29 February 2020

Biden Wins South Carolina; Steyer Out

South Carolina primary results have been, by far, the most promptly available. The results below are with 99% of the vote counted.

South Carolina (54 delegates total)
1. Biden 48.4% (38 delegates estimated; at least 38 delegates)
2. Sanders 19.9% (16 delegates estimated; at least 15 delegates)
3. Steyer 11.3%
4. Buttigieg 8.2%
5. Warren 7.1%
6. Klobuchar 3.1%
7. Gabbard 1.3%

Biden greatly exceeded the estimates of all of the South Carolina primary polling which had him at 24%-36% of the vote, but accurately estimated the performance of Sanders and Buttigieg. Steyer, Warren and Klobuchar did worse in the primary than they had in pre-primary polling. 

One way to interpret the shift to Biden relative to the polling is that almost all of the respondents who were undecided or non-responsive in polling, and some who had been leaning towards Steyer and Warren, ultimately broke for Biden in the voting booth. They may have made up their minds only shortly before voting, perhaps only after the South Carolina debate and the CNN town halls that followed it, where Biden performed well.

There are 10 more delegates whom pundits have not yet allocated between Biden and Sanders based upon the primary results, but which will be allocated roughly proportionately to their respective popular vote totals. 

UPDATE: Tom Steyer has dropped out of the Democratic Party primary race. Exit poll results suggest that this will be a slight boost for Biden relative to other candidates left in the race. This leaves seven candidates in the running, including Bloomberg.

Turnout was more than 500,000 in South Carolina, which easily makes this the largest increase in turnout in any early state, at least in raw numbers, according to the New York Times.

Exit poll details

CNN has a variety of exit poll results from South Carolina.


Women made up 59% of South Carolina Democratic primary voters (I suspect that the percentage of white primary voters in South Carolina that were women was even larger, although I don't have data from the exit polls on that). 

Unsurprisingly, Warren, Klobuchar did better with women, while Sanders did notably worse. Steyer also did better with women for reasons that aren't entirely clear. There wasn't a notable gender divide regarding the other candidates.


The Democratic Party throughout most of the Southeastern United States is majority black. South Carolina Democratic primary voters were 40% white, 56% black, and 2% Hispanic, 1% "other" with the details of Hispanic and "other" voter who took exit polls too small to provide statistically significant details on how they voted. 

The exit polls supported the conventional wisdom that black voters like Biden, and dislike Buttigieg, a great deal, relative to white voters, and that black voters are less supportive of Sanders than white voters but that many black voters still do support Sanders. Steyer's stronger showing with black voters is somewhat unexpected. This is how the South Carolina Democratic primary exit polls broke out by race:


Primary election voters tend to be older than general election voters. About 11% of Democratic primary voters in South Carolina were under 30, 18% were 30-44, 42% were 45-64, and 29% were 65 years old or older. 

Unsurprisingly, Sanders did better than he did overall with voters under 50 (and led among voters under age 40), while Biden led among voters over age 40, and overperformed with voters 50 years old and older. Warren and Buttigieg did better with younger voters, while Steyer and Klobuchar did better with older voters.

Candidate By Candidate Analysis After South Carolina

This is the first time that Biden has gotten the top spot in a primary or caucus so far, after a previous 2nd, 5th and 4th place showing. He now has an estimated 53 delegates, leaving him second in delegate count after Sanders after the first four contests.

The second place finish for Sanders in South Carolina still means that Sanders has managed a first or second place finish in each of the first four contests (Sanders was first place in popular vote, but second place in delegates in Iowa and finished 1st in New Hampshire and Nevada). Sanders has now racked up an estimated 61 delegates, leading the pack in delegates. Sanders is the only candidate to have picked up delegates in each of the first four contests.

The third place showing for Steyer is his best so far, compared to 6th in Nevada, 6th in New Hampshire, and worst than 5th in Iowa. But, the California billionaire still hasn't won a single delegate and winning 11.4% of the vote in his best showing isn't going to win him the nomination.  Steyer isn't polling in the top four, or with a high enough percentage to get any delegates, in any Super Tuesday state. Like Gabbard, he is a pure spoiler candidate in this primary race. UPDATE: Steyer had dropped out of the race.

The fourth place finish for Buttigieg is his worst of the primary campaign, but not too surprising in a Southern state where anti-LGBT sentiment runs strong. He was 3rd in Nevada, 2nd in New Hampshire, an 1st in delegates (but second in popular vote) in Iowa. He has 26 delegates so far, which puts him in third place in delegate count.

Clearly, South Carolina Democrats are not fond of any of the three female candidates in the race.

Warren came in 5th in South Carolina, after finishing 4th in Nevada despite a stunningly strong debate performance, 4th in New Hampshire, and 3rd in Iowa, in which she won all of her 8 delegates so far, putting her in fourth place in delegate count. Warren is polling in second place in several Super Tuesday states, so she isn't out of the running yet.

Klobuchar finished 6th place in the conservative South Carolina primary, which has to be disappointing for someone who is trying to position herself as a moderate Democratic candidate. She came in 5th place in Nevada, 3rd in New Hampshire, and 5th in Iowa. She was won only 7 delegates so far, putting her in fifth place in delegate count. Moderate Democratic voters may like her message, but they don't like the messenger. She will get some delegates in Minnesota on Super Tuesday, but probably not anywhere else. She doesn't even poll in the top four in any of the biggest Super Tuesday states.

Gabbard has also positioned herself as a conservative in the primary race and that isn't working well for her. South Carolina is Gabbard's third successive 7th place finish, and she also did extremely poorly in Iowa (worse than 5th place). Gabbard's best showing, in New Hampshire, was 3.2% of the vote. She has not won a single delegate and has no realistic prospect of winning any outside of Hawaii which won even vote until April 4, a late date the deprives her of any momentum that those delegates could have provided to her. It is not clear why she hasn't dropped out yet.

