Notes on a Theory…

Thoughts on politics, law, & social science

Archive for March 2013

Rob Portman, Strategy, and Politics of Character

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[Update: via Dan Nexon, check out this post on this issue by David Meyer, Coming Out and Opinion Change.]

This week, conservative Senator Rob Portman announced his support for marriage equality.  Portman reported that his experience with his own son was the catalyst for his change of position.

Marriage Equality Act vote in Albany NY on the evening of July 24, 2011 photographed by the Celebration Chapel of Kingston NY

The moment of the Marriage Equality Act vote at the capitol building in Albany NY June 24, 2011. In the balcony of the chambers. photographed by the Celebration Chapel of Kingston NY.

“I’m announcing today a change of heart on an issue that a lot of people feel strongly about,” Portman said. “It has to do with gay couples’ opportunity to marry. And during my career in the House and also last couple years here in the Senate, you know, I’ve taken a position against gay marriage, rooted in part in my faith and my faith tradition. And had a very personal experience, which is my son came to Jane, my wife, and I, told us that he was gay and that it was not a choice and that, you know he, that’s just part of who he is, and he’d been that way ever since he could remember.”

Portman said his son’s revelation led him to drop his opposition to same-sex marriage. “And that launched an interesting process for me, which was kind of rethinking my position,” he said. “You know, talking to my pastor and other religious leaders and going through a process of, at the end, changing my position on the issue. I now believe people ought to have the right to get married.”

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Written by David Kaib

March 18, 2013 at 6:32 pm

Asymmetric Misperceptions and the Conservative Construction of ‘Public Opinion’

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SurveysThere’s been a lot of buzz about an excellent (but not yet peer-reviewed) working paper by David Broockman and Chris Skovron, “What Politicians Believe About Their Constituents: Asymmetric Misperceptions and Prospects for Constituency Control,” which looks at state legislative candidates’ perceptions of their constituents’ opinions.  The findings are striking, but unlike many others, I don’t find them all that surprising:

Actual district opinion explains only a modest share of the variation in politicians’ perceptions of their districts’ views. Moreover, there is a striking conservative bias in politicians’ perceptions, particularly among conservatives: conservative politicians systematically believe their constituents are more conservative than they actually are by over 20 percentage points, while liberal politicians also typically overestimate their constituents’ conservatism by several percentage points.

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Written by David Kaib

March 10, 2013 at 7:54 am

Colbert on the Death Penalty

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It looks like Maryland will soon get rid of its death penalty, which is a great progressive win. It’s also a win for justice and due process.  Kirk Bloodsworth was the first man exonerated from death row on the basis of DNA evidence, one of 142 people convicted and sentence to die since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1973 that was exonerated. He now is an advocate working to rid us of the death penalty state by state, and he appeared on Colbert last night.

Watch the whole thing.  Here’s Stephen:

The killing innocent people card is so….easy to win the argument. Because it is the worst thing you can imagine, and if that is true, then no state should have the death penalty. Because if one person dies who is innocent that is too many. That itself is a murder that we are all complicit in, for looking the other way.

Written by David Kaib

March 6, 2013 at 3:57 pm

Dirty Hippies, Inequality, and the Minnesota Model

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The great Mark Price has a piece in the Guardian today, Wealth inequality will keep growing unless workers demand better, that gets to the heart of the problem with our broken economy’s failure to provide the security, opportunity, and basic needs we all deserve.  Two points are worth mentioning. First, it’s taken as a matter of faith that conservative prescriptions for the economy are easy to understand and more left-leaning approaches are more complex. I think that’s rubbish. Read Mark here. It’s not difficult at all. If people don’t have jobs, they can’t spend, and we all suffer. If there are way more applicants then there are jobs, there’s no way out of this mess.  Inequality is the problem, equality the solution. It’s not that hard.  (I made the same point about Robert Reich before).  He also discards the silly notion that government has been trying to fix this problem, or that the solutions are unclear. Read the rest of this entry »

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