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Quick thoughts on the US election result

Wed 9 Nov 2016 by mskala Tags used:

Well, I'm disappointed. And I'm more than a bit surprised, but not another whole bit more: I'm 1.89 bits surprised. That is the negative logarithm to base 2 of 0.27, which was the probability fivethirtyeight.com put on a Trump win, and the best estimate available to me of how likely it was to happen. Flip a coin twice and get heads both times, or draw a card from a 52-card poker deck and have it be a heart? Either of those is 2 bits worth of entropy (that is, of surprise), slightly more surprising than last night's main result. Not something that should shock anyone for the reason of unlikeliness, not from the point of view of the information we had 48 hours ago. Feel free to be shocked for other reasons.

I think the best case we can hope for now, and it's fairly likely, is that we're going to see a Trump Presidency much like the final days of Rob Ford's Mayoralty. Maybe a few showy gestures that don't really have much consequence, sure, close a few bike lanes, throw chicken wire up along a few miles of the border and call it a "wall," that kind of thing. Meanwhile the actual policy work will be sorted out by others, behind the scenes. And all the bombs will just happen to be disassembled for maintenance on the day the order comes down to drop them, oops, sorry, Chief! That kind of thing. A positive view of this is that it'll work like the best implementation of David Chapman's modest proposal - we just had the Values election, and the Bureau of Boringness will continue to do its job as usual.

The less positive way of viewing that is that everybody voted in the Values election and the Bureau of Boringness is now running with no popular oversight at all, which makes it ripe for regulatory capture. As maybe would be the case anyway. There was a lot of talk about how a vote for Clinton would mean the big money interests get to run the country. Well, guess what? They will now, anyway. I'm not even sure it matters to real policy who is President at this point. It seems like it's all back-room deals from here on out either way. Maybe the entire farce of the election was just to keep the populace amused and keep them from asking any actually tough questions about who's really in charge.

I respect but do not share the view of some of my friends that Donald Trump can and will improve the economy by means of trickle-down job creation, which never worked before when leaders with better mental focus tried it. I do agree with this foul-mouthed item I found on Twitter (looks like a screenshot from Reddit), though: a big part of why he won was that he spoke to the problems his voters actually face, number one being the loss of their jobs. Even if his promise to bring back the jobs has no credibility whatsoever (which is the case, as far as I'm concerned) and even if the voters know that, the fact he identified it as a problem worth solving is worth a vote, compared to someone who wants to hand you a kitten. I like kittens, but I must have the life I was promised.

Backing the USA out of trade agreements might be good for the rest of us. I have my doubts about whether it'll be good for the USA.

I am personally worried about the backlash that will follow as the Blue Tribe attempt to dig in and claim decisive control of all the territory they now think is still theirs. Because what is that going to be now? University campuses; the "tech" industry; and the "dating" "scene." These are places I'm forced to go sometimes, and even though I had nothing to do with causing this episode as a non-US citizen and a non-tribally-aligned commentator whom nobody listens to, I'm sure they're nonetheless going to punish me for this episode in those places. Even more than they already punish me just for being who I am.

One personal point is that this is another reason for me to feel good about my decision to leave academia. Because if I had attempted to stay, it's highly probable that the next of my sacrifices on that altar would have been my hope not to live and work in the USA. I could probably have gotten another academic job if I had been willing to apply for them in the USA; I wasn't, and I couldn't get a job. And I'd hate to have given up on that point, and to have just started a long-term career commitment in the USA, only to have this hit the fan - not least because that backlash I mentioned is going to make US universities very scary places for even Blue-aligned, let alone un-aligned, straight white men for a long time into the future.

My life is big and important, but something that might affect even more people is this: whichever side you're on, we now have a situation where roughly half (it doesn't matter if it's 49% or 51%) of the USA is really, really angry at your side, and feels entitled to be militant about it. That was a big problem before and the election only makes it worse. See Scott Alexander's comments on that - and I'm certainly looking forward to whatever he'll have to say now from the other side of the event.

A numerological point: fifteen years ago, when I made the commitment to pursue the career of professor of computer science, I moved to Waterloo at the start of September, 2001, and a few days later, 9/11 happened. Now, as I make the commitment to throw that goal away, I move to Toronto at the start of November 2016 and a few days later, this historical event happens on 11/9. It's like bookends to that phase of my life.

I posted on Twitter and Facebook the Calvin and Hobbes panel where they crash their wagon and Calvin says, "Careful! We don't want to learn anything from this." That's what's going to happen in the culture war. The Blue and Red tribes are going to seethe (respectively) over not winning this one, or in a few months when it becomes obvious that winning this one was of only small and symbolic value. We're still going to have toxic feminism, in fact we're going to have it more; we're still going to have whatever you imagine are the sins of the Red Tribe and we're going to have those more; we're going to have endless and unfalsifiable grousing from the Gray Tribe about how if Blue hadn't backstabbed the Gray candidate then he could have defeated Red, and we're going to have more of that.

Everybody's going to be careful not to learn anything that could lead to an examination of their own behaviour, and especially not to learn anything about each other that could force them to see the other tribes as human beings.

Oh, and: I promisd someone on Twitter that I'd write up why I think children should be allowed to vote, in more detail than fits in 140 characters. I'd hoped to do that before the election and wasn't able to, but you should still watch for it in the not too distant future.

1 comment

NPA Bloke

This USA election has been a total wash. The country will never move forward, the union will never be made stronger. Instead of being an election where there is a measured discourse about policy solutions to this country's problems, the democrats managed to nominate one of the most archetypal politician. Although Clinton may not have committed any chargeable offense that a reasonable prosecutor may have brought up, the optics were enough to indict her in the court of public opinion where the mob can be utterly convinced to lynch anyone because it is the damn mob.

In the other corner we had the most clearly incompetent person ever to be nominated and subsequently elected to the presidency. I can assure you that Mr. Trump's blustery confidence and populism is a superficial veneer. Mr. Trump has only taken the mantle of populist to satisfy his Adonis-complex. Not to mention that the more incompetent a person is the more he or she is to over-evaluate their skills. See the Dunning-Kruger effect.

So now comes to the solution. And the only way we can dig ourselves out of this ditch is to first admit that we have a problem. The problem is not with Mr. Trump or with Clinton. They are insignificant by themselves in the grand scheme of things. We have a political system that is clearly not addressing the grievances of the people they are supposed to govern. With all of the Clintons and Trumps of this world we have a cabal of people that have a cottage industry of currying favors, and of buying politicians behind closed doors, away from the scrutinity of the public.

Some people wrongly point to the second amendment as being placed by the founding fathers to protect us from a tyrannical government. Yet, they seem to not be aware that the current U.S armed forces are arguably the most professional army with the most martial capabilities that the world has ever witnessed in history. Do you really think that the people of the U.S would be able to win a war of outright revolt even being armed to the teeth? No. They fail to see and value the true purpose of the first amendment. The first amendment is the best chance that "We the People" have against a tyrannical and corrupt government. And the only way that we prevent the further decay of our dear Republic's institutions is to shine light to the blight of secrecy, of careerism for profit, of saying something to the public and turning back and doing something else.

So what might policies might we need to give the Republic to the rightful owners? Complete transparency of campaign finance. I am all for freedom of speech. But if an entity is willing to pump millions of dollars to curry favors, and to gain influence in the enacting of favorable policy and law to that particular entity, then the public at large is entitled to know about it- no exceptions!

As for moving forward, I expect the Trump presidency to be called the Big Con of the century. The same rubes that cast a vote against the Washington elite that shipped their jobs oversees have been had in the most ironic, and comedic of tragedies in the history of this country. Trump has zero interest in enacting good policy for this country, but instead of using the office of the Presidency to satisfy his vindictive streak that happens to be such a hallmark trait of narcissists. I expect Pence to be the de-facto leader of this country behind the scenes.

My only hope is that my dear Republic, and the office of the Presidency can survive a term of Trump. I can now fully appreciate Washington's disdain for political parties. Color me with him crossing the Delaware river.



NPA Bloke - 2016-11-17 21:47


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