Election Fever

by johnmccreery

As time races toward the second Tuesday in November, yours truly is feeling a bit twitchy. How about the other Voles?

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26 Comments to “Election Fever”

  1. I was pretty shocked at how badly Obama screwed up the first debate: it’s sort of impressive how much closer the race has gotten since then.

    Still – at the end of the day my vote will go to whichever candidate can get that damn Big Bird off our TV screens.

  2. I fear this storm is going to damage the Dems’ vote more than the GOP’s…

  3. Because I like to believe in a higher intelligence and a Plan, I interpreted Obama’s strategy in the first debate as a rope-a-dope. Let Romney punch himself out early, then go on the attack in the later rounds. More realistically, I suspect their agendas crossed. Romney was rallying the militant base early, Obama was courting the conflict-averse ‘undecideds’. Now they’ve both reversed field. But ultimately it’s about base turnout, so now we get to see whose peeps are most easily knocked off task by a little weather.

  4. There’s certainly the usual switcheroo with the bases going on – but Romney had already moved to the centre in that first debate. Tbh, this seems all too plausible to me:

    The Democrat said that Obama’s inner circle was dismayed at the ‘disaster’ and that he believed the central problem was that the President was so disdainful of Romney that he didn’t believe he needed to engage with him.
    ‘President Obama made it clear he wanted to be doing anything else – anything – but debate prep,’ the Democrat said.

    Re: the weather – as a friend pointed out, the Dems will probably need a higher turnout from underserviced areas, where adverse weather conditions will have a greater impact. Plus it’s harder to campaign shamelessly when there’s the possibility of a natural disaster – & large potential for getting people offside if anything is mishandled. Twitchy indeed.

  5. Twitchy and waiting for the hurricane. To kill some time: Each election renews my long-standing attempt to convince people of the insane disaster of retaining a system of short fixed terms for office — instead of the flexible “vote of confidence” type systems in most world democracies. I’ll spare you the litany, but the other day on the train platform I came up with the following analogy for the benefit of a cocommuter. It worked for him; maybe for you.
    It’s like having to write something serious under the rule that after every four words the sentence has to end. so …
    I’ll give you A. Real fine example, that! Will, sharpen the point. Before, all is lost. After, all are bored.
    But I’ll stop before I violate Carl’s rules of accessibility.
    This time around I got to thinking of “winning” and “losing” an election. Granted, it provides an alternative to fantasy football for the unathletic — another circus, usually about bread — but, beyond that, the terms of winning and losing completely escape me by now. This is especially true in a “close” election like this one, where the result will be within one sigma of random. In fact, a live hypothesis is that the result of one of our elections is always a tie, in the sense that were everyone to list the results (that actually result) under the headings Good, and Bad, everyone’s total score would be the same. An assessment by someone who has been groping around with complex systems is that we’re all making choices in nearly total ignorance. The problem is “the results,” a set whose membership and boundaries are totally obscure, by now. Sometimes, in the past, they haven’t been totally obscure, at least in historians’ hindsight, and, largely what we all do is fixate on one of the old classics that seemed real and decisive, and vote our attachment to it. For many, maybe most, that’s as simple as having a party affiliation. but for those in the “middle” the appropriate analogy may be very hard to find. They think of themselves as the particularly thoughtful, and end up producing the randomness.
    I always identify myself as an Eisenhower Republican — part of my general strategy for being as incomprehensible as possible. — “Eisenhower? Isn’t that a kind of jacket?” “No. You’re thinking of Nehru.” And buoyed by my wisdom, and enabled by my photo ID, I throw my dart.

  6. a live hypothesis is that the result of one of our elections is always a tie, in the sense that were everyone to list the results (that actually result) under the headings Good, and Bad, everyone’s total score would be the same.

    The idea here is that each individual voter has a tally of Good Things and a tally of Bad Things, and the results of government actions are evaluated by aggregating everyone’s tallies? And that any given increase in Bad Things (for one group of people) is likely to be balanced by a corresponding decrease in Bad Things / increase in Good Things (for another group)? If I’ve understand that right, what about consequences of policy that are evaluated by most people the same way, but where there is political disagreement over how to achieve those consequences? (Economic recovery, say).

  7. (Myself, I’m in the ‘lesser evil’ camp re: Obama and the Dems – but I can see other perspectives…)

  8. Well, of course I should have known better than to start on this, But, no: my point was that each of us keeps our own score e.g. three more overall bads than goods gives a score of minus three, etc. Then we compare scores, and we all have the same score, says the hypothesis. The identifying and counting is already an absurdity, but when I have to be serious about such matters I try to get across (a) the multidimensionality (always truncated for campaign purposes) and (b) the interaction effects both within a given person’s wishes and values, and interpersonally. Those are the things we the people tend to ignore at election time, but they dominate the dynamics of political economy. Beyond that I’ve driven the blog into the Grimpen Mire of social science beyond our present capacity to do it; and I apologize.

