on vacation

I’m offline and overseas until 8/24. I’ll resume posting then.

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CIRCLE analysis of Clinton and the youth vote

From today’s CIRCLE release:

Young voters overwhelmingly favored Sanders in Democratic primary, but the general electorate offers more potential upside to Clinton than Trump; young women, black youth more likely to support Clinton

The Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning & Engagement (CIRCLE) – the preeminent, non-partisan research center on youth engagement at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life – today released an analysis of young people’s support and views of Secretary Clinton during this primary election cycle, exploring trends and implications for the general election.

How did Hillary Clinton perform among young people who voted in the primaries? And how did her youth support compare to that of previous Democratic nominees?

  • Secretary Clinton won 20 of the 27 state primaries for which exit poll data are available, but won the youth vote (ages 17-29) in just two of those states—Alabama and Mississippi.  
  • In these 27 states, she averaged only 28% of young voters, lagging far behind recent Democratic presidential nominees.
  • Secretary Clinton performed relatively better with young African Americans and she did better with slightly older youth (ages 25-29).
  • Data from Super Tuesday primaries indicate that young women were more likely to support Secretary Clinton than young men; but young women still supported her at lower levels than did older women.

How do young people overall view Hillary Clinton? And which groups of young people are most likely to vote for her?

  • At least half of young people have negative views of Secretary Clinton, and similar numbers do not find her honest and trustworthy.
  • However, more youth report that they intend to vote for Secretary Clinton than for Donald Trump, who has even lower favorability numbers.
  • Secretary Clinton may enjoy higher support from constituencies who have been especially supportive of other recent Democratic presidential nominees, such as young single women, young Black women, and young Latinas.

Is the general youth electorate more or less favorable to Hillary Clinton than the Democratic primary electorate?

  • The youth electorate in recent general elections has been more diverse than this year’s Democratic primary, which may benefit Secretary Clinton given her relative strength over Mr. Trump with young women and youth of color.
  • Together, young people of color and young women comprise roughly 70% of youth eligible to vote, and young women have historically turned out at higher rates than young men.
  • Voter outreach, always important, is especially critical with youth; our research has shown that young people who are contacted about voting are more likely to cast a ballot on Election Day. 

 

 

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white working class alienation from government

In aPRRI-2012-White-Working-Class_connection-to-govt-by-social-class recent long post, I argued that one reason white working class Americans are alienated from government is that they lack the productive political power that comes from organizations, such as political parties that rely on ordinary members, and unions. Moreover, because of the weakness of such organizations, white working class people are simply not visible in positions of power. A few leaders can rightly say that they started life in the working class, but almost by definition, they are now all well-paid and highly educated professionals.

As a supportive data point, here is a graph from a 2012 PRRI survey. Respondents are asked: “When you think and talk about government, do you tend to think of it more as ‘the government’ or more as ‘our government?'” The adult population is fairly evenly split, with almost half of Americans opting for “our government.” More than half of white college-educated people see things that way. But six-in-ten working class whites perceive it as “the government.” Among seniors who are working-class whites, a majority still see it as “their” government. That could be because they are invested in certain government policies (such as Social Security and Medicare), but it’s also true that they came of age at a time when working-class people exercised political power. Among young working-class whites, 70% see it as “the government.”

I don’t think they’re wrong. It is “the” government rather than “their” government in a meaningful sense. But as long as they feel this way, and no one offers actual empowerment, they are going to be ripe targets for demagogues who want to blow the whole thing up.

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against root cause analysis

I am skeptical of the idea of “root causes” and the assumption that progress comes from addressing the roots of problems. The following points draw from discussions in our annual Summer Institutes of Civic Studies and are indebted to my co-teacher, Karol Soltan.

