What’s in a name?: Gregory Clark examines how ancestry and names still determine social outcomes

 

By Hannah Lucas, Princeton University Press intern

son also risesEarlier this year, an Icelandic 15-year-old formally known on official documents as ‘Girl’ won the right to have her first name recognised by the authorities as Blaer. It was previously illegal for the name Blaer to be given to girls; it was restricted to use as a boy’s name. This case emphasises the ongoing regulations on first names in a number of countries, such as Germany, Sweden, China and Japan- in Germany, for instance, surnames are banned as first names. These constraints purportedly serve to protect children from distress, should their parents choose an inappropriate name. Yet how much does a name affect us as we go through life? We are assigned a first name, but our surname follows as a legacy of our family’s history. Indeed, names and the ancestral background that they evoke have ascribed social status for many years, whether this is restricting or elevating. The everyday significance of surnames and ancestry may have diminished from the historical rigid traditions of lineage, but it has not gone away, as Gregory Clark explores in The Son Also Rises. Clark uses modern Scandinavia as one of his areas of study, parallel to a diverse selection of cases, including fourteenth-century England and Qing Dynasty China.

The Son Also Rises deals with the potentialities of choice and predetermination in relation to ancestry and social mobility. As exemplified in the case of ‘Girl’, or Blaer as she is now known, modern-day Iceland – among many – impedes the choice of parents in the naming of their child, acting as a predetermining factor not dissimilar to that of a family history. Clark offers a fascinating insight into the significance of being out of control of the naming process, and how much these circumstances affect movement on the social ladder. He explores the influence of ancestors’ names and reputations on their descendants, and how long it takes to dislodge these connections, ultimately examining society’s response to whether ‘A rose / By any other name would smell as sweet’.

The Son Also Rises: Surnames and the History of Social Mobility by Gregory Clark was published last month.

 

Show Me the Money: PUP Authors on the Role of Wealth in Politics

How much can your buck get you in politics today? A forthcoming paper by PUP author Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page puts a finer point on the idea that money can enhance your influence on political policy. In fact, the authors give us an actual number for gauging that influence. Fifteen times — that is how much more important the collective preferences of “economic elites” are than those of other citizens, Gilens and Page found. Yes, you read that correctly.

Gilens and Page’s paper, which will run in Perspectives on Politics, explains how they came to this conclusion, studying “1,779 instances between 1981 and 2002 in which a national survey of the general public asked a favor/oppose question about a proposed policy change.” They write:

Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.

In a recent article on the Washington Post‘s Monkey Cage blog, PUP author and co-director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institution, Larry Bartels, examines Gilens and Page’s findings and other research that contributes to what we know about the effects of money on political influence. Check out the article for Bartels’ take on this issue.

In this midterm election year, following the McCutcheon v. FEC ruling, money is on everyone’s minds. Looking to brush up on the theories and research behind these issues? You can read more from Bartels and Gilens — we invite you to read the sample chapters and other supplementary materials from their award-winning Princeton University Press books. We have also included a peek at political scientists Kay Lehman Schlozman, Sidney Verba and Henry E. Brady’s systematic examination of political voice in America.

 

 bookjacketRead Chapter One here. Using a vast swath of data spanning the past six decades, Unequal Democracy debunks many myths about politics in contemporary America, using the widening gap between the rich and the poor to shed disturbing light on the workings of American democracy. Larry Bartels shows the gap between the rich and poor has increased greatly under Republican administrations and decreased slightly under Democrats, leaving America grossly unequal. This is not simply the result of economic forces, but the product of broad-reaching policy choices in a political system dominated by partisan ideologies and the interests of the wealthy. In this interview, Bartels answers tough questions about the effect of money in America.

 

bookjacket “We are the 99%” has quickly become the slogan of our political era as growing numbers of Americans express concern about the disappearing middle class and the ever-widening gap between the super-rich and everyone else. Has America really entered a New Gilded Age? What are the political consequences of the growing income gap? Can democracy survive such vast economic inequality? These questions dominate our political moment–and Larry Bartels provides answers backed by sobering data.Princeton Shorts are brief selections taken from influential Princeton University Press books and produced exclusively in ebook format. Providing unmatched insight into important contemporary issues or timeless passages from classic works of the past, Princeton Shorts enable you to be an instant expert in a world where information is everywhere but quality is at a premium.

 

 bookjacketPreview the introduction here. Can a country be a democracy if its government only responds to the preferences of the rich? Affluence and Influence definitively explores how political inequality in the United States has evolved over the last several decades and how this growing disparity has been shaped by interest groups, parties, and elections.With sharp analysis and an impressive range of data, Martin Gilens looks at thousands of proposed policy changes, and the degree of support for each among poor, middle-class, and affluent Americans. His findings are staggering: when preferences of low- or middle-income Americans diverge from those of the affluent, there is virtually no relationship between policy outcomes and the desires of less advantaged groups. In contrast, affluent Americans’ preferences exhibit a substantial relationship with policy outcomes whether their preferences are shared by lower-income groups or not. Yet Gilens also shows that under specific circumstances the preferences of the middle class and, to a lesser extent, the poor, do seem to matter. In particular, impending elections–especially presidential elections–and an even partisan division in Congress mitigate representational inequality and boost responsiveness to the preferences of the broader public.

 

bookjacketRead Chapter One here. Politically active individuals and organizations make huge investments of time, energy, and money to influence everything from election outcomes to congressional subcommittee hearings to local school politics, while other groups and individual citizens seem woefully underrepresented in our political system.Drawing on numerous in-depth surveys of members of the public as well as the largest database of interest organizations ever created–representing more than thirty-five thousand organizations over a twenty-five-year period — The Unheavenly Chorus conclusively demonstrates that American democracy is marred by deeply ingrained and persistent class-based political inequality. The well educated and affluent are active in many ways to make their voices heard, while the less advantaged are not. This book reveals how the political voices of organized interests are even less representative than those of individuals, how political advantage is handed down across generations, how recruitment to political activity perpetuates and exaggerates existing biases, how political voice on the Internet replicates these inequalities–and more.

 

New documentary Ivory Tower explores the challenges of higher education in the 21st century

Watch this:

Then read this:

Delbanco_College

Andrew Delbanco recently attended Sundance Film Festival where he participated in a screening of Ivory Tower, a new documentary on the spiraling costs of higher education and the impact this has on students and their families. The director of the documentary is Andrew Rossi, who rose to prominence thanks to his earlier work Page One: Inside the New York Times. Delbanco is featured quite a bit in the movie which hopefully will have a greater distribution soon. In the meantime, to bone up on the challenges universities and colleges face, please check out College: What It Was, Is, and Should Be.

Toward a public health approach — a new proposal for our response to Alzheimer’s Disease from medical anthropologist Margaret Lock

This video from the Alzheimer’s Association gives a sense of the magnitude of the Alzheimer’s Disease epidemic. We will soon publish The Alzheimer Conundrum by Margaret Lock that argues that the quest for a “silver bullet” cure or vaccine, while admirable is unlikely to be successful. To supplement these efforts, she makes the case for diverting some funds and time to developing a comprehensive public health approach that will improve the quality of life for Alzheimer’s patients and their caretakers and also lower costs that are estimated to be $203 billion dollars in 2013 and will balloon to $1.1 trillion by 2050.

Sample chapter 1 of The Alzheimer Conundrum and leave us your thoughts in the comments below.

<iframe width=”560″ height=”315″ src=”//www.youtube.com/embed/BXnZt5VMjZY” frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>

Join John Sides and Lynn Vavreck for a free online discussion and Q&A on The Gamble [Change in Date!]

Event logoJoin Shindig.com and political scientists John Sides (GWU, The Monkey Cage blog) and Lynn Vavreck (UCLA) for a free online talk about The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election followed by an audience Q&A session.

Date: Friday, October 7, 2013 [Change in date!! this was originally scheduled for September 27, but is postponed to October 7]

Time: 3:00 PM EST

Place: Your computer — all that’s needed is a fast internet connection and access to an internet browser

Sides and Vavreck will reveal their Moneyball approach to campaign analysis and discuss the writing process for The Gamble, a book praised by Nate Silver as “the definitive account of what really happened and what really mattered in the campaign.” Sides and Vavreck specialize in bringing hard data to bear and casting doubt on a lot of commentary and conventional wisdom. As a result they inject a dose of much-needed reality into a discourse too often dominated by speculation and folklore.

You can learn more about Sides, Vavreck, and The Gamble at the book’s dedicated web site: http://thegamble2012.com.

Check out the event page at Shindig: http://shindig.com/event/the-gamble. Let us know if you’ll be there by RSVP’ing below, though this is not really necessary — you can just show up if you want.


Gabriella Coleman, Author of Coding Freedom on the NSA Leaks

Yesterday Rahul Sagar, author of the forthcoming Secrets and Leaks: The Dilemma of State Secrecy, offered his thoughts on Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the benefit and dangers of whistleblowing. Today, Gabriella Coleman, author of Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking joins us to respond to Professor Sagar’s view, offer her take on the impassioned debate surrounding Snowden’s actions, and the media’s allegations of narcissism. (Also, catch Professor Coleman today on Huffington Post Live discussing whether the FBI has ‘dismantled’ the hacker collective Anonymous.)

Gabriella Coleman:

Out of all the charges lobbed against Edward Snowden I find the lay diagnosis of  his “narcissism” to be the most puzzling and spurious. How exactly is risking your life—by which I mean life in jail—an instance of a narcissistic temperament? Even though he went public, partly for self-protection, he has kept his interactions with the media to a bare minimum, clearly not seeking more undue attention. Given the lack of evidence of this pathology, labeling him as such strikes as a character assassination meant to detract from the more pressing issues his actions have raised.

If we contextualize what he did, not in terms of personality but in light of the contemporary historical moment, what we see without a shadow of a doubt is that Edward Snowden is not alone. He is part of a growing cohort of individuals who have for years diagnosed the explosive rise of state secrecy and surveillance as enough of a problem that they are willing to take on personal risk to impel debate and change. What is most notable is that this cohort is composed of insiders (William Binney, Thomas Drake, Edward Snowden, Bradley Manning) and outsiders (Julian Assange, Barrett Brown, and James Bamford). The fact that there is a chorus is significant.

The public should perhaps be more skeptical if it were only one person or only the Julian Assanges’ of the world—long time activists who have always sat outside the state apparatus —who were crying foul. That we have investigative journalists, military personnel, employees from security agencies, and activists join the fray signals the extent of the problem; there are different unconnected individuals from distinct walks of life coming forward identifying similar problems.

This brings us to the shores of the second issue: the sanctity of the law. What I think is clear by now is that the revealed programs violate aspects of the law in both the spirit and the letter. Lawyers have recently put it in no uncertain terms: “The two programs violate both the letter and the spirit of federal law. No statute explicitly authorizes mass surveillance.” In an ideal world we would simply use legal mechanisms to eliminate bad laws or fight grave injustices. Critics should walk down this path before law-breaking. This is exactly what happened in this case. Since the inception of the Patriot Act, which was passed under a time of great national duress and fear, we have seen various attempts by civil liberties organizations to curtail efforts at the vast enterprise that is unwarranted, warantless wiretapping using the law. One lawsuit first brought forward by the EFF and ACLU in 2006 against AT&T was not only drawn out, it was ultimately stonewalled by a dubious law that granted telecoms who cooperated with the government with retroactive immunity. The law has been tampered with to such an extent to have rendered using it in this case useless.

