Wake Up, Sheeple!

The Gay Wizard of Big Data, Nate Silver, has a cool interactive map where you can dial in your prejudices preferences to figure out when each state will “tip” over to the Democrats or the Republicans as the great brown tidal wave of anchor babies is naturalized. That’s cool, and feel free to twiddle with it as much as you’d like, but any liberal/progressive who wants to get something done in the next decade is a fucking idiot if they think that map tells them much.

The Presidency is important, but it’s the state legislatures, the rural Senate, and the gerrymandered House districts that are kicking our asses. And I predict that we won’t get much help from “big data” or whatever the latest buzzword for “putting stuff in a database and pumping it out with pretty graphs and maps” because that problem is what we trained Computer Scientists call “hard”. It requires a lot of what the kids are calling “time” and “effort”, and the underlying data is not available in an Excel spreadsheet for easy download and manipulation. The map I want to see isn’t one showing me how the browns are going to vote for President, it’s what needs to change in Congress to close Gitmo or pass gun safety legislation.

If the last five years have shown us anything, it’s that a determined minority rules this country, not a majority, and having the Presidency is a necessary but by no means sufficient condition for passing one’s agenda. Yet the amount of time spent on Presidential reporting by the political press dwarfs all else. The explanation is simple, and it’s the same reason that local papers publish the police blotter: it’s a good way to fill space with easy-to-find information.

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63 replies
  1. 1
    Elizabelle says:

    Technically, “anchor babies” don’t need to be naturalized. They are U.S. citizens at birth.

    It’s their parents, or others who arrived outside the formal channels.

    ALSO: I think that removing politics as much as possible from gerrymandering — as they’re trying in California — is a huge reform that’s got to come soon.

    Even having two Republicans or two Democrats competing in the election might be more representative.

    Anything to reduce the ideological extremists beholden to very few for their power base.

  2. 2
    Ivan X says:

    “The explanation is simple, and it’s the same reason that local papers publish the police blotter: it’s a good way to fill space with easy-to-find information.”

    Isn’t that what bloggers trying to sate the appetites of their when’s-the-next-post readers also do?

  3. 3
    mistermix says:

    @Ivan X: Yep, that’s how I make the fat stacks John pays me.

  4. 4
    Patricia Kayden says:

    “having the Presidency is a necessary but by no means sufficient condition for passing one’s agenda.”

    We needed a breather after Shrub, so while President Obama may not get much done in the next 4 years, at least we don’t have Romneybot causing a ruckus. Perhaps the Dems will pick up some more House and Senate seats in 2016 so President Obama is not a lame duck for his last 2 years in office.

  5. 5
    LittlePig says:

    I know I get sick of the ‘Why doesn’t the President compel Congress to do x?”, like those dips at the presser yesterday. Gee, because he can’t? Lots of frustrated monarchists out there on both sides.

    And the “thwarted by Congress” I heard no less than three times in three separate instances on NPR News yesterday. ARRGH! “thwarted by REPUBLICANS in Congress”. It’s a fact, so I don’t get the milquetoastiness of that one.

  6. 6
    Gex says:

    That and the Presidency is now a cult of personality spot. It isn’t just the firebaggers who can’t remember who exactly writes legislation.

    Every goddamn libertarian 30-something year old white guy thinks electing Johnson instead of Obama or Romney will change our usage of drones. That there isn’t a constituency for that isn’t the problem. The fact that Congress isn’t going to do it’s job isn’t the problem. The problem is that one guy who can capriciously decide whether he wants to use them or not isn’t deciding the way they like. They don’t want to address the fact that the President *can* decide this in the first place.

    The problem is that far too many Americans see the Presidency through this lens. These people are complete idiots who think changing ONE PERSON is how you change the entire system. That is thinking for people who love dictatorships.

  7. 7
    Elizabelle says:

    @LittlePig:

    Yeah, they won’t lie the accountability where it belongs.

