The Midwest Is a State of Mind

I am a son of the Middle Border,* now known as the Midwest. I left the Midwest, in spirit, almost 60 years ago, when I matriculated at a decidedly cosmopolitan State university. It was in my home State, but not much of my home State.

Where is the Midwest? According to Wikipedia, the U.S. Census Bureau defines the Midwest as comprising the 12 States shaded in red:

They are, from north to south and west to east, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa Missouri, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio.

In my experience, the Midwest really begins on the west slope of the Appalachians and includes much of New York State and Pennsylvania. I have lived and traveled in that region, and found it, culturally, to be much like the part of “official” Midwest where I was born and raised.

I am now almost 60 years removed from the Midwest (except for a three-year sojourn in the western part of New York State, near the Pennsylvania border). Therefore, I can’t vouch for the currency of a description that appears in Michael Dirda’s review of Jon K. Lauck’s From Warm Center to Ragged Edge: The Erosion of Midwestern Literary and Historical Regionalism, 1920-1965 (Iowa and the Midwest Experience). Dirda writes:

[Lauck] surveys “the erosion of Midwestern literary and historical regionalism” between 1920 and 1965. This may sound dull as ditch water to those who believe that the “flyover” states are inhabited largely by clodhoppers, fundamentalist zealots and loudmouthed Babbitts. In fact, Lauck’s aim is to examine “how the Midwest as a region faded from our collective imagination” and “became an object of derision.” In particular, the heartland’s traditional values of hard work, personal dignity and loyalty, the centrality it grants to family, community and church, and even the Jeffersonian ideal of a democracy based on farms and small land-holdings — all these came to be deemed insufferably provincial by the metropolitan sophisticates of the Eastern Seaboard and the lotus-eaters of the West Coast.

That was the Midwest of my childhood and adolescence. I suspect that the Midwest of today is considerably different. American family life is generally less stable than it was 60 years ago; Americans generally are less church-going than they were 60 years ago; and social organizations are less robust than they were 60 years ago. The Midwest cannot have escaped two generations of social and cultural upheaval fomented by the explosion of mass communications, the debasement of mass culture, the rise of the drugs-and-rock culture, the erasure of social norms by government edicts, and the creation of a culture of dependency on government.

I nevertheless believe that there is a strong, residual longing for and adherence to the Midwestern culture of 60 years ago — though it’s not really unique to the Midwest. It’s a culture that persists throughout America, in rural areas, villages, towns, small cities, and even exurbs of large cities.

The results of last year’s presidential election bear me out. Hillary Clinton represented the “sophisticates” of the Eastern Seaboard and the lotus-eaters of the West Coast. She represented the supposed superiority of technocracy over the voluntary institutions of civil society. She represented a kind of smug pluralism and internationalism that smirks at traditional values and portrays as clodhoppers and fundamentalist zealots those who hold such values. Donald Trump, on the other hand (and despite his big-city roots and great wealth), came across as a man of the people who hold such values.

What about Clinton’s popular-vote “victory”? Nationally, she garnered 2.9 million more votes than Trump. But the manner of Clinton’s “victory” underscores the nation’s cultural divide and the persistence of a Midwestern state of mind. Clinton’s total margin of victory in California, New York, and the District of Columbia was 6.3 million votes. That left Trump ahead of Clinton by 3.4 million votes in the other 48 States, and even farther ahead in non-metropolitan areas. Clinton’s “appeal” (for want of a better word) was narrow; Trump’s was much broader (e.g., winning a higher percentage than Romney did of the two-party vote in 39 States). Arguably, it was broader than that of every Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan won a second term in 1984.

The Midwestern state of mind, however much it has weakened in the last 60 years, remains geographically dominant. In the following graph, counties won by Clinton are shaded in blue; counties won by Trump are shaded in red:


Source: Wikipedia article about the 2016 presidential election.


* This is an allusion to Hamlin Garland‘s novel, A Son of the Middle Border. Garland, a native of Wisconsin, was himself a son of the Middle Border.


Related posts:
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
The Left’s Agenda
The Left and Its Delusions
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Are You in the Bubble?
The Culture War
Ruminations on the Left in America
Academic Ignorance
The Euphemism Conquers All
Defending the Offensive
Superiority
Whiners
A Dose of Reality
God-Like Minds
An Addendum to (Asymmetrical) Ideological Warfare
Khizr Khan’s Muddled Logic
A Lesson in Election-Rigging
My Platform (which reflects a Midwestern state of mind)
Polarization and De-facto Partition
H.L. Mencken’s Final Legacy
The Shy Republican Supporters
Roundup (see “Civil War II”)
Retrospective Virtue-Signalling
The Left and Violence
Four Kinds of “Liberals”
Leftist Condescension
You Can’t Go Home Again
Class in America
A Word of Warning to Leftists (and Everyone Else)
Another Thought or Two about Class

The Shy Republican Supporters

UPDATED 02/09/17

There was much talk during the recent presidential election campaign about “shy” Trump supporters. Scott Adams theorized about them on September 9, 2016:

It’s hard to count people who are intentionally hiding [a preference for Trump]. But just for fun, let’s see if we can deduce how many so-called Shy Trump Supporters are out there.

For starters, we can say with certainty that they exist. I have a better ear for that than most of you because of my Trump blogging and my public endorsement of Clinton for my personal safety. People feel comfortable telling me privately, and also anonymously online, that they hide their Trump support from their spouse and coworkers. So we know they exist. We just don’t know how many.

We know that sometimes robocall surveys and online surveys show more Trump support than human-to-human polling. So that might be an indicator, but we don’t know what other variables are in play.

In a recent Reuters poll, 7% of respondents “refused” to vote for either Trump or Clinton. I’m guessing some Shy Trump Supporters “park” their votes with Gary Johnson (polling at 9.3%) or Jill Stein (polling at 3.3%).

But I wonder if the Shy Trump supporters are mostly parked with Johnson because of gender (consciously or unconsciously), whereas Stein is more of a real protest vote against Clinton. Anecdotally, Shy Trump Supporters tell me they do park their pre-vote preferences with Johnson. So far, none have told me they are parking their vote with Stein. (This is anecdotal, and a small sample of perhaps a dozen.)

Then you also have the question of turnout. Trump is clearly generating the most enthusiasm in public appearances. I would think that translates into more new voters.

Most of my predictions so far this election cycle have been based on what I call the Master Persuader Hypothesis. I’ll depart from that model for this prediction because this one is based on a gut feel – which I understand in my rational mind to feel identical to confirmation bias. Therefore, you should place zero confidence in my prediction.

I predict that 3% of voters are Shy Trump Supporters. As polls continue to tighten, especially in battleground states, that will be enough for an electoral landslide for Trump.

And it was an electoral landslide, popular-vote totals to the contrary notwithstanding. See my analysis in “H.L. Mencken’s Final Legacy.”

In a commentary about Adams’s post, “The ‘Shy Trump Supporter’ Hypothesis” (September 10, 2016), I said this:

So I believe that Scott Adams is right. A lot of “shy Trump supporters” are claiming that they’ll vote for Johnson, but most of them will vote — if they do vote — for Trump. My evidence? Trump’s standing in Rasmussen’s poll is strongly (r-squared = 0.6) and negatively correlated with Johnson’s standing. As voters decide that they aren’t going to waste votes on Johnson, they’ll turn (mainly) to Trump….

If Johnson’s popular-vote share slips from its current 9 percent to 3 percent on election day — which is 3 times better than his showing in 2012 — Trump would pick up 3 percentage points. On the other hand, if Stein’s support slips from its current 2 percent to 1 percent on election day — 3 times better than her showing in 2012 — Clinton would pick up 0.7 percentage point. So far, so good, for Trump.

