Tuesday 8 November 2016

Reasons To Be Afraid

First things first: There is no reason to panic.

Although FiveThirtyEight give Trump a 28% chance of winning the election, they are very much an outlier among prediciton sites. I prefer the Princeton Election Consortium (PEC), who give Trump a chance of less than 1% to win the popular vote, and just over 5% to win the electoral college (and with it the presidency).

It's not just wishful thinking. With my professional data-analyst hat on, I find this Huffington Post critique of 538's model results to be persuasive. So far as we can tell, 538 have an overcomplicated model which assigns far too much probability to weird outlier scenarios. Unlike 538, PEC make their data and methods fully public; I haven't delved into their code, but their general methodology appears sound.

PEC predict this election map, very likely a comfortable victory for Clinton:

Princeton Election Consortium map at 270toWin
Click the map to create your own at 270toWin.com

That said, a five percent chance of a Trump victory is still much, much too high for comfort. One chance in twenty is not a lightning strike. It's missing an extra-point kick in the NFL. It's the chance of snow on Christmas Day in London or Washington DC. Unusual, yes, but entirely plausible.

We are in uncharted territory. If McCain or Romney had won against Obama, it would have been bad. I disagree with them and think they would have made unwise decisions as President; but both are competent and intelligent people, able to learn and compromise. I would have been annoyed, pessimistic, and slightly depressed, but that would have been all.

My reaction to a Trump victory could be better described as stone-cold terror. Trump is bigoted, ignorant, and frankly unhinged in a way that McCain and Romney are not. If you are not frightened by the prospect of Trump wielding the awesome power of the Presidency, you are not paying attention.

The RCP national polling average is Clinton 47.2, Trump 44.2, for a Clinton lead of 3.0.

In 2012, Obama outperformed his final polling average. RCP gave him a final lead of 0.7, his actual lead was 3.9. Good for Obama.

If Clinton underperforms by a like amount, we could see a narrow Trump win; or at least enter a limbo of disputed votes, recounts, and lawsuits, with heavily armed Trumpists seeking to make trouble. All data points indicate this is not likely, but I would not bet my life savings against it.

Conversely, let's suppose Clinton drastically overperforms the polls, and the outcome is Clinton 51.2, Trump 40.2, others 8.6. Good for Clinton. It would be the largest margin of victory since 1988; she might take Ohio, Arizona, even Georgia or Texas.

The fact would remain that four in ten Americans wanted Trump to be President. This too is a reason to be afraid, one which will not go away under any foreseeable election outcome.

If you're an American voter reading this, please go out and vote for Hillary Clinton. Yes, she's a flawed candidate. She might be a mediocre President; then again, she might be a pretty good one. But mediocrity beats insanity any time, and Trump is not a sane person. By that I mean he is not able to perceive and respond to reality in a rational manner. If Trump is made President of the United States, the entire world will suffer the consequences.

This Presidential election is different for me, because now I'm the parent of a little American. I hope American government gets better. I hope that one day this is just a weird episode in the history books for my son to study. I hope this is known as That Crazy Time We Got Over, instead of The Time Just Before Things Got Really Bad.

I hope, and watch, and not being a US citizen, I can't do a damn thing else. Those of you who can: Please do your part to stop Trump.

I'll be awake for at least some of the election results, and on Twitter at @iainrobertsblog. See you on the other side.

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