Reflections on the election

JAC: Note that this post is by Greg, and many readers seem to miss the bylines. This reflects Greg’s views, and comments should be addressed to him. (I’m not saying I disagree with him; that’s just the proper disclaimer!)

by Greg Mayer

I’m writing this on Sunday, November 8, the day after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris were projected the winners of the 2020 election, and they can now rightly be called President-elect and Vice President-elect, respectively. Some observations on the election follow.

My house on election day, November 3, 2020.

Something’s gone quite wrong with political polling. For the second presidential election in a row, the polls have been somewhere between not very good and terrible. This was not always the case. In the 2012 election, pundits misunderstood the nature of sampling error, and thus made invalid criticisms of the polls. In that election, most of the error seemed to be sampling error, and thus the poll aggregators did quite well in their prognostications. But in 2016 and 2020 there were large systematic errors. Efforts of pollsters to account for their failings in 2016 and counteract them in 2020 (e.g., stratifying by education, continuing to poll right up to election day) apparently did not work.

The true nature of the errors cannot be fully known until all the votes are in, but a preliminary look shows major deficiencies. As of this writing, Biden leads nationally by 3%, and in Wisconsin by less than 1%. Biden’s national lead will grow as state’s complete their counts, and might even reach 5%, but Wisconsin’s results are essentially complete and will change little, if at all. Here’s what four well known poll aggregators had as their final estimates on the morning of election day:

The Upshot (New York Times): Biden up nationally +8, in Wisconsin +10.

FiveThirtyEight: Biden up nationally +8, in Wisconsin +8.

Electoral-Vote.com: Biden up in Wisconsin +8. (They only aggregate state polls.)

The Economist Biden up nationally +9, in Wisconsin +8.

If Biden finally wins the national popular vote by 5%, that will be near the lower end of what’s compatible with merely sampling error on an 8% lead. But all the aggregators (and thus, on average, all the polls) were way off for Wisconsin. Nate Cohn of The Upshot expressed what apparently happened in a pre-election piece entitled “What Trump Needs to Win: A Polling Error Much Bigger Than 2016’s”. He was absolutely right. There was a bigger polling error in 2020 than in 2016, but it wasn’t big enough.

“All politics is local.” Having been a constituent of Tip O’Neill for some years, I’ve always been fond of his saying that “All politics is local.” This may be less true now than it was when he said it, but Brian Leiter used the phrase when pointing to the article “Queens man evicted“, which appeared in the Queens Daily Eagle, Donald Trump’s home town newspaper. (Other front page articles were “Broken water main floods swath of Oakland Gardens” and “Koo says Flushing Waterfront rezoning has ‘many merits’.”) Money quote from “Queens man evicted”:

A 74-year-old Jamaica Estates developer has less than three months left at his current address after Americans overwhelmingly voted him out of the White House, the AP projected Saturday.

President Donald Trump, a Republican, lost his bid for reelection after a days-long vote count, becoming the 11th commander-in-chief to lose the presidency after a single four-year term and the first major-party candidate from Queens to twice lose the popular vote.

This is my favorite account of the results of the election so far.

The electoral college has got to go. Despite the cliffhanger in the electoral college, it was clear late on election night that Biden would win the popular vote by a substantial amount. Topping 50% of the vote with a difference of 3% (which will likely go up) is actually a convincing win, comparable to Obama’s win in 2012, and greater than any Republican winner since Bush vs. Dukakis in 1988. Only the electoral college made it seem like the result of the election was up in the air.

The electoral college was designed in the late 18th century to deal with the difficulties of communication over a large area with a dispersed population. Only the most well-informed people, living in the cities connected most directly by post roads and shipping, could expect to know what was occurring throughout the country, and who the leading men were. But within states, it would be expected that knowledge would be greater, and that a group of well-informed leaders from each state– the electors– could be elected by the people, and the electors would then gather in a conclave to elect the president and vice president. The electoral college, contrary to what some Republicans say now, was not designed to protect the minority from the tyranny of the majority– there are other safeguards in the Constitution for the minority; it was certainly never intended to enable a tyranny of the minority.

In the 19th century, the winner of the popular vote failed to win the presidency three times, the latest in 1888. There were no other such cases till 2000, and it occurred again in 2016, both times putting a popular-vote-losing Republican in office. It almost happened in 2004, when Democrat John Kerry would have won the electoral college with just a small shift of votes in Ohio, despite losing the popular vote; and it could have happened in 2020, where a shift of something on the order of 100,000 votes, distributed among the closest states, would have re-elected Donald Trump, despite a convincing win by Biden in the popular vote.

That in the six presidential elections from 2000 to 2020, the “loser’ became president twice, and that in two other elections it was a close run thing, is intolerable. I don’t know the best way to move to a national popular vote, but it must be done, or else the most powerful official in the country will frequently not be the choice of the people.

“I’m a fan of math. Math doesn’t respond well to opinion.” I’d never encountered John Fetterman, the lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, before– why would I? But on first impression, I like him.

I may have underestimated Stacey Abrams. I had thought that Stacey Abrams was overhyped, in much the same way as Beto O’Rourke and Pete Buttigieg: sure she mounted an interesting challenge a couple of years ago, but she lost fairly convincingly, and had no important political victories. But she organized relentlessly in Georgia, and now Biden has apparently won the state, and both Senate races will go to a runoff. Kudos to her and her Georgia collaborators.

‘People of color’ is not a thing. The election revealed the racialist essentialism of both wokeism and white supremacy to be defective. Although the phrase ‘people of color’ has a distinct, historical meaning in the Francophone world, as does ‘colored people’ in American English (e.g. the NAACP), the recent usage of the phrase in English never seemed meaningful to me. It concatenated people of extremely diverse interests, histories, political inclinations, and races into what was portrayed as a monolithic entity. ‘Latinos’, for example, usually thought of as ‘people of color’ by people who use the term, while correctly identifying aspects of linguistic heritage (although does Portuguese or French count?), encompasses a huge diversity of individual experiences, historical experiences, and races. ‘Latinos’ may be any race– white, black, American Indian, etc.– and any ‘color’: ‘Mexican’ or ‘Cuban’, like ‘American’, is a nationality, not a racial group.

The failure of such facile essentializing is revealed both by (still preliminary) polling data– Trump outpolled all Republicans since Nixon among ‘people of color’, while whites moved toward Biden, and provided the majority of his votes– and by incontrovertible election results. In south Florida, the embrace of Republicans by Cuban-American dominated districts doomed Biden in Florida, and sent two Democratic congresswomen packing. In Wisconsin, American Indian dominated Menominee County was deep blue for Biden, while Robeson County in North Carolina, home of the Lumbee Tribe, went for Trump. It’s amazing how much the woke and white supremacists have in common, and how wrong they are.

Now that’s a concession speech. In 2008, John McCain devoted the beginning of his concession speech to a reflective and evidently heartfelt appreciation of the historic nature of Barack Obama’s victory. I wonder what the opening theme of this year’s concession speech will be?

Every vote counts. Voting by mail is difficult. Rules vary tremendously, and state and local officials can make it more or less difficult. My daughter votes absentee, and a few weeks before the election she was notified by the city clerk that her ballot had been invalidated because upon opening the envelope her ballot was visible (a ‘naked’ ballot). The clerk had notified her so that she could send another ballot, and remarked that the same flaw was evident in a number of ballots. What evidently happened is that the clerk’s office uses a slicer to open ballot envelopes, and cut open both inner and outer envelopes at once, revealing (and thus spoiling) the ballot. My daughter resent her ballot by Priority Mail, which includes a large, cardboard outer envelope, distinct from the enclosed ballot envelope. Good on the clerk for notifying voters whose ballots were spoiled in this fashion, so that they could be resubmitted.

Although most absentee voters use standard envelopes supplied by the clerk, military and overseas voters supply their own envelopes, of varying sizes, and the opening process was apparently not working with noticeable frequency on these envelopes.  I contacted city hall, suggesting this might be an issue for military and overseas voters. The clerk took the suggestion to heart, and quickly informed me that henceforth all military and overseas ballots would be opened by hand. I hope that this enabled a number of voters to successfully cast their ballots.

Biden had more of a ‘ground’ game than I thought. Democrats around the country largely eschewed in-person canvassing and get-out-the-vote (GOTV) efforts due to the pandemic. Here in Wisconsin, the Biden campaign blanketed the media (broadcast, streaming, web), but no one came round, persuading, identifying and encouraging supporters. But they had a sophisticated campaign that I had not anticipated. My daughter got a call from the Biden campaign on the afternoon of election day, telling her that her ballot had been set aside, and not counted. As soon as she could, she called the clerk. The clerk reassured her that her ballot would be counted, but that military and overseas ballots required special handling, and would be processed later.

The reason for this is that military and overseas voters receive their ballots by email, and must print them for filling out and return to the clerk’s office. They are thus on varying paper sizes and thicknesses, and must be copied over for feeding into the vote-counting machines. The Detroit Free Press has a brief explanation:

At 7 p.m., about 1,200 military ballots were still being counted, Detroit election officials said.

Kahn said the process for counting military absentee ballots is complex and takes longer because the ballots have to be re-created.

“It has to be done, by the way, with one GOP and one Democratic challenger at the table,” he said. “They open it up and then they copy the Xeroxed ballot onto a regular size ballot, and that’s the one that gets counted. So it’s a very safe process. There’s a lot of people standing around, challengers, everything.” )

The remarkable thing to me is that a Democratic poll observer at the local polling place (which is where absentee ballots are counted) saw that the ballot had been set aside, knew that it was the ballot of a likely supporter, informed the campaign, and that the campaign could then contact the voter to see if any rectifying actions could be taken, all in ‘real time’. This is ahead of even the Obama campaign’s in-person methods of identifying supporters, and light years ahead of the Gore campaign in 2000, which could only identify favorable wards for GOTV efforts, not individual voters. I was impressed.

All glory is fleeting.”* Despite the celebrations on Saturday, and Joe Biden’s true-to-form call for unity and reconciliation, I couldn’t help but be mindful of the difficult work ahead, and that success is not guaranteed. I was reminded of the scene in the film A Bridge Too Far, about an unsuccessful Allied offensive in the fall of 1944. Dutch civilians thronged an advancing column of British tanks, singing “War is over!” But the war was not over, and it went on for many horrible months afterwards, even for the Dutch. The same, I fear, is true for the American republic. (* This is not quite what was whispered in the ear of a Roman general celebrating a triumph, but it’s close enough.)

A toast to victory. My family, spread from the Eastern to Pacific time zones, raised a glass to honor Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as they gave their victory speeches on Saturday night.

Victory shots, November 7, 2020. Rhum Barbancourt, 5 Star, which I have been saving for a special occasion for about 20 years.

Know hope.

h/t: Brian Leiter, Andrew Sullivan/Fareed Zakaria

156 Comments

  1. Kim
    Posted November 9, 2020 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Fetterman is from my neck of the woods, is pretty popular, and I think he has a lot of potential. He seems to posses a good combination of grit and common sense.

  2. eric
    Posted November 9, 2020 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    In the 19th century, the winner of the popular vote failed to win the presidency three times, the latest in 1888.

    While technically true, two of those cases are probably not good analogies for the 21st century incidents. In 1824 the votes were split four ways, nobody got the number of EC votes needed to win, and the House had to vote on who would be the winner. In 1876 the parties’ struck a deal before the last 20 EC votes were counted. The 1888 election is very analogous to the modern cases though; only two significant candidates, with straight-up vote counting leading to a difference between EC and popular due to the “structure” of our voting system, and no backroom deals or Congressional action involved in the final decision.

  3. GBJames
    Posted November 9, 2020 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    sub

  4. merilee
    Posted November 9, 2020 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    🐾🐾

  5. John Donohue
    Posted November 9, 2020 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Greg,

    Please visualize this:

    If the election were to be determined by popular vote, how many RedTeam or RedLeaning citizens of New York, California, and Illinois who don’t vote now … because of the forgone conclusion … would cast a ballot?

    Better be careful what you wish for.

    • GBJames
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      I’m not the Greg you are addressing but I would answer, “good”. If there are people in California who are inactive voters because they feel disenfranchised, they should be able to feel that their vote counts. This is not a partisan thing, it is a democratic thing (small “d”).

      • eric
        Posted November 9, 2020 at 9:53 am | Permalink

        I agree.

        • George
          Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:59 am | Permalink

          How many blue people in red states sit out the election because they feel disenfranchised? I don’t think turnout would change that much. There are a lot of things to vote on other than president. In Cook County, IL, our ballot was four pages. Two ballots printed on both sides. One thing that it would depend on is the voting culture. The states with the highest voter participation are blue, the lowest red.
          https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/voter-turnout-by-state

          • eric
            Posted November 9, 2020 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

            People also forget that if we changed from EC to popular vote, the GOP would likely change their platform to continue to grab the biggest share of the vote they could.

            This might result in a more moderate GOP, which personally I’d like, but shifting to a popular vote would certainly not imply Dem wins in the future. It some respects, the EC->popular shift is sort of like changing a representative’s district boundaries; sure, they could stick to all their guns and lose. But they could also shift their position enough to continue to win the majority of votes in the new district.

            • GBJames
              Posted November 9, 2020 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

              The issue is democracy not which party gets the advantage.

      • Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

        Well said Greg.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted November 9, 2020 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

        I agree too. But it works both ways, of course.

    • Posted November 9, 2020 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      If this ended up being true, this would be a win for democracy. I don’t want conservatives in the US to win elections, generally speaking, but to have a successful government, it needs to represent the populace the best that it can. That being said, I don’t know why it wouldn’t also encourage voters for the Democratic Party in Red states, thus cancelling out this effect.

      • John Donohue
        Posted November 9, 2020 at 9:54 am | Permalink

        In California, the unions drive turnout. That is, the unions for government workers and teachers. Yes, direct election will up-tick Blue votes … but way out of proportion with the surge in Red votes.

        Currently … for a ‘mild’ Republican/Red person … “Why bother, my vote just gets lost.” That person will be super energized to vote Red.

        • GBJames
          Posted November 9, 2020 at 9:59 am | Permalink

          You think Democratically-inclined folk certainly must oppose encouraging “red” voters. You’re misinformed. Most Democratically-inclined people favor free and fair elections with one vote per person and no disenfranchisement. We tend to have confidence that our ideas will prevail. Republicans tend to view election simply as power struggles between competing teams and any technique that advantages them is just fine, voter enfranchisement be damned.

          • eric
            Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:43 am | Permalink

            I can provide a personal anecdote. My ex and I both voted for Biden. But when it came to encouraging turnout, we both volunteered with MomsVote to send reminder letters to moms who were registered but who had not voted in 2018. We got a stack of postcards each, with lots of different names and addresses, and we encouraged all of them with politically neutral messages (e.g. “We missed your vote! Please consider voting this time”). From the Whitemans in Alabama to the Ruizes in SanFrancisco, it made no difference to us. Everyone’s vote is important.

            John, I absolutely support getting every legal voter to vote. Red or blue or none or other.

            One would think that sending mail-in ballots to every registered voter would be something the parties would agree on. After all, citizens exercising their right to vote is a good thing, right? But alas, it appears the GOP is virulently against it.

          • John Donohue
            Posted November 9, 2020 at 11:32 am | Permalink

            Rejected. And don’t tell me what I think.

            • GBJames
              Posted November 9, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink

              You do understand the phrase “tend to”, no?

              • Posted November 9, 2020 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

                I don’t think John understands your point that we Democrats want *every* vote to count, even if most of the votes are Republican. Fair is fair. It’s telling that he can’t conceive of someone simply wanting to be fair, and not rig the system for our own advantage.

              • John Donohue
                Posted November 11, 2020 at 11:00 am | Permalink

                @GBJames

                “Tend to” is your escape clause into plausible deniability, invisible in a meme culture hungry to shout out the claim it clings to.

                It does not cover direct insults, such as in this case.

              • GBJames
                Posted November 11, 2020 at 11:03 am | Permalink

                We seem to disagree about many things. Like the meaning of the words “direct” and “insult”.

            • Ken Kukec
              Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

              GBJ’s take is a fair inference — indeed, the only logical inference — to be drawn from you initial comment in this sub-thread.

        • Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:00 am | Permalink

          This all seems rather speculative with many assumptions for which I’ve never seen evidence. Even if you are correct and there are many more people who would vote conservative, I would still support a popular vote system to represent their interests.

        • tomh
          Posted November 9, 2020 at 11:44 am | Permalink

          John Donohue wrote:
          “the unions drive turnout”

          I don’t know how you conclude this when there are about 2.5 million union members in California and about 18 million votes cast.

        • Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

          Only 11.6% of US workers are in unions.

          The “big union influence” just can’t be that big, purely on numbers.

          Seriously, does anyone really bother with the 10% as opposed to the 90%? Unions go Dem because the GOP couldn’t give a rats ass for labor or labor rights.

    • John Donohue
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      Direct Federal election, won by popular vote …

      Can full direct democracy be far behind?

      Direct democracy, aka the Rule of the Masses, is — how shall I put it — a disaster.

      • GBJames
        Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:01 am | Permalink

        Well, certainly a disaster for people who use voter suppression as a standard part of the election tool kit.

      • Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:03 am | Permalink

        Are you making a slippery slope argument here? There are plenty of examples of systems in this world that don’t use a convoluted electoral system, yet, somehow they haven’t all become direct democracies. This is just a lame argument.

      • Historian
        Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        As the good libertarian that you are, I can understand why you live in constant fear that the masses will come and steal your property. After all, civilized society is based on property rights and anything that threatens it in the least is a harbinger of anarchy. Of course, unions are Satan’s spawn. Imagine the audacity of workers banding together to demand a living wage and decent working conditions. Any fool should recognize that unions deny workers their personal freedom by not allowing them the right to negotiate individually with employers.

        Let’s face it. The country was so much better in the late 1800s when federal troops were used to shoot strikers. Yes sir, those were the days when true freedom reigned. We need to go back to the glory days when unions were persecuted, social security and medicare didn’t exist and if vast numbers of people lived in extreme poverty, it was their own fault, so tough on them those lazy bastards.

        • John Donohue
          Posted November 9, 2020 at 11:31 am | Permalink

          Yep, historian, you’ve got me nailed. I suck. My political position and convictions suck.

          And how I admire your grasp of “history.”

          I didn’t know such analysis existed.

          • Nicolaas Stempels
            Posted November 9, 2020 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

            I have great respect for people that can see the error of their ways. Kudos to you, John. 🙂

            • John Donohue
              Posted November 11, 2020 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

              Yes, I was humbled by historian. I now feel shame for all the faults and toxicity identified in me. How can I ever change?

      • eric
        Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:48 am | Permalink

        States use referenda to a greater or lesser extent (depending on the state) to do exactly that.

        However, the chance we’re talking about here would IMO make or overall system more consistent. A House member is supposed to represent the interests of their district, so they are elected by the citizens of legal age of their district. A Senator is supposed to represent the interests of their state, so they are elected by the citizens of legal age of their State. Since the President is supposed to represent the entire country’s interests, it makes sense that pool of people doing the voting for him/her should be every citizen of legal age in the country.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted November 9, 2020 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        In every other election in the United States — from US senator or state governor to dog-catcher — the candidate who wins the most votes, wins the election.

        That winner-actually-wins system is working fine. Your fears are unfounded.

        • eric
          Posted November 9, 2020 at 11:51 am | Permalink

          Imagine someone suggesting that we need to create state-electoral colleges for our Senate or House member elections. Would that make sense to anyone? Of course not. Support for the EC seems to be something of a sunk cost fallacy; the only reason we like it is because we have it.

          Though in response to your point, I have to say I wouldn’t mind an instant runoff system instead.

          • Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

            No need to imagine.

            The GOP in Wisconsin have trotted out this idea for state-wide office, after their obscene gerrymandering in 2010 (in 2018, ~45% of the voters (GOP leaning) elected ~63% of the state house — despite losing every state-wide office.

            They can, with a straight face, suggest that “their” voters’ votes should be worth more in a statewide race than the other sides’ voters.

            This is Trumpism: Utterly shameless.

            • Nicolaas Stempels
              Posted November 9, 2020 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

              Although true, I think this gerrymandering, this straight faced contention that “their” voters should be worth more than the other sides’ voters, although bad, is peanuts compared to the Senate system.
              I remember you once posted how skewed the EC was (WY vote weighing 3.5 times one in CA, TX or NY), again, nothing compared to the Senate.
              We can even put a numerical value on it: Our Senate vote in WY is worth 70 times Your one in CA.
              As far as the EC goes the worst excess was 3.5 times, hence the Senate is 20times worse than the EC.

              • Ken Kukec
                Posted November 9, 2020 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

                That’s why, although Democratic senators represent a far greater number of Americans, Republicans have held control of the US senate for 20 of the last 30 years.

              • Posted November 10, 2020 at 7:53 am | Permalink

                Yeah, it’s very far from a democratic one-person, one-vote system.

                A Californian’s vote for the Electoral College (37.3M pop., 55 EC votes) is worth just 28% of the vote of a resident of Wyoming (pop. 563,000, 3 EC votes). Same for New York.

                And the Senate is even more unbalanced.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted November 9, 2020 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        Direct Democracy maybe a disaster, but the last four years thought us that indirect semi-democracy can be pretty disastrous too.

        • Posted November 9, 2020 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

          Autocracy is still on the table according to Trump. 😉

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:19 am | Permalink

      I can think of few things more un-American than to wish for the perpetuation of a system that encourages voters, regardless of party, to stay home on election day.

      Let all eligible Americans cast their ballots, damn the consequences.

    • jezgrove
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      Every vote should be equal. End of.

      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted November 9, 2020 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

        But some votes are more equal than other votes. 🙂

    • Keith
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:36 am | Permalink

      A national popular vote to elect our president would be a win for democracy. Full stop. Our EC system currently disenfranchises millions of voters around the country and overweights the votes of those living in small states and/or swing states. Fascism is on the rise in the U.S. today because of the electoral college. A good case can also be made that wokeism is promoted by the undemocratic EC.

      • Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:47 am | Permalink

        But I don’t know how we can ever be rid of the EC, or even make some sort of weaker EC. The Republicans see that it gives considerable weight to the fly-over red states, and they will not give it up, lest they start losing more elections.

        • Keith
          Posted November 9, 2020 at 11:39 am | Permalink

          We can make the EC irrelevant state by state by adopting legislation promoted by the National Popular Vote movement: https://www.nationalpopularvote.com/

          • EdwardM
            Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

            A stupidly frustrating website. Their “explanation page” does nothing of the sort. All it does is say why the EC is bad (got it) but doesn’t explain how the NPV actually works. They claim it makes the election of president a popular vote but that the EC will still exist. I believe them, but HOW that happens isn’t explained on their Explanation Page.

            I am sure it is is somewhere on that damn website. I’m just whinging about the stupid.

            • Dean Reimer
              Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

              Might be easier to suss out from the Wikipedia page: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Popular_Vote_Interstate_Compact

              TL;DR: states joining the compact pass legislation to award 100% of their EC votes to the candidate that has the majority of the popular vote. It only takes effect when enough states have signed on (and passed the enabling legislation) to reach the 270 votes needed to elect a president.

    • phoffman56
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

      If the Senate ended up 51-49 for the Repubs, and, as won’t happen, they had a vote on using popular vote for presidential elections, I’d bet the vote would be 51-49 against. No need to say who voted how.

      And Mr. Donahue’s favourite Senators would be telling him that he’s full of shit in their opinion.

      Unless of course he is writing up what he regards as a clever ploy, not really his prediction.

  6. Posted November 9, 2020 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    With a +/-4% margin of error I have no idea why anyone takes polls seriously in the first place.

    Yet it’s treated not only as ‘news’ but somehow a factual representation of reality. The media present it in the same way they’d report the score in a sports match, which is why it’s such an emotional hit for the gloating ‘leaders’ who then get shocked when it suddenly goes back to nil-nil on election day instead of 90-10.

    Worst of all, it contributes to the US’s already horrifyingly and irrevocably polarised political culture, without contributing anything of substance to already non-existent debates about policy.

    • Dean Reimer
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      I think there’s a place for issues polling, so that you can understand the population’s views on particular issues, and either use that to guide policy or find strategies to lead opinion towards your policy.

      But I’d like to see voter intention polling go away forever. It steers media coverage away from issues and towards the horse race, which weakens civic engagement.

    • Posted November 9, 2020 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      I find this argument to be somewhat like an argument against so-called reality shows on TV. Yes, they are bad but your argument is with the consumers, not the producers. Everyone knows getting voters to vote is key in every election. This seems to conflict with the idea that pre-election polling should be more accurate. People will make last-minute decisions to vote and for whom to cast their ballot and pre-election polls will continue to try to guess what people will do. Polling is not going away as it guides allocation of resources for candidates, to name just one use for it. It is what it is.

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 9, 2020 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Very good post. Particularly liked the review on the electoral history. So many seem to have invented other reasons for this ridiculous mess in our election system. It was something not so good that was started 240 years ago and should have been thrown out at least 100 years ago. Some people actually think we started out voting for the president and all of the congress. Surely in a democracy this must be so. But it was not so and the primary reason was those guys who met in Philly back then had little faith in the common citizen. To hold office or to vote required far more than most had acquired. After this election we just completed, I’m not to sure they were wrong about that.

  8. Posted November 9, 2020 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Subscribe

  9. Posted November 9, 2020 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Stacey Abrams and “organizing” had nothing to do with Biden’s Georgia win. Abrams should only be known for plumbing new depths in non-college White vote share among Georgia Democrats, resulting in Democrats losing a perfectly winnable election in that state. What won Georgia for Biden were changing demographics, college Whites exiting the Republican Party, and universal voter registration which Brian Kemp implemented in 2016. The Atlanta area has been trending Democratic since at least the 1960s, and the Georgia non-college rural White vote was coming close to 100% Republican in many counties. By 2018, the rural areas were maxxed out for Republicans, while the Atlanta area was still not maxxed out for Democrats. The only logical outcome of this was that if Biden did better in the Georgia rural areas than Abrams (and he did), he would win the state.

  10. Posted November 9, 2020 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Whenever I heard a poll number like – Biden is up by 8 in Wisconsin, I automatically discounted that in half. They really mean up by 4.

  11. Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    My reflection. The Republicans actually did quite well in this election. They seem to be holding the Senate, gained seats in the House, and did well in the State houses, dashing the Dems redistricting hopes. It is tRump that got defeated despite having the EC stacked in his favor.

    • GBJames
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:06 am | Permalink

      IMO the Dems have a good shot at taking the Georgia Senate seats. My theory, which is mine, is that R turnout will be lowered by tRump’s loss while D turnout will be encouraged. Since the runoff election happens before Inauguration Day, there will not have been time for Dem voters to be discouraged/disappointed by inevitable shortcomings in the Biden administration.

      But I might be wrong.

      • Posted November 9, 2020 at 11:46 am | Permalink

        Sorry, that’s my theory. I am willing to share it though. 😉

        • GBJames
          Posted November 9, 2020 at 11:47 am | Permalink

          You theory-thief! #stopthesteal. 😉

        • Dean Reimer
          Posted November 9, 2020 at 11:58 am | Permalink

          It could go the other way, however: Trump voters hoping to neuter a Biden presidency with a Republican senate turn out in droves, while Dem voters satisfied with Biden’s election stay home.

          I prefer your theory, though, and I hope it is correct.

          • Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

            Sure, but the Trump voters have all been told that they’ve retained the Senate. They would have to be re-activated which is hard to do.

            • GBJames
              Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

              They have also been told, and are still being told, that elections are crap. That’s not a way to turn out voters.

      • Posted November 9, 2020 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        I fervently hope you are right on GA.

        My take is that Andrew Sullivan got it right: https://andrewsullivan.substack.com/p/trump-is-gone-trumpism-just-arrived

        Americans firmly rejected both Trump and Wokeism. Hence the mixed results.

  12. Neil Wolfe
    Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    In the month before the election I was bombarded with robocalls to the point that I stopped answering my phone if I didn’t recognize the number (it’s also my work phone so calls from unrecognized numbers are not unusual). I was getting about 10 calls per day but not one since election day. Is it possible that blanketing key states with robocalls (I’m in PA) was an effort to reduce the accuracy of polling? If people don’t answer their phones, they won’t participate in polls.

    Has anyone else had this experience with robocalls?

    • DrBrydon
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:20 am | Permalink

      Yes, we had the same experience. It’s been so nice and quiet since the Election. I read an interesting interview with the head of The Trafalgar Group, whose polls were very accurate in 2016 (still waiting to see how accurate they were for 2020). He was talking about the things they do to get responses. First, they don’t exclusively use calls, because some people don’t want to talk to a pollster. Second, they keep their surveys short in order to be less of an annoyance.

    • Max Blancke
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

      It was just insane here. I counter over 40 calls one day, and I was outside for much of it.
      Some of them were polls, but we answered none of them. Part of it is that many are not really polls, but an excuse for them to read “questions” that are really statements.
      Like- “Do you support …’s plan to kill kittens and destroy America?”.

      Luckily, it would not be economical for someone to go door to door in our area, so we were spared that.

