Vote for a Future, Not the Odds of a Horserace

I am amazed by the number of pundits that seem to believe only Clinton supporters can add numbers. Today’s New York Times columnist, Paul Krugman, illustrates this in his piece entitled ‘Feel The Math’. Since his ideas repeat a very common argument, it is important to call out the problems with Krugman’s math lessons.

First, even though Krugman criticizes the horserace mentality of the media, his argument is stuck in that horserace mentality. He is such a fish in water than he doesn’t get it. His argument is that Clinton is the odds on favorite, with Sanders facing impossible odds, so get with the program, give up on Sanders, and support Clinton. He makes the odds of the race the principle reason for supporting the Clinton campaign.

The flip side of this first point, is that Krugman and others fail to understand the degree that so many of those who support Senator Sanders, as I do, believe that he has big ideas that merit support. We are registering our support for him and his ideas. Bernie’s tag line of ‘A Future We Can Believe In’ resonates with his supporters. Sanders has run a campaign on policy, and his vision of the directions we need to move on such issues as campaign finance reform, ridiculous inequities in income distribution, treating a college more like we have been treating a high school education for decades, and more. Support for Sanders is a vote in favor of his vision, his big ideas, tied into a coherent framework, versus small ideas only linked by pragmatic incrementalism.


Secondly, Krugman and others must know that calling an election before it is over has a major impact on late voting. Television networks cannot call an election until the polls close, but this is essentially what is happening in calling an election during a rolling set of primaries. It is one thing for a candidate to decide to postpone or stop their campaign, but for the media to get behind the Democratic Party establishment and the Clinton campaign to convince Bernie Sanders to stop his campaign, or for his supporters to abandon him, is a huge mistake. In the longterm, it will rebound on trust in the media and the party, but in the short-term, it will undermine the votes for that candidate downstream. What is truly remarkable is the degree that much of Senator Sanders’ support that held up to this onslaught by the supporters of the other side, who think they are the only one’s who can do arithmetic.

Finally, it might be worth noting that Bernie Sanders is not Hillary Clinton. And Hillary Clinton is no Barack Obama. 2016 is not 2008. The math argument always makes these analogies, saying we’ve been here before. This is a repetition of 2008. Not true. These are very different candidates, different bases of support, with very different baggage, and in a very different context. Not surprisingly, the mathematicians are poor historians.

If Hillary’s election is so inevitable – if she has the math race locked up, then what is the panic? Why the urgency in trying to sway late voters to support Hillary by making an argument based on math rather than policy and platforms. Let the primary voters in California vote on the basis of the candidates ideas, not on the odds of the horserace.

