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Voters are back to worrying whether a woman can win
Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN). | Sean Rayford/Getty Images Elizabeth Warren and Amy Klobuchar are being held to a higher “electability” standard than the men running for president. DOVER, New Hampshire — Newspaper editorial boards across America seem ready for a woman president.But voters aren’t so sure. The New York Times recently endorsed both Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), the two women left standing in the top tier of the 2020 Democratic primary. While the paper clearly couldn’t choose between Klobuchar’s pragmatic moderation and Warren’s sweeping “big structural change” stance, its choice of two women made a statement. Warren and Klobuchar have also racked up nods from early state newspapers, with Iowa’s Des Moines Register endorsing Warren and the conservative-leaning Union Leader and more liberal Keene Sentinel board backing Klobuchar in New Hampshire. But interviews with dozens of New Hampshire voters reveal an underlying anxiety about picking a woman to go up against President Donald Trump. “I am so disappointed with voters in this country, I wonder if a woman could win,” said Freedom voter Chris Hurley, who voted for Bernie Sanders in 2016 but is considering Klobuchar this year. “I hate to say that. It may be a white middle-aged man. We’ve got to beat Trump.” The media and voters alike have become obsessed with the concept of “electability.” Political experts told me it’s a vicious cycle. “We’re saying put on this pundit hat and pick the most electable candidate,” said Betsy Fischer Martin, the executive director of American University’s Women & Politics Institute and a former TV executive. “Voters have heard this messaging coming out of the media about women candidates being unelectable. That circular conversation that’s going on, the more it’s being talked about, the more it gets into people’s conventional wisdom.” Although Warren and Klobuchar have an unblemished record of winning elections compared with their male counterparts (something Warren pointed out on the debate stage in January) and Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million votes in 2016, the latter’s Electoral College loss is fueling voters’ fears. With two weeks until the primary, New Hampshire voters seem especially conscious of what a “middle America” voter in the Midwest might think of their choice. Women have to make the case that they’re electable because there’s never been a woman president Though the 2016 election is looming large in voters’ minds, they might want to pause to think of the 2018 midterms — also known as the “year of the woman.” As a new wave of Democratic women swept into the US House and governor’s seats around the country, an analysis of 2018 Democratic primaries by the Cook Political Report’s Dave Wasserman showed that women candidates statistically overperformed their male competitors by about 15 percent. “I think that people are forgetting the lessons of 2018,” Rep. Katherine Clark, vice chair of the House Democratic caucus and a surrogate for Warren, told me in a recent interview. “When people are scared, which they are, they kind of look for what they’ve always known as the safe choice.” Women statisticallydemonstrated that they were more electable than men in the most recent election, but somehow they’re still not seen as the “safe choice” Clark mentioned. That’s because, to voters, winning executive office has a higher bar than winning legislative office. Not only do women have to campaign for president, they also have to make the case for why they would make a suitable president. Men innately don’t have to make that case, because the American public is very used to seeing men as president. “Men are assumed to be qualified and women have to prove they’re qualified over and over,” said Amanda Hunter, research and communications director at the Barbara Lee Family Foundation. “They’re held to a higher and different standard; the standard is often perfection.” The women running for president in 2020 keep having to come back to the tangible things they’ve accomplished: winning elections, passing bills, starting federal agencies. Research on electability from the Barbara Lee Family Foundation shows that “empathy, toughness, and substance” are qualities candidates have to demonstrate in order for voters to consider them electable. A majority of voters polled for that research — 56 percent — have also heard the media discuss women candidates as unelectable. And though nearly 80 percent of voters rejected the idea that a woman isn’t electable, the foundation’s survey also found that Democratic and Republican voters alike are more inclined to think it’s more important to appeal to swing voters than to the party’s base. That standard is amplified with Trump in the picture and what is sure to be a bruising general election. Former Republican Sheree Dustin of Hampstead, New Hampshire — now an undeclared voter — looks to Biden when she thinks about electability. Dustin said she liked Klobuchar buthas doubts about the Minnesota senator in a general election. “She’s not going to win; she’ll lose,” said Dustin. She just sees Biden as more uniting. Voters in New Hampshire recognize women have to meet a higher bar Many voters interviewed in New Hampshire said they believed the women running for president in 2020 are being held to a higher standard than the men. “The biggest uphill battle she has is the inherent misogyny,” Dover voter and Warren supporter Jeremiah Dickinson told me as he waited to see his candidate speak a few weeks ago. “She’s the smartest, most prepared.” But it was also clear that a lot of voters weren’t just basing their vote on what they alone think; they were also concerned about what swing voters around the country might think. “I think Elizabeth is very intense and may not appeal to the majority of voters,” Concord voter and Pete Buttigieg supporter Diane Doner Salice told me, even as she added that she thought Warren was “eloquent.” That’s not a sentiment exclusive to New Hampshire. My former colleague Tara Golshan found the same thing when she talked to caucus-goers in Iowa last summer. “Biden and Warren are our top two choices,” Iowa voter Connie Esbeck told Golshan in August, adding, “I’m still afraid there’s going to be people that are prejudiced against electing a woman.” Her husband, Glenn Esbeck, a Clinton supporter in 2016, added, “There are some old stubborn guys, they may not vote for a woman.” A recent WBUR poll of New Hampshire showed the stark gender divide on Warren’s favorability numbers.. Among women, 65 percent had a favorable opinion of the candidate, compared with 21 percent who said it was unfavorable. But among men, 53 percent said they had a favorable opinion of Warren, while 40 percent had an unfavorable opinion. (Similarly, the poll found that Klobuchar’s unfavorables were higher with men than with women.) Other New Hampshire voters told me they thought Warren and Klobuchar had demonstrated their electability after solid debate performances. Multiple voters used the words “confident” and “qualified” to describe both women, a characteristic they were looking for in a candidate. “Gender should not be an issue. I don’t think that question should be raised, but I know that it is,” said East Kingston voter and Warren supporter Mary Nickol.
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The Least-Difficult Reform for College Admissions
In the world of college admissions, few choices about how to weigh applicants are simple. How much weight should schools give to applicants’ athletic performance, to standardized-test scores, to the need for a diverse student body, to the donations of wealthy benefactors? These are all complicated questions. But Johns Hopkins University just presented the higher-education world with at least one easy decision: Legacy admissions need to go.Johns Hopkins recently made public a decision, reached in 2014 but kept secret until recently, to stop giving an admissions boost to applicants who have a parent who attended Johns Hopkins. Giving weight to legacy status takes attention away from consideration of an applicant’s accomplishments, raw talent, leadership ability, academic achievement, and athletic skills. And it does that without offering much in return: It doesn’t measure the obstacles that a student has overcome, or her potential to contribute to peers’ learning, or any other characteristics that colleges sometimes consider. Nor does a broad legacy-admissions preference guarantee that alumni will donate to an institution in any meaningful way—despite the widespread and often-unquestioned assumption that it will. (The students who might have been admitted if not for legacy preferences are potential donors, too.)The strongest legacy applicants will be admitted anyway; they make up about 3.5 percent of the current freshman class at Johns Hopkins, down from about 12.5 percent several years ago. But reducing the number of legacies makes room in a college class for top students from all backgrounds; the percentage of students who are eligible for Pell Grants at the school has more than doubled during the same period. Johns Hopkins’s experience since eliminating legacy admissions undercuts other colleges’ claims that they are engines of social mobility, that they select the very best candidates from their deep pool of applicants, and that the admissions process is fundamentally meritocratic.