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King For America

A political science professor and a theater professor wondered how people would have responded to the candidates if they flipped the genders:

Salvatore says he and Guadalupe began the project assuming that the gender inversion would confirm what they’d each suspected watching the real-life debates: that Trump’s aggression—his tendency to interrupt and attack—would never be tolerated in a woman, and that Clinton’s competence and preparedness would seem even more convincing coming from a man.

But the lessons about gender that emerged in rehearsal turned out to be much less tidy. What was Jonathan Gordon smiling about all the time? And didn’t he seem a little stiff, tethered to rehearsed statements at the podium, while Brenda King, plainspoken and confident, freely roamed the stage? Which one would audiences find more likeable? {…}

“I’ve never had an audience be so articulate about something so immediately after the performance,” Salvatore says of the cathartic discussions. “For me, watching people watch it was so informative. People across the board were surprised that their expectations about what they were going to experience were upended.”

Many were shocked to find that they couldn’t seem to find in Jonathan Gordon what they had admired in Hillary Clinton—or that Brenda King’s clever tactics seemed to shine in moments where they’d remembered Donald Trump flailing or lashing out. For those Clinton voters trying to make sense of the loss, it was by turns bewildering and instructive, raising as many questions about gender performance and effects of sexism as it answered.

And this was just the first phase of the project: Her Opponent’s creators envision adapting the recording as a classroom teaching tool to explore the complex ways our personal biases influence how we receive messages. The gender-swapping technique, Salvatore suggests, could also be used to explore the communication styles of different political figures in other charged confrontations.

These results don’t necessarily dismiss the importance of gender, nor do they prove that the gender dynamics actually favored Hillary Clinton. It could just be that the actor for Brenda King (the female Donald) was better than the actor for Gordon. Jonathan Gordon (the male HRC character) may have suffered precisely because he was living up to the same female expectations that Hillary Clinton was expected to. It could also be an indicator of something that we, as a society, know or at least suspect: women have a little more versatility when it comes on to taking on stereotypically male traits than men do taking on stereotypically female ones.

Even bearing all of that in mind, just the snippet of video in the article is really quite illuminating. It really was a very good exchange for King, and I didn’t remember in that way for Trump. Leaving the gender thing aside, it allowed me to watch Donald Trump without all of the preconceived baggage I have with regard to Donald Trump.

Obviously, I do not care for Trump. Not the man, not the candidate, and not even in an anti-anti sort of way. It’s not just his platform or the racist/sexist comments or the fact he is a wealthy New Yorker. It is all of those things, and more. It is reasons that are rational and reasons that – if I’m being honest with myself – are not. There have always been things for me to like about Trump, but I’ve never been able to actually like them. It’s not that I’ve been completely unable to understand how anyone could support him. But rather that my understanding is rooted in third-person hypotheticals (“If I were this type of person” or “If I believed these things”) and more heady than visceral.

The first glimpse I got into the instinctual was when I read his nomination acceptance speech. I thought it was good. It wasn’t going to move the needle for me, of course, but I found a way to sort of understand it outside the third person. Specifically, I could look back at my 17 year old self and say “Yeah, this would have appealed to him.” And since him is me, I felt it a little more personally. For a brief moment, I got it.

Then I saw the speech and I hated it. I thought that his delivery was bad. I imagined the speech still working, but only if someone like Tom Cotton (or, ahem, Joni Ernst) gave it. I filed it away in the file box where I was putting a lot of my papers: Trumpism can win, but Trump can’t.

Reading about this, and watching the video, reminded me of that because it was another opportunity for me to imagine Trump as not Trump. It allows me to put all of my baggage aside and assess him independent of my many, many impressions of the man. And with that out, I can again find why things that rubbed me the wrong the way didn’t rub others the wrong way enough to change the election. Not enough to make him popular (he wasn’t), but enough to make him palatable to people who didn’t like either candidate.

I didn’t come away from the video really liking King or wanting to support her. Same platform I disagree with, speech pattern I am not enamored with, and mannerisms that I don’t care for. But coming from someone else I find myself more easily able to, if not put them aside completely, not be tripped up by them. To more easily be able to take what she’s saying on its own merits rather than as Something Donald Trump (or Brenda King) Is Saying. That was more interesting to me than the merits of the gender reversal overall, except that the gender reversal may have been necessary to (a) allow someone to replicate him as much as possible but (b) without any real confusion – conscious or otherwise – that I am watching someone else.

In addition to Trump specifically, it might provide some insights on the international success of conservative, right-leaning, and right-wing female politicians.


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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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365 thoughts on “King For America

  1. Even though they are saying the exact same words, Brenda King does come off better than trump did in the actual exchange. Somehow I found Gordon telling King that she lived in her own reality more offensive than Clinton telling Trump the same thing. Dammit I’ve really been absorbing SJW tropes.

    Maybe its sexist of me, but it seems like a woman can carry trumpism better than a man can. I’d attribitue this to a kind of stereotype. We stereotypically attribute a morality of impartiality to men and a morality of care and special concern to women. Trumpism is all about special concern (or more accurately, chauvinism) towards particular groups. So it sounds more appropriate coming from women?

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    • There is no way to divorce Trump’s performances in debates from the semi-trailer of extraneous but very particular-to-him baggage he brought into them with him. Brenda King simply isn’t Donald Trump – Donald Trump, who by the time of the debates had, what, dozens? scores? of women accusing him of sexual harassment if not assault, and by the time of the final debate had been revealed on the record as being a braggart about the behavior of sexually assaulting women (whether in reference to acts actually taken, or simply imagined by him for the purpose of such bragging).

      And no other woman peddling Trumpism could ever bring in that shipping container’s load of baggage with her into a debate, either. So it is almost a certainty that you would hear Donald Trump’s words (alone) in the mouth of a(ny) woman as less offensive (or, more appealing) than yu did when you heard them come out of his mouth.

      There may be a degree of this that owes to how you feel generically about a woman saying [anything] compared to when a man says the same things, but the much stronger explanation is that you are hearing someone who isn’t Donald Trump (and is a woman!) saying them, compared to hearing Donald Trump say them.

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      • Michael,
        Am I really the only one who found Donald Trump’s accusers being willing to speak about him to be a good thing? It means that whomever he was harassing, they have enough agency, enough strength of character and standing to speak to the media.

        Absence of smoke can sometimes mean absence of fire — but sometimes it means that the smoke is merely smothering someone to death.

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      • I think it goes a bit beyond Trump though these are good points.

        Le Pen the Daughter is just as vile in her politics as Le Pen the Father but she seems able to get away with more and not provoking backlashes or public outcrys. Michelle Bachmann and Sarah Palin were mocked by liberals but they were never seen as being as dangerous as some of their male counterparts. I’d say that Michelle Bachmann produces a kind of camp love/affection that no male right-winger could.

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  2. I’m not the only person who thought Hillary Clinton wasn’t aggressive enough in responding to Trump and that this made her an even more unappealing candidate. Liberals are big on just Knowing (presumably through their liberal spidey sense) that Sexism is the One True Reason Hillary lost the election, but how can you have a commander-in-chief who isn’t going to stand up to a bully? This is the same problem the Democrats have year after year after year: they’re pathetic and weak and whine when they lose instead of just shutting up and winning. And now Harry Reid and Joe Biden, the only prominent Democrats with spines, are both gone.

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    • I demur on the larger issue of whether or not Democrats are sufficiently aggressive but I think part of the problem was that Clinton, due to her own baggage, was unable to get too mean without looking hypocritical herself. Take the sexism/womanizing issue. Of course she shouldn’t be blamed for the sins of her husband but could she plausibly hammer Trump on that with Bill’s own past, and her defense of him in particular? I’m not so sure, especially, when Trump has the whole cast and crew from the 90s reunited in the wings.

      And that’s without even getting into some of the more substantive policy issues.

      ‘Trump’s foreign policy is not only dangerous, it’s foolish and he’s putting the future of our country and global system at risk.’

      ‘Says the woman who voted to invade Iraq and gave the guns to the Islamist extremists. THAT’S RIGHT I SAID ISLAMIST!’

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    • ” Liberals are big on just Knowing that Sexism is the One True Reason Hillary lost the election”

      No, we’re not. Some liberals believe in single causes, but they’re just wrong. Hillary lost for a multiplicity of reasons, from third-term fatigue to her disgraceful mishandling of the email issues to Director Comey conveniently violating long-standing FBI policy to not having a message that resonated with Rust Belt voters.

      Sentences that start with “Liberals / Democrats / Conservatives / Republicans are …” are most always such a gross over-generalization as to be useless, unless you’re talking about a core value of that faction. Beliefs, not so much.

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    • No, there were complicating factors that may have changed things but certainly the focus of her campaign was negative. That was the real problem of course. Hillary’s message was a literal ad hominem,

      As it turned out, the idea of being Not Donald Trump was a lot less motivating for the voters than Hillary expected.

