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New Book by Segura Measures the True Cost of War

A new book co-authored by UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura measures the full cost of war by examining the consequences of foreign combat on domestic politics. In “Costly Calculations: A Theory of War, Casualties, and Politics,” published by Cambridge University Press, the authors employ a variety of empirical methods to examine multiple wars from the last 100 years. The human toll – the military dead and injured – is generally the most salient measure of war costs and the primary instrument through which war affects the social, economic and political fabric of a nation, according to Segura and co-author Scott Sigmund Gartner, provost of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. Their work provides a framework for understanding war initiation, war policy and war termination in democratic polities, as well as the forces that shape public opinion. “War-making is not just strategic but also represents a political action of some consequence filtered through a societal lens,” the authors write. “Leaders embark upon a course of conflict with an eye on the level of public support, work hard to win that support if it’s missing, actively attempt to manage public beliefs about the conflict and its costs and benefits, and may suffer the political consequences when the people viewing a conflict through the eyes of their communities believe that they miscalculated.” 


 

Peterson on Lawmakers and Voters Breaking Away From the GOP

Public Policy Professor Mark Peterson spoke to the American Independent about the decision of some Republicans to leave their party after the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol by supporters of former President Donald Trump. While many GOP officials stand by Trump, an unusually high number of current and former lawmakers, as well as voters, are quitting the party, deepening its ideological divide. Peterson said that while the exodus is a break from the norm, the long-term impact is unclear. Continued attention on Trump’s performance in office might reduce his hold on voters, he said. The article also noted that party dynamics may change if GOP lawmakers struggle to get out the vote without Trump on the ticket.

Ong on Prospects of Closing Rifts Among Immigrant Communities

Research Professor Paul Ong spoke to NBC News about President Biden’s immigration policies and rhetoric, which are being closely watched by much of the nation’s foreign-born population. Some immigrants who are grappling with scarcity and insecurity in the United States were particularly susceptible to Trump administration characterizations of “good immigrants” and “bad immigrants,” the article noted. It added that limited access to unbiased information in a native language contributes to the level of vulnerability to such rhetoric. Ong offered the example of Vietnamese Americans, who have been closely allied with the Republican Party. Many come from refugee families shaped by unique experiences with the Vietnam War and strong opposition to communism. This background makes the group more likely to buy into an American nationalistic narrative, Ong said.

Diaz on the Value of Leaders Who Reflect the Nation’s Diversity

Sonja Diaz, executive director of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin, co-wrote a CalMatters commentary on the importance of voters seeing themselves reflected in their government representatives. Diaz and co-author Michele Siqueiros, a higher education advocate, praised Gov. Gavin Newsom for two groundbreaking appointments: Secretary of State Alex Padilla as California’s first Latino U.S. senator and Assemblywoman Shirley Weber as its first Black secretary of state. “Today’s winning coalition of voters will continue to shape American politics,” the authors wrote. “Newsom’s dual appointments met their unapologetic expectations that our elected officials better reflect the country’s racial and ethnic diversity.” Diaz also spoke to the Sacramento Bee after Padilla’s selection, noting that he is likely to focus on immigrant protections and environmental issues. And she spoke to Elite Daily about the importance of engaging young Latino voters, whose political power will expand in the coming years.

Akee on Historic Nomination for U.S. Interior Secretary

Associate Professor of Public Policy Randall Akee co-authored an article for the Brookings Institution on the nomination of the first Native American to hold a U.S. Cabinet position. If confirmed, New Mexico Congresswoman Deb Haaland would lead the Department of the Interior, which has oversight of federal lands and waterways as well as the plants, animals and natural resources located there and also manages the U.S. government’s relationship with Native American nations. “Rep. Haaland’s nomination marks a turning point in valuing the experiences, knowledge and leadership of Native American nations, which would have been unimaginable in previous presidential administrations,” wrote Akee and Robert Maxim, a Brookings research associate. They cautioned that “the day-to-day challenges many Native Americans face will be impossible to overcome through just a single nomination” but welcomed the opportunity to “move the Interior Department from a position of active harm toward Native American nations to one of mutual respect, partnership and understanding.”

