Why Clinton Lost | Firewalls Don’t Work

Firewalls don’t work.

(Note: My “stay positive” attempt)

The most brilliant observation of the state of the nation was the SNL Black Jeopardy piece with Tom Hanks. People have described the election as being one of “insiders vs. outsiders” or “urban vs. rural.” There is truth to both of these observations (and the skit captures the urban vs. rural — spot on).

We live in a land of great diversity. It’s our strength. It’s one of the things that  makes us special.

But when you live in a land of diversity, it’s far too easy to hang labels on people because of our clichéd perceptions of them based on where they live or what they wear or the lifestyle they exhibit.

If I were running a major political party, I’d be looking at the world through the glasses of the Black Jeopardy / Tom Hanks filter and try to figure out how we can take the strength of America’s diversity to address the negative aspects of that diversity.

Clinton lost the election at the point where her frustration led her to say something that confirmed what the people who ultimately elected Trump believe: She views them as deplorable. (Granted, Trump said more heinous things in a day that most people will in a lifetime.)

Below, is a link to a recent Hammock Idea Email that explains the “backfire effect,” how presenting people with the facts can result in them not only disbelieving the facts, but will cause the result opposite of your intention.

Building firewalls around small groups is never the pathway to success. Finding ways to communicate how we are similar, when everything in our gut tells us we’re not, is the pathway to success.

Idea Email: What the Loyalty of Voters Teaches Us About Marketing

Maybe, Sorta, Kinda

At some point, a predictor must predict.

My friend Dave Winer suggests that the polling analysis website FiveThirtyEight.com is engaged in some link-spamming effort with an article carrying the headline, “Trump is just a normal polling error behind Clinton.”

I agree.

I’ve been fascinated with the challenges Nate Silver & Co. have faced in trying to convince an audience to stay engaged in a process that has been like a year-long version of the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl.

In addition to trying of make the presidential election  a series of daily swings (who’s winning in Hillsborough County, Fla., today?), Silver and those sites that have tried to mimic his approach, all flunked the Republican Primary race–caution now permeates each article and podcast. Every few days, Silver runs a story on why anything that sounds definitive should be taken with a grain of salt.

Silver’s mea culpa after the Republican nominee set the stage for his summer and fall of providing endless butt-covering explanations of the many ways Trump could win, despite having only a 30% chance of doing so.

Silver’s most difficult challenge recently has been crafting new caveats.

But at some point, a predictor must predict.


Bizarro World Election

This election has nothing to do with political science. It’s now pure science fiction.

216px-classicbizarroA well-worn science fiction genre involves an alternate or parallel universe. According to the last person to edit the article on Wikipedia, a parallel universe is a hypothetical self-contained reality co-existing with one’s own–a universe where the very laws of nature are different – for example, Apple before Steve Jobs passed away.

My parallel universe point-of-reference is Bizarro World, the Superman spinoff DC comics that I read in the late 60s and 70s. Then, as now, I enjoyed satire. I especially enjoyed the self-directed satire of Bizarro World which gave the creators and fans of Superman the chance to make fun of themselves while staying true to the core story.

Of course, the core story of Superman was parallel universe fiction, as well. For example, in Superman, they have telephone booths.

There is so much about Donald Trump and the current Presidential election we are enduring that makes me think of Bizarro World. That Donald Trump is a role model for entrepreneurship is straight out of Bizarro World. Only in Bizarro World is serial bankruptcy a business model to be admired. Only in Bizarro World is using 3,500 lawsuits and countless threats of more lawsuits something that business owners do. (Supporting tort reform and fighting against nuisance lawsuits is what business owners have done in the real world for as long as I can recall.)

Last night’s second presidential debate was pure Bizarro World. I can’t even begin to list the things said and the strategy used by Trump that surpass explanation. But equally strange were the post-debate talking heads who started scoring the exchange as if there were no context to the debate — as if what was said during the debate actually matters.

The pundits who are still discussing this election as if it’s about what someone says in a debate are living in a parallel universe.

This election has nothing to do with political science. It’s now pure science fiction.

Being Presidential

The way a leader talks.

Last night’s Presidential Debate (the first of three) will be memorable for many reasons. For one, it’s an endorsement of the concept of preparation.

I’ve been wrong so many times about Donald Trump in the past year, I’ll skip any guess of what will be memorable about his showing, other than his continuous sniffling which he today says had something to do with his microphone.

For me, there was a paragraph that when seen in transcript form is so perfect, you realize that even the grammar was rehearsed by Clinton. But when it came to establishing which of the candidates are presidential, it slammed the book on that question for me.

Here’s the quote:

Words matter when you run for president, and they really matter when you are president. And I want to reassure our allies in Japan and South Korea and elsewhere, that we have mutual defense treaties and we will honor them. It is essential that America’s word be good. And so I know that this campaign has caused some questioning and some worries on the part of many leaders across the globe. I’ve talked with a number of them. But I want to — on behalf of myself, and I think on behalf of a majority of the American people — say that our word is good.

That’s what preparation is all about.

This clip from the debate should start with the quote a 1:29 into the video.

Who is Winning Between Upshot and FiveThirtyEight (Answer: We Are)

In the battle between FiveThirtyEight.com and NYT’s Upshot, we are the winners.



NYTimes.com Upstart

There is a great battle taking place. I’m not talking about the race for President. I’m talking about the battle over which website is best at using election-oriented explanatory graphics (or “data journalism”)–NYTimes.com’s Upshot or ESPN.com’s FiveThirtyEight.com?*

Currently, users of both sites are winning because both sites are using Edward Tufte-inspired methods of displaying real-time trends and variations. (Tufte is a Yale professor emeritus who thinks PowerPoint is evil and passionately dislikes the cartoon illustrations with numbers that are popularly called infographics.)

2016_Election_Forecast___FiveThirtyEight 3Here’s an example of a Tufteian influenced display of data found on 538. When one typically sees a Red and Blue map of the U.S. that shows which candidate is leading in each state, the map adheres to a geographic display.

2016_Election_Forecast___FiveThirtyEight 2However, because each state, thanks to the Electoral College, has a say in the election based primarily on its population, that key data point is ignored when the map is displayed geographically. A more insightful way to display a Red and Blue map is this way, as demonstrated on FiveThirtyEight.com.

Another impressive use of data journalism is the way in which Upshot displays the ever-changing “paths to victory” that each candidate has to victory. (below)

nytimes-pathsThis is perhaps the most revealing display of the daunting challenge Trump faces that I’ve seen. Using the current assumptions from Upshot’s forecasting model applied to current data, Clinton has 998 paths (or 97% of the ways) while Trump has only 24 paths (or 2.3%).

*There’s a lot of history between Nate Silver (founder of fivethirtyeight.com) and the New York Times. I’ve never had much interest in such back-stories. However, competition is a good thing.