Election 2016, Everybody Stop Freaking Out Edition

Election 2016, Everybody Stop Freaking Out Edition November 7, 2016


First things first: Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote for president. Vote in downballot races. Vote if you live in a swing state. Vote if you live in a safe state. Find your polling place. Make a plan for how and when you’ll get there. Most of all, get out and vote. And after you’ve voted, if you have the time and the inclination, help others do it too: Phone bank. Knock doors. Help drive eligible voters to the polls.

Have you done all that? Good. Now, here’s what I have to say to liberals: For the love of science, stop freaking out. Everything’s going to be all right.

I’ve often said that while conservatives are prone to disastrous overconfidence, liberals are prone to irrational pessimism and unwarranted panic. And in the last few weeks, those fears have been kicked into overdrive by apparently wildly gyrating poll numbers that suggest Donald Trump could pull off a come-from-behind victory. On my Facebook and Twitter feeds, I’ve witnessed more than the usual amount of wailing, gnashing of teeth, and promises to move out of the country.

Despair-prone progressives, let me put your minds at ease: We’re in as strong a position as we could hope for. Hillary Clinton has been comfortably in the lead throughout this interminable campaign, and she still is. Barring some wildly implausible massive last-minute upset, she’s going to win the election by a comfortable margin, defeat Trump and become the 45th president of the United States.

First, those poll numbers. It’s extremely unlikely that huge numbers of voters are changing their minds this close to the election. As YouGov explains, this is much more likely to be an artifact of who’s responding to pollsters.

I also think that, given how extensively this election has been polled, there are bound to be outliers. And when one of those delivers an unusually shocking result, headline-hungry journalists seize on it and promote it under the spurious label of “momentum”. (I prefer to call it “electoral pareidolia” – imposing a narrative on random noise.)

Last but not least, there are polls that are just flat-out untrustworthy due to highly questionable methodology choices. One I’ve seen criticized is the LA Times poll that’s been a stubborn outlier due to its sample including one (!) young, black Trump supporter who gets disproportionately weighted. Pollsters like Quinnipiac have also come up with Trump-friendly numbers by indefensibly assuming that 2016 will have a much whiter electorate than 2012.

Let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Everything I said in May still holds true. If Donald Trump merely does as well as Mitt Romney, he’ll lose. To win the presidency, he’d have to do better. So how’s he going to do that? What states, and in particular, what demographics is he going to improve on Romney’s performance with?

He’s not going to win on the backs of white men. There’s every reason to believe that Republicans have already done as well as they’re ever going to do with that demographic – and since the U.S. is becoming less white (at the rate of about one-half of one percent per year), relying solely on them is a recipe for permanent minority status. Hence, the RNC autopsy that begged their candidates to try harder to appeal to people of color after their 2012 loss.

But instead, the Republicans nominated Trump, who’s done the opposite. He’s not going to do better with black or Hispanic voters. If anything, he’ll do worse; he’s the most offensive and upsetting candidate possible, as far as those groups are concerned. He’s not going to do better with women; his crude misogyny is so offensive that he’s facing the biggest gender gap in electoral history, and has even turned traditionally Republican-leaning demographics like white college-educated women toward the Democrats.

The evidence that’s already come in strongly supports this. Swing states like Nevada, Colorado and Florida are seeing a surge in early voting by Latinos, to the point where journalists like Jon Ralston believe the Democrats have already built an all-but-insurmountable lead. In Florida, black turnout is breaking records, and 28% of Republicans reportedly voted for Clinton. Given Trump’s lackluster funding and near-total lack of a ground game, he has virtually no chance of making this up by Election Day.

For anyone who still has jitters, here’s an open thread. What are your predictions for tomorrow?

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