Monday, May 12, 2008

Stupid ways to "analyze" things

Side Bar's previous post included a lovely picture of Dusty Baker embracing Barry Bonds. Dusty Baker -- regardless of his possibly amorous feelings about Bonds -- is an idiot. I mean this baseball-analysis-wise; I'm not judging him as a person whatsoever (if you ignore that he let his 5-year-old son wander out near home plate in the 2002 World Series, where J.T. Snow basically saved the dumbass kid's life). Dusty was a pretty good baseball player, but he's a fucking terrible manager and an even worse TV analyst, as has been repeatedly documented on the best Web site ever. Anyone who suggests that fat players like Frank Thomas are bad at baseball because they "clog up the basepaths" by getting on base way more frequently than others doesn't understand that getting on base leads directly to scoring runs. Scoring more runs than the other team leads to winning baseball games, which is the whole objective of playing baseball against another team.

Sorry for the whole sabermetric bitching about Dusty, but the larger point I'm getting at is that stupid analysis of any topic, be it baseball or, say, politics, needs to be pointed out.

I read a lot about politics, including many blogs by supporters of Barack, Hillary, McCain, and Ned Goldman. One day, I came across the hotly-named TexasDarlin, a big Hillary supporter. I've tried to resist commenting much on these kind of blogs, because most Internet commenting (this site excluded) is full of complete nonsense (okay, this site included), and I've often found myself getting mad at things I've read. Getting angry at what what Internet commenters write is just plain dumb (thanks, Joe):

But sometimes, I read something that is just so outright stupid, I have to reply. TexasDarlin posted something that -- while it's short of much of what I've read on pro-Hillary sites in terms of blatant ignorance -- so defies reason and logical comprehension, I (gasp) commented. So here I post the comment. (It would be helpful if you read her post in its entirety first, since this is just a comment. But you probably won't bother, so go ahead and read, you lazy fuck.)
(Open Bar:) Really? Let's go through this one at a time.

(TexasDarlin:) "Rural America can determine who becomes the next President."

Of course rural America will play a huge role. Rural America = half of America, so clearly half of America will play a prominent role. No one is arguing against that.

"Check out the county-by-county results from four very close contests (Clinton is red; Obama, green)"

Do states in either the primaries or general election use "counties won" to determine the victor? Or anything at all? If a state's election is close (and you chose states that were close), but the county-by-county color map is dominated by one color, does that mean that A) The candidate with more counties in his/her color should therefore win, or B) Way more people (i.e., voters) live in certain counties than others? In a state election, the victor is determined solely by which candidate receives more votes, not by how an color-based illustration of the state looks afterwards. Colors should not outweigh numbers. Any Democrat should know this, especially after how Rove used the 2000 and 2004 national Red/Blue maps to say that America is clearly a Republican country, when the numbers told a very different story. Nebraska is way bigger than New Jersey; if you compared just those states side by side and judged by color, you'd say Red Nebraska is way more important than Blue New Jersey. Yet New Jersey's population is way bigger, hence more electoral votes.

"As you can see, Clinton's base covers a broader geographic region."

As I said before, a "broader geographic region" doesn't mean anything if it doesn't equate with the population living in those regions. Please stop conflating colors with voters.

"Pay attention, folks. These are General Election swing voters needed to reach 270 electoral votes.

Swing voters.

And no one understands that better than the Superdelegates, many of whom rely on these same voters for their own re-elections."

Yes, they do understand this. And yet, they continue to come out in droves for Obama. Even ones in rural regions whose primary voters either will or already have gone for Hillary. Superdelegates care about this very, very much. And, in spite of your reasoning, they are choosing Obama instead, at a rate that increases every day. Why is this?

"The hard-working people of Appalachia and bluegrass country represent a nationwide constituency capable of delivering the White House in November. And for Clinton, even better: they will put her within striking distance of a popular vote lead."

Voters in Appalachia and bluegrass country absolutely deserve attention, and they will certainly receive it. Much moreso come the general election. But to say that they will put her within striking distance of the popular-vote lead overstates the likelihood of that happening and the importance of the popular vote, in this particular primary campaign. I know it is a truism among some in this race, particularly in the Hillary camp, that the popular vote is the most important metric in determining the nominee. Frequently, Al Gore's loss in 2000 is used to support this idea. But the fact is that the determination of the Democratic nominee for president is based on delegates, not popular vote. And anyone arguing for the relevance of states like West Virginia should understand why this is so. If the nomination was earned solely through popular vote, a candidate would have no incentive to visit a state like West Virginia -- because there aren't many voters there. That is why delegates are used instead. Delegates increase the value of smaller states.

If the whole point was to win a popular-vote margin, candidates would campaign in New York, California, Illinois, Florida, Texas, and any other state with a lot of voters. There would be no logical reason ever to visit West Virginia or South Dakota or Maine.

If the nomination race was based on anything besides delegate count, who knows what would have happened? The fact is that those were the rules everyone agreed upon beforehand (and for good reason), so to try to reimagine things now by using a different way to measure who the “true winner” or “better candidate” is would be following the fallacy of the predetermined outcome. You are simply saying that “if the rules had been different, clearly my opinion is right.” But by doing that, you ignore that what has happened, happened for a reason. If the rules had been different, it is completely logical that the outcome would be different, because the campaigns would have been run differently. At the bare minimum, you have no right to assume your opinion would inevitably be correct – you are choosing to reimagine things in a way that deliberately leads to the conclusion you have already committed to.

You cannot now insist that different rules should be followed, because even if the rules you now want had been in place at the start, that would have redefined the game from the beginning – so it would have been a different game altogether.

So how do you think I did? Do coloring books matter as much as vote totals? I know there are some other things I could have attacked, but I think I hit the big ones. I encourage all of you to go visit TexasDarlin's blog and comment.

Wait, no. Don't do that. Don't do that at all. I'm already ashamed I linked to her blog, and I'd hate to be responsible for bumping up her comment totals. Although, stupid is as stupid does, right? And stupid needs to be called stupid, so please go right ahead and use her comments section to call her stupid.

No comments: