Browsing the archives for the elections category.


The Electoral College: Its Hour Come Round at Last?

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elections, The Constitution

It’s enormously unlikely that the current Russian hacker flap is going to stop Donald Trump from being inaugurated, but if he is stopped, it’s my understanding it can only happen in the Electoral College. So let’s take a look.

Why Is There an Electoral College? The Founders were opposed to electing presidents by popular national vote, mostly because they figured each state would just vote for its own “favorite son.” They considered having presidents chosen by Congress or by state legislatures. They finally settled on Electors, however, who were supposed to be really smart guys who would choose a president based purely on merit, and without consideration of partisan politics.

The best sense of what the Founders were thinking might be gleaned from Alexander Hamilton’s Federalist #68, in which he expounds in his overwritten way that

It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided. This end will be answered by committing the right of making it, not to any preestablished body, but to men chosen by the people for the special purpose, and at the particular conjuncture.

It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.

Hamilton goes on to explain that each state would somehow choose a committee of electors who would convene only once, for one purpose only, and that is to choose a president. In this way this crew would be less subject to being bribed or being under the influence of foreign powers.

The Constitution didn’t specify how the states chose their Electors. I understand that, at first, most of the time they were chosen by state legislatures.

How Was the Electoral College Supposed to Function? In the original wording in the Constitution, Electors were to vote for two people, at least one of whom was not from his state. Then as now, the Electors don’t meet in one place, but within their own states, to vote. The votes were sent in a sealed envelope to the President of the Senate (who would be the sitting Vice President). The votes were to be counted in front of the Senate and House of Representatives. In brief, whoever got the most votes was POTUS and whoever came in second was VPOTUS.

Well, that didn’t last long.  The 12th Amendment, ratified in 1804, provides that Electors vote separately for a president and a vice president. It also provides that if no one candidate receives a majority of all votes (currently the magic 270 number), the House of Representatives chooses the POTUS from among the top three contenders, and the Senate chooses the VPOTUS.

Other than the original provision of voting for one person not from their states, the Constitution places no restrictions on the Electors about whom they can vote for, other than the qualification requirements:

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.

One little archaic constitutional vestige I did not know — to this day, an Elector cannot vote for a president and vice presidential candidate from his own state. One candidate is okay, but not both. So if both the presidential and vice presidential candidates were from Pennsylvania, for example, the Pennsylvania Electors would have to abstain.

And that’s where the U.S. Constitution stands on the matter of the Electors and choosing a president.

The Electoral College Today. Today,  of course, people vote for presidential candidates, and then Electors go through the motions of choosing the POTUS as outlined in the 12th Amendment. That way of doing things evolved pretty quickly in the 19th century, rendering the Electoral College vote into a meaningless, archaic ritual. Lots of amendments have been proposed to get rid of the Electoral College. Obviously, none have gotten very far.

The Electors are chosen by the parties, usually in state party conventions. Some are chosen by state party central committees. A handful of states use other methods — they are appointed by the governor, for example, or even appointed by the presidential nominee him- or herself. The point is that they are people chosen not for their wisdom, but for their loyalty to the party.

There are two aspects of today’s Electoral College that are problematic.

One is the “winner take all” method of choosing Electors that all but two states have adopted. This is not in the Constitution at all, and it’s this factor that makes it mathematically possible for one candidate to have a respectable popular vote majority and still lose the Electoral College. If the Electors were chosen in a proportional way, that’s much less likely to happen. Lawrence Lessig has been arguing that the “winner take all” thing is unconstitutional. However, his argument is based on the Court’s “reasoning” in Bush v. Gore, and there are those who don’t buy it.

Still, while we may be stuck with the Electoral College itself — the less populated states like it, because it gives them a disproportional voice in presidential elections — if someday the winner-take-all practice could be done away with, the Electoral College would more accurately reflect the popular vote.

The other “new” aspect is the binding of the Elector’s votes. Twenty-nine states have made it a felony for an Elector to go rogue and not vote according to his state’s vote. In practice, such “faithless” Electors are very rare and are usually only given a small fine, but they could be penalized more harshly.

Over the years, many constitutional scholars have said that the state “binding” laws are blatantly unconstitutional, and that the Electors must be free to vote as they choose. It was clearly the intent of the guys who wrote the Constitution for the Electors, not the people by popular vote, to choose the president. And while we may think that’s stupid, it hasn’t been amended. The Constitution still says that.

