I genuinely read Paul Krugman for the entertainment value. His column yesterday is plenty entertaining if you like watching someone step on a rake after rake without realizing it. The concept of this one is that Republicans don’t get what blue America is really about.

Now, the reality is that the modern Democratic Party is a mildly center-left coalition, consisting of what Europeans would call social democrats, and relatively conservative ones at that. To take one measure, I can’t think of any prominent Democrats — actually, any Democratic members of Congress — who have expressed admiration for any authoritarian foreign regime.

First of all, the modern Democratic Party is very clearly split between a center-left party and a very progressive wing represented by the Squad and the Bernie Bros. As for where they stand, Krugman uses a bit of a gimmick by comparing them to parties in other countries. It’s fair to say the two parties in the US started out further to the right than in most European countries. However, it’s still the case that the left has move quite a bit further left in recent years than the right has moved to the right. In fact, on some social issues the GOP has clearly moved to the left. Here’s a graph from this 2019 NY Times piece which tracks how party platforms change over time.

Of course the problem with this graph is that Americans don’t live in Europe or Canada. Therefore the median line in America isn’t way over there on the left, it’s somewhere between the red and blue lines. And looking at it from that perspective, where Americans actually are, the left has clearly moved pretty far left of late.

As for Krugman’s other point, I don’t know if any prominent Democrats have expressed admiration for authoritarians recently. I do know Bernie Sanders expressed support for leftists around the world in the 1980s. And much more recently polling indicates the Democratic Party had much fonder feelings for Communist China (a one-party dictatorship) than most Republicans. A survey taken last year showed a plurality of Republicans (42%)  saw China as an adversary while only 17% of Democrats agreed. Pew had a similar finding. In short, Republicans see the most powerful authoritarian regime in the world as a threat and a rival and most Democrats disagree. That seems slightly more important than what some Republicans think about Hungary.

And then Krugman brings up this chestnut.

On the domestic violence front, a study by the Anti-Defamation League found that 75 percent of extremist-related domestic killings from 2012 to 2021 were perpetrated by the right and only 4 percent by the left.

The ADL has been putting out this same report for years and, as I pointed out here, if you actually read the fine print you discover that and “extremist-related domestic killing” means any murder by someone associated with a right-wing militia, even if the murder was pretty clearly personal and not political in nature. From the ADL report:

members of some extremist groups—particularly those that take the form of gangs—may kill while committing “traditional” crimes, such as those involving illegal drugs. It may also be likely, though it is difficult to definitively prove, that the ideologies or subcultures of certain types of extremists, including white supremacists and toxic masculinity extremists, may play a role in enabling incidents of deadly domestic violence—or other violent acts as well…

Over the past 10 years, the number of ideological-related killings and non-ideological (and unknown motive) killings by extremists has been close to equal (231 versus 212), with the majority of non-ideological killings coming from right-wing extremists, especially white supremacists. Sovereign citizens have also been responsible for several non-ideological killings in recent years. To some degree, this may say more about how easy it is to identify white supremacists and sovereign citizens compared to other types of extremists. A white supremacist who commits a non-ideological killing may still possibly be identified as such by his or her tattoos, or perhaps a gang association previously documented by law enforcement. A sovereign citizen arrested for a murder is likely to use the distinctive pseudo-legal language and tactics of that movement. But if the person who committed that non-ideological murder was instead an Islamist extremist or a member of a militia group, it may be possible this fact will not be noticed or documented. In other words, some extremist movements may be underrepresented in this data when it comes to non-ideological killings.

In Krugman’s case, I don’t assume he missed all of this. On the contrary, I assume he saw it and decided there was no need to mention it to his readers. Either they click the link and find it themselves or they’ll never know. Krugman is on to his next point:

Finally, about B.L.M.: The protests were, in fact, overwhelmingly peaceful. Yes, there was some arson and looting, with total property damage typically estimated at $1 billion to $2 billion. That may sound like a lot, but America is a big country, so it needs to be put in perspective.

Here’s one point of comparison. Back in April, Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, pulled a political stunt at the border with Mexico, temporarily imposing extra security checks that caused a major slowdown of traffic, disrupting business and leading to a lot of spoiled produce. Total economic losses have been estimated at around $4 billion; that is, a few days of border-security theater appear to have caused more economic damage than a hundred days of mass protests.

I don’t know how accurate that estimate of the border slowdown’s impact is. The group which published it attributed it to “disruptions and related multiplier effects.” I do think the idea that the worst damage connected to arson and looting in recent history is something we need to not get too worked up about is pretty odd. Nor do I think those estimates include the ongoing damage that has resulted in these same neighborhoods as a result of anti-police marches and attempts to defund the police. Again, I think Krugman is probably better equipped to discuss these differences he’s just not interested in exploring anything that might undercut his thesis.

There’s more including his take on crime rates but that’s all the Krugman I can take for a Tuesday.

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