Category Archives: Campaign Beat

Did Campaigns Matter in 2016?

Nope.

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (along with their outside groups) spent a staggering $2.65 billion in their quest to win the White House. The two crisscrossed the country in search of votes and with hopes of energizing partisans. Ads became universal; rallies nightly spectacles mirrored across the news stations and social media feeds. But did any of this actually matter? Did the multiple billions of dollars individuals donated and candidate and outside groups spent actually sway voters? Did the tireless thousands of miles travelled bear fruit on election night?

Probably not. Just four variables explain 96 percent of Hillary Clinton’s vote variance across the 50 states and the District of Columbia: A given state’s 2013 partisan voter index (PVI) as determined by the Cook Political Report, the state’s GDP per capita, its percent minority, and the percent of the state’s population with at least a bachelor’s degree. These variables track a state’s electoral history and its demography – the measures themselves stand independent of 2016’s torrent of advertisements and other campaign activities.

Regressing Clinton’s vote share on those variables shows that all are significant at the 90 percent confidence level; PVI, percent minority, and percent with at least a bachelor’s degree are all significant at the 99 percent confidence level (see table 1 for complete regression output).

do campaigns matter
Figure 1: Regressing Hillary Clinton’s 2016 vote share on state GDP per capita, a given state’s PVI, its percent minority, and percent with at least a bachelor’s degree explains 96 percent of her vote share variance. 

Importantly, swing states do not dominate the residuals. In other words, the four aforementioned variables quite accurately explain results in the states bombarded by ads and frequented by the two candidates – had swing states been subject to large errors, it might have implied that ads and candidate visits tinkered at the margins, enough, perhaps, to swing a few percent of voters. Simulating Clinton’s vote share 25,000 times with the above regression formula produces chart 1, which shows that swing state results can be explained largely by underlying forces unaffected by Clinton’s dramatic fundraising and advertising advantage.

do political campaigns matter
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The states with the biggest errors are Hawaii and North Dakota, by no means swing states and whose discrepancies can be easily explained. Hawaii, without its native on the ballot, moved towards its historical Democratic mean; North Dakota, an energy-rich state, swarmed to Trump in numbers greater than the simulation predicted because of Trump’s pro-energy, anti-regulation stance. Clinton also underperformed in New Mexico and Colorado, the former because of former New Mexico Gary Johnson’s presence. Colorado is the only swing state error likely attributable to ad and appearance discrepancy (Clinton went off the air in Colorado quite early in the campaign though Trump continued to purchase ad time).

Including ad spending by each candidate and the number of events held in each state by the presidential and vice presidential candidates yields no additional explanatory value. Using Ad Age data on Clinton and Trump spending from April 2015 up through election day, by state and nationally – an admittedly imperfect dataset because it includes primary ad spending and misses some spending from outside groups, though the patterns it shows still offers considerable explanatory value – and the National Popular Vote’s party event tracker (which begins after the conventions), I included ad spending and candidate events in the regression and met statistical insignificance.

Each Democratic dollar spent in a state increased, ever so slightly, Clinton’s vote share; similarly, each event she or Tim Kaine held increased their expected vote share. Republican ad spending and events had the opposite effect. But these findings are not statistically significant, meaning that we cannot say, with a resounding degree of confidence, that the relationship is causal (though it likely is). Table 2 has the complete regression results with ad spending and candidate visits.

did campaigns matter
Figure 2: Each dollar spent on advertisements and each campaign held in a given state had the expected effect, but the relationship might be due to chance.

After $2.6 billion and 399 events, it cannot be said that a year and a half of activity caused the vote to change. What does this mean going forward into a cycle of renewed Democratic activism and looking ahead to 2020, which promises to be no less ferocious or expensive than 2016? Arguably, Donald Trump’s star power and media dominance – his broadcast and cable omnipresence amounted to billions in free media – likely played a role in disseminating his message and creating or expanding the character he has for years cultivated. Perhaps in a more normal year, ads and events would have causally effected voting outcomes. Or perhaps in times of heightened partisanships formed, increasingly, around segregated demographic groups, ads and events might only influence turnout.

One thing seems clear, though: Going forward, campaign practitioners must rethink the accepted playbook. Ads and events might not drive votes, certainly not to the extent portrayed or imagined. Candidates and candidate committees – not to mention the outside groups with wealthy benefactors – must find ways to Make Campaigns Matter Again through useful and effective spending and a willingness to buck the long-ingrained campaign norm.





campaign finance reform

A Brief Overview of Campaign Finance Reforms

Over the years, there have been many changes to campaign finance laws and policy. The goal of Congress, regulatory agencies, and courts has been to increase contribution and expenditure transparency while reducing potential corruption. From Buckley v. Valeo, to the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, and finally to the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, Congress and the Supreme Court have gone back and forth on how to balance freedom of speech with electoral influence. Unfortunately, the decision in Citizens United v. FEC has damaged the American electoral process as corporations and unions have unwarranted power over elections because they can spend unlimited amounts to promote or tear down a certain candidate and/or idea. By equating money with speech and deeming corporations citizens, the Supreme Court has created an environment where candidates need to court the support of the wealthy rather than that of the people, disempowering the lower and middle classes.

