Election 2016: How We Really Lost (By The Numbers, Part 3)

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(This is about the election. Because so many Democratic and progressive voters are still debating what happened, and because a forthright postmortem is essential to the Democratic Party moving forward effectively [and is, to all indications, something they don’t actually care to do], I’ve researched what the numbers actually tell us. I find it interesting. If you don’t, that’s fine. If your highest caliber response is to school me on paying attention to this when you want me to pay attention to something else I’m probably also paying attention to, just keep it to yourself.)

Would Bernie Sanders have won? Did Hillary Clinton lose because of Russia/FBI/Mercury retrograde? Was she a good candidate? Was he?

In a discussion elsewhere of factors which led to Donald Trump’s win, I pointed out that Clinton’s favorability ratings throughout her entire 2015/2016 campaign remained historically awful, never hitting a point where a majority of voters saw her positively. Someone asked about the polls before the election which seemed (unlike the polls throughout the months prior) to show her handily beating Trump. Nate Silver was mentioned.

The thing is, though Clinton enjoyed bumps in the polls toward the end, in most cases her edge remained within the margin of error. Real Clear Politics, which tracks and averages all the major polls, had her lead at only 3.2% going into election day. This was just slightly better than her polls against Trump had generally been all along (you might remember those weak numbers during the primaries because some people said they indicated she might lose).

The big numbers predicting her win were projections of probability of her winning according to the biases of those making the projections. Silver, for example, gave Clinton a 71.8% chance of winning (and he was actually accused of being too pessimistic). This didn’t mean he expected her to get 71.8% of the vote. In fact, he predicted she would get 48.5% and Trump would get 45%, a margin of only 3.5%, a number which was, you guessed it, within the margin of error.

But the polls pitting the candidates against each other were only part of the story. Just as, and possibly more, important were the candidates’ favorability polls which indicate how liked and trusted each was. This should have been an important consideration because no candidate had ever won the presidency with a net negative favorability with voters.

When she entered the race in April 2015, Hillary Clinton’s favorability/unfavorability rating was 44%/52%. A net negative of -8 points.

When he entered the race in April 2015, Sanders’s favorability/unfavorability was 20%/27%. Lower scores in both, and a net negative of -7 points. But 54% of voters had no opinion because they didn’t know him, compared to 4% for Clinton.

By November, 2015, Clinton’s favorability/unfavorability was 41%/52%. Net negative -11 points.

By November, 2015, Sanders’s favorability/unfavorability was 41%/37%. Net positive +4 points.

By the Democratic National Convention at the end of July 2016, Clinton’s favorability/unfavorability was 42%/56%. Net negative -14 points.

By the Democratic National Convention, Sanders’s favorability/unfavorability was 53%/36%. Net positive +17 points.

By the election, Clinton’s favorability/unfavorability was 43%/56%. Net negative -13 points.

By the election, Sanders’s favorability/unfavorability was 59%/33%. Net positive +26 points.

So what we see is that throughout the entire primary season and the general election, Hillary Clinton’s favorability scores remained roughly static. Nothing she did after November 2015, months before the email leaks or FBI fishiness, boosted her numbers. Likewise, none of the allegedly critical negative events of the election dropped her scores much further. She stayed at her net negative score, with a constant majority seeing her unfavorably, from DAY ONE up to her loss. Voters had pretty much made up their minds about Hillary Clinton before she even started running.

Would Sanders have fared better in the general, as so many of us think? He did, after all, go from a -7 net negative as a relative unknown to +26 net positive. And he managed to close Clinton’s initial sixty point lead to give her a very tense fight through the primaries.

Clinton, meanwhile, not only just got less popular, she, a globally renowned candidate with a huge war-chest of corporate cash and the support of the entire Democratic establishment, squandered a sixty point lead to a little known, grumpy old senator from a small state.

And, of course, Sanders always beat Trump in the polls by double digits, while Trump was the only GOP candidate whom Clinton would usually beat, though always by a narrow margin. Like that 3.5% Nate Silver spun into a 72% probability of victory.

