So About That Popular Vote

Just under two weeks ago, in response to some protesters at an event of hers, Hillary Clinton shot back with a pretty serious and bold statement in which she claimed that “[she has] two and a half million more votes than Bernie Sanders.” This number seemed pretty high, so I felt the need to look into it (as everyone should do when they are unsure of the validity of a statement), and as of the time of her statement, according to thegreenpapers.com, Clinton did in fact have a commanding 2,512,598 vote lead over Sanders. Her statement was valid. But is it really true that despite an increase in National Polls that show Sanders is neck and neck, if not ahead of Clinton, that she is really poised to dominate the popular vote by this much by the end of the race?

Not Exactly.

Despite wanting to write this post since shortly looking into the larger scope of this issue, the impetus really came from a recent article on fivethirtyeight. First, during their live stream of Wisconsin, one of their journalists made a comment about the popular vote total. I posted a bit of my information in the comment section, but as one would suspect, nothing came of it. Then, yesterday morning, the same journalist, David Wasserman, wrote a very detailed article about the “Will of the people” and the popular vote. And while I respect what fivethirtyeight does with their data, when comparing two things that are of different values (i.e. primaries v caucuses), different methods must be enacted. In an attempt at doing this, I have some calculations of my own that shows a different story.

After taking a deeper look at the popular vote argument, I have discovered that if Bernie Sanders can pull off a pledged delegate win (not an easy task), that he is actually poised to hold the popular vote lead, or at the very least, the Will of the People, by the end too. Here are three reasons why.

1. The Total from Green Papers Is Incomplete

And this might seem minor, but the Green Papers total notes that it excludes IA, NV, ME, and WA. While IA and NV were essentially ties vote-wise from what we know about them, ME and WA were a bit lopsided. So much so, that based on estimates of turnout (over 230,000 and 50,000 respectively) and the win margins in each state, this would add an additional 120,000 votes into Sanders’ column. Additionally, since Wisconsin voted earlier this week, Sanders shaved an additional 135,000 votes off of that deficit.

But this is only about 10% of the ginormous lead that Clinton has amassed; what else ya got?

2. Clinton’s Best States Have Already Voted

This is not news. The only reason that anyone has considered Sanders even remotely in the race at this point, is because it was pretty clear that the states that Clinton was supposed to do best in were heavy loaded into the front of the race (Before anyone cries foul, this is not some sign of manipulation by the party, but comes from a variety of factors that has nothing to do with who is running). This means, that if Clinton and Sanders were meant to be tied nationally, at this point, Clinton should have a popular vote lead (albeit not by 2.25 million). While I would have loved to try and figure out some way of predicting how much Sanders should gain in the remaining states, I do not have as much resources, information, nor the statistical acumen for this task like someone at fivethirtyeight does. Fortunately for me, Wasserman did just this in his article. Wasserman looked at what the popular vote change would be, if moving forward, Sanders acquired the right amount of delegates to secure a pledged delegate win at 2026-2025 delegates (presumably using Nate Silver’s adjusted goal chart). This chart shows that if Sanders were to come back and win, he would acquire about 1.7 million additional votes over Clinton. Bringing her actual lead down to about 525,000 votes (which is less than Bush lost by in the 2000 General Election against Gore).

Okay, so the lead isn’t as demanding as Clinton and many outlets make it seem, but she still has a popular vote lead, and therefore, the will of the people… right?

3. Primary v Caucus

Before we get into the statistical mess that this entails, I want to ask you to imagine this situation for me.

Imagine there are two classrooms, each with 50 students, that need to vote on a theme for prom. The person in charge of counting votes tells each class that they can decide on how to vote in any way they want, but that they must provide a count.

Classroom A decides to allow students to come in and drop off their vote anytime during the day into a box.

Classroom B thinks that there should be a discussion, and plans to meet after school to talk about the themes, and then vote on it.

Classroom A gets 20 of their students to drop off votes, whereas Classroom B gets 7 or so students to meet after school and discuss what theme best fits the desires of their class. These are the results:

A: 12-8     Theme 1
B: 5-2       Theme 2

Popular vote places Theme 1 as the winner (14-13). But is this really the will of the students? If these vote totals were compared to the population they represent, Theme 2 would win 55-45. Because Classroom B decided to have a discussion about how to vote before they voted, do they no longer represent the same amount of people?

These questions are not rhetorical. What constitutes the “Will of the people”? If it is simply popular vote, then why do we have an electoral college?

In states with a Caucus, which Sanders happens to do very well in, there is a much lower turnout than those with a Primary. My example from above? Those numbers were proportionally based off turnout and voting preference of Virginia and Washington respectively.

