“The Structures of Polarization” a panel discussion from the Polarization Symposium at UMass Amherst

“The Structures of Polarization” a panel discussion from the Polarization Symposium at UMass Amherst

August 15, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


[APPLAUSE] The panel discussion is titled
The Structures of Polarization, and it will focus on
the structural factors that act, often invisibly,
to drive polarization. And I will be introducing
the four panelists as they come up here. So our first wonderful speaker– as you all can see,
they’re all UMass faculty, which again, just demonstrates
the amazing work that’s happening here on
our campus already– is associate professor of
political science at UMass Amherst, Dr. Amel Ahmed. Professor Ahmed’s main
area of specialization is democratic studies,
looking particularly at the politics of
institutional choice and the process of
democratization. She is the author of
Democracy and the Politics of Electoral System Choice,
engineering electoral dominance by Cambridge University
Press, which won the Best Book Award from the European
Politics and Society section of the American
Political Science Association. In a new book-length project
entitled Out of Order– Parliamentarization
and Suffrage Expansion among European
Democratizers, she examines the long-term impact
of institutional choice and particularly the sequencing
of institutional development on democratic stability. She also has special
interests in research methods and has written extensively
about mixed method research designs, and her work has
appeared in various journals, including Comparative
Political Studies, Perspectives on Politics, Studies in
Comparative International Development, and
Journal of Politics. She teaches undergraduate
and graduate courses in the areas of
comparative politics, West European politics,
American political development, electoral studies,
and research methods. So please help me in
introducing Professor Ahmed. [APPLAUSE] When we started thinking
about this symposium, I thought to myself,
what is the one story that I can tell that isn’t
really on most people’s radar? And so I’m going to
talk a little today about political geography
and how that can actually act as a force pf
polarization, especially in the contemporary context. I want to give some
background on polarization in the context of
the United States. So I’m going to do a little
bit of historical overview to tell this story. The story I want to tell is
very long and complicated, but I am going to try
very hard to tell it in a not long and
not complicated way. But I’m going to start a
little with the question that is on everyone’s mind– is
polarization on the rise? And the easy answer
is yes, but there are lots of qualifications there. So I want to take a look at
a few studies that come out of the Pew Research Center. So, is polarization on the rise? We understand polarization
not just as disagreement. There’s always going
to be disagreement. But when we look
at polarization, we’re usually looking at how
intense and stable the center is on these blobs. So these blobs are just kind
of charting public opinion, and you may be familiar
with these things. You see as the blobs move
apart, so goes our sanity, as we become more
and more polarized. So the more the blobs
are close together, the more overlap there
is in public opinion. And you can see the contrast
between 1994 and 2017, which is the last time
they published this. The blobs are moving,
definitely, farther apart. On the other side of
things– so this is really focused on public opinion. These are surveys
they do to ask people about a huge variety
of questions. In Congress, as
well, the studies show us not so much
blobs, but bars here, but the same trend is happening. And this study goes even
farther back to the 1970s. I’m not sure how clear that is,
but the 93rd Congress in 1973, to their most recent one
here the 112th Congress. And you can see
there, also, there is very little area of overlap. And these charts
look a little scary, because there is distinct
polarization there. The middle seems to be
eroding as time goes on. And I think this is what most
people look at, especially starting in the 1970s. There is systematic moving away
on either side, pulling away. And these are the
trends of polarization that most people are looking to. But as someone who
is historically minded and does
historical research, I like to place things in
a much longer timeline. So I pulled out
other studies that have been looking at
polarization over time. So I’m going to show you a
couple of other charts here that paint a slightly
different picture. One study here shows us
that there’s no doubt that– so if we’re looking
back into the 1990s, there’s no doubt that
polarization is on the rise. 1970s, absolutely. And for most of us in this
room, the rise in polarization encompasses most
of our lifetimes. And so this seems like the
overwhelming experience is that polarization is
steadily on the rise, and we’re about to
jump off a cliff. What this study shows,
though, is that polarization is actually the norm. What we have experienced
in most of our lifetimes is a lot of overlap. So this period from around
1930s, 1945, before that, you had very high
levels of polarization. So the uptake in
the chart here is areas where different members of
Congress, their views overlap. And that is a really
distinct period of time. I pulled out this
chart, although this is an unpublished study, so
they don’t want me to cite it. But they said I
could use the chart. I think this chart looks at it– it presents it more clearly. You have this period
from about 1930 to 1970, where the difference
between party means is really extraordinarily low. That is actually
probably– if we’re looking at the
history of the US, there’s ups and downs
in polarization. But it’s that period
that is distinct, and I would say that this
is the abnormal period. So I’m going to say a little
more about this period and what I think is
the overall trend. So, yes, polarization is
certainly on the rise, but this isn’t new. There have been periods of very
high polarization in the past. What I do think is new is the
way we are polarized today is different from how we’ve
been polarized in the past. So polarization in 1890 does not
look the same as it does today, and one big factor
in that is geography. So I’m going to say a little
bit more about what that is. There’s a lot of
work now that is being done on
political geography and charting where people
live and how that corresponds to their ideological leanings. And the focus is really on this
trend of political sorting, people living with
like-minded people. And the real concentration–
the division that we’re seeing is the growth of an
urban/rural divide. Very strong democratic
preferences in urban areas. Very strong Republican
preferences in rural areas. Now, if I were speaking
to a European audience, they would say, how is this new? Because this has always
been the trend in Europe. This urban/rural
divide has really defined most of the European
experience from World War I on. In the United States,
it’s actually quite new. This was not the
case for a long time. And ironically, what
prevented this sorting along urban/rural lines in
the United States was race. And so the racial
divide interrupted what would essentially be
a class cleavage– urban on one side,
rural on the other. But this political
sorting, people have looked to lots of
factors that are producing it. And what is really interesting–
and there are a lot of studies. I cited one study
here that looks at the different explanations
that are out there. And one of the most
interesting findings is that this actually
is not self-sorting. This is not people moving
based on their preferences. That’s not what’s
happening here. It’s not liberal
minded people move to cities and conservative
minded people move to rural areas. There’s a different
dynamic happening. And even if people were to
have those inclinations, people don’t necessarily
have the resources to choose their location. They’re driven by jobs. They’re driven by
their economics. In addition,
Americans move a lot. Americans move, on average,
once every 12 years. So even if this political
sorting was self-sorting, it wouldn’t be so stable. It wouldn’t last for
a very long time. So what people have looked
at, instead of this, is what’s happening in
terms of party leadership. And what they’re finding is that
this increase in polarization happens with a shift in
coalitions that takes place really very deliberately. And it starts
around the New Deal. I’m sorry, it starts
around the 1970s, and part of the
reason for it was the break within the
Democratic coalition. So I want to go back to
this chart very briefly. This period from the 1930s to
roughly the 1970s, this period of low polarization corresponds
with what we refer to as the fifth party system. And a lot of that was based on
this really unusual coalition within the Democratic Party that
included Southern Democrats. This coalition broke up with
the civil rights movement, with the Vietnam War and the
controversies of the 1970s. The coalition was really
important through the 1930s. This is what brought
us the New Deal, this coalition of southern
labor and northern labor. And it was a very powerful
one, but it ultimately broke up as a result
of the civil rights movement and Vietnam War and
the acrimony of the 1970s. Interestingly, around this
time, also, a lot of elites started complaining about the
lack of polarization, the fact that parties were not
ideologically pure enough for them to pursue their
agendas, the things that they wanted to accomplish. In 1950, the American
Political Science Association launched a task force on the
problem of the party system, and that problem was a
lack of polarization. The parties overlapped too much. They were ideologically
indistinct, and this was seen as a
grave threat to democracy. So part of what we’re seeing
here, what I have here is playing it safe. A lot of it comes from
leadership deciding we want more homogeneous coalitions. We want to be able to pursue
our ideological agendas without having to deal with all
the wrangling within our party. So a lot of it was deliberate. And so looking at the geography
of it, you see, over time– this is the 1936 map. I love maps, so I try to
stick one in anywhere. This is the 1936 map. It’s very blue, and
it’s blue all over. So the Democratic coalition
involved North and South. I will try to refrain
from any sort of graphics, but this is actually a great
project out of the University of Richmond electing the
House of Representatives, and you can follow it over time. You can look at specific
districts over time. And so this is 1936. 1964 is when it
starts to break up, and you see, really, a
much more mismatched array in terms of the political
geography, where people are leaning ideologically. And this really is a reflection
of what party leadership is doing, where they’re
going, how they’re building their coalitions. And then, the most
recent one I pulled out, 2016, it’s very red. It’s very red in places where
there are not a lot of people, but it’s very, very
blue in places where there are a lot of people. And so this is the
urban/rural divide that we talk about
and think about and have focused on a lot. I want to spend a
little time here also reflecting on a different–
so playing it safe, I think, refers to what
parties are doing, the coalitions that
they’re seeking out. They’re sticking with more
homogeneous coalitions, and the way they talk
about it, they’re not looking to reach out into
places where they don’t have already existing strengths. But this also corresponds to a
different sense in which people are playing it safe, and that’s
the role of redistricting. And what I want to
say at the outset, there’s a lot of focus
on gerrymandering. There’s a lot of focus on
manipulation of the districts. And that focus is important,
but that’s not the entire story. That’s not all that’s
happening here. The rise of safe
seats is a function in a large part
of our geography, and both parties are doing it. This is not an outcome that
results from one single party manipulating redistricting. So in 2014, the Rothberg report
measured 405 house seats. In 405 house seats,
the front runner had a 90% chance of winning. That means there are
only 30 competitive house seats out of 435. In 2018, we look at this really
energized and charged midterm campaign. That figure only rose to 48. There were only 48 contested
and really competitive house seats out of 435. And so the steady
rise in safe seats– and my focus and
my research tends to be on lower chambers of
parliaments and Congress, because it drives so
much of what we see. So I think it’s really
not just gerrymandering, and I focus a lot
on gerrymandering. It’s something I pay
a lot of attention to. But the gerrymandering is
happening on both sides, and the geography just
makes it much, much easier to protect seats,
protect incumbents. And truth be told, I think
Republicans are often highlighted for much more
aggressive redistricting, and this is absolutely the case. But geography also
helps Republicans, because it’s much
easier to gerrymander around rural populations than
it is around urban populations. So geography is really
working in various ways. And the geography is not
doing anything, of course. It’s parties and their
choices of where they’re going to build their
coalitions, who they’re going to draw into their coalitions. And the dangers of
playing it safe, this is, I think,
something that is new. This number of safe
seats is something that is dangerous for democracies. Because one of the things
that competitive elections do is they inform citizens
about the issues. The more competitive
the election, the more likely citizens
are to hear about issues and to learn about
them in greater depth. It also, in an indirect way,
serves to demobilize people. Elections and competition
help to mobilize both sides. It helps to engage citizen
groups and advocacy groups beyond just party networks. And so the lack of competition
within these districts is challenging on many levels. And so I only have a
couple of minutes left, and I wanted to spend those
couple of minutes reflecting a little just more broadly. Because we’re talking