Sanders now has 56% favorability (32% unfavorability; Clinton has 40% favorable, 54% unfavorable). Among Democrats, he has 80%. Among Republicans, he has 31%; that’s right, nearly a third of GOP voters actually like and trust Bernie Sanders. Among Trump voters, 27% favorable. You know, those voters we’re told would never have crossed over to vote for him?

And how does he score with Clinton voters? 86% favorable. That’s twice Clinton’s favorability on election day, while the majority of her voters (54%) said they were voting for her only to vote against Trump.

A lot of people run with that line about how the Republicans would have attacked Bernie in the primary, and maybe his numbers would have fallen to Clintonesque levels as a result. They never seem to grok the fact that Clinton was already down there, and Bernie would have had to fall thirty-one points in the short time after the convention to sink to her level.

I think the numbers tell the tale. I tell you only because I’m sick of seeing Clinton fans slander Sanders and blame her loss on him (one I saw just before starting to put this post together said, “OMG Bernie people, just STFU and think about how you ruined everything!”). All the data indicates that Bernie had a big chance of winning, while Hillary had a slender chance and was so relentlessly unpopular that the slightest puff of ill wind (an ambiguous FBI announcement, evidence of unethical collusion with the DNC, refusal to take a stand on the Dakota pipeline…) might destroy her shot.

The fact is, Hillary Clinton ended her race as she began, the single most unpopular Democratic candidate in history, while Bernie Sanders started as a relatively unknown, impossible long-shot and finished as literally the most popular politician in the United States.

Anyone who thinks that wouldn’t have (probably) made all the difference is in denial.

By The Numbers, Part 1: How Democrats Continue to Lose

By The Numbers, Part 2: Who’s Our Champion Now?

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By The Numbers, Part 1: How Democrats Continue To Lose

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(This is the first of three posts regarding Democratic attitudes and performance, both in the election and at present. I think it’s vital that the party recognize what really went wrong, and where they continue to fail. There will be some overlap in my references to certain data through the three posts.)

Some interesting polling figures from Gallup:

Since the election, national party affiliation for Republicans has gone up slightly, from 27% to 28%.

National party affiliation for Democrats has gone down more significantly, from 31% to 25%. This is a record low in the past seventy-five years.

National party affiliation for Independents has gone up even more significantly, from 36% to 44%.

I suspect that the tiny bump for the GOP is more from the excitement of retaking power from the other party (or, in this case, pretty much nearly obliterating the other party) than it is a referendum on Trump. For comparison, Democrats jumped from 33% to 36% between Obama’s initial election and his inauguration.

But the Democrats have lost FOURTEEN MILLION members since the election. To get a sense of this number, in the Democratic primaries last year just under thirty million votes were cast; the Democratic party has lost nearly half as many voters as participated in its primaries. This is pretty fucking incredible considering how appalled, enraged, and terrified the left has been about Trump’s victory over Clinton. The left may be woke, but it ain’t happy with its presumptive champions, at all.

Meanwhile, establishment Democrats seem largely committed to falling in line behind, rather than challenging, the existing power structure. Nancy Pelosi’s declaration “I don’t think people want a new direction” is their guiding star.

Progressive Democrats, and left-leaning independents, want to seize the energy of the populist wave that formed around Bernie Sanders and reform the party or, failing that, to topple it and replace it with an actual progressive party. In spite of establishment resistance, they are making some progress. For instance, Bernie Sanders is now part of Democratic leadership (a nice gift to all those who keep saying that the DNC was justified in unfairly favored Clinton, in spite of its own regulations and public declarations to the contrary, because Bernie isn’t a Democrat) and is in many very visible ways leading the charge for the party against Trump. And the Democratic party in California was recently taken over by progressives inspired by and endorsed by Sanders, with similar battles being waged across the country.

