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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.


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.

democratic socialism

Democratic Socialism: A Disastrous Ideology

Democratic Socialism must be avoided

What is Democratic Socialism?

Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly resonant campaign introduced a new phrase into our political lexicon: Democratic Socialism.  The phrase seeks to rhetorically touch up “socialism,” an ideology rightly associated with death, despair, and disaster.  Democratic socialism, however, is a catastrophe wrapped in a seemingly innocent movement.  Tt should be avoided and shunned at all costs.

Democratic socialism strives to combine the forces of democracy with social ownership of enterprise — in other words, it hopes to establish a socialist system.  Preceding “socialism” with “democratic” doesn’t modify socialism.  Socialism’s goal is itself democratic in theory: Centralized ownership benefits the masses rather than those with capital (capitalists).  The phrase “democratic socialism” solely seeks to distinguish this vision from the Soviet Union’s Marxist-Leninism, not modify socialist goals.

Similarly, “social ownership of enterprise” amounts to no less than the nationalization of industry and the centralization of production.  Only by the government owning the means of production could enterprise ever achieve social — ie, democratic; ie, lay — ownership.

So democratic socialism offer socialism, but by a better name.

And socialism, of course, does not work, for it quickly descends into despotism while destroying economies.

bernie sanders democratic socialism

Descent to Tyranny

History proves that statement: All socialist experiments led to autocratic, repressive states that deprived their citizens of natural rights. Democracy itself tends towards self-destruction through demagogues who subvert constitutions and strive for self-serving authoritarianism.  Democratic socialism would remove the republican safeguards that prevent demagogic takeover while increasing the riches of office — subvert the constitution, establish unilateral government control, and enjoy the spoils of all nationalized industries.

In other words, the leader, or leading party, has every reason to bend the economy to their desires.  Tyranny of the minority ensues, with the beneficiaries of the centralized system fighting the majority of the population, necessarily involving coercive forces and a seizure of rights (and wholly destroying the democratic socialist vision).

Destruction of the Economy

Even in the idealized world in which the government remains true to democratic virtue and does not succumb to natural human desires to enrich oneself, socialism — and so democratic socialism — falls short of all stated goals.  It destroys the economy by ignoring human nature.

All socialist societies dream of eventual classlessness (which, combined with the abolition of private property, amounts to communism) with the centralized means of production that supposedly serves the (democratic) masses.  It ignores market forces in place of government-decided prices and output (it is impossible for the government to determine optimal quality and price; in attempting to do so, it will be surely be swayed by some minority — a further imposition of minority tyranny as a select few decide the availability of goods for general purchase).

Without incentives and with central planning, the economy quickly stagnates.  Human nature requires incentives to spur productivity and innovation.  Without the ability to reap rewards for hard work — with the government guaranteeing an outcome — worker productivity and the standard the living decline precipitously.  Output then declines, which either forces prices to rise (as they would in a market) or the government subsidizes consumers and producers to maintain a certain price level, straining government coffers and causing debt to spiral, or a government-enforced price (without supplying subsidies) quickly leads to scarcity when production halts as its cost quickly outstep income.  Either way, the economy tumbles and the standard of living plummets.

democratic socialism
The revolution thrust Cuba into abject poverty.


Democratic socialism is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  The phrase itself does not modify its fundamental belief in a socialized economy.  Socialism always seeks to be democratic, but because of human nature — because of demagogues and the ease with which a corrupted socialist state can be used to enrich oneself — always descends to tyranny.

The economy similarly suffers.  Central planning ignores incentives, and thus human nature.  Historically and theoretically, socialism leads to dramatic declines in the standard of living.  Only pain and suffering increases.

And so democratic socialism must be avoided.  Democratic socialists must be spurned.  Those seeking to overhaul the economic system into one that has never once worked must never gain power.

How Progressives for Prosperity Hopes to Revolutionize Campaigns

Leading the Push into Digital Campaigning

Traditional campaigns and outside organizations pour millions into television ads, flooding airwaves with positive and negative ads that the highest paid consultants claim sway and mobilize voters.  But campaign and political science research casts doubt on the ability for such ads to actually have a lasting effect on the electorate: Ads rarely have more than a week-long effect – sometimes, depending on campaign intensity, not even that.  Furthermore, such ads are not highly tailored.  Though campaigns claim that big data’s advent allows them to micro-target, the sheer number of individuals watching (or not watching, be it as it may) a given show at a given time renders these ads too broad in scope and with too low a return on investment.  That’s why some organizations are moving away from this traditional campaign method.

