You can find fateful political implications even in something as dry as an actuarial table.

Black Americans living longer, but racial gap remains, CDC says. To quote the key line of the CNN piece:

 “Although blacks are living longer, a racial disparity remains: The life expectancy of blacks is still four years less than that of whites.”

So you can find fateful political implications even in something as dry as an actuarial table. Because Trump’s margin of victory in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania was so narrow–about 80,000 votes between the three states–that the disparity in life expectancies between white males and black males might have been enough all by itself to give Trump the edge. Basically a white male will statistically vote in one more presidential election than a black male over a lifetime, meaning that of all the 75 year old men who voted in 2012, there was a higher percentage of white 79 year olds voting in 2016 than there were black 79 year olds. When you factor in the fact that older voters have by far the highest voting rate (upwards of 70% among those over 60), losing those departed voters is like losing about two or even three times that number of the youngest voters. They represented a significant loss to Hillary, compounded by the higher turnout that Trump was generating among his own rural white supporters. I’d have to do the math, but I suspect the numbers would show a far more than 80,000 vote spread. More than enough to tip the three states’ electoral votes to Trump. And though I’d have to work the numbers, lots and lots of numbers, I think it’s a distinct possibility that the Trump campaign benefitted from something so dry and obscure as data off an actuarial table. Not the most exciting bit of political analysis, sure, but by such absurdly arcane little demographic blips the course of civilization is changed. Sad.

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Voter turnout

I keep hearing that less than 50% of Americans voted in 2016. Untrue. 55% of the voting age population (VAP) voted, or 137 million out of 251 million. When you include only the voting eligible population (VEP), which excludes non-citizens, mostly, and felons in some states, that total drops to 231 million meaning that 60% of all the population eligible to vote did vote. That’s not a bad number.

The number you commonly see, though, is the voting age population (VAP) number, which comes to 55% this year. That is actually a higher than normal number. It’s lower than 2008, but higher than 2012. In fact, since 1972 only five elections have had more voters. The 60% turnout hasn’t been reached since 1968, the last of five times since 1932 it went above 60, though it never got hit 63% (and it hasn’t been above 70% since 1900). On the other hand, it has only dropped below 50% three times: 1920, 1924 and 1996.

The highest turnout streak was from 1952 to 1968. Only one of those five elections dropped below 60%. The New Deal-WW2 generation (dubbed The Greatest Generation) voted in very high numbers. And the kids who were born in the low birth rate 1932-45 years (labeled, sadly, The Silent Generation) voted in high numbers too. Together they made the Ike-JFK-LBJ years the high point in voter turnout. Goldwater was buried in 1964 in a turnout of nearly 62%. Indeed, it was only when the FDR voters began dying off that the Reagan Revolution’s assault on FDR’s social programs (as dreamed of by Goldwater’s followers twenty years earlier) went into high gear, as they were its most fervent supporters. Their kids, not so much.

You can see when you look at the numbers that when the vote was lowered to 18 from 21, in the 1972 election, the turn out plunged a few points (the 18-20 years olds that year voted for Nixon, too.) Not many of those enfranchised kids bothered to vote. And turn out remained low as baby boomers flooded the electorate, bringing down the average in presidential elections to 52%. It wasn’t until Gen X and Millennials came flooding in that the numbers began to rise into the mid 50 percentiles again. They vote more than Boomers did at their age. But unfortunately for them, Boomers have finally hit that 55 and up age where we vote like crazy.

Hence Trump.

The electoral college and Trump-crazy Baby Boomers and everything else

For years I have been harping on the dangers of the electoral college, on how small states and rural populations are over represented in the Senate and House, and how we baby boomers are the most conservative generation since the 1920’s. I could be pretty shrill and annoying about it. Earlier this year it dawned on me that despite all the attention on Millennials, that it is Boomers who are at the apex of political power in 2016. Trying to be more wryly ironic than shrill and annoying, I wrote that we’d have to wait eight or even sixteen years before things really swung against the GOP and conservatism. Which is probably a safe bet. It’s going to be a long, long fight. Just before the recent debacle, when everyone knew it was to be a Democratic landslide and crushing defeat of conservatism, I was wondering how the New Deal had remained the ideology of the land and core of the government for 48 years (1932-1980) but Reaganism had lasted only 36 years (1980-2016). I was wondering what accounted for those 12 extra years that the Left had managed over the Right.

Oops. Turns out it was not twelve less years of Reaganism (or the mutated variants thereof) at all. Conservatives could keep trashing the country for twelve more years…even though they get less votes every election cycle. Democratic candidates at every level get more actual votes, when you meaninglessly add all of them up together, than Republican candidates. There are more voters in the United States who are not conservative than there are conservatives. Yet look who’s running the show. Turns out liberals are over represented in bigger states and in urban areas which means we wind up with less representation per vote. And then there’s the fact that baby boomers vote conservative (despite all their Woodstock Generation pretensions), and they vote more, much more, than people younger than them. That’s true of generations in general, voters over fifty vote at a higher rate than those under fifty, the further you go down in age the less the voting percentage. You bitch about kids too lazy to vote now as people bitched about you all not voting enough then. Indeed, turnout in 2000 was much lower than turnout in 2016….you might blame those lazy Gen Xers for eight years of Bush/Cheney….

It’s just a political fact of life–old people vote more. Old people tend to be more conservative. And this bunch are especially conservative. I’ve always been struck by how the generations preceding the Boomers–the Greatest and Silent generations (who comes up with these names?)–dumped Goldwater in a landslide. They knew crazy when they saw it. But Boomers saw George W. Bush and voted for him. And now there’s Donald Trump, the Boomer president. I had thought George W. Bush was the quintessential boomer president but Trump takes that cake now. Most Boomers seem to embrace crazy. And when America’s older people (the ones below 70, anyway) are from the largest baby boom in US history, while Millennials were spawned in the lowest (and still declining) birthrate in US history, those older voters will be a powerful presence on election day. It doesn’t help that people live longer now than they did in 1980–about four years longer for males, an entire presidential election cycle, meaning your crazy grandpa gets to vote for a president at an age when his own crazy grandpa was long buried. And it certainly doesn’t help that the part of the Democratic coalition that Democrats have such high hopes for–Hispanics–are still voting well below the rate of Whites (and below the rate of Blacks, too). And that so many of the states where Trump did so well this year–and districts where GOP congressional candidates did well–are 80% and more (many much, much more) Caucasian. Even worse that so many of those districts are experiencing a drain of their younger, college educated population–the ones who rejected Trump out of hand–to the coasts, where they pile into larger, urban areas with less congressional representation per capita than their folks have at home. Not to mention those two senate seats no matter how small (or large) the state. Half the United States legislature is based on the notion that the number of voters is irrelevant. The slave south held a headlock on federal policy for sixty years using that two senators per state power. And then in the 20th century the South was able to maintain its ideology of white superiority through that same senatorial power. Eventually the south took over the GOP and with that same small state power has dominated US policy making and resisted the policies of a black president with all the furor and machiavellian genius of John C. Calhoun. That same senatorial dominance means electoral votes out of synch with popular vote. Hence, Trump.

This will not change much in the next four or eight years. The average baby boomer is my age, just coming on sixty, with another twenty years of voting (that is, five presidential elections, ten congressional elections, and about six senatorial elections) left in the average one of us. As boomers get older their voting rate just keeps rising, and it’ll take a decade before attrition–Boomers will die, eventually–surpasses that increasing voting rate and finally drops their numbers beneath those of Gen Xers and Millennials, who will have gotten older and grumpier and more prone to voting by then. Like I said, that is ten years off.. And by then the Hispanic baby boom that accompanied the explosion of Hispanic immigration in the 1980’s-90’s (immigrants always have lots of kids, their kids slow down and grandkids sometimes have no kids at all) will have gotten old enough to finally start voting at a rate approximating whites. Unfortunately they will mostly be in bigger states–California, New York, Florida, Texas–the way the Irish were once mostly in big urban areas that limited their political impact, but nonetheless, it will help to chip away at the white GOP majority. The GOP is at peak strength now, unless, somehow, they suddenly appeal to blacks, Hispanics, Asians, women and people under 40. Which is probably unlikely. Hell, just the opposite.

So what am I getting at? Just hold on, this crazy Trumpist GOP surge cannot last. You will not see a series of Trumpoid presidents. Or an endless GOP majority in congress. But it won’t end right away either. They have a solid eight years ahead of them. Unless, of course, there is some sort of Watergate-scale catastrophe. But I’m not getting my hopes up. I am just waiting for the slow change of generations. That is generally what has flipped the political course of history in this country. We boomers are in our last spasm of power now. Sure we didn’t actually win the popular vote in the presidential race. And for sure more people voted for Democratic candidates than voted for Republicans, again. But just enough older white people are in just the right places. Watch how we 52-70 years olds muck it up for the rest of you. Then again, our parents were gung ho for the Cold War and Viet Nam and nearly blew the world up once or twice. Their parents somehow combined Jim Crow and the New Deal. Every age has its issues. We are yours.

Twittering

Why William Kristol is on my Twitter feed I have no idea. Has Donald Trump brought together liberals and neocons? Has it at last gotten to that? Like commies and capitalists uniting against Hitler? Or good and evil scientists against Godzilla? Has some rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouched toward Bethlehem, Pennsylvania to be born? Trump did win there. He won the whole damn Lehigh Valley, in fact, and there went Pennsylvania and, tumbling like southeast Asian dominos, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Minnesota teetered and held. Oh joy. An angry little progressive, twittering like an indignant bird, tells me that Michigan is too close to call. He sees a way out. Chemtrails chemtrails chemtrails. But getting back to William Kristol. One of the brilliant minds of neoconservatism. There he is, on my Twitterfeed, being clever. Oh so clever. You have to hand it to those old neocons. If politics were the Catskills, they’d be a laff riot. Funnier than most progressives, a particularly humorless lot lately. A few old George Carlin memes. Make a joke and you’re a Republican. But there is William Kristol, a conceptual architect of our Iraqi war, cracking wise. There’s John Podhoretz, saying fuck in inappropriate places. And there, on the far left end of the room, is Ralph Nader, no, there isn’t Ralph Nader. Can you blame him? Steve Bannon is a no show, too. Is he even on Twitter? I must look. I have a soft spot for spoilers and renegade nazis.

How to succeed in journalism without really reporting

Those MSNBC and CNN political journalists and analysts are still on the air? I would have fired most of them last week. What a bunch of fuck ups. Blind, deaf and lazy. Not one saw the Trumpslide coming yet even the rumbling was there, the polling data was there, and it would have taken very little work to have seen it coming. Instead, aside from (I hate to say) Joe Scarborough, who is not even a trained journalist, not one of the reporters, commentators or analysts who wasn’t a surrogate on MSNBC or CNN claimed to have had a clue this was coming. They just stared dumbfounded into the camera and hoped we wouldn’t notice.

If they can’t fire them all–they can’t, they have contracts and fan clubs and groupies–at the very least network executives need to stamp out the celebrity journalist TV culture that values preening on panels (and laughing at each others jokes, incestuously popping up on each others shows, egomaniacal self-assurance and hours spent following each others tweets) over genuine reporting.

The lack of issues reporting and the complete inability to see trends among the working class in the very battle ground states these people had been reporting from since the conventions is completely the fault of lazy, self aggrandizing, piss poor journalism. Fire ’em all and hire new. Or cancel a couple shows, anyway, just to show them there is a price to be paid for such astonishing incompetence. Otherwise, you just reward stupidity.

So has political journalism hit the skids or what? Has it ever had a lower moment? You have to wonder how many viewers are taking these guys seriously anymore. I know I am having trouble, a bunch of crazies in the White House and we’re stuck with journalists who may or may not have a clue as to what is going on. It’s like feeling sick and having idiots for doctors. Well, not quite. You can sue your doctors. Reporters just get their own shows.

Hillary 48%, Trump 46.5%

The New York Times is now estimating the final count will be:

Hillary 63,400,000 votes
Trump 61,200,000 votes

Meaning the loser got 2,200,000 more votes than the winner. Or four and a half times more votes than Gore had over Bush. It’s also more than the winning margins of 1960, 1968, and 1976. As a percentage, it’s very close to Bush’s winning margin over Kerry in 2004. You have to go all the way back to 1876 to find an election where the electoral college vote so distorted the actual popular vote result, and at the time that outcome was widely considered a travesty.

In percentages, I estimate:

Hillary 48%
Trump 46.5%

That’s democracy to me.

Donald Trump is president–there’s is nothing we can do about that, it’s a constitutional done deal–but his win is at best a fluke, and about as far from the result intended by Alexander Hamilton and James Madison as one can imagine. He may have the most votes in the electoral college, but he has no mandate. America has not spoken.

It would be hard to imagine a greater slap in the face to the Founding Fathers of this republic than the inverted “election” of Donald J Trump. The constitution betrayed we the people of the United States on this one.

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Electoral college

The electoral college is all about congressional representation. Every state has a base of three–for the two senators and minimum one congressional seat. By themselves a small state–there are seven states with one district–have little electoral influence. But as a bloc they have electoral clout.  Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas have 12 electoral votes between them that go GOP almost without fail, as many electoral votes as Washington state yet with less than half the population. But this isn’t as important as it used to be…there are two 3 vote states–Delaware and Vermont–that are solidly Democrat. And when you add up the populations of the GOP’s 4 electoral vote states in the Rockies and Plains, they equal in electoral votes states and population states like Pennsylvania. And a lot of states in the west–Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado–have begun turning regularly blue.

It’s in the bigger states that the Democrats get burned. Were California’s electoral votes allocated on the same population basis as Wyoming’s (plus two for the senators), we would have 202 instead of 55. Texas would have 142. Florida would have 105. New York would have 103. Illinois 68. The problem is that urban and suburban congressional districts tend to be more densely populated than rural districts. The more urban the state, the less the congressional representation. There are thirteen states with an average district size of over 600K people (California’s is over 700K) and only three of those have been reliably red in presidential elections (though at least two of those states, Texas and Georgia, will be purple battleground states within ten years, and probably blue in twenty). And of the 13 states with average congressional delegation size of less than 400K, eight have been reliably red. Democrats as a rule have the underrepresented districts, Republicans the overrepresented. To make things worse, the GOP has gerrymandered a lot of Democrats in some states into huge districts, and themselves into many smaller districts. Ohio’s majority Republican congressional delegation in a majority Democratic state is the most flagrant example….and though it has nothing to do with the electoral college, all those Republican congressmen running for office in their tidy white districts is one of the reasons Trump captured the state this year.

This disparity in congressional district population has been the only thing that has kept the GOP in the presidential game at all. Without it the Democrats would have an overwhelming electoral college majority. Even Trump flipping four reliably blue states this goofy year stills leaves him down by well over a million, maybe even two, in the popular vote. Were congressional districts allocated fairly, the Democrats would gain dramatically in the House of Representatives, and in the electoral college, and the GOP would shrink. Shrink a whole lot. Even so, inevitably, the tide is turning, as rural populations thin out and urban populations expand with kids moving in from the country and immigrants arriving and having 3 to 4 kids instead of the white’s 1 or 2 (or none at all). The white population of conservative suburban districts is aging and dying out  (and will be leaving ghostly tracts of four and five bedroom houses too big for modern families) and is not being replaced by equal numbers of their own–indeed replaced by immigrants (think Orange County). The GOP has been overwhelmingly a baby boomer party–we have been the most conservative generation, by far, since the 1920’s–but we boomers failed to have enough kids to keep the ratio going. In another decade or so the GOP will cave in and become strictly regional, much as the original conservatives, the Federalists did. They elected the first two presidents but were gone by the 1820’s, swamped by the immigrants they hated. The GOP too is pretending that only their demographic truly deserve to vote, deserve even to be here. Alas, there are only so many white people born between 1946 and 1964, and the GOP has adamantly refused to expand beyond them. And their kids and grandkids don’t vote like they do at all. The electoral college will turn blue, even if we don’t ever change it.

As for Trump (I’m writing this the Friday after his election, as my fellow liberals still stumble about shocked and weeping, as I would be, if not for all the Prozac), he is the ultimate Baby Boomer candidate, if not a Boomer himself–he’s one of he Silent Generation, believe it or not–and Boomers are at their peak electoral power now. He may be incoherent half the time, but then wasn’t Bob Dylan? And Trump may come off like a loutish New York version of George Wallace, but then a helluva lot of us voted for George Wallace (a shocking number of the Gene McCarthy voters in 1968 voted for Wallace that November, and voted for Wallace in even bigger numbers in the 1972 primaries, especially in Michigan and Wisconsin.) Trump didn’t win many big states in a big way last Tuesday–Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin combined gave him a razor thin 107,000 vote margin, once all mail in ballots were counted (Hillary stomped all over Trump among those who vote by mail). Still, that was just enough to put all those upper midwest minorities and Gen Xers and Millennials with all their college degrees (far fewer Boomers went to college than did) in their place. You betcha.

There are still loads of us Boomers alive (I was born right smack in the middle of the boom, 1957), and we are at our peak voting years, our 50’s and 60’s. People vote with astonishing regularity at our age (you value regularity at our age) and this year we just happened to be angry and in the right combination of states to give Donald Trump an electoral vote majority with the worst disparity of popular votes ever. Hillary had a higher popular vote margin than not only Al Gore, but more than JFK (1960), Nixon (1968) and maybe even Carter (1976.) It’s like if you don’t win the Super Bowl by more than two touchdowns they give the trophy to the losing team. A constitutional shenanigan, really. As Hillary’s numbers are finally officially tallied–which could take weeks in California, where there is a mountain of mail in ballots, millions of them, being counted by hand–the scale of this shenanigan will dawn on everybody, and the notion of Donald Trump having a mandate for revolution will disappear into thin air. You need to win votes to launch a revolution. FDR did. Reagan did. George W. Bush didn’t. Bush is so now loathed by most Republicans it’s hard to believe he was one of their own, with a GOP approval rate above 90%. There’s not much love in the long run for those who win the electoral college but lose the popular vote–when was the last time you heard nice things about Rutherford B. Hayes or Benjamin Harrison?–and in the 2000 election Bush was down only half a million votes. Trump is down by much more. A popular vote deficit of historic proportions. Huge, even. Big league.

Oh well, all us Boomers will start dying off soon enough–the eldest if us are 70 now, and we used to smoke like chimneys–and Gen Xers and Millennials will finally outvote us in, oh, two election cycles. We’ll still vote plenty, of course, all crotchety and conservative, but we’ll at last be outnumbered by all those rotten kids. And you know how they vote, those rotten kids, overwhelmingly blue, in ratios not seen since FDR’s day. Even as they get grumpy and old themselves they will vote probably twice as Democrat as we do now. Certainly twice as liberal. They are the most liberal bunch since the New Deal. The Reagan Revolution was made possible because those original New Dealers were dying off (about three or four years earlier than we will, a whole election cycle). But the Reagan Revolution will fade the same way, as we Boomers die off. We are witnessing its final thrashings now. The New Deal lasted for 48 years, 1932-1980. The Reagan Revolution might last 40 years, 1980-2020. Apparently Reaganomics contained faster acting seeds of its own destruction. But I digress.

There are likely to be none of these absurd vote winner losing the presidency travesties once we are gone, taking the GOP with us. Once the whites only GOP disappears, there will be no need for imbalanced congressional districts. There will be no advantage of farmers having two or three or times as much political pull as city dwellers, or a rancher in Wyoming having 67 times as much electoral vote representation as a writer in Los Angeles. The electoral college will again be reduced to an archaic afterthought, and not a threat to democracy itself. Or so I hope.