Whatever side folks fall on, it’s clear that the Democratic party isn’t doing itself any favors with its strategy of general capitulation to Trump with intermittent bits of ineffectual political theater to show how tough they are. If they stood united and uncompromising, even as they inevitably lose the fights because they lack the numbers, they would probably at least slow the emaciation of their party. And if they started making more sincere moves away from corporatism and toward progressivism, they’d likely start regaining some of those lefty independents they’ve lost.

Some other interesting numbers, these from a recent poll by YouGov and The Economist, give us an idea how our leaders are perceived:

BARACK OBAMA
Favorable: 53% Unfavorable: 43% Net: +10%

NANCY PELOSI
Favorable: 25% Unfavorable: 47% Net: -22%
(Yep, the party figured someone with numbers like that should be in charge of the minority in the House. “I don’t think people want a new direction” indeed.)

CHUCK SCHUMER
Favorable: 23% Unfavorable: 29% Net: -6%
(Better than Pelosi, at least. And he’s been making some statements in support of Bernie Sanders and a more progressive direction for the party, but time will tell how sincere he is…)

DONALD TRUMP
Favorable: 42% Unfavorable: 50% Net: -8%
(and his numbers are, of course, falling. Because fascist shitbag.)

PAUL RYAN
Favorable: 33% Unfavorable: 41% Net: -8%

MITCH McCONNELL
Favorable: 20% Unfavorable:42% Net: -22%

BERNIE SANDERS
Favorable: 56% Unfavorable: 32% Net: +24%
(Bernie’s numbers have always been great in his state, and by the end of the primaries he was, and remains, the single most popular politician in the country. His favorability among registered Democrats is 80%. The only other member of our little group who has majority favorability is Obama, and he has both a lower favorable score and an 11% higher unfavorable score than Bernie.)

ELIZABETH WARREN
Favorable: 34% Unfavorable: 34% Net: 0%
(Warren’s numbers will likely spike, at least for a short time, due to her capitalization of Mitch McConnell’s tactically stupid dis of her this week. But as progressive warriors go, she’s still far behind Bernie, likely because of her sitting out the primaries and then boldly endorsing the winner. That wasn’t exactly a profile in courage or principle and it really pissed off a lot of people.)

HILLARY CLINTON
Favorable: 40% Unfavorable: 54% Net: -14%
(This, of course, is largely how Hillary did from the time she entered the race to today. There are lots of things that contributed to her loss, but no one can honestly deny that her historic unpopularity was one of the biggest. She had been “tested,” we were told, but all that ultimately meant was that she was so deeply flawed that she had no business at the top of a national campaign. I mean, c’mon, Trump is a monstrous buffoon crapping all over the world and she’s still less liked than he is.)

So, make of all that what you will. To me, it all points to a Democratic party that does indeed desperately need to go all in both on solid obstructionism (at least symbolically) toward Trump and on the pursuit of truly progressive policies. And they need to look to progressive leaders like Bernie Sanders to lead them back out of the wilderness instead of maintaining a status quo that is just running them deeper and deeper into oblivion.

By The Numbers, Part 2: Who’s Our Champion Now?

By The Numbers, Part 3: Election 2016: How We Really Lost

Inauguration Day 2017: I Am Calm

I am calm.

I did everything in my power to prevent this day from coming. I campaigned (hard) for and donated (a lot) to the candidate who was not just the best choice for our country but who was by far the most popular candidate, the candidate who energized the most voters, the candidate with a demonstrably higher chance to win.

Though the candidate who had, at best, a razor-thin possibility of winning was chosen, and though I was crushed and disillusioned, when the time came, I voted against apocalypse.

So I did all that I could. I am calm. I am at peace. I am also unbowed, unbroken, unafraid.

I will not cry. I will not huddle. I will not hide.

I will fight. I will fight. I will fight.

I will fight on my terms. I am not a part of any party. I am not a part of any herd. I am a one-man guerrilla force against not just the despicable thug now infecting the White House but against all the forces that helped put him there, whichever side they’re on.

I will fight. I will fight. I will fight.