Progressives for Prosperity is one such organization.  Founded in 2012, the group has experienced a recent rebirth.  According to its data releases, the group reached more than 10 million voters in the 11 months before election day, all while spending less than $50 on paid media.  Since the election, when it’s doubled down on digital investment and technological development, that number has almost tripled.  The super PAC primarily uses Twitter to reach voters – Twitter, so their president claims, has an “active community of dedicated and passionate individuals who want to make a difference.  By providing a centralized hub for persuasion and mobilization, we can inspire widespread action and political engagement.”

The organization has no large donors.  Its funds, altogether insignificant, come directly from the grassroots.  So far, no donor has given more than $200, a point of pride for the organization as it remains one of the few super PACs that doesn’t “kowtow to the desires of its financial benefactor.”  Donated money, according to Federal Election Commission filings, goes to Twitter ads, though the organization hopes to move into Facebook soon.  Why?  Because doing so “allows us to become part of the voters’ digital lives.  Facebook and Twitter have dedicated user-bases and, through the platforms’ tools, we can micro-target voters based on any number of desired demographics.”

They have a point – Twitter and Facebook have hundreds of millions of users that use the social media sites every day.  And many are activists looking to become further involved in political activity.  Progressives for Prosperity hopes to reach more and more of those voters through its technological developments.  Coders at the group have developed tools to identify, log, and match with other available data – such as vote history and the demographics of their place of residence – with social media users, creating what they hope will be a robust data list that can then be used for persuasion and mobilization.

What’s next for the group?  They’re targeting Georgia’s upcoming special election as its first means of testing its methods and harnessing backlash to President Donald Trump.  It’s finalizing its list of district voters, readying for campaign mobilization that it hopes to “open-source” to other social media users living outside the district but hoping to make competitive a House seat in whose district Hillary Clinton lost by only one percentage point.  Whether they will be successful remains to be determined, but they have high hopes.  “We plan to reach tens of thousands of voters in the run up to the election with both persuasion and mobilization messages.  We also hope to determine a method for gauging our electoral efficacy so we can make amends and changes as we head into the 2017 gubernatorial elections.”

Even if the organization fails to flip the seat, its conclusions from the election will be quite interesting and will hopefully shed light into how campaigns and other organizations can better harness the online world to sway voters and drive them to the polls.  It’s a new world and Progressives for Prosperity hopes to lead the charge into it.

Donald Trump: The Most Ignorant Man in the World

The Most Ignorant Man in the World

 Donald Trump’s entire campaign has been premised on truthiness – things that sound or feel right even though reality does not support such a belief.  He spews accusations and statements that may feel true to some people (or at least seem close to true), but which, when facts are accepted, live quite far from rationality.  His intrinsic narcissism leads Trump to believe himself over the judgment of experts.  Unfortunately, he spouts nonsense with such confidence and swagger that Trump has manufactured a cult following where people only believe him and allied sources.  This creates a dangerous situation and contributes to the buffoonery that surrounds his campaign.

For these reasons (and many others), Trump is running perhaps the most ignorant campaign ever and he’s managing to spread his disregard for facts to a large portion of the electorate.  Mass ignorance is never desired in a democracy but that seems to be the only way Trump can waltz his way to a victory.  Here are just some of the highlights of Trump’s deep-seated ignorance.[1]

“I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me.” (Source.)

Trump’s ability to constantly insult our military, be it by insulting war heroes, attacking a Gold Star family, accusing those with PTSD of being weak, claiming that the attack on ISIS-stronghold Mosul is a political stunt, and doubting the intelligence of military leaders, should be immediately disqualifying.  It’s preposterous that Trump assumes he knows more about ISIS than do generals.  Keep in mind that Trump’s plans for defeating ISIS range from “bombing the sh*t out of them” (apparently without realizing that 1) we are already doing that and 2) ISIS embeds itself with civilians, so an all-out bombing campaign that Trump seems to favor would lead to hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths) to plundering Iraq’s natural resources a la 19th century colonialism.  Oh, and Trump has stated that he gets his military information from watching “the shows.”  A man watching talking heads on television thinks he knows more about a complex terrorist organization than the generals?  Really, Donald?

With regards to the DNC hacks: “I don’t think anybody knows it was Russia.”

That’s true if and only if you ignore the US government, which “has formally accused Russia of hacking the Democratic party’s computer networks” in an attempt to “’interfere’ with the US presidential election.”  Trump again is narcissistic enough to believe he alone knows more about “the cyber” than US intelligence agencies tasked with investigating the hacks.  The scary part is that people believe him rather than the experts.

“I was endorsed by ICE.” (Link.)

It seems as if Trump doesn’t know that ICE is Immigration and Customs enforcement and thus cannot endorse a candidate.

“Why didn’t you change it when you were a senator?” (From the second debate.)

Donald, I think you need to go back to 8th grade and learn how bills become laws.  For a bill to pass in the Senate, it needs 51 votes unless it’s filibustered, in which case it needs 60 to invoke cloture.  But that’s only one chamber!  The same bill also needs to garner a majority, or 217 votes, in the House of Representatives.  From there, the president either signs or vetoes the legislation.  If he vetoes the bill, then 2/3 of Congress must vote to override the veto.  That’s 67 votes in the Senate and 290 in the House.  Our hyper-polarized environment means many contentious bills, such as closing tax loopholes (to which Trump referred with his statement) pass or die along party-line votes.  The Republicans controlled the Senate from 2003-2007; during the years it did not hold the majority, it could successfully filibuster any bill.  Similarly, Republicans held the House from 2001-2007.  Bush held veto power for the entirety of Clinton’s Senate tenure.  In other words, based on a little thing called the Constitution as well as partisan composition, Democrats (let alone the junior senator from the State of New York) had no ability to close tax loopholes.  The above statement demonstrates the Trump clearly does not understand the legislative process and is so ignorant that he doesn’t know a thing about recent political history.

“Why can’t we use nuclear weapons?” (More.)

Because a primitive atomic bomb instantly killed 80,000 people when dropped on Hiroshima (the ultimate death toll reached 192,000).  Today, a single bomb dropped in a major city (and there are many cities in Europe, where Trump has said he would not take dropping a nuclear bomb “off the table”) could kill hundreds of thousands of people, almost all of them innocent civilians.  Millions would be affected by radiation poisoning from the bomb itself and from its polluting resources.  The death and destruction caused by a single nuclear weapon is simply unfathomable – it would destroy entire regions for generations.  And yet Trump is not only open to using these weapons, he wants more countries to have them.  Basic game theory dictates that one country building its military encourages an arms race among neighbors and rivals.  Many heavily militarized nations increase the chances of conflict; with nuclear weapons in the mix, any conflict could destroy entire nations.  Trump’s willingness to use nuclear weapons will encourage other countries to develop retaliatory capacity, especially given that he has stated he wants to be unpredictable with nukes.  Unpredictable with forces that could cause millions of casualties.  That endangers us all.

Trump’s campaign does not rely on truth or facts.  It relies on bombastic statements detached from reality but which solicit a strong emotional response.  In other words, his campaign is demagogic and borrows persuasive practices from dictators.  He is running on ignorance and fear, not intelligence and the search for better policy understanding.  Donald Trump is, without a doubt, the most ignorant man in the world.

[1] Something to ponder: If Trump and his followers refuse to accept facts and evidence that points out the falsehoods in their beliefs, are they still ignorant or have the crossed the road to stupidity, given they easily have access to information and simply choose to ignore it?


Rock the Vote!


Please remember to vote on or by November 8!

This is the election of a lifetime. Only Hillary Clinton offers the policies needed to create new American jobs, defeat our enemies abroad, and unify a divided nation.

She has solutions; her opponent Donald Trump, has bigotry and authoritarian principles that know neither the Constitution nor American values.

This is election is about us — you, me, our children. Our future.

Please get out and rock the vote!

Arizona Early Voting

Dem Rep Ind Total
Registered Voters (10/24/2016)  1,019,050  1,185,023  1,164,373  3,400,611
Percent of Electorate 29.97% 34.85% 34.24%
Current polling average among select demographic breakdowns
Trump Clinton
Dem 3.00% 96.00%
Rep 90.00% 6.00%
Ind 44.00% 39.00%
Current turnout and electorate composition by party.  Combined with polling averages, early vote tallies are estimated as well as a final vote tally (that assumes an impossible 100% voter turnout) if the electorate’s composition does not change.
Dem Rep Ind  Trump  Clinton
2016 Turnout 52.62% 53.83% 33.62%  762,187  705,363
2016 Percent of Electorate 33.70% 40.10% 24.60%  1,629,743  1,508,239
Averaging the approximated vote shares by demographics yields this approximated early vote tally.
Trump Clinton
Estimated Early Votes  762,187  705,363
If current turnout remains the same through election day, we might see these final results.
Trump Clinton
If this patter holds, estimated final vote tally  1,629,743  1,508,239
Compare to 2012.
2012 Early Votes (Estimates)
Obama  476,600 47.66%
Romney  508,800 50.88%
What percent of the 2012 early vote does each candidate have?
Trump Clinton
Percent of 2012 Early Vote 149.8% 148.0%
Who’s leading the early vote?
Trump Clinton
Share of Early Vote 47.93% 44.35%
Likely due to relative third-party popularity, both candidate’s early vote percentage is running behind their predecessor’s.
Trump Clinton
Points Ahead/Behind 2012 Early Vote Share -2.96% -3.31%

North Carolina Early Voting

Voter registration statistics
White Black Hispanic Other Unknown
Registered Voters (10/24/2016)  4,761,412  1,520,330  162,123  498,111  –
Percent of Electorate 70% 22% 2% 7% 0%
Current polling average among select demographic breakdowns
Trump Clinton Trump Clinton Trump Clinton
White 0.55 0.35 Dem 0.12 0.835 Male 0.47 0.405
Black 0.12 0.82 Rep 0.825 0.07 Female 0.38 0.475
Hispanic Ind 0.39 0.345
Current turnout and electorate composition by race.  I combine this with polling averages to estimate Trump and Clinton vote shares.  “Other” and “unknown” provide challenges.
White Black Hispanic Other Unknown Trump Clinton
2016 Turnout (of total Registered Voters by Race) 46% 45% 36% 21% 84774/?  1,184,524  1,225,631
2016 Percent of Electorate 70% 22% 2% 3% 3%  2,577,788  2,637,123
Same as above, but by sex.
Men Women Trump Clinton
2016 Turnout 43% 47%  1,272,421  1,350,458
2016 Percent of Electorate 42% 56%  2,803,917  2,975,940
By party.
Dem Rep Ind  Trump  Clinton
2016 Turnout 48% 48% 40%  1,286,981  1,429,527
2016 Percent of Electorate 42% 32% 26%  2,836,899  3,148,374
Averaging the approximated vote shares by demographics yields this approximated early vote tally.
Trump Clinton
Estimated Early Votes (Average of Above Breakdowns)  1,247,975  1,335,205
If current turnout remains the same through election day, we might see these final results.
Trump Clinton
If this pattern holds, estimated final vote tally  2,739,535  2,920,479
Compare to 2012.
2012 Early Votes (Estimates)
Obama  1,394,661 50.58%
Romney  1,336,043 48.45%
What percent of the 2012 early vote does each candidate have?
Trump Clinton
Percent of 2012 Early Vote 93% 96%
Who’s leading the early vote?
Trump Clinton
Share of Early Vote 40.22% 43.03%
Likely due to relative third-party popularity, both candidate’s early vote percentage is running behind their predecessor’s.
Trump Clinton
Points Ahead/Behind 2012 Early Vote Share -8.23% -7.55%

Educated Voters are Propelling Clinton to Swing State Leads  


It is no secret that Donald Trump has few viable paths to 270 electoral votes.  Those that do exist hinge on a few swing states: Iowa, Ohio, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire.  A map with those states classified as toss-ups and all other states classified a la 2012 (except for Maine’s second congressional district, where recent polls have shown a double-digit Trump lead) leaves Trump 78 electoral votes shy of winning the presidency.  From there, it’s a game of math – the most credible and likely paths necessitate that he win Florida, Pennsylvania, and a couple of other states.  Losing Pennsylvania greatly diminishes Trump’s prospects: Without the Keystone State, he needs to sweep the remainder to earn exactly the magic number.

And so it becomes natural to ask: How is Trump doing in said swing states?  What are his prospects for winning?  Is he notably doing better in some swing states than in others?  It is the last question I attempt to answer in order to gain insight into electoral coalitions and divisions.

