Blame Where Blame Is Due

I began this post with an anecdote about a restaurant manager who sat in a booth studying spreadsheets while the restaurant was in chaos and failing to get food on the tables. This article from the Washington Post made me think of it again. Apparently the Clinton campaign was being run by a computer algorithm named Ada.

According to aides, a raft of polling numbers, public and private, were fed into the algorithm, as well as ground-level voter data meticulously collected by the campaign. Once early voting began, those numbers were factored in, too.

What Ada did, based on all that data, aides said, was run 400,000 simulations a day of what the race against Trump might look like. A report that was spit out would give campaign manager Robby Mook and others a detailed picture of which battleground states were most likely to tip the race in one direction or another — and guide decisions about where to spend time and deploy resources.

The use of analytics by campaigns was hardly unprecedented. But Clinton aides were convinced their work, which was far more sophisticated than anything employed by President Obama or GOP nominee Mitt Romney in 2012, gave them a big strategic advantage over Trump.

So where did Ada go wrong?

About some things, she was apparently right. Aides say Pennsylvania was pegged as an extremely important state early on, which explains why Clinton was such a frequent visitor and chose to hold her penultimate rally in Philadelphia on Monday night.

But it appears that the importance of other states Clinton would lose — including Michigan and Wisconsin — never became fully apparent or that it was too late once it did. …

… Like much of the political establishment Ada appeared to underestimate the power of rural voters in Rust Belt states.

There are Democrats in Michigan, right? Did the Clinton campaign not speak to actual human beings outside the Beltway?

18 thoughts on “Blame Where Blame Is Due

  1. This sounds like a classic GIGO computer problem. Garbage in, garbage out, but the operators tend to give the GO c

  2. Credence because it pops out of a computer. We know the polls, for whatever reason, were wildly off this time around. That sort of thing would be the GI part.

  3. I live in the Mitten
    absolutely no push here
    dumb shits
    Bernie took Michigan
    by total surprise
    they had Clinton
    by 20 points
    ADA sucked during
    the Primary
    and it still blows now
    I blame Kildee
    fucking family thinks
    they are entitled
    I went to the local college
    talked to the rebellion
    here in Flint
    they are clueless
    Home of the sit downers
    now were
    the fucking lay downers
    she needed
    a black running mate
    so many ifs
    been singing
    the Bewitched
    tune iffin
    then guns and roses
    sweet child of mine
    at the end when
    he screams
    where do we go now
    what do we do!

  4. Why talk to real people and get their opinions and perpectives, when an algorithm tells you what you want you hear?

    Politics is a retail game.
    But that doesn’t mean that you limit your politicking to retail computer stores like Apple or B&H, and depend on Geek Squad for help!


  5. Michael Moore said something in an interview regarding Michigan. Apparently Obama visited Flint some months back and drank a glass of water on TV. Moore says that this was a stab in the heart to the residents of Flint, whose pipes are still not fixed and whose water was still being poisoned when that visit took place. He further reported that he saw depressed turnout on election day, much of which he attributed to that “stab in the heart.” By any chance, douglas chapple, did you happen to see the drink of water that Moore was alluding to? Do you think that this had the impact that he estimated it had?

  6. Remember to factor in vote suppression. Greg Palast has reported serious shenanigans involving “Cross Check”.
    There was also interference from Russia and the FBI.

  7. This was a race of lesser evils. Clinton sure ran that way, with her pitch primarily focused on why Trump was bad.

    When its evil vs evil, the winner will be “the most evil.” Trump certainly was, and he won.
    Not to say that Clinton should have gotten down in the gutter with him, but if all you’re going to do is talk about how bad your opponent is, “going high” while doing it is like bringing a butter knife to a machine gun fight.

    Comey, Putin and the media notwithstanding, given the numbers, this was a winnable race and a missed opportunity. Had Clinton paid more attention to people on the ground in MI and WI instead Ada, they might have pulled it out.

  8. Chaos Theory

    the branch of mathematics that deals with complex systems whose behavior is highly sensitive to slight changes in conditions, so that small alterations can give rise to strikingly great consequences.


    In other words, the spreadsheets and algorithms won’t work until the systems settle down. And that’s not going to happen until we get the money out of politics. The rubes are tired of being swindled by both parties. It’s chaos time.

  9. I wonder if it would have made any difference at all if the Dems, when WikiLeaks began to leak, had brought out what Julian Assange and his organization did in places like Belarus, where they gave Belarus’ intelligence crucial documents revealing the names of dissidents who had made contact with our diplomats trying to get help. Assange, after all, said of those Afghans who helped our forces at the risk of their own lives, that it served them right to be killed.

