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Jack Brown: Blog

Polite (I promise!) election observations from across the ocean

Posted on November 11, 2012 with 0 comments

 

To my friends on the far right:
I know you’re disappointed (and some of you are angry and bitter) after last week’s election.  Please don’t mistake this to be a gloat note.  As I’ve said many times publicly, I am not an Obama fan and didn’t vote for him in 2008.  (Left my presidential ballot blank and voted on the other races, if you must know.)  Rather, this is a plea from someone who has spent most of the past 18 years or so voting for both Republicans and Democrats, until recently -- when the Republicans left me behind and gave me no options.  I’m asking you to fix your freakin’ political party.  If you don’t, you risk irrelevance.
Those of you who’ve known me since college know I was once a left-wing Democrat.  But those who’ve known me since the mid-90’s know I became more of a centrist long ago.  My first CD is titled “Live From Left Of Center”, after all -- not far-left, but left of center.  In California (lived there 1990-96), I discovered Republicans who I could not only vote for but even campaign door-to-door for.  That continued when I moved to Idaho in 1996.  These were people who were moderate on education and environment issues and who believed the government, within reason, had no business being in anyone’s private life.  I’m betting I’ve knocked on more doors on behalf of Republican candidates than most of you have in your entire lives.  In 2006 I even wrote it down so I’d remember: I voted for 11 Democrats and 7 Republicans on my Idaho ballot.  To be sure, in a few of those races there was no Democrat opposition.  But it’s also true that, in a few of those races, I didn’t vote at all because I didn’t agree with the positions of the single (Republican) candidate.
That was when it started for me.  That was when the Republican Party started leaving those of us in the middle.  And it wasn’t just us left-of-center folks who got dumped.  It was centrists of all stripes.  And, my Republican-voting friends, you have a problem here.  Your party is shedding centrist voters with your far-right ideology and far-right candidates who say things that scare away centrists.  Not just left-of-centrists either.  But the bigger problem is that many in your leadership don’t even see the problem.  They’re believing anything they can latch on to EXCEPT the problem.
Which gets us to the biggest, overarching problem, my friends.  Remember, I’m trying to help.  I want you to nominate candidates I can vote for.  But do you know what your problem is?  It can be said easiest in one short sentence:
You believe the outliers.
What does that mean?  Well, have you ever taken a class in statistics?  Outliers (not liars, mind you) are, to put it simply for the sake of brevity, statistical abnormalities.  They’re those statistical results that lie at the far edges of the sample.  Like, if you’re a teacher and 22 of your 24 students score between 50 and 92 on a test, but one kid scores a 12 and another kid scores a 110 with the bonus points, the 12 and the 110 are outliers.  (Well, actually nowadays, having only 24 kids in a public school classroom is also an outlier.  But that’s another subject for another time.)  And you believe those outliers fervently and you and Republican leaders promote them and watch only those news outlets that promote them and ignore -- even deride -- any news outlets that promote the statistical middle ground, where the truth almost always lives.
Proof?  Good grief, did you watch the election results Tuesday November 6?  More important, did you read the polls and listen to the pundits before that?  Conservative pundits were nearly unanimous in saying Romney was going to win.  I really, truly thought they were just cheering the team on, just like everyone does in every election, no matter how bad the polls look.  I mean, for goodness sake, Walter Mondale confidently predicted a surprise victory on election eve in 1984, then proceeded to lose 49 of 50 states and get barely 40% of the popular vote.  He lost the electoral college 525-13.  But he knew he was going to lose.  Everyone knew he was going to lose.  Most liberals were even pretty sure in 2004 that John Kerry was going to lose, but they kept predicting victory just to cheer the team on.
But with Romney’s supporters, it was different.  Most of you really, honest-to-God thought you were going to win because the conservative media machine you listen to (to the exclusion of all other media outlets) told you they were going to win.  Rush Limbaugh even said, “Everything except the polls points to a Romney landslide.”  Did you see that last word?  Not just victory, but “landslide”, for crying out loud.  My friends, that’s the equivalent of saying everything except math points to two plus two equaling five hundred.  And Limbaugh was far from alone -- every single conservative pundit said Romney would win despite what the polls said.  And many of them were in all-but shock mode afterward.  Criminy -- did you see Matalin?  She was embarrassingly childish.  Did you see Rove?  He made a fool of himself on national television.
And here we get to the heart of the matter: “despite what the polls said.”  Huffington Post tracks 12 polls and averages their results.  There are two that lean Republican and two that lean Democrat, but the other eight are middle-of-the-road polls.  So the averaging should work.  Nate Silver did the same thing.  Yet one Republican after another savaged the HuffPost and Silver and all the middle-of-the-road polls.  Why?  Pardon the caps, but this needs to be emphasized: BECAUSE EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE POLLS POINTED TO AN OBAMA VICTORY JUST LIKE THE ONE HE GOT.  And so did the average of the 12 polls.  But instead of believing that, the Fox Republican Media Machine chose to believe the outliers.  And because of that, most Republican voters did too.  In other words, the middle-of-the-road polls were right on target, just like they almost always are.  And the far-right polls -- like Rasmussen -- were not just wrong, they were way wrong.  The only swing state Romney picked up was North Carolina -- which, by the way, was the exact, precise prediction of Huffington Post’s average of polls, plus or minus the uncertainty of Florida.
So why am I bringing up outliers as a big part of the Republican problem?  Because polls are only a small part of that problem.  Think about it:
Depending on which surveys you believe, somewhere between 95% and 98% of climate scientists worldwide believe global warming is happening and mankind is the largest contributor to it.  But the official Republican position is to listen to those outliers.