Following the Watergate scandal, Congress sought to weed out corruption and limit the contributions that could be made to political candidates. This was done by passing the Federal Elections Campaign Act, which brought about new disclosure requirements, limited the “amount of money individuals could donate per election cycle” (Oyez), imposed contribution reporting, and created the Federal Election Commission to enforce the new campaign laws. In 1976, the Federal Elections Campaign Act was challenged in the case Buckley v. Valeo, with the prosecution arguing that limits on electoral contributions were a violation of First Amendment freedom of speech. The Court held in a 7-1 decision that limiting direct campaign contributions was constitutional, but money spent to influence elections “is a form of constitutionally protected free speech” (Nelson). Only speech that advocated the election or defeat of a candidate could be regulated; issue advertising (supporting a certain issue rather than a candidate) via soft money could not be regulated, as long as the words “vote for”, “vote against”, “support”, “defeat”, and/or “elect” were not used. The impact of Buckley v. Valeo was a large influx of money around candidates and parties.



After dramatic increases in soft money contributions to national parties because of a number of loopholes from the Buckley v. Valeo decision, Congress passed the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) in 2000, which banned party committees from accepting or using soft money. Local, state, and federal candidates and officeholders were also banned from “soliciting, receiving, receiving, directing, transferring, and spending soft money in connection with any local, state, or federal election” (Cornell Law). Additional restrictions were placed on pre-election advocacy and electioneering communications. One of the most important aspects of the BCRA, the electioneering communications provision “prohibited corporations and unions from using their treasury funds to air broadcast ads referring to clearly identified federal candidates within 60 days of a general elections or 30 days of a primary of a primary or caucus” (Congressional Research Service). These provisions were largely upheld in the case McConnell v. Federal Election Committee. While the BCRA didn’t overhaul campaign finance, it did close many loopholes from Buckley v. Valeo, thus limiting corruption and removing the “corrosive and corrupting effect of special interests” (Wheeler).

Most recently, the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Committee struck down the advocacy clause of the BCRA, invalidated “prohibitions on corporate and union treasury funding of independent expenditures and electioneering communications” (Congressional Research Service), and allowed for unlimited contributions to independent-expenditure-only political action committees (aka Super PACs). As Justice Kennedy wrote in the majority: “if the First Amendment has any force, it prohibits Congress from fining or jailing citizens, or associations of citizens, for simply engaging political speech”. By writing “associations of citizens”, Justice Kennedy paved the way for the labeling of citizens and unions as citizens, the topic of many debates throughout the country. Consequently, corporations and unions are now able to air advertisements calling for the election or defeat of candidates, as long as they don’t use the words “vote for”, “vote against”, “elect”, and/or “support”. Though giving soft money to candidates and parties is still prohibited, Political Action Committees (PACs) can raise unlimited funds from corporations and unions and use those funds to advocate a political issue, all while paying no taxes (IRS). The only restriction on PACs is the provision stating they cannot coordinate with candidates and their campaigns. Overall, Citizens Uniteddrastically changed campaign finance as PACs are now allowed to raise unlimited funds and spend the money around candidates and issues with next to no regulations.




All in all, the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. FEC has damaged the integrity of the American electoral system as citizens lose political power to the well-off. By allowing corporations to make unlimited donations to Super PACs, the Supreme Court allowed the indirect buying of candidates as Super PACs can spend millions of dollars advocating for a certain candidate while tearing down others. Since money equals speech, those with the most amount of money speak the loudest, creating an inherently unequal political environment. In the primaries, candidates need to appeal to the wealthy so they can bankroll a Super PAC, rather than directly appealing to voters. Citizens lose their say in politics as their political donation cannot rival the deep pockets of unions or corporations. Instead of being indebted to the voters, candidates feel indebted to corporations and unions and will thus work to help them over citizens. Unlimited funding and spending by PACs succeeds only in allowing corporations and unions to have an iron-grasp on America’s politics.

Works Cited

“BCRA.” LII. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2012. <http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/bcra&gt;.

“BUCKLEY v. VALEO.” Buckley v. Valeo. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2012. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1975/1975_75_436&gt;.

“Citizens United Decision Profoundly Affects Political Landscape.” – OpenSecrets Blog. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Nov. 2012. <http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2011/05/citizens-united-decision-profoundly-affects-political-landscape.html&gt;.

Nelson, Kevin. The Campaign Process. N.d. Outline.

Service, Congressional Research. The State of Campaign Finance Policy: Recent Developments and Issues for Change. Rep. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

Wheeler, Nancy. “The BCRA and Campaign Financing.” Hartwick University, n.d. Web. 8 Nov. 2012.

Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened”

hillary clinton's what happened
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Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened” Explains Why She Lost

Months after her shocking defeat to Donald Trump, Clinton has released a new memoir detailing how she lost the election.  Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened” offers a raw look into her mind, both as a candidate and after deep reflection of her campaign and its tragic ending.  While there are many reasons that Clinton lost last year — many, if not most, related to the candidate herself, to which she owns up — the blame must also fall on one particular group: Voters.

Blaming voters for an undesired outcome may seem elitist, or simply whiney, but to avoid casting even an inkling of guilt on the actors who knowingly and willingly decided to vote for a charlatan ignorant of American values and laws would itself be an act of the utmost condescension by ignoring the agency inherent in everyone’s decision making.  We’re all responsible for our choices and those choices, especially when they affect hundreds of millions, invite critique.



