This Is a Blog: Numbers Time: It's Over, For Real

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Numbers Time: It's Over, For Real

This week, I got called out for the bias in my mathematical models. I won't deny it. As much as I tried to sell these ideas as objective mathematical fact, I've seen others taking up the FeelTheMath mantle and turned the numbers around to Sanders. The truth is everyone has a bias, and there is no such thing as objective reporting. As an amateur with no training, especially, I don't know how to write objectively, or even how to begin as such. My only goal is to wade into politics without getting into petty arguments over my conclusions. That's why I chose math. Only someone who cares enough to do this much math would argue with me.

In private, I've had several fruitful conversations, and as the primary winds to a close, I will try to fold some of those thoughts in here.

The Media Anointed Hillary From Day One

The media has played a huge role in this election. A good friend of mine has been pushing this narrative on me for months now, and while I have argued him tooth and nail, he has helped me notice a few things. The DNC stated they didn't want the media to report Superdelegates with primary results, since they're non-binding until the convention. So why do most media outlets report them?

My friend believes it's because they're pushing a narrative that Hillary has always been way ahead. When you report a close race, but include Superdelegates who overwhelmingly support her, you can report the close race as more of a runaway. One graphic can say 51%, but then the next can show her winning 20 more "delegates." This perception that she always had the nomination locked up could very easily have deterred voters considering other candidates.

As the election dragged on, I think that flipped a bit. I wrote before that MSNBC took that narrative, and instead of burying their motives, they took their own inaccurate reporting and made it into a story about the DNC trying to steal the election with Superdelegates. As more people became enraged, Sanders voters turned out in greater numbers. I believe that Bernie's late wins in states like Wisconsin and Indiana can be attributed to Hillary voters giving up, believing they had won, and Sanders voters turning out in greater numbers to try to win back the election they believe the media was trying to convince them they lost.

Either narrative could be true, and it really does come down to personal bias.

The Media Called the Election Too Early

Depending on when you believe the media officially decided Hillary won, I may or may not agree.

Someone told me they thought the media called it in February. Agreed, that's bullshit. I don't necessarily believe that is a conspiracy, though. I listen to "Slate's Political Gabfest," which admittedly has a Hillary bias, but listening to three experienced media professionals discuss the election has been illuminating in this regard. At first, they would refer to candidates like Bernie having a ceiling of 40%, then over the course of the election, as he has done better, they have come around on their pre-conceived notions. That initial idea about Bernie doesn't come from a place of necessarily wanting Hillary to win. It's more that they have been covering elections for years, and Bernie, to them, wasn't anything new. What's new came later. It wasn't until he actually challenged Hillary and won close races that he was any different than other insurgent candidates.

On the other hand, I can completely agree with the media's assessment that Hillary won the election in March. Yes, every election should count. Yes, Bernie absolutely should still be in this race, even though he has clearly now lost. We can't get mad when the media reports facts.

By the end of March, these were Hillary and Bernie's top 5 election results.
Washington+47 (c)
Utah+21 (c)
Colorado+16 (c)
Minnesota+15 (c)
There are two competing narratives with these results. On one hand, Hillary's wins are in red states that will never vote for a Democrat in the general, so they really shouldn't count so much, especially with big blue states like New York and California still to come. On the other hand, Bernie's only big wins are in caucus states, and those results don't translate to most primaries, let alone the general. In the end, Hillary won Florida resoundingly, and that's what matters. On March 15, Hillary blew Bernie away in the biggest swing state. In the general, Florida will absolutely be a factor, and Hillary showed she is wildly popular there.

Hillary went on to win Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and North Carolina, all major swing states. I'm not saying Sanders should have given up, but to anyone who says this election was stolen from Sanders, I say look back to March. She had it locked up way back then, and despite an admirably strong showing since then, he never really had a chance to win. I hope this strong showing encourages progressive Democratic candidates in 2020 and beyond, and I hope one can be mainstream enough to win.

Having said that, I really don't like that AP called the election the night before the last big day of primaries. I don't get the timing, unless they really did do it to help Hillary win. Even if it's not some kind of collusion, I hate that they did it. I hate that it calls the results of California into question. I firmly believe Hillary would have won handily without shenanigans, and AP calling the election seems shenanigan-y.

But It's a Contested Convention

I completely understand Bernie supporters wanting to believe he still has a chance to win. I get that he represents a fight against corruption and power not listening to the people. I get that he is a shining beacon of hope, and I get why some people don't like Hillary. I cannot, though, understand how anyone can think Bernie winning the nomination is fair.

Even if you ignore the nitty-gritty of what the 2,384 delegate threshold really means (which I won't go over again), I don't see how it's fair for him to cross it. She has 54% of the pledged delegates and 55% of the popular vote (slightly less if you include caucus numbers but still well over 50%). She won 33 contests, and he won 23. She won 9 out of the top 10 most populous states, and the top 4, she won by sizable margins.

New York31
N. Carolina13

Several friends laid out for me that the system is rigged. Considering how idiotic I think conspiracy theories are, I think this is worth at least exploring. They've said to me that the results of this election don't necessarily reflect the will of the people because too many states have closed primaries, and there have been far too many cases of voter fraud. In a democracy, it's a hard argument to make that certain voters aren't supposed to count. On the other hand, for every left-leaning-independent allowed to vote in the Democratic primaries, right-leaning-independents could do the same and skew the results further right. Opening primaries doesn't necessarily mean getting the desired results. Independent doesn't mean super liberal, it means literally anything.

