Certainly Blue Wave-ish

The downside of setting out my criteria for a Blue Wave ahead of time is that, given the results, I look like a curmudgeon if I stick to those, which show the Democrats just a hair short of my reasonable, but arbitrary, standards. In any event, the measure is not unambiguous and by any standard, the Democrats had a strong election. To recap:

U.S House   I said a wave would be a pick-up of 40 or more. As I write this, Democrats have won 37 and may pick up one or two more.

U.S. Senate   I said a wave would be a net loss of 1 or fewer. Assuming Mississippi turns out Republican, the net loss will be 2—but only by the barest of eye-lashes. And, as FiveThirtyEight points out, even in states they lost, Democrats overperformed in terms of the state’s historic “lean”.

Governorships   I said a net pick-up of 5 or more would constitute a wave. The pick-up was 7, including a number of states Trump carried—Michigan and Wisconsin among them.

Legislatures    I said a net pick-up of 5 or more legislative chambers would constitute a wave and the net pick-up was exactly 5.

In other words, as close to hitting my criteria as possible without actually making it. Continue reading “Certainly Blue Wave-ish”

Blue Wave….Or Not?

By Mike Koetting       October 30, 2018

I really want a blue wave. Really.

Blue Wave

But I have no intention of predicting whether it will or will not happen. There are people out there who follow it more closely and have access to a lot more data. And, as Nate Silver reminds us, the degree of uncertainty is much more than anyone wants to believe, certainly more than the media acknowledges.

Moreover, perhaps more than some other elections, this one is going to be decided by turnout. It is indisputable that the country is deeply divided and votes will be cast accordingly. But a blue wave will require a lot of turnout by people who don’t usually vote their weight—young people and minorities, particularly Latinos. I don’t know if there are good ways of predicting that, but I certainly don’t have access to any of it.

Accordingly, the goals of this post are very much more modest. I am going to set down my idea of what a blue wave would like before the election. Afterward, we can look at what happened and see how we want to score it. Continue reading “Blue Wave….Or Not?”

How Do We Remediate Toxic Waste?

By Mike Koetting        October 11, 2018

Like the vast majority of Americans who have been paying attention, the events of the last week have been profoundly discouraging. For me, the ascension of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court is awful. But it isn’t just that.

It is also that the process was so ugly. It certainly tarnished both the Senate and the Supreme Court, two institutions that are key to democracy. It even managed to get the #Me Too movement entangled in a very partisan way, something that may not be helpful to the movement in the long run. As a consequence of the hearings, the two sides hate each other more and the vast majority of the population leaves the hearings even more pessimistic, and more cynical, about the future of American political society. Continue reading “How Do We Remediate Toxic Waste?”

What Could We Get From Trade Policy

By Mike Koetting        September 25, 2018

I am still no expert on trade policy, but I have found the spinning out of the recent NAFTA discussions fascinating. You may have already forgotten about them because issues with China have taken center-stage in anything about trade that could be heard over the Kavanaugh furor. But, as will be discussed below, expect NAFTA to return.

First, repeating a mantra from earlier posts on the topic, there is simply no such thing as completely free trade. All trade happens under some rules. So simply incanting “free trade” doesn’t really shed much light on the full range of discussion. This is important because the stickiest points in the current NAFTA discussion are not around tariffs per se, but around the rules under which tariffs stay low—not that you could tell that from most of the media coverage, which continues to portray this as a cartoon contest between free trade and protectionism, with little coverage of the actual issues at stake. Continue reading “What Could We Get From Trade Policy”

Who Owns the Future of Work?

By Mike Koetting    September 12, 2018

One of the articles I read when I was preparing for my Labor Day post was “It’s Not ‘The Future of Work’, It’s the Future of Workers That’s in Doubt.” by Sarita Gupta, Stephen Lerner, & Joseph A. McCartin, all three labor advocates. Given that I have had several posts devoted to “The Future of Work,” it’s not surprising that this article got my attention.

They argue we should be less focused on the abstract “Future of Work” and more focused on making the world safe for workers. Without this, they suggest, inequality grows and that inevitably threatens democracy. They do not gainsay the looming issues of technology change but they say:

It is the concentration of wealth and power in this new economy, not computerization or artificial intelligence, that represents the gravest threat to our future. It is that concentration that will determine how innovative technologies are deployed and in whose interests they operate. The future of work will be determined by who wields power and for what purposes. Continue reading “Who Owns the Future of Work?”

Unions in America

By Mike Koetting     September 3, 2018 

What with today being Labor Day, it seemed an appropriate time to reflect on unions in America.

It is difficult to over-estimate the positive impact that unions have had on American life. Unions are in some way responsible for humane wages, 40 hour working week, vacations, pensions, and safer working conditions. For all workers, not just union members. It is also the case that when unions were strongest, immediately after WWII, inequality was lowest. Certainly many factors contributed to the rise of a more egalitarian society.  But, as shown in recent research on unions, summarized by Mike Konzcal in The Nation, the rise of unions explains the increase in overall societal equality “every bit as much as theories about education or any other single factor.”

Despite this, unions have lost favor in America. Continue reading “Unions in America”

Looking Back to the 1968 Chicago Convention

By Mike Koetting     August 24, 2018

Fifty years ago I was with my friend Charlene in front of a hotel on Michigan Avenue, clean-cut with a coat and tie. We were arguing with an alternative delegate to the Democratic Convention from New Jersey. The street in front of us was filled with protesters.

We had been among the crowd that tried earlier to conduct a peaceful, well-organized march starting in Grant Park. But the police had refused and tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas. The crowd did not disperse and eventually flowed onto Michigan avenue, where it remained. Chanting and yelling and closing the street, but otherwise not bothering anything.

Then the police decided they were going to clear the street through whatever means and started to club and mace protesters and, indeed, anyone in sight. The alternative delegate scurried into the hotel, but the hotel’s security would not let us in because we weren’t registered. Charlene and I headed down a side-street to get away from the police—who were now clubbing people wildly and indiscriminately. Suddenly police came at us from all sides. I was clubbed in the head and ducked away from two other swings at me. Charlene wasn’t hit—just pushed around. The Mobilization Committee carted me off to Billings Hospital (as the University of Chicago Medical Center was then known) to get stitched up. Continue reading “Looking Back to the 1968 Chicago Convention”