Ignoring History

The Founding Fathers despised demagoguery and populism, fearing both (though especially the latter) would undermine the Constitutions and the institutions put in place to protect it.  A demagogue would corrupt the rule of law and use his majority for insidious means.

They also envisioned great individuals holding elected office, including the presidency.  Trump’s election represents a dramatic break from the Founders’ vision of the country.  Trump, first and foremast, is a demagogue.

Our Constitution’s structured to separate powers, offer checks and balances, and leave voters only indirectly in charge of government in order to stop demagogues from seizing power (Shays’ rebellion, which prompted the constitutional convention, only heightened fears among the Founders of demagoguery).

hillary clinton what happened
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That’s why America is a republic and not a direct democracy.  John Adams himself wrote “Remember Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes exhausts and murders itself. There never was a Democracy Yet, that did not commit suicide.”  Federalist 1 warns

“On the other hand, it will be equally forgotten that the vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty; that, in the contemplation of a sound and well-informed judgment, their interest can never be separated; and that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidden appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of government. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people; commencing demagogues, and ending tyrants.”

Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened” may not mention the historical ignorance of the electorate, but it’s important that we understand voters deviated from the will of the Founding Fathers.

Encouraging Ignorance

Supporting and voting for Trump only encourages ignorance, both in candidates and the electorate.  Trump knew — and still knows — nothing of policy.  Whenever pressed to explain policies, he failed to do so, often blabbering or simply repeating himself numerous times in a garble of largely incoherent rambling.  But he seemed to revel in his ignorance, not once willing to engage in actual policy discussions and showing little interest to meet with experts.

That shouldn’t come as a surprise from someone who proudly screamed about how he “love[d] the poorly educated” and bragged about “knowing more than the generals” because he watched “the shows.”  His vile antipathy for experts bled over to his voters, with whom he shared and encouraged this hatred.

Needless to say, a poorly informed electorate will not perform well when it goes to the polls.  Ditto one misinformed because it chooses to listen to one man and one man only.  Such actions fundamentally undermine democracy because when a polity entrusts its citizenry with such awesome power, there lies with the citizens a civic duty know what they’re doing and be well-informed on issues settled by elections.

Voting for a man who ran and now governs in ignorance only encourages other political hobbyists to run for office because they realize that knowledge is not a barrier.  Charisma and yearning for self-enrichment suffice.  It tells candidates that voters don’t value thought and policy, instigating a race to the bottom as candidates forego meaningful discussions in order to appeal to grievances and base emotions.

what happened hillary clintonForgiving Bigotry

Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened” naturally touches on Trump’s disturbing bigotry and the willingness of voters to simply overlook what he said or twist his words in such a way that clear bigotry lost its bite.  We mustn’t forget that Trump began his presidential campaign by claiming Mexico sent its “rapists” and “drug-dealers” into the United States out of malice or some dark motive.  These actions continued throughout the campaign, such as his remarks that a Mexican judge couldn’t do his job because of his heritage, which Speaker of the House Paul Ryan labelled the “textbook definition” of racism.

Other minority groups also received Trump’s ire.  Trump frequently ranted against Islam and Muslims, claiming universal Muslim hatred of the United States, threatening to illegally close mosques, and wanting to ban an entire religion from entering the country.  The fool went actually said that “I think Islam hates us. There’s something there that — there’s a tremendous hatred there. There’s a tremendous hatred. We have to get to the bottom of it. There’s an unbelievable hatred of us.”

Of course, Donald Trump also led the birther crusade against President Barack Obama, falsely claiming that the president was not born in America.  These lies stirred the right-wing fever swamps, which embraced and pushed false claims about Obama, and, under Trump’s leadership, surged into a powerful grievance movement.

Voters knew all of this.  They recognized Trump’s inherent racial animus, his animosity for Islam that bordered on paranoid delusions, and the lies he for years pushed, yet cast a ballot for him anyway.  Supporting such clear bigotry should not be overlooked and those that chose to make the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis’ beloved candidate president should be held responsible for enabling and legitimizing grievanced racism.



Read Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened”

Clinton lost for many reasons.  No one reason explains the loss.  Her book rightly analyzes many culprits and ultimately she accepts her primacy in defeat.  Read Hillary Clinton’s “What Happened” to gain and understand her inside perspective.

While a politician cannot blame voters for a reprehensible decisions, I most certainly can, and I will.  Overlooking Trump’s clear historical flaws, his deep-seated ignorance and promotion of stupidity, and his all-too-obvious bigotry to vote for the demagogue deserves criticism.  We should all be held responsible for our actions.  And so, above all else, I blame and repulsed by the voters who opted for Donald J. Trump.

hillary clinton's what happened
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roy moore for senate

Roy Moore for Senate? I Think Not.

Voting Roy Moore for Senate Insults the Rule of Law

Perpetual bigot and shocking ignoramus Roy Moore has again dipped his toes into Alabama politics after again being forced off the state’s supreme court.  Unfortunately for the people of Alabama and those of the nation writ large, the Roy Moore for Senate campaign may be on its way to victory over establishment (and President Trump favored) candidate Luther Strange.  But let’s be clear: Supporting Roy Moore for Senate means ignoring his history of ignoring law and acting as if being a justice somehow means he’s immune from following the laws he interpreted.