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  3. Concerning Mr. Trump’s nomination speech: I actually saw it (didn’t read it), and I found it to be “good” in the sense that it was mostly a regular speech, competently given. It seemed (to me) mostly devoid of the type of on-purpose gaffery and faux “tell it like it is-ism” for which Mr. Trump is famous. But it had a minimal level of seriousness that to then I hadn’t seen him display (not that I had been looking too closely).

    Concerning the mock debate clip: I see what Will (and Murali) mean. With Will, I’ll say it doesn’t necessarily mean gender is irrelevant. With InMD, I’ll say that Clinton was probably not in a position to get aggressive in a way that the hypothetical candidate might have needed to. Not just because she was Clinton–although that had something to do with it–but also because she was more of an establishment candidate and it’s hard for an establishment candidate to get aggressive in the way that an anti-establishment candidate can.

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  4. Taking a different line of thought. So Trump is a gal and HRC a dude. OK, that means that the his “wife” was getting orally serviced in the WH by an intern. So America is going to elect a man for president who can’t even satisfy his wife or his wife’s a slutbag? He can’t control his wife or he’s a cuck.

    Yeah, that’ll win a majority of electoral votes.

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  5. There is a lot of things that still need to be processed about the 2016 election.

    The whole tension between “The Democrats did nothing wrong!” and “Huh. They lost the election to a (set of adjectives) (set of nouns).”

    You’ve seen some of it manifest in the whole issue of whether Trump winning was a surprise or not in these very comment threads.

    If you wanted to argue that The Democrats did nothing wrong, and it was very important to you that The Democrats did nothing wrong, you need to come up with a handful of narratives that help you maintain that narrative in the face of such things as “losing the election”.

    If we’re lucky, it’s merely the case that Clinton was surprisingly bad at what she did (polls notwithstanding, of course) and the Democrats, once they take a breather and find a fresh face who is able to strike the chords that Trump did without being Trump and doing so from a place of principle rather than a place of vulgar willingness to make deals like Trump had to do, they’ll win the White House back as well as start chipping back against the unrepresentative set of losses that they’ve suffered over the last 4 elections.

    I mean, after the 2018 elections. Everybody knows that off-year elections don’t favor Democrats.

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    • You’ve seen some of it manifest in the whole issue of whether Trump winning was a surprise or not in these very comment threads.

      I was surprised on election night, but only because the polls were all pretty darn consistent in showing HRC winning with the only real question being “squeaker or landslide?”

      If I had been hit by a bus just after the conventions and lain in a coma until November 9th, I wouldn’t have been surprised by the results at all. Trump won the nomination as an anti-establishment candidate and it seems to me that sentiment was mirrored by Sanders’ strong showing against Clinton as well. This was a decidedly asymmetric match-up with the establishment type having the uphill battle.

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      • I mostly remember Sam Wang being the official Ordinary Times Numbers Guy and he said something to the effect of Trump not getting more than 240 EVs or else he would eat a bug.

        I remember the Saturday Night Live sketches showing people with their jaws on the floor as the returns rolled in.

        Of course, with hindsight, we now know that the polls were within DeMarge N. Overa and what she was doing with them, I’ll never know.

        But, on November 7th, we knew that Donald Trump was doing the “Meltdown/Total Meltdown” thing and had plans to be gaming out what states Bush/Cruz would have won that Donald lost and how the Republicans had lost their way.

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        • I mostly remember Sam Wang being the official Ordinary Times Numbers Guy and he said something to the effect of Trump not getting more than 240 EVs or else he would eat a bug.

          Yeah, and I remember Sam Wang being christened the official OT Numbers Guy by you in a conversation with Saul. I don’t recall anyone else being consulted or particularly giving a s***. Not that it matters, because…

          Of course, with hindsight, we now know that the polls were within DeMarge N. Overa and what she was doing with them, I’ll never know.

          You understand what Margin of Error means, right? If a poll shows Clinton up by 2 with a MOE of 3, then there’s a smallish, i.e. ~10% or so, chance that the polling sample was off by enough that Trump was actually winning. And with multiple polls taken by multiple outfits in multiple states pointing to the same outcome you have to multiply a bunch of 0.1’s and 0.2’s together to get to Trump Wins! This all assumes sound methodology and a genuine desire on the part of the polling firms to avoid systemic bias and actually be correct, which seems like a reasonable assumption to me.

          So I don’t see anything particularly weird or naive about going into election night expecting victory. And I don’t think your contrarian crowing is warranted given that it appeared to be solely based on your feelz.

          I would be a lot more impressed with your apparent belief that the Dems need to do something different if you would ever get around to saying what you think that something is.

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          • I remember Sam Wang being christened the official OT Numbers Guy by you in a conversation with Saul. I don’t recall anyone else being consulted or particularly giving a s***.

            Indeed. I would have thought that *SOMEONE* might have shown up to say “no, Sam Wang is a partisan and his politics are informing his calculations. This is nowhere *NEAR* a 97% election. Not even close. We need to use (this guy here) because he’s actually better.”

            I mean, if they cared.

            I suppose I could understand why someone wouldn’t care, though.

            I would be a lot more impressed with your apparent belief that the Dems need to do something different if you would ever get around to saying what you think that something is.

            Well, if the whole “1000 lost elected positions in the last 4 elections” isn’t enough to impress you, I find it difficult to believe that me saying “run on a platform of legalizing marijuana” will impress you.

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            • Indeed. I would have thought that *SOMEONE* might have shown up to say “no, Sam Wang is a partisan and his politics are informing his calculations. This is nowhere *NEAR* a 97% election. Not even close. We need to use (this guy here) because he’s actually better.”

              Somebody could have said it, but I don’t think it’s necessarily true. I mean, if you have methodological concerns, I’d be interested in hearing them, but the critiques were mostly personal incredulity. Wang actually had pretty well articulated rationale for his methods. He wasn’t some “unskewing” crank who just put his thumb on the scale to make the numbers more friendly.

              I leaned toward Wang in the Wang/Silver wars because in past elections, the margin of error estimates seemed to fall closer to Wang’s than Silver’s (at least when I was checking them) and that Silver’s argument really did seem to be more of a fudge factor than anything else. The fact that he was less wrong is interesting, but I don’t think it had anything to do with partisanship or wishful thinking anywhere along the line.

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              • I didn’t really cite Wang, but I wrote an entire post about a big methodological problem with his work. Specifically, he looked at each state’s polling in isolation and did not account for a uniform error.

                And the issue isn’t that most of us were wrong, but the level of certainty combined with how disagreement was approached.

                Those that faced the brunt of it have earned a little crowing rights here.

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                • I’m sorry I missed that post, but I also don’t think that’s quite an accurate characterization of Wang’s methodology. In any case, I’m just saying that there are reasons for being wrong other than being a partisan operative, wishful thinking, or, heaven forbid, living in The Bubble. As I see it, there were roughly four classifications for election prediction methodology:

                  1) Mash together data and use historical norms to estimate the range for correlated error.
                  2) Do (1), find that it was alarmingly one-sided, and apply a fudge factor to take into account that the year “feels” weird and may well depart from historical norms.
                  3) Tell just-so stories to rationalize your gut feeling.
                  4) Just say your guy is going to win and figure out a reason why later.

                  Group 3 is always just chaos, so I usually ignore them. Wang and Silver were good representatives of 1 and 2, and the fact that Silver was (probably) less wrong this time around still doesn’t sell me on the process. Of the people who actually predicted a Trump win, a bunch of them were in group 3 and most of the rest were in group 4. If we repeat the experiment, groups 1 and 2 will dominate the prediction game. It would be interesting to see who comes out on top, and I don’t think the 2016 results necessarily confirm it.

                  Most of the people philosophizing about “the bubble” or making a big deal out of how the pundits were wrong and probability is no longer a thing are mostly just engaged in methods 3 and 4. People make a lot about “lessons” from these types of outcomes, but they often forget that the country is pretty closely split and results in winner-take-all elections flip back and forth. They end up doing a lot of post-hoc story telling the same way the people on financial shows like to “explain” why the market went up/down that day.

                  That’s not to say I don’t think there are lessons to be learned. I just don’t think that a massive re-weighting of trust in experts and polling methodology is one of them. If I did, I’d be a Bill Mitchell man all the way, when it’s pretty clear that his predictions are really just statements of what Bill Mitchell wants.

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                  • If Trump has a 20% chance of winning State A, a 30% chance of winning State B, and a 40% chance of winning State C, are his odds of winning all three closer to 2.5% or 20%? I believe the main way that Wang got to 97% certainty is that he was closer to 2.5%. That’s my methodological objection.

                    My more intuitive version is this: Wang was wrong in 2004, and he embarrassed himself in 2014. He was right in 2008, 2010, and 2012. So going into this election he had a 3-2 record… but only 1-2 when Republicans had good years. It’s a limited data set and can be explained away (“2004 was a prototype, and his numbers did come back to earth in 2014”), but I did suspect that the next time Republicans won that he’d be wrong through September.

