HRC’s Fundamental Problem.

This article in Vox points to the fundamental problem plaguing the Clinton campaign:  overwhelming numbers of voters think that the economy is broken and rigged against the middle and working classes.  Clinton can do a lot better if she started talking about how the economy is a mess and she’ll do something about it, instead of how America is already great.

But if you are, in effect, the incumbent, being the establishment insider in the party that controlled the White House for past eight years, how can you say that the economy is broken?

Advertisements

“So you are saying we should…”

This post by Nathan Robinson, whose title I just shamelessly stole, underscores a fundamental problem that always seems to come up when challenging sacred cows in any setting, especially when your stock in trade in the “principle of variance.”

My view on statistics is that the “mean” is right as a statement about the whole, but almost always wrong as a statement about the particular.  In repeated coin tosses, should the coin be fair, heads probably will not outnumber tails and vice versa in the long run.  In every single coin toss, however, either head or tail will definitely outnumber the other.  The general statement about the whole, then, is of only limited utility for the single coin toss:  it provides a clue as to who is more likely to win (by giving us the odds across a large enough sample size), but even if the odds are (truly) strictly even (and the long term data says so), it never tells us that neither will win the next coin toss, so to speak.  In other words, we want to know how wrong, vis-a-vis individual observations, the general statement is and whether these “wrongness” can be generalized across multiple observations.  This, of course, is the definition of variance in non-mathematical lingo and this is the heart of statistics (and science in general)–and lack of understanding of this is how people get lied to by abuse of statistics.

The criticisms of the sort Robinson brings up are precisely what gets people lied to by statistics however:  the statement about a “mean,” so to speak, is not a moral statement of absolute truth, but a descriptive statement about the average state of affairs across a large sample, one that is almost certain to be wrong in individual cases:  I don’t know what we should do about it, but as far as I can tell from the sample that we have, Earth is round and that’s just that.  There is no “so what you are saying.”  So Trump is representing many discontented people whose existence the Democratic insiders are eager to ignore, and this is true, whether one likes them or not.  If they are, on average, rather racist, that too may be true, but it does not change the fact that they are unhappy, there are many of them, and that Trump is channeling their anger, and it may be equally true that, even if Trump is, on average, less popular and less likely to win, if Democrats screw up enough, he might actually win.  (David Byler has an instructive, if somewhat pedantic, commentary on this.)

But, if “science,” even “political science,” as a critical assessment of uncertain facts, has no “so what you are saying,” political rhetoric and advocacy, are all about “so what I am saying.”  When “science” meets “advocacy,” facts give way to “so what I am saying” and that can only be met by “so what you are saying” by those who don’t agree with the point being advocated.  This is, in a nutshell, the Dawkins disease, how, Dawkins and others of his ilk did far more damage to science than they contributed by becoming caricatures that they became.

Object vs. Data Oriented Approaches to Data

There are two fascinating articles on pitfalls of object oriented programming and potential benefits of “data oriented” approaches in programming that I have just encountered.  The first is an article that appeared in the Medium, titled “Goodbye, Object Oriented Programming.”  The second, “Data-Oriented Design (Or Why You Might Be Shooting Yourself in The Foot With OOP).”  The two are not exactly orthogonal:  “data-oriented design,” as the article makes clear, is really more of a philosophy (although the same might be said of object-orientedness, even if it is explicitly incorporated into the design of the scripting language), that can be incorporated into any number of languages.  In other words, it is really more the challenge of what to do with the data as they arise:  do they get shoved into a predefined set of treed and branched structure, or is the program (or a person or an analyst) allowed to do something about it, by taking the context into account. The contrast, as the article points out, is that a pure “OOP ignores that and deals with each object in isolation.”

What could this mean in context of, say, legislative data?  An implicit assumption behind use of DW-Nominate scores is that it is meaningful to look at individual scores–i.e. if a legislator has a DW-Nominate score of 0.7, that means something by itself.  The slightly more sophisticated ones would place that score in context of, say, the median of the House being, say, 0.5 and the median Republican being 0.6 or something.  But a more data oriented approach would point out that each score means relatively little:  it would note that there are bunch of congressmen and they can all be characterized by parts of a single distribution, a distribution that has both a mean and a variance.  Like the second article says, where there is one, there are many.  Once there are many, we always have a mean and a variance (yes, the variance might be zero–and if so, that is the interesting part in and of itself.  In contrast, there is no variance in a pure objective oriented environment:  if a congressman has DW-nominate score of 0.7, and that is all we know of him, he does not have a variance of zero–the variance is undefined.)

