NORMAL WINS

Guest Post from Jon Sinton:

The “Red Wave” turned out to be a puddle as normal overcame wretched, and Americans voted against the politics of grievance, lies, and conspiracy theories.

1.     The Senate remains in Democratic hands while the House is still too close to call [since publication, the Republicans won the House]

2.     The “Red Wave” that was supposed to sweep election deniers and fascist-adjacent anti-majority candidates into office were themselves swept into history’s dustbin;

3.     “Predictive” polling is wrong again.

Exit polls, which are definitively the only polls that matter, showed that while 20% of midterm voters supported ridiculous and repeatedly disproven election-denying lies and conspiracy theories, 80% of Americans aren’t conspiracy theorists, voted for normal candidates, are normal themselves, and demand normalcy from those we entrust to govern us.

Polls preceding the election said the economy was all that mattered; exit polls said different. Abortion and democracy, which seemed like such moving issues in the summer, had supposedly flamed out and taken a back seat to inflation. But the polls tuned out not to be predictive. As Karl Rove said on Fox News on Election Night, “Polling is broken. Let’s not kid ourselves. We had a golden era of polling when we all had landlines and we answered them. Now, anybody here got a landline?”

Predictive Polling is a gigantic waste of time and money. I spent a long time in the consumer research business performing studies for radio and television. It started out easy: you call people at random, seeking the right age/gender/socioeconomic combination. You pay them a small sum to participate in a “qualitative” focus group. (Qualitative research is where the opinions of a few respondents are extrapolated to reflect the opinions of society at large. To backstop focus groups, you also mount large, statistically valid, “quantitative” studies.)

By the early Nineties, as wireless phones became ubiquitous, finding qualified respondents for both types of research got harder. We upped the incentives, and that worked for a few years. But once the smartphone came along, people cut their landline service and became really hard to find. The real killer, though, was the fact we were running into a ton of “qualified refusals”—people who were the right demographic mix but hung up as soon as they knew they were being polled. As David Letterman used to joke, “If you’ve ever been poled, you know how painful that can be.”

Dwight Douglas, a retired political advertising analyst for Media Monitors, told me: “Most pundits overstate polls and underestimate the electorate.” Douglas also has thoughts on why polling has gone off the rails, “Viciousness and vitriol have ruined political research. [Plus,] the theory that a person says one thing on the phone—sometimes just to get off the phone—might be opposite from their purchasing or voting decision, is a valid supposition…Post-election research carries much more value than pollster predictions. After an election…you can ask, who did you vote for and why.” That’s where sentiment toward policy direction is best found.

The smartphone phenomenon meant that pollsters totally missed the youngest voters, who showed up for democracy and choice. John Dick, the CEO of CivicScience, today’s Bible of consumer research, said: “Gen Z made its presence known in a big way. I’ve told you repeatedly they’re going to save the world and now they’re strapping on their capes. If you aren’t laser-focused on understanding what makes today’s teens and young adults tick, let me know so I can short your stock.”

People love to talk; they love to make predictions based on their own desires, a phenomenon known as “confirmation bias.” Subject matter expertise is of course optional. Cal and UCLA Professor Scott Galloway put it this way, “Our brains make it easy for our ambition to exceed our ability: The Dunning-Kruger effect [section4.lt.acemlna.com] describes a demonstrated cognitive weakness, that the less we know about something, the more we overestimate our knowledge. That’s why stupid people, and people who make great cars and then buy media companies, are so dangerous.” (Apparently no one can resist deriding Elon Musk, who, in fairness, does make a pretty easy target.)

Right or mostly wrong, they never stop. Today, Morning Consult is revealing a poll that says Donald Trump would garner less than half of Republican primary votes if a vote was held today. That’s down from 57% in August. I’m not sure it’s believable or even relevant.

Reality TV got the Former Guy elected. “Apprentice” fans thought him to be a master of the business universe. He isn’t, and never was. What he was, was a TV star in a scripted drama that paraded as an unscripted drama. That’s the dirty little secret of Reality TV.

Meanwhile, he fights on, blaming pollsters and everyone but himself for his dangerous and silly slate of now-repudiated candidates. He hasn’t quite realized his need to call the Leg Warehouse, since he doesn’t have one to stand on.

©2022 Jon Sinton

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PROBLEM FOR THE PARTY

Trump Running, Major Challenge

Last night, Donald John Trump announced he has filed paperwork with the Federal Election Committee to run for president in 2024. It wasn’t much of a surprise; it was almost as if Trump were trying to beat some mysterious deadline. This will be his third race, and his move might have less to do with running for office and more to do with having a stay-out-of-jail card. He’s being naïve if he genuinely believes that running for president will provide inoculation against indictment. It’s just another lie he perpetrates and believes.

