Large Crowds, Big Losses

The 12+ month-long election cycle is finally – thankfully – coming to an end. Judging by Mr. Trump’s remarks, however, the election will not end with a whimper, but a bang. Trump and his supports believe in two things: 1) that their preferred candidate will win, and that 2) only a rigged election will keep Trump from doing so.

Trump points to abundant evidence that he is winning. During an August 2016 speech, Trump noted:

We go to Oklahoma, we had 25,000 people. We had 21,000 people in Dallas. We had 35,000 people in Mobile, Alabama. We have these massive crowds,” the Republican nominee said. “You’ve got thousands of people outside trying to get in [today], and this is one hell of a big stadium.”

Do you ever see Hillary Clinton? If she speaks in front of 24 people she’s got the teleprompter. If she came here tomorrow — so look at this place, packed, thousands outside, we actually put screens outside — so, Hillary, if she came here, if she had 500 people I’d be surprised.

Trump also points to online polls after debates. By October 20, 2016, mere hours after the third and final debate, Donald Trump’s Twitter feed claimed victory. The Washington Times and Drudge Report hosted online polls wherein 77% and 75% of respondents gave Trump the win over Secretary Clinton, respectively.

We have heard similar arguments before. In 2012 Politico wrote:

Since his strong presidential debate performance last Wednesday night, Romney has seen a bump in the number of people attending his rallies, which the campaign calls a sign of new enthusiasm in the final month of the campaign.

In the past week alone, Romney’s campaign says at least three of its rallies have, per the campaign’s crowd counts, exceeded 10,000 people: an Oct. 4 event with country singer Trace Adkins in Fishersville, Va., which was Romney’s largest event ever at 14,000 people; a rally last Sunday in Port St. Lucie, Fla., that drew 12,000; and one in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, that fire marshals estimated also drew 12,000.

Romney’s other rallies this week have been large as well: in Asheville, N.C., Thursday night, just before the vice presidential debate, Romney’s rally filled the venue and had an overflow crowd of about 8,000.

There is just one problem – a dedicated fanbase that votes on online polls and fills stadiums does not necessarily translate into a victory in November.

Just ask Mitt Romney.


Trump, and the End of the World

Donald Trump, meet Evangelical preacher Harold Camping. Harold Camping analyzed the bible and determined that the end of the world would come on May 21, 2011. Camping disseminated the message through his radio show, 5,000+ billboards, and twenty RVs. The prophecy proved to be…not correct. Camping later issued an apology.

For the believers in Donald Trump, a similar story appears to be unfolding. Trump predicts a massive victory based on the massive number of people at his rallies, the online polls showing decisive victories over Secretary Clinton, the millions of followers he has on Twitter. On Oct. 19, 2016, Time Magazine reported that “65% of all bets on the market have backed Trump to win the U.S. presidential election.”

In parallel, Trump lays the groundwork for second guessing our election system. Trump tweeted on October 16, 2016,

  • The election is absolutely being rigged by the dishonest and distorted media pushing Crooked Hillary – but also at many polling places – SAD

Trump did so again last night (Oct. 19, 2016) during the third and final presidential debate, as he declined to say whether or not he will accept the election results.

So while Trump cites anecdotal evidence to support his theory that he will win the presidential election, objective facts (i.e. unbiased statistical analyses by the team at 538) state otherwise. To bring the comparison full circle, Harold Camping made bold predictions that turned out to be spectacularly wrong. Donald Trump is currently in the same position.

If there is a lesson learned, it would be this: Camping’s predictions left his loyal followers, some of whom had quit their jobs, dejected. In response, Camping apologized. When Donald Trump leaves his supporters dejected come November 9, he must do the same.


An Open Letter to Wells Fargo

To Whom It May Concern:

I opened a checking and a savings account with Wells Fargo in 2007. By the end of this month, I will have closed both. If there is any doubt as to my motives, I will outline them below:

  • Wells Fargo committed fraud. Wells Fargo opened approximately 2.1 million accounts without their customers’ knowledge. Wells Fargo may have committed additional fraud in its Brokerage Business.
  • Wells Fargo employees felt compelled by policies dictated by CEO John Stumpf and others at the highest levels of management to open the 2.1 million accounts, out of fear that they may lose their jobs.
  • Wells Fargo fired 5,300 of its own employees for “engaging in Improper Sales Practices.”
  • Wells Fargo awarded Stump made $161 million between 2011 and 2015 in bonuses and performance awards while the fraud occurred.

When I leave Wells Fargo for good, I will only have the inconvenience of closing two accounts, not eight. And while I am relieved that Wells Fargo did not open accounts without my express knowledge and consent, I am nevertheless outraged. Outraged that my savings and checking accounts formed a portion of Wells Fargo’s bottom line and a bonus check to CEO Stumpf. Outraged that those fired were not those who formulated these reprehensible practices, but rather those who felt compelled to carry them out.

Admittedly, my net worth is relatively small and therefore largely insignificant to your day-to-day operations. As such, my departure from your bank will not matter. Nevertheless, it matters to me.

