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Post-2012 Election, Polarization is Likely to Deepen as Parties Purge Moderates
If President Obama is re-elected in the Fall, he is likely to face a Congress even more polarized than today, with the ideological divide greater than at anytime since before the Civil War. Those are among the conclusions of political scientist Keith Poole and colleagues who have been using a sophisticated algorithm to put into historical context the ideological consistency that has come to define the two political parties.
In a statistical breakdown provided for a story at Politico last week, Poole and colleagues underscore just how far to the right Republican members in Congress have shifted. According to their analysis, two decades ago, moderates constituted 40 percent of Senate Republicans, and a third of the House GOP. Today, Republican moderates are just 10 percent of the caucus in the Senate and have all but disappeared from the House.
Ideological uniformity has also increased among Democrats, though the party as a whole has not moved as strongly to left as Republicans have moved to the right. Moderate Democrats make up just 12 percent of the party caucus in the House, down from 35 percent in 1989. In the Senate, moderate Democrats make up just 15 percent — down from 27 percent 20 years ago.
As Ezra Klein predicts in an analysis at the Washington Post today, with few moderate deal makers remaining in Congress, legislative options for a re-elected Obama will be limited, especially on longstanding gridlocked problems like climate change. “I don’t think he can move a climate bill,” Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress told Klein. A bill promoting renewable energy along with a mix of other energy sources is more likely, according to Tanden. “You can have an ‘all of the above’ strategy that really accelerates the effort to make us independent of foreign oil.”
Polarization is not like the stock market recession, a problem that will go away in a few years. Like climate change, it will take a mix of investments and solutions in order to manage long term. As I wrote last week, a place to start is by examining our primary system, looking to reform our electoral process so that moderates have a stronger chance of being elected and winning re-election.
It's not just a problem in the Republican party, Democrats have also been purging moderates from their ranks, as two Pennsylvania primary races this past month underscore. Many of the moderate "Blue Dog" Democrats that Rahm Emanuel in 2006 recruited and that enabled Democrats to win back the House that year, have either been bounced by primary challenges, decided not to seek re-election, or been defeated by Republican challengers in their swing districts.
Here's Charles Mantezian and Jim VandeHei reporting at Politico on several factors contributing to the ideological purge taking place within the Democrats' ranks in Congress.
“In light of what happened in Pennsylvania — you see a guy like Tim Holden lose a primary, who was very middle of the road, reasonable, worked with both sides. You see him losing a primary to someone who’s a good bit more liberal — I think we’re seeing this loss of the middle,” said former Rep. Michael Arcuri, a Blue Dog Democrat.
“It just leads me to believe that it’s going to be harder and harder to get things done. It’s not that you don’t have good people there that want to work together, it’s just that their views are so far apart.”
It’s not just the parties that are the problem. The interest groups aligned with them are also helping to eliminate the center by serving as enforcers of ideological orthodoxy.
“The well-financed ideological advocacy groups also compound the problem, so that when you have someone from a safe seat, they have to spend their time making certain they’re extreme enough to avoid a primary challenge,” said Earl Pomeroy, a former North Dakota Democratic congressman who lost in 2010. “Basically, in the political marketplace, the elevation of the value of inflexibility over getting things done has been a big negative. And it’s largely fueled by well-financed interest groups that can take someone out.”
In interviews with numerous public officials, they all concede it’s going to get worse — and their only hope is that this is cyclical and that voters will eventually demand a functional government.
“We are not going to take back the majority if we don’t win moderate districts,” said House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.). “They’re the ones that are in contention. They’re the ones that are in play.”
Perhaps. But it’s just as likely the country will be locked in a period of extreme partisanship — and extreme volatility. Not long ago, the Democrats controlled the House for nearly a half-century. Now, control flips every few elections, as independents reject the status quo in search of something different. In a 50-50 country, with so few Senate seats and House seats authentically in play each election, independents seem to swing wildly from Democrats in 2008 to Republicans in 2010 to who-knows-who in 2012.
This has profound implications for governance. With rapid swings in control, it’s no longer safe to assume a new law will be the law of the land 24 months later. Think of the health care law or EPA regulations or Dodd-Frank. Democrats love all three. Republicans hate them.
Innovation in manufacturing has crawled since the 1950s. That's about to speed up.
Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
Join Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and best-selling author Charles Duhigg as he interviews Victoria Montgomery Brown, co-founder and CEO of Big Think.
Women today are founding more businesses than ever. In 2018, they made up 40% of new entrepreneurs, yet in that same year, they received just 2.2% of all venture capital investment. The playing field is off-balance. So what can women do?
In a recent study, researchers examined how Christian nationalism is affecting the U.S. response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- A new study used survey data to examine the interplay between Christian nationalism and incautious behaviors during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- The researchers defined Christian nationalism as "an ideology that idealizes and advocates a fusion of American civic life with a particular type of Christian identity and culture."
- The results showed that Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior.
A pastor at the chapel of the St. Josef Hospital on April 1, 2020 in Bochum, German
Sascha Schuermann/Getty Images<p>Christian nationalists, in general, believe the U.S. and God's will are tied together, and they want the government to embody conservative Christian values and symbols. As such, they also believe the nation's fate depends on how closely it adheres to Christianity.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Unsurprisingly then, in the midst of the COVID‐19 pandemic, conservative pastors prophesied God's protection over the nation, citing America's righteous support for President Trump and the prolife agenda," the researchers write.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Correspondingly, the link between Christian nationalism and God's influence on how COVID‐19 impacts America can be seen in proclamations about God's divine judgment for its immorality―with the logic being that God is using the pandemic to draw wayward America <em>back </em>to himself, which assumes the two belong together."</p><p>The logical conclusion to this kind of thinking: America can save itself not through cautionary measures, like mask-wearing, but through devotion to God. What's more, it stands to reason that Christian nationalists are less likely to trust the media and scientists, given that these sources are generally not concerned with promoting a conservative, religious view of the world.</p><p>(The researchers note that they're unaware of any research directly linking Christian nationalism to distrust of media sources, but that they're almost certain the two are connected.)</p>
Predicted values of Americans' frequency of incautious behaviors during the COVID‐19 pandemic across values of Christian nationalism
Perry et al.<p>In the new study, the researchers examined three waves of results from the Public and Discourse Ethics Survey. One wave of the survey was issued in May, and it asked respondents to rate how often they engaged in both incautious and precautionary behaviors.</p><p>Incautious behaviors included things like "ate inside a restaurant" and "went shopping for nonessential items," while precautionary behaviors included "washed my hands more often than typical" and "wore a mask in public."</p><p>To measure Christian nationalism, the researchers asked respondents to rate how strongly they agree with statements like "the federal government should advocate Christian values" and "the success of the United States is part of God's plan."</p><p>The results suggest that, compared to other groups, Christian nationalists are far less likely to wear masks, socially distance and take other precautionary measures amid the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Christian nationalism was the leading predictor that Americans engaged in incautious behavior during the pandemic, and the second leading predictor that Americans avoided taking precautionary measures."</p><p>But that's not to say that religious beliefs are causing Americans to reject mask-wearing or social distancing. In fact, when the study accounted for Christian nationalist beliefs, the results showed that Americans with high levels of religiosity were likely to take precautionary measures for COVID-19.</p>
Limitations<p>Still, the researchers note that they're theorizing about the connections between Christian nationalism and COVID-19 behaviors, not documenting them directly. What's more, they suggest that certain experiences — such as having a family member that contracts COVID-19 — might change a Christian nationalist's behaviors during the pandemic.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Limitations notwithstanding, the implications of this study are important for understanding Americans' curious inability to quickly implement informed and reasonable strategies to overcome the threat of COVID‐19, an inability that has likely cost thousands of lives," they write.</p>
Parental anxieties stem from the complex relationship between technology, child development, and the internet's trove of unseemly content.