Category Archives: USA

Bully! A Splendid Little War

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So The Donald has sent in the cruise missiles in response to the Syrian sarin gas assault on its own people.

Sending 59 cruise missiles with conventional warheads and then sitting down to dinner with the Chinese President pretty much establishes Trump as a “tough guy”. But will he be smart enough to leave it at that?

In a very real sense, Trump has redrawn the “red line” which Obama and Kerry allowed to fade to palest pink. Served notice that “there is a new Sheriff in town” to quote an awful lot of pro-Trump blogs. Which, I suspect, most international players had already noticed.

The question is whether Trump is able to enjoy an American casualty free battle and move on to the next thing on his agenda. Obama demonstrated in Libya that regime change may, or may not, be for the better. Generally, it seems to be a bad idea in the Middle East simply because the next regime may be worse than the one you “changed”. During the campaign, Trump seemed to get that. Does he now?

Assad needs to go. Murderous barbarian and all. However, he needs to go when there is some idea of a better thing to replace him. That might be a new regime or it might be the carve up of both Syria and Iraq and the end of the Sykes-Picot travesty which has haunted the Middle East for nearly a hundred years.

Regime change could be accomplished with a lot of money, a few Russian Spetsnaz and a dozen bullets. But what then?

Unwinding Sykes-Picot is a much larger and, strategically, more intelligent enterprise. Defeat ISIS and then carve out the Sunni, Kurd and Shia enclaves being sensitive to the worries of the Turks and the position of the minorities. That is the work of a negotiator and a statesman. And it is something which will involve Putin as well as Trump. No bad thing that.

Right at the moment, Russia is hanging on by a thread. Demographically, economically it is in huge trouble. For Putin to survive he needs to seem indispensable. Trump can give him that. Putin can give Trump essentially nothing. Other than his nukes and his special forces, he is the Tsar of a gradually dying nation and only massive help from America can really save him. Monkeys can climb a very long way up trees, it is the getting down part which is tricky.

Syria offers Putin the opportunity to act as and be seen as a statesman.  With Trump’s help, he can open the book on Sykes-Picot and facilitate the reformation of Syria and Iraq into a loose confederation of ethnically and religiously homogenous statelets. Between the Americans and the Russians, all of the factions can be brought to the table and, with luck, disarmed and sent on their way. None of the resulting states will be heard of again for generations.

Trump has played the first card of a strategy which will likely take a few years to play out. By being willing to punish actions which are against all agreed-upon international norms Trump makes it clear that hard power is a real thing for America again.

Trump knew the world was watching and he gave them a show. Now we’ll see what he does with the attention.

 

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Cat Meet Pigeons

smoking-gunTrump has been tweeting again and this time he’s dropped the bomb on the Obama Administration’s alleged tapping of the Trump campaign.

Assorted Obama spokespeople have said that Obama himself did not order the wiretaps. Which many have taken as tacit confirmation that there were wiretaps but that the big O did not actually put them in place.

There is a bit of business about two separate applications to the FISA Court which grants wiretap authorizations for surveillance of agents of foreign states – but not Americans. And the wonderfully oily James Clapper told “Meet the Press”:

