Friday, January 27, 2017

Time for Supporters of Trump and Clinton to Face Reality

Supporters of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton seem to be stuck in reality distortion bubbles. This is slightly more pronounced on the Trump side, where outright misinformation is believed. But the Clinton supporters are quick to selectively cite misleading information. Misleading data are only slightly better (and sometimes worse) than wrong information when trying to understand and correct problems.

Trump supporters:

  • He lost the popular vote. There was no widespread fraud, no mobs of illegal immigrants storming the ballot boxes. He lost, and lost significantly on the raw national popular vote total. (But it is complicated. See notes to Clinton supporters.)
  • He is the least popular president-elect in the history of polling data. There is no mandate.
  • He plans to nominate a cabinet that troubles many traditional conservatives, libertarians, and progressives. That's not a way to build bridges when you lack a mandate.
  • He has a serious problem with facts. You know, that "truthiness" thing that should matter to all of us.
  • He really did say horrible, terrible, lousy things about various groups and people. He's not a nice person and defending him should be impossible.

Clinton supporters:

  • She lost the Electoral College well aware of the rules of the election system. Winning big in California, the source of her entire popular vote margin, is problematic because of the state's unusual (insane) run-off election system. Trump supporters have a point when they argue California's voting method skews the national results. (More on that follows below.)
  • She would have been the least popular president-elect in history had she won. So, don't crow too much about how unpopular Trump is.
  • She did not lose because of the FBI, WikiLeaks, bad media coverage, Bernie Bros, sexism, or anything other factor. Trump actually won a significant number of two-time Obama voters, so you'd have to consider those voters in your analysis. Democrats had already lost a record number of Senate seats (10), House districts (63), state houses, and state legislatures over the last eight years. The trend for Democrats in general is negative, outside… California. (Seriously. California gained 1.1 million Democratic voters and lost 400,000 Republicans.)

Why is California a problem?

California has a system unlike any other populous state. The primaries are "non-partisan" state-wide, with the top-two candidates for each office appearing on the final ballot. In highly Democratic California, the result in 2016 was a near shut-out of Republicans. No minor party appeared on the ballots for any state-wide office. Only the presidential election is conducted in a way that offers other parties some access.

As Investor's Business Daily notes…
What's more, many Republicans in the state had nobody to vote for in November.
There were two Democrats — and zero Republicans — running to replace Sen. Barbara Boxer. There were no Republicans on the ballot for House seats in nine of California's congressional districts.
At the state level, six districts had no Republicans running for the state senate, and 16 districts had no Republicans running for state assembly seats.
Plus, since Republicans knew Clinton was going to win the state — and its entire 55 electoral votes — casting a ballot for Trump was virtually meaningless, since no matter what her margin of victory, Clinton was getting all 55 votes. 
Is it any wonder then, that Trump got 11% fewer California votes than John McCain did in 2008? (Clinton got 6% more votes than Obama did eight years ago, but the number of registered Democrats in the state climbed by 13% over those years.)
If you take California out of the popular vote equation, then Trump wins the rest of the country by 1.4 million votes. And if California voted like every other Democratic state — where Clinton averaged 53.5% wins — Clinton and Trump end up in a virtual popular vote tie. (This was not the case in 2012. Obama beat Romney by 2 million votes that year, not counting California.)
The California election system is broken. It excludes minor parties - and even the second major party - from meaningful participation. Of course voters loyal to those other parties remain home. Why should they go into a voting both and leave a ballot entirely blank? An entire ballot of write-in voting, in an electronic system, is tedious and pointless.

The notion that you must vote or keep quiet is disproved by California's inane system. Economically speaking, it really is a waste of time and energy for most non-Democratic voters to participate in the system. But, Californian's did this to themselves by approving the run-off model for elections. The majority now has a one-party system to lord over all residents.

To ignore California's system when claiming a Clinton popular vote victory (or a Democratic popular vote win in the Senate) is to ignore reality.


Friday, January 20, 2017

Polls Were NOT "Wrong"

Stop blaming polls or calling them "wrong" because only the Huffington Post polling was seriously flawed. Every other model actually offered accurate *ranges* of potential outcomes.

