Tag Archives: black

Coal’s death spiral, in 3 charts

The latest reports suggest that coal has the equivalent of black-lung disease: the condition is chronic, and the long-term prognosis is dire.

Power companies plan to shutter more than 10 big coal plants in 2018, extinguishing a major portion of coal burning in the United States (see the map below). According to projections released by the Energy Information Administration this week, coal-fired plants will produce less than 30 percent of the electricity Americans use this year. Back in 2000, coal provided more than half of our electricity. Cheap natural gas has knocked coal out of competition.

2018 will be a bad year to be a gray dot.

EIA

This year is expected be a big one for coal-plant retirements but, as you can see below, so was 2015, and 2012, and, well, much of the past decade.

Pretty much all the plants shutting down are fossil-fuel plants.EIA

“Coal in the U.S. might not be dead, but it is in a death spiral,” said Alex Gilbert, of the energy research firm SparkLibrary. “Coal’s demise is inevitable, but it can still emit significant greenhouse gas and other emissions on its way out. The main policy question now is whether the death spiral should be a decade long or decades long.”

What pushed coal power into the death spiral? In a word, fracking. A crackdown on toxic pollution and the rise of wind and solar power, too. If you look at this map of plants scheduled to open this year, it’s all renewables and gas.

Look at all those renewables… and gas plants.EIA

Gilbert said coal companies also played a supporting role in the dirty fuel’s demise. “Coal’s decline is mainly due to market competition with natural gas with regulations playing a secondary role,” he said. “Fundamentally, however, coal is dying because the industry decided to fight changing times. Instead of innovating into a 21st-century compatible energy source, they played politics.”

So, what does all this mean for greenhouse-gas emissions? Well, even if we stop burning coal, it wouldn’t be enough to solve our emissions problems. And as we squeeze carbon out of our electrical system, carbon emissions from cars, industry, and heating are all going up. That’s consistent with a long term trend.

“Between 2005 and 2016, almost 80 percent of the reduction in energy-related CO2 emissions in the U.S. came from the electric power sector,” wrote Trevor Houser and Peter Marsters of the Rhodium Group, a company which analyzes energy trends. To get greenhouse-gas emissions down, other sectors have to play a larger role.

Rhodium Group

This year, people are expected to drive more, and a growing economy will cause industry to ramp up. All told, the United States is likely to pump out more greenhouse gases this year, according to the new data from the EIA.

“After declining by 1.0 percent in 2017, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions are forecast to increase by 1.7 percent in 2018,” the EIA wrote.

It looks like our biggest problem is no longer coal. It’s cars.

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Coal’s death spiral, in 3 charts

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Fracking harms the health of babies, study shows

This story was originally published by Mother Jones and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The practice of drilling into the ground to release natural gas — known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking — first made national headlines in 2011 when drinking water taps in fracking towns in Pennsylvania began catching fire because flammable methane was seeping into water supplies.

Since then, fracking has been linked to earthquakes in Oklahoma and a myriad of health issues. Proponents of fracking say the practice has reduced energy costs and has created thousands of jobs. But environmental groups, such as the Natural Resources Defense Council, say that for people living near sites, fracking can have severe health affects such as respiratory illnesses and cancer.

A new study from the journal Science Advances found that infants born to women living near fracking sites in Pennsylvania were especially vulnerable to adverse health outcomes. “As local and state policymakers decide whether to allow hydraulic fracturing in their communities, it is crucial that they carefully examine the costs and benefits,” said Michael Greenstone, a coauthor of the study and the director of the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago, in a press release. “This study provides the strongest large-scale evidence of a link between the pollution that stems from hydraulic fracturing activities and … the health of babies.”

The researchers analyzed vital statistics of more than 1.1 million births in Pennsylvania between 2004 and 2013. They studied infants born to women living 1 kilometer (or slightly over half a mile) away from fracking sites, as well as women living within 3 kilometers (or less than 2 miles), and women living between 3 to 15 kilometers (or less than 2 miles to 9 miles) away.

