As I write this the outcome of the presidential election remains uncertain, although the trends seem to be heading steadily in Biden’s favor and it seems very unlikely he will lose, but the hanging on of this is beginning to get to many of us. Most other races have been decided, although some of those are still up in the air. In any case, although it is near certain Biden will win, it will be by a substantially lower margin that forecast by the main polls, with him not taking several states he was forecast to take. This is also mirrored in Congressional (and some state legislative) races, with it unlikely, although not completely out of the realm of possibility, that Dems will control the Senate as had been forecast as a 2 to 1 likely outcome by 538, and instead of gaining seats, the Dems lost some in the House while retaining control, with the exact number of losses also still a bit uncertain. In short, Trump and the Republicans did much better than generally forecast, and this has lots of people upset and lashing out at each other, including, reportedly, Dem members of the House.
No, I am not going to join the mob howling at the pollsters, nor am I going to join the mob howling at Schumer and Pelosi. I shall look at how I think the pollsters got it wrong, although I think they have been doing their best and trying to avoid certain errors they made in 2016, when they also underpredicted how well Trump would do. Nor am I going to join those dumping on Schumer and Pelosi. I think the Congressional outcomes have a big fat zero to do with anything either of them have done or said or not done or not said. It was all about the down-ballot GOPs gaining from the underpredicted surge of Trump supporters coming out to vote for him, the phenomenon that needs to be understood.
Who I am going to pick on, although not too much really, are some reporters and commentators I shall simply label as pundits, “whining pundits” to be precise. To name three who all appeared in the Style section of the Washington Post, not the editorial page, I note Monica Hesse, Hank Stuever, and Margaret Sullivan, roughly in order of how annoying and hypocritical I find their whining.
I note of these I have long respected Margaret Sullivan a lot, and she was mostly fairly factual, covering, in fact, the difficult problem of the pollsters messing up (“Who who won, but it wasn’t the pollsters”). In fact while accurately noting details of how off the pollsters were, she, who regularly covers the media, extended the critique to the broader media beyond the pollsters. She accurately noted the sparcity of coverage of the degree to which Trump was appealing to Latino males, especially those in South Florida. But she may have overdone it when she appeared to blame the media for relentlessly covering Trump’s mishandling of the pandemic, which she suggested allowed Trump to appeal to his followers by pointing to a hostile mainstream media. What she did not do when she came up with that was to note that she herself has much of the time in recent years dumped on the media for not being relentless enough in exposing the various flaws of Trump.
From his byline of “Critics Notebook,” Hank Stuever (“Difficult to tune out, but even harder to watch”) focused on the election night TV coverage. Much of this is reasonable, but he too turned to whining, not about the polls or even the coverage, but the naive optimism of sucker liberals among the public. He did this by quoting TV reporters who made sneery such remarks as the results began to turn unexpectedly so much for Trump. So we get “Long before the post-midnight madness, CNN anchor Jake Tapper reminded viewers that there has been a lot of magical thinking lately on the part of Democrats and liberal pundits, who spent too much time entertaining pie-in-the-sky dreams of tipping Texas and Georgia [which now appears likely to in fact end up gong for Biden] to blue states, imagining a landslide victory for Biden. “As they say, ‘You can’t get high on your own supply,'” Tapper zinged.” OK, but I am unaware of either Tapper or Stuever expressing such views prior to the election. Ooops!
Somehow Monica Hesse (“Crushed by a landslide that never happened”) makes these other two look completely reasonable with her sneering whining, also lacking any previous reporting on how wildly over-optimistic all these people were. She accurately notes that election officials had warned of “an election week,” but then we had “in some liberal circles there was a jacked-up fantasy that nobody would have to wait for Pennsylvania’s tortured ballot count because by 10 p.m. Joe Biden would turn Florida and North Carolina blue [this latter remains a possibility, although not too likely] – and maybe Texas, why not?” As an added dig she adds that “for the past years, the demographics in my inbox who most fervently believed in a 2020 blue landslide were White liberal men and occasionally White liberal women. Surely, they insisted, what had happened in 2016 was a blip.” This may be right, and she does then argue that Black women and others did not have such illusions.
OK, for all the hypocritical whining and sneering by these folks who did not issue these warnings previously, the problem seems to boil down to observers taking polls seriously. 538 had a national gap of 8% nationally for Biden while Real Clear Politics had it at 7%. A likely outcome will have Biden at 4-5% ahead. This is a larger gap than in 2016, when the final 538 predicted national advantage for Clinton was 3%, with her getting a 2.1% lead. How then did things go so wrong in 2016? Ah, the errors varied across states, with some having the polls on the money, but they messed up badly in the crucial three states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, especially the first, and they were what provided the surprising outcome of a Trump electoral college victory.
The national gap this time looks to be somewhat larger, but the variation across states also seems to have reappeared. Some have been on the money, such as the respected Selzer poll in Iowa that nailed the Trump lead almost on the head. But then we have Wisconsin again, where one poll in the last few weeks actually had Biden ahead by 17%, with the overall averages having Biden ahead by 5-6%, but in the end having less than 1 percent lead (again, thank you Prairie du Chien!).
