—yet they were strangely silent when the values test Liberals imposed had answers that aligned with their values. And now, with Christopherson’s punishment costing him his job on the important multi-party standing committee, the whole system loses out.

(You have to wonder if Dave will be scrolling Facebook while serving his extra hours in House of Commons debates wistfully hitting “like” on photos of his Layton-era colleagues relaxing in Florida, wondering how the hell he ended up in the back row and not on a beach.)

Christopherson is just the latest to fall victim to this unwillingness to see compromise and collaboration as strengths instead of weaknesses. And in the eyes of many partisans, I’m guilty of this too. Despite ostensibly providing analysis from the lens of a proponent of the NDP, I’ve been criticized for providing too much nuance and context and not enough sharp jabs and verbal left-hooks. It’s why I was thrilled I didn’t have to talk about any of the Christopherson affair on television.

In Ottawa, simply changing your mind is seen as professional frailty, and as disloyalty to your party. Once the talking points are issued, only the bravest stray from the script. Social media has only handed political strategists more tools to monitor MPs and opinion-makers and an additional channel with which to influence their opinions.

Social networks can leverage network effect and economies of scale. Their ability to grow their membership is what makes these corporations attractive to investors and potentially very dangerous to democracy and our mental health: they’re draining empathy from the very people who make up the user base of the networks.

While the corporations offering the so-called free services are benefiting from the economy of scale, so are those who use the tools to cause emotional harm and pain. Partisan sock puppets, trolls and bots make sure of that. The very technology and algorithms that were supposed to allow people to come together are now regularly being used to drive people apart.

This is part of the reason official Ottawa is in the midst of a mental health crisis—and at the root of it is unhealthy partisanship and how it’s being amplified online. Our political capital’s practice of forced conformity and its tough social media climate is affecting the long-term health of some of our country’s brightest.

Understanding and addressing our personal and political histories and how they intertwine is part of how we can heal current-day trauma. To foster this healing, we must be able to have honest and open dialogue about the incredible pain and suffering the very institutions of Parliament and government have caused to so many.

In my case, it means I need time and space to be more reflective, less quick to judgement, and more deeply informed about the subjects I’m commenting on. I need to learn to be angry less often and lead with empathy.

We need to encourage collaboration over conflict. We need to spend more time eating together and less time berating each other. Parliament needs more joint committees to enable work across both Houses.

Pundits need to stop pretending like things have never happened before: historical context is a powerful tool for helping to understand the political reality of today. We need to encourage the telling and reframing of not only the great stories of confederation, but the difficult and painful stories as well. Without this space for reflection, we are bound to repeat the same political mistakes.

There isn’t yet room for complexity in political opinion. But maybe if we spend a little bit more time trying to understand each other rather than tear each other down, we all might get to a place that embraces the challenges of our nation with a bit more grace.

via Today’s political partisanship is hurting Canada’s best and brightest –

Some of Congress’s Fiercest Immigration Critics Lead Groups That Celebrate Immigrants – Mother Jones

Fun article, with the time old nostalgia for older waves of immigrants in contrast to anti-immigration views for newer non-European waves:

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) thinks President Donald Trump’s immigration framework goes too easy on undocumented immigrants. Appearing last week on a Baltimore radio program, he blasted Trump’s proposed pathway to citizenship for Dreamers—undocumented immigrants who came to United States as children—as an “amnesty” plan. Instead, along with 87 colleagues, he supports a more extreme House Republican proposal that would sharply curtail legal immigration and treat Dreamers as criminals if they fall into poverty.

So it might come as a surprise that Harris is a leader of a group that celebrates an immigrant tradition. The son of immigrants who fled Hungary and Ukraine after World War II, Harris co-chairs the Congressional Hungarian Caucus, a bipartisan group that aims to “represent interests of Hungarian American constituents.”

Harris is not alone among immigration hardliners in his advocacy for existing immigrant populations. He is just one of 11 co-sponsors of the House Republican bill who chair one of the more than 60 congressional caucuses that advocate on behalf of other nations, their immigrants, and those immigrants’ descendants. These lawmakers celebrate their own immigrant heritage as they voice support for ending the legal immigration practices that helped bring most of those immigrants to America in the first place.

