How About “Frighteningly Unpatriotic” as a Label for the Trump Operation’s Newly Revealed Behavior

Obviously, the astonishing developments of the last few days remove from the Trumps any intent or mens rea defenses.  All that is left is that “nothing happened,” which in politics, or in adultery, does not really get you very far.

The developments have also caused the first upswing in  the use of the word “treason.”  There may well be a legal case, perhaps ultimately a compelling one, but for the target population of traditional low information Republicans, it may be a wall too far right now.

So let me suggest that the concept we should be pushing is “patriotism,” or rather the astonishing lack of it.  How can anyone truly patriotic, if and when approached by a foreign and hostile power offering partnership in interfering with our sacred democratic election process, do anything other than say “no,” and then call the FBI.  Nor, would we expect any patriot of another country to do anything other than that country’s equivalent.

Obviously, such an idea never occurred to anyone in the Trump operation.  But, I am sure that the vast majority of Trump voters, while happy to get hear of dirt on Hilary, would not want to be in partnership with Russia to get that dirt.  They are better and more patriotic people than that.

So I would experiment with phrases like “frighteningly unpatriotic to even consider participating with Russia to undermine our election system,” or “at best shockingly unpatriotic and maybe at worst treasonous behavior.”

The point is to use words that resonate with the Republican base.

 

 

Polls Say Trump Voters Are Happy With Him — But We Know Trump Voters Can Not Easily and Reliably Be Polled

There has been a lot of reporting of how Trump has not lost much support of those who voted for him.

But do we know how reliable the self-reporting of prior voting behavior is.  I wonder if anyone has been checking if the self-reporting of Trump voting is consistent with the actual votes.

We know hat Trump voters are low education, we know that they are often hard to get to answer polls, and we suspect that they may be less prone to tell the truth (at least to pollsters.)

So there may be lots of hidden dissatisfied Trump voters out there.  I remember the moment during Watergate when Nixon’s reputation became so poisonous that more people remembered that they had voted against him than for him.

If this theory is right, it holds particular danger for Republlicans facing reelection in 2018, because it will make it harder to track the Trump voters whose reason for turning against a Republican incumbent is his or her support for Trump.

Worth keeping an eye on.

 

More Silver Linings in the Changed Political Process

This is the second of my posts trying to see the additional positive opportunities for the future that may be offered by the disruptions of the recent election.

The fact is that Trump, by tearing up the limits of prior political discourse may make it much easier for future candidates to “tell truth to power.”

Some examples of approaches that are now far less out of the mainstream for rhetorical questions by candidates or serious ones by the press, are:

Being much more explicit about the hypocrisy of candidates who change their positions with the wind.

Being much more direct in pointing out the implications of candidates personal interests in specific policy outcomes.

Being much more critical about the overall functioning of the political and economic system.

So, imagine these lines four years ago, and four years into the future.  Would they have been acceptable in the past, and will they be now?

Ask him what stocks he owns in health care — how much will he earn from this change!

Why is he so frightened of gay people?

Why does he get such a kick out of interfering with other people’s sex lives?

So, sir, if you are not influenced by campaign money, why do people give it to you?

Can you honestly say that you have NEVER been influenced in any way at all by campaign money?

People have died.  You are a killer.

Why are you so angry?  Why do always appeal to the very worst in people?  Do you see a psychiatrist?  Has anyone suggested you do?

Did you tell you wives about your affairs?  Would you tell the American people when you break promises you have made to them?

How did you get so rich? 

Not hard to go on and on.

Now, it may be that for complex political reasons some of these may do more harm than good.  Or it may be that some of these would provide rhetorical rebuttal opportunities that we would not want to provide.

But the fact is that these possibilities now have to be analyzed, whereas before they were just outside the realm of political discourse.

I am just not sure anything is beyond the pale anymore, and we have the opportunity to be much more creative.