  1. The metaphor of a “root” seems misplaced. Social issues are not like plants that have one root system at the bottom and branches and leaves at the top, so that if you cut or move the root, you kill or move the whole plant with a single action. Very often, social phenomena are connected in systems that incorporate feedback loops and cycles, whether virtuous or vicious. It’s possible for one thing (A) to affect another thing (B) and for B also to affect A. Very often, outcomes are not the result of one ultimate cause but of the interaction of many causes. And causes can be viewed as outcomes, because there’s lots of reciprocal causation.
  2. Often, successful social action occurs even though the activists don’t know the root cause of a problem or they disagree about what it is. An example is the global movement to end slavery. Religious abolitionists argued that the root cause of slavery was sin, going back to the Fall of Man. “Free labor” abolitionists, like Abraham Lincoln, said that slavery was a plot to undermine a competitive market of labor in which the individual worker could profit. In contrast, Karl Marx wrote in 1847 that slavery was a lynchpin of global capitalism: “Direct slavery is just as much the pivot of bourgeois industry as machinery, credits, etc. Without slavery you have no cotton; without cotton you have no modern industry. It is slavery that has given the colonies their value; it is the colonies that have created world trade, and it is world trade that is the pre-condition of large-scale industry.” Frederick Douglass saw racism (“the wolfish hate and snobbish pride of race”) as a–or perhaps the–root cause of slavery. I suppose that all of them pointed to genuine causal factors, but the main point is that they formed a coalition that targeted the actual problem, not its underlying causes, and they won.
  3. Trying to identify root causes can delay or even block effective action. My friends Joel Westheimer and Joe Kahne wrote a very influential and valuable paper in 2004 entitled “Educating the ‘Good’ Citizen: Political Choices and Pedagogical Goals.”* They found that civic education programs in the US tended to fall into three categories, defined by their objectives for the students. An example illustrates the differences. In a program that aims to produce “personally responsible citizens,” a student will “contribute food to a food drive.” In a program whose ideal is to develop “participatory citizens,” a student will “help to organize a food drive.” In a program that emphasizes “justice-oriented citizens,” the student will “explore why people are hungry and act to solve root causes.” As Karol notes, the first two begin with an action, but the third begins with “exploring,” which doesn’t actually do any good in the world. Now, to be sure, one can also explore a diagram of a complex, interconnected system for a long time before doing anything, so it’s not only root-cause analysis that can fatally delay action. But I think that root-cause analysis is particularly likely to frustrate action because it sends us in search of the biggest, hardest, deepest aspect of a problem, which is exactly where the odds of success may be lowest. And that’s a mistake if problems do not actually have roots.

*Political Science and Politics, April 2004, pp 241-24.

See also Roberto Unger against root causes and roots of crime.

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rate of first year college students who performed volunteer service

Screen Shot 2016-06-16 at 8.11.27 PM

This graph is based on data from the Higher Education Research Institute (HERI) American Freshman survey. I don’t think I have seen the trend presented in one place and continuing until 2015, so I offer the graph for public consumption. The trend is consistent with what we know about high school civics. Service programs became much more popular after the 1980s, as new initiatives, such as the federal Learn & Serve America grants, came online. Rates of volunteering have plateaued since ca. 2010, but at high levels. Service is pretty much expected of today’s prospective college students. However, volunteering is strongly correlated with socioeconomic advantage. People of the same age as these admitted freshman who are not going to college volunteer at much lower rates.

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Mischa Berlinski, Fieldwork

This is an unsolicited advertisement for Mischa Berlinksi’s first novel, Fieldwork. It’s a compelling mystery, fluently and charmingly told. Without being at all pretentious, it’s also a challenging novel of ideas. Berlinski juxtaposes an imaginary Southeast Asian hill people who have remarkable religious rites of their own, a three-generation family of American evangelical missionaries who are thoroughly acclimatized and believe in the local gods (albeit as devils), a Dutch-American ethnologist who also happens to be a politically conservative woman, and a contemporary slacker dude. He describes everyone with respect and empathy. I can’t think of a way to discuss the issues Berlinski raises without spoiling the plot, so I will just say: read it.

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structured moral pluralism (a proposal)

(New York) Isaiah Berlin recalled that the Russian novelists he read as boy shared with “the major figures [of philosophy], especially in the field of ethical and political thought,” a common “Platonic ideal.” This ideal implied,

In the first place that, as in the sciences, all genuine questions must have one true answer and one only, all the rest being necessarily errors; in the second place that there must be a dependable path towards the discovery of these truths; in the third place that the true answers, when found, must necessarily be compatible with one another and form a single whole, for one truth cannot be incompatible with another – that we knew a priori. This kind of omniscience was the solution of the cosmic jigsaw puzzle. In the case of morals, we could then conceive what the perfect life must be, founded as it would be on a correct understanding of the rules that governed the universe (2013, p. 4) .

