The Jolt: In politics, vagueness pays – unless you’re black


Politicians are famous for talking without saying. As a strategy, vagueness pays – unless the candidate is African-American and the audience isn’t.

Audrey Haynes, a University of Georgia political scientist and director of UGA’s Applied Politics Certificate program, pointed us to this recent three-scholar study that appears in the Journal of Politics. From the summary:

Campaign advisors and political scientists have long acknowledged the benefits of ambiguous position-taking. We argue, however, that these benefits do not extend to black candidates facing nonblack voters. When a white candidate makes vague statements, many of these voters project their own policy positions onto the candidate, increasing support for the candidate. But they are less likely to extend black candidates the same courtesy…

We find that ambiguity boosts support for white male candidates but not for black male candidates. In fact, black male candidates who make ambiguous statements are actually punished for doing so by racially prejudiced voters.

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Traditionally, the Georgia Press Association gathers each June on Jekyll Island. And in even years, the collection of Georgia’s medium and small newspapers hosts a debate of the election season’s ticket-toppers.

For candidates, it has been a way to quickly reach those editorial voices heard by voters in distant corners of a very large state.

Individual boycotts aren’t unheard of, certainly. Mark Taylor, who would become the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, snubbed the gathering in 2006. Republican Guy Milner, who would go on to win his party’s nomination for governor, boycotted a GPA debate in 1998.

But this year feels different. The GPA was set to host a gubernatorial forum in Jekyll Island on Thursday that featured Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republicans Casey Cagle and Brian Kemp.

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The event has been scrapped. All three cited other commitments and fundraising duties, said Robin Rhodes, the association’s director. That’s a blow to public discourse. But it’s also a worrisome sign about the waning influence of community newspapers throughout Georgia.

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Casey Cagle’s GOP gubernatorial campaign continued its long-running tangle with Brian Kemp on Twitter. It started when Kemp spokesman Ryan Mahoney tweeted his disbelief that Cagle visited Las Vegas for a fundraiser on Tuesday without meeting casino executives. 

Cagle operative Brian Robinson shot back that Mahoney is “teaching a strong lesson today on what you tweet when your campaign isn’t raising any money. Bravo, professor!”

Mahoney said he could have joked about Cagle’s background running a tuxedo shop but “instead I mentioned the obvious: Cagle is FOR SALE.” 

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We offer our condolences to U.S. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville, who lost his father over the weekend. Bob Woodall, a longtime resident of Sparta, Ga., died Saturday, according to the Barnesville Herald-Gazette. A memorial service has been scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, June 9, at Decatur First Methodist Church.

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Election returns from California, where congressional races could spell success or failure for Democratic dreams of taking control of the U.S. House, were still muddled as the Eastern Seaboard woke up this morning. From the Associated Press:

National Democrats spent more than $7 million trying to curb and repair the damage inflicted by Democrats attacking each other in districts opened by retiring Republican Reps. Ed Royce and Darrell Issa, and the district where Republican Dana Rohrabacher is facing challenges from the left and the right.

In two of the three Southern California districts, Democrats were coming in second place behind Republicans, but the races were too close to call early Wednesday, leaving Democrats at risk of being locked out. In another, Issa’s district, Republican Diane Harkey was leading in early returns, as two Democrats vied for the second slot.

Republican Rep. Mimi Walters easily advanced to the November election in her Orange County district that has been targeted by Democrats. The second spot remained up for grabs.

And to the north, House intelligence committee chairman Devin Nunes, a Republican, qualified for the general election ballot as well. Nunes is a polarizing figure in national politics given his support for Trump in one of the many investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.

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The student newspaper at the University of California, San Diego reports that U.S. Rep. John Lewis, D-Atlanta, has withdrawn from a planned commencement address at the school. His move came after several fellow Democrats made similar moves “likely due to concerns with how the UC system treats union workers,” according to the paper. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Ted Lieu, both California Democrats, and actress Mayim Bialik recently declined similar appearances in recent months, according to the Triton. 

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There are a few nuggets worth noting in Politico’s profile of U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, and his bromance with New York Democrat Hakeem Jeffries. The two have co-authored prison reform and music copyright bills together. Apparently the two also share a love for music — and are mulling coming out with a joint summer playlist. From the profile: 

While faith may have helped plant the seeds of their friendship, their bond really cemented over a shared love of music. Jeffries prides himself on being a hip-hop aficionado, noting Brooklyn is where some of the genre’s greatest artists cut their teeth.

Collins says he has more eclectic taste than people might assume considering he hails from one of the most conservative districts in the country. “I go from rap to country to Ne-Yo,” he said. “I listen to everything from AC/DC to Lil Wayne.”

Collins, a rap fan. Who woulda thunk?





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