Tag: Electoral College

Done Deal

I know this comes as a shock. I mean, after all, there were appeals for the Electoral College to overturn the election from Martin Sheen and Michael Moore. But, no, the Electoral College vote went … almost as expected:

Donald Trump has surpassed the necessary 270 votes in the Electoral College, the next step in the official process to become President.

Trump received 304 electoral votes to Hillary Clinton’s 224. Six “faithless” electors voted for other candidates, costing Trump two votes and Clinton four. And Hawaii’s electors are still set to meet later Monday, with the state’s four votes expected to go to Clinton.

The results mean Trump — who lost the popular vote by more than 2 percentage points to Clinton — easily staved off a long-shot bid by opponents to turn Republican electors against him.

The Electoral College results will be officially certified January 6 during a joint session of Congress.

(Of course, I’m sure some crazy person will come up with a scheme whereby Congress could overturn the Electoral College.)

There were actually nine faithless electors today, matching the total of all election since 1912 combined. Two Texans voted for Kasich and Paul. Three Washingtonians voted for Colin Powell. One voted for Faith Spotted Eagle. One Minnesota elector and one Maine elector voted for Sanders but were overruled. And one Colorado elector voted for Kasich but was overruled.

And that is kind of amazing. I am a bit hesitant to read too much into the actions of nine people, but electors almost never do this. It was a protest vote, yes, but a protest vote with fire. It is a reminder that the 2016 election was a vote against political insiders and that the public will happily turn on Trump is he turns out to be just another insider in outsider clothing.

Hopefully, this will bring some closure and start to diminish the bad craziness we’ve seen from the Left since November 9. We need an opposition that has at least some of its marbles. And an opposition that is, for example, urging the Electoral College to overturn an election based on anonymous CIA claims that the Russians released some politically embarrassing information on the Democrats does not have its marbles.

How Clinton Failed

Politico has a really good article detailing how Hillary Clinton lost the most winnable Presidential campaign in history:

Everybody could see Hillary Clinton was cooked in Iowa. So when, a week-and-a-half out, the Service Employees International Union started hearing anxiety out of Michigan, union officials decided to reroute their volunteers, giving a desperate team on the ground around Detroit some hope.

They started prepping meals and organizing hotel rooms.

SEIU — which had wanted to go to Michigan from the beginning, but been ordered not to — dialed Clinton’s top campaign aides to tell them about the new plan. According to several people familiar with the call, Brooklyn was furious.

Turn that bus around, the Clinton team ordered SEIU. Those volunteers needed to stay in Iowa to fool Donald Trump into competing there, not drive to Michigan, where the Democrat’s models projected a 5-point win through the morning of Election Day.

Michigan organizers were shocked. It was the latest case of Brooklyn ignoring on-the-ground intel and pleas for help in a race that they felt slipping away at the end.

“They believed they were more experienced, which they were. They believed they were smarter, which they weren’t,” said Donnie Fowler, who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee during the final months of the campaign. “They believed they had better information, which they didn’t.”

The article isn’t long and is worth a read. Basically, Clinton abandoned critical states, putting her faith in models that projected them to be safe because they had a lead of … five whole points. Volunteers were ignored. Literature was never handed out. Door-to-door campaigning, the lifeblood of any political campaign, was seen as passe. It’s incredibly damning of the Clinton campaign and of Clinton herself.

Over the last few weeks, we have been hearing a litany of excuses for why Hillary Clinton lost: it was the Comey letter, it was the Russians, it was Fox News, it was “fake news”, it was the Russians. But there’s a problem with this. Even if you assume that the Comey letter had an impact or the Podesta leaks mattered — huge assumptions, in my view — the race should not have been close enough for them to matter. When the race began, Clinton started with high positives and the entire Democratic Party and media establishment behind her. That was not going to last — Clinton had a long history of bad policy and corruption dating back to Arkansas. But she still should have been able to mop the floor with Trump, who wasn’t clear on whether he wanted to be President and stomped on every political mine in the field. Clinton had her dream candidate and she still lost.

