On my day-pack I’ve got a little enamelled pin I bought several years back in a small shop in Juneau run by a guy who has, well, opinions. It shows a typewriter with the words “Write hard, die free.” 
So, where we at? On 8 November, a majority of voters cast their ballot  for someone who has probably played a bit fast and loose with ethics , probably is a bit too loyal to subordinates, and unquestionably has very cozy ties with Wall Street. But thanks to very straightforward and completely transparent conditions involving the Electoral College which any 7th-grader—but apparently not the strategic geniuses of the Democratic National Committee (DNC)—can calculate, we will instead be inaugurating as President a vindictive, highly insecure misogynistic compulsive liar with authoritarian tendencies who has zero prior political experience and the attention span of a chihuahua. May we live in interesting times.
- This did not need to happen and is primarily the result of mind-boggling incompetence by the professionals of the Democratic Party.
- Fundamentally—consistent with pretty much everything everyone is saying—the election was lost by taking Rust Belt whites for granted : without question, flip Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania and Clinton would have been president. Everything else—Wikileaks, Comey, emails—was just gravy.
- The existing opinion and likely-voter models have been shown to be woefully inadequate, however much individuals making money off these will protest otherwise.
And a couple things we should keep in mind did not happen
- The country did not shift radically to the right: Trump did not even get a majority of the votes cast, much less of eligible voters.
- Trump is not a Republican in any conventional sense, though clearly the Republicans benefited from the Trump victory more than the Democrats did. Well, probably benefited more.
- There is a whole lot to still play out here.
This was the victory of a populist third party with little clear ideology
Trump expertly fashioned himself to take advantage of the rising anti-elite, anti-globalization, and anti-immigrant populism we’ve been seeing in the US since the Tea Party successes in 2010, and surging in Europe for the past two or three years. A couple of Republican tropes were tossed in—arch-conservatives on the Supreme Court, repeal of the Affordable Care Act and, of course, tax cuts primarily directed at the wealthy—but compared, say, to Paul Ryan, there was nothing like a coherent ideological package here. Furthermore Trump went through the election with at best tepid support from most of the Republican establishment, and fervent, vocal opposition from many in the highest levels of that establishment. Trump is the ultimate “RINO”: Republican in name only.
But now he has to govern, and here we are going to learn a lot in the next couple of months. Probably one of three scenarios will play out
- Bush-III: With Trump completely adrift ideologically and out of his depth, the GOP establishment under Ryan and McConnell (plus a bunch of Bush administration executive veterans, ideally minus those under suspicion of committing war crimes) control the executive branch appointment and eventually advance quite a bit of the same legislation that, say, Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio would have been able get through given the GOP control of the House and (barely) the Senate.
- Gridlock-III/Chaos-I: There are sufficient Tea Party and Trumpkin votes (and, of course, Democrats) in the House to throw confusion into almost any initiative—the obvious first clash will occur on the deficit-increasing implications of infrastructure spending, defense increases, and ever-more tax cuts followed by clashes on the “replace” part of ACA “repeal and replace”—and things will settle down into either continuation of Obama-era gridlock or more likely a wild melange of initiatives going through what is essentially a three (or four) party legislature. Some GOP priorities will get through, others will not, and some populist Democratic initiatives (infrastructure, definitely) will also.
- Hungary-II: An Alt-right circle of the likes of Bannon, Giuliani, Eric Trump, Kris Kobach, and the hordes of sycophants, opportunists and scoundrels descending upon the Trump Tower will actually start to implement the extreme elements promised during the campaign. Key indicator will be whether an attempt is made to prosecute Clinton.
At the time of this writing, 12 November, things are definitely heading towards Bush-III: the two lead headlines in the Washington Post at this moment are “Trump team backs off some sweeping campaign pledges” and “President-elect, aides suggest softer stances on border wall, health-care law.” But beneath that: “Meet the potential Cabinet picks most likely to make liberals squirm” and yes indeed, Cabinet positions for the wing-nuts of the right is a long GOP tradition. As my late father-in-law in Kansas would have put it, right now we’re looking at a hog on ice.
