Quotulatiousness

December 9, 2016

The Trudeau government’s bad times

Filed under: Cancon, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Chris Selley on the (largely self-inflicted) hard times of Justin Trudeau’s government recently:

It has been one hell of a couple of weeks for the Liberal Party of Canada: first Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s bizarre encomium to dearly departed Fidel; then the approval of two pipelines projects, dashing the oil-free dreams of people who hadn’t been paying attention and producing thousands of barrels of fake outrage; and then, the inevitable collapse of the government’s electoral reform agenda.

It was always going to look bad. The Liberals were always going to break their promise to make 2015 the last first-past-the-post election. Perhaps they had even contemplated their members on the electoral reform committee recommending they break it, by adopting a go-slower approach. But no one, surely, anticipated Democratic Institutions Minister Maryam Monsef accusing the committee as a whole of not doing the job she had set out for them, which they had; mocking the Gallagher Index, an easily explicable formula for measuring proportionality in election results; and justifying herself with shameless bafflegab that would make Paul Calandra blush.

[…]

Monsef later apologized for accusing committee members of slacking, Manon Cornellier notes in Le Devoir, but not for misrepresenting their mandate, mocking mathematics — as an emissary of the party of “evidence-based policy,” no less — and generally behaving like a buffoon.

“(Monsef’s) beef with the Gallagher Index isn’t that it only measures proportionality. Her beef with the Gallagher Index is that it’s math, with its sums of squares and square roots and symbols that are literally Greek,” Fine fumes. It’s a worrying outburst of idiocy, she argues. Monsef and her ilk talk constantly of “engagement,” but that’s a very difficult thing to measure. “At the intersection of ‘affinity for engagement’ and ‘contempt for metrics’ is fertile breeding ground for leaders who wish to make up their own rules,” Fine trenchantly observes.

December 4, 2016

Conservative leadership race – Bernier and Chong at the “grownups’ table”

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Chris Selley surveys the competition for federal Conservative leader:

Kellie Leitch has won the most headlines thus far, thanks to her store-bought populist appeal to suspicions about immigrants’ values and grievances with the political establishment. Campaign manager Nick Kouvalis is playing the media like a fiddle: at every mention of screening immigrants for “Canadian values” we squeal and writhe with high-toned outrage, incredulity and mockery. Kouvalis simply collates it, presents to the considerable majority of Canadians who think it’s a perfectly reasonable idea, and asks if they would support both the policy itself and the policy sticking in the craw of these jumped-up “elites.” The answer in many cases seems to be yes.

At the grownups’ table, however, a proper battle for the sanity and the soul of the Conservative Party of Canada has taken shape. Michael Chong reminds party supporters that a fiscally conservative party that claims to want to fight climate change should support market-based tools to get the job done — the simpler the tool (i.e., a carbon tax), the better. As leader, Chong could credibly hold a Liberal government to account for its less-than-pure commitment to carbon pricing and its inevitable failure to meet emissions targets.

Maxime Bernier reminds Conservatives that in 10 years, the party did almost nothing about Canada’s insane supply management systems. There is a constituency that believes a free market in dairy would of necessity pump our children full of bovine antibiotics, hormones and steroids. There is a much larger constituency that trusts Canada’s food safety system and would prefer cheaper groceries. If a conservative party can’t sell free markets when the upside is cheaper groceries and the downside is inconvenienced millionaire quota owners, it should close shop.

Bernier planted himself even more squarely in the Canadian policy mainstream with his recent proposal to reform the CBC as an ad-free broadcaster focused on “what only it can do” in a modern media market: he suggested more local programming, documentaries and foreign correspondents, “more programs about science, history, or religion.” He proposed a funding model like NPR and PBS, which rely heavily on private and corporate donations.

For the record, I don’t think carbon taxes are the way to go, as experience should tell us that governments rarely if ever bring in “revenue neutral” tax changes, and the carbon tax would end up being added to existing tax tools, rather than replacing them. I’m also on the record as being a fan of Mad Max for PM (although I’m not a Conservative, he’s the most libertarian mainstream politician since Laurier).

