Morning Ed: Politics {2016.11.22.T}

How an unpopular party with an unpopular presidential nominee won everything.

Is there anyone worse for science than scientists?

When someone calls the electoral college, someone’s gotta answer. Shortly after the election, Nate Silver looked at the future EC prospects of the Democrats. This is the second straight inverted result where most of the conversation leading up to the election assumed the advantage ran the other way.

Much has been written about Trump’s downscale supporters, but probably not as much about his upscale ones. I believe that when we talk about Trump supporters, we need to be clear whether we’re talking about his hardcore supporters, his median voters, and his marginal ones. Each is important in its own way.

Progress in some of the most unexpected places and ways.

Isaiah Carter shares his thoughts on the Democrats’ Failed Northern Strategy.

Donald Trump and Pat Toomey won by similar amounts, but that doesn’t mean they got the same voters.

This seems fair, I suppose, to an extent. A lot of it depends on answering the question of “What changed?” and preferably a degree of humility. But when some people flip, they often not only lack humility but start attacking me from the other side.

Lastly, the most lopsided Twitter poll I have ever conducted:


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Will Truman is a former professional gearhead who is presently a stay-at-home father in the Mountain East. He has moved around frequently, having lived in six places since 2003, ranging from rural outposts to major metropolitan areas. He also writes fiction, when he finds the time. ...more →

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46 thoughts on “Morning Ed: Politics {2016.11.22.T}

  1. The Isaiah Carter article was trash. Clinton won the popular vote by around two million people. If we didn’t have the electoral college, we would be talking about who will be in Clinton’s administration rather than Trumps. Like many conservative pieces, it ignores the fact that the structure of American politics gives disproportionate power to underpopulated rural areas at the expense of big population states and the cities. He doesn’t write about how Republicans gerrymandered the House and he doesn’t explain how the Democratic Party can reach out to Trump voters without betraying other core groups of voters.

    This gets into how the Republican Party wins even though they are massively unpopular. They win by taking advantage of American politics and playing constitutional hardball. The gerrymander. They refuse to capitulate when they loose elections closely. They ignore the rules of democracy when it is to their favor and insist that the Democratic Party follow every rule favorably. They suppress the votes of people who hate them.

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    • If we didn’t have the EC, it’s probably at least even odds that someone other than Clinton and Trump would have been running. Perhaps we’d have worse people or better, but probably different people. There’d be different incentives in how the principals campaign–even with Clinton and Trump–and a different psychology among the voters or prospective voters on who to vote for or whether to vote. Maybe that would be better, but it’d be different.

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    • This gets into how the Republican Party wins even though they are massively unpopular. They win by taking advantage of American politics and playing constitutional hardball. The gerrymander. They refuse to capitulate when they loose elections closely. They ignore the rules of democracy when it is to their favor and insist that the Democratic Party follow every rule favorably. They suppress the votes of people who hate them.

      A lot of what you’re indicting the GOP for here is true, or at least there’re facts to support it, though I can’t come up with examples offhand of a Republican refusing to concede a close election. But it’s incorrect to say the GOP is “massively unpopular.” Maybe it’s unpopular–for certain values of “unpopular”–but even a gerrymandering party like the GOP needs a substantial level of popularity to stay in power.

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    • “The Republican party had pored over election returns for six years, and it knew what it had to do to win. It had a regional strategy to win the election by playing the electoral college numbers game. It did so splendidly. . . . And the Republicans — not just the party bosses, but the rank and file — had been studying this one hard since 1856, and they knew how many votes they needed to swing in three crucial Northern border states that cared little for abolitionists.”

      How 39% of the popular vote created an electoral college lock

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    • Carter isn’t a conservative.

      And leaving aside that the disproportionate representation didn’t affect the outcome of this election, if your strategy is indifferent to the actual rules it’s not a good strategy. The Electoral College and the senate were known actual rules.

      Lastly, even if Clinton had eeked out a victory here, there is plenty of reason to be alarmed and to question the party’s strategy. The whole thing seems geared towards the presidency, and the margin of victory in the popular vote keeps going down (ahistorically in 2012) and that doesn’t account for a bad turn (like an inverted outcome, last minute scandal, etc) and in this election they got their dream opponent and still lost.

      I disagree with the notion that the Democratic Party is doomed, but between the presidency and the Senate and the House and governorships and legislatures, they are right now playing from behind. I’m not sure Carter identifies what they need to do, because I’m not sure what they are going to need to do, but it’s going to need to be something different and probably involve people of some sort or another that aren’t already voting Democratic.

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      • I think the only thing Democrats will need to do to win back seats at the national level is appear to be sane and semi-competent when 2020 rolls around. Trump and Republicans will take care of the rest.

        On the state level, I honestly don’t know, and it seems every state is probably different. But there is a good deal of opportunity for picking up governships and starting to rebuild their the party from the foundation up.