It matters because by withdrawing my money, I will not aid and abet Wells Fargo’s attempts to resurrect its image by paying for an expensive PR firm. By withdrawing my money, I want Wells Fargo to acknowledge that its actions – as well as its banking and fraud policies – affect peoples’ lives in a very direct and real way. And by withdrawing my money, I want to encourage Wells Fargo customers to do the same, for together we can make a difference.

If It’s November, It’s Clinton

There should be mixed feelings on political conventions. Great orators paint a vision of the America they want their country to become. The speeches create an ideal, not a reality. The DNC and RNC both painted a vision of their country, and both outlined a plan to shape America into a country that fully realizes its potential.

The Republican National Convention was – and forgive the pun – not conventional. Donald Trump’s speech painted a dark and paranoid America, one that reveled in its past, suffers in the present, and one that will be Great Again. But only if Donald Trump is in charge. Compare and contrast that to every other convention in recent memory, and Trump’s current understanding of America cuts perpendicular to an America with a stock market at an all-time high, crime rates at historic lows, and continued job growth.

What held my attention the most at both Conventions, however, were not the speakers but the speakers’ audiences. As the cameras panned through the audience at the RNC convention, I saw a sea of white faces, every single time. As the cameras panned through the audience at the DNC convention, I saw something entirely different: women wearing hijabs, blacks, whites, Hispanics, gays. The DNC threw a party, and everyone came. The RNC threw its party, and even those who received an invitation did not show (i.e. George Bush Sr., Jeb Bush, Mitt Romney). The anecdotal evidence seems to be supported by something more substantial.

The New York Times noted that only nine percent of Americans participated in the primaries dominated by two political parties. Nine percent. Trump’s messages do not need to resonate with the American public writ large to secure a nomination, but with a select few. No wonder a June 2016 poll shows Hispanic support for Trump hovers below 30%. An August 2016 Washington Post poll shows that African American support for Trump hovers around 1%.

Which party do you see as more inclusive?

Take another example: Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s recent selfie with the interns working for the Republican Party. Compare that to images of the interns working for the Democratic Party, and the narrative remains entirely consistent. [photos below]

What it comes down to, ultimately, is that the Democrats did a far better job finding a representative slice of America in its small sample size than the Republicans did in theirs. Trump has his messages, and the fear and pessimism generated by his words resonate with the folks who voted for him. Clinton has her messages, too. The difference is that her messages appeal to a far broader swatch of America.

And that will be the difference in this election. Clinton for the win.



*Photo credits to,

Guns Galore

Even in a county of 300 million, the United States has enough arms to provide a firearm to every man, woman, and child in the country. What could possibly go wrong?

A lot. Homicides, at nearly 30 per million people, is about fifteen times the rate in Germany. In 2013, slightly more than 33,000 died from firearms. That works out to 90 people per day. Guns do not discriminate, and so to tell me that the Orlando shooting is homophobic, or inspired by Islam, misses the mark. Through that lens, how can you explain Dylan Roof’s motivation to kill African Americans at a historic church? There can be only one motive, and that is hate. Military-style assault weapons become the vehicle.

It seems like shootings could happen anywhere, anytime and at this point in our country’s history, they do. So it is not without irony that guns, omnipresent in society, perpetuate so much fear that we need to buy a gun to defend ourselves. The NRA makes sure of that; simply go to their website and watch the videos that make unarmed citizens sound like sheep going to the slaughter.

The gun industry profits mightily. In October 2015 CNN reported, “Popular gun companies Smith & Wesson (SWHC) and Sturm Ruger (RGR) are among the best stocks in America in 2015. It’s a reminder of just how profitable these businesses are. Smith & Wesson has skyrocketed over 80% this year.” So is it the NRA protecting the 2nd amendment, or is the NRA simply protecting – and maximizing – gun industry profits. Why does the NRA get its lackeys in congress to ban government-funded research on gun violence? Why restrict anybody from buying a gun so long as there is money flowing into the industry’s coffers?

Sadly, the NRA, the gun industry get lawmakers to place profits over public safety and public health.  How else to explain a country that allows people on the “Do Not Fly List” access to firearms?

Sensible gun control measures need to happen, and happen now. Only then can we replace the paranoia, the fear that we might get shot anytime, anywhere with something far better: not now, not ever.


Trump, and The Case for Clinton

With Cruz and Kasich out, Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee. The silver lining is that an uncontested convention will save Cleveland a few days’ worth of rioting. The downside is an unconventional and unproven candidate that rankles not only the left but many on the right.

While many believe that the 2016 presidential election is Secretary Clinton’s to lose, the election will happen about six months from now.  That leaves something like 180 days in-between. So long as the status quo holds, Secretary Clinton should win. By contrast, what if one event changed everything; think terror attack, scandal within the Obama administration, economic collapse. Such an event would flip the narrative by feeding directly into Donald Trump’s “America First” policies that scapegoat immigrants and minorities. By extension, Donald Trump could very well win the presidential election.