Over 99% of scientists with degrees in relevant fields believe evolution happened and that humans evolved from other, earlier species.  But the official Republican position is to listen to those outliers, even when most of those outliers aren’t even real scientists.
Almost every economist believes that tax increases will have to be a part of any real economic solution.  The presidents who decreased taxes (Reagan, Bush II, Obama) saw huge deficit increases.  The presidents who increased taxes (Bush I, Clinton) eventually saw deficit reduction.  Of course, there is much, much more to both arguments.  But the fact remains that most economists believe tax increases must be on the table.  We have a country to pay for and we’re trying to do it with lower taxes than ever, and then we want to keep making them lower.  But the official Republican position is to listen to the outliers economists.  Even when these are the guys whose philosophy of doing things like cutting taxes drastically while going to war in two different countries is a large part of what got us into this mess.
Every single honest representation of this 47% who supposedly don’t pay taxes, shows that most of them are either retired elderly or working poor.  Yet the official Republican outlier position is to call them freeloaders.  They pay payroll taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, gas taxes, all sorts of taxes.  Many of them work two dead-end jobs to make ends meet and still don’t have enough income to fall into a higher tax bracket.  Others of them live on fixed retirement incomes that dwindle with every passing month and they don’t know how they’ll pay their bills if they live another five years.  And the Republican answer to getting their votes is to call them freeloaders.  Yes, there are real, true freeloaders out there -- but it’s not 47% of the American population.  Not even close.  Can my far-right friends not honestly see how you’re alienating a huge segment of the population with your rhetoric and actions?  Would you honestly want to trade places with a single mom who works two jobs and makes only $24,000 per year?
Every survey shows that minority voter numbers are increasing while white voter numbers are decreasing.  Yet the far-right outlier solution is even more alienation of these minority voters.  Yes, sure, you can say the African-American church crowd supports your position on homosexuality.  But they, just like all Americans, are changing as their younger population grows and their older population dies.  They’re changing on all sorts of your hot-button social issues -- abortion, gay marriage, contraception, everything.  You are hemorrhaging voters as old, angry white guys die and are replaced in the population by young, hip people of all racial and ethnic varieties.  What are you going to do about it?
The majority of religious people of all faiths believe in tolerance and diversity.  Your leaders regularly tell people like me that we’re going to hell, or that we believe lies from hell, or that we are Satan’s agents or are voting for Satan’s agents, or whatever.  Do you really, honest-to-God (pun fully intended) see that as a wise strategy for winning votes?
I could give a lot more examples, but I’ll stop now.  The point is, the only people who are being fooled by the far-right media machine centered at Fox News is yourselves.  Sure, Fox has more viewers than any other single news network.  But the others combined have far more viewers, far more readers, far more followers.  Why?  Because, overall, people know that the majority in the middle is where truth is more likely to live.  And now, you have centrist Republicans and folks on the left telling you that you’ll have to move your party to the center or risk becoming irrelevant.  And what is the far-right response?  Well, those folks described above, the ones who ignore the majority, middle data and insist on believing the outliers, are telling you to become even more extreme, even more far-right.  Really?  Do you honestly, really believe what they’re telling you?  Look at your slate of presidential candidates back in January.  Except for Huntsman, all were right of Romney, most of them far-right.  Do you honest-to-banana-pudding really believe any of them could’ve beaten Obama?  They all ticked off even their supporters by doing and saying things that made them look and sound unelectable.  And others who might have had a chance -- Rubio, Christie, Barbour, Jindal -- refused to run because (among other reasons) they knew they weren’t far-right enough to win.  Romney had to tack to the far right to win the primary, and by the time the general election came around, his attempt to tack back center (especially effective in the first debate) was a disaster because it made centrists see him as the kind of guy who would say anything to get a vote.  And you think a farther-right candidate would’ve won?  Yes, such a candidate might have galvanized far-right voters to turn out in larger numbers.  But you would’ve lost all of the middle voters Romney won.  And that’s a far, far larger number.  Don’t believe me?  Look it up yourself.  Look up numbers of people who call themselves Republicans versus people who call themselves independent.  And then remember that not all who call themselves Republicans are far-right politically.  You don’t have the votes, my friends -- and the ones you have are, overall, aging and dying off.  What you do have is loud shouting and a TV network and talk radio circuit and blogosphere on your side.  Well, that was enough for a while.  But the center and left have responded, and with their coalition, there is no way you can win by going farther right.
I remember when, in 1992 in California, I first campaigned door-to-door for a Republican.  I voted for him too.  He was a great friend of public schools and a believer in leaving his personal beliefs out of my personal life.  I continued that trend in 1994, and then again after I moved to Idaho in 1996.  This past election, I couldn’t find a single Republican I could vote for -- even ones who I’d voted for in the past.  They’d all moved so far right, I couldn’t vote for them.  There are lots of others like me out there.  It’s not too late to win us back.  I left the straight-ticket Democrat fold for many reasons, but it was largely because of disillusionment with their economic policies, especially items related to pension reform, entitlement reform, Social Security/Medicare reform, and other related subjects.  I wish I could say the Republicans are offering me a better choice.  So do many of us.  But the Republican obsession with believing outliers, even in economic matters, leaves me little choice.
Fix that outlier problem and start listening to reason, and you might see some of us come back.