Along with legal efforts,  individuals have also used available channels at their disposal to effect change but to no avail. We have to look no further than Thomas Drake, a long time NSA employee who  grew uneasy with the violations he witnessed first hand. His first actions were reform based. He went to his superiors with his concerns and was told to stop. He went to the press with unclassified information for which he payed dearly being the subject of a DOJ investigation, eventually dropped but not before his career had been ruined.

The only actions to have engendered substantive debate and faint wisps of change have been Snowden’s leaks. Why? Foremost is that there is no fabled majority who support surveillance.
When news about Prism first broke and polls were taken, only 56% were in favor of state surveillance and the polls failed to mention Americans were targeted. Even then, how it is a number which represents a mere half of a country can be cast as a majority? It can’t. This issue is
unsettled. Further, as more damning allegations have come out, numbers have shifted, and more Americans are in opposition to current programs, especially when the question reflects the fact that American’s digital lives are being captured and stored.

Snowden’s reasons for revealing information cannot be simply reduced to “secrets should not be kept.” His statements about why he did what he did, and the documents that he leaked have shown a much more complicated rationale that cannot be omitted from our analysis. What Snowden did was open the spigot so valuable information could flow to a thirsty public who holds the right to know. Only then, can the public move to a realistic assessment about what course of action to take with a government agency, which currently holds limitless powers for surveillance and who actively withheld information and lied to Congress about its actions.

The type of impassioned debate generated by Snowden and the fervent coalition building and advocacy which has cropped up to press for change in the wake of these revelations and not blind respect for dubious laws, represents the living pulse of democracy. We are indebted to Snowden to have opened the gates. It is now up to us to finish the job.

Mulgan at the RSA: “I was struck that our debate had lost the capacity to ask how capitalism might evolve into something different”

In case you missed it, Geoff Mulgan, author of the recently published The Locust and the Bee, gave a truly excellent talk at the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufacturers and Commerce (RSA) back in March and it has just been made available online!

You can also listen to a podcast of the full event including audience Q&A here.

Pew Charitable Trusts releases first EPI, Elections Performance Index, based on Prof. Heather Gerken’s book The Democracy Index

The flaws in the American election system are deep and widespread, extending beyond isolated voting issues in a few locations and flaring up in states rich and poor, according to a major new study from the Pew Charitable Trusts.

The group ranked all 50 states based on more than 15 criteria, including wait times, lost votes and problems with absentee and provisional ballots, and the order often confounds the conventional wisdom.

A main goal of the exercise, which grew out of Professor’s Gerken’s 2009 book, “The Democracy Index,” was to shame poor performers into doing better, she said.

“Peer pressure produces horrible things like Britney Spears and Justin Bieber and tongue rings,” Professor Gerken said. “But it also produces professional peer pressure.”

via U.S. Voting Flaws Are Widespread, Study Shows – NYTimes.com.

 

Back in 2009, we published The Democracy Index by Heather Gerken. The book proposed a ranking system for U.S. elections that would look at everything from the average time a voter has to wait in line, to whether the polling place is adequately staffed, to how accurately votes are counted. The idea was to identify states with practices that “work” and motivate states appearing toward the bottom of the list to improve their practices. The ranking system would be publicly available, similar to U.S. News & World Report’s annual college rankings, and empower rank and file voters to identify problems and demand their officials look into election practices.

Thanks to Pew, we now have an interactive site where we can explore just how well different states fared during the 2008 and 2010 elections and we can definitively say that while Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Minnesota have a lot to celebrate, Mississippi, Alabama, and the District of Columbia should probably re-evaluate their current voting systems.

This graphic shows the state by state turnout:

Capture

(Source: http://www.pewstates.org/research/data-visualizations/measuring-state-elections-performance-85899446194)

Only 49% of eligible voters in Hawaii cast their ballot compared 78.1% in Minnesota.

 

This graphic shows the average times voters waited in line:

2008 vote

(Source: http://www.pewstates.org/research/data-visualizations/measuring-state-elections-performance-85899446194)

Vermont voters waited an average of 2.5 minutes, while South Carolina voters clocked in an average of 61.5 minutes. Hope they brought a book to read while waiting on line. Speaking of which, for more background on the EPI, read The Democracy Index.

