Category Archives: Elections

The Social Media Revolution–An American Spring?

"Television". Photo. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.

Regular readers know that I–an irregular contributor here–have long said that the power of the internet is as-yet poorly understood and mostly untapped. Sure, we’ve seen the Arab Spring, but what is the internet really going to do in America beyond providing us endless hours of cat videos?

Well, Scott Adams [of Dilbert fame] suggests that it’s broken down our electoral politics and is turning us into a direct democracy:

The media has led you to believe that this is a presidential contest between Democrats and Republicans. But Sanders is barely a real Democrat and Trump is barely a conservative Republican. If Bloomberg jumps into the race, we will have three candidates with ambiguous party affiliations. So maybe there is a more helpful way to frame this contest.

Naval Ravikant calls it The American Spring, and points out that social media has become the real conduit to power. That’s a revolution. We the People are on the brink of replacing the entrenched powers and their monied interests. If the patriots in Iowa, New Hampshire, and the other early primary states put both Sanders and Trump in commanding leads, they will be – in effect – firing the government. But they would also be firing the system of government that was created by the Founders. Direct democracy via social media – chaotic and ugly – is about to replace the Republic. No longer can a strong leader ignore the will of the people when it is pounding on every door and tapping on every window. The Republic was designed to give elected officials the power to decide for the people. But the elected elites have lost their legitimacy and The People are on the brink of taking back power.

I’ve said before that technology has led America to an increasingly centralized society, culture, and government.

  1. The printing press itself was the first step in creating durable broadsheet dissemination of information to a wide audience. The pen is mightier than the sword, but owning a printing press is like being the general of an army of penmen.
  2. Newspapers have followed an overwhelming consolidation and much of their news-gathering is centralized via the AP. And they had real power, because you “never pick a fight with people who buy ink by the barrel.
  3. The introduction of radio enabled a true real-time broadcast to allow single voices to reach much more widely than ever before.
  4. TV came along, and video truly killed the radio star. Because of the expense, consolidation into the “big 3” networks meant that the largest corporations could filter and control the presentation of information to the masses.

"Television". Photo. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.

“Television”. Photo. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Web. 25 Jan. 2016.


Each step increased the flow of information. But each step also drove the control of which information would flow into a narrower and narrower group of people. But technology marches on, and the filters of broadcast media are increasingly being sidestepped, democratized, and subsumed. It started with Cable, as the cost of getting into the television business dropped dramatically, and the appearance of the 24-hour cable news station widened the number of voices in the market. But nothing has come close to becoming relevant as quickly as the internet and social media. We now see major news productions no longer driving the reporting, but rather highlighting the tweets of feet on the ground. And Presidential primary political debates are taking questions from YouTube “stars”.

The internet has been around the “mainstream” less than 20 years now… Since then, it’s basically broken or fundamentally changed multiple business models in all sorts of industries, as any unemployed former travel agent will tell you. Politically, by 2004, blogs had changed the political landscape enough to give us Rathergate. But 2004–a mere 12 years ago–only brought us the first inklings of the social media future with MySpace. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, all of these hadn’t even been invented yet. Essentially the “modern” social media landscape was built in ~2006, with Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, and integrated with the “computer in a pocket”, the iPhone and Android devices, over the following few years. We’ve been living with it for only a decade.
popery
The first decade of television was exciting, but raw. Everyone could tell that this was something new, and something important. Much like they can tell with the internet and social media now. It created new stars and obsoleted many former ones. It changed the world of politics. Much like internet and social media has done since. And now, as streaming video is replacing broadcast video for more and more households, and with Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu becoming production companies in their own right, the traditional hold of the TV networks is breaking with it.

The “out of the blue” appearance of Ron Paul and now Bernie Sanders? Voices who have spent decades with no “mainstream” platform are now finding their audience. The growth of “outsider, anti-establishment” candidates gaining real traction? This is due to media conglomerates no longer being able to control the message and marginalize them. These candidates, rightly or wrongly, stand in stark contrast to the politicians who have been screwing us over for years while growing their own power. And can you imagine the quick changes in public opinion on the gay marriage, medical/recreational marijuana legalization fights, and civil liberties issues without a democratized communication platform like the internet? And the internet is not only domestic–it’s making these changes on a global scale.

So, what is the point? Well, it remains to be seen. We are witnessing the greatest social transformation the world has seen since at least the invention of television, but probably since the creation of “mass media” at all. We’re seeing the replacement of “broadcasting” with “narrowcasting”, or “sidecasting”, or “targetedcasting”, or “peercasting” or whatever you want to name it. But the fact is that information no longer only flows downhill from the powerful to the rest of us. Now, while each of us may individually be no more powerful than we ever once were, all of us are collectively more powerful than any individual media magnate or opinion-maker on the globe. While much of Scott Adams post goes into suggesting an idea that I don’t think will ever come to pass, the question of demolishing our system of government is well under way, whether the visible structures of government change or not.

Is this a good thing? Will it advance liberty? I’m not sure. But it’s certainly different, and the world–be it politicians, media folks, leaders of industry, etc–hasn’t quite figured out the implications of that yet.

Margin of Error

Sorry, pet peeve time.

Reason, discussing Chris Christie’s candidacy:

Not only did Christie not get the traditional “bump” in polling that candidates get when they first officially announced, he’s dropped from 4 percent to 2 percent in a Monmouth University poll over that time period. With a 5 percent margin of error, it means Christie’s support could be at 0 percent.

He could be at 0 percent? No, that’s not what that means. I suppose I should give credit for not saying he could be at -3 percent, but clearly he can’t be at 0 percent unless the 2 percent in the Monmouth University poll were just flat lying.

He could be at nearly 0 percent, yes. Those 2 percent of a very small poll could be the only people in America who support Chris Christie’s presidency. But that’s still non-zero.

It’s like a “statistical tie”. If one candidate is polling at 30% and another at 20% in a poll with a 5% margin of error, that doesn’t mean the two are tied. It means that there is a VERY SMALL probability that they are tied, but that there is a very high probability that one candidate has a sizable lead.

I understand that in America’s public education system and Kardashian-driven pop culture, we’ve reached a state where most people think numbers are hard. But they’re not this hard, people!

Gun Control and Electoral Math – The Scoreboard

Two years ago, I wrote a piece about electoral math and gun control, and how it was unlikely that we would have any serious national level gun control… and we have not (state level is another story unfortunately).

In that, I included a list of democratic senators who were up for re-election this year, their position on gun control, and how “at risk” their seat was:

Stupidity, Politics, and Electoral Math

So, now that we have the results of all of their elections, let’s see what the last two years hath wrought among them:

XX = Unelected (or resigned and replaced by Republican)

  1. XX – Alaska – Mark Begich – Very Pro Gun – very unsafe seat
  2. XX – Arkansas – Mark Pryor – neutral – very unsafe seat
  3. XX – Colorado – Mark Udall – neutral – not a safe seat
  4. Delaware – Chris Coons – Very anti-gun – safe seat
  5. Hawaii – UNKNOWN (special election to replace Daniel Inouye) – safe seat
  6. Illinois – Dick Durbin – Very anti-gun – safe seat
  7. XX – Iowa – Tom Harkin – Very anti-gun – iffy, can’t afford to screw up
  8. XX – Louisiana – Mary Landrieu – neutral – very unsafe seat
  9. Massachusetts – UNKNOWN (special election to replace John Kerry) – safe seat
  10. Michigan – Carl Levin – very anti-gun – safe seat
  11. Minnesota – Al Franken – very anti-gun – not a safe seat
  12. XX – Montana – Max Baucus – very pro-gun – iffy, can’t afford to screw up
  13. New Hampshire – Jeanne Shaheen – very anti-gun – not a safe seat
  14. New Jersey – Frank Lautenberg – very anti-gun – safe seat
  15. New Mexico – Tom Udall – slightly anti-gun – safe seat
  16. XX – North Carolina – Kay Hagan – very anti-gun – not a safe seat
  17. Oregon – Jeff Merkley – very anti-gun – safe seat
  18. Rhode Island – Jack Reed – very anti-gun – safe seat
  19. XX – South Dakota – Tim Johnson – very pro-gun – very unsafe seat
  20. Virginia – Mark Warner – very pro-gun – not a safe seat
  21. XX – West Virginia – Jay Rockefeller – moderately anti-gun – very unsafe seat

Lotta XX’s there… 9 actually, out of 21 (10 of those 21 were considered safe seats, barely challenged by Republicans). Pretty much every anti-gun democrat that wasn’t in a safe seat, except Shaheen and Franken (and they’re kinda weird cases).