today about polarization, and a lot of these things that
polarize us seem very scary. And it might appear that
polarization is the enemy and we have to guard against it. And I want to distinguish
disagreement from polarization and also reflect on what
it means for democracy. Because the question that came
to my mind as I was putting all this together is this
rise of polarization that we have in our
country today corresponds with some movements that
seem fairly worthwhile. Is polarization
bad for democracy? Polarization brought us
the civil rights movement, the Voting Rights Act. So there are times
in our politics where we have to
be polarized, and I don’t think that is necessarily
something to shy away from. Or there are things
that I will fight for. There are things that are
worth fighting for and digging your heels in. Polarization itself is not
the danger that we most fear. And I will look now
at a different moment. So there’s the history of
polarization, which brought us lots of righteous movements
that we can get behind, and then we have these folks,
who are just baiting each other and egging each other on. And I’ll say, as a
partisan in the conflict, I was absolutely
cheering my side on, because I do not want
to pay for a wall. But as an analyst, I have
to step back and think, is this really worth it? Is this where we’re going to
push the envelope with someone who is known as the
norm breaker in chief? Are we really going
to be pushing this? And then they start talking
about emergency powers, and that is really
what gives me pause. It’s not polarization in
itself that is the danger. It’s what we reach for when we
are in those polarized times. It’s the breaking of norms. This is something that our
evening keynote speaker is going to speak
a lot about, so I won’t get too far into that. But I think the real
danger to polarization is that it leads to gridlock. And when you reach those points
of gridlock and it seems like you cannot move beyond, then
you get into the territory where you’re going to start breaking
norms and eroding, really, the basic fiber of trust
that democracy is based on. So it’s not polarization
that’s the threat. It’s what people reach for to
resolve polarization, where it becomes a free
for all and anything is possible, if that side
did this and this side is going to do that. So I will end there, and
hopefully, almost on time. Yes. [APPLAUSE] Thank you, Professor Ahmed. Something for us to
really consider and think about during our
Q&A. Our next speaker is Professor Anthony Paik, who
is currently chair of sociology and an affiliate with the
Computational Social Science Institute. Professor Paik joined
UMass Amherst in 2014 and was previously a
member of the faculty at the University of Iowa
for more than a decade. He was formerly director
of the bachelor’s degree with individual concentration
at UMass Amherst, and his research focuses
on several areas, including social networks,
social demography, and the legal profession. His publications include
The Sexual Organization of the City, which he co-edited. He also has numerous
journal articles, which have appeared in
outlets such as The American Sociological Review,
Rationality and Society, Journal of Marriage and
Family, Law and Social Inquiry, and Social Science Research. Currently, Professor
Paik is working on a computational
study of cyberbullying, which was funded by the
National Institute of Justice and a study on
diversity and network in law school funded by
the AccessLex Institute. He received his
BA and MA and PhD from the University of Chicago. So please help me
welcome Professor Paik. [APPLAUSE] Here we go. Yay. Hi, again. Thanks for attending,
and thanks to Anna Branch for having this
excellent symposium. I’m here to talk about some
of the research I’m doing. This is some new research,
and it’s actually the first time I presented
it, so please bear with me. So it’s hot off the presses. I won’t acknowledge some
collaborators of mine who are working with me
on this larger project– Assistant Professor
Mark Pachucki in Department of Sociology
and a graduate student, also in the Department of
Sociology, [INAUDIBLE].. But I should tell you
that all the errors are mine in this case, for sure. So, you may have heard that
there are echo chambers out there, particularly in
the Twitterverse, which I’m not a member of. But I just wanted to
highlight this image, which was produced by the
MIT Media Lab, which is a visualization, or what we
call a network visualization, of Twitter users. And they’ve colored the Twitter
users by party affiliation, or at least who
they’re supporting in the presidential election. I think this was
done in early 2016. And so you have a concentration
of red Twitter users down on the bottom
right side, and those are the Trump supporters. And then you have some
purplish areas, and then a blue area on the
top, on the left side. It kind of looks
like California. But that’s definitely just– those are the
Clinton supporters. And the basic idea
is that there’s a lot of sorting in
personal relationships. And these are our
social media networks. So people are
following each other. They’re making decisions
about who to follow and who not to follow. And the basic idea is that we
get these social networks that are highly similar with
other people like themselves. In this case, based
on political ideology. And because of
that, again, getting are known as these
filter bubbles, which is everyone’s sharing
the same kinds of information. But that information is very
different from the information that the other users are using. So that the Trump supporters
and the Clinton supporters are seeing different
kinds of information, and that leads to the
echo chamber effect. You may have heard
of this in the news. A lot of interest in the
topic about how this might be contributing to polarization. So, keeping that in
mind, the question I would like to look at
is sort of like, what happened after the election? In other words, we
had an election. What happened to people’s
personal networks? There’s been a lot of
analysis of Twitter networks after the election. Less so about just your
everyday personal networks. Why that matters,
you know, Twitters are a select subset
of individuals. And if we’re really
interested in polarization, we might want to see just your
average everyday person, how their networks may
have changed over time. So this has actually been picked
up in the news a little bit, so I’m just going to throw
up a couple headlines. Or I think headlines. So this is from
an NPR interview, and they’re interviewing
a phenomenon that was called defriending
that emerged right around the election. So this is someone who’s
being interviewed by, I think, Michele Norris. So he says, “I started
defriending people on Facebook early in the Trump campaign with
the whole build the wall thing. I notice a friend
of mine who said, at least he’s telling
it like it is. And that when I
saw him building up steam and his commentary getting
worse, I just realized, like, I can’t have people in my
life who’s talking like that. I can’t have them on my
Facebook page, and so on.” And so he says, we
can’t be friends. Another article is
“Here’s What Happened When I Said I Couldn’t
Be Friends With a Trump Supporter.” So it’s sort of an
account of defriending. It even spilled over into
romantic relationships when it was discovered
that those that swiped left versus swiped right were doing
it based on political ideology. So the Washingtonian
covered this on– the Washingtonian
magazine covered this. “Young DC Conservatives–
No One Wants to Date Us.” If you look at the Conservative
media on the subject, they make a claim as how
this is a very bad thing. So on the Federalist
website, “Your Refusal to Date Conservatives is One
Reason We Have Donald Trump.” So clearly,
defriending or ending relationships based
on political ideology has come to occupy something
of a meme out there. The questions I’d like
to looking at today include, what happened
to personal networks in the wake of Trump’s election? Who was defriended? Did people shift their
party affiliations after the election? And did defriending vary
across Democrats, Republicans, and independents? So the data I’m using are
collected by somebody else. They’re collected by the
very esteemed professor at University of
California Berkeley by the name of Claude Fisher. He got an NIH grant
to collect this data. So these are Bay
Area respondents, who are notoriously left
wing, not unlike the Valley. So we’re looking at baby
boomers and millennials, so that would be 50
to 70-year-olds and 21 to 30-year-olds. And they did a survey initially
in fall of ’15 and winter 2016. So this is during the
presidential campaign. So they surveyed a bunch
of people in the Bay Area. It’s representative
of the six counties that make up the Bay Area. Then there was a
presidential election. So this happened after
the first survey was done. They then went out and
re-interviewed these people in the bitter February
month that followed. They started interviewing people
just two weeks after President Trump was sworn in, after the
inauguration, and a sample of over 1,000 people. One of the cool features
about this survey is they asked tons of
questions about who the respondents–
the respondents are the people they interviewed. Who the respondents named as a
romantic partner or spouse, who their household alters were,
who they socialized with, who they confided in about
personal matters, who they went for help, and
also even difficult alters. OK, so I’m going to
show you some results. So this is party identification
before the election. And of course, now
you can’t see– I don’t know why
that’s happening. SNAFU. So the blue area
is the Democrats. And I think it was,
like, a little over 70%. The purple area are the
independents, and less than 10% were Republicans in the survey. So, again, this is the Bay Area. It skews very democratic. There are very few Republicans. And in fact, independents or
non-affiliated individuals comprise a larger share of
the people in the six county area of the Bay Area
than Republicans. OK, so let’s look at what
happened after the election. So you have three bars
you have the Democrats. The people who said they
were Democrats in 2016 is in the first bar. In the second bar, people
who said, in 2016, that they were independents. And then the third
bar, people who said they were Republicans in 2016. So let’s look at the first
bar, which is mostly blue. And you can see that most
of them stayed blue, right? Most of them stayed Democrats. It was well over 90%. Some of them shifted to
becoming independents. In the second bar, these
are the independents. A small percentage
stayed independents, and those that
did change parties shifted primarily to
becoming Democrats. In the third bar, we
have the Republicans. A lot of them did
stay Republican, but not really that many. Nearly a third of them
switched, and most of them switched to becoming
independents. So what you see here is that
between the pre-election survey and post-election survey,
essentially, people moving away from the Republican
Party in the Bay Area. Now, from the
standpoint of elections, this does not matter,
because every congressperson in the House of Representatives
from this area is democratic, so it doesn’t matter
in that sense. But this is a pretty
good indicator of how people reacted
right after the election in an urbanized area. Now, I want to point out
some other statistics. So they collected all
this data about what people’s networks look
like, and I have these by Democrats and Republicans. So in the first bar, I have
a label called same politics. This is the proportion
of individuals in each person’s network
that is of the same party. So in other words,
they were asked, does the person have the
same politics as you or not? So among Democrats, more than
80% of a person’s networks were of the same party. There is a lower
percentage for Republicans, because there’s so few
Republicans in the Bay Area, so they have to be friends with
people outside their party. But still pretty high. I mean, that is below 80,
but it’s above 70, right? Given that they’re
a fraction, they’re really working hard to
build homogeneous networks of Republicans. Likewise, we have
very high rates of racial homogeneity in
networks for both Democrats and Republicans. A little higher
from Republicans, but it’s not
statistically different. And then the one that kind
of sticks out is religion. Republicans tend to have
more religiously homogeneous networks. I also looked at how
many contacts they have, how many social network
partners they had. The bad news or the
good news, depending on what your political
persuasion is, is that Republicans
are more popular. I’m not sure why, but it’s
just worth pointing out. So the next thing I did was
I looked at changes over time to see how stable
people’s networks were. So in the left side,
we have the wave one. The dark parts of each
bar indicate that a person was named in both waves– pre-election and post-election. That is, let’s say I said
Mari is my good friend before the election. And then I said Mari is still my
good friend after the election. That would count there. But if I said, in
the second wave, that she was not
longer my good friend, then I’ve lost that tie. So what you see here
is that was actually a pretty significant
share of the ties– there are over 10,000
ties in this data– that disappear between
wave one and wave two. In the white area, those
are the ties that disappear. And in the right
bar are the ties that are new ties for
a person’s network. So there’s a lot of churn in
the social network over time. So I wanted to look at who’s
getting defriended and why by party. So in other words– excuse me– we’re
losing a lot of people, losing a lot of ties. This is defriending. So here, we have an analysis
of who’s being defriended. Just to explain what
you’re looking at. The one indicates
that this line– indicates that
this is even odds. So if there’s a point with
a bar that’s above that one, that means it’s more likely. And if there’s a point
with a low line below that, it’s less likely. Each of these little circles
represent the estimated self, and then I’ve got a
confidence interval, because it could be
somewhere in that range. So for something to