[Read: Elite-college admissions are broken]Legacy admissions do not rise to the level of the Varsity Blues celebrity scandal, in which dozens of wealthy parents paid big dollars to a private consultant to enable their children to cheat on the SAT and to bribe coaches to claim that their children were needed on sports teams. However, they represent different versions of the same problem: a special admissions door for applicants who have already enjoyed major advantages in life.The irony is that the legacy-admissions preference, a policy supported only by a vague notion that catering to long-ago graduates is in an institution’s long-term interest, has survived at elite institutions, while affirmative action now faces existential threats. A policy in which black, Latino, and Native American applicants can get a small boost in admissions has multiple important justifications supporting it. Universities and their students welcome its impact on campus life and interracial dialogue. Others view affirmative action as a policy to extend opportunity to groups historically underrepresented on elite-college campuses, or even as a form of reparations for past exclusion. Finally, affirmative action diversifies the pool of potential leaders in society, so that our politicians, judges, executives, and teachers might better reflect the society they serve.Yet affirmative action has been under sustained political and legal attack for decades. Opinion polls since the 1960s have continually asked ordinary Americans for their views on the subject, and politicians have exploited it for political advantage. Some will recall President Bill Clinton’s charge to “mend it, [not] end it.” Multiple states have had public referenda leading to bans on affirmative action in college admissions. A case now working its way through the courts could extinguish the practice entirely. Why aren’t legacy admissions in similar peril?[Read: College-admissions hysteria is not the norm]American colleges and universities are coy about acknowledging the moral trade-offs that they obviously make. While prosecutors say that the money the former sitcom star Lori Loughlin spent to ensure her daughter’s acceptance at the University of Southern California broke the law, the $2.5 million that Jared Kushner’s parents spent to ensure his admission to Harvard despite Kushner’s mediocre performance in high school was fully legal. This policy of essentially selling seats further compromises universities’ claims of fairness in admissions.At the same time, universities seem to rely on these large donations, and even people outside a school’s fundraising office are capable of viewing these transactions in relentlessly utilitarian terms. When my research team interviewed students on Ivy League campuses for my book The Diversity Bargain, many students suggested this compromise: If one legacy admission meant the university could pay for five packages of financial aid for disadvantaged students, it was worth it. One executive at the Harvard Management Company has even suggested that colleges simply auction a small number of seats to the highest bidders, which would eliminate the need for the more subtle admissions boosts given to a much larger group of legacy applicants and the children of donors.Personally, I believe that admissions boosts for the children of donors need to end. But those of us who favor such a change must acknowledge that universities would need to find a solution to the financial burden this may cause—there is some reason to pause before considering an end to this practice, unlike legacy admissions.Not much in college admissions is simple. Because the high schools from which applicants come differ markedly in their rigor and in their grading systems, many colleges use SAT scores to compare applicants—and scoring patterns on that standardized test have been used as an argument against affirmative action and legacy admissions alike. But the SAT, too, is a flawed yardstick. Scores on the test are highly correlated with household income and parental education, yet not very well correlated with actual academic performance in college. These problems have led to a growing movement of selective colleges that are scrapping the SAT requirement, going SAT-optional. The University of Chicago is the latest to do so. A lawsuit in California is even arguing that the use of the SAT in admission to University of California campuses is unlawful, because it introduces bias against poor, black, and Latino applicants.Selective colleges have multiple goals in mind when they admit students. Compromises need to be made and then justified to families, alumni, lawyers, and a range of constituencies on campus—faculty, coaches, the development office, and more. Universities need to make sure they remain financially sound, to ensure that the students admitted have the academic skills necessary to thrive on campus, to promote a more diverse leadership for American democracy, and much more. Why expend any energy or moral capital on defending an indefensible policy like legacy admissions? All selective colleges should follow Johns Hopkins’s lead.
