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Trump and Putin

Created by: Greg Palmer

Created by: Greg Palmer

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And the pipelines to nowhere. That’s the title of an article I just read today, in Medium, dated December 15th (h/t Jamie Meyerfeld), that offers the most convincing explanation IMO as to why Trump and Putin are hooking up, as it were. In short, it’s all about oil and the politics of climate change, i.e. raw economic interest, i.e. money. The author of the article, previously unknown to me—I admittedly do not know who is who in this field—is Alex Steffen, who is a “planetary futurist” and author of three books. He clearly knows what he’s talking about.

On this general subject, also see the must-read two-part article in the December 8th and 22th New York Review of Books, by David Kaiser and Lee Wasserman—who are, respectively, president and director of the Rockefeller Family Fund—”The Rockefeller Family Fund vs. Exxon,” and “The Rockefeller Family Fund Takes on ExxonMobil.” The name Rex Tillerson comes up more than once. After reading these articles you will—unless you’re already an authority on the subject—have a better understanding of what’s going on than you did before reading them.

UPDATE: Putin-apologizing Americans of both left and right have been furiously pushing back at the well-founded accusations of Russian implication in the DNC email hack, one being Glenn Greenwald—who is often right about things but often not, and is always a dickhead regardless—who has gone so far as to make common cause with Fox News talking heads on the matter. À propos, lefty journalist Bill Weinberg has a great post (Dec. 31st) on his Facebook page, “Yes, the Russians. Wake up and smell the vodka.” And Democratic Party activist David Atkins has a good post (Dec. 31st) on the Washington Monthly’s Political Animal Blog, “Even Glenn Greenwald and his fans should fear the Trump-Putin alliance.”

2nd UPDATE: Masha Gessen, who is hardly a Putinophile, clarifies matters in a post (Jan. 9th 2017) in NYR Daily, “Russia, Trump & flawed intelligence.”

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0.23, 0.73, 0.77

Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania (photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images)

Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania (photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images)

[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below] [4th update below] [5th update below]

Those are the percentages by which Hillary Clinton lost Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, respectively. Wisconsin—the state of my birth and childhood to age 12, and with which I maintain an affective attachment—ended up being the tipping state, sending Trump over 270 EVs and to victory. La honte. I am quite sure that not a single person anywhere predicted this one. A shift of 77,787 votes in the three states, properly distributed—amounting to 0.057% of the 136,489,372 cast nationally—and Hillary would have won the election with 278 EVs—and we would be spared the ongoing intra Dem party polemics over what a terrible candidate she supposedly was and how badly her campaign was run. Not to mention, of course, the four-year national nightmare that awaits us.

The intra Dem polemics and other recriminations have intensified with the popular vote count finally certified—which HRC won, as one knows, by 2,864,974 votes: 48.06% and a historic margin of 2.09% for a losing candidate—and the Electoral College inevitably confirming Trump’s victory. Bernie Sanders supporters have been having a field day on social media with their Hillary-bashing and we-told-you-so’s. A case in point is the column in the New York Daily News by Shaun King, “Obama and the Clintons still have no earthly idea why the Democratic Party lost the presidential election,” which has been making the rounds. Among other things, King asserts

Hillary Clinton was a terrible candidate to run against Donald Trump. Of course the Obama and Clinton families will never say this, but she was. I honestly believe that she may have been the only leading Democrat that Donald Trump could’ve beaten. Next to him, she was among the least popular politicians to ever run for president. Her weaknesses and challenges counterbalanced those of Trump time after time after time. Trump is a rich, unethical liar with major character problems. To beat him, you run the opposite of that. Clinton, true or not, was not seen as the opposite, but the Democratic equivalent.

Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, or even Joe Biden or Cory Booker would’ve all matched up better against Trump and his weaknesses, but you couldn’t tell the Democratic Party that. They had it all figured out from the very beginning.

This is monnaie courante among the Bernie bros and sœurs. Even lucid, hard-headed analysts have said much the same, e.g. my dear friend Adam Shatz, who, in a post-election commentary in the LRB, asserted that “it was increasingly clear that Clinton should never have been the Democratic candidate.” Two things are in order here. First, Elizabeth Warren did not run for the nomination, nor did Joe Biden. They made the sovereign decision not to enter the race. That they would have been stronger candidates against Trump than was Hillary is unknowable and a waste of time to be speculating over (though personally, I’m dubious). It is neither here nor there. They didn’t run, that’s it. The only candidates who declared apart from Bernie were Martin O’Malley, Lincoln Chafee, and Jim Webb, and we know how long they lasted.

Secondly, Bernie—who, pour mémoire, is not a Democrat—ran a spirited campaign against Hillary and lost. She received 16.9 million primary and caucus votes (55.2%) to his 13.2 million (43.1%). Hillary decisively defeated Bernie and with landslide numbers. And no absence of alleged favoritism or putative shenanigans on the part of the DNC toward the former would have shifted any of those primary or caucus votes. Hillary won the nomination race fair and square. End of story.

But if, for the sake of argument, Bernie had been the nominee, would he have fared better against Trump, i.e. beat him? Il ne faut pas se leurrer: the well-oiled Republican attack machine, which was chomping at the bit to run against a self-proclaimed “socialist,” would have cut Bernie into little pieces. Bernie would have been shredded. The Grand Old Party would have chewed him up and spat him out. John Judis, in his “final thoughts on the 2016 election,” is fairly sure that Bernie’s proposals for free college tuition and single-payer health care would have gotten him tarred with the “tax and spend” label. As one knows, Americans like “free stuff” just so long as they don’t have to pay for it.

But that’s not all the Repubs would have hit Bernie with. As Newsweek’s Kurt Eichenwald wrote in a piece last month,”The myths Democrats swallowed that cost them the presidential election,” Sanders would have been framed as a 1960s communist hippie and weirdo to boot, an image that, believe me, would not have played in Canonsburg PA, Stevens Point WI, or elsewhere in l’Amérique profonde:

I have seen the opposition book assembled by Republicans for Sanders, and it was brutal. The Republicans would have torn him apart. And while Sanders supporters might delude themselves into believing that they could have defended him against all of this, there is a name for politicians who play defense all the time: losers.

Here are a few tastes of what was in store for Sanders, straight out of the Republican playbook: He thinks rape is A-OK. In 1972, when he was 31, Sanders wrote a fictitious essay in which he described a woman enjoying being raped by three men. Yes, there is an explanation for it—a long, complicated one, just like the one that would make clear why the Clinton emails story was nonsense. And we all know how well that worked out.

Then there’s the fact that Sanders was on unemployment until his mid-30s, and that he stole electricity from a neighbor after failing to pay his bills, and that he co-sponsored a bill to ship Vermont’s nuclear waste to a poor Hispanic community in Texas, where it could be dumped. You can just see the words “environmental racist” on Republican billboards. And if you can’t, I already did. They were in the Republican opposition research book as a proposal on how to frame the nuclear waste issue.

