It’s been over a week since our pro-Trump mainstream media finally stepped up and said what everyone already knew: Joe Biden and Kamala Harris won the presidential election. Nowhere near enough Americans cast their vote against fascism, but those of us who did whooped it up for a day. As was predictable, dust is settling, a pandemic is surging, and Trump is attempting a coup d’etat to usurp the people’s voice. It’s heavy, heavy stuff… and I’m still over here thinking about the down ballot House races the Democratic Party lost. I never claimed to be normal.
What we know so far is that there is zero data suggesting that “the left” cost any centrist House Democrats their seats, despite establishment, anti-progress Democratic leadership’s relentless push of that false narrative. We also know that every Democrat who ran on a progressive platform in a swing district won their race with margin to spare. Hmmm. So what gives?
Many theories are afloat, and of course I lack the discipline to resist adding my own. Perhaps because I grew up in the underbelly of Republican Party voters and foot soldiers, I am endlessly fascinated by the brain-worm-addled machinations that guide the Democratic Party. So let’s spill some ink before actual experts swoop in and grab my mic. My as yet untested theory is that the DCCC is suffering from what I call the Bill Gates Walks Into A Bar logical fallacy. I coined this phrase after hearing the economist Paul Krugman give a talk as the keynote speaker at my law school orientation, and I have definitely not been waiting sixteen years to use it in a sentence. Krugman used a hypothetical about Bill Gates in a bar to discuss a dirty trick bad faith economists sometimes use: switching up median and mean without telling anyone.
He put it this way: suppose you wanted to grab a snapshot of the income level of a particular town, so you went to a bar where the locals hang out, asked everyone their yearly income, then plugged the numbers into a database and came up with a mean annual income of say, $50,000. That would be a good faith output, one reflective of the town’s actual average income that you came by honestly because you queried residents of that town (for the sake of argument, we’re assuming your n value was high enough). Now let’s say Bill Gates walks into the bar. And you add his income to that mean analysis. Except, you didn’t tell anyone Bill Gates was in the bar, you just showed them the numbers. People would start wondering what was UP with that town full of billionaires. Why have I never heard of it before? What is in their water? Do I need to move there??
No. No, you do not need to move there. A single person – Bill Gates’ – high income skews the numbers to make the town look FAR wealthier than it is, and just using the mean obscures that fact. I feel like the DCCC makes the same mistake, or “mistake,” with congressional swing districts. The truth about most of them is that they are polarized, not centrist. So yes, it’s technically true that if you assign numerical values to every member’s political ideology and then run a mean analysis, the final mean number for a district’s overall politics would come to a middle-of-the-road, moderate number. Political consultants see that number and seem to assume a Gaussian, or bell curve dictates the district’s political outlook. They advise Democrats to run a centrist campaign, using the rationalization that such a campaign would capture the largest number of voters at the top of that curve. I suppose you could argue those numbers are technically true. But real people aren’t numbers, and this model doesn’t capture reality.
A district that is nearly evenly divided by totals of both conservatives and liberals isn’t a centrist district, it’s a polarized district. Instead of a Gaussian curve, the reality is more of a bimodal curve, something looking like two camel humps, with pretty much no one in the center. The mean is meaningless (HA!) because the two competing groups don’t average each other out. Politics is not a smoothie. Just like Bill Gates in the bar, you’ve got a bunch of MAGAs skewing the numbers right and distorting the appearance of the liberals’ politics there, making them look far more conservative than they actually are. The reverse would also have to be true. Districts like this are a contest of voter turnout, not who can play to the middle the hardest.
What ends up happening when a Democrat runs a centrist campaign in one of these swing districts is they have no real identity and stand for nothing. Instead of inspiring voter turnout, they end up lecturing their base to stop asking for nicer things while trying in vain to appeal to Republicans who would slit their own throats before voting for any Democrat. And when you have no real message that your voters can relate and attach to, the opposition will happily supply you with one. Quite safe to say, you probably won’t like it. Best to formulate your own message based on what your actual, not hypothetical, voters want.
I have long since maintained that there’s really no such thing as a political moderate. People just like to call themselves that. Which is fine! They’re allowed! People can call themselves whatever they want, I’m not here to police anyone’s political identity. But I’ve noticed that when you meet these self-identified Moderates in the wild and chat them up, you find out they’re either a) a progressive who doesn’t want to call themselves that; or b) a white supremacist who knows they’re not supposed to call themselves that, at least not in polite company.
The data we have thus far is showing a Democratic electorate far more liberal than Cheri Bustos and Jim Clyburn would have you believe. My Bill Gates Walks Into A Bar theory may be any number of things: on the nose, partially true, complete hogwash… but I’m hardly alone in calling for the Party to #EmbraceTheBase. No one likes tepid, weak-minded, unimaginative, focus-group-worded Better Things Aren’t Possible bullshit.
- 1 cup canned pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling!)
- 1 cup milk
- 2 tbs canola oil
- 1 tbs mild honey, such as clover
- 2 large eggs
- 1 ½ cups stone ground yellow cornmeal
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 tbs baking powder
- ½ tsp baking soda
- ¾ tsp salt
- 1 tbs unsalted butter
- Preheat your oven to 400 F, and place inside a 10-inch cast iron skillet or a 2-quart baking dish.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin purée, milk, canola oil, honey, and eggs.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients and mix together. Do not overwork.
- Remove the baking dish or pan from the oven, and add the butter. When it has melted completely, brush the sides of the pan with a pastry brush. Scrape the batter into the hot pan, and return it to the oven. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven, and allow to cool in the pan for at least 20 minutes before cutting into squares or wedges for serving.