                    I think Bill Mitchell got lucky. I don’t think he has any special insights. I think the media is about to make a huge over-correction mistake in that regard.

                    My big thing is that the takeaway from this election ought not to be to go with anecdata, but to show some humility with the data. Don’t automatically believe people who say “I think the data is wrong” but not to laugh them out of the room.

                    Coming into this election, Nate Silver had written quite a bit on the limitations and concerns with polls and showed some humility, and Wang didn’t.

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              • Somebody could have said it, but I don’t think it’s necessarily true. I mean, if you have methodological concerns, I’d be interested in hearing them, but the critiques were mostly personal incredulity. Wang actually had pretty well articulated rationale for his methods. He wasn’t some “unskewing” crank who just put his thumb on the scale to make the numbers more friendly.

                For me, Sam Wang is a partisan hack, actually representative of the corruptions of liberalism in some subtle ways. People have legitimate differences of opinion, but my impression of Sam Wang is that he was fairly consistently trying to put his thumb on the scale. Nate Silver is a lib, but for me at least it’s pretty clear that he’s not trying to put his thumb on the scale.

                In general, the best horse-race tea leaf reader is Sean Trende and the people he works with. After that, it’s Nate Silver, Michael Barone, Jay Cost and maybe a couple others I’m forgetting.

                Btw, I thought the “unskewed polls” theory in 2012 was pretty ridiculous. But given what happen in the 2016 Presidential Election, Brexit, and the most recent (I think) UK general election I think it’s fair to say that theory is in general more credible than Sam Wang.

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                • I’m not saying your opinion is invalid, but I do think that the post illustrates my point: You’re not talking data or methodology here. It seems like it’s a gut reaction at best or just affinity for people who agree with you at worst.

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                  • To be fair, I didn’t try to argue the point in a comprehensive way. I probably could if I tried, but to be honest it’s too much work for a point I don’t care that much about.

                    It’s a little stronger than just a gut reaction though. I’ve read enough from him across more than one cycle, to the point where I think my characterization is accurate, though I haven’t made any effort to substantiate it.

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            • This comment is indicative of single-loop vs. double-loop feedback conflicts.

              The single-loop side doesn’t work out mathematically because it assumes a 0 on the part of the double-looper, when in fact that 0 is really a variable.

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            • He had it at something like 66% likely.

              1/3rd chance of a Clinton landslide, 1/3rd chance of a Clinton squeaker, and 1/3rd chance of Trump Trump Trump.

              And, if I recall correctly, people who talked about Nate Silver’s numbers as if they were accurate got yelled at for being partisan for doing so.

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            • As I remember it, only one person had Trump picked to win, and that guy was largely dismissed as a crank.

              But really, turning the initial criticism into a matter of “How many polls were there that were actually wrong?” is a fantastic illustration of that criticism.

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                • The whole tension between “The Democrats did nothing wrong!” and “Huh. They lost the election to a [ guy like Trump ].”

                  You’ve seen some of it manifest in the whole issue of whether Trump winning was a surprise or not in these very comment threads.

                  If you wanted to argue that The Democrats did nothing wrong, and it was very important to you that The Democrats did nothing wrong, you need to come up with a handful of narratives that help you maintain that narrative in the face of such things as “losing the election”.

                  If we’re lucky, it’s merely the case that Clinton was surprisingly bad at what she did (polls notwithstanding, of course) and… start chipping back against the unrepresentative set of losses that they’ve suffered over the last 4 elections[,] after the 2018 elections.

                  The argument is boldfaced.
                  Examples are italicized.

                  Compare the examples to the argument.
                  Very humorous, considering the thread those examples spawned.

                  The argument was never addressed.

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                  • Umm yeah i wasn’t addressing that argument. I was pointing out how people don’t understand what probabilities are. That’s all. I wasn’t trying to discuss anything else about the election.

                    If i say there is 50 50 chance a coin flip will be heads, i’m not wrong when it comes up tails.

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                    • I get it.

                      But then, the 50-50 chance is only that within a certain margin or error, as both coin faces would be exactly the same otherwise; and “right” is not the logical opposite of “not wrong;” etc.

                      Typically, “the odds of being struck by lightning,” when used in a colloquial sense, refers to something very unlikely.

                      Then, there’s playing golf in a thunderstorm.

                      I believe we’re discussing one of those “golf in a thunderstorm” type of scenarios here, rather than something within a hair’s breadth.

                      It’s not like Clinton lost to Teddy Roosevelt, or Abraham Lincoln.
                      That woman lost to Donald Trump.

                      That’s like that episode of The Simpsons where Homer goes up to the hamburger stand and asks, “What do you have to drink?” and the man says, “I have Mountain Dew, and I have crab juice.” Homer sighs, then says, “Okay, give me the crab juice.”

                      But as far as peeling the blinders back goes, the really damning stuff hasn’t come out yet.

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                      • And again, i wasn’t saying anything about the election. I was just making a point about how people don’t understand probabilities. So the blinders or Clinton or Trump was irrelevant to what i posted.

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                        • And my point was, more or less, that your point was not made in isolation, but within a certain context.

                          As for the latter part of this comment, forgive me if I came across as accusative in my previous comment. That was not intended. I was simply noting a phenomenon.

                          It’s not like I take great pleasure in the bewilderment of the Left writ large.
                          I am a former life-long Democrat who took great pride in voting against Reagan; a card-carrying trades journeyman; a volunteer on a number of campaigns for Democratic candidates at various levels.
                          And I found there was no place for me in my party.
                          And the truth is: I found the Right more welcoming, more robust in its diversity of thought, and generally more accepting.
                          And I had to take a good, hard look at the Left.

                          Here, Jaybird says many things that I have been saying for ten years now, using different words.

                          I would like to see a robust and diverse Left, but I prefer one which actually practices those principles it claims to value.

                          I can understand that the loss of the election can sting. I supported Kerry, and I remember that well.
                          I prefer to see this as an opportunity rather than a loss.
                          I ask you to do the same.
                          Opportunity feels so much better.

                          Granted, I have gone wide outside of the parameters of the inquiry here, but I prefer not to hash that out at this point.
                          If that makes me chickensh!t, then I just happen to get a bit chickensh!t every once in a while, I beg your pardon in doing so, and I ask you to get used to it.

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                          • You’re not CS. You were just going far past what i was saying. It’s not like that ever happens on the internet where we always stay laser focused on the precise topic.

                            I do think this a chance for the D’ to get rid of some dead wood ( the old Clinton crew) and refocus their priorities and policies. I sort of thought this would happen in 2020 since i didn’t think Clinton could win two terms.

                            Regarding the general welcoming nature and diversity of thought i’m glad you found a place. I know i’ve been a “traitor” or “commie” or “unamerican” to conservatives since i was a teen and still am to many. Both parties have their morons and those on the left are getting plenty of attnetion.

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                            • You’re not CS. You were just going far past what i was saying.
                              True. I feel pressured to remain on-topic these days, whether that pressure is real or assumed; and so, I try to link everything back to the OP.
                              It really is a destructive tendency though. I always thought the best discussions here happen whenever people start wandering out into the perimeters.
                              I do appreciate your actions in alleviating some of this perceived pressure.

                              Both parties have their morons and those on the left are getting plenty of attnetion. (sic)
                              This is true, but it seems like the ones on the Left used to be more out-of-sight & out-of-mind. Proliferation of the internet did a lot to distort reality over the past 20 years as television did post-WW II. There are things that have a sense of depth which really isn’t there. The problem there is that it affects operative assumptions; i.e., it manifests itself as subjective cognitive biases we translate into action without rational function.

                              Example: Cop shows on TV, the FBI in specific.
                              Police departments seem embedded in our culture, but they are a relatively new invention, and still developing conceptually. The four stages of policing in the U.S. are: the political model (1840 – 1930), the professional model (mid-1920’s* – 1968), the community model (1970 – 2000), and intelligence-led policing (2000 – present). That’s at the state level.
                              The feds are now, and have always been, in the political model. They determine who they’re going to go after, and look for something to pin on them. While that may sound like a good idea while going after Capone & his ilk, there are far more instances of going after the guy leaking X to the press. We see more of one than another, and so the seen part takes precedence.
                              The same with cop shows. Beating a confession out of a culprit was a widely accepted practice during the years of the professional model of policing, but you will never find footage of Joe Friday (the consummate of the professional model) whaling the tar out of a guy through a phone book set on a guy’s knees.
                              The end result is that common knowledge disappears. The image holds more relevance than reality in our day-to-day affairs.

                              Anyway, I began questioning some of those assumptions of depth. To hold that firmly in mind, though, is to cultivate a very negative view of humanity-at-large.