“For the part of the national security apparatus that I oversaw as DNI, there was no such wiretap activity mounted against the President-elect at the time, or as a candidate, or against his campaign,” Clapper said Sunday morning on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Asked whether he could confirm or deny whether the FBI could have tapped Trump’s phones under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Clapper was unequivocal.
“I can deny it,” he said. “There is no FISA court order, not to my knowledge, of anything at Trump Tower.” CNN
That this activity was reported some time ago in the NYT is largely dismissed as the Times apparently relied on a report at Heat Street where the very excitable Louise Mensch reported that the FBI had been granted a FISA warrant.
Clapper has a bit of form as being willing to lie under oath but I can’t see any reason why he would lie in these circumstances when it is pretty much inevitable that a FISA application will or will not have been made and decided. There is a record and that record will come out.
At the same time, there is no reason to believe that Trump is not in possession of some evidence that his campaign was tapped. Otherwise, why make the allegation? (And, for sake of argument, let’s put aside the idea that the human Cheeto is simply a deranged lunatic liable to tweet anything.)
The  “Trump ties to Russia” story keeps surfacing as various members of the “intelligence community” leak material to MSM. There does not seem to be much there but what there is can be amped up and puts the Trump Administration on the defensive.  From his tweets and other statements, it is pretty clear Trump is, like many Presidents before him, annoyed with the leaks.
Unlike many Presidents whose response to leaks usually involves some sort of internal investigation, Trump seems willing to try and get to the source of the leaks. He has called for, and is apparently getting, a full scale Congressional investigation of his allegations within the context of an overall investigation of the “Russian influence” on the election.
One read of this is that Trump wants to put the Russian connection allegations on ice for a while and kicking the whole thing over to Congress might have that effect. It is a plausible explanation but it seems somehow inefficient. Very little reward for a significant risk.
My own sense is that Trump has, or thinks he has, a smoking gun. Something which will tie Obama and his administration to illegal activity. If there was a FISA application there would have to be affidavits in support of that application. There would have to be disclosure of the sources and methods whereby the DOJ (the only entity which appears before the FISA court) concluded that there was foreign agent activity at Trump Tower. And that would open several cans of worms.
It is also pure speculation. What is not speculation is that no one in the Obama administration ever, for a minute, believed that Trump would win. Playing a bit fast and loose with rules when there was a Hillary lock on the next administration might well have seemed like a good idea at the time.After all, the orangutang and his flying monkeys were hardly ever going to be in a position to find out.
If there is a “smoking gun”, Trump, by making his allegations and then calling for a Congressional investigation, is ensuring that its discovery will be the work of Congress and not the Trump Administration. Which is not to say the Trump Administration will not leave a trail of boulder-sized, glow in the dark, bread crumbs which even the thickest Congressional investigator will be able to follow.
Trump and his people know that if they are going to put the Russian claims behind them and, perhaps, tarnish the halo the MSM has placed on Obama’s head, the actual investigation has to be at arm’s length. Trump has got his arms-length investigation, now the question is whether he has the actual smoking gun.
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MILO…

Kathy Shaidle gets it about right:

Guys, seriously.

When you invite someone as gay as Milo to speak at CPAC or whatever, here’s the thing:

Gay people are not the angelic eunuchs of your Will and Grace straight fantasies.

As pretty much any of them will tell you — ask Tammy Bruce — a huge part of gay culture is the initiation of teen boys into the life by older men.

Five Feet of Fury

I’ve looked at the tapes and read MILO’s explanation and, frankly, the whole “advocating for paedophilia” thing is nothing more than a cheap hit job. Or it is if you know anything about gay culture.

At the moment I am reading Francis Spaulding’s wonderful biography of Duncan Grant. There is no doubt at all that Grant discovered a part of his sexuality because a nasty old man, likely all of twenty-five, touched him at a tender age. Not at seven or even twelve; rather in his mid-teens. Was that wrong? Yes. Does it happen? Yes again. MILO claims he was blowing a priest at fourteen which I find outrageous; but, like Kathy, I am unsurprised.

If you understand gay culture, if you have gay friends, you will know that the idea of men and boys together is part of that culture. Is the age of consent the issue? It might be, but while the vast majority of gay men stay on the legal side of the line, they certainly lust in their hearts for the “twinks”.

And if you understand straight male culture, if you chat with a bunch of guys, you will know that many men would just love to bang a seriously hot fifteen year old. They don’t actually do it any more than gay men do; but a pretty, nubile, underage girl does not go unnoticed. “Jail bait” is a thing and has been for centuries. (And the fashion mags are full of them.)

The nice people, the girls in the front of the class, don’t want to know the darkness in men’s hearts. MILO, to his great misfortune, did not maintain the official pretence with quite the vigor the great and the good require. For which he is punished with disinvitation to CPAC (a now, in the face of Trump, irrelevant organization) and a cancellation of his book deal (keep the money MILO) and, possibly, a parting of the ways with Breitbart.com.