The Democracy Index
Why Our Election System Is Failing and How to Fix It
Heather K. Gerken

Reviews

Table of Contents

Sample the Introduction [HTML] or [PDF]

Airport Paranoia and the De-humanizing Agendum it Stems From

A great number of things have changed in American airlines since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Newer, “safer” procedures have been introduced, and seemingly outdated processes have been cast aside. What’s questionable, however, is if these new procedures really hold much of a benefit or any advantage at all. With the creation of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act on November 19, 2001, airlines no longer contracted with private companies for airport screening. The federal government has taken over airline precautions in the form of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). The TSA has implemented a number of policies to make the airports and airlines safer places to go. A more watchful eye now oversees our airline’s customers.

Long gone are the days when passengers could enter the cockpit at free will. Flight decks now include bulletproof doors made with heavy duty materials, such as ballistic aluminum armor unified with composite armor laminates to prevent unauthorized access by terrorists or anyone wishing to do harm. While procedures like these seem to bear little negative repercussions in regard to travel safety, there are certainly some security actions on the social side of the spectrum that could be categorized as socially questionable.  Tallying off the list of possible missteps in airline security policy prompts many experts in sociology, law, and philosophy to dissect the newer airline security model. Perhaps there should be some consideration given to the fact that certain regulations have “pushed the envelope” a little too far.

Take for example the case of Nick George, as reported by PBS NewsHour. George was passing through security in a Philadelphia airport on his way back to college in California. While going through the security checkpoint, George had been carrying some 200 flashcards written in Arabic. Around ten of the flashcards had ‘alarming’ vocabulary written on them, such as “bomb” or “terrorist.”

George was using these flash cards for his Arabic language course and had merely been trying to study more about the Arabic media. George’s offered explanation did not prevent him from being meticulously questioned by the FBI and TSA for hours on end. The vocabulary words were not in fact used for sadistic doctrine, as the airport security officials’ actions might have suggested. This raises the question as to whether or not George’s First and Fourth amendment rights were violated. A suit had been filed on behalf of The American Civil Liberties Union and has since been dropped by the federal defendants and is now “proceeding to discovery,” which means further investigation is underway.

So, are basic human rights being violated by some of the more radical regulations instituted by today’s airlines? Harvey Molotch, author of Against Security believes there is a case to be made. Molotch addresses some of the most controversial policies that have sparked heated debates across human rights and political forums across the nation. When it comes to de-humanizing individuals, Molotch believes the movement to ban public restrooms is at the paramount of humiliation and degradation aimed toward the human species. To deprive people of such a basic human function is frightening to anyone who values their freedoms and constitutional rights.

Read more about airport security and what we can do to make travel in our country safer without sacrificing our dignities and the right to live life peacefully:


bookjacket


Against Security:
How We Go Wrong at Airports, Subways, and Other Sites of Ambiguous Danger
Harvey Molotch

Corey Brettschneider Says Make Scouts’ bias bite

In When the State Speaks, What Should it Say?, Corey Brettschneider argues that groups that enjoy First Amendment rights to discriminate in their membership should still receive a critical response from government. On his view, the government has an obligation to express its own core message that all citizens — regardless of race, sexual orientation, or gender — are entitled to full participation in society. Among the specific proposals in the book, Brettschneider contends that government should express the principle that all people are free and equal by refusing to grant publicly funded tax exemptions to discriminatory groups, including the Boy Scouts of America.  In an oped in today’s Providence Journal he makes this case:




Make Scouts’ bias bite
COREY BRETTSCHNEIDER


   The Boy Scouts of America recently decided to continue its ban on gay Scouts, and the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in Boy Scouts of America v. Dale (2000) that the BSA has a free-association right to exclude gays.

Does that mean that the American public and its government must accept, even condone, discrimination and stand idly by? Certainly not. The right of free association is not the only element in play here.

