Well, This is a Mess

Last few days saw some pretty interesting events turning up with the Trump campaign:  his campaign manager being charged with battery, Trump claiming that women who get abortion ought to be punished and reversing it, and so forth, all the while Trump may get thumped in Wisconsin by a sizable margin.  This may finally be the beginning of the end for Trump, but also may well be the same for the Republican Party and possibly, a good chunk of political science.

This is rather astonishing to me since I thought, if played properly, Trump candidacy might be the best thing that ever happened to the Republicans.  There is no coherent “ideology” that defines the Republican Party today, other than hostility to the Democrats.  President Obama is reasonably popular today, but only among the Democrats.  Quite frankly, most Republicans would be happy to back Karl Marx if he called himself a Republican and Republican insiders were willing to underwrite his label.  While Trump’s many eccentricities, especially early on in his campaign, may have bothered many, they were merely eccentricities that could even play to his advantage in the general election.  Heck, this was a guy who openly defended Planned Parenthood and questioned the official narrative on Iraq and the US policy on the Middle East in general in the middle of the Republican Debate, making him stand out seemingly as the only sane person in tune with the Middle America amidst all the Republican mouthpieces.  If Trump kept his mouth shut, more or less, without veering to too extreme territory and if the Republican establishment were willing to accept the opportunity he presented, he would have given them a chance to gain a significant chunk of the “missing white voters” while retaining the remaining Republicans.  This would not have produced a major victory, but something closer to 2000–a narrow win dependent on capturing half a dozen midwestern states, with or without a popular majority.

After everything that has taken place in the past few days, and the chain of events preceding it, it is difficult to imagine that Trump will be able to recover.  It is worth recalling that, in 1992, Ross Perot was leading all the polls until well into Spring, until he temporarily dropped out of the race ranting conspiratorial tales about how he and his family are being targeted by government agents or something.  His support tanked and never recovered.  I can’t help but compare the peculiar developments in Trump’s candidacy to Perot’s.  One huge difference, though, is that unlike Perot, whose reputation was entirely tied only to himself, Trump is running for Republican nomination.  Whatever credibility hit Trump takes will not reflect will on the rest of the Republican Party, especially if that hit is perceived to come from the Republicans themselves, directly or indirectly.

Working class whites, to the degree that they turn out at all (at a very low rate, incidentally) are almost 2/3 Republican in their vote choice.  It is unlikely that they will choose Hillary Clinton.  They may choose Bernie Sanders, if he somehow prevails.  I suspect that many will still opt for Trump if he survives, but will they choose the rest of the Republicans, now or in the future?  The Republican Party has been an uneasy electoral coalition, made up of three factions that openly loathe one another–the Republicans, the conservatives (the faux Tea Party–the organized one), and the unpredictable working class whites (the original Tea Party–the unorganized one).  The last two factions have often gotten confused for each other–if only because no one came out to lead the third faction until now.  In their attempt to fend off the peasants from rising, the Republican leaders are busily burning the bridges, while, at the same time, the peasant bandit leader, Trump, seems to be eagerly burning bridges to all but the peasants.  (oddly reminiscent of the crazy Ukrainian nationalist peasant rebel leader Nestor Makhno, who took on basically everyone–the Germans, the Bolsheviks, and the Whitists, in the aftermath of the Russian Revolution.)  This is not quite a sudden train crash–this has been going on for decades, as witness the relative downturn in participation among the working class whites since 1990s, even as they were turning Republican.  But the open nature of this round of the fighting will not be without long term repercussions.

This may not be the end of the Republican Party as an actual party, but almost certainly spells their end as a competitive national political force.  Their existing electoral coalition, built up from the Nixon days and completed between 1980s and 1990s, already under intense internal pressure since the ouster of Gingrich in late 1990s, is now in tatters.  They’ll have to find themselves a new coalition and that will take a long time and significant slip ups by the Democrats to produce.  Exactly what will be left in the rump of the Republican Party after Trump, however, is not obvious.  If Trump is the nominee regardless of all that has taken place, many professional class Republicans, especially women, are certain to leave their ranks–if there were serious doubts just a few months ago, there isn’t much now.  If he is to be matched up against Clinton, Republicans will have gained significant additional support from the working class whites that will further transform them to a blue collar party rather than a country club party–and ensure future exodus of remaining professionals and chamber of commerce types.  If Trump is denied nomination, Republicans will be left only with the evangelicals and chambers of commerce, too small to be competitive electorally.  However, Clinton will not be able to capture the working class voters expelled from the Republicans and that will endanger the stability of the entire American politics–possibly setting up the stage for a more virulent, Chavez like movement in the future.  If Clinton does somehow lose the nomination to Sanders, the original New Deal coalition may reemerge, as the Democrats would be able to absorb many of these voters.