The Globalization of Elections Will be a Great Thing — Provided We Survive This Awful First Phase

The digital international interference in our election — ghastly and disastrous though it is — is just the first phase on a process of the globalization of the democratic and political processes.

If we start with the obvious assumption that people in all countries now have enormous interests in the results of elections in other countries, add to it the nearly as obvious assumption that the more they realize that, the more they will expect to have a way of communicating that, you very quickly get to the idea that the international system needs to build ways that those views can be communicated to voters in each country.

Without it any way condoning Putin’s behavior, or certainly Trump’s two-faced encouragement of it, nonetheless, seeing it as an expression of that desire to be heard by a highly powerless and frightened country, may help us think of long-term ways of ensuring that cross national voices are heard.

Of course, any such approaches have to be transparent, truthful, multi-lateral, and respectful — all qualities in much shorter display than they should be.

But imagine for a moment that a mechanism had existed for Russian voters to communicate to their US equivalents their of course overblown and hopelessly manipulated fears for Russians in the Stalin-Diaspora.  Maybe those fears would then have been less subject to manipulation and hysteria.  Of course, it would have been necessary for Russian voters to have known that the fears had been communicated, and at least to some extent, heard.  I wonder also how well the working class voters in the UK who carried Brexit knew what those similarly situated in the EU, many of whom they must have met in their now cheap European holidays, felt about the issue.

There is an interesting, but failed, precedent for this.  Back in 2004, the Guardian organized a project which encouraged Brits to write to Clarke County Ohio voters (cold communication), expressing their concerns.  The experiment backfired, with the Republicans making hay with the supposed interference.  Most Republicans appear to have been more sensitive about such things in those days!  (Maybe they are less concerned about covert involvement than transparent efforts.)  Looked at from the non-US point of view, of course, that over-reaction would have shown the rest of the world that the US was contemptuous of the views of outsiders.  Again, without justifying the conclusion, such a feeling would reinforce the sense that the only way to influence  US elections is covertly.

So getting Americans used to the idea will have to be a critical component of any strategy.

Some first thoughts on ways of moving forward in the short term might be:

Having Americans living abroad reaching out to people in their host countries and systematically sharing what they hear of what people want from the US with their networks and even in a new special public forum.

Similarly, encouraging those with family abroad to solicit the views of family and share them in such a forum.

Much better cross-national polling, with explanations of countries strongly held views and explanations for those views.

General encouragement of e-mail and other communication across borders — not in one direction, but reciprocally and multi-laterally, with a particular emphasis on linking people with similar backgrounds who would tend to trust each other.  (Much easier now with translation software.)

Having a televised Presidential debate before an international audience, and with the questions submitted by that audience.  It would be a great opportunity for grandstanding, but also a wonderful test of how candidates dealt with all the challenges of that environment.  Imagine to the message to the world about our understanding of our international responsibilities.

Having the various processes by which governments consult the public be expanded to welcome international views.  It is hard to imagine the incoming administration adopting such processes, but not so hard to imagine some state governments, such as those of California, dong so.  Indeed, to think of a concrete example, the California Courts adjudicate cases all the time involving those outside the US, particularly family cases.  Would it not make sense for the California Courts, in the process of soliciting opinions from their user, to listen to to out of country users?

That is all about communication.  In the long term, we need globalized institutions that provide reassurance to voters in all countries that their interests will be protected.

 

 

 

 

 

Now Trump Owns Every Job Loss — Even Before He Is Sworn In.

Initially, I was worried by the report that Trump’s Carrier intervention is earning high approval.  But even setting aside the fact that the set up of answer choices suggests that the result is more rejection of traditional Republic orthodoxy about non-intervention in the economy, the long-term expectations set up huge problems for Trump.

Because from now on, every job loss leads to the question to the President-elect, and then the President — did you try to intervene on this one, did you succeed, if not why not, what did you offer/threaten?  Also, why did you do this for Carrier workers in Indiana, but not for me?