I am calm.

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                                    You want to get out of here? You talk to me.

 

The Power and Importance Of Truth: Why I Criticize “Our” Candidate

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Apparently, I am a victim of decades of Republican propaganda against the Clintons.

The irony is that I worked as a volunteer for Bill Clinton both times, met Bill and Hillary, motorcaded through Georgia with Al Gore and his family and got to know them pretty well, and sat next to Andrea Mitchell at the Vice Presidential debate with Gore vs. Quayle. I’ve been actively involved in every presidential campaign since, always for the Democrat even though I’ve never considered myself a Democrat because I recognized the deep problems the party has.

I also, for all those years, admired and adored the Clintons and defended them from all that Republican bullshit I’m now accused of falling for.

Since 2008, however, I have come to recognize the Clintons — and the Democrats in general — even more for what they are. I’ve seen the long-term impact of Clintonian Third Way politics, the damage they’ve done to the party and to the country, and I’ve seen the craven, arrogant way they use and abuse power. Who else has the gall to walk into polling stations and illegally campaign on voting day, simply because they know their local cronies won’t charge them with the crime?

So when people use the simple-minded defense that I’m sharing Republican lies (I am not) or falling for Republican spin (I am not), they are betraying their own superficial understanding of the facts and their own lack of attention to what I’m actually saying. Or they’re just spinning damage control for their candidate and being disingenuous.

Why do I keep criticizing Hillary Clinton while TRUMP? Because I believe in holding our leaders accountable, and I don’t believe in putting aside that principle for tactical reasons. Donald Trump is a disaster, but Donald Trump is not going to be the next president. So I don’t care what he might do in that office. Hillary Clinton is going to be the next president, so I’m VERY concerned about what she’s going to do.

Staying mum on her faults and falling in line isn’t going to improve her. The same folks who now say not to criticize her because of the election will change their tune once she’s in office and say we shouldn’t look backward or criticize her too harshly and possibly hinder her effectiveness in office. Her questionable record and current actions will be considered old news. That’s why I point out that the Empress has no clothes NOW. And my criticizing her is not going to cause her to lose. If she loses, it will be because she is a historically unpopular candidate.

The Dakota Access Pipeline issue is the perfect example of why I continue to criticize her. Her lack of leadership on the matter is obvious and deplorable. Clearly the ONLY way to get her to take a more positive role in the situation is to publicly chastise her, en masse, for her political cowardice and/or preferential consideration of the corporate interests involved. Silence will allow her to do nothing and to skate past the problem while people suffer and the land is despoiled.

I don’t accept silence as a valid or noble political tool, sorry. If the truth is too harsh, the problem is with the candidate, not the truth.

On The Matter Of My Vote

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I have, as a rule, avoided discussing how I’ll vote because I generally see that as a distraction from much more important things. My vote isn’t going to decide the election, and is itself a less than minuscule factor in the contest.

That said, as anyone who follows my blog already knows, I have a lot of issues with Hillary Clinton that will make casting a vote for her extremely difficult. The DNC collusion (particularly the unethical use of state parties to bypass campaign finance donation limits allegedly to support down-ballot candidates while actually funneling almost all the money to Clinton’s campaign while the DNC was, according to its own bylaws, supposed to be neutral), the swiftboating of Sanders’s civil rights activism, the bullying and rigging that went on right before the cameras in places like Las Vegas, the Clintons illegally (and arrogantly) campaigning in polling stations because they knew their local lackeys wouldn’t prosecute them, ordering poll workers to give the wrong ballots to independent voters in California, the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of voters in multiple states like New York, the utter disrespect shown to Sanders’s duly elected delegates and volunteers at the convention…

Jesus, I could go on and on, and I haven’t even started on her record or policies. The DNC money laundering/collusion, which is a matter of public record and not just conspiracy theory, is all by itself compelling enough reason not to support Clinton or the Democrats at all. A vote for Clinton sends the message that all of that bullshit was exactly the right thing to do because it gets them what they want. It rewards electoral villainy. And I have some strong issues with doing that.

