Tag Archives: election

Four More Years?

I recently kicked-off my absurdly early coverage of the 2020 Democratic primary, necessitated by the absurdly large field. (It reached 22 candidates as of yesterday!) Since today is officially 18 months until 11/3/20, it seemed absurdly early/fair to give the other side its share. Don’t worry, this will be quick!

What I primarily want to touch base on is the perception/paralyzing fear that Trump will be reelected. I hear this among Left/Progressive friends even from people I consider to be very politically savvy. This puzzles me. Because, while we definitely shouldn’t lull ourselves into a false sense that beating him will be easy, or a sure thing, the alternate idea that he’s an inevitable victor is BAL-DER-DASH!!!!!!

Exhibit one, Trump’s approval rating compared to other recent Presidents at the same point in their first term (courtesy of 538):


He’s below Obama and Clinton, who were popularly thought to be in potential trouble at this point. He’s much more like Carter and Ford, who were in fact going on to lose. He’s the ONLY President in 70 years who’s NEVER been above 50% approval. About his only glimmer of hope above is Reagan, but Reagan was mired in a recession at the time, and rebounded sharply when the economy improved. Trump has these numbers in a (however shallowly spread the gains are) expansion.

Somewhere right now someone is starting in with the “Oh yeah, the polls were so accurate in 2016, weren’t they?” Stop. Because they actually were, as much as one could expect them to be. RCP’s final average was Clinton +3, actual was Clinton +2:


They polls, en-mass were nowhere near off enough to make one think that two years-plus of multiple polling firms consistently showing Trump having the worst approval ratings of any postwar President is wrong. It isn’t. He does.

Also consider that the real problem in 2016 was not that polls everywhere were off. It was polls in the Midwest being off. And even there, we see this:


The entire difference was 77,744 votes in three states. Put another way, if 38,873 voters out of 13.9 million total in those states (also know as 0.56%) had changed their minds, it would have gone differently. Now consider. Everything was this close with:

  • A massive, and largely unknown, counterintelligence operation by a hostile foreign power.
  • A Democratic candidate who had historically unprecedented net unfavorability numbers. Yes, largely as a result of decades of bullshit targeting by the Right, but still.
  • A massive news story 11 days before the election that reactivated all the worst narratives/concerns about the Democratic candidate. (That James Comey. What a rascal!)

It’s not too hard to imagine that, being on the lookout for the election interference this time, and if the Democratic nominee is someone who hasn’t had literal decades of Right Wing negative messaging directed against them, and isn’t in the midst of a current FBI investigation, Trump’s extremely narrow 2016 margin is in trouble. Especially considering his approval has never been above 43%, 3% lower than the 46% he “won” 2016 with.

If you assume just a 1.5% difference in 2020 through whatever combination of means (a few more disgruntled Republicans sit it out, a few more energized Democrats show up, a few more now thoroughly disgusted Independents break the other way) the map looks like this:


So, for those who imagine an easy victory for Democrats in 2020, I scream, “No! Did you learn nothing from last time? Start organizing now! Organize like your lives are on the line!” But to those who are convinced we’re doomed before we start, I again say:


Truth in Numbers: the Midterms


You have perhaps been seeing stories about how Republican enthusiasm is surging, and the Blue Wave is dead. Or that early voting numbers show that the Kavanaugh effect has hyper-charged Republicans, wiping out everything that has happened over the last two years on the Blue side. I have two things to say about this, in general:

  1. Always be suspicious of anything in the closing weeks of a campaign implying everything is hosed and you might as well just give up.
  2. Be suspicious of narratives that aren’t properly informed by data.

To get more specific, let’s follow up on number two for a minute. If we look at a few quantitative indicators, what do they tell us? Specifically, let’s look at a period of time covering September 26th (the day before the Ford/Kavanaugh testimony to Congress) to today. If there is any lasting Kavanaugh effect, we should see its whole life cycle there.

The Generic Congressional Ballot

This is one of the most reliable indicators of what direction a Congressional election will go. I’m taking these number’s from 538’s tracker, which at any given time is informed by averages of a dozen or more recent polls from a  variety of pollsters. On September 26th, before the whole denouement of the Kavanaugh hearings began,  Democrats had an 8.6% edge in the Generic Congressional ballot:

genric nthen

Today, nearly a month later, they have… An 8.6% edge in the Generic Congressional Ballot:

genric now

On this basis, you wouldn’t say that Democrats prospects in the midterms have changed at all in the past month.

House Forecast Model

538’s House Forecast model has so much going on that it’s well-worth digging in to in detail. But let’s stick to some toplines. Before the final Kavanaugh testimony and vote, 538 thought Democrats had an 80% chance of flipping the House, and an average end result of a 232-203 edge:

cong before.PNG

Now, nearly a month later, the model thinks that Democrats have an almost 86% chance of flipping the House, and an average outcome of 235-200:

cong now

You could make a case that their prospects have improved, but rather marginally. The fundamental picture today doesn’t look that much different than it did a month ago.