Also on the list: Sanders violated campaign finance laws, criticized Clinton for supporting the 1994 crime bill that he voted for, and he voted against the Amber Alert system. His pitch for universal health care would have been used against him too, since it was tried in his home state of Vermont and collapsed due to excessive costs. Worst of all, the Republicans also had video of Sanders at a 1985 rally thrown by the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua where half a million people chanted, “Here, there, everywhere/the Yankee will die,’’ while President Daniel Ortega condemned “state terrorism” by America. Sanders said, on camera, supporting the Sandinistas was “patriotic.”

The Republicans had at least four other damning Sanders videos (I don’t know what they showed), and the opposition research folder was almost 2-feet thick. (The section calling him a communist with connections to Castro alone would have cost him Florida.) In other words, the belief that Sanders would have walked into the White House based on polls taken before anyone really attacked him is a delusion built on a scaffolding of political ignorance.

Right.

On Hillary and her campaign, yes, they made mistakes and didn’t do things they should have, like pay more attention to Michigan and Wisconsin. And Hillary shooting off her mouth about the “deplorables” was certainly not helpful. We all know this—though one does want to ask if Bernie supporters and other millennials in the aforementioned states who didn’t bother to vote, or did so for Jill Stein, should not be held at least partly responsible for the debacle. But here’s the bottom line: had it not been for the Comey letter eleven days before the election, Hillary would have won. Period. Sam Wang has crunched the numbers and these are categorical: Hillary dropped four points in the polls in the wake of the letter’s release, and though she recovered two of the points before election day, the two that were lost made all the difference in PA, MI, and WI—also likely also in Florida, which she lost by 1.2%. It is now definitive that the letter caused undecided voters to break heavily for Trump. Had Hillary won the four aforementioned states, her EV total would have been 307. Moreover, the Dems would have probably picked up the PA Senate seat and possibly the WI one too (though I am informed by a political operative friend there that Russell Feingold ran a pathetically bad campaign), allowing for a razor-thin Senate majority with Tim Kaine the tie-breaker.

Minus Comey’s October Surprise and his gratuitous declarations before the House Oversight Committee last July 7th, plus the Vladimir Putin-Julian Assange dirty tricks—all of which were bigly damaging to HRC—and she wins the PV by five points, if not more, and racks up a veritable EC landslide, taking NC, AZ, and the NE 2nd CD, for a total of 334 EVs. And who knows, maybe she would have won GA too, pushing the EV count to 350. Hélas.

Ah yes, but she was such bad, awful candidate, so everyone says, ran such a miserable campaign, and failed to speak to the economic anxiety of the famous white working class. This has been repeated so many times ad infinitum—and not just by the usual suspect Hillary-bashers—that it almost goes without saying. But how was she bad? What was it about Hillary Clinton that made her an awful candidate? Now it is true that she is not a great stump speaker. She doesn’t fire up crowds. To which I say: so what? Since when does the ability to deliver barn-burning speeches become a prerequisite for winning election to high office? In point of fact, only a minority of US presidents in our era—Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama—have been objectively impressive public speakers and able to affectively connect with big audiences. Most politicians, including those in the top-tier, are not memorable public orators. E.g. Angela Merkel, who is now the titular leader of the Free World, is not superior to Hillary Clinton when it comes to public speaking, at least not so far as I have seen.

Hillary, in fact, reminds one of Michel Rocard, who disliked speaking to big crowds, much preferring smaller groups and with interaction with the audience. This is clearly Hillary’s preference as well and which she excels at—and that won her the New York senate race in 2000, her first-ever foray into electoral politics (at age 52, which is late to be starting any kind of new career). Something else about Hillary’s political skills: she is not known to have political enemies. She worked well with her colleagues in Congress and including Republicans, who appreciated her. And her staff—people who work under her authority—are fiercely loyal to her. This should speak well of her, no?

As for the Clinton campaign’s message—or supposed lack of one—and alleged inability to speak to the WWC, this is poppycock. Hillary talked about jobs, workers, and economy more than anything else, so Vox’s David Roberts informs us in a content analysis of her speeches. But one could be forgiven for having no idea of this, as all the media wanted to talk about was her emails. Those damn emails, dixit Bernie Sanders.

Seriously, WTF was Hillary Clinton supposed to do or say that she didn’t? And what could she have done about the broadcast media’s disinterest in anything she had to say about policy?

Conclusion: Hillary Clinton was a good candidate in view of what she was up against. This comment by reader Christina Wos Donnelly on the Mother Jones Facebook page a week ago gets it right:

…HRC was campaigned against by 3 Democrats, 1 Independent, all 19 Republicans, 1 Libertarian, 1 Green Partier, the RNC, 2 Russian spy agencies and a whole factory of paid trolls, Breitbart & the alt-right, Julian Assange & Wikileaks, a hostile media, a deluge of dark money, AND the FBI, all trying to take a piece out of her, and STILL she won the popular vote by millions. 3 million to date. Take out vote suppression all across the South, TX and the swing states, and you’ve got your double digit lead. Donald Trump won by a mere 80,000 votes spread across 3 states, that’s one half of one percent.

To which one could add the obsessive 25-year campaign by the right to tear her down and destroy her reputation—and with which many on the left were complicit.

Additional comments:

The final election polls were not way off. The final RCP average had HRC at +3.2, a mere 1.1% difference from her actual score. That does not constitute a massive polling failure. As for the key swing state polls: the final ones in PA showed it very close; in MI, they had HRC up +5, though one had Trump at +2; in WI there was bizarrely no polling in the last week; and in FL the race was essentially tied. Also: it turns out that the USC/LA Times tracking poll had a marked Trump skew after all, with its final number showing him up by 3. Way off base.

Many 2012 Obama voters who went for Trump invoked the “change” theme. The “need for change” was a leitmotif among these voters. This is classic in elections in which the incumbent party has been in office for two terms.

Trump has been insisting that he could have won the popular vote if he had wanted to, that if the POTUS were elected by direct PV he would have campaigned in California, New York state, and other blue states, augmenting his vote totals there. John Judis has made similar arguments in this vein. But if this were the case, HRC would have campaigned throughout the Deep South and Texas, where there are troves of potentially untapped Dem voters. So the final result would have likely been a wash—and with HRC maintaining her margin of victory.

There was finally no drop in turnout in this election. It was, in fact, higher than in 2012. Many prior abstainers clearly came out of the woodwork to vote for Trump, while some Dem voters—mainly Afro-Americans—stayed home. To increase black turnout in the future, the Democrats may need to systematically have a black on the ticket. Just as Trump putting Pence on his ticket brought in the evangelicals in force, had Hillary chosen Cory Booker instead of Tim Kaine—good man that he was—this may have done the trick in PA, MI, and WI. Just speculating.