Now before we get into the minutiae of media manipulation and maniacal mental meanderings, let’s take a walk down history lane for a brief lesson in ego and politics.

In 1901, President William McKinley made a trip to the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, where the new technology of an X-ray machine was demonstrated. Something horrible happened there. An anarchist shot the 25th president. After eight days in bed with his wounds, McKinley passed away because doctors were unable to remove the bullet. Some thought the new X-ray device could help surgeons seek the slug, but the machine’s inventors warned that a piece of metal exposed to X-rays would have a detrimental effect on the patient, so they did not use it. But wait, the story gets better.

McKinley

Some corrupt New York politicians and certain other elements of the political machinery hated Teddy Rosevelt, so they pushed him into the VP slot during McKinley’s second run. Well, McKinley won the election but lost horribly in Buffalo, therefore the crooked powerbrokers now had Theodore Rosevelt as the 26th President. They had gambled and lost.

Teddy Roosevelt served out McKinley’s second term (which only lasted one month due to death), but when running for reelection he said that, if elected, he would serve no more than one term. After winning reelection, Roosevelt began to regret his disclaimer. Nonetheless, he remained true to his word, and after completing his first elected term he left the office. Another Republican, William Taft, became president in 1909.

Roosevelt went off to explore the world and years after being away he returned to New York where the city threw him an outrageous welcome and parade. Teddy’s ego was ignited and he decided to challenge his buddy William Taft and run for president again. The fight went all the way to the Republican National Convention, where the egotistical Roosevelt lost the party’s nomination. In anger, Teddy marched out of the hall, got up on a flatbed truck and announced to the adoring press that he was forming a third political party, the Bull Moose Party.

What Teddy did to his own party and to his former friend Taft was unsightly and undignified. With a third party in the 1912 election, Roosevelt and incumbent William Taft each garnered roughly 25 percent of the popular vote. Princeton University President Woodrow Wilson won 42 percent of the vote to become the 28th US President.

Wilson was an unhealthy, bigoted racist human who was also woefully unskilled in world affairs. His lack of attention after World War I and inability to push back during the Treaty of Versailles discussions plunged Germany into financial ruin, which gave birth to the Nazi movement. One might be tempted to blame Teddy Roosevelt for this, but it’s impossible to know what he or Taft would have done at Versailles.

I think it’s safe to say Teddy Roosevelt’s ego was bigger than anything we’ve seen until Donald Trump, who’s now at his Mar-a-Lago resort screeching how he wants to be president again. Curiously, with his declaration that he is running again he’s also admitting that he LOST in 2020. So, I guess the big lie is useful only for raising money, not for legal declarations. But there is a bigger problem here.

If the Republican National Committee is smart, which is a giant stretch, they will rid themselves of the leadership of Ronna Romney McDaniel who is a Trump sycophant and terrible political operative. Just look at the midterm results. As for Florida Senator Rick Scott trying to unseat Mitch McConnell as minority leader in the Senate, well that’s much like appointing the fox to the night security position at the hen house. Rick Scott was the person who talked about eliminating Social Security and pushed the lousy slate of Trump-picked midterm bozo candidates. How in any logical world is this man ready to lead anything? And of course in a secret vote, Scott lost to McConnell who must have lewd pictures of everyone in the Senate.

Now we arrive at the crux of the matter. Let’s say that in about five hundred days a bunch of people run against Trump for the Republican nomination. Sure, we’ll have debates, and the primaries in states like Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina and others that might deal Trump a blow “like we’ve never seen before.” Further, let’s speculate they have the “come to Jesus meeting’ and tell Donald he’s not the guy. Oh, Boy!

Should that happen, I’ll lay money on Trump’s narcissistic personality disorder erupting and leading him to form a third party to burn down those who don’t like him. The action of an angry little boy taking his ball and going home will cause death and destruction along the way that will take decades to fix. By making a third-party run, Trump will pave the way for a Democratic win, even it if were Kamala Harris. Mark my words.

Politics is not a predictable concept, as proven by the recent slate of research figures. It’s always a gamble. We have no way of knowing what a given candidate might do as president. In this case, however, Trump is the devil we know, and he’s clearly stated he will get back at anyone in his way, pardon all the January 6th insurrections and, once again, tear away at American democracy.

As the Trump 2024 flags and signs go up, let’s all remember that America hates a loser. If Donald Trump wants to be the Buffalo Bills of politics it’s fine with me, but in the off chance he becomes president again I might be looking for a new place to live. Trump has just caused major problems for the RNC and those who work there. Watch out, kiddos. If you don’t make him president, he will take your ball and go home.

