“The Most Hate Filled Cities, by Tweets”

I’m seeing this article making the rounds on Facebook. It claims to have found the cities that tweet the most slurs and, from there, deduces that they are the most “hate-filled”. While I don’t doubt their numbers, I don’t think it’s accurately interpreted either. Take a look at the list for Hispanic slurs:

  1. Bakersfield, CA
  2. Chula Vista, CA
  3. Modesto, CA
  4. Fontana, CA
  5. Riverside, CA
  6. Garland, TX
  7. Arlington, TX
  8. Moreno Valley, CA
  9. Miami, FL
  10. San Antonio, TX

Of the three states represented, they have some of the largest Hispanic populations in the country. It’s worth asking why New Mexico (for example) couldn’t get Santa Fe into the top 10 given that they have more Hispanics than Florida, but we have to separate out the problem first. You cannot look at this data and not see that it is a list of places that the people facing discrimination have chosen to live in large numbers.

I don’t mean this as victim blaming. Rather, it stands to reason that Louisiana’s gay enclave in the deep south would make the top 10 for the nation. LGBT people in the south go to New Orleans because it is better. This disproportionate number of LGBT people would, uh, inspire more tweets. Don’t get me wrong: someone in rural Louisiana who thinks they have never met a gay person might tweet about something they see on TV, but we’ve effectively generated a list of cities where there is the most clash between the groups described and the rest of the community.

Clash is not linear with oppression. Very oppressed communities cannot risk being open and avoid contact with the majority community. More, the majority community will feel less need to assert its dominance through abusive tweets. As this changes, clash will increase until enough people in the majority change their minds to allow it subside.

This does not apply to the tweets about women. After all, women are everywhere in roughly equal numbers. In that case, we can see that there are regional variations and I am certain a more careful analysis could find it for each of the groups listed. But I would not bet that, for example, Chicago is a better place than Bakersfield to be Hispanic without more data.

Beware geographic analyses. People make choices about where to live, and those choices will impact the outcomes of geographic studies.


Owsley County, Welfare, and the Cost of Policy

Democrats like the narrative that low-income voters who vote Republican must being doing something wrong. They must not know that the party does not support welfare. They are often labeled “Low Information Voters”, which is (ironically) a mangling of a social science term that just means voting for a candidate because you know what their party stands for. And while some voters really do vote against their apparent interests, giving people some credit for knowing their lives raises more interesting questions about policy that should give Democrats more pause.

I think this meme is emblematic of the view:


I’m going to skip over the political science lecture where I point out that there is a petty large wing of the GOP that supports welfare. They tend to be, and sit down for this, white and rural and poor. They benefited from the New Deal generations ago and nominally switched parties when the Democrats stopped being the party of the old Confederacy and built a multi-racial coalition. They represent a fossil: the socially conservative, racially backwards, and economically forward coalition that propelled FDR to power. It would be very simply wrong to group them lockstep with the Reagan Republicans. Oh, look. I just did that lecture I said I was going to skip.

But more interestingly, I am not sure Owsley County Kentucky is wrong to throw itself in with GOP interests. Consider Owsley County’s sources of income and what has happened to rural America since Bill Clinton took office. Owsley County is to some extent a victim of environmental regulation. The US still has fairly rich coal seams that we are under-exploiting because of our environmental regulation. That (really, truly) puts people out of work. Free trade has leeched wages out of the working class, though to what extent Owsley County specifically is a victim of that is not clear to me after some brief digging around.

I support these environmental regulations and my thoughts on free trade are complicated, but broadly favorable. They are good for the country. But there are real costs to them, and those costs look a lot like the pictures of Appalachia. Those voters know that candidates from their area might support cutting their benefits, but they also promise to bring jobs back. And their plan is, at face, plausible. Cut environmental regulation and restrict free trade and that would probably help Owsley County more than the welfare state, say what you will about the wisdom of the plan for the rest of us.

We Democrats have convinced ourselves that our plans are common-sense policies that will help everyone. At the same time, we believe that anyone who does not vote like us must be either corrupt or ignorant.

And the truth seems much more complicated.

