2016 ≠ 2008

Love this Matt Grossmann post at Polyarchy.  We seem to keep hearing from Sanders supporters that just like the Superdelegates shifted from Hillary to Obama in 2008, so they’ll shift to Bernie in 2016.  But that’s not really what happened in 2008.  This graph tells the story:

Superdelegates in 2008

What happened is Uncommitted delegates committed to Obama– especially at the end.  There was not a wide-scale abandoning of Hillary.  At this point in 2008, Hillary was just over 200 Superdelegates and narrowly ahead of Obama in that count.  In 2016, she’s ahead of Sanders 469 to 31.  2008 is not a good analogy here.  And  yet there’s more:

The Sanders campaign has argued that Clinton needs to clinch the nomination with pledged delegates alone this year or the convention will be contested, but Obama never met that standard: By pledged delegates alone, he was more than 350 delegates short of a majority. He relied on superdelegates to put him over the top.

The same will be true of Clinton this year; by all projections, she will be declared the winner of the nomination on June 7, when she eclipses 1,938 total delegates (including superdelegates). Even extraordinary Sanders gains would only get him to a majority of pledged delegates, not enough to overtake Clinton in total delegates…

Sanders will have arguments to persuade superdelegates this year as well, but to imagine that he will convince hundreds of them to renounce their prior support of Clinton is fanciful. Superdelegates have traditionally favored the clear pledged delegate winner, but prior races do not provide a precedent for a large shift in support among the already committed.

Even if, against all odds, Sanders ekes out a win among pledged delegates, he will remain behind Clinton in votes cast. An improbable come-from-behind lead among pledged delegates would certainly offer a new argument for Sanders, but it is not a recipe for Democratic elites to suddenly desert Clinton. Superdelegates are likely to want the race behind them, not convention chaos to match the Republicans.

As the article points out, Bernie has every incentive to keep on running.  Just realize that visions of him actually winning are pretty much fanciful.

Photo of the day

Very cool HuffPo collection of Instagram images from Pedra da Gavea in Rio.  For example:

Are colleges too obsessed with “smart” people?

So argues a Stanford professor.  And as elite universities go, I expect he’s right.  Interesting interview in the Chronicle of Higher Ed:

Mr. Astin, a professor emeritus at the University of California at Los Angeles, believes that too many faculty members “have come to value merely being smart more than developing smartness.” That line comes from his new book, Are You Smart Enough? How Colleges’ Obsession With Smartness Shortchanges Students.

In the short yet provocative text, Mr. Astin peers into the faculty lounge as well as the admissions office. There he finds more concern with “acquiring” smart students, as defined by conventional metrics, than with helping students improve after they enroll. [emphases mine]

“When the entire system of higher education gives favored status to the smartest students, even average students are denied equal opportunities,” he writes. “If colleges were instead to be judged on what they added to each student’s talents and capacities, then applicants at every level of academic preparation might be equally valued.” …

Q. What’s your sense of the prevailing definition of smartness at selective colleges, and what’s so wrong with it?

A. Because of the culture they find themselves immersed in, faculty members tend to be preoccupied with smartness. It’s largely unconscious, I think. We’re often trying to show off our smartness to each other, or avoid being judged as not smart enough. The problem is the consequence of that emphasis.

“If colleges were instead to be judged on what they added to each student’s talents and capacities, then applicants at every level of academic preparation might be equally valued.”

We concentrate far too much on our smartest students. Smartest in the traditional sense, kids who get the highest grades and test scores. We put tremendous emphasis on these students to the detriment of everybody else — the average student, the underprepared student.

We have created an institutional structure that reflects this bias. Teaching an average student doesn’t get any value in academia. And a side effect of all this is we define smartness in a very narrow sense.

Speaking for my non-elite department at my non-elite university, I don’t actually think this is all that true.  That said, the overarching point of focusing on achievement rather than student improvement certainly rings true.  I do know for me, it really is more rewarding and I invest more to get a C student to a B/B+ performance than to see a really bright individual earn another A without necessarily working as hard.

We certainly don’t need to start evaluating college professors with a flawed “value-added” metric like so many K-12 teachers, but higher education should certainly start taking the idea of value-added for all of it’s students more seriously.

Bernie and leaners

A 538 post by Dan Hopkins on Bernie’s disproportionate support among independents was like catnip for me, given my interests.  Short version: Bernie does much better among Democratic leaners (self-identified “Independents” who prefer the Democratic party) than among avowed Democrats.  Here’s the key graph:


A not insubstantial part of this is, once again in American politics, demographics:

In part, Sanders’s support among independent leaners is a product of the demographics of his coalition generally. Among Democrats and independents who lean Democratic, the independent leaners are more likely to be male, white and higher-income — and at the same time, they have less positive views of President Obama.3 In short, the demographics and attitudes that tend to predict being an independent who leans Democratic are those that predict Sanders support.

As far as the nomination goes, this is a problem for Bernie.  Lots of big closed primary states coming up:

Of course, what voters tell pollsters about their partisan identification is not the same as their formal party registration status. In fact, many states do not register voters by party at all. Still, using the same data, I can compare Democrats and Democratic leaners’ partisan identification with their 2012 party registration status.  Nationwide, 46 percent of people who call themselves weak Democrats were formally registered with the Democratic Party. Among those who call themselves independents who lean Democratic, the number is just 15 percent. (Looking at only states with closed primaries:5 74 percent of weak Democrats are registered Democrats, and 33 percent of independents who lean Democratic are.) So in states with closed primaries, a critical bloc of Sanders’s supporters must re-register as Democrats before they are eligible to back him in the primaries. As the primary calendar switches to northeastern states, which tend to have closed primaries, that helps Clinton substantially. In New York, for instance, the deadline to change parties was back in October.

I also cannot help but mention that I love that Hopkins talks about the connection between registration and party identification, something you almost hardly read anything about.  Anyway, I always enjoy a good look at partisan leaners.  And, in this case, it tells us something important about Hillary’s advantage right now.


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