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Sunday, January 1, 2017

Post-Mortem Roundup, Week of 1/1/2017

Less than a month to go before I write mine, and there's still a lot of information coming in.

Reed Galen, reviewing two books on the 2016 election, write that our polling methodology was bad, and aside from that, the portions were too small we did a bad job examining it:

As Lewis’ book states, one cannot believe an uncertain outcome is possible if one does not believe the events that led to its occurrence. For example, much of the political elite (of both parties) and the media probably saw President Barack Obama’s election as transformational, but perhaps did not see his time in office as a radical departure from those who’ve served previously. We might have had some dim recognition that there were rumblings in the hustings, but having studied our electoral maps like they were the Talmud, we could not see anyway that Trump could possibly break the “Blue Wall.”
We reviewed national survey data that was both too small in its sample size, sometimes no more than 700 or 800, rarely more than 2,000 to expound on the beliefs of more than 200 million American voters. We regularly saw in black and white that Secretary Hillary Clinton, even on the “worst” days of Trump’s campaign, could barely escape the margin of error. While those same national surveys may have been accurate regarding the popular vote, they missed individual states badly; an enormously significant oversight given the Electoral College decides the presidency. An existing and significant non-response bias among certain demographics must also be studied and fixed moving forward.

Taylor Gee at Politico points the polling error at looking at the wrong counties, and names nine that were missed.

Crafted from the cumulative expertise of veteran campaign reporters, reams of polling data, decades of demographic and voting trends, these compilations of 10 and 25 and 50 counties offered the kind of comfort one gets listening to the captain drone on about flight time and cruising altitude. Sit back, the lists said, we’ve got this. Yeah, well, a funny thing happened in the voting booth. Turns out all of us experts were looking at the right battleground states, but the wrong counties. We were concentrating on places that had mattered in previous election cycles while Trump was pulling a card from his sleeve in towns and out-of-the-way counties that the pundits—and the Clinton campaign—hadn’t paid much attention to before. Florida could well be decided by Hillsborough County, many said. Actually, not this time. North Carolina hinges on the counties surrounding Winston-Salem and Raleigh, many predicted. Again, not so much. But there were other counties in those states that made a big difference in deciding who will have his hand on the Bible on January 20. So, with the benefit of hindsight we offer a list of places that mattered more than we expected. Keep them in mind when you put together your insider’s list in 2020.

I spoke to Ari this morning and he's going to have a take on the geography and polling piece sometime soon based around a discussion we had last night about this:


Meanwhile Bill Scher (why didn't anyone tell me Liberal Oasis was back? -- they're going in the sidebar. Yay Bill and Traci!) thinks Trump would've beaten Obama if Obama weren't term-limited. I actually disagree (I think Obama's out-of-this-galazy charisma could've easily been worth 70,000 votes in three states), but Scher's point here is important:

Trump voters were also angered by how Obama handled race issues as president, especially his defense of Black Lives Matter activists. The New York Times Magazine’s Nikole Hannah-Jones spoke with Obama-to-Trump converts in Iowa and found “they had come to feel at odds with their party; it no longer reflected their own cultural norms. … Obama really turned [one voter] off when, after a vigilante killed a black teenager named Trayvon Martin, he said the boy could have been his son. She felt as if Obama was choosing a side in the racial divide, stirring up tensions.” ProPublica’s Alec MacGillis, after speaking to voters in Ohio, noted one who had “grown somewhat disenchanted” with Obama after supporting him, then “talked about how much the Black Lives Matter protests against shootings by police officers grated on him” and lamented, “If I say anything about that, I’m a racist.”
These anecdotes are also backed up by data. The 2016 exit poll asked, “Does the country’s criminal justice system treat all fairly or treat blacks unfairly?” Seventy-two percent of those saying blacks are treated unfairly were Clinton voters, while 73 percent of those saying blacks are treated as fairly as everyone else were Trump voters. Tesler further noted in a post-election Washington Post analysis that surveys showed “racial resentment and ethnocentrism — rating whites more favorably than other racial and ethnic minorities — were more closely linked to support for Donald Trump in 2016 than support for Mitt Romney in 2012.”
Clinton bore the brunt of this “whitelash,” instead of Obama, because she too defended Black Lives Matter in her campaign and spoke out against police brutality. Obama hadn’t forcefully engaged the subject in his 2008 and 2012 campaigns. As I noted back in September, he went out of his way eight years ago to sympathize with whites who held racial resentments because often they “see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor.”