To my friends on the far right:


I know you’re disappointed (and some of you are angry and bitter) after last week’s election.  Please don’t mistake this to be a gloat note.  As I’ve said many times publicly, I am not an Obama fan and didn’t vote for him in 2008.  (Left my presidential ballot blank and voted on the other races, if you must know.)

 

Rather, this is a plea from someone who has spent most of the past 18 years or so voting for both Republicans and Democrats, until recently -- when the Republicans left me behind and gave me no options.  I’m asking you to fix your freakin’ political party.  If you don’t, you risk irrelevance.

 

Those of you who’ve known me since college know I was once a left-wing Democrat.  But those who’ve known me since the mid-90’s know I became more of a centrist long ago.  My first CD is titled “Live From Left Of Center”, after all -- not far-left, but left of center.  In California (lived there 1990-96), I discovered Republicans who I could not only vote for but even campaign door-to-door for.  That continued when I moved to Idaho in 1996.  These were people who were moderate on education and environment issues and who believed the government, within reason, had no business being in anyone’s private life.  I’m betting I’ve knocked on more doors on behalf of Republican candidates than most of you have in your entire lives.  In 2006 I even wrote it down so I’d remember: I voted for 11 Democrats and 7 Republicans on my Idaho ballot.  To be sure, in a few of those races there was no Democrat opposition.  But it’s also true that, in a few of those races, I didn’t vote at all because I didn’t agree with the positions of the single (Republican) candidate.

 

That was when it started for me.  That was when the Republican Party started leaving those of us in the middle.  And it wasn’t just us left-of-center folks who got dumped.  It was centrists of all stripes.  And, my Republican-voting friends, you have a problem here.  Your party is shedding centrist voters with your far-right ideology and far-right candidates who say things that scare away centrists.  Not just left-of-centrists either.  But the bigger problem is that many in your leadership don’t even see the problem.  They’re believing anything they can latch on to EXCEPT the problem.

 

Which gets us to the biggest, overarching problem, my friends.  Remember, I’m trying to help.  I want you to nominate candidates I can vote for.  But do you know what your problem is?  It can be said easiest in one short sentence:

 

You believe the outliers.

