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PREFERENCE CASCADE: In blue Seattle, Trump supporters are starting to come out of hiding. “So what, you may be saying, Trump’s not going to win out here anyway. True. But when your fundraising is breaking records, it indicates an intense passion for the candidate, as it did for Bernie Sanders. That counts for a ton in politics — and likely means Trump is stronger right now than his dismal polls indicate.”

His polls aren’t dismal. He has 51% approval.

“WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON?” How a Tiny Cabal Galvanized Venezuela’s Opposition.

When Juan Guaidó declared himself Venezuela’s interim president on Jan. 23 in front of a crowd of 100,000 people under a broiling sun, some leading opposition figures had no idea he would do so, say people who work with Mr. Guaidó and other top leaders. That included a few standing alongside him. A stern look of shock crossed their faces. Some quietly left the stage.

“What the hell is going on?” one member of a group of politicians wrote to the others in a WhatsApp group chat. “How come we didn’t know about this.”

The plan was largely devised by a group of four opposition leaders—two in exile, one under house arrest and one barred from leaving the country. It came together only in recent weeks, as Mr. Maduro prepared to start a second six-year term on Jan. 10 after elections widely seen as a sham. Mr. Maduro has denounced the ceremony as part of a U.S.-backed coup to overthrow his government.

The act of political skulduggery paid off. The crowd reacted ecstatically to Mr. Guaidó, and one nation after another recognized him within hours.

The strategy has dramatically altered Venezuela’s political landscape, empowering a faction led by Mr. Guaidó’s Popular Will party that has long lobbied for more direct confrontation with the Maduro regime.

A preference cascade in action.

SALENA ZITO: The 2016 election was far from a fluke.

America’s political experts got it wrong in 2016 — not because they took too few polls, but because they made the false assumption that American elections are immune to societal change.

They are, in large part, still getting things wrong, not only by failing to understand a new group of voters who put President Donald Trump in the White House but also by ignoring why they voted the way they did.

When explaining the Trump voter, the media usually offers portraits of isolated, uneducated, working-class rubes who are driven by anger, race and nationalism. To the experts and those who didn’t support Trump, it’s hard for them to see it any other way.

And while the media obsesses over the future demise of the president, they aren’t pausing to consider the strength and durability of the coalition that swept him into office.
They aren’t asking why people in the Rust Belt counties who voted for former President Barack Obama twice suddenly switched to Trump.

But they should. Because Trump was not the cause of this movement, he was the result of it. In order to fully appreciate his rise to the White House, you need focus on the people who put him there.

That of course, is what her terrific book (with Brad Todd), The Great Revolt, does. But here’s a thought: I’ve been reading an advance copy, and it sounds like a preference cascade among a lot of traditionally Democratic voters. Now you’ve got black voters teetering on the brink . . .

WASHED AWAY BY THE PREFERENCE CASCADE: Virginia Postrel Interviews Timur Kuran About Harvey Weinstein’s Fall. Plus, how Hollywood resembles the old Soviet Union.

SHOT: The new culture war targeting American universities appears to be working.

CHASER: Long After Protests, Students Shun the University of Missouri. To the point of a 35% enrollment decline. Key quote: “I didn’t want to be that person who I guess was stereotyped because I was white.”

Related: That higher education is hurting America should be the consensus left-wing position too.

Well, campuses gradually drifted left, but — with the direct connivance of the Obama Administration — became much harder-left in recent years, and as a result have done more damage to higher education’s brand than any right-wing conspiracy could have managed. The result is something that looks like a preference cascade. With good reason.

Flashback: Professors are overwhelmingly liberal. Do universities need to change hiring practices?

Plus: Exclusive Test Data: Many Colleges Fail to Improve Critical-Thinking Skills.

THE PREFERENCE CASCADE IN THE OTHER DIRECTION CAN BE BRUTAL, THOUGH, IF IT HAPPENS: Nassim Taleb: The Most Intolerant Wins: The Dictatorship of the Small Minority.

IN THE OBAMA ERA, A CLIMATE OF FEAR: Some Gay Voters Say It’s ‘Dangerous’ to Come Out for Trump:

Following Sunday’s mass shooting at an Orlando gay bar, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has voiced – and tweeted – his support for the LGBTQ community. And some in the community have expressed their support for Trump.

“He’s the most pro-gay nominee that the party has ever had for president,” according to Gregory T. Angelo, president of the Log Cabin Republicans, an organization for LGBTQ people and straight allies who support the GOP. . . .

A number of gay men who have decided to throw their support behind Trump told NBC OUT it has not been an easy road. Juan Hernandez, a gay and Latino member of the Log Cabin Republicans, said his support led to physical violence by anti-Trump protesters at a rally in San Jose. Images of the attack and his bloodied clothes went viral.

“This is politics. Debate is OK,” Hernandez said. “When you start getting violent and throwing out derogatory terms, that’s not OK.” . . .

“It’s easy to come out of the closet,” he said. “It’s dangerous to come out as a Trump supporter.”

Leave the Democrats’ plantation and you’ll be punished. They fear a preference cascade.

PREFERENCE CASCADE? Voters are hearing the risks of remaining in the EU, and are concluding it’s time for Brexit.

The polls remain too close to call, but the arguments against Brexiting have come mostly from British versions of the American politicians and pundits who proved clueless on how to stop Trump’s rise.

PREFERENCE CASCADE: Krauthammer: Cascade Of People Will Come Out And Support Trump, “Once It Starts, It’s Not Going To Stop.”

Well, yes. All is proceeding as I have foreseen.

TRUMP PREFERENCE CASCADE CONTINUES: “Six reasons Trump is still better than Clinton,” says…Hugh Hewitt, astonishingly enough.