    If there are 58 GOP and 3 Democrats voting against something — it’s the Democrats!! Obama can’t even control his own party.

    “Thwarted by Republicans in Congress.”

    There there. Not that hard.

    Next up: “Thwarted by Republicans in Congress who filibustered the legislation.”

  8. 8
    Randy P says:

    I hope your reference to Computer Science doesn’t mean you think it’s NP hard which would take the lifetime of the universe to fix.

    But I agree it’s not simply proportional to the demographic numbers since the system is rigged.

  9. 9
    RSA says:

    that problem is what we trained Computer Scientists call “hard”

    We trained computer scientists are often more verbose; we might say, “This problem is at least as hard as the hardest problem in politics.” :-)

  10. 10
    peach flavored shampoo says:

    Once the USSC shivs the VRA, all bets are off. Southern states will eviscerate any voting opps by the coloreds and the poor. Voting will be only for those holding gun permits and Lincoln Navigators.

  11. 11
    RaflW says:

    the amount of time spent on Presidential reporting by the political press dwarfs all else. The explanation is simple… it’s a good way to fill space with easy-to-find information.

    Well, yes. But more than that, a nation with a severe daddy complex wants one person to either idolize or blame. Even four people (Boehner, Pelosi, Reid, McConnel) gets awfully complex for our moronic citizenry and it’s obligingly dumb press.

  12. 12
    Schlemizel says:

    The trick is, as it has always been, to get people to understand that the off-year elections are at least as important as the Presidential years.

    It will be 2021 before we can undo the real damage of Republican gerrymandering, until then we have to accept that even with a million more congressional votes than the GOP got we are in the minority in the House. That and that 20% of the population controls the Senate because third world wannbe states send GOP Senators any one of which can toss a monkey wrench into the works & 40 of them can stop everything.

    We really need to double down on the GOtV in ’14 and at least slow the drain if not revers it

  13. 13
    mistermix says:

    @RSA: Are you Rivest, Shamir or Adleman?

  14. 14
    RaflW says:

    @Elizabelle:

    I’m still waiting for “Thwarted by Republicans in Congress who filibustered (overturned/blocked/defunded) the legislation they previously championed for a decade.”

    That would actually point out how crass and shitty the Republicans have become. Nihilism is too obscure a word for it. They’re out for blood and don’t care who’s hurt in the process.

  15. 15
    Biff Longbotham says:

    An influential minority, standing up vigorously for its interests or in support of its ideals, is an essential part of our system of representative democracy to temper the proper ‘tyranny’ of the majority. One of the problems of the past five years is that there has been too damn little tempering and waaaay too much blocking, quashing, and heel-dragging by that minority.

  16. 16
  17. 17
    RSA says:

    @mistermix:

    Are you Rivest, Shamir or Adleman?

    Good one. I’ve been asked whether my handle was part of a strategy of security by obscurity, but they’re just my initials.

  18. 18
    Schlemizel says:

    @RaflW:

    Our beloved media was way too polite to note this behavior during the health care debate so I wouldn’t hold my breath that they will start doing it any time soon.

    Elephant Uber Alles.

  19. 19
    Punchy says:

    The Gay Wizard of Big Data, Nate Silver

    Gotta do better than this. The Gayta Wiz? The Tan-Gentleman of Dork? Ln + N8 = Gay Superstars?

  20. 20
    Cassidy says:

    @peach flavored shampoo: My concern is how quickly something like that boils over into riots, fighting, etc. Taking people’s right to representation away is a great way to start a race war.

  21. 21
    some guy says:

    Silver’s graphic seems like an awful lot of work to show that only one state, Arizona, would actually flip from red to blue.

  22. 22
    Brother Machine Gun of Desirable Mindfulness (fka AWS) says:

    @Cassidy: I was thinking the same. If the SCOTUS shitcans the VRA, there will be some serious pressure come to bear, I have a feeling. And I wouldn’t blame the people doing the pressing.

