Wang on Gerrymandering

Sam Wang’s doing some interesting research on Gerrymandering and his first result is – surprise – Republicans are much better at it.

Wang was also named Best Election Modeler by Ezra Klein’s Wonkbook. It’s a well-deserved award. Nate Silver got all the press, but Wang did just as well or better, depending on how you score it. I also like his to-the-point, no-drama approach.

80 replies
  1. 1
    shortstop says:

    I had a dream the other night that it was 2017 and Wang was president. Now, I don’t believe during daylight hours that we should elect poll aggregators and modelers president (at least not without prior experience in political office), but it was a reflection of my high admiration for the Sam.

  2. 2
    Comrade Jake says:

    The upshot: don’t expect a Dem-controlled house anytime soon, regardless of the level of Republican intransigence. We are fucked for a very, very long time.

  3. 3
    peach flavored shampoo says:

    Sam Wang is a great pr0n name.

  4. 4
    Amir Khalid says:

    @peach flavored shampoo:
    Back in the 1980s there was an American computer maker called Wang. They’re long gone now.

  5. 5
    Face says:

    @Comrade Jake: Which means making a lot of impeachment hearings popcorn.

  6. 6

    OT but Jon Huntsman gave an interview to the Telegraph, and he minces no words. Calls GOP “leaderless,” “devoid of a soul,” and says Republicans are going to have to accept gay marriage.

  7. 7
    Corner Stone says:

    Florida?! But that’s America’s wang!

  8. 8
    Raven says:

    Hey Wang!

    Don’t tell em your Jewish!

  9. 9
    Corner Stone says:

    @peach flavored shampoo: I think we can agree that Sam Hung is an even better one.
    And he has the cheesy facial hair to go with it.

  10. 10
  11. 11
    monkeyfister says:

    It would be nice if the Democratic Party took the “Census-Year Elections” more seriously.

    The Party that wins those years gets to gerrymander at will. The Democratic Party seems to not care that much, and they seem to be genuinely confused when they lose in those freshly gerrymandered “safe” Republican Districts. Michele Bachmann is the poster child for this.

  12. 12
    Corner Stone says:

    Is there any situation where adding the word “wang” in there somewhere doesn’t make it better?

  13. 13
    cmorenc says:

    A key development is that the state of GIS (geographic information systems) database and mapping software has grown much more sophisticated over the decade from 2000 to 2010, the decentennial dates following which redistricting is usually done. In North Carolina, the GOP recently used this to VERY finely sift voting registration patterns right down to the street level, to the point where many individual voting precincts got split across different state house, state senate, or federal congressional districts. It’s not that the GOP is any inherently better at gerrymandering, but rather that following 2010 they had the opportunity, technology, and willingness to do a much more aggressively fine-tuned job of jerrymandering than was ever so easily possible before.

  14. 14
  15. 15
    Schlemizel says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Wang may be gone but I bet the company is still around. Back in the 90’s they bought a small 8a firm I had worked for earlier. The CEO was the wife of one of Ross Perot’s executives. I think they saw the success Perot had at bleeding the Federal gov & wanted a piece for themselves. When Ross & friends were tossed from GM the husband at 2 other blue suit/red tie assholes showed up to “help” run the company. They got a bunch of government contract.

    Can’t imagine there has ever been one of the parasites that has been detached from the teat once they are latched on.

  16. 16
    Regnad Kcin says:

    @Amir Khalid: and who *wasn’t* embarrassed to have to admit they were running a Wang Mini back then?

  17. 17
    Maude says:

    Parasites always find a host.

  18. 18
    Jeremy says:

    @monkeyfister: You can’t blame Democrats or Obama for 2010. Obama told the voters and those on the left who love to attack and complain about Obama not to give the keys back to the republicans. He campaigned hard for many democrats, and others were saying the same thing Obama said. But the professional left said that we have to teach Obama and the democrats a lesson and they told Americans not to vote because things were not perfect.

    So don’t blame them blame the American voters who voted for the clowns and those that stayed home and said there is no difference between the two parties.

