Committee to Investigate Russia: ‘This is No Movie Script’

In the video above, Morgan Freeman reminds Americans that Russian interference in our electoral process is ‘no movie script’; Vladimir Putin is a dictator, murderer, and inveterate enemy of America and our democratic traditions.

The newly-formed Committee to Investigate Russia (https://investigaterussia.org) made its début yesterday. The CIR is a nonpartisan group – with both conservative, liberal, and libertarian members:

Nearly a year after Russia successfully interfered in the 2016 election, one thing remains abundantly clear: America can never let its guard down when it comes to the Russian threat to our democratic process. While we still don’t have definitive answers on much of what elapsed during the lead-up to the election — or, frankly, have a plan for what we can do to prevent this sort of thing going forward — what we do have is an issue that individuals on both sides of the aisle are desperate to get to the bottom of. It’s against this backdrop that the nonprofit, nonpartisan Committee to Investigate Russiawas launched on Sept. 19.

Via Committee to Investigate Russia.

Wisconsin’s Spring General Election

A few remarks on local and statewide races from the Spring General Election:

1. In Whitewater, incumbents seldom lose (and indeed, seldom have challengers). Yesterday falls within the realm of the seldom: a challenger in Whitewater’s District 1 race easily defeated the incumbent (Carol McCormick over Patrick Wellnitz, 164-87).

Whitewater’s challenge is not merely that candidates rarely run against (let alone defeat) incumbents. Her challenge is that individual candidates, however talented some might be, have trouble making a difference in a city that’s facing high poverty and economic stagnation. See, along these lines, Whitewater’s Major Public Institutions Produce a Net Loss (And Why It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way): “although members of the government are certainly also sharp and capable individually, they often produce collectively a product that’s beneath their individual abilities or that of other competitive Americans.”

On the national level, a choice between productivity and mediocrity presents itself, also, as Jennifer Rubin describes ably in Trump vs. an America that works.

2.  Statewide, Tony Evers easily defeated Lowell Holtz in the race for state school superintendent. Evers was well-liked and respected and Annyssa Johnson lists Holtz’s many self-inflicted liabilities (“Holtz had been dogged by ethical questions throughout the race, including accusations of nepotism, campaigning on work time, and an alleged scheming to land a lucrative state job with a driver and authority to dismantle the state’s five largest school districts“).

The Upcoming Spring Election in Whitewater

One, but only one, of Whitewater’s Common Council races is contested. Some readers have asked me, variously, if I would comment on the candidates in the contested race, and where one might find the candidate statements submitted to the local League of Women Voters chapter.

I’ll leave residents to consider the candidates (including the contested race between incumbent Patrick Wellnitz and challenger Carol McCormick in District 1) without comment.

For those who would like to see the statements that some candidates have submitted, they may be found at http://www.lwvwhitewater.org/elections.html.

It’s fair to say that I have conflicting views on the League of Women Voters: the national organization has done much good work, but the local chapter betrays some shopworn biases (probably without grasping that they’re biases at all).  The local chapter also has a skewed-old problem that leads to, and exacerbates, their declining influence. For a discussion of the local chapter’s unfounded assumptions, see On the Whitewater League of Women Voters Questionnaire (Spring 2017).

The best approach for any candidate will always be to prepare his or her own statement, apart from any organization, and have it at the ready for distribution to residents.

Rep. Adam Schiff’s Opening Statement Outlining Basis of Russia Investigation

Prepared text of the statement that Rep. Schiff delivered in the video embedded above:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I want to thank Director Comey and Admiral Rogers for appearing before us today as the committee holds this first open hearing into the interference campaign waged against our 2016 Presidential election.

Last summer, at the height of a bitterly contested and hugely consequential Presidential campaign, a foreign, adversarial power intervened in an effort to weaken our democracy, and to influence the outcome for one candidate and against the other. That foreign adversary was, of course, Russia, and it acted through its intelligence agencies and upon the direct instructions of its autocratic ruler, Vladimir Putin, in order to help Donald J. Trump become the 45th President of the United States.

The Russian “active measures” campaign may have begun as early as 2015, when Russian intelligence services launched a series of spearphishing attacks designed to penetrate the computers of a broad array of Washington-based Democratic and Republican party organizations, think tanks and other entities. This continued at least through winter of 2016.