November 28, 2016

The Liberal Archipelago

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

The New York Times analyzed the voting patterns from the 2016 presidential election and outlined the distinctive areas where Democratic and Republican voters dominated. The Republican map looks mostly like the continental US with a few urban voids, but the Democratic map looks like an elaborate archipelago of islands in a wide open seascape:

the-liberal-archipelago-of-2016

November 18, 2016

Scott Alexander – “You are still crying wolf”

Filed under: Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Donald Trump is President-elect, but he didn’t get there by pandering to white supremacist and racist voters, but you’d never know that by how his campaign was reported in the media. Scott Alexander says that the media still hasn’t learned its lesson and is still crying wolf:

Back in October 2015, I wrote that the media narrative of Trump as “the white power candidate” and “the first openly white supremacist candidate to have a shot at the Presidency in the modern era” were being fabricated out of thin air. I said that “the media narrative that Trump is doing some kind of special appeal-to-white-voters voodoo is unsupported by any polling data”, and predicted that:

    If Trump were the Republican nominee, he could probably count on equal or greater support from minorities as Romney or McCain before him.

Well, guess what? The votes are in, and Trump got greater support from minorities than Romney or McCain before him. You can read the Washington Post article, Trump Got More Votes From People Of Color Than Romney Did, or look at the raw data (source)

We see that of every racial group, the one where Trump made the smallest gains over Romney was white people. I want to repeat that: the group where Trump’s message resonated least over what we would predict from a generic Republican was the white population.

Nor was there some surge in white turnout. I don’t see official numbers yet, but by eyeballing what data we have it looks very much like whites turned out in lower numbers to vote in 2016 than they did in 2012, 2010, and so on.

Of course, the media quickly responded to all of this undeniable and freely available data with articles like White Flight From Reality: Inside The Racist Panic That Fueled Donald Trump’s Victory and Make No Mistake: Donald Trump’s Win Represents A Racist “Whitelash”.

I stick to my thesis from October 2015. There is no evidence that Donald Trump is more racist than any past Republican candidate (or any other 70 year old white guy, for that matter). All this stuff about how he’s “the candidate of the KKK” and “the vanguard of a new white supremacist movement” is made up. It’s a catastrophic distraction from the dozens of other undeniable problems with Trump that could have convinced voters to abandon him. That it came to dominate the election cycle should be considered a horrifying indictment of our political discourse, in the same way that it would be a horrifying indictment of our political discourse if the entire Republican campaign had been based around the theory that Hillary Clinton was a secret Satanist. Yes, calling Romney a racist was crying wolf. But you are still crying wolf.

I avoided pushing this point any more since last October because I didn’t want to look like I was supporting Trump, or accidentally convince anyone else to support Trump. But since we’re past the point where that matters anymore, I want to present exactly why I think this is true.

I realize that all of this is going to make me sound like a crazy person and put me completely at odds with every respectable thinker in the media, but luckily, being a crazy person at odds with every respectable thinker in the media has been a pretty good ticket to predictive accuracy lately, so whatever.

(more…)

“I know that nationalism has broken loose in American politics”

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Colby Cosh ruminates on the US presidential election and wonders if the American civil religion is dying:

To me, Trump’s election indicates a fragmentation of intellectual tendencies in American life. The American political system, thought of as a system, imposes a strong structural requirement for voters to resolve themselves into two parties. During the Cold War, everyone was ordinarily defined, as a voter, by his position on the Cold War. Everything in electoral politics was dove vs. hawk in disguise.

The Cold War ended, and there was no crisis of similar size and urgency to take its place: it looked like the “culture war” would do, but the “clash of civilizations” took centre stage after 9/11, and now … what is the main axis, the statisticians’ “first principal component,” in American politics? What we are witnessing is probably the process of deciding on one. Trump haters and lovers must both admit he cuts across the traditional lines of politics, sometimes with elliptical or even contradictory policy statements.

Nobody is too sure what he is going to do as president. What his voters are sure of is that he stands for a positive attitude toward America, a determination to be explicit about acting on its interests in foreign and immigration policy, and a can-do, businesslike spirit toward practical social difficulties. There is an intellectual tendency on the left, an ultra-progressive tendency that has grown accustomed to a fast-moving wave of social victory, that is only capable of interpreting all this as the pretext for a return of endemic overt racism — the monster they see under every bed. Those progressives are behaving right now, for all the world, like a navel-gazing doomsday cult that has seen its projected Zero Day zoom by without the faithful being lifted into the air.

November 13, 2016

Jane Galt’s First Law of Politics

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: — Nicholas @ 02:00

Megan McArdle checks in from her long-awaited vacation (via Facebook):

My husband and I long ago planned a vacation for immediately after the election. We’re both exhausted; we had a zillion frequent flyer miles. So we decided to go to Asia for 12 days, and do no work.

Well, two things happened, one expected, and one not. The first was that I have horrible jet lag. My circadian rhythms make Prussian drill instructors look like devil-may care slouches; I knew from earlier experience that despite Ambien-induced attempts to reset my body clock, I would wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep.

The other thing I didn’t expect: Trump won the election.

I’ve been going back and forth on this all year. At times I have been convinced he couldn’t win; at other times, I’ve been shouting at smug liberals “Guys, pay attention! This could happen!” But by the time of the election, I assumed I was looking at a Clinton presidency. Journalists should know better than to “write the lede on the way to the ballpark”, but … well, yeah, okay, I shouldn’t have written the lede on the way to the ballpark.

This means that instead of taking off for vacation amidst the boring and long-awaited coronation of Clinton, I left the US with columns unwritten, columns now burning a hole in my psychological pocket. I may, from time to time, post some of those thoughts here. This isn’t work. It’s … it’s a hobby! That’s the ticket, I’m engaging in a creative craft!

So here’s my first thought, in a purely non-work, amateur capacity: Democrats are about to experience the madness that has beset the Republican Party over the last eight years.

Back when I was first blogging as Jane Galt, lo those many years ago, I coined “Jane’s First Law of Politics”: “The devotees of the Party that holds the presidency are smug and arrogant. The devotees of the Party that doesn’t hold the White House are insane.” I have never had cause to revisit this observation.

November 12, 2016

David Warren’s election postmortem

Filed under: Humour, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Unusually for David, he’s resorted to a numbered list this time:

1. How easily the college-educated go barking mad.

2. The most reliable “safe space” is a padded cell. The least reliable ought to be on campus.

3. The new administration might want to consider “transitioning” several Ivy League universities into mental homes to serve an urgent public need.

4. If you think Trump is bad, you should read some history. It wouldn’t take much. His views, in the main (as stated, not as falsely attributed), would have passed as middle-of-the-road liberal about one generation ago. On many of the issues, Trump is farther Left. By traditional standards for despots and demagogues, he strikes me as fey.

5. Which is why I despise him. I didn’t like liberal mediocrities then, and I don’t like them now.

6. On the specific question of his taste in fixtures and furnishings (including likely cabinet choices), we must be firm. On the basis of his Manhattan apartment alone, I’d be inclined to appoint a Special Prosecutor.

7. I will hope he is sufficiently Machiavellian to nominate Ted Cruz for the Scalia vacancy on the Supreme Court.

8. And then he could make a personal appearance there, shouting and waving his little hands. That could create three more vacancies.

9. Melania and Michelle should do a sitcom together. (“Transition Team.”)

10. As of three-thirty a.m. the night before last, I achieved a state of happiness I had not enjoyed for a long time. And this was with the help of only one (1) 750mL bottle of strong Belgian monastic ale. (Chimay, the red label, from the Pères Trappistes of Scourmont.) As I have indicated, I do not much care for that Donald fellow. But the defeat of Hillary was exhilarating.

November 10, 2016

In other lines of work, they’d call it professional malpractice

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:08

Jay Currie linked to this explanation from Michael Wolff of how the mainstream media lost touch with reality in this election campaign:

Not only did the media get almost everything about this presidential election wrong, but it became the central issue, or the stand-in for all those issues, that the great new American Trump Party voted against.

The transmutation of political identities has arguably devolved into two parties: the Trump one, the angry retro people, and the Media Party, representing the smug modern people, each anathema to and uncomprehending of the other. Certainly, there was no moment in the campaign where the Media Party did not see itself as a virtuous and, most often, determinative factor in the race. Given this, the chants of “CNN sucks” at Trump rallies should not have been entirely surprising.