UPDATE: The NYT’s number cruncher Nate Cohn has a must-read analysis (Dec. 23rd) on The Upshot page, “How the Obama coalition crumbled, leaving an opening for Trump.” It turns out that defections of WWC 2012 Obama voters to Trump in the Rust Belt states were more significant than thought, as were defections by educated urban Republican voters to Clinton (e.g. one learns that every precinct in Winnetka IL—an upscale Chicago North Shore suburb that I know fairly well—voted for Clinton, which I find amazing). Something I’ve been thinking: it is doubtful that Hillary—or any other Democrat—could have done anything to prevent those normally Democratic-leaning WWC voters from succumbing to Trump’s juggernaut. Trump was a once-in-a-generation phenomenon, a populist billionaire strongman with the ability to viscerally connect with WWC voters in the heartland—to appeal to their id on a range of issues (notably trade and globalization)—and provoke a cascade effect. No other Republican candidate could have attracted that portion of the WWC electorate in the way he did.

BTW, if one didn’t see it, New Yorker contributor Alex Ross had an excellent article, dated Dec. 5th, on how “the Frankfurt School knew Trump was coming.”

2nd UPDATE: The Atlantic’s Richard Brownstein had a premonitory article dated November 2nd, that I seemed to have missed at that time, on the danger to the Clinton firewall in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, “Is Donald Trump outflanking Hillary Clinton? The Democratic nominee faces the risk that she has overestimated her hold on the states most central to her strategy.”

3rd UPDATE: Le Monde’s Yves Eudes has had two very good reportages on 2012 Obama voters (or abstainers) who defected to Trump, one from Pennsylvania (Nov. 24th), the other from Michigan (Dec. 27th).

4th UPDATE: The Washington Post’s polling manager Scott Clement says (Dec. 30th) that “The 2016 national polls are looking less wrong after final election tallies.”

5th UPDATE: Vox has posted a must-read piece (Jan. 11th 2017) by policy and election analysts Sean McElwee, Matt McDermott, and Will Jordan, “4 pieces of evidence showing FBI Director James Comey cost Clinton the election: And yes, it still matters.”

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The coming apocalypse

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This is my first post in over a month on the unspeakable US president-elect. Not that I haven’t been following the election aftermath quasi obsessively and with much to say about it, but we’re all reading the same analyses and are in entire agreement that what is happening in the United States is, for us Americans at least, the biggest political catastrophe of our lifetimes, so what’s the point of little AWAV weighing in every other day with his 2¢? Also, thoughts I have one day seem dépassé the next. E.g. I had the idea in the week after the election that maybe the unspeakable president-elect would moderate somewhat—this after his meeting with Obama in the Oval Office—that he would possibly surprise us and that we should maybe wait and see. So much for that ephemeral fancy. The only thing one can say right now is that, yes, we are headed for the apocalypse, that it’s going to be worse than we could have ever imagined. As my friend Adam Shatz put it, “the president-elect has formed a cabinet so outlandishly right-wing that not even the Onion could have invented it.” And on that cabinet, one may add the most reactionary in American history and likely to be the most authoritarian.

The bottom line: all that stands between America descending into fascism—not precisely of the 1930s European variety but one specifically American and 21st century—is a handful of Republicans in the Senate who will, inshallah, decide not to go the full Vichy: who, for their own reasons, will align with the Democrats on given issues and to thwart the president of their party. I wanted to add that a robust civil society uncompromisingly hostile to the unspeakable president-elect will also be necessary—and that civil society is indeed there, comprised of the tens of millions of Americans who are outraged by the president-elect and his illegitimate victory—but don’t think the unspeakable one and those in his entourage will give a shit about that. These people are illiberal, do not believe in democracy or in the legitimacy of the opposition—of any opposition—and are in a pure rapport de force. They will seek no compromises and will not hesitate to use the considerable institutional means at their disposal to crush anyone who stands in their way. Which does not mean that we should not stand in their way and on everything. Americans on the center and left side of the political spectrum, plus lingering #NeverTrump Republicans, will feel what it’s like to be a secularist in Erdoğan’s Turkey, or a liberal in Putin’s Russia. Or to live in any one of the illiberal regimes sprouting up in countries that are supposed to be democracies (e.g. Hungary, Poland, the Philippines, take your pick). Hell, the Trump regime could even end up resembling the pouvoir in Algeria.

I will come back to this subject later—there will be many occasions to do so—but in the meantime want to post a personal story by my friend Adria Zeldin, an attorney in Washington, whom I’ve known for some forty years, and who sent it to me this week:

At 61 years old, life has told me it is time to deal with a trauma that occurred to me 42 years ago when I was 19 and in college. I was raped on campus one night in 1974. A man raped me, a townie, who knew he could wander onto campus, find his victim, and be fairly sure that nothing would ever happen to him.  The culture of women’s politics in the 1970s was such that we did a lot of consciousness raising among ourselves and at the women’s center on campus, but had very little support or understanding from the college administration, the police, or hospitals. I was not treated well by any of these institutions and instead I was left to deal with the trauma in my own personal way, the best a 19-year-old young woman could. I was young and politically idealistic and felt I had my whole life ahead of me.

Over the many years since, however, news stories of sexual assaults on college campuses, and depictions of rape in movies and books, all caused me trauma and have been difficult for me to handle. But not until recent years have I truly felt retraumatized and revictimized. First it was the stories of so many women who accused Bill Cosby of rape.  Then the trial of Brock Turner in California and Judge Persky’s shamefully lenient sentence. The moving statement of the rape survivor in that case, read to the courtroom and circulated online, brought so many tears to my eyes. I read her powerful statement over and over and cried so hard. Certainly this would help me heal and be cathartic. But then the 2016 presidential campaign took an ugly turn with statements about women and their bodies, about women being abused and ridiculed by a male candidate.  The revelation of his statements bragging about sexual assault made me angry but also traumatized me once again.

When I woke up on November 9, 2016, to learn that this man, who bragged to the nation about sexual assault, was going to be our president, I cried on and off for days. How could this happen? I felt like I was in a nightmare and that I would soon wake up and it would all have been a bad dream.

So how do I go on living? The inauguration of the President-elect is only weeks away and as it gets closer, the more scared I become.  I live in the Washington DC area and work only a few blocks from the White House where this misogynist will be living the next four years.  I am back in therapy, trying once again to deal with my personal trauma of 42 years ago. I practice meditation and engage in other activities that I have found are good for my soul. And I go on living because I must. For all the survivors of sexual assault I go on living. For all the young women in college and older women who have survived, I go on living. But I want to do more. I want to effect some change and awareness of how our society and legal system disrespects women. Why are judges like Persky still on the bench? How do they get on the bench to begin with and remain there so long? Why are felony rapists given shorter sentences than other felons? Why is a female victim of sexual assault treated as the criminal, rather than given the comfort and respect a rape victim deserves?  And what will the next four years mean for women and all the gains we have made over the past 42 years, since I was that young idealistic 19-year-old college student?