“As plebes make the Donald increasingly acceptable,” Glenn predicted in USA Today last week, “expect elite Trump supporters to come out of the closet.”

(To be fair though, “Better than Hillary” is an awfully low hurdle to leap.)

DRUDGE: Jeff Sessions to endorse Trump.

So can we call the GOP establishment preference cascade yet?

LAST WEEK I PREDICTED A Trump preference cascade among GOP elites.

So far this weekend we’ve seen Trump endorsements from Chris Christie, Paul LePage, Jan Brewer and — okay, I don’t think this counts as “GOP establishment,” but it’s funny — Aaron Carter. Are we there yet? Not quite, but close, and it’s not clear that the big anti-Trump pushback is doing the job. Too late?

CHRIS CHRISTIE ENDORSES TRUMP. This may be part of that preference cascade among establishment GOPs, but given that it comes from a guy who did worse than Kasich, does it matter?

MY USA TODAY COLUMN: The Trump Wave And The Brexit Boom: Preference Cascades Now Led From The Bottom Up.

MY USA TODAY COLUMN: The Trump Wave And The Brexit Boom: Preference Cascades Now Led From The Bottom Up.

MY USA TODAY COLUMN: The Trump Wave And The Brexit Boom: Preference Cascades Now Led From The Bottom Up.

MY USA TODAY COLUMN: The Trump Wave And The Brexit Boom: Preference Cascades Now Led From The Bottom Up.

It used to be, of course, that the lower and middle classes were stuffy and constrained by social convention while the freethinkers at universities and in the ruling class got to experiment with unconventional ideas. If their experimenting got enough success, then it might eventually filter down to ordinary people. (The sexual revolution worked this way, more or less).

But now it’s our ruling class that is hidebound by political correctness, and it takes movement by the masses to give it permission to express a controversial view. That’s a major change, and it’s one that the ruling class isn’t likely to appreciate much. But having subjected itself to the chains of “acceptable” opinion, what can it do?

I should note, by the way, that this is reminiscent of the old Soviet collapse, where the intellectual classes were under such tremendously close control that it was the working class that took the lead.

MY NEXT USA TODAY COLUMN EXPLAINS THIS AS A PREFERENCE CASCADE: Brendan O’Neill: From Trumpmania to Euroscepticism: Revenge of the Plebs. “America’s new elites, fancying themselves superior to the rural, the old, the religiously inclined and the rest, have increasingly turned politics into something that is done to people, for their own good, rather than by people according to their moral outlook. And then they wonder why people go looking for something else, something less sneering.”

PREFERENCE CASCADE? Jon Huntsman: I could get behind Donald Trump.

A DONALD TRUMP PREFERENCE CASCADE? “If a Democratic candidate were drawing in the sector of the American public that is going for Trump, they would be bragging about their appeal to the working class, the salt of the earth.” And the press would be emphasizing that.

Related: “I think Hillary is terrified of having Trump attacking her in his strange, unpredictable way. How can she prepare? How can she respond? These won’t be polite attacks to be fended off with her trademark chuckles and guffaws and claims that she was already previously vetted. It will be wild, and tremendous energy, strength, and adaptability will be needed for the fight. And part of the attack will be that she lacks the energy, strength, and adaptability to be President, so her difficulty fighting him will fuel more attacks. I’m going to guess Hillary would prefer that nice Mr. Kasich.”

Plus, from the comments: “I suspect she wants to run against the candidate least likely to prosecute her for her obvious crimes after she loses.”

A BREXIT PREFERENCE CASCADE? Boris Johnson exclusive: There is only one way to get the change we want – vote to leave the EU.

Related: Zac Goldsmith: EU referendum: The European Union has shown it is not willing to reform. It’s time for us to leave.

James Bennett emails: “Are we seeing a preference cascade for Brexit? Although many are already for it, of course, mostly they have been either old-line Tories or working-class marginal malcontents. Boris and Zac are part of the rich, well-connected, cosmopolitan London set which has always been presumed to be Europhiles. Watch this phenomenon.”

I think that when the EU ship set sail, it offered dazzling opportunities for graft and self-aggrandizement, free from tedious popular scrutiny and control. But now that it’s taking on water, the smarter members of the political class are scouting out the lifeboats.

ANN ALTHOUSE ON GLENN LOURY ON The coming cascade of smart, educated people embracing Trump. “It troubles me that there can’t be a serious discussion about immigration issues because people are afraid of being called racist. People are afraid of being called a bigot. And I think one of the things that people like about Donald Trump — those who like him — is that he’s going ahead and saying it, and it’s creating a kind of inoculation against something people have feared so much, which is being called a bigot. It’s just too effective to call people bigots, and a lot of people are very intimidated and silenced and don’t even want to talk about certain issues because they don’t want to be called that. So I think part of his popularity is: He goes there, he says it, he takes the hit, and it still works for him. So that’s a kind of a liberating change in the discourse.”

Plus, a preference cascade on immigration? I was talking with Mickey Kaus about just that yesterday.

STUART TAYLOR: A Little-Understood Engine of Campus Unrest: Racial Admissions Preferences.

Why are some of the most privileged students in the nation plunging into a racial grievance culture and upending their campuses as though oppressed by Halloween costumes they don’t approve, imagined racial slights, portraits of Woodrow Wilson, a tiny handful of real racial epithets, and the like?

The reasons are of course multifaceted. But one deserves far more attention than it has gotten: Many or most of the African-American student protesters really are victims — but not of old-fashioned racism.

Most are, rather, victims of the very large admissions preferences that set up racial-minority students for academic struggle at the selective universities that have cynically misled them into thinking they are well qualified to compete with classmates who are, in fact, far stronger academically.

The reality is that most good black and Hispanic students, who would be academically competitive at many selective schools, are not competitive at the more selective schools that they attend.

That’s why it takes very large racial preferences to get them admitted. An inevitable result is that many black and (to a lesser extent) Hispanic students cannot keep up with better-prepared classmates and rank low in their classes no matter how hard they work.

Studies show that this academic “mismatch effect” forces them to drop science and other challenging courses; to move into soft, easily graded, courses disproportionately populated by other preferentially admitted students; and to abandon career hopes such as engineering and pre-med. Many lose intellectual self-confidence and become unhappy even if they avoid flunking out.

This depresses black performance at virtually all selective schools because of what experts call the cascade effect. . . .

It is critical to understand that these are not bad students. They did well in high school and could excel at somewhat less selective universities where they would arrive roughly as well prepared as their classmates.

But due to racial preferences, they find themselves for the first time in their lives competing against classmates who have a huge head start in terms of previous education, academic ability, or both.


WELCOME TO CULTURE WAR 4.0: THE COMING OVERREACH, as explored by Benjamin Domenech and Robert Tracinski at the Federalist. Though based on this passage, it sounds like the left’s overreach in the culture wars has been in full-swing for quite a while now:

If history repeats itself, it is good news for traditional Americans and bad news for the Left, which has taken on the role of Grand Inquisitor so rapidly that overnight civil liberties have become a Republican issue. Slowly but surely, the American Right is adopting the role of the cultural insurgent standing up for the freedom of the little guy. They crowdfund the pizza shop, baker, and photographer; they rebel against the establishment in the gaming media and at sci-fi conventions; they buy their chicken sandwiches in droves. The latest acronym that came out of the Sad Puppies movement says it all. They describe their opponents as CHORFs: cliquish, holier-than-thou, obnoxious, reactionary, fascists. This is their description of the cultural Left.

There is significant potential for a new, diverse coalition that responds to this overreach. The religious Right, libertarians, and even the moderate Left are already being drawn together by their refusal to be cowed into conformity by social justice warriors. The comedians who rebel against an audience that calls every joke racist or sexist, the professors who refuse to be cowed by the threat of Title IX lawsuits, the religious believers who fight for their right to practice their beliefs outside the pew represent a coalition that will reject the neo-Puritanism of the Counterculture, rebel against its speech codes and safe spaces, and reassert the right to speak one’s mind in the public square. Atheists and believers alike can unite in this belief—as we, the authors of this piece, have.

The culture war will always be with us. There are always people who want to change the culture and an establishment that wants to ward off these insurgents. The Sad Puppies are just the Salon des Refusés with different players—and what were the Renaissance and Enlightenment, if not one giant culture war? But there is some good that comes of it, as well.

The culture wars of the past produced great achievements in art, architecture, literature, and science as the opposing parties strove to demonstrate that they had more to offer and deserved the people’s admiration and loyalty. Those culture wars gave us Michelangelo’s David, Galileo’s science, Milton’s “Paradise Lost,” the Declaration of Independence and the First Amendment, and the movement for the abolition of slavery.

As Domenech and Tracinski write, “Yes, this can be a dangerous time to be active in the culture. But it’s very hard to make speech codes, safe spaces, and other anti-thoughtcrime measures work in the long term. Sometimes all it takes for the whole apparatus to come crashing down is a handful of people brave enough to speak their minds without fear.”

That sort of preference cascade is long overdue.

PREFERENCE CASCADE: Republican Nikki Haley’s decision to call on the the South Carolina legislature “to remove the Confederate battle flag from the Capitol grounds in Columbia,” James Taranto writes, “appears to have set off a ‘preference cascade,’ a concept the Tennessee legal scholar Glenn Reynolds discussed in a 2002 essay about the post-9/11 outpouring of patriotism, including displays of the American flag.”

In his latest “Best of the Web Today” column in the Wall Street Journal, Taranto quotes the following passage from our Insta-Host. (Registration at the Journal may be required, if my Google pass-through link doesn’t work):

This illustrates, in a mild way, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse so suddenly. . . . Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don’t realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it—but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.

This works until something breaks the spell, and the discontented realize that their feelings are widely shared, at which point the collapse of the regime may seem very sudden to outside observers—or even to the citizens themselves. Claims after the fact that many people who seemed like loyal apparatchiks really loathed the regime are often self-serving, of course. But they’re also often true: Even if one loathes the regime, few people have the force of will to stage one-man revolutions, and when preferences are sufficiently falsified, each dissident may feel that he or she is the only one, or at least part of a minority too small to make any difference.

Taranto adds:

After Tucson, the left tried to incite a moral panic over incendiary conservative speech. Even President Obama didn’t go along with that. After Newtown, they made a push for gun control. They won some victories in states where Democrats held legislative power—Colorado, Connecticut, New York—but lost elsewhere, including in Washington. The anti-Confederate preference cascade results not from the power of the left but from the newly revealed powerlessness of those in the South with an attachment to Confederate symbolism.

And it’s not clear that the politics here redound to the advantage of the left, or the Democratic Party. Southern states’ abandonment of Confederate symbolism seems likely to ease racial polarization, and a less polarized political climate may pose a challenge to Democratic efforts to encourage black voter turnout and keep Republicans on the moral defensive.

Read the whole thing.

CHANGE: Europe is dying, says France’s leading demographer, and Britain would be better off with the Anglosphere. This realization may help explain the anti-EU preference cascade that appears to be taking hold in Britain.

Plus, a nice plug for Jim Bennett & Michael Lotus’s America 3.0: Rebooting American Prosperity In The 21st Century. Here in the states, that’s a book that every 2016 candidate — or aspiring issues director — should be reading now.

PREFERENCE CASCADE: Obama Approval Falls to 50 Percent in Home State, Collapses in Ohio.