Again, it’s going to take several months to get a sense of how this will play out. The other factor which should become evident fairly soon is whether Trump expects to run for a second term: I very much doubt he will given that he will find the job exceedingly constraining, and he can also use this as a magnanimous example of voluntarily relinquishing the pursuit of power in order to serve the greater good. The certainty of a one-term Trump presidency would substantially complicate the dynamics on the GOP side, at all levels.
The Democrats lost this one more than Trump won it
The breadth of the Democratic Party’s incompetence is this election is absolutely stunning. As noted above, this election was lost on traditional Democratic turf: the Rust Belt. And yet Clinton spent the final weeks trying to run up the score in Georgia (!) and Arizona, ignoring the lethal hemorrhage in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.
By all accounts the die had been cast long before this, first by the arrogance of the establishment elite who presumably had purchased The Party Decides in shipping-container quantities and displayed it in every office on little altars with flowers, incense and candles, and well, we’ve decided, and it will be Hillary. There was no consideration of credible alternatives, and when it was clear from the success of Sanders that Clinton had serious weaknesses, this was ignored. Because, as we all know, nothing is so attractive to younger and working class voters than a grey-haired 75-year-old socialist from Vermont, so Bernie is just a fluke. 
This is professional malpractice on the highest order, and I hope Trump at least has sent you folks at the DNC a bundle of passes to his golf courses as an expression of his gratitude.
Almost all of the money given to candidates is squandered, so just stop sending it
Around the middle of October, as I was being bombarded by fund raising appeals (and the occasional phone call ) I watched as yet another Doctors Without Borders (MSF)  hospital was attacked (variously by allies of Obama and allies of Trump) and thought “This is it: no more money to these campaigns: from this point on it goes to MSF.”
Yeah, right. No, I didn’t follow my own advice (or moral compass) and still gave to candidates who, in the end, didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. Like in the blatantly gerrymandered VA-5, my home Congressional district, where I was constantly assured that the Democratic candidate from…duh…ultra-liberal Albemarle County “has a real chance!” She lost by 16 percentage points.
I can, in fact, assert that every single candidate I contributed to—in some case quite significant amounts—in this election cycle lost. So if you are playing the prediction markets in 2018, be sure to give me a call since I’m got about as good a negative correlation on these things as you are going to find anywhere. Which, trust me, is the only way anyone is going to make any money off me in Campaign-2018.
But more generally, money doesn’t make that much difference: it’s not just the clowns at the DNC, it’s everywhere, and was every bit as evident in the GOP primary as in the general. We’ve known that for decades: it was probably twenty years ago I saw the first quantitative analyses at the Political Methodology meetings which showed how weak the effect was. Everyone thought there must be an error in the analysis but here we are, in 2016, and it’s the same old thing.
Basically, the money you contribute to a campaign goes two places. Primarily, to a huge class of ignorant hucksters whose sole concern is to use the emotions of the campaign to separate you from your cash, and will lie to your face to do so if that’s what it takes. Second, to the media entertainment complex for advertising created and targeted based on the advice of the hucksters and their massively flawed polls and focus groups. Money doesn’t generate votes when the fundamentals are wrong.
So my suggestion: the next time a candidate asks you for money, take what you were planning to spend, convert it to small bills, buy hot dogs or marshmallows, then pile the remaining money into a grill, spray it with lighter fluid, invite the neighbors over, and talk about common concerns while you enjoy the blaze. I can assure you that will do vastly more to influence votes than handing it the political consultant class.
Next time, my maximum contribution is $20: if you can’t run a campaign on $20 contributions, don’t ask for my help. The rest goes to MSF. Which I’m still feeling guilty about: very brave people are dying in those places.
All election “news” is now merely for entertainment
I will give Jeff Bezos credit for one thing—beyond running the sort of business that fires people when they get diagnosed with cancer—he managed to get me clicking on those Washington Post stories throughout the day like a rat hitting the bar for more cocaine. And he’s got plenty of imitators. And I got totally suckered all the while knowing I was being suckered and that, folks, starts getting pretty scary.
And for what?: I’d skim these stories in the NYT and WaPo in the morning and basically knew the content of almost every one before I read them. I suppose I should give myself a bit of a break on a few rat-cocaine providers because I truly enjoy their writing—Gail Collins, Jennifer Rubin, Greg Sargent and Ross Douthat . But most of this—and most certainly the “horse race” coverage of the polls—is utterly useless. 
Yeah, useless: there was essentially no discussion of actual policy during this entire race. No, it was all personality, gotcha’s, Wikileaks, the latest Trump outrages and the never-ending email story, which probably one in a ten-thousand voters (if that) understood at any serious level. And horse-race, horse-race, horse-race coverage, all based on countless polls which were all pretty much completely…
Wrong. Yes, the polls have systematic errors
Every methodology presentation on opinion polling I’ve attended for at least ten years has had the same theme: “We knew how to get pretty representative samples in the 1980s and maybe 1990s, but those methods no longer work, and at some point they are going to collapse. And it could happen at any time.”
Well, buckeroo, those chickens have come home to roost…
I’m not a pollster. I don’t even play one on TV. But I’ve spent I great deal of time doing statistical forecasting with noisy time series and even before the catastrophic divergence of the poll projections and the outcome were evident, a couple of things were worrying me
- The individual polls were jumping around far too much to be explained by changes in voter opinions—which are generally fairly static—and certainly far too much to be explained by sampling error (which in a random sample is quite well understood)
- The media were treating the confidence intervals as if the true result were uniformly distributed therein: they are in fact following a bell-shaped “normal” (or “Gaussian”) distribution 
- I was seeing a whole lot of incoherent and inconsistent excuses suggesting that the pollsters themselves were pretty worried that they weren’t getting at the Trump voters, and for multiple reasons.
This analysis could go on indefinitely, and there are people who know way more about these things than I do, and they should get a workshop together to discuss this REALLY SOON (which is to say, before people internalize all their “we got this so totally wrong but we actually got it right” excuses—and believe me, that is going to happen unless people in polling are angels , and is already happening—and figure out what the systematic lessons-learned should be.
In the meantime, I wholeheartedly support the sentiment expressed by Timothy Egan:
Finally, all of us in the American family should never trust anyone from the pollster industrial complex, including those at my own newspaper. Never. Read your horoscope; it’s far more likely to be accurate.
Trump will find the federal government decidedly difficult to work with
When contemplating General Eisenhower winning the Presidential election, Harry S Truman said, “He’ll sit here, and he’ll say, ‘Do this! Do that!’ And nothing will happen. Poor Ike—it won’t be a bit like the Army. He’ll find it very frustrating.”
Source: Richard E. Neustadt, Presidential Power, the Politics of Leadership, p. 9 (1960).]
And this in reference to the [Kansan] Dwight Eisenhower who had successfully managed the massive bureaucracy required to pull off the successful D-Day invasion: Trump has no experience even remotely comparable. (the Miss Universe pageant doesn’t count)
Let us at least begin to list the ways this will happen
- Trump starts totally in enemy territory: an astonishing 96% of the votes in the District of Columbia were against him
- The Federal bureaucracy is fabulously slow-moving in the best of circumstances, and most are protected by the Civil Service. He’s not able to just say “You’re fired!”
- The House GOP will remain divided, possibly now into three parts: orthodox Republicans, the remnants of the Tea Party, and now a few Trumpkin populists
The scary thing, however, is the international system, which is almost certainly going to throw some serious crisis in the first couple of years, even if Trump were simply to maintain the status quo. To the extent that he initiates an isolationist policy, the possibility of this will be substantially magnified as various actors move quickly to take advantage of the emerging vacuum.
