I’m not sure if this was exclusive to my generation or even just to my elementary and middle schools, but growing up there existed a pervasive myth: if you said the words “president,” and “bomb,” within a minute of each other over the phone, the FBI would be at your house within minutes. As this was in the earliest stages of the (public) internet, I have no idea how widespread this notion was, but it was a well-known part of my childhood. Interestingly, no one seemed to mind it. We were just kids, of course, but in most ways it was viewed as a sign of strength–almost as a token of nationalistic pride. Our government knows all; don’t cross it.
As we grew up, the Bond movies were revamped with Pierce Brosnan and later Daniel Craig. Shows like “24″ and “Alias” unveiled a world in which top secret authorities had virtually unlimited access to all the information that they needed. As adults, we get sucked into NCIS marathons and gleefully watch Abby hack into any system or hard drive she wants in order to unlock the necessary intelligence. Yes, we are a generation that grew up believing–or maybe wanting to believe–that our government had an omniscient quality; at least in theory.
However, as that theory becomes more like reality, my generation is not pleased or unphased, but disgusted. A recent CNN poll revealed that those under age 50 are much less likely to value security over privacy. The libertarian movement has erupted among the nation’s younger generation, leading to Ron Paul’s relevance and a push back against privacy invasions of all kinds, often celebrating WikiLeaks, Bradley Manning, and now Edward Snowden.
But not me. In fact, I am more worried by the leaks than I am about the information collection. You see, when I assumed growing up that some secret government agency probably knew everything about me, I took solace in the fact that they wouldn’t tell anyone. If you are covertly or illegally acquiring information, you can’t tell people that you have that information, and you can’t use it in court against me. It can only be used in some pretty extreme circumstances, and I’m not really mixed up in anything that crazy. In fact, the original document leaker, Daniel Ellsberg of the Pentagon Papers, was not prosecuted because evidence against him was acquired illegally through wiretaps. Thus, any information the government collected on me was known only to a select few, and would stay that way.
But in a world in which leaks are viewed as heroic acts; when disclosing classified information gives you instant notoriety (be it fame or infamy), I no longer have that assurance. Now that leaking is seemingly becoming en vogue, any information that the government may collect on me could at any point be leaked to the public. Top secret won’t necessarily stay that way. I always figured that the government has bigger fish to fry than to read my gchats and facebook messages, but that doesn’t mean I’d like them exposed to the public.
Having a top secret (or higher) clearance is a responsibility. It means that you are willing and able to safeguard information and use it judiciously. When that wall breaks down and classified becomes public… when it becomes trendy to “expose” that information to the media or to WikiLeaks or to anywhere else… my information is no longer safe. Maybe it’s naive to trust government entities with my day to day life, but being granted a clearance used to mean that I could trust you. And I sure would rather have it in their hands than in everyone’s.
I lost a friend on Tuesday (and no, it wasn’t America). To be fair, it was more of an acquaintance; I barely knew her. But we’ve been in touch on a superficial level for quite some time–facebook friends, IMs, text messages. She often checked in on me while I was deployed, and just last week I frequently checked in on her while she was stranded in a flooding, powerless house in New Jersey. Our communications were more frequent than they were deep, though, and we almost never actually saw each other. Still, I considered her a friend on some level and planned to visit her soon. That was before election day.
I have to start out by explaining that I really hate when race is brought into conversations. I know that it is still more of an issue than many in America want to admit, but I also feel that it is less of an issue than many people allow it to become. I think that frequently, race is brought up in conversations where it has little or no place–such as recent assertions in the sports world that the “only” grounds for comparison between rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III and 2nd-year quarterback Cam Newton is that they are both black. The fact that the two both accomplished a statistical feat that hadn’t been done since the 1940s obviously is no basis for comparison. But I digress. The point is that I don’t like it when race is made to be a central factor on topics around which I think race is probably only a fringe factor. And that’s why I’m so reluctant to say that this election–and elections in general these days–really are a racial issue.