The takeaway. Never tell the truth. Never, for a second, admit that you find a person less that a certain age, sexually attractive. Never allow that gay male sexuality may begin with a moment with an older man. The girls in the class room front row are quite sure that you have sinned even though you are sinned against. If you are straight, make sure you lust after only age appropriate women. Because, otherwise, whether you act on your impulses or not, you’re a perv. Even talking about the beauty of youth makes you a paedophile or worse.

What we are seeing here is a moral panic attached to a political agenda: the left have no counter to MILO, nor do the Rinos. Time to smear. And smear they have.

[And yes, I write that as the father of two “underage sons” who I will protect as well as I can from predatory men or women. But I am not enough of a hypocrite to pretend I have no idea what MILO is talking about. My fond wish is that my sons are as lucky as I was and able to avoid the paedophiles.  But there are no guarantees. Other than keeping your boys in a cotton box, the reality is that there are lots of nasty people out there. And worse, some very nice ones. Innocence is more often lost to the nice than the nasty.)

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The Reveal

05744777I have not written much about Trump post election. Quite honestly, up until he took the Oath of Office, I could not quite believe that the elites arrayed against him would not come up with something to avoid the accession of the Cheeto vulgarian. I guess they just don’t make elites like they used to and there it is, President Trump.

Smart people on the right have noted: 1) in his first week Trump has “flooded the zone” with Executive Orders, appointments, website changes and tweets, almost all of which producing outrage, apoplexy and scorn from lefties and liberals, 2) it turns out that the elite media have been successfully bypassed by the Trumpians by the simple expedient of largely ignoring it, 3) it appears that Trump proposes to keep most of his campaign promises, 4) perhaps most importantly, unlike his predecessor, Trump intuitively understands the real power of the White House is not about intelligence briefings and budget planning, it is about getting things done.

Getting things done, impressing his agenda on the United States and the world, is all about using the full tool kit of the White House. Probably the most powerful tool in that kit is the allure of the White House itself. An invitation to have a cup of coffee with the President of the United States is irresistible to almost anyone in the world, (except the President of Mexico, apparently, but I suspect this is mainly posturing). It is particularly attractive to members of official Washington on both sides of the aisle. For an incoming President, making time to shake hands with potentially useful Congressmen is a force multiplier. So is sitting down with the captains of industry and union leaders.

While the pussy capped ninnies paraded in the streets about just what an awful man Trump is, Trump was in the process of building his own bully pulpit. (“Bully” in the sense Teddy Roosevelt used that word.) He is also making it very clear, particularly to the press, that he is indifferent, if not actively hostile, towards negative opinions of his person or work. He and his staff are not even pretending to take the mainstream media seriously which seems to be resulting in ever shriller and therefore credibility destroying efforts on MSM’s part to demonise Trump and all his works.

After a week of President Trump a bit of an outline is emerging: “Do what you said you were going to do.” “Use the power of the White House to build up a bit of a favour bank.” “Ignore the media when not actively making fun of them.” “Behave seriously but enjoy the office.” If Trump can keep it up he may have a shot at being a genuinely great President.

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The Sum of All Fears

David Remnick, writing in the New Yorker, is not happy with the Trump victory.

The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency is nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces, at home and abroad, of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism. Trump’s shocking victory, his ascension to the Presidency, is a sickening event in the history of the United States and liberal democracy. new yorker

He goes on at length as to the odiousness of Trump.

a President whose disdain for women and minorities, civil liberties and scientific fact, to say nothing of simple decency, has been repeatedly demonstrated. Trump is vulgarity unbounded, a knowledge-free national leader who will not only set markets tumbling but will strike fear into the hearts of the vulnerable, the weak, and, above all, the many varieties of Other whom he has so deeply insulted. new yorker

Remnick is a pretty good proxy for the now completely discredited liberal commentariat and the MSM whose repudiation was so thoroughly trashed by the deplorables last night.

