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Take Those Polls and Shove ‘Em

PS#61

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Start in a state with an active electorate of six million (say, Pennsylvania in 2016). Now poll a thousand of those people. You are allowing each respondent to represent six thousand people. That’s a big opportunity for skewed results, well beyond the so-called “margin of error.” So pollsters weight their results, based on the polled area’s past performance.

That’s how 525 survey votes for Trump can become 475 reported survey votes. And this methodology doesn’t recognize that old white men who are certain the system is rigged do not even answer questions for pollsters.

In this election, Big Data failed—Big League. Hillary Clinton had a reliable lead in Pennsylvania for the entire run-up to the election! Trump got close but never led in the polls. Then came the election, where no votes are weighted and those old white men who never vote or speak to pollsters, actually voted. Trump’s margin of victory was just over 71 thousand votes out of nearly six million. Not doing the math? That’s 49% to 48%.

He won Florida, North Carolina, and Wisconsin by similar slim margins. Very slim.

In Pennsylvania’s winner-take-all contest, Hillary’s 2,844,705 votes were cast aside like trash. All but two of the states do that (Nebraska and Maine), which makes for some truly unfortunate electoral arithmetic.

I have trusted the noted poll interpreter Nate Silver and his fivethirtyeight.com website since 2008. He called every state in the 2008 and 2012 elections! His site, his people, have hundreds of ways to analyze the data. Logical approaches. I depend on his estimates, always oh-so-right.

Nate’s website doesn’t actually conduct polls, they just interpret polls. But they are the best there is at it, and their Election Day predictions were so reassuring:

Chance of winning: Clinton 71.4% vs. Trump 28.6%
…and Hillary did win the popular vote, just not the Electoral College.

The predictions of victory and the margins by which she lost in so many states break my heart, especially when you consider how many thousands of voters some of these states purged from the rolls. The Republicans know exactly what they’re doing in elections. A pity all that expertise doesn’t extend to governing.

Here’s what Nate’s people promised us, followed by what we actually got:

  • Hillary was predicted +0.7% in both Florida and North Carolina but lost FL by 0.3% and NC by 3.9%.
  • In Pennsylvania, she was up 3.7% but lost by 71,794 votes, about 1.2%.
  • In Wisconsin, Hillary had a 5.3% lead in the polls but lost by 27,257 votes. Weigh that against Milwaukee county, a Democratic stronghold with a large percentage of people of color, where 60,000 fewer people voted than did in 2012. Lack of excitement about Hillary or voter suppression? The result is the same.
  • In Arizona, Trump was up +2.2% , but he won by less than 0.4%.

As of this writing, the final two states are still too close to call:

  • In Michigan, Hillary was up 4.2% but is losing by 13,107 votes!
  • In New Hampshire, she had an alleged 3.6% lead but four days later she’s ahead by a mere 2,611 votes.

Faulty weighting of polls that simulate an imaginary electorate seems like a reasonable explanation for what went wrong. But fivethirtyeight.com looked at hundreds of polls. And they were all wrong? That much error is as unfathomable to me as is the looming Trump presidency. And yet here we are.

Of the Five Stages of Grief, I’ve only reached the second: Anger. I’m not sure how I’ll ever get past that.

My wife and I sat slack-jawed in front of MSNBC as North Carolina fell, then Ohio, then Florida. The liberal-slanted network pulled its own reserved version of Karl Rove’s 2012 Election Night meltdown over Ohio, not calling Pennsylvania for Trump long after it was time to do so. Like Rove, MSNBC was thinking magically: that by not announcing defeat, they could somehow prevent it. They still hadn’t called Pennsylvania when they began displaying a BREAKING NEWS! banner shouting that Hillary had telephoned Trump to concede the election.

Trump showed reserve and grace in his acceptance speech on Election Night, but there is plenty of film out demonstrating who he really is. And I’m in NO mood to reconcile. Obama showed incredible reserve and grace the next day, as did Hillary. “We’re all rooting for his success now.” It’s the right thing to do, but I want to vomit.