That brings me back to my friend–well, the girl who was my friend. The morning of the election, she wanted to talk about how I was voting. She’s a registered Republican, so I knew that she would be disappointed with my choice. But I had absolutely no idea what was coming next. It started with quips such as “Obama only won because he’s black.” I believe strongly that the only way to draw people out of a bubble of ignorance is to engage them–and to do so tactfully and peacefully no matter your disagreement. The next hour of my life challenged that notion of tact and restraint to the core.
I was informed that Obama “bussed the monkeys and apes out of the ghettos” in 2008. I was told that the only people who vote for Obama are “ghetto trash, white trash, the Spanish, and the Jews.” I personally was told that I was “nasty” because a girl I dated in high school was half-black. And of course, I was fed the line “I have plenty of black friends.” I attempted at great length to get to the root of how she could say such things and then work with and socialize with black people. I tried to find out if she ever shared any of these views. She told me that she knows that she is racist, she doesn’t care, and that “plenty of people” feel that way–they just don’t admit it.
We’ve all seen the racist anti-Obama Twitter feeds (do NOT follow that link unless you want to see very offensive, NSFW language), but this was the first time I have ever experienced such things first-hand; things said not just to draw attention to yourself or to be “funny” on the faceless internet, but as a core belief unshakably being hurled at me by someone I actually know. It’s probably the closest I’ve ever been to being speechless. And the story ended when, before I regrouped, she ended our “facebook friendship” out of contempt that I am not a racist. This last step fully blew my mind. I had just lost a friend–one that I would have cut from my life anyway–because she decided that she could not carry on a relationship of any kind with someone so tolerant.
Alright, I know. This is all anecdotal. I am in no way asserting that this is the dominant rationale of people voting against Obama. There are plenty of legitimate reasons not to vote for Obama. But a friend of mine currently in Europe informed me that in Ireland, the election is being covered largely on the basis of race. And then the aforementioned conversation happened. And then I watched the election results and reactions. More and more, I could not avoid hearing about and thinking about race–but in a wholly different context than outright racism. The dominant discussion about electoral math has now become one of demographics. And while women had their day in the sun during the election, the Hispanic vote and the “minority vote” are winning the conversation about the future, most famously summed up by Bill O’Reilly’s statement that “the white establishment is now the minority.“
What shocks me about these conversations is how taken for granted it is that racial voting blocs will remain in tact. The idea that Obama might help usher in the beginning of a post-racial society–even by the most conservative estimates of what that phrase means–are all but a joke now. Lost in the conversation is an effort to level the field to an extent that ethnicity ceases to be an electoral fault line. Conversations about “getting the Hispanic vote” seem to revolve around how best to pander and which issues are most welcoming of the group–as a whole. It all leads me to believe that in regards to race relations–both structural and social–we not only aren’t moving ahead but may even be taking a step back.
A very wise, close friend of mine often reminds me that it was only one generation ago that segregation and civil rights and race riots were the norm; that expecting the nation to heal from these fissures this quickly might have been too much. Maybe it’s not surprising when they bubble to the surface again from time to time. But my reaction to that (my hope, maybe) was always that it should be expected to subside within another generation as the last remnants of such a divisive era move on leaving behind a more tolerant, less wounded society. Given the discourse surrounding the election, I worry that we may be keeping alive these strong divisions for another generation. It’s rare to hear me say this, but… I hope I’m wrong.
This is not intended to be a post preaching to the choir. If you are here to laugh at Fox News, then I don’t need you to keep reading. There are many people who I know and love that actually do get the bulk of their news from watching Fox News, reading their website, reading Breitbart.com, listening to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Neal Boortz, and other similar methods (but no differing). If this sounds like you, please keep reading. I’d like to talk to you. This is not about the content of the election or the issues espoused by different candidates, but about the information you received. Most of you seem relatively surprised with the results of Tuesday’s election. Many of you professed a great deal of confidence in Governor Romney’s chances on Tuesday night. This troubles me greatly, and I think it opens up an opportunity to understand just how cut off from reality reaffirming media bubbles can become.
You see, this election was not much of a surprise. In fact, according to those who paid a great deal of attention to what was going on in state polls and early voting, the election went almost exactly as expected. Take this quote from The New Yorker’s John Cassidy Tuesday morning:
The vast majority of pundits, academics, and forecasters agree that Obama will win. Indeed, there is a broad consensus about his likely margin of victory in the electoral college: 303 to 235. In addition to myself, a number of prognosticators have settled on these figures. They include the Democratic strategist Joe Trippi; the Slate blogger Matt Yglesias; the Huffpo’s Pollster tracking model; the Web site PredictWise, the consulting firm CabPolitical. Most other forecasts are grouped around the 303-235 projection. Early Tuesday morning, Nate Silver’s 538 model was predicting Obama 315, Romney 223; Sam Wang’s Princeton Election Consortium had it at Obama 309, Romney 229. Larry Sabato and his colleagues at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics were predicting that Obama would do slightly less well but still win. Their figures for the electoral college: Obama 290, Romney 248.
(the whole article is worth a read)
I’ll note that Sam Wang and Nate Silver’s projections stem from expected value models, which are averages of different possible outcomes, not state-by-state projections added up. Looking state-by-state, Nate Silver got everything correct right down to Florida being too close to call with a slight Obama lean. What you see here is a consensus prediction around the exact outcome that occurred. By nearly every detailed, analytical prediction, the only source of disagreement was generally around Virginia and Florida’s results. In addition to human projections, betting sites and market forecasts such as Betfair and Intrade gave Obama strong odds as the favorite.
This information is not meant as a means of gloating. This is just some evidence that the information available regarding this race led to a very easily-predicted outcome. Even as a novice non-pollster, I read enough to feel very confident in the outcome of the election. When I posted a reactionary blog post at 11:23 Tuesday night–just eight minutes after the earliest call of the race (NBC followed shortly after by Fox News)–it wasn’t because I am a very fast typist, and it wasn’t because I wrote a reaction post for either result. It was because I was so sure of the outcome that I planned ahead for it, accused by some of my more worrisome or superstitious friends as possibly jinxing the whole thing.
The reason I want to be clear that this outcome was predictable is that you should by now be wondering why you didn’t see this coming. Why were you fairly sure that Romney would emerge victorious? I think we know the answer. The answer is that Sean Hannity, Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich, Dick Morris, and Ben Shapiro told you that Romney was heading for a win–some said a landslide. Unskewedpolls.com explained that the polls (which proved right) were inherently biased and presented its own, very different results (which proved wrong). Any prognosticator or pundit who projected an Obama win–or even a toss-up–on the airwaves that you watched or listened to or in the articles you read were instantly countered with hard theories about why those predictions would prove incorrect. Every poll they chose to report was an optimistic, right-leaning poll while ignoring that it was often a statistical outlier. You were inundated with information about this election that pointed to a Romney win–and maybe even a big one.
And that brings us here. In the information age, you can pick and choose where you get your information. There is more knowledge and data available then ever before. The sources that you have chosen were wrong. They weren’t even close. Many, many other sources got this right. The correct sources were ignored or discredited in your world. This leaves me wondering: is there any such thing as information accountability? Is there a reward for getting things right? A punishment for getting things wrong?
The truth is that the election is not the only issue in which this happens. However, the election provides the clearest opportunity to point out the discrepancy between what you’re being told and what is actually happening. This discrepancy is real. This is not an attack from the “lame stream media.” If you found yourself caught by surprise–both by the Obama victory and by the relatively easy margin of the electoral victory–then you now have the evidence right in front of your face. If I found out that all of the news I had been receiving for the past several weeks was completely tainted by an ideological desire to promote a false version of reality rather than reporting the information that was readily available about the true situation, I would cease to use that source. I’m left wondering, will you?
