Circus Maximus MMXVI: I break down in the middle and lose my thread

10 11 2016

I forced myself to listen to the radio yesterday morning, but last night I couldn’t do it, and today, still, radio silence.

Twitter, however, is still a go, with so, so many people saying THIS ONE THING is why Clinton lost/Trump won.

This gent, however, digs into the data to warn us “waitaminute”:

Read through the entire thread, as he really digs into and compares data across a number of states.

As he helpfully notes, there is no, one reason, and no reason that holds across all states. The “US electorate”, after all, is actually 50 states electorates, plus the D of C. What mattered a lot in one state may have mattered very little in another. Mistakes might either have tipped that electorate or were of no consequence whatsoever.

I don’t know that anyone has AN ANSWER to what happened on Tuesday, and if they do, I won’t believe ’em. I do think, however, that we can identify the possible pieces (or threads, if you will), that resulted in the overall electoral map, recognizing that the “thickness” of those threads varied across the states.

The parties: Republicans generally voted for Republicans and Democrats generally voted for Democrats, with some (varying) amount of crossover.  That’s been the general trend in American politics and there’s little evidence of deviation from it. The roles of the RNC and DNC were secondary to those of the campaigns.

The candidates: Each was flawed, each in his or her own way. Trump deviated a great deal from the standard Republican candidate, while Clinton was pretty much a standard Democratic one. What horrified Clinton supporters about Trump—his lack of political experience and unstable temperament—delighted his supporters: he was an outsider who spoke his mind. Similarly, his supporters derided her as a corrupt (emails! Clinton Foundation!) insider, with her experience a strike against her.

Some have argued that Sanders would have performed better than Clinton, but that’s awfully hard to conclude. He might have done better with some white voters, but not as well with black voters. That Feingold lost to the demonstrably terrible Johnson in Wisconsin leads me to doubt the “Sanders coulda. . !” advocates, but it’s also possible that Sanders at the top of the ticket might have helped Feingold. I doubt Sanders could have outperformed Clinton, but it is possible.

The campaigns: Given the candidates, did campaign strategies make sense? Arguably, Clinton erred in not spending time in Wisconsin, a decision driven in no small part by polling. Was there too much reliance on what turned out to be flawed state polls? What about ad strategy: too much on Trump’s flawed character and not enough on empathy for those attracted to him? Not enough reachout generally?

Turnout: This is of a piece with the campaigns itself. I had thought infrastructure and organization mattered a great deal in turning voters out, but Trump was able to do so with apparently relatively little staff. Does this mean that organization doesn’t matter generally, or that he was an outlier, able to pull people in via other means?

Racism/white nationalism: One of those possible other means, of course, was the implicit and explicit appeal to white nationalist grievances.

On the one hand, this is obvious, insofar as his support was overwhelming white, while Clinton’s was more ethnically mixed. On the other hand, there are also certainly plenty of Trump supporters who while tolerating the racism also seek to distance themselves from it, as well as to downplay the racism of the candidate himself. Those who revel in racism and those who tolerate racism collaborated to elect Trump, which matters a whole lot; but that they are also distinct may (or may not) matter as well.

(Add: class) As for those who suggest (often while touting Sanders) Clinton should have paid more attention to the “white working class”, well, if the key motivator is “whiteness” as opposed to “class”, then what? Is it possible to peel away an attachment to whiteness such that white workers consider themselves as part of a larger, multi-ethnic working class? Finally, initial data (subject to change) that I’ve seen suggests that Trump pulled the bulk of his support from the solidly-middle and upper-middle classes.

Actually, class deserves more than a parenthetical aside, not just for this campaign but for those going forward. It’s just that disentangling it from race is damnably difficult.

Sexism: How  and how much did it matter, one way or the other, that Clinton is, yes indeedy, a woman? How did that affect campaign strategy and tactics? How did it effect how the press covered her? How did it affect willingness to vote for her?

Voter suppression: Some states (WI) had tough voter i.d. laws such that some citizens couldn’t register to vote; some states (WI, NC) reduced the number of polling places and polling hours or relocated polls to locations less convenient for Democrats. Did this effect turnout? If turnout was down, as it was across many locales, could this be tied to suppression or simply to lack of enthusiasm?

The press: There have been a number of analyses of the amount of media attention given to policy versus everything else (emails emails emails), as well as a sense that few took Trump seriously enough to consider what his administration would actually look like.