Distressed?: Consider the Benedict Option
I’m guessing most of the readers of this blog are liberals and will be unfamiliar with this term, though it will be familiar to at least some conservatives  Well, Google it, but in short, this is named for Benedict of Nursia (ca. 500CE) whose response to the collapse of the Western Roman Empire was to establish communities where Christians could live true to their own morals rather than involving themselves—as many Christians had since Christianity gained secular power following the time of Constantine—in the ways of the world. The arguments are somewhat more complex than that—a lot more when you start getting into the theological nuances—but worth reading (particularly for those who think conservatism begins and ends with the likes of O’Reilly, Hannity and Limbaugh)
In the past four days, we’re already seeing a lot of this as people make it clear that if need be they intend to protect their Muslim and immigrant neighbors, as well as whoever else the alt-right has in mind (and they make those targets pretty clear as well). This safety-pin thing is wonderful.
Maybe circling the wagons and pulling up the drawbridges won’t be necessary: Again, only about a quarter of eligible votes went to Trump, and by all accounts a substantial number of those were clearly simply to get someone in the White House who wouldn’t veto GOP-passed legislation and who would put Scalia-II on the Supreme Court. Those voters constantly say didn’t take the rest of Trump’s threats seriously.
They may be right. But they may also be wrong, or more likely, as with the Bush administration, we’ll see a mix of relatively innocuous people but also a few frighteningly cruel ones who will push things as far as they can. And for those, be ready to push back. Big time.
Come 2020 (or even 2018) I want to see candidates who understand the following realities
- Presidential elections are won state-by-state and the Electoral College is not fair. It wasn’t supposed to be fair—it was a concession to slave-owning states—and it isn’t.
- Voting suppression is also very real and until you get a Supreme Court that values small-d democracy—which obviously is not happening any time soon—you are going to have to add that into your calculations.
- Third parties will get votes: It’s hard to imagine weaker candidates than Johnson and Stein were this year but even they got votes.
- You can’t simply buy popularity: Clinton should have seen that from the experiences of Jeb Bush and Carly Fiorina. You can’t get turn-out without popularity and a coherent platform. The consultants, meanwhile, will be playing you like a violin.
Have the radical idea that there’s more to winning an election than collecting money from people who can write $10,000 checks in the blink of an eye and then figuring people will go out and vote for you simply because the GOP has alienated them. And after you’ve assured them you are virtually certain to win anyway.
- The Roosevelt (and Bill Clinton, and classical Progressive) coalition included rural and working class whites: it wasn’t just coastal elites and minorities. If exit polls can be believed, Obama had a critically greater level of support from working class whites than Clinton attracted.
- A party controling only a third of state legislatures, a third of governorships, and slightly less than half of both the House and Senate is in trouble. Even if they control California.
- When you hire a pollster, ask them to explain how a confidence interval works. Not to estimate the number of golf balls to fit in a 747.
Wrapping this back to the opening key, I still think that the fundamental question facing the Democratic Party is whether they are willing to offer anything to the white working class, at least in the Rust Belt, and ideally across the country . And no, this does not mean extending a Democratic big tent to David Duke, the KKK and the alt-right: they can stay with the GOP. Please.
What will it take to recreate an effective opposition? Here I think Trump (and certainly Sanders) may have done us a big favor by demonstrating just how little organization and resources are required to run a successful national campaign in the 21st century, even at the national level. The fabulously well-heeled fund raisers and fixers, the legions of lavishly compensated consultants and pollsters, the massive media buys, the star-studded galas: all for naught. Trump maybe, just maybe, has pointed the way to another model.
But whether or not that is the right model, we definitely need another model.
Back to work on Docker containerization.
