I started writing about the alarming hire of Steve Bannon back in August when it was announced. The critique is not manufactured partisan spin after the election. Many Republicans were horrified by the hire in August. Where was the media back then? Why was this not a bigger deal during the campaign? Here is what I wrote on Aug. 18 upon hearing that news:
“This is the bottom line of the Trump campaign shake-up:
This campaign is going to get even uglier and nastier. Bannon is a bare-knuckle Tea Party brawler who runs right-wing Breitbart Media, and he has been pushing for more anti-Clinton attacks, conspiracy theories, and white nationalism.
Bannon has been calling Trump [by phone] this summer to urge more “bare-knuckles brawl,” “brutal fights,” “gloves off,” full-scale populism/nationalism. Trump decided that the Manafort people were trying to restrain him and keep him on script, but Bannon wants to “Let Trump Be Trump!” Bannon is also known for wanting to burn down the GOP establishment, so that should be fun.
Insiders expect Bannon to push for Monica’s-blue-dress attacks and old Clinton conspiracy theories. Breitbart himself called Bannon the “Leni Riefenstahl of the Tea Party.”
Republicans say giving Bannon access to classified briefings is “insane,” and they want Obama (or the FBI or State Dept.) to move to block Trump’s briefings. Former Breitbart editor Ben Shapiro wrote that under Bannon’s leadership, “Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website… pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.” He said that Breitbart under Bannon embraced “a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism.” I have followed Breitbart closely since the 2008 campaign. It started out as a right-wing news source with a pro-Israel spin. It has changed dramatically into the home of the alt-right. Bannon proudly claimed that under his leadership, Breitbart was “the platform for the alt-right.” And finally, we all know what alt-right means.
I have read too many stories and racist/anti-Semitic statements in Breitbart to list them all. I have heard from apologists claiming that because Bannon was an early investor in “Seinfeld,” he can’t be an anti-Semite or a racist. Investing in Seinfeld means nothing, except to say that he is a savvy and lucky investor in a show that made fun of New York City. I loved the show. At the same time, a small part of me worried about how the rest of the country interpreted it and what the rest of the country was laughing with… or laughing at?
Alex Halderman, the highly respected computer science professor asking the Clinton campaign to seek recounts, posted an explanation early this morning. His explanation is persuasive as a general condemnation of electronic voting in any election, especially a close one. He shows how frighteningly easy it is to hack voting machines. But he does not offer specific statistical claims about the 2016 presidential race, other than noting the Russian email hacking. He is right that we should audit and verify as a matter of public policy. Why not? But there is still no specific anecdotal or statistical evidence suggesting an actual hack or vote-rigging in this election. He does not mention the “7%” statistical shift in electronic voting towards Trump, and that’s the factual claim that seems to be generating media interest. Nate Cohn at the NY Times confirms what I’d been posting yesterday: the general pro-GOP correlation with electronic voting is probably attributable to race and class by precinct, rather than hacking. White precincts are slightly more likely to have electronic voting. See link in comments, H/t Richard Kim.
Here is my main problem with focusing on electronic voting as the way the 2016 election was stolen: the key battleground states used different voting systems. Yes, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania use electronic voting, as do many other battleground states. But Michigan (and Minnesota, NH, and Iowa) use only optical scan paper ballots, not electronic/computerized voting. Michigan’s margin and demographics were very similar to Wisconsin’s and Pennsylvania’s, and the three states’ histories of presidential voting and 2016 polling were roughly similar. In fact, Michigan had been more blue than Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, so if anything, Michigan reflects an even bigger shift to the GOP in the Midwest, regardless of voting technology. Other states with paper ballots show a consistent pattern: the state-by-state polling was inaccurately pro-Clinton, underestimating the white turnout. Minnesota (a paper ballot state) had been a deep blue state for two decades, but was razor thin this year (about 1% for Clinton, a dramatic shift to the GOP). New Hampshire (paper) was closer on election day than the polling averages. This election seems not to be a story of a failure of voting technology, but a failure of polling technology.
One more point: for a recount to make a difference, Clinton would have to overcome substantial deficits in all three states (MI, WI, and PA — 70,000 in PA alone!). And to be fair, Trump would be entitled to his own recount of New Hampshire and Minnesota. The evidence of hacking would have to be overwhelming to make any difference, and in the end, the House of Representatives would resolve such a contested election… For Trump. Let’s have an audit to verify the security of our elections. Let’s fight for voting rights and fight to get rid of insecure electronic voting. But please don’t circulate conspiracy theories of how this election was stolen, until we see detailed, hard statistical evidence suggesting otherwise. We lost the election. Let’s not lose focus on this corrupt administration and its far-right-wing transition.
First, polling news: I saw the tight ABC poll first (Clinton 47-43) and I was sad. Now the NBC poll shows double-digit lead (Clinton 48-37), and now I’m happy. Lesson: I need to stop overreacting to each individual poll.
