Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Live Blogging The Election Results, 2016

Best anecdotal sign of a disappointing outcome? I just realized that I'm fall-down tired, and am going to bed. I'll leave you with my best guess as to where the map will stand when we all get up tomorrow -- assuming there *is* a tomorrow. My best guess now is that Trump will finish with 289 electoral votes, to Clinton's 249 (or 248, if that guy in Washington keeps his word.)

Hillary Clinton is being projected as the winner in Nevada.

If Donald Trump wins Pennsylvania, and Steve Kornacke thinks he will, Hillary Clinton has no remaining path. All three of Arizona and Wisconsin and Nevada get her to 270, but only if she carries all of Maine and the elector in Washington State doesn't keep his word about not voting for her. Oh, and the NASDAQ and S&P 500 futures have both just hit the "5% loss break," which means that trading has been suspended until the market opens tomorrow, to avert a wider wave of panic selling.

CNN is calling Iowa for Donald Trump.

...And no sooner did I upload those words, than Trump has taken the lead in Pennsylvania. The only county left to report even a single precinct is one that went +60,000 for Romney in 2012.

I'm on the Wisconsin Supervisor of Elections website, and the issue of Wisconsin doesn't seem exactly out of reach for the good guys, yet. There are still 23% of the precincts left to report in Milwaukee. I begin to think that this matter will not be decided this evening either way.

Reuters is calling the Nevada Senate seat for Catherine Cortez-Mato. Which is a Democratic *hold*, not a pickup, since she will replace Harry Reid. That's how far this night has fallen: We're cheering for holds, now. In the Senate.

In case you didn't have enough to worry about, consider these two words: President Pence. And if you think that's less scary than President Trump, don't overlook the possibility that it could be both.

Mainstream media types are talking about Trump's agenda and likely cabinet appointments. Steve Kornacke reports that Trump's lead is widening in Wisconsin. If he peels Wisconsin from the Democratic "blue wall," then only a flip of Arizona will save Clinton. And the rest of us.

Is it possible that Barack Obama set up this whole dynamic by criticizing Mitt Romney, four years ago, for standing on the convention stage and calling Russia our biggest threat? It does appear that Russia didn't take too kindly to being publicly dismissed as a threat.

Donald Trump is within 7,000 votes in Pennsylvania. Obviously, if Donald Trump wins Pennsylvania, the whole shooting match is completely over.

Andrea Mitchell is reporting that the mood at the Clinton HQ is "shell-shocked." There is no live entertainment and no surrogate contacts with the reporters on the floor of the ballroom.

11:55 PM
This is a long and increasingly discouraging night for progressives like me, but let's take a moment to consider how historic it is for things to be this uncertain like this. We don't routinely have elections like this, and it's worth a line or two of column space to say that it's a pretty special moment to be a part of, even if it doesn't turn out the way a lot of us would want.

James Carville isn't expecting Wisconsin to come back to the Clinton campaign. "I'm distraught about the whole thing."

GOP team reportedly "jubilant" at the prospect of Donald Trump becoming the President-elect. Clinton campaign, meanwhile, reportedly has "gone dark" -- with none of their surrogates speaking to the networks, and no social media presence. These are not signs that can easily be spun or ignored, folks.

Here's a pretty astonishing idea: If Trump wins Wisconsin, which shouldn't have happened -- and Clinton wins Arizona, which also shouldn't have happened -- they effectively trade their electoral votes, and nothing changes.

Reuters and MSNBC are calling Georgia for Donald Trump. No surprise.

Steve Kornacke showing that Milwaukee and Madison are going to make things extremely close in Wisconsin. "She needs big numbers out of Milwaukee and there's a good chance that Trump can make some of that back with the western counties."

Reuters calling the Arizona Senate race for John McCain.

NEW HAMPSHIRE: Donald Trump is clinging to a 9,000 vote lead in the partial precincts in New Hampshire, but with only about 65% of the precincts reporting and no discernible pattern. Advantage: PUSH

MICHIGAN: Trump still clings to a 15,000 vote lead but there's less than 70% of the vote in from Wayne County and Detroit. Advantage: CLINTON

WISCONSIN: Trump's partial-precinct lead is about 75,000 but Clinton is waiting on a third of Madison and a quarter of Milwaukee. Advantage: CLINTON

NEVADA: Clinton leads with less than half of Clarke County reported. Advantage: CLINTON

ARIZONA: Trump's partial precinct lead is about 100,000, but less than half of Tucson is in. Advantage: ...CLINTON???

MAINE: Clinton leads with most of Bangor and Portland still to report. Advantage: CLINTON

PENNSYLVANIA: Clinton leads with most of Pittsburgh left to report in. Advantage: CLINTON

Let me see if I can mine the data a little and get everyone a better picture of where things stand. This will probably take a few minutes....

Here, feel better: This is the map I made two days ago for my highest-ever-pageview blog column. You'll notice that Hillary Clinton stands on 274 without North Carolina, Florida, Ohio, or Iowa.

There begins to be the very real possibility that this thing won't be decided tonight either way. If it's close enough in Nevada and Wisconsin to require the provisional and mail-in ballots, then one or the other of those could mean a mandatory automatic recount. Which would mean the Brooks-Brothers riot all over again, of course, but this time with armed militia.

"People are pushing the 'change' button. I mean, Bernie Sanders was never going to be President; nobody cared! And a plurality of Sanders supporters said their second choice was Trump." -Chris Matthews

The MSNBC talking heads are saying, "It is far more likely that he wins tonight, than she does." 

Steve Kornacke just said, "If Trump wins Nevada, Wisconsin, or Michigan, he's the next President." I think that's indubitably true, and has been for weeks. And I also don't think it's going to happen.

Since about 7:45pm or so, this election night has careened from one crisis to the next, and narrowly averted disaster at every turn. It begins to look like Hillary Clinton is going to win in Michigan, and the Clinton team was effectively writing off North Carolina after only narrowly holding in Virginia. But the thing is, if Wisconsin starts to look tricky from the perspective of how quickly the Senate race was called.


AP and ABC calling CA, OR, WA, HI for Hillary Clinton and ID for Trump. No surprises. The big surprise (and disappointment) is that Ron Johnson will beat Russ Feingold for US Senate from Wisconsin.

Wayne County (where Detroit is) is showing a 100,000 vote lead for Hillary Clinton with 50% of the precincts reporting. If you multiply that margin by two, it closes Trump's lead completely.

"Pennsylvania will hold for Hillary Clinton." -Chris Matthews.

Great local friend of mine reminded me of a quote from Chris Matthews just before the first debate: "All Hillary Clinton has to do, to win this debate, is solve a sixteen-sided Rubick's Cube; all Donald Trump has to do, is not eat somebody and then set the building on fire." 

Are we seeing the equivalent of Brexit, here in the US? As you may recall, the polls showed "remain" with a 2-3% tailwind on the eve of the referendum, and the pissed-off old white people just came completely out of the woodwork and overwhelmed the polling metrics. Not much room to doubt that something similar is happening here, tonight. Big poll closings at the top of the hour, so hang tight.

Steve Kornacke showing that Trump needs to find 130,00 more votes in Pennsylvania -- which is closer than we would have wanted, but still too much for Trump to find. 

There's not much going on right now, so my home-state followers will like to hear that Amendment #1 -- which would have monopolized solar power generation for the utility companies -- was defeated. 