Mike Bloomberg, of course, wasn't a contender in any of the first four Democratic party primary season contests, and will make his debut before voters on Super Tuesday, which is just three days from now. But, the billionaire's unconventional campaign looks like a long shot at this point.

Bloomberg first participated in debates in the Nevada and South Carolina debates, and was only allowed to do so after he bribed to DNC to change the rules. He has no delegates. He's spend at least two hundred million dollars on advertising in advance of Super Tuesday, but isn't polling all that well considering the ad buy (he's polling in third place nationally and is not polling first place in a single state), and he has received immense push back on he stage of the two debates that he has participated in and in more grass roots media, like Facebook. He hasn't displaced Sanders as the front runner in the race and Bloomberg doesn't lead Sanders in polling in a single state. Bloomberg's "betting odds" are good, but any indicator that can be manipulated with money can't be trusted when it comes to his candidacy. Bloomberg is first nowhere in Super Tuesday state polling, is a clear second only in Virginia (and only by a single percentage point), and is tied for second place in Utah. But, Bloomberg is third in Texas and North Carolina, and is fourth in California, Colorado and Massachusetts. It is entirely possible that Bloomberg could fail to come in even second place in a single state. 

With polling like that, it is basically impossible for Bloomberg to win the nomination in the first round or to be the front runner on the first round. He would have to win the nomination, if he did, in a brokered convention well back in the delegate count behind many other candidates. And, I don't think that he would win many candidates originally pledged to Sanders or Warren at all, and he would probably need a clean sweep of candidates pledged to other Democratic party nominees which I don't think that he can pull off.

Upcoming Races

There will not be another debate until after most of the delegates have been awarded, a third on Super Tuesday, and more than half of the total by the time that the March 17, 2020 primaries are over.

It takes 1,919 pledged delegates, out of 3,979 total pledged delegates, to win on the first round in the Democratic National Convention (the 771 superdelegates, who bring the total to 4,750 only get to vote in the second and later rounds if those happen at all, with 2,382 delegates are needed to win).

There have been 155 delegates at stake in the first four states of the primary season in February. Another 2,448 delegates are at stake in March, with 2,603 delegates to be pledged by the end of March. Some polling in upcoming key races (as well as betting odds) are as follows:

In a drawn out two way primary fight between Sanders and Biden, mirroring the drawn out two way primary fight between Sanders and Hillary Clinton in 2016, it is pretty clear that Sanders would win this time around.

The following states are coming up in March for a total of 2,448 delegates (with the pledged delegates shown after each state):

March 3, 2020 (1,344 delegates)
Alabama 52
American Samoa 6
Arkansas 31
California 415
Colorado 67
Maine 24
Massachusetts 91
Minnesota 75
North Carolina 110
Oklahoma 37
Tennessee 64
Texas 228
Vermont 16
Virginia 99
Utah 29

March 10, 2020 (365 delegates)
Democrats Abroad 13
Idaho 20
Michigan 125
Mississippi 36
Missouri 68
North Dakota 14
Washington 89

March 14, 2020 (6 delegates)
Northern Marianas Islands 6

March 17, 2020 (577 delegates)
Arizona 67
Florida 219
Illinois 155
Ohio 136

March 24 (105 delegates)
Georgia 105

March 29 (51 delegates)
Puerto Rico 51

Recap of Previous Races

Nevada (first round votes)
1. Sanders 34.0% (24 delegates)
2. Biden 17.6% (9 delegates)
3. Buttigieg 15.4% (3 delegates)
4. Warren 12.8%
5. Klobuchar 9.6%
6. Steyer 9.1%
7. Gabbard 0.3%

New Hampshire 
1. Sanders 25.6% (9 delegates)
2. Buttigieg 24.3% (9 delegates)
3. Klobuchar 19.7% (6 delegates)
4. Warren 9.2%
5. Biden 8.4%
6. Steyer 3.6%
7. Gabbard 3.3%
8. Yang 2.8%
9. Patrick 0.4%
10. Bennet 0.3%

Iowa (percentages from first round)

1. Buttigieg 24.9% (14 delegates)
2. Sanders 21.4% (12 delegates)
3. Warren 18.6% (8 delegates)
4. Biden 15.0% (6 delegates)
5. Klobuchar 12.8% (1 delegate)
6. Yang 5.1%
7. Steyer 1.7%
8. Gabbard 0.2%
9. Blomberg 0.1%
10. Patrick 0.0%

Head To Head Polling

Everyone involved in the Democratic primary process knows that choosing a nominee involved two distinct considerations: who will best advance the Democratic party agenda if elected, and who is most likely to defeat Trump in the general election.

Conventional wisdom is that the two objectives are at odds and that a more conservative candidate who is to the right of the Democratic party as a whole is most likely to win in the general election. This heuristic is based upon the assumptions that (1) voter turnout is pretty much constant, (2) ideology is the primary driver of voter behavior, and (3) more ideologically moderate candidates will win larger shares of unaffiliated voters.

But, the head to head polling doesn't support this conclusion, and the heuristic upon which this is based ignores the fact that different candidates may secure different turnout levels for their base, and that unaffiliated voters are often swayed more by the personality of a candidate than by their ideology.

Also, while head to head polling is not necessarily a terribly accurate predictor of general election outcomes, many of the confounds between head to head polling in February and general election polling, pertain more to Trump's performance than to the relative strength of Democrats running against him.

