Monday, September 26, 2016

The Black Swan

With the first presidential debate tonight, it is interesting to note that Nate Silver, polling guru who made a name for himself successfully predicting both of Obama's robust victories, has basically punted when it comes to divining the outcome for 2016. The polls are too close and the trend lines are going in odd directions in swings states versus the nation at large. But what Silver is really saying, at least what I came away with, is that polling in this presidential election year is not reliable.

In other words, the polling guru is calling a black swan. Silver won't name it as such because his FiveThirtyEight web site, owned by ESPN, is part of the corporate media monopoly and is therefore all in for Hillary. But a significant part of this particular black swan is the corporate media monopoly itself. So Silver's elliptical reference to a black swan makes perfect sense. Self-censorship.

The black swan of which I speak is a Trump victory. Impossible based on the factoid that the candidate who is leading in the polls two weeks after the last nominating convention always wins. But who could have imagined in late August, after the daily pummeling Trump receives on the front page of the "newspaper of record" and the tens of millions of dollars Clinton has spent on unchallenged ads, that in late September Trump would be ahead in Ohio and Florida and that we would have a nail-biter on our hands?

Hillary's path to 270 electoral votes is easier to imagine because I don't see Trump winning in Pennsylvania or Michigan, states Trump needs to find a way to the White House. But there is also a small chance that no candidate gets to 270. This could happen if Trump wins Colorado, New Hampshire and one of the two electoral votes Maine apportions based on Congressional District. Assuming all the swings break according to the current FiveThirtyEight map, this would keep Clinton under 270.

Andrew Levine in "The Meaning of the Trump Surge," which was the featured piece on the CounterPunch web site over the weekend, thinks that after the debates Hillary will reattain her substantial post-convention lead. In this scenario, Levine thinks the best that can be hoped for is that the Jill Stein vote will reach five percent; at that threshold the Green Party will qualify for federal funds. This is a big deal. It was the unicorn we were after in 2000 with Nader-LaDuke.

If Nader-LaDuke couldn't do it, neither will Stein-Baraka.

On Saturday I participated in a 5K road race that is part of an annual community event in a working-class neighborhood in the northernmost reaches of the city. I go every year. It is my favorite run. I think it has something to do with its small scale. I like racing on the empty streets early on Saturday morning. What I noticed this year is that people still have their Bernie signs up. This is a phenomena I have noticed in the more inexpensive precincts of my neighborhood, something one would expect to see in apartment windows. But in the northern home-owning neighborhood of working-class Broadview it came as a surprise. No Trump signs. No Hillary signs. Only Bernie signs and Seahawks signs (and less of those than in years past).

What do these signs portend? It is hard to say. Were Kucinich signs still up in yards and apartments at this point in 2004?

I don't think every Bernie sign is a marker for Jill Stein. After all, Bernie has capitulated and is campaigning for Clinton. I think these signs are similar to Tibetan prayer flags and signify nothing more than the bleached aspiration of a weekend Buddhist living in a 'roided-out consumer culture. I think we need to start looking at the electoral map from the 2004 election.

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