The good and decent people of America – people like us, people who went to a decent college and who accept their fair share of the burden of white people’s guilt – are in very deep despair today. Their bubble has burst. A few days ago I wrote:

Hillary supporters faced with a big loss will, I suspect, resemble the losers in Brexit who were in shock that a bunch of provincial yahoos could somehow destroy the metropolitan consensus. Supporting Hillary is regarded as something of an IQ test by her supporters. It’s pass/fail and if you fail you are obviously not the sort of person a Hillary supporter would want as a friend. november 3, 2016

Writing in The Spectator, Brendan O’Neill provides the provisional answer and analysis to the Remnick wail:

This response to Trump’s victory reveals why Trump was victorious. Because those who do politics these days — the political establishment, the media, the academy, the celeb set — are so contemptuous of ordinary people, so hateful of the herd, so convinced that the mass of society cannot be trusted to make political decisions, and now those ordinary people have given their response to such top-down sneering and prejudice.

Oh, the irony of observers denouncing Middle America as a seething hotbed of hatred even as they hatefully libel it a dumb and ugly mob. Having turned America’s ‘left behind’ into the butt of every clever East Coast joke, and the target of every handwringing newspaper article about America’s dark heart and its strange, Bible-toting inhabitants, the political and cultural establishment can’t now be surprised that so many of those people have turned around and said… well, it begins with F and ends with U. the spectator 

Trump has been handed a mandate to tear down the liberal follies of the last eight years. There are swamps to be drained and idiocies like “global warming” and Common Core to be dismantled. There is also the opportunity, if Trump is smart enough to take it, to build out from his band of Deplorables.

The people who are hurt most by disasters like unchecked immigration, Common Core or Obamacare or money sinks like “Global Warming” are not confined to the white demographics in rust belt and southern states. The fact is that there are plenty of poor, unemployed people in blue states. There are ill-educated black kids in crappy houses in awful neighbourhoods who need actual help. There are lots of able bodied men, black, white, Latino who have not had a decent job in three or four or more years. There are young people with mountains of student debt and degrees in gender studies who, while it is fun to make fun of them, actually need an economy which is rapidly growing so they can reskill and lead a life beyond the coffee bar.

Trump has the opportunity to make good on his promise to remember the forgotten people in the American nation. To do that he needs great people. He needs to build a consensus around a new vision for America.

Most of all, Trump needs to competently destroy the self-satisfied leftie claim that only the left enjoys the signal virtue of compassion. If Trump begins with his useful question to black Americans, “What the Hell do you have to lose?” and answers it with real progress on jobs and education, the Remnicks of the world will be silenced.

Satisfying as it was to see the Deplorables deliver the biggest FU in political history to the self-appointed American ruling class, it is now up to Trump to convert that anger into progress. I don’t know if he can; but I do know that it will not be “business as usual” under President Trump and that is a step in the right direction.

Update: A good analysis of how the media lost touch from Michael Wolff.

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Magnificent Deplorables

Just waiting for the call but AP calls PA. But not the networks.

We’re done.

Hillary is such a useless tool that she is not even going to show up at the Javitts Centre to concede. Podesta is truly revolting. Still counting…yeah, right.

She’s racing to the plane to which ever lair she has prepared.

Donald Trump has won the most remarkable victory in American political history.

And now it is official. A classic Trump speech. Good for Hilly conceding. Trump was gracious but he was Trump.

Let’s go.

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Did Trump Close the Deal?

The frenzy of last minute polling in the US Presidential race is suggesting that Trump is even or pulling ahead in several key states. Florida, North Carolina, Colorado, Ohio are all in play.

“In play” is not, of course, “in the bag” and the fabled Democratic Party ground operation and saturation advertising may very well deny Trump some or all of these states and many more. Hilly is awful but the Democratic Party may have the organizational capacity – and enough cheating capacity – to, in Obama’s words today in Detroit “carry her”. So it is a reasonable bet that Clinton should be able to win tomorrow.

Unless…Well the polls could very well be wrong. The polling models may well under represent Trump support and over represent Hilly’s. There is no doubt at all that Trump sees more people at his rallies. But does that mean anything?