For myself on Facebook in comments I speculated that due to a likely higher turnout with such intensity on both sides, there was a larger variance to the likely outcome, with the 538 projections of the expected for Biden too optimistic, but with indeed there being also a non-trivial chance of him getting a landslide. And we should note that if 538’s main forecast had happened, 8% lead, this would have been viewed as a landslide, with indeed both Florida and North Carolina for Biden by 2% and with Texas a tossup, despite the whiny sneering by Monica Hesse. It was not just obviously pie-in-the-sky fantasy to take such an outcome seriously, although arguing it as an inevitability clearly was so.
As it was, even though I thought the pollsters had made some appropriate changes since 2016, with one for a bias about educational levels widely reported, I worried about “silent Trump supporters,” and I think those in the end were out there, especially among the better educated, despite the awfully loud and proud shouting by many Trump supporters. So I generally lopped 2% off the forecasted projections, but that was still not enough by a percent or two, although it does actually lead to pretty close to accurate the outcomes of which states would go which way.
I shall note that besides election officials one group that was also cautious about this and preparing for a high turnout by Trump’s supporters has been those in the Biden campaign. Many criticized him for not going to Texas and some other out-there possible states (although he made a few such trips). Of course, he laid low a lot in his basement, possibly too much. But when he was out he very heavily concentrated on the core three states that unexpectedly flipped in 2016, and it looks like this was a good decision, with Wisconsin and Michigan flipped back, and hopefully and likely Pennsylvania as well.
“as had been forecast as a 2 to 1 likely outcome by 538,”
As Nate Silver has made clear on several podcasts, 2:1 odds aren’t very good in an election. Yes, I’d rather be on the 2 side, but I wouldn’t put any money on those odds myself.
State polling is really uneven. Nationally, when the dust settles we are going to see a 7% Biden win. Not sure that is wildly out of line with the national polls. It should be admitted that Trump’s insane virus tour did energize the base and get out his vote even as it is killing them. Might have shaved a point or two off the national margin. Apparently he could feel that energy and that is one of the reasons he convinced himself he couldn’t lose.
With the exception of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama back to 1988, the elections have been squeaker here and in Wisconsin. Only 2016 was a Repub pres. elected. However the states are growing more in population on the Dem side.
Dems pick lackluster candidates.
People are willing to vote against better outcomes for themselves in order to deny others those outcomes.
Exit polling consists of a long line of liars
“I worried about “silent Trump supporters,” and I think those in the end were out there”
And they still are out there. How can Biden accomplish his lackluster goal of healing America if he can’t talk to people who did not vote for him.
(I see a combination of he does not know how to talk to them and they do not want to talk to him.)
Arne: It’s hard to talk reasonably to people who want you dead.
Biden has been in politics for over 40 years. One of the chief complaints of the “progressives” in the Democratic party is that Biden has compromised too much with the right over the decades. Biden knows all too well how to talk to conservatives who didn’t vote for him. The Trump base is another story, but I suspect there are plenty of conservatives who are sick of Trump.
In today’s WaPo, Monica Hesse was back this time writing about how a fave slogan of the Trumpshits is “Make the libs cry again!” Well, in this case I think I shall descend into the gutter with them and say, “Enjoy making the Trumpshits cry!!!”
You have no idea how much I kick ass out on Facebook. Unfortunately, most will not accept the truth or knowing the facts even after being told and the comments fall upon purposeful deaf ears. There are those amongst us who struggle for rebutting the lies of the trumpkins who are making things up and let things go in silence and empowering the trumpshits even moreso. I present “just the facts” to enliven a conversation.
It is also fun when I am not tethered to being a moderator.
I once caught Congressman Mike Bishop in a lie on Delta’s “Sky” magazine and posted to Facebook. Suddenly, my authenticity was checked as to whether I actually existed or not.
Let the whining begin.
I know lots of Republicans in Oregon who are sick of Trump and with whom I think Biden can find common ground.
However, some people think that “we will have to agree to disagree” is being reasonable, even though it usually ends all conversation..
Precisely on both counts.
i think i have noticed that the people who complain about the pollsters never talk about voting machines or voter suppression.
hate to sound like the anti-trump, but i think those who cry fraud are only saying that their opponents are doing what they themselves are doing, or would do, or will do.
on the other hand, while it depresses me to find 70 million Americans vote for Trump, i was eventually encouraged to realize that more than 70 million Americans actually took the trouble to vote against him. we need to keep that up.
now i worry about the Supreme Court… and those Republicans who are not clowns but just as evil.
and the pundits who are stupid… if you just listen to their language you don’t even have to know which side they are on to know that.
and while the various odd presidents, mentioned in another thread on this page, may “not have known” about the evil being done by their administration, they were not hired for what they knew, or would know, they were hired to sell the program under cover of which the evil prospered.
