Coming Soon:

The following books by Robert Paul Wolff are available on Amazon.com as e-books: KANT'S THEORY OF MENTAL ACTIVITY, THE AUTONOMY OF REASON, UNDERSTANDING MARX, UNDERSTANDING RAWLS, THE POVERTY OF LIBERALISM, A LIFE IN THE ACADEMY, MONEYBAGS MUST BE SO LUCKY, AN INTRODUCTION TO THE USE OF FORMAL METHODS IN POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY.
Now Available: Volumes I, II, III, and IV of the Collected Published and Unpublished Papers.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON KANT'S CRITIQUE OF PURE REASON. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for "Robert Paul Wolff Kant." There they will be.

NOW AVAILABLE ON YOUTUBE: LECTURES ON THE THOUGHT OF KARL MARX. To view the lectures, go to YouTube and search for Robert Paul Wolff Marx."





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Thursday, September 17, 2020

A LITTLE SOMETHING TO CHEER YOU UP

Rachel Bitecofer – the other Rachel, as she likes to call herself – is a data junkie who achieved a certain reputation by calling the 2018 election very accurately. She doesn't post much but here is her latest analysis of the race, and it is enough to warm the hearts and allay the anxieties of such as we.  Not to put too fine an edge on it, she gives Biden a 99.5% chance of winning.  You can't ask for better than that. 

15 comments:

Boris Dagaev said...

Not so fast... https://editor.currentaffairs.org/2020/09/the-biden-campaign-needs-to-get-its-ass-in-gear-right-now/

Ásgeir said...

Well, that terrified me, Boris.

Jerry Fresia said...


Reminiscent of 2016 prognostications. And Biden is making similar moves to HRC - courting Republicans, ignoring progressives completely.

To wit: we are told that Trump can't win unless he wins Florida. Bloomberg is chipping in 100 million to help Biden. At the same time there are 1,686,318 ex-felons who can't vote because of a "poll tax," AKA court costs that the judicial system in Fl has stated they must pay in order to regain their franchise (note: voting is not a right, it is a privilege granted by the state for which one must qualify).

If that 100 million were applied to those court costs, thus freeing up about 1,000,000 or more ex-felon voters, I think that would do it. Maybe the Dems don't want such a large ex-felon, possibly progressive, base.

Danny said...

'Not to put too fine an edge on it, she gives Biden a 99.5% chance of winning. You can't ask for better than that.'


Challenge accepted -- I think I can ask for better than that. Start with the point that I don’t believe the odds are that good. Heck, who does? Given that nobody does, c'mon, the next question is whether this claim could possibly, at best, qualify as 'well worth reading'? What, she lays out her methodology here? And okay, I guess that it might comprise two elements -- political theory, and math. And which category is this?:

'The proper approach to campaigning this cycle is to suspend all in-person campaign activities and limit human-to-human contact as much as possible'

..which continues:

'But we find ourselves living in a world in which the Republican President of the United States has intentionally misled his “half” of the country about the risks of this virus, and this misinformation campaign has been robustly supported and embraced by the Republican National Committee, the Republicans in Congress, and Republican governors across the country. It has also been amplified by the Republican Party’s media ecosystem, particularly its cable news outlets Fox News.'

My question being, is this political theory, or is this math, or what is it?

Eric said...

RPW recently wrote, referring to some predictions that Biden appears poised to defeat Trump, "if the election goes as now seems probable, we on the left will have the best opportunity in several generations to make fundamental changes in this godforsaken country."

But Biden promised his wealthy donors that if he were to be elected, "nothing would fundamentally change."
He's also said that he is not proposing any legislation to get corporate America to change its ways. He wants everyone to know that he does not support proposals to ban fracking (as the US West Coast & Siberia burn). And he's said that military expenditures may need to be increased.

That does not sound to me like any willinginess to make fundamental changes.

Eric said...