Missing Voters and Social Capital

This article makes a similar point about the “missing white voters” as I did for “missing black voters” in an earlier post.  I would not say that the socially disconnected voters are supporting Trump because they are socially disconnected necessarily–at least not directly.  Rather, their lack of social connectedness makes them less useful, so their needs are not addressed and the agenda is chosen without regard for them.  This indifference by the party insiders drives their support for outsider candidates.

In a way, Trumpism is the white version of Black Lives Matter, with the same basic social dynamics, but perhaps with a better demagogue leading it.  This is, of course, also a second act:  the same demographic segment also triggered the Tea Partyism in 2010, only to have the movement hijacked by the conservatives (not necessarily mainstream Republicans–basically, Ted Cruz supporters today) in their bid to take over the Republican Party.  Is today’s movement any different?  One difference is that, while the faux Tea Party–the post hijack variant–had a definite long term political agenda, of taking over the GOP to advance their politics roughshod, Trump’s political vision is much murkier.  It is still doubtful if he actually wants to advance the well being of the “missing white voters,” however…..

Early Voting and Status Quo

This article in Huffington Post points to something I hadn’t thought about, before.  No, I don’t mean the confident claim that the author makes that Sanders is currently winning the primary race, but the more general effect of early voting combined with election day voter suppression, as took place in Arizona, in effect.  Early voting has been often touted as a means of making voting more convenient, something that can increase the turnout. However, what apparently happened in Arizona suggests that in certain combinations, early voting can substantially change the election outcome.

The current research suggests that early voting does not significantly change the usual turnout decision by voters:  most early voters are fairly conventional voters, who are relatively high turnout even without the early voting provision.  If so, they typically would have made up their mind long ago without much possibility of having their mind changed in the run-up to the election.  In other words, they are likely to be your typical high propensity voter:  higher income, higher education, more stable political preferences. At minimum, low propensity voters do NOT take advantage of early voting much.

The implication from this for a general election is murky:  low propensity voters generally do not turn out on the election day either–thus, the label “low propensity” voters.  It takes an unusual set of circumstances for their turnout to spike unexpectedly, and if the Huffington Post article’s author’s contention is to be accepted, the quick pace of the primary campaign might have provided such circumstances in Arizona last week.  There are interesting implications here:  if the last minute voters are the most marginal voters, they are most likely to be influenced by campaigning.  Yet, as more voters vote early, accommodations for same day voting makes less sense in cost-effective sense.  While the drastic reduction in polling places as per Arizona are improbable in most places, it is difficult to believe that with relatively few voters left who, furthermore, may or may not show up, same day voting provisions would be kept as convenient.  So the voting weight shifts, ironically, against the voters who are least likely to vote, to convenience those who already vote.  Much the same thing might be said for internet voting and other technological scams masquerading as means to ease voting:  they make it easier to vote if you can afford them.  They make the well-off feel better about themselves, while actually making it potentially harder for the really marginalized to be counted.

Perhaps we might want to make it easier for people to show up in person and vote on the election day…not come up with convenient excuses for people who can afford avoiding it, and mistakenly think that makes it easier for everyone to vote.

AI is Crapshoot, and It Isn’t.

Only days after AI demonstrated its seeming superiority over humans by thoroughly smashing a human champion at a board game, AI has laid a big proverbial egg, in form of an AI driven chatbot that seemingly went completely bonkers.

There is a a bit more than meets the eye, of course.  For all its computational complexity, board games of complete information are mathematically simple.  Following the rules inevitably leads to a simple set of outcomes:  either there is a perfect strategy or there isn’t given the rules of the game, and if there is a perfect winning strategy, it can be mathematically calculated.  Thus, chess, go, and tic-tac-toe are doomed to end in a permanent draw (this has been proven for Tic-Tac-Toe) or are pointless because one player will always win through that perfect strategy (this has been proven for checkers–the most complex game that has been computationally “solved” so far.)  All these have been known for more than 100 years.

The distinguishing characteristic of the games of perfect information is that, given the choice by the other player, the best response is well-defined.  What choice to make, then, is fairly simple and straightforward.  Of course, chess programs supposedly often crashed in the past when multiple choices that are equally good were available, but a randomized tie-breaking mechanism is a fairly simple addendum.

Human interactions, riddled with nuances, conventions, and other subtle subtexts, are not so straightforward.  If you will, the variance of the best response distribution conditional on a stream of events that has so far taken place is enormous.  Humans, other than those who are autistic, are much better at learning how to navigate these nuances and make appropriate hedges that account for the risks involved.  The Wired article that I linked above, on the other hand, inadvertently points out why the Microsoft AI screwed up so badly :  “Mortensen says this is just how this kind of AI works. The system evaluates the weighted relationships of two sets of text—questions and answers, in a lot of these cases—and resolves what to say by picking the strongest relationship.”  This is NOT how humans–even teenagers–behave, except, possibly, the speculators on Wall Street, and even in that case, they actually have monetary incentives, backed by potential for gov’t bailout in case of failure, to do so.  Most humans are sufficiently risk-averse that they shy away from saying the “wrong” things that will create poor impressions of themselves.

There are a few occasions when humans do say wrong things:  when the cultural conventions are unknown, such as in the instances of first contact between different societies that rarely interact with each other (e.g. US military with Iraqi civilians after the invasion of Iraq), the children who are just learning the conventions (“kids say the darndest things!”), and the autistic folk whose brains are wired differently enough that they are slow picking up the social conventions.  In a sense, the behavior of the Microsoft AI is reflective of all these instances:  it simply has not learned the human social conventions enough to “behave.”  If given enough time, it may well have picked up enough to avoid its worst foibles.  But, at the same time, it appears that the learning algorithm that it was programmed with simply did not incorporate enough instructions on how to deal with the uncertainties inherent in the interactions, essentially “encouraging” it to adopt the most extreme responses that will elicit potentially very negative reaction.

Now, why should an AI care about the negativity of reactions?  In order to get the AI to evaluate such things, we are now talking about the human “emotions”:  shame, vanity, pride, honor, empathy, and such–the Biblical stuff, the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge. Indeed, one might almost say that, prior to the Expulsion, Adam and Eve were practically AI, while, by eating the forbidden fruit, they suddenly acquired the “human” characteristics.  Perhaps one might write a Sci-Fi novel about this…or maybe someone is.  😉

Religion and Voters

There is a fantastic article on the relationship between the African-American churches and the young black activists, or more accurately, the lack thereof.

A key fact about political participation in United States is that the rates of participation, certainly turnout, and the participation in religious activities are highly correlated.  This is not necessarily an illustration of how religion makes for better citizenry, which some people seem to buy into, but rather the coordinating role played by socialization.  People who meet weekly wind up taking on a similar mode of behavior and way of thinking, due to the extent of mutual communication amongst themselves in context of meeting and mingling among themselves.  One might say it is a form of echo chamber effect, although a bit subtler and less caricatured.  Those who can come among them and credibly strike a chord, in turn, gain their support.  That religion should be the cause for their weekly gathering is rather incidental.  The occasion for the periodic gathering could be the weekly meeting of the local atheists international and the effect should be the same.

That the youth activism (not necessarily just among the African Americans, but across all communities) should be taking place outside religion is a sign of danger.  All the technology in the world does not allow for coordination as effective as those who meet and touch flesh to speak on weekly basis.  If anything, the political success of the religious organizations in Iran (1979), Turkey (pretty much since 1990s to the present) and Egypt (2011) should remind us of this:  the old fashioned rural religious thoroughly and completely overwhelmed the young hypermodern Cairene mob when it came to political mobilization.  This is also how the old fashioned Clintonian political machinery is winning elections in United States.  Without a social backbone of brick and mortar variety that command widespread physical attendance for an extended duration, be it churches or weekly yoga class, idealistic activism is inherently doomed in the medium term.

Churches are an earthly institution that gathers many people together weekly and constitute a powerful force for collective action.  They have nothing to do with God, religion, or religiosity.  I know not why God has anything to do with politics…but anyone who claims churches have nothing to do with politics is delusional.

Predicting Trump Voters

The Atlantic has a nifty article on a cottage industry that grew up of late:  trying to find statistical patterns in where the votes for Trump (and other candidates) come from.  The truth is that, for all the fetishistic interest that grew up around “big data” and associated analytics, there really isn’t  a whole lot to loading up some package and running the data, either in Python using SciKit or StatsModels or in R.  There will be many patterns found.  Some meaningful.  Others, not.  The real challenge in data analysis is to, as the article observes, “The trick is taking the insights seriously without taking them as gospel—and making sure to evaluate the assumptions their creators made.”

Every statistical model is wrong, in some form or another.  The real insight is to learn why and how they are wrong and incorporate them into the next model.  This is not just big data.  This is how science works.

The Future of the Democrats (and the Republicans too)

Matt Yglesias has an interesting point on the future of the Clinton coalition in the Democratic Party.  The argument in a nutshell:  the prospects of a centrist Democratic Party are as good as that of the Republicans relying on the working class white votes.  The minority, the young, and what’s left of the union votes that currently constitute the Democratic coalition are not terribly interested in a Center-Right agenda as the Democratic Party offers today.  Insurgencies from the left are likely.

Unfortunately, Yglesias does not know history:  this has happened before, between 1978 and 1980.  It is largely forgotten that Jimmy Carter was actually a conservative Democrat and that he was reviled by the Left for that very reason.  Ted Kennedy challenged Carter, both politically and electorally, and I always wondered if the working class voters he activated contributed to the Reagan victory in 1980.  This experience certainly did not deter Clinton then Obama from leaning ever more to the right and largely abandoning the unreliable and politically incorrect working class white voters to the Republicans–if they bothered to vote, which many of them do not after decades of neglect.

Like it or not, a coalition built on high propensity voters who can be mobilized cheaply, based on identity and symbolic politics of various kinds–ethnic politics, religious politics, gender politics, etc–is the norm for both parties now.  In a nation built on a great diversity of identities and symbols that don’t naturally overlap, I can’t but worry that this is inherently destabilizing–it certainly seem conducive to subverting trust in the authority.  The “Bud Light” voters, who have no taste, are the runt of the litter who are being neglected, and for good short- to medium-term political reasons too.

I can’t but worry about the repeat of the politics of 1980s in Venezuela:  collapsing oil prices required serious adjustments in the politics of redistribution, with more flowing to those who were politically connected and much less those deemed less valuable.  The latter supported the coup by Hugo Chavez, and, even after the coup failed, he was duly elected president anyways.  Trump is now playing the role of Chavez, promising another “Bolivarian” revolution…or he would if we in norteamerica cared much for Simon Bolivar.

Is this something to be fearful?  That is harder to tell:  Bolivarian Venezuela is a mess, although it has also provided a surprising amount of economic and social benefits to the formerly less privileged.  While the supporters of the regime will insist that this is the work of CIA, and there is some truth to it, no doubt, it is also the product of the de-institutionalizing, chaotic style of politics that Chavez and his acolytes brought that deliberately fostered social chaos, a little bit like the Cultural Revolution of Mao, instigated for similar political aims, although a bit more ordered perhaps.  I don’t see Trump reprising the role of Hitler.  I can, however, trump replaying Chavez, on a bigger, messier scale.

“Dealing” in Politics and Economics

A major conceit in modern economics, at least since Edgeworth, underscored by this article is the almost willful disregard for the distributional aspects of economic activity.  International trade, specialization, and technological change are typically viewed through the rose-colored glasses of the possibility of Pareto improvement, that is their potential ability for raising the well-being of all the participants in the economic process, NOT whether they actually do.  Seen through this prism, problems such as inequality, literally, make no sense at all.

Where politics and economics meet, however, questions of distribution and production cannot be separated.  In an Edgeworth-esque universe, the textile workers and workshop owners would enjoy mutual veto power over whether the newfangled  machinery would be adopted:  in order to take advantage of the productivity advantage of the machinery, the owners would commit to compensating the workers at least as much as they earned before as precondition for substituting capital for the labor, so to speak.  In practice, this is rarely the case:  the owners simply substitutes the capital for the labor and fires the labor, or threaten to substitute the capital for the labor and force the labor to work cheaper than the price of the machine.  If, however, the owners sought to negotiate instead, there is every reason to expect that the labor should seek to extract as much of the surplus generated from the machinery for themselves as possible.