Seems to me Dems didn’t win, Trump lost, and not due to Dems but to Reps not supporting him, thus Reps overperform in other races while Trump loses. Dems may have worse problems then the results indicate.
OTOH, if Trump fanboys call it quits, Dems could really win.
@Lond, November 7, 2020 11:17 am
Thank you. That’s my feeling too.
Compare with Prof. Davis Hanson take on 2020 elections:
Victor Davis Hanson – US Election 2020
@Lord, November 7, 2020 12:27 pm
While departure of Trump is long overdue, Dems lose in any scenario.
First of all, the return to proponents of neoliberal globalization contradicts the world trajectory.
Also the rise of far right nationalism can’t be stopped as it is byproduct of the current crisis of neoliberalism, which will continue.
Trump being booted out of office ‘unfairly’ in view of his supporters may be the optimal scenario for him in certain ways and definitely for the country
Although Biden is essentially “Meet the New Boss. Same as the Old Boss”. And he is a hostage of Russiagate, Ukrainegate and his son’s China adventures.
In no way he will be allowed by Repugs to pursue any significant changes, even if he wants them (he actually do not; those were all election time fakes.)
Like Trump he will betray most of his election promises and will rule like classic neoliberal corporatist. Bush III if you wish.
No one should have to read this troll’s gibberish.
Let me take you around Michigan to listen to some “real” gibberish. Where does one begin when the starting comment is “He did everything he said he would do?”
Had enough of that in AZ. Eventually, my local bar’s normal (for AZ) crowd learned who was allowed, and who was not allowed, to sit at my table.
They are not afraid of me in person as I am a normal looking guy who is unthreatening. No one would ever think I did what I did growing up. Look at the states where all the noise is happening. These states have:
– Republican legislatures as determined by Gerrymandering.
– A trifecta (possibly) which is a Republican Governor and legislature.
– A historical turnout of voters in 2020.
– A higher turnout of Democratic voters than Republican
– A reversal of votes from Repubs to Democrats historically or from 2016 to 2020.
– Had normal percentage of votes for Others, Libertarian, etc. candidates in 2020 as compared to 2016.
Neoliberism my ass, people woke up to the tyranny of Republicans in 2020. It is rich that each one of the states trump is complaining about is either 100% controlled by Repubs or has a Repub legislature. Nevada has been Dem since 2008 and has a Dem Gov, the first time since 1994. Michigan was a blowout for Dems voting for the Biden Pres. ~140,000 more for Biden over trump. There is no recount which will change 140,000. No one was whining when Repub AG Schuette in Michigan refused to review 75,000 votes in MI after the 2016 election.
We are losing more seats in the House due to this turnout also.
no one needs to read his gibbrtish. i mostly don’t, except by accident sometimes, and i think it does me some good to be reminded of what the “other side” is thinking. or thinks like.
i need to say that i think you were mostly right about racism in America and I was wrong. i had no idea that pernicious racism was still with us in such huge numbers. nevertheless i think you are still wrong to use language that implies that “all” Americans are racist. and it is bad politics if not bad psychology to respond to hate with hate.
not sure who is welcome at your table. but i think you would do yourself, and your country, some good if you could learn to manage those not welcome with at least a politicians grace. i have been trying it myself. it does not come easily to me, but i have had some successes.
i defer to your analysis. what i hope for fervently is that “progressives” realize they can win (help win) an election if they just actually vote.
i voted straight democrat, not what i usually do, because i want to give them a chance, and clean out the R’s, who are at least as evil as Trump.
Maybe they will get the message, but like you, no one is afraid of me, i am just a normal looking guy (at best).
gotta go straighten out a porch.
What is going to happen is Biden will reverse most of what trump did through executive orders. Republicans will view it as an attack on them.
The sad part of that is that all of Biden’s Executive Orders will, like Trump’s, have to get past the Supreme Court.
Highly doubt he will have the same success rate as Trump with this Court.
I was thinking about the same as EM. The SC has no shame, no more than the R’s.
i re read your two comments. Though I found it hard to understand, I have no real objections to your second comment. I think I disagree about the supposed scandals, but I don’t know the facts. you seem to be contradicting yourself and are trajectory of neoliberal globalization.
As for your first comment,…I’d stay away from Victor Davis Hanson, and am thinking he is of a very low order, perhaps because he is trying so hard to agree with his very long held views… which i do not share.
in particular, and this is where you seem to be agreeing with him: it is hard to square the huge turnout with “democrats not supporting Biden, but Republicans not supporting Trump,” meanwhile Hanson seems to have trouble with the idea that each state is different from it’s neighbor, so there is no reason their vote counting should resemble each other. nor is there any reason to dismiss the effect of Covid, and the high turnouts, on the long counts. not to mention the late mail in votes and the Post Office delays for political reasons.
i’m not claiming i know more than you, but it bothers me that you and hansen don’t seem to even consider some obvious possibilities.
You are tired, yes?
sorry about the typos. think of it as a mystery: “what is he trying to say here?”
not anymore . . .
tired, yes. doesn’t make the typos worse. just means i don’t proofread before i hit post.