Monday, November 28, 2016

Week 49: "The Election That Never Ends" (November 27, 2016)

Dear Readers,

The election may have passed but there’s always more news. If at any time you no longer wish to receive this newsletter, feel free to reply and let me know. A reminder that all newsletters (and more) are available at

An Effort for A Recount

The talk of a recount began very small. A few mathematicians noted some possible errors in the results and advised the Clinton team to push for a recount. However, Clinton declined, and it took third-party candidate Jill Stein to raise money and file for a recount in Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. She also plans to file in Michigan, closest of the three, but has not yet done so. The odds that any changes happen are very low and the odds that it flips the results are next to none, but it is nice to have confirmation of the results, although there are still some drawbacks, such as loss of trust in the system.
The margins for Wisconsin and Pennsylvania are both greater than 20,000 votes - there would have had to be a major error to flip the results at all. Michigan is more likely, seeing that the margin was only 11,700 votes, but even then it would take huge amounts of human error to flip it at all, and it would accomplish very little to see just Michigan flip. I’d assign the chance of the election outcome to be astronomically small, but this year has been so crazy that you never know...

Continued Cabinet Announcements
-For Secretary of Education, Trump has chosen Betsy DeVos, a noted charter school advocate who is anti-public school.

-For Ambassador to the UN, he has chosen Nikki Haley who has next to no foreign policy experience

There remains much uncertainty around the other positions, especially Secretary of State.

This Week In World Elections
Cuba: Longtime president/prime minister Fidel Castro was pronounced dead this weekend, leading to mixed, but mostly negative, reactions around the world. One that particularly raised eyebrows was a quite sentimental reaction from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

France: The Republican Party primary runoff was held between Francois Fillon and Alain Juppé. Fillon received nearly two-thirds of the vote and won, meaning the election is likely to be held between President Francois Hollande for the Socialists, Fillon for the Republicans, and Marine Le Pen for the Front National, as well as some smaller parties’ candidates.

Thank you for reading. Sorry that this one was short and late! As always, feel free to reply and comment.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Week 48: "Jefferson Beauregard the Third" (November 20, 2016)

Dear Readers,

The election may have passed but there’s always more news. If at any time you no longer wish to receive this newsletter, feel free to reply and let me know. A reminder that all newsletters (and more) are available at

Trump’s America: Week #1

Donald Trump has not wasted his time in doing controversial things as a president-elect. First off, he announced his preferred pick of noted racist and Alabama’s Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III (better known as Jeff Sessions) to Attorney General. Next, he held a meeting under questionable protocol with the President of Japan, Shinzo Abe. Normally, the president meets first with the head of state of England, for one. Also, his daughter Ivanka, who will become the leader of his business in January, attended the meeting under questionable legality - both as a question of conflict of interest and a question of security clearance. At the meeting, he reportedly knew next to nothing about existing trade deals with Japan. Also, no press was allowed in.
He also offered an unspecified cabinet position to Ben Carson, who declined, and claimed General James Mattis, who thinks Iran is more of a danger than ISIS, was the frontrunner for Secretary of Defense (though he admittedly has a very impressive record in the military). He also bizarrely sent a tweet praising Chuck Schumer, of all people.

The Case for the Electoral College

In the past few weeks, we’ve heard a lot of clamor to eliminate the electoral college. Yes, it has failed twice in the last five elections. But it also does a lot of good. I personally don’t exactly have an opinion, but these are some reasons to support it:

-It gives voice to (some) smaller states: With the electoral college, there is some incentive for politicians to campaign in small states and smaller areas. With a national popular vote, candidates would have very little incentive to go to areas with less than 300,000 people, since the potential to gain votes would be low.

-It emphasizes broad appeal: The president of the United States has to be the president chosen by the people of 50 states - if 30 states vote one way, like this time, that gives the president the mandate of 60% of states, which means something. Indeed, if a candidate won the popular vote by appealing to a couple of regions or demographics, then they might not be the perfect president for all of America, and the electoral college helps fix this.

