Latino Policy and Politics Initiative Director Sonja Diaz spoke to ABC7 about the role Latino voters are expected to play in the upcoming recall election faced by Gov. Gavin Newsom. Voter turnout has been historically lower for special elections, but Latino voters have turned out in large numbers in recent elections. “Our research showed that more Latinos in California cast a ballot in the 2020 presidential election than ever before,” Diaz said. She explained that both Asian Americans and Latinos are youthful demographic groups with increasing numbers of eligible voters. “This recall is really about a referendum of how we reopen — how our elected leaders including at the top, the governor, is able to ensure that people are having access to things to keep them not only safe, but making sure the world’s fifth-largest economy can continue to thrive,” Diaz said. She added that grassroots and civic engagement this year will carry into future races.
Professor of Public Policy and Social Welfare Martin Gilens was featured in a New York Times column examining a recent paper published by Yale political scientists Micah English and Joshua Kalla. The scholars contend that, “despite increasing awareness of racial inequities, linking public policies to race is detrimental for support of those policies.” The English-Kalla paper has prompted widespread discussion among Democratic strategists and analysts. “Their findings suggest that, even in this time of heightened public concern with racial inequities, Democrats are not likely to boost public support for progressive policies by framing them as advancing racial equality,” Gilens said. He called the paper “solid work” but also pointed out its limitations. “I would consider the English and Kalla results to be sobering but not, in themselves, a strong argument for Democrats to turn away from appeals to racial justice,” Gilens said.
Adjunct Professor of Social Welfare Helmut Anheier spoke about the intersection of economic prosperity and social cohesion in an episode of the “55 Voices for Democracy” video series. “Most of us favor a cohesive society, broad participation in the political process, and a prosperous, interconnected economy,” Anheier said, but he asked whether these wishes are compatible. He discussed the Dahrendorf Quandary created by sociologist Ralf Dahrendorf, who argued that a growing and integrating world economy would eventually create “perverse choices” for liberal democracies. Later, Harvard economist Dani Rodrik argued that democracy, national sovereignty and economic integration are fundamentally incompatible. To test these theories, Anheier looked at data from 34 countries with upper-middle-income to high-income market economies over 25 years and found that the countries’ performance did not confirm the claims of Dahrendorf and Rodrik. Anheier concluded that globalization can be managed and the negative consequences of open markets can be offset by forward-looking policies in order to reduce economic inequalities.
Professor of Public Policy and Social Welfare Martin Gilens was featured in an Atlantic article about the influence of wealth on politics. In his research, Gilens has found notable differences in the policy preferences of affluent Americans compared to the middle class. These differences are not limited to economic matters like taxation, but also include funding for public education, racial equity and environmental protections, which the wealthy are less likely to support. These differences in policy preferences are significant because of the influence the rich have over government officials. In one report, Gilens analyzed thousands of public survey responses and found that, on issues where the views of wealthy voters diverged significantly from those of the rest of the populace, the policies ultimately put in place “strongly reflected the desires of the most affluent respondents.” Gilens concluded that the policies on these controversial issues “bore virtually no relationship to the preferences of poorer Americans.”
Public Policy Chair Martin Gilens‘ research into the impact of campaign finance regulations was published in American Political Science Review. Many scholars have expressed concern about the dominance of moneyed interests in American politics, and studies have shown that lobbying group interests and federal policies primarily reflect the desires of well-off citizens and well-funded interest groups, not ordinary citizens. While previous reports have faced difficulties drawing causal inferences from observational data, Gilens and his co-authors were able to analyze the effects of an exogenous change in state campaign finance law. The Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision held that corporations and unions have the same speech rights as individuals, and that corporate spending to influence elections does not give rise to corruption, as long as it is not coordinated with a political campaign. Gilens and his co-authors analyzed the impact of the ruling, which affected 23 states that had bans on independent expenditures by unions or corporations. After the bans were lifted under Citizens United, the states adopted more “corporate-friendly” policies on issues with broad effects on corporations’ welfare, they found. The authors concluded that “even relatively narrow changes in campaign finance regulations can have a substantively meaningful influence on government policy making.” The article, “Campaign Finance Regulations and Public Policy,” was written by Gilens, a professor of public policy, political science and social welfare; Professor Shawn Patterson Jr. of Southern Oregon University; and Professor Pavielle Haines of Rollins College. — Zoe Day
Director of the Los Angeles Initiative Zev Yaroslavsky spoke to Politico about growing efforts to recall elected leaders in California, starting with Gov. Gavin Newsom. Five previous attempts to recall the governor have failed. Now, voters unhappy with Newsom’s handling of the pandemic are again seeking to remove him from office. While there have been 179 recall attempts in California since 1911, only 10 have qualified for the ballot. Recently, virus fatigue has strengthened interest in recalls among disillusioned voters stuck at home, and many elected officials are becoming the targets of recall efforts. “I think COVID is one of those issues, and criminal justice is one of those issues, where everybody has an opinion,” Yaroslavsky said. He explained that law enforcement issues and pandemic restrictions have created distinct camps of Californians who “have been cooped up in their houses for a year” and are refusing to wait until 2022 to hold their representatives accountable.
Director of the Center for Neighborhood Knowledge Paul Ong spoke to NBC News about his hopes for increasing Asian American representation in the Biden administration. The White House announced the creation of a new position, Asian American and Pacific Islander liaison, to ensure that the community’s voice is further represented and heard. Details of the duties and responsibilities of the position have not yet been announced, but Ong said the liaison will be effective only if given direct access to key decision-makers in the administration. In addition, he said, a staff is needed to ensure coverage of vital issues to the AAPI community, including education, civil rights, the economy and housing. “Appointing an AAPI liaison could be one of the much-needed solutions to ensure fair and adequate AAPI participation in the administration, but it is critical that the role is impactful and not window dressing,” he said.
Lecturer Jim Newton spoke to the Washington Post about Gov. Gavin Newsom’s approach to handling the COVID-19 pandemic. After winning the 2018 election with 62% of the vote, Newsom is now facing a recall effort caused by frustrations about his approach to the pandemic. In March 2020, Newsom announced a statewide stay-at-home order, which would be followed by a year of closing and reopening. “As it wore on, he seemed more vacillating, that there seemed to be a sort of uncertainty about how quickly to move to reopen,” Newton said. “It felt like the voices pressing for opening were starting to get to him.” However, Newton acknowledged that the circumstances were unprecedented. “I don’t know that he could have done it perfectly and I don’t know that there was a perfect way to do it,” he said. “He’s managed to be a little bit between the extremes and a little bit disappointing to people in both camps.”
Karen Umemoto, urban planning professor and director of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, was featured in an NBC News article about the role of ethnic studies programs in preserving Asian American history. Many of the activists who led the Asian American movement in the 1960s for representation in politics, scholarship and culture are now passing away. The loss has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re at an important point in history where we have to record their stories,” Umemoto said. “There are so many rich life lessons that we can learn from their involvement in movements for social change.” It has been more than 50 years since the first Asian American studies curricula were established in California colleges, but only a handful of post-secondary institutions offer degrees in the field. Even within those programs, the story of the Asian American civil rights movement and the people who built it is often given short shrift, Umemoto said.
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.