My forecasts of Johnson’s and Stein’s slippage were just about on the money. But I was nevertheless pessimistic about Trump’s chances:

[A]s the “other-undecided” vote shrinks from its present level of 7 percent to 1 percent (a bit higher than in recent elections), Clinton will pick up 5.5 percentage points while Trump picks up only 1.3 percentage point.

Adding it up, there’s a likely gain for Trump of 4+ percentage points and a likely gain for Clinton of 6+ percentage points. Adding those numbers to Rasmussen’s latest results for Trump (39 percent) and Clinton (43 percent) yields something like 43 or 44 percent for Trump and 49 or 50 percent for Clinton.

And I was wrong. As the outcome of the recent election attests, there are a lot of shy Republicans lurking in the ranks of nominally unaffiliated voters.

How many? I have estimated their strength by analyzing the Gallup poll of party affiliations. For 303 polls conducted from January 2004 to January 2017, here are the relationships between the non-aligned respondents and those who claimed a Democrat or Republican affiliation. The non-aligned respondents are those who claimed to be independents plus the small fraction of other respondents not claiming to be Democrat, Republican, or independent:

party-affiliation-democrats-vs-independents-others

There’s a somewhat stronger, mirror-image relationship for Republicans:

party-affiliation-republcans-vs-independents-others

As the size of the non-aligned block shrinks, more members of that bloc choose the Republican label than choose the Democrat label. For example, referring to the first graph, a drop in the fraction claiming independent/other status from the maximum of 49 percent to the minimum of 28 percent results in a gain for Democrats of 8 percentage points. Referring to the second graph, the same reduction in the independent/other fraction results in a gain for Republicans of 13 percentage points.

The equations represent long-run averages, of course, and Democrats have had their share of success among nominally unaligned voters, especially around the time of Obama’s win in 2008. The underestimation of latent support for Democrats at that time shows up in the following graph, which represents the actual results of the 303 Gallup polls and the results derived from the equations in the first two graphs:

party-affiliation-actual-and-estimated

The key to the outcome of the 2016 election is the net change in voters claiming GOP and Democrat affiliation since the high-water mark of those claiming independent-other status, which occurred in December 2013. From then until November 2016, the percentage of voters claiming independent-other status went from 48 to 41, a drop of 7 percentage points. Of the 7 points , the Republican Party added 4.7 while the Democrat Party added 2.3. As a result, Clinton’s long-expected national landslide became a hollow, California-based, popular-vote victory — and a comfortable electoral-vote win for Trump.

H.L. Mencken’s Final Legacy

I used to think of H.L. Mencken as a supremely witty person. My intellectual infatuation began with his Chrestomathy, which I read with relish many years ago.

In recent decades my infatuation with Mencken’s acerbic wit dimmed and died, for the reason given by Fred Siegel in The Revolt Against the Masses: How Liberalism Has Undermined the Middle Class. There, Siegel rightly observes that Mencken “learned from [George Bernard] Shaw how to be narrow-minded in a witty, superior way.”

I was reminded of that passage by Peter Berger’s recent account of Mencken’s role in the marginalization of Evangelicals:

The Evangelical sense of marginalization can be conveniently dated—1925. Until then Evangelical Protestantism was at the core of American culture. Think of the role it played in the anti-slavery and temperance movements. Between 1910 and 1915 a series of four books was published under the title The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth. The term “fundamentalism” derives from this title—today a pejorative term applied to all kinds of religious extremes. The aforementioned books were hardly extreme. They came out of the heart of mainline Protestantism, which today would be called Evangelical. Many of the authors were orthodox Presbyterians, then-centered at Princeton Theological Seminary, which in the 1920s split into an orthodox Calvinist and a “modernist” faculty. What happened in 1925 was a watershed in the history of American Evangelicalism—the so-called “monkey trial.”

Under the influence of a conservative Protestant/Evangelical lobby the state of Tennessee passed a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in public schools. John Scopes, a school teacher in Dayton, Tennessee, was charged with having violated the law. The trial turned into a celebrity event. William Jennings Bryan, former presidential candidate and prominent Evangelical leader, volunteered to act for the prosecution, and the famous trial lawyer Clarence Darrow defended Scopes. The trial had virtually nothing to do with the offence in question (which was not in doubt). Bryan used it to defend his literal understanding of the Bible, Darrow to make Bryan ridiculous. In this he succeeded, reducing Bryan to petulant babbling. Both men were propagandists for two forms of “fundamentalism,” a primitive view of the Bible against a primitive view of science. Unfortunately for Bryan’s reputation, the brilliant satirist H.L. Mencken covered the trial for the Baltimore Sun. His account was widely reprinted and read. He was contemptuous not only of Bryan but of Christianity and of the local people (he called them “yokels”). The event had an enormous effect on American Evangelicals. It demoralized them, making them feel marginalized in a hostile environment. The result was an Evangelical subculture, turned inward and defensive in its relation to the outside society. Mark Noll sums this up in the title of one of his books, The Closing of the Evangelical Mind. [“Religion, Class, and the Evangelical Vote,” The American Interest, November 23, 2016]

I would have to read and consider Noll’s book before I sign on to Berger’s claim that it was Mencken’s account of the “monkey trial” which demoralized and marginalized Evangelicals. But it didn’t help, and it ushered in 90 years of Mencken-like portrayals of Evangelicals and, more generally, of the mid-to-low-income whites who populate much of what’s referred to sneeringly as flyover country. As Berger observes,

During the 2008 campaign Obama slipped out this description of people in economically deprived small towns: “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.” And during the just-concluded presidential campaign Clinton described Trump voters as a “basket of deplorables.”

Is it any surprise that Trump — who appealed strongly to the kinds of people disparaged by Mencken, Obama, and Clinton — carried these States?

  • Florida — won by Obama in 2008 and 2012
  • Pennsylvania — the first time for a GOP presidential candidate since 1988
  • Ohio — won by Obama in 2008 and 2012
  • Michigan — the first GOP presidential win since 1988
  • Wisconsin — last won by a GOP candidate in 1984
  • Iowa — won by the Democrat presidential candidate in every election (but one) since 1984.

And how did Trump do it? Mainly by running strongly in the areas outside big cities. It’s true that Clinton outpolled Trump nationally, but so what? It’s the electoral vote that matters, and that’s what the candidates strive to win. Trump won it on the strength of his appeal to the descendants of Mencken’s yokels: Obama’s gun-clingers and Clinton’s deplorables.

A digression about election statistics is in order:

Based on total popular votes cast, 2016 surpasses all previous elections by more than 5 million votes (they’re still being counted in some places). Trump now holds the record for the most votes cast for a GOP presidential candidate. Clinton, however, probably won’t match Obama’s 2012 total, and certainly won’t match his 2008 total (the size of which testifies to the gullibility of a large fraction of the electorate).

Did the big turnout for Gary Johnson (pseudo-libertarian) and the somewhat-better-than 2012 turnout for Jill Stein (socialist crank) take votes that “should have been” Clinton’s? Obviously not. Those who cast their ballots for Johnson and Stein were, by definition, voting against Clinton (and Trump).

But what if Johnson and Stein hadn’t been on the ballot and some of the votes that went them had gone instead to Clinton and Trump? My analyses of several polls leads me to the conclusion that the presence of Johnson and Stein hurt Trump more than Clinton. Johnson voters would have defected to Trump more often than to Clinton. Stein voters would have defected to Clinton more often than to Trump. On balance, because there were three times as many Johnson voters as Stein voters, Trump (not Clinton) would have done better if the election had been a two-person race. Moreover, Trump improved slightly on recent GOP showings among blacks and Hispanics.