                              From the study of communications, in various forms and contexts, one thing I can tell you for certain is that direct communication is, in practically all cases, the best option, and deviating from this is courting disaster. Nonetheless, direct communication is widely shunned (roughly 20% of human interaction), as people instead choose to engage in some fairly inventive forms of subterfuge, stealth, positioning, etc.
                              It seems like it is fairly consistent (and, perhaps, across the board, or a good ways across it) that the simplest answers prove to be the most elusive.
                              The prospects are not particularly encouraging.

                              Nonetheless, thank you for a pleasant exchange, for hanging in there with me to get to this point.

                              ____________________________________
                              * Depending on whether you assess from the Wickersham Commission or August Vollmer in Berkeley, who had the professional model largely in place since 1905.

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          • Arguing with Jaybird:

            J: Here, let’s talk about this thing, the one under the left cup.
            I: OK, then I’d say X and Y about that.
            J: Really? That’s weird. Cuz what I’m talking about is actually here: under the middle cup. It’s this thingy right here.
            I: Alright, fair enough. Then I’d say W and Z. What say you?
            J: I’d say that what I’m talking about is actually – tada! – under the right cup.
            I: In that case, I’d say U and V. Are there any rules to this game?
            J: Yes, there are. I’ve tricked you again, since what I’m talking about is back under left cup….

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            • “We don’t even know if the Democrats need to change. (I think they do.)”
              “Here’s why they don’t: Reason 1.”
              “I don’t agree with Reason 1.”
              “Here’s another reason they don’t: Reason 2.”
              “I you know, I argued that Reason 2 was a problem back before the election and got pushback. But, sure.”
              “Here’s really why they don’t: Reason 3.”
              “I slightly agree with Reason 3 but it nowhere is near good enough to make the point that Democrats don’t need to change.”
              “Why do you keep jumping around on topics like it’s some sort of shell game?”

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              • J: I’m playing this game to teach the ignorant a valuable lesson.
                I: What lesson is that?
                J: No, I’m not trying to teach them a lesson, I’m trying to get them to understand things better.
                I: Really? What things should they understand better?
                J: It’s not that they need to understand anything better, just that they’re not seeing reality for what it actually is.
                I: Can you describe that reality?
                J: The reality I’m talking about is that that there are important lessons to learn from time to time.

                …….

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                      • Maybe not what you’re going for (tho you apparently think your conclusions come to you unbidden…) but that’s the effect.

                        And by saying that I’m being charitable, cuz at the end of the day I think you just don’t like liberals and Dems even tho you apparently believe *that* conclusion came to you unbidden. :)

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                        • Love Liberals, less crazy about Dems.

                          That said, I think that the Dems are making mistakes and that there is a way for me to say “okay, they’re doing some course correcting” and it’s measurable.

                          Hey, maybe I’m measuring the wrong things and maybe I’m using the wrong numbers but I’ll tell you now that if your theory of what is going on cannot be disproven then I am not sure that your theory maps to reality in any interesting way.

                          But if we want to take turns virtue signalling, I don’t mind being the guy who gets accused of supporting Trump.

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                              • No, Jaybird, I’m trying to get you to see that your unbidden beliefs, the ones you hold by thinking you’re better and smarter than everyone, simply won’t dissipate. No matter the challenge presented.

                                If you don’t see that as a problem in your own reasoning I’ll continue my efforts to help you see the light.

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                                • If your starting from the wrong place, you’re not going to get to the right place by following the directions you know by heart.

                                  I’m not better and smarter than everyone, Stillwater. What I am trying to do is be able to notice when I am wrong by giving myself measurable tests for whether I am wrong and if the measurements I measure give me outcomes that are nowhere near what I’m expecting, then I know that I’m thinking about things incorrectly.

                                  To bring us back, I think that the Dems are making mistakes and that there is a way for me to say “okay, they’re doing some course correcting” and it’s measurable.

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                                  • Oh, I wish that’s all you were doing, Jaybird. It’d make conversations with you easier and a lot shorter. Instead of going meta to analyze what you view as defects in Dem-voters thinking you would just say that you disagree!!

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                                    • “I disagree” is uninteresting. “I disagree because X, Y, and Z” might be interesting based on what X, Y, and Z are.

                                      If they’re sentiment? Eh. Argue about sentiments.
                                      If they’re measurables? Hey, measure them.
                                      If they’re only measurable in theory until Election Day? That’s where the fun is.

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                                      • Depends on what you view as interesting: policy, politics, or partisan/ideological thinking. Seems to me you’re most interested in the latter, hence, my challenging you on exhibiting the very thing you’re challenging your interlocutors on without admitting that you actually exhibit one of them things.

                                        Look, my view on this stuff has been consistent and clear since I first got here and you and I began our discussions: evidence, as it relates to policy, is the only mechanism to determine a “correct” belief matrix, and b) that the higher you chase the meta dragon the more you’re creating the dynamic you think you’re opposing (ie, going meta).

                                        Ironically, the only way to counter going meta in the political domain is to go one level up and demonstrate that meta itself is self-defeating.

                                        I mean, sure it’s fun to analyze how certain people beliefs reduce to irrational sentiments and so on. I just think it runs entirely counter to your own stated views that we need to increase trust and collaboration in our society. You seem to think demonstrating low trust in people you think exhibit low trust is a good strategy to achieve your goals. But it seems self-contradictory to me since you’re exhibiting low trust in your opponents. Why would they ever agree with you?

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                                        • I just think it runs entirely counter to your own stated views that we need to increase trust and collaboration in our society.

                                          I suspect that that is no longer possible.

                                          I am beginning to agree with the New Republic on the best way forward.

                                          If we cannot create one society that is high trust/high collaboration because of the two societies that cannot communicate in it, it *MIGHT* be possible to create two societies that don’t trust each other but can, within themselves, create high trust/high collaboration societies.

                                          You seem to think demonstrating low trust in people you think exhibit low trust is a good strategy to achieve your goals.

                                          “Reciprocated Altruism” is, I think, the official name.

                                          Why would they ever agree with you?

                                          Agree with me about *WHAT*?

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                                          • I am beginning to agree with the New Republic on the best way forward.

                                            I’m not. How’s this for a radical plan? How about libs collectively un-butthurt themselves over the results of the last Presidential election and let’s all do as best as we can for America?

                                            In the immediate aftermath of the election, I was very sympathetic to the shock libs felt from losing to Donald Trump. Now, I don’t feel as much. Not even from the passage of time (though that’s obviously important), but more from the substance of Trump himself.

                                            We all probably have to reevaluate Trump. I know that my opinion of Trump has changed but more importantly been clarified since he has been in office. The “resistance”-sympathetic Demos made a significant mistake in their campaign against “normalization” of Trump. I used to think that Trump had to be perceived as normal for the best interest of the United States. I still believe that, but now it’s becoming more clear to me that Trump substantially is a normal President.

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                                            • How about libs collectively un-butthurt themselves over the results of the last Presidential election and let’s all do as best as we can for America?

                                              There is a lot to unpack in there. Most of it involves “best”.

                                              Remember the Republican attitude towards Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Barack Obama? Call it what you will, whether it be “obstruction” or “principled opposition”, it was certainly the opposite of un-butthurting themselves.

                                              The technically-not-quite-a-shenanigan with Merrick Garland not even getting a hearing prior to consent being denied was, for example, a good communication that the Republicans were defecting in their little iterated prisoner’s game.

                                              Why in the hell would you possibly expect Democrats to do anything but obstruct/principally oppose?

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                                              • Remember the Republican attitude towards Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Barack Obama? Call it what you will, whether it be “obstruction” or “principled opposition”, it was certainly the opposite of un-butthurting themselves.

                                                That’s because the GOP at that time never put themselves in world of butthurt that libs did after the Trump election. And an unfortunate number of libs have stayed there. Here’s a typical missive:

                                                http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2016/11/10/trump-election-autocracy-rules-for-survival/

                                                Libs read pieces like this seriously, and more importantly, have let the ideas in it remain as part of the furniture of their worldview beyond any legitimate critical analysis. I don’t blame the author for writing this on November 10, or the reader for believing it.

                                                But now, in the second week of March, it’s fair to say that the main analogy of Trump to the Nazis or the Soviets is bullshit. To be precise, what we have seen from the Trump Administration are not small signs of normality that deceive us, but actual normality that we should be adapting to.

                                                The Republican opposition to President Obama simply doesn’t fit in this context at all.

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                                            • As to getting over the butt-hurt:

                                              Candidate Trump promised a health care plan that didn’t cut Medicaid, would have much lower deductibles, and stated “Everybody’s going to be taken care of much better than they’re taken care of now”.

                                              The current Republican plan does precisely the opposite.

                                              So I invite President Trump to live up to his promises, oppose the RyanCare plan and put forth a plan which matches his campaign rhetoric.

                                              (He has two choices: a) use the power of government to drive down the cost of care and/or b) raise taxes.)

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                                              • President Obama promised that you could keep your doctor, but that didn’t materialize. Frankly, my best guess is that there’s not going to be any significant health care reform pass the Senate in the next two months, and maybe not even pass the House either.

