Our Democratic leaders gave us a lot to be proud of this week, in a parade of speakers that included Michelle Obama, President Obama, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and finally Hillary Clinton accepting the nomination. I hope everyone who watched on TV, let alone those who actually traveled to the convention came back inspired and determined to work for victory in November. Sadly, it’s not going to be as easy as we all think it ought to be.
Have you seen the last forecast of the probability of who will win the presidency from Fivethirtyeight?
A tie, slightly favoring Trump? How is that even possible? In part, the answer is that that most of the pollsters have yet to release their first post-DNC polls. There actually was one already that showed Clinton with a growing 15% lead over Trump. Let’s hope that proves to be the first of many confirming that trend.
But the Fivethirtyeight statistics wonks aren’t just giving a national poll result but trying to calculate bookmaker’s odds on the election based on how the votes will line up with the Electoral College and many other factors. Florida is one of the states they see as leaning toward Trump — and we’ve all got to do our part to change that.
The Fivethirtyeight forecasters would be the first to acknowledge that the odds will change and change again in the coming months. The recent trend has not been good, however. This same forecast had Clinton at close to 80% odds of victory a few weeks ago and had her favored by close to 60% a week ago. One headline from a few weeks ago that I took as a warning sign: Clinton’s Lead Is As Safe As Kerry’s Was In 2004. Remember 2004? Remember thinking the nation couldn’t possibly choose to reelect George W. Bush after the deception that led to the invasion of Iraq?
This year, it seems impossible that the voters could see the contrast between the Democratic convention and the Republican one and not move toward Hillary in large numbers. Yet one parallel with 2004 that worries me is that so many people have much stronger feelings against Donald Trump than positive feelings toward Hillary Clinton.
I’m not discounting the sentiments of the many Democrats I know who have admired Hillary for years, or even for decades. But the negative sentiment toward both party’s nominees has been well documented. I think we do need to tell our folks who are thinking that way that no, they’re not equally bad. Tell them to look at the Historians on Donald Trump series of videos, where academics who take the long view to such an extent that they don’t usually comment on contemporary politics decided they had to speak up against what they see as a threat to American ideals. Ask them to read the Washington Post editorial, Both Are Unpopular. Only One Is a Threat.
Still, those are negative arguments. I think there is some evidence that positive energy does a better job of bringing people to the polls. Yes We Can was more effective than the anti-Bush rhetoric of 2004. So when talking with people about this election, we need to remember to spend as much or more time on why Hillary deserves their vote than why Trump does not.
Between the admirers and the detractors of Hillary Clinton, I find myself somewhere in the middle, seeing her as an imperfect person who has often tried and sometimes succeeded in doing good. With the race so close, I worry about the Clinton family habit of making unforced errors and handing ammunition to their enemies. On the other hand, I recognize the extent that the Hillary hating industry has churned out a steady stream of lies and exaggerations. I hope some people saw beyond that this week.
As President Obama pointed out, those who try to make a difference take more chances than those who are passive. He quoted Teddy Roosevelt (a progressive Republican from an era where that someone could be both):
“It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better,” Roosevelt said. “The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood — who strives valiantly, who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming.”
Except of course for the fact that she is not a man, Hillary fits the quote as the person who rejected the “baking cookies” model of service as a First Lady to push for healthcare reform, then came back after initial failure to push through a children’s healthcare program, campaign for president on a healthcare reform agenda, and eventually join the administration that succeeded in passing the Affordable Care Act. Running for president a second time also took guts, particularly soldiering through those times when she didn’t look so inevitable after all.
We should all respect her for her persistence, and we all need to marshal the same determination to make her our President.