But they were. The media took this as a comment about press freedom rather than its own failure to read the zeitgeist. In fact, it largely failed to tell any story other than its own.

[…]

It was a failure to understand the power of the currents running for Trump — a failure of intelligence, experience and objectivity, on particularly excruciating display last night in Buzzfeed’s live video feed with its cast of moronic, what-me-worry millennials having their first go at election night and now eager to take over the media.

And it was a failure of modern journalistic technique too. It was the day the data died. All of the money poured by a financially challenged media industry into polls and polling analysis was for naught. It profoundly misinformed. It created a compelling and powerful narrative that was the opposite of what was actually happening. There may be few instances, except perhaps under authoritarian regimes, where the media has so successfully propounded a view of events not only of its own making but at such odds with reality. Trump is a simple proof: forget polls — they say what you want them to say.

Tracking the rise of Il Donalduce

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

I was curious enough to go back to when I created a “DonaldTrump” tag for posts here on the blog and see how much has changed since he entered the race:

  • The tag was created on June 18 of last year when I posted a link to P.J. O’Rourke’s notion that Trump was the perfectly “representative” candidate.
  • In August (two months with no Trump sightings? Those were the days…), I linked to Walter Russell Mead taking a swing at defining what it is that Trump offered to the disaffected plurality (majority?) of would-be Republican voters. A few days later, Megan McArdle found herself coming back to the phrase “bag o’ crazy” when she tried to make sense of Donald Trump’s immigration proposals.
  • In September, I linked to Grant McCracken’s explanation for why revelations of faults and gaffes didn’t cost Trump much of his support, while Ace speculated that the Trump kryptonite might be “middle class respectability”.
  • In December, Megan McArdle wrote a piece that an unkind soul might call to her attention now, including the immortal line “I rank the odds of a Trump presidency somewhere below the odds of my winning the lottery”. We also looked at the impact of “The Donald” on “The Overton Window”, and Megan McArdle got uncharacteristically conspiracy theoristic.
  • In January, Scott Adams began earning more attention (and much more vilification) for his “master persuader” posts on the Trump insurgency, and Tucker Carlson explained why the conservative establishment so badly misjudged the folks who vociferously supported The Donald. Colby Cosh also gave props to Adams and discussed the odd state of the state of Iowa in US presidential elections.
  • In March, economist Don Boudreaux speculated on the possible good outcome of a Trump electoral victory, and Colby Cosh wrote “Dear America: We need to talk about Donald“. Scott Adams speculated about Trump’s possible rhetorical tactics against Hillary Clinton in the general election. I also finally settled on the appropriate nickname to use for Il Donalduce, having briefly tried “Mussotrumpi” and “The Donald”.
  • In April, Scott Adams wrote on some of Il Donalduce’s recent political mistakes.
  • In May, Adams discussed Clinton’s use of the literal “Woman Card”, and Megan McArdle bewailed the pointlessness of trying to analyze any given Trump policy. Warren Meyer pointed out that Clinton and Trump are equally bad in terms of crony capitalism. Jim Geraghty imagined that Trump was probably thinking “how hard can it be?” to run a government. Tim Worstall pointed out that, despite incoherency on other policies, Trump was correct on solving California’s water crisis.
  • In June, Megan McArdle refuted the “Trump is a scary autocrat” scenario, Camille Paglia compared and contrasted the Clinton and Trump campaigns, and Scott Adams decides to endorse Clinton for his personal safety. Simon Penner explains why President Trump could not do all the things his hysterical opponents claim he would.
  • In July, Shikha Dalmia criticized the “return to mercantilism” aspects of Trump’s trade policies and Scott Adams considered the possibility of Obama declaring martial law to prevent President-elect Trump from taking office. Jonathan Freedland looked at the alienated GOP establishment and the #NeverTrump-ers.
  • At what appeared to be a low point in Trump’s fortunes in August, David Zincavage wondered what Trump would be doing differently if he was actually aiming to lose. After what many pundits considered a potentially geopolitical destabilizing statement on NATO, Tom Kratman concludes that Trump wouldn’t actually abandon the alliance. Regardless of the election’s outcome, Scott Adams thought he’d identified a silver lining to the 2016 presidential race.
  • In September, Jay Currie suggested a three-part plan to bring about a Trump victory, and Tamara Keel outlined the impossible choice facing American voters in November.
  • October saw Megan McArdle addressing the social media outrage at revelations from Il Donalduce‘s partial tax returns leaked to the media. Also in October, an unusually fair article appeared in the Guardian on who Trump’s supporters really were, and Jay Currie looked at the state of US election polling (which we now know from the differences between predictions and actual results is dire).
  • In early November, Ken Stern peered into the murky depths of the right-wing media bubble (and the matching one on the left), then the totally unexpected landslide occurred, and I blamed it on the media (usually a safe accusation to make).