Congressional caucuses are informal bodies that direct policy activity around a particular issue and serve as forums for information exchange, says Matt Glassman, a senior fellow at Georgetown University’s Government Affairs Institute who studiedcaucuses for the Congressional Research Service. The ethnic- and country-focused groups, like the Congressional Italian American Caucus and the Congressional Friends of Ireland Caucus, are typically bipartisan, serving to highlight immigrants’ contributions while also strengthening diplomatic ties with their countries of origin. Members of Congress might join one because of their own personal heritage, or to show support for an ethnic group that dominates their districts. Unlike powerful legislative blocs like the House Freedom Caucus or the Congressional Black Caucus, however, these caucuses typically serve as “interest group box-checking,” says Glassman. “I think of the vast majority of caucuses as signals to voters, more so than influencing the legislative processes.”

Some of the fiercest critics of immigration are among the most vocal cheerleaders of immigrant heritage, including their own. Rep. Lou Barletta (R-Pa.)—a grandson of Italian immigrants and member of the Congressional Italian American Caucus, who has supported legislation to celebrate Italian Heritage Month—recently wrote an op-ed urging an end to “chain migration,” a term used by immigration opponents to describe the practice of allowing immigrants to join their families in the United States. Rep. Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), a co-chair of the German-American Caucus who has said Pennsylvania is “proud of its German heritage,” called Trump’s immigration plan “reasonable” and said in 2009 that “if they [immigrants] are here illegally, it may be a good time for them to go home.” And Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), a co-chair of both the Congressional Friends of Norway Caucus and the Congressional Friends of Liechtenstein Caucus—roles his office says stem from diplomatic efforts, cultural interest, and family relations—introduced his own hardline immigration bill in 2005, which would have criminalized living in the United States as an undocumented immigrant. All three are co-sponsors of the House Republican immigration bill, which has little chance of becoming law.

GOP hardliners have attempted to reconcile this conflict by separating the past from the present. “If people coming into the United States don’t have a job, that weighs on local resources,” says an aide to Barletta, arguing that today’s 327 million Americans strain land and economic opportunity more than ever before. Barletta, who previously served as mayor of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, passed the nation’s first local ordinance that punished employers and landlords for hiring or leasing to undocumented immigrants, a response to Central American immigrants settling in the small city. The aide said these measures help keep revenue and population growing at the same rate.

Thomas Guglielmo, a scholar of American immigration history at George Washington University, says the tendency to celebrate old immigrant populations while demonizing new ones has a long history. In the 1920s, Congress established a policy that set quotas based on the number of immigrants already in the United States from each country. The system significantly restricted southern and eastern European immigrants while favoring those from northern and western Europe, which had sent the first mass wave of immigrants to the United States in the mid-19th century. As the second wave of immigrants—who came from eastern and southern Europe in the early 20th century—gained political power, they advocated for a new system that prioritized family ties, giving immigrants from their homelands a leg up over those from elsewhere in the world.

After the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act curtailed immigration from Europe, Irish- and Italian-American lawmakers led the push to establish the diversity immigrant visa lottery, which provides visas to people from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States. Thanks in part to the lottery, the share of immigrants from outside Europe has increased from one out of eight in 1960 to nine out of 10 in 2010. Republicans are now trying to end the diversity lottery.

Guglielmo says many lawmakers fail to recognize the similarities in the struggles of the European immigrants of the past and the immigrants from elsewhere in the world today. “These folks who revel in their Euro-ethnic heritage don’t really understand that history at all,” he says. “To the extent that they see difficulty in the past, it’s held up as this badge of honor.”

via Some of Congress’s Fiercest Immigration Critics Lead Groups That Celebrate Immigrants – Mother Jones

The growing diversity within federal ridings: Policy Options

My latest:

Increased political representation of visible minorities in Canada makes it virtually impossible for any major political party to take explicit anti-immigration positions.

via The growing diversity within federal ridings

For those interested, the full table of all 338 ridings can be found here: C16 – Visible Minority – Ridings

Douglas Todd: How religion cuts into politics in B.C.

Tend to agree that more studies needed with respect to visible minorities and religion (some obvious links, Canadian Sikhs, evangelical or more fundamentalist Christians among Chinese Canadians), and the political impacts:

Did Christy Clark increase her popularity by 10 percentage points when she stopped attending Vancouver’s giant Pride parade?

That’s one of the more spicy possibilities raised in a new book that delves into how religion makes a big difference in politics in Canada, even in unusually secular B.C.

The authors of Religion and Canadian Party Politics, from UBC Press, devote a chapter to the ways conservative Christians have been a crucial factor in B.C.’s political dogfights, with a glance also at Sikh influences.

The University of Toronto’s David Rayside and Carleton’s Jerald Sabin and Paul Thomas explain how Clark, who had been happily attending Pride parades, abruptly stopped doing so in 2012.

With Clark painting herself as more socially conservative, her polling numbers went up and those of the then-robust B.C. Conservative party plummeted by 10 percentage points.

The ex-premier did more than snub Vancouver’s Pride parade to cement the “religious vote” in the pivotal 2013 B.C. election, however.

Clark’s advisers obtained an endorsement from Stockwell Day, a preacher and former Conservative cabinet minister. Clark also appeared on the evangelical TV show of David Mainse, host of 100 Huntley St. In addition, the book cites my report on her speech to the Christian organization, City in Focus, in which she said it’s “tragic” more people don’t worship God.

Perhaps most importantly, Clark aggressively propped up private religious schools, and not only because her son attended Vancouver’s St. George’s, an upper-class, nominally Anglican institution.

Religion and Canadian Party Politics cites how B.C.’s private schools, which are mostly conservative Christian, with some Sikh and Muslim, are growing to the point they now educate 13 per cent of all the province’s young students.

The tactics of Clark, an Anglican, were not only aimed at white Christians, but also B.C. Filipinos (95 per cent of whom are Christian), Koreans (64 per cent Christian) and ethnic Chinese (22 per cent Christian, 59 per cent not religious).

As for the B.C. NDP, Religion and Canadian Party Politics points to polls suggesting they appear to disproportionally rely on non-religious voters.

That is significant since the portion of British Columbians who are atheists, or unaffiliated, is arguably the highest of anywhere in North America, at 44 per cent.

It should be noted, though, that despite the tendency of B.C. Liberals to attract religious voters and the NDP to do the opposite, polls suggest all the province’s parties are capable at different times of drawing support from across the ethnic and faith spectrum.

It’s too bad, in an era when almost all politicians are going out of their way to court minority religious and ethnic groups, the book touches only briefly on Clark’s early success with Sikhs.

It quotes a source saying 30 per cent of the B.C. Liberal party’s membership was made up of Sikhs, even though they comprise just five per cent of the B.C. population. Metro Vancouver’s Sikhs number almost 200,000 and their large gurdwaras often host political gatherings.

Unfortunately, since Religion and Canadian Party Politics was published in 2017, it was not able to report on the way many Sikhs seemed to feel betrayed by Clark during this year’s B.C. election.

The NDP this May won all eight Metro Vancouver ridings with significant Sikh/South Asian populations.

An even more recent overlap of Sikhism and politics in B.C. occurred with the October election of Jagmeet Singh, an orthodox Sikh, as leader of the federal NDP. Singh won in part because he signed up 10,000 new members in B.C., many of them Sikhs.

It’s paradoxical that Singh is now leading a progressive, morally liberal party, even while he’s a baptized Sikh loyal to a faith devoted to conservative sexual ethics.

Even though Singh, 38, is unmarried, the Sikh religion emphasizes orthodox males are expected to be married, emphasizing they should not have sex until then.

Homosexuality is also not accepted in Sikh teaching, and abortion is seen as generally wrong.  Nevertheless, Singh appears to express the kind of tolerance promoted by Sikh teachings about not hating anyone based on their race or sexuality.

How do Canadian Muslims vote?

That question may not be quite as significant in Metro Vancouver, where the Muslim population is three per cent, as it is in places such as Montreal and Toronto, where Muslims make up eight per cent of the population.

Even though Religion and Canadian Party Politics doesn’t delve into it, polls suggest many Canadian Muslims support patriarchy, reject homosexuality and discourage mixed unions.

So it initially appears contradictory that 65 per cent of Canadian Muslims supported Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, (a Catholic) who frequently shows solidarity with feminists and LGBQT people.

The paradox is partly explained by Stephen Harper’s campaign, however. The federal Conservative party took a stand against the face-covering niqab worn by some Muslim women and, as Rayside said in an interview, showed “very one-sided support for Israel.”

Such is the complicated world of religion and politics in Canada.

While Religion and Canadian Party Politics is strong in critically assessing the influence of conservative white Christians on politics, sometimes by stealth, it’s not as useful on the impact of minority ethnic and religious groups.

Rayside acknowledged many scholars are reluctant to appear to criticize ethnic-based faiths.

But whites are now a minority in Metro Toronto and Vancouver. And about 17 per cent of Metro Vancouver residents, and 22 per cent of Torontonians, follow a non-Christian religion.

As scholar Reginald Bibby points out in his new book, Resilient Gods (UBC Press), in the decade leading up to 2011 more than 478,000 immigrants arrived who were Catholic (mostly Filipino and Chinese), 442,000 had no religion (mostly Chinese and Europeans), 388,000 were Muslims (mostly Iranians and Pakistanis), 154,000 were Hindus (from India) and 107,000 were Sikhs (India).

Scholars may have to overcome their cautiousness and more seriously study the impact of such fast-growing ethnic and religious groups.

It’s not just conservative Christians who have been quietly changing the face of Canadian partisan politics. So have Sikhs and Muslims: Many would expect they would be the hot new thing in political research.

via Douglas Todd: How religion cuts into politics in B.C. | Vancouver Sun

How Immigration Foiled Hillary – The New York Times

This is a really good long read and analysis of the tensions in rural America over immigration and related issues.

While the Canadian electoral system (ridings) makes lop-sided margins in cities and rural ridings less significant, it nevertheless is a reminder of the need to find ways to alleviate the concerns and apprehensions of rural voters:

Democrats point to a thousand reasons that Hillary Clinton lost the presidential election. Here is another.

In political circles, it’s common knowledge that in four key states President Trump unexpectedly carried counties that Democratic presidential campaign strategists had failed to recognize as crucial terrain — sparsely populated areas of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

In “What I Got Wrong About the Election,” for example, published right after Clinton lost, David Plouffe, who had managed the Obama campaign in 2008, wrote that

Trump’s margins in rural and exurban counties were off the charts. For example, in Madison County, an exurban area outside Columbus, Ohio, Mr. Romney’s margin over Mr. Obama was 20.4 percentage points; Mr. Trump’s margin over Mrs. Clinton was 39.8.

Plouffe added that this “happened in thousands of counties throughout the country, and it added up quickly.”

What Democrats missed was the profound political impact recent immigration trends were having on the more rural parts of the once homogeneous Midwest — that the region had unexpectedly become a flash point in the nation’s partisan immigration wars.

In a Brookings essay published last month, John C. Austin, director of the Michigan Economic Center, a local think tank, writes that the region is experiencing a “steady stream of immigrants from Mexico, Central America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East.”

As a result, Austin continues,

Immigration has become an unambiguous factor in this racially charged Midwestern landscape. While immigrant-rich states like Arizona, California, and Florida are often at the center of immigration policy discussions, the political debate about the role of immigrants burns hottest in the heartland.

Austin went on, in an email, to provide more detail about the power of immigration to move white voters into the Trump column:

The “rural” voters here are some farmers, but more likely, as in the hinterlands outside Flint, Monroe, Toledo, Erie, or Janesville, Wisconsin, they are mostly white, working class blue collar workers or retirees, many, sadly, who fled their small cities to escape blacks. They are anxious about the economic prospects for their future, their aging communities (the kids have fled), making folks mad. And now all these immigrants come and are changing the society!! Just as Macomb County, where working class white voters fled Detroit in advance of blacks, now sees nearby communities like Hamtramck becoming (in their view) a Bangladeshi bazaar — and they don’t like that. And they are easily fanned to blame those folks.

In February 2017, Stanley Greenberg, a Democratic pollster and strategist, conducted four postelection focus groups with white voters who had cast ballots for Trump in Macomb County, Michigan, an area he has been studying since 1985. The participants were not Republicans. They were whites without college degrees who identified themselves as independents, as Democratic-leaning independents, or as Democrats who voted for Obama in 2008, 2012 or both.

“Immigration is a powerful issue for these Trump voters, representing a demand that citizens come before noncitizens, Americans before foreigners, and that we take care of home first before abroad,” Greenberg wrote in his report for The Roosevelt Institute:

They believe that we have “opened up our borders, they pretty much made it a free for all” which means fewer jobs and greater demands on government services and more concerns about safety.

Greenberg’s report is replete with revealing quotes from the focus groups:

I went and finally signed up for Medicaid, and I’m standing in the damn welfare office, and I’m looking around at all of these people that can’t even say hello to me in English. But they’re all there with appointments for their workers, which means they have the health care, they have the food stamps…. If you can come from somewhere else, why can’t we all get it?


My grandson’s school, I went to as a child, there are hardly any — I’ll just say American families there now. It’s mostly Middle Eastern and people all standing outside waiting for their kid, to pick them up at the end of the day, and nobody’s speaking English. Everyone’s speaking other languages, which, there’s nothing wrong with other languages.


You know what, like where I’m working, at Kroger, how many Spanish people I wait on. The universal language — I don’t care, if you smile — hello, I don’t care what country you’re from, but some of these people, they act like they can’t do that, even. It’s like, “You know what? You’re in America.” Get with either — you can learn to say hello, goodbye, thank you, in our language. This is America.

Three developments are taking place in the rust belt simultaneously.

First, as recently as 2000, many of the key Midwestern counties that moved from blue to red in 2016 had very few minority residents. Since then, their immigrant populations began to increase at a rapid rate well above the national average. Second, at the same time that immigrants are moving in, younger native-born residents are leaving in droves to seek employment elsewhere, while the remaining white population is aging and is often hostile to change. It is the perfect formula for cultural conflict, and Trump proved to be the perfect candidate to exploit it. Finally, these changes are taking place in a region that Austin points out is home to “15 of the nation’s 25 major metro areas with the sharpest black-white segregation,” making it even more unreceptive to nonwhites than other sections of the country.

One way to understand what has been taking place recently in the Midwest is through the use of a measure called the diversity index. This index ranks geographic areas — states, counties and ZIP codes — on a scale from 0 to 100. The higher the number, the more likely that two people chosen at random will be different by race and origin. Put another way, a higher number means more diversity, a lower number, less diversity. (The diversity index for states and counties can be found here.)

Arrayed on a diversity index, Michigan with an index of 42, Wisconsin at 35, Ohio at 36, and Pennsylvania at 41, all rank in the bottom twenty — i.e., the least diverse — of the fifty states. The diversity index for the entire country is substantially higher at 63. Examples of states with very high diversity indexes include California at 79; Nevada at 73; Texas at 70; and New York at 70.

A rapid rate of growth in the percentage of immigrants in communities that have in the past experienced little diversity is particularly explosive.

Benjamin J. Newman, a political scientist at the University of California-Riverside, described this phenomenon in a 2013 paper:

Growth in local Hispanic populations triggers threat and opposition to immigration among whites residing in contexts with few initial Hispanics, but reduces threat and opposition to immigration among whites residing in contexts with large pre-existing Hispanic populations.

In other words, communities that are close to 100 percent white will react intensely to a modest increase in foreign-born residents, while highly diverse communities will shrug it off.

…In a prescient 2010 paper, “Politicized Places: Explaining Where and When Immigrants Provoke Local Opposition,” Daniel Hopkins, a professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, described the crucial interaction of the rate of change in the level of immigration with the politicization of the immigration issue by national figures:

When faced with a sudden, destabilizing change in local demographics, and when salient national rhetoric politicizes that demographic change, people’s views turn anti-immigrant.

In an email, Hopkins elaborated on his thesis: “sudden influxes of immigrants generate hostility, likely because they destabilize long-time residents’ sense of their communities’ identity.”

Looking back on the 2016 election and the importance of the immigration issue, what stands out is the failure of the Clinton campaign to address the immigration concerns of the Obama-to-Trump voters who played such a key role in the outcome. Campaign strategists may not have been aware of the intensity with which these voters viewed the issue, or they may have decided that given their target voters, the Democratic Party was not at liberty to moderate its unwavering pro-immigration stance.

The immigration stance of the Clinton campaign contrasted with Obama’s record. While Obama called for immigrants who were brought into this country as children to be allowed to stay, he stressed policies calling for the deportation of criminals and in fact deported more people than George W. Bush or Bill Clinton.

The campaign’s public stance on Immigration Reform declared:

Hillary has been committed to the immigrant rights community throughout her career. As president, she will work to fix our broken immigration system and stay true to our fundamental American values: that we are a nation of immigrants, and we treat those who come to our country with dignity and respect — and that we embrace immigrants, not denigrate them.

Eight of the nine policies described in Clinton’s statement are pro-immigration, and the ninth refers only peripherally to enforcement:

Enforce immigration laws humanely. Immigration enforcement must be humane, targeted, and effective. Hillary will focus resources on detaining and deporting those individuals who pose a violent threat to public safety, and ensure refugees who seek asylum in the U.S. have a fair chance to tell their stories.