Both Sanders and Biden poll better against Trump, head to head, than Bloomberg does in head to head polling, and both Sanders an Biden lead Trump by margins large enough to secure not just a popular vote win, but also an electoral college win. There are very few head to head polls available at the state level that actually matters for Electoral College purposes, but there are some, and a recent pro-Sanders op-ed spelled out the evidence this way:
Almost all of the current polling data shows Mr. Sanders winning the national popular vote. In the most recent national polls testing Democratic candidates against Mr. Trump, Mr. Sanders beat him in every single one, with margins varying from 2 percent to 6 percent. This has been the case for nearly a year now, with Mr. Sanders outpolling the president in 67 of 72 head-to-head polls since March. 
As 2016 proved when Hillary Clinton defeated Mr. Trump in the popular vote by nearly three million votes, however, the Electoral College is what matters most. There, Mr. Sanders also does well, outperforming Mr. Trump in polls of the pivotal battleground states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. In the one poll showing significant Trump strength in Wisconsin (Quinnipiac), Mr. Sanders still fares the best of the Democratic contenders. . . . 
Exit polls and precinct analyses show that Mr. Sanders runs strongest with some of the most overlooked and undervalued sectors of the population — young people and Latinos in particular. In all three early states, he received twice as much support from voters under 30 than his closest competitor. In Nevada, he received about 70 percent of the vote in the most heavily Latino precincts. 
These particular strengths matter because the composition of the electorate in 2020 will be appreciably different than it was in 2016. Pew Research projects that this will be the most racially diverse electorate ever, with people of color making up fully one-third of all eligible voters. The share of eligible voters from Generation Z (18-23 year olds) will be more than twice as large in 2020 as it was in 2016 (10 percent versus 4 percent). 
Notably, the expanding sectors of the population are much more progressive and pro-Democratic than their aging and white counterparts. Mrs. Clinton defeated Mr. Trump by nearly 20 points among voters under 30, and the anti-Republican tilt of that demographic was even more pronounced in 2018, when 67 percent of them voted Democratic, 35 points more than the number who voted Republican. As for Latinos, nearly two-thirds of that population consistently vote Democratic. 
The implications of these developments are most significant in the specific states where the election will be most fiercely fought. In Michigan and Wisconsin, which were decided in 2016 by roughly 11,000 and 22,700 votes respectively, close to a million young people have since turned 18. Beyond the Midwestern trio of states, the demographic revolution has even more transformative potential. Mr. Trump won Arizona, for example, by 91,000 votes, and 160,000 Latinos have turned 18 in that state since then.
Of course, Super Tuesday is eight months (to the day) before the general election concludes, and polling can change dramatically over time. 

Name recognition is one important factor in relative strength in head to head polling, and any candidate that is less well known now, will be much better known in the general election if that candidate receives the Democratic nomination. This handicaps in favor of Warren, Buttigieg and Klobuchar, but only conditional upon any of them being able to secure the Democratic Presidential nomination, which would realistically only be possible in a brokered convention for any of those individuals.

On the flip side, if a candidate isn't actually all that great in the eyes of voters, support gained through name recognition will fall away as voters get to know the candidate better. This handicaps against Biden, and even more so against Bloomberg.

Real Clear Politics has recent national polling averages for leading Democrats v. Trump in general election matchups. The aggregated values and some additional details are as follows:

Sanders 49.4% v. 44.5% (+4.9) leads Trump in 8 of 8 last polls; gaining

Biden 49.8% v. 44.4% (+5.4) leads Trump in 7 of 8 last polls; gaining

Bloomberg 48.3% v. 44.3% (+4.0) leads Trump in 5 of 7 last polls; wild recent variation

47.0% v. 45.0% (+2.0) leads Trump in 5 of 5 last polls; gaining

Buttigieg 47.0% v. 45.0% (+2.0) leads Trump in 5 of 7 last polls; slipping

Klobuchar 47.0% v. 45.4% (+1.6) leads Trump in 5 of 7 last polls; slipping.

Popular Vote In Primaries And Caucuses To Date:

Across the first four states to vote, there have been a total of 1,100,351 votes cast (only candidates who are still running are listed, and the small number of votes cast to date for Bloomberg in Iowa and as a write in candidate, and for Gabbard, are not included):

1. Joe Biden: 326,448 votes (29.7%)
2. Bernie Sanders: 266,993 votes (24.3%)
3. Pete Buttigieg: 171,421 votes (15.6%)
4. Elizabeth Warren: 109,204 votes (9.9%)
5. Amy Klobuchar: 105,583 votes (9.6%)

Note that this approach systemically biases primaries which have higher turnout, over caucuses which can provide other benefits. The nomination is based upon delegates won rather than votes cast.

27 February 2020

Global Chaos

I am struck by how much U.S. life seems to be proceeding on a business as usual basis when immense upheavals have defined recent history in so much of the globe, even though I am reluctant to use this to "normalize" Donald Trump's unprecedented missteps. 

But, even in the U.S., a series of natural disasters and ineffective responses to them in Puerto Rico have led to sustained malaise in that U.S. Commonwealth, and there are been recent epic wildfires in California.

Here are some of the big upheavals around the world for those who haven't been paying attention (and I'm sure I've missed at least one or two, if not more, notable cases):

* Coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China is becoming a global pandemic, killed thousands in China, and caused the nation to go into lockdown and schools to close for a month.

* Coronavirus has shut down schools for a month in Japan. Meanwhile, Japan is in the midst of an intense economic downturn with GDP falling at a more than 6% annualized rate in the last quarter of 2019.

* Months of intense rioting in Hong Kong over efforts by China to strip away its distinct freedoms and democratic institutions.

* China has put more than a million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps and is terrorizing this entire society.

*  India is facing continuing mass street riots that have bubbled into a full on massacre in Delhi over a Hindu Nationalist government's immigration bill that has been perceived as anti-Muslim.

*  The ongoing insurgency/conflict in Kashmir recently entered as hot and violent phase.