                                                In the bigger picture, I might disagree with your health care policy priorities but I certainly don’t have any problem with them being yours. It’s clearly outside of the mentality that libs have used to rationalize the “resistance” mentality, a la the link above.

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                                                • President Obama promised that you could keep your doctor, but that didn’t materialize.

                                                  I’m pretty sure it mostly did, at least to the extent that you could keep your doctor before the ACA. If we’re going to hold Trump to his promises as strictly as we’re holding Obama to the “keep your doctor” promise, Trump is completely screwed.

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                                      • Depends on what you view as interesting: policy, politics, partisan/ideological thinking. Seems to me you’re most interested in the latter, hence, my challenging you on exhibiting the very thing you’re challenging your interlocutors on: demanding that they somehow concede to the thing you refuse to concede to.

                                        Look, my view on this stuff has been consistent and clear since I first got here, and you and I began our discussions: a) evidence as it relates to policy, in its totality, is the only mechanism to determine a “correct” belief matrix, and b) that the higher you chase the meta dragon the more you’re creating the dynamic you think you’re opposing (ie, going meta, be it partisan or ideological).

                                        Ironically, the only way to counter meta-analysis in the political domain is to go one level up and demonstrate that that meta-analysis itself ends up being self-defeating. And that’s what I’ve been trying to demonstrate to you.

                                        I mean, sure it’s fun to analyze how certain people’s beliefs reduce to irrational sentiments and so on. For the ideologue, anyway… And that’s especially true of folks who adore going meta. Personally, I think doing so runs counter to your own stated views that we need to increase trust and collaboration in our society. You seem to think demonstrating and exhibiting low trust in the people who you think exhibit low trust or bad thinking is a good strategy to achieve your goals. But it seems self-contradictory to me since you’re blatantly exhibiting low trust in your opponents. You clearly want them to think in a more “trustworthy” way. Recognizing that, why would they ever trust you or even agree you?

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                                        • ” I think doing so runs counter to your own stated views that we need to increase trust and collaboration in our society. ”

                                          (hint: he’s using you as an example of what we’ll get if we don’t do this.)

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                                • “I’m trying to get you to see that your unbidden beliefs, the ones you hold by thinking you’re better and smarter than everyone, simply won’t dissipate. No matter the challenge presented.

                                  If you don’t see that as a problem in your own reasoning I’ll continue my efforts to help you see the light.”

                                  He could repeat this exact comment back to you.

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        • North,
          1) Clinton’s gone. Without an engine it’s hard to run a movement.
          2) Kos and everyone else on the left wants to put the drama queens down, and hard. Knives are out, and ready to get bloody.

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            • No, you’re missing both the head and the tail, when you make that comment.
              Clinton’s campaign was a large outward manifestation of a deliberately introduced cancer that was eating the left. SJWs are more like the actual cancer, not the bulge that tells you there’s a problem. Without the Powers that Be actively fueling the fire, the left’s natural antibodies are likely to show up and clean house.

              There’s a reason the Gay Rights Movement succeeded, and the Trannie Rights Movement mostly failed. Drama is not an accident, anymore.

              People really said that there’d be a special place in hell for any woman who didn’t vote for the female candidate.

              Yeah. THAT insult earned votes, I’m certain. /sarcasm

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            • Clinton was not officially a Social Justice candidate but she was the preferred candidate of the Social Justice/Identity Politics crowd as compared to the “class not race” faction that preferred Bernie Sanders.

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      • We keep seeing riots at college campuses, Kim. The SJWs aren’t dying, they’re evolving.

        Now, granted, I’d be more than happy enough to discuss the whole “they’re eating themselves!” phenomenon… it does strike me as likely that they’re running into a bunch of (inevitable) contradictions…

        But dying? Nah.

        We might see them leaving by attrition once they get hired after graduation… but they’re constantly replaced by new Freshmen. (“This can’t be right. This here says you were born in 2000.”)

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        • Jay,
          Knives are out, and even the Powers that Be have lost interest.
          Besides, all movements reach peak crazy eventually.
          What ever happened to the Tea Party, anyway? Something about Obama and Texas?

          Metabolism is off for the SJWs to be of any use to anybody. Acorn was a nascent movement, that got flattened by the rest of the left — after it had accomplished what it needed to.

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    • Sure, but midterms don’t usually favor the party in control of the White House either.

      On the presidential level I still think that the Democratic Party doesn’t have many handicaps or fundamental problems that replacing HRC with a not-HRC won’t fix. Clinton is gone and isn’t coming back so

      On the non-presidential level I’m still unsure; is there a problem or not? Elections in this non-democratic President environment should lay that out pretty clearly; if the Dems have some fundamental problem they should struggle badly to regain seats and state houses. If they don’t we should see a 2006 redo.

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      • I’ve mentioned before the 1000 elected positions that have been lost and, sure, 200 of those are due to gerrymandering and another 200 are probably some form of regression to the mean from last time which leaves… um… 600 seats that are probably legitimately up for grabs.

        What will be interesting aren’t the House and Senate, necessarily.
        A really good year wins… what? 50ish? Maybe 60ish House/Senate seats?

        What tells us if there is a fundamental problem is those State House/Senate seats.

        If, for example, 2018 has Republicans lose a couple of House seats and only hold the line in the Senate, we might be tempted to say that the Democrats are on the upswing…

        But if the State seats remains mostly static, then there is a fundamental problem and the House/Senate (at the national level) has papered it over.

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        • Well thing is I struggle with state vs national. On the one hand I agree with your analysis but on the other hand isn’t each individual state version of the Dems and GOP somewhat regionally distinct? So if the Dems have big successes in the House and Senate but stay static on the State level what does that tell us? I mean if they just get held pat on all levels that’s pretty clear, likewise if there’s a national and state blowout but what about a muddled result?

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          • I’ve been thinking about this and I think it has something to do with inclusiveness and orthodoxy.

            How many different ways are there to be a Republican? It’s easy to imagine how a New York Republican would be significantly different from a Mississippi Republican would be significantly different from a Wyoming Republican.

            Democrats used to have a similar phenomenon. Blue Dogs in the south, Democrats like Ben Nighthorse Campbell in the West, and, of course, the Coastal Elites.

            But I think that there are fewer ways to be a Democrat now.

            And, get this, the more that the Democrats become a National Party with a National Identity, the less easy (note: *NOT* impossible) it becomes for there to be a Warshington Democrat vs. a Wyoming Democrat vs. a Florida Democrat.

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            • I suspect that with the new kinds of media we have there’re a lot fewer ways to be a Republican or a Democratic Party candidate. I can believe there may be more ways to be Republican. Hell, as we speak the different ways of being Republicans are knifing each other in the aisles.

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              • as we speak the different ways of being Republicans are knifing each other in the aisles.

                An insight.

                Is this going to result in Republicans changing parties to Democrats?

                Gaming this out in my head… hrm. I don’t think so.

                But maybe they’ll do enough damage to each other that they will be easier to defeat come 2018.

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                • Well it depends on the outcome. If the old school (1990’s to 2015) republican crowd wins it could end with something ranging from an avalanche victory for the Dems ranging up to hordes of Trump voters stringing their republican Senators and Congressmen by their toes from lamp posts. If the new republican crowd wins it means the republitarian faction will write a series of indignant screeds and Paul Ryan will cry into his pillow.

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            • Interesting article at Hufpo along these lines about Joe Maxwell’s defeat of BigAg in OK while Trump ran the tabls.

              The article is confusing (in part because the author is confused by whether he’s happy a Democrat won a ballot initiative, or whether he should support the ballot initiative).

              The point is, Democrats in OK will look different than Democrats in CA, but is that OK?

              The funny thing is, that if I brought these things up at this site, I’d be lectured about how great Industrial Ag is… so here’s an example of a Democrat working with Trump voters on issues where the City Democrats are on the same side as the Republicans.

              Which begs the question, if the Country Democrat isn’t the same as the City Democrat… do the Democrats want them?

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      • On the presidential level I still think that the Democratic Party doesn’t have many handicaps or fundamental problems that replacing HRC with a not-HRC won’t fix. Clinton is gone and isn’t coming back so

        On the non-presidential level I’m still unsure; is there a problem or not? Elections in this non-democratic President environment should lay that out pretty clearly; if the Dems have some fundamental problem they should struggle badly to regain seats and state houses. If they don’t we should see a 2006 redo.

        Ordinarily I’d agree with you but I don’t see as much difference between Presidential elections and midterms relative to the Obama years. The biggest thing the Demos have is that they oppose Trump and that might be better for them in the midterms.

        Their biggest obstacle is a message. They have to get rid of multiculturalism and political correctness and find a generically Left message on bread and butter economics. Otherwise they’re not going to get enough white voters, and even some minorities who aren’t playing the Balkanization game.

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    • I mean, after the 2018 elections. Everybody knows that off-year elections don’t favor Democrats.