The rise of daily fantasy and sports betting has created an economy of its own
Some viewers of the 2020 NFC Championship may well have cared more about the performance of individual players than whether the Green Bay Packers or San Francisco 49ers won. | Kiyoshi Mio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images From rotisserie merch to a dedicated weatherman, fantasy sports-related businesses are booming. Kevin Roth is a meteorologist, and for the most part, his résumé looks like you might imagine it: He has a master’s degree in meteorology, got his start at small-market television stations, and worked his way up to a more prominent perch in Dallas/Fort Worth — the fifth-largest media market in the country. But these days, his forecasts sound a little bit different. “It’s not that it’s going to be storming or rainy or all that terrible, but we should see about a 15 mph sustained wind, with gusts up to 20,” he tells the audience before diverging from a typical weatherman’s shtick. “This is borderline. I’m more worried if the sustained winds are 20.” He explains: “I’ve seen about a 10 percent drop in passing yards in similar-weather games. So it is not ideal, but we’re really only talking about a couple really deep throws or a couple really long field goals that are going to be impacted by the weather.” This is all about the Minnesota Vikings and the San Francisco 49ers; it’s not your typical weather forecast. Despite his traditional background, Roth is currently the chief meteorologist for RotoGrinders, a website serving the daily fantasy sports (DFS) community. On this particular day in early January, just before our phone conversation, Roth is sharing his at-the-moment forecast and analysis for the CBS Sports podcast Fantasy Football Today. The NFL’s divisional playoff games commence that weekend, and fantasy sports fanatics need to know the most current weather forecast in Green Bay, Wisconsin, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Kansas City, Missouri, where the weekend’s four games would be played. If you’ve never heard of DFS, you’ve probably heard of DraftKings and FanDuel, its two main operators. Users draft fantasy teams to play in limited game “slates” (e.g., one week of NFL action, one night of MLB). In DFS, your teams are driven by granular details like player matchups, injuries, stadium, and certainly weather. While he may be one of only a few certified meteorologists working in this space, Roth isn’t alone in serving this community. The popularization of fantasy sports, the emergence of DFS, and the recent legalization of sports betting have ushered in a new era of sports fandom where individual player performance is just as exciting as watching your hometown team win. Beyond the companies that fuel the fantasy world — ESPN and Yahoo, DraftKings and FanDuel — a coterie of other entities, from niche analysis websites to merch stores to sports bars hosting live contests, have popped up to cater to fans and cash in on this growing market. Though it is still an emerging industry, legal sports betting has already seen more than $15 billion in wagers and $1.1 billion in revenue — in just 12 states where sports betting is legal and data is available — since the Supreme Court reversed a decades-long federal ban in June 2018. But before sports betting got approval, DFS went through its own battle for legal recognition. Currently, some form of DFS is legal and operational in 43 states and the District of Columbia. Seven states — Arizona, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Washington — still consider DFS illegal sports gambling. After a high-profile battle with former New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman over deceptive marketing practices, DraftKings and FanDuel settled, and New York soon after passed legislation to explicitly legalize it. In a December presentation to investors, DraftKings reported $213 million in revenue in 2019 with 60 percent of the market share, indicating the DFS industry brought in more than $350 million in revenue last year. The DFS industry brought in more than $350 million in revenue last year Before 2018, when the Court ruled that states possessed the authority to legalize sports betting, Nevada was the only state that offered it legally. Since then, 19 additional states and the District of Columbia have legalized sports betting, with sportsbooks either having started taking bets or planning to do so soon. ESPN reports that 24 more states are “moving toward” legalization. Despite being separate products, regulated separately, the user base for all three games — traditional fantasy, DFS, and sports betting — is similar. A 2018 Ipsos study, commissioned by the FSGA, found that “79% of fantasy sports players who are not current sports wagerers say they will likely participate in sports betting once legalized in their state.” So it makes sense that many of the DFS operators have gotten into sports betting too. DraftKings and FanDuel both operate sportsbooks separate from their fantasy offerings. “We’re not even close to a fully mature market” Dustin Gouker never thought sports betting legalization looked “particularly imminent” until it happened, but always saw DFS as a “placeholder” for sports betting. Legalization “might have happened either way, but I think everybody got a little more comfortable with it — no matter what you think of DFS, it’s a form of having money on the outcome of a