* Myanmar recently had a government led genocidal expulsion of Rohingya Muslims with a mass refugee flight to India.

* Ethnic conflict and more put masses on the streets and led to military brinksmanship in Thailand. This is related to a sixteen year old and ongoing "South Thailand Insurgency".

* Indonesia had a week of mass street protests in September last year across the nation, over governments efforts to eliminate anti-corruption institutions in the country.

* Wildfires and heatwaves across Australia have dramatically disrupted life there and horribly disrupted the ecological balance.

* Antarctica has had unprecedented high temperatures accelerating glacial melting that could trigger rapidly rising sea levels. So has Greenland.

* An active civil war/Saudi Arabian war against Shiites is raging in Yemen.

* The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians seems to have escalated and gotten more violent, mostly due to Israel being more aggressive.

* An active civil war is raging in Syria with Russian backing.

* An active civil war is raging in Libya.

* An active civil war is raging in Somalia which still doesn't really have a functioning and universally recognized central government.

* An active civil war is raging in the Eastern Ukraine with Russian backing.

* Far right movements have surged in parts of Europe such as Hungary and Poland that have shredded democratic institutions and tolerance.

* An active civil war is continuing with Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan.

* There are violent active, verging on genocidal insurgencies and Muslim-Christian clashes across the African Sahel.

* While less violent and disorderly, the United Kingdom has left the U.K. as Brexit happened.

* The economy and social cohesion of Venezuela has totally melted down into hyperinflation and chaos. This has also produced mass street protests.

*  Much of Mexico and Central America has descended into an orgy of cartel and gang violence with extremely high murder rates. More than 35,000 people were killed in 2019 in the "Mexican Drug War" which has killed 115,000 people since it began in 2006. Many of these countries have had massive street demonstrations (including parts of Mexico) and this has triggered a surge of refugees headed for the United States. Costa Rica, however, seems to have been mostly spared.

* Bolivia recently had a coup also involving massive street demonstrations.

* Haiti has had recent mass unrest.

* Brazil under a far right President has epic levels of crime and its interior has turned into a free for all of violent self-help of resource industry capitalists in anti-indigenous people oriented actions. Massive wild fires, some intentionally set, have been burning in the Amazon where other forms of deforestation haven't already occurred.

* Peru is in a continuing constitutional crisis also involving wave after wave of massive corruption.

The Scope Of The Franchise And Voting Habits Have Consequences


The American system of representative democracy utterly ignores the needs of people who don't vote  (such as children, young people, non-citizens, institutionalized people, and people of color), not because it is a flawed implementation of a pure model of representative democracy, but because it is working as a pure representative democracy is intended to. There are, however, some reforms and policies and approaches that can mitigate the harms caused by these intrinsic flaws of representative democracies.

The Political Theory Context

Critiques Of Representative Democracy Due To Flawed Implementation

It is trendy in political discussions these days to focus on the ways in which, in U.S. politics, the desires of the people (often summed up by the preferences of the median person eligible to vote) are undermined, in the formal electoral and legislative process, undermining a pure representative democracy model.

Two of these flaws receive particular attention in discussions of our political system.

The undue influence of money in politics that undermines pure representative democracy.

Sometimes, this undermined by monied special interests, often described as "corporate" (when what is really the heart of their ire is the influence of the rich and the influence of big business on politics without regard to their actual corporate form of organization), especially through campaign contributions and political spending.

Discrepancies in electoral laws and legislative rules from pure representative democracy.

Sometimes, this is undermined by subtle flaws in the design of our the formal electoral and legislative components system like the electoral college, unequal representation of U.S. states relative to population in the U.S. Senate, the filibuster and other anti-democratic U.S. Senate rules, gerrymandering, the use of single district plurality voting with primaries instead of systems like "instant runoff voting", bad U.S. Supreme Court rulings that become entrenched, and abuses of Presidential powers like the veto power, the pardon power, and executive branch discretion to undermine the intent of Congressionally enacted legislation or resolutions.

Unfair political tactics that undermine pure representative democracy.

Sometimes, this is undermined by unfair political tactics. 

One of the most common unfair political tactics is when political candidates and people advocating for them, lie to and misleading voters, in the course of political campaigns and political discussions, in ways for which they are not held accountable, when this causes voters to vote for candidates and ballot issues that select outcomes that those voters do not actually favor.

Problematic Implications Of Representative Democracy When It Works As Intended

The focus in political discussion on problems with representative democracy that undermine pure representative democracy diverts attention from the fact that our flawed representative democracy works as intended to a much greater extent than is widely appreciated. 

Also, many people who participate in political discussions and debate have only a dim understanding that "perfect" democracy and a political economy that produces a "good society" are not naturally produced by pure representative democracy. The very ideal of pure representative democracy is itself flawed.

(Note that the concept that there is such as thing as a "good society" distinct from what democratic majorities favor is an idea that I take as an axiom for the purposes of this post as this deontological political concept is beyond the scope of this already long and theoretical post.)

As a result, people pay less attention to the problems with our system of formal representative democracy at the electoral and legislative level when it works as intended.

Core Tenants Of Pure Representative Democracy

One the theories within the realm of political theory, which is generally empirically accurate, and is at the heart of the American representative electoral and formal legislative democratic process is that the formal American political process causes the government to adopt policies that reflect the preferences and interests of the people who vote for elected officials who are the people who have an ultimate say over what policies are adopted.

At a superficial, shallow and naive level, this seems like a good thing and is what most people mean when they argue in favor of making representative democracy work as intended. But, even pure representative democracy is only a means to an end and has its own inherent flaws even when it works as intended, as discussed below

The Median Voter Theorem

The most direct description of the American political process working as intended, which also has quite a bit of empirical support, is the median voter theorem. The median voter theorem is that: "a majority rule voting system will select the outcome most preferred by the median voter."