  19. 19
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The teahadists will not be happy, ever, even after open civil war breaks out.

    If they refuse to crawl back under the rocks from whence they came, they will have to be put down, at a horrible, unthinkable cost.

  20. 20
    👽 Martin says:

    Republicans are much better at it.

    No shit. It’s deeply antidemocratic.

  21. 21
    Corner Stone says:


    But the professional left said that we have to teach Obama and the democrats a lesson and they told Americans not to vote because things were not perfect.


  22. 22
    Comrade Mary says:

    @Corner Stone: Sam? But that’s NumberWang!

  23. 23
    Paul says:

    @Comrade Jake:

    The upshot: don’t expect a Dem-controlled house anytime soon, regardless of the level of Republican intransigence. We are fucked for a very, very long time.

    Indeed. At least until the election of 2022, since the next redistricting will take place in 2020. That is, if the lazy Democrats who didn’t show up in 2010 can be bothered to show up in 2020 (these are the same folks who complain that Obama is negotiating with the GOP House). It is a presidential election that year, so there’s hope…

  24. 24
    Citizen_X says:

    @Corner Stone: “That looks just like an enormous…”

    “Wang! Pay attention!”

    “I was distracted! By that enormous, flying…”

    “Willie! What’s that?”

    Yes, I’m at a permanent 6th-Grade level.

  25. 25
    Mary G says:

    O/T and I am sure I will be mercilessly mocked, but can anyone recommend a good e-mail reading program? I used and swore at Outlook for years and now it is discontinued and Windows LiveMail is driving me insane.

  26. 26
    mapaghimagsik says:

    @Comrade Mary: yes, but 37 isn’t numberwang.

    I love me some Mitchell and Webb Look

  27. 27
    Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin) says:

    Gerrymandering didn’t happen overnight. It’s a long-term problem.

    Let’s focus on what we can control; the quality of Dems.

    Start with a primary on the likes of Boxer/FISAstein.

    Rope-a-dope and sting the oppos with a hive-attack.

  28. 28
    comrade scott's agenda of rage says:


    It would be nice if the Democratic Party took the “Census-Year State and Local Elections” more seriously.


    Wang might look at the nuts and bolts of gerrymandering but overlooks the obvious: the party needs to control the main instrument of inacting gerrymanders, ie., state legislatures.

    And if there’s one thing nationally the Dems still suck hind tit at, it’s this. Dean had it right with his 50-State strategy which, sadly, the Party cast aside 1 second after he left his post.

    We will pay this price for a loooooooong, time. Maybe over the next 7 years the national party will get its shit together and work on this but I kinda doubt it.

  29. 29
    👽 Martin says:


    Indeed. At least until the election of 2022, since the next redistricting will take place in 2020.

    The Constitution says that redistricting has to happen at least once every 10 years. Legislators can redistrict whenever they feel like it. The problem is that it’s unusual for state legislatures to switch parties right after redistricting.

  30. 30
  31. 31
    👽 Martin says:

    @Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin):

    Start with a primary on the likes of Boxer/FISAstein


    Because California has Dems from top to bottom, a supermajority in the legislature, gained seats in Congress even in 2010 – we should yank the party so far to the left that we lose all of it.

    Primarying Boxer is lunacy. Feinstein will almost certainly retire in 2018 – she’ll be 85.

  32. 32
    Mnemosyne says:


    I’m happy to blame the Blue Dogs in the House who decided they should run away from PPACA and say that they were going to oppose everything Obama wanted to do. Cowardly House Democrats shot themselves in the foot and the rest of us are paying the price now.

  33. 33
    Corner Stone says:

    @Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin):

    Start with a primary on the likes of Boxer/FISAstein.

    Are you crazy? DiFi is the best Democrat you could get elected to the Senate in a hard red state like California.

  34. 34
    WereBear says:

    @Mary G: I have only sympathy to offer… the office is switching over to Macs and I’m still at a previous Windows version.

    However, this type of horror is why I use a web-based system, (Gmail) and have it import all my accounts. It’s accessible from anywhere.