      • GBJames
        Posted November 10, 2020 at 8:20 am | Permalink

        The pandemic guaranteed that there would be little door-to-door activity anywhere this cycle. I think we had only one door-knocker. We live in the city and normally would have been visited many times.

        I got few phone calls but I did get a lot of text messages as part of the Biden get-out-the-vote effort.

  13. Historian
    Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    When discussing the merits of the abolition of the Electoral College, there is one issue that I have seen rarely discussed: what should replace it? One could respond by saying the answer is simple: let the popular vote determine the winner. But, on reflection, it becomes clear that this answer requires refinement. Should a person be declared the winner of the presidential election that receives more votes than any other candidate, but less than fifty percent plus one because there are more than two candidates running? Of course, many elections are decided this way, but should this be the case with presidential elections if the Electoral College were abolished?

    Several American presidents were elected with far less than fifty percent of the popular vote. Two of the most important elections were in 1860 and 1912. In 1912 Woodrow Wilson won with only 41.8% of the popular vote. In 1860 Lincoln won with only 39.8% of the popular vote. So, in arguing for the abolition of the Electoral College, one needs to specify whether a candidate should be elected when a significant majority of the population doesn’t want the person or should the new system of election require a runoff or some other alternative when no candidate receives a majority of the votes, only a plurality?

    • Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      What about keeping the EC but requiring the states to apportion their electors to the candidates in proportion to their popular vote in the state? It is more the “winner takes all” rule that makes the EC problematic than the EC itself.

      • Posted November 9, 2020 at 11:51 am | Permalink

        Yes, I like that idea too. I believe it can be done with a simple law on a state-by-state basis. Doesn’t one state already do this? I guess the problem is that states that are currently solidly Red or Blue aren’t likely to want this as it would dilute the majority party’s influence. Passing such a law at the federal level would probably be unconstitutional as it would usurp states rights. And, as we know, constitutional amendments are well nigh impossible to pass. Oh well.

        • Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

          Nebraska and Maine/

          • Ted Burk
            Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

            What Nebraska and Maine do is award one electoral vote to the winner in each congressional district, with the two remaining ones (for the senators) going to the popular vote winner in the entire state. So while I am glad Biden got the District 2 (Omaha) vote, he only got 20% of the state’s electoral college votes, despite getting 40% of the total popular vote in the state. So although I think the Nebraska/Maine method is better, it is still far short of awarding electoral college votes in correspondence with total popular vote percentage.

            • Posted November 9, 2020 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

              Agreed – I prefer the change that you recommend. I voted against the Colorado initiative because it keeps the EC as is but still is a winner take all proposition.

          • Derek Freyberg
            Posted November 9, 2020 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

            Nebraska and Maine both have the peculiar system that the two senatorial electoral college vote go to the winner of the statewide popular vote while the house of representatives electoral votes go to the winner of the popular vote in each electoral district.
            SO neither state actually apportions electoral college votes according to the proportion of the statewide popular vote. As a result, Maine (popular vote 54:44 for Biden) will give three votes to Biden and one to Trump and Nebraska (popular vote 59:39 for Trump) will give four to Trump and one to Biden.
            While the Maine and Nebraska systems are perhaps an improvement on winner-take-all, they’re hardly a solution. And, because they are based on house of representatives electoral districts, they’re subject to gerrymandering.
            But in states with larger numbers of electoral college votes, the numbers might be more proportional.

            • Posted November 9, 2020 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

              As noted, I agree that the electoral votes should be apportioned according to the state’s popular vote. Colorado has 9 votes, and the vote was 55% Biden, 42% Trump. Biden should get 5 votes, and Trump 4.

      • eric
        Posted November 9, 2020 at 11:57 am | Permalink

        I guarantee that some candidate would yell ‘foul’ the moment a rounding calculation determined the election. And it would.

        I agree with Historian that replacing the EC with a popular vote requires thinking through the details (>50%? Simply the most? Instant runoff?). But I don’t see that as much of an issue. If we ever had sufficient support for such an amendment, it is easy to think that the amendment will be a paragraph long to deal with those issuess, rather than a one-liner.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      Bill Clinton won both his presidential races, in 1992 and 1996, with less than 50% of the popular vote, due to the presence of third-party candidate Ross Perot in both elections.

    • tomh
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      What is so magical about 50%? I don’t see a problem with the person with the most votes winning.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

        I’m with you on this. I don’t see the connection between popular vote and the EC anyway. Where is the math in the EC? You win the vote in the state and you get all the electoral votes. That simply makes no sense and it is a throw back to state thinking instead of national thinking. Remember how it goes…We the people, not we the states. It is that primitive state thinking that got us two Senators per state and there is nothing democratic about that. We went to war with England because we thought we were being pushed around and taxed without representation. We have been doing it to ourselves ever since.

      • EdwardM
        Posted November 9, 2020 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        It’s how the Nazis gained power. They won 37% of the vote and that was enough to send 10s of millions to their graves.

        • tomh
          Posted November 9, 2020 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

          Oh, please, that’s supposed to prove something?

          • EdwardM
            Posted November 9, 2020 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

            It proves one thing; you are perfectly willing to jump to conclusions.

            It’s a fact, tom. The Nazis won 37% of the vote in in 1932 which brought them to power, as that gave them a plebiscite.

            Oh, plus they burned the Reichstag down. There was that too.

            You going to go after me mentioning that too?

            • tomh
              Posted November 9, 2020 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

              Many countries around the world, not to mention most elections in the United State, use plurality voting and they have never sent millions of people to their death. Or burned down whatever. That’s a fact.

              • EdwardM
                Posted November 9, 2020 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

                Here are some more facts that you can get mad at me for stating.

                1) In 19 (of 60) elections, the winner of the US presidency did not get >50% of the popular vote.

                2) Some states like Kentucky, Ohio and Mississippi have a laws on their books which states that “idiots” are not eligible to vote. The jokes write themselves with THAT one.

                3) It is legal in many states to change your vote. Wisconsin allows you to change it up to three times. Of course, the last one can’t be after election day.

                I’m sure I can find more facts that will make you mad. Or maybe not. Maybe they won’t. That’s the thing about facts, they just sit there. Making some of us mad.

              • tomh
                Posted November 9, 2020 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

                Why do random, irrelevant facts make you mad?

  14. DrBrydon
    Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    Polling I think it’s pretty clear now that the media were not trying to forecast the vote with their polling, they were trying to influence it. What’s wrong with polling is the same thing that’s wrong with journalism. It’s no longer about reporting, but boosterism.

    Electoral College You leave out an important rationale for the Electoral College, which is that it seeks to balance the impact of the States on the election (since the Constitution is a compact between the States, not between the citizens). The Founders were concerned that States with large populations (in their case Virginia) would swamp the votes of smaller states, and no presidential candidate would take their views into consideration. I don’t think there is a chance in hell that there would be the necessary super-majority of States to vote to change that.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      I think it’s pretty clear now that the media were not trying to forecast the vote with their polling, they were trying to influence it.

      Evidence?

      Why attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by systemic error?

    • Historian
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      “(since the Constitution is a compact between the States, not between the citizens)”

      Actually, there is great debate on who wrote the Constitution, the people or the states. Although the Constitution was ratified by the individual states, the preamble to the Constitution refers to “we the people.” As with many events in history, exactly what took place and its significance is far from clear.