  Ohio Iowa PA Florida Nevada NC NH National
Ohio  — 0.99 0.85 0.70 0.99 0.98 0.98 0.91
Iowa 0.99  — 0.92 0.79 0.98 0.94 0.99 0.96
Pennsylvania 0.85 0.92 0.87 0.88 0.74 0.91 0.95
Florida 0.70 0.79 0.87     — 0.66 0.55 0.71 0.93
Nevada 0.99 0.98 0.88 0.66       — 0.97 1.00 0.89
NC 0.98 0.94 0.74 0.55 0.97 0.95 0.81
NH 0.98 0.99 0.91 0.71 1.00 0.95 0.92
National 0.91 0.96 0.95 0.93 0.89 0.81 0.92         —

Table 1: Correlation index between the swing states.

To flesh out the leading question – how is Trump doing in state X compared to  state Y – I regressed each swing state results on the others as well as the national outcome, one at a time, to generate a formula used to predict Trump’s vote share in each swing state.[1]  I use Trump’s RealClearPolitics polling average as the x-variable for each equation.[2]  The results, pictured in table 2, are highlighted red or blue to denote whether the predicted Trump value is greater than Hillary Clinton’s polling average for that state.

  Ohio (18) Iowa (6) PA (20) Florida (29) Nevada (6) NC (15) NH (4) National Result
Ohio 0.425 0.393 0.414 0.452 0.352 0.412 0.410 0.415 53
Iowa 0.456 0.430 0.436 0.470 0.409 0.471 0.440 0.444 72
PA 0.416 0.372 0.385 0.423 0.328 0.410 0.394 0.389 18
Florida 0.444 0.408 0.412 0.433 0.200 0.463 0.426 0.413 39
Nevada 0.465 0.442 0.445 0.479 0.425 0.486 0.447 0.455 78
NC 0.431 0.395 0.424 0.464 0.364 0.426 0.417 0.426 68
NH 0.370 0.320 0.362 0.412 0.242 0.314 0.353 0.356 0
National 0.424 0.385 0.401 0.431 0.350 0.420 0.406 0.400 18
Average 0.429 0.393 0.410 0.445 0.371 0.425 0.412 0.412 72
Clinton Avg 0.408 0.387 0.447 0.433 0.415 0.422 0.427 0.409  
Difference 0.021 0.006 -0.037 0.012 -0.044 0.005 -0.001 0.003  

Table 2: This shows Trump’s projected vote shares based on his polling average in each state shown and his national polling average.  Each row is the projected vote share for the swing states based on the row’s state header.   Simulations are then compared to Clinton’s polling average (bottom); if Trump is projected to have a higher vote share, then the cell is highlighted red.  A blue cell means Clinton is ahead.  Electoral votes are then added – Trump needs 78 to win.  Highlighted color shows the electoral winner.

Trump needs 78 electoral votes to clinch the presidency; he reaches that number in only one simulation – that with state predictions based on his current Nevada polling average.  Besides again showing the arduous task Trump faces in accumulating the needed electoral votes, this model shows whether Trump is systematically over/underperforming expectations in some states based on his polling in others.  A few examples quickly jump out.  Trump is notably outperforming expectations in Iowa and Nevada while coming up short in New Hampshire and the all-important Pennsylvania.  In both Iowa and Nevada, his current polling average (bolded and as of this writing) greatly exceeds predictions for those states based on his performance elsewhere.  The opposite holds true in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.  There, Trump’s polling average rests well below where we would expect him to be given his standing in other states.  Why might this be and what does it tell us?

Race, a default heuristic, tells part, but not all of, the story.  Trump might be outperforming expectations in Iowa because of his strength among whites (and Iowa is around 90 percent white), but what about Nevada, with its growing population of Hispanics (who have no love for the candidate)?  Pennsylvania is around 80 percent white, but Trump shows few signs of strength there.  Furthermore, New Hampshire is another overwhelmingly white state and yet Trump is very much underperforming expectations there.  Though race is an important factor in Trump’s performances in these swing states, the discrepancy in his polling numbers can be further explained by another variable: Education.

Nevada, as noted columnist and state expert Jon Ralston noted, is not a particularly well-educated state.  In fact, according to the 2010 Census, only 21.7 percent of adults in the state had at least a bachelor’s degree.  Iowa fares somewhat better — 24.9 percent of Iowan adults fit the criteria.  By comparison, in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, 27.1 percent and 32.8 percent, respectively, have a least a bachelor’s degree.

