November 19, 2016

2016 US Elections

Some Observations.

Why were the polls so wrong?

They weren’t wrong. National polls predicted, on average, that Clinton would win by 3%, with a margin of error of 3%. In other words, polls predicted scenarios ranging from a tie (margin of victory 3% – margin of error 3% = 0%) to +6% win (3% + 3%) for Clinton. In reality, she won the popular vote by 1.5%, which is well within the margin of error. The pundits did fine. It’s just that we didn’t pay attention to the fine print.

Presidential races in this country aren’t won on popular vote. So, national polls have limited value. Outcomes in swing states determine the winner. Pennsylvania was lost by 34,000, Michigan by 6,000 and Wisconsin by 14,000. A combined 54,000 votes would have flipped those states and changed the outcome. 54.000 out of a total of approximately 120 million votes works out to about 0.04% accuracy. It isn’t easy to reduce the margin of error in polls. For example- to obtain a margin of error of 0.04%, a poll needs to survey (1/0.0004)*squared = 6.25 million people. That is not feasible. Most polls don’t survey more than 300 people.

Clinton had a 75% chance of winning the WH, according to Nate Silver. In probability terms, that means – if you were to hold the election a million times, Clinton would win 75% of the time and lose 25% of the time. His (or other) prediction offered no guarantee with regards to the outcome of any specific election.

We don’t choose our words carefully any more.

Hillary Clinton was called “corrupt” when the applicable term might have been “untrustworthy” or “technologically challenged” or “lazy” or “arrogant.” There is no evidence that Clinton was corrupt even after lengthy FBI investigations that cost us millions of dollars. We have to stop using the wrong words.

If we don’t choose our words carefully, we open the door to charlatans, who flood the system with half truths and lies. Pretty soon, truth starts to get blurry and phrases like “she’s just as bad as him,” become common. Wait, this just happened.

It has become so hard to say anything – honestly and publicly – in America that anyone who will say everything will get everywhere.

There aren’t any credible voices left in the country.

Trump ran against literally everything including and especially common sense and decency. He was the first candidate in history to not receive the endorsement of any major newspaper or a Fortune 100 CEO. His own party seniors (Romney, Bushes, etc) denounced him in strong terms. On his side were Giuliani, Gingrich, Ailes and Christie – only the disgraced members of the Republican establishment. And yet, he won.

It tells you that there isn’t a voice in the country worth listening to. Not even Donald Trump’s because even he didn’t win the popular vote. The next four years are going to be interesting, as Trump and the Congress lock horns – each claiming to speak for the people.

Working class anger was underrated. Now, it is overrated.

Very few spoke about Michigan before Nov 8. Now, no one can stop talking about it. Yes, there is working class anger in the midwest. But wait, that’s not the only thing we saw in this election. We saw millennials and minorities across America vote for a hopeful future. We have to pay attention to both. It was a battle between the past and the future. The past won. This time.

American democracy is flawed.

You win some. You lose some. And there is this little known third category where you win but are told that you lost. In most countries, it’s called the vote. In America, it’s called the “popular vote.” It’s a travesty that for the second time in 16 years, the candidate who won more votes than her opponents will not be sworn in as the POTUS. Only in America can you win an election and still not win it. Only in America are some votes more valuable than others. Let’s face it. If this were to happen in a third world country, we’d ridicule them. Even dictators have the decency to “win” the popular vote before declaring themselves the winners.

Progress is never perfectly linear.

The way progress works, it doesn’t go in a neat, straight line upwards. Obama was a giant leap forward for America. The election of a racist man who clearly does not respect women is a big step back. It hurts badly not because my team lost. It hurts because it happened right after Obama. We’ve gone from heaven straight to hell in fell swoop. Well, this is how democracy works. Stuff happens. We can’t allow ourselves to be demoralized. Like Obama said, it isn’t the end of the world until the world has actually ended. Until then, we must fight the good fight.

The Democratic Party is no longer the party of the working class.

Trump’s victory represents a culmination of trends that have been in motion for over two decades. It is a backlash to globalization driven by technological innovations, bankrupting of the country through needless wars and the financial crisis of 2008, massive victories for liberal agendas like the election of the nation’s first black President, all the debate around Black Lives Matter, passage of gay marriage laws, the feminism embedded in Clinton’s candidacy, etc etc. Democrats didn’t turn to vote. As someone said, his opponents took Trump literally, but not seriously. And, Trump’s supporters took him seriously, but not literally. There are dozen reasons for Trump’s win and another dozen for Hillary’s defeat. It is what is. When the time comes for an idea (good or bad), no force on earth can stop it. Regardless of what else is true or not, it’s apparent that the Democratic party is no longer the party of the working class.