The polls were not wrong. Polls give probability not certainty. They were accurate. If I tell you Hillary Clinton has an 85% chance of winning... hello? She still has a 15% chance of losing. People didn't want to accept that. They assumed 85% = she can't lose. Sean Trende has attempted to explain this with the example of Pennsylvania. The commonwealth was a close election: so close that one percent in both directions did change the winner, but that does not make the polls incorrect.
It wasn't the polls: It was the pundits
What occurred wasn’t a failure of the polls. As with Brexit, it was a failure of punditry. Pundits saw Clinton with a 1.9 percent lead in Pennsylvania and assumed she would win. [Note: Margin of error was 3% in most polling!] The correct interpretation was that, if Clinton’s actual vote share were just one point lower and Trump’s just one point higher, Trump would be tied or even a bit ahead.  
The best polls were within margins of error. I wish people would stop claiming all polls were "wrong" since they were better than most previous elections. This was a close election, as a 3% to 5% margin of error is just what it says -- a margin. People assumed a lot, but Nate Silver and Sean Trende have explained repeatedly the polls were accurate within their margins. We're not going to get 0.1% error from polling.

People simply did not want the "worst case" scenario, and the press didn't explain with maps: "Here are the two extreme outcomes."

Friday, January 13, 2017

Stop Offering Opinions "to Trump Voters"

Every online post, newspaper column, or magazine puff piece written "to Trump voters" will be read by exactly ZERO Trump supporters... or will be taken as the condescending, presumptuous tripe it is by the one or two Trump voters who care what The New Yorker or National Review (for that matter) have to say.

No Trump voter cares what I write. They don't. They don't care what my opinion of them is. They don't care what any other over-educated Ph.D. or media elite offers as a critique.

The reality is, the few Trump voters I know don't actually like him. They voted against the system, against BOTH parties, and hope it all burns to the ground. Some voted for the Supreme Court and district court appointments. But otherwise, they didn't vote "for" anyone.

The day-to-day worker has moved on. The majority of people didn't vote and a good portion of those who did aren't that engaged a few weeks later.

Life will go on. Some of us will obsess over every word and action of President Donald Trump, but most Americans will not. They will go to work, pay bills, and watch football until the Super Bowl is played. (Then, everyone should rightly return to hockey and baseball seasons.)

The passion so many feel might not fade. That's not bad, as long as it is a passion to hold all politicians accountable.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Pain, Elections, Social Media, and The Blahs

By November 7, 2016, a swollen spinal cord was making it nearly impossible for me to sit, walk, drive, or even rest. The next morning, my wife managed to get me to the urgent care center at our physician's office. His staff called in the doctor, who sent me off to the emergency room.

Election day was spent with morphine, Percocet, an MRI, and a really bad reaction to the mix of painkillers and pain. My wife still stopped by the polling station on the way home from the ER that afternoon and we both voted. It was the most painful election ever.

Worse than the election has been the days following.

This is my own fault. I've been stuck in bed, on painkillers. Unable to type on my laptop, unable to sit and read for any sustained period of time, I have been consuming social media.

Normally, I would have been outside during the daylight hours (four more decorative grasses to plant) and watching movies for my MFA classes. Instead, my semi-lucid moments were spent reading the paranoid, anxious, depressed, distraught… you get the idea.

Unless you're posting photos and comments from a celebration, vacation, or other positive event, most social media posts are negative. That negativity feeds more negativity. Insult, bash, complain, earn some "likes" and replies. Maybe a good cat photo will do the same, but the longest threads and most "likes" I've seen this week are negative posts.

If I could be out and about, I wouldn't be reading these posts. I'd be in my yard. I'd be baking cookies. I'd be playing with my cats. Anything would be healthier than reading social media, and I know that.

Before you tell me how wrong I am, how much we need to be posting and sharing our anxieties, let me point out that I'm writing from my perspective: I don't need the negativity.

I need to recover. I need to get up and about the house. I need to get moving again.

The negativity will pass, I assume, after some sort of cathartic tipping point. Judging by my social media feeds, people really need that tipping point soon.

Plenty of people disagree and cannot relax. They will spend the next four years or more paranoid and worried. I'm all for vigilance, but I've now endured paranoia by the opposing side after each election since 1980. Reagan was going to lead us into nuclear war. Bush was going to use the CIA to control the world. Clinton was going to refuse to leave office (and he had some sort of secret killing squad). The paranoia isn't worse than it was in 1980, but people have forgotten how bad it was.

Take a break from social media. Go for a walk. Talk about anything non-political.

We'll have enough time to argue policies soon enough.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Reaction to Hillary Clinton’s loss exposed the impotent elitism of liberalism

Donald Trump in February 2009
Donald Trump in February 2009 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You vowed to leave if Donald Trump won the White House. Leave. Please. Go. Be gone with you and all of your snobbery, your condescension, your identity politics.

The rest of us have work to do!

People from marginalized communities cannot pick up and leave the United States. And where would they go? Where would you go? France, where head coverings are banned? Germany, where anti-Semites are out in public again? Where is this mythical better place?

A progressive friend posted that people struggling should move from places like Youngstown, Ohio, or rural West Virginia. Let me understand how that works. You have no money. You lost your job, might be on public assistance, have minimal technical skills.... Surely you can move to an expensive city with no problem.

No. Most of us have to stick around. We have to gather up our resistance to a Pres. Trump and develop a more coherent strategy to salvange what moderates exist in two political parties. For libertarians like me, that means resisting every civil rights violation proposed by Trump, the extremists in the GOP, and (yes) many Democrats. Individual liberty must be defended, and that means staying engaged, not running away.

This Salon column has it right:
Neoliberalism’s epic fail: The reaction to Hillary Clinton’s loss exposed the impotent elitism of liberalism -
SATURDAY, NOV 19, 2016 06:00 AM EST

Hearts pounded, stomachs turned and some of the more privileged liberals started seriously considering whether to flee the country in the face of a national nightmare that had just become a reality (privileged, because the average American doesn’t have the resources to just pack up and run at will).

The surreal night concluded with Canada’s immigration website crashing from too much traffic, as if every alt-right Twitter troll’s fantasy had come true.

Although the instinct to flee from a Trump presidency is understandable, it reveals a great deal about the impotence of modern liberalism and its monumental failure to stop an unhinged and thoroughly unqualified demagogue like Trump.

Elite liberals who vowed to leave America if Trump was elected, which includes a slew of celebrities, are those who would be most insulated from the impact of a Trump presidency — unlike working people and seniors who stand to lose their healthcare, children of immigrants who may soon see their families torn apart, or poor people of color who could face heightened persecution under the already racist criminal justice system. Sadly, fleeing is not an option for the most vulnerable Americans. Their only option is to keep fighting; yet the first impulse that many of their professed allies felt was to do the exact opposite: to escape.

Of course, most of the “limousine liberals” who promised to leave America before the election didn’t actually believe that Trump could win. It was an impossibility. Not in their wildest dreams could the racist, sexist, misogynistic and xenophobic buffoon defeat the most qualified and deserving presidential candidate in history — no less the first women candidate. He had denigrated women, scapegoated minorities and immigrants, offended veterans and mocked the disabled. Not only that, but it was her turn! “It was supposed to be her job. She worked her whole life for the job. It’s her job,” wrote Clinton surrogate Lena Dunham (who had said she would move to Canada if Trump won) in a recent article recounting her grief-stricken reaction to the election, in which she admitted she “never truly believed” that Trump could win. 
I resist the policies of the left, because they forget that expanded government for "good" can and will be quickly misused. Good ideas under one leader became dangerous under another. I hope Democrats regret changing filibuster rules, for example. There was good reason to require supermajority votes in the Senate.

Policies get out of control, too. Control health care? What happens when choices have to be made, including what won't be covered? What happens when sugar or chocolate is declared a health hazard? What happens to genetic data? Sorry, but I don't trust big government. They have the powers to tax, fine, and imprison.