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THINGS I LEARNED FROM TWO HURRICANES

Preparation and Probabilities

I grew up in Pittsburgh, so I experienced hurricanes only on television. When my partner and I retired to Venice, Florida five years ago, we were greeted by Irma, our first hurricane. For that one, we put up the shutters and got out of town. Irma brought us only minor damage, the most serious being the live oak tree in the backyard being bent thirty degrees toward the house.

As for hurricane Ian, we decided to hunker down in our home and wait out the storm. We suffered from a ridiculous myth that Venice was built on a Native American burial ground and a direct storm hit couldn’t possibly happen. We were naïve, and wrong.

So, what did we learn from our encounter with the angry tempest, which the science guys call a CAT FOUR? Initially came all the traditional preparation, buying batteries of every denomination, filling the bathtubs with water, getting as much bottled drinking water as possible and putting up the shutters. That became my first lesson: know your limitations. As a senior, seventy-something guy I didn’t realize how out of shape I was and should have put on those knee braces before doing the work. By the time Ian hit, I could hardly move.

Our home was built under the strict codes of six to seven years ago, and it’s basically a concrete fortress. Ian brought us minimal damage, but that live oak repositioned by Irma is now on the ground, completely uprooted by Ian. I’m not sure living next to tall trees is advisable, but the state and county demand we have trees. Now that Ian knocked one down, we must replace it at our expense. Another lesson learned.

Taking pictures for a friend who owns a mobile home in a park, I saw Ian’s terrible wrath, and I’ve concluded it’s immoral for such construction to be allowed in Florida. The wind acted like a giant, demonic can opener, ripping apart the metal structures and destroying every carport. I’m surprised more folks weren’t killed. I understand mobile homes are a form of affordable housing, but Floridians shouldn’t live in them. Another lesson? If you live in an older or mobile home or in a low-lying area, don’t stay during a hurricane.

Now let’s talk about the power gird. Of course, we lost electricity. Ian made sure millions of other Floridians did also, but I’ll send props to those radio stations that managed to stay on the air. One nifty idea was several stations broadcasting the audio of their TV affiliates. Sadly, there are too many automated radio stations incapable of providing helpful storm reporting these days, so hats off to all the NPR stations with real news and weather experts, not disc jockeys faking it. Another lesson? Always have a radio on hand during a hurricane. I think you can still buy one.

Cell Phones are a problem during a disaster. Why? I heard a radio discussion where a caller said, “I thought with this G5 we would never lose service.” Well, until the government mandates phone company towers have generators or powerful solar batteries, your relatives up north watching the disaster coverage on TV will assume you are dead. We need a better system of communication, and it is well past time to demand the cash rich phone companies step up and reinforce their systems. They should have already done this.

We learned our book reading lights came in handy, strategically placed throughout the house and tapped to supply dim lighting in the rooms. That Sharper Image miner’s light I bought a few decades ago also came in handy.

This brings us to post storm. Oh, the wind was cool and pleasant, but don’t think opening the windows and getting a good night’s rest was possible. The drone of generators on our street was so loud it was like living in a beehive. And instead of burning gasoline for hours, isn’t it time for us all to have solar panels that feed a large Tesla-like battery that can power our homes for forty-eight to seventy-two hours? Climate change, and thus massive hurricanes are here to stay. Let’s start using the sun to get through them.

Then there’s the drainage systems. Our street water must travel a pipeline that eventually lands in a swale, which drains into the Myakka River. However, the system appears to be stuffed up and ineffective at moving water out of our subdivision. The county experts need to step up and tell us why. Maybe it’s time to invest in a more substantial infrastructure instead of flying immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard. Let’s reallocate that money to helping Florida.

Old buildings without substantial engineering improvements will never be able to deal with a CAT FOUR or FIVE. Even our Venice Theater, which was recently remodeled, had its roof blown off. I believe it’s time to have serious talks with our vendors, contractors and builders about the fortification of our cities and towns. In Venice’s historic district, several of those brand-new, decorative, black metal streetlamps crashed to the ground. What are their wind ratings? Also, why on earth was all the red paint blown off our stop signs? And those slick talkin’ builders who put up “walls” around your community, well, one of them on Venice’s east side was blown away by the hurricane and revealed the wall was made of Styrofoam! What the hell?

Irma may be forgotten, but Ian continues to affect us and that will probably continue for years. It’s time to figure all this out and reinforce against the next one! Future storms will be just as powerful because the earth is too hot. Stop ignoring the realities and find smarter people who can make better plans.

Now, here’s one final experience. All the comradery and community we experienced right after the storm, with folks pitching in to help one another, melted away in a few weeks. Just the other day, one of my neighbors rattled off how much he hates President Biden. I didn’t ask his opinion, his was an unsolicited remark. So, you see, people don’t change. They forget.