05 November 2012

Some unsolicited advice for the Republican Party

I'm writing this on the 5th of November, with the assumption that the Republican Party loses the 2012 presidential election by almost 70 electoral votes.

That's less of a loss than in 2008, but, of the past six Presidential elections, Republicans have only won once, and "won" another time, and both of those times, the Republican Party received less electoral votes than Democrats did in 1992, 1996, 2008, and 2012. If they want to win a Presidential election, the Republican Party is going to have to stop doing some things, and start doing some others.

Stop acting as the anti-climatology party.

Low-information voters (aka, people who stopped education at or before they graduated high school, and people who only read/watch/listen to partisan 'news') might fall for that whole "global warming isn't real" claim, but that act can't last forever in the 21st century, as warming continues. The Republican Party, if it wants to be taken seriously by intelligent voters, needs to recognize that global warming is real, that it is being pushed by human activity, and that unless countries do things now to mitigate it, it will cost tens-to-hundreds of trillions of dollars more to fix it than if nothing is done to mitigate.
Global warming mitigation is the fiscal conservative position, global warming ignorance is the fiscal stupid position. Evolve.

Speaking of evolution

I understand that teaching good science in schools somehow makes kids less likely to vote Republican, but referring to evolution as wrong is losing you intelligent voters. Grow up. The US needs smart kids in order to become a global leader in science and technology again. Having American-raised bioscientists is going to be easier if school kids don't have to worry that learning about biology will damn them to hell.

Stop being racist
Any Republican Party politician or pundit who mentioned a thing about Barack Obama being "not from America" or in anyway questioned his Americanism because of his skin colour should have been asked to leave the GOP, immediately. America is transitioning from a white-dominated to a white-slight-majority country, probably followed by a transition to a "non-white"-majority country, all potentially in this century. There is no room in the Republican Party for racists, unless it thinks it can win national elections with racist votes (note: not any more).
Oh, and on that note: come up with some form of immigration reform that is more intelligent than "tell Mexicans to leave". There's more undocumented Americans than the population of some states. You can either try to integrate them into society in a calm, respectful manner, or continue losing votes. Your choice.

Stop being sexist
When someone in the Republican Party, usually a older white male, starts going off on female reproductive health, get that guy away from a microphone. Give him an anatomy lesson. If he refuses to learn, ask him to leave the party. The "war on women" meme only works because older white males in the Republican Party think that the reproductive lives of women are under their jurisdiction. That might have been the case in the 1950s, but people (and women are people!) generally do not like it when people they don't know tell them how to lead their lives.

Stop being heterosexist
LGBT Americans are not a major voting block by themselves, but together with their allies, they are a decisive block. Your party is consistently telling these people to vote for a different party. Marriage equality is going to happen in the USA within my lifetime. Get on the right side of history, or continue losing national elections.

Start working against economic inequality

American workers have been at a plateau in pay, at inflation-controlled dollars, since the 1970s. Their bosses have been making more and more over time. This situation will eventually resolve itself, in either a mostly-painless way (raising taxes on the rich and corporations) or in a very-painful way (riots). Work towards the former, not the latter.

In short, be realistic

I know that the Republican Party has to be the opposition party to the Democrats, because the goal of the Republican Party is to win over the voters that find the Democratic Party repellent, and vice versa for them. But over the past two decades, social values are moving away from what the Republican Party is standing for. The reality of global warming is making the economic value of climate inaction less and less reasonable. The Republican Party needs to figure out what is more important: winning national elections, or remaining the party of White 1950s America.

last polls for the 2012 election!

So it's been 17 months since I looked at the polling, and here's what changed from my "2012 looks like 2008" map:
These states have gone from "undecided" to Obama: NV
These states have gone from "undecided" to Romney: AZ, FL, GA, MO, SC, SD
These states have gone from Romney to Obama: N/A
These states have gone from Obama to Romney: IN, NC, NE-2

These guesses are based off of what Nate Silver is predicting over at 538, and I don't see much of a reason to doubt his forecasts. FL and OH are dominating the discussions on CNN et al. because they will be massive screw-ups, but, honestly, Obama does not need either to win, whereas Romney needs both (and then some more) to win.

What happened to the "undecided" states?
All of these states, as of 17 months ago, were still being inconsistent on whether or not they were going to support four more years of Obama or a Republican presidency.
AZ, GA, SC, and SD are all strongly Republican, so unless Obama put a man on the moon, it was unlikely they would break for him.
NV has a strong Latino voting block, which the Rich White Guy party is unlikely to capture.
MO barely went for McCain-Palin in 2008, by less than 4000 votes, and since Democratic voter turnout this year looks like it will be smaller than in 2008, I think MO will break Romney.