What about Clinton’s popular-vote “victory”? As of today (11/24/16) she’s running ahead of Trump by 2.1 million votes nationally, and by 3.8 million votes in California and 1.5 million votes in New York. That leaves Trump ahead of Clinton by 3.2 million votes in the other 48 States and D.C. I could go on about D.C. and the Northeast in general, but you get the idea. Clinton’s “appeal” (for want of a better word) was narrow; Trump’s was much broader (e.g., winning a higher percentage than Romney did of the two-party vote in 39 States). Arguably, it was broader than that of every Republican presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan won a second term in 1984.

The election of 2016 probably rang down the final curtain on the New Deal alliance of white Southerners (long-since defected), union members (a dying breed), and other denizens of the mid-to-low-income brackets. The alliance was built on the illusory success  of FDR’s New Deal, which prolonged the Great Depression by several years. But FDR, his henchmen, his sycophants in the media and academe, and those tens of millions who were gulled by him didn’t know that. And so the Democrat Party became the majority party for the most of final eight decades of the 20th century, and has enjoyed periods of resurgence in the 21st century.

The modern Democrat Party — the one that arose in the 1950s with Adlai Stevenson at its helm — long held the allegiance of the yokels, even as it was betraying them by buying the votes of blacks and Hispanics and trolling for the votes of marginal groups (queers, Muslims, and “liberal arts” majors) in order to wear the mantle of moral superiority. The yokels were taken for granted. Worse than that, they were openly disdained in Menckian language.

Trump wisely avoided the Democrat-lite stance of recent GOP candidates — the two Bushes, McCain, and Romney (Dole was simply a ballot-filler) — and went after the modern descendants of the yokels. And in response to that unaccustomed attention, huge numbers of mid-to-low-income voters  — joined by those traditional Republicans who wisely refused to abandon Trump — produced a stunning electoral upset that encompassed most of the country.

As for Mencken, where he is remembered at all it is mainly as a curmudgeonly quipster with views that wouldn’t pass muster among today’s smart set. Though Mencken’s flirtation with anti-Semitism might commend him to the alt-left.

Here, then, is H.L. Mencken’s lasting legacy: There has arisen a huge bloc of voters whose members are through with being ridiculed and ignored by the pseudo-sophisticates who lead and populate the Democrat Party. It is now up to Trump and the Republican Party to retain the allegiance of that bloc. And if they do not, a third party will arise, and — for the first time in American history — it will be a third party with long-lasting clout. Think of it as a more muscular incarnation of the Tea Party, which was its vanguard.

*     *     *

Related reading:
Mike Lee, “Conservatives Should Embrace Principled Populism,” National Review, November 24. 2016
Yuval Levin, “The New Republican Coalition,” National Review, November 17, 2016
Henry Olsen, “For Trump Voters There Is No Left or Right,The Washington Post, November 18, 2016
Fred Reed, “Uniquely Talented: Only the Democrats Could Have Lost to Trump,” Fred on Everything, November 24, 2016 (Published after this post, and eerily similar, in keeping with the adage that great minds think alike.)

*     *      *

Related posts:
1963: The Year Zero
Society
How Democracy Works
“Cheerful” Thoughts
How Government Subverts Social Norms
Turning Points
The Twilight’s Last Gleaming?
Winners and Losers
“Fairness”
Pontius Pilate: Modern Politician
Should You Vote for a Third-Party Candidate?
My Platform
How America Has Changed
Civil War?

My Sort-Of Prescience about the Blue Wall

I posted “‘Blue Wall’ Hype” in February of last year. I said, in part:

The right GOP candidate with the right message can win some or all of the States that Obama won narrowly in 2012. In the table below, they’re the States whose electoral votes are highlighted in pale blue in the Tossup column (Florida, Ohio, and Virginia) and the States in the Swing Blue column (Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin). If the GOP candidate were to hold all of the States won by Romney and take the additional Tossup and Swing Blue States, he or she would garner 347 electoral votes — a resounding victory.

I won’t reproduce the table here. You can see it by following the link to the post.

As it turned out, Trump was the right candidate, just as Clinton was the wrong candidate (for the Democrat Party). Trump’s appeal to working-class voters behind the Blue Wall and Clinton’s disparagement of them combined into a perfect storm of electoral pyrotechnics.

When the dust settled, Trump had won 306 electoral votes (or the potential for that many, if there are no faithless electors). And Trump did it by holding onto the 206 electoral votes won by Romney and picking up another 100 electoral votes by winning Florida (29), Iowa (6), Michigan (16), Ohio (18) Pennsylvania (20),  Wisconsin (10), and, as a bonus, 1 of Maine’s 4 electoral votes (all of which went to Obama in 2012).

I’m not ready to say that the Blue Wall has crumbled, but Trump made a big hole in it.

Polarization and De Facto Partition

I started this post on the day before election day.

Don’t you have the feeling that Election 2016 will result in greater political polarization, not less? I do.

For one thing, both Clinton and Trump are polarizing figures. It seems unlikely that either of them will do things (or try to do things) that will gain the approval of their political opponents.

For another thing, whatever is done by the president, by Congress, or by the Supreme Court in the next four years will simply fuel the outrage of those who oppose it. When government steers to the left, it usually isn’t far enough to the left to satisfy the growing and vocal band of leftists in America, but it always outrages the right. When government steers to the right, it always enrages the left, but it’s never far enough to the right to restore liberty, thus disappointing and further alienating the right.

The underlying trend toward bigger and more intrusive government is especially frustrating for those of us on the right. It seems that no matter which party controls the White House and Congress, the bureaucracy continues to churn out regulations and the Supreme Court (usually) issues edicts that undermine traditional morality and endorse the central government’s interfering ways.

Political polarization is aided and abetted by geographic sorting, and geographic sorting must aid and abet political polarization. Consider how far geographic sorting has come since 1992:

As of 2012, the divide was pretty wide. Half of all voters were living in a county that President Obama or Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee that year, won in a landslide, which is defined here as a county won by 20 percentage points or more.

The proportion of voters living in landslide counties has steadily increased since 1992, a trend that reflects the growing tendency of like-minded people to live near one another, according to Bill Bishop, a co-author of “The Big Sort,” a 2008 book that identified this phenomenon.

Americans have been self-segregating by lifestyle, though not necessarily politics, for several decades, Mr. Bishop said, but lifestyle has grown to reflect politics. “We’re sorting by the way we live, think and — it turns out — every four years or every two years, how we vote.”

Some political scientists expect the landslide trend to continue in the 2016 presidential election. “If anything, I think we’ll see it intensify because Trump has been doing very well among the kinds of voters who tend to live in rural and small-town America,” said Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta. [Gregor Aisch, Adam Pearce, and Karen Yourish, “How Large Is the Divide between Red and Blue America?The New York Times, November 4, 2016]

Perhaps the most compelling statistic of the many statistics presented in the article is that the percentage of voters living in landslide counties rose from 37 percent in 1992 to 50 percent in 2012. The United States truly has become a nation divided.

Something has to give. But what, and how? I addressed those questions in “Independence Day 2016: The Way Ahead,” and concluded that

unless there is a negotiated partition of the country — perhaps in response to a serious secession movement — a coup is probably the only hope for the restoration of liberty under a government that is true to the Constitution.

The alternative is a continuation of America’s descent into despotism, which — as many Americans already know — is no longer the “soft” despotism foreseen by Tocqueville.

I’ve mentioned the possibility of a coup in several posts, but always with skepticism. I remain skeptical. Given the increasing polarization of the country — political and geographic — something like a negotiated partition seems like the only way to make the left and the right happier.

And then it occurred to me that a kind of partition could be achieved by constitutional means; that is, by revising the Constitution to return to its original plan of true federalism. The central government would, once again, be responsible for the defense of liberty and free trade. Each State would, within the framework of liberty, make its own decisions about the extent to which it intervenes in the economic and social affairs of its citizens.

How might that come to pass?