While at first, the hacking may have been intended solely for the collection of foreign intelligence, in mid-2016, the Russians “weaponized” the stolen data and used platforms established by their intel services, such as DC Leaks and existing third party channels like Wikileaks, to dump the documents.

The stolen documents were almost uniformly damaging to the candidate Putin despised, Hillary Clinton and, by forcing her campaign to constantly respond to the daily drip of disclosures, the releases greatly benefited Donald Trump’s campaign.

None of these facts is seriously in question and they are reflected in the consensus conclusions of all our intelligence agencies.

We will never know whether the Russian intervention was determinative in such a close election. Indeed, it is unknowable in a campaign in which so many small changes could have dictated a different result. More importantly, and for the purposes of our investigation, it simply does not matter. What does matter is this: the Russians successfully meddled in our democracy, and our intelligence agencies have concluded that they will do so again.

Ours is not the first democracy to be attacked by the Russians in this way. Russian intelligence has been similarly interfering in the internal and political affairs of our European and other allies for decades. What is striking here is the degree to which the Russians were willing to undertake such an audacious and risky action against the most powerful nation on earth. That ought to be a warning to us, that if we thought that the Russians would not dare to so blatantly interfere in our affairs, we were wrong. And if we do not do our very best to understand how the Russians accomplished this unprecedented attack on our democracy and what we need to do to protect ourselves in the future, we will have only ourselves to blame.

We know a lot about the Russian operation, about the way they amplified the damage their hacking and dumping of stolen documents was causing through the use of slick propaganda like RT, the Kremlin’s media arm. But there is also a lot we do not know.

Most important, we do not yet know whether the Russians had the help of U.S. citizens, including people associated with the Trump campaign. Many of Trump’s campaign personnel, including the President himself, have ties to Russia and Russian interests. This is, of course, no crime. On the other hand, if the Trump campaign, or anybody associated with it, aided or abetted the Russians, it would not only be a serious crime, it would also represent one of the most shocking betrayals of our democracy in history.

In Europe, where the Russians have a much longer history of political interference, they have used a variety of techniques to undermine democracy. They have employed the hacking and dumping of documents and slick propaganda as they clearly did here, but they have also used bribery, blackmail, compromising material, and financial entanglement to secure needed cooperation from individual citizens of targeted countries.

The issue of U.S. person involvement is only one of the important matters that the Chairman and I have agreed to investigate and which is memorialized in the detailed and bipartisan scope of investigation we have signed. We will also examine whether the intelligence community’s public assessment of the Russian operation is supported by the raw intelligence, whether the U.S. Government responded properly or missed the opportunity to stop this Russian attack much earlier, and whether the leak of information about Michael Flynn or others is indicative of a systemic problem. We have also reviewed whether there was any evidence to support President Trump’s claim that he was wiretapped by President Obama in Trump Tower – and found no evidence whatsoever to support that slanderous accusation – and we hope that Director Comey can now put that matter permanently to rest.

Today, most of my Democratic colleagues will be exploring with you the potential involvement of U.S. persons in the Russian attack on our democracy. It is not that we feel the other issues are not important – they are very important – but rather because this issue is least understood by the public. We realize, of course, that you may not be able to answer many of our questions in open session. You may or may not be willing to disclose even whether there is any investigation. But we hope to present to you and the public why we believe this matter is of such gravity that it demands a thorough investigation, not only by us, as we intend to do, but by the FBI as well.

Let me give you a little preview of what I expect you will be asked by our members.

Whether the Russian active measures campaign began as nothing more than an attempt to gather intelligence, or was always intended to be more than that, we do not know, and is one of the questions we hope to answer. But we do know this: the months of July and August 2016 appear to have been pivotal. It was at this time that the Russians began using the information they had stolen to help Donald Trump and harm Hillary Clinton. And so the question is why? What was happening in July/August of last year? And were U.S. persons involved?

Here are some of the matters, drawn from public sources alone, since that is all we can discuss in this setting, that concern us and should concern all Americans.

In early July, Carter Page, someone candidate Trump identified as one of his national security advisors, travels to Moscow on a trip approved by the Trump campaign. While in Moscow, he gives a speech critical of the United States and other western countries for what he believes is a hypocritical focus on democratization and efforts to fight corruption.

According to Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer who is reportedly held in high regard by U.S. Intelligence, Russian sources tell him that Page has also had a secret meeting with Igor Sechin (SEH-CHIN), CEO of Russian gas giant Rosneft. Sechin is reported to be a former KGB agent and close friend of Putin’s. According to Steele’s Russian sources, Page is offered brokerage fees by Sechin on a deal involving a 19 percent share of the company. According to Reuters, the sale of a 19.5 percent share in Rosneft later takes place, with unknown purchasers and unknown brokerage fees.

Also, according to Steele’s Russian sources, the Trump campaign is offered documents damaging to Hillary Clinton, which the Russians would publish through an outlet that gives them deniability, like Wikileaks. The hacked documents would be in exchange for a Trump Administration policy that de-emphasizes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and instead focuses on criticizing NATO countries for not paying their fare share – policies which, even as recently as the President’s meeting last week with Angela Merkel, have now presciently come to pass.

In the middle of July, Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign manager and someone who was long on the payroll of Pro-Russian Ukrainian interests, attends the Republican Party convention. Carter Page, back from Moscow, also attends the convention. According to Steele, it was Manafort who chose Page to serve as a go-between for the Trump campaign and Russian interests. Ambassador Kislyak, who presides over a Russian embassy in which diplomatic personnel would later be expelled as likely spies, also attends the Republican Party convention and meets with Carter Page and additional Trump Advisors JD Gordon and Walid Phares. It was JD Gordon who approved Page’s trip to Moscow. Ambassador Kislyak also meets with Trump campaign national security chair and now Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Sessions would later deny meeting with Russian officials during his Senate confirmation hearing.

Just prior to the convention, the Republican Party platform is changed, removing a section that supports the provision of “lethal defensive weapons” to Ukraine, an action that would be contrary to Russian interests. Manafort categorically denies involvement by the Trump campaign in altering the platform. But the Republican Party delegate who offered the language in support of providing defensive weapons to Ukraine states that it was removed at the insistence of the Trump campaign. Later, JD Gordon admits opposing the inclusion of the provision at the time it was being debated and prior to its being removed.

Later in July, and after the convention, the first stolen emails detrimental to Hillary Clinton appear on Wikileaks. A hacker who goes by the moniker Guccifer 2.0 claims responsibility for hacking the DNC and giving the documents to Wikileaks. But leading private cyber security firms including CrowdStrike, Mandiant, and ThreatConnect review the evidence of the hack and conclude with high certainty that it was the work of APT28 and APT29, who were known to be Russian intelligence services. The U.S. Intelligence community also later confirms that the documents were in fact stolen by Russian intelligence and Guccifer 2.0 acted as a front. Also in late July, candidate Trump praises Wikileaks, says he loves them, and openly appeals to the Russians to hack his opponents’ emails, telling them that they will be richly rewarded by the press.

On August 8th, Roger Stone, a longtime Trump political advisor and self-proclaimed political dirty trickster, boasts in a speech that he “has communicated with Assange,” and that more documents would be coming, including an “October surprise.” In the middle of August, he also communicates with the Russian cutout Guccifer 2.0, and authors a Breitbart piece denying Guccifer’s links to Russian intelligence. Then, later in August, Stone does something truly remarkable, when he predicts that John Podesta’s personal emails will soon be published. “Trust me, it will soon be Podesta’s time in the barrel. #Crooked Hillary.”

In the weeks that follow, Stone shows a remarkable prescience: “I have total confidence that @wikileaks and my hero Julian Assange will educate the American people soon. #Lockherup. “Payload coming,” he predicts, and two days later, it does. Wikileaks releases its first batch of Podesta emails. The release of John Podesta’s emails would then continue on a daily basis up to election day.