  35. 35
    Roger Moore says:

    @👽 Martin:

    The problem is that it’s unusual for state legislatures to switch parties right after redistricting.

    Especially when the legislature has just gerrymandered itself just as thoroughly as it gerrymandered the Congressional districts. And, of course, that gerrymandered state legislature is the one that will be doing the redistricting after the next census. IMO, the best option is for states with some kind of initiative system to try to get a non-partisan redistricting system on the ballot.

  36. 36
    Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin) says:

    @Corner Stone:

    She has SF Bay barnacles on her ass, and needs to have her hull scraped.

  37. 37
    Roger Moore says:

    @👽 Martin:

    Primarying Boxer is lunacy inevitable.

    FTFY. The new jungle primary system means she’s going to face some Democratic challengers in the primary no matter what. If we wind up with a bunch of Republican non-entities the same way we did for Feinstein, it would be great if more liberal Democrats could get together to back a Democrat on Boxer’s left, so the choice wound up being between Boxer and another Democrat.

  38. 38
    Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin) says:

    @👽 Martin:

    we should yank the party so far to the left that we lose all of it.

    Holy shite. This type of thinking needs a good gerrymander.

  39. 39
    Maude says:

    @Comrade Mary:
    Thunderbird is not being developed anymore. It was good.
    I use Yahoo mail because it’s easy.

  40. 40
    lol says:

    @comrade scott’s agenda of rage:

    The 50 State Strategy, as it was being implemented by Dean, deserved to be cast aside. Everyone in the blogosphere who gets swept up in nostalgia for it apparently has no idea what it was in practice.

    All Dean did was throw some money at the state parties to hire 2-3 staffers. No plan, no coordination, no accountability. Some state parties hired good people, others hired idiot hacks. It had jack shit to do with the successes in 2006 and 2008 and it’s delusional to think it would’ve stopped 2010 from happening.

    The DNC in 2009 scrapped the program and hired (far more) people themselves for specific roles and held them accountable to specific goals. It’s an improvement over the 50SS by every measure possible.

    You need to fix your dysfunctional state party. The DNC can’t swoop in and replace it for you.

  41. 41
    Roger Moore says:

    @Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin):

    This type of thinking needs a good gerrymander.

    No longer possible in California, since we just moved to a non-partisan redistricting commission instead of letting the Legislature do it. Not to mention that gerrymandering is never an option for US Senate.

  42. 42
    jayackroyd says:

    I’ll be talking to Sam on Thursday, 9pm.

    You can call in!

  43. 43
    Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin) says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Salient point, taken. But I was speaking of the general drift of box-like thinking.

  44. 44
    Joel says:

    Certainty is difficult to assess, even after the fact, except when you’re discussing different degrees of certainty about the same outcome. Wang and Silver both predicted (basically) the same outcome, but Wang’s model was much more certain about it. And since that exact outcome came to pass, he deserves a lot of credit.

  45. 45
    Peregrinus says:


    This is where I put the blame. You can’t blame Obama – he argued, and argued well, I think, that it made no sense to hand the keys back to the GOP.

    Democratic turnout in 2010 wasn’t noticeably lower, from what I’ve understood, than it was in 2006. Independents, though, broke pretty hard for Republicans. Combine that with an older and whiter electorate, the rise of the Tea Party, and a blah Democratic President, and it isn’t surprising that the GOP made huge pick-ups.

    My perspective (from Upstate New York and having lived in the contiguous US only five years) is that a lot of ’10 pick-ups, especially those from ’06 Dems, can be laid at the feet of indeps who wanted to reward “tough talk” like “shared sacrifice” (read: fuck the poor) and similar “adult” policy ideas. Quite a few people around here, I think, are your classic Republican-in-independent-clothing swing voter: they liked Clinton and voted for him because they thought he was one of their own but gave them bipartisan cred. (Never mind that Clinton got up at the DNC and told them exactly what to vote for.) But Obama’s a bridge too far because he doesn’t suck up to Republicans or their ideas enough.

