Thursday, August 13, 2020

Two Left Historians Speak Some Common Sense on Our Political Moment

I was very impressed with this piece on the Dissent website by the historians Alan Rothman and Barbara J. Fields. The article is titled The Death of Hannah Fizer with the deck "Black people suffer disproportionately from police violence. But white skin does not provide immunity." Hannah Fizer was an unarmed white woman in Sedalia, Missouri who was pulled over for a traffic stop, deemed "non-compliant" and wound up getting shot to death. Everything here is familiar except the color of the victim. It shouldn't be. Unjustified police violence up to and including death of a suspect doesn't just happen to blacks; it happens to whites, Latinos and those of other race as well. Sifting through any database of such incidents confirms that excessive police violence is a broad-based problem whose solution would benefit a wide range of communities.

That is the point of Rothman's and Fields' article. They remark:

"Amid widespread protests against police killings of black people, it seems a familiar story: an unarmed person smart-mouths a police officer and dies for it. But Hannah Fizer was white. That should not surprise anyone. According to a database of police shootings in the United States since 2015, half of those shot dead by police—and four of every ten who were unarmed—have been white. People in poor neighborhoods are a lot more likely to be killed by police than people in rich neighborhoods. Living for the most part in poor or working-class neighborhoods as well as subject to a racist double-standard, black people suffer disproportionately from police violence. But white skin does not provide immunity.

Nor does white skin provide immunity against police clad in riot gear and armed with military-grade weapons violating freedom of speech, assembly, and worship. Just ask Martin Gugino, the seventy-five-year-old man who spent a month in the hospital with a fractured skull after he was knocked down by police in Buffalo, and received death threats as a reward. Or ask white clergy and others beset by tear gas and military helicopters to clear space for a photo-op for President Trump during the “Battle of Lafayette Square” in early June. Militarized attacks on unarmed, peaceful protesters have taught thousands of previously uninvolved Americans that they, too, have a stake in curbing the excessive use of force by the police."

They conclude on a strategic note with some particularly sharp words for the current fashion for talking about "white privilege", a toxic approach to building an effective politics.

"[A] successful national political movement must appeal to the self-interest of white Americans. The growing number of nonwhite voters may appear to have reduced the need to appeal to white voters, but white voters remain two-thirds of the electorate. The Republicans can still win a national election without a critical mass of nonwhite voters, but the opposition cannot unseat them without a critical mass of white voters.

Therefore, those seeking genuine democracy must fight like hell to convince white Americans that what is good for black people is also good for them. Reining in murderous police, investing in schools rather than prisons, providing universal healthcare (including drug treatment and rehabilitation for addicts in the rural heartland), raising taxes on the rich, and ending foolish wars are policies that would benefit a solid majority of the American people. Such an agenda could be the basis for a successful political coalition rooted in the real conditions of American life, which were disastrous before the pandemic and are now catastrophic.

Attacking “white privilege” will never build such a coalition. In the first place, those who hope for democracy should never accept the term “privilege” to mean “not subject to a racist double standard.” That is not a privilege. It is a right that belongs to every human being. Moreover, white working people—Hannah Fizer, for example—are not privileged. In fact, they are struggling and suffering in the maw of a callous trickle-up society whose obscene levels of inequality the pandemic is likely to increase. The recent decline in life expectancy among white Americans, which the economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton attribute to “deaths of despair,” is a case in point. The rhetoric of white privilege mocks the problem, while alienating people who might be persuaded."

This is indeed common sense for our political moment. The progressive movement has an opportunity to not only defeat Trump but make serious steps toward the kind of society we would presumably all like to see. But that will only be done by uniting, not dividing, the people we wish to reach.…/the-death-of-hannah-fizer….

Black people suffer disproportionately from police violence. But white skin does not provide immunity.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Nate Silver and 538 Take the Under!

The 538 forecasting model is out and it gives Biden a 71 percent chance of an electoral vote win. Relative to other forecasting models like the Economist's and the Princeton Election Consortium, which have Biden's chances at around 9 in 10, that is a fairly conservative assessment. Nate Silver has an explanation post on the model's relative conservatism which is worth reading. This is the key point:

"Joe Biden currently has a robust lead in polls. If the election were held today, he might even win in a landslide, carrying not only traditional swing states such as Florida and Pennsylvania but potentially adding new states such as Georgia and Texas to the Democratic coalition [my note: as you can see in the Nationscape results posted here yesterday]

But the election is not being held today. While the polls have been stable so far this year, it’s still only August. The debates and the conventions have yet to occur. Biden only named his running mate yesterday. And the campaign is being conducted amidst a pandemic the likes of which the United States has not seen in more than 100 years, which is also causing an unprecedented and volatile economy.

