Election Reflections

All through October people were saying they wanted the damn election to be over. I don’t think they did. It seems to be going on and on with little regard for the idea that we have done this 58 times, each with the same result: somebody won and somebody lost.

It is fashionable to search for great truths and even more fashionable to label them so. I suspect most of those truths are convenient more than they are great, to say nothing of being self-serving.

There will be no great truths here; just a few things I have observed in the last couple of weeks that you might find interesting. Each gets its own little paragraph and, if there is a discernable order, it is lost on me.

I’d love to hear your election reflections too. Please share them in the comments.

What made you think “hmmmm…?”

Millennials are among those said to be saddened by Trump’s win and Hillary’s loss. They are scorned for many things but a lifetime of participation trophies is high on the list. Wait, millennials did not create participation trophies. Their parents did.

Futilism, neo-liberalism, Trumpism, neo-feudalism, fascism… and blah blah blah. I am worn down by “ism ism” and especially worn out by neo-something-dredged-from-the-past ism. Sometimes I fear I have lost the will to live. The first “ism” in a story triggers scan mode and the second sends me to the delete key.

Some people don’t like monitoring and spying especially on themselves. Many people love the technologies developed by Silicon Valley. Yet the spies could not function without those technologies and there is a significant dependency the one on the other.

44% of voters were angry. 28% were anxious. Eight percent were both.

Parties have lost the ability to sponge up little groups and absorb them into their coalitions. Each little group demands absolute purity to whatever they think is both important and right. The other day I went to a coffee shop that had an especially wide array of choices. I made one and was then asked if I was right- or left-handed. They had differently shaped cups to enhance my enjoyment. Can right- and left-handed coffee drinkers be fused into a single party?

The Congress looks like a Parliament with a government party and an opposition party. Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.” Maybe not anymore? It is pretty much tribal. There used to be a substantial overlap between the most conservative Democrat and the most liberal Republican. All Democrats are now to the left of all Republicans and vice versa. The overlap that used to exist has been replaced by a widening gap between the two parties.

The largest group by party preference is independents and they are not permitted to vote in primaries so they have no voice in choosing the eventual candidates. The largest group of voters is non-voters – those registered who did not turn up. Eight of 10 voters were repulsed by the election. Liberals and conservatives have passion; moderates have lives.

Campaign finance reform has reduced the power of the parties and the candidates themselves. Outside groups have more power and are, at least theoretically, not even allowed to communicate with the candidates. Every time Congress tries to fix politics, it makes it worse.

For the party pros, everything – money, ground game, endorsements, celebrities, advertising, party unity — went wrong with the election. None of them worked. They believed their own magical thinking.

There is one Supreme Court vacancy and three more justices with an average age of 80, by which time most Justices depart. Merrick Garland’s nomination is dead. All the Justices went to Harvard or Yale Law School. Six (now five with Scalia’s death) are Catholic and three are Jewish. Four of five New York City boroughs are represented. A WASP from Staten Island who went to Columbia would constitute diversity. The Senate’s “advise and consent” role has turned into “search and destroy.”

A Trump win was supposed to tank the market. It didn’t.

The most important election of your life rarely is. Those to whom it is the most important are generally getting paid to make you think so.

The major Washington lobbying firms are supposed to be oh-so-savvy yet they did all of their hiring in anticipation of a Clinton win and now they are stuck with highly paid people who have even less than no access.

A propos of access, broadcasters who have readily identifiable audiences are especially eager to stay firmly attached to their perches as the spokespeople for their groups. “You can’t get to my group except through me” seems to be a reliable moneymaker. They get especially defensive if their roles are threatened. Needless to say they favor ever more segmenting especially of their target audience. They are the valves on the pipeline.

Remember political advertisements in newspapers? You did not see many of those this year. Watch for television to follow newspapers into oblivion because it does not deliver nearly as effectively as social media or better still free media. Except in one respect: the commissions paid to the campaign consultants are higher for TV — substantially higher.

What made you think “hmmmm…?”

 

 

 

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Haven Pell

At the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention of 1787, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Without hesitation, Franklin replied, “A republic, if you can keep it.”

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15 comments

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  • Rallies…
    Who knew?
    Not me or the people I know (with the exception of some Bernie supporters). Not the talking-head old pros of the last six presidential campaigns, nor the data-driven wonks of the last two, certainly not the dismissive media.
    Even the week before the election the president-elect was talking about how he was going to win because… rally numbers. And give him his due, he experimented early with this hoary political technique of the 19th and early 20th centuries, now updated with social media, and found it worked. He received instant feedback from the crowds, and in the days after.
    In plain sight, covered live for months on more than one national cable channel, ridiculed by the cognoscenti as unrepresentative.