Should Trump lose? Yes. But my hope remains that Clinton wins by a very tight margin so that she knows she’s going into that office on probationary status, not with the mandate to continue doing as she and the DNC have been doing. I want her to know she cannot just take progressives for granted and treat them like shit and expect to win again. Odds are, she’ll have a more formidable challenger next time and she’s gonna need our votes. If a voter doesn’t vote for her, she’s likely still going to win, but that vote doesn’t add to her mandate. If any voter opts to go that way, I completely grok that. Clinton already has the gift of Donald Trump (though even so, she’s oddly weak against him), so perhaps she doesn’t need that one vote, and perhaps the lack of support contributes to her doing more progressive things in office because it makes her afraid of losing next time.

And the risk that Trump wins? Well, as I’ve pointed out, that risk was just fine for Clinton supporters who were “with her” when they put aside the math which showed that maybe running the least popular Democratic nominee in history might be a bad idea. If she can’t even beat Trump of all people because she was already unpopular and her actions in conspiring with the DNC lost her even more support, that’s on her and the DNC and all her supporters, just as much, or more, than it’ll be on folks who don’t choose to vote for her in November.

The entire case for Hillary Clinton tends to boil down to a handful of words: Woman. Trump. Nader. History. Democrat.

The only one of those words that isn’t entirely a plea to emotion or tribalism is “Trump.” And most of the folks who are tearing their hair out and screaming apocalypse when other folks say they might have to risk Trump because of silly things like “ethics” were more than willing to take the risk of Trump when they determinedly followed the DNC into the electoral pit by choosing the candidate with the demonstrably far worse chance of beating Trump. It was fine for them to risk Trump to get their preferred nominee, but now it’s just crazy to risk Trump for other reasons.

Me, I think it was crazier to bring a Clinton to a Sanders fight. And I’m tired of hearing simplistic hyper-emotional rhetoric and canned spin from the very people who put us in this situation.

My point boils down to: whether I vote for her or not, the election will turn out the way it’s going to turn out. She will win, or she won’t, and it will not be based on my vote. Another reason I won’t say how I’m voting is because by doing so I’m implying at least a bit of endorsement I can’t give, but however I vote, it ain’t coming down to me. In fact, a logical case could be made that my individual vote is of such statistical unimportance that demanding I violate my personal integrity for the sake of what is, effectively, a non-effect is absurd. That aside, again, what’s gonna happen is gonna happen, and if she loses, it will be because she was the worst choice for the fight and because she and hers screwed over a huge segment of leftward voters. If one individual chooses not to vote for her, for whatever reasons, their complicity in her loss will be infinitesimally smaller than her own, or than the DNC’s.

I don’t support Clinton, but I hope Trump loses. That’s all the endorsement she’s earned from me.

So We’ve Got THAT Going For Us… (A Bit of Good News For Election 2016)

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In June, polling agencies stopped including Bernie Sanders in their questions. At that time, he led Donald Trump by an average of 10.4%. This was the culmination of a campaign which always led Trump (and, indeed, all of the other GOP contenders), every step of the way, usually by double digits. Sanders, one of the most popular politicians in the country, a man drawing tens of thousands of excited voters to his rallies all over America, was the only candidate on either side with net positive favorability ratings.

Hillary Clinton’s numbers were never remotely as good. She often lost to Republican candidates (even John Kasich usually beat her by 8-12%), and Trump was the only candidate she could almost always beat, though always by a very small margin. And she shared with Trump the worst favorability scores of any candidates in history.

No candidate has ever won the presidency with negative favorability scores. This year that will no longer be the case, as both major candidates are enormously unpopular. Recent polls show that a majority of each of their committed voters say they are voting for their chosen candidate primarily to vote against the other candidate.

