Mitchell’s Musings 12-4-2017: I have a bad feeling about all of this

02 Dec 2017 10:22 AM | Daniel Mitchell (Administrator)

NOTE TO READERS OF THIS BLOG: I have become aware of a quirk in the EPRN system that can cause incorrect graphics to appear in past musings. Essentially, if an image file was used with a filename such as "Figure 1," and then a later post uses a different image file with the same name, the most recent version ends up in both musings. I will try to correct past errors that may have accumulated in past musings, if time permits. However, all past musings are also posted at:

You should be able to find a correct version at that link.


Mitchell’s Musings 12-4-2017: I have a bad feeling about all of this

Daniel J.B. Mitchell

Here’s a news item from Newsweek, 11-24-2017:


A student accused of snatching a MAGA hat from a Trump supporter could face a year in prison over the alleged misdemeanor. Edith Macias was charged with grand theft this week after allegedly taking the hat from fellow University of California, Riverside student Matthew Vitale at a campus meeting on September 27. Footage of the incident was posted to Facebook, showing Macias lambasting Vitale for his decision to wear the hat — a video that went viral:

 “This is mine. You do not get to take other people’s property that is legally theirs in this county,” Vitale told Macias after his hat was allegedly taken. “Man, fuck your laws,” Macias replied, also telling Vitale in the footage:  “Your fucking freedom of speech is genocide, homeboy! Is that what you are trying to represent?” then refusing to give the hat back, prompting intervention from police officers.

According to the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office, Macias could face up to one year in jail after being arrested over the incident because Macias is being charged with a higher misdemeanor than a normal petit theft because she allegedly swiped the hat off Vitale, Fox News reported.

The arrest warrant says Macias claimed to one of the police officers she wanted to burn the MAGA hat because she felt the words “Make America Great Again” were symbolic of the “genocide of a bunch of people.” Vitale, who is a member of the college’s Republican Club, pressed charges following the incident and explained that he was “excited” to see the district attorney’s office had taken the complaint seriously.

“I do, very proudly, wear my MAGA hat,” Vitale told Fox News. “I’m not doing this to be punitive or see her rot in jail. I want people my age to realize that things like this aren’t tolerated in America. We just want to have our rights guaranteed and that’s what it’s all about,” he added.[1]

Despite the headline, the chance that the defendant will spend a year in jail for her offense is nil. Unless she has other issues on her record, some deal will be cut. Anger management training, community service, taking a course on the constitution, or something like that is my guess as to the outcome (if the case isn’t entirely dropped).

On one hand, you can see the confrontation as a dialog of the deaf, with an empty hat slogan vs. empty return rhetoric. But if you look at the upcoming 2018 elections, or even 2020, you don’t have to guess which side benefited. It’s the one that appears on the side of free speech and calm reason. The hat wearer may or may not have wanted to provoke a confrontation. But either way, he knew just what to do. Make a video of the event, refrain from grabbing the hat back or physically confronting his adversary, insist on his constitutional rights, etc. In fact, it’s a classic non-violent strategy of the type used by civil rights workers in the 1950s and 1960s to combat segregation: allow the other side act unreasonably and let an electronic medium spread the images. Back then it was TV that carried the images; now it’s YouTube.

And don’t think that the fact that this particular confrontation occurred in blue-state California provides insulation from political ramifications. Newsweek is a national source of information distributed outside California. And, as it happens, some of the relatively few House seats that are up for grabs in 2018 are found in California, thanks to its changing demographics and political trends. UC-Riverside is located in a general area in which there are some House seats that could go either way. Moreover, there have been a stream of related events on other campuses in recent years that are in red states or which received national attention.

Inside Higher Ed carries an article about a college newspaper in Texas that carried inflammatory rhetoric:



I could reproduce the full article on the Texas story. But the picture above tells the story well enough.[2] And the issue goes beyond elections over the next few years and to the longer-term future of higher education itself, as a recent Pew poll suggested.[3] If you think it’s an accident that the Republican tax bill has features that aim at universities and students, look at the graphic from that poll below and think again.



And then there are the revelations about sexual harassment and assault in Hollywood and politics, about which I mused recently from just a labor-market perspective.[4] Progress in the workplace that hopefully will occur as a result may not produce progress in the political realm, particularly a realm in which the president on tape was heard by the electorate confessing to similar deeds - but won an election anyway.

The problem is that even as the revelations move to improve the workplace climate for women, every action has a reaction. The harassment cases that make the news are those involving big names for obvious reasons; the public is not interested in what Joe in the mailroom may have done or Harry on the assembly line.[5] But some observers have noted that it can’t be the case that the misbehavior in Hollywood and politics was confined only to high-profile personalities in those two sectors. There have to be many more men employed in less visible jobs and industries who now feel threatened, perhaps based on past behavior.

You can say that’s too bad for them. That is the kind of thinking that produced the outcome of the 2016 election that pollsters missed. But who gets more votes in 2018 and 2020 if threatened voters act on their fears? It’s likely that the bad-male-behavior-in-the-workplace issue will be kept alive, not just by new exposures but also by what seems to me to be inevitable litigation resulting from the big-buck contract terminations. Up to now, the revelations have produced apologies of various degrees of sincerity from the celebrities and politicos involved. But not all of them will go quietly into the night when substantial sums of money are at stake.

And then there is the Steinle case in San Francisco, a women shot by a undocumented man who was deported several times, had a criminal record, and seemed to be protected from deportation by San Francisco’s “sanctuary city” policies.[6] He was acquitted of murder after a jury trial and convicted only of having a gun illegally. Yes, evidence was presented that convinced the jury that he was not aiming at the women and that the bullet ricocheted into her. But the headlines are what they are, and not just in right-wing news media. To the extent that votes are influenced by this event, where do you think they go in in 2018 and 2020?



As we have noted in earlier musings, there is nothing on the economic horizon that suggests a recession (which would be bad for the ruling party). But there do seem to be a number of unrelated and unplanned events occurring that work to benefit the incumbents in Congress, in the Senate, and ultimately the president.

Of course, there is the Russia-thing…









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