Panicked About a Trump Win? Relax, and vote.

Many of my progressive friends are panicking about the possibility of Donald Trump winning the White House. This post lays out why Hillary Clinton is heavily favored to win in November. I begin with an overview of the data and then respond to three questions that were recently posed by my skeptical Grandma Lois.

The Odds are Not in Trump’s Favor

Clinton is favored to win because Trump has disaffected many key voting groups with his racist,  xenophobic, sexist, and abelist comments and actions (see video below).

Trump criticized a Gold Star family in a way that is sure to hurt his standing with some veterans and service members. He even kicked a crying baby out of a rally (see video below), so I’m pretty sure he lost the baby vote.

Trump’s brazen bullying may be red meat to many of his supporters, and this strategy effectively cut through the clutter of a crowded Republican primary field, but it will not serve him well in the general election.

General election voters are 53% female, and Trump has a 70% unfavorable rating with women. The gender gap has been a deciding factor in five of the last six presidential contests, with women selecting the winner every time. Clinton has opened a 24-point gender gap with Trump, the largest in history, and he can’t win the election without more support from the ladies.

The vast majority of people of color in the U.S. are expected to vote for Clinton over Trump in November. Three-quarters of voters of color “strongly dislike” The Donald, and he has a 94% unfavorable rating with Blacks and a 77% unfavorable rating with Latinx. People of color constitute one-in-three voters, a portion of the electorate that could determine the outcome even if the gender gap were not so massive.

Together, the gender gap and the race gap make a Trump presidency very unlikely.

“But Polls Show Them Neck and Neck!”

National polls are not very useful when it comes to presidential elections because this race is not a national contest. It is a state-by-state contest in the Electoral College (see video below). News media organizations use national polls because they are easier to explain than Electoral College maps, and they make elections seem closer than they really are. News organizations make more money when elections seem tight because the coverage is more exciting, so it fits their profit interest to mislead with national polls.

Presidential elections are decided in swing states, a list that typically includes Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Virginia. Trump loses big in the Electoral College according to multiple expert analyses. Nate Silver puts the odds of Hillary Clinton winning at 66%, a number that will fluctuate somewhat between now and November 8th. Also, Trump’s candidacy has put four solidly red states into play this election — Arizona, Georgia, Indiana, and Missouri.

If you’re scratching your head about why so many Republican leaders have defied party bonds and not supported Trump, it’s because they know they don’t have to.

“But Trump Won the Primary!”

Trump’s “method” of winning the primary is precisely what will cost him the general.

Trump elbowed his way to the front of a packed field with a parody performance of masculinity that played upon the fears of Americans who feel they are being culturally left behind. Trump took up the longtime work of Fox News by giving these voters targets to vent their frustrations — “Mexicans,” refugees, women who don’t know their place (a sentiment invoked by a 10-year-old shouting “take the bitch down” at a recent campaign rally.) Some pundits argue that voters are attracted to Trump because they fear being left behind in the new economy, but analysis shows that racial fears are the actual driver of his support.

Trump supporters have significantly higher levels of racial resentment and concern about people from other countries threatening “American values” (a.k.a., xenophobia) than other Republicans and voters of other parties. Trump is the answer to eight years of a Black president with Fox News stoking racial resentment, but he is not the answer for a majority of voters.

It is true that Trump won the primary with a historically high number of votes (13 million) in the most crowded major party field in history. But primary and general election voters are not the same. About 120 million people are expected to vote in this high interest general election, and primary voters are more ideologically extreme than general election voters. For example, Republicans primary voters are more conservative than Republicans who vote in the general election, which means they are not as supportive of Trump’s extreme positions. Also, Trump may lose independent White voters who reject his overt racism.

Trump’s bombastic divide-and-conquer strategy worked to get him the nomination, but it won’t work in a general election because there simply aren’t enough whites with high levels of racial resentment to elect him.

What About Voter Suppression?

People who care about democracy have been rightfully concerned that voter ID laws would suppress enough votes to affect the outcome of the 2016 election. Republican-controlled state legislatures started passing voter ID laws in 2010, and 17 states now have them. Clinton has spoken about voter ID laws: “They’re doing everything they can to stop black people, Latinos, poor people, young people, people with disabilities from voting.” Trump has also spoken about these laws, saying the election will be “rigged” against him if these laws are not in place.