The numbers are even more disparate when looking at exit polls.  As education increases, so does voter turnout, so the differences noted by the census are exasperated at the polls.  In 2012, 43 percent of Iowa voters and 42 percent of those in Nevada were college graduates as opposed to 48 percent in Pennsylvania and 51 percent in New Hampshire.  While these numbers might not seem dramatic, a few percentage points means tens to hundreds of thousands of voters.

In 2012, Barack Obama won voters who graduated college by just two percentage points.  Today, according to Reuters polling, Clinton leads Trump by 20 points among college graduates, an advantage which extends to white voters.  She could be the first Democrat to win white voters in 60 years.  Strength among college educated voters is empowering Clinton even in states where she might otherwise be at a disadvantage given the state’s racial composition (combined with Trump’s strong showing among whites, especially white men).  Holding all else equal, educational attainment differences between swing states likely explains why Trump is beating expectations in some while falling short in others.

And yet it’s a deficit that could be overcome if Trump had a sophisticated ground game capable of registering and mobilizing non-college graduates inclined to support him.  Luckily for Democrats, anemic investment on the ground means that Trump will be playing catchup if he hopes to mitigate the effects of his non-appeal to non-college graduates.


[1] This exercise, of course, has a very small n.  However, because many swing states have highly correlated results, the regressions were generally statistically significant and, as will be shown, the predictions from the resultant equations almost always pass the eye test for reasonability.

[2] Throughout this example, I use four-way polling averages from RCP.

Put Your Children First and Vote for Hillary Clinton

For your children’s sake, you ought to vote for Hillary Clinton.

Elections tend to focus around economic issues and this year is no different — according to Pew Research, 84% of voters say economic issues are “very important” when deciding their vote (making it the most important factor in vote choice).  Gallup similarly found that “the economy” and “employment and jobs” are two of the four most important issues for Republicans and Democrats this cycle.  Voters want a candidate who will create jobs, both for current and future generations.

It’s for precisely the latter goal — creating well-paying jobs for our children — that voters should choose Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.

The economy today is very different than it was a half, or even a quarter, century ago.  Twentieth century America saw manufacturing dominance with factories employing millions of workers with high wages and generous benefits.  But in the last 20 years, those manufacturing jobs have been evaporating.  They will not return, for one simple reason: Automation.

New factories are capital — not labor — intensive, meaning that production is done largely by machines rather than workers.  This allows factories to increase productivity while keeping costs low, savings that are ultimately passed on to consumers.  In other words, even if companies decide to move production back to the United States, there will not be a manufacturing jobs boom.  It simply will not happen and anyone promising otherwise is immune to the economic reality of automated production.  No comparisons can be made to manufacturing’s heyday because automation was at that point but a fantasy.

This is not a uniquely American phenomenon.  Throughout the developed world, manufacturing employment has been steadily declining over the past 40 years.

donald trump manufacturing

In fact, as a country gets richer, manufacturing’s share of national employment tends to drop rather sharply.  This is true across the world.donald trump manufacturing plan

With manufacturing’s steady (and largely irreversible) decline, economic salience increases as voters wonder whether, where, and how their children will find employment.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS),  among the jobs seeing the greatest increase in demand between 2014 and 2024, and thus those likeliest to employ our children, are:

  • Registered nurses, 16% increase, median wage of $67,490
  • General and operational managers, 7.1% increase, median wage of $97,730
  • Accountant and auditors, 10.7% increase, $67,190 median wage
  • Software developers, applications, 18.8% increase, $98,260 median wage
  • Computer systems analysts, 20.9% increase, $85,800 median wage
  • Management analysts, 13.6% increase, $81,320 median wage
  • Market research analysts, 18.6% increase, $62,150 median wage

What do these jobs have in common?  They all require a college degree.  That is no surprise: According to the BLS, those with a college degree have exceptionally low unemployment rates and earn wages well above the American median.  As the economy continues to specialize, requiring specialized skills and education, this gap will likely continue to grow.

hillary clinton college plan

To ensure your child will find a job, you must vote for the candidate that will make college accessible and affordable to all.

Donald Trump’s website doesn’t mention education.  He has no plan for college affordability and his given no indication that he’s willing or able to help families give their children a world-class education.

Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, has outlined and detailed a plan that would allow all students coming from families earning less than $125,000 a year.  Under her proposal, 80% of all students would attend college for free.  Furthermore, no taxes would be raised on middle- or working-class families in order to pay for near-universal college.