My social media feeds (and my text-message inbox) are positively overtopped with Democratic angst about this thing, and make no mistake: Donald Trump has seriously over-performed most people's expectations so far this evening. OK, got it. But here's the thing: Which campaign would you rather be, with the Detroit Free Press already projecting Michigan, and seasoned veteran Jon Ralston already calling Nevada? Because with those two, you understand, Hillary Clinton surpasses 270 electoral votes and she's the next President.


"There are paths to 270 opening up for Donald Trump at this hour." -Steve Kornacke.

ABC calls the Colorado Senate race for Democratic incumbent Michael Bennett, and MSNBC calls the Iowa Senate for Republican incumbent Chuck Grassley.


The official margin in Florida is 133,000 votes, and the big Democratic counties are down to counting their vote-by-mail ballots. I think it's over in the Sunshine State. Also, ABC and Reuters are calling the NC Senate race (very quickly!) for Richard Burr. This is shaping up to be a long -- perhaps even disappointing -- night for Democrats.

If you look at what's happened so far tonight, the polling error is definitely favoring Trump -- which is exactly the opposite of what I predicted, perhaps importantly so.

"We make the mistake of assuming that the south's all in the south." -Chris Matthews.

AP making it sound like Michigan is consolidating for Clinton, and MSNBC calls New Mexico for Clinton. And Missouri for Trump.

I hate to say this, but I might be the "journalist" to break that Trump is going to win Florida. The precincts left to report in Broward and Dade just aren't big enough.

Iowa is being called "Too Close to Call," which means Clinton is doing better than expected. Nevada is too close to call, which means either that Trump is doing better than expected, or the networks are being gutless. 

Only Nevada counts as a big state to close at the top of the hour, except possibly for Iowa -- if you call Iowa a big state. And both MSNBC and AP are hedging on Michigan. 


So far no luck determining which precincts have yet to report in from The Granite State. Will continue to try to track that down for you.

NBC's Chris Matthews -- who I can't help but love to listen to -- says there's no chance that Trump can win in Pennsylvania. ("Ed Rendell said that his bosses in Philadelphia have all broken through their targets.")

Here, this will make everyone feel better. Let's assume Hillary holds very narrowly in Virginia, and give everything else that has surprised us so far to Donald Trump (including both Florida and Ohio). In that case, the whole thing comes down to Nevada -- where I've been reporting all week that Jon Ralston thinks the early vote for Clinton is insurmountable.


The Florida vote is extremely close, but the reason we're effectively standing still on precincts is because the ones which haven't reported yet still have people standing in line to vote. And that much is terrific news for the Clinton team. 

"The votes appear to be there for Hillary Clinton in Virginia." -MSNBC.

There is, of course, that other possibility for things being this artificially tight. The one of which we dare not speak. So I won't. But it rhymes with Bladdimir Klutin. Is that tinfoil-hat of me, to think out loud? That if the desire was to cook this outcome electronically, the best way to do it would be in a manner that was so razor-thin that there was no obvious place to point and say, "That can't be right"?

Here's your updated map:

Finally some good news for the Clinton team! The Detroit Free Press is projecting that Clinton will hang on in Michigan, and win. That's not exactly the election-consortium, but that cuts both ways since the DFP wouldn't stick their necks out like that if they weren't sure. Hat-tip, fellow Iowa State Cyclone and Yankee Fan, and all-around incredibly terrifically nice guy, Mike Patterson. 

No polls close at the bottom of the hour, so I'm going to see if I can get a county-level read on what's the matter with New Hampshire.

Trump is doing better with men than Romney did four years ago, according to Larry Sabato. This could be the hidden X-factor of this election, if things stay this tight. Is it possible that men outside of Trump's electoral wheelhouse are making it a point of voting against a woman President? I sure hope not, but it's one possible explanation for why things seem so incredibly tight right now. The Orange One is making it genuinely difficult to call at least some states that were considered safe for Clinton, and he's doing it with effectively no turnout operation whatsoever. If he continues to over-perform Romney among men, that could well be the reason why.

At the moment, Trump leads in the partial precincts of Virginia by 1.33million to 1.28million, and if you take the remaining precincts to report in Fairfax County, and you award them proportionately to Clinton and Trump, the state comes out exactly -- exactly -- tied. 

AP and Reuters are both showing the first congressional district in Nebraska as too close to call, which would be good news for Warren Buffet's promise to Hillary Clinton to deliver it. There's no sugar-coating that the Democrats are enduring a really, really nervous stretch of this election night right now. It isn't nearly as likely as it was even thirty minutes ago that Team Good Guys are going to win Florida, Michigan is going to go down to the wire, and Virginia comes down to Fairfax County, which won't report until late.

Chuck Todd honestly doesn't know -- and I've heard him in four elections now -- whether Clinton is going to win Florida when the rest of the precincts come in. "She gets 100,000 more votes from Broward, but she has to find another 30,000 from the I-4 corridor."

Great quote by Chuck Todd on MSNBC: "These two campaigns weren't fighting over a single voter. Instead they were each just trying to turn out their own voters." Good news for Clinton, all other things equal, since the Clinton turnout operation was assumed by everyone (including me) to be so much better.

No real surprises from the top-of-the-hour closings. Michigan was looking like a slow call for about a week now, and that's really the closest thing to a surprise in these closings. Also, AP has called South Carolina and Alabama for trump. Map to follow.

Let's all use the little dead-spot before the top-of-the-hour closing times to just step back and take a breath. Yes, Donald Trump is doing better than expected. (Heck, I'd put it that way if Trump got a single vote, anywhere in the country, if it comes to that.) But Hillary Clinton is doing much better than expected in several areas, too. And for proof, look no further than the fact that neither South Carolina nor Georgia have been called.

Just tried (semi-successfully) to scan the Virginia Supervisor of Elections website, and it looks like effectively all of the un-reported vote left in Virginia is in pro-Clinton parts of the state.

MSNBC is reporting a pro-Republican imbalance in turnout in Michigan, and that Virginia is too close to call on account of unusually high turnout across all regions of the state. 

I misspoke earlier and it's a doozy: It's not that 15% of the vote is still outstanding in Broward County. It's that only 15% of the vote has *reported* in Broward County. That's positively enormous, and I think the difference will be more than enough to deliver the state for Secretary Clinton. The blue precincts are always the last ones to report in, regardless of the state or circumstances.

Yes, partial precincts are useless. No, that doesn't make this graphic out of Texas any less fun to look at. (It's faint to read, but it shows HRC with a substantial lead among a rather sizable clump of votes already counted. Again, useless but fun to look at.)

CBS is calling the Indiana Senate race for Republican Todd Young, who defeats centrist Democratic candidate and high-name-recognition darling, Evan Bayh. So far things are going improbably well for Republicans in the Senate, which could indicate a significant amount of ticket-splitting that was targeted specifically at trying to block Hillary Clinton's "agenda," assuming she wins. Here's the updated (Presidential) map:

MSNBC says that some unofficial Democratic Party operatives are "nervous" about Michigan. It rained all day in Detroit and the turnout numbers aren't what the Democrats are used to.

ABC and MSNBC both calling the House of Representatives for the GOP. That's a big disappointment, but the upside is that the partial precincts in Florida show Trump with a 60,000-vote lead, despite the fact that 20% of Palm Beach, 15% of Broward, and 15% of Dade are still un-reported, together with all of (reliably Democratic) Alachua County, where your intrepid columnist lives. Also, Arkansas is being called for Trump. Map to follow.

AP showing Clinton with an "official lead" in all four of North Carolina, Ohio, New Hampshire, and Michigan. This implies that the polls are closed, but there are still people standing in line to vote -- which would make it inappropriate to call the state. But as with 2012, we may consider it highly unlikely that a state which is shown with a "lead" for one candidate, would then subsequently be called for the other one later. And that, folks, would be the 2016 Presidential election. Trump simply cannot win if he loses all four of those states.

Arkansas the only state to close at the bottom of the hour.

MSNBC reporting that Trump is over-performing with union members in Ohio, and that Hillary Clinton has already vastly exceeded Barack Obama's margins in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties, at this hour. And you've waited long enough for the first map which, aside from an un-called South Carolina, has no surprises on it so far.

8:14 PM
Thanks for your patience, everyone! We have some news -- both in the positive and the negative. Marco Rubio and Rob Portman appear to be victors in two closely-watched Senate races, and South Carolina (as I predicted earlier today) so far stubbornly refuses to be called for Donald Trump. Map to follow, but I wanted to at least let it be known that I hadn't collided with a pickle truck, or something.
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Things to Watch For (and Not to)!

***Just a quick reminder: I will once again be live-blogging the election returns this evening, but this time around I won't be able to start until roughly 9:00pm because of a teaching commitment.***

 Well, it's official. No, not that. Rather, I've officially given up trying to think about anything else today, regardless of relative personal importance. It's true what the pros say about election day: There isn't really all that much to do except sit around, gossip, fret, and wait. Mercifully that wait is once again almost over. In the meantime, thanks to all who've gotten back on the Cinema Democratica bandwagon: yesterday was our biggest single page-view day, ever -- surpassing even the 2008 live blog -- and I doubt any of this would be nearly as much fun without you all. And none of us, apparently, can stand the suspense.

And so as we all await the results of this at-once-wacky-and-yet-maddeningly-stable election, I thought I would take a few moments of excess nervous energy to share some thoughts about what sorts of tea leaves might make the best reading material before the final calls are in. To my thinking, the "pre-available information," if you will, falls into four categories: red herrings, stubborn and quick-to-fall states, partial precinct data, and demographics. Let's have a quick look at all four, with a word or two about how seriously to take each one. 

Red Herrings
Every election cycle the major polling firms all conduct exit polls, and every year the exit polls turn out to be completely useless. There's a simple reason for this, which is that there's no way to adjust exit polling data to reflect the larger voting cohort: Whomever happens to be emerging from the polling place at a given time, and is willing to be interviewed about it, finds his or her way into the data, regardless of whether he or she proportionally reflects the true mood of the state in question. This is called self-selection bias, and it's an instant deal-breaker as to the reliability of the data in question.

Suppose for example that a college -- even one which shall remain nameless -- decides to abandon the time-perfected practice of conducting student opinion surveys in class, on paper, preferring instead to allow students to elect to participate in the opinion-survey practice entirely on their own. Two things will naturally follow: First, those students who have the strongest opinions about the professor or the class will of course be unscientifically over-represented in the results. Second, since the poll itself is anonymous, there will be no way to weight the results in such a way as to better reflect the opinion of those students' non-responding counterparts.

The most famous example of this problem in electoral politics was election day of 2004, in the afternoon of which staffers for John Kerry confidently predicted that he would win -- basing their confidence entirely on the results of exit polling. More generally the problem seems to be (in part) that patterns of voter turnout over the course of the day are non-randomly distributed across party affiliations, and there just isn't time for the polling firms in question to carry out the sorts of labor-intensive adjustments necessary to correct for this phenomenon before getting scooped. Point being, readers would be well advised to take any news about exit polling with about a 250-pound block of salt.

This year a new source of potential information mischief has waded into the murk, in the form of a series of geek-based efforts to pre-project the outcomes of entire states in full view of the public. Cooler heads will refrain from even clicking through, but it's an open question whether the political commentariat can resist the temptation to meta-cover these scientifically dubious efforts, and the fear on the part of many is that any crack in the mainstream media's traditional embargo on this sort of thing could tip the result somewhere. It would be a fool's errand to ask readers not to patronize the geek-off, but don't let the media stories about it (if any) concern you too much either way, because the reporters in question won't know that they're talking about people who don't know what they're talking about.

Stubborn / Quick-Call States
It's utterly shameless self-promotion to say this, but I consider it no small feather in my cap to have correctly anticipated that Indiana's stubborn refusal to be called in 2008 would set the tone for that historic night for Barack Obama and the Democrats. (And entirely by the way, is it just me or does that moment seem like it happened a hell of a lot less than eight years ago?)

This year the two states to watch are New Hampshire and South Carolina. Both of them close relatively early -- South Carolina at 7:00pm and New Hampshire finishes its staggered closing times at 8:00 --  and any combination other than an immediate call for S.C. and a stubborn lack of resolution to New Hampshire is almost certainly the end of the road for The Orange One. I predict exactly the opposite: that, despite the two weeks' worth of solid media narrative about how tight New Hampshire has become, Secretary Clinton will be called the winner at the first possible second, while South Carolina will be this year's Indiana, just hanging there, and hanging there, and hanging there.

Barack Obama eventually won Indiana in 2008, but it was far from necessary and almost certainly won't happen again. The real point is that an surprise un-called state alters the media coverage disproportionately -- precisely because it's such a surprise. I'm sticking my neck out on this one more than usual, but I honestly think that the combination of a sneaky-high percentage of Hispanics in the Palmetto State, together with Mr. Trump's less than flattering words for George W. Bush, will bring the matter at least to within the margin of error, and set much of the tone of the night for the major anchors.

Partial Precincts
I am not popular company with my closest friends when questions of expertise are at issue: it's a blind spot of mine, owing its origins to a childhood in which no one could correctly pronounce my (very, very easy to pronounce) last name, and which was solidified when I chose economics as my field -- an area of human intellect in which every single drunk asshole at the bar has a self-awarded honorary Ph.D. Point being, I don't do well when I know something, and it's right, and other people won't just take my word for it. The most successful people in the world have all sorts of coping mechanisms for this, and I am forty-seven years old and not about to learn any of them.

How this is relevant in the present context, is that every four years I find myself saying the same thing about the partial-precinct reports that scroll across the bottom of the news channels: as an overall barometer of how the two campaigns are doing statewide, they are utterly, sumptuously, radiantly useless. Yes, precinct reports come in at random, in terms of their distribution across a given state, but that's just the thing: The voters themselves are *not* evenly distributed across that same state. The most notorious case of this leading to some distortions in the public's perception of how things are going was in 2000, when the last precincts to report in Florida were (as they always are) from the deep-blue enclaves of Palm Beach, Broward and Dade Counties. And if you've seen Fahrenheit 9/11, then you don't need me to tell you how this fact was manipulated by Karl Rove to create the appearance that Mr. Bush had won the state before he had.

This being said, partial precincts can shed useful light on the state of a state -- provided that they are viewed against the voter splits in previous elections. If, in Duvall County Florida, for example, Hillary Clinton is running well ahead of where Barack Obama ran in that same part of the state in 2008 or 2012, then -- then -- we know something. Not based on the raw numbers from there, which will almost certainly show Trump with a lead.

We're already seeing big indications that the Hispanic portion of this year's vote was badly under-anticipated in the demographic modeling of the major polling firms. Hispanics (and by the way, women too), are turning out in larger numbers than anyone expected, and if this trend continues it will spell a very bad night for the GOP. So as you follow the news -- including here -- pay special attention to any apparent surprises vis-a-vis the makeup of the electorate (if the non-affiliated electorate in Florida continue to include an outsized proportion of Hispanic voters, for example).    

Well, that's it. At this point, all of us have done what we could, and all that's left is to wait, and enjoy the live-blog. Thanks again for following these pages, and if you haven't done so already -- for God's sake, *VOTE*!