If one missed it, see the excellent and gratifying tweet storm of civil rights activist Danielle Muscato against Trump, that went viral.

Also see the essay (Nov. 27th) by a citizen named N Ziehl, “Coping with chaos in the White House,” published on Medium.com, in which he discusses his decades-long experience dealing with narcissistic personality disorder and how this helps understand the man who will soon be working out of the Oval Office (what a hideous image).

On the psychology of the president-elect—but also of his supporters—the Financial Times has a fascinating discussion (Dec. 9th) with the writer Michael Lewis, on the “American psyche” and “the triumph of irrational thinking.”

For yet more on the workings of the president-elect’s addled brain, Trump biographer Michael D’Antonio has an op-ed (Dec. 9th) in the NY Daily News, “Critics of Trump’s nasty Twitter attacks miss the point: He simply cannot stop even if he wanted to.”

And here’s a great essay (Dec. 13th) by Jacob T. Levy, a savant at McGill University, “The defense of liberty can’t do without identity politics,” published on the Niskanen Center website. There have been several good responses to the insufferable attacks on the “identity politics” practiced by the Democratic Party—e.g. by Michelle Goldberg and Matthew Yglesias, and as if the Republicans don’t practice such politics as well and with their own version of “political correctness” to boot—but Levy’s may be the best.

À suivre.

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America’s Deep State

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[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below] [4th update below] [5th update below]

I saw Snowden the other day. It’s good entertainment, as Oliver Stone’s movies tend to be, and with solid acting—notably Joseph Gordon-Levitt, excellently cast as Edward Snowden—though is not without flaws. E.g. way too much time is given over to Snowden’s relationship with his GF, Lindsay Mills (Shailene Woodley), the portrayal of which conforms to classic Hollywood conventions. And the political subtext is typical simple-minded Stone, uniquely skewering the United States for engaging in action—here, mass surveillance of the world’s population—that any state would engage in if it had the technical capacity to do so. There’s no morality in this domain. States are states. And, as we have learned since the Snowden affair broke in 2013, Germany, France, and the UK, among others, have indeed engaged in technological eavesdropping à la NSA (my posts on the NSA/Snowden are here and here).

Watching the film I naturally thought of the current political drama in the US and its unspeakable president-elect. In depicting the NSA/CIA surveillance apparatus, such as Snowden informed the world about, I had a thought: the American state knows everything relevant about any person—and particularly any American citizen—it wishes to know about. The American state—its national security apparatus—knows all about Donald Trump. It has the goods on him: maybe not of every last p*ssy he’s grabbed but of his foreign dealings—with the Russians et al—his finances, tax returns, shady persons he’s been associated with, you name it. There is necessarily something in Trump’s life over the decades—just one little thing—that is seriously comprising, not only to himself legally but eventually to the national security of the United States. Trump, America’s commander-in-chief to be, knows nothing about America’s national security apparatus and precious few of his handful of advisers do either, a flake or two excepted, but the apparatus knows about him. So my question is: over the next four years, who will have the ascendancy over whom in matters of the national security: the ignoramus president or the apparatus?

IMHO, I believe it will be the latter. Trump will be boxed in. The apparatus will dominate him—inform him of what he can and cannot do—rather than the other way around. For this reason, I am somewhat less concerned about Trump’s foreign policy than his actions on the home front.

One comment about Stone’s film. President Obama is shown defending the NSA and condemning Snowden’s whistleblowing. Likewise Hillary Clinton on the campaign trail. Knowing Stone’s political parti pris, the effect on the spectator is clearly intended to be one of disapproval. But in view of the posts Obama and Clinton occupied in the state, does one seriously expect that they would have reacted otherwise, that their public statements would have been to condemn the NSA and praise Snowden? Allez.

Having seen Stone’s movie, I’m going to rewatch Laura Poitras’s very good documentary, Citizenfour, which I saw when it opened in Paris last year. It may be viewed free on the web here.

UPDATE: The Economist had a critical review of ‘Snowden’, which it said “fails to give movie-goers the whole truth.”

2nd UPDATE: On the NSA and the election, see Esquire journalist Charles P. Pierce’s Nov. 16th piece, “Russia’s involvement in the 2016 election is growing by the day: Now the NSA director admits Russia used Wikileaks to meddle in the campaign.”

3rd UPDATE: Here’s an email exhange I had on ‘Citzenfour’ with Adam Shatz back in April 2015, which I had forgotten about. First, Adam:

Edward Snowden was impressive, and not at all like the Thoreau-ian caricature presented by Packer and others; but that the film was flawed in some ways. Aesthetically it’s striking, perhaps a bit too much so: too cool and sleek for its own good. The film lacks dialectical tension. It treats critics as unworthy; their arguments aren’t even put forward, really, except by government officials who are lying. I’m not saying I sympathize with their views all that much but they are views, and they should be taken as such. All governments collect information, after all. The result is a sometimes wearying monologue, with a Pynchonesque vision of sinister government conspiracy, not wholly unconvincing of course but somewhat one-dimensional and…dull. Greenwald, whom I find irritating and grandiose, impressed me for once with his command of the facts and his determination. Anyway, it’s a good film, but not a great one.

AWAV:

It’s a well-made documentary and convinces, IMO. And I agree with you, Adam, that Glenn Greenwald, who normally irritates me too, impressed for once with his command of his subject. But I don’t know if I follow your critique of the film “lacking dialectical tension” (I’m not sure what you mean by this) or that it treats critics as unworthy. The critics it did show are government people but who, as the film also shows, brazenly lied during Congressional hearings. It wasn’t Laura Poitras’s mission to give equal time to all parties to the debate. The film certainly convinced me that what Edward Snowden revealed should be taken more seriously than I did when the affair first broke (my attitude was mostly bof). Now the question I’m trying to resolve in my head is if Snowden should be granted political asylum in France (as lefties here, including some I respect, have been arguing). Unless he clearly revealed specific state secrets to the Russians and that could compromise US security, I think he probably should be.

Offering asylum to Snowden could be François Hollande’s parting shot before leaving office. His final poll ratings would spike, no doubt about it.

4th UPDATE: Princeton University historian Sean Wilentz had a lengthy must-read article in TNR, dated January 19th 2014, “Would you feel differently about Snowden, Greenwald, and Assange if you knew what they really thought?”