And THAT folks, is why we will not have any significant gun control on the national level any time soon.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

The Republican Traveling Interstate Electoral Paradox and Clown Show

While I have no interest in Jeb Bush as president… really I think very few people do… he’s absolutely correct on the ideological problem Republicans face.

From The Hill:

“Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush made the case for a more centrist Republican Party on Monday night, saying a nominee should “lose the primary to win the general without violating your principles.”

Bush’s apparent strategy not to try to appeal to the most conservative elements of the party contrasts to some degree with Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign, where some questioned whether he tacked too far to the right in the primary, hurting his ability to get back toward the center for the general election.

Bush laid out policy positions that could be controversial among the conservative base.”

Unfortunately, we have the example of 2012 and Mitt Romney to show us both side of this problem INCREDIBLY clearly.

In order to win in the primaries, you generally have to appeal to strongly motivated partisans, and fundraisers. In order to get their support, you generally have to stake out stronger ideological positions, which appeal to single states or regions, than much of “the center” is comfortable with, on a national basis. The positions that appeal to Floridians, don’t necessarily appeal to Pennsylvanians, or Iowans, or Ohioans.

An aside: Of course, in reality, there is no such thing as a political “center”, or an “independent”. These are polite fictions and rhetorical constructs, adopted by the media, and by people who either don’t understand their own political positions, or are trying to convince people of something (including themselves). 

While both major parties have this problem, and prior to the 90s democrats generally suffered from it worse than Republicans; since Bush the elder, the reverse has generally been true.

I think in part it’s because Democrats got smarter, and more cynical… while at the same time, Republicans seemingly got stupider (politically that is)… and also more cynical but in a less politically useful way.

Bush the Elder failed to win reelection, because 40% of the country thought he was too conservative, and 40% of the country thought he was too liberal. When presented with an “alternative” in Ross Perot, whom both liberals and conservatives, and “independents”, were able to project their aspirations on; Bush lost just enough more support than Clinton, that Clinton was able to squeak a plurality victory in.

We repeated the same charade with Romney and Obama in 2012 (and in fact McCain and Obama in 2008).

Obama didn’t win re-election because of increasing or even maintaining democrat and “centrist” support (he actually lost some)… He won reelection because a very large portion of the right decided to stay home rather than vote for Romney, whom they considered a closet liberal.

In 2012, there were honestly millions of people in this country, who opposed Obama and everything he stood for, but somehow convinced themselves that:

“it’s better if Obama stays in power and we fight against him, and the country gets even worse so that everyone will know how bad liberals are, and next time we can get a “REAL CONSERVATIVE”; because if we elect Romney, he’ll be just as bad as Obama, and harder to fight against”.

If you don’t believe that people could be that silly… just ask a hard right “conservative”, or a “tea party” supporter (or for that matter, a liberal who voted for the “green” party, because Obama wasn’t liberal enough).

Meanwhile, the media and the left very effectively painted Romney as a radical right wing nut job… so successfully, that they seemingly actually believed their own BS…

I’m not sure if they just completely ignored the facts that Romney had almost no actual conservative support prior to the general, that his actual stated positions were relatively “moderate”, and that there were YEARS worth of articles, editorials, fox news opinion pieces, and general conservative HATE of Romney…

…Or if somehow they convinced themselves that all that was a psyop against them, to slip manchurian ultraconservative Romney in under their noses?

…’cuz seriously… the Republican party, and conservative media, are not that smart, that competent, or anywhere NEAR that unified and coordinated.

…If they were, they could actually have elected a president.

The Republican primary process has been an absurd clown show the last two electoral cycles.

On what planet, would Michele Bachmann ever be taken seriously as a national candidate? Because it certainly isn’t this one.

How about Mike Huckabee?

Or Rick Santorum?

… And yet, these clowns were able to make a decent enough showing in the primaries to be taken seriously, because they had small but passionate single issue followings, who donated sufficient money to keep their nutjob single issue panderers on the campaign trail.

After 8 years of Obama and the Dems in congress finding new and interesting ways of getting the country to hate them, one would generally assume a Republican presidential LOCK for 2016.