When progressives complain about the police, the courts, the military... Those are the symbols of government power. I actually wonder what would happen if most (not all) police were armed only with non-lethal force. I wonder what would happen without minimum sentencing of any kind in our courts. I wonder how much better off we would be with less military intervention elsewhere.

No, I'm not about to become "progressive" in response to Trump. I'm going to be all the more dedicated to individual liberty and restrained federal power.

The End of Identity Liberalism - The New York Times

When you group people and make everything about race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, and a checklist of other "differences" you are also creating and reinforcing the "Working-Class White Male Christian" grouping. That really is not helpful.

Even a few of the New York Times' writers are starting to understand this. Create groups at your own peril, progressives. You might find it doesn't help create a national identity or unity.
The End of Identity Liberalism - The New York Times:  
By MARK LILLA — NOV. 18, 2016
The whitelash thesis is convenient because it absolves liberals of not recognizing how their own obsession with diversity has encouraged white, rural, religious Americans to think of themselves as a disadvantaged group whose identity is being threatened or ignored. Such people are not actually reacting against the reality of our diverse America (they tend, after all, to live in homogeneous areas of the country). But they are reacting against the omnipresent rhetoric of identity, which is what they mean by “political correctness.” Liberals should bear in mind that the first identity movement in American politics was the Ku Klux Klan, which still exists. Those who play the identity game should be prepared to lose it.
We start early, telling young children all about differences... and I wonder how is that helpful when children do not see through adult, prejudiced lenses. We create groups and then encourage people to engage in victimhood competition. My marginalization is worse than yours!

Too often my liberal and progressive friends tear at each other, complaining that one person has too much privilege to understand group X, Y, or Z. The response is "Oh yeah? I belong to groups A, B, and C, and I'm therefore marginalized in soooo many ways!"

Stop it. Get over it.

Address serious, real racism, sexism, and so on. But stop making such big productions about how marginalized groups deserve automatic sainthood. No. They don't. Making it sound like oppression is somehow a baptism that purifies the soul is as absurd as assuming that belonging to the groups in power makes a person evil.

This is a lousy time in the United States, created by two political parties playing groups against each other. And don't claim I'm guilty of unfair equivalence. The progressive movement has, in fact, done serious harm to groups by emphasizing checklists of people and caring more about those factors than anything else.

Was Pres. Barak Obama the first black president? Yes. Okay. Great. Now move on. He seemed to be more ready to move on and do his job than some of the white academic progressives I know.

Would Hillary Clinton have been the first female president? Yes. But that's not a reason to elect her. I opposed Trump, but I was not going to vote for anyone based on superficial traits. Yes, I used the word superficial because that's how the fawning over Hillary started to sound. Focusing on her qualification and her skills would have been much better and maybe more persuasive.
Read Mark Lilla's column. It's thoughtful and offers a moment of reflection for liberals / progressives wondering why their identity politics backfired.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Standing Up to the President-Elect

English: Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in...
English: Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Republicans in the House and Senate, especially the leadership of the GOP, must at least symbolically reject the president-elects choices for his inner circle of advisors. Though some of these posts do not require Senate confirmation, the Senate should and must demand that Donald Trump remove some members of his transition team and his "kitchen cabinet" of conspiracy nuts.

I never imagined as a libertarian that my worst nightmare might be a Republican president. The following individuals should be nowhere near the White House: Stephen K. Bannon and Frank Gaffney. This should not be open to debate. The Senate should refuse to confirm any cabinet secretary until these two men are shown the door.

Yes, I understand that Bannon and Roger Ailes advised and helped control Trump during the campaign. I don't care. These are not the sorts of people with whom the GOP should be associated.

Standing up to Donald Trump will not be easy for the Republicans. Their voters elected Trump. But at some point, the GOP has to consider the long-term implications of embracing radical fringe zealots. You cannot claim to be a party of merit and individualism and then allow the president to surround himself with men of demonstrable prejudice.

By indicating they will not accept anyone the president wants with a rubber stamp voter, the Republicans would earn some respect. They also need to vocally reject some of the ideals and theories of the fringe that claims to be "alt right" when it is actually "alt lunatic."

I could not vote for Hillary. I certainly could not vote for Donald Trump.

The Republican Party must not acquiesce. Stand up for what the party was founded to be.

Too bad I expect this blog post to be like the writings of so many conservative and libertarian thought leaders… ignored.

Friday, November 11, 2016

The GOP - Stuck in the Middle

Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students...
Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students from the Kansas University School of Business (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
"A review of the 20 richest Americans, as listed by Forbes Magazine, found that 60 percent affiliate with the Democratic Party, including the top three individuals: Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison. Among the richest families, the Democratic advantage rises even higher, to 75 percent."

Just think about that and the paradox of the top of the top (the 0.1%) typically voting for and sometimes running for office as Democrats (FDR, JFK). The GOP holds the $75,000 to $187,000 range and starts to lose ground quickly at $200,000 -- the same line that marks most people with graduate or professional degrees.

The Democrats have been, since about 1948, the party of the elites and the poor. The GOP has had a narrow window of voters in the white, high-school graduate and non-elite university bachelor's degree holder categories.

It's almost stunning how you can map the Democrats by urban density, college density, technical employers, financial centers, and so on. The GOP has the middle... of everything. Middle class. Middle of the map. Middle of the educational range. Even "middle-aged" voters for a time.

Yes, the Republican Party is considered the party of the wealthy, and there are some notable wealthy Republicans (and libertarians), but overall the division between graduate degree holders and everyone else almost ensures the Democrats have the majority of top income earners within their voting ranks.

That's not bad or good. My point is that the reality of who votes for whom isn't the stereotype.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Election 2016 Thoughts

The election is over, thank goodness.

I see social media posts suggesting we "relax" - but that's not what anyone should do, no matter who is in office. Both parties need vigilant voters to ensure there are checks and balances.

Do things. Write. Blog. Create art. Criticize the powerful. Engage in dialogue with your neighbors and beyond. Get out of whatever bubbles you might be in, and we are all in bubbles, to find common ground with people of other ideologies.

When I read some of the claims about Pres. Obama, I remind friends I side with socialist Cornel West and libertarians against extra-judicial use of drones, expansion of wire-tapping, the selling military "surplus" to police forces, the highest rate of deportations in U.S. history, and many other policies we have had during this time. How many bankers went to prison?

I respect Pres. Obama more than I will ever respect a Trump or Pence. But I'm not going to waive my moral and ethical compass on issues for any leader. Always hold leaders accountable.

I'm sorry, but we must never dismiss the "wrongs" of any side, even when it could be worse. When you tolerate bad policies, because they seem pragmatically the best, that just continues the system.

Trump must be held accountable. Don't hide away, don't panic, don't retreat.

I remain opposed to the same things I was opposed to yesterday and last week, as a small-l J. S. Mill libertarian. I remain opposed to police with too much power, a demonstrably biased judicial system, easy wiretaps, access to electronic messages, anything regulating how adults live in private, and many other things.

I remain opposed to moral relativism and tolerance if it means accepting the bigotries in other nations. Sorry, but I believe in lecturing other nations about mutilating women, stoning LBGTQ people, executing apostates, and so on. I will continue to call out injustices beyond our borders, because that's the right thing to do.

I remain opposed to many laws and regulations that have unintended consequences. I oppose the "reforms" that have weakened political parties (we need those moderate elites of the past). The primaries are a disaster. Redistricting is a mess. (But remember, the Senate is not gerrymandered, and it is more radical than the House.)

It bothers me that only a third of people voting can name the Vice President. Half cannot name their two Senators. More than two-thirds of self-described "progressives" say they cannot be friends with conservatives or libertarians.

I often read someone post or hear someone say, "Well, he is okay. But he's not really a libertarian." Yes, I am. I can give you lots of reasons not to trust any government, especially when it comes to how our government has treated marginalized groups: slavery, internment, medical experiments, sterilization, and codifying prejudices. I distrust government funding of the arts and any media because then those artists end up being regulated via taxpayer pressure (or must be "apolitical" - which is impossible). (I strongly support donation-supported arts and media. I don't create some works to make money. And I might offend political leaders!)

