Tag: 2020 Democratic Primary

After Bernie

Bernie may get some stuff added to the Democratic platform this summer … but is it anything Biden would be willing to fight for? Especially if he’s not planning to run for a second term (i.e. he doesn’t need my vote again in four years). My hope is that the current pandemic forces Biden to reevaluate some of his positions, *but* his statements in the last debate make me think this is unlikely to occur.
Trump is incompetent (and thus less likely to accomplish anything he sets out to do), but odds on a SCOTUS vacancy coming up are high. Returning to decade-old environmental policies are better than continuing a backslide. Maybe Biden would even manage to get the alt-energy tax credits increased and extended instead of the continued reduction to phaseout we’ve got now. An official policy of ignoring marijuana offenses at a federal level is better than active prosecution.
I’ll probably vote for Biden. How enthusiastic I am in that vote is going to depend a lot on who he selects as his VP (and hopefully he starts naming cabinet members so I’ll have a better picture of his administration’s composition). I won’t vote for Trump, and I won’t sit home (there are local elections with candidates I actually support). But you don’t have to vote for *every* office on the ballot (and, no, I’m not looking for anyone to yell “blue no matter who” at me — everyone gets to vote their own mind, and I’m intelligent enough to predict what either Biden or Trump as president in 2021 means). Biden picks Cheyney as his token Republican VP, floats Buttigieg for HHS to lead the M4A* (* who aren’t priced out of wanting it because their employer subsidizes private insurance and won’t subsidize their Medicare enrollment) initiative … abstaining gets more appealing. Warren as the VP, AOC over Energy … I’m there, and it has nothing to do with having women in the administration.

Bernie Suspends His Campaign

I expected it — there hasn’t been much campaigning in the past month anyway, and his campaign communications have been requests for charitable donations for the past few weeks — but still a little shocked to hear Bernie suspend his campaign. Listening to his announcement today was a rare occasion where I don’t get what he’s saying — yeah, this movement is an attempt to stand up to massive corporate interests and a corrupt political system. From the perspective of someone who cannot even speak ill of their government without fear of imprisonment, I guess that’s something to celebrate. But that’s not my perspective. America has a long history of letting people voice dissent; unfortunately America is also amassing a long history of ignoring majority dissent. We stood up against crony capitalism and crony democracy, but we didn’t win. Not like Bernie could say it sucks; but, as a voter who really believed that Bernie’s economic, social, and environmental policies are needed … it sucks.

I’m glad Bernie will continue to amass delegates as a tactical maneuver. While my totally impractical self thinks *maybe* people will see how tying health care to employment, how allowing corporations to deny people paid sick leave, how having a minimum wage that means you’re working two jobs to pay rent and feed your family isn’t the right direction so Bernie manages to win 99% of the remaining delegates (or Biden being the nominee makes Republicans think it’s open season on Biden investigations & Biden’s campaign becomes non-viable by mid-summer), I want to see what planks Bernie manages to insert into Biden’s platform. And how Biden manages to *not* look disingenuous adopting those planks.

Playing The Game

(Warning: If saying Castro had a decent literacy program offended you … you probably want to skip this comment). There’s one thing I think Trump does well — play the media. In the 2016 election, he didn’t need to buy a bunch of advertising because every major news outlet handed over HUGE chunks of airtime to him. Did they mean to? Probably not. They thought they were doing X and Trump was working the system to accomplish Y. I worry that the Democratic candidate this Autumn will be unable to complete with Trump because Trump is playing a different game. It’s like kitting up for a baseball game and showing up at a Formula One race. You might be an awesome baseball player … but you really should have brought a car. Bernie playing the media like this — because you *know* they weren’t there to cover an “I look forward to the debate Sunday” speech … they thought he was pulling out of the race — shows me that he can compete with Trump on issues *and* can play the media to his advantage.

And, yeah, I look forward to Biden answering for his history on Sunday. His fabricated Civil Rights legacy. Direct quotes where he is willing to cut Social Security. The money he’s received from credit card companies and how that influences his position on bankruptcy and consumer protections. His support of the PATRIOT Act — his pride that it’s based on legislation he drafted!

The Bro’s

The first question, of course, is are there even “Bernie Bros”? And the answer may well be NO. Like Biden’s “giant delegate lead” being reported with over 100 delegates from Super Tuesday still unallocated and data from 44 machines in Texas missing, This may be a narrative that’s being reported with little supporting evidence.

There may be “Bros” but as a numeric rather than statistical facthow many Twitter followers does Bernie have (highlight mine)?