During the 2016 campaign, Trump's favorable-unfavorable numbers as tracked by Real Clear Politics were 37.9-57.9 (net -20 favorability) on 09/18/2016. Today he's at 42.1-55.3 (net -13.2).

It's all garbage in/garbage out with elections polling, but at least with the favorability tracking the pollsters' house formulae for determining which respondents might be "likely voters" is not a factor.

Anonymous said...

from very far away we are watching the upcoming election in the USA with great interest. We hope that the voters don't give the new fachists a chance.There is a lot at stake. Not only for the US but also for the opportunities of a free world as a whole.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Eric, I am afraid I did not make myself clear.I have no expectation that Biden will move to promote progressive policies, simply that his election will give progressives an opportunity to push for such policies which, I hope, in light of the desperate situation the United States will find itself in, may get some traction in the electorate and in the Congress. When you are approaching your 87th birthday, pessimism is not an option.

Anonymous said...

Sam Wang gave Hillary about the same odds on the eve of the 2016 election. I believe his predictions had done better than anyone else's in the 2012 election.

Anonymous said...

" I am afraid I did not make myself clear.I have no expectation that Biden will move to promote progressive policies, simply that his election will give progressives an opportunity to push for such policies which, I hope, in light of the desperate situation the United States will find itself in, may get some traction in the electorate and in the Congress. "

When have they not had "the opportunity" to push for policies? They've never stopped. Also, considering in the entire 8 year tenure under Obama, you made *exactly* zero critical posts about him, why do you think progressives will have better success under Biden than Obama?

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

Maybe everybody should stop talking about odds, and focus on polls. 538’s odds on HRC winning were wrong, but the aggregate polling numbers were right - HRC won the popular vote by 2-3%. As per Eric, it is useful to keep an eye on favorability rating, right/wrong track question, and the generic congressional ballot. The latter is historically a very good indicator of who is going to win, and an advantage of 6+ points indicates a large margin of victory.

As to Jerry’s comment, why do you listen to what you are told? HRC didn’t win FL and Biden can win by replicating HRC’s results and adding PA, WI, and MI which Clinton lost by less than 100K votes. Biden is winning is all three as of today.

In 2018 turnout was just a few points less than a normal presidential election. You can use the 28018 results as a proxy for a presidential election - add up all the votes for house seats in 2018 and determine if a Dem of Republican won the state. The result is a 314-224 Biden win in the electoral college.

As to Danny’s question it is both math and theory. As for the math, Bitecofer explains the methodology in depth. There is a polisci theory about political realignments and we are undergoing a realignment now. The elements of this were apparent in the 2018 results. Bitecofer is one of the few prognosticators who are taking this element into consideration.

As to progressive policies being adopted, I think there is better chance now than at any other time in my life. Biden has committed to a public option. The private insurance market is dependent on employer based insurance. I would think that most capitalists would rather cut loose their insurance costs (and the costs of the bureaucracy that administers it), and let the government deal with it. I also assume that the our economic problem can only be dealt with through Keynesian/FDR type spending, and the Green New Deal will be a huge part of that effort. The situation is, as Dr. Wolff notes, desperate and the only group that has a reasoned policy response are the progressives.

In other words, Biden will have to move in progressive directions whether he likes it or not.

David Palmeter said...

In predicting what Biden will or will not accomplish, it's important to keep in mind that the country has moved left in the past four years--not as far left as most of us would like, but more left than during Obama's two terms. That means that the center has also moved left. Bernie didn't sound as radical to country this year as he did in 2016, and he has made a pact with Biden. I expect Biden to stand by that--but if the Democrats don't control the Senate as well as the House, it won't matter what Biden favors or disfavors. He won't be able to get anything enacted. McConnell will not even bring matters to the floor for a vote, let alone pass a Republican version of a House measure and go to conference.

Eric said...

Ginsburg gives up the ghost.
October surprise comes in September?
To whose advantage?

Danny said...