One possible response to the BSA’s ban on gay Scouting respects the BSA’s First Amendment rights while strongly discouraging the BSA’s policy of discrimination. It is a response the Nixon administration used effectively. Namely, the Internal Revenue Service could revoke the BSA’s nonprofit status. The BSA could continue its discrimination, but the federal government would no longer subsidize the organization: Charitable contributions to the BSA would no longer be tax-deductible.

This way forward has constitutional roots in a case decided 30 years ago. At the time, Bob Jones University admitted African-American students but banned interracial dating and any advocacy of interracial marriage. Legislation bluntly prohibiting these policies might have led to a decision — similar to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dale — holding that Bob Jones University’s First Amendment rights had been violated.

Instead of pursuing a ban through legislation, the Nixon-era Internal Revenue Service applied federal law so that discriminatory groups would no longer receive the public subsidies associated with nonprofit status. In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court upheld the IRS reading of the law and ruled that making nondiscrimination a condition for tax-exempt nonprofit status was compatible with Bob Jones’s constitutional rights.

It does not follow that the right to free association entitled discriminatory groups to enjoy public support in the form of tax-exemption. As then Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote in Bob Jones University v. United States, “Charitable exemptions are justified on the basis that the exempt entity confers a public benefit.” One condition for providing a public benefit should be respect for the equal rights of all citizens, gay and straight alike.

In defending its free-association right, the BSA has delivered a message that gays cannot live the “morally clean, straight” lives that are central to its purpose of preparing the future leaders of America. The alleged connection between the BSA’s message and its purpose is flawed. The message excludes some children from leadership training under the BSA.

But even if we grant that the BSA’s freedom to discriminate in its membership is protected under the First Amendment, there is still a critical role for the government to play. The government has an obligation to express its own core message that all citizens — people of all sexual orientations — are entitled to full participation in society. If the BSA seeks government protection under the First Amendment for its anti-gay membership policy, it should also be prepared for criticism of its discriminatory message.

The government should promote the principle that all citizens are free and equal by refusing to grant publicly funded tax exemptions to discriminatory groups, including the BSA. As I argue in my recent book, “When the State Speaks, What Should It Say? How Democracies Can Protect Expression and Promote Equality,” it is essential that the government not subsidize discriminatory groups, even if these same groups have rights against coercive sanctions.

States can also pass legislation to cut off subsidies for discriminatory groups. New Jersey, for instance, which originally sought to ban discrimination in private organizations such as the BSA, should now set stricter standards for nonprofit status and state tax deductibility.

Residents of all states should demand that tax exemptions and tax deductions for charitable gifts should not be available to support groups that discriminate and refuse to offer a public benefit to all citizens.

Corey Brettschneider is a professor of political science at Brown University.

 

Watch Daniel A. Bell discuss The Spirit of Cities in D.C.

The Comparative Urban Studies Project at the Woodrow Wilson Center in D.C. recently hosted author Daniel A. Bell for a great discussion around his recent book, The Spirit of Cities: Why the Identity of a City Matters in a Global Age, co-authored with Avner de-Shalit.

Bell was joined by John J. DeGioia, President of Georgetown University. This event was also co-sponsored by the Program on America and the Global Economy and the Kissinger Institute on China and the United States. You can download the full audio podcast and PowerPoint presentation on the event page on the Woodrow Wilson Center site.

Do you have any questions for Daniel A. Bell or Avner de-Shalit about cities? Let us know in the comments section!

Still Waiting for the Liberal Realignment

Where has liberalism gone wrong?  Douglas Massey says it veered off course with a broad emphasis on symbolic politics—rather than what is needed: concrete reasons why it is in American’s economic as well as moral interest to support the liberal cause. According to Massey, what liberals have long suffered from is the lack of a consistent ideology. So back in 2005 when he published Return of the “L” Word,  his call for a liberal realignment,  he set forth a clear set of liberal principles to explain how markets work in society, and applied them to liberal policies. Recently I caught up with him to find out to what extent he thinks the Obama administration has offered the public the consistent liberal vision that was needed. Read on…


 

Still Waiting for the Liberal Realignment

Douglas S. Massey

 

When I published Return of the L-Word in 2005, I argued that the time was ripe for a liberal realignment and that what was lacking was a clear explanation to voters of the key role played by government in producing a healthier, more equitable, and less divided society.  I was impressed by what Obama accomplished in the 2008 campaign and thought someone in his campaign must have been channeling my book, or may even have read it!