Dave O'Gorman
Associate Professor of Economics
Santa Fe College
Gainesville, Florida

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Monday, November 7, 2016

The States to Watch are Not the Ones You Might Think

First, a bit of light housekeeping: As in 2008 and 2012, I will once again be live-blogging the election returns as they come in tomorrow evening -- with a big caveat: I have a teaching obligation that doesn't permit me to begin until roughly nine o'clock on the east coast. But I promise to be here as soon as possible, and to get caught up as quickly as I can.

Second, with all the kerfuffle about whether the race is tightening, or stabilizing, or tightening only in the battlegrounds, or not, I thought it might be an idea to point out that little has changed about the structural underpinnings of this election: Donald Trump didn't really have a plausible path to 270 electoral votes in late September, and he doesn't really have a plausible path to 270 electoral votes, now.

To emphasize this point, I want to take a moment to imagine a scenario in which, late tomorrow night, we all find ourselves unable to call any of Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Iowa, *or* New Hampshire. (These are the states that have consistently been listed as the most likely tipping points for the 2016 contest, in some combination.) I know this scenario would require an odd set of circumstances, but just play along while I spring the punch-line on you:

As long as Secretary Clinton holds Michigan and Pennsylvania, and consolidates her leads in Virginia, Colorado, and Nevada, nothing else actually matters.

...And nothing else actually does.

As far as I can tell, Clinton stands on 274 absolutely solid electoral votes. That is, before any of the supposedly decisive states are even factored into the equation.

Nevada, as it happens, and the positively gob-smacking performance of the Harry Reid machine in securing such a prohibitive early-voting lead for Team Blue, will be the story of things tomorrow night. If it even gets that far, which it may well not, since I think Clinton is going to win in Florida before the polls in Nevada have even closed.

I'm a homer, so I also think Clinton's vaunted ground game is going to make the difference in Ohio (late indications are that her position is improving there), as well as in North Carolina (where the GOTV effort is only being helped by the presence of a polarizing race for US Senate *and* the Governor's Mansion. I also think she'll hold in New Hampshire, as her non-response bias problem with recent polls there fades into the dusty archives of history alongside Director Comey's Fifteen Minutes of Fame. As other commentators have noted elsewhere, a quick blue call for New Hampshire after polls close there will spell a seriously long night in a certain gilded Manhattan penthouse. Mr. Trump, meanwhile, will hang on in two out of Iowa, Arizona, and Georgia, but not the third one -- though at this hour I'll admit that I have no idea which.

Your final map, early Wednesday morning, would thus look (something) like this:

Whether I've got the exact states right is (semi-obviously) beside the point of this column, and also of this election: Barring something genuinely unforeseen in any of Pennsylvania, Virginia, Colorado, or Michigan -- and assuming Jon Ralston isn't wrong about Nevada in a way he's never been wrong before about anything in his life -- we will all wake up two mornings from now to the first female President-elect in our nation's history. Eventually to succeed the first black President in our nation's history, next January.

And in this white man's opinion, it will be about, freaking, time

Dave O'Gorman
Associate Professor of Economics
Santa Fe College
Gainesville, Florida
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Cinema Democratica Exclusive: Conversation With Ohio

With the early-voting data out of Florida and Nevada so encouraging for Team Blue, your faithful correspondent turned his sights to trying to get a better handle on what's happening in Ohio. As luck would have it, a seasoned political reporter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Andrew J Tobias, was gracious enough to take time from his impossibly hectic schedule to talk with CinemaDemocratica on the record about where things stand in the Buckeye state, and to bandy some possible theories as to why. Links for following Mr. Tobias on social media are provided at the conclusion of this column.

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Sunday, November 6, 2016

Sorry, Donald (and Nate): Any Polling Error Will Favor Clinton

For much of this last Sunday before election day, I grappled with the challenge of how to write -- and then stagger -- two separate blog columns. (#whitepeopleproblems.) The first of these two hypothetical columns was supposed to be a summary of where things stand with respect to early voting; the second one was supposed to be a friend-of-the-court brief regarding the geek war between the editors of the Huffington Post, and Nate Silver. And it's no small testimony to the sloppy file structures inside my head that it took until late this afternoon for me to realize that these had actually been the same column, all along.

Unless you've been vacationing on Neptune, you probably know by now that most of the leading polling firms have shown a marked tightening of the electoral horse race between Trump and Clinton -- presumably in response to the October cudgel delivered to Trump campaign HQ on a silver platter by the Director of the FBI. Timed to inflict maximum political damage, Director Comey's letter to Congress about his re-opening of the Clinton/email investigation was released at the precise moment that early voting began in many of the most crucial battleground states.

The effect has been to dramatically alter both the complexion and the media narrative of the race: from one in which Clinton was as inevitable as any Presidential candidate since Nixon's reelection bid in '72, to one in which literally anything could happen and probably would. But a funny thing happened along the way to Comey's role in upending the fate of the world: In terms of the actual dynamics of the race, there seems to have been much less impact than the polling data might otherwise suggest. The polls are, with apologies to Mitt Romney's supporters from 2012, genuinely and provably missing the drift of this thing, this time -- and Secretary Clinton is the direct and ubiquitous beneficiary of their collective mistake. This is an unusually long column even by my standards, so I hope you'll bear with me.

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Don't Kid Yourself; Hillary Clinton is in Trouble (But Still Leads)

If you've been anything more than a one-time-casual reader of these pages, you're almost certainly a progressive who -- grudgingly or otherwise -- supports Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump in this year's Presidential Election. And like me you're probably troubled on more than one level by the FBI's October bombshell, and you're probably worried about the possibility that the bombshell could actually explode the election and deliver a most improbable victory to Donald Trump. Well, the point of today's column is that you'd be absolutely right: This is no time to shrug these latest twists off -- but neither is it time to panic. Yet.

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Monday, October 24, 2016

The Most Effective Campaign Commercial of All Time

For whatever reason the internet loves hyperbole -- particularly of the sort that ignores all but the last eighteen months in the sweep of human history. I had this pointed out to me in 2002 by a smart colleague at my workplace, recounting the tale of a student of his who had just uploaded an essay entitled "The Twenty Greatest Blu-Ray Movies of All Time," and who then refused to see the irony of same when my colleague patiently tried to point it out to him. We all do this, now: Things change so much faster than they used to that we forget how recent the distant-seeming stuff really is.

So forgive me while I chew some precious bandwidth to make the argument that Hillary Clinton's latest one-minute spot, "Captain Khan," is very probably -- and will very probably be remembered for a long time as -- the single most devastatingly effective political advertisement, ever.

But first do yourself the honor of watching it again, because it's worth it.

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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Republicans are (Probably) in Bigger Trouble Than They Think

Election polling is, as ever, a good news / bad news proposition. The good news about following polling data in an election season is that there is always a great mass of data and there are always a great many stone-cold pros crunching that data and writing articles about it, as well as Nate Silver. But this volume of data and expert analysis happens also to be the bad news -- because the more stone-cold pros there are, the more likely their predictions are to diverge in meaningful ways. And never is this more true than when it comes to predicting so-called "wave elections," in which the mood of the electorate turns so decisively against one or the other of the two political parties that even the best models under-count the damage.

Worse, this kind of mistake is what statisticians refer to as a "systematic error": one in which the divergence between prediction and outcome only manifests in one tail of the probability distribution. For recent examples of this phenomenon, the United States has experienced "wave" elections in three consecutive midterms -- 2006, 2010, and 2014 -- and in all three of them the most trusted and professional pollsters and poll analysts, and Nate Silver, have all missed the victorious party's margin to the low side. But then this much is nearly tautological: Having failed to diagnose a wave, it would be impossible to then over-estimate its size, since missing a congressional margin to the high side would itself constitute the correct prediction of a wave.

