Smart Ideas: Political Extremes Win the Facebook War

Sen. Elizabeth Warren
AP Photo/Cliff Owen
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Aug. 22, 2017, 1:01 p.m.

Ideological extremes attract more Facebook followers

Adam Hughes and Onyi Lam, writing for the Pew Research Center

“The most liberal and conservative members of the 115th Congress have attracted more Facebook followers than moderates, according to a new Pew Research Center analysis.” In the House, the most liberal and most conservative members had a median of 14,361 followers, compared with 9,017 followers for more moderate members. In the Senate, the most liberal and most conservative members had 78,360 followers and moderates had 32,626. In addition, party leaders and past presidential candidates drew a large number of Facebook followers—leaders in both chambers had about 424,950 followers and past candidates had 1,000,073, compared to just 12,106 and 31,255 followers for the average House and Senate members, respectively. Further, “more Facebook users follow congressional Democrats’ official pages than Republicans’ page.”

Lessons from the last shot at tax reform

Lindsey McPherson, writing for Roll Call

The last time Congress attempted to overhaul the tax code, in 2014, the effort failed. More than three years later, Republicans are trying again, and though some key things have changed since then, many of the problems persist. The most notable change is that Republicans now control the Senate and the White House. Paul Ryan, who was involved in the 2014 effort, now leads the House. And this time Republicans aren’t trying to work with Democrats on the legislation. One lesson from 2014 is that “messaging in generalities was not enough to meet the goal.” But GOP lawmakers today haven’t learned that lesson, and aren’t giving any new details on their plan. Many of the goals remain the same, but so do many of the pitfalls.

Trump and the dangers of vulgarity

Harvey Mansfield, writing for Commentary

Warnings of vulgar impulses in politics date back millennia. “For Plato, Aristotle, Thucydides, and Plutarch, democracy was typified by the figure of the demagogue, the democratic leader. This man was hasty, angry, impulsive, brash, and punitive,” hence these thinkers’ preference for elite rule. Even at the American founding, the Framers sought to temper the vulgar through the republican form of government. “Vulgar people can be honest and good-hearted, but they are susceptible to passion and impatience.” Donald Trump is one of them. “In fact, there is little else to him. Though the son of a rich man, he has the outrageous coarseness of a vulgar man. He appeals to such men and to women who like manly men. These are his audience, and they are not put off by his departures from decorum. Far from it: They appreciate his lack of good taste, of good manners, of gentlemanliness, of protocol, and of tact.”

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