This passage is a simplification of intellectual history (Berlin himself cites Vico, Herder, and others as opponents of the view that he attributes to “the major figures”), but he accurately describes one tendency. For some important thinkers, moral truths–if they exist at all–must form a single whole, like a completed jigsaw puzzle or like a mechanism in which some components support or drive others. Not only should the elements be compatible, but articulable reasons or arguments should connect them together. If you believe A, you should be able to say why in terms of B. If you believe A and B, but the two seem to conflict, then you should be able to resolve the conflict by adjusting the two principles.

By the way, you can hold this model of moral thought even if you doubt, given our cognitive and moral limits, that we will ever see the whole puzzle correctly. The truth may still be a coherent structure even if what we know is always partial and confused.

Another view is very different from this one. It is the theory that human beings have instinctive, affective reactions to situations. After we form those reactions, we may rationalize them with arguments, but our arguments are always insufficient to determine our reactions, and we are good at gerrymandering our general principles to fit what we want to conclude about specific cases. Thus our arguments do not explain our judgments. However, empirical psychologists can detect patterns in our various reactions, which suggest the existence of unconscious latent factors that do explain what we feel about cases. Those factors may not be mutually compatible, which is why we are often ambivalent or inconsistent. They may also vary from person to person. But they exist, and what we say about moral issues is inconsequential compared to this structure of latent factors (see, e.g., Haigt and Graham et al.).

This view could be correct, although I suspect it is partly an artifact of the research methods. To the extent that it is true, it denies the value of moral deliberation, which is a fundamental obligation in the tradition that Berlin calls “Platonic.” Moral positions, Haidt writes, are “nearly impregnable to arguments from outsiders.” That implies an answer to the question that opens the Federalist Papers–“whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.” If latent factors determine responses, then we are destined to depend on accident. I hope that is not the case.

Berlin famously dissented from the “Platonic” view of morality and developed a version of pluralism. There are the main elements of his position:

  1. “There is a world of objective values” (p. 11). In other words, some things really are valuable. It is wrong to deny an actual value, such as freedom or equality, or to add something to the list of values that doesn’t merit inclusion. In short, there can be a right or a wrong answer to the question whether something (e.g., love, war, desire, loyalty) is a good. This is different from Moral Foundations theory, which presumes that we must value whatever we value.
  2. But the genuine “values can clash – that is why civilisations are incompatible. They can be incompatible between cultures, or groups in the same culture, or between you and me” (p. 12).
  3. Because of the nature of morality and/or human nature, there is no possible world inhabited by human beings in which all the goods are perfectly compatible. “These collisions of values are of the essence of what they are and what we are. … The notion of the perfect whole, the ultimate solution, in which all good things coexist, seems to me to be not merely unattainable – that is a truism – but conceptually incoherent; I do not know what is meant by a harmony of this kind. Some among the Great Goods cannot live together” (pp. 13-14).
  4. The misguided effort to harmonize all worthy values into one structure is a dangerous illusion (p. 15), or even “the road to inhumanity” (pp. 19-20), because it justifies the imposition of moral beliefs on others without compromises.

I am basically pluralist, but I would alter Berlin’s view in one important respect. He seems to assume a list of fully distinct and potentially incompatible goods. I observe that people make connections among some of their own ideas. They say that one value implies, or supports, or resembles another value in various respects.

These structures seem to me to have merit. Connecting two ideas means giving a reason for each of them, because now they hang together. We ought to reason in order to live an examined life and to deliberate with other people. We are prone to very grave limitations and biases if we merely rely on our instinctive reactions to moral situations, taken one at a time, or if we allow latent factors to determine our reactions. We should struggle to put our ideas together into explicit structures and should present portions of those structures to other human beings for inspection and critique. That is just an idiosyncratic way of saying that we must reason together about values. Reasoning does not mean endorsing various Great Goods, one at a time, but rather connecting each idea to another idea.

This view is still compatible with Berlin’s pluralism, for two important reasons. First, the structure of moral ideas that each of us gradually builds and amends may contain incompatible values. Each of us can be a pluralist, even as we attempt to connect many of our own ideas into networks. Our networks can contain gaps and loose links and can reflect tradeoffs. Second, is it likely that even human beings who strive to develop the best possible structures of moral ideas will never produce the same structures. That is because moral reflection is deeply dependent on local experience and on conversations with concrete other people, each of whom is affected by her own conditions. So we will forever disagree. In contrast to the image of a “cosmic jigsaw puzzle” that we are all working together to complete, I’d propose a great web of loosely connected ideas that we are all perpetually creating and linking together.

See also: 10 theses about ethics, in network termsJonathan Haidt’s six foundations of moralityan alternative to Moral Foundations Theory; and everyone unique, all connected.

Sources:

Berlin, Isaiah. The crooked timber of humanity: Chapters in the history of ideas. Princeton University Press, 2013.

Jonathan Haidt, The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion (New York: Pantheon, 2012)

Jesse Graham, Brian Nosek, Jonathan Haidt, Ravi Iyer, Spassena Koleva, and Peter H.Ditto, “Mapping the Moral Domain,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 101(2), Aug 2011, 366-385.

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why the white working class must organize

It is inexcusable to vote for Donald Trump, a cruel and incompetent charlatan. To imply that anyone is justified in voting for him sets a patronizingly low standard. Our fellow Americans can do better than that.

At the same time, Trump’s demographic base consists of people–predominantly, white working-class Americans–who must be active, enthusiastic members of a progressive coalition. If they fall outside that coalition, real progress is impossible. I think the solution lies not in developing policies that would benefit the white working class, nor in devising new messages to attract them, but in strategies that allow them to win genuine power. I interpret the Trump phenomenon, in part, as a symptom of their powerlessness.

Class and the current partisan alignment

It is normal for partisan support to reflect demographics. What is unprecedented is the precise way that the US population has split in this decade. Basically, the Obama/Clinton coalition is the upper end of the economic scale plus people of color. The Trump coalition is the working class minus people of color.

College attainment is both a precondition and an indicator of middle-class status in contemporary America. In a poll taken between the conventions, Hillary Clinton led college-educated whites by 5 points, but she trailed Trump among whites who don’t have college degrees by 39 points: 62% to 23%. That gap must have set a record, but it was not wildly out of line with other recent results. Peter Beinart has assembled much more evidence for what he calls a “class inversion.” Note that Clinton also leads Trump by 16 points among Fortune 500 CEOs. In Silicon Valley, she led Trump by 64% to 20% in a poll last spring. Meanwhile, she leads by huge margins among all racial/ethnic groups other than Whites.

Chris Arnade reports from two parts of metro Cleveland, OH: white working-class Parma and African American Central Cleveland, which is one of the poorest communities in the nation. In Parma, Arnade writes,

Trump voters want respect. They want respect for their long hours of work that risks their bodies, for the hands caught in vices, backs wrenched by weights, and knees torn. They want respect because they are doing dangerous work, but their pay has been flat for decades.

They want respect because they haven’t just lost economically, but also socially. When they turn on the TV, they see their way of life being mocked and made fun of as nothing but uneducated white trash.

With Trump, they are finding someone who gives them respect. He talks their language, addresses their concerns

In Central, “the need for respect, the feeling of being left behind, is [also] well-understood.” But everyone there favors Clinton, and Arnade thinks that’s because “people feel they do have a political voice. They believe the Democrats are working for them, they might not like everything about the party, they might not fully like the results, but the party is respecting their concerns. [The] overwhelming political concern I heard had little to do with anything other than electing Hillary, and stopping Trump.”

I think this passage overstates African Americans’ satisfaction with the Democrats. Peniel Joseph describes “multiple strategic and substantive displays of multiracial unity” inside the Democratic National Convention. But “outside the convention hall Black Lives Matter demonstrators begged to differ, protesting the Democratic Party as an entity held corporate hostage to financial institutions whose candidate Hillary Clinton they say backed criminal justice and welfare reform that have had a devastating impact on poor black communities.” Jordie Davies writes that 2016 presents the choice between “a demagogue [Trump] and more of the same complacent, anti-black policies [from Clinton].”

But to the extent that the African American voters of Central Cleveland trust the Democratic Party, it may be because they observe Black people wielding actual power within the party. The President is African American. One in four delegates to the DNC was Black, and more than half were people of color. This is not because the party has given African Americans anything, but because Black people have won elections at all levels from local party officers to the presidency. So African Americans are at the table, even if they are often outgunned by wealthier interests and outnumbered.

Meanwhile, if you identify as working class, you will see virtually no one like you wielding power in either party. You may notice a few politicians of working-class origins, but almost everyone who influences either party is now a white-collar professional. Michael Podhorzer, the AFL-CIO’s political director, says, “We would argue that most of the political class comes from the same background whether it is Democrats or Republicans and that all politicians lack a kind of authenticity with working-class voters.”

