Connect with us

News

David Brooks: Why Democrats are so bad at defending democracy

Published

on

David Brooks: Why Democrats are so bad at defending democracy

When it comes to elections, the Republican Party operates within a carapace of lies. So we rely on the Democrats to preserve our system of government.

The problem is that Democrats live within their own insular echo chamber. Within that bubble, convenient falsehoods spread, go unchallenged and make it harder to focus on the real crisis. So let’s clear away some of these myths that are distorting Democratic behavior:

The whole electoral system is in crisis.

Elections have three phases: registering and casting votes, counting votes and certifying results. When it comes to the first two phases, the American system has its flaws but is not in crisis. As Yuval Levin noted in The New York Times a few days ago, it’s become much easier in most places to register and vote than it was years ago. We just had a 2020 election with remarkably high turnout. The votes were counted with essentially zero fraud.

The emergency is in the third phase — Republican efforts to overturn votes that have been counted. But Democratic voting bills — the For the People Act and its update, the Freedom to Vote Act — were not overhauled to address the threats that have been blindingly obvious since Jan. 6 last year. They are sprawling measures covering everything from mail-in ballots to campaign finance. They basically include every idea that’s been on activist agendas for years.

These bills are hard to explain and hard to pass. By catering to D.C. interest groups, Democrats have spent a year distracting themselves from the emergency right in front of us.

Voter suppression efforts are a major threat to democracy.

Given the racial history of this country, efforts to limit voting, as some states have been implementing, are heinous. I get why Democrats want to repel them. But this, too, is not the major crisis facing us. That’s because tighter voting laws often don’t actually restrict voting all that much. Academics have studied this extensively. A recent well-researched study suggested that voter ID laws do not reduce turnout. States tighten or loosen their voting laws, often seemingly without a big effect on turnout. The general rule is that people who want to vote end up voting.

Just as many efforts to limit the electorate don’t have much of an effect, the Democratic bills to make it easier to vote might not have much impact on turnout or on which party wins. As my Times colleague Nate Cohn wrote last April, “Expanding voting options to make it more convenient hasn’t seemed to have a huge effect on turnout or electoral outcomes. That’s the finding of decades of political science research on advance, early and absentee voting.”

Higher turnout helps Democrats.

This popular assumption is also false. Political scientists Daron R. Shaw and John R. Petrocik, authors of “The Turnout Myth,” looked at 70 years of election data and found “no evidence that turnout is correlated with partisan vote choice.”

The best way to address the crisis is top down.

Democrats have focused their energies in Washington, trying to pass these big bills. The bills would override state laws and dictate a lot of election procedures from the national level.

Given how local Republicans are behaving, I understand why Democrats want to centralize things. But it’s a little weird to be arguing that in order to save democracy we have to take power away from local elected officials. Plus, if you tell local people they’re not fit to govern themselves, you’re going to further inflame the populist backlash.

But the real problem is that Democrats are not focusing on crucial state and local arenas. The Times’ Charles Homans had a fascinating report from Pennsylvania, where Donald Trump backers were running for local office, including judge of elections, while Democrats struggled to even find candidates. “I’m not sure what the Democratic Party was worried about, but it didn’t feel like they were worried about school board and judge of elections races — all of these little positions,” a failed Democratic candidate said.

Democrats do not seem to be fighting hard in key local races. They do not seem to be rallying the masses so that state legislators pay a price if they support democracy-weakening legislation.

Maybe some of the energy that has been spent over the past year analyzing and berating Joe Manchin could have been better spent grooming and supporting good state and local candidates. Maybe the best way to repulse a populist uprising is not by firing up all your allies in the Northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C.

The crisis of democracy is right in front of us. We have a massive populist mob that thinks the country is now controlled by a coastal progressive oligarchy that looks down on them. We’re caught in cycles of polarization that threaten to turn America into Northern Ireland during the Troubles. We have Republican hacks taking power away from the brave state officials who stood up to Trumpian bullying after the 2020 election.

Democrats have spent too much time on measures that they mistakenly think would give them an advantage. The right response would be: Do the unsexy work at the local level, where things are in flux. Pass the parts of the Freedom to Vote Act that are germane, like the protections for elections officials against partisan removal, and measures to limit purging voter rolls. Reform the Electoral Count Act to prevent Congress from derailing election certifications.

When your house is on fire, drop what you were doing and put it out. Maybe, finally, Democrats will do that.

google news

News

Long COVID study: Boston researchers recruiting long haulers who are having trouble concentrating, experiencing strong fatigue

Published

on

Long COVID study: Boston researchers recruiting long haulers who are having trouble concentrating, experiencing strong fatigue

As tens of millions of Americans continue to battle long-term coronavirus symptoms, Boston researchers are hoping to crack the mystery of Long COVID and what’s sparking the debilitating condition for so many people.

Hub scientists are recruiting adults who had acute COVID-19 more than two months ago and are still experiencing symptoms, such as trouble concentrating and abnormally strong fatigue.

The brain scan study will be done in-person in Charlestown, so the long hauler study participants must be in the Boston area.

“We’re looking to try to understand what’s happening,” neuroscience researcher Michael VanElzakker, with the Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital, told the Herald on Thursday.