On Election Day in November, Donald Trump wins. Donald Trump appoints one of his high profile surrogates, Michael Flynn, to be his national security advisor. Michael Flynn has been paid by the Kremlin’s propaganda outfit, RT, and other Russian entities in the past. In December, Michael Flynn has a secret conversation with Ambassador Kislyak about sanctions imposed by President Obama on Russia over its hacking designed to help the Trump campaign. Michael Flynn lies about this secret conversation. The Vice President, unknowingly, then assures the country that no such conversation ever happened. The President is informed Flynn has lied, and Pence has misled the country. The President does nothing. Two weeks later, the press reveals that Flynn has lied and the President is forced to fire Mr. Flynn. The President then praises the man who lied, Flynn, and castigates the press for exposing the lie.

Now, is it possible that the removal of the Ukraine provision from the GOP platform was a coincidence? Is it a coincidence that Jeff Sessions failed to tell the Senate about his meetings with the Russian Ambassador, not only at the convention, but a more private meeting in his office and at a time when the U.S. election was under attack by the Russians? Is it a coincidence that Michael Flynn would lie about a conversation he had with the same Russian Ambassador Kislyak about the most pressing issue facing both countries at the time they spoke – the U.S. imposition of sanctions over Russian hacking of our election designed to help Donald Trump? Is it a coincidence that the Russian gas company Rosneft sold a 19 percent share after former British Intelligence Officer Steele was told by Russian sources that Carter Page was offered fees on a deal of just that size? Is it a coincidence that Steele’s Russian sources also affirmed that Russia had stolen documents hurtful to Secretary Clinton that it would utilize in exchange for pro-Russian policies that would later come to pass? Is it a coincidence that Roger Stone predicted that John Podesta would be the victim of a Russian hack and have his private emails published, and did so even before Mr. Podesta himself was fully aware that his private emails would be exposed?

Is it possible that all of these events and reports are completely unrelated, and nothing more than an entirely unhappy coincidence? Yes, it is possible. But it is also possible, maybe more than possible, that they are not coincidental, not disconnected and not unrelated, and that the Russians used the same techniques to corrupt U.S. persons that they have employed in Europe and elsewhere. We simply don’t know, not yet, and we owe it to the country to find out.

Director Comey, what you see on the dais in front of you, in the form of this small number of members and staff is all we have to commit to this investigation. This is it. We are not supported by hundreds or thousands of agents and investigators, with offices around the world. It is just us and our Senate counterparts. And in addition to this investigation, we still have our day job, which involves overseeing some of the largest and most important agencies in the country, agencies, which, by the way, are trained to keep secrets.

I point this out for two reasons: First, because we cannot do this work alone. Nor should we. We believe these issues are so important that the FBI must devote its resources to investigating each of them thoroughly; to do any less would be negligent in the protection of our country. We also need your full cooperation with our own investigation, so that we have the benefit of what you may know, and so that we may coordinate our efforts in the discharge of both our responsibilities. And second, I raise this because I believe that we would benefit from the work of an independent commission that can devote the staff and resources to this investigation that we do not have, and that can be completely removed from any political considerations. This should not be a substitute for the work that we, in the intelligence committees should and must do, but as an important complement to our efforts, just as was the case after 9/11.

The stakes are nothing less than the future of liberal democracy.

We are engaged in a new war of ideas, not communism versus capitalism, but authoritarianism versus democracy and representative government. And in this struggle, our adversary sees our political process as a legitimate field of battle.

Only by understanding what the Russians did can we inoculate ourselves from the further Russian interference we know is coming. Only then can we help protect our European allies who are, as we speak, enduring similar Russian interference in their own elections.

Finally, I want to say a word about our own committee investigation. You will undoubtedly observe in the questions and comments that our members make during today’s hearing, that the members of both parties share a common concern over the Russian attack on our democracy, but bring a different perspective on the significance of certain issues, or the quantum of evidence we have seen in the earliest stages of this investigation. That is to be expected. The question most people have is whether we can really conduct this investigation in the kind of thorough and nonpartisan manner that the seriousness of the issues merit, or whether the enormous political consequences of our work will make that impossible. The truth is, I don’t know the answer. But I do know this: If this committee can do its work properly, if we can pursue the facts wherever they lead, unafraid to compel witnesses to testify, to hear what they have to say, to learn what we will and, after exhaustive work, reach a common conclusion, it would be a tremendous public service and one that is very much in the national interest.

So let us try. Thank you Mr. Chairman, I yield back.

Via Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Schiff Opening Statement During Hearing on Russian Active Measures @ U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence website.