They complained about her lack of press conferences, but said little about his similar lack. They (media organizations, not necessarily individual reporters) consented to having their reporters penned up. And Trump rather easily slid away from demands for his tax returns. Was she covered too much, too unfairly? Was he not covered enough? How did the coverage affect voting behavior, if at all?

The role of the press is highly contentious and will likely see the greatest play, not least because one of the media’s favorite activities is to talk about itself.

James Comey’s letter: This might be a sub-variable of the press, given how the press shouted about SHADOW OVER CLINTON WON’T GO AWAY. Still, should be considered on its own terms, especially given apparent widespread agency animus to Clinton. And, again, don’t know if or how it mattered at all.

Wikileaks: Again, another sub- of the press. Did the press give adequate context to the emails, especially in terms of ordinary operating procedures to campaigns? What of any (alleged) connections between Wikileaks and Russia? And even if there is a connection, does it matter?

Polls: They got it wrong. Why?

Voters: This would seem to be an output rather than input variable, but insofar as candidates will configure their campaigns around what they think will appeal to those voters, how voters respond to those campaigns will in turn affect the campaigns. What motivates and de-motivates voters? What do voters know, and what do they know that just ain’t so? What is the mix of rationality and irrationality among the voting public? And what of those who’ve voted before, but didn’t this time?

None of these variables is independent, of course. Some of these pieces reinforce and magnify others, while some minimize; and the relative size and  position of those pieces vary from state to state.

And this is crucial: Clinton won the popular vote (final tally t.d. unknown) and lost the Electoral College vote, so any wholly national focus will be wrong. What worked for her in one state could have worked against her in another, but given that the majority of voters did, in fact, vote for her suggests that she didn’t do everything wrong.

Finally, I’m trying to see a way to put together a rational understanding of what happened, but, as Carl Schmitt reminded-warned us, there’s a great deal to politics which is decidedly irrational.

Which means, of course, that you could do everything “right” and still lose.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: We all look smaller down here on the ground

8 11 2016

XIII. Big crowds and wild cheering for one’s candidate are nice—intoxicating, even—but you don’t win just by drawing the enthusiastic.

You win by reeling in the reluctant and the resigned and getting them to the polls.

XIV. I’ve heard and read different pieces wondering about reconciliation and what Clinton should do to reach out to those who rejected her.

My first thought: Fuck them. FUCK THEM.

Second thought: What about what Clinton should do for those who supported her?

Third thought: Politics, goddammit, requires conciliation. Goddammit. Even if it’s fake, hypocritical, and wholly expedient, politics, per Crick, requires some basic ability for us to live with one another.

So those of who voted for Clinton can gloat for a bit and those who voted for Trump can glower for a bit, but then we need, however grumpily, to get over it

XV. Some folks, however, won’t get over it.

I expect Clinton to win, so it’ll be easier for us to say “Let’s get on with it” because there’s stuff we actually want her to do.

Some of the reluctant Trump voters will look down, kick the dirt, look up, sigh, and move on.

Some non-Clinton/non-Trump voters will shrug, go “Oh well,” and move on.

Some of the avid Trump supporters will wail, then sulk, then move on.

And then there are the dedicated Hillary Haters and MAGA folks, who will not accept the results, either by rejecting the vote totals out of hand (Fraud! Tampering!) or supporting every effort to impede a Clinton presidency through constant investigations and/or impeachment attempts.

I don’t know the best way to deal with this last group. I think any Congressmember who seeks to nullify the election results should be punished at every possible turn and continually denounced for their attempts to delegitimize the very political institutions in which they exercise their power. No mercy.

And the citizens who cheer on the nullifiers? That’s tricky. No coddling—even reconciliation doesn’t require coddling—but they’re a large enough chunk of the polity that they can’t simply be ignored, either. Yes, try to hive off some of the more uncertain members of this group, but how to do that? I don’t know.

Republicans presumably have the greater responsibility to deal with this dead-ender faction, but since the leadership alternates between appeasing and encouraging them, I don’t think they can be counted on to do the right thing. It shouldn’t be too much to ask—emphasize that Democrats are a legitimate party  and it’s not always unfair when they win—but it probably is.

MMXVI

What do I expect from a Clinton presidency?

More of the same, both good and bad, and probably a greater push on issues regarding child care and health. Congress, even if the Senate goes Dem, will likely continue their obstructionism, but Clinton might—might—be able to cobble together majorities to pass criminal justice reform.

Modest gains, at best.