  23. 23
    catclub says:

    @Randy P: Not necessarily, depends on the size of the problem. The traveling salesman problem is NP hard, but for six cities, can be solved somewhat before the heat death of the universe.

    Actually, big data is at least an order of magnitude bigger than anything Nate seems to be working on. I was amused when they talked about Reinhart and Rogoff’s excel spreadsheet as though that was big data. Census data is knowing how much people spend on toilet paper. Big data is knowing which brands they buy more on Tuesdays than Wednesdays in Spokane versus New Orleans, and the influence of red beans on it.

  24. 24
    cmorenc says:

    THE MOST IMPORTANT priority for we progressives over the next decade is to make sure we don’t allow even a brief two to four year period of GOP control of the Presidency and Congress…because they would use even a brief period to not only radically demolish down to the foundations every progressive accomplishment going back to the New Deal, but do as much as possible to make it infeasible for even a future progressive majority to resurrect it in any useful form. (Example: look how a potential federal budget surplus in 2000 was turned into an enormous deficit by 2008). They would also aggressively implement as many structural obstacles to dam and contain the demographic tide as possible, retarding their loss of control for several more electoral cycles. (Look how much they were able to accomplish toward that end at the state level in 2010…something they’ve built formidable structural advantages into that will last even into the 2020 redistricting process).

  25. 25
    Biff Longbotham says:

    @Ivan X: Oops, you accidentally touched a nerve! Don’t take our poster’s snark too personally. Besides, there are other currencies besides “fat stacks”. Ego-bucks, anyone?

  26. 26
    catclub says:

    @RSA: I thought NP problem means non-political. ;)

  27. 27
    mai naem says:

    @peach flavored shampoo: Not just southern states. Ohio,Indiana,Missouri, Wisconsin, Arizona,Michigan – any state where there’s a possibility of a Republican governor and legislature will do their bit on voter repression. I have a friend who lost his naturalization papers and it took him ten months and $400 to get them from DHS. He’s never gotten a passport. If AZ had asked him to provide proof of citizenship based solely on naturalization papers or passport, he would not have had them.

  28. 28
    catclub says:

    @mistermix: @RSA: Republic of South Africa?

  29. 29
    liberal says:

    Yet the amount of time spent on Presidential reporting by the political press dwarfs all else.

    I don’t think it’s so much that there’s too much on the President, but rather too little on the other stuff.

    One reason I think the Federal government is more “democratic” than state/local levels is that an important part of democratic machinery is the light of day. AFAICT there’s a lot more of that at the federal level. Local level seems completely dominated by (a) local businesses, (b) local developers and major landowners. Period.

  30. 30
    Kay says:

    @Schlemizel:

    We really need to double down on the GOtV in ’14 and at least slow the drain if not revers it

    It’s just an enormous amount of work, as you know. It’s field offices and local events and hours and hours of volunteer time, and that’s with 24/7 media coverage and a single national candidate (Obama). It isn’t going to happen in an off-year election.

    When we started canvassing here for 2012, we had walk sheets with Obama and Sherrod Brown listed. I did a shift with (oddly enough!) an Occupy guy. This was in an upper middle class neighborhood and the lists were really good. FULLY one quarter of the people asked us who Sherrod Brown was.

  31. 31
    Cassidy says:

    @Brother Machine Gun of Desirable Mindfulness (fka AWS): I am slightly shamed to admit that I’ve been looking into some “tools”, or hubcaps as another poster calls them, in the event that I have to assertively move my family to less treason friendly territory. My wife laughs at me about it, but it’s a genuine concern to me that these people are going to lose their shit and I’m going to have to rapidly exfiltrate this area.

  32. 32
    liberal says:

    @Biff Longbotham:
    That’s really not true. It’s important in a democracy for the power of the majority to be limited, so that certain crucial rights can’t be abridged.

    What we’re seeing is something different: the electoral privileging of rural whites (via gerrymandering, plus the “natural” packing of the rest of us into cities); and the unfortunate “law” of political science that factions with strong narrow interests will muscle past diffuse interests (e.g. strong interest of the few on Wall St to keep up their parasitic leeching, diffuse interest against that where most of the rest of us can’t see our pocket getting picked).

  33. 33
    raven says:

    @Cassidy: Unass that AO most rickey tic.

  34. 34
    Cassidy says:

    @raven: “Di di mau” “Bali bali” lol

    Seriously, though, these asshole down here get more and more angry, violent, and blatant every year. I’m wanting to start a local group to start protesting at gun shows and I’m reasonably concerned about being assaulted or shot.

  35. 35
    mai naem says:

    There’s assumptions made here which I’m not sure are going to come to. Who would have thought the Dems from the 1880’s would be the Dems today and the Party of Lincoln would be the GOP of today – and, yeah, I know about Dixiecrats but it’s not like Steve and Peter King wouldn’t fit in just fine with the Dixiecrats. And who in 2000 would have thunk that in 2008, that non black Musleems would be voting Democratic? There’s still plenty of time for the Dems to eff fuck and for Repubs to straighten out, esp. if the Teabaggers go off and form their own party.

  36. 36
    The Moar You Know says:

    If the last five years have shown us anything, it’s that a determined minority rules this country, not a majority, and having the Presidency is a necessary but by no means sufficient condition for passing one’s agenda.

    Reminds me of the contractor who went out, dropped a big load of lumber and concrete in my back yard and announced he was done building my deck.

    Having the presidency is necessary but in and of itself utterly worthless. You either have control of the political process or you do not, and Dems don’t have control of it, have not had control of it since the 1990s, period.

  37. 37
    anon says:

    @Brother Machine Gun of Desirable Mindfulness (fka AWS):

    And I wouldn’t blame the people doing the pressing.

    Blame?

    I wouldn’t blame them at all.

  38. 38
    raven says:

    @Cassidy: For good reason. Here’s a story from the UGA student newspaper. The dude was just doing a story on a local show.

  39. 39
    sb says:

    @Cassidy: Not sure where you live but I assume ‘down here’ is the south?

    My brother lives in Tennesse; he’s a doctor. He says what amazes him is the rhetoric from his fellow doctors. They’re smart guys in their profession, good at what they do, reasonable with patients… and absolutely convinced of the need to defend themselves when Obama & Co. comes to take their guns. And my brother? He’s a little scared to engage those guys in conversation and I don’t blame him.

  40. 40
    Brother Machine Gun of Desirable Mindfulness (fka AWS) says:

    @anon:

    the right way is through work and organization. Aka elbow grease.

    I would just add a plus one to that, and say that I’m not advocating violence. But I wouldn’t be shocked if – were the VRA to be overturned – we see the sorts of MLK-style non-violent protests that happened back in the day. I know James Clyburn and John Lewis would probably be in the front row signing up. How the police and powers that be react would be a separate issue.

    ETA: I see you edited that comment. lol.

  41. 41
    Higgs Boson's Mate says:

    Yet the amount of time spent on Presidential reporting by the political press dwarfs all else.

    And, the amount of money spent by both parties on presidential campaigns dwarfs all else. The Democrats can elect all of the presidents from now until forever and the effect will be slightly more than dick + 1 until the party starts dismantling the state-level Republican strongholds with the same persistence and patience that the Republicans exercised in building them.

  42. 42
    rikyrah says:

    I like that Sargent at the POst calls it the Green Lantern theory of Presidential influence

  43. 43
    Hoodie says:

    The Presidency is important, but it’s the state legislatures, the rural Senate, and the gerrymandered House districts that are kicking our asses.

    The state legislators are more important than any of them. Veto proof wingnut majorities in the state senate and house are killing us in NC. A lot of these guys are true believers, but the reality is that, if you scratch below the surface, most of them are greedy, power hungry sleazebags. There is no media visibility to a lot of the races in these state districts, and ALEC and others are plowing fertile ground here at relatively low cost, as these guys are dirt cheap to buy or bamboozle. These are the ones implementing gerrymandering, voter id, blocking medicaid expansion, etc. Even if a republican governor wanted to be a moderate (e.g., because of national ambitions), these guys hold sway. All politics is local. Nate’s gizmo is neat, but all it does is show that dems can’t sit back and expect demographics to fix everything any time in the near future. This is why Republican pols are pushing stuff like voter id even though it means losing the latino vote forever, because they know it may buy them 10-20 years, securing their places at the patronage and wingnut welfare tits for as long as they personally need it.

  44. 44
    Cassidy says:

    @raven: Yup. There a special breed.

    @sb: I’m in Florida in a very conservative county. There are a lot of armed people here. it kills me because I really enjoy shooting. I really enjoy going to the range and hitting targets and I feel like I can’t indulge my hobby. For one, these paranoid, inbred asshats have inflated the price of guns and ammo to unreasonable levels. Two, I shouldn’t feel like I have to be armed to protect myself from them, but that is my only genuine concern. I’m not worried about some blah person breaking into my house and asking “where all the white women at”. No, I’m worried about these teatard assholes deciding to go full scale treasonous bastard.

  45. 45
    Lee Rudolph says:

    @mistermix: Nah, he’s Albus Dumbledore (whose name in fact is on a door not far from the offices of at least two of R, S, and A…), spoofing you.

  46. 46
    Punchy says:

    @some guy: Actually NC flips too, in 2024.

  47. 47
    Biff Longbotham says:

    @liberal: Not sure what you’re disagreeing with here. Of course the power of the majority needs to be checked by the minority (my use of the word ‘temper’ might have been a clue).

  48. 48
    Brother Machine Gun of Desirable Mindfulness (fka AWS) says:

    @Cassidy:

    For one, these paranoid, inbred asshats have inflated the price of guns and ammo to unreasonable levels.

    That’s just silly. Everyone knows the gubmint is buying up bullets because Obama wants to create a one world government.

  49. 49
    Roger Moore says:

    @peach flavored shampoo:

    Once the USSC shivs the VRA, all bets are off.

    Count me among those suspicious that they aren’t going to gut the VRA this time. I suspect, though I’m not sure, that we’re seeing the same pattern as with the PPACA case; his outspokenness about the case is a result of his having lost and wanting to whine about it, not his having won and wanting to gloat.

  50. 50
    Brother Machine Gun of Desirable Mindfulness (fka AWS) says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Count me among those suspicious that they aren’t going to gut the VRA this time.

    I hope you’re right.

  51. 51
    Avery Greynold says:

    Running the existing assumptions forward to 2044, the Republicans still hold enough states to give them filibuster veto power in the Senate.

  52. 52
    Brother Machine Gun of Desirable Mindfulness (fka AWS) says:

    @Avery Greynold: The GOP will always hold enough for a filibuster. It’s the nature of the Senate to be intransigent. Get rid of ND, SD, Wyoming, etc. small state assholes and you’ll move.

  53. 53
    👽 Martin says:

    That’s cool, and feel free to twiddle with it as much as you’d like, but any liberal/progressive who wants to get something done in the next decade is a fucking idiot if they think that map tells them much

    It tells you a ton. Specifically, it tells you exactly where the GOP will put all of their energy taking and holding on to state legislatures, passing voter restriction, and making every effort to deny the ability of the new majority to act like a new majority.

    Nate has published the GOP roadmap. That’s useful, if you recognize it for what it is.

  54. 54
    cat says:

    we trained Computer Scientists call “hard”.

    You are not a very well trained CS since you call Nate Silver the “The Gay Wizard of Big Data”. The datasets he uses fit on the thumb drive I have on my keychain.

  55. 55
    lol says:

    @Roger Moore:

    You’re absolutely right. It’s the reaction of a bully who didn’t get his way and now he’s throwing a tantrum in public.