And it was also the clear intent of the guys who wrote the Constitution for the Electoral College to be a bulwark against “cabal, intrigue, and corruption,” as Hamilton put it:

These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils. How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?

This is the very corruption that the Electoral College is supposed to prevent. The masses of the people may be swayed by passions fired up by demagogues, but the wise and level-headed Electors are supposed to be the ones who make the final decision. Or that’s how the Founding Guys imagined it would work, anyway.

If there was ever a time for the Electors to carry out their Constitutional duties and make their own choice for POTUS, this would be it. And if they don’t, then the Electoral College really has utterly failed in the duty it was given.

Blocking Trump wouldn’t necessarily give the election to Hillary Clinton, since the Electors can vote for anybody. If enough of them voted in a way that denied the majority to Donald Trump — say, by choosing Gary Johnson —  the election would go to the House. The House must choose among the three top vote getters. And since we’re talking about the House, that wouldn’t be Clinton. But maybe it wouldn’t be Trump, either.

(For an interesting take on what a mess that could turn out to be, see “Deadlock: What Happens If Nobody Wins” by Laurence H. Tribe and Thomas M. Rollins, from the October 1980 Atlantic.)

I’m hearing a lot of talk on social media that maybe a court could void the election. Courts have voided Senate elections a couple of times, apparently. But I don’t think any court would touch this mess with a thousand-foot pole, especially since the Constitution provides for the Electors or the House to make the final decision in the case of presidents. (And there is no provision whatsoever for re-doing an election, for any reason, which is another rumor I saw somewhere. )

The Electoral College vote is scheduled for Monday, December 19. Chances are Trump will at least get his 270 votes and be inaugurated. But we can dream …

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CIA: Now They Tell Us

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corruption, elections

The Washington Post‘s “Russia” story is getting real traction, in spite of the fact that we sorta kinda knew this for a long time, as far as I’m concerned.

The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.

Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.

“It is the assessment of the intelligence community that Russia’s goal here was to favor one candidate over the other, to help Trump get elected,” said a senior U.S. official briefed on an intelligence presentation made to U.S. senators. “That’s the consensus view.”

Let us be clear that nobody officially is saying that Donald Trump is not the legitimate winner of the Electoral College vote. Hillary Clinton might have lost, anyway, for a whole lot of other reasons. And, again, most of this isn’t new. It was kind of obvious.

Some elements of this story were new, however. And the picture that emerges is dirty as hell.

One is that some time back Russian hackers broke into both the RNC and DNC networks. That the DNC and other Democratic networks had been hacked was public knowledge. But the Republicans have denied all along that their networks had been hacked, which was a lie.

The CIA now confirms that Wikileaks received materials from hackers working for the Russian government and released those materials. The Russian hackers apparently passed only material stolen from Democrats on to Wikileaks, however, which is why the CIA concluded Russia wanted Trump to win.

Further, the CIA presented this assessment to key members of Congress back in September. Democrats wanted the information to be made public; Republicans wanted to quash it. And the chief Republican who blocked release of this information before the election was Mitch McConnell.

You might remember that Donald Trump nominated McConnell’s wife to be Secretary of Transportation.  Stinks, much?

One of the individuals who knew about this intelligence was our old buddy FBI Director James Comey. You might remember that the FBI released a statement a week before the election saying there was no clear link between Trump and Russia, and that the Russian hacking was not part of an attempt by Russia to mess with the election. But Comey was fully aware of the CIA assessment that said otherwise.

Today outgoing Senator Harry Reid called for Comey to resign.

“I am so disappointed in Comey. He has let the country down for partisan purposes. That’s why I call him J. Edgar Hoover. Because I believe that,” Reid told MSNBC’s Joy Reid on Saturday.

Later asked if Comey should resign as FBI director, Reid replied, “of course.” Reid also said that Comey should be investigated by the U.S. Senate and other security agencies of the government.

Some senators — including Republican senators McCain and Graham, to give credit where credit is due — are calling for an all-out Senate probe into this situation. And President Obama has asked the intelligence agencies to give him a full report before he leaves office.

Typically, the yam-elect threw a tantrum.

Mr. Trump, in a statement issued by his transition team on Friday evening, expressed complete disbelief in the intelligence agencies’ assessments.

“These are the same people that said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction,” Mr. Trump’s team said, adding that the election was over and that it was time to “move on.”

Though Mr. Trump has wasted no time in antagonizing the agencies, he will have to rely on them for the sort of espionage activities and analysis that they spend more than $70 billion a year to perform.

At this point in a transition, a president-elect is usually delving into intelligence he has never before seen and learning about C.I.A. and National Security Agency abilities. But Mr. Trump, who has taken intelligence briefings only sporadically, is questioning not only analytic conclusions, but also their underlying facts.

“To have the president-elect of the United States simply reject the fact-based narrative that the intelligence community puts together because it conflicts with his a priori assumptions — wow,” said Michael V. Hayden, who was the director of the N.S.A. and later the C.I.A. under President George W. Bush.

Further, the current frontrunner for the Secretary of State job — a bleeping Exxon CEO with no public sector experience whatsoeverhas extensive ties to Russia.

Tillerson received the Order of Friendship from Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2013. Tillerson’s work with ExxonMobil included a stretch working for Exxon Neftegas Ltd., putting him in charge of the subsidiary’s fields in Russia and the Caspian Sea.

Two years before receiving the award, ExxonMobil won a contract to explore for oil in a Russia-controlled portion of the Arctic Ocean, which was made more economically viable for drilling in part thanks to the sea ice decline that’s followed global warming. Putin himself announced the deal at a meeting in Sochi (where the Winter Olympics would be held the next year).

Tillerson’s stake in ExxonMobil will certainly raise questions at a confirmation hearing. Once Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, the United States instituted sanctions against Russia that froze ExxonMobil’s Arctic agreement. Were those sanctions to be lifted, the deal would probably move forward — making Tillerson’s shares of ExxonMobil stock much more valuable. (The Wall Street Journal noted that he’d probably have to divest from that stock if appointed to run the State Department.)

Bob Cesca wrote last July that the Russian hacking was a bigger scandal than Watergate; I’d say he was right.

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Primal Scream Time

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elections

I woke up thinking of this passage from an article Matt Yglesias wrote for Vox last spring, during the primaries.

But though Democrats are certainly the more left-wing of the two parties — the party of labor unions and environment groups and feminist organizations and the civil rights movement — they’re not an ideologically left-wing party in the same way that Republicans are an ideological conservative one. Instead, they behave more like a centrist, interest group brokerage party that seeks to mediate between the claims and concerns of left-wing activists groups and those of important members of the business community — especially industries like finance, Hollywood, and tech that are based in liberal coastal states and whose executives generally espouse a progressive outlook on cultural change.

Sanders’s core proposition, separate from the details of the political revolution, is that for progressives to win they need to first organize and dominate an ideologically left-wing political party that is counterpoised to the ideological right-wing Republican Party.

Well, Clinton certainly dominated the liberal coastal states, no question. Plus Illinois. And I understand she’s got Minnesota.

There’s a lot of finger pointing going on today, but until someone has time to do an in-depth crunching of the final numbers we don’t know that the third-party candidates made any difference. Jill Stein only got 1 percent of the popular vote. Gary Johnson got 3 percent, but my impression is that his support came more from Never Trump voters than Never Hill voters.

Here’s a graphic I borrowed from the New York Times that I think speaks volumes about what happened yesterday.

There’s your Electoral College loss, folks. The Dems needed most of those upper Midwest “rust belt” states, and she probably was counting on getting most of them. She got Illinois and Minnesota. Michigan hasn’t been called yet, but she’s behind there.

This map is revealing, also:

These are people the Dems have ignored for decades. The GOP hasn’t ignored them, however. The GOP is brilliant at manipulating them, and persuading them that down is up, the sky is orange and liberals are the boogeyman. It’s true that these voters often are not sophisticated thinkers, so they are easy to manipulate. And it’s true that there’s a lot of racism and xenophobia in this crowd.

But the Dems haven’t bothered to reach out to them in any meaningful way in many years. The Dems were too busy mediating “between the claims and concerns of left-wing activists groups and those of important members of the business community,” as Yglesias wrote. White blue-collar rust-belt folks were not part of that picture.

And yesterday those  white blue-collar rust-belt folks screamed out loud, We are still here. We matter. Pay attention to us.  As wrong as I think they are about Trump, I can’t really blame them.

A day or two ago some talking head on the teevee said that most voters couldn’t name five things Clinton stood for, but they knew what Trump stood for. I had said something like that to a Clinton supporter awhile back, and she pooh-poohed the idea and began to rattle off Clinton’s policy positions, which I knew as well as she did. But, I said, I don’t think most people who are not politics junkies are getting that information. And then I was told that if people were too lazy to study Hillary Clinton’s website to learn how wonderful she is, that was their own fault.

Harry Truman wouldn’t have made that mistake.

But the problem isn’t just Hillary Clinton, but the whole attitude of the Democratic Party. We’ve needed them to be an ideologically left-wing party for a long time. We’ve needed them to go to those rust-bucket states and sell people on progressive economics for a long time. And nobody bothered. The only messages received by most voters not in the liberal coastal states are ideologically right-wing messages.

Having spent most of the general election campaign season in Missouri, I can tell you that people here weren’t hearing any reasons to vote for Hillary Clinton. Almost all of the Clinton campaign ads on television here were intended to scare people away from voting for Trump. Obviously, that didn’t work.

A lot of the discontent here is about Obamacare. This is a state that didn’t expand it, of course, so genuinely poor residents don’t get it. And there’s a lot of genuine poverty here, especially in rural areas. I’m not sure people here in Missouri ever understood what Obamacare even is. They believe that whatever is screwed up about the health care system is the fault of Obamacare, because that’s what right-wing media keep saying, and they want it abolished.

I say the single biggest failure of the Obama Administration is its failure to communicate to most Americans what it was doing and why.

Now, a lot of this is a problem with news media going back many years. Most people get their information on television, and you and I know that books and books and books could be written about all the things wrong with television news coverage. It hardly mattered that the New York Times and Washington Post wrote big exposes on Trump as a failed businessman and cheat. None of that reached Missouri. It wasn’t on the television news that most people watched.

But I am old enough to remember when there were was a progressive Democratic vote even in the rural areas. The state went to Carter in 1976 and to Clinton in 1992 and 1996. Now all the Republicans have to do is run oppo ads with the words “liberal,” “Obamacare” and “Clinton” in them, and it’s over.

We’re probably going to be told (if they haven’t said it already) that Clinton under-performed with millennials and nonwhites compared to Obama. I expected nonwhites to come out and vote against Trump, big time, but I could have told them to not count on millennials. In fact, I believe I did say that from time to time.

For the past several years the Democrats have been assuring us that, some day, all the stupid old conservative, bigoted white people will die off and be replaced by younger, more liberal, voters. And then the Dems will be winners!

But now I’m watching the establishment Democrats kiss off a whole generation of voters, telling them to go home and play with their toys and leave politics to the grown ups. Good luck turning those people into Democratic voters in the future, geniuses.

Probably Clinton wasn’t hurt by Stein supporters as much as by left-leaning young people who just weren’t excited enough about Mrs. Establishment to go out and vote for her. And that’s on her, but it’s even more on the Democratic Party establishment that cleared a path for her to get the nomination.

Jim Newell wrote this morning:

The party establishment made a grievous mistake rallying around Hillary Clinton. It wasn’t just a lack of recent political seasoning. She was a bad candidate, with no message beyond heckling the opposite sideline. She was a total misfit for both the politics of 2016 and the energy of the Democratic Party as currently constituted. She could not escape her baggage, and she must own that failure herself.

Theoretically smart people in the Democratic Party should have known that. And yet they worked giddily to clear the field for her. Every power-hungry young Democrat fresh out of law school, every rising lawmaker, every old friend of the Clintons wanted a piece of the action. This was their ride up the power chain. The whole edifice was hollow, built atop the same unearned sense of inevitability that surrounded Clinton in 2008, and it collapsed, just as it collapsed in 2008, only a little later in the calendar. The voters of the party got taken for a ride by the people who controlled it, the ones who promised they had everything figured out and sneeringly dismissed anyone who suggested otherwise. They promised that Hillary Clinton had a lock on the Electoral College. These people didn’t know what they were talking about, and too many of us in the media thought they did….

…The Democratic establishment is a club unwelcoming to outsiders, because outsiders don’t first look out for the club. The Clintons will be gone now. For the sake of the country, let them take the hangers-on with them.