November 9, 2016

The 2016 election result was really the work of the media

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:40

It’s not the first time the mass media as a whole has favoured one candidate over another, but it was the first time that the majority of the TV and newspaper coverage was actively partisan rather than just overtly favouring one party or candidate. Remember that Il Donalduce got almost literally non-stop media attention during the Republican primaries, as he was seen as the one most likely to flame out in the general election. Yes, his candidacy was “news”, but it became almost impossible for any of the other candidates to get any more coverage than a redshirted Star Trek extra — you get a couple of hackneyed, predictable lines, then you get your tragic death scene. Do you even remember who else ran for the nomination? How about good old Ted Rubio or Marco Cruz or Scott Fiorina or Carly Walker or John Carson or Ben Kasich? How about Chris Bush or Jeb Christie? Rand Perry or Rick Paul? Redshirts, every one, thanks to the glaring unending focus on Il Donalduce, the star of the biggest reality TV show in history.

In the Guardian, Thomas Frank explains why Hillary Clinton was the wrong candidate for the Democrats, even against the weakest G.O.P. candidate in living memory:

He has run one of the lousiest presidential campaigns ever. In saying so I am not referring to his much-criticized business practices or his vulgar remarks about women. I mean this in a purely technical sense: this man fractured his own party. His convention was a fiasco. He had no ground game to speak of. The list of celebrities and pundits and surrogates taking his side on the campaign trail was extremely short. He needlessly offended countless groups of people: women, Hispanics, Muslims, disabled people, mothers of crying babies, the Bush family, and George Will-style conservatives, among others. He even lost Glenn Beck, for pete’s sake.

And now he is going to be president of the United States. The woman we were constantly assured was the best-qualified candidate of all time has lost to the least qualified candidate of all time. Everyone who was anyone rallied around her, and it didn’t make any difference. The man too incompetent to insult is now going to sit in the Oval Office, whence he will hand down his beauty-contest verdicts on the grandees and sages of the old order.

[…]

To try to put over such a nominee while screaming that the Republican is a rightwing monster is to court disbelief. If Trump is a fascist, as liberals often said, Democrats should have put in their strongest player to stop him, not a party hack they’d chosen because it was her turn. Choosing her indicated either that Democrats didn’t mean what they said about Trump’s riskiness, that their opportunism took precedence over the country’s well-being, or maybe both.

Clinton’s supporters among the media didn’t help much, either. It always struck me as strange that such an unpopular candidate enjoyed such robust and unanimous endorsements from the editorial and opinion pages of the nation’s papers, but it was the quality of the media’s enthusiasm that really harmed her. With the same arguments repeated over and over, two or three times a day, with nuance and contrary views all deleted, the act of opening the newspaper started to feel like tuning in to a Cold War propaganda station. Here’s what it consisted of:

  • Hillary was virtually without flaws. She was a peerless leader clad in saintly white, a super-lawyer, a caring benefactor of women and children, a warrior for social justice.
  • Her scandals weren’t real.
  • The economy was doing well / America was already great.
  • Working-class people weren’t supporting Trump.
  • And if they were, it was only because they were botched humans. Racism was the only conceivable reason for lining up with the Republican candidate.

How did the journalists’ crusade fail? The fourth estate came together in an unprecedented professional consensus. They chose insulting the other side over trying to understand what motivated them. They transformed opinion writing into a vehicle for high moral boasting. What could possibly have gone wrong with such an approach?