 

What does that mean?  Well, have you ever taken a class in statistics?  Outliers (not liars, mind you) are, to put it simply for the sake of brevity, statistical abnormalities.  They’re those statistical results that lie at the far edges of the sample.  Like, if you’re a teacher and 22 of your 24 students score between 50 and 92 on a test, but one kid scores a 12 and another kid scores a 110 with the bonus points, the 12 and the 110 are outliers.  (Well, actually nowadays, having only 24 kids in a public school classroom is also an outlier.  But that’s another subject for another time.)  And you believe those outliers fervently and you and Republican leaders promote them and watch only those news outlets that promote them and ignore -- even deride -- any news outlets that promote the statistical middle ground, where the truth almost always lives.

 

Proof?  Good grief, did you watch the election results Tuesday November 6?  More important, did you read the polls and listen to the pundits before that?  Conservative pundits were nearly unanimous in saying Romney was going to win.  I really, truly thought they were just cheering the team on, just like everyone does in every election, no matter how bad the polls look.  I mean, for goodness sake, Walter Mondale confidently predicted a surprise victory on election eve in 1984, then proceeded to lose 49 of 50 states and get barely 40% of the popular vote.  He lost the electoral college 525-13.  But he knew he was going to lose.  Everyone knew he was going to lose.  Most liberals were even pretty sure in 2004 that John Kerry was going to lose, but they kept predicting victory just to cheer the team on.

 

But with Romney’s supporters, it was different.  Most of you really, honest-to-God thought you were going to win because the conservative media machine you listen to (to the exclusion of all other media outlets) told you they were going to win.  Rush Limbaugh even said, “Everything except the polls points to a Romney landslide.”  Did you see that last word?  Not just victory, but “landslide”, for crying out loud.  My friends, that’s the equivalent of saying everything except math points to two plus two equaling five hundred.  And Limbaugh was far from alone -- every single conservative pundit said Romney would win despite what the polls said.  And many of them were in all-but shock mode afterward.  Criminy -- did you see Matalin?  She was embarrassingly childish.  Did you see Rove?  He made a fool of himself on national television.

 

And here we get to the heart of the matter: “despite what the polls said.”  Huffington Post tracks 12 polls and averages their results.  There are two that lean Republican and two that lean Democrat, but the other eight are middle-of-the-road polls.  So the averaging should work.  Nate Silver did the same thing.  Yet one Republican after another savaged the HuffPost and Silver and all the middle-of-the-road polls.  Why?  Pardon the caps, but this needs to be emphasized: BECAUSE EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THOSE POLLS POINTED TO AN OBAMA VICTORY JUST LIKE THE ONE HE GOT.  And so did the average of the 12 polls.  But instead of believing that, the Fox Republican Media Machine chose to believe the outliers.  And because of that, most Republican voters did too.  In other words, the middle-of-the-road polls were right on target, just like they almost always are.  And the far-right polls -- like Rasmussen -- were not just wrong, they were way wrong.  The only swing state Romney picked up was North Carolina -- which, by the way, was the exact, precise prediction of Huffington Post’s average of polls, plus or minus the uncertainty of Florida.

 

So why am I bringing up outliers as a big part of the Republican problem?  Because polls are only a small part of that problem.  Think about it:

 

Depending on which surveys you believe, somewhere between 95% and 98% of climate scientists worldwide believe global warming is happening and mankind is the largest contributor to it.  But the official Republican position is to listen to those outliers.

 

Over 99% of scientists with degrees in relevant fields believe evolution happened and that humans evolved from other, earlier species.  But the official Republican position is to listen to those outliers, even when most of those outliers aren’t even real scientists.

 

Almost every economist believes that tax increases will have to be a part of any real economic solution.  The presidents who decreased taxes (Reagan, Bush II, Obama) saw huge deficit increases.  The presidents who increased taxes (Bush I, Clinton) eventually saw deficit reduction.  Of course, there is much, much more to both arguments.  But the fact remains that most economists believe tax increases must be on the table.  We have a country to pay for and we’re trying to do it with lower taxes than ever, and then we want to keep making them lower.  But the official Republican position is to listen to the outlier economists.  Even when these are the guys whose philosophy of doing things like cutting taxes drastically while going to war in two different countries is a large part of what got us into this mess.

