NKC Occasional Update

News, Views and To-Dos

January 26, 2024

Our Favorite Quote

"That [the Iowa Caucuses are] happening in a blizzard is fitting.

Trump's whole life has been a snow job."

Maureen Dowd

What Art Friedson Has On His Mind

As primary season opens, the question I ask myself over and over is, how can anybody vote for this guy? The cartoonish hairdo is pretty much all I need to dismiss him. Then every time he opens his mouth, he confirms my sense that he’s a vulgar boor, a criminally amoral menace, and a human being so despicable that he clearly belongs in the Big House, not the White House. And, to me, the fact that anyone over the age of 5 who lives in the United States would immediately identify the subject of those sentences as Donald Trump confirms everything I just said.

But no matter what I think, the fact remains that 74 million Americans voted for this evil clown after they had four years to see just how vile he really is! And he’s back? I spent the past two weeks seeking answers to this question: What on earth is the appeal of this jerk? Along the way, I discovered the answer in Boy Scouts, Snickers bars, and something called competitive authoritarians. Let me share what I learned.

Joel Achenbach, who covers science and politics for WaPo, recently published a piece that explains the science behind the increasing polarization of our society.

He starts with a study from the 1950s that is famous to behavioral scientists. Social Psychologist Muzafer Sherif took two small groups of Boy Scouts and put them in campsites on opposite sides of Robbers Cave State Park in Oklahoma. When they discovered the existence of the other group, a strange thing happened. “Each group developed irrational contempt for the other. The boys in the other group were seen not just as rivals, but as fundamentally flawed human beings.”

Boys Scout Troop 512 - Hyde Park, Chicago

Click for the Achenbach article

(Photo Credit: Screen shot from Troop 512 Facebook page)

The explanation goes back to basic human instincts. Humans need to work together in groups in order to survive. Once you have a group, everyone in your group is “in” while everyone else is “out.” Vilifying the other builds cohesion and increases the mutual bonds within the in group.

Achenbach then spells it out. “In this political environment, a candidate who picks up the banner of ‘us versus them’ and ‘winning versus losing’ is almost guaranteed to tap into a current of resentment and anger across racial, religious, and cultural lines, which have recently divided neatly by party.” Like all autocrats, Trump has fed into that undercurrent of resentment and anger with frightening efficacy.

Democrats and Republicans used to be divided by policy differences on things like commerce, trade, foreign policy, taxes, and equality issues. Now the divisions are tribal; voters are moved more by what camp they see themselves in rather than what specific policies they believe in. Now, the argument is about how we view America.

Another question that has plagued me is how survey respondents can say that Trump is better for the economy than President Biden. Remember that Trump’s tariff war with China raised the prices of most durable goods and decimated farmers' incomes, while his tax cuts to the rich caused the largest increase in the national deficit in a generation while widening the wealth gap. Not to mention that had his bungling of the Covid pandemic been allowed to continue, we would be mired in a great depression now instead of the soft landing so deftly achieved by President Biden. Here’s where the Snickers bars come in.

Paul Donovan, chief economist for UBS Global Wealth Management, wrote an op-ed for the NYTimes that explains it. He starts with actual facts (remember facts?), like the fact that in June 2022, consumer prices had risen 9.1% year-over-year, while by the end of 2023, that rate of increase had been cut to just 3.4%. Like the fact that the prices of more expensive consumer goods like furniture and electronics have been falling for more than a year and continue to drop. Let me add that the S&P 500 is in record territory.

Here's the problem. You don’t buy a new TV very often, but more than 12 Snickers bars are sold every second in the United States! Voter sentiment on the economy is shaped more by high-frequency purchases like food and gas prices that are slower to reflect macroeconomic forces than durable goods. And the lower the education/income of the voter, the more likely this is to be true.

Click image for Donovan article

(Graphic Credit: Screen grab from Snickers ad)

That’s why Trump voters think he’s good for the economy. It’s true that when he was president, gas and food prices were lower. Period. What his chaotic, self-serving “policies” would have done to those prices today had they been allowed to continue does not register even a blip on their radar.