-It simplifies recounts: In the event of a close national popular vote election, every single vote would have to be counted again. With the electoral college, recounts are simplified to single states, lowering time taken and total cost, as well as improving trust in the system - a complete national recount would have many allegations of vote rigging.

-Any other system would be hard to implement: Any other system would require either a constitutional amendment or a widespread agreement, either of which would likely need some smaller states to sign it, which is unlikely, seeing as the current system benefits smaller states (as it should.)

Trump Settles Trump U Fraud Case

A bit of news that was overshadowed this week was the fact that the notable Trump University fraud case was settled for $25 million (considerably less than the $40 million initially asked.) Trump also notably gets a tax write-off for this. However, it’s a bit ironic that Trump, who claimed in a primary debate that "[he doesn't] settle cases ... because that's why I don't get sued very often, because I don't settle, unlike a lot of other people" had to settle this high-profile case. I will also note that the above quote was in the context of this very trial.

This Week In World Elections
France: The French Republican party held their presidential primary today, and surprisingly, the voters rejected former president Nicolas Sarkozy in favor of two former Prime Ministers, Alain Juppé and Francois Fillon, who will face off in a runoff next Sunday. Fillon is seen as more pro-England and pro-EU than Sarkozy, while Juppé is more to the center of the party and isn’t very divisive. Both Fillon and Juppé have agreed to serve only one full term if elected.

Thank you for reading. As always, feel free to reply and comment!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Week 47: "306-222" (November 13, 2016)

Dear Readers,

The election may have passed but there’s always more news. If at any time you no longer wish to receive this newsletter, feel free to reply and let me know. A reminder that all newsletters (and more) are available at

What We All Got Wrong
As you may know, the election happened. As you also many know, Donald Trump beat lengthy odds to win Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, and the presidency. (However, I will note, Hillary Clinton earned more popular votes.) Trump never led in a poll of Wisconsin, and led in just one poll each of Michigan and Pennsylvania (among those taken in the month before the election). The victory came as a shock to many, including myself, who predicted comfortable Hillary Clinton wins in the electoral college. So what went wrong?
The first thing one notices when looking at the results is the surprising sweep of the midwest done by Trump. Five of the six Obama states he picked up were in the midwest (including Pennsylvania, for simplicity). The map excluding the midwest, in fact, looked similar to what many had predicted. So the error found in the polling seems to be specific to this one region. Now, there is one thing Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin have in common that no other states do. They all have one or two large, diverse urban centers with rural, largely white, areas around them. Trump’s populist message resonated very well in these rural areas, and when push came to shove, Clinton couldn’t get urban minorities to turn out for her at the same frequency they did for Barack Obama four and eight years before. Indeed, turnout went way down in all these states.

The Ten Reasons the Election Went As It Did

Look, it should have been easy for Hillary Clinton to win this election. Barack Obama’s approval rating hovers around 53%. Trump is the most unpopular presidential candidate in recent history. The economy isn’t looking very negative. So why did Hillary Clinton lose?