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        • “[T]he only thing Democrats will need to do to win back seats at the national level is appear to be sane and semi-competent . . . . Republicans will take care of the rest.”

          I believe that was the point being made, that the “Let the Republicans implode” strategy has demonstrably yielded less than desirable results. This view fails to consider some highly motivated constituencies (which, it is notable, are markedly different from constituencies generally, in that turnout is a realized gain, whereas registration, or other affiliation, is an unrealized potentiality, in much the same manner as throughput differs from input).

          Personally, I believe it goes to the candidate recruitment and development efforts of the Democratic Party, and the same old DLC leadership dominating the party.

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  2. 1. Lee gets it right above. The GOP plays constitutional and gerrymander hardball in ways that the Demicratic Party does not. They did this famously with REDMAP in 2010. They do this at levels. Democratic leaning writers often believe it will be years before D’s have a good chance of regaining the House. The Republicans gerrymandered without shame or regret and will get defensive at my suggestion like clockwork.

    Though it does seem that Democrats are becoming more aggressive in opposition.

    2. Upscale Trump voters: I think everyone ignored this because generally everyone expects upscale voters to go Republican. The exception seems to be whites with advanced degrees who might or might not be upscale because they could be well paid lawyers or semi-starving adjuncts. Though the article is largely right that this group new Trump’s faults more and still voted for him and that is decadence.

    3. Thick line essay: Based on three things from Yesterday, I think Trump is going to be really bad for a lot of people. We have a bunch of emboldened Nazi white supremacists who went around stating Hail Trump! Hail Victory! Their leader questioned whether Jews were people. CNN then spent minutes avoiding calling the fuckers Nazis and tried to debate whether it was politically expedient for Trump to denounce
    his Nazi followers.

    Trump summoned TV journalists to his home and then ripped into them with all his pettiness and nastiness. How many of this craven decadents with their comfortable salaries are going to become bootlickers for “access?”

    Meanwhile, Trump is proving that he will use his Presidency for personal wealth gaining and corruption.

    What a decadent thing this is and many Americans seem to think decadence and corruption and grift is good. Mindless marketing majors just write headlines without thinking of broader ethical and moral issues because it is paycheck and shots at the loud bar time.

    Can you tell I am angry?

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    • Saul Degraw: The GOP plays constitutional and gerrymander hardball in ways that the Demicratic Party does not.

      They played the gerrymander game for keeps in Maryland after the 2010 census.

      Trump summoned TV journalists to his home and then ripped into them with all his pettiness and nastiness. How many of this craven decadents with their comfortable salaries are going to become bootlickers for “access?”

      If the idea that journalism needs ‘access’ gets nuked, that would be a good thing The e.g. Watergate story wasn’t broken because of ‘access’, it was broken because of ‘sources’. Ditto Fahrenthold’s yeoman work on the Trump foundation.

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      • I agree on the second paragraph.

        I think Jay Rosen got it right in 2006. A certain breed of journalist values savviness above all else and winning is the best mark of savviness as are the best parties.

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    • I have been cautioned that skinhead football-hooligans organizing an armed and uniformed mob to sweep a train station in search of refugees to beat up, in an action subsequently praised by a neo-Nazi party, should not be called Nazis because they’re not literally members of the 1930s-40s Nazionalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, or something.

      I’m sure similar principles apply to avowed white supremacists quoting NSDAP propaganda and straight-arm saluting while shouting “Hail Trump”.

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      • There’s more than one dimension of whether it’s okay to call them Nazis or not, and I think they get muddled.

        If they don’t identify as Nazis, then they’re not Nazis. Nazi is a noun rather than an adjective, and it does describe with relative specificity.

        Which doesn’t mean that, qualitatively, they aren’t sufficiently similar to Nazis that I would object to them being called such. Especially when they’re doing the Nazi wave thing, saying “heil” and other related things.

        But it’s also important to be clear who we’re talking about. The shoe fits the NPI more than it fits others. But others may not be qualitatively better than Nazis. That doesn’t make them Nazis.

        It’s similar to the problem we’re having with “White Nationalist”… which means something distinct from “racist as hell.”

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      • Neo-Nazi is their own preferred term. And since even the casual reader correctly parses it as “We’re not those 1930s Nazi’s, we’re the 21st Century folks who think they had a lot of good ideas about people who aren’t white and Christian, specifically the bit where you curb-stomp them”.

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  3. I’ve read a lot of pieces like the Carter piece. It has the same flaw that so many of them do – it offers one cause of the loss.

    There were probably a dozen factors, any one of which, if it had broken the other way, we’d see Hillary Clinton running her transition now. Normal writing, though, has a hard time with this situation. We want our narrative and our causality. And this has people who I would like to see consoling and supporting each other pointing the finger.

