Thursday, December 12, 2019

How primaries go

16 years ago, eventual Democratic primary winner John Kerry was at 6% nationally, behind four other candidates. Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt led him in Iowa. They attacked each other for the next month, letting Kerry and Edwards emerge. I see this data (Nov-Dec 2003 from Pew) as a caution against making too much of small differences in current primary polls.

This year it's been hard for anyone to take a lasting lead, partly because other candidates attack the leaders to prevent a runaway victory. We might see a minor candidate rise or a major candidate fall, but otherwise I expect things to remain basically stable until Iowa. Then there's a wild media frenzy with losers dropping out and their support rushing to winners.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Narwhal facts

After hearing about the heroic chef from the London fishmarket fending off the knife guy with a narwhal tusk, I've been looking up narwhal facts. So here are narwhal facts:

"The tusk is an innervated sensory organ with millions of nerve endings connecting seawater stimuli in the external ocean environment with the brain. The rubbing of tusks together by male narwhals is thought to be a method of communicating information about characteristics of the water each has traveled through, rather than the previously assumed posturing display of aggressive male-to-male rivalry. In August 2016, drone videos of narwhals surface-feeding in Tremblay Sound, Nunavut showed that the tusk was used to tap and stun small Arctic cod, making them easier to catch for feeding."

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Deflationism about the Harris campaign

This was from before Kamala Harris dropped out of the race. I'm doing the political commentary, Matthew Yglesias of Vox makes the philosophy jokes, and replies invoke the t-schema and formalizing claims in predicate logic.

As this implies, I'm on Twitter and you're invited to follow me there.

Friday, November 29, 2019

Elijah Moore, urine trouble

The story of yesterday’s “Piss and Miss” game may entertain even people who don’t care about college football.

Mississippi’s Elijah Moore scored a touchdown and celebrated by mimicking a urinating dog. He went down on all fours in the end zone and lifted one leg to the side. This was to mock the rival Mississippi State Bulldogs.

Pantomiming canine urination was not a novel way to celebrate scoring against the Bulldogs. Another Mississippi player had done similarly in 2017. Referees gave Mississippi a 15-yard unsportmanlike conduct penalty for Moore’s obscene and unoriginal display.

The ensuing extra point would tie the game. Kickers nearly always score extra points, and can usually kick them from 15 yards back. But this time, penalized 15 yards, the kicker missed to the right. Mississippi lost 21-20. Moore had pissed away the game.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Big big poll average says Democrats are fine

I'm thankful for the highest quality favorability polling I've seen this primary. It shows that people like the plausible Democratic nominees well enough. Here are favorability, unfavorability, and net scores (which are negative for all politicians polled):

Warren: +39.4% 41% (-1.6%)
Buttigieg: +32% 33.7%  (-1.7%)
Sanders: +41.1% 44.3% (-3.1%)
D Party: +42.8% 46.9%(-4.1%)
Biden: +39.2% 45.5% (-6.3%)
Trump: +40.7% 53.1% (-12.3%)
R Party: +36.8% 52.2% (-15.4%)
Bloomberg: 21.7% 40.8% (-19.1%)

There's more below, averaged from the last month and a half of Economist / YouGov polls. 538 thinks they typically underestimate Dems by 1 and the GOP by 2, so maybe best to add those corrections. The sample size is much bigger than typical 3-day polls that get their own news stories. And it's a better measure than the outlier polls that typically get shared by gleeful or terrified social media friends.

If I had to predict the candidates' favorability numbers on Election Day, I'd guess these (and guess that undecided voters follow decided ones). Opinion of Trump doesn't change much. The Democratic nominee will probably get pulled down during the primary, spring up during the healing unityfest of the convention, and get pulled back down by messy general-election campaigning.

For reference, at this point four years ago, Hillary Clinton was around -10 and Donald Trump was around -12. And this time, our nominee won't have been the target of a 25-year smear campaign! Obviously the next year will be full of unpredictable events. But I expect we'll do better.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Bloomberg is icumen in, lhude sing cuccu

Steyer and now Bloomberg running for President are an argument against the sort of capitalism practiced in America.

They're badly misjudging the primary. Steyer blew $20 million making barely a ripple in the polls, which I expect will be precedent for Bloomberg doing the same. Most Democratic primary voters have at least one option they like already and will scowl at you for trying to buy the nomination. If you want to stop Warren / Sanders, you should donate to Pete or whoever rather than fragmenting the moderate vote further. It's a dumb plan, on any plausible construal of what they might want.

So letting billionaires who make plans like this have the vast power over society and the economy that American capitalism does -- are we expecting that to turn out well?

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Ukraine and impeachment: where we stand

The Ukraine quid pro quo may not be Trump's worst misdeed, but it's wonderfully suited for an impeachment case.

Trump's guilt is clear. He and several others have more or less confessed, even if he now pretends the confessions didn't happen. And unlike the Russia scandal where the dealings were between Trump cronies and Russians, none of whom would testify, this scandal involved many State Department employees who respect Congressional subpoenas.

The chances of Trump being removed from office were always vanishingly low. They still are. Republicans are afraid to impeach their primary voters' hero. I'm not confident that we'll get a single Republican vote to impeach Trump in the House or convict him in the Senate.