(NB.  Now, since we know that DW-nominates are themselves products of statistical analyses of votes being processed to object oriented thinking, we might also note that they are themselves subject to variances–in which case we might want to take the more data oriented approach to analyzing votes themselves…which I am in fact advocating.)

This rethinking of the approach yields different questions:  what is the difference in the legislative process if the floor median’s DW-Nominate score is 0.6 or 0.2 or whatever?  Will the Republicans win (a lot) more often?  If that does not change (which is likely), is the reason the median is more liberal in one case because they are winning with a lot more Democrats voting with them than when the median is more conservative (this is how we get “moderate” DW-Nominate scores–because seemingly “liberal” people are voting with whoever for whom the score is calculated?  Is the latter because the Republicans are more compromising, or because the Democrats think joining with the Republicans is good for them?  (For example, the Contract with America legislation proposed by Gingrich passed with overwhelming bipartisan coalitions–indeed, for 1995-96, many coalitions, even if Republican dominated, were surprisingly bipartisan–this changed once Gingrich was ousted and accelerated the pace of polarization.)

Not terribly clearly thought through yet, but interesting possibilities.  It seems that, as political science people began to adopt more computer programming in their work, which are almost invariably of object-oriented design, we have come to adopt that approach in our thinking as well, which comes with many downsides which the programmers, ironically, are recognizing.

 

If America is Already Great, Why Is There a Trump?

Emmett Rensin is very, very very good.  His latest article in the New Republic is fantastic except for the title.

The title evokes the misleading question that many people ask when they are talking about parties and politicians:  what does X stand for?  Often, the answer is not easy to find and an answer usually is not necessary.  As Bill Clinton allegedly did in 1992, when asked a bunch of pointed questions about what he was for and what he was against, he pulled out a copy of his economic plan and said I have a plan to address the problem that most Americans are concerned about.  The plan was not especially a good one and nobody knew about the details thereof.  It did not really matter because it was enough to give an answer that addressed the problem(s) that many people were concerned with.  This was not exactly the first time that the presidential candidate form the out party did so in a time of considerable distress:  in 1968, Nixon talked about his secret plan to end the war in Vietnam.  What was his plan?  No one knew–it was secret after all.  But what mattered was that a lot of people were deeply concerned about the war in Vietnam.  The Johnson administration and its anointed candidate, Hubert Humphrey, seemed to have no good idea either.  At minimum, Nixon recognizes that there is a problem, seems competent, and says that he can do something about it.

This is the real problem with the Democrats today:  it is full of symbolic, identity politics, coupled with scare mongering against the weirdness and uncertainties that Trump represents.  But, with regards what Democrats might do about the problems that the country faces, the problems that threaten, or at least, seem to threaten financial and physical well being of many Americans, the Democratic insiders seem defiantly obscurantist, refusing even to acknowledge that the problems even exist.  The silly slogan that the Clinton campaign trotted out, and variants of which were still repeated at the convention, reflects this cluelessness:  “America is already great.”

The reason that Trump’s and Sanders’ messages had the impact they did was that they found an audience who lived in an America that was not all that great, that wanted to see a revolution to bring about big changes, in order that it might recapture the place that it deserves but has lost–at least for them.  The problems that they faced was very real and serious.  Whether they should have trusted one or the other, or either one of them, is besides the point:  both Trump and Sanders, notwithstanding the differences in the particulars of their vision, set themselves apart from the pack by recognizing that America may deserve to be great, but it wasn’t, at least not for all Americans.  Thus, the paradox:  if America were as great as Hillary Clinton says it is, were the millions of people who supported the Sanders campaign on the Democratic side and those who continue to support Trump on the Republican side a bunch of delusional mean-spirited liars driven only by ill will?  It does seem like this is what many Democratic insiders might actually believe, given the hostility shown to the Sanders supporters at the Democratic convention.

