10 November 2016 - DrSunshine.org

Trump R Us

D L Hughley eloquently pointed out that America elected exactly the president it wanted on November 8. Trump is who we are. Obama is who we aspire to be, but Trump is who we are. Until we come to terms with that, we cannot bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice.

How did people like Dr Sunshine come to hope that justice would prevail in the presidential election? The polls looked so good. What went wrong?

Well, polls estimate how much of the vote will go to each candidate. Pollsters warn that their estimates are probabilistic predictions, not guarantees of an outcome. And, their estimates come with error bars. We tend to forget that. The poll doesn't just estimate that, say, 59% of white votes will go to Trump. The polls say that the percentage is likely to fall within a certain range, maybe 59% plus or minus 3%. That is, between 56% and 62%. And that's no guarantee, either. The error bars, too, are an estimate based on probabilities, not certainties. The actual result will, with a nonzero probability (that is, sometimes), fall outside the estimated range.

Analysts use historical data to estimate the odds. On the day before the election, reputable analysts had the odds against Trump at somewhere between three and five to one. That is very far from a guarantee that Trump would lose. It is, in fact, about the same as the likelihood that if you draw a card from an ordinary deck of well-shuffled playing cards, the card you draw will be a Jack, Queen, or King. Every day, millions of people bet money that they will draw a Jack, Queen, or King. And, they win about one time in four. That's why they keep betting. Even though the odds are against them, they win sometimes.

So, it's wrong to say the polls were wrong. What happened was well within their margin of error. The occurence of an event against four-to-one odds cannot be classified as an unusual event. It's not even a surprising event. It's an event that is well within everyone's daily experience.

Dr Sunshine calculated that Trump could win the election with 63% of the white vote if the composition of the electorate didn't change too much from what it's been in recent elections. That is, Dr Sunshine's calculation assumed that white voters and voters from other demographics would turn out in about the same numbers as in previous elections. Dr Sunshine reported, as part of his calculation, that if more white voters showed up at the polls than last time, or fewer black or Latino voters turned out, Trump could win with less than 63% of the white vote.

Polls are not very good at estimating voter turn-out. It's a hard thing to do. People may know who they plan to vote for, but they often don't know how likely it is that they will actually cast a vote. Things come up. The baby's sick. The car broke down. You can't always do what you plan to do.

Besides that, some people are more motivated to vote than others. Trump starred in a popular TV show for a decade. Lots of people liked his show, and they liked him, too. The celebrity factor worked in Trump's favor. It's hard to beat a popular celebrity in an election. Celebrity motivates voters.

In this case, while Democratic turnout went down from 2008 and 2012 levels, Trump's celebrity propped up historic levels of turnout among uneducated white voters who have been down on their luck and blame it on the Democrats for paying what they think is too much attention to people who are not like them. They are very up front about this. They want to take their country back. They want somebody like them in the White House. They do not want to bend the arc of the moral universe towards justice becausethey think the bending is breaking their backs.

What they do not see, because they are ignorant and short on thinking skills, is that the reason they are down on their luck is because, to penalize Democrats, they have been electing Republicans. And, those Republicans have shifted America's wealth from the middle class to the super-rich. They've busted unions. They've held wages down. They've cut education and all the other programs that help people get a leg up.

Democrats have been trying to stop the trickle-up of wealth that Reagan started long ago with enormous help from Reagan Democrats in the rust belt. Democrats have tried to slow the trickle-up fairly, across all demographics. But, that is not what middle-class white people want. What middle-class white people want is the privilege of continuing to abuse people of color, just like they've been doing for the past 300 years. They want their country back.

So, uneducated white people have doubled down on their bet. They have elected a "wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full time sociopath" to be their president, just like Michael Moore said they would. 

They got the president they wanted, but they are not going to get the life they want. What they are going to get is more of the same, only worse. The arc is going to bend, but not in the direction of justice, and it's not going to bend in the direction of uneducated white people, either.

Instead, uneducated white people are going to get the shaft. Again. Just like the shaft they've been getting since Reagan started giving it to them. Yes, non-whites are going to get the shaft, too, and maybe uneducated, white Trumpsters will take some satisfaction from that. But Dr Sunshine expects that this will fail to make up for the pain and suffering that Trump and the Republicans are going to inflict on uneducated white people. And, on everybody else, too, other than the super-rich, of course.

And not just for four years or eight years. The Supreme Court that Trump and the Republicans will put in place is going to shaft the middle class for decades. Trump is who we are.

Dr Sunshine

Update, 11 Nov 2016: Several people have criticized Dr Sunshine for being too soft on the ignorant assholes who voted for Trump. Dr Sunshine is inclined to think his critics are right about this. Another guy who's just as pissed as Dr Sunshine points out that the people in rural America need to grow up and figure out what's going on in the world. Their ignorance is really fucking things up, and what they're doing is deeply unfair, inhumane, and stupid. Now there's a guy who really knows what he's talking about.

Reader comment, 12 Nov 2016:
Dr Sunshine:
Short on thinking skills is putting it kindly.

Everybody is saying that these people, the white-Rust-Belt people, deserve to be heard. Yes, they do. But so do the people who have been knocked down for generations. If you're white and in a crummy steel industrial area, and you don't have a job anymore, you don't get to blame it on the minorities who have been struggling to find work for decades. You don't get to blame it on trade agreements recognizing the global economy that we are a part of.

We don't get to return to some age where walls were constructed around economies. The problem is that the people who used to invest in the businesses that employed you found better investments. The industries where you used to work only provide an acceptable return when they're done in China or India or Mexico. Your only choice is building new skills or moving, and maybe both.

We are only now coming to realize that there are lots of decent people in other countries who are just as smart, just as hard-working, and just as disciplined. Often they come from political systems that aren't all that horrible. And they're a lot hungrier, and a lot more interested in getting educated. This is only going to get worse, and it's going to get worse for everybody, throughout the income scale, regardless of the types of skills we now have. We have to compete globally. We have to compete. That means educational investment on a national scale, equivalent to the level of educational investment in countries like China, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Finland.

Unfortunately, the politicians we just picked aren't going to help us. They're not going to help people in the Rust Belt, nor people in the Sun Belt, nor people in Silicon Valley. The trade war they propose will only make things worse. We need to gird ourselves for the great wave off Kanagawa that's already here, and that means retraining and education and more retraining. Beating up on our fellow citizens of color, and our sisters, isn't going to help. They already know what this feels like, and they've known for centuries.
- Kanagawa

Reader comment, 14 Nov 2016:
Dear Doctor
While I agree that the occurrence of an event against four-to-one odds is well within everyday experience, I think the odds were better for Trump than the polls showed before the election. That is, it's not that something against the odds happened, it's that the odds were not correctly computed because the polls were in error. People were lying to pollsters, which is what many people, including me, suspected before the election. White women with college degrees, for example, were known before the election to be more uncomfortable talking with pollsters than other groups. Clinton led Trump in the polls among white, college educated women two weeks before the election by 15 to 17 points, but it appears that she led Trump in that demographic by something more like six points in the actual voting. I don't know how good any of these estimates are, nor do I know whether people would be more or less likely to lie about how they planned to vote versus how they ended up voting, but a ten-point swing in the votes of a fifth of the electorate (college educated white women) would have given Clinton an additional couple points in the election, and that could have turned her loss into a win.
- The Analyst

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