I believe we need a Bill of Rights and we need Amendments to the Constitution because I do not trust the vagaries of elections. Free speech, citizenship, voting rights... these are not negotiable, no matter what a majority wants. No, we must be protected from "too much democracy" and we must protect our fellow citizens. When I fail to protect the rights of others, I am enabling the loss of my own rights.

The most sickening moments of last night were when Republicans called for the closure of voting locations because some time was hit on a clock. Laws, government regulations, were being used to deny rights. I will stand up, always, for people wanting to be heard. Including people with whom I disagree. The GOP has crossed a line on the voting rights issue. It offends me.

The GOP must be watched. Their lack of respect for their historical founders and purposes upsets me. The GOP opposed slavery, supported the suffragists, and warned of the military-industrial complex. They supported term limits and restrictions on power. They were historically linked to the Federalists and the Jeffersonian Democrats. The GOP created National Parks, the EPA, OSHA, and the Clean Water Act. The 1956 GOP platform reads like a "leftist" pledge to protect individual rights from government and corporations. The Voting Rights Act passed thanks to Northern ("Moderate") Republicans. That GOP wing is on life support, sadly.

We, as a people, must insist that the GOP respect individual rights and liberties while ensuring that our choices do no harm to others. That's what J. S. Mill and Adam Smith wrote: I should be free and sovereign as a human, that I should have all rights over my own body and mind. But, Smith eloquently said that when my choices exploit others and when I negotiate in bad faith, I should be held accountable by the law.

Do not relax. Do not panic. Engage with the system and with people across the ideological spectrum. We need each other.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Lousy Choices

Do we vote our consciouses? Do we vote pragmatically? Do we vote for our "cause" (party) even when the candidate falls short of our ideals? Why and how to vote are serious questions we should consider. Yet, I'm unconvinced there are "right" answers philosophically.

Myself, I cannot vote for a person with whom I disagree or distrust significantly. That's a moral centering I cannot violate, even when it proves to be less than pragmatic. And in this presidential year, I disagree with and distrust all four major-minor candidates. That's depressing.

David Frum offered "A Guide for Undecided Republicans⁠⁠: Choosing a president isn't easy in this election, but here are three ways a principled conservative might vote."

It isn't a satisfying read, if only because it reminds us how lost the Republican Party and the Libertarian Party are. It reminds us that we have no good choices, only less painful choices.

I've already indicated that I cannot, will not, support the election of Donald Trump. Maybe if you live in a "safe" state for Hillary Clinton you can cast a protest vote. If you live in a stage "safe" for Trump (is there such a state?) you can protest with a vote for anyone else.

Hillary Clinton is qualified. I don't question that. I simply disagree with her on everything from economic policies to foreign engagements. She is a calculating politician (which national politicians are not?) willing to use race, gender, class, and any other forms of envy. By comparison, Trump uses the fear of other races, gender anxieties, religious intolerance…. You get the idea.

The Clintons are about the Clintons. Bill Clinton's triangulation did work well for the national economy during his time in office. If we believe that self-interest can serve the public good (wow, is that an Ayn Rand concept), then Hillary's desire to be president and to be re-elected could guide her to make bargains better for the majority. But, as I've noted previously, I'm not a huge fan of anything by Rand other than The Fountainhead. Morality matters to me.

For once, I'm not even sure that you "must" vote to express a valid perspective. Maybe not voting is a valid form of protest, at least until we have some "None of the Above" rule that the winner must win 51 percent of the popular vote. At this point, I'd simply like to start the primary process (a lousy process that favors the fringes, by the way) all over again.

At least somebody will lose the election. Too bad all four major-minor candidates deserve to lose. But, I will say that some (Trump, Stein) deserve to lose more than the other two.

We need an intellectual, merit-focused, freedom-centered, anti-hate, libertarian set of voices. And even if we had those voices, I'm sure they'd lose the public arguments. But at least we'd have something worth supporting for those of us outside the mainstream.