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...
'As to Danny’s question it is both math and theory. As for the math, Bitecofer explains the methodology in depth. There is a polisci theory about political realignments and we are undergoing a realignment now. The elements of this were apparent in the 2018 results. Bitecofer is one of the few prognosticators who are taking this element into consideration.'

Well, thanks for playing. I took my quote here, from newcomer CNU Professor Rachel "The Doc" Bitecofer, assistant director of the Judy Ford Wason Center for Public Policy, to demonstrate .. well, put it this way, we know that she's now also a senior fellow at the Niskanen Center (a 'think tank that advocates environmentalism, immigration reform, civil liberties, and a national defense policy based on market principles') in Washington, D.C. If you want to see her discussing her views on U.S. politics, the 2020 elections, Virginia politics, etc., then you have had opportunities to see this if if you’ve watched “Real Time with Bill Maher,” “Morning Joe,” CBS News, etc. recently, or if you’re read the Washington Post, or Politico, Slate, etc., or…basically, if you haven’t been living under a rock in a cave, lol. etc. Basically, Professor Bitecofer is everywhere these days, or to put it another way, she’s really an “it girl” who’s “having a moment.”

I guess I could juxtapose the drooling pablum and stale/wrong “conventional wisdom” we get from the Chuck Todds and Chris Cillizzas of the world, but your mileage may vary.

Suppose, then, that she’s done a lot of research on this stuff, maybe even, her world view really fits the moment. I'll review a few points about her world view, then.

There is 'Bitecofer on the VP pick:

“the most important olive branch is to pick a liberal Dem as a running mate. Not a squad member, but it can’t be a Blue Dog either” and thus, 'It would be a significant strategic mistake for @joeBiden not to select a diverse, liberal running mate that gives @SenSanders' MUCH younger coalition a tangible olive branch. This was HRC's main mistake in '16.'

Okay, and will M4A doom Democrats in the general? Or, that is, Medicare for All.

'Also, Pandemic/economic collapse has neutralized M4A as wedge issue'

Well, an alternative argument here is that M4A could re-elect Trump, threaten the House majority, keep the Senate in Republican hands, and hurt Democrats further down the ballot just in time for the decennial redistricting fight. And maybe my attidue is clear, but let's also be clear that it eliminates private insurance altogether. Thus, for example, for seniors, more than one-third of Medicare beneficiaries are currently in Medicare Advantage­­—private plans offering comprehensive benefits. Besies them, of course, 156 million people who get coverage through their job would see their plans replaced with a one-size-fits-all, government-only plan. Nearly everyone who has private insurance is satisfied with their plan. There are other politically perilous consequences. If a tax increase and the loss of half of the population’s private plans weren’t bad enough. Oops, yeah, 'a tax increase', but let's just move on, shall we?

Point is, well, hey, nevermind, maybe she’s barely beginning to get the recognition she deserves.

'There is a polisci theory about political realignments and we are undergoing a realignment now. The elements of this were apparent in the 2018 results. Bitecofer is one of the few prognosticators who are taking this element into consideration.'

Hooray for a solid academic study offering scant hope for the future. Or, I mean, if polarized voters so hostile to each other across the Republican-Democratic divide that they cannot interact with each other in a civil manner is the idea, then etc.

Christopher J. Mulvaney, Ph.D. said...

Danny,,
Thanks for an occasionally floridly expressed grasp of the obvious. Your recounting of where Dr. Bitecofer works and he view on Biden’s strategy for the VP pick is interesting but irrelevant. Since her model doesn’t incorporate her views on Biden’s VP strategy or the organization that has employed her, most of your rant is useless verbiage. What is relevant is the usefulness of her model. That, you will remember, was the point I raised.

Voters are more polarized than during the civil war, according to the dw-nominate analysis - sorry, more math. And, based on more academic stuff, we are experiencing an incipient armed insurgency.

If you want hope, get religion, if you want understanding, learn how to think.