And now we’re seeing why: bad management, poor decision-making and a sense of entitlement to victory. Instead of making sure she had the critical rust belt states in the bag, Clinton got greedy and tried to snatch states like Iowa away, hoping for a landslide. She outgamed herself, withholding resources from Michigan because she hoped she could bluff Trump into not fighting for the state.

(The stupidity of that last can not be overstated. Trump could not win without Michigan. One of the things that got discussed endlessly in the run-up to the election was that Trump has very few paths to victory. He essentially had to run the table on swing states and then steal a few “lean” states away from Clinton, particularly in the Rust Belt. This is, of course, precisely what he did. That Clinton did not throw everything into blocking his only route to victory show not only political idiocy but the kind of basic strategic blundering we saw as Secretary of State and I’m sure we would have seen has she been elected.)

This is not unprecedented. In 2000, Clinton, handed a Senate seat on a golden platter by a popular outgoing Senator, won her race by ten points in a state Gore won by 25. She was losing at points in the race and might have lost on election day had Rick Lazio not faceplanted.

Handed the Presidential race in 2008, she lost to a two-year Senator whose middle name was Hussein. And the reason she lost was the same: taking states for granted, assuming she would win, outgaming herself.

I lived in Texas at the time and it was the first time in many years that Texas was contested. Obama lost the primary but ended up with more delegates because he won the caucuses. I wasn’t a Democrat so didn’t attend the caucuses. But you could see this was going to happen because Obama’s people were fucking everywhere. They were knocking on doors, they were at the polls, they were running commercials. And on election day, they were always reminding people to come back that evening for the caucus. Obama has visited the state earlier. And he didn’t just pop into Austin, give a speech and jet out. He met with people, he shook a million hands and he listened. Obama fought hard and fought well to win Texas, despite everyone’s assurance that no black man could win the state. And that’s why he ended up edging her both in the Texas delegate count and the overall count.

Since 2009, I have lived in Pennsylvania. More to the point, I live in a college town. In 2008, while visiting for job interviews, I saw Obama signs everywhere. In 2012, Obama signs were everywhere and the place was crawling with canvassers making sure they got out the vote. This year … I actually saw more Trump signs. In a college town. I saw one lonely canvasser working our neighborhood the day before the election. In a college town. The Trump people were handing out signs and stickers on campus when Clinton people were few and far between. In a college town. After the election, there were lots of protests. Before … nothing. No big rallies. Few events. Being in academia, almost everyone I know voted for Clinton. But the lack of enthusiasm was palpable.

This is how you lose an election. The Left is making a big deal of the Clinton winning the popular vote by three million votes — a larger margin than many Presidents who won their elections. But they’re missing the point of that. A three million vote advantage in the popular vote should have easily translated to an electoral college victory. It didn’t. And the reason it didn’t isn’t because of shady conspiracies and Russian hackers. The reason is because Trump (and Conway) refused to concede the election before the votes were cast. And Clinton thought she’d already won. And, equally important, she thought just showing up and having a vile opponent was enough.

It wasn’t. It never would have been. She had to fight for it. She had to listen to people in the field. And she had to give people something to vote for. As much as I dislike Trump, he campaigned his heart out, he fought for states that the experts were writing off and, however much I might have disagreed with him, you knew what he was campaigning on. That’s why he’s assembling his cabinet right now and Clinton is wandering in the woods, taking selfies with disappointed supporters.

Addendum: And as long as we’re on the subject …

A lot of people are talking about the Electoral College and whether we should ditch it as outdated (on the days when they are not calling for it to rebel against Trump and save our democracy). Let’s put aside the practical considerations — you would need a Constitutional Amendment or interstate agreement that swing states would never support. Let’s put aside the voter considerations — you would create a race to the bottom as states tried to expand their voting rolls as much as possible. And let’s put aside the political considerations — support for the EC has risen sharply. Here’s the gripping hand about the 2016 election:

I think the Electoral College just functioned exactly as intended.