5th UPDATE: The February 9th 2017 issue of The New York Review of Books has a review essay by Charlie Savage, who is a New York Times correspondent in Washington, of Oliver Stone’s ‘Snowden’, “Was Snowden a Russian agent.” Money quote

Stone’s movie, which premiered in September, presents a comic-book version of the pro-Snowden narrative in which a wunderkind super-hacker takes on Big Brother. In telling that story, Stone mixes accurate material with fiction, while simplifying away complexities. His movie steps on the genuine privacy issues raised by Snowden’s disclosures with melodramatic embellishments, such as a scene in which an invented senior NSA official, his Orwellian face filling a floor-to-ceiling screen, casually reveals that he knows whether the Snowden character’s girlfriend is sleeping with another man. It omits actual Snowden disclosures whose individual privacy rationale was debatable, such as when he showed the South China Morning Post documents about the NSA’s hacking into certain institutional computers in China. And its discussion of the volume of Internet metadata the NSA collects from equipment inside the United States ignores any distinction between truly domestic e-mails and foreign-to-foreign messages that are merely traveling across domestic network switches.

Savage also reviews—negatively—Edward Jay Epstein’s book How America Lost Its Secrets: Edward Snowden, the Man and the Theft.

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Digesting the disaster

Hillary Clinton supporters, Tuesday night (AFP)

Hillary Clinton supporters, Tuesday night (AFP)

[update below] [2nd update below]

Yesterday was tough. For me and everyone. I couldn’t listen to my usual radio news programs and did not turn on the idiot box to watch the news. And I couldn’t bring myself to open Le Monde. The banner headline: “Donald Trump Président des États-Unis.” Quel cauchemar. Today is a little bit better but not really. I have been reading post-mortem analyses, though, plus examining the results and exit poll data. Here’s some of what one learns:

  • Everyone knows by now that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. She’s presently at 47.7% and Trump at 47.5%, with an advance of some 280K votes. But once all the mail-in and provisional ballots are tabulated—notably in deep blue California and Washington state—her lead will widen to perhaps 1.5 million votes, even 2M. Her percentage will break 48 and with Trump’s dropping below Mitt Romney’s 47.2 in 2012. The spread between Hillary and Trump will be wider than that of Gore over Bush in 2000 (539K votes and 0.5%). Now this won’t change a thing in terms of the result of course, but it is nonetheless important to know that the election was not a repudiation of Hillary. And with Trump on track to underperform Romney’s numbers—60.9M votes, with Trump presently at 59.8M—one can hardly argue that the American electorate has jumped on the populist bandwagon. And there is no indication, at least not yet, that Trump attracted large numbers of new voters or habitual abstainers, unlike Ross Perot in 1992, whose candidacy caused voter participation to spike, with 13M more voters casting ballots than four years prior. The final turnout number of this election will be below that of 2012 (129M).
  • Hillary underperformed Obama’s 2012 score (51.1%) by some 3% and, projecting to the definitive result, by around 5 million votes (Obama received 65.9M). Some of Obama 2012 voters no doubt stayed home—blacks and millennials; we don’t yet know the extent—but much of Hillary’s shortfall, as one may see in this great NYT map, came from white working class voters in the Rust Belt who defected to Trump. It was a failure of pollsters, but also of the Clinton campaign and its internal polling—or algorithm—that the scale of this movement wasn’t detected.
  • It had been an assumption for much of the campaign, including by myself, that significantly more Republican voters would not vote for their candidate than Democratic voters defecting from theirs. But not only did Republican voters return to the fold (90%) but did so more than Democrats who voted for Clinton (89%). And while defecting Democrats no doubt voted in their overwhelming majority for Trump, many #NeverTrump Republicans look to have voted for Gary Johnson or stayed home rather than cast a ballot for Hillary.
  • The numbers make it clear: there was no Trump wave. His voters were those who always vote Republican plus a sufficient number of white working class Democratic defectors to put him over the top in Rust Belt states that were part of Hillary’s supposed firewall. And Hillary lost because her campaign failed to recognize the danger to that firewall. The bottom line: Trump was elected, as Scott Lemieux reminds us, exclusively on account of America’s archaic, nonsensical electoral system, a.k.a. the electoral college.

A few of the many worthwhile postmortem commentaries:

New York mag’s Jonathan Chait, “Republicans won power, but they didn’t win America.” Not that Republicans care about the latter, of course. The former is what’s essential.

The Nation’s Joan Walsh, “Everything we thought we knew about politics was wrong: The country will survive, probably. But it could fundamentally change.”

Vanessa Williamson of the Brookings Institution, “What the Tea Party tells us about the Trump presidency.”

My friend Monica Marks posted an excellent commentary today on her Facebook page, on the white working class, which I am copying-and-pasting below. Monica, who currently resides in Istanbul and is completing a doctoral thesis at Oxford University on the Islamists in Tunisia, hails from a working class family in eastern Kentucky, so has a unique personal perspective on some of Trump’s voters:

Democrats lost because the “liberal elite” forgot the white working class. This narrative casts bigotry & misogyny as symptoms of neoliberalism, the underlying disease. But is it accurate?

If I didn’t hail from America’s white working class, I’d probably be an ardent purveyor of this narrative. But I come from America’s WWC, and it rankles me. Here are a few reasons why:

(1) Studies of Trump supporters’ median income, which may or may not reflect the final statistics, indicate the average Trump supporter is better off than most Americans, with an annual income of approximately $72,000.

We’re waiting on the final data, but we know from last night’s voting patterns that many well-off Americans in wealthy districts voted for Trump, too. Many white people of all economic backgrounds voted for Trump. Whiteness, not income, may be the dominant unifying factor, indicating that other variables, like racist outlooks, education, geography, etc. may have had more explanatory power.

(2) Besides letting the white middle and upper classes off the hook, this narrative really obscures a lot of good work that Democrats’ policies have done for the white working class, and lets the WWC off the hook for having really bad judgment.

Disclaimer: I’m acutely aware of my own subjectivity here, because my class background powerfully shapes (and perhaps muddles) my views on these issues. I’m a product of the WWC. My father is a floor cleaner & window washer. My mother was a housewife, but since divorcing eight years ago works a caretaker & house cleaner. Neither finished high school. They earn about $25K and $17K respectively. They do not and have never received any government benefits. They live in eastern Kentucky, an epicenter of white poverty.

I’ve seen first-hand how Democrats’ policies help my own parents. Obama’s Affordable Care Act provided both my parents with health insurance for the first time in their lives. The premiums were high, and there were flaws in the system, but it was definitely progress. The ACA helped WWC families like mine– it was a signature achievement of the Obama administration, and one the GOP is now very determined to roll back (they might succeed, leaving my parents uninsured again).

Democrats have also articulated more policies aimed at economically rejuvenating Appalachia’s coal fields than Republicans. HRC’s website articulated a thoughtful plan for retooling workers in coal country. Trump had no plan at all.