  1. The Electoral College: I suppose I must address this issue. For the second time in sixteen years, the electoral college elected the candidate with less votes to be president. Defenders of this system will point out that it takes broad appeal to be elected president, and will say it gives voice to smaller states. Critiquers will point out the high failure rate and say it is antiquated.
  2. James Comey: The other common scapegoat is James Comey. While his decision to re-open the email investigation may have helped cause a late movement in the polls toward Trump, the polls were tightening anyway, and Comey was just doing his job.
  3. Obama not on the Ticket: Barack Obama managed to win such a large victory in 2008 and 2012 largely because he got minorities to turnout more than usual and vote more Democrat than usual . However, with Clinton running instead of Obama, minority turnout fell, largely because Clinton was less inspirational and had less outreach.
  4. Clinton’s Own Unpopularity: Trump may have been the most unpopular major party candidate for many years, but Clinton herself had a net unfavorable rating and was viewed unfavorably even by many of her own supporters. The constant reminders of Clinton’s many scandals invaded media coverage and dampened enthusiasm.
  5. Clinton’s Perceived Elitism: Many Rust Belt voters who voted for Obama twice were more excited by Trump this year because he was populist like Obama was. He promised working-class voters that they’d get their jobs back, while Clinton did not do very much of the same.
  6. Clinton’s Negative Ads: Especially in the midwest, the Clinton campaign ran many negative, anti-Trump ads. This diluted the campaign message and failed to inspire voters. Trump didn’t exactly remain positive, with his own last ad instead featuring anti-Semitic dogwhistles, but he inspired voters much more than Mrs. Clinton did.`
  7. Message: The last, most important, reason this election went as it did is one that isn’t covered very often. From the beginning, Trump has made his campaign about “Making America Great Again.” It is a brilliant slogan that means many different things to different people. It matters more than any policy, and conveys the attitude and emotion Trump has into a short statement. Clinton tried many slogans, none of which stuck as well as Trump’s did. I’m not going to say it won him the election, but it definitely helped.

What Happened Downticket

In the Senate, only two seats flipped from the Republicans to the Democrats. In Illinois, Tammy Duckworth defeated Mark Kirk, and Maggie Hassan beat Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire. In the end, every Senate race voted the same way as the presidential race in the same state, and that leaves Republicans with 52-48 control, pending a runoff in Louisiana. Democrats similarly picked up just 6 or 7 seats (some races are still uncalled/outstanding) in the House. Gubernatorial races were similarly bleak for the Democratic party. While the map heading in looked like it could result in one or two Democratic pickups, the Republicans gained 3 governorships (still pending results in North Carolina.)

Reactions to the Results

The results of Tuesday have led to three things: a petition to cause faithless electors, future talk about ending the electoral college, and riots and protests.

When the electors of the electoral college vote in December, some of them could possibly vote for a different candidate than that chosen by the states. A petition is being spread around to somehow convince 38 electors to overthrow the democratic process of America and vote for Hillary Clinton. Regardless of who won the popular vote, this sets an awful precedent. The rules were known to both candidates going in, and Clinton herself has accepted the results.

The correct course of action to this, if one is so inclined, is to work to defeat the electoral college for the future. Now, I believe that there are many issues with a national popular vote and the electoral college does have benefits, but if you’re truly worried by the results of the election, this is the correct course of action, not the first or the last things listed here.

Clinton supporters have taken to the streets in major cities in protest. One such protest, in Portland, Oregon, did, indeed turn violent and led to 71 arrests. Thousands yet again took to the streets on 5th avenue in New York. I still think this is the wrong course of action - the sentiment is not bad, but it makes liberals appear whiny and like sore losers. And it completely ignores the huge elephant in the room - the fact that liberal and conservative America have grown increasingly divided. And protests sure won’t help that.

I was going to write about the Bulgarian election and all that, but I really feel like I should end on this message. In the wake of this election, don’t sit around moping, and please, please don’t riot. Instead, go out and listen to the people you disagree with. The one reason I am thankful - or at least, I hope to be thankful - for this election is that it enabled Democrats and Clinton supporters to see past our liberal bubbles. So please don’t disappoint me. Read a Breitbart article. Watch an interview with a midwestern voter on CNN. Dare to see where the other side is coming from. That is what you can do to make your country better.

Thank you for reading. As always, feel free to reply and comment!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Week 46: "Two Days, That's All We've Got"

Dear Readers,

The election is approaching very rapidly. I’m going to help you make sense of everything.

Days until General Election: 2!