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        Thank you. It would be good to remember, that guy, the father of the constitution, went in there determined to get both the house and the senate representation by population. The small states went to war with him and a few other and won. These same state thinkers pushed aside his idea for federal veto against the states. Madison left Philly thinking the whole deal was a loss. Yes, he later changed his mind but that does not remove what he was aiming for in the first place. What he was after was correct, it just wasn’t possible at the time.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        The Bill of Rights solely establishes the rights of individuals as regards the federal government; it has nothing to do with the relationship between the states. (Indeed, it was not until the middle of the 20th century that SCOTUS began interpreting the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment — ratified in 1868 — to incorporate the Bill of Right to apply to individuals as against state governments.)

    • Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      I heard an interview on NPR recently from some sort of polling guru (I don’t know their role) that the reason for the error in the polls was b/c more Trump voters don’t participate in polls. This being because they don’t trust pollsters since to them pollsters represent liberal news media.

      • Posted November 9, 2020 at 11:40 am | Permalink

        That’s an important point, if it’s true (which seems entirely likely).

        In other words, polls are now incapable of measuring popular opinion (as well as being pointless, premature, far too inaccurate to be meaningful in even the best case, and irrelevant).

      • Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        That seems most likely to me. Or they aren’t willing to admit support for Trump.

        There were almost no Trump lawn signs around here. There were even fewer in 2016.

        • GBJames
          Posted November 9, 2020 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

          What was the vote in your neighborhood?

          There were few tRump signs here as well. But I’m in a very blue area. Drive around the small towns 30 or 40 miles north, however, and there were/are a lot of them.

          • Posted November 10, 2020 at 7:17 am | Permalink

            Very blue here as well. Our local state legislative district vote went about 60% Dem.

            But I toured rural MN several times just prior to the election and was amazed by how few Trump signs were out.

            And, literally, just across the road from me (200 feet away) is the 6th MN Congressional District, infamous for sending Michele Bachmann to the US House. Few Trump signs there as well.

            Trump was the crazy uncle in the attic.

            It thrills me no end to use the past tense on Trump!

          • eric
            Posted November 10, 2020 at 9:33 am | Permalink

            Fun lawn sign observation; in one Delaware county I recently visited, there must’ve been a local Republican candidate running for some office with the last name Harris, because there were a bunch of Trump/Harris signs up on various lawns.

            My kid saw the first one. When he described it, I thought he meant that someone had defaced/written over part of a sign. But then I saw one, and nope, it said Trump/Harris. Just not that Harris. 🙂

      • EdwardM
        Posted November 9, 2020 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

        You’d think they’d adjust their polls for all known variables, but maybe they just don’t have any idea what the likelihood is for Republicans to avoid pollsters. Or maybe it’s just a very new phenomenon.

        There’s one way to find out. They could take a poll.

    • eric
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      The Founders were concerned that States with large populations (in their case Virginia) would swamp the votes of smaller states, and no presidential candidate would take their views into consideration.

      Well right now no candidate takes the views of the non-battleground states into consideration anyway. There is no perfect system where everyone gets the candidates’ ear equally; demanding we find such a system before giving up the EC is to basically rig the debate in favor of it, by requiring replacements to solve a problem that the EC itself doesn’t solve.

      A popular vote would essentially cause state borders to be somewhat meaningless in terms of candidate messages. But it wouldn’t remove the value or unique political concerns of various regions. So, instead of Rhode Islanders getting minimal discussion from candidates on Rhode Island issues during a whistlestop (because it’s not a battleground state), they’d likely get more, and more substantive and meaningful discussion from candidates on more generalized New England regional issues.

  15. Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    My favourite local news piece is this:

    ‘South Ayrshire Golf club owner loses 2020 presidential election’

    https://www.ayrshiredailynews.co.uk/post/south-ayrshire-golf-club-owner-loses-2020-presidential-election

    • merilee
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      Love it!

  16. A C Harper
    Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:16 am | Permalink

    A fundamental question in my mind is the purpose of polls.

    If they are to form a dispassionate prediction then any disparities between the prediction and outcome are down to error and should be explained.

    If the polls are (ahem!) shaped to support a favoured narrative then the explanation is bias.

    • eric
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

      There are both. The latter are termed ‘push polls.’ There’s also what you might consider an “intermediate” option, which is polls that unintentionally shape the respondent’s opinion, because it’s very hard to design questions that are truly ‘neutral’ in tone to everyone. Even reordering the same questions a different way can cause people to respond differently.

      But for purposes of this discussion, I think Greg is probably referring to the big, high credibility polling institutions that ostensibly strive for unbiased information gathering. Organizations like SurveyUSA and Marist. He’s not talking about push polls, things like (I’m making up an example here) the Texas Republican party calling people up and “polling” them with questions like “Are you aware Joe Biden killed his dog?”

  17. Curtis
    Posted November 9, 2020 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    Two things about polling.

    1. The pollsters use the past to adjust their polling numbers. Since there has never been an election like this with covid and mail in ballots, they were bound to make errors.
    2. The last two presidential polls have shown an anti-Trump bias. The question is why? Is it media bias, Trump voter shyness, pollster incompetence or something else? My guess is all three plus the difficulty of predicting this election.

    • eric
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      I will argue that the 2016 polls had no anti-Trump bias, liberal poll readers did. Specifically, the point I’d make is that the polls taken within a day or two of election day got Hilary’s margin exactly right – the major polls reported her with a 1-5% lead, and she ended up with a 3% lead in the popular vote.

      The problem was, most liberals were thinking of the many months of much bigger leads as being the more accurate predictor of voter behavior, when they shouldn’t have been doing that.

      But, the days of everyone-vote-on-one-day are probably gone permanently. So the polls are going to have to adjust to that. Something like average of Poll(time 1)/Voters(time 1) + Poll(time2)/Voters(time2)+ etc…

      • eric
        Posted November 9, 2020 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

        Ah my math is wrong but I think you get the point. Each one should be (Poll time N)*(Voters time N)/(sum of all voters) or something like that.

        • Curtis
          Posted November 9, 2020 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

          If you look at 538’s forecast for the midwest in 2016, the errors range from 4.3% to 6.7%.

          Iowa, Trump by 2.9, actual Trump by 9.6, off by 6.7.
          Michigan, Clinton by 4.2, actual Trump by 0.3, off by 4.5.
          Minnesota, Clinton by 5.8, actual Clinton by 1.5, off by 4.3.
          Wisconsin, Clinton by 5.3, actual Trump by 1.0, off by 6.3.
          Ohio Trump by 1.9, actual Trump by 7.6, off by 5.7.
          Pennsylvania, Clinton 3.7, actual Trump by 1.2, off by 4.9.

          https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2016-election-forecast/

          https://www.politico.com/2016-election/results/map/president/

          • eric
            Posted November 9, 2020 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

            I didn’t find your numbers in your first link, and you seemed to have selectively picked 5 states rather than looking across the entire 50 to see how they did. This fivethirtyeight postmortem seems to tell a more comprehensive story:
            19 states in which Trump overperformed
            11 states in which Hilary overperformed
            20 states where their predictions were on the money.

            Certainly not ideal, but not a “OMG the system is broke because we are biased against republicans” story either.

  18. Ken Kukec
    Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    In addition to abandoning the electoral college, the nation needs to end the ruthless gerrymandering system for establishing congressional districts. It’s time to establish a neutral, nonpartisan commission to draw congressional lines. Enough with the cracking and packing.

