Some thoughts on the election, social media, polls, the electoral system and – a glimmer of hope?

I have been running a separate election blog with election news, but the election is done and over with now, so I won’t be updating that any more. But I did want to post a few thoughts here after processing the surprising results for a few days.

My over-dependence on social media and political news

I was too emotionally vested in Hillary’s campaign, for years, and what happened was pretty devastating to me.  I’m not giving up on the political process, but I think I locked myself into a wall of mirrors by depending so much on social media for communications. It tends to be a self-reinforcing communications system, and we don’t look at what’s going on outside; we tend to read only what like-minded people are saying. Obviously there were a lot of people – not all deplorable – who were just fed up with the whole system.

I have unsubscribed from various news organizations’ newsletters and notifications. And I unliked various political Facebook pages, and am now concentrating on what’s going on with friends in their lives, science, tech, culture, language, and other interests such as health, nature and animals.

I also discovered something that makes using Facebook much more relaxing and less intrusive in my daily life. I went into my settings and turned off all notifications. I especially found email notifications intrusive, and also duplicative, since I had to go back in to Facebook to reply to any comments, thus rereading the comments. Now my mailbox is quiet, and when I want to catch up on Facebook, I just go to Facebook!

In other words, I’m trying to get a life.


I had been hanging on every word from Nate Silver and FiveThirtyEight since the 2012 elections. But he was completely wrong this time about the most important battleground states, as were all the prediction sites. Now Silver is using what I’ve come to think of statistical mumbo jumbo to explain the details of what went wrong (not his fault of course), but it seems mostly like selling snake oil at this point.

In Huffington Post I read a new “poll result” this morning claiming that Bernie Sanders would have won if he had been the nominee. After seeing the results of the election, my reaction is, “people believe that poll because…?”

Petitions to overturn the results in the electoral college

There are petitions floating about asking the electors to overturn the vote and elect Hillary anyway. The states where Hillary won selected a delegation of Hillary electors. They are Hillary supporters. The states where Trump won selected a delegation of Trump electors. They are Trump supporters. Regardless of whether they technically can or not, there is zero incentive for any of them to change their votes. Occasionally there is the odd “faithless elector.” But there is no reason why large numbers of electors would suddenly want to switch their vote to the opposing candidate. The whole proposition makes no sense and is a waste of time.

The electoral college vs other systems

It is of course frustrating that Hillary Clinton got more votes than Trump yet still lost the election. I’m not really sure what to think about the electoral college. All the suggestions I’ve read for how to work around it – considering how impossible it is to change the constitution –  don’t seem to be very practical. It’s interesting to note that the opposite could have easily happened in 2004. Apparently if Kerry had gotten 60,000 more votes in Ohio he would’ve won the electoral college even though Bush had 3 million more popular votes.

The British and Japanese systems don’t seem much better to me either. There they don’t directly elect the prime minister; the prime minister is just the leader of the majority party in Parliament. So you always have the same prime minister and party in power in Parliament. It seems people have even less say in who becomes prime minister than we have in deciding who becomes president. And in parliamentary systems you have the same kinds of gerrymandering issues which affect House elections in the U.S., and which can tilt the electoral college away from the popular vote, as happened this year.

I’m not sure what the solution is. It’s interesting to note that both Trump and Gingrich have, in the past, gone on record saying they oppose the electoral college and believe the winner of the popular vote should be elected. I imagine Trump will have forgotten he said that now.

A glimmer of hope?

Since the GOP now control the presidency, both houses of congress, and probably will turn the supreme court solidly conservative over the next couple of years, one might think that everything is going to turn into an alt-right train wreck. That Obamacare will be repealed. That all other progress will be reversed, and we’ll go back 50 years. But there were interesting articles today after Trump met with Obama (e.g. where Trump indicated a willingness to keep certain key parts of Obamacare, such as the provisions to not discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, and to keep young adults on parents’ health plans longer.

After thinking about it, I’m not surprised really. Trump doesn’t have real convictions. And he has even been in favor of universal health care in the past. He’s been all over the map on just about every position. That was a complaint against him during the election, but perhaps that’s a hopeful sign now. He’s not a conservative. He’s a populist. He’s unstable though, and apparently tends to agree with the last person he talks to. But he isn’t that beholden to the GOP leadership and I can somehow imagine him forging some sort of economic populist alliance, even working with people like Bernie Sanders, and ramming through some progressive legislation.

At least that’s how I’m coping with the results for now.

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