There are today in this land millions — probably tens of millions — of depressed leftists who foresee at least four years of GOP rule dedicated to the diminution of the regulatory-welfare state.

Obamacare is almost certainly dead. It has been dying of its congenital defects, but I expect Trump and the GOP-controlled Congress to put a stake through its heart.

Trump’s nominee to fill the current vacancy on the Supreme Court probably will be someone closer in judicial philosophy to Antonin Scalia than to Anthony Kennedy. (If it isn’t, Trump may well find himself embarrassed by the GOP-controlled Senate’s rejection of his nominee.) As other vacancies arise during the next few years — and there’s likely to be at least one — they’ll probably be filled by constitutional conservatives. (The GOP-controlled Senate can and should change its rules about Supreme Court nominations to keep Democrats from filibustering Trump’s nominees.) Trump’s one or two nominees will move the Court back to the right, and probably will serve for decades. At any rate, that’s what conservatives hope and leftists fear.

What else? Here’s what I expect (or at least hope for): The end of preaching about race, having “conversations” about it, pretending that it isn’t implicated in violent crime, and turning a blind eye toward violence committed in the name of “racial justice.” The end of uncontrolled (and encouraged) illegal immigration. Reaffirmation of America’s long-standing ties with Israel, the Middle East’s bastion of democracy Western values. Repudiation of the phony deal with Iran. An end to pussy-footing around the relationship between Islam and terrorism. The reversal of anti-growth and anti-business executive orders and regulations (e.g., the EPA’s war on coal) issued in the name of “social justice” and “climate change.” The repeal of Dodd-Frank and its onerous micro-management of the financial industry. The end of efforts to undermine the Second Amendment. The end of the Department of Justice’s meddling in State and local matters to advance a leftist agenda in the name of “civil rights.” An end to similar meddling (and related funding) by the Department of Education — perhaps even an end to the Department of Education. And, generally, a much more hands-off attitude on the part of the federal bureaucracy when it comes to matters beyond the constitutional purview of the central government (which is most matters now consuming the attention of the federal bureaucracy).

I could go on and on, but you get the idea of what conservative expect (or hope for) and leftists fear. And therein is the source of political pressure that could bring about something like a partition of the United States.

The shoe is now on the other foot. A lot of leftists will want out (see this for example), just as Northern abolitionists wanted separation from the South in the 1830s and 1840s. Let’s give them a way out while the giving is good, that is, while the GOP controls the federal government. The way out for the left is also the way out for conservatives.

Congress, namely, its Republican majorities, can all an Article V convention of the States:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as Part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress….

Note that the requirement for a two-thirds majority pertains only to amendments proposed by Congress. As for applications by the States, there seem to be enough unexpired and unrescinded applications on hand. And if there aren’t, they probably can be arranged in short order.

The convention would be controlled by Republicans, who control a majority of State legislatures. The Republican majority should make it clear from the outset that the sole purpose of the convention is to devolve power to the States. For example, if a State government wants to establish its own version of Social Security to supplement what remains of it after future benefits have been scaled back to match projected future revenues, that State government wouldn’t be prevented from doing so. And it could design that program — and any others — as it wishes, free from interference on by the central government.

To accomplish that devolution, the Convention of the States would consider and approve, for ratification by three-fourths of the States, a revised Constitution. A complete revision, rather than a series of amendments, would be easier for the citizens of the various States to understand and respond to as they voice their views to State legislators or convention delegates.

At this point, I refer you to the page that I’ve created, called “A Constitution for the 21st Century.” It cures the main problem with the present Constitution of the United States, which is not its actual meaning but the fact that inappropriate meanings have been imputed to it because it is too often vague and ambiguous, and because Congresses, presidents, and Supreme Courts have been unfaithful to it for several generations.

The new Constitution is not only far more specific than the present Constitution — and more restrictive of the powers of the central government — but it also includes more checks on those powers. For example, there are these provisions in Article V:

Congress may, by a majority of three-fifths of the members of each House present, when there is a quorum consisting of three-fourths of the number of persons then holding office in each House…provide for the collection of revenues in order to pay the debts and expenses of the government of the United States [emphasis added]….

A judgment of any court of the government of the United States may be revised or revoked by an act of Congress, provided that such any revision or revocation is approved by two-thirds of the members of each house and leads to a result that conforms to this Constitution.

Then there are Articles VII and VIII, Keeper of the Constitution and Conventions of the States, which begin as follows:

The responsibility for ensuring that the legislative, executive, and judicial branches adhere to this Constitution in the exercise of their respective powers shall be vested in a Keeper of the Constitution. The Keeper may review acts of Congress, the executive branch, and judicial branch that have the effect of making law and appropriating monies….

Delegations of the States shall convene every four years for the purpose of considering revisions to and revocations of acts of the government established by this Constitution. Such conventions (hereinafter “Convention [or Conventions] of the States”) may revise and/or revoke any act or acts and/or any holding or holdings, in the sole discretion of a majority of State delegations present and voting.

On top of that, there is Article IX, which authorizes petitions and subsequent elections for the revocation of a broad range of governmental acts and the expulsion of members of Congress, the President, Vice President and justices of the Supreme Court. Also, a constitutional convention may be called pursuant to a successful petition.

To the extent that Articles VII, VIII, and IX would inhibit presidential and congressional ventures into unconstitutional territory, so much the better.

This new Constitution also provides for secession, the threat of which might further help to preserve its original meaning.

The job of selling the new Constitution would be a tough one, but the key selling point should be the preservation of choice. Individual States could be as socialistic or laissez-faire as their citizens allow, and the wide range of governing styles would afford ample choice for Americans. It would become much easier for every American to live in a politically congenial place.

Related posts:
The State of the Union: 2010
The Shape of Things to Come
I Want My Country Back
Undermining the Free Society
Government vs. Community
The Destruction of Society in the Name of “Society”
Society and the State
A Contrarian View of Universal Suffrage
Well-Founded Pessimism
America: Past, Present, and Future
IQ, Political Correctness, and America’s Present Condition
The Barbarians Within and the State of the Union
The View from Here
“We the People” and Big Government
The Culture War
O Tempora O Mores!
A Home of One’s Own
Surrender? Hell No!
Democracy, Human Nature, and the Future of America
1963: The Year Zero
Society
How Democracy Works
“Cheerful” Thoughts
How Government Subverts Social Norms
Turning Points
The Twilight’s Last Gleaming?

I Can’t Resist…

…quoting from my final forecast of the outcome of Election 2016:

Most aggregations of polls give Clinton a narrow lead, which (according to the polls) has increased in the past few days. Some reliable, independent polls tell a different story….

Trump’s momentum may have slowed, but it won’t take much to push him over the top.

If Trump ekes out 51 percent of the two-party vote, he’ll win upwards of 300 electoral votes. (That estimate is based on my model of the relationship between the popular-vote and electoral-vote outcomes in elections since World War II.)  How would he get there? Here’s a scenario that fits the demographics of the various States:

  • Obama beat Romney 332-206 in the electoral-vote tally four years ago.
  • Clinton could take two States won by Romney in 2012: Georgia (16 EVs) and Utah (6).
  • Trump could more than offset those 22 EVs by taking several States won by Obama in 2012: Florida (29), Iowa (6), Maine (4), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), New Mexico (5), Ohio (16), Pennsylvania (20), and Wisconsin (10).

That would leave Clinton with 240 EVs to Trump’s 298. There are many plausible variations on the scenario that would leave Trump with a majority of EVs, or result in a tie.

It looks as if I was too cautious. At this moment (5:18 a.m. CST, 11/09/16), Trump and Clinton are practically 50-50 in the two-party vote, and Clinton probably will end up ahead. But, as I (and many others) have noted, a GOP candidate can win the electoral vote with less than 50 percent of the two-party vote because the electoral vote count is weighted toward smaller States, which tend to vote Republican.