    The current system, which creates safe districts for parties — districts in which an incumbent has more to fear from a primary challenge from his or her own party’s fringe than from an opposite-party candidate in a general election — drives congresspersons to their party’s extremes and makes congressional compromise all but impossible.

    • tomh
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      That seems a lot more doable than getting rid of the EC (impossible, IMO.)

    • Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

      Totally agree. It really bugged me when SCOTUS wimped out on this a few years back.

  19. KD33
    Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

    A greater % of “minorities” (here meaning blacks, Latinos, Native Americans) voted for Trump than any other Republican since 1960. Asians also shifted in % toward Trump more than in 2016. And the demographic that turned most away from Trump since 2016? White men. Almost all the narratives say Biden “owes” his election to (name your favorite non-male, non-white demographic). And indeed it was still white males that went hardest for Trump. But the trend begs to be understood.

    • Curtis
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      Lower income people did very well during the Trump years. Unemployment dropped and low end wages went up. People vote in their own self interest not what the elites want.

    • Posted November 9, 2020 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      It seems weird to me that the last time this happened was with Nixon. I know that two data points are not useful for much but determining a straight line, but it seems odd that these two particular individuals were the Republicans who seem most to have appealed to “people of color”. It’s not what I would expect at first thought. Does anyone have any notions about an explanation?

    • Posted November 9, 2020 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      My in-laws are first generation Chinese who live in several of the NYC boroughs.

      Most of them voted for Trump. Given all of Trump’s anti-China rhetoric and the patina of whiteness and racism of the GOP, I was a bit surprised.

      But, in my discussions with them, the main reason was that the “Defund the Police” rhetoric from the left scared the crap out of them, particularly the older ones.

      They don’t see the police as threatening at all, they see them as necessary for their safety in their neighborhoods. Further, a lot of the police force in their area is increasingly reflecting the racial make-up of the people…I see a lot more young Asian male police officers in Flushing in the past few years. So, the police are definitely not the “Other”.

      So, several lessons here. First thing is, voting decisions may hinge on a few key, often very practical issues. Leftist half-wits, drunk on identity politics, may assume that Chinese immigrants will automatically vote against the guy railing about China. But basic concerns, such being able to walk the streets without fear of being mugged, will trump (pun intended) geopolitics and vague national allegiances.

      Not to mention, many Chinese immigrants have no love for the ruling communist party in China in the first place, and enjoyed Trump’s attacks on them. This supports Greg Mayer’s points on the true heterogeneity of these supposed monolithic ethnic and racial groups.

      Second thing is…how clueless and out of touch are the Woke and their “solutions”?

      “Defund the Police” was stupid on so many levels. First, taken literally it is insane on its face. It also assumes that the police are always composed of or at least controlled by whites, when in reality many police forces are well represented by minorities, up to the top level of command. So “Defund the Police” isn’t even an accurate “us vs. them” narrative.

      And if it was not meant to be taken literally (which I doubt), then why not say what you mean? Why commit a spectacular own goal with such a ridiculous slogan that can easily be co-opted by the other side?

      For my in-laws, they weren’t voting for Trump so much as voting against the Woke.

      • eric
        Posted November 9, 2020 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

        What you say about ‘defund the police’ and wokeness scaring them may be true, but if that’s the case, those folks really weren’t paying attention to what Biden said at all.

        Biden opposed these trends, often with public speech. He’s about as far away from a firebrand woke leftie as one can get and still be in the democratic party.

        And if it was not meant to be taken literally (which I doubt), then why not say what you mean? Why commit a spectacular own goal with such a ridiculous slogan that can easily be co-opted by the other side?

        For my in-laws, they weren’t voting for Trump so much as voting against the Woke.

        My question to your in-laws would be: why did they commit the spectacular own goal of believing what conservatives said about Biden, instead of what Biden himself said about his platform?

        • Posted November 9, 2020 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

          “Biden opposed these trends, often with public speech. He’s about as far away from a firebrand woke leftie as one can get and still be in the democratic party.”

          Remember, my in-laws are in NYC. The land of that muppet de Blasio, and AOC. De Blasio has definitely embraced wokism on a number of issues. In yet another smack in the face to the Asian community, it is de Blasio who is looking to impose racial quotas on elite high schools; such quotas will reduce the number of Asians attending these schools.

          You are correct that Biden is much more moderate, and I’m glad that the Democratic party nominated him. But many folks, including my in-laws, either pay more attention to how the Democrats and their policies manifest themselves locally, and to issues that matter to them, or see Biden as too weak to oppose the radical left forces within his party.

          • eric
            Posted November 9, 2020 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

            But de Blasio isn’t Biden! Heck, Biden hasn’t even been any type of elected official for the last four years. Literally NO political power in any district or city.

            It’s incredibly frustrating, because again, I view people like your in-laws having been hornswoggled into accepting this huge disparity. Democratic leaders are considered responsible for what any democrat does. Meanwhile, Roy Moore admits to child molestation. Duncan Hunter becomes a convicted felon. And these things aren’t considered by anyone to have anythnig to do with Trump. Now, I don’t really mind the latter – it’s reasonable. But it is incredibly grating that folks like your in-laws only separate the misbehavior of some party members from the President in the GOP case, while in the Dem case, evidently, Biden is bears the weight for every Democrats’ sins.

        • Posted November 9, 2020 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

          “What you say about ‘defund the police’ and wokeness scaring them may be true, but if that’s the case, those folks really weren’t paying attention to what Biden said at all.”

          Easy answer: Fox News and the rest of their information bubble. I doubt you would have heard much about Biden other than talking heads calling his election the end of democracy. In case the bubble had any leaks letting Biden’s true platform in, they also claimed that AOC and the Woke would very quickly overwhelm Biden and take over.

          • Posted November 9, 2020 at 2:56 pm | Permalink

            No, it’s not just the FOX lie machine. It’s also based on things that Democratic leaders are actually doing to their communities:

            https://www.npr.org/sections/live-updates-protests-for-racial-justice/2020/07/01/886000386/de-blasio-on-shifting-1-billion-from-nypd-we-think-it-s-the-right-thing-to-do

            “The New York City Council approved an $88.1 billion budget overnight that includes shifting roughly $1 billion away from the New York Police Department.

            “We are reducing the size of our police force by not having the next recruit class. We are reducing our overtime levels. We’re shifting functions away from police to civilian agencies,” de Blasio said.

            De Blasio has been received a lot of bipartisan criticism for this deep cuts. But some wanted him to go even farther:

            “New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson disputed that the reductions to the police department actually amounted to $1 billion, “because he didn’t consider fringe benefits and other items cited by the mayor to be actual reductions,” as WNYC’s The Gothamist reported.

            “To everyone who is disappointed we did not go farther, I am disappointed as well,” Johnson said about the NYPD’s budget, the member station reported. “I wanted us to go deeper. I wanted larger headcount reductions, I wanted a real hiring freeze. But this budget process involves the mayor, who is not budging.”

            Does this sound like a good idea to you? Many local citizens who have to live in these neighborhoods, who again look at the police much more favorably, thought it was nuts.

            • Max Blancke
              Posted November 9, 2020 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

              Abolishing the police is sort of an infantile concept.
              The sorts of mob violence that arises in such situations is always going to be far worse than any of the sorts of police misconduct we are seeing recently.
              I just cannot imagine how anyone could spend any time thinking the issue through, and conclude that doing so is in the best interest of the communities involved.
              The only thing that makes any sense to me is that the people pushing such policies are actually hoping for chaos and disorder.