really be significant, it has to be above the
bar or below the bar, based on a long line, which
is that confidence interval. So in this case, the only
thing that’s significant are same-race alter
and number of alters. Another way of
thinking about this is that for Republicans, if the
person was of the same race, they were more likely
to say that person was is still their friend
in wave two, right? So in other words, they’re
more likely to be cutting ties with people of different
races over time. And likewise, to the extent that
a Republican is more popular, they’re more likely
to get really people, which kind of
makes sense, right? If you have lots of friends, you
really don’t too many friends. You can get rid of
one you want to. For independents, we actually
have the same exact pattern. Independents are more
likely to get rid of alters of a different race
and when they are popular. Right. So the Democrats are
kind of interesting. We also have the
same race effect. They’re more likely
to get rid of alters that are of a different race. They’re also more likely
to get rid of alters when they’re popular. But then there’s also this
event for if the alter is of different politics. For Democrats, if the altar
was of different politics in the Bay Area, they were
more likely to be dropped by the Democratic respondents. So there we have evidence
of the defriending phenomena as applied to Democrats. Excuse me. All right, so let me just
wrap this up real quick. So the first sort of
conclusion I want to draw is that based on these data,
we are now seeing the evidence, but this was available quite
a by quite a while ago, which was that there was a move away
from the Republican Party right after the election. In the first months of the
Trump presidency, there wasn’t– this is sort of the
pre-Comey kind of period, before the Mueller
investigation had even started. So this is very early
on, and already, there were some shifts occurring. Second, that defriending
is actually a thing. It did happen. It’s primarily driven by
Democrats, not Republicans. And you can see from the
earlier slides I showed you, the Republicans don’t want to
lose their Democratic friends or potential partners. But this has increased with
political polarization. But the big kicker is
the major fault line that’s consistent across all
political affiliations is race. As much as we talk about
political identities and Republicans
versus Democrats, the consistent finding
is that individuals are more likely to drop people
who are of a different race from the social
networks, which leads to racial segregation
in networks. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Thank you, Professor Paik. I think there’s going to
be a lot of discussion, hopefully, during the Q&A, given
the amazing presentations so far. I mean, I already have
a couple of questions, but I won’t dominate
the conversation. Our next speaker is professor of
political science Ray La Raja. Raymond La Raja. Ray is fine. Ray is fine. Is a professor of
political science here at UMass Amherst and
Associate Director of the UMass Poll, which conducts
internet-based surveys of voters nationally. His research focuses
on political parties, interest groups, elections,
and campaign finance. He is the co-author with Brian
Schaffner of Campaign Finance and Political Polarization– When Purists Prevail and also
the author of Small Change– Money, Political Parties,
and Campaign Finance Reform. So please help me welcome
Professor La Raja. [APPLAUSE] Well, Tony’s going to fix
this for me, but I can start. So today, I’m going
to talk to you about a fundamental disconnect
in American politics. And you know, the title of this
conference is polarization. And I’m going to talk to you
about how the US party system is in disarray right now. This is, in part,
because of changes in who controls resources in
this country, which has made the political parties weak. I know parties aren’t
popular among many of you, but they are pretty important. I think our speaker later this
evening, Professor Ziblatt, is going to say more about this. But parties might seem strong. After all, partisans
appear electrified. They’re combative. But organizationally,
they are terribly weak, and this has
profound implications for the functioning
of American democracy. And so my argument here
today is that there’s a narrow band of interest
groups and billionaires who are pushing the parties
in dangerous directions. Because they control
key resources– money, messaging, and the
candidate selection, in fact– that’s shaping where the
parties are going right now. And these groups
are not being held accountable for
being extremists. And many rank-and-file
voters do not care to take these
extreme positions. But here’s the crazy thing. Even though voters
don’t necessarily like, for instance, what the
Republican Party is doing, they are going to vote for
the Republican Party because of negative partisanship. And Professor Ahmed
and Professor Paik have already talked
about some of this. There we go. Now you’ve just got to scroll. Thank you. Does that work? Yeah. Just scroll up and down. So I can’t see it here,
but that’s all right. That’s fine. Thank you so much. OK, so let me go through
a few of these things. So here’s the disconnect. On the one hand,
at the mass level, we have American voters
sorting by identity, geography, ideology to the
two major parties. Professor Ahmed has
talked about that. We no longer have these
cross-cutting cleavages that gives the US its kind
of moderating tendencies through much of
the 20th century. White conservatives
used to be Democrats. So today, liberals
are mostly Democrats. Conservatives are Republicans. I’m not going to
cover all this again. But I would only add that the
overlapping identities by race, ideology, geography create
this strong ingroup/outgroup psychology, and it’s
tribalism, to make sense. Those people don’t look
like us or think like us. It’s negative partisanship. It’s a social identity now. Strong negative feelings about
the other side rather than positive feelings about your
own side and its principles. Meanwhile, at the elite level,
there’s a major problem. This is what most
of my talk’s about. Party leaders have the limited
ability to recruit candidates, to control the messages,
and sustain coalitions. At the same time, given
this fierce control for control of government,
they have few incentives to cooperate with
the other side. They want to make the
other side look bad so they can take power next. So this confluence of strong
partisans and weak party organizations is very dangerous. It just raises the stakes. And the public, when
given two choices, they stick to its
side, no matter how bad their candidate is. The so-called median voter
doesn’t exist anymore. So the consequence
of this is Trump sits on the caucus of
the Republican Party that has lost control
of its own affairs. This is not to blame
Trump, but it simply exposes the fragile state
of the Republican Party. American parties, they’ve
been losing strength for over a century. The fact has been
obscured by these kind of centrist tendencies in
both parties into the ’60s. And that’s when
civil rights began to become a reality
for African Americans. It’s when Americans began
sorting into parties based on ideology and race. It’s when the
culture wars took off based on abortion,
sexuality, nationalism. More than five decades
since the 1960s, the party, especially the Republican
Party can barely control its extremists
and populace. It’s not serving as gatekeepers. And I would argue that changes
in institutional features– campaign finance, nominations,
media technology– has made the establishment
behave more like followers than leaders. So here, stories about elites. So this graphic stylized the
image of the two parties. It’s an ecology of the
party system, if you like. It’s porous, of course. We view parties as
networks or allied groups. I sort them mostly along
ideological spectrum. On the proximate left
are labor unions. Further along, civil
rights, women, pro-abortion, environmental groups. So democratic voters
are more liberal. We know that now, even
though voters in the party tend to be more moderate. On the proximate right are the
traditional business groups. This is separate, by the
way, from the extremist billionaires, who are
radical libertarians who want to destroy the
administrative state. There’s a Tea Party populist
who want the welfare state. They despise immigration,
redistributive programs for minorities. And you see these
ethno-nationalists in Europe, as well. Also within the Republican
Party are the gun rights groups, the religious
conservatives. They’re tied strongly
to rural voters. And in any other party system,
this would be a fringe party, but now they’re well within
the Republican Party. These groups, I would argue,
have a very large impact on the party. Many people don’t realize that
this is the core of the party. The elected officials
have seen their power shrink relative to these
narrowly based groups, who have essentially captured
functions of the party. So, again, I’m not going to
spend too much time here. These are some of the voter
groups within the parties. You know, the Republican
Party has moved more extreme. And the party itself focuses
very much on immigration. But I have to say, just
15% of these voters, Republican voters,
said immigration was a top issue determining how
they would cast their ballot, OK? The abortion issue
is another example. Most Americans have very
nuanced views in both parties, and it depends a lot on
context and things like that. But the parties have taken
starkly different views, largely because of the
groups that support them. Most Americans care about
things like the economy, health care, Social Security,
and, yes, terrorism. Democrat voters, the party
is focused on concerns that emerged– well, actually, concerns
are what I would say the top 20% of the party– the urban professional class. They focus on those issues. The people in this room,
basically, for many of you. Issues of abortion
and environmentalism. Lots of social issues. Of course, it also
includes civil rights for blacks as well as for
gay and transgender rights. However, what’s declined
are the more direct voices speaking for economic concerns
of working and middle class voters, because labor
unions are weaker. The parties are
not mirror images. The Republicans have a much,
much bigger representation gap with their rank and
file than Democrats. But make no mistake, the
same institutional dynamics affecting the Republican Party
are affecting the Democrats. So here are the
underlying sources of fragmentation and
extremism, above and beyond the tribalism we’re
seeing in society. The problem is
party organizations have lost control over key
resources– money, message, and nominations. And the partisan
pressure groups I just pointed out control
much of these resources. And they use these resources
to put their imprint on the direction of
the parties, even though, again, rank-and-file
voters don’t really support these things. So let’s talk a little
bit about money. In the world of
PACs, we see a surge in spending, that
blue part, that is coming from ideological
groups since Citizens United. Hasn’t really been corporate
money since Citizens United. It’s been very much
ideological money. And note the thin
green line– oh, it’s not even in this chart– I had for labor unions there. Oh, yeah, it’s
there, right below. Very thin line. So these are the groups that
reside in the party networks, and they’re pulling
the parties to install very conservative
Supreme Court justices. And highly ideological
money is winning, OK? Just to take an example,
two traditional groups– Chamber of Commerce,
the AFL CIO. Historically, the biggest
lobbies on Capitol Hill. They both endorsed an
infrastructure spending bill, the same ones since 2011. It’s going nowhere. A little more about money
I’ll just point out. Individuals. They give more than PACs. And the internet has helped
fuel a surge in small donors. That’s a good thing, right? One of the problems is that it
assumes these donors are not connected to the groups. I have another
research paper that shows they are very much
connected to groups. But even if they
were not, they’re a source of polarization. This chart compares
the ideology of donors, both large and small,
to rank-and-file voters. And just using a policy
scale for liberal versus conservative, you see
this bimodal distribution polarized left and right. And most American
voters, the chart on the right, the
distribution of their ideology is to the left,
slightly to the left. But it doesn’t have this
bimodal distribution. And all of this money
from individual groups, where does the party fit in? Well, the problem’s that the
political party is losing out in this money chase. This just shows the
percentage of funds that go with political
parties, and it’s going down. And a lot of that money, in the
red, is not transparent at all. And it’s spent on
television ads. Some of you’ve
seen some of them. And it’s clear that the party
organizations cannot serve as their gatekeeping roles
when they are losing money to extremist groups, such
as, more specifically, they’re losing it to
people like this, who are– these fellows are
controlling the party by setting up organizations
that are very much party like. And they’re recruiting
their own candidates, telling them to
vote a certain way. They’re contacting the voters. And the two most famous are
these, David and Charles Koch. They’re industrial magnates. Many of you know them. They’re radical libertarians
and capitalists, and they want to
cut immensely back on things like taxes, welfare
state, among other things. And then let me just talk a
little bit about messaging. The dynamic points to a
broader problem of messaging. The US has a booming
partisan media today, now that we removed
the Fairness Doctrine. Trump’s favorite
media is Fox News, a nationalistic and far
right national cable program. It criticizes Republicans who
dare compromise with Democrats, calling them RINOs,
Republicans In Name Only. And Trump, as you
know, listens to Fox. In fact, he is pushing
hard for the wall in the aftermath of some
commentators on Fox News telling him he’s a wimp. And of course, there’s
also social media. And I don’t have time
