September 6th, 2016

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On the Death of Phyllis Schlafly

One of my favorite authors wrote: "Some attitudes couldn't be changed, they could only be outlived." Schlafly was a spokesperson for a particular time and era. Schlafly -- as far as I know -- never strayed outside the bounds of recognized debate in this country. She fought for her social views -- which at the time were more mainstream -- using the tools available in our democracy.

And, as we who defend the First Amendment and democracy hope, from this crucible of debate, a better truth emerged. For while she participated in several successful campaigns, such as to prevent passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, ultimately she emerged as on the wrong side of history. The principles that were taken as an unspeakable given when she was born: that homosexuality was a perversion and mental illness, that women were inherently different from men in a way that should convey to men greater formal economic and social power, are now only the opinions of self-styled conservatives who complain that the rest of society has left them behind.

I do not defend Schlafly. Her views were wrong and reprehensible and she defended them to the very end. But I would not make her worse than she was, and I recognize what she did is part of the process by which societies change. Just as virtue requires vice to become visible as virtue, the evolution of society requires visible debate to continue to form new consensus. Some attitudes cannot be changed, they can only be outlived. Let us hope we are at last outliving the attitude that sex or sexual orientation are relevant to competence or character.,

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As I keep saying, the fundamentals of political science in the US are changing

This Washington Post piece outlines how political prognosticators are having such an incredibly difficult time predicting how things will come out this election year.

As I have been saying for some time, the underlying fundamentals on which the various predictive models are built are changing dramatically. And even for people like me who have been predicting this for years and trying to track the trends, we don't have nearly enough data on the new fundamentals (which are complicated, and intereact with a wide variety of other factors in ways no one has really gotten a handle on) to make solid predictions.

Start with what should be a basic question -- who turns out to vote this year? In what numbers? Why? If you simply recite about how older people vote more often than younger people, you are ignoring the huge swings between POTUS years and non-POTUS years. Further, now that the 70 year olds are from the first generation of voter participation decline, will we see the same trend of enhanced voter turn out for older Americans?

In some states, like North Carolina, the 4-4 Supreme Court decision allowing the stay of North Carolina's election law to stand has significant potential impsct. Same for TX. Does that mean models should enhance non-white participation? Or were the previous models failing to take voter supression into account.

By all conventional measures, the current election should not be happening. But it is. For those of us who study such things, it's a fun time. For those who make their living as professional prognosticators, it is quite unsettling. As I remarked on FB, it is rather like in Dune at the Battle of Arakeen, when prescience failed. The Guild spokesman looks at the Emperor and says: "We cannot tell how this will end."