Given that these are long term economic forces, it’s the King Canute story but the other way around.

It also reminds me of the story of how Bill Clinton always wanted to go to Wall Street and ring the stock market opening bell.  And his staff would say, “but what if the market goes down that day?”

 

 

For White Voters, It Was Education, Stupid

Nate Silver focuses on education’s impact on the result of the election, and on polling error.

The first conclusion: Education was almost everything in explaining the results of the race. Donald Trump substantially improved on Mitt Romney’s performance among voters without college degrees — especially white voters without college degrees. Hillary Clinton somewhat improved on President Obama’s performance with college-educated voters. The link between education levels and the shift in the vote is robust, even when controlling for other factors, such as income levels.

As the bottom of those links says:

First, it’s clear from the exit polls that for white voters, every bit of extra education meant less support for Trump. That is, it wasn’t just a matter of attending college or getting a degree. While much has been made of the college and non-college divide (which is stark), Trump actually won whites who earned only a bachelor’s degree by a fairly wide margin. Just as big a gap was between the votes of those who graduated from college and those who went to graduate school. The latter group supported Clinton in much larger numbers.

And, with respect to polling, going back to the top linked and quoted post:

In the 10 states with the largest share of white voters without college degrees, Trump beat his polling average by an average of 8 percentage points — a major polling miss. But in the 10 states with the lowest share of white voters without college degrees, Clinton beat her polls by an average of 3 points (or 4 points if you count the District of Columbia as a state). Overall, the correlation between the share of white non-college voters in a state and the amount by which Trump overperformed (or underperformed) his polls is quite high.

Following a complex regression, Nate concluded:

The share of non-college white voters was still a highly statistically significant predictor of the polling error, although Romney’s performance in 2012 was too.

Nate concludes that to reduce the reduce the error caused by likely under sampling of less educated voters:

But most pollsters apply demographic weighting by race, age and gender to try to compensate for this problem. It’s less common (although by no means unheard of) to weight by education, however. As education levels increasingly cleave voters from one another, more pollsters may need to consider weighting their samples accordingly.

I am unable to resist the point that if it turned out that more educated non-white voters voted more like white voters in general, surely some commentators would be advocating for limiting the franchise for non-whites to those with with more education.

Focusing Research To Support an “Appropriate Unrigging” Agenda By Getting Beyond Symptoms

If I am right that our change strategy has to be based on understanding how Trump voters and potential Trump voters think about the term “rigging,” then we need to be doing research that shows how and why the system is rigged, and for whom.

My own personal feeling that much of the problem is that research, after currently being mediated through the media, ends up reporting on symptoms, but not on causes and dynamics.  For example, the recent numbers on suicide, health and life expectancy in declining counties did get widely reported, but I bet they made it through as just that, leaving the impacted population to fill in their own “low information” explanations, that probably focused on external threats, (drugs and foreign competition), rather than lack of opportunity caused by American corporate decisions, lack of health care caused by Republican de-funding, etc. (That hypothesis in itself would make a fascinating research project)

While we can not reshape the media, at least in the shot term, I fear, we can start to do research that focuses not so much on the symptoms, but on government and corporate behavior, with symptoms as only the afterthought, and with analysis of the mechanisms of the impact that causes those symptoms.

We should be conducting focus groups and testing messages that are specifically not about getting short term support for specific changes, but getting insight into people’s understanding of underlying dynamics and finding what would disrupt or replace those understandings.

For example, this paper from the FTC on big data raises many questions about the possible discriminatory and exclusionary impacts of big data.  I would suggest that these impacts might include pricing policies that have discriminatory impact on the declining county areas, others that make it harder for people from those areas to apply for jobs, or even get health care assistance online.

So the research needs to be about the direct line from the corporate behavior, in this case the use of big data, to the impacts that the population of those areas feel.

An economist would say these big data techniques help make markets even more perfect.  Others might experience them differently.  The point is for research to provide the information and does not allow victims to be set against each other.