As I have previously written, on its face, an ID requirement to vote may seem reasonable, especially for the vast majority of Americans with IDs who use them to fly, purchase cigarettes, etc. But when considered within the broader political context, the anti-democratic intent of such legislation becomes clear.

Voter ID laws disproportionately affect Black Americans, Latino/a voters, U.S. citizens who were born in other countries, elderly people, people with disabilities, transgendered people, and students — all of whom are less likely to have the required ID for different reasons. A 2006 Brennan Center study finds that 25% of Black , 16% percent of Latino/s, and 18% percent of elderly Americans lack the necessary ID. Some on the left have accurately likened these new laws to Jim Crow Era poll taxes because the expense involved in obtaining an ID place a disproportionate burden on many groups that have been historically disenfranchised.

What do all of these groups have in common? With the exception of elderly Americans who have shifted Republican in recent years (although they still comprise the most active voting group for Democrats), the Americans who will be disproportionately affected by voter ID laws all vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

The voter ID movement is based on a bald-faced lie that voter impersonation is an issue. It’s not. As the DNC humorously notes, a person is 39 times more likely to be struck by lightning than to engage in voter impersonation, and 3,600 times more likely to report a UFO.

This voting fraud figure is based on a Bush Administration investigation into the matter that involved only 70 prosecutions nationwide, some of which were honest mistakes.

Voter suppression through voter ID laws will be minimal in the 2016 election because five courts in five states have struck down these laws in recent weeks. In North Dakota, a federal judge wrote that “The undisputed evidence before the Court reveals that voter fraud in North Dakota has been virtually non-existent.” Judges in Texas concluded that their voter ID law was intentionally designed to disenfranchise voters of color.

The jig is up with discriminatory voter ID laws, and while a dozen states still have these restrictions in place, the overall effect on the election is expected to be minor.

As a pundit, I have tried to interrupt the dog whistle politics at Fox News and other outlets for nearly a decade. Most progressive don’t watch Fox or other Right Wing content enough to know about the steady drip of racism, xenophobia, sexism, and misogyny delivered to viewers on a daily basis. Trump’s ascension has exposed the extent of bigotry in the electorate, which makes it easier to address. He has also helped to elect our first female president. (Any other leading Republican candidate likely would probably have beaten her, cause sexism.) Thanks, Trump, for making Grandma Lois so happy come November. 



2 Conventions, 1 Cup

The party conventions are behind us, and we have 99 days of one of the ugliest presidential election in history to go. This post is a recap of the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Cleveland and the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Philadelphia in terms of viewership, production quality, speakers, themes, truthiness, protests, post-convention bounce, and significance.

Setting aside President George Washington’s admonition of the parties as dangerous in his farewell address, they serve many vital purposes, one of which is to simplify the choice between candidates. The party conventions did just that by highlighting the stark differences between Donald J. Trump and Hillary Rodham Clinton. (I understand how Harambe is polling at 5%, but how is any American still undecided about this race?)


First, some context. Party conventions have been media infomercials rather than forums to actually select a nominee for the past four decades as a result of primary election rules that ensure nominees are selected prior to the conventions. (The last contested convention was in 1976 when Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan duked it out for the Republican nomination on the floor.) It is no surprise, then, that convention viewership and hours of broadcast time have declined since 1960. Conventions just aren’t very exciting anymore.

The 2016 conventions posted moderate viewership numbers compared to recent elections. On average, more Americans tuned in to watch the DNC (29.2 million over four nights) than the RNC (25.2 million). However, more people tuned in to hear Trump’s speech than Clinton’s speech (34.9 million viewers compared to 33.3 million viewers). Both candidates fell short of the record for the highest ratings set by John McCain (38.9 million) and Barack Obama (38.3 million) in 2008.

Production Quality

The Democrats put on a much better show than the Republicans. Both had fancy sets and polished speakers, but the DNC had celebrity power. The convention featured Alicia Keys, Paul Simon, Meryl Streep, Lenny Kravitz, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Sarah Silverman, and others. Hollywood stars, including Jane Fonda and Eva Longoria, came together in a video to sing “Fight Song,” which now is in regular rotation on Los Angeles pop stations (see video below).

The RNC featured Scott Baio from Happy Days, soap actor and underwear model Antonio Sabato, Jr., and Willie Robertson from Duck Dynasty. The celebrity gap no doubt accounted for at least part of the ratings advantage for Democrats.

The RNC was also unpredictable and sometimes bizarre, full of unforced errors: Melania’s plagiarism and (awesome but awkward) rickrolling in her speech; questions about plagiarism in Donald Trump, Jr’s speech (which turned out to be his speechwriter cribbing his own previous work); honey badger Ted Cruz’s refusal to endorse Trump in his speech (see video below); and Trump’s gross grab of his daughter Ivanka’s hips on stage.

The Democrats also had their fair share of problems with the damning #DNCLeaks that show a clear DNC preference for Clinton over Bernie Sanders in the primary; the subsequent resignation of party chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz just days before the convention; and a disruptive #BernieorBust contingent inside and outside the convention hall in Philly.


Beyond the celebrity gap, the Democrats offered more varied content for viewers. The DNC had twice as many speakers as the RNC (257 compared to 131), mostly because few sitting Republican lawmakers attended their convention. Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush skipped the Republican convention, and only 24 members of Congress spoke at the RNC compared to 73 who spoke at the DNC.

There were also notable differences in the quality of the convention speeches. For me, political speeches are mostly mind-numbingly boring because they employ platitudes, hokey colloquialisms, and fake emotions. I can barely make it through a political speech without a drinking game (I’m referring to coffee, of course). Looking past the serviceable speeches from Trump and Clinton, most of the Republican speeches were pat and predicatable, but many of the Democratic speeches were well above par.

In terms of my top five, Michelle Obama’s speech was simply the best in terms of delivery and emotional impact, while President Obama’s speech later in the week came in a close second for its soaring rhetoric and effective evisceration of the Republican nominee. Donald Trump, Jr.’s speech comes in third for his superb delivery and impressive Clinton takedowns. The speech from Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim soldier killed in Iraq, comes in fourth on my list for his memorable offer to loan Trump his Constitution (a.k.a. Pocket Connie). Joe Biden’s gritty swan song rounds out my top five list. Uncle Joe was in rare form, vacillating between folksy humor and angry passion in a way that kept viewer’s rapt.

Another sharp difference between the RNC and the DNC was the humanization of the candidates. Clinton has been painted as a caricature by the Right and some members of the Left, and Trump has painted himself as a caricature with his bombastic performance of masculinity. The DNC humanized Clinton, but the RNC failed to humanize Trump. Bill Clinton’s rambling address and Chelsea Clinton’s heartfelt but dull speech were full of personal details that gave viewers a sense of life with Hillary. The same cannot be said for the five speeches from Trump family members (Melania, Tiffany, Donald, Jr., Eric, and Ivanka). It felt more like the Trump kids were describing their general manager rather than their father, and each speech felt like a missed opportunity to challenge the critique that Trump has an empathy deficit.


The themes of the RNC and the DNC could not have been clearer or more divergent. While many issues were covered at both conventions, the prevailing themes were fear (RNC) and love (DNC). I’m pretty sure the Democrats scrambled to amplify their positive content after watching a week of doom and gloom at the RNC, but I had reached my saccharine limit well before Lenny Kravitz belted out “Let Love Rule.” (Side note: I now blast “Let Love Rule” during the hour each day my Rush Limbaugh-loving neighbor, “Mr. Wilson,” waters his tree during the worst drought in a century.) Even Trump barbs felt like toothpicks from goody two shoes Tim Kaine with his boyish grin with his four harmonicas.


Fact-checking websites would be a powerful tool for holding candidates accountable if more voters actually cared to. According to Politifact, Clinton’s acceptance speech was far more truthful than Trump’s. Only two out of six major claims in Trump’s speech were found to be “mostly true,” while five out of six major claims in Clinton’s speech were “mostly true.”  This is not surprising. During the primary, Clinton was found to be the most honest candidate on the campaign trail and Trump was the least honest. (I witnessed the heads of two diehard Berners actually explode when this finding was published back in May, or maybe I dreamed that part.)