Hillary’s message throughout the campaign has been that Trump is unfit, racist and not the sort of person America would be safe with. She has cited her own experience and what she seems to think is her better temperment. She has a mountain of detailed policy as one would expect from a front of the class sort of girl.

Trump’s message has been a bit broader – yes, Hilly is a crook; but the whole damned system is rigged. He offers some simple solutions to fairly complex problems. Build the Wall, drop taxes, super vet immigrants from know terrorist areas. But none of that is actually what Trump is selling.

“Make America Great Again” is not so much a policy as a point of view. If you think America has been diminished – economically, geo-politically, culturally – in the last eight years then Trump is offering a direction change. Hillary is not.

Trump’s pitch has two parts: you have to buy into the idea that America is not doing well and you have to believe that Trump somehow represents a useful change of direction. For Trump to close the deal he has to find enough people who believe both parts and those people have to show up and vote.

America is in roughish shape after eight years of Obama. Geo-politically Obama, and his two Secretaries of State, Clinton and Kerry, are leaving America with significantly diminish stature and authority in many parts of the world. Economically, the echos of the 2008 crash are still with us. However, rough shape is not a total disaster. This is not America in 1932:

By inauguration day—March 4, 1933—most banks had shut down, industrial production had fallen to just 56 percent of its 1929 level, at least 13 million wage earners were unemployed, and farmers were in desperate straits. britannica

So are things bad enough for the first part of the #MAGA message to resonate. As with most things, it depends on where you are and who you are. If you are black and living in a city you are certainly no better off than you were eight years ago. If you are white and live in a flyover state you have not had a great eight years (said Bill Clinton at a 2015 closed fundraiser – thank you WikiLeaks). Small businesses have more regulation to deal with and large busineses are finding it more efficient to keep their international profits offshore. A lot of jobs have disappeared and they are not coming back.

Is that enough? I think it may just be. If this is a “change” election there have to be enough people who are miserable enough to actually get out and vote for change. People who remember when they and their kids had jobs and America won the wars it fought.

For Trump to close the deal he has to begin with that miserable base and  then add to it. There are plenty of people who, while they are gainfully employed and still have healthcare, are worried about the deficit, the inability of America to gain good international outcomes, the seemingly endless “nod and wink” corruption in Washington. Socially these are people who would be embarassed to say they were voting for Trump. They may not even say it out loud to themselves. But they are out there – or at least Trump has to hope they are. These are the people who can tip battleground states Trump’s way.

Tomorrow we find out. The left media are predicting a Clinton victory and some of the loonier publications are suggesting a landslide for Hilly. I don’t think there is any landslide potential for the Clinton camp. They might, if everything breaks just right, be able to claim a lopsided Electoral College victory but they don’t seem to have the raw numbers for a landslide.

Neither does Trump. Except. Well I am watching Ted Nuget warming up the crowd in Grand Rapids. Fresh out of deer camp and in camo. It’s about midnight. The room is packed. Ted is rocking it. 4500 people in the room. 51,000 online on YouTube. Lord knows how many on Facebook. Those are actual numbers. Earlier tonight Jon Bon Jovie and Bruce Srpinsteen opened for Hilly. They had 15,ooo in the room and about 10K online. Trump hit a combined You-Tube and Facebook of over 200K.

That’s the landslide. If those actual people show up Trump wins bigly.

I think they will.

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Inept

Hillary, losing election, rain

Melting….

Hillary Clinton needed to do only a few things well to beat Donald Trump. She needed to put the email scandal to bed. She needed to motivate black voters to show up and vote. She needed to stay out of Trump’s way as he bumbled and lurched along the campaign trail.

A few days before Election day it is not at all clear that she has succeeded in doing any of these things.

A thoroughly professional political operation would have made it its business to know where Hilly’s emails might be. Not where they probably were, rather where they might possibly be. Weiner’s laptop is an odd place for 650,000 emails to have ended up but it was certainly a machine which should have been considered. It wasn’t.

As importantly, the HRC campaign never really came up with a solid message on the emails. Especially the deleted emails. Blaming Russian hackers never got to the bottom of why Hilly caused so many emails to be deleted when they were subject to a Congressional subpoena. And the campaign had to have realized that some of the erased emails would probably be found on other machines. Given that vulnerability it made no sense at all to break the law by having uncleared lawyers vet the trove. What would have made more sense would have been to turn over all the emails – yoga classes and wedding plans and all. Why was this not done? Realistically, because there are some emails in that trove which are ugly if not actually criminal.

No question that the Comey intervention pretty much destroyed the HRC campaign attempt to move on after Comey’s earlier non- exhoneration. But the campaign itself needed to tell a better, more complete, story from the go and it didn’t. That hurts among the undecided because it gives substance to the “Crooked Hillary” narrative. It also hurts in the ranks of committed Democrats. Not because they will suddenly vote Trump, rather because they lose motivation to vote Hilly.

Black turnout is part of the story. The nice white lady was never going to have black turnout numbers anywhere near America’s first black President’s; but to win Hilly had to see a fairly minimal drop off. Early indications are that black voting numbers are down but it is not clear by how much. And some of the polls are suggesting that the black people who do go to the polls are not universally voting for Hilly. Sample sizes are tiny but I think it fair to say that low black turnout will be a thing to watch on Election Day. Whether, if it occurs, it will be reported by MSM is an interesting question.

It would not take much for Trump to do better than the last two Republican candidates in terms of attracting black support. Roper reported 93% to 6% for Obama in 2012. Hitting 10% would be a big step forward for Trump. The Washington Post (as of October 13) reports Hilly as holding 79% of the black vote. Which leaves 21% up for grabs.

Hillary’s ability to get out of the way while Trump defeats himself was deeply compromised by two things: first, the spotlight swinging back onto her reckless emailing practices, the Clinton Foundation pay for play outrages, and the ongoing revelations of what a nasty bunch of people correspond with her campaign chair John Podesta. Second, Trump has figured out a script he can stick to in his well attended rallies. Somehow he has managed to avoid chasing squirrels and shiney objects and focus on his message.

All of which is beginning to suggest a total absence of any sort of preference cascade in Hilly’s direction. At best whe can hope that claiming that Trump is “literally Hitler, a Nazi, a fascist, a KKK supporter, a woman hater and a groper” will scare enough voters into voting for Hilly. But I doubt it.

The question is whether people who are no longer fightened of Trump will vote for Trump. There are a good 40% of the voters who actually like Trump and want to vote for him. This election was never about those voters any more than it was about college educated suburban mums.

If there is going to be a landslide, and I think there will, it will be because Hilly’s support is soft and Trump’s is growing as more and more voters realize Hilly is a crook and, long before she is in office, will be the subject of an active FBI investigation. Not voting for Hilly is not the same as voting for Trump and that is why his current strategy of repeating a sunny vision of an America, Great Again, at rally after rally makes a lot of sense.

The people at the rallies are true believers. Many of them have already voted for Trump. But, as the rallies are covered and the message re-inforced by paid media, the possibility of voting for a positive vision of a strong America is going to be more and more appealing to the undecided voters. If you are undecided the choice between voting for someone who is pretty certainly a crook and someone who offers a positive vision for the country is not that difficult. Especially as the attempt to demonize Trump hit peak effectiveness a couple of weeks ago.

Throughout this campaign the Clinton campaign has spent a lot of money on advertising, most of it negative, and not much time putting their candidate in front of the public. My suspicion is that the HRC internals are saying that the more people see Hilly the less they like her. But you can’t beat a populist with a “front porch” strategy. Especially if buckets of mud from your own back yard are constantly being hurled at that porch.

Even with the MSM carrying barrels of Hilly’s water she has not managed to shed her scandals or, more importantly, connect with the American people in a positive way. She might win but I doubt it. Far more likely is Trump winning one of the great upsets.

 

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650K Emails – The motherlode

WSJ is reporting that there are 650,000 emails on the Abedin/Weiner computer. Apparently, these people have never heard of the delete function.

Now, realistically, you have to think that the vast majority of these will be uninteresting. But the sheer number is intriguing in itself. This is not so much a cache as an archive and from now until Election Day Trump will, legitimately, be asking “An archive of what?”