As a researcher, I’m sad to admit that I let my hopes overtake the data. The facts, based on well-conducted survey research, always pointed to an Obama win. But many Republicans, me included, tried to find a way to argue that the data didn’t mean what it said on its face and that Romney would still win.
The election coverage by the right-wing media outlets was deliberately misleading and was proven incorrect. In a world with information at your fingertips, don’t make the same mistake again. Look for different sources. Yours are failing you.
Hey guys, I know it’s been a little bit of a rough day/night for you, and I want to be sympathetic, but I won’t pretend I’m not pretty pleased with the outcome. We all know that you and I have our differences. I imagine losing the presidential election to the incumbent despite poor economic conditions is pretty sobering. You’re probably looking in the proverbial mirror wondering what went wrong. More importantly, you’re probably wondering where does the party go from here. You tried the maverick in 2008. You swung right with the Tea Party in 2010. You went with prototype president version 2.12 in 2012. And yet, Barack Obama is still the president.
There are a number of possible reactions. Was Romney too moderate? Should the party push farther to the right? Maybe the party should continue to blur the lines between being a Republican and a Libertarian. There’s always the option of using a vast media propaganda machine to undermine the legitimacy of the 2012 elections, thus undermining the legitimacy of the Obama administration (thus also undermining the entirety of the American political process, but that’s collateral damage deemed worth it to many). Of all the reactions that you could have, however, I would like to offer one simple suggestion.
Govern. I know, it sounds crazy, right? But after 4 years of trying tooth and nail to limit the actions of the government and the administration, you’ve received a loss. The plan did not work. In 2014, and again in 2016, if you want to make gains and see results, perhaps you should consider giving the people something concrete for which they can vote. Show us that you can work with others and not just against them. We understand that you’re really good at obstructing. We realize that the congress elected in 2010 passed the least amount of legislation of any in recent history by a long shot. Well done.
Now, in a center-right country with a weak economic recovery, you still lost to a Democrat. Maybe what’s missing is the “center” in the center-right. Maybe the rigid adherence to ideology at the expense of results is holding you up. Maybe, over the next two to four years, you should try to give the people something to vote for instead of someone to vote against. Move on from this loss quickly; don’t dwell on the election and try to undermine its results or question its mandate. And when you move on and return to legislation, don’t point fingers across the aisle, but instead look inward and ask, “what can I do within my principles and within the legislative reality that will improve my country?” Try for collaborative accomplishments. I promise you, this strategy more than any other will lead to the results that you want. Until/unless that happens, look for more of the same: a center-right country begrudgingly electing Democrats.
With elections coming tomorrow, I think it’s time for me to put my predictions down in writing for all of cyberspace to consume. I’ll get right down to it:
Electoral College: Obama – 294; Romney – 244
I come to this result by giving Obama Virginia, Ohio, Nevada, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania (if you want to call that a swing state). Romney then gets Florida and Colorado. Basically, Florida, Virginia, Iowa, and Colorado are the ones I view as the truest toss-ups, so I sent Romney two and Obama two. I gave Romney the biggest and third-biggest of the four because a) he has a good shot at Florida, and b) I wanted to make up for possibly overestimating Obama’s chances elsewhere.
Popular Vote: Obama 49.4%; Romney 48.2%
This is pretty much a guess. I know that it will be close. And I suspect the third-party candidates (especially Gary Johnson) will pull a hair over one percent.
Senate: 51 Democrats, 2 Independents, 47 Republicans
The Senate has 37 Republicans and 30 Democrats holding their seats (not up for re-election). The other 33 races will determine the balance of power. The Independents are both safe and Sanders will caucus with Democrats, while King has been non-committal on his caucusing preferences, but he is popular with Democrats. State-by-state, here are my picks.
Arizona: Flake (R)
California: Feinstein (D)
Connecticut: Murphy (D)
Delaware: Carper (D)
Florida: Nelson (D)
Hawaii: Hirono (D)
Indiana: Donnelly (D) (Thanks to Mourdock’s rape comments)
Maine: King (I) (Yay!)
