Tuesday, February 7, 2017

90 weeks to 2018 mid term

Republican party of the last few decades, increasingly relied on a daily dose of vile and hateful rhetoric spewed by radio shock jocks to gin up their base. Nominations of George W Bush, and Sarah Palin, were the early symptoms of a sickness which culminated in a full blown disease of the republic in the form of Trump.  The abject failure of the democratic party to effectively combat this sickness in 2016 is a sad reflection of the lack of conviction in its stated beliefs. Ultimately, it is the failure of all citizens, who failed to engage themselves in the political process, and perform their civic duty.

In the last quarter of a century, progressive voices raised above the din of our political noises to on a few occasions -in the run up to the Iraq war, occupy wall street, black lives matter, etc. In each instance,  the progressive voices faded over time due to a combination of well calibrated smears by the right-wing talk show hosts, inexperience of the fledgling protest movements filled with idealism but short on leadership that can funnel enthusiasm into a tangible political outcome, and the reluctance of a vast section of progressives to get off from the sidelines.  We witnessed the unprecedented, large scale protests at the dawn of the Trump era? Will it fizzle like the others?

While it was heartening to see such a visceral, large scale reaction to the Trump presidency, it is also a sobering reminder that it took a vulgarian on the scale of Trump getting elected to generate this massive outcry.  We have been passive for too long, and derelict in our duty to be an informed active citizen.  It is time to stand up for our values.

We have never had an administration that lies so blatantly, and repeatedly.  It will be disorienting to have to respond to this avalanche of bullshit.  There are 90 weeks to the mid-term election in 2018. Here is a handy guide to keep the fire of protests going, and preserve your energies for the marathon ahead.

1. Ignore Trump's antics.  Concentrate on his executive actions, violations of law, and what the Congress and Senate does.

2. Educate yourself well on one or two issues that you are passionate about.  For example, if your issue is climate change, dispassionately learn all the facts about climate change.  Have a clear cut strategy to identify the underpinnings of any counter argument, and be ready with a thoughtful response.

3. Join a local group or chapter of an organization that advocates the issue that you care most, and if there is none, start one.

4. Republicans have a near total control on all levers of power - both houses of Congress, Presidency, and most likely a right leaning Supreme Court.   Civil organizations can serve to curb the excesses of any administration.  If you can, subscribe to a local independent magazines such as MotherJones, Propublica, etc., or  donate to an organization such as ACLU or Pacifica.

5. There are numerous resources on the web to get you started on effective activism.  For example,  indivisible guide is a practical guide to resisting Trump's agenda put together by Congressional staffers, or a weekly action check list compiled by Jennifer Hoffman.  If you can spare 30 minutes a week, you can make a difference, if you strategically call your elected representatives.

6. Talk to the members of the other side.  Good education for our kids, access to quality healthcare, a strong social safety net, clean air and water, are not partisan issues.  In the next 90 weeks, you will have opportunities to change the  minds of people who simply do not have the time or inclination to inform themselves.  Take those opportunities.

7. There will be many setbacks between now, and November 2018.  Scoundrels will wrap themselves in the flag and shout the loudest.  But, only steady, and consistent effort will bring about a lasting change, and in fact, that is the only way any meaningful change has ever been accomplished.

Let us go!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Road Ahead - Facing Trumpism

Nearly 91% of all republican women and 90% of republican men voted for Trump.  Think about it for a moment.

Evangelical Christians, -who, for years, have passionately argued against the corroding influence of Hollywood on the society,  argued for Christian tenets of service, humility, and compassion,  - voted for a bombastic, boorish, libertine, Hollywood talk show host.

Foreign policy conservatives, -who for years, have supported our alliances such as NATO and harbor a deep skepticism about Russia's intentions against its neighbors, voted for someone who was sympathetic to strongmen such as Putin and Saddam. 

Trump server communicating with Russia? (read: https://goo.gl/NKVIMu)

Economic conservatives who espouse free trade almost as a religion voted for a failed businessman arguing for tearing up free trade agreements and promising to start a trade war with our partners.

Trump has derided Trade agreements like NAFTA, TPP, etc.

Think about it for a minute.  How come, all these republicans voted for Trump?  Because, Hillary Clinton had a private email server? I am not sure that was the case.