I’ll take it.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: Now someone yelled timber take off your hat

7 11 2016

VII. As someone who’s as cold-blooded as they come about elections, I am unshocked by the declarations of support by various Christian conservative pundits for Donald J. Trump.

I am similarly unshocked by the argument that prudence, rather than God, dictates such support.

Finally, the next-breath argument that “you have to vote for the bad man to prevent the bad woman because that’s what God wants“, however much that contradicts the argument from prudence, is not only not shocking, but predictable.

There are things you want and you need to win in order to get the things you want so it is easy to justify doing almost anything to win so that you get the things you want.

If not the whole of politics, that is a not-inconsiderable part of politics.

So these men act politically in a political arena, which is fine. And they seek to wrap that political action in Christian robes, which, however annoying, is entirely ordinary.

But if I were a Christian who took seriously the obligation to act in accordance with godly principles in all matters in life, I might just side-eye those who’d put an asterisk next to politics.

VIII. It can be difficult to parse one’s principles when it comes to politics.

I don’t remember how I reacted to Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. I almost certainly was dismayed for reasons of both principle and politics (unfair in different ways to Lewinsky and his wife; ammunition for opponents), and I thought impeachment a gross overreaction to his misdeeds, but. . . did it affect my view of him as president?

Maybe? I really don’t know. I mean, I voted for him in 1992 but not in 1996 (third-party—I know), and was never in thrall to the man. He clearly had political skill, but his lack of discipline limited his effectiveness as a politician. And while I don’t recall paying attention to the crime bill I do know I fucking hated welfare reform.

He was better, policy-wise (and definitely judiciarily) than Bush or Dole, and thought Gore an idiot for declining to make use of him on the 2000 campaign trail. Overall, I didn’t love, but in retrospect I think I voted for the right guy in ’92 and probably* should have voted for him again in ’96.

But my own asterisk: What about the allegations not of stupid consensual extra-marital sex, but of decidedly non-consensual sexual harassment and sexual assault? If I didn’t vote for Clinton’s re-election because he was too conservative I think I was wrong, but if I had refused to vote for him because he was a rapist. . . ?

That would not have been wrong.

Like I said, I don’t remember what I thought of these allegations 20+ years ago, but given how I voted in 1992, I probably minimized or possibly even dismissed them. I probably take them more seriously now than I did then.

I don’t think a man who’d been accused by multiple women of sexual harassment or assault could be nominated for president in the Democratic party going forward, but if he were, I’d like to believe that, no matter how left-wing he was, I’d say Nope nope nope.

But I honestly don’t know.

IX. I tend to give a pass to family members of politicians for their support of those politicians and alleged criminals.

I mean, your dad is running for president, whattya gonna do?

That said, I do admit to unkind thoughts regarding the business prospects of Ivanka, Donald Jr., and Eric Trump.

X. And while I also tend to give a pass to those defeated or who’ve left office—they’re no longer in public life, let them live their private lives in private—I may have said that I hope Trump’s business empire crumbles, his brand dissolves, he loses all of his money, and his wife leaves him.

I’m not proud of this, but there it is.

XI. Happier thoughts? I think Hillary Clinton will be a better president than her husband.

She’s not as good a campaigner as he is, but man, she knows how to follow the many threads of policy without getting tied up in them.

Also, she’s explicitly seeking to strengthen and extend the legacy of a man who has, all things considered, governed mostly well and wisely.

XII. I’m going to miss Barack Obama as president, and the Obamas as First Family.

I think skepticism toward the charm of politicians is always warranted and am leery of the alleged authenticity of their behavior in highly scripted events, but yeah, the Obamas got to me—not least because of how they acted when seemingly unscripted.

Maybe nothing is ever unscripted, not the interviews with comedians in cars or the crawling on the floor with babies or even the laughter at a toddler pope, but I did enjoy those times when the Obamas seemed to be enjoying themselves.

That was unexpected. And nice.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: You know you’ll be hearing that sound

1 11 2016

IV. It’s not bad that white working class folks are getting some (sympathetic) attention from the press.

It is bad that it is mainly white working class folks who are getting the attention.

V. However much race and class are fused in the US, they are nonetheless separable. Those in the WWC who embrace Trump do so more in the name of their whiteness than their class.

Have their been breakdowns of union member support for the candidates? Do white union members put class before whiteness? What are the conditions under which white workers choose one candidate over the other?