In any event, Trump held Georgia and Utah, and so far has taken Florida, Iowa, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. He’s leading in Michigan, and may even take New Hampshire.

Clinton has conceded to Trump, which probably settles matters, though Gore conceded to Bush in 2000 and then withdrew his concession. But that was all about Florida. Trump seems to have unquestionably won. (Fingers tightly crossed.)

The even better news is that the GOP has held the Senate, and will end up with a majority of 52 or 53 to 47 or 48 (counting so-called independents as Democrats). Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court won’t be filled by another Scalia, but it also won’t be filled by a Clinton appointee.

My fondest hope is that Trump will stick to his word about the kind of Supreme Court justice he would appoint. If he does that, it will be good news if and when Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, Kagan, Kennedy, and even Roberts dies or retires. In fact, I’d like to see Kennedy go first, followed quickly by Ginsburg and Breyer.

 

Election 2016 – Update

I’ve updated “Election 2016.” It includes a plausible scenario for an electoral-college victory by Trump.

Whatever you do tomorrow, if you haven’t already voted, get out there and do it — if you want Clinton to lose, that is. Don’t let Operation Demoralize get to you. The mainstream media will play up Clinton’s lead in the polls (the ones that show her in the lead) until the last vote has been cast on the West Coast. It’s nothing more than legalized election-rigging. Don’t allow it to succeed. Vote!

Election 2016

UPDATED 11/07/16

Most aggregations of polls give Clinton a narrow lead, which (according to the polls) has increased in the past few days. Some reliable, independent polls tell a different story. Start here:

FIGURE 1
clintons-lead-deficit-in-5-polls-since-oct-1
In this graph and the next one, I plot all of the values against the dates on which polling was conducted or bets were made, not the dates on which results were released. In the case of multi-day polling, I use the central date of the polling period. Therefore, all of the polls are slightly out-of-date, a fact that one should consider when interpreting the numbers.

These are the three aggregations and two polls plotted in figure 1:

  • the aggregation of 4-way polls (Clinton, Trump, Johnson, Stein) at RealClearPolitics (RCP), averaged over 5 days
  • the aggregation of 2-way polls (Clinton vs. Trump) at RCP, averaged over 5 days
  • the IBD/TIPP poll, which has a good track record and a high rating from FiveThirtyEight
  • the USC/LA Times poll, which is another reputable Trump-leaning one.

This graph provides a close up of recent changes in the three aggregations and two polls:

FIGURE 2
day-to-day-change-in-5-poll-average

Trump’s momentum may have slowed, but it won’t take much to push him over the top.

If Trump ekes out 51 percent of the two-party vote, he’ll win upwards of 300 electoral votes. (That estimate is based on my model of the relationship between the popular-vote and electoral-vote outcomes in elections since World War II.)  How would he get there? Here’s a scenario that fits the demographics of the various States:

  • Obama beat Romney 332-206 in the electoral-vote tally four years ago.
  • Clinton could take two States won by Romney in 2012: Georgia (16 EVs) and Utah (6).
  • Trump could more than offset those 22 EVs by taking several States won by Obama in 2012: Florida (29), Iowa (6), Maine (4), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), New Mexico (5), Ohio (16), Pennsylvania (20), and Wisconsin (10).

That would leave Clinton with 240 EVs to Trump’s 298. There are many plausible variations on the scenario that would leave Trump with a majority of EVs, or result in a tie.

Stay tuned.

Election 2016 – Breaking

See the latest edition of “Election 2016” for more recent polling data and trend analyses. The news keeps getting better (for now, at least).

UPDATED 10/25/16 – 4:30 PM CT

Just after I spotted an interesting twist in the statistics underlying my post “Election 2016,” I noted a spate of related items; for example:

Scott Adams, “The Bully Party,” Scott Adams’ Blog, October 25, 2016

Arnold Cusmarlu, “Trump ‘87% Certain’ to Win in November,” American Thinker, October 25, 2016

Jonathan Easley, “War Over Polls Intensifies” (URL tag: are-the-polls-skewed-against-trump), The Hill, October 25, 2016

Steven Hayward, “Michael Moore Voting for Trump?Power Line, October 25, 2016

Jeffrey Lord, “Hillary: Queen of Corruption,” The American Spectator, October 25, 2016

Greg Richards, “Rigging the Election: James O’Keefe’s Third Video,” American Thinker, October 25, 2016

Andrew Grant White, “November 8: Trump +5,” American Thinker, October 25, 2016

It all adds up to this: There’s a good possibility that between now and election day — when most votes are cast despite early voting — growing realization of the corrupt, thuggish, big-spending, authoritarian, and anti-American character of a Clinton regime will turn the tide and lead to a victory by Donald Trump.

As I’ve said many times, the only thing worse than a Trump victory would be a Clinton victory.

Now for the twist that I spotted. There’s a glimmer of hope in the RealClearPolitics (RCP) “poll of polls,” which I adjust so that the various polling results are dated properly. Since October 9, the date of the second Trump-Clinton debate, there’s been a noticeable trend away from Clinton; thus:

rcp-poll-since-oct-9

The trend line points to a slight edge for Trump by election day, November 8. It’s too soon to take this forecast to the bank, but I’ll update it frequently — and keep my fingers crossed.

UPDATE

Here’s what’s happening with some other indicators that I’m tracking. (You can read about them at “Election 2016.”)

election-indicators-since-2nd-debate

The Reuters poll has been moving toward Trump, while the USC/LA Times has been moving toward Clinton, producing a slight trend toward Trump in the average of the two polls. The RCP 4-way poll has been moving toward Trump since October 14, while the IBD/TIPP poll has begun to move toward Clinton. All in all, it looks like a tightening of the poll results as election day approaches, with a pro-Trump undercurrent, as shown in the first graph.

My Platform

A voting guide published in my local newspaper asks seven questions of the presidential candidates. I list them below, with the answers that I would give were I a candidate for the presidency of the United States.

Question 1: What is your personal statement?

I am sick and tired of the nanny state, which is centered in Washington DC and extends into almost every city, town, and village in America.

Question 2: What are your top three goals?

Economic and social liberty for all Americans; protection of the lives, liberty, and property of innocent Americans; defense of Americans’ legitimate overseas interests.

Question 3: What will you do to support a vibrant economy across the U.S.?

I will send legislative proposals to Congress that will deregulate the economy; eliminate the death tax and corporate income taxes; reduce the central government to its essential and legitimate functions (mainly national defense), and cut taxes accordingly; and phase out all unconstitutional federal programs (which is most of them), beginning with Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I will revoke all executive-branch policies that are contrary to the program spelled out in the preceding sentence.

Question 4: What, if any, actions will you support to create a pathway to citizenship?

I will ask Congress to deter illegal immigration by eliminating welfare programs that attract it; to provide the manpower and technical means to prevent, detect, and prosecute illegal immigration; and to establish more stringent citizenship requirements, including demonstrated proficiency in English. I will revoke all executive-branch policies that are contrary to the program spelled out in the preceding sentence.

Question 5: What should government do to provide an equitable, quality public education for all children pre-K through grade 12?

The central government should have no role in the funding of education or in the making of policies related to it. I will make one exception, for liberty’s sake, which is to propose an amendment to the Constitution that would require every State (and therefore the subordinate jurisdictions in every State) to allow parents to choose the schools to which they send their children, and to give vouchers to parents who choose private schools. The value of each State’s voucher would be the average cost of educating a child in grades K-12 in that State. (It would be up to each State to decide how to recover the shares owed by local jurisdictions.)

Question 6: What actions would you support the U.S. undertake to protect its interests abroad?

