Thursday, December 8, 2016

Self-Deception Is The Most Dangerous Kind

     Winners tend to over-celebrate their victories, especially the ones that were against the odds. But over-celebration is one of the ways we mislead ourselves. Consider the following graphic, for example:

     The image appears to suggest that politically, the U.S. is “far more red than blue:” i.e., far more Republican than Democrat. But a map is a symbol: a simplifying tool. What it hides can be important – and in this case, it probably is.

     If Donald Trump won majorities in approximately 2,600 counties and got approximately 64 million votes, then at most -- i.e., if all the Trump voters were in those 2600 counties and none outside those counties, which we know to be incorrect -- his mean tally in each county would be 24,615 votes. According to other figures I’ve seen, in the roughly 400 counties where Hillary Clinton won majorities, her aggregate margin over Trump was approximately 4.5 million votes. However, in the national tally she leads by less: approximately 2 million votes. Therefore, in the “Trump counties” he would have an aggregate margin of 2.5 million votes. If averaged over 2,600 counties, that comes to a "best case" average margin in each county of 961 votes out of approximately 48,000 votes cast.

     That’s not a large margin -- and Trump's real margin could be considerably smaller. This should tell Trump triumphalists something they need to know: that they shouldn’t presume to “own” those counties in some invincible way. There are almost as many Clinton voters in those counties as there are Trump voters.

     Donald Trump must make good on his promises and his guarantees if he wants a second term. Otherwise, those margins could vanish like dew in summer sunlight.

     By all means celebrate your victory. But by no means allow a symbolic representation of the outcome to deceive you into thinking silly thoughts about impenetrable, permanently reliable majorities.

3 comments:

  1. Another factoid: Clinton's edge in California was 3.1 million, while in the country at large it was considerably smaller.
    http://heavy.com/news/2016/11/popular-vote-results-2016-clinton-trump-2012-2008-vs-electoral-college-california-uncounted-ballots-new-york-update-totals-final/
    The above article says her edge in the popular vote was 1.23M, while a more recent claim is 2.4M. Either way, the popular vote outside California favored Trump.
    The above takes nothing away from your point about "impenetrable, permanently reliable majorities".

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  2. However, this is still a very important and useful map. It tells me that if relocation is in your future, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Alaska are the best bets, with Wyoming, North Dakota, and probably Nebraska the runners-up. In other words, stay away from states with large metropolitan concentrations.

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  3. Trump had best deliver or a large number of people are going to start thinking that voting at the ballot box is not a viable option for getting things aright with the ship of state.

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