You Will Probably Believe How Stupid the Primary Calendar Is

I’m preparing a more in depth pair of posts for next week to start digging into the “missing piece” in Federal elections. The obsession with the top-of-the-ticket elections—that this blog is guilty of—hurts American democracy. The Presidency is designed to be at something of a disadvantage in policy-making compared to Congress, though the concentration of power into a single individual counteracts that. I’m going to start digging into the Congressional elections. (I’d love to do the states too, and maybe I’ll hit the governors…but I am but one man.)

Primaries solve a problem in electoral politics. They let minority groups—minority here in the sense of political interests, not necessarily identity—decide who is going to represent them. In parliamentary systems, this is done by having members of parliament work this out after the fact, forming multi-party coalitions at the parliament. Here in the US we form the coalitions before the election and then run them. The big downside is that it adds an election to the calendar and elections require voter time and energy, a finite resource. While the parliamentary system is more elitist, it is also less taxing.

I’m not here to argue for one or the other, however, just to point out that primaries are taxing. So imagine my surprise when I found out that many states have more than one primary*. That means in a presidential year, voters can be asked to come out three times.

Here is the list of states that have their state elections on a different day than their presidential elections. An asterisk indicates that they have a caucus rather than a primary.

  • Alaska*
  • Arizona
  • California**
  • Colorado*
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii*
  • Idaho*
  • Iowa*
  • Kansas*
  • Kentucky*
  • Louisiana
  • Maine*
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota*
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska*
  • Nevada*
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • North Dakota*
  • Oklahoma
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Utah*
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Washington
  • Wisconsin
  • Wyoming*

It is no small wonder that we end up obsessed with the presidential election. The calendar is set up to make that happen. By my count, a full 35 states, more than half, require voters to go out twice to shape their party and a third time for the general. I’m hardly one to advocate less engagement, but that’s nuts. The parties should require that the state franchises hold just one primary. (I’m all for doing away with Caucuses, which for logistic reasons cannot coexist with state primaries.)

The upside is that it will almost certainly improve engagement in the candidate-picking process in those states. The other subtle effect is that it will make the presidential race start later because one of the reasons for the split is that early voting states often don’t have well-formed races for the smaller state elections. There is no reason to reward states for a less democratic process and make more incentives to start the presidential race 2 years before the general. Finally, it will help unskew the perception that the Presidency is higher stakes than the the races that actually determine which laws get written.

One vote per citizen, one primary per state.

*A few examples I list are actually primaries and caucuses on different dates. On the one hand, yes, that is different. On the other hand, still taxing.

NOTES: Idaho only has a caucus on the Democratic side, but the GOP still comes out on a different date from state elections. Kentucky only has a GOP caucus, and the Dems come out on the same day as the state primaries. Only the Democrats have a caucus in Nebraska; the GOP comes out on the same same day as the state primaries. North Dakota’s GOP votes at the same time as the state primaries, but the Dems have a caucus on a different day.

**There is a recall election because, well, more elections!

Wisconsin has an additional judicial primary as well and has the judicial general election on the day of the state and presidential primaries.


Some quick math to put Super Tuesday (on the Democratic side) into perspective.

Let’s ignore super delegates on the grounds that they could change their position if Sanders pulls this out of the bag. It is very possible that Sanders could win the regular count and lose at the convention, but since many of the super delegates are up for reelection, they might not want to face that at the polls in the fall. That gives us a delegate count of 4051, with 2026 needed to win.

With that in mind, Clinton has 594 regular delegates and Sanders has 405. That’s 29.3% and 20.0% of a win, respectively.

At face, Sanders has a path forward. Super Tuesday was admittedly stacked against him—the primary schedule is designed to push against a Sanders-type candidate. So, losing 3:2 at this point is not losing. The problem for Sanders is that the national polling has held them at about 3:2, meaning that Sanders is probably where he is going to end up. Throw in the super delegates, and this gets harder for Sanders.

Those arguing Sanders is finished are overreaching. Those arguing that he can shake off Super Tuesday don’t have much to stand on here besides hoping that state-by-state polling is wrong or will change.

Too soon to call, but too late to think that Sanders has a good chance.