to talk about that, but we do know that things like
Facebook fuel anger, distrust, and conspiracy theories. And extremists flood
this, and it damages democratic institutions. You know, there’s a good
side to Facebook, too. It connects people, as well. I don’t want to point
out all the bad things. And then, lastly, I just
wanted to say something about the nominations. Parties are losing control. Since we’ve instituted
primaries, it’s fine. But we do need gatekeepers
to keep out the crazies, and there are crazies running,
particularly on the right. And parties serve a role of
weeding out the competent, and they no longer can do that. The competent end in the
inexperienced and people with crazy ideas. And once in office,
many candidates become fearful of
any compromise, because they’re feared of
being primaried, because of some of these groups. So there’s a
self-reinforcing effect. People who have experience,
people who are talented, many of them choose
not to run for office, because they know they
might have to face these. All these things increase
polarization in the system. So here are the implications
for weak parties and negative partisanship. First, there’s no,
in my view, reduction in polarization in sight. These structural
features are not going to change for at
least a decade or more. It might even get worse. Elites benefit from
demonizing the other side. Second, we’ll see ongoing
instability in parties, because interest groups have
few incentives to compromise, certainly not with
the rival party. They’re going to hope to
get back in office soon. Third, politicians
are not going to be accountable to the
broader electorate. They know they can take
extreme positions and win, and they fear primaries. Fourth, parties
are going to still have a problem weeding
out bad candidates. And then the combination of
partisan gridlock and tons of money, politics
are going to continue to delegitimize these parties. So, hope. I’m supposed to end on somewhat
of a positive note, I say. Professor Ahmed already
pointed this out. Polarization is
not unique if you look at the history
of American life. It’s not unique to America. Democracies have the
capacity to self-correct, which is, in my view, one of
their fundamental brilliance. I’ll say more in discussion, but
things like demographic change. Reforms, in my view, to
strengthen the parties. And then, to find ways where
their overlapping identities with people in the
other party could help attenuate some of these issues. So I’ll stop there. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Thank you, Professor La Raja. Our final speaker is Cedric
de Leone, who is currently the Director of Labor Center
and also an associate professor in the Department of Sociology. Professor de Leone, his
interest and areas of expertise are in labor and labor
movements, race and ethnicity, political sociology, and
comparative historical sociology. He is the author of
Origins of Right to Work and also Party and
Society and co-editor of Building Blocs with
Manali Desai and Cihan Tugal. Prior to coming to
UMass, Professor de Leone was an organizer, a
local union president, and rake-and-file activist
in the US labor movement. Please help me welcome
Professor de Leone. [APPLAUSE] Well, thank you to
Amel for thinking of me and reaching out to me. Thanks to Anna Branch and
Lajeanesse Harris of the Office of Equity and Inclusion. Thanks to Motty for that
wonderful introduction, to my fellow panelists,
to all of you for coming, and thanks, also, to the workers
who made this event possible. [APPLAUSE] Since 1968, the major
parties in the United States have, until recently,
fought over who could best fulfill the promise of the same
dominant political project– namely, post-racial
neoliberalism. As the name implies, this
vision of the United States and the world has two pillars. The first is that nonwhites are
entitled to their individual civil rights, but cannot press
for any structural change to whites’ privileged access to
good jobs, schools, or homes. The second is that
the shortest path to widely shared prosperity
is the free market, unfettered by government regulation,
unions, or tariffs. Post-racial neoliberalism
was a conservative reaction to the democratization
of the New Deal. Though Franklin
Roosevelt was not overtly segregationist in his
implementation of the welfare state, a variety of
New Deal programs contained racial loopholes
that excluded people of color. This was due to
Northern Democrats’ long-standing coalition with
Southern segregationists and Western farm states. For example, the 1935
National Labor Relations Act legalized unions and
collective bargaining for the first time
in American history, but it exempted employers from
the domestic and agricultural sectors, where workers of
color were disproportionately concentrated. Likewise, the Federal Housing
Administration, or FHA, made home buying
more affordable. But FHA backed loans were
only available to middle class whites seeking to
buy single family homes in all white suburbs. These two racial loopholes
reserved the best property, public schools, and
jobs for white people. The civil rights
movement challenged the racial contradictions
of the New Deal and enjoyed varying levels
of support from the Kennedy and Johnson administrations. Democratic Party
elites, in turn, began to push the
civil rights agenda to its logical conclusion,
calling not only for the right to vote, but also for
desegregating housing, education, and employment. It was the move
against desegregation that inspired the
post-racial pillar of post-racial neoliberalism. The violent campaign
of massive resistance to desegregation in
Mississippi and Alabama, which was anchored in
old-fashioned biological racism, is of course famous. But the more popular form of
resistance in both the North and South was relatively
moderate in nature and was anchored in what
Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Matthew Lasseter, and others
call colorblind racism. Advocates of
colorblind racism said they supported civil rights,
but framed the desegregation of white neighborhoods,
schools, and workplaces as anti-democratic
or reverse racism. Thus, in 1968, Richard
Nixon recruited the so-called silent
majority by insisting that while legally enforced
segregation was certainly illegal, no one could
be blamed or punished for moving into an already
segregated school district. The Republican Party’s
appeal to colorblind racism was also central to the
rise of Ronald Reagan. One could not wage a
war on black people who were equal under
the law to whites, but one could wage a war on
welfare and drugs in such a way as the target communities
of color disproportionately. Reaganism became so
dominant, in fact, that Democratic President
Bill Clinton also adopted a colorblind posture. Distancing himself from the
civil rights wing of his party, he signed so-called
welfare reform into law, which in
the ensuing years, dramatically reduced the
amount of cash payments to welfare recipients from $20.4
billion in 1996 to $9.6 billion in 2011. President Clinton also signed
a federal three strikes law in 1995, which imposed harsher