In Illinois, the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling found Obama’s approval rating falling to just 50–46 positive in a state he carried by 17 points just a year ago. His biggest drops in support came among women voters (only 50 percent positive) and Hispanics (only 51 percent positive). Without his overwhelming support among African-Americans (92 percent), his approval rating would easily be in the low 40s. The liberal website Daily Kos says all this represents “a very bad sign for Democrats heading into 2014.” . . .

In Ohio, a new Quinnipiac poll has Obama’s approval rating at 34 percent positive and 61 percent negative. Compare that to the president’s four-point win over Mitt Romney just a year ago. “This is a state considered to be a national bellwether,” said Peter Brown, assistant director of the poll. “Now Obama is approved by 30 percent of men, 38 percent of women, 27 percent of white voters, and 83% of black voters.”

If this kind of collapse is seen in other key large states, expect Democrats returning to Washington from the holidays to begin talking about open mutiny against the White House over Obamacare.

ObamaCare: America’s biggest Thanksgiving turkey!

DANIEL HENNINGER: Let ObamaCare Collapse.

As its Oct. 1 implementation date arrives, ObamaCare is the biggest bet that American liberalism has made in 80 years on its foundational beliefs. This thing called “ObamaCare” carries on its back all the justifications, hopes and dreams of the entitlement state. The chance is at hand to let its political underpinnings collapse, perhaps permanently.

If ObamaCare fails, or seriously falters, the entitlement state will suffer a historic loss of credibility with the American people. It will finally be vulnerable to challenge and fundamental change. But no mere congressional vote can achieve that. Only the American people can kill ObamaCare.

No matter what Sen. Ted Cruz and his allies do, ObamaCare won’t die. It would return another day in some other incarnation. The Democrats would argue, rightly, that the ideas inside ObamaCare weren’t defeated. What the Democrats would lose is a vote in Congress, nothing more. . . .

An established political idea is like a vampire. Facts, opinions, votes, garlic: Nothing can make it die.

But there is one thing that can kill an established political idea. It will die if the public that embraced it abandons it.

Six months ago, that didn’t seem likely. Now it does.

The public’s dislike of ObamaCare isn’t growing with every new poll for reasons of philosophical attachment to notions of liberty and choice. Fear of ObamaCare is growing because a cascade of news suggests that ObamaCare is an impending catastrophe.

Big labor unions and smaller franchise restaurant owners want out. UPS dropped coverage for employed spouses. Corporations such as Walgreens and IBM IBM +0.40% are transferring employees or retirees into private insurance exchanges. Because of ObamaCare, the Cleveland Clinic has announced early retirements for staff and possible layoffs. The federal government this week made public its estimate of premium costs for the federal health-care exchanges. It is a morass, revealing the law’s underappreciated operational complexity.

But ObamaCare’s Achilles’ heel is technology. The software glitches are going to drive people insane.

The public never embraced ObamaCare. It was always unpopular.

UPDATE: A reader emails:

I was at an event at the White House recently and found myself seated next to a prominent surgeon. We chatted through the meal and then I had to ask: “What do you think about Obamacare?” He looked around briefly and leaned in close. “I really shouldn’t say this here,” he said. “But I think they’ve already destroyed health care in this country.” And then he listed a host of ways he believes the law will make medical practice less efficient, less effective, and, something he says is too easily overlooked, less confidential. He was particularly upset that physicians will be required to record–and pass along to health officials–intimate details about patients’ sexual preferences and habits.

How’s that hopey-changey stuff workin’ out for ya?

OBAMACARE UPDATE: Will young adults face ‘rate shock’ because of the health-care law?

Meanwhile, my former colleague Colleen Medill, an ERISA expert, writes:

I don’t know if you will see this in your volume of email, but you might.

I am deeply into studying the impact of Obamacare on employers, and I have been communicating with highly sophisticated ERISA lawyers who are advising employers, from Fortune 50 companies to small firms under 50 employees, on whether to keep or drop or modify their employer group health plans.

It has become very clear to everyone involved who is analytical and not ideological that the rational strategy, for both large and small firms, is to cease providing health care insurance to employees.

No company wants to admit that they are considering eliminating health insurance as an option, or be the first one to drop their health insurance plan, but once a competitor does so, the preference cascade will begin. The clear sentiment is “We will not be the first one to drop our health insurance plan, but we would be a close second.”

The coming preference cascade for employer group health plans is what the Democrats fear the most, because Obamacare was sold to the masses as “if you like your health insurance plan, you can keep it.”

The people who really know the law, and who have been following the avalanche of regulations, have already figured this out. It will take a while for this specialized knowledge to seep downward, because right now only $800+ an hour ERISA attorneys and the most sophisticated HR people understand how Obamacare really works.



UPDATE: A reader sends:

The most interesting item in the linked article is not the poll results showing Romney taking the lead. It’s the disclosure deeper in the article that 92% (!) of Obama voters think Obama is going to win. Obviously these folks get their news from the mainstream media, aren’t paying attention to recent poll results, and/or are just bad at math. But more importantly, if the current “preference cascade” continues and Romney wins, as appears more likely every day, a significant minority of that clueless 92% is likely to engage in Occupy-style riots and endless false accusations of voter fraud and “election stealing.” And the irresponsible media (e.g., Dan Rather, MSNBC) will have only itself to blame.

No, they’ll blame Republicans and racism.

PREFERENCE CASCADE? Actor Rob Schneider says ‘I’ve come around, not voting for crappy Obama again.’

ONLY IF PEOPLE SHOW UP TO VOTE: Preference Cascade? Romney Draws Massive Crowd In Colorado.