The Clinton campaign has come under some fire from fellow Democrats on immigration. In a June American Prospect essay, Stanley Greenberg wrote:

The Democrats have moved from seeking to manage and champion the nation’s growing immigrant diversity to seeming to champion immigrant rights over American citizens’. Instinctively and not surprisingly, the Democrats embraced the liberal values of America’s dynamic and best-educated metropolitan areas, seeming not to respect the values or economic stress of older voters in small-town and rural America.

The contest for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination will test whether and how the explicitly liberal stance adopted by Clinton might evolve. This is a moral and political challenge for left-liberal parties throughout the Western Hemisphere. On one hand, there has been the prospect of “an emerging Democratic majority.” In the United States, Obama won the White House twice relying on just such a majority.

An issue that first came to the fore 52 years ago after passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act has yet to be resolved. The task for Democrats is how to come up with a non-xenophobic, non-racist answer to this problem.

Still, Trump’s 2016 victory — as well as Brexit, Marine Le Pen’s episodic successes (33.9 percent of the French presidential vote last May), and the emergence of the anti-immigrant AfD in Germany last month as the third largest party in the Bundestag — all demonstrate that backlash politics continue to gain ground and remain a powerful force.

Get real. Jagmeet Singh has been dealing with racist hecklers for months. Andray Domise and John Ivison takes

Good article by Domise on how Singh has been dealing with these issues over the year. I don’t have the same assessment of the political chatter as Domise – agree with Ivison below:

Yet taken as a whole, the response to his campaign from the political class seems to be that Singh should hang back in Brampton until the rest of the country—a country which prides itself on not being as despicably racist as America—has evolved enough to accept him. At a time when white nationalists have crawled out of the dirt to murder people in the streets, shoot up and firebomb mosques, and taint the office of the U.S. president, this is not a good look. Regardless of the NDP convention outcome, Jagmeet Singh has, so far, made his candidacy look like light work. But the way he handled Jennifer Bush wasn’t the true demonstration of his class and grace. It’s the way he’s handled Canada’s serious thinkers, who can’t help but find polite ways to explain why he doesn’t belong.

Source: Get real. Jagmeet Singh has been dealing with racist hecklers for months. –

A ridiculous article in Macleans suggested the “political class” has been operating from a “racialized” script that urges Singh to return in ignominy to his native Brampton and wait until the country has evolved enough to accept his candidacy.

But no one is saying this. Even in pro-secular Quebec, the informed commentary has pointed out that Singh won’t automatically lose on religious grounds.

This country still has work to do integrating its most recent immigrants, and its original inhabitants, into the tossed salad that is Canada.

Singh said as much recently when he pointed out that, while Canada is known for celebrating multiculturalism, “as a kid growing up, it didn’t always feel that way … my turban and beard evoked a reaction in every room I walked into.”

He said fashion became his “social armour … insulating me from the negativity I faced.”

Yet, here he is — the front-runner to lead one of Canada’s national parties.

He has embraced his Sikh identity and had some fun with it in an attempt to make it cool — who else could get away with a pink turban?

He understands, as did Barack Obama, that race is more a social construct that a biological reality — and that he can shift the culture.

His ethnic background has proven to be a power base from which to launch those ambitions.

I first met Singh in his Brampton riding during the 2015 election, when he helped his friend Harbaljit Singh Kahlon campaign for the federal seat he holds provincially.

He pulled up in a convertible sports car, in matching turban, tie, socks, and proceeded to charm the voters of Brampton East on their doorsteps.

Against the background of a lacklustre national NDP campaign, Kahlon lost, but it was clear: a) that Singh is a charismatic campaigner; b) that he has built a powerful political machine in the very young, very brown suburbs of Canada’s biggest city.

The Liberals will be disquieted by a capacity to generate publicity that might rival the prime minister.

New Democrats will just be delighted that someone, anyone is paying them a little attention. The net effect of the heckler video is that it may convince enough of them that Singh has been transformed from “precariously electable” to “sufficiently electable.”

Source: John Ivison: Jagmeet Singh heckler video may be his Trudeau boxing match moment

Ethnic Outbidding for White People: A Story About Populism in Canada Versus the United States – NYTimes

Not much new but good overview and reminder to NYTimes readers that we too have our dark side:

Breitbart News, the online news site often associated with the alt-right, has grown so powerful that when its former editor, Stephen K. Bannon, lost his White House job last week, it was widely assumed that Breitbart’s influence would only grow.

As this was happening, across the border in Canada, another right-wing media organization known as Rebel Media, which is often compared to Breitbart News, was imploding so severely it was seen as potentially auguring the implosion of Canadian right-wing populism itself.