Are these followers particularly negative (again, highlight mine)? Not more negative than Warren’s followers. And, ironically, both Bernie and Warren’s followers appear to be more negative than Trump’s.

Even if we leave aside lexical sentiment analysis, the accuracy of which can legitimately be discussed. If we leave aside what actually constitutes negative commentary — someone who posts convey a negative-sentiment as they face bankruptcy after a serious illness isn’t the same as someone who attacks immigrants or espouses white supremacist beliefs — are the Bros Bernie’s? One thing people grappled with, back when the Internet first became a consumer offering, is that I may not be what I say I am. And not the type refuted by ‘yeah, there aren’t that many barely 18 girls on the planet’. “I’m a 32 year old guy living in Bloomington, IL who is really into R/C airplanes”. No way to tell — my ISP uses MPLS routing so my IP address geo-locates to Nebraska, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Arkansas, and North Carolina quite regularly. It’s not like social-media sites take any extreme measures to validate identify — a ten cent registration fee and your information needs to match up with the billing details, send us a copy of your cable bill, we need a copy of your birth certificate and state-issued ID card?! I’ve got friends who play games through Facebook who create additional accounts to “friend” and boost their game performance. Is it inconceivable that some 4-chann’er would create a social media account posing as a liberal? What percent of ‘Bernie Bros’ are MAGA’ers? How many MAGA’ers are trolls? What percent are Russian operatives? Does perpetuating the ‘Bernie Bro’ myth create division in America (i.e. something the Russians want)? Not saying there aren’t assholes who support Bernie. There are. And, statistically, I expect a significant percentage of those individuals to be active online. But what part of Bernie’s campaign is designed to *attract* assholes? But I don’t see evidence that Bernie’s supports have a higher percentage of assholes then any other campaign. A fortunate, but often ignored, facet of free speech is that freedom to speak freely does not imply freedom from consequences for your speech. Moving discourse online has significantly disrupted the threat of consequences.

Even if we discount the existence of real negativity and assume anyone who claims to be a Bernie supporter is a Bernie supporter … what can Bernie do about it? He’s already disavowed the comments and said he does not consider these individuals to be part of his movement. Is he supposed to get a warrant to unmask the identify of everyone who posts a snake emoji on Twitter and deliver a cease and desist letter? Drop by and speak to them about their online behavior?

More on conspiracy theories and the Democratic Primary

Statistical analysis can make you suspicious — ‘black swan’ statistical outliers (which are still possible outcomes) and amazing coincidences where outlier possibilities are reality. Maybe it’s more fun to think about the conspiracy theory possibilities — there’s drama and intrigue. Whereas an unlikely occurrence happening because unlikely doesn’t mean impossible … that’s far less entertaining.

The Super Tuesday results are still not complete today. Where are results still pending? There are 115 delegates not yet allocated to a candidate. 13 of these are classed as “Democrats Abroad” — saying that the results for “Democrats Abroad” is outstanding because ballots are still in the post is reasonable. I’d expect a large portion of “Democrats Abroad” ballots to  be posted (although there are evidently like 400 in-person polling sites too). And I don’t know how “Abroad” they’re talking about — Canada? Germany? Australia? McMurdo Station? The ISS? I’m willing to remove these delegates from the Super Tuesday list (IIRC, their in-person voting spanned a week coming up to Super Tuesday too). Of the remaining 102 delegates, one is from a state where Biden is in the lead. Not quite 1% of the outstanding delegates are in a state where Biden is in the lead. Is it possible that this outlier is an amazing coincidence? Sure. But could the DNC be creating a narrative where Biden has a decent lead in the electoral count ahead of voting this coming Tuesday with the intent of influencing voters (some 60% of whom say electability is more important than the fact the candidate agrees with them about issues)? Hard not to go there.

State Winner Delegates Unallocated Delegates % Unallocated Biden Bloomberg Gabbard Sanders Warren
Alabama Biden 52 0 0% 44 0 0 8 0
Arkansas Biden 31 0 0% 17 5 0 9 0
Maine Biden 24 0 0% 11 0 0 9 4
Massachusetts Biden 91 0 0% 37 0 0 29 25
Minnesota Biden 75 0 0% 38 0 0 27 10
North Carolina Biden 110 0 0% 67 4 0 37 2
Oklahoma Biden 37 0 0% 21 2 0 13 1
Tennessee Biden 64 1 2% 33 10 0 19 1
Texas Biden 228 0 0% 111 10 0 102 5
Virginia Biden 99 0 0% 66 0 0 31 2
American Samoa Bloomberg 6 0 0% 0 4 2 0 0
California Sanders 415 61 15% 148 15 0 186 5
Colorado Sanders 67 27 40% 10 9 0 20 1
Utah Sanders 29 13 45% 2 2 0 12 0
Vermont Sanders 16 0 0% 5 0 0 11 0

On technology, elections, and conspiracy theories

There are murmurs of a conspiracy to defeat Sanders (there’s also a president outright saying it). There is also push-back against these murmurs because diminishing people’s faith in the Democratic process suppresses voter turnout.