Florida is broken. Early voters have had to wait up to 8 hours to vote. This is stupid and pointless and why the hell is the "world's greatest country" making its citizens have to do such a thing?
I think that Florida's government has continued to make it more difficult for likely-Democratic voters to vote than likely-Republican voters. You can read that in racial or economic terms, but either is appropriate: Florida's government wants rich white people to vote, and non-rich, non-white people to not. In 2012, I think that will allow Romney to legitimately (but unethically[?]) win the state. But FL is the weakest Romney-leaning state, so, maybe the Democrats win somehow.

Why did Obama lose 2.33333 states?
IN is a Republican state, largely because of white flight from IL and MI. Obama's winning of IN in 2008 is not going to be repeated by any Democrats in the near future.
NC is a Republican state unless its college students and young blue collar workers are voting. The main demographic that seems to be voting less this year than in 2008 (according to Paul Begala, if you trust him) is younger voters. Obama loses NC because he is less able to inspire young people to vote for him.
NE-2 is not polling as well for Obama this time around, so I expect the entirety of NE to vote Romney

So is it an Obama-Biden win?Probably, by a score of 303-235. That's a smaller "mandate" (to use Bush's terminology) than what Obama received in 2008, but a bigger "mandate" than Bush received in 2000 (ha!) or 2004.
This results makes little sense, because this will be the first time in a while that an incumbent presiding over a high rate of unemployment was re-elected. Fortunately, Republican primaries chose an older rich white guy as their candidate, whose campaign then chose a slightly younger rich white guy as his running mate, and then that campaign focused on trying to secure only one voting demographic block: white people.
Appealing only to white people is not a winning nation-wide strategy anymore, but I'll write more about that next.

What about third party candidates?
I don't know if I will live to see another Perot-like third party Presidential candidate who captures a significant number of voters. In 2008 only a few states had a third party achieve more votes than the winning gap between Obama and McCain. This year could see more of that because the peace-loving left (hopefully) don't want to bloody their hands with a vote for the warmonger Obama, and because the Christian right (hopefully?) don't want to vote for a Mormon. But for the most part it looks like these two groups will more likely be non-voters than voters for third party candidates.

What about the Senate?
Looks like it will stay Democrat.

What about the House?
The Republicans remain in power, but with less power than in 2010.

What will the second Obama term be like?
An orchestra playing on the Titanic.
In 2010, the Republican Party was able to motivate more voters with fear and hatred than the Democratic Party could with lackluster ideas and moderation, and so the GOP re-took control of the House. Without a compliant House, the President has little power. Without a compliant President, the House has little power.
In a recession, this combination of impotence and intentional gridlock only makes recovery take longer. That any form of economic recovery has occurred during 2011 and 2012 is surprising, and probably only due to steps that were taken in 2009.
There's the possibility that a government shutdown in 2013 or 2014 will remind voters that the Republican Party is incapable of governing successfully, and the House will switch back in 2014. But it seems as if John Boehner is less zealous than Newt Gingrich, and recognizes that a government shutdown will make his party weaker politically, not stronger. So unless Boehner is replaced by someone more "damn the torpedoes!", the Republicans might keep the House for the entirety of Obama's second term.

10 June 2011

first polls for the 2012 election!

Obviously these are not the first polls, but it's interesting to see what the field looks like right now, even before the Republicans have figured out which candidate they want to run the country. My guess about who that would be is: it will be an old white guy! But that's hardly surprising given the Tea Party and its predilection for wanting to vote in people who look like them.

Assigning states to blue, undecided, or red is based upon wikipedia's statewide polling results. If a state has been confused, I put it as undecided. If it is consistently or nearly consistently Democrat, it's blue. If it's consistently or nearly consistently Republican, it's red. Here's what the country would do if given an election today.

That's 254 electoral votes for Obama, 92 for a Republican, and 84 votes still under debate. Note that:
1) this leaves out 108 votes from states which apparently have not been polled yet (no polling in Indiana??? How weird)
2) Obama is still almost winning just from these votes.
3) None of the confirmed states look different than the 2008 election results.
4) All of the 'undecided' states, except Florida, went for McCain in 2008.

