The 2012 election has proven to be one for the record books, proving that simple math will ring true amidst a sea of puffery, rhetoric, and partisan politics. President Barack Obama won another term with both a majority of the popular vote and the Electoral College. An anti-gay “marriage protection” constitutional amendment failed in Minnesota. Marriage Equality laws were passed in three more states. Yes, Democrats and liberals had a good run through most of the country — but does it indicate a turning of the tide, or is it an anomaly as those on the far right claim?
During the Democratic National Convention, former President Bill Clinton roused the crowd with every math teacher’s dream speech:
Now, people ask me all the time how we got four surplus budgets in a row. What new ideas did we bring to Washington? I always give a one-word answer: Arithmetic.
In the lead-up to the election, arithmetic took on another role — this time, with statistician Nate Silver. Silver’s blog covered the campaign with daily analysis of the polls, providing a step-by-step, and state-by-state image of the possible outcome for the final turnout. Silver gained notoriety in 2008 when he forecast the electoral college returns with near accuracy with only one state being wrong: Indiana. He was also dead-on accurate with every Senate election prediction.
Fast forward to 2012. Silver became something of a celebrity in the final weeks of the election among liberal circles, giving him and his blog a strong publicity boost. That boost was quickly interrupted by a quick and brutal reminder of just how insane politics can poison the well.
Dean Chambers, who created his own “polling” site claimed to “unskew” the polls so that it showed Republicans with the shoo-in for victory.
Nate Silver is a man of very small stature, a thin and effeminate man with a soft-sounding voice that sounds almost exactly like the “Mr. New Castrati” voice used by Rush Limbaugh on his program. In fact, Silver could easily be the poster child for the New Castrati in both image and sound. Nate Silver, like most liberal and leftist celebrities and favorites, might be of average intelligence but is surely not the genius he’s made out to be. His political analyses are average at best and his projections, at least this year, are extremely biased in favor of the Democrats.
Once you read through Chamber’s screed fully, it becomes apparent that his version of “unskewing” the polls is nothing more than partisan posturing. On Wednesday, he realized that his breakfast was going to consist of a crow quiche, since Silver’s prediction was not only correct, but bang-on accurate down to the last state. Chambers, to his credit, faced the facts and gave credit where it was due:
Dean Chambers, the man who garnered praise from the right and notoriety on the left for his “Unskewed Polling” site, admitted today that his method was flawed.
“Nate Silver was right, and I was wrong,” Chambers said in a phone interview. …
Chambers’ method of “unskewing” polls involved re-weighting the sample to match what he believed the electorate would look like, in terms of party identification. He thought the electorate would lean more Republican when mainstream pollsters routinely found samples that leaned Democratic.
But as it turned out, the pollsters were right — self-identified Democrats outnumbered Republicans by 6% in election exit polls.
“I think it was much more in the Democratic direction than most people predicted,” Chambers said. “But those assumptions — my assumptions — were wrong.”
Chambers was honest enough to realize his own mistake, and that he had been completely wrong about his predictions. The results spoke for themselves, and arithmetic had proven itself right.
Unfortunately, though, this kind of transparency is sorely limited in the far right. When Ohio was projected for President Obama by several major news outlets — including Fox “News,” — Carl Rove was quick to insist that it was too soon too tell. At the time, Ohio was the tipping point for the election. The President had already garnered enough electoral wins by that point so that if Ohio had gone blue, the election would have been over.
For nearly half an hour, the talking Fox heads debated on whether they should have projected a winner for Ohio (despite the fact that all of the other networks had done the same), invoking the Florida debacle in 2000. Finally, Rove was taken to school — with that pesky arithmetic again — when —- explained that the votes left to be counted were in heavily Democratic areas. Romney just didn’t have the votes in those areas, and the projection was based on sound numbers.