But don’t voters care about democracy? Eh, maybe not so much. Zeynep Tufekci is a sociology professor at Princeton who writes opinion columns for the NYTimes. She writes that “[a]uthoritarian leaders project qualities that many voters — not just Trump voters — admire: strength, a sense of control, even an ends-justify-the-means leadership style. Our movie-hero presidents, Top Gun pilots and crusading lawyers often take matters into their own hands or break the rules in ways that we cheer.”

She adds that Trump is seen by his supporters as projecting strength and being seen as authentic, common themes among other leaders whom political scientists would call “competitive authoritarians” like Narendra Modi of India, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, and Viktor Orban of Hungary. All leverage the working class’s fear of immigration, and all share the claim that “only I can fix it.” The difference between them and Putin is that they still have to run for election (hence, "competitive"), although it gets easier for them the longer they are in office as they degrade electoral systems in their countries.

Trump voters aren’t necessarily crazy or evil, although some subset of them no doubt fit in one or both of those categories. What all categories of his supporters share is that they are both uninformed and misinformed, mainly as a result of the sequestration of our news sources. As Ricky Riccardo used to say to Lucy, we’ve got some explainin’ to do! We'll never convince the die-hard MAGAts, but there are lots of independents and suburban Republicans who can be convinced. We’d better get on it.

With Nancy Kohn

Race in six words. The most important, the most touching, the most endearing, the most frustrating, and most beautiful thing you will read all week is this long-form article in WaPo

by former NPR host Michele Norris, Our True Feelings About Race And Identity Are Revealed In Six Words (this link for free access with no paywall). In 2010, she had 200 postcards printed with this message: "Race. Your thoughts. Six Words. Please send."

She left them in public places. Over time, she added a website. She has since collected over half a million responses from all 50 states and over 100 countries.

Has Trump peaked? Joe Perticone at The Bulwark+ has a great take on the Iowa Republican primary. Despite the win, it showed some serious warning signs for TFG. Turnout was 70% higher in 2016. Worse (for him, not us), he only got about half the votes from GOP regulars who turned out on that cold night. He did only marginally better in New Hampshire. Jonathan Last piles on, wondering how TFG will fare after voters get a fresh look at him between now and election day.

Biden bump at last. Axios is reporting that consumer confidence has risen 28% since November. The stock market is hitting new highs, inflation is sinking, and holiday shopping exceeded all expectations. We've been saying for months that at some point, all these leading indicators would finally seep into consumers'/voters' minds...well maybe that's starting now. Now would be a very good time for a big Biden bounce.

Women rule real estate. Scroll down that same Axios report for this fabulous nugget: "Single women own more homes than single men — and overall homeownership is now majority female." Considering that when I was born women couldn't get a mortgage or even a credit card without a male co-signer (not that I can remember), this is a big deal.

10 reasons to be optimistic. Gillian Tett of the Financial Times went to Davos (lucky her!) and came back feeling better about the state of the world. Read her encouraging piece, Reasons To Be Optimistic in 2024 - Despite Everything. She reminds us of the amazing things going on in science (we Dems love science!), that inflation is falling, and that the tyrants and wannabe dictators of today won't last forever.

What we're watching. Here's a delightful two-minute clip from the Emmys as Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers stand on the set of All in the Family to honor Norman Lear who passed away in December, and to introduce the 75th Emmy Awards In Memoriam segment. Readers, Art and I are looking for our next show. What would you recommend?

Books and more books: Art and I both read and recommend The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride. Thanks to Howard Learner for his email last week telling us how much he enjoyed it. Good news, I've only got 11 hours left of listening to The Covenant of Water, by Abraham Verghese. Not sure what I will listen to next.

Just Cause Spotlight

Nancy Kohn and Lisa Acker, partners, help nonprofits reach new heights. Whether it’s a high-level strategy or rolling up our sleeves to help with immediate tasks at hand, we are paving the way.

