Weekly Links

By Sarah Bakhtiari

"A Sunday on Le Grande Jatte," Georges Suerat, 1884. Via Wikimedia.
“A Sunday on La Grande Jatte,” Georges Suerat, 1884. Via Wikimedia.

American political science has been taking a bashing over its poor explanations for Donald Trump’s victories—as well as its failure to predict these outcomes. Perhaps this is based on misreadings of key texts. But academics are fighting back: The Party Decides author David Karol doesn’t think Trump’s rise reflects a fundamental shift in party control. John Sides and Michael Tesler launched a three-part series to explain Trump’s popularity, pointing to non-ideological voting preferences, the role of white identity, and the economy (stupid).

How well might Trump’s populist policies fare? Dan Drezner points out that Trump’s authoritarian leanings (see Amanda Taub’s essay on that) and economic populist message might play well with the American electorate, but policies along those lines haven’t done well for Latin American leaders at ballot box over the past year (think Maduro’s loss in Venezuela, or Fernandez de Kirchner’s loss in Argentina).

American voters this year certainly seem to be endorsing anti-establishment perspectives (ahem, Trump, Sanders). To what degree is their appeal based on candid narratives and straight talk—or “telling it like it is”? Maybe it works on the campaign trail, but what about as an elected official? British MP, Jess Phillips, said her outspoken feminism and women’s rights activism led to rape threats and social media storms. Once committed to being a politician that “never delivers a line” and “being herself,” she’s discovered the consequences of speaking one’s mind as a politician are too high and incentivize toting the party line like a robot.

In other news: Following a FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) suit brought by the ACLU, the Obama administration has agreed to release their controversial 2013 policy on lethal engagement by drones—but a redacted version that protects national security and intelligence information, as well as the identities of key officials in the decision loop. In the meantime, researchers have been getting creative in their data exploitation to fill in the gaps, like Fontini Cristia’s use of cell phone metadata in Yemen. Scott Shane did a deep dive on Obama’s decision to use a drone against Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen in Yemen in 2011—read about his book on the matter here. In security circles, analysts are also looking at the configurations in which drones are most effective, finding that swarms provide both offensive and defense advantages.

Finally, farther afield…the great land rush is on? Financial Times continues a series on a global race to buy up land around the world, profiling a Saudi-Ethiopian tycoon’s rice farm in Ethiopia where’s he’s rented the plot of land about the size of Belgium for the next 50 years. With the modern farming technology the “land-hunter” has brought in and planned land improvements in the next two years, the farm’s yield could supply the entire Ethiopian market. Also in the “Great Land Rush” series: Myanmar and Indonesia.

 

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