The shift in Canada reveal something important about one of the biggest stories of the last year, events initially described as a “global populist wave.” Though the wave was later qualified down to just right-wing populism and just in Western countries, it increasingly looks even narrower than that.

The decline of Rebel Media, contrasted with the success of Breitbart, exemplifies something we’ve been saying for a while. The “populist wave” is actually quite specific to individual countries. And, most important, in each Western country where it appears, right-wing populism enjoys support among only about 15 to 25 percent of the population. (Those numbers are based vaguely on a 2016 study by the political scientists Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris.)

Whether that fractional support becomes an isolated fringe or a major political power comes down not to anything as fuzzy as culture or values, but to nuts-and-bolts political institutions.

It’s worth running through the sordid details of Rebel Media’s bad week. Faith Goldy, a correspondent, praised Charlottesville’s white nationalist marchers in a live video from the scene. Her video referenced “white racial consciousness” and the “JQ,” shorthand for the “Jewish question.”

A national backlash eventually led the site’s founder, Ezra Levant, to fire Ms. Goldy. But something had changed, maybe for good, with Rebel Media’s place in Canadian politics.

Conservative politicians openly denounced the organization. Andrew Scheer, the leader of the Conservative party, said he wouldn’t give Rebel Media any more interviews until it changed its “editorial direction.”

High-profile staffers and contributors quit. One, Caolan Robertson, released a video accusing Rebel Media of exploiting its supporters for donations it didn’t need. Mr. Robertson also accused Mr. Levant of offering him money to keep quiet. (Mr. Levant has accused Mr. Robertson of attempted blackmail.)

But Canadian journalists see broader forces at work. Jonathan Kay, in an article for The Walrus, wrote that Rebel Media failed in its mission to become the American Fox News or Breitbart because, in Canada, “structural barriers make the creation of this kind of conservative ecosystem impossible.”

Americans generally understand that politics work a bit differently in Canada, but wrongly assume Canadians are simply predisposed to be more liberal. In fact, those “structural barriers” against right-wing populism are more technical, and less particular to Canada, than you might think.

Amanda explained those structural barriers in an in-depth article this summer. The short version: Canadian politicians and civil society groups spent two generations engineering their political system to be highly tolerant of diversity and highly intolerant of something called ethnic outbidding.

Stephen Saideman, a political scientist and friend of the column, has defined ethnic outbidding as “when politicians compete for the support of a particular ethnic group, leading to ever greater demands to protect that group at the expense of others.”

This process can turn politics into a zero-sum competition between ethnic groups who come to see one another as threats. Right-wing populism, in the West, can often function as a kind of ethnic outbidding for white people.

If you want to know how Canada did this and why so many other diverse countries have failed, read Amanda’s story. Of course, we’re not denying that racism and right-wing populist politicians exist in Canada. Rob Ford became Toronto’s mayor after running on a populist platform. But, compared to the rest of the West, the country stands out for its resistance to populism. (And even Mr. Ford cultivated a multi-ethnic voter base.)

That resistance happens through institutions, and you see them working, for example, in Mr. Scheer’s disavowal of Rebel Media. Before any liberal readers rush to award Mr. Scheer a medal of courage, you should know that he was acting within his immediate political interests.

Political norms in Canada are unusually intolerant of overt white nationalism, which has strong and increasingly open support in the United States and much of Europe. The country’s electoral and legislative systems make it very difficult for a party to win power without heavy support from racial minorities.

And Rebel Media’s power, even before this week, was waning. This spring, when some politicians embraced Rebel Media, seeking to reproduce populists’ successes elsewhere, those candidates instead found defeat.

This summer, when reporting for Amanda’s story, we visited a Rebel Media conference in Toronto. Though we had only stopped by for the day, it was clear that this was a movement on the decline.

In a long and thoughtful article on Rebel Media, Richard Warnica of The National Post wrote that Mr. Levant, intentionally or not, is “forcing people to pick a side.”“

Nothing The Rebel did this week, as Conservatives and contributors edged away, was substantially different from what it had done two months ago, or six months ago or last year,” Mr. Warnica added.

What changed is Canada’s conservative establishment, which rejected Rebel Media. That is a marked difference from the conservative establishment in Britain, which embraced populism, or the conservative establishments in the United States and France, which tried to reject populism but instead were overcome by it.