Maryland: Cardin (D) (And I think Sobhani (I) will be second)
Massachusetts: Warren (D)
Michigan: Stabenow (D)
Minnesota: Klobuchar (D)
Mississippi: Wicker (R)
Missouri: McCaskill (D) (Thanks to Todd Akin’s rape comments)
Montana: Rehberg (R) (Much to my chagrin; I heard their debate recently)
Nebraska: Fischer (R)
Nevada: Heller (R)
New Jersey: Menendez (D)
New Mexico: Heinrich (D)
New York: Gillibrand (D)
North Dakota: Berg (R)
Ohio: Brown (D)
Pennsylvania: Casey (D)
Rhode Island: Whitehouse (D)
Tennessee: Corker (R)
Texas: Cruz (R)
Utah: Hatch (R)
Vermont: Sanders (I)
Virginia: Kaine (D) (toughest call to make for me)
Washington: Cantwell (D)
West Virginia: Manchin (D)
Wisconsin: Baldwin (D) (another toss-up)
Wyoming: Barrasso (R)
House: 235 Republicans, 200 Democrats
Another guess. I’m not breaking down 435 elections, but if you couldn’t tell by now, I’m thinking that there’s some breaking toward the Democrats in general as of late, as I’m giving most of the close calls to the left.
I also am a big fan of Nate Silver of www.fivethirtyeight.com. My Senate projections are basically to agree with Silver, which is a cop out in a way, but it’s just because I believe it to be the most complete, best information out there. So I’m trusting it.
I hope everyone enjoys election day. And if you’re going to brag about your predictions on Wednesday, please at least put them in writing by early Tuesday. Otherwise, it doesn’t count.
Today, I officially cast my 2012 ballot by participating in early voting. Upon completion of my ballot, I shared on facebook who I voted for which opened up conversation and allowed me to explain my views. One issue that was raised repeatedly (particularly by my friends in the Army) was the fact that I didn’t vote for Gary Johnson. It could be considered strange that my lack of a vote for a distantly-polling Libertarian candidate raised any eyebrows at all. However, one specific request made sense to me. I was asked to explain how a vote for Obama helps America more than empowering third parties. This is going to require some background information.
First of all, why would a vote for Gary Johnson “empower” third parties? The answer is a bit mixed. It would not at all empower third parties. It would empower one, single party: the Libertarian Party. This empowerment is addressed in Gary Johnson’s latest ad campaign, “Be the Five Percent,” which explains that by acquiring 5% of the popular vote this election cycle, the Libertarian party will receive federal funds and greater access to the presidential ballots in 2016. This fact was difficult to verify, but I finally found a source that seems to confirm it, to some extent. So it is true that if Gary Johnson receives 5% of the vote, the two-party system will be dealt a blow of sorts.
I am a frequent, open critic of the current state of the two-party system. I hate the partisanship. I hate the incentive structure that is created through this system–one which rewards more extreme candidates. I hate that the plurality of Americans are not represented by either party and thus have no role in the federal legislative process. I have taken some minimal steps toward a future of actively fighting against the two-party system, weakening its power grip. To many, this implies that I would be in favor a third party or third-party candidates. I am not.
Another party would not solve the problem of the unrepresented moderate. Here is a great article about what it means to be moderate by (moderate) conservative David Brooks. The gist of it is that moderates base their political vision on facts and data–observable from history–to make decisions. As the article explains:
For a certain sort of conservative, tax cuts and smaller government are always the answer, no matter what the situation. For a certain sort of liberal, tax increases for the rich and more government programs are always the answer.
The moderate does not believe that there are policies that are permanently right. Situations matter most. Tax cuts might be right one decade but wrong the next. Tighter regulations might be right one decade, but if sclerosis sets in then deregulation might be in order.