Then there's voter fraud. Of course, even one fraudulent vote is a problem. Who's to say it's only Hillary people screwing with votes? Anecdotally, I know more than a few people who got ballots yesterday pre-marked for Bernie. Not saying it's a conspiracy, just saying no one here is an angel. Let's say the fraud is a wide-spread problem, and going by several reports, that's THOUSANDS of votes suppressed or faked or disenfranchised. That is a major problem.

However, voter fraud is only a factor in a close election. This wasn't even close. Thousands, maybe tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of votes were messed with. That's horrendous. But Hillary is winning by 3-4 million votes. It's not possible they are all the results of fraud.

But while we're on the topic of voter suppression, let's talk about caucuses. With very few exceptions, caucuses result in embarrassingly low voter turnouts. They reward only the most politically engaged, as well as only people who can afford to give up several hours just to have their vote count. Think it was a pain to wait at an LA polling place because they ran out of ballots? Imagine having to wait even longer because that's how the election is SUPPOSED to work. It's the fewest people possible affecting the largest number of delegates. And like I said, it does not translate to the general election. Here are Bernie's top ten wins with and without caucuses included.

Bernie with Caucuses
Washington+47 (c)
Utah+21 (c)
Colorado+16 (c)
Minnesota+15 (c)
Kansas+13 (c)
Idaho+13 (c)
Alaska+10 (c)
Bernie without Caucuses
W. Virginia+7
N. Hampshire+6
Dems. Abroad+5
R. Island+2

In essence, the lion's share of Bernie's per state delegate leads come from a total of about 400,000 caucusers .

So what it comes down to for me is this. Hillary is ahead by all measures we'd even consider fair: delegates, raw votes, and contests won. For every argument that primary elections need to be more democratic, there are calls to completely throw out the results of the election. For every cry that voters have been suppressed, there are calls that 16 million votes for Hillary should be thrown out and Bernie should win. For every screed against Superdelegates, there are calls to flip them against the results of the election.

Right now, Hillary has 2,197 pledged delegates. That means she only needs 187 Superdelegates to cross the 2,384 threshold. That means she only needs 26% of Superdelegates to win. In 2008, when Hillary won the popular vote, but Obama won the majority of pledged delegates while not crossing the threshold, we all thought it was totally fair for him the election. Now, here she is, winning this election with 54% of pledged delegates. While Superdelegates are free to vote for Justin Bieber in July, even the most ardent Bernie supporter has to agree Hillary deserves AT LEAST 27-28% of Superdelegates. Calling this a contested convention is insane.

How the Hell Did She Win?

That's a question I hear a lot. A good friend of mine has been comparing her to Gore, in that she's just coming in as a presumptive nominee, and she has no charisma. I'll admit that scares me. Trump brings in huge crowds of passionate people, and Hillary has a lot of negatives.

To me, California showed the opposite. In the face of a full-court press by Bernie, Hillary supporters came out in droves to show their support. If, like in some of the smaller contests, the Bernie threat hadn't been so palpable and the stakes not as high, low voter turnout could have gone either way. When it became clear that Bernie was mobilizing millions of voters to his cause, Hillary supporters decided to show up. Compared to the above chart of Bernie top results, here are Hillary's top results:

Hillary's Top Wins
N. Jersey+32
New York+31

That's not just Southern states, or not just closed primaries, or not just one demographic or another. That is huge majorities in states all over the country. Hell, is it totally insane to think, like Johnson in 1964, Hillary could actually win over some southern states? Like in 1968, she'd be running against an extremist whose own party doesn't even want to run. And people in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi seem to love her.

That's the difference. Bernie supporters go to rallies, post on social media, and wear their passion on their sleeves. Hillary supporters vote. Maybe if she never had a real challenger, her support might have floated off into the nether. Now we have seen how many Hillary supporters are just silently waiting in the wings. This is what they'll do to support their candidate against someone who mostly agrees with them. Imagine what they'll do against a lunatic like Trump. Bernie's last great pitch was that if he could win California, that would show he's competitive against Trump. Now that she's won California, I think it's clear she is the strongest democratic candidate and the best, most qualified person to take on Trump. Despite what some polls may say, we choose our leaders based on election results, and winning against an opponent as strong as Bernie fills me with confidence we are looking at the first Madame President.

UPDATE: 6/14/16- Hillary won DC by +12. That brings her delegate count anywhere from 2,214-2,219, depending on which source you use. If it's 2,214, that means Hillary only needs 170 Superdelegates (or 23.8%) to clinch the nomination. The candidate with 54.6% of the pledged delegates and 55% of the votes deserves at least 24% of the Superdelegates, right?

For comparison, in 2008, Obama had 54.3% of pledged delegates. He needed 342 total Superdelegates (or 42.9%) to clinch the nomination, and he was 93 Superdelegates short of the then 2,118 delegate threshold. And while some might want to thumb their noses at Hillary only making it 92.8% to the delegate threshold, keep in mind, Obama only made it 83.4% of the way there.

UPDATE: 7/11/16- On June 13, CNN reported 73% of the California results. Since then, many people I know have cried foul, that millions of votes were left to be counted, so the election wasn't really decided. "Let every vote count," they cried, as though some injustice was befalling the entire electoral process. That night, CNN reported 1.9 million votes for Hillary, and 1.5 million votes for Bernie, meaning she was ahead by roughly 400,000 votes. Now, counting has stopped, and in four days the result will be reported officially. According to the California state department web site, Hillary has 2.7 million votes, and Bernie has 2.3 million votes, meaning she is ahead by roughly 400,000 votes. Virtually no change in a month, as predicted. Sometimes when smart people predict a thing, it's not some mass conspiracy. Sometimes smart people just know what they're talking about, even though you may disagree.

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