DEMOCRAT JEWISH ASSEMBLYMAN STUMPS FOR ROMNEY:  Yep, you read that right:  A Brooklyn Assemblyman– and Democrat–has traveled to Florida to stump for . . . Romney.  He explains his reasoning:

Israel is under the gun. Israel is the target of Iran. Israel’s existence is being threatened. And Obama doesn’t have time to meet with the Israeli PM? It’s insulting. It’s degrading. This president scares me. I’m a Democrat, but not a knee-jerk Democrat. I’m only loyal to America and the survival of Israel.

Could there be a Jewish preference cascade forming for Romney?  The pack mentality is loosening among many “groups” thought to “belong” to the Democrats.

GOOD, WE NEED EVERYONE: Log Cabin endorses Mitt Romney. Oh, yeah and — preference cascade, baby!

MY USA TODAY COLUMN ON PREFERENCE CASCADES: Will cocooned liberals be surprised by Romney? (Bumped).

MY USA TODAY COLUMN: Will cocooned liberals be surprised by Romney? My thoughts on the “preference cascade.”

PREFERENCE CASCADE: Has the decisive shift toward Mitt Romney already happened? Well, we’ll know in a couple of weeks.

JIM GERAGHTY: Scary Campfire Stories of the ‘Preference Cascade’ That Haunts Campaigns.

By the way, I’ve seen some bloggers crediting me for the “Preference Cascade” notion, but I just wrote a couple of columns about it. It comes from Timur Kuran’s Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification, a book I highly recommend.

UPDATE: While I’m plugging, let me also put in a word for James Scott’s Seeing Like A State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. Obama would be doing a lot better if he’d read this book. Well, I recommended it to him. But although he reportedly reads blogs, I’m afraid he doesn’t read the ones that could help him. . .

DID YOU SAY ‘PREFERENCE CASCADE?’  The cockiness; do not affect it.

BILL QUICK: Watching A Preference Cascade Unfold In Real Time.

PAULINE KAEL, CALL YOUR OFFICE: “This image seemed like a proper response to the first Presidential debate,” Barry Blitt, who illustrated the above New Yorker cover says, in the Huffington Post. “But I’m not sure I realized how hard it is to caricature furniture.”

(Via Ricochet.)

RELATED: “The Shield Cracks” — or to put it another way, the Preference Cascade continues to breach containment.

JOHN HINDERAKER ASKS: Why Is This Election Even Close? “On paper, given Obama’s record, this election should be a cakewalk for the Republicans. Why isn’t it? I am afraid the answer may be that the country is closer to the point of no return than most of us believed. With over 100 million Americans receiving federal welfare benefits, millions more going on Social Security disability, and many millions on top of that living on entitlement programs–not to mention enormous numbers of public employees–we may have gotten to the point where the government economy is more important, in the short term, than the real economy.”

UPDATE: Prof. Bainbridge wonders if we’re living in Jerry Pournelle’s future.

MORE: Reader Eric Schubert writes:

Why isn’t Romney running away with the election?

The majority of voters, as of early September, are not ready to address the underlying problems of the economy.

For a more detailed discussion of the election and the real changes that the economy is facing, see the venerable Walter Russell Mead.

Here’s an excerpt from Mead:

As regular readers know, our view is that the US stands at an uncomfortable transition point between eras. We are between social models. The blue model of twentieth century mass production, mass consumption society based on stable corporate oligopoly, bloc voting and government regulation in a relatively closed national economy has foundered and it cannot, so far as we can see here, be restored. But we have at best only a very dim and incomplete sense of what could replace it.

This means that we are at a moment of maximum discomfort nationally, and we want our politicians and leaders to fix things — but that neither party really knows what to do. On the whole, the Democrats stand for restoring the blue model and Republicans oppose that and so far, so good. The choices between the parties seem to be growing more clear as the problems resulting from the decay of the blue model take a larger toll.

Yet neither party can offer the smooth path to a stable and affluent future that voters want. The Democrats know what they want but can’t deliver it because it is undeliverable. The Republicans know what they don’t want but are not able to describe the future they would like to see — much less show how they can manage the transition fairly and kindly because they don’t really know what the goal looks like.

Our problem is that the time isn’t ripe: the real work of our society right now isn’t about political competition. It is about re-imagining, reinventing and restructuring core institutions and professions. . . .

The legacy media are going to have a tough job shifting from noisy political pseudo-drama (much of which has more in common with professional wrestling than real politics) to the kind of substance based reporting that people actually need. Covering the revolutions in higher ed, medicine, state and municipal governance (including things like the pension crisis) is much more important than having talking heads gas about potential Veep picks or speculate about debate strategies and poll trends. But it’s hard for legacy organizations with their heavy fixed costs, pension overhangs and creaking business models to pull away from campaign infotainment and invest in real news.

Among the American institutions in need of reinvention is the serious press; the intellectual framework of the legacy media is as broken as its business model.

Read the whole thing.

UPDATE: A reader offers a more cynical take: “I think that there is a pragmatic need to maintain the appearance of closeness, or a lot of the travel/TV schedules would be rendered moot. The market correction, or ‘preference cascade’ will be a late-October affair.” Let’s hope.

MORE: Reader William Stroock writes: “I am getting sick of conservative pundits like the guys at Powerline getting pessimistic about the election. Obama got a bump, big deal. So did John McCain, Bob Dole, and Bush the Elder.”

ROGER SIMON: Dateline Tampa: It’s Clint! (Is Hollywood Really Conservative??) Watch for the preference cascade. “Hollywood conservatives used to complain that, yeah, Eastwood was one of us but he never really does anything about it. This should end that. Bang. It’s the Hollywood liberals who now should be shivering in their bourgeois fuddy-duddy boots. They’re not the cool guys anymore.”

People are talking about Romney being upstaged by Ryan, and I’m sure they’ll talk about Romney being upstaged by Eastwood. But here’s the thing: Worries about being “upstaged” are for actors. Presidents shouldn’t mind sharing the spotlight, as long as the job gets done.