Wisconsin’s Best & Brightest Vie for Office

Molly Beck reports that two of the three candidates for state superintendent discussed an arrangement – not illegal yet astonishingly cynical –  about one of them dropping out in exchange for a state job:

A candidate for state superintendent offered an opponent a taxpayer-funded $150,000 job if he dropped out of the race and sought the same for himself if he were the one to drop out, his challenger alleged Wednesday.

Candidate John Humphries said in an interview with the Wisconsin State Journal that during discussions between him and opponent Lowell Holtz, Holtz proposed in writing that either he or Humphries should drop out in exchange for the guaranteed three-year job with the Department of Public Instruction should one of them defeat incumbent Tony Evers in the general election.

But Holtz said in an interview with the State Journal that the proposal — including a driver, benefits and sweeping control over several urban school districts, including Madison — was a “rough draft” of ideas assembled at the request of business leaders he declined to name of how the two conservative candidates could work together instead of running against each other. Both candidates said the proposal went nowhere.

Holtz said the proposal was intended for consideration after the primary, but Humphries said Holtz meant for it to be weighed before the race even began and contemplated scenarios under which one or the other candidate would drop out.

Each sought to make his case with dueling documents released Wednesday, although it was impossible to ascertain whether either had been altered.

Via State superintendent candidate: Challenger offered 6-figure job to drop out of race @ Wisconsin State Journal.

Credit where credit is due: this is industrial-grade jackassery.

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Garry Kasparov on Vladimir Putin’s Election Interference and America’s Response

Garry Kasparov‘s a great hero of mine (and of many millions across the world), not simply for his unquestioned understanding of chess, but even more for his commitment to human freedom and democratic institutions. In the audio interview below, Kasparov speaks about Putin’s manipulation of our recent election.

(By the way, Kasparov’s excellent book, Winter is Coming: Why Vladimir Putin and the Enemies of the Free World Must Be Stopped, is now out in paperback, and is also available @ Amazon in hardcover, Kindle, Audible, or mp3 CD format.)

 

Putin Revels in Victory Over America


A man wants to read a woman’s diary, so he breaks into her house, steals it, and publishes it to all the world. When confronted, he denies he’s done anything wrong, and instead revels in his act, on the theory that it’s more important for others to know the woman’s private thoughts.

It should come as no surprise that a dictator, having eviscerated private life in his own country, would see no wrong in transgressing the distinction between public and private in a foreign, still-free society.  There is no freedom if there is no private space,  such as that of a private political party, beyond others’ reach.

Here’s Putin, crowing over Russian hacking and Trump’s victory:

“Democrats are losing on every front and looking for people to blame everywhere,” Putin said in answer to a Russian TV host, one of 1,400 journalists accredited to the marathon session. “They need to learn to lose with dignity.”

The Kremlin leader pointed out Republicans had won the House and Senate, remarking “Did we do that, too?” [N.B.: Yes, Russians interfered in legislative elections, too.  See Democratic House Candidates Were Also Targets of Russian Hacking.]

“Trump understood the mood of the people and kept going until the end, when nobody believed in him,” Putin said, adding with a grin. “Except for you and me.”

Putin has repeatedly denied involvement despite the accusations coming from the White House, and the Kremlin has repeatedly questioned the evidence for the U.S. claims. On Friday he borrowed from Trump’s dismissal of the accusations, remarking “maybe it was someone lying on the couch who did it.”

“And it’s not important who did the hacking, it’s important that the information that was revealed was true, that is important,” Putin said, referring to the emails that showed that party leaders had favored Hillary Clinton.

Getting Protest Hashtags (#NotMyPresident) Half Right

Columnist Paula Dvorak, writing at the Washington Post, contends that saying “saying #notmypresident is the same as saying #notmyconstitution or #notmycountry or #notmyAmerica.” See, Stop protesting democracy. Saying #notmypresident is the same as saying #notmyconstitution.

Dvorak is only right about the first two hashtag phrases – she overreaches on the others. It’s true that #notmypresident is like saying #notmyconstitution, as the first depends on the constitutional order of the second.  That’s the reason that I have not, and will not, use #notmypresident: Trump was elected lawfully the 45th president of the United States on November 8, 2016.  Defending the constitutional order is a worthy defense (and a needful defense as Trump is likely to threaten constitutional norms many times while in office).  That defense begins with a fair acknowledgment of who has been elected.

