Handicapping the U.S. Election of 2016

MATTHEW DOWD, ABC: I think she’s got about a 95 chance to win this election, and I think she’s going to have a higher margin than Barack Obama did in 2012. Higher margin. She’s going to win by more than 5 million votes. She’s going to win a higher percentage. And interestingly she’s going to have a more diverse coalition than Barack Obama even did when you take the final vote into consideration. Every piece of data points in that direction.[1]

Contrary to the existentialist “wish as reality” analysis of the Versaillean soothsayers of the Potomac and Hudson, who have been consistent in their misreading of the entrails from the get-go of this election cycle; I suspect that most pieces of data point to very iffy outcome in either direction. There is reasonable chance that while Hillary Clinton may win the popular vote by up to 2%, Donald Trump may squeak through an Electoral College victory. There is even a plausible possibility of a tie, with all the partisan hell that that would entail and ensue.

In the first place, one cannot help but be skeptical of the integrity and competency of public opinion polls. The variances between the different polls results in a situation whereby even a good plurality of competing polls are outside of the “margin of error” of other polls. To explicate: if Poll A claims that Hillary will win by 5% percentage points with a margin of error of 2.5%, 19 times out of 20; but a good third of competing polls claim that it is tie; those third are well outside the margin of error parameters of Poll A. How credible can polling be with that state of affairs?

Methodological finagling, beneath the surface of the stated approach, is so easy to do and has been much in evidence. The demographic composition that is chosen; the means by which the poll is solicited; even the order by which one frames the survey questions can solicit a significantly different result, especially from those who really haven’t given the matter serious final thought.

Consider those poll of polls averages, whereby one single outlier poll can so distort the averages, that Electoral College predictions can change hands. The Granite State Poll (University of New Hampshire) gave HRC an 11% lead, which, by its own singular influence, placed the state onto the Blue side.

Poll Date Sample

Size

MOE Clinton Trump Johnson Stein Spread
Emerson 11/4 – 11/5 1000 LV 3.0 45 44 5 3 Clinton +1
WMUR/UNH 11/3 – 11/6 707 LV 3.7 49 38 6 1 Clinton +11
Gravis 11/1 – 11/2 1001 RV 2.0 41 43 7 2 Trump +2
Boston Globe/Suffolk 10/31 – 11/2 500 LV 4.4 42 42 5 2 Tie
ARG 10/31 – 11/2 600 LV 4.0 43 48 4 1 Trump +5
UMass Lowell/7News 10/28 – 11/2 695 LV 4.3 44 44 5 2 Tie
WBUR/MassINC 10/29 – 11/1 500 LV 4.4 39 40 10 3 Trump +1

Why then are the competing candidates heavily campaigning in New Hampshire in the last days before the election? Even Olympic events, which depend upon such type judgments, toss out the outliers.

We dwell in the Age of Mendacity, where propagandistic advocacy poses as journalism, and sociological surveys ape as science. One suspects that these advocates hope for a bandwagon effect; but which, if it ever existed, vaporizes if virtually everyone has become knowledgeably jaded to such dissembling.

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I remain convinced that any poll, even if conducted with the highest degree of intellectual integrity and competence, will understate the Trump support. As a rule of thumb, it is the Right and the radical Left who are most tender about privacy concerns, and therefore tend to hold their cards close to their vest. And in the present American political milieu, it is less socially acceptable and economically advantageous to appear to be a member of the “irredeemable deplorable,” especially if the higher classes (a.k.a. employers), whether of the elite Right or elite Left, who may have influence over one’s welfare, display a universal detestation for this vulgarian. Furthermore, there exists more evidence of harassment, death threats, and low-level violence emanating from the Left than from the Right in this election cycle.

If Trump was able to appeal to the “irredeemably deplorable,” who rarely voted in prior elections, to vote in a primary/caucus, it seems implausible that they would not lift themselves from couch potato positions for the general election. These from the “rube class” may or may not be accurately demographically apportioned in political polls. Likewise, it is understandable if the tribalist instincts of Blacks are less enthusiastic to vote for a white woman than from one of their own “species.” It is likewise understanding if the Hispanics are aroused who consider Trump an existential threat to their own well-being.

The early voting seems to confirm these premonitions, with the proportion of the white vote marginally ahead, while the black vote is significantly behind in places like North Carolina, where they constitute 22% of the population; Florida (17%); or Philadelphia.

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Presidential elections have been rather static affairs since 2000, each side appealing to their respective bases. Donald Trump has substantially altered the axis upon which this electoral divide is premised and indeed, has made voting intentions more fluid. Even if Clinton was to maintain the same popular vote lead as Obama in 2012, the shift has placed hitherto solid-Blue states into play. Clinton has little over a two percent lead in Pennsylvania, which Obama won by 10%+ points in 2008, and 5.5% in 2012. New Hampshire is dead even with advantage Trump, which Obama won by 9.5% and 5.5% respectively. The same goes in a myriad of mid-west states (e.g. Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio).

I have great suspicions that many voters will become last-minute shoppers, sizing up the possible consequences of the respective future administrations. While the vulgar, self-serving, unsympathetic, intemperate, inconsistent, intellectually ignorant albeit shrewd instincts (Reptilian Brain – Joe Stein of Time Magazine) of Trump may break such an undecided vote towards the Democratic camp; the thought of yet another Clintonesque ordeal and politically deadlocked paralysis at a time of greater perils; or the overwhelming evidence of corruption, public collusion with private interests, and the use of the organs of state to promote partisan interests, may make break it the other way.

Finally, one must consider the zeitgeist, in light of the Brexit vote. The Financial Times poll of polls placed the Remain side ahead by 2%. Yet the Leave side won the vote by 3.8%, as the turnout in the cosmopolitan areas was significantly lower than that found in Little Britain’s hinterland. The lower classes and the hinterland are up in arms everywhere in the West.

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Even so, as indicated by the states which the respective candidates are visiting in the last days, the battleground states seems to show a Trump offensive and momentum.

  • Ohio
  • New Hampshire (especially)
  • North Carolina
  • Florida
  • Pennsylvania
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota (which seems like a Trumpian feint)

Barring a last minute shift of sentiment; because of the lower turnout of Blacks in North Carolina, I suspect that that Red State remains Red. Ohio, like Iowa, which went Obama in 2008 and 2012, seem solidly on the Red side. The very close electoral college (current predictions of 272 – 266 in favor of Clinton) pivots on Florida and New Hampshire, with an outside chance of Pennsylvania and Colorado making a difference. If the Hispanic vote makes up for the lagging Black (and millennial) vote, while the “white nationalist rube” vote remains subdued, the Democrats win. If the New Hampshire vote is reflected by the myriad of late polls giving Trump the edge rather than that Granite State outlier, while Florida goes Red, Trump wins 270 – 268. If one district in Maine, which is presently in the Red camp goes Blue, there exists an Electoral College tie.

Thus, I cannot make any firm prediction other than it might not make any difference in the end in regard to the great unravelling of the Republic as a free civic polity.

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Therefore, contrary to pontifications of ABC News Matthew Dowd, which, I believe, are without common-sense merit and sufficient, let alone universal evidence (“Every piece of data points in that direction”); there is a better chance of a Trumpian victory at the Electoral College than expected, even if, as I suspect, Clinton squeaks a popular vote victory; barring a major shift in sentiment her way.

If the world was presently sane, and merit actually meant something, and the mainstream media was more concerned with their own long-term credibility and viability than short-term partisan gain, I might have applied for Dowd’s job, if I prove right.

 

 

 

[1] Matthew Dowd, “Clinton Has 95% Chance To Win, Will Win By 5 Million Votes,” This Week (ABC News), November 6, 2016, http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2016/11/06/matthew_dowd_clinton_has_95_chance_will_get_higher_margin_than_obama.html.

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Ramifications of the 2012 U.S. Federal Election: A New Manifestation of Social Schisms: Race

The Presidential U.S. Election of 2012 exposed another emerging and dangerous schism in that nation. In addition to cultural and class wars, we must add that of race or tribe. In a nation, whereby those of European ethnicity handed a landslide trouncing to the incumbent black president (39% versus 59%), the wishes of this 63.4% of the population and 72% of the electorate, was overturned by an even greater margin amongst its ethnic minorities.1 It was a repeat of the 2008 election but with intensification of the tribal schisms. In 2008, the overturning of a sizable majority white vote (43% – 55%) could be understood in the context of a disastrous preceding presidency.2 However, in that the current administration has been equally incompetent; those rationalizations wear very thin, this go-around. For many who supported him, Obama might be a disaster. But he is our boy!

The fact that 93 – 95% of the black electorate voted for one of their skin coloration destroys the last vestige of the noble “I Have a Dream” legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. It is apparent that the dream “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” need only apply to that tribe’s adversaries. The moral credibility of that sentiment has been undermined by the extreme tribalism of King’s own tribe. And in loose sociopolitical adaptation of Newton’s Third Law of Motion; “To every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction”; it is the inevitability of human nature that a corresponding subterranean movement of an intensifying Caucasian ‘closing of the ranks’ will ensue in response. This is not a dynamic peculiar to the United States. The intensifying racial/cultural divide, which has spawned radical nativist and even Fascist movements in Europe, is testimony to this modern rendition of an ancient, enduring and universal reality.