Will the archive contain all of Hilly’s emails? Perhaps. Or it may simply contain a selection of those damning enough to be Bleachbited. Will it have explicit “pay to play” material showing a nexus of cash between Hilly, the Clinton Foundation, Bill and Huma with Huma acting as the cut-out? What about really classified material? Will Huma’s much speculated about connections to the Muslim Brotherhood be revealed?

Politically the sheer number of emails, dwarfing the 55,000 Hillary maintained were on her server and subject to subpoena – well, those which she decided were work related – is likely to be a story in itself. How did they get on the lap top? Who put them there? Why?

Hilly and her campaign have tried to go after Comey on the basis that it was “inappropriate” for the Director of the FBI to make a statement so close to the election. That line of attack died the instant the 650,000 number came into play.

In fact, as this article in the Daily Mail indicates, Comey realized that he had screwed himself and the FBI when he took his dive in July and failed to indict Hilly. Ignoring 650,000 emails would have led to significant numbers of FBI agents resigning and, realistically, the story would have come out in any event.

The sheer number of emails and the utterly sleazy circumstances surrounding their discovery, would, in any normal election, put Hillary out of the running and off to jail where she belongs. And I think that is where this is going. The polls, a day or two old, showed Trump withing spitting distance of Clinton. This number, 650,000, should be enough to energize Trump supporters and demoralize the poor, college educated, suburban white ladies. And it is a simple enough concept for the low information Hilly supporters to process and understand. I anticipated a low black voter turnout and 650,000 emails should pretty much ensure that happens.

Trump needs to hammer this message for the next nine days and then….landslide.

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Political Landscapes

To make accurate models you need data. Lots of data. Building a model of the American electorate – whether for polling, advertising buys, or for Get Out the Vote efforts – is an exercise in Big Data with huge reams of the stuff being processed by very smart people. As I mentioned in the comments in my last piece, the polling in this election has not “herded” so much as clumped. The preferred MSM narrative has Hilly ahead by quite a bit and is based on a set of polls which are aggregated at fivethirtyeight.com. The “outliers” to this – USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times “Daybreak” , IBD/TIPP and Rasmussen – consensus position has the race tied or Trump a bit ahead.

Plenty of ink has been spilt trying to explain the clumping as an artefact of the differing methodologies used by the different polling operations: the different samples, different weightings, different measurement techniques. I suspect there is useful information to be gleaned from this sort of comparison but not enough to actually explain what is causing the clumping. For that you need to look at a larger picture.

If you are building a model you have to make some basic assumptions and the most important of these is about what relationship the present has to the past. Put another way, one question you have to ask is how closely the electorate you are looking at right now resembles the electorate of, in this case 2012 and 2008. What’s the same, what’s changed?

Eight years ago America was in the throes of what turned out to be a huge economic crisis. It was offered the chance to elect its first black President. The word Millennial was just entering the lexicon. The iPhone had arrived the year before. So had Netflix as a streaming service.

A few numbers

Traditional media was hanging on in 2008. Newspapers still had readers, advertisers and staff. But that changed a lot in the eight intervening years.  The three big TV networks saw their viewership decline. In fact, overall television watching dropped.

Along with declining “reach” mainstream media also saw trust in media drop to new lows in the last eight years. Only 32% of people surveyed by Gallup September 2016 said they great deal or fair amount of trust and confidence in mass media as compared to 43% in 2008. (Actually, only 7% said they had a great deal of trust.)

The number of people of “prime working age” in work in the US – a measure which discounts things like retirement and immigration – was at 78.8% in September 2008 and very nearly the same at 78.0 in September 2016. But during that period it dipped to 75.0 in the aftermath of the 2008 crash.

In the second quarter of 2016 homeownership fell to 62.9% down from 68.1% in 2008. 

And, one more number: there are now more Millennials than Boomers.

Competing Landscapes

The raw material for modelling is the same, those numbers and hundreds of other time series: so how can you have the variance implied by the poll clumping?