Throughout the election, it was evident - even to many republicans, that Hillary Clinton had the experience, preparation, and policy chops that would serve her well, if elected.  For nearly 30 years, republicans had primed the American electorate to distrust her by launching one investigation after another, from Whitewater, to Benghazi, to Clinton Foundation, and the email servers.  Although these investigations, often led by partisan republicans, did not reveal any wrongdoing on the part of Hillary Clinton that would merit prosecution, they did serve the one goal that republicans had in their mind all along -to drive up Hillary's negatives, which they did. 

Her opponent, Donald Trump started his campaign by insulting Mexican immigrants, insulted his fellow republican primary opponents with petty name calling, insulted women, insulted a parent of a soldier who died in combat in service of his nation, proposed a blanket ban on Muslims entering the country, boasted about not paying taxes, and changed policy positions at the drop of a hat.  This is but a small sample of his hateful rhetoric over the course of his campaign.

The differences between the candidates could not have been stark.    I followed the arguments between the two candidates closely, checked on reputed pollsters such as Nate Silver and Sam Wang on almost a daily basis, and I convinced myself that Hillary Clinton will win.  My conviction was not just based on polls and pollsters, but also in believing that the immediacy of a Trump presidency would jolt Americans to their senses. It is clear now that it was not the case.

I am sure many a thesis will be written about how and why Trump won.  Hillary was a weak candidate; Trump was a master salesmen; It is difficult for a party to win three times in a row, etc.  There will be a kernel of truth in each, but the big question in front of progressives is:

To understand the mindset of the republican voter, who is willing to faithfully cast his ballot even for a candidate like Trump.

Once that is understood, we can craft a message to reach them.  Obviously, whatever that we have been doing is not working.  Perhaps, the first place to start would be to read the book by George Lakoff, who addresses this issue head on.  More on that in a later post. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Can Trump Lose Texas? Final thoughts on Texas Early Voting

In 2016, nearly 4.5 million (or 46%) of the 9.8 million Texans living in the 15 largest counties had voted early which is a record  Although it is a full 4% less than the predictions that I made based on the first four days of early voting, it is sharply higher than the 42% and 39% early voting percentages (EV %)in 2008, and 2012.

Looking at 2016 data, a few things jump out that favors democrats:

1. More new RV live in Democratic Leaning counties.  Three fifths (61%) of the newly registered 1.1 million voters from the top 15 counties live in counties that were won by Obama in 2008, and 2012.  It is noteworthy that Harris county, the largest county in Texas with nearly 2.2 million voters, which Obama won by the slimmest of margins in 2012, accounts for nearly 20% all new RV in these counties.  The population of Harris county is diverse with 40% Latino, 30% Anglo, 20% Black, and 8% Asian, and EV analysis suggests that the Latino turnout is significantly higher than in 2012.  There is a good chance that Hillary Clinton may carry Harris county by a healthier margin (around 5%) than Obama did either in 2008 or 2012.

% of newly registered voters living in the 15 most populous counties in Texas.  The horizontal axis provides the average victory margin for Obama from 2008 and 2012 elections.   Nearly 250,000 more newly Registered voters live in Democratic leaning counties than Republican counties.  The size of the bubble indicates the size of the RV in the county.

2. How is the early vote (EV %) turnout in democratic leaning counties compared to 2012?

While the EV turnout compared to 2012 is higher both in republican and democratic leaning counties, it is clear that several large counties, which tend to be democratic leaning, have had significant increase in early voter turnout compared to 2012.

The increase in EV% in 2016 compared to 2012 shows a number of democratic counties increasing their turnout compared to 2012.  While republican counties also show an increase, the population of these counties is smaller than democratic counties.
 3) Changing Demographics: Counties such as Fort Bend, and Neuces which went republican in 2012 with fairly small margins but may flip to democratic column for two different reasons.  Fort Bend county, the richest Texas county, has an influx of highly educated professionals from around the world, which might make it difficult for Trump to carry that county.  Neuces county has a large Latino population, and EV% is about 6% higher in 2016, and an increased turnout from Latino population may be enough to turn this county blue.

4. Depressed Republicans: This may surprise some.  There are principled conservatives in Texas.  I would expect that at least a small fraction of principled conservatives and conservative women could not bring themselves to vote for Trump, depressing the republican vote slightly even in rural republican counties. 