However, hardening endemic racial attitudes are less causative to the racial divides. Rather, these are incidental consequences of the other schisms. This is not to suggest racism on both sides has not resurged; as attested by silly conspiratorial theories, like those trumpeted by Donald Trump (i.e. Birthers).

Rather, America’s minorities are of a radically different cultural mindset to the traditional American heritage. The socioeconomic environment in which such minorities find themselves is conducive to rejecting the civic religion of that tradition. And though less causative; this radical difference and rejection will spawn a racial manifestation by those who see these minorities as palpable threats to that traditional ethic, an ethic, which is believed as having made America great. And in being superseded by another ethic, America is perceived threatened with diminishing and devastation. In this, a future resurgence of racism would be more powerful and intractable because of more credible foundations than those of the past.

Regardless of all other elements of this racial alienation, ‘white’ traditional America is suffering political blowback for its failure to address the economic disparity and ensuing loss of mobility; to which visible minorities are palpably visible. In short vacations to the Eastern seaboard in the last decade or so; even though I was aware of stronger racial divisions in the U.S. than at home, I was stunned to the extent by which visible minorities act as the economic underclass.

Both political factions have failed in this regard. The traditional Right continues to preach a ‘lift oneself by one’s boot straps’ self-righteous capitalist ethic in the face of a playing field that has become inordinately tilted. The traditional Left has placated the less fortunate with ‘bread and circuses’ entitlements, which calcify the underclass into permanency. However, from the partisan perspective of the Right, the onus is upon them to resolve the extreme disparities in income and wealth. Politically, the short-term prospects of the Left are good, by merely middling through with the status quo.

 Endnotes:
  1. Edison Research as reported by (Lydia Warrant) Daily Mail U.K., “Record number of Hispanic and Asian voters head to the polls to help Obama secure second term – as his support among whites plummets”, November 7, 2012, (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2229225/Presidential-election-2012-Record-number-Hispanic-voters-head-polls.html),  November 6, 2012 Exit Polls (25,565 voters included 4,408 early/absentee voters contacted Oct 29 – Nov 4, 2012).
  2. Edison Research, November 4, 2012 Exit Polls (18,012 voters included 2,378 early/absentee respondents contacted October 24-November 2, 2008. http://www.ropercenter.uconn.edu/elections/how_groups_voted/voted_08.html#.UKkkVGe8GSo

Ramifications of the 2012 U.S. Federal Election: The Collapse of Honourable Journalism

Skepticism toward the possibility of impartial and objective truth within the ‘journalistic’ professions decades ago has denigrated toward the collapse of all pretense of impartiality. In choice of stories published, in facts selected, in language deployed; the News has become merely prejudicial opinion. The conscientious pursuer of truth about objective reality must distrust all socially popular organs of news and piece together the current state of affairs like a forensic scientist.

Consequently, one of the social roles of the media, as an independent check against power, becomes discredited and denigrated. The different media organizations become viewed, merely as cheerleaders for their respective sociopolitical faction. With one source of potential credible opposition discrediting itself, would-be tyrants have one less burden on their quest for power.

Handicapping the American Election: First U.S. Presidential Debate

Except that I was visiting my folks, I would not have even bothered to watch the dang thing. Outside of that one vice-presidential debate (Bentsen v. Quayle – 1988) which delivered one of the best political put downs in a losing cause; (“Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy, I knew Jack Kennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy”); U.S. debates are generally not memorable or politically significant. It has been generations since U.S. political culture produced those who could deliver an [apparent] off-the-cuff rhetorical zinger or flourish.

I am not particular partisan in this election. Though having conservative sentiments, they are of a moderate kind, akin to David Brooks; seeking a conservative solution to what are deemed leftist issues, such as income and wealth disparity, for which I have been deeply concerned since the early 90s. One couldn’t even find socialist voice on the issue in that day. Contemporary conservatism has so veered to pre-Disraeli (or pre-Teddy Roosevelt) extremes, that that most-liberal of U.S. Senators, Obama, starts to look attractive.

I left two thirds of the way through; with the impression that Romney was clearly winning; knowing, however, that personal bias might have planked perspective. He came off, in convincing fashion, as more moderate than prior held general impression; putting lie to the portrait that his campaign had allowed itself to be defined by. The responses to the talking points and straw men arguments from Obama were subtly countered (attacking components of the Dodds-Frank bill, rather than the bill itself). He painted a First Administration that has lacked creative measures, which could reinvigorate the economy. Obama came across with an astonishingly world-weary lackluster and was devoid of suppleness of mind.