They found that fracking reduces the health of infants born to mothers living within 3 kilometers from a fracking site. But for mothers living within 1 kilometer, the affects were acute. The probability of low infant birth weight, meaning the infant weighs less than 5.5 pounds, increased to 25 percent.

Studies show that low birth weight can lead to infant mortality, asthma, lower test scores while school-age, and lower earnings as adults. The study also found that mothers whose babies may have been exposed to nearby fracking sites tend to be younger, less educated, and less likely to be married — factors that can also lead to poor infant health.

But there are significant differences between the mothers who give birth close to fracking sites and those who don’t. Black mothers included in the study were more likely to live nearest to fracking sites, exposing their infants to higher risks of pollution. “This difference arises because over time, more wells were drilled near urban areas such as Pittsburgh, where higher numbers of African Americans live,” the authors wrote. Allegheny County, where Pittsburgh is located, has 63 active fracking wells. Many other fracking sites are located in lower-income communities.

Nationwide, between July 2012 and June 2013, as many as 65,000 infants were exposed to pollution from fracking, because their mothers lived within 1 kilometer of a fracking site.

“Given the growing evidence that pollution affects babies in utero,” said coauthor Janet Currie, who is a economics and public affairs professor at Princeton University, “it should not be surprising that fracking has negative effects on infants.”

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Fracking harms the health of babies, study shows

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A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee finally got to grill Scott Pruitt on Thursday.

A new report by Kaiser Family Foundation and the Episcopal Health Foundation found economic and health disparities among those affected by Harvey.

Sixty-six percent of black residents surveyed said they are not getting the help they need to recover, compared to half of all hurricane survivors. While 34 percent of white residents said their FEMA applications had been approved, just 13 percent of black residents said the same.

And even though they are receiving less assistance, black and Hispanic respondents and those with lower incomes were more likely to have experienced property damage or loss of income as a result of the storm.

Additionally, 1 in 6 people reported that someone in their household has a health condition that is new or made worse because of Harvey. Lower-income adults and people of color who survived the storm were more likely to lack health insurance and to say they don’t know where to go for medical care.

“This survey gives an important voice to hard-hit communities that may have been forgotten, especially those with the greatest needs and fewest resources following the storm,” Elena Marks, president and CEO of the Episcopal Health Foundation, said in a statement.

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A House Energy and Commerce subcommittee finally got to grill Scott Pruitt on Thursday.

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Scott Pruitt just got debunked by climate scientists.

A report on the employment practices of green groups finds that the sector, despite its socially progressive reputation, is still overwhelmingly the bastion of white men.

According to the study, released by Green 2.0, roughly 3 out of 10 people at environmental organizations are people of color, but at the senior staff level, the figure drops closer to 1 out of 10. And at all levels, from full-time employees to board members, men make up three-quarters or more of NGO staffs.

Click to embiggen.Green 2.0

The new report, titled “Beyond Diversity: A Roadmap to Building an Inclusive Organization,” relied on more than 85 interviews of executives and HR reps and recruiters at environmental organizations.

Representatives of NGOs and foundations largely agreed on the benefits of having a more diverse workforce, from the added perspectives in addressing environmental problems to a deeper focus on environmental justice to allowing the movement to engage a wider audience.

The most worrisome finding is that fewer than 40 percent of environmental groups even had diversity plans in place to ensure they’re more inclusive. According to the report, “Research shows that diversity plans increases the odds of black men in management positions significantly.”

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Scott Pruitt just got debunked by climate scientists.

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Trump Administration Leaves 50,000 Haitians in Legal Limbo

Mother Jones

About 50,000 Haitians living in the United States will remain in limbo for another six months. The Trump administration has reportedly granted a temporary extension of these Haitians’ legal status, leaving them at risk of being forced to leave the country—or remain illegally—at the start of next year.