In short, EV shows that the democratic enthusiasm in the state of Texas is more evenly matched with the republicans in this cycle, there are more newly registered voters in democratic leaning counties, and EV percentages in democratic leaning counties is higher than in 2012.  The changing demographics with increased Latino turnout in select counties, and a slightly depressed republican turnout in rural counties, all favor Democrats.

The combination of these might, just might, be enough to make it an interesting night for Texas.  All it may take is a few percentage swing toward the democrats.  So, pick up the phone, and call up your conservative relative or friend in Texas ( I know you have one! ), and test your powers of persuasion!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Brazoria county: Vote for John T Floyd

Brazoria county is the prototypical republican dominated Texas county.  Democrats are a rare breed in these parts of Texas.  But, something is changing this time around.  Brazoria county is the 16th most populous county in the state of Texas, and as such does not get the honor of getting its early vote totals tallied by the office of the Texas Secretary of State

I sent an email to the office of the county clerk of Brazoria, and received a ton of information from Ms. Janice Evans, about the early voting. 

With one more day to go (last day of early voting typically gets around 4-5% of votes), Brazoria county early voting totals have already eclipsed the records set in 2008, and 2012.

Brazoria county is well on its way to cast nearly 50% of the 197,500 registered voters in the county.  This will set an all time record for Brazoria county. 

This time around Democrats have some good candidates on the ballot.  For example, we have an excellent candidate, John T Floyd running for the office of the state representative TX-29 who has waged an excellent campaign based on issues, such as:

  • Prioritizing public education to all.
  • Public School books must be historically accurate
  • Support law enforcement agencies, but monitor them and train them in community policing.
  • End corporate welfare and subsidies to big businesses.
He is eloquent, organized, and you find John Floyd signs everywhere. 

The success of his campaign hinges on running up the score in precincts with educated population such as Shadow Creek, Pearland West, Silverlake, etc. to offset some of the rural precincts that tend to lean republican.  If Democrats want to loosen the republican stronghold across all levels in Texas politics, they have to start with people like John Floyd competing for positions.

So, if you live in any of these areas, go and vote for John Floyd!  If you have friends living in those areas, ask them to vote as well. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Texas Blue? Reading the tea leaves after 10 vdays of early voting [updated]

This is an update to the previous post about early voting in Texas.  A couple of things are worth noting.

First, the pace of early voting in the 15 most populous Texas counties continues to be higher than what was in 2008, and 2012. 

Compared to 2008, and 2012, percent of eligible voters who have voted during the first 9 days is substantially higher in 2016.  This is particularly impressive, given that the total number of registered voters increased by about a million voters between 2012 and 2016.

We still have two one days of early voting to go and if current trends hold, we might even get close to 50% of the votes cast (I think we might end up a bit shy of 50%) when the EV comes to a close this Friday.  If 2008/2012 patterns hold true, then the total number of votes cast in this election might be among the highest ever.

Second, it is clear that voting is brisk in both republican and democratic strongholds.  At the end of day 9 of early voting, compared to 2008 and 2012, EV in both republican and democratic counties are higher by significant margins.

In the vertical axis, we see the percent difference in EV at the end of 9 days across the 15 most populous Texas counties, between 2016 and 2012, and between 2016 and 2008.  The voting is higher in both republican (red shades) and democratic counties (blue shaded).
Both in 2008, and 2012, the number of votes cast in the 15 most populous counties was nearly equally shared between republicans and democrats.  The final point differential in favor of republicans in 2012/2008 elections is mostly due to republican dominance in smaller counties, and this amounts to about a million votes.

While it is possible, that the increased turnout in republican leaning counties is due to democrats who were spurred into voting due to the uniqueness of this election cycle, there is no concrete evidence to suggest this as of yet.  For example, strong republican counties such as Collins and Fort Bend, now have a significant influx of highly educated Asians with a higher median income.  In these counties, the margin of victory for republicans might shrink substantially.  It will be very interesting to see how this turns out.  Secondly, at least a couple of polls conducted in Harris county, the largest county, suggest that Hillary is leading by a fairly significant margin.  If that trend holds true for other large democratic leaning counties, then the election might be very close. 

So, if you have friends in Texas, ask them to vote!