The idea of the College is to balance the power of states with high populations against those with lower populations. Practically, this has balanced the political power of cities against rural areas. It has prevented Democrats from winning the White House by running up giant margins in cities and forced them to at least pay lip service to rural areas. And vice versa for Republicans.

Right now, everyone is talking about why the rural Rust Belt areas abandoned the Democrats. Suddenly, we’re noticing that the economy is doing well … if you live in a coastal city or have a college degree. We’re noticing that while free trade has benefited the country enormously, specific communities have been hit hard. We’re noticing the epidemic of unemployment and opiate abuse that is crushing small towns.

None of this conversation would be happening without the Electoral College. If this election had been decided by popular vote, Hillary would have coasted to victory on the support of coastal cities and the rest of the country would be left to rot.

A lot has been made of the fact that two of the last five election have ended in an electoral-popular split. And, more to the point, that reflects a growing divide in which Democrats are winning the White House popular vote based on California and New York and losing it everywhere else. This is important. It is telling us that something has gone deeply wrong in our political system.

Trump doesn’t really know how to address this. Cutting off free trade and immigration will just make things worse. But neither does Clinton, who thinks that cities living through an ongoing depression can magically afford $15-an-hour jobs. Until we figure out how to build prosperity for everyone, we will continue to have these divides.

The split between the electoral college and the popular vote is a warning sign of a growing divide in the country. Let’s not kill the messenger.

An Exercise in Irony

So … here’s a question for the class. The polls are tightening, mostly because Trump is gaining from undecideds and Johnson/Stein voters (remember the hysterical Democrats imploring people not to vote for Johnson? Good times.) At the moment, Clinton leads in battleground state polls, although those can sometimes lag national trends. But right, now Nate Silver is projected about a 5-10% chance that Clinton loses the popular vote, but wins the electoral college.

I really hope that doesn’t happen. Trump and his supporters would melt down something fierce. It was bad enough in 2000. But it would provide on point of entertainment: watching the entire political-media complex argue the exact opposite of what they did in 2000. Republicans would scream about the will of the people; Democrats would scream about following the process.

So, here’s the question. A number of states have signed onto the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact in which, if enough states sign on, these states would agree to shift their electoral votes to the popular vote winner in the case of an electoral-popular split. Every single one of these states is a blue state, most of them very blue.

If there is an electoral-popular split this year (or close to it), how fast will those states withdraw from the NPVIC? Which will be the first to bail? Which will be the last state in?

No, Hillary is Not Inevitable

(There’s a delayed Science Sunday coming. Been recovering from proposal deadlines.)

Every day, we are told that Hillary Clinton is going to be our next President and there is nothing that can stop it. Despite growing evidence that Clinton personally took money from people who had business before the government, despite the $16 million the Clintons have made in speeches over the last year and a bit, despite a growing scandal with the Clinton Foundation … she is inevitable. We might as well not even have an election.

One source of this inevitability is the supposed “blue wall”, the long list of states that Republicans simply can’t compete in. Supposedly the Democrats have so many electoral votes locked up in guaranteed blue states, that they could run Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer and win.

I’ve long been suspicious of this claim, since many of these supposedly unbreakable states have happily elected Republican governors and legislatures (hell, Massachusetts just elected another Republican governor). But now Nate Silver demolishes the wall. Looking back at the 2012 election, he find no real electoral advantage for either party:

Republicans, in all likelihood, would have won by similar Electoral College margins if they’d done as well as the Democrats in the popular vote, casting all sorts of cracks in the blue wall. Suppose, for instance, that Romney, rather than Obama, had won the 2012 election by 3.9 percentage points. What would the map have looked like?

It would have looked pretty red. A 3.9-point Romney victory represents a 7.8-point swing from the actual result. So if the swing were distributed uniformly, Obama would have lost every state that he won by 7.8 percentage points or less. That means he’d have lost three “blue wall” states — Minnesota, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin — along with Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio and Virginia.

