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Comey (And the Media) Threw the Election to the Worst President Ever

[ 230 ] January 11, 2017 |

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I’m not sure what even to say about the “press conference” held by a president-elect who is staggeringly unfit for office, who lies like most people breathe, who is hopelessly and proudly corrupt, whose command of policy detail is non-existent, who is aleady actively intimidating reporters. We have more than four more years of this.

One thing I’m not going to do, though, is to let the people and institutions responsible for this man — the second choice of the American people — assuming the presidency off the hook. Sean McElwee, Matt McDermott, and Will Jordan have a definitive analysis of the effect of James Comey’s highly prejudicial letter that actually contained no new information about a trivial pseudo-scandal that inexplicably (or, perhaps, all-too-explicably) dominated converge of the campaign. All of the available data — state polling, national polling, early voting vs. Election Day voting, the media coverage — confirms the effect of Comey’s letter. Read the whole thing, but the bottom line:

It’s true that there are other possible explanations for a late shift in vote intentions, but thus far there is no alternative explanation of merit. (The cyberhacks were surely important, but their effects would have been felt more steadily throughout the campaign.)

Instead, the evidence is clear, and consistent, regarding the Comey effect. The timing of the shift both at the state and national levels lines up very neatly with the publication of the letter, as does the predominance of the story in the media coverage from the final week of the campaign. With an unusually large number of undecided voters late in the campaign, the letter hugely increased the salience of what was the defining critique of Clinton during the campaign at its most critical moment.

The appeal of big-picture narratives about demographics, along with anecdotal evidence of big mistakes by the Clinton campaign in certain key states, makes it easy to point fingers. But looking specifically at the three “Rustbelt” blue states mentioned at the beginning of the article, no unifying picture emerges. Most stories mention Michigan, where Clinton didn’t campaign, rather than Pennsylvania, where she campaigned intensely. Indeed, these three Midwestern states (Wisconsin being the third) provide essentially an A/B/C test of different campaign strategies — and in each state she came up just short.

We do not intend to exculpate the Clinton campaign — in hindsight many decisions were flawed — but rather to note that the decisions were not abnormally bad (all campaigns make errors, and Trump’s made far more than others). However, the historic intervention into the election by James Comey means three major things:

[..]

Along with the Russian-linked theft and publication of emails from the Clinton campaign and the DNC, the Comey effect is of a different category than the usual investigative reporting or opposition research that campaigns have to contend with. Comey broke a decades-long norm of not intervening in presidential elections. The fact that his interference alone almost certainly swayed an election is indicative of a broader and disturbing breakdown of political norms.

Another fact worth highlighting: “During the final days of the election major newspapers ‘published 100 stories, 46 of which were on the front page, about or mentioning the emails.’ The tone and tenor of coverage shifted markedly against Clinton in the closing week of the campaign.” With the exception of the Billy Bush video Comey’s letter helped bury, the Comey letter received more intense scrutiny than any of Trump’s many actual scandals. And this happened despite the fact that it contained no information about a trivial pseudo-scandal and there was no chance that anything on Weiner’s laptop would change the conclusion that Clinton had not violated the law.

As I’ve said before, at this point to deny the effects of Comey’s interventions is essentially trooferism. There is no serious alternative explanation that can account for the data. The “durrrr, correlation is not causation, durrr” argument loses any plausibility when you consider that every Comey intervention caused a wave of negative media coverage about Clinton and was followed by a significant decline in national polls numbers. The “polls can’t account for Trump being a celebrity” response fails to explain why Election Day voters were more affected by Trump’s celebrity status than early voters although he didn’t become more famous in the interim (but people were treated to an obsessive wave of negative coverage about Clinton.) If Comey had not sent the letter on October 28, we can be as confident that Clinton would have won as we could ever be confident in such a counterfactual.

Comey’s interventions — or, to be more precise, grossly irresponsible media coverage of James Comey’s grossly unethical interventions — are not the sole factor that put Donald Trump in he White House because complex events have many causes. Did the Clinton campaign make mistakes? Certainly, although as McElwee et al. say concrete resource allocation arguments (like arguments that Jill Stein directly swung the election) inevitably founder in Pennsylvania. But every campaign, winning and losing, makes mistakes. Not every election involves the FBI putting a thumb on the scale. This is a major constitutional crisis, and the idea that we should ignore is simply absurd; indeed, a major part of the problem, given the ability of partisan hacks like Comey to cultivate a reputation as nonpartisan straight-shooters of the utmost integritude and use this to advance Republican interests.

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  1. howard says:

    the ability of the self-righteous to convince themselves of their own integrity has never ceased to amaze me, and we are seeing the platonic ideal of this trait in comey.

    p.s. take another look at the first sentence, second paragraph: it needs editing!

  2. DamnYankees says:

    Agree with 100% of this. But ultimately I find it hard to be too riled up about this; not because it’s not true, but because I’m already mortified that this is necessary. Would I really have been much happier about the state of the country had Trump gotten 1% less and lost? In the near term, it would certainly avoid lots of damage. Of course. But in the long term, I’m rather pessimistic about a country in which 45% of people would vote for Trump, even in losing. It’s a staggering failure of our institutions – press, party, government.

    Ezra Klein has made this point, but the key question to me, and the key to my sadness, is not trying to understand how Trump got from 42% to 47%. It’s how he got from 20% to 42%. It’s how he was remotely able to consolidate a party behind him.

    I know people respond to this with “partisanship is that strong”. And this is true, but it seems to be moving the question back a step. It just makes me despair even more.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      But that’s the answer. In elections that don’t have an incumbent or extreme economic positions, it’s essentially impossible for there to be an election that isn’t close enough to steal. Which is why we shouldn’t ignore the role of the thieves going forward.

      • Joe_JP says:

        The fact it is “essentially impossible” for an election with DONALD TRUMP as the nominee not to be close is tragic and probably in part a result of some things that Democrats need to address (including their poor showings in various state elections in multiple cycles). This doesn’t erase what you are saying. But, there are other things to address too.

        • Joe_JP says:

          I’m not really sure about the premise (note the lack of too recent examples if 1988 doesn’t count … guess 2008 met the second part if “conditions” is what was meant) but I’ll grant it for the sake of argument.

        • [email protected] says:

          That. That right there.

          The scoreboard on Tuesday November 9th established beyond reasonable doubt that the democrats do, in fact, have deep problems — but not just that result: the crushing defeats — not just reasonably-to-be-expected-in-mid-terms modest losses, but crushing defeats — we suffered in the mid-term elections in 2010 and 2014, and the fact that we didn’t take back both houses of Congress in the 2012 presidential election, also point to deeper problems for the Democratic Party.

          The clear (to me, at least) implication of the failures of the last 6 years is the first lesson of 2016:

          1. Even when we win, we don’​t win enough.

          We don’t have a big enough coalition of voters to reliably give us a governing majority (i.e., Democratic president and Congress), and I don’t see this changing for the foreseeable future unless we act to expand our coalition.

          The current target demographic of the Democratic Party is composed of highly-educated voters, particularly in the bigger, more cosmopolitan “Alpha” and near-alpha cities (New York, Los Angeles, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, etc.) plus racial and cultural minorities (POC, LGBTQQA, et al.)

          Added together, that is roughly 50% of the country. What that means is that in “wave” years (e.g., 2006, 2008), we may get a governing majority, but the more usual, typical case will be that the presidency and/or at least one house of Congress will be in Republican hands, which the last 6 years have amply shown is enough to make any significant progress on issues Democrats care about extremely unlikely, at best.

          We need more people to be reliable, loyal democratic voters, so that the worst case is we have 50% plus a smidge, and the usual case is we have a governing majority. That is the only way to make progressive change that won’t be repealed the next time a Republican takes the White House (and for that matter, will make it unlikely for a Republican to gain the White House to begin with).

          Where are our opportunities for expansion? That’s the second lesson of this year’s disaster:

          2. The Democratic Party is not doing nearly enough for working class voters.

          Notice I didn’t say, white working class. I said working class, period. Of every ethnicity. Let me define what I mean by working class: “people living the typical, normative situation of the 70% of the country that does not have a college degree.”

          If you look at a graph of incomes by educational attainment, you will see that the working class thus defined has suffered declining incomes (aside from a couple brief and temporary blips upward) for over 40 years.

          If you use any reasonable proxy for the wildly-theoretical, absolute maximum percentage of Americans that can possibly get a college degree — making unicorns-farting-rainbows-level optimistic assumptions about uniformly well-funded and excellent public schools, pervasive, no-cost tutoring, universal and free SAT prep, already-complete solutions to all other social problems that interfere with educational excellence, and so on — the number is not much above 50%, and the more realistic (but still highly-ambitious, way-long-term-project) number is somewhere around 35%. (Again, the current number is 30%.)

          So even under the reasonably-achievable, best-case scenario, the vast majority of Americans are:

          A.People who will never get a college degree, and;

          B. The people who’ve been losing ground the last 30-40 years.

          Again, this is 70% of the country. This is the only source of enough votes to be decisive.

          That “vast majority of Americans who will never get a college degree” includes millions of ex-manufacturing workers who used to make a good living by making things here in the U.S. For decades, the economy offered them a way to use their skills and gifts and afford the basics of life, plus a little fun. It is increasingly the case that our economic system has no real place for them. Those with less than a college degree have precious few ways to support a family in anything approaching comfort. And even these avenues are vanishing.

          Donald Trump won enough of those voters (particularly midwestern former Obama voters) to win the election by saying explicitly that he was going to bring those jobs back. Or, as the invaluable Atrios paraphrased Trump’s message:

          Show me a problem, and I’ll fix it. Not set up a plan to adjust the framework to tweak the incentives to modestly change the market outcomes. Just fix it.

          I saw Hillary Clinton, more than once, say (in a “can-you-believe-these-people??” tone) that “those jobs are never coming back!” When it came time to talk about HER plan to replace the missing jobs that have devastated whole communities in the industrial north, it sounded an awful lot like “…set up a plan to adjust the framework to tweak the incentives to modestly change the market outcomes…” rather than a practical, creative way to solve the problem.

          I think that, more than anything else, cost her the election, and I think the Democratic party’s failure to reverse that decline has created an opening for demagogues like Trump to use racism to divide the working class against itself.

          • rlc says:

            I live in a small metro area of ~150K people in AZ, not near Phoenix or Tucson, with essentially no mandatory college-degree jobs, outside of teachers, law enforcement, and the upper reaches of medicine, etc.

            On account of a certain relationship I’ve got a very good view of the population of non-degreed manufacturing workers, who are, relatively speaking, upper middle class here. I would be very surprised if Trump’s share of their vote was less than 90%.

            So I believe that the above analysis I’m replying to is exactly correct.

            Here is the official Democratic Parties jobs strategy, as perceived by the non-degreed worker with a good job: Trust Goldman Sachs and the miracle of free trade, and also trust in the love Larry Summers et. al. have for high levels of immigration, on account of it raising GDP, plus the moral brownie points for helping raise the living standards of the immigrants themselves (NOTE THAT I DO NOT DISAGREE WITH THOSE).

            And if, mr. person with a good, non-degreed job, your job goes away, you now have to take a job at Walmart, or Costco if you’re lucky, otherwise, *move* to where the jobs are.

            Trump comes along and says “I’m going to fix that, and make sure your jobs don’t go away”.

            It does not matter that what he claims is impossible to do. Or that as a matter of implementation, he’s going to actually do worse than what the DNC Dems propose to do (with bonus Goldman Sachs). He’s signalling to these workers that he *cares*. Hillary and the whole DNC signalled that if you lose your good job, *fuck you, loser; here have some…???*.

            I voted for Hillary, btw.

            • DamnYankees says:

              This is extremely unpersuasive, because of this – I would bet all the money in my pocket right now that these people voted overwhelmingly for Mitt Romney.

              If your main concern is life is not handing the economy over to bankers, being against free trade, being against outsourcing and not having alternatives – you don’t vote for Mitt Romney. You don’t vote for any Republican ever.

              But of course, these people voted for Republicans. Always have. If you told me that this town voted 90% for Dennis Kucinich, then 90% for Obama over Romney, and then 90% for Trump, then sure. Your explanation would make some semblance of sense.