Dvorak’s wrong, however, to think that #notmycountry or #notmyAmerica are somehow impermissible: those terms describe what someone thinks of the society more broadly, apart from a legal or political understanding.

She’s also wrong to think protests against Trump are undemocratic.  In fact, they’re democratic both broadly and narrowly.  Broadly, one should be able to protest lawfully as one wishes.  Narrowly, Trump wasn’t elected by a majority of voters, or even a plurality of them.  A plurality went to Clinton, and a majority went to all the alternatives to Trump.  If one thinks that democracy – rule of the demos – is what should matter, then one would be protesting for democracy by protesting against Trump.

One may accurately say that Trump’s election was constitutionally permissible at the expense of both the majority’s wishes and those of a plurality.  Lawful, to be sure, but by design with a limitation on majoritarian wishes.

This might all be a mere exercise in terms, were the consequences not so large: hundreds of millions, across a vast continent.  Define legitimate protest as narrowly as Dvorak does (so that it’s somehow out of bounds to say #notmycountry or #notmyAmerica) and one denies those millions something more meaningful than a single, lawful election’s result.

Unexpected and Expected

Last night’s election results are both unexpected (nationally) and expected (locally), I’d say.  Few thought that Trump would win the presidency, but many of the other results for Wisconsin or Whitewater were easier to predict.

Trump’s victory nationally will be the big topic for years, first about its cause and then about its effects. Because I believe that national shapes local (and that purely hyper-local assessments are short-sighted), Trump’s win (coupled with a Republican Congress and a conservative Supreme Court) will transform this city as it will much larger places.

The local results were unsurprising.  There are no data like election data, and locally the results from Whitewater’s school construction referendum belie the notion that this was ever going to be a close vote.  A favorable local turnout was almost certain to support the referendum, by a large majority.  This was a (1) November general election (2) in a presidential year (3) where the last referendum won (4) even in a gubernatorial year.

Honest to goodness, there was no reason to pay for a survey company (School Perceptions) whose results were uncertain when anyone who has lived in this town for more than two hours, twenty-seven minutes, four seconds would have known as much.  It tells a lot that the survey’s author, Bill Foster of School Perceptions, “felt the chances for a successful referendum were within the margin of error, adding that, of course, he could not guarantee success.”

One should be able to assess a probability in a small town without the need for an outside poll. (This, it seems, just isn’t a good year for polls in any event.)

Many local elections went as expected: nearby Elkhorn’s school referendum questions won, Milton’s school larger referendum question lost (the capital one with a huge asking price), and in the 43rd Assembly District Vruwink won.  Not everything was unexpected: residents would have could have predicted these outcomes easily. (Updated paragraph to reflect split in Milton between capital and operational referenda.)

Finally, there will be residents variously worried or celebrating over the national results today.

And yet – and yet – here we are.

One awakes and begins each day whether favorable or unfavorable, whether bright or dark.  There’s much to be said for a long view.  Those of clear convictions are likely to weather the unexpected well, knowing that there are no permanent victories and no permanent defeats.

Marquette Law Poll Results (Final 2016 Election Edition)

The final 2016 Marquette Law School poll results are out, and here key findings from the 10.26.16 to 10.31.16 poll (the full results are available online).


Clinton-Trump, Among LV:


Johnson-Stein, Among LV:


Feingold-Johnson, Among LV:


Anderson for Senate, Among LV:


Pres. Obama Approval:


Gov. Walker Approval:


Key Takeaway:


A few quick points:

  • The Marquette Poll has been reliable these last few elections.
  • The key takeaways seem reasonable to me (regarding Wisconsin).
  • Third party candidates typically fade, and this poll reflects that development.
  • Finally, the presidential race is so divisive, and coverage of it so impossible to avoid, that one finds local matters (even important ones) relatively unnoticed by comparison.
  • There are important local races, including a school referendum for Whitewater, but I’ve come to think that in this presidential year, downballot contests will be a matter of (1) level turnout driven by the national race, and (2) the particular composition of that turnout.   That’s caused me to put off until after the election some discussions that I wanted (and originally planned) to post before November 8th.
  • Intense national coverage seems, to me, to obsure everything else.  Better an extended analysis in a quieter time.  One can be patient; there’s all the time in the world.