The real essence of the Rensin article linked at the top of this post, then, can be summed in the following passage:

“…it is difficult to know what the Democratic Party stands for beyond the notion that America is “already great” and generally intending to get greater. ‘If people are blaming immigrants for their problems, the correct strategic response is to build a platform that shows people what the actual source of their problems is, and proposes a means of solving them,'”

Rensin is quoting another perceptive article, by Nathan Robinson.  Ironically, of course, this is what gave rise to the original DLC:  the recognition that, because of the many contradictory commitments that the Democrats had made as part of their coalition building strategy, they were unable to offer a solution to the serious problems facing the country, and worse yet, could do no more than simply accuse those who proposed solutions as racist.  Sounds familiar?  Bill Clinton’s Sister Souljah moment came out of that realization:  he made a deliberate, calculated move to, at least symbolically punch a hole that ran contrary to the web of sacred taboos, anticipating that he could mitigate the damage while winning enough credibility.  While much derided recently, the “superpredators” remark by Hillary Clinton emerged in that context as well.

But one difference is that the demographics were different.  Bill Clinton had to secure enough working class whites to win in 1990s.  Hillary Clinton does not.  She is hitting the campaign trail in the Midwest and I am curious what she will say.  I would be surprised to find another Sister Souljah moment at this stage, though.  The more likely scenario is that, while Clinton may formulaically cover all bases, she will not make the kind of sacrifice that will gain her much credibility beyond the Democratic base.  She does not need to, at least not that desperately.  But not addressing the problems can only postpone the crises further into the future.  Langston Hughes’ poem may well have gone post-racial, and exploding dreams will not be pretty sight to bear.

DLC, Then and Now

I got around to re-reading the “Politics of Evasion,” DLC’s “mission statement,” so to speak from 1989, for some reason, and I was staggered by how different today’s “DLC” politics is from that of its beginnings.

The original politics of DLC was focused largely on winning back working class whites back to Democrats.  Cultural conservatism, so to speak–hunting, guns, “low-class” culture with common touch (i.e. “redneckness”) etc:  all these were as crucial to the DLC message as free trade and deregulation of the economy.  While their economic program might not have been especially welcome to the working class, they were already discounting the Democratic economic program after the Oil Shock and Stagflation of 1970s and the Reagan-era economic recovery of 1980s.  Their social program, in other words, were to serve as a beard to cover the dismantling an economic agenda that did not count for a great deal.  (Yes, the poor economy helped WJC get elected in 1992, but there was no demand for a massive government program to get things going–if anything, the Clinton “stimulus package” was met with widespread skepticism once he entered office.)

Fast forward to 2016, the economic situation, especially for the working class, is precarious.  The economic message mattes more than it did in 1990’s.  It will not be easy to cover an unfriendly economic program with the guise of sociocultural sympathy.  But not only is the Democratic insiders’ economic message unwelcome to the white working class, they are offering no beard to cover up for it.  Rather, the Democrats’ message is defiantly in favor of social liberalism, even on the matters, rightly or wrongly, many in the working class might be fearful about–e.g. terrorism and immigration.  The defense offered by the Democrats echoes that of 1989 yet again:  because of the Democrats’ natural demographic advantage, driving up turnout will ensure Democratic electoral success regardless.

Unlike in 1989, there is more basis for putting faith in the turnout “solution.”  Democrats do enjoy overwhelming advantage for the demographic segments that make up increasingly larger shares of the population and, unlike 1980s, there is no clear evidence that they are turning against the Democrats.  If anything, the current trends among the Republicans would only reinforce that trend.  In this sense, perhaps Democrats may not need a “new thinking” after all.  Still, the idea that one could maintain a status quo that many find distasteful strikes me as a lazy thinking that cannot end well.

State of the Race–Late July Edition.

Pew has put out a fascinating set of numbers:  one for the Democrats, the other for Republicans, although I have some serious beef with both of them.