Instead of feeding pablum to the masses — Islamophobia, racism, fear of “the other” writ large, religiously inflected opioids — Democrats offer real policies, many of which could improve WWC lives. Though life has transported me some distance, I still feel deeply tethered to the WWC. I’m less inclined to make excuses for them and to pity than my friends raised in middle and upper middle class backgrounds. I don’t expect them to read the New York Times every day. I do expect them to see through the nonsense the GOP — and especially Trump — has fed to them. And I definitely, definitely expect decency from them. Decency which Trump so obviously didn’t have.

Many liberals and leftists today will be asking themselves where they went wrong. That’s not just good, it’s absolutely necessary. Facts may uphold the neoliberalism / abandoned WWC thesis. I’m very open to the possibility that I’m blinded by my own subjectivities here. It’s personal for me to the extent that I find it extremely difficult to distill cogent analysis from my still-percolating anger at the folks I grew up with, who I always wished would rechannel their rage from away from the phantasm whipping boys of Islam/ LGBT people/ “feminazis”/ “godlessness” etc towards economic policies that actually shape their realities.

But perhaps it’s also possible that, in a liberal/leftist rush to self-blame and find neoliberalism lurking around every corner, we’re denying these people, my people, their racist & misogynistic agency.

This election might not have been entirely defined by bigotry, but bigotry does seem to have played a huge role. As did other factors that aren’t necessarily economic, like being a low-information voter/ reliant on conspiracy theories & rumour-laden blogs; being socially and/or geographically distant from minority communities most vulnerable to Trumpism, etc.

Just a small contribution to a complex discussion surrounding the “why” of all this. We should also remember that we cannot separate the conversation re: Trump’s election from Brexit, or from the rise of racist & anti-immigration / anti-globalization far right parties elsewhere in Europe.

À suivre.

UPDATE: WaPo reporter Chris Cillizza examines “The 13 most amazing findings in the 2016 exit poll.” And these 13 are:

  • Trump won the white vote by a record margin.
  • There was no surge of female voters.
  • There was no surge of Latino voters.
  • Education mattered yugely in your vote choice.
  • Trump did better with white evangelicals than Romney.
  • Trump didn’t bring lots of new voters to the process.
  • The economy was the big issue and Clinton won it.
  • This was a change election. And Trump was the change candidate.
  • Obamacare was a wind beneath Trump’s wings.
  • Trump’s personal image was and is horrible.
  • Clinton’s email hurt her.
  • This was a deeply pessimistic electorate.
  • People didn’t think Trump lost the debates as badly as I did.

N..B. There is disagreement over the Latino vote, with the Latino Decisions Election Eve poll finding that Latinos backed Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump by a 79-18% margin (as opposed to the 65-29% margin in the National Election Pool exit poll).

2nd UPDATE: To the above 13 findings above may be added the huge turnout in rural America for Trump. On this, see the analyses in the NYT’s The Upshot, “The election highlighted a growing rural-urban split,” and  in Politico, “Revenge of the rural voter.”

popular-vote-electoral-college-vox

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Disaster

It is 8:00am CET (2:00am EST) Wednesday and I am writing this on no sleep. I decided to turn off the computer and télé around 5, when the debacle was near certain, and go to bed but to no avail—and my sleeplessness was not helped by the two strong espressos I had had after midnight (to say awake through the returns) plus three shots of vodka (to calm my nerves). Speaking as an American, this is the biggest political catastrophe of my life—which now spans six decades—and certainly the biggest to befall the United States since the Civil War. I am alarmed, terrified, worried sick, near panic-stricken, and you name it, for the future of America but also the world.  No need to explain why—as everyone reading this understands perfectly—but I simply cannot wrap my head around the reality that Donald Trump will be in the White House for the next four years and with the extreme right-wing Republican Party in control of Congress and, in short order, the Supreme Court—and with the calamitous consequences this will have on almost every domain of policy and the equally calamitous impact on the lives of countless millions (for starters: the environment and climate change, health care, immigration, voting rights, the global economy, America’s standing in the world…). And there’s nothing to be done about it. One feels the same helplessness and despair as did the people of Paris on June 14, 1940, watching the Germans march down the Champs-Élysées. Now I am not suggesting that Trump is akin to the Nazis—though we can talk about that—but the German presence back then lasted four years, was aided by a collaborationist regime (cf. GOP) that had a strong political base, and led to outright civil war (Free French vs. Vichy). The consequences for French society were terrible.

It’s unlikely Americans will start killing one another—in greater numbers than they already do—but the divisions and animosities will only worsen. Slate’s Jamelle Bouie, one of my favorite political journalists, tweeted this thought a few hours ago

I didn’t quite understand how much white people hated us, or could at least live with that hate. Now I do.

If Trump makes good on his pledge to punish his political detractors, have opponents thrown in prison, and opposition media put out of business, then all bets are off.

I have communicated with numerous friends over the past several hours, via Facebook and email, and everyone’s sentiments are identical. Everyone in my social class—that class of educated people connected into or open to the world beyond America’s borders and who are allergic to populism and blood-and-soil nationalism—is devastated by Trump’s utterly unexpected victory and fearful for the future. Around 3:00am I posted a comment on Facebook that I was having the same sinking feeling as the night of the Brexit vote, when the statistical models had the probability of a ‘remain’ victory melting like snow on a warm day. The first states to be called, Indiana and Kentucky, at 1:00am already caused a little alarm in my head to go off. Those who have watched presidential election returns over the years know that if Indiana—which is rock-ribbed Republican—is called as soon as the polls there close, this signifies that the Republican candidate is going to win or that the national result will be extremely close. If the state is announced too close to call, that points to a good night for the Democrats. Last night Indiana was called right away.

What is stunning—just unbelievable—is Trump winning Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, plus the 8½ point margin of victory in Ohio.  It was predicted that he’d take OH but absolutely no one foresaw MI and WI. The breathtaking collapse of Hillary’s firewall. This has to be the biggest polling failure in election history. Absolutely no one saw this outcome coming. Even Frank Luntz was predicting a Clinton victory at 8:00pm EST. So much for the Princeton Election Consortium’s random drift/Bayesian probability at >99. And so much for sophisticated GOTV operations and TV ad budgets in the hundreds of millions of dollars. This is deeply unsettling, as it upends everything we know or understand about how election campaigns are run, or at least supposed to be run—and, moreover, with the upending being done by a demagogic, mentally unstable billionaire populist caudillo wannabe with no organization to speak of and who attracts millions of adoring supporters—and tens of millions of voters—through the sheer force of his dark persona. That such could happen in a rich and powerful country like America is quite terrifying.