The standard spin about Sanders’s better polling results was always that he was “untested,” and if he became the nominee then he would be tested and maybe his numbers would drop. But the spinners never seemed to see that their argument also basically acknowledged that Clinton’s numbers were terrible because she had been tested, and failed, and her numbers were therefore unlikely to get any better if she became the nominee.

We were also told that “polls don’t matter this far out.” Only polls after the convention are accurate, only polls closer to election day prone to reflect pertinent trends.

Hillary Clinton currently leads Donald Trump by a paltry 1%. Both continue to have net negative favorability, with 55% of voters disliking her and 57% disliking him.

We have only 47 days till election day.

As Sanders supporters said for months, only to be met with spin and derision from Clintonites and establishment loyalists (I saw one person say that “clinging” to Bernie’s superior poll numbers was, you guessed it, misogynistic), we’d have been better off going to fight with the nominee who at least started with superlative favorability numbers and far better numbers against all GOP possibilities than the nominee whose numbers started in, and would likely remain in, the toilet.

But at least we can say that the Democratic nominee isn’t quite as hated as Donald Trump, one of the most hated men in the world.

So we’ve got that going for us.

The Pragmatic Truth Behind Bernie Sanders’s Endorsement of Hillary Clinton

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Bernie Sanders has endorsed Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders also endorsed Bill Clinton in 1996, and I think we can read his words then and gain a great deal of insight into his present endorsement:

“In terms of who to support for president, the choice is really not difficult. I am certainly not a big fan of Bill Clinton’s politics. As a strong advocate of a single-payer health care system, I opposed his convoluted health care reform package. I have helped lead the opposition to his trade policies, which represent the interests of corporate America and which are virtually indistinguishable from the views of George Bush and Newt Gingrich. I opposed his bloated military budget, the welfare reform bill that he signed, and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act, which he supported. He has been weak on campaign finance reform and has caved in far too often on the environment. Bill Clinton is a moderate Democrat. I’m a democratic socialist.

“Yet, without enthusiasm, I’ve decided to support Bill Clinton for president. Perhaps ‘support’ is too strong a word. I’m planning no press conferences to push his candidacy, and will do no campaigning for him. I will vote for him, and make that public. Why?
“I think that many people do not perceive how truly dangerous the political situation in this country is today. If Bob Dole were to be elected president and Gingrich and the Republicans were to maintain control of Congress, we would see a legislative agenda unlike any in the modern history of this country. There would be an unparalleled war against working people and the poor, and political decisions would be made that could very well be irreversible.

Medicare and Medicaid would certainly be destroyed, and tens of millions more Americans would lose their health insurance. Steps would be taken to privatize Social Security, and the very existence of public education in America would be threatened. Serious efforts would be made to pass a constitutional amendment to ban abortion, affirmative action would be wiped out, and gay bashing would intensify. A flat tax would be passed, resulting in a massive shift in income from the working class to the rich, and all of our major environmental legislation would be eviscerated.

“The Motor Voter bill would be repealed, and legislation making it harder for people to vote would be passed. Union-busting legislation would become law, the minimum wage would be abolished, and child labor would increase. Adults and kids in America would be competing for $3.00-an-hour jobs.

“You think I’m kidding. You think I’m exaggerating. Well, I’m not. I work in Congress. I listen to these guys every day. They are very serious people. And the folks behind them, the Christian Coalition, the NRA, the Heritage Foundation, and others, are even crazier than they are. My old friend Dick Armey is not some wacko member of Congress laughed at by his colleagues. He is the Majority Leader of the U.S. House of Representatives. Check out his views. No. I do not want Bob Dole to be president. I’m voting for Bill Clinton.
“Do I have confidence that Clinton will stand up for the working people of this country—for children, for the elderly, for the folks who are hurting? No, I do not. But a Clinton victory could give us some time to build a movement, to develop a political infrastructure to protect what needs protecting, and to change the direction of the country.”

That was when the Democratic Party took its rightward turn and disavowed its traditional progressive ways. Bernie knew it at the time, and he spoke out against it, even while acting pragmatically in the face of the Republican threat.

Time is a circle.