Beyond the Snark
These references are by no means comprehensive, and some of them of have added after I first posted this—again, I think my analysis is fairly close to the consensus view of those outside the DNC bubble—but may nonetheless be useful
One way forward (Sanders):http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/12/opinion/bernie-sanders-where-the-democrats-go-from-here.html
Another way forward: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/20/opinion/sunday/the-end-of-identity-liberalism.html (I’d also note this article was at the top of the NYT “most emailed” list for a couple of days. This approach to a new liberalism would also have, shall we say, “interesting” implications for most university curricula in the humanities. Or what remains of the humanities, per George Will https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/higher-education-is-awash-with-hysteria-that-might-have-helped-elect-trump/2016/11/18/a589b14e-ace6-11e6-977a-1030f822fc35_story.html. )
And still more ideas, Establishment and otherwise: https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/cory-booker-zephyr-teachout-and-more-on-the-democrats-future/2016/11/18/5e20a65e-ace2-11e6-977a-1030f822fc35_story.html
Pretty much the same arguments I’m making with individual variations:
Ross Douthat on the Trump presidency, pretty much a mix between my Bush-III and Gridlock-III. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/13/opinion/he-made-america-feel-great-again.html (love the phrase “TrumpWorks”)
This is not good news for the GOP as we knew it: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/19/us/politics/never-trump-republicans.html
Polling error was systematic rather than random: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/11/13/upshot/putting-the-polling-miss-of-2016-in-perspective.html (note that “systematic” is not the same as “deliberate”: every pollster who is not a partisan hack is mortified with these results. Besides, if this was deliberate—which I very much doubt—it almost certainly hurt Clinton by reducing Democratic turnout in pivotal states:these are not the conspiratorial manipulations that were being suggested prior to 8 November.)
Another one well worth reading:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2016/11/15/theres-a-reason-trump-supporters-believed-his-talk-about-rigged-systems/ Am I in the sort of position to get a hospital bed made available? Been there, done that. That would make an interesting future survey question, along with the “Could you get $400 in an emergency” that had surprising results.
1. Though in some places that can translate into “Write hard, die young”: that’s what we’re trying to avoid here in Trump’s U.S., eh?
2. My understanding is that most analysts think that once all of the absentee and mail-in ballots are counted in a week or so, Clinton will have a very substantial lead in the popular vote, not just the tenths of a percentage point reported the night of the election.
3. One of the more disconcerting moments of 2016 was when I heard a mild-mannered mother of two in Nevada, an old friend of my wife’s, say: “They say Hillary Clinton murders people? Well, I certainly hope she’s murdered people: we need someone tough like that in the White House!” She lived in a predominantly Republican area—Michael Milken has a place down the street—and I’m guessing this was a useful ploy for diverting conversations otherwise going in unpleasant directions. But I’m not entirely sure she was kidding. And as numerous people have pointed out, the fact that Anthony Weiner is still alive is proof that the Clintons don’t have people killed.
4. What could possibly go wrong…
5. But why didn’t you say that earlier?? I did: https://asecondmouse.wordpress.com/2015/11/29/seven-lessons-the-national-democratic-party-should-draw-from-the-victory-of-john-bel-edwards-1/. Meanwhile I’ll be curious to see if Thomas Franks’ previously-panned Listen Liberal: Or Whatever Happened to the Party of the People gets some renewed attention.
5. Trump has done a major favor to dominant European parties by alerting them to the possibility of a major challenge within a party rather than just through the traditional parliamentary route of a third party challenge—though European party discipline would make this much more difficult than in the US—and reinforcing the realities of Russian meddling in elections, which clearly the US did not take seriously, and the US media actively assisted.
6. This is also Kansas-II as it will presumably lead to a soaring deficit while we wait for the Supply Side Fairy to sprinkle magic pixie dust on the budget and make it all okay. Just like with every other GOP administration since Reagan.
7. We saw this for many years in Kansas when the GOP legislators were so completely split into moderate and conservative blocs that they literally barely spoke to each other.
8. Also phrased as “When they pass around the plate of shit sandwiches, you can say ‘No thank you, I’ve already had my share.'” A single-term also allows Trump to completely ignore his populist promises: those voters sure aren’t going to be showing up at his hotels and golf courses. At this moment—late afternoon on 12 November—we’re certainly watching the “So long, suckers!!” approach; this may or may not last.
9. But more generally, Trump has himself in quite a fix now: he’s riding the tiger in the spotlight of history and there is no easy way to get off. Whereas a week ago he would have probably been a mere amusing footnote, the black swan that didn’t occur.
10. They pulled the same trick in the primaries at the senatorial level in Pennsylvania, spending millions to defeat retired Admiral Joe Sestak, who had spent six years preparing to run against Toomey but who refused to kowtow to the party elites, only some of whom are convicted felons. The establishment’s pliable political newcomer sock puppet not only paved the way for Toomey’s return to office as part of a Republican majority, but provided none of the coattails to the working class Sestak would have provided.
11. Mind you, I did have the pleasure of absolutely reaming out some poor bastard from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the jokers who whacked Sestak: guessing I’m no longer on their list of supporters to harass for contributions.
12. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) International: http://www.msf.org/
13. More precisely, “Sixteen fucking percentage points”
14. Better, you could do this in a nearby state park where you might meet someone outside your bubble, though I’m guessing those who would have to work the better part of a week to make as much money as that check you’re blowing off on DNC consultants might be more than a little offended by the bonfire.
15. At the lower frequencies, Dan Drezner and Arthur Brooks; at the “where is this dude going to go next?” David Brooks; in small doses Paul Krugman.
16. An unusually vivid example of this was the persistence of reporting “Two way race” polling results over the last three months. WTF?!?: were you people planning to assassinate Gary Johnson and Jill Stein before the polls opened? Did you have premonitions Johnson would be struck dead by a meteorite and Stein mauled to death by a raccoon? In almost every state, it was a four-way race: your “two-way” race was a ludicrous hypothetical completely irrelevant to the real world.
17. Gratuitous Boomer reference
18. Okay, I’m lying: I have just incorrectly described how a confidence interval works because I have a marvelous description—gratuitous Fermat’s-Last-Theorem reference—but it is too small to fit in the main narrative of this blog. A confidence interval is in fact the interval estimated from your sample which would contain true value of the parameter [typically] 95% of the time were we able—welcome to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party of frequentism—to replicate the experiment and estimate that interval from the resulting data a large number of times. Which we won’t, and in many cases, can’t. Which means…oh crap…just look it up… 
19. No, can’t help myself!…this is worse than Bezo’s WaPo…but even if the final observed value falls within your confidence interval, you haven’t shown your confidence interval is “correct,”despite the excuses you are seeing now from pollsters. To do that you’d need know the true parameter (which you don’t) and do some large number of replications of your estimator (which you won’t), and even then you would only have shown your method of estimating the confidence interval was correct in the sense of behaving in a fashion consistent with what you expect. Though whatever these problems, confidence intervals on regression coefficients are far worse… I digress…no, I don’t…FREQUENTISM MAKES NO SENSE! IT NEVER MADE ANY SENSE!! JUST STOP DOING IT!!!…AAAEEEIIII!!!!…
20. I’m guessing that, ever the narcissist, The Donald is going to take a lot of standard operating procedure as a personal affront and this is going to become extremely wearisome for him over time. His more right-wing appointees will fare little better and probably will be facing active foot-dragging, particularly once it is clear—or widely assumed—Trump won’t run for re-election. And that is probably already being widely assumed.
21. Yes, I read your stuff when it is intellectually coherent, as distinct from conspiratorial rants employed to get people to tune in to watch advertisements for gold bars and ersatz tactical equipment purchased by folks who have a very high probability of dying in a comfortable hospital bed paid for by Medicare.
22. A nephew who is gay was in Washington last week, just after the election. “I’m going to visit the Holocaust Museum: want to see what is coming next.” Not sure whether he was joking.
23. Violent protests before Trump has even done anything?: less so. 24-hour drum circles: never.
24. Though one of the brightest bits of news in the past few days is the prospect of Carly Fiorina heading the RNC.
25. Which, by the way, probably also includes a significant number of Latinos and, against a less-overtly racially polarizing candidate, blacks, and all on the same economic issues: It’s class, not race, and remember that playing the race card against class is the oldest trick in the book for anti-progressive forces in the United States.
26. They certainly aren’t angels in my part of the prediction world: everybody now says they flawlessly predicted the collapse of the USSR and the Arab Spring, except for the inconveniently complete absence of evidence that this was true.