If the polls were disastrously wrong, there was one that turned out not to be: the USC Dornsife/L.A. Times Daybreak tracking poll, which consistently had Trump up over Clinton throughout the campaign. It seemed obvious that the poll was an outlier and not to be taken seriously, but lo and behold. My old friend Don, who has had a long and illustrious career working on labor and grassroots campaigns in the Midwest, posted this comment on social media a few hours ago

USC/LA Times polled 3,200 same people every week and always had Trump ahead…I talked to their pollster and I said if your large sample, panel study is right you’ll be famous… NYT and Nate Silver criticized their methodology but it seemed pretty solid. I just refused to believe it. It did not fit with my opinion nor my hope.

That’s right, I also dismissed the poll’s numbers, mainly because I did not like them (though the thought did occur to me two days ago—which I quickly banished from my head—that perhaps this one could be right and all the others wrong).

One person in particular merits kudos for his prescient analysis, which is Michael Moore, who, in a widely circulated post on his website last July, enumerated the “5 reasons why Trump will win,” the first reason labeled “Midwest math, or welcome to our Rust Belt Brexit,” in which he asserted that Trump would win Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. In a blog post shortly after, I devoted several paragraphs to rubbishing Moore’s piece. What to say, Michael was right and AWAV was à côté de la plaque.

These are random, sleep-deprived thoughts, which I have more of. Maybe I’ll offer them later, or in a few days, if I’m up to it. I have to go to town now to teach a 2½-hour class, to American undergrads, one of whom is Latino and has been deeply worried for weeks over the prospect of a Trump victory. This will be tough.

June 14, 1940

June 14, 1940

June 14, 1940

June 14, 1940

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Clinton & Trump: the call

LeBron & Hillary, Cleveland, November 6th (photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)

LeBron & Hillary, Cleveland, November 6th (photo: Carlos Barria/Reuters)

[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below] [4th update below] [5th update below]

It’s election eve and thus time for my prediction of how it’s all going to turn out, which has been my personal tradition since 1992 (and 2002 for French presidential elections; for my call in the 2012 US presidential, go here). Before I get to that, though, I need to link to the essay my friend Claire Berlinski—who is conservative and normally not inclined to vote for Democrats—posted on the conservative Ricochet blog today, “Why I Voted for Hillary: Ten Essays.” It’s great—Claire is so smart and such a good writer—so please read the whole thing, but here are a few money quotes:

I do not think Trump is Hitler, if only because historical analogies are always flawed. But the analogy is correct enough in some respects that who would want to see whether it holds in the most relevant respects? Trump has this in common with Hitler (and with all garden-variety despots, too; it is a fixed personality type): enamorment of conspiracy theories, raving speech, anti-intellectualism, unprincipled opportunism, clownishness, bluster, threats, certainty that there are simple solutions to complex problems, vulgarity, palingenetic fantasies, appeals to ethno-nationalism, an obsession with “strength,” “stamina,” health, and physical perfection, a hatred of women, an instinct to mock the weak and the crippled, a disgust with “losers,” a hysterical fear of germs and contamination, literal and metaphoric. He invokes foreign cancers that must be excised before they metastasize and destroy a body politic weakened by traitors. He believes that winners and the strong enjoy the moral right to rule. He holds that the nation can be saved only through the singular genius and energy of a “great personality,” as Hitler wrote in Mein Kampf or a “great temperament,” as Trump read in Mein Kampf. “I alone can fix it” says Trump. “I am your voice.” He is visibly excited by talk of violence; his mental map of the world is one of perpetual conflict. His bragging, ranting, and perseverating, his disconnect from reality, his millenarianism, his hatred of liberals, conservatives, and the press, his fascination with dictators, thugs, lowlifes and creeps, past and present — for goodness sake, must he bark in German before the analogy is alarming enough? Trump is not just an oaf and not just a bully. These words are naive. Our imaginations and vocabularies have become hollowed out. He exemplifies a specific mindset, temperament, and ideology: it is a fascist one.

No, it is not absurd to invoke fascism; it’s absurd to deny it. He has not said, outright, that he has no use for democracy and the law, but his contempt for both is clear enough. This is a good enough definition of the fascist minimum: 

… a genuinely revolutionary, trans-class form of anti-liberal, and in the last analysis, anticonservative nationalism. … a populist mass movement through a liturgical style of politics and a programme of radical policies which promised to overcome the threat posed by international socialism, to end the degeneration affecting the nation under liberalism, and to bring about a radical renewal of its social, political and cultural life as part of what was widely imagined to be the new era being inaugurated in Western civilization. The core mobilizing myth of fascism which conditions its ideology, propaganda, style of politics, and actions is the vision of the nation’s imminent rebirth from decadence.

“Fascism is a political ideology whose mythic core in its various permutations is a palingenetic form of populist ultra-nationalism” … “fascists advocated a mixed economy aimed at achieving autarky through protectionism and interventionism … ” a solution of “anti-socialism, dirigiste economics and social policy, imperialism, militarism, leader cult, [and] the compromise with traditional conservatism” …  “We will no longer surrender this country, or its people, to the false song of globalism.” (“Does not our bourgeoisie rise in moral indignation when it hears from the lips of some miserable tramp that he doesn’t care whether he is German or not, that he feels at home anywhere, as long as he has enough to live on?”) To the victors go the spoils. The casual promise that he will order the military to commit murder, transforming America from the country that hanged war criminals at Nuremberg into one whose criminals will need hanging. “They won’t refuse, they’re not going to refuse me — believe me.”

Our system is proof against that? The one helmed by Paul Ryan von Papen and Ted Cruz Hindenburg? If it is an insult to memory too readily to make comparisons Germany in the 1930s, it is also one to refuse, when it is warranted, to make them at all — or even to ask if they’re warranted.

Nice characterization of Ryan and Cruz.

Further down:

I’ve learned from this election that my mainstream, center-conservative political opinions and outlook aren’t mainstream. Perhaps they were when I was growing up, but clearly there is no significant constituency anymore, if ever there was, for conservatism as I imagined it – a solution of common sense and gratitude for America’s blessings coupled with a belief in the efficiency of markets, a preference for private property, a dedication to the idea of enumerated rights, limited government, and the Constitution. That was me and a handful of people on Ricochet. It wasn’t the rest of the country. There seems to be a very large constituency for authoritarian nationalism, however, and many people who have good reason to want to bet it all on an impossibly long shot or burn it all down.

The hostility Trump supporters feel for urban people — whom they call liberal elites or the GOPe or globalists — makes sense, too, looking at the numbers and the maps. But I’m not going to kid myself. These are not my familiar, fellow conservatives. They’re people who hate me because I live in the city. Their repurposed quasi-Bolshevism — elites, Establishment, cosmopolitans — frightens me: I don’t want to find out if it’s the sort that ends in exterminating the kulaks and everyone with eyeglasses.

The kind of conservatism I believed in may have once been a reality, or I may have been kidding myself. But my instincts for self-preservation, if nothing else, tells me it’s best to enter a defensive alliance with the decent center-left against the extremists on either side. Because there is no center-right in America anymore.

Sois la bienvenue, Claire.