The striking number on the Democratic side is not that 90% of the erstwhile Sanders supporters say that they prefer Clinton over Trump, but the fact that almost 10% of them say that they actually support Trump over Clinton.  One should not expect numbers like that, in general, unless there are serious problems between the general election candidate and particular segment of the electorate.  This, of course, complements a very peculiar description of the Sanders supporters:  his support apparently came from “Democratic leaners, those self-identified as “very liberal” and the religiously unaffiliated,” i.e. a very peculiar set of voters–especially the shared presence of “very liberal” and “leaners.” It begs the question where the 10% of the Sanders voters favoring Trump over Clinton are, and how many of these leaners there are in the panel.

The proportion of the leaners is critical:  internet-based panels systematically overrepresent potential voters who like and pay attention to politics.  These voters tend to be partisan and ideological.  The share of independent and/or otherwise apolitical voters in the electorate tend to be larger than in the samples.  This is significant because the independents played a crucial role in making the Sanders movement possible in the past primary season.  If the 10% of the Sanders voters voters are favoring Trump over Clinton, and if they are overwhelmingly among the leaners, especially in the age 30-49 cohort, and if the leaners among the Sanders supporters in the Pew sample are far fewer than what we know to have been the composition of the Sanders coalition from exit polls and such, we’d be talking about something like 15% defection rate.  My guesstimate of the share of independents among the Sanders supporters was approximately 1/3 to 40%, based on exit polls.  15% would represent almost half of this total, which I thought would be enough to bring Trump a narrow victory, IF the bleeding among the regular Republicans can be stopped (which is a giant unknown, for the reasons explored in the other half of the Pew survey).  This should scare the Democrats shitless.  Repeat after me:  that the average Sanders voter is certain to vote for Clinton is not an assurance that ALL Sanders voters will stay with Clinton.  Lose a significant chunk of Sanders voters to Trump (and 15% is a big chunk) Trump runs a good chance at a narrow win.

Now, I would have liked to see the equivalent numbers on the Republican side:  how many of the Trump skeptics would actually consider voting for Clinton?  Democrats have been campaigning quite hard to capture at least some of a significant component of the Republican electoral coalition:  educated, affluent white women.  There have been many polls suggesting that they are the least favorable towards Trump, by big margins.  While Pew’s tables suggest that this demographic segment is indeed where many of the Trump skeptics come from, it would have been nice to have at least some cross-tabs.  How many of them would actually prefer Clinton over Trump?  Have they even asked the question?  This is critical:  even if Trump can peel off a significant chunk of apartisan/apolitical Sanders voters–which the Democratic side of the article suggests is a possibility, losing a significant chunk of the usual Republican voters will bite into his totals badly.  The large number of skeptics suggest that many voters will be lost to the “none of the above” or to Gary Johnson.  But how many will actually take the ultimate step and go Clinton?

Neither is especially revelatory:  they confirm what has been known about these candidates already–both are very, very weak and have significant problems with very important potential pieces of their electorates, and the Sanders coalition is much more strategically important because of its variable nature than people seem to think.

New Journalism, Old Journalism, and Still the Same Neglect of the Variance

While I’m not normally a huge fan of Gawker, this is a very informed critique of the kind of depths that the self-important “data journalism” has fallen to.

The “now-cast” of the sort that the article refers to, i.e. the “what if election were held now” type of “prediction” thrown about even by so-called data journalists like 538 and NYT Upshot, is totally meaningless outside of context.   Current polls may or may not show an upsurge of support for Trump around the GOP  convention, or not.  They may or may not show an upsurge of support for Clinton after the Democratic convention, or not.  But the real question is how much information they provide for how things might pan out by November.

The answer here needs to be much more nuanced than not:  the common practice is to ignore these “convention bumps” as meaningless–which they probably are if their role is only to help “predict” the election outcome.  But, as pointed out by Gelman, Rivers, and others, there’s something more going on there.  It is undeniable that there is an observable bump:  what is driving this bump?  Are people showing up who weren’t there?  Are people who were there not showing up?  Are people genuinely changing their mind?  Where is this variability coming from?  The variability of a given demographic, preferably one defined as precisely as possible, is critical:  variable voters are persuadable, and good campaigns aimed at persuadable voters stand far better chance of paying off than simply throwing money–if there are enough persuadable voters, given the right message and the messengers.