“That’s awkward,” said co-anchor Megyn Kelly. She then went backstage to interview on camera two men who were part of Fox’s team in charge of making election calls. They had concluded that based on the precincts where votes were left to be counted, Romney couldn’t beat Obama.
Arithmetic is the most powerful force in American politics — and in the end, it’s the only force that matters. Simple ballot counting is all it takes to decide who takes the spoils of victory or who must dwell in the agony of defeat. For those of us that followed Silver’s track during the campaign, we were met with very few surprises.
Except when it came to LGBT issues.
Three states had marriage equality on the ballot: Washington, Maine, and Maryland. All three of them asked voters to decide if gay couples would be allowed to marry in their state. Washington and Maryland’s referendums were forced by anti-gay activists who protested their state legislatures passing an equality law, so they raised the petitions to take it to the voters. Maine, on the other hand, had its referendum placed on the ballot due to the efforts marriage equality advocates.
As was usual, the rhetoric from the anti-gay crowd played hard and fast with the truth. They invoked “the children” with every discussion, attempting to ensure voters that if gay couples could get married, they would be indoctrinated about “homosexuality.” The National Organization for Marriage, a small group of anti-gay bigots who believe it’s their responsibility to keep gays from getting married, fought the initiatives with every last breath.
Brian Brown, the group’s current director, donned his red-colored glasses early Tuesday, confident that LGBT advocates would be tasting bitter defeat that day:
“This makes clear that the people of this country know that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and all this talk about somehow the country turning is absolutely false, and that protecting marriage is a winning issue. If we lose one, that would still be the same.”
“It becomes harder if it’s two, three or four, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
The fourth state he mentions is Minnesota, whose constitution anti-gay groups attempted to amend to restrict marriage to between “one man and one woman.” Brown and his cohorts worked around the clock to write discrimination into another constitution, and was confident his side would win most, if not all of these initiatives.
As it turned out, they lost. Every single one of them. Three more states will begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in January, and Minnesotans left their constitution unchanged (although, they still have an anti-gay marriage law, so nothing really changed).
Brown said he expected one loss, but he got four. Four big ones. Americans rejected bigotry at the ballot box. But Brown has an issue with arithmetic, and goes straight for denial:
Our opponents and some in the media will attempt to portray the election results as a changing point in how Americans view gay marriage, but that is not the case. Americans remain strongly in favor of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. The election results reflect the political and funding advantages our opponents enjoyed in these very liberal states.
Let’s explore this claim — in the same article, he also said that they lost in “four of the deepest blue states” in America. After all, they were suddenly destined to lose (but we already knew this). But what about this notion that it’s not a “changing point” in how we Americans view marriage equality? Sorry, Brian. Arithmetic rules again.
In order to discus this properly, we must go back a few years. When the “marriage amendment” push was at its heights, these initiatives passed nearly every time — with overwhelming majorities, often with more than 70% of the vote. This was the case in 2004 and 2006. Tennessee passed their amendment with 81% of the vote.
By the time 2008 rolled around, the margins were much, much slimmer. California, arguably the bluest state in the union, passed their ban on gay marriage with 52% of the vote. So, when we see states like Washington and Maryland pass marriage equality laws (even after Washington rejected it at an earlier attempt), it becomes quite clear that the country’s views on their LGBT neighbors IS changing.
Even in North Carolina, a state that’s as red as a state can get, passed it with only 61% — a sharp 17 and 20 point drop from her neighboring states of Tennessee and South Carolina just six years ago. For two years in a row, a majority of Americans now embrace marriage equality — and an even larger majority accept some form of legal recognition of same-sex couples.
The simple fact is this: Americans are becoming more aware of their LGBT neighbors, friends, and family members. As such, they are becoming less willing to vote against their rights. The arithmetic is simple: The more of us that are visible, the more likely that we’ll gain our full equality.
This isn’t a “blue tide” by any means, but it signals something even stronger: a steady growth of education and common sense.
And yes, even arithmetic.