College is necessary to thrive in the new-age economy.  With a degree comes very low levels of unemployment (ie, very good chances of finding a job) and high wages.  Only Hillary Clinton will help students get the education they need to thrive in the 21st Century.

Put your Children First and vote for Hillary Clinton this November.

gouverneur morris

The Fake Presidency of Gouverneur Morris

The Early Life of Governeur Morris

Gouverneur Morris joined the world on March 28, 1790 as the fifth son of a prominent Boston merchant.  His mother, Sarah Marie Morris, died but a few years later after the still-birth of her third daughter and ninth child.  Some of Gouverneur Morris’s biographers attribute Sarah Marie’s death to heartbreak from her first unsuccessful carriage; others point to diseases she might have acquired from the dirty New England hospital in which she attempted to give birth.  Regardless, Sarah Marie’s death when Gouverneur had reached the age of beginning cognizance – four years – may have affected her seventh child for years to come: Gouverneur never married, at one pointing writing to a friend that he feared “the inevitable loss and years of depression” that would follow his wife’s passing (apparently he never considered the possibility that a potential wife would outlive him).

Childhood did not treat Gouverneur Morris kindly.  By the time he reached ten years of age, he had lost three more siblings.  The eldest Morris child – John Winthrow Morris – had moved west, seeking to expand the frontier, but perished in a Native American raid.  Gouverneur’s immediate elder, Jane Morris, died in a fire that engulfed the Morris’s house in 1798.  According to Gouverneur’s later writings, he and Jane were particularly close, brought together by proximity in age and similar emotional responses to Sarah Marie’s death.  Two years later, the youngest Morris (Robert F.) died at the hands of scarlet fever.  This last death treated Gouverneur’s father poorly – the family’s patriarch fell into a deep stupor and turned to the bottle, quickly coming to terrorize the remaining children with his seething anger.  The family soon fell into disarray and in 1805, Gouverneur wrote in his journal “I wish I could escape this wretched family and move west to the frontier or at least move somewhere without pain and shadow of death looming.”

Western Adventures

Escape Gouverneur soon did.  In 1807 he stole some of his father’s money and moved west to Ohio.  But the allure of the frontier quickly wore off.  Gouverneur worked at a sawmill near Cincinnati, the recently incorporated village.  He tired of the drudgery and the hardships of the frontier.  Indian raids were common occurrences; hunger even more so.  The frontier failed to live up to expectations (or perhaps Gouverneur  simply  was not cut out for western life).  At any rate, a “fortunate” letter soon reached him: One evening, late in 1810’s summer, Gouverneur’s father, drunk as usual, mis-stepped on his walk home and tumbled into the river, quickly drowning.  With his father’s temperament consigned to another world, Gouverneur decided to return to Boston.  He decided to pursue a different life course and enrolled at Harvard College in the fall of 1811.

At Harvard, Gouverneur seemed to find himself.  He immersed himself in political studies and became an engaged member of the dying Federalist Party.  Gouverneur’s writing indicated that, during this formative period, he discovered the wonders of the Constitution and the debates surrounding its writing.  Little formal work remains from those years and his journal kept not ideas, but rather amazement and appreciation for the burgeoning republic’s Founding Fathers.

The War of 1812

After his first full year at Harvard, the War of 1812 broke out.  Gouverneur did not at first join the militia – recalling his sawmill days, he opted instead for the classroom.  But by 1813, Gouverneur felt growing anxiety about the country’s future and enlisted in the Navy where he fought under Oliver Hazard Perry.  Little is known about his time in the Navy.  Perry once mentioned Gouverneur in a formal report and did so with much enthusiasm.  Gouverneur seemed to make a shining impression on his naval compatriots.  Undoubtedly, his shining war moment occurred during the Battle of Lake Erie: He later wrote that “the thrill of flashing guns and the exploding shells could not match the excitement with which my heart beat for I knew that our actions on that day continued the principles of our Forefathers; it was for them we fought – for constitutional principle and for liberty.  To the British we would not surrender.  Each minute – each death I saw – motivated me further to ensure that America would not be collected by the dustbin of history.”