Meeting the threshold to put the Libertarian Party on the ballot, then, does nothing toward meeting my goal to see unaffiliated, non-partisans in decision-making roles. In fact, I am of the opinion that the libertarian ideology is among the least flexible, least situational of any I know. Libertarians, as a general rule will answer to cut, to legalize, and to privatize. Their expanded role in our political process would simply mean that there is yet another rigid ideology pushing platitudes and making compromise difficult. Rigidity is the enemy.
Rather than cast a “protest vote,” in the presidential election, I will vote for a candidate who can win within the current system. One I believe in, at that. If you want to end the vice grip of power that the two major political parties hold, I would recommend doing so far outside of the context of a presidential ballot. Take measures to actually reform the current electoral system. Start with your state, as state electoral policy determines primary election formats, procedures required to get on the ballot, and other important electoral issues.
You should also consider any qualified, intelligent non-partisan candidate for a congressional seat if (s)he does not have any views with which you vehemently oppose. I voted for an unaffiliated candidate for the Senate, although in heavily Democratic Maryland, he stands little chance.
But the key here is to start locally, where one vote counts more than it does nationally. Local officials are responsible for creating the state-by-state systems that are rigged toward the parties. Small congressional districts are more-easily moved than nationwide electorates. If there is less partisanship at the state level, and less partisanship in congress, things will move in the right direction. Government reform, cooperation, and non-partisanship need to be prioritized in voting blocs which can be realistically achieved before tackling the largest voting bloc there is. Focusing on a presidential ballot to enact change just isn’t going to get it done.
Tonight was a fun night to love politics. I went to an event where a room full of policy students watched the debate together. There was some mild frustration, there were a lot of laughs, and there were some tense moments that drew audible reactions. And somewhere in the middle of it all, it hit me just how stupid this whole spectacle was.
Look, there are plenty of issues to discuss from the debate. There were plenty of potentially big moments. The fact checkers will assuredly be busy. But does any of it matter? Much as cable news has devolved into entertainment, so too has political discourse–and no longer only from the talking heads. The candidates for the highest office in the land themselves are engaged in entertaining the viewers.
In the first debate, Mitt Romney was “aggressive,” which meant he interrupted. That scored well, so now everyone interrupts everyone–each other, moderators, and I’m pretty sure Obama interrupted himself once, though that may have just been a stutter. Romney said he had binders full of women, and the internet lit up with a facebook page and a blog of memes posted before the debate even ended. Obama said that the gang-bangers should be deported, and facebook newsfeeds and twitter went wild. I’m part of this. I enjoyed it. I thought that it was all pretty hilarious.
Did you see what happened when the candidates got a chance to talk to a Hispanic voter? The one who asked about undocumented workers? Did you catch her name? Because the candidates sure did. They each asked her name. Romney asked, checked, re-checked. Then Obama got his chance, and also checked to ensure he had her name right. We need the Hispanic vote! We better get that name right!
And the bickering. When are we going to learn that the only way to moderate a debate is to bestow upon the moderator the power to turn off microphones? The most blatant abuse was when Candy Crowley stated that she had to move on, and Mitt Romney said, point blank, “No.” That was the trend all night. Talking at each other, over each other, over the moderator, around the topic, off the topic, returning to topics long-since-passed.
Zingers. One-liners. Gaffes. Social media trends. Focus-tested word choice. Oh, the focus-tested word choices. You say “illegal,” I say “undocumented.” The middle class has been “crushed” and “buried.” China “cheats.” The term “good-paying jobs” was big tonight, and has always bothered me. How is that grammatically correct? Good is an adjective. Well is an adverb. If something is describing how something else pays, why don’t you use the adverb? I’m getting off track, and that’s exactly the point.
Tonight, I was a commodity. I was marketed to. Tonight, focus groups and advisers went to work to win my allegiance. And I was not convinced; I was instead entertained. This is similar to when you go to see the latest action movie and within minutes decide that it’s clearly a comedy even though it wasn’t intended to be. “So bad it’s funny,” you might say. Tonight, politics was so bad that it was funny. If only it wasn’t supposed to be so important.