              But they didn’t, of course. Trump certainly increased the margins in many places, but he didn’t flip entire voting blocs. It’s not a theory which maps on to historical voting patterns.

              • rlc says:

                Still not getting it, sigh. This is going to be a long grinding campaign, I see.

                Once again: it does not matter what the facts are. What matters is how the workers perceive whether or not the politicians care about their specific good jobs.

                Trump was very clear about this, and so was Hillary, in her way. Generic Republicans like Romney are always moaning about getting the guvment out of the way of job-creators.

                (I do not discount any of the racism, misogony, etc, as motivators, but I do want to emphasize that workers do care about their good jobs, as do their families)

                • DamnYankees says:

                  Once again: it does not matter what the facts are. What matters is how the workers perceive whether or not the politicians care about their specific good jobs.

                  Your explanation of why people vote this way does not explain why these people voted for Romney over Obama. That’s why it fails.

                  If both X and Y occur, and your explanation (Z) says that people voted for Y because they truly feel Z, the fact that Z is contrary to X is fatal to your explanation. I’m sorry if you don’t like that, but it can’t be escaped.

                • rlc says:

                  Do you agree that winning an election occurs on the margin?

                  Romney lost. Trump won. Trump did something different than Romney, would you agree?

                  FWIW I completely agree on the impact of Comey’s actions. But the election outcome would have been close still. Really, are you implying that everything’s cool, fundamentally, if only Wiener hadn’t uh… I won’t go there. Or maybe Abedin (a highest level political party operative) should have had the faintest idea of crushingly basic email opsec procedure?

                  So I don’t think you’re fully grasping the fundamental truths in mftalbot’s comment.

                  Simply put, Dems need to make the margins wider. And they can.

                • djw says:

                  Romney lost. Trump won. Trump did something different than Romney, would you agree?

                  You said you’re in Arizona. Clinton solidly outperformed Obama 2012 in your state, cutting the R margin by more than half.

                  At ~150K not near Phoenix/Tuscon I assume you’re in either Yuma or Flagstaff. In both counties containing those metros, Clinton’s performance easily surpassed Obama’s: in Yuma county, she lost by 2200 votes, where Obama had lost by over 5000; in Coconino she won by 8700 where Obama’s margin was 7000. Using your anecdotal/observational data to explain how Clinton failed where Obama succeeded seems like a dubious prospect.

                  Really, are you implying that everything’s cool, fundamentally, if only Wiener hadn’t uh

                  Nothing about Scott’s post, or the analysis that underpins it, says anything of the sort–this entirely projection. “Ceteris paribus, but for X Clinton wins” says exactly that, nothing more. It does not contain the implicit claim that “everything’s cool” ceteris paribus, and many blog posts over the last 12 months have more or less explicitly said “that Trump may come very close to winning is an indication that something is very wrong.”

                • DamnYankees says:

                  I don’t disagree with anything you’re saying. And yes, you are right that Trump did “something different”. The problem is he did so many things differently that everyone can sweep in their pet theory and say “aha! that’s the thing that mattered the most!”

                  The lessons people draw from these types of voting patterns always fails to illuminate.

                  On the one hand, you have people on the class-focused liberal side of things saying “look, these voters voted against their own best economic interests, clearly we need to be more aggressive and do things like single payer – neoliberalism half-loaf stuff doesn’t work!”

                  On the other hand, you have people on the social-focused liberal side of things saying “look, we gave these people material benefits, and they didn’t care – they voted to hurt their own economic interests in order to retain and re-affirm their sense of social and racial dominance – appealing to economic interests doesn’t work!

                  And the truth is I have very little sense of which of these arguments is correct. And even if I did have that sense, I no longer trust my own political instincts. So how to regroup without knowing what the hell the failure was? The path forward is…murky. And the tone of “I know these hardworking folks and they just want a break in life, you elitist out of touch liberals” that I sense in a lot of these posts is just staggeringly unpersuasive.

                • rlc says:

                  “I assume you’re in either Yuma or Flagstaff”

                  Nope. Prescott.

                  AZ is not usually relevant to the POTUS result. We’ve got unusual demographics with all the retirees, for instance. I am using my anecdotage simply to illustrate what non-degreed workers with “good jobs” are thinking, and that apparently mattered in the states that typically are relevant to the POTUS result.

                  Seriously, why is there such an apparent hostility toward the idea that the Democratic Party should support a coherent “good jobs” policy covering the entire country, and not just large cities? Try solving the two-body problem in a place like mine.

                  Sure, you’re going to help a bunch of deplorables as a side effect. So what?

                  Side note, with just a touch of snark. I’m not being mean, just having fun with people wielding numbers: I *wonder* what could be the defining characteristics of Yuma and Flagstaff (and they are entirely different)?.

                • DamnYankees says:

                  Seriously, why is there such an apparent hostility toward the idea that the Democratic Party should support a coherent “good jobs” policy covering the entire country, and not just large cities? Try solving the two-body problem in a place like mine.

                  Because they already did. Obama was relentless on this. Clinton had tons of policy specifics to help these people.

                  Trump had jack shit other than bravado.

                  You are correct that these people thought that Trump was better for their economic prospects than Clinton. No duh, they voted for him. The question is (i) to what extent that belief maps on to reality and (ii) to what extent that belief is non-conscious motivated reasoning (e.g. you already wanted to vote for Trump so you just backfilled into the idea that he’d be better for you economically).

                  You aren’t distinguishing between “people voted because of X” and “people think/claim they voted because of X”. There’s a ridiculously critical difference between them. Because the solution to one is policy, and the solution to the other is propaganda.

                • djw says:

                  Seriously, why is there such an apparent hostility toward the idea that the Democratic Party should support a coherent “good jobs” policy covering the entire country, and not just large cities?

                  You’re seeing things that aren’t there. What you’re seeing is people questioning the confidence with which you draw inferences from anecdotal data, and questioning whether Democrats could get credit for such a program from R-identified people in a hyper-partisan information sorting environment (the pitch you’re describing has very much been part of the Obama/Democratic rhetoric about renewable energy, and I don’t think it’s doing them much good with that population). Scepticism about those things isn’t evidence of hostility to the kind of message you policy/message you’re suggesting.

                • DamnYankees says:

                  What you’re seeing is people questioning the confidence with which you draw inferences from anecdotal data, and questioning whether Democrats could get credit for such a program from R-identified people in a hyper-partisan information sorting environment (the pitch you’re describing has very much been part of the Obama/Democratic rhetoric about renewable energy, and I don’t think it’s doing them much good with that population). Scepticism about those things isn’t evidence of hostility to the kind of message you policy/message you’re suggesting.

                  A prime example of this is, of course, Solyndra. The US government invested in a renewable energy company. That investment helps create jobs.

                  See how much credit the Obama administration got from conservatives for that. Or any of the other jobs created under the ARRA.

                • FlipYrWhig says:

                  You are correct that these people thought that Trump was better for their economic prospects than Clinton. No duh, they voted for him.

                  I haven’t seen numbers or anything but I highly doubt that the people who voted for Trump over Clinton did so on the basis of their economic prospects, or even that the people who voted for Trump over Clinton _after having voted for Obama at least once_ did so on the basis of their economic prospects. I think they voted for Trump because he was not Hillary Clinton, whom they learned to view as indelibly corrupt; and perhaps because they thought Trump would side with cops over “thugs.” I’d want to see A LOT of evidence substantiating that people who now cite something about the comparative economic prospects each candidate put forth as the reason why they switched from D to R, from D to non-voter, or from non-voter to R.

                • I realise polling has taken a pretty big hit these days, but for what it’s worth, the returns I’ve seen indicate that people who cited the economy as their top concern (or one of their top concerns) went for Clinton by a pretty wide margin. Don’t have a cite offhand because I didn’t bookmark it, sadly.

                • ΧΤΠΔ says:

                  As it happens (and as I’m sure FyW is aware of) John Cole linked to a piece The Atlantic did on the economic recovery in Elkhart a few weeks back. I support to the increased presence and influence of economic leftism, and am open to the possibility that it might be an explanation for a portion of abstentions/Trump voting (albeit probably not one that’s either necessary or sufficient for Clinton’s loss)…but if the mood in Elkhart is representative of those other communities who supported Obama in 2008 but went to Donald last year, then, to paraphrase urban poet/oversized bull terrier Albert Johnson: That’s not really pain, that’s butthurt.*

                  *Warning: Offensive language, and also recorded when he was beginning to suck.

                • FlipYrWhig says:

                  Right — I think it’s been too common to listen to the people who always vote for Republicans and treat what they’re saying this time as the reason why they didn’t vote for the Democrat. Even district by district you really need to focus on the switchers. ESPECIALLY when there’s been this huge push from the Sanders-ite left to read out from Sanders’s appeal to Democrats in the Rust Belt conclusions about Sanders’s, or Sanders-ish, appeal to Republicans in the Rust Belt — that’s a climate that generates a lot of false hits on things that _look like_ economic populism but aren’t really.

                • ΧΤΠΔ says:

                  I read something to the effect – probably in NYMag; don’t remember – that wingnut mobilization was kicking into overdrive in Wisconsin during the election, which would certainly explain Feingold’s underperformance. And one of the guys at Balloon Juice said that unified Republican rule was a factor in it going red, so that leaves Pennsylvania as the surprise meriting the most examination.

                • cpinva says:

                  “(I do not discount any of the racism, misogony, etc, as motivators, but I do want to emphasize that workers do care about their good jobs, as do their families)”

                  and don’t forget to emphasize just how stupid you think those workers are. according to your theory, these same workers, who have watched jobs be outsourced/technologically obsoleted, for the past 40 years, are suddenly going to believe this one blowhard has a plan (that he’s hiding until after the election) to both stop the bleeding, and reverse migrate those jobs back here. which makes them incredibly stupid and gullible. they may well be, but not 90% of them. my guess is that race played a far larger part in their voting republican, which it has since LBJ signed off on all those “special rights” for black people back in ’65/’66.

                  fortunately, those people aren’t getting even 1:1 replacement, because they like having that new pickemup truck every 3 years and a nice house, both of which stretch them out enough where they can’t afford more than 2 kids, and there’s no guarantee the kids will be assholes like their parents.

            • jim, some guy in iowa says:

              then it seems the question becomes, can you get those people’s votes without making promises you know can’t be kept? And if you can’t do you make the promises anyway?

              • rlc says:

                Before James Fallows’ head exploded, he was doing some exceptional coverage on the efforts certain local communities were doing to revitalize their jobs base beyond big box and other service sector jobs. I.e, communism, but with a local face.

                Why wouldn’t the national Democratic Party get behind these efforts, and be their biggest cheerleaders?

                The DNC should have an aggregator site for these efforts, with regular news briefs, etc. Shovel some amount of money down. Any successes could then be claimed.

              • [email protected] says:

                can you get those people’s votes without making promises you know can’t be kept?

                I’m fascinated by the defeatism on the left when it comes to remediating the damage done to American workers by globalization and automation.

                Both globalization and automation are not the outcome of immutable laws of physics, about which Nothing Can Be Done. They are the result of agreements between human beings, and those agreements were the expression of policy priorities of the people who made them.

                We need better imaginations on the left.

                As a practical matter, it would be a trivial matter to engineer a manufacturing boom in the United States. Just ban the import of any manufactured good, and the eventual result (after a period of more or less utter bedlam and chaos — understand, I’m not suggesting this be tried!) would be a boom in blue-collar employment the likes of which we haven’t seen in ages.

                See? We could do that, or any number of things that are far more sensible and reasonable, any of which would help the situation.

                Why not promise a re-do of international trade so that the general rule is something like, “If you sell something in a market, you need to manufacture it there.”? This is already China’s de facto situation – Buick sells tons of cars in China, virtually all of which are made there, because if they are imported, there are ruinous tariffs.

                While that is being worked out, propose to do a massive program of public works and infrastructure repair. We need $3.6 trillion in upgrades and repairs – propose to do that in 4 years, financed by debt. (Capital investment is an excellent use of debt.)

                All of that, and much more, is possible as a practical matter. None of it is proposing that we prevent the sun from rising in the east, or the repeal the first law of thermodynamics.

                Geez, people. Dare to dream.

                • jim, some guy in iowa says:

                  you’re right about the failure of imagination on my part. Like, for instance, how am I going to grow corn and soybeans in China?