game,” Gouker, head of content for LegalSportsReport and a network of related websites, tells me. That involves everyone from leagues and teams to media companies, politicians, lobbyists, and users. “I think there still would’ve been a pretty decent groundswell without it because I think there’s a pent-up demand for sports betting, but everyone got more comfortable with it a little bit more quickly because of daily fantasy.” Gouker says he thinks the legal progress and economic growth in the past two years is “astounding,” but there’s a lot of room for the industry to grow, he says. “Even though we have all these states, we’re not even close to a fully mature market.” Since the popularization of fantasy sports in the 1980s, media organizations have consistently played a significant role in the growth of the games. The prefix roto-, found in RotoGrinders and a number of other fantasy-focused businesses, originated with the advent of the season-long rotisserie baseball league. Daniel Okrent, the journalist who invented the format, and his friends launched their first league over lunch at the now-closed La Rotisserie Française. Their draft took place just before the start of the 1980 Major League Baseball season, and Philadelphia Phillies third baseman Mike Schmidt was picked first overall (a good pick, too: Schmidt had an MVP season and led the Phillies to their first World Series title). “Roto” baseball took off in part because Okrent — who went on to become the first public editor of the New York Times — along with his fellow team-manager buddies, worked in journalism. “The second season, there were Rotisserie leagues in every Major League press box,” Okrent told Vanity Fair in 2008. “In 1981 there was a players’ strike, and the writers who were covering baseball had nothing to write about, so they began writing about the teams they had assembled in their own leagues.” In 1995, ESPN began offering a fantasy sports platform on its website, followed by CBS Sports in 1997 and the upstart, which CBS then bought outright for $31 million in 2001. Yahoo changed the game in 1999 when it began hosting free fantasy leagues, relying on ad revenue rather than user fees. And with the rise of fantasy sports came news specifically catering to its players. RotoNews — now RotoWire — launched in 1997 and quickly became one of the most visited sports websites. Star Tribune via Getty Images Fantasy sports fans in 2000 draft their teams, before the rise of DFS. Now practically every sports media organization, from mainstream to niche, has some involvement with fantasy sports (including Vox Media’s SB Nation). They provide player-by-player insights and statistical analysis through TV shows, podcasts, articles, and databases, and fantasy managers rely on this information to make educated decisions about drafting and maintaining their teams. DFS, which first appeared in 2007, bridged the world of traditional friend-group fantasy with what we’re seeing now: a burgeoning sports-betting market gradually sweeping through the United States. While much of the money in this space flows through the fantasy sports operators and sportsbooks, a cottage media industry has popped up to support it. Niche sites zero in on sports statistics, analyzed for specific audiences playing specific fantasy games and making specific sports bets. Troves of podcasts bring a new spin on the chatter of legacy sports talk radio. And there’s plenty of analysts — of varying repute — who sell their fantasy and sports betting picks to more casual players for hefty subscription fees. At first, Chris Raybon wasn’t exposed to much of this, but he always played fantasy football and obsessed over stats. He worked in accounting for a tech company and, “bored out of my mind,” would read about fantasy. After reading an article on the sports analytics website numberFire that he vehemently disagreed with, he emailed the editor, who asked if Raybon wanted to start writing for them for free. Over time, Raybon started building an audience and improving his analysis, and in turn he was able to get paid more and more for his writing. Finally, he left his accounting job for a full-time position writing for the fantasy site 4for4 to launch its DFS coverage. Thrust into the nascent DFS space, Raybon watched as the game’s legality was challenged. “When the legality of DFS was being questioned, it was uncomfortable for me personally,” he said. “If DFS is no more, I’m probably out of a job.” But Raybon transitioned smoothly to his new career. These days, he splits his time between writing for the Action Network, an upstart subscription media company focused on sports betting, and its sister website FantasyLabs, as well as co-hosting Fantasy Sports Radio on SiriusXM and I’ll Take That Bet on ESPN+. There’s a large appetite for his analysis. Lisa Lake/Getty Images for SiriusXM Former NFL player Torry Holt broadcasts live at the SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio talk show, cohosted by Chris Raybon. Despite the emergence of sports betting, Adam Levitan is sticking with DFS. Levitan, who has an established background writing about DFS for RotoWorld, recently launched Establish the Run, a new DFS football website, with partner Evan Silva. The model is simple: $204.99 for an entire NFL season of their analysis, top plays, rankings, and more. With an enormous following on Twitter and his popular Daily Fantasy Football Edge podcast, Levitan has made a career