In 2000, Roy Moore, then a controversial circuit court justice, made his first bid for the Alabama supreme court.  He ran on an avowedly theological platform, arguing the state needed “God [in] our public life [to] restore the moral foundation of our law.”  As any legal scholar should be able to tell you, the Founding Fathers sought a strict separation of church and state, wholly and purposefully keeping God out of public life to maintain a truly secular Republic with moral foundations premised on the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.  His legal and historical shortcomings also transcended to social ignorance as Moore argued that Christianity’s declining influence “corresponded directly with school violence, homosexuality, and crime.”

Moore, despite his contempt for America’s legal foundation and bizarrely incorrect views of religion and its role in society, somehow won his race and proceeded to legislate from the bench, an affront the judiciary’s role in government and a malady conservatives have long claimed to despise.  In D.H. vs. H.H., Moore wrote that the state should use a parent’s sexual orientation to be a deciding factor in refusing custody.  Such a demand did not have precedent in state law, but when it came to potential rights for homosexual individuals, Moore abandoned conservative legal principles and instead, in this case and others, let his moral beliefs define his rulings, acting without regard to state law when it didn’t align with his religious teachings.

God First, Constitution Second

roy moore for senate ten commandmentsHis allegiance stood only to religion, though a judge should value the law and the Constitution above all else.  Shortly after his election, Moore made plans for a large Ten Commandments monument for the Alabama supreme court building, again pointedly ignoring the secular basis of our law and society.  The 5,280 pound behemoth, once constructed, led Moore to declare “today a cry has gone out across our land for the acknowledgment of that God upon whom this nation and our laws were founded. … May this day mark the restoration of the moral foundation of law to our people and the return to the knowledge of God in our land.”  Rather than idolize the state’s constitution, the federal Constitution, or the laws created by man with no divine influence or interference, Moore spent public dollars to erect a testament to his religion and his beliefs, not necessarily those of his peers, state lawmakers, or the entirety of Alabama.

Unsurprisingly — self-evidently, really — his waste of public funds to install a religious monument on state property prompted a lawsuit claiming that the monument “sends a message to all who enter the State Judicial Building that the government encourages and endorses the practice of religion in general and Judeo-Christianity in particular.”  The case, Glassroth v. Moore, presenting damning evidence about how the monument created an environment in which the government had endorsed a religion (a First Amendment violation).  Lawyers of different religious beliefs notably changed their work practices to avoid the religious atmosphere and public prayer the government sanctioned via the monument.

Fealty to a Higher Power

Moore’s defense used not the Constitution, but some supported higher power to which Moore supposed we must all pledge fealty.  He argued that the monument “serves to remind the Appellate Courts and judges of the Circuit and District Court of this State and members of the bar who appear before them, as well as the people of Alabama who visit the Alabama Judicial Building…that in order to establish justice we must invoke ‘the favor and guidance of almighty God.'”  For, Moore claimed, the Ten Commanders are the “moral foundation” of our law and that the monument marked “the beginning of the restoration of the moral foundation of law to our people” by “recogniz[ing] the sovereignty of God
and “acknowledging God’s overruling power over the affairs of men.”  

roy moore removed from office

Of course, the Constitution does not claim divine guidance.  It does not say that only through the grace of a higher being did the document originate.  Our Constitution — the supreme law of the land — came not from a higher power but from the hearts, souls, and brains of the men present at the constitutional convention.  The Constitution is of man and for man, with no loyalty or subservience to a supposed higher power.  We are the sovereigns.

Removal from Office

US District Court Judge Myron Thompson declared the monument violated the Establishment Clause and the First Amendment, making it unconstitutional.  Thompson found that Moore “installed a two-and-a-half ton monument in the most prominent place in a government building, managed with dollars from all state taxpayers, with the specific purpose and effect of establishing a permanent recognition of the ‘sovereignty of God,’ the Judeo-Christian God, over all citizens in this country, regardless of each taxpaying citizen’s individual personal beliefs or lack thereof. To this, the Establishment Clause says no.”  He thus ordered Moore to remove the statue from public grounds (a circuit court agreed with Thompson’s findings).

roy moore for senate 2017Moore ignored the ruling, saying he would not remove the statue even though doing so would cost the citizens of Alabama $5,000 a day (the other state supreme court justices overruled Moore’s decision and moved the statue to a private location).  Refusing to obey the court order from a US judge clearly shows Moore’s contempt for the rule of law.  Because the monument so closely aligned with Moore’s religious beliefs and because the First Amendment prevented him from thrusting his beliefs on Alabama taxpayers, Moore decided that ultimate fealty should be paid to his deity, not to the Constitution he swore to uphold.  Furthermore, Moore revealed that if his personal beliefs told him a superior judge’s ruling fell short, Moore could simply ignore the orders and act as if the law did not apply to him.  He acted lawlessly and with clear disdain for court orders, our judicial system, and the US Constitution.

These actions prompted ethical complaints that culminated in Moore’s forced removal from office as his actions “undercut the entire workings of the judicial system…. What message does that send to the public, to other litigants? The message it sends is: If you don’t like a court order, you don’t have to follow it.”  (He appealed the decision up the state supreme court, but his former peers ruled against him.)

State Supreme Court Justice, Part Two

A decade after his removal, Moore decided to again run for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court and, despite his earlier removal for lawless actions and clear contempt for the law when it means curtails his efforts to imperialize his beliefs, Alabamans once again elected him to the post.

roy moore for senate

Moore quickly showed that nothing had changed.  He had learned nothing from his first removal from office.  He hadn’t learned about American history or realized that in American law, we follow the Constitution, not an individual judge’s religion.

Roy Moore: Tyrant of the Bench

After a federal court legalized same-sex marriage across a handful of states, Moore refused to enforce the ruling despite falling below the federal court in the judicial hierarchy and illegally demanded state officials and judges to do the same.  A year later, Moore continued his dereliction of duty by ordering Alabama court judges to ignore the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges (which legalized same-sex marriage across the country)

The Alabama state supreme court could not overrule the federal court, let alone the US Supreme Court.  Doing so ever so clearly violates the supremacy clause of the Constitution: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”  McCulloch v. Maryland further solidified the supremacy clause and underpins the entire American judicial setup.

A rogue justice cannot stand in the way of court orders regardless of his religious convictions.  Doing so ignores and violates the Constitution and describes a tyrant of the bench.

Second Exit from Office

Later that year, the Alabama Judicial Inquiry Commission submitted a list of six charges of ethical violations by Moore to the Alabama Court of the Judiciary.  With Moore suspended, the case proceeded and culminated in recommended removal from office for:

  1. Violation of the Alabama Canon of Judicial Ethics, for disregarding a federal injunction.
  2. Violation of the Alabama Canon of Judicial Ethics, for demonstrated unwillingness to follow clear law.
  3. Violation of the Alabama Canon of Judicial Ethics, for abuse of administrative authority.
  4. Violation of the Alabama Canon of Judicial Ethics, for substituting his judgement for the judgement of the entire Alabama Supreme Court, including failure to abstain from public comment about a pending proceeding in his own court.
  5. Violation of the Alabama Canon of Judicial Ethics, for interference with legal process and remedies in the United States District Court and/or Alabama Supreme Court related to proceedings in which Alabama probate judges were involved.
  6. Violation of the Alabama Canon of Judicial Ethics, for failure to recuse himself from pending proceedings in the Alabama Supreme Court after making public comment and placing his impartiality into question.

Various appeals again provided Moore not hope.  The Alabama supreme court again upheld his term suspension.  Rather than face a second forced removal from office, Roy Moore resigned from his position to run for Senate.

Roy Moore for Senate

Now, Moore easily won first place in the GOP Senate primary’s first round and has a strong chance to win the runoff and likely become Alabama’s next senator.  Somehow, a number of Alabamans think it’s a good idea to vote Roy Moore for Senate despite his decidedly un-American attitudes.  This is a disgrace to the state, the nation, and the rule of law.

Vote Roy Moore for Senate to elect a man whose experiences show such incredible contempt for the law and the Constitution.  Moore, or an individual like him, shouldn’t ever be taken seriously or supported by a single soul.  The Roy Moore for Senate campaign is not one based on American values.  It’s based on Roy Moore’s values.

Moore doesn’t care about the Constitution.  He doesn’t respect the rule of law.  His one loyalty is to religion and, like the colonizers of old, Moore has an imperial attitude wherein his religious theories and beliefs must, at all costs, be thrust upon citizens either through judicial activism or, should the Roy Moore for Senate campaign be successful, intrusively moralistic laws that clearly do not align or follow the Constitution, as Moore should have learned in his two short stints as a justice.

Don’t support Roy Moore for Senate.  Stand for the Constitution and our laws, not the religious delusions of a man inclined towards enforced religious tyranny.







bernie sanders frontrunner

Is Bernie Sanders the 2020 Democratic Front-Runner? Not Yet.

Elizabeth Warren’s presence means there is no early front-runner.

Vox’s highly talented Matt Yglesias wrote a provocative and persuasive piece explaining why he believes Bernie Sanders stands as the Democrats’ 2020 front-runner.  To be sure, Sanders has a lot going for him: The 2016 runner-up has established a national brand with high name ID, rabid supporters willing to donate and volunteer, and a continued foot in the political circuit as he tours the country holding rallies for like-minded politicians and in hopes of advancing his primary legislative goal, universal healthcare.

However, Sanders also suffers from lasting animosity churned up during the 2016 campaign.  A number of Clinton supporters blame Sanders, at least in part, for Donald Trump’s upset victory.  They chastise him for not leaving the primary in the early spring months and not working hard enough to prevent his supporters from either staying at home or casting a third-party ballot on election day.  These critics hold some truth — Sanders should have eased himself from the national stage following Super Tuesday — but other points miss the mark.  Regardless, tensions exist.

But on top of lasting 2016 anger, old-age (he’ll be 78 come 2020), and policy ideas still to the left of many Democrats, Sanders is not the 2020 front-runner for one simple reason: Elizabeth Warren.

Warren running would complicate matters for Sanders

Naturally, we don’t yet know whether Warren will run, but her actions show someone interested in running for president.  She’s become a constant thorn in Trump’s side and has released a book and traveled the country promoting it.  Her standing among Democrats remains quite favorable.  From Warren’s actions stems “nevertheless, she persisted,” a ready-made slogan for Warren allies to promote a nascent candidacy.



