Most Americans believe the upcoming election will be legitimate—unless their favorite candidate loses.

So how can we determine if a) "we were robbed" or b) the election was legitimate?

For @TheAtlantic I turn to leading scholars for an answer.

First, the bad news.

According to a new study by @campaignlegal and @protctdemocracy, most Americans are confident that the elections will be free and fair.

BUT if their own candidate loses, they are likely to say that this is because the election was rigged.
This is true for those who support Trump: a plurality of them think that, should he lose, it would be because things were rigged against him.

But it is also true for those who support Biden: an even greater number of them say that, should he lose, it's for illegitimate reasons.*
*As I note in the article, it'd be a mistake to think of these two poll questions as exact flip sides of each other.

According to models from @NateSilver538 and others, for example, because of the electoral college Biden is in fact more likely to lose despite getting more votes.
This raises a deep dilemma:

* There are serious threats to the integrity of the upcoming election. We must not be naive about them.

* But democracy only works if elections are the arbiter of who gets to govern. So falsely refusing to accept its outcome would do terrible damage.
Since there are many ways of undermining an election, there is no simple check-list that can tell us whether it was legitimate.

But in conversations with @dziblatt, @davidashimer, @jessmarsden and @thetrevorpotter, I did discover four rules of thumb we should all bear in mind.
1) Politicians will try to sow confusion. Ignore them.

As Trevor Potter told me, Donald Trump "is likely to argue that absentee ballots are fraudulent and that the election is being stolen.”

Don't fall for it if and when politicians make these kinds of claims without evidence.
2) Distinguish between ordinary forms of malfunction and an extraordinary attack

Our election system is bad. And that's deeply unjust.

But that's different from an extraordinary attack like the government telling voters in cities to stay at home or voting machines being hacked.
3) Rely on data and impartial umpires, not anecdotes and partisans

As Dan Ziblatt told me: “You’re likely to hear about something suspicious going on in some place. Pay attention but don’t be swayed. If something bad is really going on, we will get reliable data to prove it."
4) Look at the totality of the evidence

There will be *some* suspicious things going on. But if the election is really being rigged, the overall pictures should be pretty clear:

"When an election is blatantly rigged,” he said, “that is identifiable," David Schimer told me.
No matter who wins the election, millions of Americans are likely to doubt that its outcome is fair. American democracy could soon face one of the biggest tests to its legitimacy in living memory.

But there is no need to despair. We are not yet Turkey or Hungary.
As Jess Marsden told me, “the instinct of the American people should be to trust in the outcome of our election. When you look at the details of how elections are run—from security features to transparency measures to legal guardrails—the list of fail-safes is quite long.”


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More from @Yascha_Mounk

13 Sep
So, Cuties:

1) A serious movie that condemns the patriarchal values imposed on many immigrant girls *and* the hyper-sexualized mainstream culture into which some of them flee.

2) The depictions of child sexuality, though meant to condemn, end up glorifying it in troubling ways.
If you forgive the slightly strange comparison, the moral ambiguity of the movie is a little similar to that of La Dolce Vita:

1) There's no doubt that the filmmaker seeks to condemn what they depict.

2) But they depict it so lingeringly that their moral stance is compromised.
Final point:

The people who OKed the marketing campaign have a lot to answer for.

90% of this movie is a serious and at times excellent art house movie without any sensationalism.

While I was troubled by the other 10%, foregrounding it for clicks did the movie needless harm.
Read 4 tweets
1 Sep
It's rare that a short piece changes how I think about an important issue.

But this, by @MetaHumean for @JoinPersuasion, really helped me understand something that's been bugging me about the standard critique of colorblindness.


If we imagine a perfect society, Matt Lutz argues, we would want it to be colorblind.

In a country without (a history of) racial injustice, it would obviously be wrong to treat someone differently because of the color of their skin.

"Race consciousness" seems more plausible as a way to remedy injustice in a deeply imperfect society.

But this presumes that people who are hyper-conscious of race will be altruistic rather than determined to fight for their own group.

That, Lutz argues, is unrealistic.
Read 6 tweets
17 Aug
It's fascinating how the pessimistic narrative of the past years has been influencing popular representations of academic research.

Even where research on race relations has mixed implications, the media focuses mostly on the negative facet.

Here's a small example.

In an ingenious paper, @RyanDEnos suggested that demographic shifts can have a very negative impact on people's attitudes towards immigrants.

By placing Spanish-speakers on suburban train platforms in Boston, he showed how a perceived increase in diversity can lead to backlash.
The paper was widely covered in the media. And it was a good, important paper!

But virtually all of the press coverage left out one an most important points that Enos himself made: The negative effect of increased diversity actually faded very quickly.
Read 6 tweets
14 Aug
Getting hate mail is part of the job at this point.

But being attacked for "murdering Jews under Hitler" is a new one, I've got to say. Image
The article that inspired this rant.

And, in case you didn't realize, my family was, how do I put this?, on the other side of the historical events to which my correspondent kindly calls attention.…
I'm starting to discern a theme here.

(Different correspondent.) Image
Read 4 tweets
11 Aug
The prospects for democracy in Bolivia have, in part because of the immoral and irresponsible actions of the current far-right government, significantly dimmed.

But there's still a narrow path to democracy. Here's three scenarios.

First, let me address some outright calumnies.

Some pretend that I have cheered on the actions of the current government. But I have never said a positive word about Jeanine Añez. In fact, I clearly expressed my concerns about her @TheAtlantic within weeks of her assuming power. Image
Second, there is ongoing debate about the contested election in 2019. A serious study recently claims that the result was not fraudulent. Others disagree. The argument is not yet settled.

But it's important to remember that there were a lot of abuses BEFORE the election.
Read 13 tweets
8 Aug
I love campuses. And I know how much is lost when education goes online only.

But reopening colleges as the pandemic is resurging across America will endanger students, staff and the surrounding communities.

It's wrong.

My latest @TheAtlantic.

I did not come to this conclusion lightly. And there still are many good reasons to reopen:

* For most students, online education doesn't cut it.

* The most disadvantaged students will suffer the most.

* Some colleges will suffer real financial difficulty if they don't reopen.
But given how badly the pandemic is going in the U.S., the downsides of reopening sadly outweigh the downsides of telling students to stay at home.

There are two main reasons:

* Rules to stop socializing on campus are unrealistic.

* The virus will spread around the country.
Read 9 tweets

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