So the bigger, more vexing question, then, is why pollsters and poll-analysts so often miss waves altogether -- and whether those explanations could proffer any guidance in predicting the outcome of this year's electoral horse race. Personally I believe that the explanations for un-diagnosed waves are mostly straightforward, and that they do, in fact, offer real promise that the Democrats could be positioned to do much better down-ballot than the punditry is currently predicting. Let's look at the factors that might substantiate this possibility.

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Monday, October 10, 2016

The Map That Should Scare the Hell Out of Donald Trump

Let's be clear: The notion that Donald Trump could win the 2016 Presidential Election without a huge assist from the Vladimir Putins and Rick Scotts of the world was never really as viable an idea as it seemed, even when Trump appeared to be polling close to even with Secretary Clinton. As pundits far more learned and eloquent than your present columnist have indicated, Trump's support has hit a hard ceiling during the lowest moments of Clinton's trying September, and the famed "blue wall" of Democratic electoral votes has rarely, if ever, showed any signs of cracks along the way. Things looked much closer than they should have been when Secretary Clinton had her fainting spell at a 9/11 commemoration, true. And then the first debate happened. And then Alicia Machado happened. And then the world was treated to a hot-mic conversation between the candidate and Billy Bush, which gave rise to a scandal that I won't dignify with the name that others have given it. You know what I'm not referring to just the same.

Polls, as we've seen, lag the real situation on the ground. It takes the public a famous day or two to sort out how they feel about new information -- particularly if it's momentous -- after which the polls have to be in the field for three or four days, then input into statistical software, tabulated, regressed, analyzed, and published. We've seen the first big signs that Trump could be in free-fall, but we won't really know how bad things have gotten for him as a result of Friday's bombshell for ... gosh, perhaps as much as another full week. So in the meantime, let's divert ourselves with some idle speculation about the electoral college, and that big Trump gambit we've heard so much about over these past few weeks.

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

(With a Big Caveat,) Clinton Only Needs One More State

If the saying is true that a week is forever in politics, then it can be no coincidence if the inner circle of the Trump Campaign feels as though the past fortnight has been a double-eternity. Charging forth from his own, suitably(-?) raucous convention, Mr. Trump found himself in a flat-footed tie with Secretary Clinton, herself still reeling from the damaging final report of the FBI regarding her private e-mail server. He wasn't leading much of anywhere, but in the national tracking polls he'd pulled nose-to-nose with the once seemingly invincible Clinton juggernaut.

To say that things have not gone well for Mr. Trump in the fourteen days since is to say that matters have not recently gone well in Syria. Always the bombastic narcissist, Trump has responded to the conclusion of his biggest private show to date with a series of otherwise stupefying unforced errors -- the most well-known of which, his public feud with Khizr Khan, may not even effect the deepest or most lasting damage on his candidacy.

Consider just one twenty-four hour window from the past fourteen days, during which...

  • In a Washington Post interview, Trump declined to endorse House Speaker Paul Ryan against his primary challenger
  • He reiterated that he hasn’t endorsed Sen. John McCain and said the onetime prisoner of war “has not done a good job for the vets”
  • He slapped out at Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte, saying “she has given me zero support”
  • He suggested that Americans should pull their 401(k) funds out of the stock market
  • He said he’s “always wanted” to receive a Purple Heart but that having one gifted to him by a supporter was “much easier”
  • He said that the handling of sexual harassment has “got to be up to the individual”
  • He accused Khizr Khan of being “bothered” by his plan to keep terrorists out of the country, and said that he had no regrets about his clash with the family
  • He appeared to feud with a crying baby during a rally
  • He reiterated that “if the election is rigged, I would not be surprised”
  • The sitting president of the United States publicly called Trump “unfit to serve” and urged Republicans to withdraw their support for him.
  • Trump spokesman Katrina Pierson suggested that Obama and Clinton are to blame for the death of Humayan Khan, who died in 2004, despite the fact that neither were in the executive branch at the time
  • An ally of Paul Manafort told John Harwood at CNBC that the campaign chairman is “mailing it in,” leaving the rest of the staff “suicidal.”
  • Sitting GOP congressman Richard Hanna, HP head Meg Whitman and former Christie aide Maria Comella all said they plan to vote for Hillary Clinton
  • The Washington Post released a transcript of its full interview with Trump, indicating among other things that he paused five times to watch TV coverage in the middle of the sit-down
  • A GOP source told NBC’s Katy Tur that Reince Priebus is “apoplectic” over Trump’s refusal to endorse Ryan and is making calls to the campaign to express his “extreme displeasure”
All of this, understand, happened in just one news cycle out of the fourteen in question (hat-tip: Teagan Goddard's Political Wire).

The effect of all this chaos on the political horse race is only just now beginning to register -- but as of this writing, Secretary Clinton has surged to a comfortable lead in the national poll of polls. Her biggest lead, according to Fox News (!), shows her up by ten points. Mr. Trump is in big and self-inflicted trouble, and it's beginning to take its toll on the firewall of support he's previously enjoyed even through what seemed to be his gravest missteps of the primary season. 

Thing is, the United States doesn't pick its President on the basis of a nationwide popular vote: it picks the winner according to the weighted outcomes of fifty-one individual contests at the state level (including the District of Colombia). And as has been reported on this site at various times, the state-level polling often lags the true picture of the election by several days, for various abstruse reasons. Even without a return to normalcy in the dynamics of the race and/or its media coverage, we probably won't have a clear sense of where the individual states are running for another few days, possibly a week. And the point of today's column is that this is very, very bad news for Trump and his supporters, indeed.

To see why, we turn to the excellent and highly underrated reporting of Dr. Andrew Tanenbaum at electoral-vote.com. An expat living in continental Europe, Dr. Tanenbaum has since 2004 chronicled the day-to-day fortunes of Presidential candidates by tabulating their respective standings in the electoral college in real time, tallied according to the most recent polling data available by state. Tanenbaum doesn't project anything from polling data or polling trends, which has the paradoxical effect of making his reporting much more reliable than at least one inexplicably more popular (and very often spectacularly wrong) colleague of his. Instead the tone of Tanenbaum's site is reserved, sometimes downright diminutive, but it more-or-less has to be if prognostication is to be expressly verboten in this fashion. Point being, those of us who read him every day take the rock-solid surety of the thing and the clamped-down rhetoric as the necessary halves of an important and under-represented corner of the political blogosphere: If Andy says it, you're never going to be embarrassed because you repeated it at a cocktail party. He has a lot of friends. He deserves them.

All of which brings us to a report appearing in his August 3rd edition, in which co-contributor Christopher Bates tabulated the safe states for each party in a "blue wall" and a "red wall," and then commented at some length on the dis-equal electoral vote tallies of the two resulting floors, and on the dynamics of the race in the few states that fell in neither secure camp. Here is a reprint of the graphic used by Bates to inform his commentary:

The "blue wall" column in this graphic shows exactly what the name would suggest: the complete list of states, with their electoral vote tallies, which have gone for the Democratic Party's candidate for President in no fewer than six consecutive election cycles. The Republican equivalent was divided by Bates into a "red wall" and a "pink wall," owing in part to a fairly sizable discontinuity in the Republican winning streaks of the two sub-groups.