Warren endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016, but largely remained aloof of the primary.  As such, she earned no hatred or ill-feelings from members of the competing camps.  That would work to Warren’s benefit if Democratic primary voters hope to put 2016 behind them.

Building on that point, Warren could be seen as a compromise candidate.  Warren’s considered more moderate than Bernie Sanders, though her congressional voting record actually places her to the left of the proclaimed democratic socialist.  She appeals to the fervent Sanders supporters; more moderate Democrats would likely prefer her to Sanders and be willing to accept her as an alternate to more establishment Democrats such as Cory Booker or Kirsten Gillibrand.

If Warren runs, she would fracture the Sanders coalition while also putting pressure on moderates.  Her lane would be that of compromise: Peal voters from the middle and wings.  By nature, that would preclude any one candidate from becoming a front-runner as the ideological lanes would become blurred as the moderate, left, and compromise candidates draw similar numbers.  Sanders would be especially hurt as the party’s left-wing does not yet claim a majority of primary voters — unity would be essential to mount a victorious campaign.

Without Warren, Sanders would be the front-runner

Should Warren choose not to run, Sanders would indeed be the front-runner.  His lane would be clear from notable challengers.  The logic also works the other way — if Sanders decide to forego another run, Warren would assume front-runner status, largely by virtue of name ID (Biden would pose another challenge, but his centrism would likely alienate too many voters despite his endearment to the party).



It should be no surprise that two years before the 2020 campaign enters its first leg we have no front-runner.  Nor will we have one until early 2019 when Warren, Sanders, and others decide whether to jump into the race.  Until then, jockeying will continue as party leaders try to establish their brand and win the invisible the primary.

2017 elections

The 2017 Elections Bode Well for Democrats

Democrats made large gains in the 2017 elections

The 2017 elections have seen a large swing to Democrats vis a vis their results just one year ago.  Special House of Representatives elections held in ruby-red, long uncompetitive districts have seen Democrats come tantalizingly close to major upsets.  While Democratic wins remain elusive, victories only tell half the story: The near-20 point swing towards Democrats in the 2017 elections indicate that 2018 may very well be a landslide year.

Chart 1 shows that the Republican margin in each district fell, on average, by 17.7 points.  Democrats dramatically improved upon their 2016 House showing, due in part to an energized base, an unpopular Republican president, and a national swing to Democrats, as evidence by congressional generic ballot polls.

2017 elections
Chart 1: Though Republicans won, the 2017 elections show a definitive trend away from Republicans.

Kansas 04

Donald Trump clobbered Hillary Clinton by 27 points (60-33) in the 84 percent white district.  Since 2002, the closest congressional race saw the Republican candidate win by 22 points.  Clearly, Democrats are traditionally not competitive in this R+15 state.



Yet Democratic candidate James Thompson lost to Ron Estes, then the Kansas State Treasurer, by only 6.8 points, a dramatic turnaround from both the 2016 presidential and congressional results.  Overcoming a 15 point structural disadvantage would be incredibly difficult — clawing back some 9 points and forcing high-profile Republicans to make campaign appearances deep in the GOP’s heartland shows that Donald Trump’s historically low approval among the American people can make competitive safe seats.

Montana At-Large

Montana has a weird dynamic: It happily elects Democrats as senators and governors, but opts for Republicans at the congressional and presidential level.  Since the state has one district, the constituencies are the same at each level.  In 2016, it elected a Democratic governor while overwhelmingly voting for Donald Trump and then Representative Ryan Zinke.

Thus, when Greg Gianforte, who lost the gubernatorial race in 2016 decided to try again in the 2017 elections, he stood as the overwhelming favorite.  His opponent, Rob Quist, had no political experience and was not a particularly gifted candidate.  But the race soon tightened, prompting Donald Trump Jr to venture to the state in hopes of propping up the millionaire Republican.

On Election Day eve, the race took an unexpected twist when Gianforte assaulted reporter Ben Jacobs.  This act of violence threatened to tilt and already close contest to the Democrat, but Gianforte survived due in large part to the early vote: Around 2/3 of Montanans had voted before the incident.  A poll taken on Election Day showed movement towards Quist, but not enough to overcome the already-cast ballots.



Still, the race showed Democratic competitiveness well away from diverse urban centers, which, along with the KS-04 results, portends a diverse House battleground in next year’s midterms.

South Carolina 05

The race to replace for House Freedom Caucus member Mick Mulvaney flew under the national radar.  Mulvaney won the district by 21 points in both 2014 and 2016; Trump underperformed Mulvaney but still won by 18 points, better than his numbers from South Carolina as a whole.

Yet Democratic challenger and political novice Archie Parnell nearly pulled a dramatic upset, falling just shy of defeating state representative Ralph Norman.  Parnell benefitted from the race remaining local, allowing the candidates to compete without millions from outside groups being spent or with visits from high-profile officials.  The non-nationalized race shows an energized Democratic base and a Republican base in need of massive investments in time and money to be driven to the polls.

Georgia 06

The most expensive House race in history drew extraordinary national attention and saw a campaign season last longer than many countries’ national elections.  Democrats pinned their hopes on former congressional aide and documentarian Jon Ossoff whereas Republicans opted for Secretary of State and former gubernatorial and senatorial candidate Karen Handel, a well-known politician.