If the data was just the data there should be very little variation. But, in fact, each of the data sets I’m citing and many, many others, represent actual human experience. If you owned a house in 2008 and lost it in the housing crisis, you have a particular sort of experience. If you had a job in 2008, lost it in 2010 and have only recently re-entered the labour force you have had a particular sort of experience. If you are a Millennial rather than a Boomer, your lived experience is very, very different. The job you lost in 2009 may have been your first and only job. The job the Boomer lost maybe the very last job he’ll ever have. As a Millennial the job you lost in 2009 may have been your first and only job. The job the Boomer lost maybe the very last job he’ll ever have.

Polls tend to work by adjusting their samples to reflect demographics and an estimate of a given demographic’s propensity to actually vote. On a toy model basis, you can think of it as a layer cake with each layer representing an age cohort. So, for example, if you look at younger voters 18-29 you might find that 90% of them support Hilly and 10% Trump. If there are 100 of these voters in your sample of 500 a simple projection would suggest 90 votes for Hilly, 10 for Trump. The problem is that it is difficult to know how many of those younger voters will actually go out and vote. As a rule of thumb the older you are the more likely you are to vote so now you have to estimate voting propensity.

There are two ways to get a sense of voting propensity: ask the people in your sample or look at the behaviour of people the same age but in the last couple of elections.

And now the landscape begins to shift. In 2008, nearly 50% of voters aged 18-29 voted. In 2012, 40% voted. In both elections, the youth vote was heavily pro-Obama. If you were designing a poll at this point, what sort of weighting would make sense for youth voters? Making that call will change the landscape your poll will reflect. If you want your poll to tilt Hilly you can believe that the prospect of the first woman President of the United States will be as motivating as Obama was and assign a voting propensity of 40-50%; alternatively, if you don’t see many signs of Hillary catching fire among younger voters, you can set the propensity number at 30% and create a tie or a slight Trump lead.

(The results of this are even more dramatic if you look at the black vote and turnout. In 2008 black turnout was 69.1%, 2012, 67.4% with Obama taking well over 90%. Will the nice white lady achieve anything like these numbers?)

One the other side of the ledger, the turnouts of the less educated have been low for the last two elections. 52% in 2008 and a little less than 50 in 2012. There is room for improvement. Now, as any educated person will tell you, often at length, Trump draws a lot of support in the less educated cohorts. But that support is easily discounted because these people (the deplorables and their ilk) barely show up to vote.

Build your model on the basis that lower education people’s participation in 2016 will be similar to 2008 and 20012 and you will produce a result in line with the 538.com consensus view. But if you think that the tens of thousands people who show up for Trump’s rallies might just show up to vote, you will have a model tending towards the LA Times view of things.

Pick Your Landscape

If you, like me, cannot stand Hillary and think she belongs in prison, you are going to tend towards a view of the landscape in which the black vote collapses and the idiocracy figures out how the calendar works and shows up in all their bumpkin splendour. If you think Trump is a giant orange racist/groper/fascist, the Millennials will all serenely leave the coffee houses where they serve in honour of their women’s studies degrees and student debt and nobly vote for Hilly despite really wanting Bernie. Black people will embrace Hilly and give Obama a great send off by voting for the nice white lady.

What will determine the actual political landscape is who actually shows up to vote on November 8th. The danger which the 358.com consensus poses to Hillary is that her own, not terrifically enthusiastic supporters, may assume the election is in the bag and binge watch Orange is the New Black, on Netflix, on their smartphone. Because, after Trump’s measured performance in last night’s debate, the wind has gone out of the “literally Hitler” sails. Voting against Trump is no longer quite like hiding Anne Frank in your attic.

For Trump the last three weeks of campaigning are all about getting his people, his deplorables to believe, against all past experience that their votes matter. His rallies, his Tweet fights, his advertising all have to pound home the message that ordinary people’s votes matter.

And then, of course, there are those “events” which are beyond the candidates and the pollster’s control.

Final thought:

Gallup Poll, Oct 26, 1980, Two Weeks Before Election:

REAGAN 39%, CARTER 47%

 

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