Questioning if this is a conspiracy is almost moot — did a bunch of people get together and plan this or did dozens of individuals achieve this state in an uncoordinated fashion? I don’t care. We’ve had a long run of elections that create legitimate doubt in how well the result reflects the will of Americans. And not just Clinton’s popular vote victory in 2016 — I’d go back to Gore, but I’m not terribly familiar with the American elections in the 80’s, and I wasn’t alive long enough to be aware of elections in the 70’s.

I watched news reports on Tuesday night announcing that Biden had won the popular vote across all of the states that had voted on Super Tuesday and had results to far. Except … California hadn’t started reporting yet. Cali has 30% of the delegates, and I am not interested enough to go check state populations to get a better number. But how meaningful is the popular vote stat with 30% of the vote outstanding? Delegate count too — I’ve been tracking delegate assignment based on NPR’s data, and a sixty point spread with 144 delegates from Cali unassigned (228 total unassigned across all Super Tuesday states) isn’t a huge blowout. I’ve also quite lazily started tracking by adding all of Bloomberg, Buttigieg, and Kobluchar’s delegates to Biden’s count — 687 to 531 is a much bigger spread, and the 144 from Cali aren’t going to close that gap (although delegates from Cali plus Warren’s 65 might do it). I don’t know if delegates in each of the states where Bloomberg, Buttigieg, and Kobluchar have delegates *can* be reassigned in the first round or if their delegates become like super delegates and only really count in the second round (or if their delegates can be reassigned at all). But this seems like the sort of research some media outlet should pay a reporter to perform. If Bloomberg can only reallocate a dozen of his delegates in the first round, the delegate count looks a lot different than it does when I’ve got all 58 of his delegates assigned to Biden.

Thirty years ago, it would have been difficult to recompute ranked-choice votes as candidates dropped out of the primary. But the one thing I think caucuses get right is that someone who puts their vote behind a non-viable candidate gets to reconsider and have their vote “count”. It would be algorithmically trivial to provide a full list of candidates. Pick your first choice. Now pick your second choice. Pick your Nth choice. You’re a huge Gabbard fan who wouldn’t consider voting for anyone else? Great, you get to abstain after your first selection. Would prefer Warren but consider Sanders a good second option, you can vote accordingly and abstain after your second choice. Don’t mind “voting” for any of the candidates? Then you can work your way through *all* of them. This is ideally suited for electronic ballots where your already-selected candidates can be removed from subsequent selection options. But so what if someone’s 1st through Nth choice is Sanders … he’s either still in the race & their 1st choice counts or he dropped out & they’ve abstained from voting. Maybe you voted for Buttigieg because you think he secretly harbors super progressive views but has the McKinsey experience to speak like a centrist. Your second choice was Warren, followed by Sanders, followed by no one. Buttigieg dropped out on Monday, and your vote is reassigned to Warren. She dropped out today? You voted for Sanders. Instead of allowing the individual candidate to decide where their delegates go, allow individual voters to decide. It would add an interesting nuance to primary coverage because the results of previous elections would effectively change as candidates drop out. But it would allow the results of the primary to better reflect what voters actually want. I’d extend this to the general election as well. Maybe it made you feel good to protest-vote for Stein. You could stop there and abstain on the second choice. Or you could pick a second preference.

And I’d be remiss to avoid pointing out that direct representation isn’t the impossibility it used to be. In 1790, getting the near four million Americans together to read through legislation and vote was an inconceivable undertaking. Getting the near 63 million Americans together in 1890, or even he 250 million in 1990 would have been an insurmountable task. But the technology is available today to do this. What impact would getting rid of the Legislature have on the Democracy in our system? Direct representation is a technical possibility. Yes, there are problems that would need to be addressed. Security. More importantly accessibility. As much as it may seem otherwise, 100% of Americans don’t have a smartphone in their hand. Requiring access to relatively costly technology could be seen as an attack on the rights of poorer individuals. Or individuals who aren’t technically savvy. You can use a computer at your free, public library – maybe the public libraries have extended hours during the voting season. Maybe there are secure Internet kiosks set up in town halls across the country. Maybe broadband access gets better funding. Maybe there’s additional funding for community education to teach people how to engage with the direct representation platform.

Even without changing the entire structure of government, I think the IRS should create a new class of tax-deductable donation restricted to federal government agencies. “Donations” to the agency are a 1:1 reduction in tax owed. The ‘donation’ process is inline with filing taxes — not like I need to cut a 4k check to NWS and then wait for my 4k refund check. I pay 10k in taxes? I could earmark 4k to the EPA, 4k to the Dept of Education, 2k to NOAA (hopefully there would be enough granularity that I wouldn’t need to select Commerce), and be done. I could allocate 10k to the military. I could spend hours agonizing on how I think my tax money would best be apportioned. Or I could just pay my taxes without any of these deductions and *that* is the money Congress would have available to budget. This idea, ironically, implements a populist version of “starve the beast”. And maybe I’m wrong and trillions of dollars would still pour into Defense and EPA would be left unfunded. But it would provide a way for citizens to clearly show their priorities. It could, if constructed properly, provide an end-run around the Hyde Amendment. *Your* federal dollars *didn’t* get used, but someone else could volunteer *their* federal dollars.


The exit polling where upward of 60% of voters say it was more important to nominate a candidate who could beat Trump than someone who agrees with them on issues … that’s pretty unbelievable to me. But it’s especially odd that “dude who can beat Trump” is also the dude who wasn’t dragged through the mud as a tangent to the impeachment trial. Anyone want to guess what this year’s “but her emails!!!” will be?

Parliamentary systems

Reports are Warren’s reassessing her continued candidacy too. Sad to see her leave the race, but I’d love to see her and Sanders form a combined ticket.
It would make the American election process a little more like the Parliamentary systems (no one has the needed majority, you start negotiating with other parties to develop a unified platform until some combination has enough sway) if candidates in the primaries would slot themselves into administrations as people drop out (not just VP, either — pick someone to head State, Education, HHS, etc).

Super Tuesday

In a way, it seems like reporting is being built to fit a narrative. A woman on one of the afternoon radio shows in Cleveland was on some iteration of The Real World. I remember her talking about how the producers pick a narrative for each contestant — who is the villain, who is the underdog, who is a slob. They then go back over the hundreds of hours of footage and edit together a show that fits their narratives. The reality is that everyone had emotional breakdowns or left a dirty plate in the kitchen. She was picked as clingy. I remember her talking about how she was trying to call her boyfriend. There’s some way they allocate phone time — I don’t know if you get a few minutes whenever or if you’ve got a window. Whatever the method, her boyfriend kept not being available when she’d call. And that was it for her opportunity to contact the outside world. They didn’t show the attempts to call that led up to her breaking down after missing him. And, as a one off, breaking into tears because one cannot talk to one’s partner does sound clingy and codependent.

Differential, even handing Biden delegates for all those who endorsed him {and I haven’t bothered to verify that those delegates *can* vote for Biden}, is 146 — although Warren has 51 and is evidently taking a day to reassess, so hopefully she’ll drop and endorse Bernie well ahead of next week’s primaries. But even with a 150 point spread, 300 delegates from California are not assigned. Ignoring Cali, there’s a narrative that Biden won handily. But Cali’s pretty big to ignore. The reporting was similar coming out of Iowa too — Buttigieg won – he is so far ahead in SDE’s. Oh, he lost the popular vote pretty significantly *and* the delegates are pretty evenly split. But *facts* got lost with the logistical problems and then New Hampshire voting.

Can they drag out the California results for a week so Michigan goes to Biden because he’s ahead (if upward of 60% are saying they are voting for ‘someone who can beat Trump’ v/s ‘someone who agrees with them on issues’ … seems like ‘ahead in the polls’ would sway a lot of voters). Or does showing Sanders trailing motivate younger people to get out and vote in the coming weeks (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2020/03/04/super-tuesday-bernie-sanders-youth-votes-fell-short-compared-2016/4947795002/). It’s easy enough to sit home if you think you’re guy is winning — and I’m certain it’s a lot easier for retired people to take some time and vote compared to someone working two jobs and taking care of their kids — but if the race is close?

If the political parties wanted to design a system to diminish faith in the ability of people to select who leads the country, the ability of people to push the direction political parties go … Republicans have gerrymandering, but the Democrats have this primary process.