Multiple reports on Monday indicate that the Department of Homeland Security will extend Temporary Protected Status for Haitian nationals for six months. Haitians were granted the special status in 2010, after an earthquake leveled buildings, displaced millions, and killed an estimated 300,000 people. As Mother Jones previously reported, TPS is granted to people from countries experiencing humanitarian crises:

First introduced in 1990, the TPS program provides humanitarian relief to nationals of countries coping with a severe conflict or natural disaster. By providing recipients with legal status and work authorization, TPS designations—typically granted in six- to 18-month cycles that can be renewed indefinitely—have become a crucial means of aiding people who face unsafe conditions should they be sent back to their home country.

The extension was first reported on Monday by the Washington Post and confirmed by the Miami Herald, which wrote that Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) received a call from DHS with news of the decision. DHS not not respond to Mother Jones‘ request for comment.

With the extension, Haiti’s TPS designation will continue past its current July expiration date, to January 22, 2018. The six-month extension aligns with the recommendation of James McCament, acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, who wrote a memo to Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly in April suggesting that Haiti’s TPS designation be extended to the beginning of 2018 and then allowed to expire. Immigration advocates had strongly encouraged DHS to extend the designation for a full 18 months, arguing that Haiti needed more time to recover before thousands of people could return to the country safely.

Prior to the decision, some 50,000 Haitians living and working in the United States were at risk of being deported back to Haiti, which is dealing with a multitude of conflicts—or staying in the United States and becoming undocumented. The latest extension means that Haitians with TPS can breathe for now but will face the same suspense in November, when DHS must again decide whether to extend their TPS or allow it to expire.

Immigration advocates had mixed reactions to the news. “The fear was that we may not even get six months,” says Nana Brantuo, policy manager for the Black Alliance for Just Immigration, one of the groups that has called for an extension of Haiti’s TPS designation. But she adds, “The 18-month extension is what we need. Otherwise we’re going to have thousands of people who are unauthorized in fear of being deported.”

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Trump Administration Leaves 50,000 Haitians in Legal Limbo

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“You’ll Be Hanging From A Tree.”

Mother Jones

Before Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) began his town hall Saturday morning, he instructed his aides to play a tape. It was, he explained, a voicemail he had received earlier in the week, shortly after he had delivered a speech on the House floor to become the first member of Congress to call for President Donald Trump to be impeached.

“Hey, Al Green, I’ve got an impeachment for ya—it’s gonna be yours,” said a man’s voice. “Actually we’re gonna give you a short trial before we hang your nigger ass.”

A murmur went up in the audience of 80 or so Houston-area constituents who had packed into a church hall in the city’s southwest corner. Green played another voicemail, which warned, “try it, and we’ll rinse out you fucking niggers, you’ll be hanging from a tree.”

When it was over, Green got to his point. “Friends, I want to assure you that no amounts of threats or intimidation will stop what I have started, I promise you—we are going to continue with this,” he said. “We are gonna move forward, we will not turn around.”

Green, a seven-term congressman and member of the Congressional Black Caucus, made his call for impeachment after Trump tweeted warning former FBI director James Comey not to leak details of their conversations with the press. Green told the audience he believes that Trump’s actions amounted to an admission of obstruction of justice, and the tweet constituted intimidation. It is imperative, he said, that the House move to indict Trump; nothing less than the rule of law is at stake.

Those who asked questions largely agreed with Green’s argument, but constituents seemed uncertain about the future. One man wondered if it was worth going through the impeachment process if the result was President Mike Pence. Another asked about impeaching Pence, too. A woman in the back wanted to know if there was any possibility of the president’s cabinet declaring him unfit. Unsurprisingly, given the president’s low approval in the district (just 18 percent of voters in the district voted for Green’s Republican opponent last fall), only one questioner voiced any real opposition to what Green had done, asking why he had said nothing about “the lawlessness of the Obama administration.”

Green himself suggested the process might plod along from here. He hadn’t introduced an official impeachment resolution yet and was planning more town halls on the subject. “I haven’t asked leadership for a response,” he told me, insisting that impeachment needed to come “from the bottom up, not the top down.” By the same token, no one in in the leadership had told him to pipe down, he said, although he allowed that there were “surely members who were thinking it.”