Do. Not. Forget: One day after the 2008 election, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell met with his people to pledge that they would stand in the way of everything and anything that the new president Obama might want to do. Even stuff that Republicans had proposed.

This came in the face of the worst financial crisis in seven decades. And it happened because Republicans care more about holding power than they do about our country succeeding, or about its citizens feeling pain. Talk is cheap. Senate Republicans followed through on McConnell’s plan, using the filibuster in record-breaking quantities to deny the majority. And now they want cooperation because they won? Sorry, but there’s no fucking way.

That won’t matter, of course. McConnell knows very well what he did and that Democrats could do the same thing. Here’s how he’ll avoid that: at the beginning of each new two-year Congress, the Senate meets and votes on the rules that will apply for the coming 2-year session. Decisions are made by a simple majority. McConnell and friends will eliminate the filibuster so that their 51-49 majority can pass anything they want. They can actually ban muslims, cancel treaties, take us back to the 1950s …anything.

I dearly hope that I’m wrong about this. Republicans in victory becoming reasonable people is my fantasy. Here, would you like some of what I’m smoking?

These are the same people who urged like-minded citizens to disrupt town hall meetings in the summer of 2009, because they hated the idea of universal health care. Even though that issue had been a big part of the election, and the side pushing that issue won decisively. A memo from tea partiers, entitled Stand Up and Shout, urged like-minded citizens to shut down those meetings with screaming. They did. These people are the sorest of sore losers, and very soon we’ll find out exactly what kind of sore winners they are.

I want so very much to be wrong. But here’s how I see it going:

You can say goodbye to Obamacare immediately. That will strip 20 million people of their coverage, and render anyone with a pre-existing condition ineligible for coverage. And remember all those complaints about Obamacare rate increases for 2017? You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet; unregulated insurances companies will pump those rates even higher. Planned Parenthood is gone too. We wouldn’t want women to think that their country gives a shit about them.

On Friday, Trump announced that Obamacare would be repealed and replaced by his new, MUCH better plan simultaneously, so no one would lose coverage. Hmmm, I guess he didn’t pay much attention to those noisy town hall meetings. A Republican-controlled Congress will never, ever pass any health care law that approaches Obamacare. Go ahead, assholes, prove me wrong. I dare you.

Trump also promised that existing health conditions would still be allowed, and one wag suggested that he just change the name to “Trumpcare” to make all those brainless shouters love it. Obama’s golden reaction was: sure, change the name, if that saves it.

A new Supreme Court justice in the mold of Scalia or Alito is coming. Of course it’ll be a young, ultra-conservative white man. A filibuster-less Senate guarantees that anyone Trump nominates, including his sister, Sarah Palin, or the devil himself Dick Cheney, is in.

Do remember mere weeks ago when John McCain and several other senators vowed to block ANY nominee of Hillary Clinton’s? There’s no need for that kind of disrespect to our Constitution now. As soon as new cases can be brought before this new court, you can also say goodbye to abortion rights (Roe v. Wade), to gay marriage, and perhaps to all the rest of the Voting Rights Act.

It gets even worse… liberal Associate Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen Breyer are 83 and 78, respectively. Both will likely leave the Supreme Court in less than 4 years. You can bet they’ll be replaced by young and seriously conservative justices. That will leave Sotomayor and Kagen as the liberals. If you’re counting, that’s a 7-2 majority. I’m 65, and I’ll be dead before the Supreme Court is anything but reactionary conservative. It won’t even matter if all future presidents are liberal, gay, female, and of color.

For once, this really was the most important election of our lives. And too many liberals blew it by staying home. B-b-but Hillary actually won, just like Al Gore did in 2000. She won the popular vote—and now that’s two of the last five elections that Dems have won, but legally lost because of an antique, rigged system called the Electoral College. But that would matter only if Trump had lost, right?

What bothers me most is that my own demographic, white men, went 63% for Trump. And white men my age? I don’t even want to know. I’m pissed at white women too, who went for Trump 53%. Seriously—do you really want some crude celebrity stranger to grab you by the pussy unbidden?

Which brings me to a very real fear expressed by Rudy Giuliani recently: that we would have a sexual predator in the White House if we elected Hillary. Well, thank Heaven that didn’t happen! Now we will have a Republican sexual predator there. Soooo preferable!

Even worse, Neanderthals like Giuliani and Christie will have important jobs in the government. One of those two will be Attorney General. That shoots a bullet into a topic very close to my own heart—legalized marijuana. Christie told pot users during his failed 2016 presidential campaign: “If you’re getting high in Colorado today, enjoy it. As of January 2017, I will enforce the federal laws.” You can expect worse from Giuliani.

Those two are only the start of a likely murder’s row—think Newt Gingrich!—of cabinet members and other officials that just last week I planned to watch slide back down into the primordial sludge from whence they came. I was planning on the same for Trump himself. Now I get to hear that blowhard whine every day for four years. Please God, let it be onlyfour!

Dana Milbank wrote in the Washington Post that Trump “…stirred up racial and religious hatred and stoked gender and class resentments, validated conspiracy theorists and the racist alt-right, employed a vast oeuvre of untruths and promised followers an unachievable agenda. How does he govern now?”

  • That reminds me of another bullet I meant to list earlier: we are already seeing an increase in bullying, both in the physical world and online. The Twitterverse pounced on Melania Trump last week when she suggested that her “First Lady Project” would be to combat online bullying. We all know where she could start, and I’m rooting for her to do it.

I haven’t even broached the international consequences of this election, if Trump actually does a fraction of the things he pledged: Trade wars with Mexico and China. Treaties violated or canceled. Trump cheering as Putin reassembles the Soviet Union. Oh yeah, and there’s those tempting nuclear codes that we never get to use. Good God! That nightmare is for a future column.

Let’s imagine for a moment a reversal of this election, where Clinton wins the Electoral College but Trump wins the popular vote. Would there be a peaceful transfer of power underway right now? An acceptance of the result? Of course not. There would be reich-wing screaming and lawsuits and accusations pouring out of FOX News. And riots far more violent than the left-wing protests going on now.

Pundits are now labeling what just happened a “wave election.” That is a giant pile of horseshit. Hillary won the vote. The Democrats gained two Senators and “a handful” of seats in the House of Representatives. Democrats likely got more total votes, as they did in 2014 and 2012. But they are powerless because Republicans have rigged the state elections with gerrymandering and the Electoral College rigs the presidential contest.

Republican voters returned the real culprits to office, for what is called “Washington dysfunction.” According to an old adage: People hate Congress but love their own representatives. Sheesh.

President Obama is as popular as he’s ever been since he was first elected. A majority of people like him, and yet a larger majority feels that the nation is going in the wrong direction. Huh? Republicans have spent eight years slowing the economic recovery, making sure that very little happened in government, and now they have won the election by blaming this poor performance on the Democrats.

And their voters are willing to believe that crap. FOX News pumps out lies like that with a fire hose. But conservatives aren’t the only people at fault. Here’s another adage: “Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line.” Democratic voters did not fall in love—and they did not turn out to vote in the needed numbers this time around. Even though they won the popular vote. Republican voters, for all their complaining and #NeverTrump-ing, did fall in line at the very end. And they did turn out to vote, with no ground game to help them.

It could have been different. Hear this, protest voters and protest non-voters: the joke’s on you. It’s on all of us. Now we get to live with the shitty government that all of you deserve.

Is there anything funny about what just happened? Well, on Election Night the Canadian immigration website went down from too many people trying to access it. I so wish that I had something better for you, but I cannot manage it today. Maybe next time.

Political Survivor #61
Subscribe! … I’m not going away.

Wait! I did find something funny, a Facebook video (available to all) of a Marmot’s reaction to the election:

Political Survivor #61

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Written by

Steve Schlich is retired after 35 years of writing fiction about software: “easy to use,” “does what you want,” and the like. Hobbies include webmaster for www.RodSerling.com, writing songs and short stories. In 2004, he created www.NakedWashington.com, a website chronicling the naughty public art in Washington, D.C. He lives happily with his wife and cats, north of San Francisco.

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