              • tomh
                Posted November 10, 2020 at 12:44 am | Permalink

                Nobody is talking about “abolishing” the police.

              • Posted November 10, 2020 at 7:31 am | Permalink

                tomh: You are wrong.

                The majority of the Minneapolis City Council (in the wake of George Floyd’s killing) voted for that. And I heard their pressers. They made no bones about it. And most of them have not yet walked it back.

                The Mayor, Jacob Frye was lambasted in the media and by “organizers” and by the same majority of the council for clearly opposing abolishing the police.

                And this is not the only place either. Plenty of people in Seattle called (maybe still are calling) for it there. And the “CHOP” just showed what a ridiculous proposition it is.

              • Posted November 10, 2020 at 9:10 am | Permalink

                Sounds like you’re indulging in a little fake news:

                https://www.mprnews.org/story/2020/09/18/fact-check-did-minneapolis-city-council-defund-the-police

              • GBJames
                Posted November 10, 2020 at 8:16 am | Permalink

                I think the intent of those in Minneapolis (and elsewhere) who called for abolishing the Police department was to replace it with a new department organized along different lines. Of course the nature of this new entity remains unspecified which is what dooms this kind of effort. I take the MCC’s action as a measure of how much of a problem there is within the existing department and frustration over the inability to make changes that reduce friction between the police and the citizenry.

              • Posted November 10, 2020 at 9:04 am | Permalink

                I’m sure you know, but “forget”, that most who used the stupid phrase, “defund the police”, didn’t mean “abolish the police”. Do you really think it smart to keep pretending otherwise?

      • Jon Gallant
        Posted November 9, 2020 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

        EXACTLY. A noisy part of the Left always follows neither Marxism, nor Anarchism, nor Socialism, but rather Exhibitionism. Its displays are always very helpful to the Republican establishment. 50 years ago,
        the SDS “days of rage” exhibitionists did wonders for Mr. Nixon, and today we have the “defund the police” gang doing their bit for Mr. Trump. Their contribution was not quite enough this time, but it was close.

  20. Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    Go Badgers! Whoo-hoo!

  21. Mark R.
    Posted November 9, 2020 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for this analysis Greg. A lot of good thinking in there and it brought out a good discussion.

  22. Randall Schenck
    Posted November 9, 2020 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    Trump just fired the Secretary of Defense. Now with only a couple of months left, what do you suppose the nut job has in mind.

    • EdwardM
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

      He’s been wanting to do this for a long time. He only waited until after the election because he thought if he did it before it would hurt him. This has been long planned.

    • Posted November 9, 2020 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      The MSM are suggesting that he fell out with Esper long ago when he pushed back on sending troops in to suppress violent demonstrations in US cities. Trump waited until after the election simply because he was afraid it would cost him votes. Let’s hope that is all it was.

      • Mark R.
        Posted November 9, 2020 at 3:22 pm | Permalink

        This is what I’ve been reading too. I guess the real question is: does Christopher Miller think it’s perfectly fine to sick the military on peaceful civilians? Or non-peaceful civilians for that matter. Shiver.

    • merilee
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

      What mind??

    • eric
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

      Much as I hate Trump’s vindictiveness, if he fires Gina Haspel next, I won’t be upset.

      As for what he has in mind, with the CIA it seems he’s still on a search for evidence that the Obama administration spied on his transition team.

  23. Posted November 9, 2020 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

    Congratulations to Biden and Harris. Now the hard work begins.

  24. Steve Gerrard
    Posted November 9, 2020 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

    “her ballot had been invalidated because upon opening the envelope her ballot was visible (a ‘naked’ ballot)”

    I just want to point out that this is an arbitrary rule, not present in all states. It is not the case in Oregon, for instance, where there is an optional inner sleeve for secrecy, which you can use or throw away as you see fit.

    While some states may make it more difficult, vote by mail can be very easy.

    • Mark R.
      Posted November 9, 2020 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

      I can’t agree more with your last sentence. I live in WA where it has been proven that vote by mail is safe, easy and increases voter participation. What I’d like to say to the 40+ states that haven’t done this yet: try it, you’ll like it!

      I also like Oregon’s law that automatically registers voters upon getting a driver’s license (I don’t know for sure if that’s the mechanism). I’d vote for that too if it ever gets on the ballot up here.

      • Posted November 9, 2020 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

        I concur with what Steve and Mark have said about Vote By Mail (VBM) in Oregon and Washington as I have voted using VBM first when living in Oregon and now while living in Washington.

        Oregon started testing VBM in 1981. It was used in county local/special elections starting in 1987. By 1998, VBM was extended to all elections. It has been extremely easy and successful with little or no fraud to my knowledge.

        Registering to vote in Oregon can be done online. Also, an automatic voter registration procedure using State DMV information has been in place since 2015.

        Washington had the VBM option for counties in 1987 and for the state since 1993. VBM was made a requirement for all counties from 2011. All counties but Pierce used VBM as of 2009. Pierce County joined in 2014. When I moved from Oregon to Washington, I registered to vote at the DMV the same time as I obtained my drivers’ license and auto registration. Very easy.

        One would hope that other states using VBM for the first time this year would have done research with the states that had successfully implemented it many years before.

        • Posted November 10, 2020 at 7:19 am | Permalink

          Soon, soon, I’ll be back living in WA. My last move! 🙂

          • Posted November 10, 2020 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

            Welcome home! I love the Northwest.

          • Posted November 10, 2020 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

            My first note saying “Welcome home” seems to have been deleted, so “Welcome Home” again.
            With whatever faults they may have, I still love the Northwestern states of Oregon and Washington in comparison to many other US states.

        • Posted November 10, 2020 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

          In the interest of full disclosure (as “they” say), I just read an article yesterday that the head of elections in Oregon was dismissed (in the middle of election vote processing) by his Republican boss for writing about equipment and processes that weren’t what they should be. He was planning to leave at the end of the year anyway but, according to him, would never have left during an election. So, maybe, Oregon isn’t perfect either.

  25. Jon Gallant
    Posted November 9, 2020 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    According to Michael Lind in Tablet, exit polls show that 71% of Repub voters listed “crime and safety” as a paramount concern.
    See:
    https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/news/articles/law-and-order-election

    As Lind puts it:
    “The Democrats were counting on a blue wave based on a massive shift of two groups of voters—college-educated white suburbanites and Latinos. Instead, the two parties almost evenly shared college-educated whites, and the Republicans gained Latino votes, while increasing their share of votes from Black men and Black women alike (from a small base). This was enough to allow the Republicans to hold the Senate, pick up seats in the House and ensure that Trump, a historically unpopular president, would either be reelected or would lose only by a small margin.

    Maybe the slogan “defund the police” backfired. “

    • Posted November 10, 2020 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      As I’ve said in another WEIT thread about “defunding the police”, the person(s) who came up with that did all of us no favors.
      As far as I’ve been able to determine, it’s more a matter of redirecting part of the police budgets to social issue problems that police departments over the last 40 years have become increasingly responsible for handling when they have no training, social service assistance or appropriate resources for.

  26. Robert J Van Orden
    Posted November 9, 2020 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    A hypothesis I saw on Twitter regarding polling errors was that Q-Anon adherents don’t participate in polls, hence they were under represented. Not that they lied, just their antiestablishment ways compelled them to not participate in polls.

    I’m not sure if that’s true but it’s an interesting thought.


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