When a nine-year-old girl asked “why does it take so long to impeach Trump?” Green said that it “may never happen”—but it was worth giving the system time to function as it should. He has done a flurry of interviews over the last few days (there were NBC News cameras in the back of the room while he spoke) but is treading lightly when it comes to his fellow colleagues. Green told me he was not planning to lobby fellow members to get behind an impeachment measure—”people have to be guided by their conscience.” (He did hope, though, that they would listen to public opinion—at the event he asked residents to go to ImpeachTrumpNow.com to register their support.)

For now the road to impeachment is lonely, and perhaps very long. “I am a voice in the wilderness,” he said, “but history will vindicate me.”

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“You’ll Be Hanging From A Tree.”

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This Mississippi Sheriff’s Department Is Completely Out of Control, Lawsuit Alleges

Mother Jones

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In racially segregated Madison County, Mississippi, black residents live in fear of the police. According to a federal lawsuit filed Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, the Madison County Sheriff’s Department has been using illegal tactics and subjecting people who live in majority-black towns to unreasonable searches of their bodies, their homes, and their cars. The purpose of these stops, the ACLU alleges, is to generate revenue by collecting unpaid fees and fines from those who are detained.

“There is a decades-old policy of methodically and systematically targeting black people with Fourth Amendment violations that are unheard of in white communities and in most of the United States,” says Paloma Wu, the legal director of the ACLU of Mississippi.

According to the lawsuit, roadblocks are one of the main tactics used by the MCSD. Deputies allegedly set up checkpoints in black neighborhoods and towns, near places of employment, and near black-owned businesses. The department’s written roadblock policy is short, vague, and does not include any restrictions on how and when deputies may use them, according to the ACLU.

The MCSD did not respond to requests for comment.

The use of systematic arrests to generate revenue wouldn’t be unique to Mississippi. The US Department of Justice’s report on Ferguson, Missouri—published after a police officer shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in 2014—found that the city’s police force was using a similar strategy. The protests in Ferguson catalyzed a wave of police reform efforts during the Obama administration, but the Mississippi case comes at a time when civil rights advocates are worried that President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions will undo much of that progress.

Madison County is the wealthiest county in Mississippi. Of its 105,000 residents, 58 percent are white and 38 percent are black. Most of the wealth is concentrated in white areas. The plaintiffs, 10 black people who all reside in the county, allege that white residents are not subject to the same policing strategies. According to the suit, between May and September 2016, 81 percent of roadblock arrests and 82 percent of pedestrian arrests were of black individuals.

According to the complaint, MCSD has conducted thousands of unreasonable searches of black residents of the county. As a result of these traumatic experiences, many black residents experience fear and anxiety over the simple act of leaving their homes or driving their cars. The Madison County Sheriff Department’s policing tactics impact “virtually every aspect of Black residents’ lives,” says the complaint, adding that “the very real possibility of unlawful and humiliating searches and seizures, as well as the attendant prospect of arrest and jail time for unpaid fines and fees” looms over their heads.

The suit alleges that Marvin McField, one of the plaintiffs, has been stopped multiple times at different roadblocks in the past few years. The 37-year-old has lived in predominantly black Flora, Mississippi, his entire life and uses a pacemaker because he suffers from a serious heart condition.

At one such roadblock several years ago, according to the complaint, McField was ordered to exit his vehicle, after which deputies handcuffed and searched him and then threw him onto the hood of the car. The deputies then allegedly left him in the back of a patrol car with the windows rolled up on a hot summer day for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. The deputies drove off with him in custody but stopped a few minutes later and beat him in the chest until McField told them he could not breathe, according to the suit.

Next, deputies took McField to the Madison County Detention Center, “where the deputies beat him again—this time hitting him in the head instead of in his chest,” the complaint says. He was held in jail for more than two weeks without being charged with a crime, a clear violation of the right to due process, according to the suit. He was also not permitted to make any phone calls. After 19 days, McField was brought before a judge—without a lawyer. The judge, who is unnamed in the suit, simply told him that he had served his time and was free to go, according to the complaint.