                • jim, some guy in iowa says:

                  me @ 6:43 is being a bit jerky- shit day, for other reasons. sorry & thanks

                • ForkyMcSpoon says:

                  Because you have to market those ideas with a lot of limitations:

                  1. Republicans will misrepresent the shit out of all of that
                  2. The media likely will play along, and big business will fund attacks on it
                  3. Voters may be skeptical due to general government dysfunction, and to some extent they’ll be right: you won’t be able to pass any of that without a strong majority, and it wasn’t possible to win one in the past few years. You also need plans that are politically feasible, and most of the plans the GOP will let you pass aren’t that appealing
                  4. Given that you won’t actually be able to pass those plans, you need something to do in the meantime to keep your coalition together instead of promising jobs for everyone and 2 or 4 years later they don’t have the good jobs you promised so the GOP gains seats, thus preventing you from acquiring that large majority you needed to get that shit done
                  5. Not only will you be punished for the lack of progress, but the GOP will claim that we DID try your plan, and despite that being a lie, many voters will conclude that we tried it, it failed, and your ideas are hogwash

                  I mean, you make it sound so easy. Just give the people jobs! But what you also need is a plan to deal with each of those problems. I don’t claim to have the answer. But I know that promising $3 trillion in infrastructure spending is almost certainly no magic bullet.

                  (#5 seemed to be a pretty common thing with the 2009 stimulus.)

                • cpinva says:

                  “Geez, people. Dare to dream.”

                  I like the fantasy world you live in. what drugs are you taking, and where can I get some?

                  do you seriously believe the US exists in some kind of vacuum? that it doesn’t matter what we do, the rest of world will just ignore it? oh, and let’s not forget the Constitutional limitations on your plans. the commerce clause comes quickly to mind.

                  geez, when you come up with things that are actually doable and sellable, let me know.

            • rlc says:

              “… Scepticism about those things isn’t evidence of hostility to the kind of message you policy/message you’re suggesting.”

              Ok then, it should be done, even if my anecdotage is unpersuasive.

              • rlc says:

                ack, I’ve lost the thread entirely. Literally! Well I’ve got some elitist things to do before I spend more time anecdotally, unpersuasively, advocating for a good jobs for everybody Democratic Policy.

          • Slothrop2 says:

            Wowie zowie, what a great post.

            “The media did it,” is just a dumb thesis.

          • Gareth says:

            If you use any reasonable proxy for the wildly-theoretical, absolute maximum percentage of Americans that can possibly get a college degree — making unicorns-farting-rainbows-level optimistic assumptions about uniformly well-funded and excellent public schools, pervasive, no-cost tutoring, universal and free SAT prep, already-complete solutions to all other social problems that interfere with educational excellence, and so on — the number is not much above 50%, and the more realistic (but still highly-ambitious, way-long-term-project) number is somewhere around 35%

            The current liberal consensus is that the number is 100%, and you’re racist if you think otherwise.

            • AMK says:

              This is true, but it’s not new. If we use (as I believe you are) “college degree” as an imprefect proxy for critical thinking skills, a certain baseline awareness of empirical reality and diminished susceptibility to authoritarian and racist appeals, then there have always been enough people without college degrees to swing elections and send democracy off a cliff.

              What’s changed, as everyone seems to agree, is a media environment where these people and their biases can be targeted and exploited with surgical precision. Combine that with big-sort geography and an electoral system that overrepresents rural areas, and you get where we are now.

              • Gareth says:

                The first step to dealing with the problem is to admit that some people don’t have the ability to get a college degree. Take those stupid 100% college admission banners off the high schools. Erik Loomis actually has taken that step, much as I disagree with his conclusions from it.

        • herewegoagain3 says:

          Don’t nominate someone that is upside down in general approval when primary voting starts.

          Another episode of SASQ.

      • DamnYankees says:

        But that’s the answer.

        Well it’s an answer, but it just pushes the question back to the level of why partisanship is so strong. Either way, still depresses me. Because you can fix “the FBI director acted improperty”. It’s harder to fix “65 million people are willing to vote for an incompetent madman”.

        In elections that don’t have an incumbent or extreme economic positions, it’s essentially impossible for there to be an election that isn’t close enough to steal. Which is why we shouldn’t ignore the role of the thieves going forward.

        Not saying you should. I have no problem with anyone fighting this fight. But Trump got 46% or whatever, and so while Comey explains how he got from 45 to 46, there’s an ‘explanation’ for every marginal vote and how he got it. What existentially depresses me is the fact he got to 45 at all. Not that he got from 45 to 46.

        • Moondog von Superman says:

          Obviously we (Dems) have to learn how to communicate effectively with more Americans.

          Last night President Obama made a critical point, sort of–

          “…if every economic issue is framed as a struggle between a hardworking white middle class and undeserving minorities, then workers of all shades will be left fighting for scraps while the wealthy withdraw further into their private enclaves.”

          But how many people understood it? And why the extreme soft peddling?

      • herewegoagain3 says:

        You’re only saying this because both parties nominated someone disliked by the majority of people and this is the result we got.

        Had we nominated someone who wasn’t massively disliked you would be singing a different tune.

        Show me the results of another election where both nominees were disliked by the majority? IE, where’s your data?

    • Tom Till says:

      ….the key question to me, and the key to my sadness, is not trying to understand how Trump got from 42% to 47%. It’s how he got from 20% to 42%. It’s how he was remotely able to consolidate a party behind him.

      Conservatives spent the past fifty years building the party of Trump: white, Southern, authoritarian, racist. As countless others have pointed out, Trump shouted what Republicans always stage whispered and the party’s rank and file responded like never before. (Getting to stick it to that uppity black guy and his band of Real Racists was a major bonus.) The surprise would have been if the party had abandoned him.

      • DamnYankees says:

        Sure. I’m not saying its surprising. I’m saying its depressing.

      • rm says:

        Two factors are stronger than ever before, and tend to be invisible in day-to-day life so that most people wrongly think things haven’t changed fundamentally:

        wealth inequality — it’s gonna be almost impossible to make progress with this level of inequality, and when people feel the pain at least half of them will blame scapegoats

        propaganda/epistemological closure/news bubbles/confirmation bias/call it what you will — it absolutely astonishes me every time, even though I already know about it, every time that I get a glimpse into the worldview of conservatives who say things like “Obama ruined the country” or “Hillary is untrustworthy” or “Obama didn’t respect the Constitution” and all that bullshit. I mean, I know that’s what they think, but I can’t get my mind around how they actually believe it. But if I thought Hillary was the demon they think she is, I would vote against her too. Yet there is no way to show them they are wrong.

        I think Obama addressed both of these in his farewell address. I wish I had his optimism about any of it getting better.

      • Joe Bob the III says:

        I also blame the GOP for their failure to maintain the Republican Party as a functional governing party. For at least the past 25 years they have been devolving, at an increasingly rapid pace, from a party capable of governing, to an opposition party, to something that resembles an insurrection movement.

        A healthy political party would have been able to stop the nomination of Donald Trump. The GOP couldn’t stop him because the party is sick.

  3. DAS says:

    I am with you except for

    The “polls can’t account for Trump being a celebrity” response fails to explain why Election Day voters were more affected by Trump’s celebrity status than early voters although he didn’t become more famous in the interim

    You are missing another explanation: the set of people who voted on election day (which includes people who were undecided until election day as well as people with time to go to the polls on election day) perhaps included more people who were swayed by Trump’s celebrity status than the set of people who voted early.

    BTW, did Comey know, prior to his interventions in the election, about the Russian role in hacking the DNC, et al.? Comey certainly knew Trump suborned Russian hacking (which Trump did publicly). IOW, do Comey’s actions rise to the level of giving aid and comfort to a rival state (if not to an enemy)?

    • Jameson Quinn says:

      In my polling analysis, my model could predict Trump votes well, but overestimated Clinton votes proportionally. That is consistent with a late move against Clinton by potential voters not inherently sympathetic to Trump.

    • Frequently Confused says:

      IIRC Comey refused to sign on to a report a week or so before the election about the Russian hacking. So he at least knew the the CIA and NSA believed it.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        And note that he didn’t say it was wrong; he said that the FBI doesn’t comment on ongoing investigations during an election. With notably rare exceptions.

      • JustRuss says:

        This. Whether Comey’s actions affected the election is immaterial. What is crystal clear is that he intended to influence the election, and that should be the basis for investigation, censure, and possibly (might not be possible, but in a perfect world…) prosecution.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      the set of people who voted on election day (which includes people who were undecided until election day as well as people with time to go to the polls on election day) perhaps included more people who were swayed by Trump’s celebrity status than the set of people who voted early.

      I see no reason to believe that this is true.

      • MyNameIsZweig says:

        Yeah, same here. I would need at least a reasonable hypothesis about why late voters might be more swayed by Trump’s celebrity status than early voters, and I can’t seem to come up with one myself.

        • DAS says:

          The hypothesis here is easy: late voters are lower information voters and hence more are more likely to be swayed by “shallow” things like Trump’s celebrity.

          • MyNameIsZweig says:

            I don’t buy that for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the fact that I saw or heard a metric shit-ton of interviews with voters who were *clearly* low-information voters – in that they were blithely unaware of very basic facts about current events, grade-school civics and other relevant subjects – who decided early and firmly for Trump.

            What seems more likely to me is that the late-breakers were not especially low-information, but instead so disliked both candidates that they didn’t or couldn’t decide which evil felt less bad to support. It wasn’t that these people were just uninformed or dumb – it’s that they let their personal (i.e., non-policy) feelings about each candidate in the moment dictate who they were going to support, and the Comey letter tipped that scale toward Trump at a crucial moment.

            • FlipYrWhig says:

              Yup. I think for people who feel like it’s healthy to vote even though they hate politics and politicians so they delay and delay and delay until deciding very late and on mostly impressionistic bases, it came down to “he’s obviously an asshole, but she’s dirty, and that’s worse.”

      • Sebastian_h says:

        You should, because it follows exactly the same pattern in the Brexit voting in the UK and the Syriza voting in Greece. In all three of those elections the pollsters acted as if the nominally undecided voters would vote proportionally for both sides and in all three of those cases we saw that they broke heavily against the establishment.

        America isn’t that special. There is something serious going on IN THE WORLD and it isn’t Comey.

        We need to deal with what is going on in the world, instead of harping on excuses.

        Comey did wrong. His wrong may have shifted a tiny number of voters, and in this ridiculously close election that may have altered the outcome.

        But it shouldn’t have been this close. It wasn’t this close with Obama (a black man). The reason it was close enough is that we aren’t paying attention.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          It wasn’t this close with Obama (a black man).

          The first time he won under insanely favorable conditions for the out party, and the second time he won by the margin you would expect a peacetime incumbent to beat a mediocre opponent. If Obama had been running after 8 years after Clinton, the election absolutely would have been close. Would he have won? Maybe. But the idea that Clinton should have been expected to win by more than 4% of the popular vote in an era of extremely strong partisanship in conditions that structurally favored a GOP win has no actual basis.

          The Brexit comparison is also lazy. Leaving aside the fact that Clinton got substantially more votes, there was certainly no revolt against the establishment in the congressional votes.

          • Sebastian_h says:

            “The first time he won under insanely favorable conditions for the out party, and the second time he won by the margin you would expect a peacetime incumbent to beat a mediocre opponent.”

            It is interesting that you are capable of recognizing mediocre Republican candidates, but not Democratic ones. I happen to think you are right that Romney was a mediocre opponent, but without citing to anything that you make fun of when we talk about Clinton, how do you know Romney was a mediocre opponent? This one would be fun if you actually answered it.

            She isn’t expected to win by 4% of the vote. A normal Democratic candidate is expected to win the Rust Belt States by large margins unless they fuck it up.

            Obama won Pennsylvannia by 5%+. Gore won it by 5%+ and even Kerry won it by more than 2%.

            So if you are positing a Comey swing at 1-2% (which I think is too large), Clinton still has to underperform all of the recent Democratic contenders in order for that to make a difference.

  4. Jameson Quinn says:

    I agree. All the evidence I have — including my polling analysis, where I have more details than exist in public knowledge — is consistent with the Comey effect being easily over 1%, more than enough to swing the election.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      Right. If the margins in the 3 key swing states were more like 2-3 points, it would be hard to say. But given the actual margins there’s really no doubt.