Envisioning a New Voting Rights Act for the 21st Century At UCLA conference, experts map out new federal protections after an election season marred by suppression and intimidation

By Mary Braswell

Voting rights experts from around the country gathered at a UCLA conference to brainstorm ways to protect Americans’ access to the ballot box, even as votes cast in the 2020 election continued to be challenged in court.

Elected officials on the front lines of the civil rights fight joined legal scholars, policy analysts, attorneys and advocates at the Dec. 8–9 virtual seminar. The event was hosted by the Voting Rights Project, a division of the Latino Policy and Politics Initiative at UCLA Luskin.

The seminar’s organizers intend to turn the attendees’ shared wisdom into a report to Congress that could help shape comprehensive national legislation to safeguard the right to vote.

Among the topics that guided the conversation: voter suppression and intimidation during this year’s election cycle and the Supreme Court’s 2013 rollback of core provisions of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“This is what we get when we have elections without the full protection of the federal Voting Rights Act that stood and served well for more than 50 years,” California Secretary of State Alex Padilla said. “It has unleashed the floodgates for a lot of the voter suppression measures that we’ve seen in the last seven years and we saw in full display in the 2020 election.”

Texas Rep. Marc Veasey, who co-founded the Congressional Voting Rights Caucus, said the country is witnessing “egregious stories that you would think we wouldn’t be seeing in modern-day America.”

In his state, he said, officials have attempted to require people registering to vote to first produce a birth certificate or passport. Another proposal, seen as an invitation to voter intimidation, would have permitted cellphone recordings of citizens casting their ballots as a way to document “fraud.”

“We’re revisiting a very dark time in U.S. history where people just absolutely have no regrets at all about rolling back the rights of people to be able to vote, particularly people of color,” he said.

For example, Padilla noted, during the Georgia primaries, the wait time to vote in Black neighborhoods averaged 51 minutes, compared with six minutes in white neighborhoods.

While some state and local jurisdictions are pushing for rules that chip away at the freedom to vote, others are lighting the way for federal reforms, the speakers stressed.

Padilla and Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie Gorbea spoke of changes in their states that have made it easier for citizens to register and vote — changes that were accelerated because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What made this cycle different is that the pandemic focused us to reexamine how people vote,” Gorbea said. “And in many of our states we adapted our democracy to provide easier and safer access to the ballot box, which meant that people could vote while still taking care of their health.”

The seminar included workshops that zeroed in on specific facets of the voting rights movement, including fair redistricting, equal access for low-income and minority communities, planning for the next public health crisis, and overcoming procedural hurdles that have blocked past efforts to bring change.

Panelists and participants in the audience weighed in on the strengths and omissions of legislation already in the pipeline, including HR1, the For the People Act, and HR4, the Voting Rights Advancement Act.

Panelists represented several organizations with long histories of championing voting rights, including the ACLU, Campaign Legal Center, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

The discussion took place amid persistent efforts by President Donald Trump and some of his supporters to discredit the results of the 2020 presidential election. Padilla said those efforts have been fueled by “baseless conspiracy theories that have been spewed that seek to question the legitimacy of votes cast by Black voters and Latino voters, among others.”

The seminar capped a hectic electoral season for the Voting Rights Project, whose members conducted research, wrote policy reports and appeared in court to battle efforts to disenfranchise voters.

Tye Rush, a UCLA political science doctoral student, said a reinvigorated Voting Rights Act for the 21st century would eliminate the need for piecemeal litigation of civil rights violations.

“We’re looking to get something in front of Congress that can be signed and that will protect against the onslaught of voting rights–related rollbacks that we’re seeing in this era,” said Rush, a research fellow at the Voting Rights Project.