2 thoughts on “Vote for a Future, Not the Odds of a Horserace

  1. Hi Bill

    I ran into your article after reading Krugman’s article and feel obliged to comment. Let me preface this by saying 1. I voted for Bernie and 2. I have never voted for a Clinton and most likely will not vote for Hillary unless the race is tight which I seriously doubt as I live in Massachusetts.
    I do not get why you are railing against Paul Krugman for making an obvious point about simple mathematics. If your fear is that Bernie will lose because people won’t bother to vote as it is already decided then you have contradicted your statement that Bernie supporters are voting for a righteous cause and don’t care what pundits think. He is merely stating what virtually every mathematical analysis of the race has predicted. I would love it if Bernie won California and I would love it if the average of polls is wrong. But don’t shoot the messenger for bringing bad news. It smells of the same kind of crap that the Trump people pull and it is unbecoming of the progressive wing in American politics to engage in a version of climate change denial, ignoring the data and blaming pollsters and the media for “conning” voters. I hate to say it, but I hope to hell Bernie voters are not that dumb otherwise I fear I have joined a cult rather than a real movement for change.
    I get it: the left gets screwed at every opportunity by the Democratic Party because the bogeyman of the right wing conspiracy is effective at pulling the eventual candidate to the center and Hillary is about as center as one can get in American politics. But at this point I would think that rather than take it out on a journalist whose intentions to me do not seem to be sink Bernie but rather to point out that all the hyperventilating about “close” races is overdone, one might instead focus on pointing out to people that regardless of the outcome in the primaries, the real focus should be on what is best for the majority of people both in the US and in the world. And that is plainly to see that Trump is not elected president.
    I was not unhappy when Gore lost because I felt he was too conservative and that America deserved to have a stupid president so that they would learn not to make the same mistake again after seeing what a disaster it would be. I am afraid I was too optimistic about the ability of people to learn from their mistakes. Bush’s presidency WAS a disaster and here we are looking at someone even worse and what are we on the left doing? Circular firing squad as Trump laughs all the way to the White House.
    I like to think that Krugman is right: that Hillary is winning both in polling and in the electoral college math because if the opposite were true I would be scared to death right now about the state of the American Republic. If it is true, or even if, by some miracle of electoral luck, Bernie rampaged through California and New Jersey (which, let’s face it, will not happen even in the rosiest of scenarios) then why get mad at Krugman? To me it is quite obvious that Bernie cannot mathematically win, a fact I knew before he even ran, in the same way I knew Jesse Jackson, Ralph Nader, and all the other candidates I supported in the past would not win. I never thought that was the point: to me the point is that he is speaking for large chunks of the electorate who are essentially ignored at election time and that he is advancing the agenda of said group which clearly constitutes if not a majority then at least a healthy plurality of the party. To me it is not about the personality of the individual it is about advancing the progressive agenda and Bernie has been and continues to do that very effectively. I hope he stays in until the end and gets his deserved spot at the convention but at this point all I care about is making sure the baby steps (and yes, I am extremely disappointed in the results of the last eight years, but at least there were some results) we have taken forward under President Obama are not trampled by the Trumposauraus.
    Thanks for the piece, and for some of the others I also looked at once I got o to your blog page and thanks for being passionate about the progressive agenda that Bernie Sanders represents. I just respectfully think that energy spent on railing against someone who is frankly on our side if we are being honest, is energy that could be expended on exhorting the dopes who think Trump is their friend to realize that they are tragically wrong and will pay a heavy price for their ignorance. Frankly I do not believe there are Sanders voters who would vote for Trump but if there are I would say one word: Iraq. Hillary was wrong but at least she now admits it, whereas Trump wants to double down on a bad hand; in fact he wants to blow up the deck of cards and the card table too to make a meaningless point about American “Greatness”- ironically for the Wall Guy isn’t the very fact that so many people want to come here proof enough of how great America is?I believe in hindsight that Gore would not have brought Iraq into the 911 equation and that in the end is probably the biggest reason I regret my opinion in 2000. I still would vote for Nader (I live in Massachusetts as I said, perhaps if I lived in Virginia I might not have the luxury of voting my conscience), and I will likely vote for Jill Stein in the forthcoming election, but I won’t spend my time in internecine squabbling or grumbling about the Clinton corporation when I could be trying to stop Trump, who I believe is a truly dangerous individual. I don’t think politics is manichean; I can see how I could not like Clinton and yet not be unhappy to hear she is leading Trump. I can see that she is not a friend of the progressive wing of the party and still say she would be better than Trump. I do not think making Hillary Clinton public enemy number one is helpful when there is a clear and present danger in plain sight every day. Sorry to go on for so long. Yours Gary Denton

    • Gary, thanks for your response. This is all about the forthcoming primaries, and particularly California. The voting has not even begun, and journalists are telling voters that a vote for Bernie Sanders is fruitless in light of the math. Many voters will be unaffected, but some will not vote as a consequence of the election being called before the ballots are cast. To Hillary’s credit, she is personally not making the math argument, but simply saying she is as amassed so many votes and delegates to date. Others are making the math argument, namely journalists, in ways I believe will be harmful to the Sanders campaign and the strength of his message. I trust that speaking about principles and candidates within the Democratic Party is important to the vitality and credibility of the election. But thanks for explaining how you have read my text.

Comments are most welcome