The delegate totals for each state is determined by their democratic voting record in the last three general presidential elections, and that state’s overall electoral total. Which means that they are proportional to how democratic each state is and their population. The Democratic Party created these rules to say that the will of the people nationally should be determined by representation, not by popular vote. Because of this, many states decide how to do this differently, and those states’ citizens’ opinions should not be considered less than others because of how they choose to vote. Caucuses have less turnout, but each vote represents thousands more than some primaries.

Take my home state of NH and adopted state of MN for example.

NH Democratic Primary 2016 = 256k
NH Democratic General Election Votes 2012 = 369k
or 66.67% of democratic general election voters voted in their primary

MN Democratic Caucus 2016 = 191k
MN Democratic General Election Votes 2012 = 1,546k
or 12.35% of democratic general election voters caucused in their caucus

It takes almost 5 NH votes to match 1 MN vote in delegate worth. If MN had the same turnout rate as NH, with its win margin, Sanders would have accumulated another 200,000 votes over Clinton. Had turnout in Washington been like NH? An additional 425,000 OVER the 104,000 that I awarded him earlier. Are you seeing a pattern? And, while in the general election WA may not have the same turnout at NH (65.8% to 70.9%), MN has one of the highest general election turnouts in the nation with 76.4%.

In an attempt at calculating this, I tried a few different measures. First, with data totaled after the WI primary, I calculated the AVERAGE ratio of turnout for primary states and compared it to their awarded delegates (the best representation for how democratic a state is). NH has a high primary turnout, and it wasn’t fair to compare each caucus to them so I felt the average was a better measure. In doing so, I discovered that had every caucus (not just the ones Sanders won) had the same turnout as the average primary, and maintained similar win margins, Clinton’s lead would be down to 1.6 million (this figure includes all races thus far), which when added to Wasserman’s goal sheet, would give Sanders a 100,000 representative popular vote lead over Clinton by the time that he wins the election IF he gets enough pledged delegates.

I am in no way saying that this is a guarantee, or even that it is the most likely of scenarios. But Wasserman’s article, as well as Clinton’s campaign, are misconstruing the information at hand by comparing two things that really have no business being compared. The Popular Vote is misinforming, and has zero impact on the general election, and anyone who tries to claim that the popular vote is the same as the will of the people without regarding the will of caucus states, is telling millions of voters in caucus states that their votes are worth less than the votes in primary states.

Are you really so sure that a popular vote count is an accurate portrayal of the will of the people? I’m not.

 

Sources:
Hillary Clinton’s Claim: https://t.co/yjjJu1ApOP
Popular Vote Tally: http://www.thegreenpapers.com/P16/D
National Polls: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/2016/president/us/2016_democratic_presidential_nomination-3824.html#polls
Washington State Turnout: http://www.seattletimes.com/seattle-news/politics/state-party-democratic-caucus-attendance-topped-230000/
Maine Turnout: http://www.ibtimes.com/maine-democratic-caucus-results-2016-live-updates-bernie-sanders-hillary-clinton-2331215
538 Goal Voter Turnout: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/bernie-sanders-is-even-further-behind-in-votes-than-he-is-in-delegates/
Nate Silver’s Sanders’ Goals: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/its-really-hard-to-get-bernie-sanders-988-more-delegates/
Determination of Democratic Delegates: https://www.gwu.edu/~action/delallocat.html
2012 Voter Turnout by State: http://www.electproject.org/2012g

I Made a Chart

As many of you already know (and may also be guilty of), I follow fivethirtyeight fervently. Nate Silver and Co have a fantastic record of not only being unbiased in their data, but also right in their assessments. However, in many ways, they have fallen prey to what I see every major media outlet in America has been doing for months by spending almost their entire time talking about the complete circus that is the Republican Party meltdown.

Fortunately, despite their lack of discussion on the Democratic race (other than the often vague, yet true, Hillary is the front runner until she is not), they have created quite a few interactive tools to allow their readers to follow the action as it unfolds, rather than waiting for someone to write about it. This is exactly what I have been doing for the last few weeks with their Delegate Tracker.

Fivethirtyeight’s delegate tracker was created to draw attention to one MAJOR fact in the current primary season: A lead is not always a lead. Now I know that sounds like some “second place optimistic mumbo-jumbo”, but it’s true. Based on demographics and voting order, EVEN IF Bernie was in line to win the nomination at this point, Hillary should still have a lead. That is because all of her best states voted first. Now, a very important thing to note is that her lead goes beyond that, but that still doesn’t mean her entire 300 (prior to 3/26) pledged delegate lead is weighted the same. In fact, going into yesterday’s primaries, Hillary was expected to have a 65 pledged delegate lead when the two are tied nationally. That means almost 25% of her lead is based solely on convenience of order, and not on her actually having a demanding lead.

