Sunday, June 26, 2016

Trump and the Brexit

When the vote for the UK's referendum on exiting the EU--the Brexit--was finally called, it was around 8:30 pm on a Thursday, West Coast time. That gave the media just long enough to think about the implications to have solidified one common point by the morning: the Brexit and the Donald Trump phenomenon in the US seemed highly analogous in some relevant (but never defined) way. It didn't help that Trump was in Scotland, busily making that same connection himself.

But what are the connections? The Trump vote is anchored by a visible cohort of working-class whites who are principally driven by racial animus. Upon their complaints are draped (by themselves and, compliantly, the media) the more decorous claims of economic hardship, but this is an evident dodge. Hillary far outperforms Trump among those earning less than $50,000 (53% - 36%). She outperforms him in nearly every region of the country: North East (+22%), Midwest (+11%), and West (+12%). She trails only in the South (-12%), where those white voters have a certain distinctive cultural and historical context. In that that specific historical and cultural context--slavery, civil war, Jim Crow, and the post-civil-rights era GOP realignment--we see the grievances of a large chunk of the Trump bloc. 

How to connect that to an apple grower in Herefordshire? It is part of the American experience to see the grievances of American whites through the lens of race--so much so that we can't see that the immigrant that angers the Herefordshire orchardist is a white guy from Poland. Poles are the stand-in in the British narrative for the invading "other."  It's so hard for Americans not to see this in racial terms, because for Americans everything is racial, but this is where the phenomena of Trump and the Brexit most obviously diverge. 

The British don't share the history of the Alabaman. As recently as a century ago, they controlled the most powerful empire since the Romans. They ruled it from off the shore of Europe, a separation that figures hugely in their self-conception. Those on the other side of the English Channel were the others, the ones who came from time to time in boats (and later, planes) as would-be conquerors. Their otherness, of course, was not predicated on race, but nationality, place, culture, religion (sometimes), and blood. 

Old rural English people scared of immigrants voted to leave the EU and old rural American people scared of immigrants vote for Trump. They're the same. They're not. Nor are the immigrants. The flavors of xenophobia are varied, and never interchangeable. 

The fixation on connecting Trump and the Brexit would be harmless enough if it were constrained to election predictions. But if Trump does win in November and we have delved no deeper into the causes of that victory than to say they were the same as those who voted to leave the EU, we will have failed to understand the actual forces at work. The UK and US have very different pasts, different histories, different wounds, and different cultures. We are motivated not by amorphous, global grievances, but the very specific ones that create the world we see around us.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Everything's Bad for Hillary

I'm noticing a pattern--or think I am. If I'm right, it must hint at ... something. It goes like this. Something happens in the news. The 24-hour political press spends the next 24-48 hours guessing how they think it will affect the presidential race. (To be fair, they also devote between one and three percent of their coverage to the actual news itself.) In nearly every case, they start from the presumption that it's bad for Hillary. Usually they think it's good for Trump, but bad for Hillary?--natch. After that initial period wears off and they have some data to go with, they forget about that initial presumption and start discussing what's actually going on. 

Dunno what to make of it. But we do know, definitively, that this latest mass shooting will benefit Trump and that any concomitant gun debate will be terrible for Hillary. Thank god someone figured that out for us.

In other news, Gallup has two tracking polls out today. They record approvals for...
Obama (a Dem) 53% approve, 44% disapprove (+9)
Congress (controlled by the GOP):  16% approve, 80% disapprove (-64%)
This must of course be more terrible news for Hillary.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Trump in June

Tonight the final votes are cast by Dems, and Hillary becomes the official presumptive nominee. And already, it looks like Donald Trump is a dead man walking. So, for the record: I predict Trump is going to lose in such a spectacular fashion that it will be at the very least historic. It may actually be much worse than that--there's now more than a marginal chance that it splinters the GOP. I expect Trump to be so bad that there's even a nontrivial chance either of a contested convention (10%) or that he drops out before the election (maybe 1-3%).

He's basically not running a presidential campaign, he's even more unstable than I expected, and his naked racism is forcing party members--who recently endorsed him!--to distance themselves or even condemn him. Many Republicans have quietly decided not to go the convention. He's got serious legal issues, he doesn't plan to release his taxes (there's decent circumstantial evidence he's not a billionaire), and he's at open war with the press ("you're a sleaze!").

At the moment, he benefits from a very high floor of support any Republican candidate would receive (~45%), and until recently it was impossible to imagine that baseline support collapsing. But if party insiders start jumping ship, the media continues to hammer him, he continues to get more erratic and unhinged, and polls start moving against him (all completely plausible), that floor will collapse. No one wants to back a hysterical loser--especially pols whose livelihood depend on these things--and there's a tipping point where everyone jumps at once. If it starts happening very soon, then those doomsday possibilities--a contested election, Trump bailing--become more and more likely. 

I'm calling it: Trump is not only done, he's the Titanic and the only question is how many people get off the boat before it sinks.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Sort of the Presumptive Nominee!