In addition to stopping residents in their cars, the complaint alleges that deputies also stop and search pedestrians walking past the designated checkpoints. In January 2017, plaintiff Steven Smith was walking into the affordable housing complex where he lives. Deputies searched him, even though there was no probable cause, the suit states.

After deputies ran Smith’s identification, they discovered he had unpaid fines and court fees. He couldn’t afford to pay the overdue money and was jailed for 29 days.

Quinnetta Manning, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against the Madison County Sheriff’s Department ACLU of Mississippi

The searches allegedly extend to residents’ private homes, as well. “There are a lot of warrantless invasions of black people’s houses and lots of excessive force, which is just a fancy way of saying they physically hurt people,” says Wu. In June 2016, Khadafy and Quinnetta Manning were at home when six deputies began banging on their door. When Quinnetta Manning opened the door, the suit alleges, the deputies pushed past her and began demanding that she sign a false witness statement implicating her neighbor’s boyfriend in a burglary. She told the deputies that she had not witnessed a burglary.

Khadafy Manning, who is disabled and walks with a cane, had just woken up and was not dressed. When he told deputies that his wife didn’t have to provide a statement, a deputy handcuffed him, swore at him, and began choking him, according to the complaint. The deputies allegedly threatened to arrest the Mannings if they didn’t comply. According to the suit, Quinnetta Manning agreed to write the statement out of fear, but deputies dragged Khadafy Manning out the door anyway. The deputies placed him in a car and began to beat him inside the vehicle, according to the complaint. “Mr. Manning was humiliated that his neighbors saw him being forcibly taken out of his family’s home while wearing only his underwear,” the suit says. The couple ended up writing false witness statements, according to the suit.

After the incident, Khadafy Manning sought legal remedies for the physical and emotional pain that he and his family suffered. Several months later in, February 2017, a deputy handcuffed Khadafy Manning and searched his car after telling him that he knew Manning had been “having people come around here asking questions,” the complaint alleges.

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This Mississippi Sheriff’s Department Is Completely Out of Control, Lawsuit Alleges

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Ana Castillo’s Resistance Reading

Mother Jones

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We asked a range of authors, artists, and poets to suggest the books that bring them solace or understanding in this age of political rancor. Two dozen or so responded. Here’s what the celebrated author and poet Ana Castillo had to share.

Latest book: Black Dove: Mamá, Mi’jo, and Me
Also known for: So Far From God
Reading recommendations: I find myself returning once again to Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine, a compelling study on New World Order economics. Klein credits economist Milton Friedman as the mastermind of “unfettered capitalism” and proposes that, according to Friedman’s tactical nostrum, real change can only happen out of crisis. While most of the world may stockpile supplies in the event of a disaster, “Friedmanites” stockpile free-market ideas.

Worth adding to any library is The Wind Is Spirit: The Life, Love, and Legacy of Audre Lorde, a collection of essays compiled by Gloria I. Joseph, Lorde’s romantic partner at the time of her death. It brings together memories from more than 50 contributors—such as Sonia Sanchez and Angela Davis—and reminds us not only of the significance of Lorde’s work, but also of the importance of a writer’s perseverance in the face of political adversity.
______________
So far in this series: Daniel Alarcón, Kwame Alexander, Margaret Atwood, W. Kamau Bell, Ana Castillo, Jeff Chang, T Cooper, Michael Eric Dyson, Dave Eggers, Reza Farazmand, William Gibson, Piper Kerman, Phil Klay, Alex Kotlowitz, Bill McKibben, Rabbi Jack Moline, Siddhartha Mukherjee, Peggy Orenstein, Wendy C. Ortiz, Darryl Pinckney, Karen Russell, George Saunders, Tracy K. Smith, Ayelet Waldman, Gene Luen Yang. (New posts daily.)