      An important data point that I don’t feel has garnered the appropriate amount of attention is that, despite losing the White House the Dems actually gained seats in both the House and Senate. Not enough certainly, but with a better/stronger/different presidential candidate, and some coattails, we might actually be looking at a complete Democratic sweep.

      2018 is going to be rough for the Dems in the Senate, but the House could be interesting.

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      • For a relatively brief window*, I thought a sweep was quite possible. For 2018, though, I think the bellweather will mostly be margins and especially governor’s mansions. If they don’t pick up a lot of House seats, I won’t necessarily consider that too ominous (districts can be lumpy). If they don’t pick up governorships, I think the party is in a lot of trouble.

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        • I don’t know how much governorships really mean, though. There are too many examples of relatively red states with Dem governors and the reverse as well. Kathleen Sibelius was the Dem governor of red, red Kansas prior to being tapped for HHS, for example.

          Perhaps this is because conservative/liberal doesn’t map as well to Republican/Democrat at that level. Or maybe issues of name recognition and perceived competence are more important.

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        • You do realize that state level districts are gerrymandered just as hard as the House seats are, right? You can easily find states that went for both Obama and Clinton in the EC and where Democrats in total garnered more votes than Republican candidates and yet the State Assembly remains in Republican control.

          Your assertion on this point relies heavily on eliding the effect of gerrymandering. I’m not saying it’s not a problem, but I’m not sure what if anything it says about what Dems need to do to fix it.

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          • No he doesn’t and he never well. The fact that Democratic candidates to Congress have won more votes than Republicans in the past few years but they are still a minority party due to gerrymandering is a non-issue in the land of Republicans, Libertarians, and Ex-Libertarians who still hate those Democrats.

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            • In 2010 the House Republicans got 44,827,441 votes to 38,980,192, or 51.7% to 44.9%

              In 2012 the House Republicans got 58,228,253 votes to 59,645,531, or 47.6% to 48.8%

              In 2014 the House Republicans got 40,081,282 votes to 35,624,357, or 51.2% to 45.5%

              In 2016 the House Republicans got 63,173,815 votes to 61,776,554, or 49.1% to 48.0%

              One of the advantages the Republicans have is that liberal cities tend to be very Democratic, so a slight Democrat advantage over a wide region can turn into a 55-45 Republican advantage in the rural areas (3 or 4 seats) and an 80-20 Democratic advantage in the major urban center (1 seat).

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          • You do realize that state level districts are gerrymandered just as hard as the House seats are, right?

            Sure. But Gerrymandering is a dangerous game.

            It allows for tight elections to be won, but, ironically, makes wave elections more likely.

            You can easily find states that went for both Obama and Clinton in the EC and where Democrats in total garnered more votes than Republican candidates and yet the State Assembly remains in Republican control.

            Absolutely.

            Now my question is this: is gerrymandering at its limit at this point 6ish years past the redistricting?

            Or can the gerrymandering *REALLY* turn the screws next election?

            One of the wacky things about immigration and migration in general is that it creates a need for redistricting. Like, a district that was heavily gerrymandered back in 2010 could very easily cease to be gerrymandered in 2018.

            So my question, when it comes to gerrymandering, is “how do we know if the Democrats are doing well or poorly in 2018?”

            It seems like there is more than enough cover for the democrats to not do well and then for Democrats to say “hey, the redistricting in 2010 was brutal for us” and then *NOT CHANGE*.

            At this point, it seems to me that the Democrats have a problem and they need to change… and “gerrymandering!” is an opiate that they can take to tell themselves “nah… I’m fine the way I am. Hell, those people who tell me that I need to change aren’t even giving me plans that I should follow.”

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          • Over the last 4 elections over the last 7 years, Democrats have lost 1000 elected positions when you add up nationally and locally.

            That strikes me as a breathtaking number. That’s 20 elected positions per state.

            Since that’s so very high, it seems to me that by nothing more than simple regression to the mean, the democrats will automatically win somewhere around 100 elections in 2018 (adding up both national and local numbers).

            Not based on anything but regression to the mean.

            Now, of course, it’s an off year election which tends to help the Republicans who tend to show up to vote just out of habit (plus all of the old people with nothing better to do) but off year elections tend to help the party not in the White House more than the party in it and blah blah blah.

            Anyway, based on little more than regression to the mean, it seems to me that the democrats should win 100 elections, national and local, next election just by putting someone on the ballot with a (D) next to their name and running about as hard as the person with an (R) next to it.

            If they win more than that, it seems to me, that we’ll have a good way to say “Huh, the Democrats are doing better than regression to the mean would indicate.”

            And if they do worse than that, we can say “Huh, the Democrats are doing worse than regression to the mean would indicate.”

            And if you don’t like the number 100 (hey, you might not!), find one that would work for you. I’m down.

            The main thing that I want to have is a way to say “Huh, the Democrats are doing something” rather than “well, those elections were always going to be tough, it’s an off year election, after all, plus the gerrymandering has changed the game. There’s really no reason for Democrats to change what they’re doing without you providing a plan for them.”

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            • Over the last 4 elections over the last 7 years, Democrats have lost 1000 elected positions when you add up nationally and locally.

              That strikes me as a breathtaking number. That’s 20 elected positions per state.

              I guess there are two questions to be asked here:

              1) Is it actually a breathtaking number?
              2) What does it mean?

              To know whether it’s breathtaking, I’d want a reasonable denominator and some historical data. If we look at the Politifact discussion of it, it looks like the number goes down to state legislatives seats but no lower. It looks like substantial losses are expected for a 2-term president, but these losses are larger than usual. Not clear on whether it’s just the effect of changes in the economy, but politifact notes gerrymandering and a trend toward party-line voting as important factors, which makes me wonder if the trend is sustainable.

              As for what it means, that’s why I asked the question. As a practical matter, losing seats is not good for the Democrats or their ability to exercise power. So losing is losing. True as always. The party line note in the politifact article is interesting, because it implies that the presidential results should correlate more strongly raw vote counts for state-level offices. If I’m reading the claim correctly, the Democrats lost seats overall while winning seats in the senate and winning the presidential popular vote. Unless there’s a break in that party line trend, there’s some evidence that districting effects are strong at the state level.

              So what does it mean that the Democrats are getting a larger share of the vote and a smaller share of the wins? You can draw lots of conclusions about it, so I’m wondering what conclusion you’re drawing. If it’s just that the Dems need to find a way to win more elections, then I agree with that.

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              • Well, if we’re unwilling to agree that we even have a problem at all, can we agree on a measurement that could tell us whether we even have a problem?

                I’m 100% down with the idea that this is nothing more than the pendulum swinging. Sure.

                Is there a point at which we can say “huh… why isn’t the pendulum swinging back? Is something going wrong?”

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                • Is there a point at which we can say “huh… why isn’t the pendulum swinging back? Is something going wrong?”

                  Personally, I think something is wrong, but I don’t think it’s within the power of Dem partisans/Dem institutions to correct, let alone identify. Ie., the more strongly a person identifies with the Dems the less likely they will be to identify anything inherently wrong with the party’s core principles and policies. I think that’s true of the power structures controlling the official Dem political institutions as well (tho a bit of the Iron Law of Institutions factors into that as well). It all adds up to a situation where change cannot manifest from inside the ideological and power bases of the party. Which is why I’ve been saying (correctly or not…) that change in the party will only result from new candidates being elected on a different platform of priorities than the party currently defines itself by.

                  All that is sorta internal institutional analysis and institutional decision-making stuff. But on the other side of the debate is that even if one concedes that the Democrats need to do something to become competitive again (ie, that they’re not merely waiting for the pendulum to swing back) it’s an open question (seems to me) whether the necessary change is a merely tactical one, or an ideological one. And in that regard I think lots of Democrats believe that better tactics will get the job done, for the reasons mentioned above.

                  And then there’s also this: Democrats, as defined by their current composition and commitments, either will become nationally competitive again or they won’t. If they don’t, then the party either will change or it won’t. From the pov of democracy, nothing really hinges on the outcome one way or the other. If the party dies by not changing, then not enough people believed in the principles and policies to keep it alive.

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                  • Personally, I think something is wrong, but I don’t think it’s within the power of Dem partisans/Dem institutions to correct, let alone identify.

                    I think that the biggest mistake of the last cycle was having a very limited primary.

                    There were only three names in the drawing.
                    Clinton
                    Bernie
                    That Other Guy Whatshisname

                    A primary with, oh, 7 people in it (I mean by Iowa… I don’t want to have the “What About Larry Lessig?” fight) might have allowed for someone capable of beating Trump.

                    HOWEVER. The primary field was very limited and, if I had to guess, it was artificially limited… that is to say, it was done using the power of Dem partisans/Dem institutions to keep it limited.

                    Allowing a rambunctious primary is well within the Democrats’ power.

                    Or, God help me, it *SHOULD* be.