If we assume that "2012 is going to be a repeat of 2008" and give unpolled states to the party that won them in 2008, the map looks like this.
That's 324 for Obama, 130 for Republican, and 84 for undecided. This is a map in which Obama was won, no matter which way the undecided states go.
Of course, if the election is a complete re-do of the 2008 results, then Obama wins 359 and Republican gets 179. This is a 6-vote difference from 2008 because of census-created changes in electoral vote distribution. Unlike 2000 and 2004, it looks like 6 electoral votes will not make much of a difference in 2012. Take that, Supreme Court and your ability to decide elections!

But who knows; lots of things bad or good for Obama or the Republicans could happen between now and 2012. But at current it looks like Obama's chances for re-election are pretty good.

07 June 2011

House Apportionment Winners and Losers

Historical Oddity
Since 1913, the US has mostly kept the same number of US Representatives: 435. This is in spite of the addition of two more states and the more-than-tripling of the population since 1913. If you think this is funny, think if the US had continued representative democracy at the same rate as in the 1790s, where every 30,000 people had one congressman. We would need a room that could fit 10,000 voting people. C-SPAN would need a lot more cameras.

Easiest Math Ever
As the 2010 census concluded that there were about 308 million Americans, each of those 435 representatives represents about 708,000 Americans. In order to figure out how many of these 435 Representatives are apportioned to each state, take the state's population and divide it by 708,000 people. Then round this number up or down to its closest integer. That's it, you're done.

Actually that's not entirely true, as three states (starting in 2013) get the benefit of x+1 Reps in spite of only having x.49 population. Washington, Minnesota, and Rhode Island? Congratulations, you get to be slightly more influential for a decade than math would suggest.

Oddly enough, North Carolina is 20,000 people shy of acquiring the same bonus, so with x.46 population, they get x Reps. And Missouri? Well. Missouri has almost 700,000 more people than Minnesota, and almost 700,000 fewer people than Washington. As Minnesota has 8 Reps, and Washington has 10, then it makes sense that Missouri should have 9. Which is why they have 8.

Bottom Line
Missouri always get screwed.

AGW denial: is it curable?

The Spread of the Disease
A primary difficulty in discussing how to mitigate the future damage of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) is the intense disagreement on whether such a thing as AGW even exists in the first place. If we flip back 15 years ago, this disagreement did not exist, and people on either the left or right in the US were both equally certain about the reality of AGW.

The cause of this departure in opinions is pretty easy to figure out: money and attention were given to people who cast doubt, and soon a debate was occurring where none existed before. What was a scientific question (are humans heating the planet) with an easy and verified answer (yes) became, over a decade's time, a partisan arguing point. Until it stops being a litmus test, the rather boring question of "Is there AGW?" will be argued, when the more important question of "How can AGW be mitigated?" will be avoided until it's potentially too late to do a thing about it.
Is there hope for moving past this impasse? Or is the continued easy existence of human civilization going to be thrown away because of our simple need to argue?

Why the Disease Spread
Consensus already existed within the scientific community, so the vital job of scientists who preferred human civilization to continue (this is, at last count, all of us) was to build up consensus within the public. This was difficult for us because we assumed that the public wants us to give them facts. This assumption only works some of the time because some of the public in no way trusts us. Humans, except when pretending to be Vulcans, only accept facts when they are given by people we are willing to believe in the first place.

People don't believe in creationism because they haven't seen a fossil or haven't been told that we share the majority of our genome with chimps. They believe it because they have been told, by people they trust and believe, that scientists be lying. These politicians, pundits, and religious leaders went one step further in their misinformation campaign and tied political and economic ideas that no one likes (carbon offets and the entire lunacy of carbon trading) to the science of climatology, in order to increase polarization. If that didn't work, well, paint Al Gore as being a hypocrite and suddenly they have created another AGW denier.

The Way Forward
The very politicians, pundits, and religious leaders who nowadays see it as their goal to fight against environmental concerns have to become a minority within conservative thinking. The way to do such a thing is to use things besides scientific fact to argue for the reality (and importance of combating) AGW. One useful route is to wrap the argument in a manner in which the Founding Fathers would approve, as is shown here: argue that American government exists to serve the common good and that keeping the planet in the same climate does such a thing. Another positive trend is religious leaders such as the Pope presenting AGW mitigation as a moral choice.

Its possible to change the public debate to a more fruitful one, but facts alone will not cause this change. We need to appeal to the whole human brain, and to the brains of the whole of humanity, in order to stop talking and start doing.