A Pure Representative Democracy Selects For Outcomes Favored By Voters And Not Meaningfully Opposed By The Median Voter

A more subtle aspect of the political system tending to reflect the policy preferences of people who vote is that lots of policy choices that benefit one minority subgroup of voters are not strongly in conflict with the outcomes preferred by the median voter. There are lots and lots of issues and policies upon which the median voter has no clear opinion or preference.

When the preferred outcomes of non-majority groups of people who vote do not conflict meaningfully conflict with the preferred outcomes of the median voter in ways that policy makers can comprehend, these outcomes also tend to be selected. This is true even when the non-majority groups of people who vote tend to not vote for the candidates who win when voting for elected officials.

Indeed, in our slightly "flawed" actual representative democracy relative to a pure representative democracy model (in a reality that is not necessarily bad), intense outcome preferences of non-majority factions of voters often (contrary to the political theory of the Federalist Papers) often prevail in having their preferred outcomes selected over the weak outcome preferences of diffuse majorities and the median voter.

The Corollary Is The Outcomes Favored By Non-Voters Are Almost Completely Ignored

There is no representative democracy in which everyone who is subject to the governments policy choices votes. 

The Franchise Is Not Universal.

The scope of the franchise (i.e. the right to vote) has expanded dramatically since representative democracies first came into being in the early modern period in Europe, but there is no representative democracy that includes everyone, and it is necessarily true that there never will be one that does.

Children, people who are too incapacitated to vote, non-citizens, citizens who reside somewhere that doesn't have elected officials allocated to them, certain people who are incarcerated or have civil disabilities from past convictions for crimes, and entities that aren't natural persons, aren't legally entitled to vote in some elections. It will never be the case, for example, that babies get to personally cast ballots in elections because they lack the ability to do so.

Not Everyone Who Has A Right To Vote Does Vote.

There will also always be people who have the right to vote, but do not do so.

Sometimes people spoil their ballots and deny themselves meaningful vote, or fail to cast a ballot by mistake or due to inadvertence.

Sometimes people are busy and stressed and don't vote as a result, even if they would like to, because the would be voter can't allocate that time and those resources to do so when this provides no immediate benefit to the would be voter, and produces no immediate penalty to the would be voter.

Sometimes people don't vote (at all, or in a particular political race or on a particular ballot issue) because it takes time and resources (e.g. from media source access to mental space to think about something) to understand the choices on the ballot in a way that would reflect the would be voter's wishes, and the would be voters can't allocate that time and those resources for something that provides no immediate benefit to the would be voter, and produces no immediate penalty to the would be voter.

Sometimes people don't vote because the election doesn't seem salient to them, or they don't feel that their vote will make a difference. And, sometimes they are right about this conclusion when it comes to the direct election outcomes of the vote they could have cast. For example, a vote for President in a state that leans strongly in favor of one candidate or the other in today's winner take all electoral college system, won't change the outcome.

Sometimes people don't vote or spoil their ballot as an act of protest against the political system in general.

The Outcomes Favored By Non-Voters Are Almost Completely Ignored

In a pure representative democracy model, political theory concludes, in a conclusion that has empirical support, outcomes favored by non-voters are almost completely ignored, no matter how intense they may be, relative to the slightest whim of the median voter or when the median voter is indifferent, to the whim of any non-majority group of voters who has an opinion about an issue.

The fact that a representative democracy favors the preferred outcomes of non-majority groups of voters whom the median voter does not particularly oppose is most strikingly revealed when the extent to which outcomes salient to them are selected is compared to the extent to which the preferred outcomes of non-voters, no matter how intense, are selected.

Agency, Trusteeship and Indirect Impacts

This doesn't mean that anyone's interest are utterly and completely ignored in a pure representative democracy or a real one, just that they are highly marginalized.

The interests of non-voters aren't completely ignored, even though they are highly marginalized, because voters may acts as agents or trustees by preferring outcomes that benefit non-voters, either selflessly out of moral obligation, although usually much less intensely than their own personal self-interest, or because the well being of non-voters has indirect impacts on them even though the impact on a voter is much less intense.

For example, a voter might favor an outcome that is preferred by a homeless non-voter, either out of moral obligation that the voter feels towards the homeless person, or because the person's homelessness indirectly impacts them by reminding them that their city allows people to sleep on the streets which makes the voter feel guilty. But, these moral and indirect influences on the outcome preference of voters are much less intense than those of homeless people themselves, who have an extremely intense life or death interest in policies related to treatment of homeless people.

Footnote: Indirect Impact Through The Median Voter Theorem

The indifference of representative democracy to non-voters is also manifested through the median voter theorem discussed above. The preferences of non-voters doesn't enter into to the determination of who the median voter is, while the preferences of a voter, even one whose viewed differ from the median voter, shifts the determination of who the median voter is in favor of people whose preferred outcomes are more similar to theirs than they would be if that voter had not voted.

For example, suppose that the median voter is electing representatives who decide how much money to spend on public schools per student, a continuous policy variable, and voters favor a range of values spread almost continuously on a curve from $500 per student to $30,000 per student. If 20% of voters who otherwise wouldn't have voted favor spending of $30,000 per student, the funding among favored by the median voter will shift from the 50th percentile preference of the other 80% of voters to the the 62.5th percentile of the other 80% of voters. This might, for example, shift the outcome selected, to the extent that the median voter theorem holds true, from $5,000 per student to $7,500 per student. Thus, even though the 20% of voter who wouldn't otherwise have voted don't get their preferred policy outcome, the fact that they voted will increase per student spending on public schools by 50%.

The Empirical Reality Of Representative Democracy Working As Intended For Non-Voters

As I note above, in the political theory part of this post, for all of the American flaws of the American political process relative to pure representative democracy, it is usually true that the formal American political process causes the government to adopt policies that reflect the preferences and interests of the people who vote for elected officials. And, this sometimes impedes our ability to secure a "good society."

Colorado, which has a system of representative democracy that is closer to pure representative democracy than all but a handful of U.S. states, for a variety of reasons including low levels of corruption relative to most other state governments, a healthy political culture, and reforms to the formal electoral and legislative process that have not been adopted elsewhere, is a good place to illustrate this fact.

In the American political system, and in Colorado, in particular, people who don't have the right to vote get absolutely screwed in political policy making on a systemic basis over long periods of time.

These people include children (especially children without parents who vote who can be a proxy for them in the political process), non-citizens, disenfranchised people with felony records, and people who are institutionalized (such as some mentally ill or otherwise institutionalized people).

Furthermore, groups of people who have the right to vote but, on average, don't exercise it very consistently (often due to barriers in the process or society that exist to their ability to do so) like young people, the poor, the homeless, and people of color, get seriously slighted. 

But, people who vote reliably like homeowners in rural and suburban areas who regularly attend church, and senior citizens, tend to have their political preferences overrepresented.

Potential Remedies To The Intrinsic Flaws Of Pure Representative Democracy

There are various ways to reduce the intrinsic flaws of pure representative democracy. These include taking some of the following steps from this non-exclusive list:

* Expand the franchise, for example, to non-citizens who reside in a place with elected representatives, to people with criminal records, and so on.

* Reduce barriers to getting information needed to cast a meaningful vote (something that Colorado does well) and to casting ballots (something else that Colorado does well).

* Decentralize decision making so that more than more people get outcomes closer to their preferences because the median voter in their local area has preferences closer their own than the median voter in a more centralized decision making unit of government. But, federalism is an imperfect solution because some policies need to be implemented uniformly at a high level to be effective, and it harms non-majority people located in a smaller decision making unit, and it harms people who don't reside in that jurisdiction who are visiting that area.

* Enact bills of rights and protect other legal rights like private property and contract rights vis-a-vis majoritarian political decision making to preserve key deontological moral principles that the political process is intrinsically prone to ignore. Pay particular attention to protections from discriminatory policies directly particularly a non-voters.

* Remove certain kinds of policy decisions from the majoritarian political realm and instead vest them in the non-majoritarian economic realm and the non-majoritarian intrafamily and religious domains. Milton Friedman was right in his observation that allocation of power in favor of the rich and powerful relative to the poor and the weak, is usually more unequal in the political sphere than it is in the economic sphere.

* Develop a political culture in which moral empathy and concern for non-voters is high, and the indirect impacts of policies that help non-voters are better and more widely understood. 

* Give representatives of non-voters power in forums outside the political process. These include, for example, the diplomatic rights of foreign countries to act for the benefit of their expatriates, and the power of non-profits and lawyers enforcing fiduciary duties in a fiduciary capacity (perhaps in class actions or public interest litigation) to legally enforce legal rights of non-voters and to demand fairness in the treatment of non-voters.

* Give extra votes to people who are good proxies for non-voters so that the interests of non-voters can receive more weight (especially on continuous variable policy decisions like budgeting decisions). For example, parents might be able to cast votes for the minor children, guardians of adults might be able to cast voters for their adults, and sponsors of legal immigrants might be able to cast votes for the non-citizens whom they have sponsored. But, this is an imperfect solution since these proxies would never be perfectly selfless in their voting choices and will never perfectly and definitionally understand the true preferences of those for whom they are proxies.

26 February 2020

Front Runners By Super Tuesday Jurisdiction

2020 DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINATION, 22 Feb. 2020: Here is the Democratic candidate favored to come out on top in each of the 15 jurisdictions and Democrats Abroad that will be holding a primary event on Super Tuesday, March 3, based on the latest polls and historical voting patterns. But most of these contests are expected to be close among the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishers:

Arkansas 31 - Bloomberg

North Carolina 110 - Sanders-Bloomberg statistical tie

Oklahoma 37 - Bloomberg-Buttigieg statistical tie

Virginia 99 - Bloomberg-Sanders statistical tie
Alabama 52 - Biden

Democrats Abroad 13 - Biden

Tennessee 64 - Biden
Minnesota 75 - Klobuchar
Massachusetts 91 - Sanders-Warren-Buttigieg statistical tie

American Samoa (Caucus) 6 - Sanders-Gabbard statistical tie
California 415 - Sanders

Colorado 67 - Sanders

Maine 24 - Sanders

Texas 228 - Sanders

Utah 29 - Sanders

Vermont 16 - Sanders

TOTAL: 1,357

Decision Sanders

Time to decide.

It doesn't look like anyone's going to drop out of the race between now and Super Tuesday. The next debate in on March 15. We won't have reasonably complete South Carolina results until March 1 or March 2, and in any case, I really don't care in the least what voters in a completely safe GOP stronghold think about the nominees, and the polls give us a rough idea of who they favor already. 

I am down to Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren.

Why Not The Other Democratic Candidates?

* Mike Bloomberg is horrible and polls poorly head to head via Trump compared to the rest of the field in most polls. 

* Joe Biden is a bad campaigner and not great on policy and has a history of being a late adopter of good new ideas. 

* Pete Buttigieg is a great guy but his political experience is limited to being a Mayor of a medium sized city and the Presidency shouldn't be an entry level job. He also doesn't have a national network of supports that can be mobilized in time to be viable.

* Tom Steyer has never held public office either even though he also seems to be a decent guy. He has also garnered little primary support despite spending tens of millions of dollars on his own campaign.

* Klobuchar is such a non-great campaigner on a national stage that she uses debate time to assure people that she's not boring, and has support overwhelmingly concentrated in Minnesota; she also doesn't poll well head to head v. Trump and is struggling to be viable in the Democratic nomination. She is more conservative than I would like but not disqualifyingly so.