So how does one measure a fluctuating lead that has a built-in similarly fluctuating handicap? Well, like I said before. I made a chart.

Attached is said chart that shows the cumulative percentage of pledged delegates compared to the goal amounts for both Hillary and Bernie over the course of the primary season so far. As you can see, in every single election (except by 1 delegate in Northern Marianas) since South Carolina on February 27th, Bernie has actually been INCREASING his proportional delegate lead faster than Hillary. Even when he lost. Even on Super-Tuesday. Even when votes are suppressed, stations are closed early, and independents are denied the ability to vote. That means for the last month, despite anything else you may have been reading, BERNIE IS CONSISTENTLY GAINING ON HILLARY.

Now this doesn’t mean it is clear sailing for Bernie. He has a number of obstacles still in his path (I’m looking at you Wisconsin), but can we all do the democratic process a favor and cool it with the “Why hasn’t Bernie dropped?” or the “Hillary already won!” statements? There are 22 elections over 12 voting days left, and I think we owe it to the rest of the country to hear what they have to say before we call this one. There are still THOUSANDS of unallocated delegates, and over two months until the last primary, and this chart shows the direction that things are headed, despite what you might be hearing elsewhere.

(Source: http://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/…/delegate-t…/democrats/) (Numbers for 3/26 primaries are based on rough estimates and may have minor adjustments)

EDIT 1:10pm CDT 3/27: Well slightly even better news! I noticed that my graph had mixed the numbers for Bernie/Hillary in Alaska, giving Hillary a roughly .5% boost. This is the newest updated draft.

EDIT 3:43pm CDT 3/37: Based on discussion below, I added another graph to show what the new estimated win margins are for Bernie to not only meet his original targets, but to exceed them by the 10 or so percent he needs to to catch up. As you can see, it is not an easy road, but based on some recent wins, not necessarily impossible either.

(This story was originally posted on March 27th, 2016, on Facebook)

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Interactive links: 1 2

Democratic Socialism and Thin Mints

I have been seeing a lot of people posting memes and ideas about socialism over the past few weeks, and the one thing I can clearly say without any doubt is that there seems to be a fundamental lack of understanding of what Socialism looks like in a Democratic country. So let me point out a few things:

Socialism is not:
– Taking half from the haves and giving it to the have-nots
– Government control of all business and trade
– “A pie in the sky” impossible pipe-dream
– Rewarding the lazy
– Punishing the hard working

All of those things are communism. Which, believe it or not, is very different from Democratic Socialism. Let’s take a look at an analogy here. As I am currently digging into a glorious box of thin mints, let’s use Girl Scouts for an example.

Let’s say that there are 100 boxes of cookies, and 4 girls to sell them. Imagine that for each box sold, that girl scout gets points towards a prize.

Amanda sells 50; Bethany sells 9; Christina sells 7; and Debbie sells 34.

Capitalism would say that each girl gets a point for each box they sold. A perfect 1 for 1 exchange.

Communism would say that 100 boxes were sold, so each girl gets 25 points. They all share the rewards, regardless of how well they sold their cookies.

Socialism would only let Amanda and Debbie sell 25 cookies in the first place, preventing them from depleting the resource before Bethany and Christina had a chance to sell their share.

In our society right now, the upper class (the majority of whom are there because of priviledge, access, and lineage) are in a position to retain more wealth. Their money actually makes more money. Whereas, the lower class in America, is forced to fight for the same small percentage of low paying jobs, government assitance, and access to things that are automatically provided for the rich (e.g. higher education, healthcare, housing, connections for high paying jobs, etc.).

I am a Democratic Socialist. I do not want to take your money. I do not want to take anything that you earn. But I demand an opportunity to earn it for myself. I demand access to higher education that prepares me for the work force without having to spend a lifetime in debt to pay off. I demand a program that prevents an emergency appendectomy from causing a decade of financial ruin. And I demand equal treatment for myself and every other human.

(This story was originally posted on March 10th, 2016, on Facebook)

‪#‎handsoffmycookies‬ ‪#‎feelthebern‬ ‪#‎maybeIshouldhavesharedmycookies‬

Superdelegates

There. Do I have your attention?

If you have posted, or just simply read one of the hundreds of posts out there right claiming that superdelegates just stole New Hampshire for Hillary, or that they turned a tie in Iowa into a landslide for her, please read this post.

That. Is. Not. How. Superdelegates. Work.

For those who don’t know, a superdelegate is a term given to UNPLEDGED delegates. These are elected representatives (past and present), DNC workers, or other important party figureheads. They make up about 20% of the overall delegate pool when voting for a candidate at the convention. But there are a few more things about why they are important (in theory) and why they don’t really matter (yet).

