We Need the Voter Fraud Investigation — Assuming It is Fair and Real

Its hard not to be freaked out by Trump’s call for a voter fraud investigation, and to worry that it might lead to more suppression efforts.

But I ask you to think forward four years, and where we will be likely be with a President who has just been defeated in the election, and is now publicly doubting the result, and is suggesting that he should not leave.

We would like to hope that Republican colleagues would shut that down, but given their repeatedly demonstrated inability to resist the lures of craven self-interest, I find it hard to be confident about that.  (It is true that so far they have not gotten onto this particular anti-fact bandwagon, but not at much risk.)

Obviously, such a study/investigation would have to be truly bi-partisan and fact based, and willingness to engage in such a process, also critical to restore the overall legitimacy of our political process, should be a test of ability to transcend narrow interests.

If such a process were successful, it might be a model for other shutdowns of fact-free expeditions.

P.S. I have to emphasize that this assumes that such a project would be open, fair and real.  I had added the last qualification to the title to make this clear. (added Jan 26, 2017)

Official Report on Russian Hacking Recommends Actions by Organizations

In order to understand what is happening in the world, everyone should look at the new DHS/FBI Report on the Russian hacking.  It is here.  This para introduces the chilling facts:

This Joint Analysis Report (JAR) is the result of analytic efforts between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). This document provides technical details regarding the tools and infrastructure used by the Russian civilian and military intelligence Services (RIS) to compromise and exploit networks and endpoints associated with the U.S. election, as well as a range of U.S. Government, political, and private sector entities. The U.S. Government is referring to this malicious cyber activity by RIS as GRIZZLY STEPPE.

The document lists extensive steps that organizations should take to protect themselves and to check for attacks.  While most of us probably do not think of ourselves as part of this world, we all need to be vigilant, if only because of the stakes.  The more active, the more potentially at threat.

“Loose systems sink democracy.”

First Thoughts on the CIA Finding — We Need A Roberts Commission and Beyond

While there is a long history of countries (including ours) finding ways to mess with their opponent’s political system, this is sui generis, and leads to a thousand thoughts on where this takes us and leaves us.

The Threat of Illegitimacy and a Response

This is, actually,most parallel to the Kennedy assassination, in which fears of external influence were deeply believed, and deeply destabilizing.  President Johnson prevailed upon Chief Justice Earl Warren to take leadership of the Commission he established because he believed that Warren’s institutional and personal credibility would resolve doubts.  While the effort was far from fully successful, at least it was sufficiently so as to maintain the stability o our political system.

We need an equivalent non-partisan, completely credible, and fully supported process.  If Chief Justice Roberts can not be trusted, then we need a new Chief Justice, although I suspect that he is sufficiently an institutionalist that he can be trusted.  Given the increasing fear developing in the “traditional” GOP about this whole issue, it may well be that they would go all in.  Trump of course, could not b part of it, nor his minions, rather however it is set up, it must be done so all the agencies cooperate, without intervention from the White House.  I suspect that this has to be set up and in place before the inauguration.  I suspect that this first Commission would focus only on getting the facts out.

Assuming that Election Impact is Found, There are Ways to Shape US-Internal Consequences

What the consequences for our government leadership are to be has to be depends on the facts.  The problem will be getting in place a system capable of responding to the findings of the Commission.  Assuming that the finding is that there was an effort to get Trump in, and that we can not be sure if this is a cause-in-fact of the result, we are in a terrible place, although one compromise might then be that the party result remains the same, but a new Republican has to be chosen, untainted by any whiff of involvement, encouragement, or lack of concern.  The problem in terms of getting rid of him may be that Trump will not have committed an impeachable offense.

If, on the other hand, the result is found to be caused by the intervention — not impossible given current statistical tools — then may we need an urgent constitutional one time re-write to permit a new election.  That would need a broad national consensus, but if all the prior presidents joined in support, maybe it it could happen.  (And, since we know that Reagan is immortal, his ghost could chime in.)

Of course, it is also not impossible that an “innocent” President Trump would none the less commit an impeachable offense in the attempt to cover up the illegitimacy of his presidency.  It is also possible, as discussed here, that the “unable” language of the 25th Amendment would apply, particularly if Trump’s tendency to be out of touch with reality were exacerbated by the investigation and deterioration of this political situation.

Really Weird Things Could be Found

Supposing, for example, that it turned out that the emails found on Weiner’s computer that led to the FBI intervention in the election had been placed there by the Russians.  Or that hacking had created conflicts between Republican Presidential candidates that had not been there before.  (To think of more ideas, just speculate about what Nixon’s gang would have done if they had had high level hacking capacity.)

The Long Term Threat Goes Far Beyond Elections

Anyone in the leadership elite should be terrified by this.  Think what it threatens to corporations, banks, universities, the media, etc.  They are subject to just the same kind of disruption and potential blackmail as the political players at issue.  They are already deeply fearful of Trump, and this might give them a bit more spine.

The US is Ultimately Less Vulnerable Than Authoritarian Countries

While the interrelated epidemic of false news has made it harder to know what to believe, countries are far more vulnerable to this kindof thing when people basically don’t believe anything they get from media — which is what happened when you have centrally controlled media.  While their elections are not so much subject to disruption than ours, simply because they do not have them in any real sense, the economy, the inner network of real decision makers, the academic and media worlds, are totally subject to interference.  Those countries are not controlled not by a publicly derived and legitimated consensus, but by complex signals in a highly uncertain world, which if properly penetrated, can be caused to collapse.

Protecting Ourselves in the Future

Largely ignored is the simple truth that the best defense again hacking is transparency.

P.S. I would particularly urge you to share this with your networks, particularly anyone you know in media.

Understanding the World Election Pattern

The second Austrian election confirms the overall world pattern.

When the vote splits authoritarians against anti-authoritarians, the anti’s win.  But when the anti-authoritarians, for whatever reasons, split between the anti-authoritarians and the authoritarians, the authoritarians win.

So in the US, enough anti-authoritarians, for reasons of anger, message, ignorance, voted for Trump, he won, despite clear authoritarian tendencies and threat.

Hopefully this is a simple warning to the world.  In votes that are about the future of democracy, anti-authoritarians have to do everything they can to attract all the anti-authoritarians, even at the price of short-term and ultimately less important issues.

If you stick to to those policies, you may be effectively abandoning the democratic system, and they you lose the policies anyway.

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.

Clinton Campaign Is Mistaken Officially to Support Wisconsin Recount

A recent article pointed out that the successful O’Neil strategy to contain and defeat Reagan was to give him rope, and to not defeat the agenda in the short term in Congress through control of the calendar.

I think that Hilary officially joining the Wisconsin recall campaign will seem like a sour grapes strategy.  If the recall delegitmates or, less likely reverses, the result, Clinton gains regardless of her formal position, I would think.

But by continuing to make it a Trump Versus Clinton narrative, you only delay the time at which the public will turn from its (non-plurality) choice.

If, even worse, this means that Clinton has not yet recognized how bad the family is as the carrier of the democratic and Democratic message, we are in for an even tougher time.  Sorry to be blunt.

The Rigging Argument Cuts Better the Other Way

If I were Republicans I would be very leery about saying that the election is “rigged.”

Actually, one part of our system IS clearly rigged, and that it the significant advantage given the Republicans in the House by state by state gerrymandering.   That it has been sanctioned by a majority of one or two votes in the Supreme Court does not change that fact.

So, an exploration of the “riggedness” of the election is a very dangerous thing, not just for democratic legitimacy, but for the Republican party.

Remember that Nov 8.