Dems: In future nomination fights, assuming there are any, let the people decide. Oh, and kill the superdelegate thing. Thanks much.

I was wrong to think that Trump was such a terrible candidate even Clinton could beat him, but I wasn’t wrong to predict that the nomination of Hillary Clinton could signal the beginning of the end of the Democratic Party. That I saw pretty clearly. I just didn’t think it would happen this fast.

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Election Return Live Blog

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Bad Hair, elections, Hillary Clinton

Well, folks, hang on to your butts.

Everybody says that Florida will tell the tale. If Clinton hangs on to Florida, Trump is probably shut out, the bobbleheads say.

Indiana and Kentucky already called for Trump. Clinton takes Vermont.

There was a shooting near a polling place in California. No indication the shooting was related to the election.

Rudy Giuliani is on MSNBC saying that Clinton got away with multiple crimes, and Chris Matthews isn’t challenging him to be specific.

(7:30) West Virginia called for Trump. No surprises so far.

Steve Kornacki tells us that Trump is doing better with non-college-educated whites than Romney did four years ago.

South Carolina called for Trump; again, no surprise.

(8:00) Okay, they are calling a bunch of states. Let’s see if I can get it straight.

States just called for Clinton: Illinois, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia.

Tammy Duckworth will be a Senator from Illinois!

Trump picks up Tennessee, Mississippi and Oklahoma.

Marco Rubio re-elected in Florida. Damn.

Florida — 59 percent of precincts reporting, and it’s dead even.

Evan Bayh, centrist Dem Senate candidate, loses in Indiana, MSNBC says.

(8:30) Arkansas called for Trump.

Returns seem awfully slow this year.

New projections — Clinton wins New York. Trump wins North and South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas.

Clinton wins Connecticut.

Florida — lots of votes to be counted in Broward County yet.

(9:30) Trump wins Louisiana.

This is making me crazy.

Fox News has called New Mexico for Clinton, I understand.

(10:00) Trump wins Montana.

Missouri called for Trump.

The fivethirtyeight crew is saying that Republicans probably will keep the Senate.

NBC is calling Ohio for Trump.

Clinton is pulling ahead in Virginia.

Clinton wins Colorado.

Virginia called for Clinton, finally.

Florida called for Trump.

Clinton wins California.

People, this is not looking good. Clinton has to win some states in which she’s behind right now to get to 270. And I doubt she can do it.  I think she’s going to fall short.  Assuming she takes all of the states she’s currently leading, she’s going to be short. She’ll need Michigan — possible, but she’s behind right now — and one other state with at least 5 electoral votes. And I don’t know what state that would be.

So, folks, it looks like we’ll lose this one.

If there’s a possible silver lining here, it is that it’s going to shake up the Democratic Party.

(1:45 am) Some news outlets are officially calling the race for Trump, sorry.

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Live Blog Tonight

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elections

You’re welcome to hang out with me here at Mahablog as we watch returns. I’ll try to get started just before 7 o’clock eastern time.

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This Miserable Election Is Almost Done

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elections

We’ve reached the point in the election that the closing arguments are done, and we’re waiting on the verdict. I plan on spending today and most of tomorrow trying to distract myself from politics as much as possible. I plan to live blog returns tomorrow night and hope some of you will be here.

Here, watch some people being happy.

And here are puppies.

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Comey on New Emails: Never Mind

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elections

FBI Director James Comey on Sunday afternoon sent a new letter to Congress notifying members that after reviewing a new batch of emails to and from Hillary Clinton, the bureau has not “not changed our conclusions that we expressed in July with respect to Secretary Clinton.”

Bleep bleepity bleep.

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Please Make It Stop III

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elections

I’ve sworn off even looking at polls. In less than 72 hours the damn election will be over and the winners declared. Worst. Election. Ever.

Last night’s SNL cold open is worth watching to the end, if you haven’t seen it —

See also an explanation of the anti-Clinton insurgency at the FBI at Vox. And if Trump wins, the insurgency will make the core of the American KGB.

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Please, Make It Stop …

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elections, Hillary Clinton

Just encountered a woman on Facebook who was screaming that Hillary Clinton plans to privatize Social Security.