The story of Rebel Media is of course a story of personalities and what unfolded between them. But it is also, like just about every major news story from the last year, a story about institutions.

Andrew Coyne: The answer to left-wing identity politics is not right-wing identity politics

One of Coyne’s better columns:
But if Conservatives think they can save themselves from going down with the alt-right just by pitching its most conspicuous names overboard, they are deeply mistaken. The damage the Republican embrace of Trumpism has done to that party will long outlast Trump, even if His Orangeness were to step down tomorrow. Similarly, it will not be enough for those prominent Conservatives who were so eager, not six months ago, to make time with The Rebel to now suddenly discover their dance cards are full. If they are ever to cleanse themselves of the association they must forcibly renounce, not only the movement’s standard bearers, but the underlying ideology — and more particularly, the extremism with which it presents itself.

Politics is too often analyzed along a single left-centre-right spectrum. Even as a matter of ideology that is too simple, but ideology itself is only one dimension of politics. What the populist surge ought to have taught us is that there is another, equally important: that of temperament. In ideological terms conservatism has little to do with populism: the former is about constraining government to abide by certain rules and norms, while the latter demands to be freed from such restraints in the name of saving The People from whichever force is said to be threatening it. And while modern conservatism is about a society unified around the principle of the equality of every individual, populism is very much about dividing society into Us and Them, or rather several Thems: elites, experts, globalists — or in its darker corners, immigrants, Muslims, blacks, Jews.

But the conflict is even more stark in temperamental terms. For among the norms Trump and his followers reject is the obligation to think through a position, to test it against the facts, to consider any possible drawbacks, to try to persuade the unpersuaded, or to listen to them in their turn. That is the true definition of extremist. It is not the same, though the two are often confused, as radicalism. It is quite possible to propose a radical critique of current policy — radical, in the sense of entailing fundamental change — without being extremist about it. Conversely, Trump’s positions, so far as he holds any, are often far from radical. They are, however, extreme, being advanced without evidence, thought, humility or attempts to persuade anyone beyond his base.

The Conservatives of the last decade, likewise, could hardly be described as radical: their policies were not just “incremental,” as the conceit had it, but incoherent, lacking any guiding principle but opportunism. Yet such was the tone and temperament with which these were advanced — the harshness, the secretiveness, the partisanship, the willingness to demonize certain groups — that many people were nonetheless persuaded they were “right wing” or even “far right.” They succeeded in discrediting conservatism, as I’ve said before, without practicing it.

The alternative to populism, then, is not to “move to the middle.” Conservatives were not partisan because they were ideological, but because they were not ideological enough: because partisanship filled the vacuum where ideology should have been. They pandered to populism because they had given up on conservatism. It is not radicalism, likewise, of which they must be purged, but extremism, of the kind encouraged by the Rebel — from hostility to Muslims to a blind rejection of any serious policy on climate change to an adolescent delight in saying or doing whatever shocking thing entered their heads as a badge of supposed “political incorrectness.”

What conservatism ought to be about — the conservatism that is urgently needed — is the defence, not only of traditional conservative principles of limited government and the rule of law, but of the values that have animated western societies since the Enlightenment: free speech, due process, equal opportunity, and underpinning all, treating individuals as individuals, to be judged on their own merits, rather than as members of this or that social group. Once the subject of broad consensus, today these values are under attack from both the identity-politics left and the populist right — the former, in the name of social justice, the latter, in the name of security and national identity; far from opposites, they feed off each other’s excesses.

The answer to left-wing identity politics is not right-wing identity politics, but a rejection of identity politics altogether, in favour of a renewed commitment to the ideal of a society of free and equal citizens. To defend that vision is the opportunity before conservatives now.

Source: Andrew Coyne: The answer to left-wing identity politics is not right-wing identity politics

Australian senator quits over New Zealand dual citizenship – BBC News

May explain in part relatively low levels of diversity among Australian politicians although I suspect other factors more important:

An Australian senator has resigned after realising he holds dual citizenship, meaning his nine-year parliamentary career most likely breached the nation’s constitution.

Scott Ludlam, from the minor Greens party, said he only learned of his New Zealand citizenship last week.

Under Australia’s constitution, a person cannot run for federal office if they hold dual or plural citizenship.

Mr Ludlam had been told his eligibility would be challenged in court.

The senator, who was also Greens co-deputy leader, apologised for what he called an “avoidable oversight”.

Source: Australian senator quits over New Zealand dual citizenship – BBC News