    Yeah, there were a lot of things that went wrong all at once. That’s why this was such a shocker. I don’t disagree with the thesis that there’s a decided lack of interest/empathy with people such as the voters in Johnstown, PA among Democrats. I don’t disagree that shaming on behalf of social justice basically doesn’t work. You guys should be aware that I feel that way.

    But I’m so tired of these pieces that say, “No it wasn’t that that swung the election, it was this” Which is more finger-pointing. They often amount to “it wasn’t my fault, it was those people”. Which meant the campaign, or Bernie, or Hillary or Comey, or racists, or …

    No, we all own this. I’m going to keep trying to love and support people close to me and be ready to pick up the pieces.

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  4. The obnoxious neuroscience thing reminds me of conversations we’ve had about evolutionary psychology, Sam Harris, and the Margaritaville South Park episode, where everyone has their own facile but self-assured explanation for what went wrong with the economy, built on myriad leaps of deductive reasoning. This is the problem with rationalism.

    I guess the important take-away point for me is: we all know this explanation offered is bullshit this time, but what else that we all believe is actually just bullshit?

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      • To clarify, there have been three statewide elections since the 2011 law. The plaintiffs sued in 2015, and are requesting that the legislature redraw the districts and if they don’t act quickly enough, the courts should draw new districts. Given that the court is seeking more briefing on remedies, as well as probable further appeals, this case is essentially floating towards irrelevancy with the 2020 census.

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    • “If political motivation is improper, then the task of redistricting should be constitutionally assigned to some other body.” This is the takeaway for me, but maybe that is because I am in CA. If you don’t want it to be politically motivated, get it out of political hands. Period. Personally, I prefer the county as the ideal level for this decision, as the boundaries already stand and don’t tend to move.

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      • If you don’t want it to be politically motivated, get it out of political hands. Period.

        Any weapon you’re willing to wield will (not “might”) be picked up by your opponents.

        If there is a weapon you never, ever want to see them using? Don’t pick it up.

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      • In theory I agree, but to change the system you have to get the politicians who drew themselves safe seats to give up that advantage. I mean, we’ve let it get to a point when we have a 95+% retention rate rate for a body that that has single digit approval ratings.

        When you can use available data to tell almost on a house by house basis how people are likely to vote, and then use that data to draw districts based almost exclusively on partisan advantage the courts are right to step in.

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        • The issue as I understand it is that people hate the institution as a whole but generally seem like their own Representatives and Senators.

          I think this makes logical sense especially in a highly partisan age. I like Nancy Pelosi, Diane Feinstein, and the retiring Barbara Boxer just fine. I don’t like Paul Ryan, I especially don’t like Mitch “Yertle the Turtle” McConnell, and the entire Republican clown show.

          Add this all up and you have a giant collective action problem. The only time representatives seem to get unseated is when their own base throws them out in a primary which generally means a more partisan candidate coming in especially in GOP safe districts.

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          • Oh, I agree that certainly explains part (or even most) of that stat. But gerrymandered seats significantly effect who people are comparing their incumbents to. As you mention, it generally leads to incumbent losses only to more partisan challengers.

            I would also say that getting rid of gerrymandering may mean that reelection rates of 97% turn into to 85 or 90%, and would do a great deal to make sure that the popular vote mismatches we see in the house are much rarer occurrences. So 2012 is obviously the most egregious, but in both 2014 and 2016 Republicans won around 50% of the PV and control around 55% or the seats. That’s five or six percent of house seats which probably should have switched hands.

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        • Well, CA voters took it upon themselves to force the state to redraw districts through direct democracy. Seems OK so far.

          It still has the thumb of gerrymandering on its scale, what with Minority Majority districts. And whether you like those districts or not, whether you think they are appropriate, they are de facto gerrymandering. Now, if those districts constantly go to one party over the other, the other is going to start to look at this as justification for similar, in effect, actions. Now this doesn’t change the fact that both parties have been GMing for generations, but is simply to illustrate that both sides will try to move the needle to work the system. And if you want to stop that, you need to remove it from those two sides.

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  5. The Democrats unfortunately have an age problem in their leadership and in the House overall:

    http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/11/22/12244416/nancy-pelosi-house-democrats

    I generally dislike term limits because I am a firm believer in the importance of institutional knowledge but I also think there is a problem with having a leadership that just keeps holding on until death because the younger generation is not prepared to take over.

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    • The Democratic Party really needs to get people born after 1964 into elected office. The current party leadership and really membership is too old. The Republicans have a related problem but many of their elected members are much younger.

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  6. “I believe that when we talk about Trump supporters, we need to be clear whether we’re talking about his hardcore supporters, his median voters, and his marginal ones. Each is important in its own way.”

    Well *I* don’t think we need to talk about ANYTHING other than that they’re RACISTS who VOTED FOR A RACIST.

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