This is a conclusion I'm coming close to in my own upcoming PM. Dems and groups like Black Lives Matter made impressive pushes for civil rights in Obama's second term, and that scared the crap out of rural and exurban whites. I'd be one of the last people to say we should tone down our inclusiveness; we just need to plan accordingly. Sean McElwee's got some great thoughts on that:

It’s too simplistic to think that slicker ads and better messaging alone will defeat racism, however. White people live segregated lives — three-quarters of white people report that they don’t have any friends who aren’t white. When a caller named Gary told Heather McGhee, president of Demos (the think tank where I work), that he was prejudiced and wanted to change his views on race, she encouraged him to enter spaces, such as churches, where he might encounter people of different races. They have had many conversations since the original call, as well as personal visits. Later during their conversations, Gary told McGhee, “Talk to white people. We need a little bit of guidance. We’re not really getting it from our politicians. They want to play one side against the other for votes.”

Over at the Paper of Record, David Paul Kuhn disagrees with the premise of the last few posts:

Mr. Obama’s support among these whites was at its peak in 2008 after the stock market crash. At the depths of the Great Recession that followed, blue-collar white men experienced the most job losses.
Their support began hemorrhaging after Mr. Obama chose early in his presidency — when congressional Democrats could have overcome Republican obstruction — to fight for health care reform instead of a “new New Deal.”
By 2016, Mr. Trump personified the vote against the status quo, one still not working out for them. A post-campaign study comparing the George W. Bush coalition in 2000 to the Trump coalition in 2016 found that Mr. Trump particularly improved in areas hurt most by competition from Chinese imports, from the bygone brick and tile industry of Mason City, Iowa, to the flagging furniture plants of Hickory, N.C. The study concluded that, had the import competition from China been half as large, Mrs. Clinton would have won key swing states and the presidency with them.

Carolina O responds to Kuhn with a tweetstorm:



Speaking of the mainstream media, from Digby (this rest of this post is going to get pretty Digby-heavy... she was on fire this week; what's new?) as she theorizes how they're going to behave in 2017:

The problem we face is that Trump is sui generis and he is operating within a unique circumstance. The party he now leads was already at a peak moment of extremism and are unable and unwilling to act as a moderating force. And the modern media environment has made it possible for a fabulist like Trump to create an alternate narrative that is likely to be believed by millions of his followers, who are already far more gullible than most people.

The stance on the media isn't so relevant to this post, but the bolded phrase is one we really need to consider going forward in thinking about how much we can compare 2016 to other elections.

More relevant is this from Peter Daou (whom I enjoy a lot on Twitter):

And this, shared by Scott Lemieux:



And what kind of post-mortem post would this be without some Russia? From Digby:

Today we have an incoming GOP president facing off with the CIA over an an intelligence assessment concerning Russia. This time it’s about possible interference in the election with intent to install this same president in office. which certainly puts a strange new twist on the old story. Still, the dynamics aren’t all that different.
It's important to keep all this in mind as we try to assess what happened here. Donald Trump is now the president and he is stupid and he's crazy. Even if you think that Putin is actually a very nice guy who just wants to make the world a better place, I still wouldn't trust Trump. And frankly, I don't know why anyone thinks Putin is ok either. They seem like two sides of the same macho authoritarian card to me.

And, of course, Comey:

The big story of the 2016 election, the one which remains for me the most shocking and inexplicable, is the fact that James Comey, the director of the FBI, put a very heavy thumb on the scale which decided the election. It started back in July when he made inappropriate public criticism of Clinton even as he legally exonerated her. This is not something law enforcement is ever supposed to do, and it’s certainly unethical to do it in a highly charged political case. Donald Trump and the Republicans used that criticism as evidence that Clinton was still subject to prosecution and “lock her up” (and worse, like “hang the bitch” and “Hillary for prison”) became sickening rallying cries at Trump campaign events. Close advisers and associates called for Clinton to be” shot for treason” and “arrested, tried, and executed.”
The word “emails” became shorthand for alleged criminal behavior by Hillary Clinton. Under pressure from these hysterical Republicans, Comey continued to violate FBI practice by turning over the raw investigative files to congress, which he released in pieces and the Republicans promptly leaked, keeping the controversy going as the press once again used screaming “email” headlines to report nothing new or significant.
Despite all that, Clinton was leading in the polls going into the final stretch. And then as people all over the country were already voting, just 11 days before election day, Comey sent his famous letter to the congress announcing they had found some emails on a laptop that might or might not be relevant to the earlier Clinton probe. The Republicans in congress eagerly released it publicly calling it a “re-opening” of the case and the media predictably went wild, talking of little else for days and splashing the news across front pages all over the country.

A lot to chew on.