The electoral campaign he put together in 2008 constructed exactly the coalition that Democrats need to build for the future, creating high turnouts among blacks, Latinos, Asians, young voters, and progressive whites.  The three minority groups by themselves together comprise a third of the population, liberals make up another 20%, and persons aged 18-29 another 17%.

Despite some overlap between these various components, it is clear that a working majority of the electorate is easily achievable by firing the passions of minorities, liberal whites, and young people while drawing in as many independents as practical.  More importantly, given current demographic trends, size of the ruling majority will only become ever larger over time.  By 2050, minorities by themselves are projected to comprise 54% of the U.S. population.  Older, conservative white people are a withering demographic.

Obama demonstrated the feasability of this political strategy by putting together a coalition that captured 53% of the popular vote, 28 states, and 68% of the electoral college.  The obvious strategy upon assuming office was for him to play to the base that elected him by fulfilling campaign promises to reform wall street, enact immigration reform, spend to create jobs, end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and generally move forward on a progressive agenda of fairness and redistribution.

Instead, to my growing amazement as President Obama did the opposite.  Once in office he bent over backwards to appease older, conservative white voters—a segment of the population that would never support him under any circumstances—by cutting taxes, limiting the size of the stimulus, accelerating deportations, increasing border enforcement, inviting Goldman Sachs into his administration, escalating the war in Afghanistan, and continuing to support a highly racialized criminal justice system.  Even on his signature achievement—health care reform—he caved into health insurance monopolists and big pharma before legislative negotiations had even begun.

It is all well and good to reach across the aisle and make a big show of bipartisanship.  It was a nice gesture right after the inauguration; but once his hand was slapped away and the Republicans had proclaimed their policy of opposition at all costs, he should have doubled down on principle and fought tenaciously for the causes he believed in.  The winning strategy was to send up proposal after proposal and have the Republicans shoot them down and then run on the moral vision behind the defeated proposals and against Republican obstructionism.

Alas, that was not the path President Obama chose, with predictable and inevitable political consequences.  Of course, older white voters were not placated, Republicans never found it within themselves to compromise, the economic recovery proved anemic, and Obama now faces reelection with a demoralized and unenthusiastic base.  The young voters and eager activists that flooded into his campaign and fueled his victory in 2008 are nowhere to be seen, Latinos are furious over his failure to pursue immigration reform, liberals are disgusted with the condition-free bailout of Wall Street, and Americans everywhere are still waiting for any financier to be brought to justice for causing the collapse of 2008.  At this point, even African Americans are beginning to ask what they got and how they benefitted from electing the nation’s first black president.

Obama’s only saving grace at this point is the disarray and delusion in the Republican ranks; but he cannot count on Republicans’ tenuous grasp on reality or their internecine squabbling to guarantee victory in November.  If President Obama is going to win, he needs to articulate and vigorously defend a principled program that will, first and foremost, appeal to his political base.  Despite his impressive victory in 2008, he will find it difficult to win if Hispanics sit on their hands, young people stay at home, African Americans barely drag themselves to the polls, and liberal whites vote without spirit election day.  Although Obama faces a weak and divided Republican opposition, he still has his work cut out for him.  Although he campaigned as a visionary in 2008, he has governed as a technocrat.  He has lost the enthusiastic backing of his base and failed to connect emotionally with the American public.  In order to win he needs to articulate his values clearly and forcefully and defend them with passion and conviction to voters.

Douglas S. Massey is Henry G. Bryant Professor of Sociology and Public Affairs at Princeton University.