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Ana Castillo’s Resistance Reading

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LAPD Adopts New Policy: De-Escalate First, Shoot Later

Mother Jones

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This is from the LA Times yesterday:

The Los Angeles Police Commission voted Tuesday to require officers to try, whenever possible, to defuse tense encounters before firing their guns — a policy shift that marks a significant milestone in the board’s attempts to curb shootings by police.

Wait. This is new? This hasn’t always been LAPD policy? Apparently not, and apparently not much of anywhere else, either:

As criticism of policing flared across the country, particularly after deadly shootings by officers, law enforcement agencies looked to de-escalation as a way to help restore public trust. Like the LAPD, other departments have emphasized the approach in training and policies.

The Seattle Police Department requires officers to attempt de-escalation strategies, such as trying to calm someone down verbally or calling a mental health unit to the scene. Santa Monica police have similar rules in place, telling officers to try to “slow down, reduce the intensity or stabilize the situation” to minimize the need to use force.

….The focus on de-escalation represents a broader shift in law enforcement, said Samuel Walker, a retired criminal justice professor and expert in police accountability. Now, he said, there’s an understanding that officers can shape how an encounter plays out. “This is absolutely the right thing to do,” he added.

This is especially important in Los Angeles:

African Americans continue to represent a disproportionate number of the people shot at by officers. Nearly a third of the people shot at last year were black — a 7% increase from 2015. Black people make up about 9% of the city’s population but 40% of homicide victims and 43% of violent crime suspects, the report noted.

The LAPD also topped a list of big-city agencies with the highest number of deadly shootings by officers. Police in Los Angeles fatally shot more people than officers in Chicago, New York, Houston and Philadelphia did, the report said. The L.A. County Sheriff’s Department came in second, with 15 deadly shootings.

Go ahead and call me naive, but I would have figured that de-escalation was standard protocol everywhere. Not always followed in practice, of course, but at least theoretically what cops are supposed to do. But apparently not. It sounds like it started to catch on after Ferguson, and is only now being adopted as official policy in a few places.

Better late than never, I suppose, but I wonder what’s stopping this from being universally adopted? What’s the downside?

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LAPD Adopts New Policy: De-Escalate First, Shoot Later

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We Still Don’t Know How Much Trump’s Victory Was About Race

Mother Jones

How much was race a factor in the 2016 election? It’s pretty obvious that Donald Trump explicitly appealed to racial sentiment more than any Republican presidential candidate in recent memory, but did it work? Did he pick up more votes from resentful, disaffected whites than any other GOP nominee would have?

At first blush, the answer seems to be no. Compared to Mitt Romney, Trump got a smaller share of the white vote and a bigger share of the black and Hispanic vote. That doesn’t support the idea that 2016 represented some kind of huge white backlash.

But there are other ways of looking at this. Here’s one from Phil Klinkner, a political science professor at Hamilton University. It’s taken from the latest release of the American National Election Survey:

This chart is pretty simple: it shows how much correlation there is between a person’s level of racial resentment and who they supported for president. In 2000, racial resentment was a weak predictor of who you voted for. In 2016 it was a strong predictor.

But this just adds to the haze. There are two reasonable ways of looking at this:

  1. Racial resentment has been a steadily better predictor of voting behavior for 16 years, with only a slight blip away from the trendline in 2012. Trump just happened to be the nominee in 2016, when it was bound to go up to its present level regardless.
  2. The trendline does inflect modestly upward in 2016. This might be because Obama bent it down a bit in 2012, or it might be because Trump bent it up in 2016.

Klinkner thinks race played a big role in the election. There’s no question this is true, but did it play a bigger than expected role? The two major parties have been splitting further apart by race for years, with Republicans becoming the party of whites and Democrats the party of non-whites. This means that to survive with an ever growing white base, Republicans have to cater to white resentment more and more. Likewise, Democrats have to cater to black and Hispanic interests more and more. This is a cycle with positive feedback, so it’s only likely to get worse.

Racial attitudes certainly played a bigger role in the election than in the past. But did Trump himself accelerate this partisan trend, or was he merely the beneficiary of it? That still seems like an open question to me.

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We Still Don’t Know How Much Trump’s Victory Was About Race

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