Racism is stalking the Republican Convention in Tampa. But it’s not from the Republicans. It’s from the mainstream media.

First it was MSNBC treating convention speakers Artur Davis, Mia Love, and Ted Cruz like nonpersons. And now it’s Yahoo! Washington Bureau Chief David Chalian getting caught on an ABC webcast saying Mitt Romney would be “happy to have a party when black people drown.”

Chalian, not surprisingly, was fired almost immediately when the word got out, but the climate in which he would make such an insane statement is very much alive and well. Why would anyone dream of saying such a thing in a semi-public situation if he didn’t feel safe and among friends?

The left/liberal need to think Republicans and conservatives racists is more than just projection. At this point, it is nothing short of a mental illness. It is so far divorced from reality, it has to be pathological. No longer are these people able to observe reality with anything close to impartiality. We are not in the world of politics, ladies and gentlemen. We are in the world Freud, Jung, Adler, and people bouncing off walls.

Indeed. Plus this: “The executives at Yahoo, and ABC, where Chalian once worked, are obviously in damage control mode. But they would be better advised to examine the culture (their culture) that allowed this to happen.”

People are joking on Twitter that NBC stands for “No Black Conservatives.”

UPDATE: Prof. Stephen Clark writes:


The sheer pathology that Roger Simon highlights may well be one of the biggest stories of this election season. It’s becoming hard to ignore it and becoming more apparent to a larger number of people. At the same time, intended victims are less likely to be cowed.

Democrats and the left have lazily relied on the power of ad hominem coupled with race for the better part of 40 years now. The power of that was bound to diminish with passing time and generations. We’re seeing it now and also seeing that Democrats, and the left generally, have done nothing to prepare for that day. They are desperate, because they have nothing else to offer as rebuttal in policy disputes. Nothing.

This is the price to paid for 40 years of intellectual stasis on the left.

I believe they are preparing the way for a preference cascade.

BOB OWENS: The Cluck Heard ‘Round The World.

Clearly, this is more than a “buycott” over gay marriage. If the smattered of people I’ve talked to are representative, homosexuality is a side issue.

This strikes a much deeper, more foundational chord.

The massive crowd reaction locally and nationwide are driven by a loathing of arrogant politicians like those in Boston, New York, Chicago and San Francisco who feel they have the power and the authority to tell a businessman like Dan Cathy what personal opinions he can and cannot hold if he wants to do business in “their” towns.

They trampled on his religious beliefs. They trampled on his freedom of speech. They attempted to deny him and his franchisees the rights to start small businesses, merely because a free American dared to share what he believed.

Maybe it is a preference cascade. If so, you can thank Rahm.

TODAY’S UNBIASED JOURNALISM. Meanwhile, some firsthand reporting by nonjournalists here. And I should note that when I passed the Chick-Fil-A near my house, the line wound out onto Kingston Pike and took up a hundred yards or so of street, after 8 p.m.

I don’t think this can be interpreted as opposition to gay marriage, so much as a response to bullying. But I do think that the bullying has probably tainted the gay-marriage brand, which is too bad. The gay-marriage argument is already winning — there’s no need to engage in Rahm Emanuel-style attacks, and doing so merely invites pushback. And, frankly, I’m happy to live in a country where people’s response to bullying is to push back.

UPDATE: Speaking of bullying: Chick-fil-A in Martinsburg re-opens after bomb threat.

Also: Why Are Liberals So Intolerant?

ANOTHER UPDATE: This Yahoo! News story quotes some trad-marriage supporters, but also captures the anti-bullying angle well:

For those like John Mohler, 50, of Thornton, Colo., eating at Chick-fil-A on Wednesday was about defending free speech. Mohler said he doesn’t share Cathy’s belief–only his rights to air them.

“I’m not sure I agree with his position on gay marriage,” said Mohler, who drove to Englewood from downtown Denver on his lunch break. “But I applaud the owner for speaking his mind, and that’s why I’m here.”

In Chicago, throngs of supporters flocked to the lone Chick-fil-A, where the line of customers snaked through the entrance and around the corner. . . .

Further up the line, Jessica Cather, 29, Dana Haskins, 42, and Sarah Touhy, 43, all stressed that though they support same-sex marriage, they also support the right to believe what anyone wants to believe.

“We support tolerance on both sides,” Haskins said.

“Just because they don’t support gay marriage, it doesn’t make them a bad company,” Touhy said.

Another patron solicited donations to buy lunch for Alderman Joe Moreno, who made headlines last month for opposing a Chick-fil-A in his ward.

Linda Smith, 54, didn’t have time for the line. Instead, she gave someone else in line her money to spend to show her support. Smith said, “It doesn’t matter what the president of the company’s views are, as long as they don’t discriminate in hiring,” Smith said.

I’m actually afraid that the mainstream media will push the marriage angle, and that so will the conservative media, and miss out on the anti-bullying angle, which I see as the most significant. But perhaps they’ll show more balance than I fear.

MORE: Prof. Stephen Clark writes: “I have noticed in some commentary on the Chick-Fil-A protest that some people seemed surprised by the number of people who apparently shared their desire to make a statement. Isn’t this how preference cascades begin?”

STILL MORE: Ann Althouse comments:

1. I don’t believe the stories of customers saying homophobic things.

2. I’m totally against govt officials getting involved in favoring or disfavoring businesses based on the politics of the owners or the management.

3. Anyone can decide which businesses they want to patronize, and it’s fine to pick businesses that stand for what you like and avoid the ones that don’t.

4. It’s fine to try to get other people to choose what businesses to support/avoid based on political reasons.

5. Don’t assume that efforts to promote/penalize businesses will have the effect you want. You may be stimulating other people to do the opposite.