But two worthwhile goals are being achieved. The first is persuading a very small fraction of Trump voters to turn against him. It's hard to measure these things even with poll averages, but impeachment seems to be dropping his approval ratings around 1%. As the cloud hangs over Trump, Democrats have beaten Republicans in tough Southern states. We won the Kentucky Governor's race by 0.4% against a Republican who tried to bring Trump into the race as much as possible.

Second, impeachment seems to be disruptive within the Republican Party. McConnell seems not to have the votes to simply twist the proceedings in arbitrarily silly ways (like going straight to a party-line vote with no real trial). Republican Senators have learned how to accept arbitrary cruelties against brown people, but many of them haven't gotten into the headspace where they're fine with Trump using defense appropriations to allies as extortion bait.

I hope Pelosi delays the House impeachment vote as long as possible. After the vote, control of the situation passes to McConnell, and he's dangerous, whatever tensions there may be in his caucus. The new revelations that Rep. Devin Nunes himself is implicated in the scandal might lead to some unusually good C-SPAN.

Pelosi annoys my friends when she dismisses good left-wing ideas, often to manage pressure from red-district members. But legislative leaders from safe districts are unusually free to shift their official views in unprincipled ways. Notably: Mitch McConnell on proper procedures for handling judicial nominations.

Giving her moderates cover until it's time to move is a solid way for Pelosi to make sure the votes are there. And when it's time to change positions and commit to the winning moves, her affect shifts. Her language becomes elevated and she smiles like checkmate. It was sort of unnerving the week before she got Obamacare through the House. I'm more used to it now.

Wednesday, November 20, 2019

Donating $1000 to Stacey Abrams' Fair Fight

Stacey Abrams is managing an effort to protect democracy in the 2020 elections. It's called "Fair Fight". I just gave her $1000.

Abrams was the Democratic leader in the Georgia state House before running for Governor in 2018. Her Republican opponent, Brian Kemp, was the state Secretary of State. This meant he was in charge of managing his own election against her. With black voters being inexplicably declared ineligible and and unusual levels of undervotes in majority-black precincts, it seems that he made full use of his power.

Fair Fight is about stopping such offenses against democracy. Right now the organization is pursuing a legal case against the Georgia state government to ensure that the same offenses don't get repeated in 2020. Getting to work on these issues a year in advance is very important, and it's part of why I wanted to donate now rather than later.

Much may depend on Georgia. The Presidential polling is close, and because of a retirement there are two Senate races at once. While Fair Fight operates in other states, I'm quite happy for Abrams to take a Georgia-centric view. I think Republicans are more likely to win all these races, but Democrats have a fighting chance, and the Senate races especially are what you might need to pass Medicare for All.

Stacey Abrams is veteran of the battle against Deep South vote suppression, and she knows how state-level politics works. After all, she was at the very center of it in a deeply contested state. She's the person I'd want running a hugely consequential effort to defend democracy from its enemies.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Katie Hobbs improves Arizona elections

I just had a chat on the phone with Katie Hobbs, Arizona's state Secretary of State!

Her office administers elections. She's implementing automatic updates to people's voter registration when they update their drivers' licenses. When she was the ranking Democrat on the Elections Committee in the State Senate, Republicans blocked legislation to do this. Her new position lets her just go ahead and set that up at the administrative level.

The Republican she defeated in 2018 to win her office had a very different attitude towards voter access. He planned to eliminate Spanish-language ballots and voting materials. (At some level, he understood that Spanish is useful in Arizona. Journalists who visited his mansion noted that he had 'No Trespassing' signs in Spanish outside.) On the call, I thanked Katie for fighting Republican attempts to recreate a racial aristocracy where some races can vote and other races can't.

Katie won her election by a margin of under 1%. Her campaign was funded in part by thousands of dollars from my Facebook friends, back when I was promoting her campaign and donating money myself. Thanks to you, she'll be the one running elections during Arizona's upcoming Senate race and Presidential campaign.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Democrats take Virginia, evil defeated in Kentucky

Last night, Democrats took control of the Virginia state legislature and won the Kentucky Governor's race. (More good news: New York City adopted ranked-choice voting for municipal elections.)

Virginia Republicans hadn't won a statewide race for ten years, but had gerrymandered state legislative districts to keep themselves in power. A court ruled against the gerrymander before the 2019 elections. That was enough for Democrats to win what looks like a 55-45 majority in the state House and a 21-19 majority in the state Senate. The agenda includes a minimum wage increase, various health care improvements, and gun control.

If you enjoy the defeat of evil, enjoy the defeat of Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin. He tried to cut teachers' pensions, and when they responded with a work stoppage, he called them "ignorant" "selfish" "thugs" who were exposing students to child molesters by not operating the schools. (This is not a single remark, but a series of disgusting utterances on different occasions.) After a previous Governor enacted one of the nation's best-run Obamacare-linked Medicaid expansions, Bevin tried to shut down the health care website and impose work requirements for Medicaid eligibility that cost hundreds of millions of dollars in additional administrative fees.

Bevin tried to win the election by tying himself to Trump, who won Kentucky by a 62-32 margin in 2016. With 100% of precincts reporting, pro-choice Democrat Andy Beshear has 49.2% of the vote, and Bevin has 48.8%. Bevin refuses to concede. But all major news organizations agree that he's the Republican Governor who somehow managed to lose re-election in deeply red Kentucky.