Minor Thoughts from me to you

Archives for President 2016 (page 1 / 1)

The crisis in American journalism benefits no one →

Salena Zito writes in the Washington Examiner about the lack of trust between America's most venerable news organizations and readers with traditional values. I found myself agreeing with everything she said.

Beginning in the 1980s, Washington and New York City newsrooms began to be dominated by people who had the same backgrounds; for the most part they went to the same Ivy League journalism schools, where they made the right contacts and connections to get their jobs.

Yes, elite networks are a thing not just in law schools, as "Hillbilly Elegy" author J.D. Vance so aptly described of his experiences in law school. They also exist in Ivy League or elite journalism schools.

And the journalists who came from working-class roots found it in their best interest to adopt the conventional, left-of-center views that were filling the halls of newsrooms.

In short, after a while you adopt the culture you exist in either out of survival or acceptance or a little of both. Or you really just wanted to shed your working-class roots for a variety of reasons: shame, aspiration, ascension, etc.

That does not make them bad people – aspiration is the heart of the American Dream — but it did begin the decline of connection between elite journalism institutions such as the New York Times and the Washington Post and the rest of the country.

So when fewer and fewer reporters shared the same values and habits of many of their consumers, inferences in their stories about people of faith and their struggles squaring gay marriage or abortion with their belief systems were picked up by the readers.

Pro-tip, don't think people can't pick up an inference, even the most subtle, in the written word. It is as evident as a news anchor rolling his eyes at someone on his panel he doesn't agree with.

The result was a populist explosion against all things big: big companies, big banks, big institutions and big media. The movement went undetected by the D.C. and New York centralized press not because they are bad people, not because they had an ax to grind against the center of the country. They just didn't know them. They did not know anyone like them, or if they did it reminded them of all the things they despised about their upbringing, and they wanted to correct those impulses.

And so they missed it. They were a little shocked by the support for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton, and they were really shocked by the support candidate Donald J. Trump received in the primaries

And they were really, really shocked by his win.

The problem journalists face right now is that they have never really acknowledged his win appropriately, at least not in the eyes of the people who voted for him.

Since the day he won, the inference that his win was illegitimate has been everywhere. It set the tone in the relationship between the voters and the press that has only soured since November of last year.

Did a Voter ID Law Really Cost Clinton a Victory in Wisconsin? →

It's not easy to say, but recent reports suggesting that Voter ID lost Wisconsin for Mrs. Clinton are overstating the evidence. So says Slate anyway, and they're not noted for being Republican shills.

But the Nation headline doesn’t say it all—not even close, as a number of political scientists and polling experts were quick to point out.

One of the first to arrive on the scene with a big bucket of cold water was Eitan Hersh, an assistant professor of political science at Yale University who has studied the effect of voter ID laws.

No offense, but this is something that is going to be shared hundreds of times and does not meet acceptable evidence standards. https://t.co/4M3ipqiaWg

— Eitan Hersh (@eitanhersh) May 9, 2017

The most glaring problem with the report and how it’s being interpreted, Hersh told me by phone, is that the firm behind the analysis decided to operate at a surface level when it almost certainly had the data and expertise to dig much deeper. “Civis presents itself as a very sophisticated analytics shop,” Hersh said, “and yet the analysis they’re offering here is rather blunt.”

The group relied largely on state-by-state and county-by-county comparisons to reach its conclusions, but it could have—and Hersh maintains, should have—conducted a more granular analysis. Civis could have isolated communities that straddle the border between two states, for instance, or even used a comprehensive voter file to compare similar individuals that do and don’t live in states with new voter ID laws. Doing either would have allowed Civis to eliminate variables that may have ultimately skewed its findings. “It’s very weird to do an analysis the way they did when they presumably had a better way to do it,” Hersh said. “That’s a red flag that jumps out right away.”

Civis says it mostly limited itself to publicly available information so that its analysis was repeatable; Hersh counters that repeating a flawed analysis will just lead to the same flawed results. As the New York TimesNate Cohn pointed out on Twitter, and as Hersh echoed in his conversation with me, the absence of a detailed voter file-based analysis of the impact of voter ID laws—by Civis or anyone else for that matter—is in itself telling at this point. “I would in no way argue that these [voter ID] laws have no effect, but what we’ve found is that it’s a relatively small one,” Hersh said. Making things more complicated, he added, is that the effect of a voter ID law can be difficult to separate from that of other non-ID-based measures that disenfranchise the same types of people. “It’s just very unlikely that these voter ID laws by themselves would translate into the effect of 200,000 voters,” Hersh said.

Richard Hasen, an occasional Slate contributor and a professor of law and political science at the University of California–Irvine, voiced similar concerns about the Civis findings on his blog, pointing to a New York Times story published in the weeks after the election. Reporting from Milwaukee in late November, Times national correspondent Sabrina Tavernise cited Wisconsin’s voter ID law as one potential reason why turnout was down in the city’s poor and black neighborhoods. Tavernise, though, ultimately found a bounty of anecdotal evidence that black voters were simply far less excited to vote for Clinton in 2016 than they were to pull the lever for Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. Here again it is difficult to offer a single explanation for depressed voter turnout: If a black man in Milwaukee decides it’s not worth jumping through hoops to cast a ballot, do we explain that by citing voter enthusiasm, the ID law, or both?

Election Thoughts

Bad News

  • Trump won the Presidential election.
    • We had a choice between Nixon and Smoot-Agnew for the Presidency. We elected Smoot-Agnew. This is not likely to end well.
    • As President-elect, Trump is now the head of the Republican Party. The Republican Party is now anti-free trade and anti-immigration.
    • I am no longer a Republican.
    • Conservatives have spent the past year creating an imaginary version of Donald Trump. This imaginary person is a savvy businessman and a strong leader who will rely on the wisdom of others as he governs. They'll now have four years to learn the truth. I wish them joy of it.
    • Searching for a silver lining: maybe Trump will accidentally nominate an engaged jurist for the Supreme Court.
    • Who honestly thought that Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin would all go for Trump? I'm gob smacked. Wisconsin in particular is a surprise. I thought that people in this state were too fundamentally nice to stomach Trump's brand of meanness.