What a President Trump would do once in office is a very different question, and I will lay out two different options. Assuming President Trump wins in the scenario outlined above, Trump would come under intense pressure to dramatically reform immigration policies, start building the wall along the Mexican border*, and enact punitive economic policies against offending countries. Whether or not Donald Trump actually wants to enact such policies is another question entirely, as outlined in the second option.

The second option posits the following question: does Donald Trump really believe in the policies he is touting on the campaign? Donald Trump is, at his core, a businessman. My strong suspicion is that Donald Trump seeks the White House because he wants to use the ultimate bully pulpit to pass laws, regulations, and rules that enrich his businesses and solidify his brand. Put another way, a President Trump would simply not care about anything that is not associated with his name.

Taking that into account, Donald Trump simply used inflammatory rhetoric and a Republican Party – neither of which he has historically believed in – to chart a map to the White House. Should Donald Trump win the White House in November, my greatest hope is that a President Trump would simply abandon his jingoistic rhetoric and pass laws that personally enrich himself. And that would be a best case scenario for a Trumpian presidency.

What should be far more appalling to Americans is that we are considering yet another businessman to run government machinery. Was George W. Bush not a fantastic reminder that CEO-styled Presidents who fail to grasp basic geopolitics, economics, diplomacy and domestic policy results in dire consequences? Iraq, permanent tax cuts, torture, and Katrina, all speak to this collective experience.

In short, Trump is not the man for the job. May common sense prevail and let Secretary Clinton, a seasoned, even-handed, and proven candidate, trump Trump come November.


*Because building a wall along the Mexican border is next to impossible given the wall’s overall costs and Trump’s plan to pay for it, Trump may very well opt to build a small portion as a symbolic gesture and let the rest of the wall remain incomplete.

Rethinking Democracy

Democracy is messy, especially in a country as diverse and as large as the United States of America. Yet 2016 feels exceptional on all fronts.

President Obama, now into his eighth year in office, will not not sign any meaningful legislation into law.  A Republican-controlled congress will see to that; for example, Congress will not even have the decency to hear out President Obama’s 2016 budget. Senate Budget Chairman Mike earlier this year declared that the he will forgo the “decades-long” tradition of hearing the Office of Management and Budget Director’s testimony. Given the President’s budget contains policy objectives for 2016 and beyond, Congress will (again) turn a deaf ear to the President’s agenda. President Obama will undoubtedly return the favor should Congress try to pass any of its own legislation. In short, Congress will be a place where progressive and conservative policies alike go to die.

The U.S. Supreme Court now finds itself with eight U.S. Supreme Court Justices; Antonin Scalia passed earlier this year. Mourn his passing or not, Scalia’s death injected yet more politics into the U.S. Government’s most apolitical institution. Not that Scalia was apolitical himself – friends and foes alike would describe him as the polar opposite – but appointing U.S. Supreme Court justices for life lends credibility to the institution and isolates the Court from popular opinion.  The 5-4 decisions, including the one that saved the American Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), solved problems when Congress and the President could not.

No longer. The 4-4 decisions that we will see this year will simply reinforce the notion that not Congress, not the President, and now, not even the Courts, can capably chart this nation’s course. The one institution deliberately designed to stay above the political fray and resolve disputes can no longer do so. There is at least one silver lining: watching Congress and President Obama fight against and for a nomination, respectively, will provide some of the best political drama this year.

And now we find ourselves eight months away from a decisive presidential election. Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee and current frontrunner, has trouble outrunning endorsements by the KKK. In response, House Speaker Paul Ryan said on Mach 1, 2016 that the Republican Party does not “prey on people’s prejudices.” Yet the Speaker never called out Trump by name, and in the same speech said he plans to support the nominee.

My issue is this: 8.5% of the voting population (18+) has voted thus far in the Democratic and Republican primaries. That comes to 20,842,439 people, according to the good folks at Politco and AP. How in the world does it make sense that some twenty million people decide the only two candidates that can possibly stand a legitimate chance at running for the world’s most powerful office, when the U.S. Census Bureau pegged the U.S. voting age population at 245,201,076 (July 2014).

Taken together, the system fails. The primary system fails because it does not consistently produce candidates with mainstream appeal. Congress fails not because voters choose the lawmakers, but because lawmakers use gerrymandering to predetermine the outcome. The Presidency fails because progressives are numerous enough to win the general election, conservatives pull enough weight to control Congress, and the result is gridlock. Throw in a now-dysfunctional U.S. Supreme Court, and the check and balance system is left will all of the checks and none of the balance.

The country needs change. The country must expand beyond a two party system. The country must end gerrymandering. The legislative and executive branches need to do their job and restore the judiciary by electing a ninth justice. The government must find a way to not only expand the vote, but find ways to encourage everybody to do so; by widening the voting base, mainstream candidates will regain their appeal.

While it is not too late to institute fundamental changes such as these, 2016 is a year where petty politics trumps the grander ideals our country stands for.

Please note that the 20,842,439 number does not include the March 15, 2016 primaries or any held thereafter.