Photo of the day

Love this shot from an In Focus gallery of photos from the final weekend of the Olympics:

A picture taken with an underwater camera shows Britain’s Thomas Daley competing in the Men’s 10m Platform Semifinal at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maria Lenk Aquatics Stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 20, 2016.

Francois-Xavier Marit / AFP / Getty
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We have met the enemy… and he doesn’t exist

Kind of a mind-bending post from Bill Ayers.  I kind of love it:

But I want to make a much bigger point here. The point isn’t just that Gov. LePage, or Pastor Burns from South Carolina, were wrong about who our enemies are. The point is that they are both wrong about whether there are any enemies at all.

Put another way: there are no enemies.

I’ll say that again for emphasis: There are no enemies. “Enemies” are an illusion we create ourselves…

People will immediately object, of course. “What about ISIS?”, they will ask. “What about Russia? China? Terrorists? Weren’t the Nazis enemies?” (Because Godwin’s Law).

We live in a culture defined by enemy narratives. Almost all of our stories, our movies, our TV shows revolve around the struggle with enemies, “good guys” vs. “bad guys”, black hats and white hats. There are exceptions, of course, but they are relatively rare. The Enemy Narrative is one of the most recognizable stories we have.

The problem is, it’s all wrong. Or, put another way, it’s all made up – a constructed story we tell ourselves about the world that hides and obscures more than it illuminates. We believe that enemies are real, that they really exist, just like trees and oceans and clouds are real. But they’re not. Enemies are just people with labels we attach to them…

But what about people who attack us? Aren’t they our enemies? If someone tries to do me harm, I’m not making that up – doesn’t that make someone my enemy?

Imagine this story: I go out for the evening with my brother (who would, for the record, never do this…). We have dinner, maybe hear some music, walk to a couple of bars. He’s feeling down about things in his life. Over the course of the evening he drinks too much, thinks about the wrong things too much, grows angry. Soon he’s consumed by his anger and rage, fueled by alcohol. He bumps into someone, starts scuffling. I step in to restrain him, and he turns his anger on me. He lashes out to hit me.

Is he my enemy? Of course not. He’s misguided, confused, and mistaken. Yes, he’s trying to do me harm. But he’s still my brother. And I will respond to him as such…

This is not an argument for complete pacifism (a topic I’ve dealt with previously). If my brother is attacking me, I’m going to resist. I may even use force against him. But because he is my brother, not my enemy, I will use the least force necessary. I will do everything I can to keep him whole and unharmed.

Likewise, if a terrorist group is planning to attack us we should attempt to stop them. But in doing so, we should remember that, however confused or mistaken they may be, they are still fellow human beings. When Jesus called on us to love our enemies, this is exactly what he meant. If you claim to be a Christian and yet want to lash out in anger and hatred at terrorists (or Mexicans, or “thugs”, or anyone else), you’ve got a problem…

Gov. LePage will not be the last politician during this electoral season to label someone else “the enemy”. Partisans on both sides will do so, because the Enemy Narrative is a great way to mobilize your tribe and get them to go out and do things. Every time we do so, we dehumanize each other a little bit more. LePage isn’t the cause of the problem, he’s a symptom.

Good stuff.

Organization matters (and Trump doesn’t have it)

I gave a talk to a group of NCSU students yesterday about how to make sense of all the election polls.  Thing is, to some degree, there’s no making sense.  Well, of course you can average all the polls and that does, in fact, give us a pretty good idea.  But that said, when you look at the patterns across various polls with various methodologies, etc., it’s hard to conclude much other than that Hillary Clinton is currently winning.

That said, whatever her real margin is— and even the averages are quite different in the aggregators as they use different approaches to averageing– I actually strongly suspect that come election day, Clinton will out-perform the polls.  Why?  Trump’s historically poor campaign.  And in this regard, not just the dumb stuff he says, etc., but also the way in which he has almost completely ignored campaign organization.  And organization does, in fact, matter.  Nice post from John Sides:

Stories about the ramshackle nature of the Trump campaign are abundant. Arecent article called Donald Trump’s organization “more concert tour than presidential campaign.” A 12-year-old appears to be running Trump’s field office in a populous Colorado county. Sixty percent of registered voters — and even 40 percent of Republicans — believe that Trump’s campaign is “poorly run.”

This is obviously unprecedented in modern presidential elections. Typically, the candidates have similar resources and campaign organizations. Typically, it is difficult for one candidate to have a large advantage in televised advertising or fieldwork…

By comparison, Trump is being vastly outspent in advertising and is limited essentially to whatever field organization the Republican National Committee can provide — which will be exceeded by Hillary Clinton’s, much as Romney’s was exceeded by Obama’s. How much will this cost him on Election Day? [emphases mine]

Probably the best estimate comes from a recently published piece by political scientists Ryan Enos and Anthony Fowler. They show that the effect of the 2012 presidential campaign on voter turnout was quite large, about 7-8 points overall.

The more political science inclined of you should read how they got the estimate– it’s a really nice bit of analytical work.  That said, onto how it matters:

Notably, Enos and Fowler also found that these increases in turnout were similar among Democrats and Republicans. As they noted in a previous Monkey Cage post, this implies that both the Romney and Obama campaigns were able to mobilize voters successfully…

So what is the implication for Trump if he doesn’t have a full-fledged field organization? Fowler suggested thinking through the math like this.

Imagine you have a place where 50 percent of the voters support Trump and 50 percent support Clinton. If equal proportions of Trump and Clinton supporters vote, the candidates would obviously tie with 50 percent of the vote each.

Now suppose, for example, that 55 percent of Trump supporters vote but 62 percent of Clinton supporters vote — that 7-point effect again. Now Trump’s share of the vote is 47 percent. The math is: (.55*.50)/[(.55*.50)+(.62*.50)]. In other words, Trump’s disadvantage in campaigning turned a tie into a 6-point defeat…

But clearly the Trump campaign faces a major challenge at this point in time. When you’re down 7 points in the polls and early voting is already starting, you need every vote you can get. But the Trump campaign seems more likely to leave votes on the table.

In short, whatever margin Hillary Clinton likely wins by on election day, it will likely be more than it otherwise would have been as Trump is seemingly leaving so many votes on the table through poor organization.  So, not only does Trump need to catch Clinton in the polls, there’s a good argument to be made that he would need to notably surpass her to make up for his remarkably deficient political organization.

 

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