Nor has it been that uncommon, historically, for polls to shift fairly radically from mid-August until Election Day. Furthermore, there are some reasons to think the election will tighten, and President Trump is likely to have an advantage in a close election because of the Electoral College.

That, in a nutshell, is why the FiveThirtyEight presidential election forecast, which we launched today, still has Trump with a 29 percent chance of winning the Electoral College, despite his current deficit in the polls. This is considerably higher than some other forecasts, which put Trump’s chances at around 10 percent. Biden’s chances are 71 percent in the FiveThirtyEight forecast, conversely....

The uncertainty in our current 2020 forecast...stems mostly from the fact that there’s still a long way to go until the election. Take what happens if we lie to our model and tell it that the election is going to be held today. It spits out that Biden has a 93 percent chance of winning. In other words, a Trump victory would require a much bigger polling error than what we saw in 2016.

These arguments for baking a lot of uncertainty into the model strikes me as sound. The closer we get to the election, the more the odds for Biden will go up if he maintains his current polling advantage, perhaps reaching the 9 in 10 that other models are already showing. But we ain't there yet.

Joe Biden currently has a robust lead in polls. If the election were held today, he might even win in a landslide, carrying not only traditional swing states su…

Monday, August 10, 2020

Nationscape Trial Heat Results in Every Swing State!

Here are the results from the last 12 waves of the Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape survey (6,000 respondents a week) for very state that has been considerably even vaguely swingish in this election cycle. I order the trial heat results from largest Biden margin to least.

NM +25 Biden
NH +19
NV +17
VA +15
ME +14
CO +13
MN +12
WI +10
MI +8
AZ +8
PA +7
FL +7
GA +4
NC +3
TX +3
OH -1`
SC -1
IA -3

Interesting, eh?

Sunday, August 9, 2020

South Carolina???

I was shocked to see a new Quinnipiac poll of South Carolina that had Lindsay Graham tied 44-44 with Democratic challenger Jamie Harrison and Biden behind Trump by only 5 points in the state. Then I checked the last 12 weekly waves of the Nationscape survey (6,000 cases a wave) and looked at South Carolina--Biden was behind Trump by only a point and a half! Wow. Not that I expect Biden to carry South Carolina or Harrison to actually beat Graham, but these results show just how dire the GOP"s current situation is.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

So You Want to Forecast an Election....(2)

Recently I highlighted Andrew Gelman's excellent discussion of his--The Economist's--election forecasting model. Here are some additional forecasting discussions plus one new model.

The first item is Natalie Jackson's piece on the problems of election forecasting, both the known unknowns and unknown unknowns. She is pretty down on the whole business now, believing it's too hard to get right, the public doesn't understand the results and in the end it does more harm than good. No doubt her views are influenced by the HuffPost model she developed in 2016 which had Clinton's probability of winning at 98 percent (!)

The second item is a tweetstorm by Drew Linzer, who was responsible for Daily Kos' model in 2016, which was also quite optimistic, if not as optimistic as Jackson's. It's a good discussion of some of the general issues around election forecasting, touching on some of the topics discussed by Gelman. Too bad it's a thread on Twitter instead of a proper post or article somewhere. Still, it's worth looking at.

Finally, Alan Abramowitz is out with a (very) simplified model to predict the election. He is throwing out the influence of the economy and incumbency because of the peculiarities of this election year and instead just using Presidential approval (net in late June)--which he argues is currently driven heavily by approval of Trump's response to the coronavirus crisis--to predict the election. Yes, it's the proverbial one variable model! I wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to work quite well this year.

