Election 2018

A Midterm Vote Against Trump and Against Collectivism: Reason Roundup

Plus: Russian bots still stirring election fears and social media growth in U.S. is flat.

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Paul Hennessy/Polaris/Newscom

Do those opposed to Trump have a duty to vote Democrat? That's a midterm election argument percolating in some surprising spaces.

"I do not much like the Democratic Party," writes Conor Friedersdorf, a longtime libertarian-leaning conservative, at The Atlantic. "But I desperately want Republicans to conclude that the GOP harms rather than helps its prospects when it vilifies minorities, stokes the authoritarian impulses of its most frightened voters, and willfully divides Americans. Decisively defeating GOP candidates in the midterms is the surest way to send that message—while a Republican victory will encourage future campaign ads that even more closely resemble the work of D.W. Griffith."

In the weeks leading up to the election, President Donald Trump has indulged in increasingly deranged and divisive rhetoric. He's also been hitting heavily on the idea that this election is a referendum on his brand of Republicanism—a brand that includes belligerent taunting of enemies domestic and abroad, no respect for free markets and trade, and baseless fearmongering about refugees.

"If the GOP succeeds … at the ballot box, politicians all over the country will conclude that they can advance their careers by vilifying minority groups, frightening voters predisposed to xenophobia, and dividing Americans," writes Friedersdorf, urging principled anti-Trump conservatives, independents, and libertarians to suck it up and vote Democrat this year.

But Democrats have done nothing to deserve the votes of disaffected conservatives, complains David French at National Review.

"Democrats claim that now is the time to reject the politics of personal destruction," he writes. "They look at a president who calls people names, who spins out wild conspiracy theories (Ted Cruz's father participated in the Kennedy assassination? Really?), and they demand better. I agree." And yet… Democrats engage in some of the same political spin, blind-eyeing corruption, and other antics they complain about in their GOP counterparts. And while they push the idea that our very democracy is at stake, they won't modify positions on abortion, immigration, etc. to win over anti-Trump Republicans, French suggests.

There, his argument falls short for me. There's not much that many Democrats could do—short of completely upending their core positions—to make themselves attractive to Republicans like French.

French is more persuasive pointing out that we have options other than simply choosing between Republicans and Democrats. Voters can choose libertarians or other third party candidates. They could choose to write-in candidates. They could stay home.

But "the rejection of one candidate" should not "lead automatically to a vote for his opponent," argues French.

Each candidate has to earn your vote, and if no one has, it is entirely acceptable to write in a name or go on strike — to stay home until the political parties can produce a candidate worth your support.

French adds that he'll vote for anyone, Republican or Democrat, who shares his political values. But that means evaluating "the individual whose name is on the ballot, not the president who isn't yet up for reelection."

FREE MINDS

Memory of Russian bots looms large over midterms. Facebook announced yesterday that 85 Instagram accounts and 30 Facebook accounts were deleted after being "linked to foreign entities" in what's still a "very early-stage investigation."

"On Sunday evening, US law enforcement contacted us about online activity that they recently discovered," said Nathaniel Gleicher, head of cybersecurity at Facebook, in a Monday statement. "Almost all the Facebook Pages associated with these accounts appear to be in the French or Russian languages, while the Instagram accounts seem to have mostly been in English," with some "focused on celebrities, others political debate." It's as yet unclear whether the "accounts are linked to the Russia-based Internet Research Agency or other foreign entities," Gleicher added.

A statement from Department of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, FBI Director Christopher Wray, and National Intelligence Director Dan Coats on Sunday warned that "Americans should be aware that foreign actors—and Russia in particular—continue to try to influence public sentiment and voter perceptions through actions intended to sow discord."

"The United States will not tolerate foreign interference in our elections from Russia, China, Iran, or other nations," continued the statement.

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Social media growth in the U.S is over. In fact, some networks are seeing shrinkage among American audiences. And while growth continues globally, it's not quite the same. From ReCode:

Facebook's daily user base has been the same for the past three quarters. Twitter and Snapchat have both lost users in the U.S. or North America, respectively, in back-to-back quarters.

American users are incredibly valuable to these tech giants. Social media users in the U.S. generally have more disposable income than those in emerging markets, which makes them more attractive to more advertisers. As a result, these users generate more advertising revenue for social media companies, on average, than users in other parts of the world. By a wide margin.

[…] In short, the fact that these user bases are no longer growing means these companies need to figure out other ways to grow their advertising businesses.

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