For once, high turnout hurt Democrats.  Ossoff failed to improve on his Round 1 results because turnout in the R+8 district that in 2012 voted for Mitt Romney by 23 points.  He did, however, dramatically improve upon his 2016 Democratic predecessor, meaning he attracted some Republican support to pull 48% of the vote.



When a heavily Republican district experiences general election level turnout for a special election, Democrats suffer.  The other 2017 elections show that Democrats are energized to vote — lower turnout in GA-06 likely would have meant Republicans staying home.  Instead, Republicans spent tens of millions of dollar and sent Trump administration officials to the district to spur turnout.  And given there are more Republicans than Democrats in GA-06, it follows that more voters would mean more Republicans voting for Handel.

What do the 2017 elections mean for 2018?

The 2017 elections may leave some Democrats discouraged, but they needn’t be.  Across the board swings towards the party coupled with high base turnout and lagging Republican turnout indicates that 2018 will be a swing year.  If the 2017 elections Democratic swing is applied to all districts, Democrats will walk away from the midterms with a hefty majority.

Of course, such a pronounced swing is unlikely to happen.  But the results largely echo the aforementioned generic congressional ballot polls.  Taken together, Democrats — as of this writing — may well see a 6-10 point swing across all House districts.  That would be enough to make them the majority party.  Furthermore, the competitiveness of the 2017 elections in a diverse swarth of districts shows that Democrats will have many battlegrounds in their quest for 2018.

Conclusion

Don’t be discouraged by losses.  Recognize the political environment and the pronounced swings to the Democratic Party.  Be encouraged for the midterms.  Keep organizing, mobilizing, and persuading.  These results point to a great election ahead.

georgia's sixth district

Georgia’s Sixth Special Election Prediction

Ossoff the Slight Favorite in Georgia’s Sixth

My model projects that Jon Ossoff will receive 50.14% of the vote on Tuesday’s special election, which, when factoring the model’s margin of error, translates to a 51.00% chance of victory.

The model relies on a few variables — Donald Trump’s low approval rating, generic congressional polling the currently favors Democrats, Georgia sixth’s partisan voter index (PVI) as calculated by the Cook Political Report, and 2016 district presidential election results.

georgia 6 2016

This aligns with recent polling that has Ossoff a couple of points ahead of Republican challenger Karen Handel and with analyst consensus that Ossoff heads into the election as the favorite.

Ossoff has raised more than $23 million in his attempts to win the seat vacated by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price who, in 2016, won the district by 23 percentage points and once held by Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.georgia 6 education

Georgia’s sixth congressional district is the most-educated district to be represented by a Republican; it has transitioned from a Republican safe seat to the most obvious example of evolving political coalitions: As the educated become increasingly Democratic, suburban districts throughout the country now offer Democrats a narrow pass to the House majority.

georgia 6 race

An Ossoff victory in Georgia’s sixth would be a further example of a national shift towards Democrats that could lead to a strong midterm showing in 2018 unless President Donald Trump improves his presidential approval rating.  It might also scare Republicans from similar districts long unworried about reelection races (other vulnerable Republicans may be encouraged to retire if Ossoff wins).  At its extreme, an Ossoff win might push Republicans into taking a harder stance on Trump and the man scandals surrounding his presidency.

Of course, that the race is competitive and has become the most expensive House race in history points to new national battlegrounds and Trump-caused problems for Republicans.  A victory or narrow Ossoff loss doesn’t change that; a victory would, however, drive media coverage and hand Democrats a much-desired win for their resistance movement.

An Electoral College Proposal

An Electoral College Proposal

The Electoral College gives undue weight to small states – the method of apportioning Electors, senators plus House members, results in state Electoral vote shares unequal to their population percentage share.  For instance, California is 12% of the nation but only 10% of the Electoral College; the relationship is flipped for small states as their Electoral College vote share exceeds the percent of the country that lives within their boundaries.

Furthermore, and more importantly, the winner-take-all (WTA) Electoral Vote allocation leads to outcome quite far removed from popular vote realities.  Take 2000: A margin of a few hundred votes (out of nearly 5,000,000 cast) resulted in George W. Bush receiving 25 Electoral Votes and Al Gore zero.  The WTA systems prevents elections from being thrown to the House of Representatives – a noble goal – but in doing so, fails to reflect vote choices by denying Electoral College representation to large factions.

Proportional representation within each state would ensure that Electoral outcomes reflect state wishes.  Federalism would still thrive because the election is not determined by the national popular vote.  Large states would not bully small states as margins would not be 55-0 as they are now in California.  Candidates would campaign across the country to drive out turnout even in states they will lose in order to boost Electors at the margins.  This would create a truly national campaign where no people are forgotten.