Good News

  • The Senate stays in Republican hands. This was the outcome I was hoping for.
    • I hoped the Senate would stay Republican, to block the worst of President Clinton's Supreme Court picks.
    • Given that Senators are less populist, I'm hoping the Senate will block the worst of President Trump's policies.
  • Maine is adopting ranked choice voting for federal and state elections. This will be an interesting experiment to watch.
  • Marijuana was legalized in four more states and medical marijuana was legalized in four. Thirty-six states have now legalized marijuana in some form: 8 have legalized recreational marijuana and 28 have legalized medical marijuana.

One of My Reasons for Voting Third Party →

A lot of people (most people?) think that voting for a third-party candidate is wrong. It's either throwing your vote away or it's enabling the "wrong" candidate to win. Roderick Long, at Bleeding Heart Libertarians, gives one of my reasons for voting for a third-party candidate.

And once one considers what other results one might be contributing to besides someone’s simply getting elected, the case for voting third-party looks even stronger. After all, the larger the margin by which a candidate wins, the more that candidate can get away with claiming a mandate, thus putting him or her in a stronger political position to get favoured policies enacted. So if one thinks that both of the major candidates would do more harm than good if elected (even if one is worse than the other), then making the winning candidate’s totals smaller becomes a public good to which one might choose to contribute – perhaps by voting for a third-party candidate (though also, perhaps, by voting for whichever of the major candidates one thinks is most likely to lose).

If you think both Trump and Clinton are unfit to be president, which I do, than this is a way to decrease the vote share for both of them.

I'm voting for Gary Johnson. I'm not delusional — I'm well aware that he won't win tomorrow. But my vote against both Trump and Clinton ensures that whoever wins, wins with a smaller majority than would otherwise be the case and wins with a smaller mandate than would otherwise be the case. It's an infinitesimally small contribution to the vote pool, but it's all I can do.

Voting Third Party Isn’t Just *a* Serious Choice, It’s *the* Serious Choice →

I don't think I disagree with anything that J. D. Tuccille wrote for reason.com.

This year, the likely presidential candidates of the major political parties are two of the less savory individuals ever to run for office in a country whose Wikipedia entry doesn't feature periods of military rule. The Republicans seem poised to give us a crony capitalist who admires authoritarian foreign governments, views constitutional safeguards with contempt, and encourages his followers to stomp opponents. The Democrats are ready to coronate an authoritarian former secretary of state who fairly reeks of influence-peddling and is the subject of an FBI probe into the mishandling of classified information that passed through a private email server she set up to avoid freedom of information inquiries.

​And:

Whether the Republican Party–and possibly the Democratic Party—are in the process of transforming or collapsing, looking elsewhere for political options just makes good sense. At least until the wreckage has settled.

And it's not as if there are no credible options even as far up the ballot as the presidential line.

​And:

During past election cycles, most Americans accepted that aversion and let themselves be shamed out of voting for a "spoiler" who could only throw the election to the more awful major party candidate.

​Finally:

But there's no actual obligation to play into that horrible choice. The major political parties have outlived their sell-by dates and grown corrupt, unresponsive, and complacent. They've turned into hollowed-out vehicles to be hijacked by populist demagogues when not being ridden to office by sticky-fingered functionaries. The Republicans are in worse shape than the Democrats, but only in relative terms.

Which is to say, until they reform or die, the major parties are no longer serious choices. Their train-wreck presidential nomination races offer clear evidence to anybody who hasn't drunk the major party Kool-Aid that it's time to look elsewhere for real ideas and credible candidates for political office.

It's time to admit that, in 2016, so-called third parties are the serious choices in politics.

Group Backing Ted Cruz Accuses Marco Rubio of ‘Cronyism’ →

Seeking to drive Senator Marco Rubio from the presidential race, a “super PAC” supporting Senator Ted Cruz is spending heavily against Mr. Rubio in Florida, his home state. The five new ads that the group, Keep the Promise I, have released attack Mr. Rubio’s attendance record in the Senate, his stand on immigration, his tax plan and his relationship with Florida’s sugar producers.

Fact Check

Mr. Rubio supports the federal sugar program, defending it as necessary to protect domestic sugar producers from comparable government subsidies in competing countries. “Otherwise, Brazil will wipe out our agriculture, and it’s not just sugar,” he said recently. Mr. Rubio has also received campaign contributions from sugar producers, most notably Jose Fanjul, who along with his brother owns Domino and other sugar companies.

​This is one of my two biggest reasons for disliking Marco Rubio. It may be true that he can't get elected in Florida without the support of the sugar producers. But if he'll compromise his supposed conservative principles on corporate subsidies for political gain, what else might he compromise for political gain.

Rand Paul's Out →

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) announced Wednesday that he is suspending his presidential campaign, bringing an end to a bid that began with aspirations of expanding the libertarian base that his father, Ron Paul, built into a powerful national coalition.

"It's been an incredible honor to run a principled campaign for the White House," Paul said in a statement. "Today, I will end where I began, ready and willing to fight for the cause of Liberty."

The low-key, philosopher-quoting senator struggled in a year dominated by hard-line outsiders such as Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) and businessman Donald Trump to get attention, and his non-interventionist views on foreign policy were not embraced by Republicans as terrorism and unrest raged abroad.

​Now that the candidate who most closely matches my own views is out of the race, I'll have to figure out who's left that I can support—if anyone.