But even adding the "red-" and "pink wall" together, the two subgroups of states only afford Mr. Trump a starting "floor" of 180 electoral votes, while the corresponding floor for Secretary Clinton is shown as 242 -- in a contest where it only takes 270 to actually win the damn thing. This is an enormous built-in advantage for Team Blue in the big contest, and it has been this way for some time -- independent of a self-destructive opponent. The graphic above would look exactly the same if Mrs. Clinton were running against Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or Chris Christie or Jeb Bush.

Probably, not definitely, but probably, Mrs. Clinton would be correct to bank those 242 electoral votes against any rival. A case can be made that Pennsylvania might be more- or less competitive, given a certain specific Republican candidate; a similar case can be made regarding Wisconsin or Michigan or Oregon. But these are the arguments we hear from Republican strategists every four years, and somehow every four years the blue wall seems to hold. Remember, this is Andy Tanenbaum we're talking about here: he and Bates aren't calling anything for this November. They're merely stating the cold, hard fact that the Democrats have carried these 242 electoral votes through good election cycles and bad ones, in some cases over the span of much of our lifetimes.

It doesn't take your present reporter to note how close 242 is, to 270, or that a Democratic win in either one of Ohio or Florida -- all by itself -- would run Clinton's total over the top. So it may seem strange, in such circumstances, that the states I'd like to talk about here aren't Ohio or Florida, but Iowa and New Mexico and Colorado and New Hampshire.

And yes, that does seem strange, so do bear with me.

It happens that Iowa finds its way into the "swing state" category of Bates' table on the basis of one, single, solitary election: 2004 -- during which it flipped from Gore in 2000, to a Republican candidate whose name escapes me for the moment. I think he flew airplanes for the Texas National Guard for a while, if memory serves. Or maybe he didn't. But at all events, Iowa was one of just two states John Kerry failed to hold from the Al Gore coalition (the other being New Mexico), and for that reason Iowa is listed objectively as up for grabs. Except this is a state that hadn't gone for a Republican before that war-on-terror-soaked fiasco since Ronald Reagan. Notably, Iowans even chose Michael Dukakis over George H W Bush in 1988, a distinction shared by just nine other states and the District of Colombia.

If for the moment we assume away Karl Rove's magical anti-gay-marriage gambit and the senseless deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in Iraq including Humayun Khan, the streak of Democratic victories in Iowa would stand at seven -- the same as Hawaii and New York. It seems reasonable to me to consider such a state a relatively safe bet for the good guys. I'll be happy to take a wager or two on the subject if anyone's interested.

This is a counterfactual, of course, and once one plays such games with the data there is no hard limit on where they can lead. But let's put it this way: To believe that Iowa is in play this year, you must believe that Mr. Trump is capable of appealing to a wider coalition of Iowans, or a narrower coalition in much deeper numbers, than were willing to cast their votes for either George Bush Senior, Bob Dole, John McCain, or Mitt Romney. Let me just repeat that last part: Mitt, freaking, Romney didn't win in Iowa. And Mitt Romney won 27% of the non-white vote in 2012.

Yes, Iowa is whiter than the country at large -- but so is Minnesota, and in both places the under-structure of that homogeneity is a smart and well-funded school system and a long tradition of deep commitments to Democratic-Party ideals, if not practices, on issues ranging from organized labor to agricultural subsidies. Maybe Iowa really is a swing state, but as someone who suffered and bled for John Kerry more than most (I was unemployed at the time), I just can't see it.

The other state that Mr. Kerry failed to hold, is New Mexico. And here the swing-state status is rendered even more dubious by the large and growing Hispanic population -- effectively none of whom are planning, even now, to cast ballots for Mr. Trump.  New Mexico didn't vote for Dukakis in 1988, but except for 2004 it has turned blue on every election night since, which would peg its counterfactual, John-Kerry-less streak at six, or the same as California and Connecticut. I'll be happy to take wagers from any Trump supporters on that one too, thank you very much.

Next door to the Land of Enchantment is the much more defensibly swingy state of Colorado, which in the last six elections has gone twice for Barack Obama, twice for George W. Bush, and once for- and once against Bill Clinton. On paper at least, it doesn't get any swingier than that. But these historic data points harbor an even bigger problem than the large and growing Hispanic population in the inter-mountain west, which is that Colorado is also home to a large and growing population of former Californians, most of whom owe their relocation to the wild successes of the American technology sector, and are therefore much more liberal. The dynamics of the race in The Centennial State have been sour for Mr. Trump almost from the beginning, and they have soured so dramatically in the past few polling cycles that the Clinton Campaign has quietly non-renewed their advertising buys in the state until further notice.

Across the country, if not the ideological spectrum, is the Granite State of New Hampshire, whose status in Bates' swing-state table is owed to the most heartbreaking and little-known fact of this entire column: The fact that it, and it alone in the Northeast, voted for George W. Bush in 2000. Without those four electoral votes, Bush would have lost to Al Gore despite all the shenanigans in Florida.

People love to say that a few hundred votes in Florida determined who would be President in 2000, but with all the controversy surrounding that state's count we may never confidently know for sure. What's much less in dispute is that Bush carried New Hampshire by fewer than 7,000 persons -- meaning that if 3,500 of them had reversed themselves, much of the unspeakable carnage and global heartbreak that has followed would never have happened. It is an idea not to be borne any longer, so let's leave it there by observing that, if we reverse New Hampshire's outcome in 2000, their streak of Democratic-Party victories would also stand at six. Again, wagers are welcomed and encouraged.

For any of these states to fall for Mr. Trump, a person would have to believe that one-time victories in some of them are better predictors than pulled advertising in others. This might be the conservative play in some parallel universe with an election that featured two grown-ups, but in this election it seems nothing short of willful. More specifically, considering these four states to be in play any more than Michigan or Wisconsin or Pennsylvania represents a stretch of sufficient proportions to raise equally valid questions about the predictability of the blue wall itself. In other words, I fail to see how one can confidently bank Michigan and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania for the Clinton team, and not include the four states I've listed here.

Okay. Assuming you've stayed with me this far, let's add Iowa, New Mexico, New Hampshire and Colorado to Secretary Clinton's blue wall, and see where that leaves things (courtesy of 270towin.com).

Cosmetically, at least at first, there's nothing terribly different about this map from any number of unresolved maps of the electoral college we've all been playing with on this site and others for the past dozen years, now. Some states are blue, some are red, and some -- five, to be exact -- are legitimately up for grabs: Nevada, Ohio, Virginia, North Carolina, and of course Florida. At a glance, this is dog-bites-man stuff. 

But incline a little closer to the map and you'll notice something genuinely arresting about it: Unless you disagree wholescale with the arguments I've employed to get us to this point, Secretary Clinton stands exactly one state shy of being President. She can lose any four of the five gray states above, as long as she wins the fifth one, and she's over the top. This, you understand, is before we factor-in the structural problems Trump is encountering in such otherwise predictably red states as Mississippi and Georgia and Arizona. If he loses any of these, it's truly curtains. And Mrs. Clinton is currently ahead in Arizona, together with North Carolina, Florida, and New Hampshire. Even a nimble political pro -- even a Jeb Bush -- would be in seriously deep kimchi at this point. Remember, most of the data we have on where things stand at the state level has not fully accounted for the blizzard of self-devastation to rock the Trump Campaign over the past few days.

And the caveat suggested in the title? It's not the one you're probably expecting. Yes, all of this can change on a dime: Hillary Clinton could be caught in some fresh firestorm of mendacity tomorrow. A bunch of nitwits could fly a plane into the side of a building in the name of a God who teaches us to be nice to everybody. Markets could crash or Boris Johnson could move to Poughkeepsie. But that caveat is both implicit and peremptory: The whole point of an electoral college map in August is to see where things would stand today, if the election were today, and to use that information as a proxy for theorizing about how things might proceed between now and November 8th. The big day is still a ways off, much can happen in-between, and these things needn't be said.

The caveat referenced in the title is that, for all his self-destructive behavior, Mr. Trump doesn't seem to be hurting the GOP's chances down the ticket very much. Tanenbaum has a running tally of where things stand in the Senate, and the headline that inspired the present column from yours truly was that, if the election were today, the Republicans would hold the Senate majority and it wouldn't even be terribly competitive. And the thing is, this is the result of a conscious and I believe ill-advised decision by Secretary Clinton: to reach out to Republican candidates in pursuit of their support.  

Calm down. I'm not about to go on one of those un-moored Bernie-Brothers' rants about how Secretary Clinton is effectively campaigning as a moderate Republican. She is, and as Democrats we're stuck with that much. We got some real movement out of her on some key issues, and whether she means it or not is academic at this point because she's the nominee. (For a more in-depth consideration of why it might make sense to vote for her anyway, see my most-recent previous column.)

The error in judgement here, it seems to me, is in her apparent expectation that the Republicans who benefit from this outreach will perceive some sort of indebtedness to her come January, and that with this indebtedness to her credit Mrs. Clinton herself may look forward to more substantive and collegial legislative success in her Administration. Nobody has said this, exactly, but it does seem to fit hand-in-glove with Clinton's curious gaffe a few weeks ago in which she praised Nancy Reagan for having raised awareness about AIDS -- despite the fact that Nancy Reagan not only did nothing of the kind, she did the very opposite. Only a politician who thinks she can woo the other side into voting her agenda would make that sort of gaffe.

As strategic expectations go, this one is beyond baffling and into the realm of the delusional: Nobody, but nobody, in the Republican Party is going to take any position toward a President Hillary Clinton that isn't cravenly antagonistic, and for all her supposed political acumen she really ought to know as much by now. It's not that elected Republicans are all monsters (well, perhaps it's not just that elected Republicans are all monsters), as much as that the echo-chamber media outlets favored by their constituents will see a Clinton Presidency as a ratings bonanza, and will fan their viewers into the same sort of full-throated acrimony that can only be secured by someone who isn't just Barack Obama's third term, isn't just a Clinton, but a WOMAN, to boot. No doubt some of the Republicans who benefit from Clinton's non-confrontational approach will feel deep remorse at having to assassinate the character of their benefactor from the House- and Senate floors, but assassinate it they will. They'll simply have no choice if they don't want to get Cantored.

In such a context, the only sensible strategy is to do the exact opposite of what Mrs. Clinton has been doing: to run up the score as much as possible. To wallpaper the airwaves with campaign ads that morph Republican House- and Senate candidates into Donald Trump, and blend their most odious statements back and forth until the persuadable voters among us can barely tell the difference. Only by defeating Republicans, instead of trying to curry their indebtedness, can Secretary Clinton realistically expect a successful Presidency. Only with Democratic support in Congress can she realistically expect to accomplish anything but four more years of stalemate.

And on that particular proposition, I'm afraid I won't be taking any wagers.

Dave O'Gorman
("The Key Grip")
Gainesville, Florida Click Here to

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

This Bernie Supporter Declares For Hillary

With Bernie Sanders' endorsement of Hillary Clinton earlier today, complete with hug, the long-festering and often contentious rivalry at the top of the Democratic food chain is finally over. Funny thing is, someone seems to have forgotten to tell a good many of the Vermont Senator's supporters--at least some of whom have reacted with a sense of indignation and even betrayal. Secretary Clinton, they argue, is simply unacceptable: a candidate whose long record of equivocating on the issues of deepest concern to Joe Lunchbox have rendered her preternaturally incapable of empathizing with us as President.

This has been the mantra within the progressive left throughout the election cycle with nary a pause nor a stolen moment's circumspection. Indeed it may or may not surprise you to learn that your faithful correspondent, here, has distinguished himself as one of the few people he knows who was banned earlier this year from commenting in the discussion fora of all three of the Huffington Post, Daily Kos, and Teagan Goddard's Political Wire, for raising these very sorts of concerns. So I hope it is from that Nixon-in-China platform that I may take a few moments of your time to explain why I, The Key Grip, Dave O'Gorman of Gainesville Florida, am hereby choosing to follow Senator Sanders' courageous lead, and endorse Hillary Clinton to be the next President of the United States.  

To begin with there is the greatly enhanced probability of a Democratically controlled Congress, to consider. Not every Sanders supporter is yet ready to concede that, fair playing field or otherwise, the Vermont Senator had effectively no chance to secure the 2016 nomination for President of the United States. Had he won Iowa, had he performed even respectably in South Carolina, things might have been different. Had he not given that disastrous interview to the New York Post, things might have been different. Had he taken a few more of the big primary states, even by narrow margins, things might have been different. But really, with the rules as they existed at the time he agreed to campaign as a Democrat, the probabilities involved were vanishingly small. Yes, there is a strong argument that the Democratic Party's system of picking nominees needs to change -- but that argument can't be made retroactive to last fall, regardless of who gets on board. This leaves Sanders supporters with a weighty little tidbit of political game-theory to consider: The greater the progressive turnout in November, the greater the chance of flipping control of Congress.

If we believe, as I suspect most people reading these words believe, that Mrs Clinton has a strong inside line on electoral victory, the turnout question ceases to have much relevance on its original terms: If staying home won't cost her the top job, then all it can cost her is the chance to sign better bills into law than the ones likely to come her way from the likes of Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan. And by the way, it's not as if the legislative priorities of the candidate herself haven't undergone a pretty bracing transformation in the meantime. This is point number two.

The Clinton Campaign has made meaningful strides in adopting progressive policy positions. Like many of the most ardent Sanders-supporters, I've maintained my involvement in the political information culture through the thickest and thinnest hours of the past year, and one thing that has troubled me is the tendency of Clinton-supporters to impose a false dichotomy regarding how best to respond to the challenge from their left flank: "They want us to beg them to vote for her," as one regular commentator on Political Wire recently put it, "and I'm tired of begging, so ... f*ck 'em." You've probably seen similar sentiments yourself -- and if you're anything like me they have probably struck you as a curiously restrictive set of options. Where, I wondered in writing over and over until I got banned for it, was the possibility of winning over those Sanders supporters with some solid movement on policy? For months, the better part of a year in fact, the very idea seemed toxic.

But why? Nobody would have considered the Sanders campaign a failed indulgence in narcissistic ego-tripping if, on the night before the Iowa Caucus, Secretary Clinton had announced that she favors a public option to the Affordable Care Act, free tuition at public universities for in-state families earning less than $125,000, and a $15/hour minimum wage -- and if Bernie Sanders had then immediately called a press conference to announce that he was suspending his campaign. Moreover, those three positions would have cost Secretary Clinton not a single vote from the so-called "Reagan Democrats," all of whom are Republicans now and hate her anyway.

Never mind: Today, with Bernie Sanders standing directly beside her on a campaign stage in New Hampshire, Secretary Clinton presented herself as someone who favors all three of these policy positions, and I hope that even the most battle-hardened of Sanders' supporters are willing to concede that they never imagined any of these outcomes, much less all three. So what of the nagging problem that Secretary Clinton could still reverse herself, or fail to wield sufficient capital in a hostile congress to accomplish them? Well, that brings me to my third argument in favor of supporting her candidacy moving forward.