penalties on offenders with two prior arrests and accelerated
the mass incarceration of black people. The Republicans set
the terms of debate not only on civil rights,
but also on trade. Republicans held that free
trade agreements were not only good for
American businesses, opening up new consumer and
labor markets, but also key in stopping the
spread of communism and, later, terrorism. By the 1970s, the Democrats,
not to be outflanked, had also adopted the
Republican position. This is known as the
Washington Consensus, and it emerged at the
same historical moment as colorblind civil
rights policy. Free trade and
colorblind racism are not just two separate pillars of
the same project, however. They are linked by
deindustrialization– the outsourcing of heavy
manufacturing union jobs abroad, which was
greatly facilitated by trade deals like NAFTA. Deindustrialization
intensified colorblind racism. The increase in factory
closures beginning in the 1950s made maintaining whites’
privileged access to jobs and social benefits
all the more important. As white union members became an
unemployed surplus population, taking up a greater
proportion of both welfare benefits and low wage
service sector jobs, 0 there was a simultaneous push
to remove the black surplus population from the welfare
rolls and the labor market. According to the
Congressional Budget Office, the poorest fifth of
American households consumed 54% of social
benefits in 1979. Today, they consume only 36%,
while the lion’s share goes towards what the
CBO itself calls, quote, “maintaining the white
middle class from childhood through retirement,” end quote. Simultaneously, law
and order initiatives from Nixon to Clinton
inverted the proportion of white and black inmates
in America’s prisons. As [INAUDIBLE] writes,
“Whereas the inmate population in the middle of
the 20th century was 70% white, reflecting
the percentage of whites in the general population,
in 2009, only 30% of inmates were white.” Much of the increase
in black inmates is due to drug use,
possession, and dealing, but whites are five
times more likely to use illicit drugs
and 45% percent more likely to deal drugs
than black people are. The dispossession
of unemployed blacks deepened further as
states passed laws denying ex-convicts
access to social benefits, such as interest
free college loans and limiting their
access to the job market by mandating that job applicants
list whether or not they have ever been convicted of a crime. The Latinos and the
unemployed surplus population are also being incarcerated
at roughly 1 and 1/2 times the rate of whites. The neoliberal state also
manages Latinos by, one, deporting immigrants en masse
and, two, sustaining, through temporary immigration
statuses like DACA, a cheap, deportable labor
force in select sectors of the economy. DiGenova argues that current
immigration policy, quote, “serves to create a
deportable migrant labor force,” end quote, which
ensures that some migrants will be deported. But the majority will remain
as vulnerable and, therefore, docile workers. Modern American politics through
the Obama administration– that’s through the
Obama administration– had become a fight
over who could best safeguard the racial and
economic privileges of whites under increasing pressure
from deindustrialization. Donald Trump’s
nativist politics, which Steve Bannon has referred
to as economic nationalism, is nothing more than a promise
to alleviate that pressure by canceling or renegotiating
trade agreements and deporting and
incarcerating anyone who dares compete with whites
for jobs, benefits, or offers of admission to places
like UMass Amherst. In pandering to
those who seek relief from the scourge
of neoliberalism, Donald Trump urges these workers
to invest in their whiteness instead of their class. In doing so, the President
has only exploited and further deepened the
ongoing racial polarization and widening inequality of the
post-racial neoliberal order that he says he deplores. The question, of course,
is, what is to be done? As an alternative
to the polarization of both neoliberalism and
economic nationalists, progressives should advance
an alternative vision of solidarity that I
call economic democracy. Economic democracy is
the idea that none of us can be free unless all of us
have power in the workplace and are key stakeholders
in the economy. Today, most workplaces
are dictatorships. Being an at-will employee forces
workers to make tough choices, put up with low wages,
disrespect, harassment, homophobia, and racial
profiling or lose your job. Thinking more broadly,
when workers do not have a seat at the
table, the US economy gets structured in such a
way that the three richest men have more wealth than
the entire bottom half of American society combined. The labor movement
has a unique role to play in advancing
this alternative agenda of solidarity. Though the movement
is down and out, the AFL CIO remains the
largest labor federation in the world in sheer numbers. Organized labor still has
the resources and time to lead a mass movement
for economic democracy. And organized workers are
better situated than most, even in the context of union decline,
to appeal to the working class as the red-for-red strike
wave so clearly shows. But the labor movement
cannot succeed alone, and it must address the racial
and gender inequalities in its own ranks, for economic
democracy is, by definition, an inclusive idea. When women and people of color
endure daily microaggressions in the workplace, we do not
have economic democracy, because they are
forced to choose between their jobs
and their dignity. When someone or their partner
is denied health benefits because they are
queer or transgender, we do not have
economic democracy, because that person
is effectively excluded from the workplace. Finally, when a supervisor
hauls workers into his office and threatens to fire them
if they join the union, we do not have
economic democracy, because those
workers must choose between feeding their families
and having rights on the job. All of these struggles
are connected. And unless the labor movement
joins with other movements to improve the
lives of all people, we can never truly have
economic democracy. People often ask me, can
Donald Trump win in 2020? My answer to them is this– of course he can. We know he can. But the 2020 question
assumes that we need a politician to lead
us to the promised land. The better question is
whether we want something better than what either Mr.
Trump or the establishment has to offer. There is an old adage that
goes something like this. We are the ones we
have been waiting for. Every major step toward
a more perfect union has come because of movements
of abolitionists and African Americans, of women and workers,
of immigrants and queer folk. That is also the progressive
path out of our present crisis, and anyone who says
differently is trying to take the easy way out. Thank you. [APPLAUSE] Thank you so much,
Professor de Leone. Let’s give everyone
on our panel, these esteemed faculty
here on our campus who are doing amazing work and
teaching incredible classes, let’s give them another
round of applause.