 

Every single honest representation of this 47% who supposedly don’t pay taxes, shows that most of them are either retired elderly or working poor.  Yet the official Republican outlier position is to call them freeloaders.  They pay payroll taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, gas taxes, all sorts of taxes.  Many of them work two dead-end jobs to make ends meet and still don’t have enough income to fall into a higher tax bracket.  Others of them live on fixed retirement incomes that dwindle with every passing month and they don’t know how they’ll pay their bills if they live another five years.  And the Republican answer to getting their votes is to call them freeloaders.  Yes, there are real, true freeloaders out there -- but it’s not 47% of the American population.  Not even close.  Can my far-right friends not honestly see how you’re alienating a huge segment of the population with your rhetoric and actions?  Would you honestly want to trade places with a single mom who works two jobs and makes only $24,000 per year?

 

Every survey shows that minority voter numbers are increasing while white voter numbers are decreasing.  Yet the far-right outlier solution is even more alienation of these minority voters.  Yes, sure, you can say the African-American church crowd supports your position on homosexuality.  But they, just like all Americans, are changing as their younger population grows and their older population dies.  They’re changing on all sorts of your hot-button social issues -- abortion, gay marriage, contraception, everything.  You are hemorrhaging voters as old, angry white guys die and are replaced in the population by young, hip people of all racial and ethnic varieties.  What are you going to do about it?

 

The majority of religious people of all faiths believe in tolerance and diversity.  Your leaders regularly tell people like me that we’re going to hell, or that we believe lies from hell, or that we are Satan’s agents or are voting for Satan’s agents, or whatever.  Do you really, honest-to-God (pun fully intended) see that as a wise strategy for winning votes?

 

I could give a lot more examples, but I’ll stop now.  The point is, the only people who are being fooled by the far-right media machine centered at Fox News are yourselves.  Sure, Fox has more viewers than any other single news network.  But the others combined have far more viewers, far more readers, far more followers.  Why?  Because, overall, people know that the majority in the middle is where truth is more likely to live.  And now, you have centrist Republicans and folks on the left telling you that you’ll have to move your party to the center or risk becoming irrelevant.  And what is the far-right response?  Well, those folks described above, the ones who ignore the majority, middle data and insist on believing the outliers, are telling you to become even more extreme, even more far-right.  Really?  Do you honestly, really believe what they’re telling you?  Look at your slate of presidential candidates back in January.  Except for Huntsman, all were right of Romney, most of them far-right.  Do you honest-to-banana-pudding really believe any of them could’ve beaten Obama?  They all ticked off even their supporters by doing and saying things that made them look and sound unelectable.  And others who might have had a chance -- Rubio, Christie, Barbour, Jindal -- refused to run because (among other reasons) they knew they weren’t far-right enough to win the primary.  Romney had to tack to the far right to win the primary, and by the time the general election came around, his attempt to tack back center (especially effective in the first debate) was a disaster because it made centrists see him as the kind of guy who would say anything to get a vote.  And you think a farther-right candidate would’ve won?  Yes, such a candidate might have galvanized far-right voters to turn out in larger numbers.  But you would’ve lost all of the middle voters Romney won.  And that’s a far, far larger number.  Don’t believe me?  Look it up yourself.  Look up numbers of people who call themselves Republicans versus people who call themselves independent.  And then remember that not all who call themselves Republicans are far-right politically.  You don’t have the votes, my friends -- and the ones you have are, overall, aging and dying off.  What you do have is loud shouting and a TV network and talk radio circuit and blogosphere on your side.  Well, that was enough for a while.  But the center and left have responded, and with their coalition, there is no way you can win by going farther right.

 

I remember when, in 1992 in California, I first campaigned door-to-door for a Republican.  I voted for him too.  He was a great friend of public schools and a believer in leaving his personal beliefs out of my personal life.  I continued that trend in 1994, and then again after I moved to Idaho in 1996.  This past election, I couldn’t find a single Republican I could vote for -- even ones who I’d voted for in the past.  They’d all moved so far right, I couldn’t vote for them.  There are lots of others like me out there.  It’s not too late to win us back.  I left the straight-ticket Democrat fold for many reasons, but it was largely because of disillusionment with their economic policies, especially items related to pension reform, entitlement reform, Social Security/Medicare reform, and other related subjects.  I wish I could say the Republicans are offering me a better choice.  So do many of us.  But the Republican obsession with believing outliers, even in economic matters, leaves me little choice.

 

Fix that outlier problem and start listening to reason, and you might see some of us come back.