The war’s conclusion allowed Gouverneur to finish his studies at Harvard.  He graduated in 1816 at 26 and immediately began a career in politics.  His education, his last name, and his war heroics (at least what he claimed to be his war heroics) won him a seat in the Massachusetts state assembly.  But there he felt little appreciated and accomplished little.  Writing in his journal, he decried the “hostility with which the old guard treats me.  They fought in the Revolution – I in the second – but my youth precluded them from seriously taking any ideas which I presented.”  Disheartened, Gouverneur Morris forwent reelection after serving two terms and instead took to studying law.  In 1826 he opened a private practice in the city of Boston but it was clear his heart was not in law – “instead of arguing the law in front of some magistrate, I want to set the law and appoint the magistrate.  I want to create, not argue interpretation.”  Politics again beckoned.

Gouvernor Morris and his Politics

Though originally a Federalist, the party had long died by the time Gouverneur once again forayed in the political scene.  He understand the need for parties – unlike the Founders, he did not decry the “mischief of faction.”  However, in 1830, he was left without a partisan home as the nation’s dominant party – the Democrats – appalled him.  Gouverneur despised President Andrew Jackson and his “unthinking attempts to undermine the constitutional system which the Founders so wisely created.  A strong president they desired not, but a strong Congress and national tribunal they craved.  Jackson has inverted the constitutional structure and sets the country on a bad course.”  That year he ran for Congress and won.

A minority faction in Congress, Gouverneur Morris had little hopes of accomplishing anything.  Again, his inability to affect legislation saddened him and he turned his eyes elsewhere.  He ran for governor of Massachusetts – perhaps in an attempt to fulfill his name’s destiny – in 1832 and won in a landslide victory.  His support for the National Bank of the United States and ardent campaigning on behalf of Whig Henry Clay (Gouverneur joined the Whig party soon after its formation) earned him a national reputation as a rising Whig star and helped hand Massachusetts to Clay in his failed presidential bid.

Gouverneur served four successful years in the governor’s mansion.  He implemented the Whig platform at the state level, doing all he could to promote industrial growth in Massachusetts and to support new, growing industries.  A fervent embrace of the “American System” ensured that Massachusetts remained the seat of the Industrial Revolution while endearing Gouverneur to Whig elites.  At Clay’s urgining, Gouverneur ran for the Senate in 1836 and won.  In the Senate, Gouverneur fought Democratic President Martin Van Buren on a variety of economic issues.  Gouverneur is best remembered for his many long-winded speeches on the Senate’s floor in which he decried presidential overreach, the subversion of constitutional structure, and the “perverted, ignorant” economic plans of the Democrats.  He and Daniel Webster, his Senate partner from Massachusetts, often spent days giving join speeches and debating the Democratic opposition.  Together, the two consisted of the Senate’s “engine,” according to the New York Times.

Gouverneur Morris — President

Morris’s appeal – he managed to charm even those he vehemently disagreed with his politics – and eloquent oration made him the natural Whig selection for the 1840 presidential election.  With Clay as his running mate, Gouverneur successfully defeated incumbent Martin Van Buren and assumed the executive office, hoping to whittle away its power and instead return Congress to its rightful position as the center of governing legitimacy.  He largely succeeded in this task.  Though Gouverneur frequently corresponded with Whig leaders in Congress, he made no direct appeals to the tribunal and only vetoed legislation on constitutional grounds (even if he disagreed with a bill, he signed it into law).  Since Whigs controlled both chambers during Morris’s tenure, his hands-off approach to legislative stewarding still resulted in his desired outcomes.

Unfortunately, Gouverneur fell seriously ill early in 1844 and, fearing for his life, did not accept the Whig nomination for president.  Clay again headed the Whig ticket and again lost to the Democrats (who nominated James K. Polk).  Though recovered by 1848, Gouverneur’s staunch opposition to slavery and his desire to see it eliminated across the United States precluded another nomination to the presidency.  He instead returned to the Senate and spent the next 10 years there (until his death in 1858).  Those years consisted of many more long-winded speeches, disappointment in the again-expanded presidency, and an out-spoken opposition to “peculiar institution” of slavery.

Gouverneur Morris is an oft-forgotten but important figure in presidential and political history.  His disdain for expanded presidential powers and his ability to actually curtail the executive while in office represented the last administration to embrace original constitutional theory with regard to the separation of constitutional powers.  Gouverneur’s many Senate speeches are staples today in American oration and his rhetorical might still inspires speech writers for politicians at all levels.  We would do well to remember Gouverneur Morris and his political thoughts for it is they that best encapsulate our Founders’ governing intentions and which best represent our nation’s Constitution.

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