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A Progressive Problem – The New York Times

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Affirmative action is one of those divisive subjects on which both sides can use polling to claim that their position is the popular one.

Polls that ask broadly about affirmative-action programs for racial minorities find most Americans to be in favor of them. Polls that specifically ask whether employers and colleges should take race into account when making decisions find that most Americans say no. These two patterns are contradictory.

But the contradiction disappears when affirmative action appears on the ballot. Again and again since the 1990s, voters have banned affirmative action. It’s happened in Arizona, California, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Washington.

This year in California — America’s biggest blue state, where only 37 percent of the population is non-Hispanic white — progressive groups thought they had a chance to reverse the trend. They sponsored an initiative that would have repealed the state’s 1996 ban. And it lost in a landslide: 57 percent to 43 percent, based on the latest vote count.

“All 14 of California’s majority-Latino counties voted it down,” The Times’s Michael Powell notes. When forced to choose, most Americans evidently think that the policy is unfair and unlikely to benefit them.

Affirmative action’s losing streak is part of a larger issue for Democrats: America is more culturally conservative than progressives wish it were. Many voters — across racial groups — are moderate to conservative on affirmative action, abortion, guns, immigration and policing.

One option for Democrats is to keep doing what they’ve been doing, political costs be damned. Some progressives argue that each of the issues I just listed is a matter of human rights and that compromise is immoral. Ultimately, they say, the liberal position will become popular, as it did on same-sex marriage.

The other option is to assume that not every major political fight is destined to have a left-leaning resolution — and to look for ideas that are both progressive and popular. Such ideas certainly exist, including some that reduce racial inequities.

Typically, these ideas are economically populist and race-neutral on their face while disproportionately helping Black and Latino Americans, as Matthew Yglesias points out in his excellent new newsletter.

Medicaid expansion is one example. “Baby bonds” — federal grants for children, advocated by Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey — are another. A higher minimum wage is a third, the economists Ellora Derenoncourt and Claire Montialoux have explained. Florida this year voted for both a $15 minimum wage and President Trump.

“This is the challenge for liberal Democrats,” said Omar Wasow, a Princeton professor who studies race and politics. “In a diverse society, how do you enact politics that may advance racial equality without reinforcing racial divisions that are counterproductive and hurt you politically?”

A Morning read: A Trump presidential memoir would most likely sell millions of copies. But publishers fear that authors and staff members could revolt if they sign him, and that his book would test the limits of fact-checking and accuracy.

From Opinion: In the “Covid-free world” of Nova Scotia, where tight lockdowns and border closures limited the spread of the virus, life goes on much as it did a year ago, Stephanie Nolen writes.

Lives Lived: A bricklayer’s son, Sheldon Solow built a Manhattan real estate empire from scratch, joining developers like Harry Helmsley and Larry Silverstein in putting a stamp on the city’s skyline. He died at 92.


Listening to a hyperpop song for the first time can be a jarring experience. It sounds a bit like a fun-house mirror version of pop, full of energetic, glitchy vocals. The music mixes elements from dance, emo, punk and rap.

Last year, Spotify certified hyperpop as a budding musical genre by creating a playlist by the same name. The music is often made by young, internet-savvy artists who have grown up on platforms like SoundCloud and Discord, exposing them to many kinds of independent music and a creative DIY spirit. The genre also has a close association with the L.G.B.T.Q.+ community, and many of its top artists are queer or transgender.

Spotify created its playlist after noticing that an experimental, genre-defying debut album by a duo named 100 gecs had attracted a loyal following online. Two other emerging stars are both 15 years old: osquinn and glaive. (Lower-case letters appear to be common in the genre.)

“Hyperpop is a parody of pop,” the playlist’s main editor, Lizzy Szabo, told Vice. “It almost pokes fun and pushes the bounds of that kind of quirky, traditional, radio popstar sound.” Ben Dandridge-Lemco in The Times tells the fuller story of hyperpop.

The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was avalanche. Today’s puzzle is above — or you can play online if you have a Games subscription.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Giant grain container (four letters).


Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David

P.S. From The Onion: “Governors Call On Gretchen Whitmer To Shut Down Their States So Residents Won’t Get Mad At Them.”

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