out of DFS. “I like football, but I like playing fantasy and trying to outsmart people more,” he says. “I think if I didn’t play fantasy, I don’t know how much sports I would really watch. People don’t want to hear that. But I think you could be better at fantasy when you don’t care. And I think that if you follow the game from more of a data-driven perspective, you don’t get swayed by small-sample outlier stuff.” Fantasy and sports betting has given fans new ways and reasons to watch. “I would never watch Jaguars-Titans in a million years, but if I have fantasy players in it, then of course I’m watching Jaguars-Titans,” Levitan says. “I really think without fantasy football, the NFL would not be where it is today.” Raybon says the fantasy and sports betting worlds are the “most merged they’ve ever been” because not only is the audience the same, but many analysts — including him — use their data to forecast results in both. “For me, I have a spreadsheet and a model and I’m projecting every game and every player and every team every week anyway,” he said. “It’s the same information, it’s the same skills that are necessary.” And in addition to the niche sites and podcasts, mainstream sports media have caught on. For fantasy ESPN has The Fantasy Show and Yahoo hosts Fantasy Football Live. And they’ve doubled down on sports betting content too: ESPN’s Daily Wager and Fox Sports’ Lock It In are just two examples. (Vox Media, which owns this site, has a deal between DraftKings and Vox’s SB Nation sports property.) “I like football, but I like playing fantasy and trying to outsmart people more” Outside of media, individual retailers have gotten into the fray. RotoWear, a website selling tongue-in-cheek apparel for sports fans, has its origins in fantasy sports (hence the roto- prefix) and has an entire collection of fantasy- and DFS-related merch. (One T-shirt lists BABIP & wOBA & xFIP & SwStr & WAR — mostly obscure but effective baseball statistics — in that now-ubiquitous shirt design.) Professional baseball players like Aaron Judge and Max Muncy have recently been spotted in RotoWear shirts. ESPN host Matthew Berry runs the FantasyLife website, selling fantasy-related merch, including apparel and a $159 26-inch trophy for fantasy league losers with a toilet on it. The thrills of DFS and sports betting are popping up in real life too — not just in terrestrial casinos and DraftKings or FanDuel-hosted tournament finals, but in bars and restaurants. The Virginia-based company Eaglestrike Fantasy Sports has fantasy kiosks in sports bars across five states and hosts live fantasy competitions too. In Washington, DC, when sports betting becomes fully operational, individual bars and restaurants can apply for special licenses to host sports betting too. It might not be long before fantasy and sports betting are a staple of the modern sports bar. From the time he was 5 years old, Roth knew he wanted to be a TV weatherman. And by all accounts, he achieved his dream. In Dallas, he worked on a show, Eye Opener, that was syndicated, which meant he often forecast the weather for viewers in Houston, Miami, Philadelphia, Portland, and DC as well. “I felt like I made it,” Roth told me. “This was the dream job. I loved the show I was on. But at the same time I just knew it wasn’t sustainable.” Roth started to feel the financial constraints of the local TV news business, and they were becoming increasingly troublesome. At one point, Roth was asked to handle weather, sports, traffic, and anchor broadcasts. “Things kept getting shittier in the TV industry,” he recalls. In 2014, Roth started working a second job. Through a friend of a friend, he found out that RotoGrinders needed someone to predict whether baseball games would rain out or not. Roth had always been a “huge sports nut” and dabbled in traditional season-long fantasy leagues but had never even heard of DFS. “I didn’t even know what DraftKings was,” Roth says. “But I knew weather and sports. And that was really all I needed.” “I didn’t even know what DraftKings was. But I knew weather and sports. And that was really all I needed.” As his TV work became shakier, the DFS industry was growing rapidly and with it grew the scope of his responsibilities. Eventually, Roth was let go from the station, along with the rest of his on-air team, and his show was canceled. Shortly after, RotoGrinders made him a full-time offer. Roth’s lifelong dream of being on TV had ended, but he had hedged his bet on a promising media company supporting a budding industry. While his lifestyle is different now, only some things are different about his work. “In TV you’re forecasting for not just a city but a whole area, like the DFW Metroplex and all surrounding counties, so you can be very general. You can say ‘30 percent chance of rain,’” he says. “In sports, you’re forecasting for one particular game in one particular spot at one specific time. Thirty percent doesn’t cut it. Maybes are not accepted in sports betting.” Throughout his career, Roth’s singular dream was to return to his hometown of Tampa as a meteorologist. Recently, he turned down a job offer to do just that. Maybe one day he’ll get back to that original dream, but for now, things are going well for Kevin Roth in fantasy land. Sign up for The Goods’ newsletter and we’ll send you the best Goods stories exploring what we buy, why we buy it, and why it matters.
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