Monday, December 12, 2016

You are overanalyzing this to assuage the repudiation of your reality

When something goes wrong, we always have an inclination to find a single root cause - If only we had done X, Y would not have happened. This is a subset of our larger refusal to engage with the fact that we are embedded in the midst of many large, complex, non-linear, chaotic, dynamic, interrelated systems with multiple points of homeostatic feedback. Politics, governance, the economy, the climate, our sociology, etc. - all are complex systems in their own right and are all interconnected.

In all the post-election analytical wailing and gnashing, one of the more sensible and pertinent observations comes out of Canada in Still stunned at Trump’s win? It’s all in the numbers by Clifford Orwin in the Globe and Mail.

Here in the US, the gliterrati elite are still trying to digest the national repudiation of their ethos and the punditry are still trying to understand how they missed the fragility of the electoral ground.

The electorate faced the choice between a secretive, untrustworthy, frail, establishment candidate with a very thin and mixed track record of accomplishments which included multiple investigations including multiple criminal investigations on the one hand and an energetic, if frenetic, outsider with course language and, to so refined ears, an incomprehensible message, a proclivity to do things any way but the "right way," and the promise of unpredictability.

She had lots of money, the right endorsements, complete media adulation, all the celebrities, all the journalists, all the academics and a battering ram of expectations that she would win. He had self-confidence, and, gradually, sufficient confidence from enough voters in the right places to win.

While his result was commanding (though not in mandate territory), had the election been a few days earlier or possibly a few days later, it might have gone a different direction. Had the weather been better (or worse) in some locations. Had citizen reporting (pneumonia collapse video) or Wikileaks, or Project Veritas not been around to reveal the unseemly realities. If, and If, and If.

But he took the right risks and made the right calls and he scored a remarkable victory that cannot be denied, despite the best efforts of the mainstream media who were so adamant that he could not possibly win in the first place.

The DNC and their allies in the media and academy have been desperately conjuring deus ex machina to explain the inexplicable. All such fantasies are absurd. It wasn't the Russians, the FBI, "Fake News" or any of the other squirrels which have been imagined into being.

There was, immediately following the election, a welter of traditional slicing and dicing of the voting patterns. For those so wedded to identity politics, there were all sorts of unsettling discoveries. Blacks turned out in greater, though still tiny, numbers for the Republican candidate than in the past. Same with Hispanics. White women voted by a significant margin for the "misogynist." White college educated voters went for the candidate of the masses.

In all, I have seen the following groups identified as the groups responsible for his margin of victory: Hispanics, African-Americans, White Women, Blue Collar Men, Low Turn-out millennials, Stay-at-home Democrats, College Educated Whites, etc.

I really, really dislike identity politics. It seems so ungracious, divisive, destructive, etc. I understand its usual utility to politicians and campaigns but I would wish it were beneath us. This time around it is also uninformative. The slicing and dicing of the data tells us virtually nothing.

This was, despite the solid 306 electoral vote victory, a relatively close election. It doesn't take much of a swing in dozens of different combinations of groups and regions in order for there to have been a different outcome. And that's what so much of the analysis seems to miss. There was no single cause. Lots of things went right for Trump and many things went wrong for Clinton.

Orwin captures this:
According to the exit polls, 88 per cent of avowed Democrats voted for Hillary Clinton and 89 per cent of avowed Republicans for Mr. Trump. Those leading Republicans who had repudiated Mr. Trump ended up with elephant egg on their faces. It’s a two-party and highly partisan country. (Mr. Trump triumphed among independents, 46 per cent to 42 per cent.)

There was not, overall, any popular upsurge for Mr. Trump. He received about as many votes as Mitt Romney in 2012. Mr. Trump’s votes were just better distributed. He lost Romney voters he could afford to lose (in no-hope states like California and New York, for example). He won Obama voters that Ms. Clinton couldn’t afford to lose, in the “Blue Wall” states of the industrial Midwest, in Iowa and in North Carolina. The surge of white working-class support for Mr. Trump, in urban and rural areas alike, was indeed crucial to his victory.

Was this then the decisive factor in the election? Well, not exactly. It was necessary for a Trump win, but not sufficient. He still had to do better with black and Hispanic voters than Mr. Romney.

He did. With Barack Obama off the ticket – and Ms. Clinton on it – higher percentages of both groups voted Republican last month. Black voters helped Mr. Trump even more by staying home. In crucial Michigan and Wisconsin, Ms. Clinton received an estimated 129,000 fewer of their votes than Mr. Obama, more than Mr. Trump’s combined margin of victory in the two states.

In so close an election presenting a puzzle of so many bits and pieces, we can’t point to any one as decisive. Each, like a winning basket at the buzzer, is so only in the context of all the others, any of which can therefore claim to be as decisive as it. (The first basket counts as much as the last.) It just happened to add up to a narrow Trump victory, in the Blue Wall states and overall.
There is no single root cause. There is no single group responsible. Just the conjunction of a poor candidate in a difficult environment (flat economy, plunging labor force participation rates, rising urban crime, shrinking life spans, increasing debt, rising global tensions, etc.) running against a talented outsider willing to tear up the rule book.

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