  5. Alex.S says:

    One of the things for me is that Comey knew he was acting with disregard for the rules and ethics of his office. He cites them now for why it is important to not talk about investigations concerning Trump and Russia.

    But, he ignored all that to attack Clinton in ways completely outside of normal. And by virtue of breaking rules and regulations, he managed to make it extra special important. He was literally rewarded by a supposedly neutral press for making partisan attacks and intervening in the election.

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      As a commenter brilliantly summarized his justification, “I know the rule is designed to make sure that our investigations don’t influence elections, but I think in this case, we should break that rule, because there’s an election, and we should influence it.” Why the media so willingly allowed itself to be played is a more complicated question.

      • Ithaqua says:

        Is it? I think the idea of the media acting as the “Fourth Estate” was born during the French Revolution and should have died at its end. Clinton e-mail scandal news sold papers / generated clicks / got viewers, and that’s the business the media are in. Add “New FBI report!” to it and you get more clicks / views / etc., so…

    • nemdam says:

      This is why I’m having a hard time shaking the idea that Comey is compromised. I’m finding it difficult to come up with an alternative reason that better explains his actions. James Comey knew that Russia hacked the election with the purpose to help Donald Trump because Russia believes this helps achieve their goal of weakening the US and the West in general. Knowing this and helping Doanld Trump is basically treason. With that said, here are the possible reasons I have come up with to explain why Comey did what he did:

      1) Gross incompetence. I find this hard to believe. An FBI director doesn’t know not to interfere in an election? Also given his comments yesterday about not commenting on pending investigations, of course he knows not to do this. This explanation makes no sense.
      2) Appease Jason Chaffetz. Plausible, but Comey would really risk treason because he’s afraid of Jason Chaffetz? I find this dubious.
      3) Extreme partisanship. Also plausible, but once again, Comey would risk treason because he hates Hillary that much? That also seems hard to believe.
      4) He is compromised. Why else would he do something so grossly unethical, illegal, and wrong?

      I fully admit this could be my head still spinning from everything coming out plus a lack of imagination in not thinking of alternative scenarios. But this smells a lot like Trump when he was consistently pro-Russia throughout the campaign when he wasn’t consistent about anything else. Many waved it away as a quirk, but it always seemed like there was more to it than an admiration of Putin. It turns out it was much worse than we could’ve imagined.

      • smott999 says:

        As always, I think the answer is simple.
        Comey was a weak leader, and had no control over his NYC office, and he had already set a horrible example in July.

        The NYC office which he could not control, gave Info to Congress (my guess is CHafetz).

        Comey knew if he did not release the letter himself, it would be leaked, and he would be blamed for protecting Clinton.

        Because he is a weak leader, with poor control of his office, and because he is a hack, with no honor, who wanted to protect his own arse, he released the letter first.

        This is quite uncomplicated IMO. Comey is simply weak.

        It’s pretty normal, actually, but it’s a tragedy when it happens at this level.

        We need people at Comey’s level to be better, to be better leaders. To be stronger.

        Nominating a weak hack like Comey is a mistake I bet Obama wishes he could take back. It has turned the course of history.

        • nemdam says:

          I mean I guess. I agree that he’s weak but so weak to risk treason and violation of the Hatch Act because he doesn’t want to be blamed for a leak? Agree to disagree, and I fully admit I’m probably off my rocker, but it just doesn’t seem very plausible.

        • FlipYrWhig says:

          This is my read as well. Comey, like the media, is easier to sway to the right than to the left, because the squeaky wheel gets the grease, and Republicans have been training wheels to squeak for 75 years.

          • Scott Lemieux says:

            This is certainly part of it. But he’s also a longstanding member of the war on the Clintons, a literal Ken Starr goon. I see no reason to believe he didn’t think Clinton was a crook and smeared her accordingly.

            • jim, some guy in iowa says:

              I went back and forth on this (thinking the NYC office had gotten away from Comey and announcing the “new” emails was a cover-your-ass moment for him, etc) until yesterday and now I think it was his own damn idea myself

            • FlipYrWhig says:

              He’s such a prig, though, who seems to cherish his Last Honest Man reputation more than anything else. I feel like if he were a fictional character he’d’ve done it because he felt the need to protect against losing his rep for straight-shootin’ honesty, which is what would happen if he came off as an accessory to covering up DRAMATIC HILLARY CLINTON SCANDALZ. It’d be consistent with his characterization both beforehand and since.

      • ForkyMcSpoon says:

        Re #3: millions of Americans appear to hate Hillary that much. It’s not that hard to believe that of the millions of people who recognized Trump for what he was but refused to vote for Hillary to stop him… Comey is one of them.

  6. kped says:

    As many predicted, Glenn Greenwald has gone full on anti-Dem 24/7. It’s fun to watch the most predictable thing happen.

    And Democrats, still reeling from their unexpected and traumatic election loss as well as a systemic collapse of their party, seemingly divorced further and further from reason with each passing day, are willing — eager — to embrace any claim, cheer any tactic, align with any villain, regardless of how unsupported, tawdry and damaging those behaviors might be.

    Frankly, I’ve seen almost universal “this story is probably bullshit, but it’s funny, so let’s make fun of him”, not “OMG, this must be true!!!”, but as long as Glenn can write 8,000 words on “DEMOCRATS ARE HYPOCRITES, THEY ARE THE REAL ENEMY!!!”, he’ll do his best to take that angle.

    Seriously, what a hack.

    I mean..

    There are a wide array of legitimate and effective tactics for combatting those threats: from bipartisan congressional coalitions

    …did he get a hernia writing that sentence? lol, bipartisan congressional coalitions, I’m giggling at my desk at that one. Glenn, if you are reading (I know you do follow this site), try harder!

    Demanding that evidence-free, anonymous assertions be instantly venerated as Truth

    Facts not in evidence…

    • Lost Left Coaster says:

      Man, I wish Democracy Now! would quit having him on. I’m fine with them having people on who I don’t agree with, of course, but his interviews are just extended versions of his Twitter feed — making the same point over and over and over using way more words than necessary.

    • sam says:

      yep, and there’s nothing hypocritical at all at the massive numbers of media morality scolds I’ve seen over the last 16 hours lecturing about how “we shouldn’t rush to judgment because this information is not verified”.

      These same media scolds who couldn’t wait to leap head first into a giant shit-pile of hacked emails, because “they’re already out there – if we don’t report on them, someone else will!”

      • kped says:

        No, he even approvingly quotes NYT Dean Basquet saying they don’t post unverified claims! He quotes that as a good thing without irony!

        Like, the most common left wing reaction i see is what Scott has been doing, posting the NYT front page to show how different unverified “scandals” were treated. To pretend that instead, most liberals actually believe this, is just Glenn fucking that same chicken he always fucks. Absolutely there will be some idiots who believe it, don’t get me wrong, but to say that the majority do is just stupid, and Glenn being Glenn.

        The most common reactions, again:

        1) Acknowledging it’s not true, but making twitter jokes about peeing on people, and
        2) Ripping the NYT and CNN and others for reporting unverified leaks in November, but not today.

      • nemdam says:

        I think the hypocrisy goes beyond just the Wikileaks reporting. How many stories were created about Hillary’s health before she fainted? The reason the fainting became a story is because there was already unverified speculation about Hillary’s health just because Trump was talking about it. How about the stories about Clinton Foundation corruption even when they couldn’t find any evidence? Instead of writing the story that they looked into it and found no wrongdoing, they instead spun the stories as there was corruption even if they couldn’t find it. That’s basically rushing to judgment with unverified information. And given the defense is always “It’s not always about substance. It’s also about optics!”, you could also say the same about the dossier. “Sure the information is unverified, but the optics are bad just by the fact that the intelligence community has it!”

    • urd says:

      The fact that many people and sites outside of this one still see him as a good source on the current media issues and a key advocate against government overreach would seem to undermine most of the posts here, many of which are thinly veiled personal attacks.

      He has his faults and biases, like all of us, and I’ve not been pleased with some of his recent collaborations, but it’s a important break from the rampant tribalism found from most of his peers.

  7. xq says:

    The “durrrr, correlation is not causation, durrr” argument loses any plausibility when you consider that every Comey intervention caused a wave of negative media coverage about Clinton and was followed by a significant decline in national polls numbers.

    But (as I’ve pointed out many times in these threads) polls very likely over-respond to news events due to sampling biases. The model of the undecided voter (most of whom are low-information and likely pay little attention tot he news) who is constantly changing their mind based on which candidate receives more negative media coverage that week seems implausible to me, and I’ve never seen convincing evidence in its favor.

    Anyways, I don’t really get your extreme confidence. It’s hard to think of a single question in social science for which the answer is known with the confidence you have here. And voter motivation is not a topic on which we have a tremendous amount of high-confidence knowledge. The idea that any skepticism on this point is equivalent to thinking lizards did 9/11 is pretty strange.

    • Dilan Esper says:

      But (as I’ve pointed out many times in these threads) polls very likely over-respond to news events due to sampling biases. The model of the undecided voter (most of whom are low-information and likely pay little attention tot he news) who is constantly changing their mind based on which candidate receives more negative media coverage that week seems implausible to me, and I’ve never seen convincing evidence in its favor.

      +1

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      extreme confidence.

      As I said, there’s no way to prove such a counterfactual with absolute certainty. But you’ll rarely never find stronger evidence on this kind of social science question than this. You can quibble with any individual point but the combination of them and the lack of a decent alternative explanation is close to dispositive.

      If you want to say that we just should just not make claims about what affected complex events, OK, although I don’t agree. But to repeat in ~99% of cases people who want to claim that there just isn’t enough evidence to plausibly show a Comey effect aren’t saying that; they’re saying that we should focus on this but on their evidence-free and completely unfalsifiable claims that Clinton would have won with better messaging or whatever.

      • xq says:

        they’re saying that we should focus on this but on their evidence-free and completely unfalsifiable claims that Clinton would have won with better messaging or whatever.

        Maybe, but that’s not where I’m coming from. I’m just skeptical of the model of the hypervolatile undecided voter. The Vox article implies that there was a huge late shift due to Comey–and since a large majority of voters were already decided, that must have been an absolutely massive shift among undecideds.

        A related question to you: before you were saying that it was quite plausible that Comey did not explain the full late shift against Clinton. (e.g., here: http://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2016/11/the-comey-effect) If Comey is not the full explanation, there must be at least one additional explanation. But now you say there’s no decent alternative explanation. Does that mean you now believe Comey is actually responsible for the full shift? That perhaps roughly half of undecided voters decided based on the letter?

        • jim, some guy in iowa says:

          where I live the media coverage of that damned letter was like a lead blanket- it was when I realized the D prospects here were *bad*- I’m sure it went a ways toward reducing D-leaning enthusiasm & turnout

          and otherwise we’re talking about people who couldn’t decide between Hillary Clinton and Donald Freaking Trump- why *wouldn’t* the FBI director making yet another smoke-filled announcement have what seems to us to be a disproportional effect?

        • Ithaqua says:

          We’re not talking about a huge shift, we’re talking about a less than 2% shift. That’s a small shift. It may seem huge because the margin of Clinton’s (popular vote) victory was about 2% also, or because so many people are purely partisan voters, but we’re really only talking about a couple million people out of over 100 million.

          • xq says:

            In the post I linked the claimed shift was 5 points. The Vox article isn’t completely clear about the size of the shift they are claiming, but it seems larger than 2 points in the decisive states. In PA, there’s a 3 point shift towards Trump in the polls from 10/28 to 11/7 and then another 3 points towards Trump in the actual result. Similar in MI.

            • Jameson Quinn says:

              Sure, a convention bump is most likely a temporary enthusiasm effect in who responds to polls, not a matter of people actually changing their mind.

              But there’s a big difference between a temporary enthusiasm effect in July and one in November. The former is horse-race bullshit; the latter can easily swing the actual election.

              • xq says:

                Even in November I don’t see how you can determine how much of a poll change is due to changing enthusiasm among people who are still going to vote for their favored candidate vs. how much represents a real shift in voter intention.