6. Chick-fil-A has gotten a lot of attention, and it will probably end up with more business. It doesn’t need everyone to be a customer, and now it has a niche, and there are plenty of people who are going to want to keep rewarding them for their values or patronize them because they hate the persecution.

Good points. And, agreeing with Ann Althouse, Jon Ham (Mary Katharine’s dad) comments on Facebook:

Sorry, but I’d bet this guy is lying. He’s Mark Krzos, a reporter for the News Herald in Ft. Myers, Fla. Among a half million people in DC on 9/12/10 I never saw one person act in the manner he describes, and at the Chick-fil-A I went to tonight, it was like a party. Sorry, not buying it, Mark.

Yeah, it seems more like a lefty fantasy than reality. Video or it didn’t happen.

HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: At UCLA, a defeat for “studies” departments at the hands of “academically conservative liberal” faculty. Good thing it was a secret ballot.

Plus, from the comments: “Groseclose is suggesting that this is the start of a ‘preference cascade’ heralding the rapid decline and fall of the ‘Studies’ empire. Commenters are more cynically viewing it as simple self-interested turf protection. The two views are not entirely inconsistent. Self-interest, in a time of limited resources, will force people to finally acknowledge what everyone knows.”

Is it just me, or are we hearing more about “preference cascades” lately?

ED DRISCOLL: ‘Obama Gets Left Behind:’ The Preference Cascade Begins to Build.

JOHN HAYWARD: Romney, Obama, and the 2012 preference cascade: You are not alone.

PREFERENCE CASCADE? USA Today/Gallup poll shows voters more optimistic about economy under Romney than Obama. “That suggests that the months-long effort to paint Romney as a private-equity vampire who banished his dog to roof-riding torment isn’t exactly succeeding. The more people get to know Romney, the more they seem to like him.”

CHANGE: “Voters now trust likely Republican nominee Mitt Romney more than President Obama on all five issues regularly surveyed by Rasmussen Reports, especially when it comes to money.”

UPDATE: From the comments: “The audacity of competence.” And, further down, “The preference cascade has started, my pretties.”

THE ATLANTIC: Did Bloggers Kill The Healthcare Mandate?

Blogs — particularly a blog of big legal ideas called Volokh Conspiracy — have been central to shifting the conversation about the mandate challenges. At Volokh, Barnett and other libertarian academics have been debating and refining their arguments against the mandate since before the ACA was signed. At the beginning, law professor Jonathan Adler fleshed out the approach that came to typify the elite conservative response for the first months of the public debate: the Founders never intended for the Constitution to permit such broad federal power, but given New Deal-era precedent, the mandate, if it became law, would pass muster. Things changed on Volokh around the time that it became clear that an insurance mandate would be part of whichever health care reform package passed into law.

The blog that saved America? Hey, someone should write a book about this kind of thing.

Also, Ilya Somin weighs in. “Where we did have some influence is in debunking the myth that the constitutionality of the mandate was a no-brainer backed by an overwhelming consensus of expert opinion. But we could not have done that were we not 1) recognized academic experts on these issues ourselves, and 2) able to point to other well-known experts who also believed the mandate to be unconstitutional, many of them not VC-ers. The latter include such prominent constitutional law scholars as Richard Epstein, Steve Calabresi, Steve Presser, and Gary Lawson.”

UPDATE: Reader Michael Formica writes:

Is it really the case, as the Atlantic claims, that Volokh actually changed perceptions? Or is it simply a case of clueless myopic liberals (but I repeat myself) blathering on in their journolista echo chamber parroting whatever Ezra Klein/Andrew Sullivan and the Obama PR machine (but I repeat myself) told them to say in their fetish to support whatever it is Obama and the liberal left desire.

I mean seriously, the Atlantic cites some crackpot liberals blog post about the inevitability of Rule 11 sanctions for seeking to challenge federal legislation as an example of intelligent critical thinking on the lunacy of challenging Obamacare?? That ranks right up there with Pelosi’s thinking.

It opened up a preference cascade, overcoming the bullying tactics of ObamaCare supporters.

ED DRISCOLL: ‘Tears for the Tyrant’: North Korea Fights Hard to Prevent a Preference Cascade.

DANA MILBANK: “A familiar air of indecision preceded President Obama’s pep talk to the nation.”

Plus this: “It’s not exactly fair to blame Obama for the rout: Almost certainly, the markets ignored him. And that’s the problem: The most powerful man in the world seems strangely powerless, and irresolute, as larger forces bring down the country and his presidency. . . . That is the enduring mystery of Obama’s presidency. He delivered his statement on the economy beneath a portrait of Abraham Lincoln, but that was as close as he came to forceful leadership.” It’s as if, in some sort of national spasm of carelessness and self-deceit, we elected a guy entirely unqualified by experience or personal characteristics to the single most important office in the land, to serve during a period of unusual troubles that he was not equipped to address.

Nice to see that even the press is starting to notice.

UPDATE: Obama In The Headlights.


Plus: Obama’s penchant for speeches now sounding hollower by the word. I’m definitely sensing a shift in the tone here. . . .

Hey, they once loved Jimmy Carter, too. Until they didn’t. But, as is worth repeating, at this point a Carter rerun is a best-case scenario.

MORE: Reader Robert Burnham emails that an MSM preference cascade may be underway:

I think this week and last will be seen as when Obama lost the MSM. His inexperience and political incompetence have become too obvious to ignore, even for them. He’s become a liability to the Party. They won’t turn on him viciously because they invested so heavily in him before. But we’ll see a chilling of tone in regard to him, and simultaneously a warmer response toward Democrats who appear more electable.