    Every time I feel like I’m about to subscribe to the “weak negotiator” meme, I listen to what coworkers and others tell me about Obama and about the halcyon days of Clinton and Gingrich, and I don’t feel like it anymore.

  46. 46
    Corner Stone says:


    Thunderbird is not being developed anymore. It was good.

    What are you talking about? I can find it at most corner convenience stores around here.
    It’s delicious.

  47. 47
    Roger Moore says:

    Basically, Wang believed that the polls were basically correct, while Silver included a meaningful probability that they were systematically biased. I think this really represents Silver hedging his bets, since there doesn’t seem to be any historical justification for expecting the polls to show the kind of systematic bias he was including in his analysis.

  48. 48
    eemom says:

    There are ominous rumors about regarding cliff negotiations.

    Plz may it not be so. kthxbai.

  49. 49
    eemom says:

    oops, was trying to link Krugman. He’s flipping out, sorta.

  50. 50
    Peregrinus says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Back in the days when he wasn’t at the NYT, Nate Silver was given to some pretty Villager-esque policy interpretations on health care and education. (FWIW, I don’t think he’s a Villager in his heart of hearts. His brain tends that way every so often, though.) It wouldn’t surprise me if every once in a while he hedged his bets that-a-way.


    The last article I saw looked decent as far as I know. What have you been hearing?

  51. 51
    Yutsano says:

    @eemom: Maybe he’s using the same sources Ezra is. And again I’d love to see the good professor’s plan to get this past the House of Krazy.

  52. 52
    Corner Stone says:

    @eemom: What can be proposed that you will absolutely not accept?

  53. 53
    Roger Moore says:


    Thunderbird is not being developed anymore.

    Yes, it is. It’s currently at Version 17, same as Firefox. They may not be adding a lot of new features, but it’s still being developed in the sense that the existing product is being changed and having its bugs fixed.

  54. 54
    Origuy says:

    @Maude: Version 17 of Thunderbird was released in November. Where do you see that it’s no longer being developed?

    Edit: I see there’s some discussion about Mozilla ending development. Still, what’s there works fine.

  55. 55
    Maude says:

    @Roger Moore:
    So, people can use it? That is wonderful.
    I was misinformed.
    Thank you.

  56. 56
    Machine-Gun Preacher (formerly Ben Franklin) says:

    At least the unemployed will get their checks for another year, right?

    Victory !!

  57. 57
  58. 58
    Maude says:

    I read it about a month ago at a usually reliable site for tech. In fact, I recall reading it on more than one. I wonder what made them say it was going out. Now, I know. Thanks.
    I like it. It’s a good program.

  59. 59
    jayackroyd says:

    @Roger Moore: It’s amusing that hedging his bets cost Nate, while Sam operated with complete transparency and was rewarded.

  60. 60
    MikeS says:

    @Maude: There was a Nov. 2012 release of Mozilla Thunderbird. I switched to that from outlook last spring when i got a new PC and used 3rd party software to back up all of my outlook stuff that outlook couldn’t do anymore (I just got a MAPI error) on the old PC to move it. If you are staying on the same computer just follow these directions after you download and install (Free!) Thunderbird.

    Thunderbird isn’t perfect but it works fine for me.

  61. 61
    Peregrinus says:


    From that link:

    Those cuts had been set as a last-ditch trigger after a previous deficit-reduction effort failed. Lawmakers had hoped the severity of the reductions that slice across defense and domestic accounts would spur negotiations for a broader budget deal.

    I’m pretty sure the GOP knew damn well a “broader budget deal” wouldn’t be reached. They knew defense spending wouldn’t dominate the media talk if they failed to reach a deal.

  62. 62
    Maude says:

    and Roger Moore
    zdnet and TechCrunch have it.
    I was sure my sources were okay and so I went and checked.

  63. 63
    Maude says:

    I can use Yahoo. I used to use Thunderbird when I did tech.

  64. 64
    Mnemosyne says:


    I dunno, it doesn’t seem that awful to me, even if it is a compromise:

    The agreement would set the top tax rates at 39.6% for income above $450,000 for households and $400,000 for singles, which is a narrower definition of who is wealthy than Obama once sought, according to a source who was not authorized to discuss the negotiations. The president won reelection campaigning on asking those who earn above $250,000 to contribute more in taxes.