Put this question in slightly more general terms and you are confronting the single great mystery of 2016. The American white-collar class just spent the year rallying around a super-competent professional (who really wasn’t all that competent) and either insulting or silencing everyone who didn’t accept their assessment. And then they lost. Maybe it’s time to consider whether there’s something about shrill self-righteousness, shouted from a position of high social status, that turns people away.

As of 12:44 a.m., it looks like Trump has pulled off the biggest upset since Dewey beat Truman

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:44

I’m sure that state-level Democratic party organizations are already deep into their emergency planning to demand recounts and do whatever else they have sketched out for a Doomsday scenario. Here’s the New York Times election page:

nyt-2016-election-tracker-at-1244am

In what I’m sure is totally unrelated news, but the Citizenship and Immigration Canada home page took approximately five minutes to load, due to heavier-than-anticipated traffic.

And like most of you, I’ll find out the “final” results tomorrow morning…

November 7, 2016

Collision imminent

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Jay Currie on the moment when one of the two bubbles collapses:

It is pretty easy to live online without being aware you are in a bubble. If all you read are liberal or conservative sites your understanding of the current American Presidential election is likely to be deeply distorted. There are even different sets of polling numbers depending on which side of the aisle you are getting your information from.

Whether you are in the “Literally Hitler” bubble or the “Most corrupt presidential candidate ever” bubble, you can pretty much avoid contact with any information which does not reinforce your views. But, in six days, the bubbles will collide and one of the narratives is going to collapse in the face of actual electoral results. The other bubble will take its victory as confirmation that its narrative was right all along and that the people who did not accept that narrative are either stupid or evil.

Which means that one group of Americans are going to wake up on November 9 disoriented, stunned, angry and feeling a deep sense of betrayal. Unlike previous elections where there has been at least a veneer of objectivity and non-partisanship in the media, in this election, the major media has been all in for Hillary. Which, in the post-election period may make it even more difficult for the losing side to understand and accept its loss because the “talking heads” will either be completely at a loss themselves or will spend their time congratulating each other on their perspicacity.

The collision of the bubbles will be especially nasty if, as I suspect it will be, the election is not even close. A tight win for either side will allow the other side to console itself with just how close it came. But a romp will bring into question the entire narrative of the losing side.

Anecdotally, I’ve heard far more stories of people “unfriending” long-time friends on social media for being too partisan in their support for one or the other of the two major candidates this year than I recall from other elections. But I also have to keep in mind that the plural of “anecdote” is not “data”.

November 5, 2016

Media madness

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

In Vanity Fair, Ken Stern peers into the murky depths of the right-wing media bubble:

Virtually every day during the past year, I’ve digested a daily dose of Breitbart, the alt-right Web site that many journalists, including myself, have described as “Trump Pravda.” A typical day on Breitbart includes any number of articles extolling the rise of Donald Trump, including the massive size of his rallies and (on and off) his fast-rising poll numbers. There are also several pieces attacking the “mainstream media,” usually CNN, The New York Times or The Washington Post. Recently, there have been a slew of pieces from the Clinton WikiLeaks cache, which are part of a larger set of articles showcasing the couple’s venality, arrogance, and sexual peccadillos. The reporting, such as it is, is generally factually accurate, but mean-spirited and fantastically one-sided. If Breitbart were your primary news source, you would receive a view of the election that would be largely distorted and wholly unrecognizable to swaths of the American public.

When I checked the news the other day, it was more of the same. I counted some 20 articles about the presidential race, each espousing the unequivocal view that one candidate is collapsing due to moral failings, financial improprieties, and complete and utter lack of judgment and ethics. Notably, I was not reading Breitbart. Instead, I was reading The Washington Post, delivered to my doorstep, and the attacks were squarely waged not against the Clintons but rather against Trump.

In the Front Section, there was an incredible array of Trump-phobia, ranging from attacks on his business acuity to his ethics (“How Trump got a personal tax break by defaulting on loans”), to his personal knowledge (“Trump’s map of black America needs an update”), to stupid opinions about Trump (“Nader predicts fastest impeachment in history for a President Trump”), to smart opinions about Trump (“A contemptible candidate — and the party to blame for it”).