Since VanElzakker put out the call for long haulers on social media, people have been “really appreciative,” he said.

“Those who are dealing with this condition are really worried, and they’re hoping they get studied,” he added.

Nearly 20 million Americans are suffering from Long COVID, which is scientifically termed Post-Acute Sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection (PASC).

That 20 million American estimate is from the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation. Of those 20 million people, about 387,000 long haulers live in Massachusetts.

VanElzakker had been studying chronic fatigue syndrome before the pandemic. Many people with that disease initially have some type of viral infection.

“Studying that, I knew what was coming when COVID hit,” VanElzakker said. “There would be a subset of people who wouldn’t get better.”

google news
Continue Reading

News

Boston College’s $100M Pine Manor Institute for Student Success to offer free courses

Published

on

Boston College’s $100M Pine Manor Institute for Student Success to offer free courses

Boston College will introduce a free summer enrichment program in June for middle and high schoolers, and an associate’s-degree-granting two-year residential college in 2024, both to broaden opportunities for underrepresented, first-generation students, the university said Thursday.

Both initiatives are part of the university’s $100 million Pine Manor Institute for Student Success, established in 2020 when Boston College and Pine Manor College signed an integration agreement that included a $50 million commitment from Boston College, which has grown to $100 million through investment returns and an anonymous pledge of $25 million.

Through the Pine Minor Institute for Students Success, the residential summer enrichment program for middle and high school students, called the Academy, will be hosted on the BC campus.

“Boston College realizes there are students who need a college degree or an opportunity to do better in middle or high school,” said University President William P. Leahy. “The goal is to match need with opportunity … so that their world’s been widened, their horizon’s been broadened.”

Beginning with a group of 40 middle school students, the Academy will offer summer courses in English, math and science for students nominated by principals, teachers, counselors or religious and community leaders.

During the school year, the students will receive academic support from trained BC success coaches and mentoring from BC undergraduate and graduate students to help the Academy students navigate the journey from middle school to college.

As they advance through high school, students also will receive training in public speaking, time management, SAT/ACT prep, and the college application process. In the summer before their senior year, they will take a college-credit course to help enhance their college readiness.

The two-year college division of Boston College will be called Messina College, named after the first Jesuit school founded in Sicily in 1548. It will offer an associate’s degree program for 100 students annually, beginning in the 2024-25 school year, with the goal of preparing students for continued studies in a bachelor’s degree program or for a professional career.

Messina College will be located on the former Pine Manor College campus in Brookline, and its students will have full access to Boston College’s campus programs and facilities. Successful students will be eligible to apply to transfer to Boston College to complete a bachelor’s degree.

The final component of the Pine Manor Institute will be an ongoing outreach initiative that will provide support for graduates of the Academy and Messina College throughout the completion of their academic studies and into their professional careers.

Together, these offerings aim to expand upon Boston College’s success in educating under-resourced, first-generation students, while continuing Pine Manor College’s legacy of outreach to underserved communities.

 

 

 

 

 

google news
Continue Reading

News

Netflix stock plunges as subscriber growth worries deepen

Published

on

Netflix stock plunges as subscriber growth worries deepen

Netflix delivered its latest quarter of disappointing subscriber growth during the final three months of last year, a trend that management foresees continuing into the new year as tougher competition is undercutting the video streaming leader.

The Los Gatos, Calif., company added 8.3 million worldwide subscribers during the October-December period, about 200,000 fewer than management had forecast. Besides releasing its fourth-quarter results Thursday, Netflix also projected an increase of 2.5 million subscribers during the first three months of this year, well below analysts’ expectations for a gain of 4 million, according to FactSet Research.

The disappointing news caused Netflix’s stock price to plunge by about 20% in extended trading after the numbers came out, deepening a steep decline during the past two months.

It capped a challenging year for Netflix after it reveled in eye-popping gains during the pandemic lockdowns of 2020 that drove homebound people to its service.

Netflix picked up 18.2 million worldwide subscribers during 2021, its slowest pace of annual growth in five years. It came after Netflix gained more than 36 million subscribers during 2020. The service now boasts nearly 222 million worldwide subscribers worldwide, more than any other video streaming leader.

But other services backed by deep-pocketed rivals such as Walt Disney Co. and Apple have been making inroads in recent years, and a bevy of other networks also are wading into video streaming in an attempt to grab eyeballs and a piece of household budgets. The escalating competition is one reason Netflix decided to expand into video games last year.

“The 2022 backdrop for Netflix seems to have been set with a theme of competition abound,” said Third Bridge analyst Joe McCormack.

While acknowledging the competition is having a “marginal” effects on its growth in its quarterly shareholder letter, Netflix emphasized its service is still thriving in every country where it’s available.

In a Thursday conference call, Netflix executives also said uncertainty caused by the ebb and flow of the pandemic during the past year has made it more difficult to gauge future growth.

COVID “has created a lot of bumpiness,” co-CEO Ted Sarandos said. The company’s other co-CEO, Reed Hastings, also expressed some frustration before adding, “For now, we’re just like staying calm and trying to figure (it) out.”

google news
Continue Reading

Trending