I’ve seen too many calls, including the Boston Globe’s, to cancel the third debate. The nation needs the third debate now more than ever, and not because she needs to pile on. She needs to go even higher when Trump goes lower. Clinton needs to use this opportunity to look at the camera directly, address the nation about the need for unity and her commitment to represent everyone and serve everyone. Trump is building an explosive bomb. This is Clinton’s moment to calmly and respectfully defuse that bomb with a closing argument, a positive message and an appeal for legitimacy and peace. But she needs to be careful in not overreacting.
Here is one point I might suggest for her:
Clinton needs to remind voters of the 2000 election, when some accused Florida officials of rigging the election. Point 1: The Supreme Court gave the election to Bush in a questionable ruling, but immediately Al Gore conceded, and the country was better off. “Al Gore was a patriot and an honorable man,” or some such tribute. By only implication, Trump’s delegitimizing of the election is not patriotic and not hororable. Point 2: Every vote counts, a reminder of the damage in voting for third parties.
This is one of the things keeping me up at night, and it is starting now. The explosive mix of white nationalism, male aggression, the propaganda of global conspiracy, the rhetoric of revolution, Trump’s embrace of violence, and insane gun culture. Is it a coincidence that they are menacing a female candidate’s office? There is going to be violence, and blood will be on Trump’s hands. But the GOP leadership has aided and abetted this coming storm with their secessionist obstruction and their continuing support for Trump’s increasingly destructive campaign. There is time for the GOP to find a conscience and head off this storm, but we might be past that point by now.
The Florida Supreme Court overturned a state statute that allowed a jury to impose a death sentence by a 10-2 vote. In order to impose the death penalty, the Court ruled that a jury most be unanimous. It may not be an obviously major decision, but these jury voting rules are enormously important, especially with how we know prosecutors abuse peremptory strikes to keep minorities off the jury. If the rules on such peremptory-strike abuses are so hard to enforce, (or just as accurately, if courts are unwilling to enforce those rules), then this unanimity rule is at least a back-up check on prosecutors.
A great remedy for election anxiety and fear: Canvassing!
Z (12 yrs old) and I went to New Hampshire on Monday, and the Nashua office was wonderfully organized and clear. (WBUR’s poll today shows Clinton with a disturbingly slim 3 point lead). Our ride was just 40 minutes from the Boston suburbs, and it was a stunning ride through spectacular fall foliage. The day was a great way to bond with a kid who is just starting to engage with politics (Z was the most enthusiastic Bernie supporter in our house). Our three hours of canvassing was just about perfect for a 12-year-old (honestly, he was engaged and energetic for 2 hours, and then started to get bored during the 3d hour, but I think boredom isn’t such a disaster for kids). I found it helpful bringing along such a cute, friendly kid to make the homeowners comfortable and to start a conversation about basic human decency. We arrived at the Nashua campaign office, and they had folders organized for a 3-hour canvas visit to 40 homes. The field organizers did not send us to any solid Trump supporters or solid Democrats. They put together a clear list from canvassing information from past elections plus a list of “Unaffiliated” (registered independents), and they mapped out the list for efficient navigation. We had conversations with about a dozen people. All but one had moved from undecided to Clinton. The exception was someone who shifted from Trump back to undecided after the NBC tape and the last debate. But many of them hadn’t thought much about the CRUCIAL Senate race that will probably decide which party controls the Senate. Talking up Maggie Hassan over Kelly Ayotte was the most important contribution of our canvassing. We talked about the open Supreme Court seat and the importance of overturning Citizens United. We talked about how Maggie Hassan was a very successful governor who kept taxes low on the middle class and working class, and also focused on the state’s opioid crisis. And we mentioned that Kelly Ayotte just answered in a debate that she thought Trump was “absolutely a good role model.” Those messages seemed to connect.
There are lots of states that will decide both the Presidency and the Senate: Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Nevada, and Florida. Let’s go!!!
Back in 2004, I started a blog, Shugerblog, to post about three big things happening that spring: 1) the campaign to defeat George W. Bush, 2) the campaign to Reverse the Curse (Red Sox!), and 3) the birth of our 2d child. We were two for three: we had a healthy baby who continues to amaze and inspire us, the Sox overcame an 0-3 hole vs. the Yankees and broke the curse, but Bush won. I offered some prescient predictions (the collapse of Howard Dean going into Iowa), a Sox comeback over the Yankees (absurdly wishful thinking that came true), and I had some clunkers (Kerry would defeat Bush). Then reality set in: being on the academic job market with two kids under three years of age. And later, I got the message at my new teaching job that blogging while being an untenured professor is a bad idea. So I even stayed off of Facebook for eight years to avoid distraction and controversy.
Well, I decided to address my election-induced insomnia and anxiety by restarting the blog. And frankly, I have tenure at a law school I LOVE after quite a bumpy ride along the way. Maybe this blog is an awesome idea. Maybe this is a terrible idea. Stay tuned!