November 4+5, 2014

Taking another double day to catch up, because for some reason I didn’t want to write one last night because the election returns weren’t complete yet, and I thought “oh I’m going to want to do some analysis & whatnot.”

Which I still want to do – I’m curious to see whether I could figure out from the precinct-level data whether Sean Haugh siphoned votes away from Tillis, Hagan, or from the much larger mass of people who would’ve otherwise just stayed home.

But that would take a lot of time, to answer a question that I don’t really care all that much about. I like Sean, and I’m impressed with the campaign that he ran. I didn’t vote for him, for sort of an even split of ideological and pragmatic reasons. But I was extraordinarily glad that he got the attention that he did.

I did find it disappointing that neither Tillis nor Hagan modified their positions even one single iota in response to Sean’s campaign. This is one of the claims of the third-party candidates, of course, that having them in the race will force the major-party candidates to adjust their positions in order to win back third-party voters.

Didn’t happen here. Instead the soft money on both sides was spent trying to convince the other side’s voters that they should vote for Sean. Which was hilarious to watch, but did not improve the level of discourse overall.

I donated quite a bit more money this cycle than I ever have before, but that’s primarily because I wound up donating to a total of 31 candidates, all folks running for NC House or Senate seats. 14 of them won, and 17 lost, which wasn’t the happiest of outcomes, until you look at the overall balance of power in the NC Legislature.

I’m particularly psyched about the victories of Gale Adcock, Brad Salmon and John Ager, who each removed a Republican incumbent from a House seat.

I’m also proud of young Uriah Ward, an ECU student who ran a really respectable campaign against an incumbent Republican. He got creamed, but he persuaded 8,771 people to vote for him. He’s definitely one to watch.

I’m sad that Sarah Crawford lost in state Senate district 18, which covers Wake and Franklin counties. She was doing well enough that her opponent & his cronies went dirty in their ads. Sarah’s husband is a lobbyist for the NC League of Conservation Voters, but the ad was replete with images of fat cats chomping cigars, and ominous “who will Sarah be working for?” language.

The fucking trees. She’ll clearly be in the pocket of Big Clean Air and Water. And trees.

So that was a tough one.

It’s incredibly frustrating to live in a state where the divisions are actually quite close in many places – and in the state overall, where the US Senate race was decided by a margin of only 1.6% – which is utterly without a functioning state Democratic Party organization. Literally.

If there were an actual working Democratic Party in NC, a few more of those races might have been won.

This may be a pipe dream, but I’d also like to see Democratic challengers in every single House and Senate district, even the ones so pathetically gerrymandered that they’re deemed unwinnable. It’s just pitiful & embarrassing to read through a list of 34 uncontested Republican-held seats in the state House alone.

All things begin equal, although I definitely believe uncontrolled money in politics is a horribly corrupt thing, I believe that partisan redistricting is probably even more corrosive and evil. I really wish Lawrence Lessig’s MayDay organization was going after that as well.

Yesterday a friend tweeted a link to this study by some Duke math folks, about the impact of partisan redistricting. You should go read that article, because it’s amazing & depressing. They took the precinct data from the 2012 elections, drew new random districts based only on the technical criteria for equivalent size, compactness, etc, and then figured out who would have won, based on the party that carried each precinct in the election.

In the actual 2012 election, Democrats cast 51% of the votes, but Republican candidates won 9 of our 13 Congressional seats. In the researchers’ randomized simulated districts, Democrats typically won 7 or 8 seats, and Republicans 5 or 6.

Seriously, go read the article, and then think about how different the entire country would be if Congressional districts were drawn by non-partisan means.

Anyway. Tuesday was spent thinking about the election (and practicing for an Ignite talk on Wednesday. Wednesday was spent thinking about the election, practicing for an Ignite talk, and then giving it, a process that I did not particularly enjoy. It went OK, but it felt weird.

I don’t mind giving presentations – I occasionally even find it enjoyable. But a 5-minute time constraint is pretty brutal, and requires a thing that I typically never do: write a script and practice.

The irony here, of course, is that I spend all summer every summer training interns on how to give persuasive 4-minute presentations. At least now I guess I’ll be moderately more empathetic.

November 4+5, 2014