Silver goes on to point out that there is a blue wall, but it’s different than what most people think. If either party won a massive amount of the popular vote — the way Reagan did in 1984 — the result would not be as huge an electoral landslide. Both the Democrats and the Republicans would still win about 100 electoral votes even if they lost by 20 points because more states are either very red or very blue. Even then, however, I’m dubious. A real electoral implosion could change things even more than Silver anticipates.

(I think we are going to get a close election simply because most elections are close. The parties work pretty hard to align themselves along that 50% axis. After electoral massacres in 1984 and 1988, for example, the Democrats move right and nominated Clinton (who was liberal, but way less liberal than Mondale or Dukakis).)

In terms of 2016, this means that electoral strategizing — i.e., going with a Florida Republican to lock up Florida — is a fool’s game. The Republicans should concentrate on nominating the candidate who is going to win a national election, whether’s that Rubio or Bush or Perry or Walker or whomever.

There’s something else though. I think the effort to pretend Hillary is inevitable is strategic. I think the Democrats and their dogwashers in the media want the Republicans to feel hopeless and helpless, unable to stop the coronation that the Democrats and the media have been waiting for since January 2001. It’s why they pretend this “blue wall” of unbreakable states exists. It’s why they poo-poo every scandal that emerges with Clinton. It’s why they aren’t willing to ask the same questions about Hillary’s health that they were asking about McCain’s or Reagan’s (Clinton in 2016 would be only two years younger than McCain was in 2008 and one year older than Reagan was in 1980).

We’ve seen how these “inevitable” elections have been going for the Left in general (see recent UK and Australia elections) and Democrats in particular. Scott Walker was going to be recalled; instead he’s won three elections in a blue state. The Democrats were going to hold the Senate; instead they lost it. They were going to take back the House; they lost again. Since 2008, Barack Obama is the only real electoral success they’ve had.

That’s what’s going on here. Part of it is wishful thinking: if they pretend Clinton is inevitable, they hope it will make her inevitable. But it’s also conditioning designed to weaken the opposition and weaken the vetting of the presumptive candidate.

Don’t believe the hype. Clinton can be beaten. It won’t be easy — she’s going to be determined and have the press at her back. But it can be done.

Update: Politico has another of these the GOP is finished articles. Their logic is that Republican voters tend to be older (true) and older people are more likely to die (also true), therefore the GOP is dying. Because, apparently, in Politico’s world, no one ever ages and become conservative.

The District Plan

The GOP is moving forward, in several states, with plans to change how electoral votes are allocated. The most recent — passed by the disgusting tactic of waiting until a black Democratic senator was attending the inauguration to shove it through by one vote — is even worse than the plan in Pennsylvania. Under this plan, electoral votes would be allocated to the winner of each congressional district with the remaining two votes going to the candidates who wins the most districts. Jamelle Bouie breaks down the problem with this:

Because Democratic voters tend to cluster in highly-populated urban areas, and Republican voters tend to reside in more sparsely populated regions, this makes land the key variable in elections—to win the majority of a state’s electoral votes, your voters will have to occupy the most geographic space.

In addition to disenfranchising voters in dense areas, this would end the principle of “one person, one vote.” If Ohio operated under this scheme, for example, Obama would have received just 22 percent of the electoral votes, despite winning 52 percent of the popular vote in the state.

This is not even a remotely conservative idea. This is a straight up attempt to win elections by trickery. Under this system, a Republican candidate could score well short of a majority of votes and still win the state. Does that make any sense? Does it sound just and reasonable? Would we be nodding our heads and saying, “that sounds good” if Democrats were doing this?

(Actually, we don’t need to think very hard. When Lani Guinier was nominated for assistant AG, the Republicans objected because she had written in favor of voting systems that were skewed to give minorities more votes than majorities.)

Furthermore, we have talked about the GOP’s problem getting votes from anyone other than white men. Whether this plan is intended to disenfranchise black voters or not is beside the point; that’s the way everyone will perceive it. We could be talking another two or three decades of the GOP getting single digit votes from African-Americans.