Of course, union staff are also professionals, but they owe their jobs to rank-and-file members. Unfortunately, their place is increasingly marginal. Although five union leaders spoke on the first day of the DNC, none spoke in prime time, and two of them represented college-educated public employees. It would be easy to overlook industrial unions in the Democratic Party coalition, and this is why:

Private sector workers simply aren’t in unions anymore. Andrade begins his depiction of white working class Parma with the key point. It is “defined by auto factories: massive edifices to another era that now sit mostly idle. Scattered throughout are union halls, like UAW Local 1005, which is mostly empty, holding only a few cars.” I think the UAW’s empty parking lot is an image of political powerlessness; and powerlessness breeds Trumpism.

The new demographic split influences cultural institutions as well politics. For instance, Tufts University has always had, and must have, conservative students and faculty. It should be a place for productive debate between liberals and conservatives (and others). But I have not personally encountered anyone here who supports Trump. That makes sense, because Tufts is a college; its purpose is to produce college graduates. We admit students from working-class homes, but we strive to prepare them all for adulthood in the middle class. That’s what they pay us for. We also strive–albeit imperfectly–for racial, ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity. Consequently, everyone who graduates from Tufts enters the demographic categories that are currently lined up behind Clinton.

The need for organizing

The New Deal/Great Society coalition–always highly imperfect, unequal, and fractious–consisted of the working class (of all races/ethnicities) plus wealthier people who saw themselves as minorities, including religious minorities. In settings like national political campaigns, the various elements of the progressive coalition had to learn from and negotiate with each other. Together, they achieved some progress.

Today’s Democrats are typically stronger than Republicans on civil rights, especially rhetorically and in cases when addressing injustice won’t cost upper-income whites anything. For instance, as a white man with a PhD, I gain nothing from unjust policing or mass incarceration; I’d be better off without both. Racial diversity also improves my life, as long as I retain my own place in my job and neighborhood. Further, Democrats are prone to fund education, partly because they endorse principles (like equality and freedom) that education may advance; partly because today’s Democrats are often meritocrats and technocrats who treat success in school as an indicator of a good life; and partly because their coalition includes teachers and professors, who are paid to educate.

But Democrats won’t make more than marginal commitments to addressing the profound destruction of de-industrialization, rising deference to wealth and capital, or the economic situation of working class people (trends summarized here). That is because the working class is outnumbered in the Democratic coalition. Meanwhile, the Trump coalition could support policies that benefited the working class–note his embrace of a higher minimum wage and his opposition to trade liberalization–but since his coalition has been built to exclude people of color, it is terrible on civil rights and diversity issues. And Trump offers no real solutions even for working-class white people.

Democrats should enact policies for working class communities suffering from declining real income, falling life-expectancy, opioid addiction, and fragmenting families. At this moment, I think their policies are much better than the Republicans’, and it’s worth emphasizing that contrast. But beneath policy is politics, and there is no reason to believe that a coalition dependent on the upper class will consistently support policies that make a real difference to people in the lower class, especially when a majority of the lower class is voting for the other party. I’ve shown (here and here) that today’s most educated Americans are liberal but not egalitarian. The Democrats can obtain a majority coalition by offering neoliberalism plus diversity, and that is the likely long-term outcome.

An even deeper problem is that you cannot confer respect on someone else by giving him a better deal. So even if the Democrats enacted stronger policies to benefit the working class–infrastructure spending would be a good example–that wouldn’t make working-class people feel that they had a genuine seat at the table. They must design and enact policies to feel empowered. In turn, that requires organizations that can compel attention.

Solutions

Unions are one essential form of organization. The Democratic Party Platform says, “A major factor in the 40-year decline in the middle class is that the rights of workers to bargain collectively for better wages and benefits have been under attack at all levels.” The Platform promises: “Democrats will make it easier for workers, public and private, to exercise their right to organize and join unions. We will fight to pass laws that direct the National Labor Relations Board to certify a union if a simple majority of eligible workers sign valid authorization cards, as well as laws that bring companies to the negotiating table.”

I am not sure to what extent such reforms would restore the fortunes of organized labor, because another major obstacle is the changing nature of work; but we should certainly demand that the Democrats honor this promise.

In addition to unions, there are also community organizing groups that have genuine roots in white working class communities. Check out Kentuckians for the Commonwealth or the Maine People’s Alliance, among many others.