Here is my proposal: 1,000 Electors divided between the states in accordance to their population percentage, found by simply multiplying a given state’s population share by 1,000 and rounding to the nearest whole number.  Each state’s Electors are then proportionally allocated to all candidates receiving at least 15 percent of the vote in the state (thus preventing extremist parties from denying a candidate an overall majority, plunging the election into the House of Representatives).  Electoral votes would be divided based on vote share of viable candidates – in other words, should two third parties receive 5 percent of the vote each, viable candidates would earn Electoral Votes based on their share of 90 percent of the vote (100 percent lessed nonviable votes).  Rounding would be to the nearest whole number and vote distribution would match, as closely as possible, a 1:1 ratio.  In the case that conventional rounding results in a distribution greater than the number of Electoral Votes a given state has (ie, candidate A would have 12.8 Electors and candidate B 6.9), rounding up priority will be given to the state victor with the lowest-placing viable candidate rounding down.  Similarly, if the sum of the rounded numbers is lower than the state’s Electoral Votes, then the state’s victor gets the Elector.

Under this plan, the Electoral College distribution would look like this:

electoral college



And the 2016 results like this:

electoral college 2016

Such a setup would create truly national elections with candidates traveling the country to persuade and mobilize voters in all states in order to win Electors at the margin.  Federalism would remain intact while still ensuring that results match the national popular vote.  Close state results would reward both candidate rather than unnecessarily punishing a candidate who loses by hundreds or thousands out of millions.  It creates a fair system where, for the most important election in the country, “one person, one vote” defines the voting system.

vichy republicans

Vichy Republicans

Republican elected officials claim to be leaders.  They claim to believe in American values and principles.  They claim to believe in the betterment of our beloved country.  They claim, above all, to support and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.

So, when an authoritarian-minded, conning fraudster, demagogic charlatan whose cult of personality and policy beliefs (insofar as he actually holds coherent policies) define him as a proto-fascist, rose to power, what did these alleged leaders do?

The people charged with protecting and promoting our collective interests cowered in fear, unable to muster the courage needed to confront the short-fingered vulgarian.  Republican officials allowed, condoned, encouraged, and empowered the very figure our Founding Fathers warned could create a constitutional crisis or otherwise destroy our Republic.  The Republic for which the GOP leaders claim to stand.

Trump’s Reich – from his blatantly anti-Semitic language that has motivated and mainstreamed neo-Nazis to his belligerent rhetoric towards Muslims – has turned once respectable elected officials into Vichy Republicans acting as puppets controlled by the strongman.  They may claim independence from the Fuhrer and argue they will effectively control his agenda, but what in their utter and complete acquiescence to his rise makes us believe their statements of legislative control?



These pawns of the Fuhrer had their opportunity to take on their party’s cancer before he became its central node.  But instead they watched in denial, claiming repeatedly that he simply could not and would not win.  Except they did nothing to ensure their prophecy came true.  The Vichy Republicans let their organization get overrun by a man with values antithetical to the Constitution.  They let what could have been the mischief of a small faction become a major force in American politics who know-nothing nativist mischief will continue to hound our politics and nation for years to come.

Vichy Republicans overlooked the labelling of an entire subset of people as rapists.  They issued hollow statements when the Fuhrer announced that his administration would ban all Muslims from entering the country.  And while the condemned the Cheeto Jesus’ assertion that a judge’s ethnicity meant he could not do his job, the Vichy Republicans still vowed to support, vote for, and campaign with the nominee.  Actions have always spoken louder than words and these Vichy Republicans made clear that while our Founders decried the electoral appeal of demagogues, defying one and risking electoral backlash simply would not be a high priority.



And so these Vichy Republicans have abandoned the principles of their party and the values of our country.  They succumbed in terror to an existential threat to the Republic.  They have no ideology except that of self-preservation.  They are puppets of an ignoramus Fuhrer.

Fascism doesn’t come to America solely from a family aspiring towards a First Reich.  It comes through the sheer cowardice of anointed leaders; it comes from their utter and total willingness to accept a man whose ideas they have labelled as un-American and unconstitutional.  It comes from leaders who put preservation over betterment of the country.  Vichy Republicans are but enablers, not men and women of principle and respectability.

Does Lawmaker Ideology Influence Trump Defection?

Over the weekend, a number of GOP lawmakers un-endorsed Donald Trump, with some going as far as calling on him to drop out of the race.  What role did ideology play in the decision-making?  Below is a chart that maps out the ideology (in the from of DW-NOMINATE scores) for the entire 114th House GOP caucus and whether the MC supports Trump (a value of 1 indicates support for the nominee while 0 means the lawmaker does not support the top-of-the-ticket).  Data regarding support is found from this spreadsheet, compiled by @Taniel.Screen Shot 2016-10-12 at 11.32.07 AM

Moderates abandoned Trump in greater numbers than conservatives, though a few strong conservatives also walked away from the nominee.  Another consideration comes into play — district competitiveness.  Lawmakers hailing from competitive districts (who tend to be moderate) might risk electoral defeat at the hands of appalled independent voters if they continued to support Trump; those from solid-GOP districts, on the other hand, might risk alienating Trump voter and thus inviting a future primary challenge or, at worst, encouraging voters to skip down-ballot races, perhaps imperiling a reelection bid.

The below chart compares lawmaker ideology to the Cook Political Report’s district Partisan Voter Index — the evident trend of increased moderation as a district becomes more competitive (a PVI close to 0) is a well-documented phenomenon.   Interestingly, a few lawmakers from safe districts have decided to un-endorse Trump.  However, by and large, condemning and refusing to support Trump seems to be but a calculated political move dependent upon reelection, not party health or policy principles. Screen Shot 2016-10-12 at 11.47.44 AM