I also can’t see how this would pass Constitutional muster. While the states are allowed to pick their electors any they want, Bush v. Gore established the precedent that equal protection applies to votes in a Presidential election (and how fun will that be: to watch liberals cite the hated Bush v. Gore as precedent). So the likely result of this would be a bruising Constitutional fight in which the GOP is arguing for effectively disenfranchising millions of voters.

This is stupid and mindless. If the GOP wants to win elections, rigging the game is not the solution. Putting forward a positive agenda, showing competent management skills and convincing everyone that a conservative agenda is good for them is the way. Chris Christie has pursued this strategy in New Jersey and is now so popular that Cory Booker may aver from challenging him in favor of a Senate Run (this, in turn, has provoked to respond in a way that would certainly be called racist is he were a Republican rather than a senile doddering Democrat).

But, of course, rebuilding conservatism is hard work. It might take five to ten years to pay off. Rigging an election could pay off now.

The biggest problem with the GOP is that everything they have done for the last decade has been oriented around winning today without any thought to the long term. This is why entitlements were expanded under Bush instead of reformed. This is why their attacks on Obama consist of news gotchyas instead of deconstructions of his bad policies (and, not coincidentally, why Obama has thumped them in two elections). This is why our budget process has devolved into a series of self-created crises — the cliff, the debt ceiling, the sequester. This is why the GOP in Virginia thinks that creating a system where a Republican can lose the popular vote but when the electoral — by design, not by accident — is a reasonable response to two electoral defeats.

The GOP used to be about the long term. Until they are again, they will continue to lose elections and they will continue to flounder to advance anything approaching conservatism.

Split Decision

There has been a lot of discussion recently about a potential split between the popular vote and the electoral college this year. Obama is leading in the polls in several critical swing states while Romney has been holding a lead in the national polls (caveat: Nate Silver points out that the math doesn’t work out. If the state polls are accurate, Obama should have a national lead (and indeed, the RCP average is now tied or has Obama with a very slightly 0.1% lead). One set of polls is likely off. Come Tuesday, we’ll find out which ones).

I’d kind of like to see a split this year since it would weaken the President and create the glorious spectacle of every pundit arguing the precise reverse of what he said in 2000. While it does now appear unlikely, it remains possible. And given that we’ve had two such splits in our history, a third will likely happen at some point.

(There is a very tiny chance of an electoral tie as well, which would throw things to Congress, assuming we don’t have any faithless electors. That would, given the composition, result in a Romney-Biden administration; almost like the worst of both worlds.)

I’ve made it clear that I oppose switching to a national popular vote, but we’ve never really had a discussion. So I want to throw this open before Tuesday’s vote. Should we abolish the electoral college? Should we go to a popular vote?

One of the things that make me hesitate is this: to the best of my knowledge, we have never had a national vote. On anything. All three high offices — the House, Senate and the President — are elected at the state level. Amendements are passed by Congress and state legislatures. In fact, reading the Constitution, you can’t help but be struck by how the Founders went to great lengths to avoid anything approaching a plebiscite.

This wasn’t just because a national election would have been difficult in such a large nation in the 18th century. And it wasn’t just federalism speaking, either. They cleared regarded direct democracy as dangerous (as do I). The beauty of a Constitutional Republic is that the people do not always get what they want. Elections do not give us what we want; elections create accountability.

Because we have never had a national vote, creating one is a lot more complicated that just adding the tallies from the states. Different states have different voting laws and that will create some power disparities. States with stricter voting requirement will lose votes relative to more liberal ones. States that don’t worry too much about counting every single Presidential vote because of the huge margin (e.g., Utah) will have to be more strict. And how do you reconcile the widely varying laws on early voting, absentee voting and electronic voting? What happens if online voting becomes a thing?

No, we’re not just talking about having a popular vote. We are talking, in the end, about federalizing the vote. We are talking about creating uniform voting standards, uniform early voting and absentee policies and, most likely, a national voter registry and ID card. In fact, I can not see that national vote would possible be compliant with Bush v. Gore unless it created uniform standards.

Maybe that’s preferable to the 50-state patchwork we have now. But if so, make the case. Why should we abolish the electoral college? Why should we nationalize the vote?