Peterson on Becerra’s Impact on California’s Progressive Agenda

Public Policy Professor Mark Peterson spoke with Kaiser Health News about prospects that California’s health care agenda will grow more progressive once the state’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, is elevated to the nation’s top health care post. In his three decades of political experience, Becerra has been a strong advocate of health-care reforms including a state-level single-payer system, environmental justice and protecting immigrants’ access to safety-net care. Many California Democrats believe his selection as the next U.S. secretary of health and human services will give them a strong federal ally who will help make the state a laboratory for progressive ideas. Should Becerra back a progressive health agenda in California, similar proposals could follow in other states, Peterson said. “California has pushed the envelope on health care beyond where other states are,” he said. “And that gives more capacity for California sensibilities and ideas to get into the mix in Washington.”


 

Yaroslavsky on the Question That Will Decide the Election

KCAL9 News called on Zev Yaroslavsky, director of the Los Angeles Initiative at UCLA Luskin, to provide analysis of the final presidential debate of the 2020 election. Donald Trump and Joe Biden both delivered their messages effectively, he said, but noted that the debate came after 48 million Americans had already cast their ballots. Yaroslavsky weighed in on the role that personal character will play as voters choose their candidate and on the possibility that Russian agents will sow chaos on Election Day. On COVID-19, “Trump has no defense for his inaction,” Yaroslavsky said. “This issue is one that every man and woman in this country understands viscerally, in their gut, because they all know somebody who’s gotten the virus and many of us know people who’ve died of the virus.” He concluded, “Do you want four more years of what we’ve had for the last four, or do you want something different? That’s going to decide this election.”


 

Conservatives Make Their Case Against Donald Trump GOP insiders who broke ranks to battle the president share strategies and predictions with a UCLA Luskin audience

By Mary Braswell

With Election Day just over a week away, two Republican insiders who broke from their party to take up the fight against Donald Trump will soon learn the fate of a president they view as “an autocrat who is unfaithful to the American republic’s ideas and ideals.”

Those biting words came from longtime GOP strategist Steve Schmidt, who shared his assessment of Trump’s presidency and the state of the Republican Party in a rousing conversation launching the 2020-21 UCLA Luskin Lecture Series.

“We should be honest with each other about this season of insanity and chaos because we have to figure out how to fix it,” said Schmidt, co-founder of the Lincoln Project, launched by disenchanted Republicans in late 2019 to defeat Trump and his allies.

Joining Schmidt at the Oct. 21 event was leading conservative voice Sarah Longwell, who said she was compelled to swim against the Republican mainstream by “this once-in-a-lifetime threat to democracy.”

“It was going to be a lot harder to keep my mouth shut,” Longwell said of her decision to break ranks  early in Trump’s presidency. “I have found it to be much more shocking that other people haven’t spoken up.”

Schmidt and Longwell are proponents of a moderate-conservative agenda that they say has been hijacked by the current administration. Their dialogue, hosted by the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs and USC Schwarzenegger Institute for State and Global Policy, drew hundreds of viewers from as far away as Spain, Singapore and New Zealand.

‘More and more Republicans every day are coming through that breach line and saying, “You know what? We’re just not doing this for four more years.”’ — Steve Schmidt, co-founder of the Lincoln Project

UCLA Luskin Dean Gary Segura guided the virtual conversation, pressing the guests — who each spent several years shaping Republican campaigns and communications — about the role they have personally played in creating today’s GOP.

“I’ve never taken an oath to the Republican Party,” Schmidt replied. “I always fought for the side of the Republican Party that believed that the freedoms of the country, the ideas and ideals of America, were for everybody.”

Longwell, former national board chair of the Log Cabin Republicans, said she joined the conservative movement for its “big ideas and sensible policies,” then watched as it was contorted to fit into a populist, nationalist frame.

“When you say Trumpism, I’m not sure that people have a great sense of what that means other than the roiling morass of the last three years,” she said.

Schmidt is a communications and public affairs strategist who has worked on political campaigns for former Republican officeholders such as President George W. Bush, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Arizona Sen. John McCain. He and Longwell place themselves on the center-right of the political spectrum, but each has a distinct interpretation of what lies ahead for the GOP — including predictions for future presidential candidates.

Schmidt forecast a Republican “bloodbath” on Nov. 3 and was unabashedly pessimistic about the party’s future.