The bottom line is that there is a zero-sum dimension to every game, even those involving potential positive sums.  As it were, there is no guarantee, with application of unequal bargaining power, potentially positive sum games should lead to positive sum games necessarily.  After all, expropriating surpluses, whether from workers or from consumers, is often easier than creating genuine improvements in productivity.  On the other hand, building and sustaining actual positive sum games, even when the possibility exists, is not easy.  This is the real substance of good, virtuous politics.  It requires an ability to commit to making acceptably equitable divisions credibly, for all parties involved.  This, in turn, demands creation and maintenance of institutions that, quite literally, all the parties to the game can believe in.  Dirty tricks in rigging the game in favor of the agenda setters is the last thing in the universe that can foster this trust in the long run.

This is not a new problem for political science:  Stephen Krasner had famously written about bargaining at the Pareto frontier as the core of the “political problem,” where finding new, mutually agreeable possibilities are rare.  However, this illustrates yet another problem with the way this challenge has been approached:  we are having a crisis of trust not because we are approaching the Pareto frontier, but in spite of the great surpluses.  The times of great politico-economic upheavals, mid-19th century that gave birth to Marxist theories, the early 20th century that led to the world wars, and apparently, the early 21st century that gave us these interesting times, are not times of scarcity but periods of plenty, where new technologies are producing vast surpluses that should have opened a vast array of possibilities for coordination, not bargaining, to use the lingo adopted by Krasner.  Instead, we saw the players who gained in bargaining leverage retrenching and their opponents adopt the rhetoric of the zero sum game, with the resulting conflict between them threatening to destroy the surpluses themselves that they were attempting to divide.

If anything, Donald Trump actually understands the problem of the distribution better than Adam Davidson does:  the attempt to coordinate the division of the spoils fails because the state is weak and is unable to force the parties in dispute to commit to a compromise.  As I noted earlier, successful authoritarians are characterized by a fairer, if rather ham-handed, distribution of the spoils in their societies.  The “democrats” who challenge them successfully are those who can, on the strength of their numbers and organization, who seek to keep all the spoils for themselves and give nothing to the minorities and the potentially marginalized.  Davidson’s article actually recognizes this without noticing the irony.

I have little expectation that, based on his performances so far, Trump will turn out to be an actual successful authoritarian.  “Successful” authoritarian regimes are built on the backs of an army of competent bureaucrats who manage the immense machinery of redistribution, like the old Soviet Union, or a rigid social norms that dictate the appropriate social stations of its members and the corresponding assignment of the loot, like the Medieval Europe–especially the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth–or feudal Japan.  Obviously, these are not societies one should aspire to emulate:  the enforced “equality” leads to stagnation.  As it were, Trump reminds me of a Mussolini or Hugo Chavez, a showman rather than a leader.

Of course, one reason Trump, Chavez, or any other revolutionary authoritarian emerged was because capitalism and democracy too become too institutionalized and ossified in its workings.  The insiders rig and retain the goodies only for themselves and their friends, with limited possibility, if any, for those not part of the machinery to challenge it.  In this sense, they become a caricatured mirror image of the “egalitarian” authoritarian societies. The conceit of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was that all the szlachta, the nobility, were equal, and this equality, in the end, was built on the backs of the peasants who were permanently exploited to provide the resources necessary.  The conceit of the modern democracy is that to the winner belong the spoils–and the winners rig the institutions to ensure that they keep winning so that they can permanently exploit the losers.  Much the way feudal or authoritarian equality is subverted by the class division, democracy is subverted by institutionalization–without the chance for the bottom rail to go on top with some frequency, without a pinch of Arrovian chaos, democracy is unstable.

Thus, Trump is leading the Ukrainian peasants to burn the Polish knights’ castles.  We also know that most of these revolts did not succeed, until the Tsar sent his armies to help the peasants crush the knights–after the Commonwealth fell.  Much the way the peasants were reviled as embodiment of Tsarist tyranny and oppression of Polish liberties by the knights’ descendants, Trump is seen as an enemy of all that is decent.

Predicting the General from Primaries

There is a widespread inclination to treat the primaries as an entirely separate phenomenon from the general election.  In a sense, this is wholly justified for reasons empirical and theoretical.  As the fivethirtyeight.com post covered the empirical aspects of this justification, I will offer the theoretical:  the choices facing the voters are different in the primaries and the general.  People choose to spend their time on voting for a reason, and that reason is supplied by the candidates and the circumstances under which the election takes place, even if the voters themselves remain the same.  If the candidates and the circumstances change, there is no reason to expect that the same voters would continue to participate.

This is hardly a new observation:  one reason Gary Hart was thought to be the more formidable candidate in 1984, at least until the scandal involving Donna Rice came out–and changed the circumstances of the election, so to speak–was the recognition that he activated a different set of voters from Walter Mondale and many if not most of those voters were expected to remain in support of Hart candidacy in the general but not necessarily Mondale.  The fall of Hart candidacy, of course, ensured that this could not be evaluated, of course, and furthermore underscores the difficulties of evaluating the impact of “unusual” candidates on turnout by different demographics:  candidates who try to draw on “unusual voters” to win the nomination rarely succeed in winning the nomination.

On top of these, we just don’t have that many presidential elections to draw data from and analyze to the satisfaction of statistical significance.  This limits us to two responses:  we can refuse to believe the data that we have since they are not close to being conclusive, or we can try to learn what we can from the data, but with the recognition that the data is not very good and the conclusions drawn from them largely unreliable.  Science demands that we should stick to the former, if we want to gain good, reliable insights.  But we are trying to gain some insights, not necessarily good and reliable ones.  With appropriate caveats, I see little reason not to.

The search for a historical analogue to 2016 brings us to 1980:  the primary turnout was high on the Republican side, due to many voters enthused by Ronald Reagan as well as by many opposed to him.  Indeed, the #NeverReagan movement within the Republican Party gained enough support that John Anderson ran a third party candidacy.  Reagan was considered, despite his tenure as governor of California, considered a political incompetent who did not know what he was doing and an out of touch extremist who might bring the Republican Party by bleeding disenchanted voters, while he claimed that he was drawing new voters in.  It is premature to conclude that Trump would necessarily win because he is like Reagan, for the opposition to Reagan within the Republican Party was nowhere as strong as Trump’s today.  Reagan’s support was so large than he carried so many primaries by huge margins after a few hiccups in the early going.  It certainly helped that, for all his non-mainstream appeal, he was also an experienced electoral politician who did, after all, nearly derail a sitting president’s (Gerald Ford’s) campaign in 1976 in addition to his time as a large state’s two-term governor.  Trump, in contrast, seems to have hit a hard ceiling around 40-45% even within the Republican Party.

Reagan, presumably, would have activated similar kinds of demographics in the early primaries in both 1976 and 1980.  In 1976, with Ford, rather than Reagan as the nominee, did these voters stay home, while, in 1980, with Reagan at the top of the ticket, did the same voters stay onboard?  The demographics of Reagan and Ford electorates do seem different enough, with Ford’s being much more upscale in terms of income and more “conservative” (in practice, this just means that Reagan drew a lot more voters who did not fit liberal-conservative scale neatly, not that he drew necessarily “moderate” voters–the same reason Trump draws many “moderate” voters), although Reagan’s coalition in 1980 does not look quite like his 1984 coalition.  Since the exit polls themselves from these years are, unfortunately inaccessible for me at this time, the more detailed analysis will have to wait.  But they suggest that some aspects of the general election coalition may be predictable from the primary results:  IF Reagan’s early success was dependent on blue collar, apolitical voters, they seem to have carried over to his general election coalition.  (It is also worth noting that head-to-head matchups in 1980 showed Carter defeating Reagan handily until August, at least)

After Reagan, there was another primary presidential candidate who drew out unusual voters and won primaries unexpectedly riding on them, and mostly kept them in the general–Barak Obama in 2008.  Other than these, we just don’t have primary polling data that is readily available (Roper Center’s data goes back only to 1976).

So, two data points, from two very unusual presidential candidates, Reagan in 1980 and Obama in 2008, that MIGHT, upon further analysis, suggest that who turns out in primaries might give us useful clues, although not definite guidance, about who would turn up in the general election–although the overall turnout might well be a red herring.  In 2016, we have another strange election brewing, with another candidate drawing out strange voters.  The information we have is almost completely unreliable and I would not suggest for a minute that there is much that is reliable here.  However, we also know that where the data is plentiful, there is no useful insight to be had.  So between reliable but useless information and totally unreliable but perhaps insightful information, what shall it be?