So, in the wake of Super Tuesday and my favorite candidate, E. Warren announcing that she’s dropping out, it seems as if the media is already preparing for a post-mortem on various campaigns. Warren’s autopsy is fairly obvious; she was a woman, and if there’s anything Americans can’t stand, it’s women.
But, from a different perspective — one I had to learn a few years ago after my terminal diagnosis (yeah, it’s always going to come back to cancer; I’ll drop it as soon as Pfizer has a cure) — all of this hemming and hawing about why Buttigieg unexpectedly won in Iowa, why B. Sanders did or didn’t win various states, and why Biden now has a majority of delegates; all of this highlights a bigger, more insidious problem in American politics and life, in general: statistics aren’t as predictive as we’d like to believe, and how we gather and use statistics is frequently flawed. This was driven home by a piece at The Nation ( https://www.thenation.com/article/politics/biden-black-vote/), with the telling quote:
The New York Times interviewed a 39-year-old African American voter in South Carolina. I found his analysis instructive. He told the Times: “Black voters know white voters better than white voters know themselves.”
All of the analysis and commentary and number-crunching surrounding the election is, invariably, going to be done by white, able-bodied, middle-class people whose pensions are secured. And that, in and of itself, is a problem, because it doesn’t reflect the demographics of modern America. Imagine if we brought Thomas Jefferson back from the dead, and asked him what he thought of all of this (I use this, “What would Abe Lincoln” think scenario because it’s a go-to amongst commentators, and it’s patently ludicrous, as David Cross has pointed out). We would have to start that conversation with a six-hour lecture bringing TJ up to speed on how dramatically the planet has changed in the almost-200 years since he died.
Conversations about the state of politics are held, invariably, by people who are no longer representative of the electorate. I don’t mean any “coastal elites” or anything like that; I mean that, if we wanted a more-holistic conversation of who is or isn’t electable, the median income of the participants should be about $50000, elderly (the majority of voters are, traditionally, on the old side), not be exclusively white, etc. Putting Megyn Kelly and Tucker Carlson in the holodeck (or whatever annoying visual distraction will be used this year) to discuss voter returns would be like putting June and Ward Cleaver in charge of reporting. They aren’t intentionally going to lie or misrepresent anything, but by dint of not being representative of who they’re talking about, they will be unable to understand — let alone communicate — what’s happening. If you want to know what’s happening, go to communities where Biden won and talk to people there, nonjudgementally, and listen. And go to where Sanders won, same thing; listen quietly. This is the fundamental, critical takeaway from my experiences on Planet Cancer; if your experience and your ready-made information/narrative aren’t in line, your information is probably inaccurate, and you might want to consider talking to folks who’d be a little more representative of the truth on the ground.
When I see former-majority representative folks asking “Why did X group vote like that?” what I hear is, “Please explain to me why my world view and reality don’t really line up.” As someone who’s had to doubt his sense since age 17, this is a nasty, jarring mental challenge. Am I particularly happy about Biden’s sudden surge? Not especially, but let’s not forget, he’s framing his campaign as Obama’s third term (and he was the predicted winner by Nate Silver, so it’s not as terribly startling as most people seem to think). You don’t have to vote against Trump (that’s the reason liberals are inevitably defeated at the polls — we have an unhealthy all-or-nothing view of politics), you get to vote for far more liberal candidate than we saw in the 90’s. He’s no Ralph Nader, but let’s not forget that Nader cost us actual climate change reform.
And, to the central point of this essay, this is the first election we know is being indirectly influenced by a foreign power — but, as several experts have noted, the direct intent, for now, of Putin is not to rig the vote, but to sow chaos and doubt about the integrity of the process. Any conversation focused on, “Why did that happen?! And why isn’t it living up to my assumptions?” are giving the GRU more time to dig in and buy advertising on Facebook (next election, let’s stick to Instagram), when we should be asking, “What should the Democratic platform cover, today? And how do we get these clowns elected?” The Republicans frequently squabble about candidates and policies, but, once they have a candidate, they have an entire vast set of political machinery that will instantly fall into place to support that candidate. This is the fundamental reform that the Democrats have expertly avoided since Carter, we ask questions about candidates and policies, instead of the only question that matters in America: