Friday, October 21, 2016

Things that Irrationally Scare Me About the Polling in this Election

After three debates, and a ton of horrible stories coming out about Trump, and his campaign staff starting to leave, it looks like Hillary Clinton has this election wrapped up. In fact, the question in everyone's mind is not whether she'll win, but by how much. And as a Democrat, I'm pretty happy about the state of affairs. But there are three things that sit in the back of my mind that concern me.

1) The Wilder Effect:

If you know polling, or if you know of Virginia politics in the 1990's, you'll know about the Wilder Effect - an effect where voters will purposefully lie to pollsters about a candidate or based on the voter's perception of the pollster's preferences. It is also known as the Bradley effect, but in either case, African American candidates had better polling numbers than election results because voters didn't want the pollsters to think they were racist by choosing to vote for the white guy. Now, in 2008 and 2012, there wasn't any Wilder/Bradley effect present for President Obama. His poll numbers and his election numbers were pretty much spot-on, and guys like Nate Silver were able to predict Obama victories within a hundredth of a percentage point.

Now, with the race between Clinton and Trump, one would assume that there wouldn't be a Wilder/Bradley Effect because a) it didn't exist for Obama; and b) both candidates are white. But, and this is what concerns me, Trump is currently really, really, toxic. He's a racist, a misogynist, and pretty much the stereotype every Democrat has for a Republican. His brand is so toxic, that it would not be at all surprising to learn that some Trump voters are simply ashamed to admit their preference for him, and the polls are, thus, slightly skewed.

Before we all freak out, the one thing that keeps me sane is that no discernible Bradley/Wilder Effect was present. Trump's wins were pretty much spot-on with the polling. The other thing that helps here, and which I just learned about 5 minutes ago, is that polling tends to underestimate the votes women candidates get. So, its entirely possible that both the Bradley/Wilder Effect and the Richards Effect are present in the polling, and that they'll cancel each other out. Its also possible that only one is present, and the vote will end up a lot closer, or more of a landslide, than we originally thought.

2) Third Party Candidates

What's unusual, but not entirely surprising about this election is the number of somewhat relevant third-party candidates present in the race. The Libertarian Party candidate, Gary Johnson, who's kind of an idiot (though his VP nominee is not), is polling around 7-9%; Jill Stein with the Green Party (a bigger idiot), is polling between 2-3%, and some random guy named Evan McMullin (not really random, I know) may actually win Utah. McMullin is actually up by 6 points over Trump and Clinton in Utah. And since no one has done any polling in Idaho (which has similar demographics to Utah), he might be up in Idaho too.

So, no doubt about it, the 3rd party candidates are more relevant in 2016 than they have been in any election since 2000, when Ralph Nader took away just enough votes to cost Gore the election. And there, he took less than 5% of the vote. Here, we have 3rd party candidates possibly taking states, and getting 10-15% of the overall vote. Those totals were last seen in 1992. But the people who say they're voting for a 3rd party, are probably amenable to swinging to either Trump or Clinton. So, will they stay out of it, or will they swing one to one of the mainstream party candidates? I don't know, and that concerns me. Slightly, but it does concern me.

3) Turnout

This is the most interesting question of the race - what will the turnout be like? If Clinton voters think this one is in the bag, will they bother to turnout? I'm guessing yes, because they want to see Trump beaten. Will Trump voters turnout to vote? And if they do, will they vote the full ballot? Will the Voter ID laws prevent people who are now classified as likely voters from voting?

What we do know is that Trump's advantage on likely voters is really, really small for a Republican - like around 1%. We also know that Trump has no ground game, and the guy who is supposed to run the ground campaign resigned today. That bodes ill for turnout being in Trump's favor. On the other hand, Trump has been encouraging his supporters to start poll watching* (i.e. discourage minority voters from voting). Of course, with early voting, that may not have any effect whatsoever. Plus, Clinton does have a ground game, and that may also overcome various obstacles. Honestly, I have no idea how this all goes (though it doesn't look good for Trump).

*The Republican National Committee is legally prohibited from poll watching due to efforts to prevent minority voting in the 1980's.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Deja Vu All Over Again - Donald Trump and Sexual Assault Allegations

So, its been awhile since my last blog, and this website is pretty much defunct, but in light of the storm of allegations against Donald Trump Tuesday (with as many as 12 women coming forward with allegations that he either leered at them, or sexually assaulted them), I thought I would add a few words to the overall stream of discussion.

First, let me say that what happened Tuesday is both incredibly strange and completely familiar, as it is to all San Diegans because, well, we went through this a few years ago with the election of Bob Filner. For those of you who don't know, Bob Filner was a long-time Congressman in San Diego, and noted liberal, who ran for Mayor, and won. Now throughout his career, it was well-known that Filner was an asshole - but since his opponent was also an well-known asshole (sorry DeMaio, its true), and we were kind of sick of how things were being run, we let it go. And, I have to say, that Filner's first few months in office were not bad. Actually, there were a lot of high points. But just then, a storm of allegations, starting with a few anonymous allegations, blew into town and it appeared that Bob Filner had sexually harassed pretty much every woman he met for more than 30 seconds. It. Was. Bad. As a result, Filner resigned (because we were about to recall him from office), and that was that.

Now, there are a few things to learn about this episode. First, campaign opposition research NEVER finds this stuff. There were literally dozens of women who were sexually harassed by Bob Filner over the years, and despite being in a blood match with Carl DeMaio in the Mayoral campaign, DeMaio never found one woman. What's more, Filner had previously been involved in one of the few absolute blood feuds here locally with Juan Vargas. The two men H-A-T-E-D each other, and ran against each other 3 or 4 times. Yet, in all those campaigns, when a literal storm of allegations of sexual harassment would be useful, Vargas never found anything.

That sound, by the way, is the sound of Vargas and DeMaio screaming at their opposition research team. Kind of surprised that nobody got shot over this, actually.

Nobody found any of this information because victims of sexual assault don't come forward unless there is some kind of catalyst. For all but a few women allegedly raped by Bill Cosby, they chose to come forward when Hannibal Burress mentioned the rape allegations made a couple of women in his act. That lead to a few more women coming forward, and then it snowballed to the fifty-plus women who have made the exact same allegations. Now, not having ever been sexually assaulted, this makes no sense to me - why would there need to be a catalyst, and why wouldn't the catalyst be earlier allegations? I honestly have no idea why, but I do know that's how these things go. Even in cases where the accusers are men, a la Jerry Sandusky, it takes a catalyst.

Second, the fact that victims wait to come forward has actually nothing to do with their veracity. Being a sexual assault victim is all sorts of bad. I once represented a woman who was the victim of stalking and sexual assault, and trying to get her to testify was awful because, in part, she was reliving the abuse as she was testifying about it. So, really, the catalyst is the point where a victim decides, "fuck it, I'm doing this." Since that point is different for everyone, its hard to predict.

That said, if I have one rule for these sorts of allegations, I have what I call the rule of three. In any case of sexual misconduct, if there are more than three adult victims making the same, or similar, allegations, then typically, those allegations will eventually be determined to be true. By the way, this applies only to victims who are testifying as adults, not children. The McMartin case, the Dale Akiki case, and the other "satanic" child abuse cases from the 1980's all demonstrate that in spades. In each instance, there were lots of kids who testified about abuse, but it was completely made up bullshit created by parents, or "therapists," or "concerned prosecutors."  Adults, though, aren't necessarily going to be easily swayed to lie about sexual abuse. Yes, one or two might, but more than three probably aren't. Hence my rule of three.

Getting back to Trump, yeah he faced 16 opponents in the GOP primary, and has been a public figure for a long time, but he was also known as a highly litigious billionaire who would be more than happy to sue anyone for defamation. So, this isn't exactly the cross anyone really wanted to bear. But, the tape released on Friday where Trump stated that he used his celebrity status to sexually assault women, That, coupled with his Bro/stalker act at the debate, apparently set a few of the women who he allegedly victimized, off. They contacted the media on Sunday evening or Monday morning, and after some vetting, the various outlets published their stories.

So, what's next? Well, I have to think that this story will snowball. Given that Trump is the kind of guy to check out 10 year old girls to get an inside scope on their datability in 10 years, who brags about grabbing women by the genitals, and who walks into the dressing room of teenage beauty queens (by his OWN ADMISSION), I'm guessing that there are a lot of women out there, all of whom are dreading the prospect of Trump being elected President, and until yesterday, feeling very much alone. Now? Not. So. Much.

But what about Bill Clinton, you say? Well, for one thing, he's not running for President. His wife is. And while I certainly can be wrong here, the 1990's was an era of unprecedented scrutiny on Bill Clinton. The independent prosecutors (and there were more than just Ken Starr) investigating Bill Clinton during the 1990's had incredible power, and they used it to investigate every possible claim. That's how we found out about Monica Lewinsky. At the same time, Bill Clinton's political enemies were desperately looking for someone, anyone, to tarnish Bill Clinton's name. That's how they found Paula Jones and Kathleen Wiley. So, a lot of the allegations have already been, to a large degree, litigated. The only person who that doesn't apply to, Juanita Broaddrick, has sort of faded into memory. Keep in mind that the media looked into these allegations during Bill's presidency, so to the mainstream media, this is kind of old hat.

Additionally, if there were new allegations forth coming, Hillary Clinton could head that all off at the pass by divorcing Bill. Trump can't divorce himself, so. . .yeah.

In the meantime, Trump is almost certainly screwed. At this point in the campaign, the focus is on getting out the vote. If the campaign has been done right, the campaign already knows who their supporters are, and is getting Vote by Mail ballots to them right now. The idea is to get as many supporters to vote now, and then look to pick up undecided voters in the next couple of weeks. What is Trump doing? Picking fights with the GOP leadership and defending himself against these allegations. What is his staff doing? Defending against the allegations and looking to see if there's anything more coming down the pipe. Oh, and pointing out the allegations against Bill Clinton, which makes them look like hypocrites. 

That, by the way, is the essence of the October surprise, its designed to throw the campaign off its message. And Hillary Clinton's campaign hasn't used its October surprise yet - they weren't involved in any of these recent allegations.

With that said, and because this next few weeks are looking uglier and uglier, allow me to put forward the following cocktail to help you through election day. I call it, the William & Mary cocktail:

1/2 ounce Amontillado sherry
1 once rye whiskey
1 and 1/2 ounces spiced apple cider (I use the Trader Joe's Spiced Apple Cider)

Add all the ingredients, shake, and pour over ice. If you want to get fancy (and with election, that is not necessarily advised), you can garnish with an orange peel, a cinnamon stick, or apple slice. Serve over ice.