Since founding Just Cause in 2015, we have worked with nearly 60 Chicago-area and national nonprofit organizations whose missions span education, environment, social justice, health, human rights, arts and culture and more. We are proud of our partnerships with nonprofits making major strides in Chicago such as Reading Power, Growing Home, Alivio Medical Center, Latino Policy Forum, Advance Illinois, Illinois Prison Project, Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, Lambda Legal, and Chicago Appleseed Fund for Justice. 

If you need an assessment of fundraising potential, a multi-year fundraising plan, hope to launch a capital campaign, develop new models for cultivation activities, design an anniversary fundraising program, create donor-focused communications, elevate your board's role as ambassadors, or expand your overall capacity, we are here to help! Learn more about us at Just Cause.

On The Calendar

Join the fun and attend an in-person event!

If you feel safer at a distance,

check out the hybrid and zoom options.

(Photos in this section are supplied by the candidate/official unless otherwise specified)

In-Person: Reception For Senator Dick Durbin

You are invited to join Senator Durbin for cocktails and a bit of magic! Monday, February 12th, 5:30 pm at Petterino's Magic Parlour, 50 W. Randolph, Chicago.

Join the Host Committee and recruit your friends! Learn more here or contact Nancy Kohn for more information.

In-Person: Two Events for Justice Eileen O'Neill Burke

Eileen O’Neill Burke is the clear choice to lead Cook County State's Attorney office. She has the credentials, the leadership skills, the vision and the determination to move the State’s Attorney’s office in the right direction again.

Please join Norm Bobins, Craig Duchossois, Larry Levy, Rich Melman, RJ Melman and Howard Tullman for an event in support of retired Justice Eileen O’Neill Burke, candidate for Cook County State’s Attorney.

The event will be held on Monday, January 29th at 5:30 p.m. at Shaw’s Crab House, 21 E. Hubbard, Chicago. 


RSVP and/or donate here, or contact Christina Nowinski Wurst for more information.

* * * * * * *

On Wednesday, February 7th, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Susan Manilow will be hosting Justice O'Neill Burke at her home with a host committee that includes Hon. Edwin Eisendrath, Mary Kenney & David Manilow, and Hon. Bill Singer.

RSVP and/or donate here, or contact Christina Nowinski Wurst for more information.

In Person: JCFS Chicago's Support For Teens Event

JCFS Chicago will hold its Tuned In: The Larry Dobkin Event in support of Response for Teens on Sunday, March 17th, from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

The event will be held at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center and will include their featured exhibit, "I'll Have What She's Having:"

The Jewish Deli.

The program will honor teacher, attorney, and activist Linda Soreff Siegel for her lifelong commitment to youth and long-standing leadership in the Jewish community.

Click here for more information and to RSVP.

Some Fun

Thank Dog. No, we're not being dyslexic. Last week, a man in Michigan fell through the ice in a not-frozen-enough lake near Traverse City. Two police officers rushed to the scene, but they soon realized that the ice would not support them either.

What to do? The quick-thinking officers tied a line to a rescue disk and attached it to the collar of the freezing man's dog. The man called the dog who ran across the ice and delivered the disk, enabling the officers to pull him out of the water and across the ice to safety. Good boy!

Read about it here, or click on the great short video.

Bodacious Busking. Art has always loved Green Day, in part because that was the band he brought his daughters to hear for their first-ever rock concert in the early 90s.

To hype their new album, Green Day entered a subway station near Rockefeller Center with Jimmy Fallon disguised as buskers and played a short set carefully timed between trains.

Watch this. It will be fun, and you'll still catch your train.

Thanks for reading.

We appreciate each of our readers.
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to your address book!

Thanks to our head writer Art Friedson.
Thanks for all that you do!
Stay safe and healthy,
Nancy Kohn
Nancy Kohn Consulting, LLC 
101 W. Grand - Suite 200 
Chicago, IL 60654
Send your listings with the words "jobs" or "internships" in the subject line to us. Please include a brief description, no longer than 70 words, with either a link to a position description and/or a description of how to apply. A contact person is also helpful.
A Few Helpful Links
Daybook is the number one resource for political, policy, and government jobs around the country. Check it out daily for the latest job openings or sign up to receive daily updates!

Want to work with Democratic candidates, progressive organizations, or on global issues? Check out the listings at Simmons Center for Global Chicago, Democracy Partners, Grossman Solutions, NPAG, and Forefront. For more general jobs, check out Axios Chicago.

Campaigns will soon start staffing up again. Here are four good sites to land campaign jobs at the entry-level and beyond: Arena Careers, Emily's List, Jobs That Are Left, and GainPower.

Finally, The Jobs

Reminder: We try to update our list of job banks regularly. Don't skip over the opening paragraphs to this section that has links to great resources. Now, on to the specific jobs...

NEW! The Obama Foundation's mission is to inspire people to take action, empower them to change their world for the better, and connect them so they can achieve more together than they can alone. They are seeking Deputy Director, Corporate & Foundation Relations (CFR) who will primarily focus on stewarding an active portfolio of current donors and cultivating a pipeline of corporate and foundation prospects focused on gifts at $1M and below to raise an additional $5M annually. For more information and to apply, click here.

NEW! The Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA) mobilizes the Jewish community to pursue justice in partnership with neighbors across Chicago and Illinois. They are seeking an Executive Director to guide the organization by maintaining and strengthening the vision, building relationships with key stakeholders and partners, fostering a vibrant, thriving staff culture, and strengthening the organization’s infrastructure. For more information and to apply, click here.

NEW! Justice Democrats are dedicated to electing more progressive Democrats to Congress. They are seeking a talented, committed leader to serve as Communications & Digital Manager to execute their organizational communications work, both with earned media and digital media. For more information and to apply, click here.

NEW! Demand Progress Education Fund and Demand Progress Action work to promote progressive policies by educating the public, organizing broad grassroots campaigns, leading lobbying initiatives, and leveraging their staff’s policy expertise to advocate effectively in Washington and beyond. They are seeking an Executive Director (or Co-Executive Directors) to guide overall policy work, communications, fundraising, outreach, strategy, and daily operations. For more information and to apply, click here.

NEW! If you have progressive values and are looking for a school year internship that will make a difference, check this out. Illinois Tenth Congressional District Democrats (Tenth Dems) is now accepting applications for its Winter/Spring 2024 Internship Program. The internship is a substantive program designed for high school, college, and graduate/law students seeking an opportunity to become deeply engaged in the political process. Internships are unpaid, educational positions; however, academic credit is often available. Residency in the 10th Congressional District is not required but applicants must have an interest in electing Democrats and be able to devote a minimum of 8 hours per week to the internship during the school year. Applicants should submit a brief paragraph explaining why they would like to be part of the program, along with a resume summarizing their educational background and activities. Neither need be formal. Acceptance into the program is selective and contingent upon an interview. To apply or request more information, contact [email protected] with the word 'internship' in the subject line.

Impact for Equity, formerly known as BPI, is a public interest law and policy center that has been at the front lines of the fight for social justice in the Chicago region for over fifty years. They are seeking a mission-driven Managing Director of Development and External Affairs to provide overall leadership and strategic oversight for all aspects of

Impact for Equity’s fundraising, external relations, and communications strategy. For more information and instructions to apply, click here.

IFF is a mission-driven lender, real estate consultant, and developer that helps communities thrive. They are seeking a Resource Development Manager to lead prospect research, writing grant and funding requests, and lead grants management for IFF’s department and sector initiatives for funding in the Eastern, Southern, and Indianapolis regions and others as assigned. For more information and to apply, click here.

The Democratic Senate Campaign Committee (DSCC) publishes an email newsletter featuring campaign finance jobs across the country. Sign up to receive their newsletter here. Don't see what you're looking for? They also invite candidates to submit their resumes for their Finance Resume Bank here.

Reading Power, located in Lake Forest, has trained volunteer tutors to provide one-to-one literacy instruction during the school day under the guidance of educational professionals. They are seeking a Development Director who will be responsible for raising funds from a combination of individual donations, corporate and private foundations, civic organizations and events. Click here for more information and instructions to apply.

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