In view of the rising Russian and Chinese threats to Americans’ overseas interests — and the persistent threat posed by terrorist organizations — I will ask Congress to rebuild the nation’s armed forces, at least to the levels attained as a result of President Reagan’s buildup; to provide for the acquisition of superior, all-source intelligence capabilities; to support a robust research and development program for defense and intelligence systems; and to provide the funding needed to fully man our armed forces with well-trained personnel, and to keep the forces in a high state of readiness for sustained combat operations.

Regarding the use of armed forces, I will act immediately and vigorously to defend Americans’ legitimate overseas interests, which include international commerce around the globe, and to protect resources that directly affect international commerce (e.g., oil-rich regions on land and at sea). As necessary, I will seek the authorization of Congress to conduct sustained combat operations for those purposes.

I will not otherwise use or seek the approval of Congress to use the armed forces of the United States, which are maintained at great cost to Americans for the benefit of Americans. Those forces are not maintained for the purpose of defending countries that refuse to spend enough money to defend themselves, nor to “build nations” or engage in humanitarian operations that have no direct bearing on the safety of Americans or their interests. By the same token, America’s armed forces should be used to help defend nations that attempt to defend themselves and whose defeat would destabilize regions of strategic value to Americans’ interests.

Finally, I will not enter into treaties or agreements of any kind with the leaders of nations whose aim is clearly to undermine Americans’ legitimate economic interests. To that end, I will renounce Barack Obama’s agreement with Iran, his endorsement of the Paris agreement regarding so-called anthropogenic global warming, and all other agreements detrimental to the interests of Americans.

I will further ask to Congress to direct by law that the United States withdraw from the United Nations, which serves mainly as a showplace for regimes hostile to Americans’ constitutional ideals and interests. The U.N. will be given two years in which to remove all of its offices and personnel from the United States. I expect the U.N. to become overtly hostile to the United States when this country has withdrawn from it, but those member states who provoke and finance hostile acts on the part of the U.N. will be held to account, and will not be able to hide behind the false front of the United Nations.

Question 7: What kinds of policies will you pursue to promote social and racial justice for all Americans?

I will nominate judges and executive-branch officials who are demonstrably faithful to the Constitution of the United States, as its various portions were understood when they were ratified or modified through Article V amendments. This will mean the reversal of many judicial and executive actions that are contrary to the moral traditions that underlie the greatness of America, and which have been contravened arbitrarily to serve narrow interests and misguided ideologies. I am especially eager to defend life against those who seek to destroy and defile it, and to see that there is truly “equal protection of the law” by restoring freedom of speech and association where they have been suppressed in the name of equal protection.

Social and moral issues such as same-sex marriage should be decided by the States, and preferably by the people themselves, through the peaceful and voluntary evolution and operation of social norms. Such issues are outside the constitutional purview of the central government.

A Lesson in Election-Rigging

UPDATED 10/27/16

A leading story on yesterday’s NBC evening news broadcast trumpeted an ABC News poll showing Hillary with a 12-point lead over The Donald. It could have been a story about polls in which NBC News participates: The latest NBC News/SM poll gives Clinton an 8-point edge, and the most recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has Clinton up by 10 points. Or it could have been about the latest CBS News poll, which has Clinton leading by 11 points.

Why single out a poll that’s not representative of the world of polling? Why not trumpet the the overall average computed by FiveThirtyEight, a reputable outfit spawned by The New York Times? The answer is that FiveThiryEight‘s consensus forecast gives Clinton only a 6-point edge. (As do I.)

Why do you suppose FiveThirtyEight reports “only” a 6-point edge for Clinton? Because it adjusts for the bias inherent in polls like those conducted by ABC, CBS, and NBC.

And why do you suppose that the three networks conduct and report polls biased in Clinton’s direction, just as they routinely conduct and report polls biased toward Democrats? To ask the question is to answer it.

What better way to rally Clinton voters (and Democrats generally) while discouraging Trump voters (and Republicans generally) than to make a Clinton victory (or any Democrat victory) seem inevitable?

If presidential elections in America are in any sense “rigged,” they’re rigged by the pro-Democrat bias of the mainstream media, which comes through loud and clear on ABC, CBS, and NBC (and others). The bias shows up not only in what stories those networks choose to run and how they report those stories; it also shows up in the polls that they conduct and their reporting on those polls.

UPDATE

Related reading:

Aaron Ball, “How and Why Election 2016 Is Rigged,” American Thinker, October 27, 2016

Leslie Eastman, “#Election2016 Reporting through the Haze of ‘Gaslight’,” Legal Insurrection, October 27, 2016

The Trump Tape

You know the one I mean, and you know what Trump says on it. So I won’t link to it or quote it. What I will do is ask (and try to answer) the crucial question: What happens now?

Specifically, is Trump a goner? Well, there’s evidence that he was already a goner. So what happens now is that a lot of people who were planning to vote for Trump, or who might have voted for him, will switch to Clinton, Johnson, Stein, or “other” — or they simply won’t bother to vote. As a result, there’ll be a lot fewer down-ballot votes for Republicans in other races. Perhaps not enough to give Democrats control of the House, but perhaps enough to give Democrats control of the Senate.

And therein lies the really bad news. If the Dems can muster 50 senators, they will control the Senate because the VP will be a Democrat. And even if the election ends with, say, 52 Republicans in the Senate, it won’t be hard for the Democrats to entice two RINOs to move across the aisle.

You know what will happen to the Supreme Court with Hillary in the White House and her party in control of the Senate. That’s the really bad news.

Would it matter if Trump were to withdraw from the race? As I understand the States’ laws about putting names on ballots, Trump’s name would remain at the top of the GOP ticket. But the party could heavily advertise the idea that the electors from each State nominally won by Trump would instead vote for Pence. (The electors couldn’t be forced to do so, but as party loyalists, I expect that most of them would do so.)

Would that stratagem prevent a lot of voters from switching their votes away from Trump or sitting it out? I doubt it. It’s just too damn sophisticated and uncertain And a lot of voters simply won’t want to associate themselves in any way with Trump. It’s psychological thing. And it will weigh heavily, even in the secrecy of the voting booth.

Bottom line: Trump is toast. Hillary wins (unless there’s a bigger counter-scandal in the wings). Democrats have a good shot at taking control of the Senate. The Supreme Court may then continue to violate the Constitution and march Americans more rapidly down the road to serfdom.

Should You Vote for a Third-Party Candidate?

Inspired by Brandon Morse’s simple-minded posts at RedState.

If you live in a State where there’s little or no doubt as to which candidate will prevail, your vote doesn’t matter. Your vote for a third-party candidate may make you feel good, but it almost certainly won’t affect the outcome of the election. In fact, a lot of such votes probably won’t affect the outcome of the election. So cast that third-party vote and make your day.

But if you live in a State where the race is likely to be tight, it may matter — especially if there are enough voters who choose to withhold their votes from Trump or Clinton. It mattered in 2000, for example, when the votes cast in for Nader in Florida would have given that State to Gore, who was probably the second choice of most pro-Nader voters.

Consider a voter with a plausible set preferences who lives in a “battleground” State:

  1. You’re a fiscal and social conservative, and you usually vote Republican but can’t stand Trump. Protest votes for a third-party candidate (probably Gary Johnson) will mean fewer votes for Trump, and therefore a boost for Clinton. So protest votes for Johnson (vice Trump) will help Clinton, who cannot possibly be more conservative than Trump on fiscal or social issues.
  2. You’re a fiscal and social liberal, and you usually vote Democrat but can’t stand Clinton. Protest votes for a third-party candidate (probably Jill Stein) will mean fewer votes for Clinton, and therefore a boost for Trump. So protest votes for Stein (vice Clinton) will help Trump, who cannot possibly be more liberal than Clinton on fiscal or social issues.
  3. You’re a middle-of-the-roader who usually votes for the Republican or Democrat who most appeals to you, but you can’t stand Trump or Clinton. Regardless of your distaste for Trump and Clinton, you probably consider one of them to be the lesser of two evils on issues of most importance to you. Protest votes for third-party candidates will help the greater of two evils by reducing the vote count of the lesser of two evils.