The protests in Philly were much larger than the protests in Cleveland, mostly due to Sanders’ supporters, some of whom clung to a snowball’s chance hope of nominating their man. The minor disruption caused by the #DumpTrump camp on the first day of the RNC paled in comparison to four days of raucous protests both inside and outside the Democratic convention.

Inside the DNC hall, Bernie supporters regularly disrupted the proceedings with chants, and organizers responded by turning off the overhead lights in certain sections to prevent them from being seen by television viewers. Enterprising Bernie supporters responded in turn by donning glow-in-the-dark shirts. And if you were wondering why pro-Clinton chants cropped up in the last two days of the convention, Clinton supporters were instructed to yell chants to drown out chants from Bernie supporters, for example “U.S.A.” in response to “No More War.”

Outside the Democratic convention in Philly, protesters burned flags and breached security fences (see video below).

The only major clash at the RNC took place on day three of the convention when members of the Communist Party set two flags on fire just feet from where I was standing with my colleague, Beck Cooper (a.k.a. Wreck-It-Beck). This incident resulted in 17 arrests (see video below).

The RNC spent $49 million on security and brought over 4,000 police officers from across the country to Cleveland (see video below). Philadelphia spent $43 million on security with staffing from 6,600 local police officers. Overall, 24 protesters were arrested at the RNC. Over 50 protesters were detained and cited at the DNC, but only 11 people were actually arrested because Mayor Jim Kenney decriminalized disorderly conduct, public drunkenness, failure to disperse, and other offences just for the convention.


Candidates typically enjoy about a 5% bounce in the polls after their party’s convention. Trump got a 4-point bounce in the polls after the RNC, and Clinton got a 5-point bounce, but many voters continue to be disenchanted with both candidates. Only 43% of Democrats and 40% of Republicans are satisfied with their party’s nominee.

So What?

Party conventions almost never affect the outcome of elections. Parties with the highest convention viewership win the White House only 50% of the time, and post-convention candidate poll bounces are referred to as “sugar highs” because they quickly evaporate. Also, the conventions were held early this year to avoid protracted divisions, to extend the fundraising calendar, and to avoid competing with the Olympics. They will be a distant memory by the time November 8th rolls around.

The Mars-Venus nature of the convention themes mirror deep chasms in an electorate divided by generation, race, gender, and education. One silver lining is that Americans have high interest in this election, which is great for democracy. We captured some of this intensity and passion through interviews with activists across the political spectrum at the RNC (see video below).


Democracy in Action at the 2016 RNC

Becca Cooper (a.k.a. Wreck-It-Beck) and I travelled to Cleveland last week to interview everyday Americans who had gathered outside the Republican National Convention to express their political beliefs.

We spoke with homemakers, engineers, the founder of the Alt Right (think “kinder, gentler” white supremacy), presidential candidate Vermin Supreme, small business owners, large business owners, students, #BlackLivesMatter activists, #BlueLivesMatter supporters, a virulantly anti-Trump dog, and many others who flocked to The Cleve for the festivities.

Here are some voices from across the political spectrum of the most divided electorate in a century.

The Science of Lady Parts and the GOP

Last Thursday, Republican Representative and Tea Party favorite, Joe Walsh (R-Ill), told reporters that when it comes to abortion, “there’s no such exception as life of the mother” because of “advances in science and technology.” This astounding claim was news to the medical community.

Walsh joins the ranks of some other prominent Republican men who don’t understand basic lady parts science: Representative Todd Akin (R-MO), who claimed that pregnancy from “legitimate rape” is “really rare” because “the female body has ways to shut the whole thing down,” and conservative comedian Rush Limbaugh, who doesn’t understand the basics of birth control pills. (He thinks you take a pill every time you have sex!)

These remarks would be humorous if it weren’t for the fact that these men are part of a broader effort by the extreme wing of the Republican Party to take aim at women’s reproductive health.

At the state level, Republican lawmakers enacted a record number of anti-abortion measures in 2011, four times as many as the previous year. A study from the Guttmacher Institute shows that legislators in 45 state capitals introduced 944 provisions to limit women’s reproductive health and rights in the first three months of 2012. These states are proposing/passing abortion ultrasound requirements, gestational limits, health insurance exemptions for contraception coverage, and stringent limitations on medical abortions.