Unionism is no barrier to racism—not by a long shot—but union membership, to the extent that it raises consciousness of one’s class status, might therefore blunt the primacy of whiteness.

VI. It’s worth pointing out, of course, that, during the primary season, the median income of Trump supporters was $72,000 while that for Clinton (and Sanders) was about 61 grand—in all cases, above the national median income of $56,000. And a Pew poll of general election preferences showed that Clinton did better both among $100,000+ voters (51 to 43%) and those making less than 30 grand (62 to 33%); they more-or-less tied in the two middle income categories.

Given how the Pew survey numbers are presented, however, it is difficult to draw any conclusions about the percentage of white working class voters who support Clinton or Trump. That overwhelming percentages of black and Hispanic voters support Clinton suggests that she’s drawing from all classes. And while Pew didn’t offer any numbers on Asian-American voters, 538 highlights a National Asian American Survey showing a clear movement of most groups away from Republicans and toward Democrats.

On thing that can be concluded is that Democrats are ethnically diverse and Republicans, increasingly, are not.

And that’s going to matter—although how, at this point, I can’t say.

I fear the possibilities.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: Pick up the pieces and go home

19 10 2016

Off all else, this is the takeaway:

nytimes-debate3

Three more weeks.





Circus Maximus MMXVI: And a little bit not (I)

13 09 2016

Oh, to be of many minds:

Mind1: The bug-eyed conspiracists certain that Hillary Clinton is hiding, I dunno, a tumor/mainstream pundits who are more than happy to indulge the, well-this-certainly-plays-into-the-appearance-of-dishonesty are shoveling enough shit to cover the prairies from Kansas to Saskatchewan.

Woman has pneumonia, got dehydrated while standing in a crowd, had to be helped into SUV, is apparently recovering. Bummer for her, not a big deal.

Mind2: Hillary Clinton, if elected, will be the second-oldest person (after Reagan) to begin her first term. This doesn’t mean that she’s enfeebled now or will be during either (Inshallah) of her terms in office—but it does mean that she is, to be grossly generalistic, less robust than someone 20 years younger.

This is a legitimate concern—not an emergency, not a disqualifier—but, yes, a legit concern.

(And no, that Trump is a year older than her doesn’t make Clinton “young”, even in comparison.)

Mind3: That pundits and conspiracists (and, yeah, one of my neighbors who is terrified of Trump and so highly concerned about Clinton’s health) are keening into the high winds about both her health and her alleged penchant for dishonesty makes me wanna holler She’ll be fine! She’ll be fine! Her doctor says she’ll be fine!

It also sets me to muttering that no matter what she says or authorizes her doctor to release, she’ll be accused of lying.

Mind4: She probably will be fine; I doubt she’s lying.

That said. . . whether or not the so-called narrative of Clinton’s dishonesty—isn’t that a nice way to call someone a liar by implying Oh, look, everyone thinks she’s a liar—is accurate, it has, in fact, taken hold. While it’s possible-to-likely that a more comprehensive summary of Clinton’s current health (i.e, past few-t0-5 years) wouldn’t satisfy those who refuse to be satisfied, it also wouldn’t be a bad move, if only in giving her a ready answer to questions about her health.

Given that Trump is shameless, there’s no way that her release of info would shame him into releasing his. Nope, any Clinton release would be a defensive tactic against the press and, perhaps, a kind of reassurance to her supporters (including my anxious neighbor).

Mind5: Did you notice what I did, there? I doubt she’s lying. Gliiiiiiided right past that.

I went fairly hard the other day about tossing aside all concerns other that politics, thereby brushing away concerns about Clinton’s alleged dishonesty, not least because I do think the whole “narrative says so” is bullshit.

But I didn’t stress enough that I really don’t know. I mean, she’s been involved in politics for a very, very long time and seems as sincere as a politician could be, but it’s also clear that she’d rather not share every last bit of info about her doings, please and thank you.

What does that mean? I dunno. Since she’s on my side of the field I’ll be voting for her, regardless; if she were on the other side this would be yet another reason not to—but, honestly (snerk), this wouldn’t be the thing I’d latch onto about that opponent.

I mean, that Trump hasn’t released his tax returns isn’t in the top 50 of the worst things about him.

Mind6: Is it fair that Clinton’s getting her bell rung by the press and Trump isn’t?

No; so?

As I’ve banged on about repeatedly, there’s nothing fair about elections, winning is the only thing that matters, etc., etc.