    • And he got the audience to pay for their seats. He probably made money on them. I wonder what the people who make pretty good livings running campaigns think of that?

      Maybe a solution to money in politics is to figure out how to spend less of it more effectively?

  • Another one for you: I didn’t know until recently that polling gets a response from maybe one out of ten people they try to reach, esp among young people and those without land lines. Not accounted for in the official “statistical range of error” numbers.

    • As the months went by, I became aware of more and more significant polling variables that seemed more art than science.

      I did not know how to weight them but it seemed as if they needed to be weighted.

      I was a daily follower of NYT Upshot, which was aggregating half a dozen respected election analysts. I drew confidence from the unanimity they presented.

      Obviously, the confidence was misplaced as all turned out to be quite wrong.

  • Another one for you: Journalists say they deserve First Amendment protection because of their central role in ensuring an informed electorate. So who in journalism is “accountable”, to use a current phrase, when MOST Trump supporters believe Obama was not born in the US, Obama is not a Christian, and climate change is a Chinese hoax?

    • Fake news apparently works with a significant number of voters. Some of it is pretty outrageous.

      There might not have been an equal amount on both sides but there was plenty to go around.

      Another interesting problem is that the candidates and campaigns are no longer in control of all that appears to be said on their behalf. Some entities raise and spend significant money even while prohibited from coordinating with the official campaigns.

      The First Amendment is obviously a factor but it is certainly a challenge if lying to voters is protected.

      • Hmmm.
        “Fake news” is currently being talked about as if it was some fringe Tweet or Facebook posting. But these were pushed by Fox, the most trusted news source for millions, and by a major party candidate (cf birtherism, or other dogwhistle comments “there’s something funny going on there, folks”).

        • I agree that Fox promoted some extremely sketchy stories, but do you think it was a one way street? I wonder if you saw any of the Facebook stories pushed by left and right wing groups that paid little attention to accuracy and less to relevance.

  • So many fun facts and results – Surely the 1st Prez w/o prior political office (even dog catcher), Major self funding, More an “independent” Prez than a “party” with the the GOP types distancing themselves, Indicates a thoroughly pissed “everyman/woman” in fly over country
    The shock to the “go along get along” politics is wonderful.
    Maybe the Dems will dump Pelosi, finally!
    MSM can’t get beyond not being invited to dindin at the 21 Club.
    Campaign finance reform – Any amount of money from any citizen BUT daily internet reporting of all in flows and out flows. Images of the checks and the signature of the donors to campaigns/PAC’s etc

  • True of both, but Commander in the Field is signicant Gvt position. I’m hoping that “mad Dog Mattis is Scty of DOD. That should get some attention among the militant adversaries 🙂

  • Haven , many years ago when I did a course in American politics at University , I remember learning that voter registration in US is voluntary, ie it is up to the individual to make the effort to register. In UK the local Council send a letter to each household in October asking who is living at that address and who is eligible to vote. It is compulsory to respond, ie it is incumbent upon the State to ensure that voters are registered. ( There is even more emphasis on this aspect of democracy in Belgium and Australia where it is compulsory to vote). I have always been under the impression that as a result of the above only approx. 70% of Americans entitled to vote are registered, cf approx. 90% in UK . Consequently when there is a turnout figure of say 70% in US, those voting are only 49 % , 70% of70%. There is never any discussion of this point in our press here, and I wonder if the Trump campaign were instrumental in registering higher numbers than usual of their likely supporters.

    • One of the things political campaigns have excelled at is selective voter registration. Each side registers only those who will support its preferred candidate. Those who favor greater participation might prefer a non-political entity to take on the task. You might enjoy George Cadwalader’s essay in The Passy Press on this point. http://thepassypress.com/about-us/ There are some comments from eminent worthies and a separate one from me. I have wondered what might happen if votes were freely tradable. Would more people register if they had the option of selling their vote to someone who might care more than they did about the outcome?

      • A great article. However, the choices are hard wired due to lack of involvement of the party at the local level. If all of us focus on the getting the Libertarian Presidency, where are our Libertarian mayors, council members, congressmen, and governors? It seems that the in-roads need to be made before the great walk. Those who don’t vote are apathetic because they don’t see the option that defines a rational voice. If they saw that at the local level, they would participate themselves and become energized.

        • Many thanks. Your observation makes sense. I would favor more viable choices if only to sharpen the skills of the existing parties