The only way it won’t be, is if they screw up really badly in congress in the next two years (a significant possibility)…

… Or if they end up with another clown show primary process, from which they attempt to pick the least offensive clown as their candidate.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

What Does Last Night’s Big Win For The GOP Mean?

ballot-box

The GOP gave Democrats a major ass-whipping across the country. As for writing, the GOP took the majority in the U.S. Senate and gained 7 seats, with a likely gain in Alaska and Louisiana going to a December runoff where the GOP is favored. The GOP also won 14 seats in the House as of writing to expand their majority there. Finally, where the GOP made unexpected gains was in the governor’s races where instead of losing governorships as expected, they gained 3.

Here’s what I think this big night means to the GOP.

1) A Clear Repudiation Of Barack Obama

The American people gave their verdict on President Obama and “hope and change” and they were not pleased. All Republicans had to do was play it safe and make “Obama sucks” their whole message and it worked. It was not only enough to drag good candidates such as Cory Gardner who defeated Mark Uterus, I mean, Udall in Colorado after Mark Uterus ran probably one of the most offensive reelection campaigns in memory. However, the real test of a wave is if it’s good enough to drag mediocre candidates across the finish line and it was. The mediocre Thom Tillis was dragged over the finish line as he defeated Kay Hagan in North Carolina.

2) The Governor’s Races Were The Surprises

Raise your hand if you had Republicans winning the governorship of Maryland and by almost ten points? That’s what happened last night when Larry Hogan defeated Anthony Brown in a stunning upset. Also, while this isn’t as big of an upset, Bruce Rauner defeated Pat Quinn, who is one of the worst governors in the country, in Illinois. Republicans also won in Massachussetts. Paul LePage survived in Maine, while Rick Scott won the battle of the scumbags in Florida. Sam Brownback also survived his reelection challenge in Kansas. Scott Walker won again in Wisconsin. Also, Wendy Davis was crushed in her bid to become governor of Texas.

3) The Initiatives Were A Mixed Bag For Liberty

Let’s get the bad news out of the way. Washington State approved mandatory background checks for all gun purchases. Maui approved mandatory GMO labeling. Florida rejected medical marijuana. Nebraska, South Dakota, and Arkansas voted to increase their state’s minimum wage to above the Federal level. Arkansas also rejected legalizing alcohol sales throughout the entire state. New Jersey expanded pretrail detention for criminal suspects and North Carolina weakened the right to trial by jury by allowing summary judgement. North Dakota rejected an initiative that eliminated the requirement the majority ownership stake in a pharmacy be owned by a pharmacist, which protects cronyism.

There were however some good news for liberty on the initiative front. Oregon and Washington D.C. legalized marijuana and Alaska is likely to do the same once the votes are certified. Tennessee banned their state government from imposing a state income tax. North Dakota banned the state from imposing taxes on the sale of real estate. Oregon defeated the “Top 2” primary system, so party affiliation still means something in that state. Massachussetts repealed a law that indexed gas taxes to inflation. Colorado defeated mandatory GMO labeling. Georgia passed an income tax rate cap which states that income tax rates cannot be raised past the current top rate. Colorado also passed a requirement that school board meetings having to do with collective bargaining must be open to the public. Finally, Alabama passed protections on the right to keep and bear arms.

4) Third Parties Are Still Not Here Yet

Last night was more disappointment for third party candidates. In most races, they failed to top 5%, if that. Unless the system changes, that won’t likely change. The two major parties act as coalitions and fufill the role that coalition governments play in other countries.

5) Now Is A Major Opportunity For The GOP

You can argue the GOP played it too safe this year. A more bold candidate than Ed Gillespie would’ve likely won in Virginia. Perhaps the GOP should’ve spent additional resources in New England.

Here’s what the GOP needs to do, they need start giving the American people reasons to vote for them in 2016. Start passing and forcing Obama to veto no-brainer bills on tax reform, spending cuts, healthcare reform, crony capitalism repeal, ending Common Core, etc. Also, the GOP must restrain the Ted Cruz types from picking unnecessary fights for publicity. They cannot let the Tea Party dominate messaging. Finally, Republicans must step up outreach towards minorities and young people, starting now.

All in all, I don’t expect much change to result from last night. After all, Barack Obama is still President. Republicans, if they’re smart, can start laying the groundwork for victory in 2016 though.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The Hayride.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.
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