                • Ithaqua says:

                  Does it matter? If a particular piece of news causes some people to vote for Trump instead of Hillary (shift in voter intention), some people not to vote instead of vote for Hillary (changing enthusiasm) and some people to vote for Trump instead of not voting (changing enthusiasm), a) that seems more plausible than assuming the only effect is the first one, and b) it’s still all due to the particular piece of news.

                • xq says:

                  Choosing not to vote instead of voting for Clinton is a shift in voting intention. The point is that a shift in enthusiasm picked up by the polls (because unenthusiastic people choose not to respond) may not correspond to any change in voter intention (because most voters have very strong preferences and will vote for their favored candidate even if unenthusiastic about it).

                • Richard Gadsden says:

                  It matters because the enthusism shift is from people who vote Hillary and answer polls to people who vote Hillary and don’t answer polls.

                  The shift in VI is from people who vote Hillary and answer polls to people who don’t vote Hillary and still answer polls.

            • Ithaqua says:

              I suspect it’s a difference in how it’s stated, but have little time ATM to confirm this. 2% shift = +2 Trump, -2 Clinton for a 4% difference.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          I’m just skeptical of the model of the hypervolatile undecided voter.

          Nothing about the theory requires the idea that undecided voters are “hypervolatile.” It requires that some undecided voters change their minds in response to highly unusual events, which seems entirely unreasonable. (And your “who got the better coverage last week” formulation really downplays what happened after October 28. There was a huge wave of negative coverage directed at one of the candidates. It was not your ordinary “Trump won the week” thing.)

          IN addition, the effects of Comey are by no means confined to voters changing their minds. The coverage of the letter could — and almost certainly did — suppress turnout of Clinton-leaning voters and increase turnout of Trump-leaning voters.

          huge late shift

          Not really. There was, in absolute terms, a fairly modest shift — but given the small margins in marginal states it was enough.

          But now you say there’s no decent alternative explanation.

          There’s no alternate explanation that can account for the magnitude of Clinton’s decline, or for its acceleration after October 28. I agree that she was going to come down a little after the third debate like she did after the first two. This went far beyond that.

          Again, given how thin the margins were in the three key states, you would have to argue that the coverage of the letter had very little effect, and this is just implausible. We know that after October 28th Clinton’s numbers took a very sharp downward turn, not at all consistent with normal declines from earlier debates; we know that there was an extremely unusual wave of negative coverage of Clinton; we know there was an unusually number of undecided voters; and we know that Election Day voters broke much more strongly for Trump than early voters. You’re just never going to get stronger evidence than that.

          • Dilan Esper says:

            It requires that some undecided voters change their minds in response to highly unusual events, which seems entirely unreasonable.

            The problem with this argument is that you see a graph with a bunch of swings in it. There are no real plausible explanations for all of the swings as statements of people’s intended voting behavior. Certainly not that many people are changing their minds back and forth.

            The most likely explanations for the swings are (1) statistical noise due to small biased polling samples and (2) the fact that voters don’t treat polls as elections and sometimes use them to morally preen in ways that have nothing to do with their voting plans.

            What you do is simply take the last swing, correlate it with a letter from Comey, and say “there! it decided the election”. But that’s pretty shoddy reasoning considering it makes no explanation for all the prior swings. In other words, if most of the other swings are caused by the two factors I mentioned, why are we certain the final swing was caused by the Comey letter instead?

            Answer: we aren’t, and we can’t be. You don’t have the data.

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              What you do is simply take the last swing, correlate it with a letter from Comey, and say “there! it decided the election”.

              Leaving aside some other problems, national polling is not the only evidence. There is evidence from actual voting that shows the same effect.

              But of course you’re not interested in the evidence; you applauded James Comey for being a Nonpartisan Straight-Shooter Just Doing His Job Going After the Sleazy Clintons when he released his letter — a far sleazier action than anything Hillary Clinton has ever done — and of course you want to deny his responsibility for putting Trump in the White House.

              • xq says:

                Leaving aside some other problems, national polling is not the only evidence. There is evidence from actual voting that shows the same effect.

                I think this is the weakest part of the article.

                They only reference two states, First, RI. Obama and Clinton did equally well among absentee voters, but Obama did 5 points better on election day while Clinton did 13 points worse. How are we supposed to interpret this? The Comey effect was 18 points in RI? Clearly something else is going on.

                Second, FL. Here they don’t even compare 2016 with 2012–they just note that Clinton did worse on election day. Since the demographics of early voters is almost certainly different than the demographics of election day voters, this is a meaningless comparison.

                Very weak stuff. A serious analysis might show what they say it does, but this certainly isn’t it.

          • xq says:

            It requires that some undecided voters change their minds in response to highly unusual events, which seems entirely unreasonable

            But fairly large shifts in polls were not that unusual this cycle, and you’ve interpreted most of them as real. Comey’s first intervention, the conventions, the debates, the Clinton Foundation coverage and her health issue, the Access Hollywood tape. I exaggerated by saying “every week” but doesn’t your view of voter behavior require quite a lot of changing minds? (Changing minds here includes people who were going to vote Clinton deciding to stay home).

          • Sebastian_h says:

            Yes there is.

            It is EXACTLY the same dynamic we saw in the Brexit vote in the UK and the recent Greek votes. In all three cases a vast majority of the undecideds shifted against the establishment position or candidates at the last minute.

            That doesn’t require Clinton specific problems that you don’t want to admit. But it requires looking at whats going on in the political world outside of the US. There are trends beyond the city on the hill and Democrats aren’t responding well to them.

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              The Democrats responded to these trends by running their most left-wing economic campaign in decades. This didn’t matter in part because the media was demonstrably obsessed with a trivial pseudo-scandal.

        • urd says:

          their evidence-free and completely unfalsifiable claims that Clinton would have won with better messaging or whatever

          So the multiple articles on this matter with factual evidence and sources don’t qualify? And “messaging or whatever”…very articulate.

          I see. Your theory cannot be wrong, only wronged.

          Explains a great deal.

    • JustRuss says:

      Sure, but given how close Trump’s win was in those 3 states, you have to believe that Comey’s meddling had virtually no impact on voters. Given how much press it generated, I find that hard to believe. No Comey, no Pres. Trump.

      • xq says:

        The margin in PA was 0.74%. A swing of 0.5% is not “virtually no impact” but would not change the outcome. Do you really have a strong intuition that the effect was much more likely in the 1% range than the 0.5% range? Keeping in mind that a large majority of voters are strong partisans, undecided voters tend to be idiosyncratic and low-information, and there are lots of of other things to base a vote on.

    • Ithaqua says:

      Nate Silver, Sam Wang, and Andrew Gelman, the latter of whom is one of the finest applied statisticians of our time, have all, independently, concluded that the Comey Effect was >= 2%. That’s in addition to the analysis presented here. Surely that lends some credence to the idea that the Comey Effect was at least in the vicinity of 2%…

  8. Dilan Esper says:

    As I’ve said before, at this point to deny the effects of Comey’s interventions is essentially trooferism.

    Epistemology is definitely not my area of expertise, but this looks like a complete whopper to me, one of the dumbest things I have ever read on this blog.

    Trooferism is, as far as I understand things, the denial of things that are obviously true at the highest level of certainty. Denial that cigarettes cause cancer, denial of human-caused global warming, denial that vaccines prevent disease, denial that Obama was born in Hawaii, that sort of thing.

    WHATEVER you want to argue about the polling counterfactuals and the Comey letter, there is NO FUCKING WAY it is at that level of certainty.

    Is Scott just saying this for rhetorical effect? If so, I’d forgive it. But if he’s actually saying that we are as certain about the Comey argument he makes as we are about Obama’s being born in Hawaii, than Scott is simply nuts.

    • random says:

      one of the dumbest things I have ever read on this blog.

      I did a spit-take when I read this.

      All of the things I’ve read that you’ve posted at this blog were dumber than this.

    • Phil Perspective says:

      But if he’s actually saying that we are as certain about the Comey argument he makes as we are about Obama’s being born in Hawaii, than Scott is simply nuts.

      Of course he is. Because we all know what the counter to Scott’s point is. Did Putin force HRC not to campaign in Wisconsin?

      • Hogan says:

        Scott saw you coming:

        their evidence-free and completely unfalsifiable claims that Clinton would have won with better messaging or whatever

      • Murc says:

        Why should she have campaigned in Wisconsin? What information did she possess prior to the election that indicated this would be a good use of resources?

        I mean… let’s game this out. It’s August, just past the convention, and you’re a Clinton campaign advisor. You walk into a meeting with her and say “Ma’am, we need to put some resources into Wisconsin.”

        Across the table, another advisor rolls their eyes. “No, we don’t,” they say. “We’ve never been within the MOE in Wisconsin, not in any poll. FOX NEWS has us with a comfortable +4. Fox! The aggregates look good. The individual polls look good. Wisconsin hasn’t gone for a Republican since Reagan. Why the fuck do you want us to dump resources into it that ought to go to Florida or Virginia?”

        Clinton nods ruminatively at this.

        What’s your response?

        • kped says:

          “She lost in Wisconsin, so they should have spent there” is his likely response, but as you so ably showed, that would just seem stupid prior to the election.

          And…she did campaign hard in Florida and Ohio and Pennsylvania, and lost. So what would Wisconsin have done?

          • Murc says:

            Well, realistically, Phil isn’t going to respond substantively but will keep fucking this chicken for the next four years.

            I’m honestly getting to the point where I’d like to see him banned. I don’t get to that point easily. I don’t think Dilan, or TJ, or other dumb as shit posters should be banned. I didn’t feel that way about Davey Nieporent or Brad Potts back in the day, or jfl when he was having a bad day.

            But Phil has really been crossing the line from “is stupid” to “never has anything valuable or interesting to say, actively makes the place worse by his presence.”

            • Bijan Parsia says:

              [delurking because delurked elsewhere in this thread]

              I don’t think Dilan, or TJ, or other dumb as shit posters should be banned.

              For, IIRC, a year, Dilan systematically tried to gaslight and slander me by lying about my mental health status (including that I was a threat to him), claimed that I had sexual problems (as if that were shameful), etc. He did it as part of a deliberate, acknowledged campaign to keep me from responding to his comments. He tried to make “calling someone on their shit by citing past comments” evidence of an obsession.

              If you are going to ban someone, I think being a dumbass is much worse grounds than these for being banned. This is on top of the completely ludicrous comment threads that Dilan continually repeats (and has for years) such as calling the ACA “the ACA” is a malign act of base propaganda.

              Deverite did something similar the other day when he responded substantively to Dilan’s Obamacare nonsense with a preface about needing to be polite because he’s called out snarky others for “how they treated Dilan”. Yet, to my recollection, he’s never called out Dilan for lying about my mental health. Indeed, he once gave me shit in a thread I wasn’t participating in for unrelated reasons. These things are wildly out of whack.

              Indeed, you once characterised an exchange where Dilan made these unfounded accusastions as us “yelling at each other”.

              This is a good example of the destruction of discourse. Dilan’s lecturey comments below set up him up as some sort of high minded interlocutor interested in appropriate contentful exchange. This has never been true.

              So why ban Phil and not the substantively worse Dilan? Why engage either?

              I hypothesize that the key reason that these folks don’t get banned is that, given partial information and other epistemic biases, you can’t just ban an extended version of the “obvious” trolls. Once you move beyond the Jennie’s, you aren’t troll banning, you’re shaping the commentary community. To do that well, requires a pretty large effort which is a bit much to expect from the management.

              • Lord Jesus Perm says:

                All of this.

                • jim, some guy in iowa says:

                  yes

                  (and nice to see you Bijan. I had wondered a little bit, until I happened to see you at Dana Houle’s Twitter thing)

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  Thanks! Nice to see you all (with the obvious notable exceptions :)).

                  I was feeling pretty blue post election (see this for some details; while Brexit + Trump are horrific, I had some personal stuff dragging me down including being burgled while in the house). Comment threads where obviously true things are just ignored seemed like a reasonable thing to avoid. If I’m going to comment to no avail, I might as well do so to the empty wind.

                  On the plus side, my sweetie got her new album, Small Brown Birds, completed (and that was…a busy time :)). It’s not yet generally available, but I hope to get a video of her Obama song up in the next few days.

              • ΧΤΠΔ says:

                Welcome back, Bijan!

