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Sunday, December 18, 2016

Post-Mortem Roundup, 12/18/16

I appear to be doing these roughly weekly, and I'm going to try to continue with that.

There are a lot of contradictions in this bunch. Let's start with the Clinton campaign.

I told a friend a couple of weeks before the election that I felt really good about Clinton's chances based on the fact that the campaign appeared to be using a lot of the Obama strategy and infrastructure.  However, I was viewing that from the bubble of the volunteer room at Brooklyn HQ and the Brooklyn field office, where, yes, it appeared we were doing things right between sending hundreds of people every weekend to canvass in Philly and making hundreds of thousands of calls to Florida. But the fact is that that I cannot speak for what the campaign was doing in Michigan and Wisconsin.

Edward-Isaac Dovere at Politico said that the Clinton strategy in Michigan was just off:

FBI Director Jim Comey’s letter shifting late deciders, the lack of a compelling economic message, the apparent Russian hacking. But heartbroken and frustrated in-state battleground operatives worry that a lesson being missed is a simple one: Get the basics of campaigning right.
Clinton never even stopped by a United Auto Workers union hall in Michigan, though a person involved with the campaign noted bitterly that the UAW flaked on GOTV commitments in the final days, and that AFSCME never even made any, despite months of appeals.
The anecdotes are different but the narrative is the same across battlegrounds, where Democratic operatives lament a one-size-fits-all approach drawn entirely from pre-selected data — operatives spit out “the model, the model,” as they complain about it — guiding Mook’s decisions on field, television, everything else. That’s the same data operation, of course, that predicted Clinton would win the Iowa caucuses by 6 percentage points (she scraped by with two-tenths of a point), and that predicted she’d beat Bernie Sanders in Michigan (he won by 1.5 points).

Building on Dovere's piece, Ed Kilgore says the campaign was too smart for its own good (which is silly in itself, but I'm sure worked well as clickbait):

Now the Clinton campaign was not unique in its reliance on a “model” for understanding election dynamics. One of the big trends since 2012 among political practitioners and observers alike has been the gradual displacement of random-sample polling with models of the electorate based on voter-registration files, supplemented by tracking polls of this fixed universe of voters. This approach tends to create a more static view of the electorate and its views, and probably builds in a bias for thinking of campaigns as mechanical devices for hitting numerical “targets” of communications with voters who are already in your column. You could see this new conventional wisdom (and the pseudoscientific certainty it bred) in pre-election models published by Bloomberg Politics and in an Election Day modeling experiment conducted by Slate. Having invested heavily in its own “model” for what it needed to do when and where, the Clinton campaign was naturally resistant to conflicting signals from the ignoramuses on the ground.
It is in that respect that just about everyone within and beyond the Clinton campaign erred in crediting it with a state-of-the-art “ground game” worth a point or two wherever it was deployed. Clinton had lots of field offices, to be sure. She had more money for get-out-the-vote operations. Team Clinton did much, much more targeted outreach to key voters in key states than did Team Trump. But in the end “Brooklyn’s” decisions were based on assumptions that had very little to do with actual developments on the “ground;” its hypersophisticated sensitivity to granular data about many millions of people made it fail to see and hear what was actually happening in the lead-up to the election.
For now it probably doesn’t matter whether it was James Comey or the campaign’s faulty self-confidence that cost Clinton the election. But when it comes time to build the next presidential general-election campaign, the people setting up the organization and paying the bills might want to rely a bit less on any system that values analytical omniscience at the expense of a willingness to change the game plan if there are signs that that is needed.
This is where I step in and say that one of the things we found was that maybe Trump didn't have a ground game, except he sort of did...