Besides, in this case, the unfairness may be less that the press expect Clinton to answer their questions about her health but that they don’t expect the same from Trump.

Mind7: In other words, it is not unreasonable to expect candidates for the presidency to release information about their health.

A full release of all of their health records is unnecessary and, likely, unwise, but, again, a comprehensive summary should give manage to drive the screamers back to the fringes from whence they came.

As for those who think the candidates’ own docs can’t be trusted? Well, I like the ideas put forth by some doctors and ethicists for a (voluntary) independent evaluation of the candidates by a doctor or panel of doctors. How to go about this would need to be worked out, and it might need some tweaking over successive elections, but this would likely be an improvement over the  ad-hockery (and ad-hackery) of the current non-system of health disclosure.

Mind8: Even as I write that it’s reasonable to want some reliable info on the candidates’ health, I am uneasy with that expectation.

Again, most powerful person on the planet, but I think even the most powerful person on the planet deserves some privacy.

Not total privacy. Not total transparency. Something in between. I don’t know what that in-between would be. Something about recent (and relevant less-recent) past health, current health, yes. Chronic conditions. Medications.

What about psychotherapy? Marriage counseling? Would pastoral counseling count?

That’s too much, isn’t it? I mean, maybe not the fact of counseling itself, but certainly not any details. . . and, frankly, wouldn’t it be nice for that as-yet-unnamed panel of doctors to recommend a psychiatrist or psychotherapist be assigned to the White House as a matter of course? Is that already the case? Too much of a tangent. . . ?

And what about genomic testing? I mean, Jesus, that seems way too far, but what happens when (and it is a when, not an if) everyone is tested as a matter of standard medical protocol? Hell, a lot of people are already paying out of pocket for their own partial genomic profiles; what should be the response to demands that candidates be tested?

That’s just. . . oh, man, that would be a terrible idea—which is, of course, no barrier to its adoption.

All of these minds cannot be successfully melded; I have, in the end, only questions: How much privacy should a candidate, a president, have? What do we, as citizens, deserve (as opposed to merely desire) to know about those who would lead us?





Circus Maximus MMXVI: Just a little bit longer

8 09 2016

I may wax and wane in my enthusiasm for voting for Hillary Clinton, but I am firm that I’ll vote for her.

And whatever waning there is, doesn’t mean I think I’m voting for “the lesser evil”.

Greater and lesser evils in politics: such horseshit.

Bernard Crick argued that politics requires pluralism, which in turn creates the conditions in which politics may flourish: that there are differences requires some mechanism for negotiating amongst those differences, and politics (as opposed to technocracy or totalitarianism) provides an open, inclusive, and non-violent way for a citizenry to deal with itself.

Politics is more than this, of course, but that notion of conciliation and compromise are key: if factions are only ever maximalist, only ever all-or-nothing, only ever my-way-or-else, then politics will be ground out of existence.

Which is where my evilism-is-horseshit stance comes from: someone is decried as a lesser evil because she isn’t perfect, is compromised, is too willing to compromise, adheres too closely or not closely enough to the party line, will disappoint, will likely fail.

All politicians fail. Good politicians fail well, bad politicians fail badly, but if politics is about advancing an agenda against competing agendas, then the old cliché sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you means that even the greatest advances will contain losses.

It also means that to advance your position, you’re likely to have to settle, to give something to get something. To compromise.

Yeah, sometimes you can hold the line, and those hard-liners do have a place (tho’ not in leadership) in politics, but if your political adversaries are present in enough numbers to get in your way (which is almost always the case, if not at any one moment then certainly over a relatively short period of time), you’re going to have to pay attention to them. You’re going to have to deal.

As with failing, you can be a good (moves you closer to your goals)  or bad (moves you further from your goals) dealer, but if you don’t deal at all you’re not much of a politician, much less a political leader.

To deal is to be political, not to be evil, so any assessment of a politician should not be Does she deal or not but Is she a good dealer or bad dealer?

Again, none of this means candidates, even ones one is waxingly enthusiastic about, are above criticism—criticize away! But criticize them on their politics, not on the fact of their imperfections.

~~~

*It’s not that evil doesn’t exist at all in politics—if you’re a genocidal dictator you pretty much fit the definition of an evil leader—but that in ordinary or functioning politics, the evil quotient is going to be pretty low. (I could go full Crick and state that genocidal dictators are anti-politics by definition, and thus fob off evil on the upside-down, but that’s a little too convenient.)