Senate Forecast Model

This is probably your best exhibit to make the case “the Kavanaugh hearings really $$#^ed up the Democrats”. On September 26th, 538’s Senate Model had a 32% chance that the Democrats would flip the Senate:

senate before

And now that chance is down to around 19%:

senate afterThat is certainly worse, but I think some perspective is in order. A roughly 1 in 3 chance was never a good chance, it was just not a pipe dream. A roughly 1 in 5 chance is not a very high chance, but it reflects deterioration in an already weak position, not some fundamental sea change in prospects.

I’d also point out that the average outcome, 52-48, puts us right back where we were before Doug Jones’ special election last year. This is still, historically, a very close Senate, and is oceans away from where many Republicans were expecting/hoping to be two years ago, when they thought 2018 might have them on the edge of a supermajority that would lock Democrats out for a decade. Instead, the current range looks like this:


50-50, 51-49, and 52-48 are the three most likely outcomes, and any of these put the Democratic Party in position to capture a majority in 2020, when the ratio of seats Republicans have to defend to ones Democrats do is as bad for Republicans as the 2018 map was supposed to be for Democrats.

Trump Approval Rating

This could be another exhibit in favor of the “Democrats are worse off after Kavanaugh” theory. On 9/26, 538’s tracker for Trump’s Approval Rating had him underwater by 11.4%:

trump before.PNG

As of today, he has 8.9% net disapproval:

trump now.PNG

That is a pretty big turnaround, and represents some of his best net numbers ever. You could certainly attribute this to a shrinking enthusiasm gap. However, it’s worth noting that this “best ever” rating leaves him fourth from the bottom of all post-war President’s net approval ratings on the eve of a midterm:


While the correlation is not as strong as some people tend to think, this kind of net favorability is definitely historically correlated with the incumbent President’s party suffering major midterm losses.

State Races

One final footnote regarding the “Give up all hope! Democrats are totally hosed!” scaremongering you may see in the next two weeks is that there are whole other levels of government beyond the Federal level. Currently, there are 33 Republican governors to 16 Democratic ones (with one independent). 538’s Governor’s Model expects this to be something more like 26-24 after the midterms.

On the state legislature side (aka where most of the laws that most directly affect people are actually made), Democrats experienced a net loss of 1,000 seats over Obama’s two terms, with the result that 66 of 99 state legislative bodies are now Republican dominated. In special elections in the past two years, Democrats have won open races 10:1, and have every chance of flipping hundreds of seats on 11/6. There’s no single fancy model tracking this, but the prospects of Democrats flipping multiple state-houses are very strong.

A Final Caution   

I intended this to be a kind of tonic to “the sky is falling” last-minute panic, which I know demoralizes some people. I have multiple friends, though, who will caution on the other side against overconfidence leading to complacency. They are right. If we want a big change on 11/6, we absolutely need to spend as much of the next two weeks as possible donating, dialing, knocking on doors, text-banking, post-carding- all the nuts and bolts that actually wins elections. The wave has only ever been us, and if we do it, it will happen. But we have to DO IT.



Every four years, there comes a time when my blog posts, due to a life-long fascination with politics in general, and love of presidential electoral politics as my form of major league sports in particular, take a political turn. And then, once the election is over and things settle down, I return to all the other things I love to write about: Music. Writing and publishing. Geek culture. Science. Spirituality.

What I want to tell you now is, I absolutely would have done it.

If Hillary Clinton had won, I would have sunk back into my personal concerns and a kind of semi-apathy. I would have liked some things she did, disliked others, tut-tutted at the opposition, occasionally posted a story online or signed a petition, but that would have been about it. If it had been a “normal” Republican, a Jeb Bush, say, or a John Kasich, I would have been a little more active. But not much.

Return to normal, however, is no longer an option. This is not normal. Donald Trump is the most personally reprehensible nominee either party put forward in a century or longer. Maybe in ever. He doubled down on this by repeatedly attacking the very foundations of democracy and decency throughout his campaign. And since his “election” and inauguration, he’s tripled down on that by showing that he meant every poisonous, un-American word of it.

So I’ve been marching. Organizing like-minded people. Petitioning my Representatives. I made an offhand comment to a friend that this election made me a militant. Looking at the definition, though, that’s not quite right:

adjective: militant
  1. 1.
    combative and aggressive in support of a political or social cause, and typically favoring extreme, violent, or confrontational methods.

I’ll be confrontational certainly, but I’m not aiming to be violent. I know there are those who disagree. I still believe that it is possible to be active and fully committed without being violent and hating those who disagree. But even non-violent soldiers are still soldiers, and we must steel ourselves for the fight.

That brings us to another notable thing about the word militant. It comes from the 15th century Latin “militare” meaning “to serve as a soldier”. Which brought to mind one of their new favorite dismissive phrases for us: “Social Justice Warrior”. I would like to pick up that mantle.

They are abso-fucking-lutely right, and I am thrilled to be called a warrior on behalf of justice for all members of our great society. I’m starting with the methods our Democracy affords us. But make no mistake, we will not surrender justice and freedom to this budding despot. Our values are better, we’re in the right, and we will defend them, come what may. 

I do hope to keep writing about my favorite things. But I’ll also be writing about this. A lot. One of my primary weapons is the creative word. We’re in the fight now, for at least the next four years, and I will use all the best weapons at my disposal. I am a warrior.