Josh Marshall implies also, that factors other than Comey helped create the rift in the "Blue Firewall," in this case in Wisconsin.:

What all of this comes down to is that something very big happened in this election that was quite separate from Comey and Putin. Let's put a pin in that for a moment before we discuss what that 'something' was. These outside interventions (obviously of very different kinds) were something like the straw that broke the camel's back. I think it's quite likely that without them Clinton would have held on in a tight race. Perhaps the shift in Wisconsin would have been 6% or 6.5% rather than 7.7% The consequences of this defeat, which are frankly massive, would be vastly different. But the shifting politico-demographic shift would be only slightly less steep.
If you believe in the integrity of our elections, American sovereignty and - yes, let's say it - the importance of the legitimacy of the Trump presidency, the Russian sabotage and influence campaign is hugely important. But if you can't distinguish between let's say the 1 or 2 percentage point shift caused by Russia and Comey, from the 5 or 6 or 7 percentage point shift that made that small shift so consequential, I really don't know how to help you. They're both extremely important, but for very different reasons.
Krugman also places the blame on Russia and the FBI:
Did the combination of Russian and F.B.I. intervention swing the election? Yes. Mrs. Clinton lost three states – Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania – by less than a percentage point, and Florida by only slightly more. If she had won any three of those states, she would be president-elect. Is there any reasonable doubt that Putin/Comey made the difference?
And it wouldn’t have been seen as a marginal victory, either. Even as it was, Mrs. Clinton received almost three million more votes than her opponent, giving her a popular margin close to that of George W. Bush in 2004.
So this was a tainted election. It was not, as far as we can tell, stolen in the sense that votes were counted wrong, and the result won’t be overturned. But the result was nonetheless illegitimate in important ways; the victor was rejected by the public, and won the Electoral College only thanks to foreign intervention and grotesquely inappropriate, partisan behavior on the part of domestic law enforcement. 

Back to bashing the Clinton campaign, in what appears to be John Judis's final postmortem, he calls the Clinton campaign "abysmal" and that they got outflanked.

The Hillary Clinton camp continues to dwell on the fact that she won the popular vote by 2.8 million, even though she lost the electoral college. But Clinton spent twice as much on the election as Trump did, and spent money to drive up the vote in Chicago, New Orleans, and California. According to Politico, the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee were actually worried that while Clinton would win the electoral college, Trump would win the popular vote.
Trump, as his pollster Tony Fabrizio later explained, focused entirely on swing states, and didn’t try to “run up the score” in states like Texas, Georgia and Arizona that Trump expected to win. From October 21 to election day, Trump’s ad spending was entirely focused on swing states, while Clinton was still spending in Texas and California. If the two candidates had spent an equal amount, and if Trump had spent in states like Texas that he assumed he would win and in states like California where his margin was well below Mitt Romney in 2012, I believe the popular vote would have been much closer.

I do seem to remember Trump showing up in puzzling states like New Jersey down the stretch, so I don't think that she really got outflanked in that sense. She could've done better, but nearly everyone thought Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania were in the bag, and there were plenty of calls for Hillary to expand the playing field (which she did, in making Arizona and Texas much closer than expected).

Here's a handy graphic of the candidates' appearances down the stretch:

Judis continues:

FBI Director James Comey definitely hurt Clinton’s chances when he re-raised the issue of her emails on October 28, but he may not have cost her the election. If you look at the Los Angeles Times tracking poll, which proved to be the most accurate predictor of the results, Clinton had pulled even with Trump soon after the release of the NBC videotape showing Trump bragging about his sexual exploits, but Trump had begun to pull ahead again on October 26, two days before Comey stepped in.
The LAT tracking poll was actually the most inaccurate of all of the polls. Additionally, Nate Silver would beg to differ about Comey, saying that the Comey letter (which maddeningly, was NOTHING), did move the needle by a couple of points among late deciders:


Nate also says:


Ron Brownstein discussed how traditional energy impacted the votes of said white voters.

Comparing the latest federal figures on states’ per capita carbon emissions with the 2016 election results produces a clear pattern. Trump carried all of the 22 states with the most per capita carbon emissions, except for New Mexico, and 27 of the top 32 in all. (Colorado, Illinois, Delaware, and Minnesota were the Clinton-voting exceptions.) The Democratic nominee won 15 of the 18 states with the lowest per capita emissions—with the exception of Florida, North Carolina, and Idaho.
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The Democrats’ challenge is that their coalition has crumbled in states that fear these changes, particularly in the Rustbelt, faster than it has coalesced in the states benefiting from them, which are mostly across the Sunbelt. To recapture the White House in four years, they’ll need recovery on both fronts. But the Democrats’ long-term prospects will likely rely on accelerating their leap across these overlapping economic, cultural, and energy divides.
Though renewable sources are gaining ground in some Midwest states, Democrats face structural challenges in a preponderantly white and older region where manufacturing powered by low-cost, coal-generated electricity looms so large. More promising for them may be racially diversifying Sunbelt states that are also decoupling from fossil fuels as they shift toward both renewable energy sources and post-industrial employment. Already, Georgia, Arizona, North Carolina, and Florida rank in the bottom 20 states for carbon emissions.


There might be something to it; I noticed driving through rural Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia today, I saw a number of billboards essentially saying that without fossil fuels, particularly coal, jobs there are gone, I don't know who paid for them. Could the Dems have put up billboards talking about bringing jobs to those areas? Should they have?


Digby also shared a post from Craig Newmark about who actually did and didn't vote. Some takeaways:

-Trump cleaned up with older voters and white voters

-Blacks turned out at a greater rate than Hispanics or white (which would seem to contradict what we've heard about them staying home)

-Hispanics and blacks were much more likely to have wanted to vote but found they were unable than whites.

-Hispanic voters had much longer waits to  vote than whites did

-Black and Hispanic voters were almost twice more likely to have had to fill out a provisional ballot (could've been the difference right there; do we know how many were ultimately counted?)

-Millennials were the most likely to have had to file a provisional ballot, followed by Gen X. Once again, how many were actually counted?


Jenee Desmond Harris interviewed Cornell Belcher about his new book, and I picked up on this:

In battleground states, particularly more diverse states, the percentage of white people voting Democrat decreases significantly as that population gets more diverse. So diversity is having an opposite impact that is harmful to Democrats.
That’s why I argue to Democrats that you are going to lose more and more white votes, and unless there is a major party realignment, this is going to continue to be a phenomenon. As the Republican Party is seen more and more as the racial identification party for white people, you’re not gonna see us all of a sudden winning blue-collar white voters.
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Jenée Desmond-Harris
So is there a way any of this — the strong influence of racial aversion and racial antagonism in politics — can be brought under control or stopped, or do we just have to wait for demographic changes that will make people who are motivated by racial antagonism less influential?
Cornell Belcher
I think the point I would argue it has to happen before demographic change — you already have people taking to the streets yelling they want to take our country back. What does that look like 10 years from now? What happens when that angry 45, 46 percent think they’re losing power, because they are losing power? We have to solve for this.
Jenée Desmond-Harris
But nobody has figured out how to solve for that, right?
Cornell Belcher
But we have to stop pretending that it doesn’t exist. That’s a start.
Jenée Desmond-Harris
I can see how pretending it doesn’t exist would be an important first step. It’s always strange to me to hear people say that Obama “triggered political polarization,” without explaining the race part. As if it’s a total mystery why that happened.
Cornell Belcher
One of the great tragedies is that the election of the first black president, as opposed to being a racial breakthrough, has in fact given rise to the opposite. It really has triggered an antagonism, or uncertainty, or fear that was dormant, at least up until now.


Ta-Nahisi Coates talked to President Obama and said a bit more about the above:

Whiteness in America is a different symbol—a badge of advantage. In a country of professed meritocratic competition, this badge has long ensured an unerring privilege, represented in a 220-year monopoly on the highest office in the land. For some not-insubstantial sector of the country, the elevation of Barack Obama communicated that the power of the badge had diminished. For eight long years, the badge-holders watched him. They saw footage of the president throwing bounce passes and shooting jumpers. They saw him enter a locker room, give a businesslike handshake to a white staffer, and then greet Kevin Durant with something more soulful. They saw his wife dancing with Jimmy Fallon and posing, resplendent, on the covers of magazines that had, only a decade earlier, been almost exclusively, if unofficially, reserved for ladies imbued with the great power of the badge.
For the preservation of the badge, insidious rumors were concocted to denigrate the first black White House. Obama gave free cellphones to disheveled welfare recipients. Obama went to Europe and complained that “ordinary men and women are too small-minded to govern their own affairs.” Obama had inscribed an Arabic saying on his wedding ring, then stopped wearing the ring, in observance of Ramadan. He canceled the National Day of Prayer; refused to sign certificates for Eagle Scouts; faked his attendance at Columbia University; and used a teleprompter to address a group of elementary-school students. The badge-holders fumed. They wanted their country back. And, though no one at the farewell party knew it, in a couple of weeks they would have it.
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When I told Obama that I thought Trump’s candidacy was an explicit reaction to the fact of a black president, he said he could see that, but then enumerated other explanations. When assessing Trump’s chances, he was direct: He couldn’t win.
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This speech ran counter to the history of the people it sought to address. Some of those same immigrants had firebombed the homes of the children of those same slaves. That young naval lieutenant was an imperial agent for a failed, immoral war. American division was real. In 2004, John Kerry did not win a single southern state. But Obama appealed to a belief in innocence—in particular a white innocence—that ascribed the country’s historical errors more to misunderstanding and the work of a small cabal than to any deliberate malevolence or widespread racism. America was good. America was great.
Over the next 12 years, I came to regard Obama as a skilled politician, a deeply moral human being, and one of the greatest presidents in American history. He was phenomenal—the most agile interpreter and navigator of the color line I had ever seen. He had an ability to emote a deep and sincere connection to the hearts of black people, while never doubting the hearts of white people. This was the core of his 2004 keynote, and it marked his historic race speech during the 2008 campaign at Philadelphia’s National Constitution Center—and blinded him to the appeal of Trump. (“As a general proposition, it’s hard to run for president by telling people how terrible things are,” Obama once said to me.)
But if the president’s inability to cement his legacy in the form of Hillary Clinton proved the limits of his optimism, it also revealed the exceptional nature of his presidential victories. For eight years Barack Obama walked on ice and never fell. Nothing in that time suggested that straight talk on the facts of racism in American life would have given him surer footing.
 I've been wondering if happenings during Obama's second term had an effect on the Democrats' chances in 2016. For one thing, many non-liberal whites circled the wagons around Robert Zimmerman and thought of Black Lives Matter (which Clinton embraced) as a racist institution. Also, from the Weekly Standard:
Then there's race relations. Obama was elected in large part because of his promise to heal racial wounds. It hasn't worked out that way. In 2001, Gallup found that 70 percent of blacks and 62 percent of whites thought race relations in America were somewhat or very good. By the time Obama was inaugurated those numbers had flipped, with 61 percent of blacks and 70 percent of whites (having just absolved themselves by voting for Obama, one suspects) rating race relations as good. During Obama's tenure, both numbers have been in freefall. Today, only 51 percent of blacks and 45 percent of whites think relations between the races are good.

and from Trump himself:

“The country has practically never been as divided as it is now,” the billionaire added. “We’re going to bring everybody together. white, black. We’re going to bring everybody together. We’re bringing our country together, the richer the poorer, everybody!”
The talking point went around and we heard  many quotes along those lines from Trump voters, as well as the one (which for some reason I can't find) about how Hillary talked to Latinos, blacks, and other minority groups, but not "regular Americans."

We've been told a lot about how Hillary Clinton didn't speak to white working class voters (ignoring that a huge part of the working class isn't white), and that she needed to speak more about economics. From David Roberts at Vox:

Put aside, for a moment, the notion that economic issues can be separated from identity politics (they cannot). Let’s focus on the critique of Clinton. It’s one I’ve heard so many times that I got curious: What did Clinton talk about?
To find out, I gathered all her campaign speeches (from both the primary and general campaigns) into one document and did a simple word-frequency analysis.
The results are below. As you can see, I’ve been as generous as possible in filing things under “identity politics.” Anything about minorities or criminal justice or gay people or immigrants, I filed as identity politics. I even included mentions of climate and clean energy in that category, though in a sane world those would be top-tier economic issues.
So, without further ado, what did Hillary Clinton talk about?

 
 
That bliie line at the bottom that's three times as long as any others? "Jobs."
 
So, this is another time where the numbers don't bear out the assertions.
 
Still so much to unravel!