Another matter is that Democrats looking farther down the road may actually not want to jump into 2012, figuring that a primary fight against a sitting president will be fratricidal to the Party — and perhaps also that a political reversal next year has become highly probable anyway.

Yeah. Unless there’s a grudge involved.

I RATHER DOUBT IT: Is the problem with Congress not enough pork?

The article doesn’t really deliver on its promise regarding the collapse of political trust. But to be trusted, you have to be trustworthy. When people don’t trust you any more, they may take a while to act on it, but eventually there’s a preference cascade. Where are we on that timeline now? I’m not sure.



Who will be washed away by the preference cascade?

Pathological altruism?

How the Journalism Sausage gets made.

The sad fate of Amazon Tote.

Caitlin Flanagan trips over a shark.

At the Northwestern Law Review, an online symposium on the Tea Party and popular constitutionalism.

A simple weight-loss plan that worked.

China’s Train Wreck.

They told me if I voted for John McCain, the FCC would be cracking down on broadcast indecency — and they were right!

Burn a Koran, rake in the cash?

Val Kilmer’s best role ever.

When academic politics turn lethal.

Good question: Where is your Syrian Humanitarian Flotilla Erdogan?

JON HENKE EMAILS: “I was thinking about the ongoing revolutions in the Middle East and surrounding areas and I recalled something you wrote in 2002 that really captured what is happening in that region today. Concerning ‘preference cascades’, you wrote…”

This illustrates, in a mild way, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse so suddenly. (Click here for a more complex analysis of this and related issues). Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don’t realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it – but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.

This works until something breaks the spell, and the discontented realize that their feelings are widely shared, at which point the collapse of the regime may seem very sudden to outside observers – or even to the citizens themselves. Claims after the fact that many people who seemed like loyal apparatchiks really loathed the regime are often self-serving, of course. But they’re also often true: Even if one loathes the regime, few people have the force of will to stage one-man revolutions, and when preferences are sufficiently falsified, each dissident may feel that he or she is the only one, or at least part of a minority too small to make any difference.

One interesting question is whether a lot of the hardline Arab states are like this. Places like Iraq, Syria, or Saudi Arabia spend a lot of time telling their citizens that everyone feels a particular way, and punishing those who dare to differ, which has the effect of encouraging people to falsify their preferences. But who knows? Given the right trigger, those brittle authoritarian regimes might collapse overnight, with most of the population swearing – with all apparent sincerity – that it had never supported them, or their anti-Western policies, at all.

Perhaps we should think about how to make it so.

He continues: “It is becoming so. Preferences are cascading against the current regimes. Let us hope their preferences continue to cascade towards democratization and freedom, rather than simply into the arms of new dictators.” Indeed. I had pretty much forgotten that column, but it does fit today’s events pretty well.

Er, read the whole thing, as they say. . . . And if you want to know more about this phenomenon, I highly recommend Timur Kuran’s Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification, which inspired that column.

CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR: Juan Williams, Victim Of Change.

Related: NPR CEO: That Black Man is Crazy! “NPR CEO: Williams’ Views Should Stay Between Himself And ‘His Psychiatrist’.”

Plus: Lefty Blogger: Juan Williams Was Fox News’ “Lawn Jockey.”

UPDATE: Juan Williams speaks: “I was fired for telling the truth.”

MORE: I See White People: Juan Williams Firing Leaves Sudden Lack Of Diversity On Air at NPR. Racists.

Plus, a reader emails: “I worked at a wall street firm. If someone had called and asked why I fired a person, and I responded ‘that’s between his psychiatrist and him’, can you imagine the liability?”

And reader Allen S. Thorpe writes: “Has anybody in the media made this big a gaffe since Dan Rather defended those fake TANG documents?”

It does seem like a serious misstep.

STILL MORE: Juan Williams And The Preference Cascade. “Juan Williams came too close to understanding ideas he was supposed to hate. The Left is deathly afraid of what happens when its constituents begin to understand the Right. They didn’t like the idea of millions watching an NPR contributor break the biohazard seal on strictly quarantined ideas.”

VIDEO: Professor booed at Arizona graduation for criticizing immigration law.

I think we’re seeing another preference cascade.

PREFERENCE CASCADES AND FOREIGN POLICY: I have some thoughts in my TechCentralStation column.

INTERESTING INTERVIEW ON LEBANON AND SYRIA with Syrian opposition figure Farid Ghadry.

UPDATE: Three years ago, I wrote on preference cascades, and concluded:

This illustrates, in a mild way, the reason why totalitarian regimes collapse so suddenly. . . . Such regimes have little legitimacy, but they spend a lot of effort making sure that citizens don’t realize the extent to which their fellow-citizens dislike the regime. If the secret police and the censors are doing their job, 99% of the populace can hate the regime and be ready to revolt against it – but no revolt will occur because no one realizes that everyone else feels the same way.

This works until something breaks the spell, and the discontented realize that their feelings are widely shared, at which point the collapse of the regime may seem very sudden to outside observers – or even to the citizens themselves. Claims after the fact that many people who seemed like loyal apparatchiks really loathed the regime are often self-serving, of course. But they’re also often true: Even if one loathes the regime, few people have the force of will to stage one-man revolutions, and when preferences are sufficiently falsified, each dissident may feel that he or she is the only one, or at least part of a minority too small to make any difference.

One interesting question is whether a lot of the hardline Arab states are like this. Places like Iraq, Syria, or Saudi Arabia spend a lot of time telling their citizens that everyone feels a particular way, and punishing those who dare to differ, which has the effect of encouraging people to falsify their preferences. But who knows? Given the right trigger, those brittle authoritarian regimes might collapse overnight, with most of the population swearing – with all apparent sincerity – that it had never supported them, or their anti-Western policies, at all.

Is this what’s happening? I certainly hope so.