This particular panic came about because of a headline on an opinion piece in Forbes titled “Clinton Might Be Moving Toward Social Security Privatization” that offered absolutely no evidence of anyone on the Clinton team thinking about SS privatization. Do read it; it’s short. Basically, the author says that Social Security is a mess, and how else will Clinton save it but privatization? Seriously; that’s the argument. I am not making this up.

There’s a lot of regressive stuff I fear Clinton might pull, but that is not one of them. Remember all the crazy we went through with Dubya’s privatization plan more than a decade ago? The more Bush talked about his plan to “reform” Social Security, the less popular the idea got. And that was before the 2008 crash.

Having invested so much political capital in this issue, President Bush embarked on the first of what proved to be a long series of tours crammed with events at which he pitched his plan to the people. It soon became apparent that it would be a tough sell. Within weeks, observers noticed that the more the President talked about Social Security, the more support for his plan declined. According to the Gallup organization, public disapproval of President Bush’s handling of Social Security rose by 16 points from 48 to 64 percent–between his State of the Union address and June.

By early summer the initiative was on life support, with congressional Democrats uniformly opposed and Republicans in disarray.After Hurricane Katrina inundated what remained of the President’s support, congressional leaders quietly pulled the plug. By October, even the President had to acknowledge that his effort had failed.

Since then, Democrats have been running on promises to protect Social Security from the evil machinations of privatizing Republicans. Even Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Bush’s plan would put “Americans at risk of losing their retirement savings with the ups and downs of Wall Street.” The 2016 Democratic Party platform plainly states “We will fight every effort to cut, privatize, or weaken Social Security, including attempts to raise the retirement age, diminish benefits by cutting cost-of-living adjustments, or reducing earned benefits.”

In short, this is an issue in which the Dems have absolutely no wiggle room. And I don’t think they’re so stupid they don’t know that. If on the remote chance Clinton were to offer a Bush-style plan as part of some “grand bargain” with a Republican Congress, the political fallout on the entire Democratic Party would be radioactive.

So, while I distrust Clinton in many areas of policy, privatizing Social Security is very low on my list of Ways Hillary Might Sell Us Out.

And the whole point of that Forbes article was planting that headline in the magazine, so that soft-headed progressives and Greenies would link to it and get hysterical, possibly costing Clinton some votes. It was bait.

Yesterday I linked to an article by Josh Marshall that explains what “oversampling” means to a pollster.

Campaigns do extensive, very high quality polling to understand the state of the race and devise strategies for winning. These are not public polls. So they can’t affect media polls and they can’t have anything to do with voter suppression.

Now you may be asking, why would the Democrats skew their own internal polls? Well, they’re not.

The biggest thing here is what the word ‘oversampling’ means. Both public and private pollsters will often over-sample a particular demographic group to get statistically significant data on that group. So let’s stay you have a likely voter poll with 800 respondents. The number of African-Americans in that sample is maybe going to be 100 people, maybe less. 800 people is a decent sample for statistical significance. 100 is not. So if you’re trying to draw conclusions about African-American voters, levels of approval, degree of opposition or support of a candidate, demographic breakdowns, etc. you need to get an ‘over-sample’ to get solid numbers.

Whether it’s public or private pollsters, the ‘over-sample’ is never included in the ‘topline’ number. So if you get 4 times the number of African-American voters as you got in a regular sample, those numbers don’t all go into the mix for the total poll. They’re segmented out. The whole thing basically amounts to zooming in on one group to find out more about them. To do so, to zoom in, you need to ‘over-sample’ their group as what amounts to a break-out portion of the poll.

In other words, campaigns and parties do not “oversample” demographic groups in order to generate fake poll numbers. That hasn’t stopped half the Intertubes from reposting headlines like WIKILEAKS BOMBSHELL EXPOSES Clinton Campaign and Mainstream Media “RIGGED POLLING”. And the people posting this that I’ve seen are lefties. The links are followed by comments such as “Money talks and if they don’t listen, thee is always the threat of imminent ‘suicide’ to keep witnesses silent.”

I mean, I’m as weary of knee-jerk rah-rah yay for our side as anybody. But this perpetual screaming hysteria is absolutely exhausting. I wish there were nothing on the Web but cats and babies.

In other news — the text of the talk I gave Sunday is posted here.

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The Least of Four Evils

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elections

John Oliver on the fringe candidates, Johnson and Stein.

I’ll be on the road tomorrow; will check in tomorrow night if all goes well.

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