Generalizing:

  1. Only Trump or Clinton will win the election. No one else has a chance of winning.
  2. If you’re truly indifferent between Trump and Clinton, it doesn’t matter what you do. You can flip a coin to choose between them; you can flip a coin (or two) and choose among the third-party candidates; or you can abstain from voting for a presidential candidate.
  3. But if you’re not truly indifferent between them, if one of them is merely the lesser of two evils, then your vote for someone else (Johnson, Stein, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy) means one less vote for the lesser of two evils. In which case, you’re voting against your own interest because you’re giving an edge to the greater of two evils.

Enough said.

Related post: Economists and Voting

RealClearPolitics’ Misleading “Poll of Polls”

For my latest analysis of trends in RCP’s polls and several others, see “Election 2016.”

REVISED AND UPDATED 10/23/16

A lot of commentators cite the “poll of polls” at RealClearPolitics.com. You know the one I mean; it looks like this:

rcp-poll_1
rcp-poll_2

The graph is followed by a long list of historical polling results, on which the graph is based. It all looks authoritative. But it’s misleading.

Take the values for September 22, 2016, which show a spread of 2.1 points in favor of Clinton.  However, the values for September 22 represent polling that was done between September 8 and September 21. That’s quite a lag and it badly distorts what’s really happening in the Trump-Clinton race.

So I reconstructed the “poll of polls,” as follows:

  • Assigned a date to each poll that coincides with the central date of the polling period it represents.
  • Computed, for each poll, the spread in favor of (or against) Clinton.
  • Arranged the polls in chronological order, according to central date.
  • Averaged the spreads for polls having the same central date.

Because only one or two polls are assigned to many dates, I added a trendline to emphasize the pattern that emerges from the many polls included in RCP’s “poll of polls.” Here’s a graph of the result, for polls conducted since August 1:

clintons-lead-deficit-in-rcp-polls

That’s a much more realistic depiction.

Hillary’s Health

Originally published as “Stroke?” on 09/18/16

UPDATED 09/20/16 & 09/21/16

Not long ago I listed some potentially election-changing events. Among them: Hillary Clinton might suffer a stroke. This video of Clinton’s reaction to the bombing in NYC, this discussion of the symptoms and causes of stroke, and the medical histories of Clinton’s parents lead me to suspect that she suffered one on September 11 when she collapsed after abruptly leaving a 9/11 memorial ceremony.

Either that or she’s heavily medicated because of another medical problem that’s more serious than the pneumonia that she supposedly had or has. What medical problem might that be? There’s been a lot of speculation about Parkinson’s disease, which is another credible explanation of Clinton’s behavior.

UPDATE 09/20/16

Photo taken 09/19/16. No comment necessary:

clinton-helped-up-stairs
(Source: http://www.trump-conservative.com/news/hillary-clinton-helped-up-stairs-at-temple-university-rally-low-turnout/)

UPDATE 09/21/16

Thomas Lifson wonders about Hillary’s intermittent exotropia (uncoordinated eyeball movement), which is a particular form of strabismus. It could be a symptom of Graves’ disease. But, given the severe concussion Hillary incurred four years ago, trauma-related strabisumus seems most likely:

Many things and/or events can cause a strabismus. They include genetics, inappropriate development of the “fusion center” of the brain, problems with the controlled center of the brain, injuries to muscles or nerves or other problems involving the muscles or nerves. Surprisingly, most cases of strabismus are not a result of a muscle problem, but are due to the control system — the brain.

What other health problems might have caused the fall that led to the concussion, or have resulted from the concussion? Parkinson’s disease is one possibility, of course.

I don’t expect a complete and candid answer from Hillary or her camp.

The “Shy Trump Supporter” Hypothesis

Scott Adams — the creator of Dilbert — has some thoughts about the “shy Trump supporter” hypothesis:

For starters, we can say with certainty that they exist…. People feel comfortable telling me privately, and also anonymously online, that they hide their Trump support from their spouse and coworkers. So we know they exist. We just don’t know how many.

We know that sometimes robocall surveys and online surveys show more Trump support than human-to-human polling. So that might be an indicator, but we don’t know what other variables are in play.

…I’m guessing some Shy Trump Supporters “park” their votes with Gary Johnson (polling at 9.3%) or Jill Stein (polling at 3.3%).

But I wonder if the Shy Trump supporters are mostly parked with Johnson because of gender (consciously or unconsciously), whereas Stein is more of a real protest vote against Clinton. Anecdotally, Shy Trump Supporters tell me they do park their pre-vote preferences with Johnson….

Then you also have the question of turnout. Trump is clearly generating the most enthusiasm in public appearances. I would think that translates into more new voters….

I predict that 3% of voters are Shy Trump Supporters. As polls continue to tighten, especially in battleground states, that will be enough for an electoral landslide for Trump.

Here’s my take. It’s unlikely that much of Gary Johnson’s support comes from disaffected Democrats. He’s a fiscal-conservative-small-government-is-best candidate. If there are disaffected Democrats who aren’t yet ready to push the button for Clinton — or who never will be ready — they’re in the Jill Stein camp.

Johnson’s support, which is running around 9 percent, is improbably high for a Libertarian candidate. Johnson got 1 percent of the popular vote in 2012. The only Libertarian candidate to do better was Ed Clark in 1980, with 1.1 percent.

What about “respectable” (non-segregationist) third-party upstarts like John Anderson and Ross Perot, who garnered 7 to 19 percent of the popular vote in the elections of 1980, 1992, and 1996? Well, the Libertarian Party isn’t an upstart. It’s been around since the election of 1976, and has never gained traction. Johnson just isn’t making the waves that Anderson and Perot did.

So I believe that Scott Adams is right. A lot of “shy Trump supporters” are claiming that they’ll vote for Johnson, but most of them will vote — if they do vote — for Trump. My evidence? Trump’s standing in Rasmussen’s poll is strongly (r-squared = 0.6) and negatively correlated with Johnson’s standing. As voters decide that they aren’t going to waste votes on Johnson, they’ll turn (mainly) to Trump.

Does that mean a win for Trump on election day? Not necessarily. I’ve run some numbers on the polling relationships to date. Here’s what they imply:

If Johnson’s popular-vote share slips from its current 9 percent to 3 percent on election day — which is 3 times better than his showing in 2012 — Trump would pick up 3 percentage points. On the other hand, if Stein’s support slips from its current 2 percent to 1 percent on election day — 3 times better than her showing in 2012 — Clinton would pick up 0.7 percentage point. So far, so good, for Trump.

But as the “other-undecided” vote shrinks from its present level of 7 percent to 1 percent (a bit higher than in recent elections), Clinton will pick up 5.5 percentage points while Trump picks up only 1.3 percentage point.

Adding it up, there’s a likely gain for Trump of 4+ percentage points and a likely gain for Clinton of 6+ percentage points. Adding those numbers to Rasmussen’s latest results for Trump (39 percent) and Clinton (43 percent) yields something like 43 or 44 percent for Trump and 49 or 50 percent for Clinton.

That’s consistent with the results of another method. Based on trends to date, if Trump and Clinton take 95 percent of the total popular vote (leaving 3 percent for Johnson, 1 percent for Stein, and 1 percent for “other”), Clinton will get 50 percent of the total,  as against 45 percent for Trump. Clinton’s margin of 5 percent exceeds the 3-percent margin of error in Rasmussen’s polling. With 52 or 53 percent of the two-party popular vote (50 percent divided by 95 percent), Clinton would win at least 60 percent of the electoral vote. (In 2012, Obama won 62 percent of  the electoral vote with 52 percent of the two-party popular vote.) So it’s looking good for Clinton.