  9. Oh I realise you weren’t being very serious – just curious. Unfortunately I think I sill don’t understand. I’m not totally sure if you’re saying that everyone has the same score as each other after any given election result – or that they have the same score as their alternate-world self would if the election result had been different – or both? Both, I think? But then I’m not sure why… None of these are questions that are worth your time to answer :-P

  10. (Anyway – I hope the Dems’ have learned their lesson from 2000, and will fight this if it ends up in the courts. :-( Not convinced they will…) (But enough from me…)

  11. I don’t ordinarily troll for attention on other people’s blogs, but you might get a twitch out of my latest post, Carl.

  12. Well, if the polls are to be believed I was wrong about the storm’s impact on the likely outcome. Guess we’ll know soon enough…

  13. This election is, of course, a huge test of polling and statistical modeling v. gut-feeling, propaganda, and punditry. Will be interesting to see how it turns out.

  14. Yes indeed. I certainly trust the polls more than my (or others’) gut feel – though of course polls can be wrong. I’m now most anxious about vote rigging. Have you read this Harper’s piece? http://harpers.org/archive/2012/11/how-to-rig-an-election/?single=1 At this point I think the polls are uniform enough in suggesting a likely Obama victory, that if Romney takes it I’d think fraud is the most plausible explanation. We will see.

  15. Ugh, Duncan. If Romney wins it will be because he won. He’s an appealing candidate in many ways, not least that he’s a far more convincing father image than Obama, and in rough times the little folk like a strong Daddy. Plus he feeds right into the anxious aspirational symbology of American exceptionalism, which I notice many of my Left friends having a tin ear for ;-) And this is just to skim the cruddy surface of quasi-intentional causation. It’s an elementary interpretation bias that we can’t imagine a candidate we find repugnant winning fair and square, and for reasons that seem wholesome to their supporters. Since I’m in conversation with some of those, including in my family, I know it’s entirely reciprocal. JohnD’s linked post is an amusing reflection on some of the paracognitive dynamics at work.

    Btw speaking of family (but not that part of the family) and other complex systems I was talking w/ Dyke the Elder the other day and he mentioned an article you might find interesting when you’re in stats / systems head, “Detecting Causality in Complex Ecological Systems” in the 10/26 Science. Haven’t gotten to it yet myself but apparently they’re figuring some things out about how to disentangle causation and correlation.

    Re: polls, my new friend in the Econ dept. suggests the betting sites have a better record of accuracy. Money where the mouth is and such.

  16. If Romney wins it will be because he won.

    That’s one explanation, obviously. And obviously both parties are gonna get heaps of legit votes regardless. But sheesh, it’s not as if elections don’t get stolen, is it? And it’s not as if there’s not (at the very least) an appalling lack of checks and balances / oversight in the administration of electronic voting in the US. I should have qualified my statement because of course it depends on the nature of the win, and (as we’ve been saying) polls are hardly super-reliable, so consider that rowed back to something more nuanced – but at the same time I find it basically impossible to believe that electoral fraud won’t be taking place; the question is the impact on outcomes.

    Let’s not have a big fight over this one, though.

    Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out.

  17. I mean Kennedy was also an appealing candidate in many ways, but surely there’s essentially a historians’ consensus that voter fraud played an important role in his election? So these things aren’t incompatible.

  18. Well thank the Lord for that… Congrats, John – your guys pulled it off…!

  19. Wow that scatter plot is striking – thanks.

  20. I see GOP figures are already making noises about a more liberal line on immigration. Good stuff.

    An interesting piece here about failures in Romney’s on the ground organisation.

  21. I got just curious enough to do triage research, and for the record unimpeachable source Slate is unimpressed with the Kennedy vote fraud “myth.”

  22. Yeah, but that Slate piece reads like its author is trying to win a game of ‘unsound bases for historical revisionism bingo’, or something.

  23. I mean – it’s clearly unknowable what the result would have been without electoral fraud, in any social-scientifically robust way. But it’s equally clear that there was heaps of voter fraud favouring Kennedy in the two key states. Slate’s piece doesn’t even really contest that – the ‘myths’ it’s debunking seem focussed on quite specific points, like the fact that recounts didn’t change the outcomes, and that state federal judges didn’t overturn them. My point in citing the 1960 race was that there’s a prominent history of presidential election voter fraud, and it’s eminently reasonable to see it as one of the various factors contributing to US electoral outcomes.

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