Tag Archives: resistance

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.

#RESIST – One Year Later


This weekend I had the pleasure of joining more than a million (totals still being tabulated) friends across the country holding rallies and marches in every state, from major metropolis on down to small town. We turned out to mark the one year anniversary of the inauguration and Women’s March from last year, and to get energized for the next year of our Resistance.

It was so nice to see everyone again! It also gave me pause to reflect on what I’ve been up to this past year, and I’d like to share some of those reflections with you.

I can’t emphasize enough how pivotal the 2017 Women’s March was for me. After the election I, like many of us, was in a state of grief at the dark direction my beloved country was taking. The one thing I felt just as strongly was that this time I had to DO SOMETHING. I’d spent the Bush years (more or less) trying the strategy of positively tending my own gardens, and trusting that change would radiate out from that. I don’t discount the philosophy or its merits, but I have to report that it didn’t work. In the Obama years, I rested way too much on the idea that now that we had leadership, it was their job to lead, and I would support. That didn’t work either.

I started to really appreciate for the first time the meaning of the Obama line- “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.” We need to lead, and our elected leaders need to listen and follow. So I was ready, and I’d even made a kind of start that Fall and early Winter- donating to and publicizing nonprofits helping to defend the burgeoning list of the new Administration’s targets, speaking out against egregious policies and people, participating in a rally the weekend after the election, urging the electoral college, as antiquated and defunct a system as it is, to at least consider doing the job the Founders had designed it for. But I remained, for the most part, dispirited and anxious.

And then, on a rather pleasant January day after the inauguration, I joined a group of people gathering  at the Vermont statehouse in Montpelier. It turned out to be about 14,000 people, the biggest gathering the capitol had ever seen. It turned out that, nationwide, there were 3-5 million of us on the streets that day- the biggest single-day protest in American history. I heard and saw beautiful multitudes pledging resistance, and standing up for the worth and dignity of all people. And my energy totally changed.

For the first time since November, hope became my lead emotion. Hope, though, is like a seed. For it to really grow, it needs to be watered by action. It was an open question for all of us how committed we would remain, what our follow-up would be. For me personally, the only way to answer that question was to DO. So I have tried my best to keep doing. Since January 21, 2017, I have:

  • Attended my local community’s Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ) group, and participated in their events.
  • Gotten into contact with Vermont Black Lives Matter and started to support their events and activities.
  • Helped my amazing wife Abbey as she founded BRIDGES, a political action group in our home town (about whom I’ll write a whole separate post sometime).
  • Helped friends online publicize the San Francisco and Boston airport protests that sprung up in reaction to the first travel ban in January.
  • Joined with Migrant Justice in putting pressure on state officials and local ICE offices in response to arrests of Vermont immigration activists,  and holding Ben & Jerry’s to their promises to migrant farm workers.
  • Joined in kicking off a resistance group at my workplace, and participated in community events around controversial author Charles Murray coming to speak there in March.
  • Wore red in solidarity and participated in a protest on the “Day Without a Woman” in March.
  • Participated in the Science March and the Climate March in April.
  • Helped friends publicize rallies and protests against the Transgender military ban in July.
  • In the wake of Charlottesville, joined memorials in Vermont, and helped Boston and Bay Area friends coordinate protests against White Nationalist rallies in their areas.
  • For the first time ever in my life, gotten active in calling and writing my representatives- local, state and national.
  • Used social media to urge others to do the same, and pushed friends and neighbors to advocate for issues- defending the ACA, Net Neutrality, supporting Universal Primary Care and Racial Justice measures in Vermont, etc.
  • Beginning in the Spring, got active with various groups working on state and national swing elections nationwide, culminating in flipping the Washington State Senate in November, bringing the Virginia House of Delegates from 2/3 Republican to almost 50-50, and winning the Alabama senate seat in December.
  • Went to my local town’s Democratic committee meeting and ended up on the committee, and serving as a delegate to the county Democratic Committee, where I’m currently working on messaging in support of Progressive ideas and policies.
  • Started publishing a blog with regular updates on developments in the Russian Election interference investigations so that the truth gets out there.

The point of writing this is not to toot my own horn-although seeing it in print does explain/affirm why I often feel tired! It’s to witness, and commit to myself and all of you, that I’m going to keep it up. I have found again and again this past year that the only immunity I have to despair is in action.

Action leads to Optimism. Onward to our second year of Resistance!



Watching the election results come in Tuesday night this week, as one and possibly two  state legislatures flipped from red to blue, two states elected Democratic governors, Maine voters reprimanded their governor for his stalling on expanding health care, and a wave of Progressives in a kaleidoscope of genders, ethnicities, and sexualities were elected to state and local office nationwide, I got that feeling again.

The one I got when, in the days after 11/8/16, I saw friends and friends to be across the country donating to groups helping those the incoming regime had targeted, starting discussion and action groups, and getting engaged in our communities.

The one I got on a frosty January day when I joined the biggest crowd ever to gather at Vermont’s statehouse, and 3-5 million people nationwide, to stand up together for a different America.

The one I got when the first Travel Ban was announced, as I helped friends on social media direct people to the protests spontaneously erupting at major airports nationwide, and the ACLU raised more money in a single weekend than it typically does in a year.

The one I got when my wife put an add on our tiny town’s local Front Porch Forum to get together neighbors who wanted to do something about what was happening, and a dozen frightened, passionate, and committed people filled our dining room for our first meeting.

The feeling that we are not alone. That, grim as the post 11/9 world has been, we have been awakened from our torpor. That more than a few of us still believe in democracy, justice, and the equality and dignity of all people. That the future, though dealt a setback, is still happening.

That we will #RESIST.

I just wanted to share that with you as we mark one year together.