“The Republican Party will not reform in defeat. It will get crazier,” he said. “It will become more extreme, more insular, and that’s the death spiral of the national party.”

In Schmidt’s view, the front-runners for topping the GOP ticket in 2024 are two Trump loyalists: Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton and Fox News host Tucker Carlson.

Longwell, in contrast, envisions a candidate who attempts to fuse the Trump and establishment wings — a candidate such as Nikki Haley, former U.N. ambassador and governor of South Carolina.

This would create a dilemma for conservatives, she said: Do you support a compromise Republican candidate such as Haley, who has one foot in the Trump camp? “Or do you help Democrats try to annihilate that thing altogether until it’s root-and-branch done with, and an entirely new generation of politicians rise up to take the mantle?”

Not until the Trump era has completely run its course does Longwell see a true revival of the Republican brand.

“It is possible that Donald Trump is like the Iraq War,” she said. “It was very popular for a period of time, and now you can’t find a single person who ever supported it. … It is possible that he goes down in flames and nobody wants to touch him again.”

Schmidt said the nation’s political future hinges on which faction of the Democratic Party takes hold.

“If the choice is between a socialist party and a nationalist party … the nationalist party will beat the socialist party for at least the next three elections in this country and maybe longer than that,” he said.

For the current election cycle, Longwell co-founded Defending Democracy Together, a nonprofit aimed at turning red votes blue to put Democrat Joe Biden over the top as president. Key to Longwell’s campaign is the dissemination of personal testimonials from ordinary citizens who plan to switch sides for the first time.

“So many of these people tell really deeply moving stories. They talk about being really religious or deeply pro-life and why they voted Republican all their lives … and why they had to vote against Donald Trump in 2020,” she said.

Longwell held out faith that under strong, decent leadership, Americans can bridge their divide.

“There are actually a bunch of places where there’s broad consensus among the American public … places where there are pragmatic solutions that politicians for a long time have had every incentive to keep us from achieving because they’d rather have the issue than the solution, to keep jamming us further and further apart.”

Schmidt said he helped launch the Lincoln Project political action committee after watching with alarm last fall as Democratic primary contenders battled each other instead of focusing on Trump.

“It was our point of view that no one had fought Donald Trump effectively for many, many years. No one had drawn blood on him,” he said.

The Lincoln Project boasts a sophisticated data operation that targets swing counties and precincts across the country. But it’s better known for its ads skewering Trump’s record.

Now, said Schmidt, “More and more Republicans every day are coming through that breach line and saying, ‘You know what? We’re just not doing this for four more years.’ ”

Once the 2020 election cycle is complete, the Lincoln Project plans to set its sights on GOP lawmakers who closed ranks under the Trump presidency, particularly as COVID-19 savaged the nation.

“The fight will continue past this, because the consequences of what happened to the country is something we’re going to be digging out of for the next 10 years,” Schmidt said. “And the people responsible for it are not just named Trump.”

The Luskin Lecture Series enhances public discourse on topics relevant to the betterment of society. The 2020-21 series at the Luskin School will continue on Nov. 10 when Neera Tanden, a UCLA alumna and the current president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, joins Segura online for a post-election analysis.  Register here.

View a video of the Oct. 21 UCLA Luskin Lecture “Voices of Dissent.” 

Newton on Capturing the Life of Jerry Brown

Jim Newton, editor of UCLA’s Blueprint magazine and a lecturer at the Luskin School, appeared on several media outlets to discuss “Man of Tomorrow,” his new biography of former Gov. Jerry Brown. In an interview with Capital Public Radio, Newton explained the title of the book. Brown, he said, is “a person who lives in the future and thinks about the future and sometimes has actually suffered from that, in the sense that he’s sort of been ahead of his electorate on some things.” He said the former governor exhibits “a combination of warning and concern and skepticism but also clear-sightedness and foresight and optimism” that keeps him relevant in the public arena. Newton appeared with Brown at a session of the UCLA Luskin Summit, as well as a webinar hosted by the Sacramento Press Club. A Los Angeles Times review of his book called it a “formidable contribution to the history of both the state and the country.”


 

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