Wednesday, October 5, 2016

I Am Seriously Worried

that Donald Trump will be elected President of the United States on November 8.  I mean, the guy just had about as bad a week as one can imagine, but some polls have him only a few percents behind and ahead in such states as Ohio and Iowa.  I do not think that the VP debate will make much difference in the end, but Kaine pathetically lost to Pence.

The polls say so.  I know there are "pundits" and various commentators noting that far more of what Kaine said was accurate than what Pence said, but this does not matter.  Indeed, if this debate affects the final outcome it will do so by making lots of completely accurate statements Kaine made not be taken seriously at all by swing voters in the rest of the campaign. Why?  Kaine acted like Trump and interrupted Pence 72 times (compared to only 55 by Trump in first prez debate), most crucially right up front in early boilerplate speeches by Pence.  Given that more than half the voters do not know who either of these guys are, Kaine, who is a nice guy, managed to paint himself as an interrupting Trump-like jerk, thereby discrediting pretty much everything else he said in the debate except of course for committed Pollyanna Hillary supporters.  Pence even pulled off a trick Hillary did not do of moderately shaking his head with a smirk while Kaine reeled off completely accurate statements.  Probably the ultimate was when Pence got away with saying that Kaine was part of an "insult-led campaign" after Kaine repeated a string of insulting Trump quotes.  But then, the VP debate probably will not mean too much, with the next prez debate pushing it off the media once that happens.  Nevertheless, too bad Kaine blew it with an utterly assinine strategy.

So, what has me really worried if it is not the VP debate?  It is that there are now two votes that have happened this year where I got a gut feeling that the widely predicted outcome would not come about. One of those was the June 23 Brexit vote.  Not going to link to it, but just before it I posted that it was dead even, although my gut said it was going to win.  As of the morning of the vote, the forecasters had its defeat at 90%, well over what anybody is forecasting probability of a win by Clinton.  But Brexit won, 52-48%.  I am not interested in discussing the pros and cons of that issue and outcome, other than to note that it looks like a similar complacency was involved.  Young people who wanted to Remain so they could get jobs in Europe in the future only turned out 30% while retired people in rural England who do not have to worry about getting jobs but worry about England losing its identity to all those immigrants, turned out at 65% or so.  Well, duh.  If maybe those silly millennials now all upset about the outcome had not been taking so seriously all those forecasts of a 90% probability of Brexit going down, maybe they would have turned out and voted.

The other is the much more recent vote in Colombia to reject a long-negotiated peace agreement between the Colombian government and FARC after a 52-year old civil war, that vote proposition losing by 0,45%, despite massive forecasts of it passing.  It is true that there was a weather event that influenced things, massive tropical storm on the Caribbean coast including Baranquilla, where pro-agreement sentiment was strong.  Nevertheless this is a shocking outcome, and again, I had a bad feeling ahead of time that it might lose, although I had less reasons to think that than my feelings about either the Brexit vote or the upcoming presidential election, where the intensity of the pro-Brexit and pro-Trump voters can obviously and easily overwhelm a complacent electorate that thinks they can just sit around and twiddle their thumbs and Trump will not get elected.  These people are very foolish (and, sorry, I have no use whatsoever for anybody who wants to try to convince me that Trump is really a progressive, blah blah blah, forget it.  Pay attention to what Bernie has said about this election repeatedly and unreservedly).

Barkley Rosser


Bruce Wilder said...

I do not personally think the outcome of the election is in much doubt. I think even Clinton can manage to beat Donald Trump, surely one of the worst candidates in American history. Sam Wang's monitoring of opinion polls backs me up.
But, I do worry about what comes after, when Clinton the also terrible candidate who offered no better argument for herself than that she is less evil than Trump, won election in an unpopularity contest.
Worrying that Trump is going to win is a convenient way to displace worrying about the consequences when Clinton comes to office.
The signal events of this electoral year globally are not about a failure in polling, they are about a failure in governance. Neoliberalism is losing its grip, even as its overextended policy regime moves further into crisis and catastrophe, with degenerating wars and failing banks TBTF. And, the U.S. is about to double-down on neoliberal Clinton only because "the alternative" Trump is obviously no fit alternative at all.
I would be less worried about being surprised than not being surprised.

ProGrowthLiberal said...

To echo what Bruce said - if these two are the best the two party system provided in 2016, why will 2020 be any better? If there is another Eisenhower left in the GOP wings, great. But we have not seen a decent Republican candidate since Pappy Bush lost in 1992. said...

OK, Bruce, after this awful week for Trump, he seems to be ahead of Clinton in both Iowa and Ohio, states Obama took both times. Nevada and Florida are tossups. We are looking at a situation where Clinton has a bare lead. Would not take much, nice stock market crash, major terror attack, weird dump from Assange, or just the greater enthusiasm of the deplorable Trunpites, who clearly have lots of intensity compared to Clinton.

Did you actually read what you wrote? You are a perfect example of why he has a high probability of winning.

Anonymous said...

Well, voters are nitwits. Always have been and always will be. Half of the electorate has an IQ under 100. Elections are determined by low information voters at the margin. Probably why democratic forms of government are doomed over the long run.

Bruce Wilder said...

If your own gut feeling needs the Pepto Bismol, I invite you to look at Sam Wang's site. Unlike most pollsters and even his respectable rival 538, he's not selling the horserace, eyeballs, airtime or newspapers.

Most polls are crap runs, done cheaply in the hope of attracting attention to news media with outlier results. Surely, you know this. Why let it aggravate you?

Sam Wang calculates based on an aggregation of state polls -- the process of aggregation eliminates a lot of spurious noise. The probability of Clinton winning an election held today is currently estimated as greater than 99% and the forward projection to November, allowing for the usual drift, is still in the neighborhood of 85-92%. (I don't think I believe that forward projection probability can be entirely justified as a probability in a classical sense, but maybe it gives a roughly correct subjective impression.)

As for nightmare scenarios of stock market crashes, terrorist attacks and the like, I submit most such imaginable exogenous crises favor Clinton's candidacy over Trump's. A middle finger vote for Trump really only works in the peculiar circumstances of our moment in time, when employment is fairly high and the international situation seems stable (at least from our considerable distance). Add risk and Clinton already branded as the safe candidate sees her stock rise, not fall.

Finally, I am not responsible for Trump. It is the job of Clinton and her professional campaign staff to get her elected. If she cannot manage to get out the vote, articulate a vision for the country and not deeply offend Sanders supporters and the rest of what she needs to do, she is the one you should blame. She showed she can do a credible job as a candidate during the first debate, let's hope she can continue at that level collapsing, literally or figuratively.

She's still a terrible candidate, bad enough to make Trump almost plausible for too many people, imo. Worse, she may well be a catastrophically bad President at a time of serious international crisis. Just not nearly as catastrophically bad as Trump could well be. But, "lies less than Trump" is not a catchy bumpersticker, I will give you that.

Bruce Wilder said...

continue at that level without collapsing


One other observation from Sam Wang: despite the apparent closeness of the race, he reports this has been the least volatile in the history of modern election polling. That low volatility is an important explanation for why he gives her such a high probability of winning.

I do think the political cycle is turning, with the legitimacy of neoliberal political establishments being called into question across the western world. That's not a problem of polling though. said...

I do not know who Sam Wang is, but he is clearly at a far end. After all, looking at some polls, if indeed Trump takes IA, OH, NV, and FL, all he needs is about two more states. This is hardly out of the question.

I also remind you all that the forecasters in UK had the Brexit vote failing at 90% on the very morning of the vote. They were wrong.

Again, this sort of stuff is exactly why Trump might win. If he does, I hope you all really enjoy yourselves.

ProGrowthLiberal said...

I don't know Sam Wang either but Josh Barro knows who Lee Sheppard is - perhaps the best writer on our complex tax code. Josh has an excellent Business Insider piece on the Trump tax dodge that gives Senator Clinton credit for voting for the 2002 closing of this loophole. This piece was endorsed by liberal Brad DeLong and conservative Greg Mankiw. There's a bipartisan consensus that Trump hired a rather common and sleazeball tax attorney. Not a genius after all.