Tonight, Hillary Clinton (sort of) officially became the presumptive nominee. The AP has located enough superdelegates to put her over the top. But there's a more compelling reason why tomorrow will be the real day of her presumption, no matter what happens in California.

She won Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands over the weekend and now has something like 1860 pledged delegates (no one has added those to the tally yet). There are 4051 pledged delegates available, and she currently has around 46% of those. (Bernie has about 38% of all pledged delegates.)

Tomorrow another 694 pledged delegates are up for grabs. If Hillary grabs 167 of those, she'll have secured over half the pledged delegates. She'll also have gotten millions more votes than Bernie (~3 million). She has won (to date) seven more states/territories than Bernie.

Bernie's remaining hope is that those Democratic superdelegates will overturn the voters' will and deny Hillary the right to be the first female nominee in US history. (Approximate likelihood: less than a snowball's chance in hell.)


Sunday, May 22, 2016

The Demographics Say Trump Won't Win

While watching this stinker of a basketball game (the Thunder are crushing the hapless Dubs), I started thinking about, what else?--presidential politics. Recently, there's been a bunch of talk about polls tightening, which in turn leads people to wonder if Trump actually has a shot at winning the election. In my weaker moments, those polls seem to blot out the light for me, too--until I remember that politics is basically demographics.

If you look at the past four elections, there is very little variation in the voting blocs. Dems have won a minimum of 88% of the black vote. Except for 2004, they've won around two-thirds of the Latino vote.Republicans have won between 55% and 59% of whites in each election. Given that this is going to be potentially even more racially charged than previous elections, expect the trends to grow.
My back-of-the-envelope calcs tell me Hillary should get something like six million more votes than Trump in the popular vote.

The presidential election actually happens at the state level, and here the math is even harder for Trump. If you look at all the states that have voted Dem in the last four elections (two won by Dems, two by GOP), Hillary starts at 242 of the 270 needed to win. There are ten states that have split their vote in that time, and Hillary can win by picking up just two or three of those. She could win it with the 242 and Florida alone. (And 35% of Florida is black and Latino.)

Saturday, February 20, 2016

South Carolina (R) and Nevada (D)

Things are beginning to clarify, it seems. I just got an email from the Bernie campaign touting his close finish as a good sign for the rest of the race. In a way, that's right--a five point win looks mighty anemic for one of Hillary's "firewall" states. And yet as much of a moral victory as it was for Bernie, it was a state he needed to win if he was going to actually get the nomination. The math gets very tough going forward. SC is great Hillary country, and then we go to Super Tuesday, with lots of southern (read: diverse) states. She will likely have a pretty hefty delegate lead on March 2. Bernie's path was always very narrow. It gets narrower now.

The GOP side is getting interesting. In his worst case, it looks like Trump has about 35% of the vote. It's not clear he can build much on that--it's certainly not clear he has a majority of the GOP. So how does a guy with a minority of the party win the nomination? He depends on a splintered field. As Sean Balkwill noted, Trump is going to get most of the delegates out of SC. So long as there continue to be four or five candidates in the field, he can continue to win states with 35%.

Fascinatingly, the fact that Trump may not have majority support is exactly why the other candidates may stay in the race. They'll all calculate that in a two-man race, they could beat Trump. They will probably all see enough good news in the SC results to stick with it until Super Tuesday on March 1, hoping to poach a state or two and revive their campaigns. By that time, Trump may well have a substantial delegate lead. (It might even be better for him to lose a few states on March 1 if they go to different challengers.)

If Cruz finishes 3rd, I don't see how he wins the nomination--though he'll definitely stick around until Super Tuesday, when Texas votes.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Politics of Supreme Court Nominations in 2016

Random things I've been thinking about in the five days since Antonin Scalia died.

1. It's going to be a challenge for Obama to find a justice willing to be a pawn in a historical/constitutional drama--rather than the next Supreme Court justice.

2. The GOP base seems more sensitive to the Supreme Court, and Scalia's death seems more likely to benefit Republicans. It won't move the needle much, but one or two percent here and one or two percent there and pretty soon you're talking real margins.

3. The politics, both in the Senate and on the Court, are likely to be unexpected. The Court is not going to want to deadlock, and I think people overestimate the 4-4 votes ahead. (The Court doesn't think like legislators do, and counting votes is always dicey.)

In the Senate, I think a few members are bigger institutionalists than we may expect. The Senate functions only because of behavioral norms--strictly followed unwritten rules--and once those are transgressed, government fails to work. We assume the entire GOP consists of bomb-throwers happy to tear down the structure of government. That may be wrong.

4. Everyone is also starting to realize that Scalia's death is only the first in what will be substantial turnover in the next two presidential terms. It's hard to imagine Ginsberg (almost 83), Kennedy (79), and Breyer (77) will all be on the Court when Chelsea Clinton is sworn in in January 2025. This isn't the last fight.