I write now, upon reflection and after going through American punditry, particularly of the left-leaning kind (Washington Post, Time, CNN) and find a remarkable immediate consensus on the verdict. This is highly abnormal. Usually, the partisan spin that inundates the media organizations generally reign over fair analysis in the immediate aftermath of such events. The polls tend to follow partisan bias; sometimes deliberate, but often as consequence of a shared political language with the champions of their cause. They cannot comprehend the vernacular of the other.

How abnormal is consensus on these events? In the 1984 Canadian election (Mulroney v Turner), in which Mulroney stung Turner about confirming last day political appointments by Trudeau; it was not evident until days and perhaps weeks after that the zinger moment (a rhetorically pathetic one about a trifling issue) had any lasting effect. The Bentsen moment had immediate cache. However, it was a vice-presidential debate and actually caused me to want the dignified Senator to be the Democratic President candidate, instead of whomever.

The fact is, as political gladiatorial sports go, Romney literally owned the incumbent President. I don’t think I have seen such lop-sidedness in these generally carefully-scripted politically choreographed ballets. And I am somewhat surprised, as ought to be the near 60% that predicted that Obama would win (compared to about 25% for Romney). As even conservative pundits (i.e. Peggy Noonan) intimated, Romney appeared to be a political bumpkin to which even James Buchanan or Herbert Hoover could have won re-election.

A rash of conflicting and confusing statistics usually leads to a lethargic draw. However, in demonstrating clear, concise and comprehensible arguments like the $90 Billions wasted on green energy projects (Obama) drown out corporate welfare on energy subsidies of $2B annually, Romney lands a count. The unintended effects of the Dodds-Frank bill were also succinctly presented. The counter to the Obama claim about deductions for relocation was a good-humored, folksy zinger. “The second topic, which is you said you get a deduction for taking a plant overseas. Look, I’ve been in business for 25 years. I have no idea what you’re talking about. I maybe need to get a new accountant.

Obama’s argument about the likely long-term effects of side-by-side government versus voucher system health care paradigms has merit. It is a harder argument to make, even though valid. However, contrary Obama’s reputed communication skills; he was not particularly adept at proving the point. It was muddled.

As a statesmen, I have thought Obama is as vacuous as Bush; another emperor with no clothes. However, considering his success in the 2008 campaign, I had hitherto thought much more highly of his political and partisan acumen. My own impression is that the narcissistic and arrogant President underestimated his opponent, believing the rhetoric of his own campaign, and was highly unprepared.

A quip that Obama made, likely a mere misstatement, which could be well exploited as a Republican political sound bite was the following (35 minutes into the debate).

And the magnitude of the tax cuts that you’re talking about, Governor, would end up resulting in severe hardship for people, but more importantly, would not help us grow.

Did Obama say that? Did he actually suggest that severely hurting people are less important than the more esoteric goal of economic growth, whose purpose is to help these hurting people? This uncovers a subterranean attitude of many a statist thinker, who concern themselves with systems. People are of less consequence.

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Is this debate a game changer? In a politically fluid electorate, it should be. The current economic and geopolitical prospects for the American nation should also make the non-incumbent a shoe-in. However, the ideologically static polarization in the current American sociopolitical landscape might not move the yard sticks all that much.

I don’t think it matters who wins. The American economy, although hanging on, is on the ropes; held together by a false economy produced by private debt inducing and addicting loose Fed monetary policy and surreal trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see. There is no allowance for cushion should another extraneous shock occur. The state of the economy and the world economy is in peril. The ability to return to normal growth has to contend with the cross currents of a normalization of interest rates and fiscal budgets; let alone some of the overarching structural impediments (concentration of income, wealth and means of production).

Secondly, the nation is in a perilous sociopolitical polarization that Monroe (Federalist Paper #10) and Washington (Farewell Address) forewarned as being detrimental to all civil polities. One of the consequences, most apparent at the present time, is political deadlock. Brinkmanship is becoming regular practice. One of these times, the brinkmanship might produce an economic or sociopolitical earthquake on its own.

The Left is bereft of novel ideas; largely fighting this war with the weapons of prior battles; and deploying them unwisely. The Right is barely doing better. Lowering taxes as an incentive policy is a mere tinkering compared to the enormous socioeconomic problems that advanced capitalism or aging and decadent societies pose. To those, I will attend at another time.