A Stunning Finish
Wow! We’ve nearly done it! We’ve nearly survived until election day! How does it feel? I know you’re all going to miss this campaign when it’s over, right? Right?
The two candidates have very different approaches to the final days. Hillary Clinton is playing it safe and staying in Pennsylvania, while Trump is hopping around the country with no rhyme or reason. Clinton is preparing her Get-Out-The-Vote machine, while Trump is hoping for a miracle. The voters, meanwhile, are just waiting for it all to end.

The biggest news story of last week was FBI Director James Comey’s decision to re-open the Clinton email case. Inevitably, Comey sent out another letter today saying Clinton did nothing wrong. This wasn’t very surprising, just very disappointing. Comey has done enough damage to Clinton already, and this story, I fear, will have low impact. However, it is re-assuring in terms of knowing that Clinton actually did nothing wrong.


Electoral College: 323 to 215
Popular Vote: Clinton +3.7

Senate: 50 to 49 (with 1 too close to call)

REPUBLICANS CONTROL THE HOUSE (No numerical projection, sorry)

Swing States and Key Senate Race Breakdown/Reasoning:

Arizona: Recent polling in Arizona gives Trump a small edge. The reason I’m characterizing this as “Likely Trump” is because the most high-quality surveys both have the race as Trump +5. The Senate race will be easily won by McCain.

Colorado: I’m not yet willing to characterize Colorado as safe for Clinton, since the polling average is around Clinton +3, well within the possible room for error. That being said, Clinton should win by more than 3.

Florida: Early voting reports look good enough for the Democrats that I’ll give Clinton the edge here. Polls are telling a mixed story, but Hispanic turnout is way up and that can only mean good things for Clinton. However, it will be very close in Florida. However, none of this should be an issue for Rubio, who will cruise to victory.

Illinois: The senate race is the only interesting one here. Still, Duckworth has taken multiple double-digit leads recently, and Kirk’s campaign has been bad enough that I’m comfortable calling this one Likely for Duckworth.

Indiana: Again, I’ll only cover the senate race, as Trump will win by around 10 points here. Again, polling is showing a very mixed story in the Hoosier State, but Young has the momentum, and should give the Republicans a victory here.

Iowa: The high-profile Selzer survey gave Trump a 7-point lead here. It’s hard to see him losing Iowa at this point.

Michigan: The last poll showing Trump up in Michigan was taken in August. Clinton has leads of 2 to 7 points in all recent surveys. Likely Clinton victory.

Missouri: The presidential race may be uncompetitive, but Jason Kander is putting up a fight. There is a lack of consensus with the polls, and a lack of reputable polls entirely. I will give Kander the edge for now, but a surprise Republican victory here is plausible and could hand them the Senate.

Nevada: Nevada is a state with notoriously fluky polls, and indeed there is no consensus this year. However, early voting reports are consistently good for Clinton. This may be the closest state of the night, but Clinton is the favorite. In the senate race, Cortez-Masto has gained momentum and favorable poll numbers and should win.

New Hampshire: Clinton has consistently led here, and while some recent polls gave a bit of a scare, this state should go for Clinton. The senate race, however, is very, very close. Both candidates have strong campaigns, high name recognition, and credentials. Polls are close and there are low amounts of undecided voters. Anything could happen.

North Carolina: The “good polls” here have all shown decently large Clinton victory. However, some newer, more questionable, polling firms are showing ties or Trump leads, so I’ll only call this one “Lean Clinton”. The Senate race here is probably going to lead to a Richard Burr victory, but Ross does have some good polls and could ride Clinton’s margins to a close victory.

Ohio: Early voting reports and polls both look good for Trump and Rob Portman here. Barring something unforeseen, they should both win.

Pennsylvania: Clinton and McGinty have both led in all recent polls here, and shouldn’t have trouble winning this state.

Wisconsin: Both the presidential and senate races in Wisconsin are shaping up to be 6-point Democratic wins. Some polls have given Russ Feingold worry recently, but on the whole he should be able to win.

Thanks for reading! As usual, comments are welcome! If anyone has any specific questions about my predictions, please respond and I’ll tell you!