First, The big thing I have been hearing is that NH superdelegates just gave Hillary the edge to win New Hampshire. No. Hillary did not win New Hampshire, but furthermore, other than momentum and image, at this point there is no benefit to actually winning a state in the primary. Delegates are awarded via proportional votes (this changes by state and depends on when they happen, and differ between parties). But right now, the “winner” is a media soundbite. What you should really be taking away from yesterday is that Bernie took 60% of the popular vote in NH, and that he DID take more delegates from NH (15-9).

Now, onto why superdelegates are important. Imagine in a backwards world, where Trump ran for president as a Democrat (but stayed as he is on the issues). In theory, he could pull in Independent and Republican voters to the DEMOCRATIC primary, and cause a lot of damage. However, superdelegates could help sway the party back to where it belongs. This is self-preservation of the party. We as a country have voted in thousands of democratic candidates to positions ranging from our current president to city council office. The party is bigger than one person, and the superdelegates are there to ensure that one person doesn’t throw the whole thing on its side.

However, this means that the system inherently is also built to keep out people like Sanders. Someone who wants to change (albeit not as drastic as my Trump hypothetical) the direction of the Democratic party. This is why many like me support him. Not because I think he is the best Definition Democrat, but because I believe he is the best CANDIDATE, and the Democratic party is his way towards getting elected.

So the issue ISN’T with superdelegates. In fact, they are doing EXACTLY what they are supposed to be doing. Preserving the Democratic party from an outside takeover. This is good for the system. The issue isn’t with superdelegates, the issue comes with the two-party system itself!

Bernie is trying to fight against that system. That is why I support him, but dear fellow Bernie supports. STOP with the misunderstanding of what is happening. We are trying to overhaul a corrupt process from the inside. We can’t attempt to break into a fortress and then cry foul because they thought ahead to place a few guard dogs on the lawn. WE KNEW THEY WERE THERE.

Finally, just because someone needs to say it, superdelegates DO NOT MATTER in this election. They just don’t. Superdelegates are nothing more than endorsements at this point, and they can (and have many times) change before the convention. They have no worth until July. If Bernie starts winning states and taking more “regular” delegates, the superdelegates will follow. Everyone wants to endorse a winner. If it remains close all the way to July, Bernie will have already lost, and not because of superdelegates. This is, and always has been, a win big or go home race for Bernie. Don’t let his growing support tell you that he is going to just barely squeak out a win. He isn’t. He is either going to breakout or fizzle. I am all about the former being true, but don’t delude yourself into thinking it is going to be easy. And STOP with feeding the news cycle about how supderdelegates gave Hillary the win. THEY DID NOT. They have done nothing for her except diminish Bernie’s landslide victory, and will do nothing for her until July 25th.

(This story was originally posted on February 10th, 2016, on Facebook)

Origin Story

When it comes to politics, policies, and social awareness, I have always been quite vocal about my views. In previous election cycles, most notably 2004 and 2008, most conversations and observations were conducted via phone calls or face to face since Facebook wasn’t really a thing that I had access to, nor had it grown to be the mecca of communication and idea sharing that it is today. However, in today’s environment, especially with the current social, economic, and ideological debates going on, I have found myself posting more and more, in an almost desperate plea to anyone reading, with the hope that people will stop standing behind memes, outdated beliefs, or vague talking points, without first considering the bigger picture, or in many cases, the facts (or lack thereof) seen across the internet.

Whether it be a confusion of what Superdelegates really do, what ideas make up Democratic Socialism, the remaining delegate math, or how in the world someone like Drumpf can rise to the level he has, and even more shockingly, why anyone would support him, I find myself trying to filter my posts so that only the most relevant topics are discussed, and, in turn, I have been left wanting a place to organize my thoughts. Where I can flesh out some ideas and, hopefully, create a medium for civil, and most of all, logical, debate.

I have no desire to claim that my opinion is better than anyone else’s simply because it is my belief. I plan on using deductive reasoning, data (when available), and a dash of entertainment to explain how my opinions are formed. With that said, I highly encourage any of my readers to challenge my views, as I will surely challenge many of yours, but I do ask that you come at it with a level of reason and thoughtfulness that invigorates discussion yet refrains from uncivil discourse.

I admit here, for all to see, that I am human, and I will most certainly be wrong from time to time, and you will disagree with me on many other occasions. I only ask that you open your mind to understand where myself and others are coming from before you put up your own wall of dissonance.

To start this blog off, I will be reaching back to a few old posts. Posts from FB over the past few weeks, that had this blog been created, would have been posted here first. I look forward to growing in my knowledge of the world around me and hearing from many of you in the process. Happy reading.

-Samson