All of this is predicated on trends over the past several months.  Those trends might continue, allowing Clinton to “run out the clock.” But a major event could change everything. For example, Clinton might have a stroke, Assange might reveal truly damning e-mails, Trump might demolish Clinton in the debates, etc. Those are the “known unknowns.” It’s impossible to list the “unknown unknowns” — but they’re out there.

As I’ve said before, the only thing worse than a Trump victory would be a Clinton victory. There’s a chance that Trump would nominate constitutionalists to the Supreme Court; there’s no chance that Clinton would  do so.

Big Losers and Donald Trump

Republican William Howard Taft lost his bid for re-election in 1912 to Democrat Woodrow Wilson , thanks to the candidacy of former Republican president Theodore Roosevelt, who ran on the Progressive ticket. Because of TR’s entry into the race, Taft won only 23 percent of the popular vote (he took 52 percent in the election of 1908), against Wilson’s 42 percent and TR’s 35 percent. Taft’s reverse coattails helped the GOP lose ground in the House and Senate. The GOP, which had won 41 percent of House seats in the election of 1910, dropped to 31 percent in 1912. And in the Senate the GOP went from 54 percent to 46 percent.

The next big loser was Democrat James Cox, who took only 34 of the popular vote in 1920, while Republican Warren G. Harding took 60 percent. With Harding’s big win, the GOP ran its House majority from 55 percent to 69 percent, and its Senate majority from 51 percent to 61 percent.

Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt won re-election in 1936 with 61 percent of the popular vote. FDR’s Republican opponent, Alfred Landon, won only 37 percent. The GOP’s share of House seats dropped from 24 percent to 20 percent. In the Senate, the GOP went from 26 percent to 17 percent. Both results are low-water marks for Republican representation in Congress.

Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson duplicated FDR’s feat by winning in 1968 with 61 percent of the popular vote. Republican Barry Goldwater garnered only 38 percent. The GOP’s shares of House and Senate dropped by 8 percentage points (from 40 percent to 32 percent) and 2 percentage points (from 34 percent to 32 percent).

Republican Richard Nixon won re-election in 1972, taking 61 percent of the popular vote to Democrat George McGovern’s 38 percent. Nixon’s win led to a mild GOP resurgence in the House, from 41 percent to 44 percent. But the GOP lost ground in the Senate, dropping from 45 percent to 43 percent.

The  most recent election that resembled a landslide victory was in 1984, when Republican Ronald Reagan won re-election with 59 percent of the popular vote. Democrat Walter Mondale managed 41 percent. Reagan’s big win helped the GOP increase its share of House seats from 38 percent to 42 percent. But the Senate went the other way, with the GOP share dropping from 55 percent to 53 percent.

It seems that ticket-splitting has become more usual. And that’s a good thing if, as expected, Donald Trump loses to Hillary Clinton in November. It doesn’t seem, as of now, that Trump will be a loser on the scale of Taft, et al., but a loser nonetheless (in two meanings of loser). The only thing that will keep Trump from joining the really big losers is the identity of his opponent, who in saner times would already be in jail — with her husband.

There’s still hope that the Republican convention will yield a nominee other than Trump, but that’s a faint hope at this point.

Can Trump Win in November?

Standing back (way back) from Donald Trump — the physically repellent, serial adulterer, misogynist, liar, braggart, flip-flopper, xenophobic race-panderer, economic illiterate Donald Trump — I will here attempt to assess Trump’s electability.

For both major parties, 2016 is somewhat of a rerun of 2008, with hotly contested primaries and no incumbent in the race. It’s due to Trump that the total popular vote in GOP primaries is up by about 50 percent over 2008; whereas, the total popular vote in Democrat primaries is down by about a third over 2008. So, Trump has that going for him, out of the gate.

A lot of the extra GOP votes probably have been cast by disenchanted working-class Democrats in search of “equal treatment.” But so what? There are a lot more of them than there are disenchanted middle-and-upper-middle-class-small-government Republicans. And will all of those disenchanted middle-and-upper-middle-class-small-government Republicans vote for Hillary? A few might, but most of them will hold their noses, vote for Trump, and hope for the best. Those who don’t do that will just skip the top of the ticket and vote for down-ticket GOP candidates.

What about Bernie’s supporters, many of whom will be royally ticked-off by the Democrat Party’s cornonation of Queen Hillary? Bernie’s bunch will divide this way (though in what proportions I can’t say): Stay home, vote for Hillary, vote for Trump. This will prove to be a net gain for Trump.

What about women? Trump has lost the Democrat women’s vote, and maybe some of the GOP women’s vote. But the former doesn’t change anything, and the latter is probably small change relative to Trump’s gains  among working-class and middle-class men who are aggrieved about something (e.g., illegal immigration, same-sex “marriage,” higher health-insurance premiums due to Obamacare, Obama’s spineless foreign policy, and favoritism toward various “protected” groups, including feminazis).

Do those men care especially about Trump’s actual (if elusive) positions on various issues? Not really. He’s already shaped his image as the protest candidate who doesn’t like whiners (that’s what his “anti-protestor’ stance signifies). That image will stick to him for the next six months. And, to repeat, he’ll attract a goodly number of Bernie’s supporters, those who simply want to register their protest about something. (UPDATE 05/10/16: See “Over Four in 10 Sanders Voters in West Virginia Would Vote for Trump.”)

Perceptions: That’s what this election — like most others — is about. Trump has proved himself a master of the perception that he’s for the neglected “little guy.” A lot of people see themselves as the neglected “little guy” these days.

I used to expect Trump to lose in a landslide. I’m less certain of that now. (See these plausible scenarios for a Trump win, and this summary of anti-GOP bias in some prominent polls.) I’ll be keeping an eye on Rasmussen’s poll and the trend at RealClearPolitics.com.

Venting about Election 2016

The presidential candidates have been at it (name-calling) for months. It’s my turn now.

Trump’s dissing of his opponents and ideas that are disagreeable to him is refreshing, though I sample it through the filter of the written word. I am repelled by Trump’s appearance, manners, and mannerisms. His mouth often assumes a circular shape, the significance of which I leave to the dirty-minded among you.

In the spirit of equal opportunity, I can honestly say that Hillary is repulsive, too. She reminds me of a grounded parade float. And she’s so obviously honest and sincere that she’s sure to become a saint (in the church of holy baloney). It would serve Hillary right if she goes to jail for mishandling of classified material while Bill continues to roam free despite his mishandling of women.

Bernie Sanders reminds me of a former neighbor who proclaimed himself a Marxist (despite his upscale abode). He’s an ignoramus who sees the economy as a zero-sum game, when in fact it’s a cooperative enterprise that (generally) rewards people for the value of their contributions. (I’m confess that I can’t find any value in the contributions of Lady Gaga, rap singers, and most contemporary “entertainers.”) But Bernie wouldn’t know anything about that because, like Hillary, he hasn’t actually worked for a living in decades. He has a soft spot in his heart for those who feed at the public trough because he’s one of them. It’s surprising that Bernie doesn’t attract a larger share of the black vote. I guess that’s because Hillary is married to the first black president.

Put Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio in a blender and you might get one formidable candidate, someone with brains and likability. As it is, Cruz and Rubio seem destined to finish second and third to Trump in most of the primary races, which means that Trump may lock up the GOP nomination before the convention.

It seems that election 2016 won’t come down to a choice between the lesser of two evils — not with Trump and Hillary as the choices. Not that it really matters to me. I live in Texas, where almost any Republican (even Trump) is bound to win. So I look forward to election day, when it’s likely to be warm and sunny in my part of Texas (the central part). I’ll probably spend the day outside, doing something useful like cutting brush.