    The point would have been make WikiLeaks a byword just as the October surprises were beginning to come out. They never even tried. This story would have made no difference to the economically distressed coal miners and laid-off workers in the Rust Belt, but it might have forced the Hillary haters to confront the fact that Julian Assange hates America, as shown by what he said about the Afghans and the Taliban.

    The Belarus story was at . Maybe it would have had an impact. Anyone think it would have?

  10. Ed… I don’t think so. My belief is that the majority of Americans aren’t interested enough to dig below the surface to process complex information. They respond to simple messaging..sound bites.
    When I say that they are not interested enough I don’t mean that they don’t care about our country or the way we are governed..I mean it in the sense that they have other concerns that are more pressing in their lives. I happen to be at a stage in life where I have the time to while away hours pursuing backstories and building an understanding of what I’m hearing on the surface. I don’t believe the majority have that luxury or that desire.
    To buttress my belief..go to yahoo news and read the comments section. On some news stories they’ll generate over 4,000 comments with most of them being so inane and shallow that it makes one wonder if they are computer generated comments from a wingnut algorithm.

  11. Us Programmers have an alternative version of GIGO:
    “Garbage In, Gospel Out”.

    Ed: no, I don’t think HRC would have gained even one (net) vote by attacking WikiLeaks as being anti-American.

    More Geekery: “ADA” is presumably named after Ada Lovelace, the woman who pretty much invented programming languages a century before we had computers. Most fun way to learn more about her (and Babbage, the guy who got most of the credit) is here:

    I find it interesting that the Romney campaign was also mislead by bad software into thinking that they would win. In both cases, it’s possible that the software Vendor(s) were complicit in causing the results. Maybe I’m just paranoid, but 30 years of bit-pushing has convinced me that “Network Security” is an oxymoron.

  12. Geekery is partly responsible for why we lost, the hubris often associated with the smarter than thou being a root cause. That seemed to have been rife within the Clinton camp. (And I was a C/MS Basic programmer!)

    And that’s the problem, the people who likely would have voted for us don’t give a rat’s behind about all that stuff. The geek spews tech and is deluded to think its impressive to all within earshot, but to that audience, they neither understand nor care.

    Why not just straight up, old school retail politics? Get out in the community, find out what people’s problems are, craft simple message to speak to it (bring back jobs!) rally folks at the precinct level, cultivate community leaders, hold town halls, and go door to effing door, ask for the vote and get them to the darn polls!!! That was the very thing dems didn’t do in Michigan and elsewhere, and it would have been the difference.

    Oh yeah, and every time the GOP clown caucus gums up the works in Congress, just because, the dems need to stop this maddening habit of blaming “congress.” Just tell the damn people who’s responsible — republicans, so they know.

    It just amazes me the communication deficiencies we have, but it all comes down to common sense: tell people what the problem is and who’s responsible, ask for their support and their vote, period.

    I could effin scream!

  13. Been at the receiving end of a bad software product. Energetic salesman… ignorant management… “Bill, make it go.” Bill finds the software severely lacking. Bill gets blamed by ignorant management because computers/software are never wrong. New guys put on software, even worse results. Management needs a scapegoat, blame Comey.

  14. Jeff Seesions has been named to be AG.
    JAYZOOOOOOS (Sobbing) Keeeeeeeeeeerist on a burning cross!!!

    I guess Foghorn Leghorn was too smart and liberal.

    The horrors now accelerate!

  15. Swami, computer-generated chatbots played a part.

    SAN FRANCISCO — An automated army of pro-Donald J. Trump chatbots overwhelmed similar programs supporting Hillary Clinton five to one in the days leading up to the presidential election, according to a report published Thursday by researchers at Oxford University.

    The chatbots — basic software programs with a bit of artificial intelligence and rudimentary communication skills — would send messages on Twitter based on a topic, usually defined on the social network by a word preceded by a hashtag symbol, like #Clinton.

    Their purpose: to rant, confuse people on facts, or simply muddy discussions, said Philip N. Howard, a sociologist at the Oxford Internet Institute and one of the authors of the report. If you were looking for a real debate of the issues, you weren’t going to find it with a chatbot.

    “They’re yelling fools,” Dr. Howard said. “And a lot of what they pass around is false news.”

    The role fake news played in the presidential election has become a sore point for the technology industry, particularly Google, Twitter and Facebook.


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