Coming from Secretary Clinton, a pledge to accomplish these things is no less bankable--not a scintilla--than it was when it was coming from Bernie Sanders. These words will no doubt rankle the most ardent supporters of the Vermont Senator, and I do hope those folks will bear with me, because this isn't about whether Bernie could have beaten Donald Trump: of course he could have. Consider 2008: With a galvanized progressive base behind him, Barack Obama defeated a far more popular Republican opponent, after all -- and in case you've forgotten, Barack Obama in 2008 may not have been as far to the left as Bernie Sanders, but the Clinton team's knock against his electability was the same. If a guy named Barack Hussein Obama can defeat a decorated POW for the White House, let no one tell you that Bernie Sanders couldn't have defeated Donald Trump, because he could have. Would have, even.

No, the reason to take seriously a Clinton pledge to raise the minimum wage, and add a public option to the ACA, and implement free tuition at public colleges, is that the job of running for President and the job of being President are never the same thing. Only the most willfully fatuous among us doesn't understand that a promise to do any of these things is only as strong as the confluence of favorable legislative climate, stalwart public resolve in the face of counter-narrative, and good old fashioned luck. Whatever the Bush II Administration was planning to accomplish, legislatively, it almost certainly didn't plan September 11th -- to pick one random but illustrative example of how campaign platforms can collide, sometimes literally, with the facts on the ground after election day.

This is not to say that the reason to weight Clinton's promises equally with Sanders' is that both would have been valueless. No. Instead these promises serve as markers on the giant felt that is our national agenda. A candidate who says, "Make me President and we will end the war in Iraq and close Camp X-Ray in my first term" probably accomplishes even one of those two things perhaps once out of a hundred times--but in the other ninety-nine he gets us a lot closer than the guy who calls such promises juvenile and reckless. They serve as informal guidance regarding which legislative initiatives will be embraced, and which will be actively resisted, by an elected administration, and as such they steer the much messier and less tractable machinations of the policy wonks in the deepest bowels of government. By saying that she supports a $15 minimum wage, and free tuition for some public university students, and a public option to the ACA, Secretary Clinton sets the same three markers on the same felt as a President Sanders would have on those three points -- and with the same, largely informal result in terms of framing. And with these three issues framed in this way, progressives may look forward to having three fewer fronts on which to fight with representatives from their own party. This is my fourth point.

Secretary Clinton's policy shifts have narrowed the playing field for the remaining and difficult legislative fights that lie ahead. If you've followed the discourse on the Democratic side as closely as I have, you've probably long-since wearied of the mantra that the reason to support Hillary Clinton is that she isn't Donald Trump. As it happens this isn't just a tired argument; it's also a dangerous one -- insofar as it allows the goal posts of the national dialogue to be set up with Donald Trump at one end, and a slightly less scary version of the same agenda at the "other end," as it were.

In political science circles this phenomenon is known as the "overton window" and it can produce some deeply regrettable results, such as a Vietnam-war apologist running against the man who lied about Algier Hiss, and waging the campaign struggle over which of them will do a better job of restoring "law and order" to the nation's dis-empowered inner cities. Absent the movement we've seen from the Clinton camp, as described above, this would have been the reason not to support Secretary Clinton in the upcoming campaign, and I probably wouldn't have -- but a funny thing happens when an otherwise centrist candidate starts cherry-picking progressive causes like this: It frees progressives to oppose that same candidate on the other issues, after the election.

If, as seems likely, Secretary Clinton wins in November, then I submit to you that there is nothing particularly hypocritical about having voted for her, on the one hand, and continuing in our efforts to reform the Democratic party on the subjects of banking, mass-incarceration, and trade, on the other. By moving toward the progressive end of the field on the minimum wage, tuition, and the ACA, Secretary Clinton has permitted the overton window to, in a way, wrap back on itself: The progressives who might not otherwise have supported her may see a tangible benefit from doing so, in the form of a reduced array of battles to be won, as opposed to those we would face in the terrifying alternate reality where the next President has orange hair and a shameless sexual fixation on his own daughter. Make no mistake, this is not saying that the reason to vote for Secretary Clinton is that she isn't Donald Trump; it's saying that only half of the platform she's running on is even objectionable as Secretary Clinton's, anymore. That's a big difference. And that's my fifth and final point.

Last, and certainly not least, is the chance that her victory could empower not just women but us all. As a big fan of comedian Patton Oswalt, I find myself having to lunge for the volume knob on my work computer more often than almost any of my professional colleagues, to be sure. But for one segment of a recent routine of his I catch myself easing the knob up, instead of down: It's the one in which he talks with just his curious blend of hilarity and truth-to-power about how profoundly the country, and with it the world, was changed with the election of Barack Obama as President. "I don't think most people know this," he opines in the linked clip, "but Barack Obama made time-travel cheaper. I used to think I'd have to go back a hundred years to blow people's minds with my time machine, but now I can go back to 1999, and just tell everyone that our President isn't just a black guy; he's a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama. We elected a jamba-juice supplement with a dictator's middle name! That's how great 2009 is! I'm gonna vote for Ginseng Hitler Bee-pollen!"

The point Oswalt makes so eloquently while we're too busy laughing to notice, is that President Obama didn't just become the first Black President: With his election, he became the guy after which it was literally impossible to tell a black kid that he couldn't be President. And if such sentiments would have sounded like ancient history anyway, I will remind you of the 1996 Presidential election campaign, during which Collin Powell was approached by the Dole campaign, and he turned down the Vice President's job ... on questions of safety. You read that right: A four-star general, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, with Mother Theresa approval ratings, felt he couldn't accept an invitation to run for Vice President, in 1996, because he was black -- and his wife feared for his safety

That, friends, that is how much Barack Obama's election to the White House changed the game. And not just for blacks, either: For everyone. All of us win when merit is the guiding determinant of success, in favor of the confederate aristocracies so tenaciously preferred by our learned colleagues on the other side. 

When a black guy can be President, it's less of a stretch to imagine that a public-school-educated nitwit with an economics degree might someday get a book advance. Or a date. Almost anything is possible. And by securing the victory most of us expect of her in November, Secretary Clinton will accomplish the same thing and then some. Her victory will mean that neither skin color nor gender can impede a person from aspiring to literally the highest possible achievement in the world. Merit will have won out over aristocracy and aristocracy will never, ever, recover. And good riddance.

I freely acknowledge that Secretary Clinton is a flawed candidate. I still disagree with her, to varying degrees of alarm and even vehemence, on finance reform, pending trade laws, and military adventurism -- particularly in the Middle East. But between the likely force-multiplication of a united campaign, the policy movement we've already seen, the narrowed playing field for the remaining fights to come, and the profound implications her electoral victory would have for the causes of equality and merit, I am proud to consider myself today not just a Bernie Sanders supporter, but a Hillary Clinton supporter as well. 

She's earned my vote, and I'm proud to say I'll be casting it for her this November.

Dave O'Gorman
"The Key Grip"
Gainesville, Florida    

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Friday, June 24, 2016

Brexit, Economists, and Empathy

When a fiasco as tumultuous as Brexit is visited upon the world, one of the most basic and predictable human impulses is to point fingers. Already the opinion-sphere is alight with stentorian treatises about every prospective social cause for yesterday’s vote in Britain, from apathy to xenophobia. What these missives have in common are two things: their proclivity to blame the voters themselves, rather than the conditions which led to their vote, and the absence of any call for prescriptive adaptation on the part of the policymakers whose actions created those conditions in the first place. This tendency to acquit the table-setters of bad group-think is as durable as it is counterproductive—going back at least as far as 1930s-era Germany—and it has to stop.

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