                As for the question on what would be grounds for banning: I would say that a consistent pattern of bad faith arguments/characterizations of fellow commenters should be the extent of expansion (so under this criterion, Dilan, TJ & maybe Slothrop would be affected). Additionally, certain lines of attack should probably be grounds for a “three-strikes” system – and indeed have been used to ban people outright if particularly noxious.*

                That said, I completely understand Murc’s position and sympathize with it a bit myself. Dilan & TJ at their worst are probably more comprehensively awful than Phil, but Phil has been more consistently obnoxious and non-insightful.

                *Someone mentioned a “Mean Mister Mustache” as having recieved the banhammer; are there any details or links.

                • (((Malaclypse))) says:

                  Twas Mean Mister Mustard, and he was one of the Twelve Million Nyms of Jennie, if memory serves.

              • veleda_k says:

                Glad to see you back, Bijan!

              • Murc says:

                You make a strong case, Bijan. I had, I confess, forgotten about Dilan’s campaign of harassment against you. I admit freely that when the comment threads hit a certain critical mass I start skimming and mostly only looking at the stuff relevant to me personally.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  I had, I confess, forgotten about Dilan’s campaign of harassment against you.

                  Why would you remember? It’s not a strong requirement on you to be properly aware of the state of the comment section as a whole.

                  And this is partly why we can’t have nice things. It’s a bit of a collective action problem and a bit of a contested perspective problem. If one is willing to shamelessly lie, and can write in a superficially reasonable-looking way, then you can mess things up pretty easily.

                  It’s fascinating that some of the mechanisms that makes the beahvior of the electorate so frustrating appear even in this relatively high information community.

                • Dilan Esper says:

                  I never harassed Bijan. He behaved like a creep, spending hours on the internet looking stuff up about me so he could win a stupid internet argument.

                  That kind of behavior is scary.

                  I politely asked him to stop interacting with me. He never did, because, you see, he thinks winning internet arguments with strangers is more important than simple politeness.

                  Even here, months later, he won’t give it up. If he stops interacting with me, we can all go on living our lives, which is what any sane person would want. But he can’t do it.

        • DAS says:

          I dunno whether it would have made sense to shift resources to WI, but I don’t see why anyone would have assumed WI would be an easy win for Clinton. A state that elects (and cannot even manage to recall) someone like Scott “Zombie” Walker as governor is not a guaranteed Democratic win.

        • Sebastian_h says:

          Bill Clinton gave exactly that advice on the Rust belt.

        • urd says:

          Oh I don’t know…maybe for reasons like this:
          https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/21/us/many-in-milwaukee-neighborhood-didnt-vote-and-dont-regret-it.html?_r=0

          Or just like she didn’t need to worry about Michigan during the primary?

          With the polling issues experienced by her team (and by pollsters in general) during this election cycle, it was in the Clinton campaign’s best interest not to take any democratic states for granted. Instead resources were directed to GOP stronghold states in an attempt to deliver a crushing defeat.

          We were told time and time again how important this election was. Why didn’t she follow her own advice?

      • randy khan says:

        As the post points out, of the three key states, Clinton campaigned heavily in one, some in the second, and not in the third, which tends to negate the level of campaigning as a variable.

        But even if she had devoted many more resources to Wisconsin, that wouldn’t have changed Michigan and Pennsylvania. This argument would make a lot more sense if the EC had been 278-260. It makes pretty much no sense at all with the actual count.

        • Aaron Morrow says:

          But even if she had devoted many more resources to Wisconsin, that wouldn’t have changed Michigan and Pennsylvania.

          It probably would have made the margins worse if she was campaigning in Wisconsin instead.

        • urd says:

          Hardly. In the past I’ve submitted cites that on the ground democrats in these three states were deeply concerned and asked for more resources, people on the ground, etc. They were refused, point blank.

          These were the critical states. She wins these, she wins the election.

      • Scott Lemieux says:

        Did Putin force HRC not to campaign in Wisconsin?

        Did Wisconsin get an extra 60 electoral votes this year? Because if not, it didn’t matter.

        • urd says:

          Only if you ignore the reports that democrats on the ground in both MI and PA asked for more resources/support and were refused.

          All three states were in trouble and this was communicated to Clinton’s campaign. Whose fault is it for not addressing the matter? Comey? The media?

          • FlipYrWhig says:

            Every closely-fought state in every election has stories about disgruntled staffers begging for more help from HQ. This is why this is such a circular argument: people working on campaigns are _always_ panicking and demanding more resources, and, when they lose, saying the reason is that their panic was disregarded and they never got their resources. But when their candidate wins, no one files a story about how Obama lost North Carolina because of those whiz kids with their data ignoring the wisdom of grizzled veterans who could just FEEL the buzz because it was quiet, too quiet.

          • EliHawk says:

            Only if you ignore the reports that democrats on the ground in both MI and PA asked for more resources/support and were refused.

            Newsflash: EVERY SINGLE PERSON ON THE GROUND WANTS MORE RESOURCES AND SUPPORT. Hell, the Democratic Party of Fucking Alabama wants more national support. The guy who’s running against someone in an R+11 district in North Carolina and loses by 20 wants more support, and then goes and whines about it in Politico. People who would objectively benefit if you throw more money at them are not unbiased observers, much less people who deserve to be seen as Monday Morning Cassandras.

            • FlipYrWhig says:

              I was just trying to find stories about panicky Democrats in Virginia this past election. Clinton won VA by 5+%; Obama won it by 3%. Election Night coverage started taking a dark turn when VA results looked ominous. As it turned out, they weren’t; it was one of the few places where Clinton ’16 outdid Obama ’12. But I _guaran-damn-TEE_ that Democrats and Democratic-allied groups were planning their lamentations and recriminations for all the OBVIOUS MISTAKES that cost them the election in Virginia this time. Only they won, so the “narrative” (gah, I hate that word!) didn’t need to include those stories, even though the same OBVIOUS MISTAKES still happened.

              • EliHawk says:

                That’s the thing: Before the election you were far more likely to find a “THE CLINTON CAMPAIGN IS BLOWING THIS ELECTION BY INSISTING COLORADO/VIRGINIA IS NOT COMPETITIVE” than you found about WI/MI.

      • Aexia says:

        What’s your explanation for Russ Feingold doing *worse* than Clinton? Was it because he spent too much time campaigning in other states?

    • randy khan says:

      Look, I don’t even know for absolutely certain whether you actually posted or I’m just imagining it.

      But, really, the polling is pretty clear about the impact of Comey’s actions, particularly since the same effect happened after his summer press conference. If Clinton had run an otherwise-perfect campaign (essentially an impossible standard for any candidate), then, yeah, Comey probably would have made no difference, but that’s not the world we’re in.

      • Dilan Esper says:

        And if Scott’s post said the polling is “pretty clear”, I’d have objections but I wouldn’t call the argument stupid or nuts.

        But that’s not what Scott said. He said anyone who denies this is a “troofer”, i.e., the equivalent of a global warming denier or a birther.

        And that’s just not a level of certainty that is available here.

        • randy khan says:

          Leaving aside that obviously Scott would be the first person ever to exaggerate for effect, I’m not sure exactly how thin you need to slice the salami to agree that “pretty clear” is okay and also think what he said was not.

          • MDrew says:

            Scott to me seems to be really at pains to emphasize that his claim wrt certainty on this matter is now EXACTLY THIS STRONG, in stark contrast to simply being pretty strong or quite strong, like it was before. In other words, that he is pointedly not exaggerating, but instead trying to be very clear about how settled this question is (if you are right-thinking).

            Indeed, that seems to me really to be *the* point of this post. Kind of the *only* point.

            So WTF are you talking about?

    • junker says:

      Needs Moar terrible poker analogies.

      • Dilan Esper says:

        That comment makes no sense.

        Look, I have a message to you and random. How about refuting my argument? Do you really believe that we are as epistemically certain that Comey decided the election as we are that Obama was born in Hawaii?

        When you see an argument, refuse to rebut it, and make snarky comments about the poster, it tells us a lot about you and nothing about the argument. Specifically, it tells us that you very much know that the point being made is correct but rather than acknowledging its correctness decided to attack the commenter anyway.

        That sort of conduct is despicable, especially when done hiding behind a cowardly shield of Internet anonymity. It’s a douche move.

        • randy khan says:

          Your exact argument is that there’s no way we know that Comey tipped the election with the level of certainty that Scott posits (as you interpreted his post). Full stop. You find it inconceivable, but don’t say why. [This is where the Princess Bride reference would go if I were so inclined.] Of course nobody has rebutted your argument, but only because there are no facts or logical claims to rebut.

        • Bijan Parsia says:

          [delurking because why not]

          This is not a reply to Dilan (in spite of the threading) as Dilan refuses to rationally engage.

          Junker is alluding to the *numerous* refutations of Dilan’s nonsense about causation and probability over several years. I used to give pointers to these old threads. Dilan responded by a systematic campaign to gaslight and slander me as mentally ill for…I kid you not…”bringing up old stuff” (with various exaggerations and distortions, including how much effort it is to look stuff up).

          And here’s why. He needs the cover so he can push the same old nonsense over and over again. He was willing to be pretty despicable* in order not to be confronted with actual refutations.

          *Well, only if you think that lying about someone’s mental health, or, if sincere, attacking someone you have said to be so mentally ill that you fear that they will harm themselves or others for not having a sex life (among other things0 is despicable. If you don’t, well, we disagree.

          So this whole comment is, in essence, another lie.

          If you doubt this is true, I’ll happily scare up some pointers to prove it. Just send me an email, or ask me on Facebook or Twitter.

          (There’s a big difference between Dilan’s earlier confusions about causation and, say, xq’s rumination about whether the polling shifts seen in response to Comey events is a genuine shift in voter intention or reflects some other phenomenon such as differential non-response. A real shift would be something like Republicans alienated by Trump and wavering toward Clinton coming home as a result of Comey noise. That’s certainly possible, but it’s a very strong claim because the norm is for partisans to come home and the only observation we have is their coming home and some polling. True undecided (and independents) do exist but they are genuinely small in number, but they are much a more ex ante plausible cohort to suspect Comey induced change in voting intention.

          I, myself, am still thinking it through. You don’t need the causation per se for Comey to be reckless at best and despicable at certainty. But there’s potentially more than mere silliness that could ground some resistance to Scott’s claim. Historically, that’s not Dilan’s line.)

          People who treat Dilan as if he is a good faith commenter are making several kinds of error. If you regard him as benign but stupid you have to ignore quite a bit of what he’s written.

          • (((Malaclypse))) says:

            [delurking because why not]

            You should do that more often. Hope all has been well.

            • Bijan Parsia says:

              Thanks! We’ll see. I’m trying to limit my exposure to toxicity. And while there are so many wonderful people here, there’s enough toxic stuff that we can’t seem to do anything useful about that it’s tough call for me right now. I do dip in now and again to see how The Good Folks are doing!

              • Dilan Esper says:

                If you think I am toxic, and I think you are dangerous, then why delurk? Why not just leave me alone. Why personally attack someone thousands of miles away?

                You ignore me, I ignore you, we go on and live our lives.

        • junker says:

          I’ve had the argument about cause and effect and probabilities with you before, and it clearly has failed to influence you in any way. You’re not really here in good faith on the topic, so rather than smash my head against the wall on it I’ve decided to snark you a little instead. If that bothers you, Mr. Tone police, I’d suggest engaging with someone more willing to tolerate you rather than spend your time getting pissy with someone being (very gently) rude to you on the Internet.

  9. kped says:

    Jesus…to summarize that link Scott posted:

    From Oct 29-Nov 4, FRONT PAGE stories about the emails:

    NYT: 15
    LAT: 8
    USA Today: 5
    WSJ: 7
    WP: 11

    That’s 7 days. NYT had 15 Front page stories. In 7 Days. That is absurd. And that’s just front page. NYT published an additional 22 stories mentioning the server/email over those 7 days. 37 articles. On nothing. 5.3 articles per day about or mentioning it. I can’t even…

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      It is just astounding. I’m confident an analysis of cable news would show something similar or worse, and the idea that this has no effect on the electorate is just massively implausible.

      • kped says:

        Oh, I’ve no doubt. CNN was brutal with their 6+ person panels debating it from morning to night. From the minute it dropped, that was literally the only story they covered (I’m not even going to hedge that bet, i will stand with “Literally” in the truest sense of the word).