  56. 56
    belieber says:

    Oh goody, another mistermix ‘prediction’. I’ll file that away with his breathless “Palin will run in 2012” prediction.

  57. 57
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    And I predict that we won’t get much help from “big data” or whatever the latest buzzword for “putting stuff in a database and pumping it out with pretty graphs and maps” because that problem is what we trained Computer Scientists call “hard”.

    If the GOPwits can choose their voters down to the block level, then the data is very much there. It’s just held in private hands. Liberating that data so that the grubby masses can see what a fair redistricting might look like, as opposed to the gerrymandered filth they get from their ALEC-approved legislatures, is the hard part. I say this knowing what the open mapping people are capable of.

    But the US will break into pieces before Teh Non-Pasty Menace is able to exert power on a national level.

  58. 58
    Ivan X says:

    @mistermix:

    That wasn’t actually meant as a dig — I think it was a response to something I’ve always got lurking in the back of my mind when we complain about the inadequacies of our failed media experiment. There’s a huge market for news as entertainment, discovered and exploited by network news and talk radio and CNN and blogs, and once we get used to a certain level of entertainment, then we want more of it. But there’s isn’t actually enough worthy (in this case, political) news to fill up 24 hours a day, and the nature of the internet is give-it-to-me right now, so you get a lot of repetition, armchair quarterbacking, and drivel. There isn’t enough consumer demand for the time-consuming, thoughtful research and analysis that we all claim to crave (even as we hit refresh).

    The newspapers may suck, but I think we all, as entertain-me-again blog readers, have a role in their sucking, because we indirectly demand they compete with an endless, constant universe of fresh news-based stimulation on the internet and TV. There are outposts like the actual magazine version of the New Yorker that serve a noble cause as prestige loss leaders for a corporate parent/patron, in the same way news divisions at networks did many moons ago, but anyone who’s in the profit-based news business has to cut quality in order to meet the market demand for ongoing stimulation — demand we create even by reading this blog.

    I realize this has nothing to do with your original post, which I have no particular issue with. I apologize for the non-sequitur.

  59. 59
    The Other Chuck says:

    Noooooo! Don’t wake the Sheeple!

  60. 60

    @Kay:

    It’s just an enormous amount of work, as you know. It’s field offices and local events and hours and hours of volunteer time, and that’s with 24/7 media coverage and a single national candidate (Obama). It isn’t going to happen in an off-year election.

    All true, of course. But a few additional thoughts:

    1) ‘Big Data’ can help. Big Data can’t knock on doors for you, but it can help identify which doors are the ones that would be most helpful to knock on.

    In 2012, that probably didn’t make as much difference as everyone seemed to think. But in 2014, with a lot fewer volunteers out there than we’d really like, making sure they have the maximum impact is important.

    2) It helps if the Democratic Party gives people reasons to be involved and enthusiastic, rather than doing things (like proposing Social Security cuts) that sap our enthusiasm. This is the part that Obama’s never understood, and damned if I know why nobody’s told him. Fighting the good fight on guns will, at the margin, turn some voters into volunteers, and turn some maybe voters into voters. Proposing Social Security cuts will do just the opposite.

    The Dems in Congress, and Obama, should be thinking in terms of which fights are the right fights to get people fired up and ready to work the streets. Since major legislation isn’t going to pass anyway, the only object of attempts at legislation is to highlight the differences in what each party stands for, in a way that makes people want to move heaven and earth to get a Democratic Congress.

  61. 61
    Biff Longbotham says:

    @👽 Martin: Re: #53, Keep up the good work. It’s a poor atom blaster that won’t point both ways.

  62. 62
    Joel says:

    @cat: That is actually the strength of Silvers’ work. It’s easily reproducible. Or at least, was, before he started adding all the extraneous adjustments.

    Sam Wang’s system is the MARCEL to Silver’s PECOTA.

  63. 63

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