Things will get worse before they get better.

Trump’s victory is just the beginning of a dark and turbulent period ahead for America, and consequently for the world. As automation driven by machine intelligence and big data rise, unemployment levels will rise dramatically in the coming decades. Machine intelligence will prove to be cheaper and better than human intelligence for a majority of tasks. Many jobs will go away. This is inevitable. It’s not a bad thing. But, until it becomes clear that it’s not a bad thing for humans to avoid doing grunt work, there will be great angst.

As unemployment rises, more Trump-like “outsider” personas will spill onto the political arena from both left and right extremes of the political spectrum. The next couple of decades will be painful as we struggle to come to terms with social consequences of automation, climate change, risk of pandemics, medical advances and longer human life spans.

But we are going to be fine.

Even as machines replace humans in day to day jobs and activities, costs of basic goods and services will plummet, thanks to the extraordinary productivity of machines that will work flawlessly around the clock without being fatigued. We may have less but we will need even less. We will put in place new social constructs like universal basic income, free healthcare and education. Freed from the obligation to work, many of us will choose to contribute. This will lead to unprecedented innovation. We are headed to a Utopian future, as long as we can manage to not destroy ourselves on the way to getting there.

Coming back to the present-

God, I wish Hillary was the President elect. Or Marco Rubio. Or John Kasich. Or Michael Bloomberg. Or, any normal human being, for that matter.

Let’s stop blaming Clinton.

In the final analysis – she lost the upper midwest by a total of just 54,000 votes (6,000 in Michigan, 34,000 in Pennsylvania and 14,000 in Wisconsin). When the counting is done, she will have won the popular vote by nearly 2 million votes, a margin greater than that of Nixon and JFK. It’s hard to see how she could have done things any differently, other than perhaps beefed up the ground game in the midwest. It’s possible that FBI chief’s controversial letters held Clinton back and helped Trump surge across the line in the final days of the campaign. In 2000, it was the Supreme Court that selected the POTUS. This time, the FBI may have helped elect Donald Trump.

Yes, Clinton was “boring” but please stop making it out to be a bad thing.

Much has already been made about how Clinton failed to generate enthusiasm for her candidacy. She has a reputation for being boring and a policy wonk – nerdy and obsessed with details. For some strange reason, we don’t like such people in this country. We vote for the biggest gorilla. Details is not a bad word. Boring is not a bad thing. Boring people get difficult tasks done. They make great leaders. It’s just too bad that we couldn’t see that a lot of Hillary Clinton’s greatness lay in her work ethic and diligence. Instead, we elected a POTUS with the attention span of a gnat. Let’s see how that works out.

Not all Trump voters are racists.

While this is true, I don’t really care. The distinction between being personally racist and enabling racists is not a useful one. Trump voters did, in the final analysis, vote for a racist, a sexist and a horrible human being. And, that’s all that matters. Sorry folks. You know what you did. You may have a hundred reasons (all valid) for why you did what you did. But you did vote for a horrible person. It hurts that some of us will throw the rest of us under the bus because they had “good reasons” to do so. SMH.

Sorry, Canada. We didn’t mean to do this.

Look what we’ve done. We’ve now gone and got the Canadians all worked up. I hope everyone is happy with themselves.

canada

The Chinese need to start timing things better.

After it became apparent that Donald Trump was going to be the 45th POTUS, the Chinese hastily informed Donald Trump that global warming wasn’t a hoax that they invented.

chinese

Apparently, they also let Trump know that General Tso’s chicken isn’t really made by General Tso.

Coming back to the battle between the past and the future..

It will be interesting to see a common vocabulary and language evolve that addresses the disparate groups in the country. There is only one person who managed to appeal to nearly everyone so far – Barack Obama. It is not apparent whether he is a unique outlier in this regard or if his example may be emulated by others.

This election was bitterly fought. It was won by razor thin margins. It could have gone either way. In fact, the “winner” did not even win the popular vote. Trump would do well to accept his good fortune with humility.

Ironically, this election displayed the greatness of American democracy.

As David Remnick writes in the New Yorker, “A very different answer arrived this Election Day. America is indeed a place where all things are possible: that is its greatest promise and, perhaps, its gravest peril.” [ Obama reckons with a Trump Presidency ]

It’s not the end of the world. This too shall pass. But, we must remain vigilant.

Even men and goats stand divided. What is the world coming to?

Last but not least, here’s an equally baffling piece of news about a bitter fight between a goat and a man. I’ve re-read this particular sentence a dozen times and have been unable to wrap my head around it.

goat

It pretty much sums up how 2016 has gone so far.

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