      • David Hunt says:

        I actually wish that this was true for my father. I made the mistake of talking about this with him after the election. It was clear that he was so caught in the Fox News bubble that he knew the Hillary Clinton was so bad that no one could be a worse alternative. He said he voted for Trump because Hillary is “obviously a crook.” However in my brief conversation with him, the Emails didn’t come up, it was all Benghazi and how she reduced security there for…reasons.

        I called the conversation to halt as I didn’t have facts to hand, given how impossible it is to keep track of all the made-up Hillary bunk. I said that we should call the conversation short because we were obviously working from different information sources and neither of us would convince the other. Thus do I maintain a good relationship with my father.

      • EliHawk says:

        Hell, I remember watching the World Series that week, and every Fox cutaway to the local news preview (Stay tuned after the game for X) was about “New Developments in the Clinton E-mails.” And that was in New York City, I’m sure it was even worse in the battle grounds.

    • Davis X. Machina says:

      Look, it was an emergency. The bitch was about to win…

      • Taylor says:

        I think the plan was always for the bitch to win, they just didn’t want her to have the Senate.

        My guess is that Comey has no friends on either side in DC. I doubt even the Trump folks trust him.

    • urd says:

      Well that convinces me.

      Funny, I seem to be missing the part where you correlate the media stories to actual changes in votes.

      And to prevent the argument, not the polling changes. As has been pointed out much better by others, it is not possible to nail down exactly why the polling numbers shifted the way they did. Lots of theories, no direct evidence.

      • (((Malaclypse))) says:

        Squatting on old bones and excrement and rusty iron, in a white blaze of heat, a panorama of naked idiots stretches to the horizon. Complete silence – their speech centres are destroyed – except for the crackle of sparks and the popping of singed flesh as they apply electrodes up and down the spine. White smoke of burning flesh hangs in the motionless air. A group of children have tied an idiot to a post with barbed wire and built a fire between his legs and stand watching with bestial curiosity as the flames lick his thighs. His flesh jerks in the fire with insect agony.

  10. mzrad says:

    Can’t we call for a re-vote like they did last year in Austria—the birthplace of Hitler, no less—given what looks like blackmail of a presidential candidate by a hostile foreign power? Isn’t this as Constitutionally significant as voting irregularities? Doesn’t this seem directly connected to the parts of the Constitution that try to prevent the control of a president by any foreign power? Do you think he will stop pleading for us to give Russia a chance so we can see how wonderful they are? Will his playground denials hold here? What can be done, lawyers?

    • random says:

      We can’t get a re-vote. The only legal power that can remove him now is the Congress impeaching him.

      • kped says:

        And congress will not impeach him. Ever. They would need his approval to sink below 15% or so before the cost benefit to individual congressional members made it worth their while to impeach. And the deplorables are higher than 15% of their base. I’d peg them at..oh…let’s say 27% at least.

        • random says:

          I honestly don’t see why they wouldn’t prefer Pence in there.

          • jim, some guy in iowa says:

            the idea is that the conventional R pols don’t want to run the risk of alienating the deplorables by deposing their king in yellow. I tend to think that overestimates the strength of Trump’s support now that Clinton is out of the picture myself

            • random says:

              their king in yellow.

              Oh that just made my day.

            • kped says:

              Trump had that support against other R’s too. The risk of alienating them has nothing to do with Clinton. Let’s be real, Republicans have shown time and again they have no spine. Their base has shown that they will primary anyone, no matter how “powerful” they are (See: Cantor, Eric).

              So really, Trumps support would have to collapse to at least Nixon Watergate levels, but even at that level (Nixon was 24% at his lowest), I still think it’s a toss up if they have enough people with the courage to do it.

          • djw says:

            I’m sure most of them would. That’s not going to be the primary consideration in their calculus.

            • random says:

              What is the primary consideration in their calculus?

              • djw says:

                The prospect of punishment/revolt from Trump’s fans outweighing whatever they think they might have to gain from impeachment.

                • EliHawk says:

                  Yeah: The fact that the ones who played pussyfoot with Trump (Toomey, Burr, etc.) survived while the ones who dropped their support (Heck, Ayotte) lost (plus that GOP Congressman in Alabama who saw a ton of undervotes after he dumped Trump) sent a strong message to every GOP Congressmen about what may happen in their primaries. Of course, if Trump’s already at 37% approval now, that sends a strong message to what they’ll face in a general election.

      • Lost Left Coaster says:

        The only legal power that can remove him now is the Congress impeaching him.

        I find myself having to remind a lot of people of this fact in conversation, when they fantasize about this or that thing being what undoes Trump’s presidency. Congress as it is currently composed is not going to impeach him. Congress after 2018? Let’s hope.

        In the meantime, his presidency is going to quickly get bogged down in a political mess of shit. It will cause him to both lash out in destructive ways and also to get stuck in the muck on some of his key plans. It’s going to be mess; who knows exactly what is going to happen.

      • David Hunt says:

        Well, he can be removed from power (though not from office) via the 25th Amendment if Pence and a majority of the Cabinet declare him unfit and give a letter to the President Pro Tempore of the Senate. Pence stays VP and is Acting President while Trump is Pres, but powerless. Trump can then issue a letter say the he’s the greatest President ever! fine. If Pence and the Cabinet submit another letter within four days of that saying “No, he’s really not,” then Congress is required to immediately take up the issue, convening within 48 hours(!) if not in session. If within 21 days, two thirds of each house says Trumps unfit, Pence stays Acting Pres and Trump gets to sit and stew. If Congress doesn’t vote by 2/3 that Trump is unfit within 21 days, Trump is back in.

  11. pillsy says:

    I love the repeated insistence on people who purport to be left-of-center that it’s essential to ignore Comey’s blatantly inappropriate partisan intervention in the election because otherwise people might think Clinton didn’t do such a bad job running her campaign.

    • PJ says:

      Who are they comparing her to? Kerry? Pre-beard Gore? Dukakis? She was miles better than them, so they can’t be used.

      It’s Obama, who they presumably hate for being neoliberal, but who they have to retcon into some kind of working class warrior so that they can avoid scrutinizing the so-called class consciousness of 80,000 white voters in the midwest.

      • pillsy says:

        Right. I mean she did made some mistakes with messaging and resource allocation and whatever, but compare her campaign to Al Gore’s, and you see her carefully making sure to avoid his mistakes. She was rewarded with a substantially larger popular vote margin.

        FW (little) IW.

      • FlipYrWhig says:

        Plus, Obama had the bitter/cling comment, which is pretty close to an exact equivalent of “basket of deplorables.” So it’s not like Obama avoided ticking off rural/white/working-class whatever, which is what legions of people want to say was Hillary Clinton’s most grievous sin.

      • urd says:

        How was she “miles better”?

        • jim, some guy in iowa says:

          Mary Worth- the writing is still pretty doofy (although if Iris keeps on with Zak I may have to re-assess), but the new artist is a real improvement- much more kinetic and up-to-date

          Judge Parker- I keep giving Ces the benefit of the doubt but he should have cut more of Woody’s sillier plot lines. Maybe a bit too Ted Forth so far

          Rex Morgan MD- I hope Beatty is serious about making Sarah into a real kid- having the car wreck take away her Supergenius was a fairly deft writing choice

    • MDrew says:

      I love the repeated insistence on people who purport to be left-of-center that it’s essential to ignore Clinton’s manifest weakness and mistakes as a candidate by instead pinning the loss entirely on Comey (even when no one is arguing that Comey accounted for the greater part of Clinton’s erosion in swing states as compared to Obama) in order to be said to be not ignoring Comey’s blatantly inappropriate partisan intervention in the election.

      I love it because, in fact, the proper amount of attention to be given to that improper intervention, if it truly was intended to be interference, or if it was not so intended but was improper because of the effect of interference, is independent of whether it changed the winner of the election, or even of whether it changed some number of votes. The problem from the perspective of accountability for Comey, is the action – the interference – itself, not the effect.

      But, of course, the effect is what people here are actually concerned with, because what they are really concerned with is not accountability for Comey (though of course they think that would be great, and it’s coming if perhaps not in the degree some would like), but instead what the discourse in the party and on the left is like regarding a final assessment of Clinton’s candidacy and the decision to make her nomination essentially inevitable probably as early as 2009, and regarding the direction the party will take in attempting to re-establish a foothold in governance at the national level. And establishing that that discourse should proceed from the analytical position that for all political intents and purposes Hillary Clinton won the election, but simply had it stolen from her by gross interference by a government official pledged to neutrality, is extremely useful for adherents of one set of views on those questions. So following that, “not ignoring” Comey’s interference and focusing on accountability becomes synonymous with acknowledging as undeniable a particular claim about its net effect on the election, even though they are in fact entirely independent questions. The latter really doesn’t bear on the former; whether the interference had succeeded in flipping the election or not, if the action were identical in two hypothetical timelines, then the act would be equally egregious in both.

      But the focus here is mostly on the effect, very little on the specifics of the action, and not at all on what accountability could actually look like. This is the the tip that the concern really is not about ignoring Comey’s actions, but instead is about shaping the discourse on the left and in the party about what to finally think of Clinton’s candidacy and the path forward. Because those are the questions for which whether Comey (and the media’s coverage of Comey, which, by the way, also matters much less (though some) if the concern is the act itself and accountability for it, but matters much more if the concern is intra-left politics in light of the result) really flipped the election or not, matters.

  12. Jim Harrison says:

    Comey’s violation of the Hatch Act probably sufficed to elect Trump, but I don’t think we should discount the effects of Russian efforts to sway the election. Arguably the Wikileaks didn’t have a huge effect, but the Russians also funded widespread trolling of social media. I read the comment threads in the Guardian regularly and noted a relentless flood of anti-Hillary posts that were impressive in their message discipline. Much the same sort of thing happened on other sites I visit. I don’t know how much of the endless repetition of the crooked Hillary meme was paid for and I certainly don’t know how effective such efforts are, but I note that many corporations find such campaigns worth pursuing for commercial reasons.

    • randy khan says:

      I think there are multiple but-fors here. No Russian intervention means that the general “emails!” theme isn’t nearly as strong and we don’t get the stuff about whether HRC should have released the Goldman transcripts popping up in October. There’s also Bernie’s messaging late in the primary campaign, which spawned the Berniebot “corrupt” stuff. Given the narrow margins Trump had in several key states (remember, if you switched 70,000 votes or so in Florida, that’s almost enough by itself to put her over the top), I think it’s fair to say that any one of a number of changes in the way things went would have changed the result.

      • pillsy says:

        Also, nothing wrong with running a vigorous campaign in the primary, but the “rigged” stuff from Bernie at the end served no purpose beyond giving later anti-HRC attacks additional credibility. He wasn’t the first to engage in this sort of thing–Clinton herself was not much better in the last days of the 2008 primary–but it was still a mistake.

        • nemdam says:

          Clinton in 2008 did not cover herself in glory, but she never delegitimized the election, the party, or Obama. That’s a line that was never crossed.

          • EliHawk says:

            And she was a hell of a lot more supportive when it was finally over. Sanders almost always framed his reasons for support in Trump is worse/Look at the Platform I extorted: Arguments that did nothing to correct or mitigate the character attacks (She can’t be trusted on this issue or that. She’s inauthentic. She’s Wall Street’s tool.) that made up most of his primary campaign. An affirmative argument for Hillary Clinton the person came rarely off his lips.

            • nemdam says:

              His “affirmative” argument for Hillary was laughable. He just did his talking points but inserted “Hillary Clinton believes” at the beginning of every sentence. It was obvious he put zero effort effort into actually making a case for Hillary. He could do this by, say, actually explaining why you should vote for her even if you agreed with his criticisms or her, but the message he sent is that Hillary is good only to the extent that she is like me.

        • ΧΤΠΔ says:

          IIRC, wasn’t it actually much worse?

    • nemdam says:

      Completely agree. I think the downplaying of the role of Russian hacking/interference is misguided. With the caveat that it’s basically impossible to quantify the effect it had, I think it had a moderate effect of at least 1-2% . The reporting on the emails all reinforced the “Crooked Hillary” theme, a lot of people conflated the hacked emails with Hillary’s email server, and the gradual release of them over multiple weeks ensured that “Hillary” and “Emails” were constantly in the headlines. Given that this issue was her biggest liability (I still can’t believe it), it had the effect of keeping her biggest scandal regularly in the news.