Needless Election Anxiety

There’s a story over at Vox, from Brian Resnick, reporting that ‘Election anxiety is real. A majority of Americans report “significant stress” due to 2016.’

Resnick writes that

[t]he American Psychological Association has released some preliminary data from its upcoming annual “Stress in America” report, on the nation’s level of anxiety specifically around this election.

Around half of people surveyed (52 percent) say the election “is a very or somewhat significant” source of stress in their lives. The breakdown by party is about even: 59 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of Democrats say this election is causing them stress.

There’s much at stake, but nationally, statewide, or locally there’s no reason for anxiety over November 8th’s results. We’re a resilient people, having been through conditions far more difficult than those we face today. We’ve come through a revolution, a civil war, two world wars, a cold war, a depression, a great recession, and significant periods of protest until legal reform. We’re more than able to manage the current elections, whatever their results.

Far from being a source of anxiety, our exercise of fundamental rights should be a source of confidence for us.

Think too much about today, and the sky might seem to be falling. Look back even briefly at our history, and one has cause for equanimity.

Absentee Voting in the Whitewater Area

One often hears that a given election is important, and that each person’s vote matters.  That’s been true so many times in our history, and it seems particularly so this year.

Absentee voting – by mail or in person – is a part of our law, and the window for in-person voting will open soon. Immediately below readers will find information on absentee voting in the City of Whitewater and for nearby communities.

Download (PDF, 126KB)

Implications from the August 9th Wisconsin Primary

There were no surprises in any of the races in or near Whitewater last night. They all went as one might reasonably have predicted.

One area race (and only one), however, might have national implications.

Paul Ryan easily won his first congressional district primary over Paul Nehlen. See, Despite late drama, Ryan easily beats Nehlen @ JSOnline.  The incumbent, establishment candidate decisively defeated his opponent. 

Does that win portend the direction of the GOP (internally) and by consequence its future?  

Molly Ball at The Atlantic suggests that it does.  See, Maybe Trumpism Doesn’t Work Without Trump

Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, writing a few hours before the results, posed the question whether the GOP is inexorably moving in Trump’s, and an alt-right, direction. (Marshall answered his own question in the affirmative.) See, Will There Be Trumpism After Trump?  Under Marshall’s analysis, the results of the 8.9.16 primary will not alter meaningfully the path the Republican party is taking. 

I’m not sure about the direction of the GOP, but it’s a significant question, to say the least, for America.  Even for this proud libertarian voter (Johnson-Weld 2016), the future of a major party matters and is of interest and concern. 

Ryan-Nehlen is the one nearby race with, plausibly, wide implications.  If you’re following politics, its outcome is the one worth pondering.  

About a Survey 

I promised last week that I would write about a recent survey that seemed to rely on a skewed, unrepresentative sample. The survey and some printed accounts of it have been available, but the recording of the 6.6.16 meeting at which the results were initially presented does not seem to be available online for readers. 

I’ll say now that the conclusions of the survey seem to be right (that a school referendum would likely pass) but that the sample the survey uses to reach that conclusion is strangely unrepresentative of the community it purports to describe. That matters because the right conclusion with the wrong data is little more than guesswork.  Surveys are not meant to be paid guesswork.

It also matters because although the primary conclusion may be right despite a weak sampling of the community, other inferences drawn from the survey may not be similarly accurate. 

Looking at actual election data, actual demographic data, and past referendum results will produce a better assessment than relying on the recent community survey’s data sample.  

It seems fair to the survey authors (an outside vendor), however, to include for readers their full, 6.6.16 meeting remarks.  If they’re published online soon I’ll include them when publishing my assessment; if they’re not available I’ll go ahead with the post with the published information that is available.

(News accounts of the survey only reveal that those accounts’ authors either don’t understand or don’t care how unrepresentative the survey sample is of the electorate that would be considering a referendum, or even the community as it is now.)

It’s worth coming to the right conclusion with the right data; anything less is less than this community deserves. 

More to come.