There is also cultural work to be done: the creation of stories, images, music, and other media that inspire working people politically. It’s striking that the Great Recession of 2007-8 never produced a cultural response comparable to the 1930s: no iconic images or anthems. I think a satisfactory narrative must address racism, because that is both morally important and necessary for building a coalition that spans races. However, the main rhetorical emphasis cannot be the privilege of being white, because “privileged” is a poor description of people who are being made superfluous in the 21st century labor market. Besides, I can’t think of any case when people have given up advantages because someone has drawn their attention to them. Told that they are privileged, people are much more likely to realize what they ought to protect.

Nor can the main tone be resentment, a sense of victimhood, or reactionary nostalgia, because nothing good comes of that. The story must evoke genuine pride and must look forward rather than back.

Since an identity as “white” is deeply problematic, we should be looking for alternatives: pride in local geographical communities or specific subcultures, plus a definition of “American” that is proudly inclusive rather than fearfully divisive.

Leonard Cohen probably isn’t the guy to reach a big enough audience, but we might take hints from his song “Democracy” (brilliantly analyzed by Laura Grattan). For instance, here he juxtaposes Otis Redding with a Chevy ad, goes inside a home and over to the Middle East with our troops:

It’s coming from the silence
on the dock of the bay,
from the brave, the bold, the battered
heart of Chevrolet:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

It’s coming from the sorrow in the street,
the holy places where the races meet;
from the homicidal bitchin’
that goes down in every kitchen
to determine who will serve and who will eat.
From the wells of disappointment
where the women kneel to pray
for the grace of God in the desert here
and the desert far away:
Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.

This is a version of progressive democratic patriotism. The Democrats didn’t do a bad job of evoking such ideas at their Convention. I think the issue is the credibility of Democratic politicians as messengers.

In any event, messages and narratives must rest on real organizations, and the working class needs more of those. Otherwise, to quote Hannah Arendt’s Origins of Totalitarianism (h/t Josh Miller), we will face a combination of “superfluous wealth”–think of Donald Trump– and “superfluous men” (working class people without capital or advanced skills). As in the early 1900s, the superfluous could again form “a mass of people … free of all principles and so large numerically that they [can] be used only by imperialist politicians and inspired only by racist doctrines” (pp. 156-7). We know how that story ends.

Posted in 2016 election, populism, revitalizing the left | 1 Comment

victory in the Fourth Circuit

Today, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a wide-ranging North Carolina voting law that was passed in 2013 and upheld by a federal district court. The Fourth Circuit found that the legislature enacted these provisions with the intention (and not only the effect) of discriminating against Black voters. The opinion says, “in holding that the legislature did not enact the challenged provisions with discriminatory intent, the court seems to have missed the forest in carefully surveying the many trees.”

My colleague Kei Kawashima-Ginsberg and I wrote an expert report for this lawsuit, we were both deposed, and I testified in the North Carolina district court last year. We argued that the 2013 law discriminated against young adults. That issue enters the Appeals Court’s decision most explicitly in relation to one provision: “preregistration.” To quote the opinion:

Preregistration permitted 16- and 17-year-olds, when obtaining driver’s licenses or attending mandatory high school registration drives, to identify themselves and indicate their intent to vote. … Although preregistration increased turnout among young adult voters, SL 2013-381 eliminated it. …

The General Assembly’s elimination of preregistration provides yet another troubling mismatch with its proffered justifications. Here, the record makes clear that the General Assembly contrived a problem in order to impose a solution. According to the State, the preregistration system was too confusing for young voters. SL 2013-381 thus sought, in the words of a sponsor of the law, to “offer some clarity and some certainty as to when” a “young person is eligible to vote,” by eliminating preregistration altogether. J.A. 3317.13 But, as the district court itself noted, that explanation does not hold water. The court found that “pre-registration’s removal [] ma[d]e registration more complex” and prone to confusion.

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to the European Institute of Civic Studies

I am fleeing the country heading to Augsburg, Germany for the 2016 Summer Institute of Civic Studies. It is aimed at participants from Ukraine, Belarus, and Poland, but they are convening this summer in Germany (thanks to the generosity of the DAAD). The other organizers are my friends Dr. Tetyana Kloubert (Augsburg) and Prof. Karol Soltan (Maryland). I’ll paste the syllabus below; it may be interesting because of its European focus. It ends with a practical training on nonviolent resistance that should be particularly illuminating when experienced right after relatively abstract discussions of democracy and civic society. I will unfortunately miss that part because I’m coming back to the US on August 29, and I will resume blogging then.

Continue reading

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