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                • Sure, that’s certainly valid, but to agree “we have a problem” we’d still have to agree what the problem is. Let’s imagine the trend continues rather than reverting (which I expect it probably will based on historical cycles), but let’s imagine two scenarios:

                  1) Total Democrat vote percentage increases and total seat count decreases.
                  2) Total Democrat vote percentage decreases and seat count decreases.

                  I think we can agree that #2 requires a change in messaging/policy. But what does #1 mean?

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                  • The trend is something like this: In 2010, Republicans picked up around 750 seats nationwide, leaving Democrats with fewer offices than at any time since before the Great Depression. After the decennial redistricting, Democrats picked up around 150 seats in 2012. In the 2014 midterm, Republicans picked up almost 300 seats, and in 2016, Republicans picked up around 50 seats. So it looks to me like we are reaching an equilibrium, with Democrats accepting the secondary party position for now.

                    Distribution-wise, Republicans had net gains of seats in every state from 2009 to 2014, except Illinois (lost 3 seats) and New Jersey (lost 1 seat). The greatest Republican gains were in New Hampshire (68), West Virginia (55), Arkansas (51), Alabama (40), North Carolina (36) and Minnesota (31). I don’t have numbers through 2016, but they got worse in the Midwest, with Minnesota Republicans picking up 9 seats and Illinois Republicans picking up 4.

                    The trend is resolved; there was no real bounceback from 2010, and in retrospect it appears Democrats were waiting for one. I think what we’re waiting to see now in 2018 is (a) whether Trump creates an altogether new dynamic, with Republicans losing down ballot due to brand decline, (b) whether Republicans will gain or retain enough control over state redistricting to make it difficult for Democrats to come back within 10 years.

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                  • 1) Total Democrat vote percentage increases and total seat count decreases.
                    2) Total Democrat vote percentage decreases and seat count decreases.

                    I think we can agree that #2 requires a change in messaging/policy. But what does #1 mean?

                    Well, if the next presidential election gets won the same way that this one did, I think it means that the states themselves are, effectively, gerrymandered districts on a national level with non-proportional voting.

                    There will be a movement to “move into red states!” as well as a(nother) movement towards secession and a (stillborn) movement to abolish the Senate or something like that.

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    • Not quite. Midterms are generally not good for the party occupying the White House. The few exceptions are Clinton in 1998 and Bush II in 2002. The Republicans did not do well in 1982, 1986, 1990. Bush II’s misadventures and the start of the financial crisis caused the Republicans to lose both houses of Congress in 2006.

      Now Democrat might have done worse than average in 2010 and 2014.

      2018 is going to be a tricky year for the Senate because the seats that are up for election are in redish and red states. But the Courts are going back against gerrymandering in the House and the GOP is freaking out about a special election in Georgia where the Ds looks like they can pick up a seat with a fresh-faced 30 year old.

      The Democratic Party did win Senate seats in the House and in the Senate in 2016. We arguably could have won more if we got better organized and put up candidates in some districts. We also nearly took out Darrell Issa.

      Will is probably right on the Governor thing.

      I think sometimes you have an anti-Democratic Party bias that you don’t quite want to admit.

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      • Well, this is something that ought to be measurable, no?

        Personally, I’d like to know what the smallest number of House/Senate seats switching to Dem we ought to be looking at to be able to say “hey, the Democrats don’t have a problem”.

        I think sometimes you have an anti-Democratic Party bias that you don’t quite want to admit.

        “Guys, I’m thinking that the Broncos aren’t a playoff team anymore… they’re going to need to spend a few seasons rebuilding.”

        “Oh, you’re just still butthurt about the Tim Tebow thing.”

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  6. FWIW, I think the charge of sexism as misogyny as a factor in the election results was mistaken. Conservatives are perfectly willing to support and vote for female politicians — Palin, Bachmann, Ernst, etc. Mind you, it seems to help if they have that certain, stereotypical, country music singer look about them, but I don’t know how much you can separate that from the general attractive-people-win-elections effect. In general, I think if you find a Trump voter with genuine misogynistic attitudes I think you’ll find that their vote was over-determined by other factors and misogyny wasn’t really a tipping point.

    That said, this experiment, as well as Damon’s comment above, demonstrates how men and women get different “deals” in society and in the political marketplace in particular.

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    • In Vikram’s post about voter turnout he linked to a Salon piece that I think is persuasive on that issue. Specifically it distinguishes ‘progressive fashion police’ from political liberalism. There are seriously sexist aspects of Republican preferred policies and Trump himself I think is a sexist, but I also think the ‘people didn’t vote for Hilary due to profound widespread personal sexism across the electorate’ theory is weak, or at least extremely incomplete, for exactly the reasons you mention.

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    • Both of the United Kingdom’s women prime ministers came from the Conservative Party rather than the Labour Party. I think outside the Nordic countries, women politicians from conservative parties might do better than women politicians from liberal or leftist parties for many different reasons. Conservatives are willing to vote for a woman if they like her jab and even form a political cult around her if they like her well enough. They don’t come across as feminist and that is attractive to many voters even if they could similarly disprove of male pleasures from a conservative Christian view point.

      Women politicians from liberal and leftist parties are also going to be a disappointment to many liberal and leftist women because the nature of politics will prevent them from going all the way in their discourse and debates. Clinton got into enough trouble with talking about “baskets of deplorables.” She attempted to hit on Trump’s misogyny as much as possible. What she or any other women politician can’t do is use words like the patriarchy and full feminist academic discourse unless they are in a really safe seat.

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  7. It REALLY doesn’t matter who the better actor was, given the patheticness of Clinton’s social skills.

    She had a signature move on the campaign trail — point to random person in audience, raise eyebrows, smile.

    You do NOT want to know how long it took her to learn it.

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    • Christ above kimmi, she lost you got your pony.

      At some point are you going to stop spamming every politics post with you nutbag straight up hatred? Or are you going to keep stabbing that horse day after day until your arm falls off?

      Because seriously, you were funny before you were a one rant pony.

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      • rmass,
        What part of “It took her X hours to learn this “trick” ” implies hatred?
        I’m quantifying exactly how … plastic?.? she is/was.

        This is a little different than what I’ve said about Huckabee (who, from the looks of it, went through extensive electroshock to learn how to talk that well — that or lights are the standard ways to teach voicework — no audio cues as they interfere with the learning)…

        And it’s way different than Romney, who at least has the excuse of brain damage (So does billy clinton, by the way — you can quantify the difference in what he lost after surgery).

        (And, it is topical for me to be discussing Clinton’s campaign on a thread about her debate performances. It would not be topical for me to discuss Obama deliberately throwing a debate SO POORLY that he was endangering his election…)

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          • DD,
            It depends on the person, I suppose (I’m certainly not suggesting that Bill Clinton needed that kind of help).
            A friend of mine recognized some of what he saw in Huckabee, I figure.

            There are voice coaches out there, and they do teach people how to talk. Ian Glen’s had extensive training in a particular, quite masculine and authoritative style. I don’t much match people’s faces, but his voice is so distinctive that I can recognize it at once.

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  8. Fascinating; for me personally, and I think something that Will is suggesting, Trump was so obviously unbelievable… in the sense of not credible. Watching the snippet, King seems believable while Gordon seems not believable… “Oh but I do, I do have a plan.” I don’t think any doubted s/he had a plan, just whether s/he believed in the plan, whatever it might have been. My reaction to watching Gordon was that it really hammered home how much I didn’t believe either of them believed.

    Now, that’s not a reason to vote for Trump, but I get a little better why people who might have voted for Clinton didn’t.

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    • I agree with your point about Gordon/Hillary. Whether King/Trump engaged in over-the-top bully politics ought to separated from Gordon/Hillary’s response to the challenge presented. And I agree that when that response was presented by Gordon the lack of a plan was even more obvious. Which is interesting…

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  9. When I saw something about this experiment yesterday, my thought was, “That’s not science.” There are way too many variables that aren’t being controlled for. No actor, no matter how good, is going to recreate someone exactly. Nor is an actor going to recreate our associations with a particular face or voice.

    Neither Clinton nor Trump were new to the scene. They come with baggage. What the experiment did was erase the baggage. My personal baggage is that Trump is a bully. He bullies people constantly, as you sometimes see in certain men who are generally large. His face means “bully” to me. His voice means “bully”. If you were to erase those things, it would change the meaning of his words a lot.

    Clinton has baggage for me, but of a more positive sort. Of the, “she’s been banging away trying to make things better for a long time, and taken a lot of crap and kept going” sort. This, it seems, is not what people look for in a president, even though they can really admire it otherwise.

    Stereotypes, gender or otherwise, are what we know when we don’t know anything. These were not candidates we didn’t know anything about. I kind of doubt that stereotypes were the dominant force behind their success/failure, or behind this experiment.

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    • The point is that people weren’t saying “Trump has baggage, Trump has a bunch of past history, Clinton has a positive track record”, they were saying “Trump is obviously a bully even if it’s not Trump doing the talking, Clinton is objectively preferable, and when people ask why Clinton doesn’t go after Trump the way he goes after her it’s because our god damn sexist society would call her a mean-spirited bitch if she tried”.