If you think this is limited to the National News portion of the paper, you would be mistaken. The Metro section, which typically reports on the Washington, D.C. area, was headlined by a news article describing the dysfunction at the Trump campaign in Virginia and a column arguing that Trump watching should be rated R for children. The top article in the Style section sported a massive feature on the Trump meltdown, supplemented by a column attacking Steve Bannon, the C.E.O. of the Trump campaign and the former head honcho at Breitbart. The sports section featured a column attacking Trump and defending, of all things, locker-room culture. Only the Health section lacked a Trump hook. (Trump, as you may recall, temporarily banned WaPo reporters from his campaign events.)

Rather remarkably, there was virtually no mention of Clinton or any other candidate running for president on this particular day. And so I repeated this little thought experiment again last week and the results were largely the same. The Post should not be blamed for criticizing a candidate who has demonstrated xenophobic, racist, and sexually predatory behavior. But even at the end of perhaps the worst stretch of weeks for a candidate in modern American electoral history, perhaps 45 percent of the electorate, some 55 million voters or so, still will vote for Trump. And some of them may wonder if the Post put their fat thumbs on the electoral scales.

October 27, 2016

QotD: The 2016 election is “awesome”

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: — Nicholas @ 01:00

The other day at dinner, I told a group of folks with more, uh, conventional political views than my own that this election was great. When pressed on my seeming madness, I said that I was tired of people fetishizing politicians, starting with the cult of the Presidency. History is written as if these losers drove most of history, when in fact the vast vast majority of our wealth and well-being today results from the actions of private individuals, private individuals who typically had to fight politicians to make our lives better. Anything we can do to cause people to think twice about giving more power to these knuckleheads, the better. And thus, this election is great — like Dorothy stumbling on the wizard behind the curtain, perhaps going forward people will be a little less willing to blindly accept politicians as their betters.

Warren Meyer, “Why This Election Is Awesome — Making It Easier NOT to Give Power to these Losers”, Coyote Blog, 2016-10-17.

October 22, 2016

Polls, voting trends, and turnouts

Filed under: Politics, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 02:00

Jay Currie looks at the US election polling:

Polls tend to work by adjusting their samples to reflect demographics and an estimate of a given demographic’s propensity to actually vote. On a toy model basis, you can think of it as a layer cake with each layer representing an age cohort. So, for example, if you look at younger voters 18-29 you might find that 90% of them support Hilly and 10% Trump. If there are 100 of these voters in your sample of 500 a simple projection would suggest 90 votes for Hilly, 10 for Trump. The problem is that it is difficult to know how many of those younger voters will actually go out and vote. As a rule of thumb the older you are the more likely you are to vote so now you have to estimate voting propensity.

There are two ways to get a sense of voting propensity: ask the people in your sample or look at the behaviour of people the same age but in the last couple of elections.

And now the landscape begins to shift. In 2008, nearly 50% of voters aged 18-29 voted. In 2012, 40% voted. In both elections, the youth vote was heavily pro-Obama. If you were designing a poll at this point, what sort of weighting would make sense for youth voters? Making that call will change the landscape your poll will reflect. If you want your poll to tilt Hilly you can believe that the prospect of the first woman President of the United States will be as motivating as Obama was and assign a voting propensity of 40-50%; alternatively, if you don’t see many signs of Hillary catching fire among younger voters, you can set the propensity number at 30% and create a tie or a slight Trump lead.

(The results of this are even more dramatic if you look at the black vote and turnout. In 2008 black turnout was 69.1%, 2012, 67.4% with Obama taking well over 90%. Will the nice white lady achieve anything like these numbers?)

One the other side of the ledger, the turnouts of the less educated have been low for the last two elections. 52% in 2008 and a little less than 50 in 2012. There is room for improvement. Now, as any educated person will tell you, often at length, Trump draws a lot of support in the less educated cohorts. But that support is easily discounted because these people (the deplorables and their ilk) barely show up to vote.

Build your model on the basis that lower education people’s participation in 2016 will be similar to 2008 and 20012 and you will produce a result in line with the 538.com consensus view. But if you think that the tens of thousands people who show up for Trump’s rallies might just show up to vote, you will have a model tending towards the LA Times view of things.

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