      Russia’s online troll army also created an environment that showed Trump’s intensity of support was greater than it actually was and contrasted with Clinton, made her support seem unenthusiastic. We all know how prevalent this narrative was during the election. Given that journalists are on Twitter all the time, it seems unlikely that this didn’t effect their coverage. Lastly, Russia also supplied a lot of fake news to convince people that Hillary is just as bad as Trump. It seems silly to not believe that given the top 5 news stories on Facebook the last week of the election were both pro-Trump/anti-Clinton and fake that this didn’t give Trump a boost. It also seems naive to not believe that the #BernieOrBust movement wasn’t given heavy support from Russian trolls.

      This is not Russia’s first rodeo at interfering in an election. They have experience and success at this, and I find it hard to believe that their interference had a negligible impact on the race. But for any skeptics, let me state for the record that Russia did not stop Clinton from campaigning in Wisconsin.

  13. Alex.S says:

    So with Comey’s intervention, there are a few distinct questions/issues — they are intertwined, but different in scope and solutions.

    ——-

    1. Did Comey have a significant impact on the election? Also, what is significant. I think this is provable, but difficult because it’s impossible to run an experiment to see if it’s not true.

    2. Did Comey act ethically and responsibly? The answer to this one has to be no — the only arguments I’ve seen for yes is “Well, he was trying to prevent someone else from leaking information”.

    3. What can the Democratic party do in the future to prevent the intervention of Republican-run federal organizations into elections?

    Good luck with that one.

    4. Should the Democratic party and liberal organizations turn to the FBI if they are hacked? Considering that the last time the FBI had access to someone’s computer that was connected to the Democratic party, they went on a fishing expedition and leaked that information to the media and Senate…

    • Scott Lemieux says:

      3. What can the Democratic party do in the future to prevent the intervention of Republican-run federal organizations into elections?

      Good luck with that one.

      Well, Democratic presidents could not put Republicans who have been longtime operatives in the CROOKED HILLARY wars in charge of the FBI, for one thing.

  14. cackalacka says:

    unrelated, sure this has been answered countless times but I’ve been wondering for a month and I really must know: what is the Matthew Broderick reference?

    • jim, some guy in iowa says:

      it’s a still from the movie “Election” which also starred Reese Witherspoon. Broderick’s character screws with the class election to keep her from being elected class President

    • ΧΤΠΔ says:

      It’s a reference to his role in the movie Election, which Scott (following NYMag’s example) as used as a metaphor for 2016.

      ETA: jim, some guy in iowa beat me to it.

    • JustRuss says:

      I’ve been wondering that too.

    • nemdam says:

      Thanks to everyone above for answering as I didn’t know the reference either.

      But I like it because in the vein of a picture is worth 1000 words, I still found it funny even though I didn’t know the reference because it just looks like some smug asshole screwing with someone’s important work.

  15. cackalacka says:

    ahh thank you. This has been bugging the crap out of me, but then I haven’t followed Broderick’s career closely since the Freshman.

  16. Donna Gratehouse says:

    But Scott, all analyses of the election have to lead directly to Identity Politics™ as the culprit why do you hate working class white people??!?

  17. Breadbaker says:

    I divide the electorate into seven categories, four of which (by far the vast majority) were impervious to this information and probably include the vast majority of readers of this blog.

    The first two are those who would support either Clinton or Trump because they believed in them and couldn’t be persuaded otherwise by essentially any information at all. We have seen this work as Trump supporters heard more and more information about their candidate and didn’t budge (or believe it).

    The second two are those who weren’t particularly enthused about either candidate, but wanted the policies they expected them to deliver, and again were not going to budge regardless of the information received. I have friends who voted entirely focused on tax cuts or infrastructure spending or abortion and really couldn’t be persuaded by anything about how much a liar Trump is, or his treatment of women or anything. Certainly there are plenty of Bernie voters who were smart enough to know that Hillary would give them well over half a loaf and were terrified of Trump and would never be persuaded about anything about Hillary to make them vote for Trump.

    So all the interest is in the last three categories, who include essentially everyone who would be persuaded or have their actions changed by news reports. Some of these are in the “I hate both of them” category. Some are in the “I don’t really make up my mind until the end because I’m otherwise preoccupied” camp. And some are those for whom some single issue is really, really important and they were foundering looking for something about it amidst all the clutter of emails, pussies and the like. The kind of people who think that they don’t have Obamacare, they have the ACA.

    Then Comey’s letter drops and suddenly for a full weekend and most of the next week that’s all they hear. I doubt a lot of them decided that this was a reason to vote for Trump. But if they lived in Wisconsin or Michigan, it might well be a reason to vote for Johnson (endorsed by the Detroit News) or Stein. Or, far more likely, in all three states, just to stay home. Because Hillary’s election was inevitable, and they weren’t going to honor her with their precious vote. Because someone who was so obviously corrupt that her emails were on the same server as dick pics (or something like that) must not be worthy of being President and if this other guy wins because of it, well, I’m not going to be part of it.

    We’re talking infinitesimally small numbers of voters in three states.

    • Exactly. It does not need to be a large number of voters to have swayed the election. Five digits in those three states is enough. Even if they were just persuaded to stay home, that could have swayed the election as well.

      • MDrew says:

        Question:

        If the matter you are concerned with – simply and strictly whether Comey’s action (plus media coverage thereof) “swayed” (flipped) the election – is what you are concerned with, and you’re equally concerned with it, *even if it involved affecting infinitesimally small numbers of voters*, then why, exactly, are you so concerned with it?

        This is a genuine question that I don’t know the answer to.

        Keep in mind, you can be absolutely equally outraged at Comey and his act completely regardless of that matter as outlined above. What he did was an outrage, and you can and should be equally outraged by it completely independent of whether his action “swayed” the election or didn’t, whether that can be established to an extremely-high-given-we’re-dealing-in-counterfactuals level of certainty or it can’t, and hell, whether she had lost the election at all, or not. We should be just as outraged about what he did under any of those circumstances.

        So… why is it that we care so much about semi-establishing this hypo-fact that we all have to acknowledge can’t actually be established for real anyway (because counterfactual)?

        At a visceral level, I… sort of get why (but sort of don’t get why we’re still doing this). But at a more analytical and especially practical level… why do we care? What’s at stake, if we say it still matters so much *even if the effect was on infinitesimally small numbers of voters*? Especially when we remember that this is not a real fact we’re chasing, but a probability of some quantity or other about events that exist in another universe that we can’t ever access?

  18. anonymous says:

    The reason that US POTUS elections will forever be close is because of extreme political racial polarization. Regardless of policy, regardless of candidate, a large majority of Whites will vote Repug because it is seen as the White party while the Dems are seen as the Non-White Party. That’s enough to keep elections close.

    And this phenomenon sadly exists in the UK too!
    http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2017/01/racial-divide-voting-preferences-about-become-more-stark

    Canada might also have this phenomenon as well although it seems to be to a lesser extent than the US or UK.

    The bottom line is that White Supremacist politics trumps (pun intended) the quality of the candidate or his policies. And this will continue to work as long as Whites are in the majority. Repugs have branded themselves the White Party and that’s enough for a large majority of Whites to forever vote for it.

  19. urd says:

    And here we go again.

    You really can’t deal with the fact that Clinton lost the election because her campaign team was high on the latest tech (both for polling and outreach) and utterly failed to do the physical ground work necessary.

    Did the media and Comey have an impact? Sure. But this is the equivalent of a sports team blaming a ref for not winning.

    If Clinton’s team does a better job on the ground, she wins. Period.

    • Ah, urd, I was wondering when you’d join us.

      Today I saw an interview with official Trump propagandist Kellyanne Conway. Her arguments against Russian involvement sounded awfully familiar:

      1) Russia did not interfere in the election because Clinton failed to campaign in Michigan even though she had campaign funds of $1.2 billion

      2) Russia did not interfere in the election because no one knows what Clinton’s main message was other than “I am not Trump”.

      Can you imagine why I found these arguments familiar? Why, yes, here you are, making the exact same kind of argument as Trump’s propagandist was last night.

      You must be so proud. Perhaps you can find work as a propagandist for the Trump administration. i am sure they are looking for people with your kind of talent.

      • urd says:

        And this is germane to the current argument because?

        Can you imagine why I found these arguments familiar? Why, yes, here you are, making the exact same kind of argument as Trump’s propagandist was last night.

        Ahhh. So now Drumpf is using verified information and citations found in the media in his statements? If find this hard to believe.

        I’ve held the same position on this matter for far longer than the reference you make.

        Sucks when facts get in the way of a great theory.

        Proud that I’ve reduced you to an argument of “you disagree with me so you should work for Drumpf”? Not really. Please try harder next time. Make it interesting.

    • Ithaqua says:

      Where’s your evidence for this alleged fact? If you have none, it’s just your opinion.

      • urd says:

        I’ve cited this information before, feel free to look it up. As often as Scott goes on about this, I’m not going to provides cites each time.

        I pretty certain you can look up my past comments and find them.

        • Scott Lemieux says:

          I’ve cited this information before

          Hahahaha no.

          • urd says:

            Hahahaha no.

            Actually, yes and multiple times. I’ve even made a cite in this thread. Oh, that’s right. It’s not the right kind of cite to disprove your argument.

            Your theory can never be wrong, only wronged.

            • Scott Lemieux says:

              I’ve even made a cite in this thread

              That cite was evidence of shit. That activists were asking for more resources — a ubiquitous story that could be told about every winning or losing campaign ever — proves nothing. The idea you that that this is powerful evidence but the conclusion reached by many social scientists based on powerful evidence that Comey swing the election is worthless speaks for itself.

              • urd says:

                Really? After reading that article that is your take? They were asking for more resources because they saw serious issues in support for Clinton. Unless you are accusing these people of lying outright, it makes little difference if this could be true of all losing campaigns or not. It points to a serious problem with the Clinton campaign that was reported in multiple locations.

                To hand wave this fact away while still clinging to the theory that Comey and the media threw the election to Drumpf is weak.

                That activists were asking for more resources — a ubiquitous story that could be told about every winning or losing campaign ever — proves nothing.

                This is hardly an argument. Stating that since it could be claimed in any campaign, it didn’t matter in this one is not an argument against it being important – it’s a cheap avoidance tactic.

                • FlipYrWhig says:

                  They were asking for more resources because they saw serious issues in support for Clinton.

                  This is what everyone always wants everywhere, in all large organizations, on the same basis. THOSE BUMS IN HQ HAVE THEIR HEADS UP THEIR ASS WE”RE DYING OUT HERE!

                  Frankly, it might as well be Michighazi: HILLARY PERSONALLY SAID STAND DOWN AND THOSE POOR BOYS GOT KILLED

                • urd says:

                  Typing in all caps really does not help your argument, if one can even call it that.

                  Simply restating the avoidance argument Scott used is hardly original or intelligent.

  20. Joe Bob the III says:

    To get to root causes for a moment: Can we please never again have Democratic Presidents appoint Republican daddy figures to high-level military, security, and law enforcement positions in Democratic administrations? First, it reinforces preconceptions that Democrats are incapable leading the military and police forces. Second, Democrats never get the extra credit bipartisanship points they seem to think these across-the-aisle appointments earn, and Republicans never reciprocate. Third, these f**ers invariably turn on the Democrats who appointed them.

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  22. […] lousy handshake and pat on the back in exchange for the presidency? What a gyp. Well, at this point if you do business with Trump you are the […]

  23. […] could have ended up no-harm, no-foul. Could have, but didn’t. So now an inept white nationalist not chosen by the American people is in position to do […]

  24. […] result of the 2016 election has only One True Cause, and it’s imperative to ¯_(ツ)_/¯ the very likely decisive role of the FBI, America’s broken electoral system, and the likely role of the Russian state is transparently […]

  25. […] you know, I think it’s massively implausible that the wave of negative coverage generated by the Comey letter was not responsible for enough of this apparent late break for Trump to have been decisive. But […]

  26. […] Comey letter (which almost certainly changed the outcome of the campaign) and Russian interference (which might have, but the impact is much harder to measure) are given […]

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