      And what this showed was that, well, maybe Trump isn’t so obviously a bully, maybe Clinton isn’t objectively preferable, and maybe a woman who acted like Trump does wouldn’t be called a mean-spirited bitch any more than the default amount that happens to a woman who does anything public at all.

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    • My personal baggage is that Trump is a bully. He bullies people constantly, as you sometimes see in certain men who are generally large. His face means “bully” to me. His voice means “bully”. If you were to erase those things, it would change the meaning of his words a lot.

      Yeah, I think that’s one of those things that looks a lot more credible before the inauguration than now.

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    • Well, I agree that this isn’t science in the sense that it doesn’t do a lot of controlling of the myriad of variables at play in a debate. But that’s a pretty tall order, I think. Economic propositions are similar: that actual economic “experiments” are not as adequately controlled as experiments that occur within, say, physics does not mean that we can’t take information of value from them.

      Certainly there are a lot of “what if the situation were reversed” arguments, and here on these pages we’re fond of saying that such arguments are more revealing about the prior assumptions of the arguers than the reality of the subjects. But here’s the thing: many of those prior assumptions are broadly held by a large number of people out there in meatworld. Exposing and dissecting those assumptions has some value and is of great intellectual interest.

      But this exercise teaches us another lesson: while you can learn a lot about how a frog works by dissecting it, you can also learn a lot about how a frog works by observing its behavior before you administer the chloroform and take the unfortunate creature apart with your scalpel. Here, we have a reasonably good “shoe on the other foot” model examining the role of sexism in political decision-making, and we find that Trump’s political message delivered in the vehicle of [an actor portraying] a female politician seemingly improves the quality of that message.

      That’s the lesson here, right? Especially for those of us, myself included, who were repelled by Candidate Trump.

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  10. having seen the one excerpt now, I’m thinking the reception to the reenactment has most to do with the qualities of the actors’ performances (e.g. tone, body language, timing & pacing) than the gender swap per se. Though there is probably a factor that the woman’s voice is a bit below the median for women’s voices, while the man’s voice is a bit above the median for men’s voices.

    (there’s probably also a factor that the accents of the actors are (afaict) standard US diction w/o a identifiable regional dialect. In contrast of course, with Trump’s Outerboroughese and Clinton’s (inconsistent) mashup of Chicagoland and Arkansas drawl)

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    • I think there are lots of variables that can’t be controlled for in a demonstration like this: the accuracy of the actor’s recreations of real events, their own personalities and idiosyncracies effecting how we perceive their recreations, our own political biases, and so on. But even granting all those possible contributors to our judgment, don’t you agree that King appeared less threatening than Trump did on the stage that night, and Gordon appeared more condescending and defensive than Hillary did?

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      • I do, but I think that’s intrinsic to each actor’s performance, and not their genders.

        To me, it’s sort of like that thing where a musical score composer can make the same exact visual scene provoke different emotional reactions depending on the style of music they use.

        (or better, how Airplane used for the most part the same exact script as Zero Hour, but to a very different end result. The difference was all in the performance and the staging)

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  11. Nice write up, Will. First, for me personally, that’s a really bad section of the debate to highlight the role gender plays in politics since in real time I not only agreed with Trump’s substantive point (that NAFTA and other trade deals have gutted parts of the labor force) but also thought he scored some deep and lasting political points (he had her on the defensive, effectively conceding his main line of attack).

    But even with that said, it is interesting to notice some slight perceptual differences when the roles are reversed. King appeared impassioned about the issue where Trump appeared a bit more like a bully; Gordon appeared defensive and confused where Hillary appeared a bit more calm and reasonable. That may merely be due to the actor’s personalities of course but I think it more likely points to more ingrained gender-based stereotypes in which impassioned, aggressive men are viewed as threatening in a way women aren’t.

    Also: the actor playing Trump did a terrific job imitating Trump’s hand gestures, even down to how he holds his fingers when he makes certain types of points.

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    • They were a little too mechanical in their gestures. They were doing the gestures rather than inhabiting characters who made those gestures. Still, the originals didn’t look particularly natural doing them either. Maybe that just compounded things.

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          • Incidentally, I am really glad I wrote this paragraph in my pre-election analysis:

            If I were looking at the polling data and only the polling data, and ignored the intangibles, my guess would be somewhere in between Upshot and 538. The fact that I am more confident than that is attributable to the intangibles and is not really empirical. Statistically, this is a close race, and polling isn’t that infallible.

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            • Intangibles are a hard thing to measure, being intangible and all. In the car the other day I bumped into Michael Moore on NPR, specifically some audio from summer 2016 in which he predicted a Trump victory precisely because he was aware of the intangibles on the ground in Michigan. He observed that people were really really pissed off at the status quo.

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              • And actually, I always believed Trump ran his campaign almost entirely based on appeal to “the intangibles”. I mean, it’s possible to get a sense of how conservatives respond to a certain PC-based initiative proposed by liberals – (“another safe space? Are you kidding me?”) – but it’s more difficult to get a reading on the extent to which PCism drove conservatives batshit fucking crazy. Even when exhibited by conservative politicians! No one asked those types of questions, or if they did, the responses were plugged into the “standard model”. I think Trump recognized that an intangible campaign would work long before anyone of the other major players did.

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                • I think the voters enraged by PCism who voted R were always going to vote R. I doubt few voters were really on the edge but were turned off by whatever the hell PC is supposed to mean.

                  I’ve yet to see anybody really demonstrate Trump’s plan was anything other then rile up the base and see what happens. Even on the day of the election they weren’t acting like they thought they were going to win. They had some good targeted ads and help from the Russians most likely. But i doubt there was active collusion with the R’s. Trump just did what was his nature to do. There wasn’t a brilliant plan or some secret understanding of how things are.

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                  • “Everybody who voted against us was always going to vote against us (no matter what we did)” is as close to the Road to Nowhere as is imaginable. It can be true about some things, but I see it applied to pretty much everything.

                    As far as PC goes, I think there may have been secondary influence. Not with the people flying the Rebel Flag, but with people who have been regularly been told, or at least inferred, that they might as well be. Or maybe that’s not the case at all. But things that weren’t supposed to work did work.

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                    • Well all the people i’ve ever known who were really hot and bothered about PC were dyed in the wool Repubs. Maybe my sample is off but when i read peeps on the web i see the same thing. There are people who can be swayed and Clinton do that. So it’s not that the people who were always going to vote against her were always going to do that. But the people who freak about all sorts of PC are typically also very invested in conservative media so their info is pretty skewed.

                      Why did some things work that shouldn’t have? Well an easy explanation is that harsh nationalism and fear of others works pretty well especially when combined with economic grievances and an ineffective opponent.

                      Complaining about PC is sometimes a polite way of telling minorities to stop complaining. It’s the PC way of hushing people you are sick of hearing from. Complaining about PC is safer then letting the Id run free at the mouth.

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                        • I guess i’m having a contrary day today. I better be careful when i order dinner tonight.

                          Deplorable became a rallying cry. But did it change votes? I’m not all that sure. “Nasty woman” or pussy grabbing got some play to and those things pissed off people. I tend to think PC or deplorable are more the heat then the light about why the election went the way it did. They are the things people like to rant about and are easy talking points but are far less important then turn out or demographics or campaigns on the whole or other long term trends.

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                          • My read is that the word “deplorable” had no effect on the election. A lot of people in the press talked about it, and a lot of people who were already going to be voting against Clinton wore it as a badge of honor. But by the time it was spoken, all the people who were going to be won over by PCism had already been.

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                            • As noted above, that was my read on it at the time. I’ve since come to the conclusion that I was wrong. Not just because of the Globe article, but a few people I know that did get off the fence at that point (one of whom I was sure was going to vote for Hillary) may have been more representative than I thought.

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                              • Eh, I don’t get all this Base talk… Trump went after a new base.

                                And he got them in PA, MI, WI and OH and he was 1.5% behind in Minne-freakin’-sota. (vs. Obama’s 7.7% win).

                                Romney got 93% of the Republican vote and Trump got 89%. You could call that the base, if you want.

                                Trump is president because he shed Base votes in Red states and picked-up non-base votes (also called Democrats) in Blue States. We can call them “erstwhile” democrats if we prefer… or maybe they are even deplorable democrats. I don’t know.

                                It is indeed a remarkable thing that Trump managed to get 89% of the Republican vote, but that’s not why he’s President.

                                For what its worth, my prediction is that the Trump coalition will not endure Trump. So for those who don’t want to change Democratic party orientation, I think you have a solid case… not a foolproof case, but a solid one.

                                As I’ve said before, there is no Trumpism, only Trump… and he can’t deliver the goods. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t someone else (maybe a democrat, maybe a republican, maybe a none) who won’t pick-up some of the themes of Trump and turn it into an actual movement. In which case, standing pat is just another way to lose.

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