* Gabbard can't register at 2% in any of the first three states, has a history of anti-LGBT policies, waffled on impeachment when she didn't need to, and won't do any better in SC.

I will vote for any candidate that wins the nomination, even Bloomberg or Biden. My number one goal is to beat Donald Trump. But, I'd prefer a President who would do a better job if that can be done without grave sacrifices to the odds of betting Donald Trump.


The Case For Warren

I would prefer Elizabeth Warren to Bernie Sanders as a President. Her views and mode of analysis of those views are closer to mine, and I think that she is a more effective politician in the legislative process than Sanders, and is more suited to be in an executive branch position and would get more of her agenda adopted, all other things being equal.

I also think that Warren is the best candidate to unite the Hillary Clinton wing of the Democratic base from 2016, many of whom were highly motivated to elect the first female President of the United States, and the Bernie Sanders wing of the Democratic base from 2016, as an anti-corporate political figure who is the most liberal U.S. Senator in Congress, despite her background in law and economics.

Warren has the virtue of being eight years younger than Bernie Sanders, three years younger than Trump, and having about a ten and five year longer life expectancy than each of them respectively, because women live longer on average. Bernie Sanders is very old, he's had a heart attack on the campaign trail, and the odds of him dying or suffering a disabling health incident, before finishing his first term in office and then being re-elected and finishing his second term in office, are only on the order of 50% actuarially. If he doesn't run for re-election in light of his health, Democrats lose the benefit of incumbency in 2024, although the demographics and religious views of the United States continue to shift in their favor.

Warren consistently beats Trump in national polling, although only by a thinner margin than Sanders, although that could change as the public gets to know her, or Sanders, better. She also does more poorly than Sanders in head to head polls against Trump in swing states. She is less of a known quantity, so she has more room to grow in the polls if she wins the nomination. She has been fairly effective in her debate performance and could eat Trump for lunch in a debate.

Warren has been running third and fourth in the Democratic nomination polling and early state results. She is fourth in delegates so far (8% of the total). She came in fourth place in Nevada. She came in fourth place in New Hampshire. She came in third place in Iowa. She was recently in third place in cash on hand (above even Bloomberg) and in third place in individual donations, although she is in fourth place in total funds raised including self-funding and SuperPAC donations.

In no state for which Democratic nomination polling in early states is available or voting has been held is Warren in any better than third place, except in Massachusetts, her home state, where she is a close second to Sanders, followed by Buttigieg, Biden and Bloomberg in that order. 

Apart from Massachusetts, Minnesota, Iowa and Texas, she's in 4th place or worse. This simply isn't good enough in what is ultimately a winner take all race. There is no likely scenario in which she can get a majority of the delegates in the first round. There is no likely scenario in which she can get even a plurality of the delegates in the first round.

Warren is polling in fourth place in California and North Carolina, and in third place in Texas, where she worked for many years as a law professor. Warren is polling in 6th place in the only recent Virginia poll, where Sanders and Bloomberg are tied and Biden is a close third, followed by much weaker showings for Buttigieg (4th) and Klobuchar (5th). Warren in polling in third place in Minnesota behind Klobuchar (1st) and Sanders (2nd), Biden is in 4th place, Buttigieg is in 5th place, and Bloomberg is in 6th place. Warren is tied for third place in Michigan behind Sanders in first place and Biden well behind him in second place. In Florida, Warren is polling in 6th place, Bloomberg has a strong lead, followed by Biden, and then Sanders. In Georgia, Warren is in 5th place, where Biden has a huge lead, Sanders and Bloomberg are tied for second place, and Buttigieg is in 4th place. In Maryland, Warren is in 5th place, Sanders is first, Biden is second, Bloomberg is third, Buttigieg is fourth.

Also, state primaries and caucuses that are proportionate still have cutoffs, so her delegate count when she's polling at the percentages that she is, is likely to be a smaller percentage than her polling percentage, while top candidates in polling, like Sanders and Biden are likely to overperform in delegates relative to their polling.

It wouldn't be terribly surprising if Warren dropped out of the race before it got to the national convention, even though Steyer, Gabbard and Klobuchar are all probably weaker than she is and are even more likely to drop out. Klobuchar and Gabbard dropping out would ten to help Warren in the case of people looking for a female candidate.

The Case For Sanders

Sanders is the clear front runner for the Democratic Presidential nomination. He was first in the popular vote and a close second in the race for delegates in Iowa. He won in New Hampshire and Nevada. He has been awarded 45% of the delegates so far.  His betting odds are the strongest. He has a strong national campaign organization. He is first in individual donations and was recently first in cash on hand. He consistently draws huge crowds for rallies. He's won over Latino and union support. He is polling a strong second place to Biden in South Carolina (Bloomberg is not the ballot) and far ahead of third place Steyer (+10.0 percentage points) and fourth place Warren. Sanders leads polling in California (+11.5 percentage points), Texas (+1.6) and North Carolina (+1.5), all of which vote on Super Tuesday, and in all of those races, Biden is polling in second place.

Bloomberg is polling in third place in California, in fourth place in Texas, and in third place in North Carolina, despite the betting odds that place him far ahead of Biden (in second place), something that may not be truthworthy because betting odds can be manipulated with money with Bloomberg has to burn.

Many Democrats on the left of the party, think he would have won in 2016 if he had been nominated instead of Hillary Clinton, whom the Democratic National Convention and Superdelegates did their best to undermine, despite the fact that she lacked charisma and was seen as a compromise corporatist-centrist Democrat. In this narrative, her candidacy dampened Democratic turnout and enthusiasm, which led to a narrow Trump win in some key swing states, despite winning the popular vote by 3 million votes.

Sanders supporters are mostly likely to cease to work hard in the general election or even turn out if he isn't running. His political organization is not easily transferrable to another nominee.

The Democratic establishment has worked hard to get in the way of the Sanders campaign (most recently by letting Bloomberg into the race and endorsing him with big dollar contributions), and the mainstream media has been biased against Sanders who has persevered nonetheless.

One way Sanders could win the nomination would be with a majority of delegates on the first ballot, in which Superdelegates do not vote and everyone is bound to their initial pledged candidate (unless that candidate has withdrawn).

It isn't clear if Sanders will get a majority, or a plurality of the delegates. If he does not get a majority, it will not be because Warren or Buttigieg or Steyer or Klobuchar or Gabbard got more delegates than he did. 

Either Bloomberg or Biden could conceivably get more delegates than Sanders, but Biden currently seems much better positioned to do that than Bloomberg whose popularity sours every time he gets up on a debate stage where the public can be reminded of his horrible record and who isn't polling all that well already.

While I could see Biden potentially getting slightly more delegates than Sanders, although this seems unlikely, there is no way that Biden gets a majority of the first round vote. Biden's showings so far of second place in Nevada, fourth place in Iowa, and fifth place in New Hampshire are unimpressive, even though Biden has a good shot of winning in South Carolina.

Likewise, Bloomberg couldn't win a plurality either. The only state where Bloomberg is polling in first place is Florida.

So, one scenario is a first round win for Sanders, and the other scenario is a brokered convention in which delegates aren't bound to their initial candidate and superdelegates can vote.

Realistically, the only way that Elizabeth Warren will become the nominee is in a brokered convention as a compromise between Sanders supporters and delegates who do not want Sanders to be the nominee. But, in a brokered convention, Sanders, Biden, Buttigieg, Klobuchar, or Bloomberg could also become the nominee. Steyer and Gabbard have no hope in a brokered convention.

Based upon the debate performances we've seen in Nevada and South Carolina, I do not think that Bloomberg would win in a brokered convention. All of the real Democrats in the race, who will collectively have many delegates, rally against him, and he won't even be among the top two candidates in delegates won in all likelihood. Money can only buy so much.

If Sanders gets a plurality, which seems most likely by far, who would a brokered convention choose? It might choose Sanders, Biden,  Warren, Buttigieg or Klobuchar.

But, Klobuchar, if she is even still in the race by then, seems unlikely to be preferred over Warren, even by "not Sanders" factions. She just won't have delivered enough in the campaign, even though she is well enough qualified and could be uniting as a woman. 

I think that both Sanders and Warren supporters would prefer the other's candidate to Klobuchar. 

I think that a shift of Klobuchar and/or Buttigieg supporters to Biden is more likely than a shift of Biden supporters (many of whom are black or older moderate Democrats) to either of them.

Buttigieg likewise, has no realistic shot at majority, let alone a plurality of delegates. He's consistently in fourth place or worse, despite top two showings in Iowa and New Hampshire and a third place showing in Nevada.

Ultimately, a vote for Warren merely keeps her in the running as a viable brokered convention compromise in which the outcome is far from certain, and in which a Sanders win is probably more likely than a Warren win in subsequent rounds.

A vote for Sanders increases the odds that there won't be a second round or a brokered convention, and it increases the odds that if there is a brokered convention, that his plurality will be strong enough to become a majority with delegates for candidates who are no longer viable or in the running. If Sanders gets a plurality with a strong lead over any other Democratic candidate and comes close to a majority, it is hard to see the Democratic National Convention backing anyone else, and would likely blow up in the Democrats' face with mass rank and file rebellion if they tried. Someone else could be a viable nominee in a brokered convention only if Sanders plurality was thin.

Sanders is strong than he seems because he isn't just a "far left" candidate. He has focused on economic issues salient to the working class and middle class of all races, the white portion of which has moved in droves from the Democratic party to Trump's GOP.  Sanders and Warren are Democrats addressing the same impulses of working class and middle class stagnation and disillusionment that drove Trump to power, in a more constructive way. The other candidates don't really acknowledge this dire concern so strongly.

Sanders has a charisma that has built a large loyal base, and is perceived as honest and not bought. Some never Trump voters may prefer Sanders because however ambitious his policy agenda, Sanders won't have the votes in Congress to enact in fully in all likelihood.

Sanders is likely to maximize turnout for the Democratic base, and higher turnout is most likely to lead to Democratic coat tails in House and Senate races. If Sanders can win the Presidency, there is a good chance that Democrats can hold the House and flip the Senate as well. None of the other Democratic candidates, with the possible exceptions of Buttigieg or Warren if they ran truly dynamic campaigns significantly exceeding expectations to date, are likely to increase Democratic turnout or commitment, or to have coat tails to the same degree. Biden and Bloomberg would definitely depress Democratic base turnout. Klobuchar would be par for the course turnout or worse. Warren would be a much more plausible faction uniter than Buttigieg, in the face of a committed "not Sanders" faction, particularly if Sanders and Warren combined are close to 50%.

The most likely brokered convention possibility would be a plurality first round vote for Sanders, a close run up for Biden, with a smattering of delegates spread among Buttigieg, Warren, Klobuchar, and Bloomberg, far behind the two front runners, in which case the second round vote would be to see whether Sanders or Biden could get more delegates from Superdelegates and those won by Buttigieg, Warren, Klobuchar and Bloomberg. Biden might get votes from Klobuchar and Bloomberg supporters and split Buttigieg, while Sanders might get some Buttigieg supporter and most of the Warren supporters. Superdelegates would be split by Biden and Sanders, but might give Biden an edge.

But, ultimately, the bottom line is that I am leaning pretty strongly in favor of Sanders at this point, even though I would prefer Warren as an actual President.