    Investment income tax rates would also rise for those higher-income households, from the historic low 15% rate on capital gains and dividends to a new 20% rate. The president had sought to tax dividends at the same rate as ordinary income.

    The estate tax, which has been a key sticking point throughout the weekend of negotiations, appears to have been settled. The agreement cuts the difference, setting the new rate at 40% on estates valued at more than $5 million – a compromise between today’s 35% rate and the 45% rate Democrats sought on estates of $3.5 million or more.

    One area that hewed closer to Democratic priorities was the income level for phasing out deductions on upper income households, which would be set at $250,000.

    Can anyone tell me what the poison pill is here that I’m not seeing? I mean other than, “Obama betrayed us because he didn’t stick to his guns on $250K!”

  65. 65
    Comrade Mary says:

    @Maude: It is SO extremely weird that you reference me when talking about Thunderbird because even though I haven’t posted anything to this thread about it, I was thinking about it.

  66. 66
    Maude says:

    Yeah, that’s it.

  67. 67
    Or something like that.Suffern Ace says:

    @Mnemosyne: we detest upper middle class schmucks even more than the power of our foolish oligarchs! We need to die on that upper schmuck hill. It’s the only thing we wanted!

  68. 68
    Peregrinus says:


    That’s my question, too. I’m not seeing the downside here, especially if the next Dem Congress can pick up this ball and run with it.

  69. 69
    Hill Dweller says:

    @Mnemosyne: A lot of people I trust(Sargent, Boehlert, Scheiber, etc.) are on Twitter saying the wingnuts are enraged about Obama’s statement. The children are threatening to scuttle the entire deal simply because he went on TV.

  70. 70
    Mnemosyne says:

    @Hill Dweller:

    Gosh, you mean Obama accidentally scuttled his own deal again by getting the wingnuts stirred up against it? This is, what, the fourth or fifth time that’s happened, and every time it’s been a complete coincidence due only to Obama’s own incompetence?

    Gosh, it’s too bad Obama never has a strategy for dealing with the wingnuts or is ever able to use their own idiocy against them.

    (Ow. I think I strained something by loading that much sarcasm into three sentences.)

  71. 71
    waratah says:

    @Hill Dweller: I think they were upset because Obama smiled.

  72. 72
    eemom says:

    I dunno. I am not a wonk on the matter, but what do you people say to the point that he didn’t need to make these concessions??

    eta: OTOH, as Yutsy noted above, the thing may be doomed in the House of Tards anyway… which case, O wins another eleventy dimensional checkmate, I guess.

  73. 73
    Mnemosyne says:


    I am not a wonk on the matter, but what do you people say to the point that he didn’t need to make these concessions??

    I would say that, since those people were not in the room, they’re not really in a position to decide that no concessions were needed.

    Also that “take it or leave it” is not actually a negotiating strategy.

  74. 74
    lol says:

    If only Obama would use the bully pulpit and go on TV to make his case before a national audience, the House GOP would be shamed into adopting his position.

  75. 75
    Corner Stone says:


    If only Obama would use the bully pulpit and go on TV to make his case before a national audience, the House GOP would be shamed into adopting his position.

    Agreed. I’d like to see that approach as well.

  76. 76
    cmorenc says:

    @peach flavored shampoo:

    Sam Wang is a great pr0n name.

    He should be grateful his parents didn’t name him Hong Wang instead of Sam.

  77. 77
    jayackroyd says:

    @Mnemosyne: ultimatums are certainly a negotiating strategy.

  78. 78
    jayackroyd says:

    @Hill Dweller: sure the Conservatives are in a terrible political position. they are advocating policies that are both bad public policy and deeply on popular they don’t want Obama on TV the thing is Obama doesn’t seem to want to be on TV either because he has all the aces.

  79. 79
    Maude says:

    I thought he was on TV today.

  80. 80
    lol says:


    He needed to be on TV harder.

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