Abramowitz' current prediction based on -15 net Trump approval in late June gives Biden a 70 percent chance of winning the election and a predicted electoral vote of 319-219. If Trump's net approval was still at -15 in late October, the prediction would be 90 percent for a Biden victory and a 361-177 electoral vote (shades of Obama '08!). Abramowitz provides a table where you can interpolate predicted results based on other values for net approval.…/its-the-pandemic-stupid-a-s…/…/poll-based-election-forecas…/

A View from Never Trump Land

It's worth paying attention to the world of the Never Trumpers, from The Lincoln Project to Oren Cass' American Compass and Bill Kristol's The Bulwark. Some very good things are being done and said. Like this piece by Richard North Patterson that recently appeared in The Bulwark:

"Politically, the pandemic has remade Biden into a harbinger of hope—a potentially transformative rather than transitional leader. That he now invokes FDR, who helped deliver America from a vertiginous national crisis, marks a striking change of tone and ambition.

From the outset of the pandemic, Biden has called for a concerted federal response which includes spearheading a comprehensive, rigorous and prompt testing regime. Equally fundamental, Biden appreciates that the virus has aggravated pre-existing social and economic pathologies we can no longer ignore. This reflects an underrated virtue: As a practical politician rather than an ideologue, Biden can respond to changing national imperatives by moving with the temper of the times.

He is doing so with considerable skill. Wisely Biden has committed to a careful balancing act: keeping the oft-fractious components of his party together; attracting swing voters while addressing the urgent concerns of minorities; confronting the consequences of COVID-19; and offering meaningful proposals which, as president, he might actually pass.

To this end, he has forged a shared agenda with Democratic progressives which, without embracing their most tendentious economic litmus tests, addresses needs underscored by the pandemic: expanding low-income housing; improving childcare; funding universal pre-K education; offering free community college; establishing a comprehensive infrastructure program; advancing a robust climate-change agenda that creates well-paying new jobs; and providing universal healthcare grounded in a public option.

He’s no Bernie Sanders, nor should he be—after all, Sanders lost. But Biden promises to be the most progressive Democratic nominee in recent years, at a moment which calls for vigorous new initiatives to retrieve us from our national slough of despond.

Concurrently, Biden has rejected the brain-dead catchphrases that repel most Americans and fuel Trump’s race-based culture war: “abolish ICE” and, more recently, “defund the police.” Instead, he proposes broad immigration reform and embraces practical measures to sustain the racial awakening stemming from George Floyd’s murder: banning chokeholds; reforming qualified immunity for police officers; barring the overuse of military equipment by local police; and passing more funding for community policing.

With similar equipoise, Biden supports decriminalizing marijuana use but opposes legalization. He favors removing monuments to Confederate generals but draws the line at Washington and Jefferson. He advocates a ban on public leases for natural gas fracking, but eschews a fracking ban which could cost him Pennsylvania.

This is more than canny calculation—it’s politically farsighted. To win and then govern, Biden must appeal to some of the disaffected voters Clinton lost in 2016 and rally the suburbanites who helped Democrats win back the House in 2018. He is not running to enthrall the febrile progressives who populate Twitter, but as a steady, seasoned leader who can help heal the wounds Trump is determined to deepen at any cost."

Seems pretty sensible to me!

There is no more glaring contrast between Donald Trump and Joe Biden than that presented by the defining issue of 2020—the coronavirus pandemic. Democrats know that very well. Said pollster Geoff Garin to the Washington Post: Trump is increasingly defined…

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Biden >> Clinton: The Story in Two Charts

The two charts below are worth the price of admission in this detailed article by Geoffrey Skelley and Anna Wiederkehr on 538. But please look at the rest of the article for the more complicated story in the states.

Image may contain: text that says 'Biden's national lead over Trump surpasses Clinton's National polling margins for Joe Biden in 2020 and Hillary Clinton in 2016 against President Trump, as of 5 p.m. on Aug. Aug. 4 +10 Biden 7.5 points Clinton® peak lead Trump Clinton on 150 days End of Democratic convention 103 days 120 FiveThirtyEight 60 Days from Election Day 30 lection Day SOURCE: POLLS'
Image may contain: text that says 'Biden has more support than Clinton ever did National polling average for Joe Biden in 2020 and Hillary Clinton in 2016, as of 5 p.m. on Aug. 52% Biden 50 50.1 percent cp 46 on 45.8 percent Clinton' pre- October peak Clinton 42 40 150 days 120 90 60 Days from Election Day FiveThirtyEight 30 Election Day SOURCE: POLLS'