The Guttmacher Institute, 2012

In the past two years, 19 states have introduced bills modeled on a Nebraska law that bans abortion 20 weeks after fertilization. The Oklahoma State Senate redefined “person” as starting at conception, while the Mississippi House approved a bill requiring women who want an abortion to undergo an examination to determine if there is a fetal heartbeat. Texas and Virginia require women to undergo an ultrasound prior to receiving an abortion, and many other states have similar proposals underway. Texas recently cut reproductive services for 130,000 poor women.  As this chart from NARAL indicates, twice as many states passed anti-choice laws in 2011 than in 2010.

NARAL, 2012

At the federal level, in 2010, the newly elected House Republican majority was quick to propose major cuts to reproductive health services. They made several attempts to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood, the largest family planning provider in the U.S. that has been around for a century. They also tried to gut Title X, a program that funds family planning and preventive breast and cervical cancer screenings. Both proposals were stopped by Senate Democrats. Ironically, on the same day that House Republicans tried to eliminate Title X funding, Representative Dan Burton (R-IN) proposed contraceptive funding for wild horses (!)

Congressional Republicans also proposed an amendment to the health care bill that allows federally funded hospitals to turn away women in need of an abortion to save their lives. This is by far the most brazen attack on the “mother’s health” exception to restrictions on abortions. In May of 2012, Republicans proposed a veto on sex-selective abortions that failed to pass the House, despite broad Republican support for the bill. And in early 2012, Republicans in Congress held hearings on whether the new health care law should include contraception coverage. These hearings included virtually no female experts, so House Democrats held more inclusive hearings that (gasp) included women. Limbaugh assailed one hearing participant, Georgetown student Sandra Fluke, calling her a “slut” and a “prostitute.”

Prominent conservatives, including Republican Party leadership, have roundly dismissed the assertion that the party is engaged in a War on Women, but the recent flurry of legislation curbing reproductive freedoms tells a different story. Given baffling comments from the likes of Walsh, Akin, and Limbaugh, the generals in this War on Women obviously need to include lady parts science as part of basic training.

President Obama on Modern Day Slavery

On Tuesday, President Obama gave a speech on human trafficking at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) conference that no doubt elevated the priority of this policy in a way that only a presidential speech can. He gave an impassioned plea to end the scourge of human trafficking, remarking that children younger than his daughters are sold into servitude.

President Obama used all the right words, noting that a better term for human trafficking is modern day slavery, and drawing historical parallels to slavery in the U.S.  The President also accurately noted that human trafficking is a problem across the globe, including in the U.S.

What President Obama failed to mention in his speech is that, despite having the Trafficking Victim’s Protection Act since 2000, anti-trafficking efforts in the U.S. have been an abysmal failure. Investigations are open on fewer than 3% of estimated cases, and, according to two whistle blowers, the FBI has practices in place that discourage agents from investigating human trafficking cases. But it’s difficult to get a real handle on anti-human trafficking efforts in America since the FBI is unusually stingy with data on this crime. At least one member of congress has called upon the FBI to release its human trafficking data.

During his speech, President Obama announced a new Executive Order that requires greater accountability from government contractors. The law moves us one step closer to addressing labor slavery, but does nothing to address the most common form of trafficking — sexual exploitation  (79% of trafficking worldwide). In fact, throughout his speech, I was struck by the President’s overt emphasis on manual labor trafficking over sex trafficking in the many examples he furnished. (Both types of slavery are heinous, and this discussion is not meant to suggest otherwise.) Whether his intention was to avoid the graphic nature of sex slavery or focus on the type of slavery that is addressed by his Executive Order, President Obama left viewers with a misleading impression of the problem.

My last quibble with the President’s speech is that he twice understated the problem by claiming that 20 million people were in modern day slavery worldwide. His own State Department estimates put the number at 28 million, while critics show that U.S. and global statistics are likely underestimates.

It is a wonderful day when the President of the United States raises awareness about such a pressing social ill. It would be more wonderful if the actions of his Administration matched his elegant words.