Sarah Palin, and the cult of personality that quickly arose around her, should have been my biggest warning sign. Before Palin, and I remember this well, Republican anti-intellectualism was an affectation. Eisenhower styled himself as a friendly dope, but this was the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe; he had planned and overseen the successful invasion of France and Germany from the Western front; he was the first Supreme Commander of NATO. His knowledge of national security affairs was unparalleled. Palin, however, was an authentic nitwit. I didn’t see that sign for the ominous thing it really was.

My obliviousness is no tragedy; the world does not revolve around my amour-propre. But such a deep tragedy for mankind is now well underway. Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party caps a long period of foreign policy ineptitude with the spectacle of the United States becoming ridiculous, and, because no country as powerful as the United States can be purely ridiculous, frightening. His nomination effectively declares that a significant number of Americans no longer understand or care about even giving the appearance of decency, or liberal democracy, still less in the importance of American power and dignity abroad or the role America played in the world’s imagination. If he wins, America’s reputation in the world will be shattered. No one will take America seriously as a model, as a nation that leads the free world — there will no longer, really, be a free world; there will be a world of managed democracies.

I naturally have a few quibbles with Claire here and there—e.g. in some of her characterizations of Hillary and Obama—but that’s okay. Read her whole essay here.

On America looking ridiculous in the world—or, rather, alarming, if not terrifying—see Stephen M. Walt’s column (Nov. 4th) in Foreign Policy, “Will America’s good name survive the 2016 election? The campaign shenanigans might end on Nov. 8, but the damage done to America’s reputation could be insurmountable.”

Now for my call. Unlike last time, in 2012, I’m not going to get into a lengthy explanation of my reasoning, as I’ve already been doing this in the course of my posts on the election. The bottom line: Hillary’s poll numbers have been rising today in the major aggregators (RCP, 538…), the early voting reports are overwhelmingly positive and with Latino turnout surging, the Dem ground game is tops and with Trump’s campaign a circus being run by amateurs, and Hillary has been leading in the polls pretty much all along. So:

PV: Clinton 49%, Trump 43%, Johnson 4%, Stein <2%
EV: Clinton 341, Trump 197
Participation rate: Let’s say 135 million

In the EC, Clinton takes all of Obama’s 2012 states minus Iowa but plus North Carolina. She’s been down in Ohio but a late poll there is good and she’s been campaigning in the state to the last day, so I’ll give it to her. I would also like to give her Arizona but that looks out of reach.

A reminder: Barack Obama was up by exactly 1 point on the eve of the 2012 election and ended up winning it by almost 4. Hillary goes into election day with a 3 to 4 point lead nationally. If pollsters’ likely voter screens have been underweighting Latinos and Republican shy Hillary voters, then her lead may well be on the order of 5 to 6 points. So I’m rolling the dice on that.

And the Senate: the Democrats win it, with victories in WI, IL, IN, PA, NH, NC, MO, and NV. I realize I’m going out on a limb in regard to IN and MO, and perhaps NC, but as the Dem candidates in those states have been in the lead at various points in the past month, I would say they have a good chance of winning if Hillary’s margin of victory is 5 to 6 points.

As for the House, not this year.

With that, I leave you, dear reader, with Dylan Thomas’ essay in Vox, “Hillary Clinton’s quiet revolution: Nobody’s noticed, but she’s running on an ambitious plan to remake the American social compact,” and Chimamanda Adichie’s in The Atlantic, “What Hillary Clinton’s fans love about her: Her supporters are drawn to her intelligence, her industriousness, and her grit.”

À demain.

ADDENDUM: Prediction: Trump will concede tomorrow and graciously. It will be a business decision, to save his brand, as if he doesn’t exit the election on a relatively high note, the brand will tank.

UPDATE: Vox’s Ezra Klein has an important essay (Nov. 7th), “Donald Trump’s success reveals a frightening weakness in American democracy.” The lede: “Trump found a flaw in our political system, and we have no way to fix it.” The flaw in question is the weakness of parties in the American political system but with an exceptionally high degree of partisanship. There are, in fact, ways to fix this—theoretically at least—e.g. requiring candidates in primaries, and for all offices (national, state, local), to collect a certain number of signatures from elected officials—members of congress, governors, mayors, state legislators, etc.—in order to participate, rendering it difficult for extremist or fantastical candidates to run under the banner of one of the two major parties (if such persons want to run for office, they can do so as independents or with another party). There is little chance such a fix will ever be considered, let alone adopted, but it does exist.

2nd UPDATE: Please read Paul Waldman’s column (Nov. 7th) in This Week, “Hillary Clinton has been a phenomenal candidate. Seriously.” This passage merits quoting:

That doesn’t mean it’s impossible for [Clinton] to lose. But if she does, it won’t be her fault.

While it seems like every liberal has been legally required for the last year to say that Clinton is a deeply flawed candidate as a bit of throat-clearing before they defend or compliment her, the truth is that she has performed extremely well throughout this campaign. She beat back a surprisingly strong challenge from Bernie Sanders and built up a formidable organization that has excelled in nearly every task a modern presidential campaign requires. She’s been disciplined and dogged, committing very few mistakes and maximizing the opportunities she was presented with. And most of what has held her back or hurt her is not of her own making.

But what about those emails, you say! Isn’t that all her fault?

The answer is that that there may never have been such a campaign mountain made out of such a tiny molehill. Clinton’s greatest vulnerability, the biggest knock on her, the thing her opponent has presented as the sum total of why she not only shouldn’t be president and for which Republicans at all levels now believe she should be impeached or jailed, is mostly bogus — and there’s nearly nothing she could have done about it.

Yes, using a private email account instead of a state.gov account was a violation of departmental policy. But it’s the politicians’ equivalent of a speeding ticket, and Republicans have succeeded in blowing this minor misstep into the Crime of the Century. They’ve done so with the help of a credulous media that takes any story related to Hillary Clinton that can have the word “email” attached to it and mashes it together into one gigantic front-paged amalgam of dark innuendo and implied criminality.

Just about everyone I know, or so it seems, has spoken of Hillary being a “flawed” or “bad” candidate. I am quite fed up with hearing this, as I think it not to be the case. I’ll come back to the subject after the election.

3rd UPDATE: Political scientist Scott Lemieux has a pertinent piece (Nov. 7th) in TAP,  “On election day, a stark choice when it comes to policy.” The lede: “Policy issues have drawn remarkably little notice in this sensation-driven election, but the two candidates’ platforms are as starkly divergent as they have been in a generation.”

4th UPDATE: See “[i]n one tweet, the chilling result of Trump’s media attacks.” Yes, it can happen here.

5th UPDATE: Voilà an important article on WaPo’s Wonkblog (Nov. 4th), “Something has been going badly wrong in the neighborhoods that support Trump.” That something is expensive mortgage interest payments.

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