In context of the convention bumps, then, it is pointless to claim that the bump implies a greater chance of Trump win, or even that the bump is meaningless because it “will” go away–because we don’t know if it really will go away.  We need to understand where the bump is coming from if we want to take it seriously, or to dismiss it as a mirage.  Even then, of course, we wouldn’t know for sure–we can only understand the variances, with which we can form confidence intervals around.

Swing Voters and Demographics

This working paper by Andy Gelman, Doug Rivers, ad others is a truly excellent paper, even if their title is, perhaps, a bit misleading.  The basic premise corresponds closely to my take on how to approach polling data:  vast majority of people already hold fairly well-defined views on politics and their choices are unlikely to change much.  Seemingly big swings reported in short term polling results are rarely the product of people changing their minds as much as peculiar selection biases that crop up at different times in polls.  This applies especially for the “partisan voters”:  people who say they are partisans, at least in today’s political environment, do not change their views so readily.  So it is worthwhile to post-stratify the polling data on the basis of the partisan characteristics of the respondents, and more generally, pay close attention to how the winds are shifting among those who identify themselves as overt partisans.

I did not generally take a more technically sophisticated approach to crunching poll numbers than looking at variability within each politico-socio-economic demographic across multiple cross-tabs, for which I guess I should be rather ashamed.  Still, the point that kept coming up was unmistakable:  hardly anything was changing within each demographic for most part:  for example, Trump enjoyed considerable and unwavering support among working class white Republican men, somewhat more variable support among the white Republican working class women, and quite variable support among the affluent white Republican men, and wildly changing support levels among the affluent white Republican women.  Potentially similar phenomenon exists on the Democratic side:  while the “average” Sanders voter is probably enough of a liberal that there is no chance of his/her swinging to the Republican side, with or without a Trump, but a sizable minority might.  We have only an incomplete picture of the latter group, due to lack of access to the detailed polling data, but, in some states, e.g. West Virginia, they were unusually heavily concentrated, providing the glimpse of how misleading it is to characterize the entire lot by their average.

Swing voters are, of course, the voters who exhibit a very high level of intertemporal variance in a given election season.  Their relative scarcity means that a lot of campaign resources are wasted on essentially deaf ears, but their existence, if only in small numbers, does provide an opportunity for campaigns–especially if their conditional variances are better understood.

There is no reason to believe that the swing voters should necessarily stay constant from election to election:  in today’s setting, the potential swing voters among the Republicans seem to be the affluent white female voters–who normally would have been very low variance Republican voters.  The so-called Rendell strategy, however much it might be derided among the liberals, is founded on a solid premise, for better or worse, given the way current election is shaping up.  But one might say the same about the potential plot being hatched up by the Trump campaign, aided and abetted by the Clinton camp, to capture whatever working class white voters that are left that might still lean Democratic (and voted for Sanders in the primaries.)

Things That We Don’t See vs. Things That We Do.

Corey Robin has an interesting perspective (I have no ideas where this is from besides his Twitter stream) on the goings on in today’s politics.

If you have been following my posts, you’d have noticed that I am fully in agreement with his broad view that something huge is going on in politics today, not just the Democrats or even United States.  The argument that I’d been offering is that the mutually contradictory twin roles of institutions, as both a tool that can help the agenda setters advance their interests at the expense of those outside the privileged circle, and as the positive-sum focal point that guides those outside to rally to the coalition around the institution-keepers for all their mutual and collective benefit, has reached a crisis point where the masses (of different strains) no longer trust the institutions or its keepers–where the underappreciated price of agenda-setting has gotten so big for those who are being agenda-set that they are willing to force the agenda setters to pay  a big price.  Both Trump and Sanders, Brexit and other assorted anti-system politics, are symptoms of this crisis in confidence.  Where there is no confidence in the very words of the agenda setters, the questions about how the agenda should be, in which direction–i.e. the ideology/policy questions–no longer even make sense.  This leaves, as Robin astutely points out, the conventional observers of politics confused.

The problem, however, is twofold.  First, the status quo is, whether we like it or not, powerful.  It will do what it can do protect its present interests.  Yes, Sanders and Trump represent powerful and very unhappy coalitions on the left and right, respectively.  Yet, they are not the changes that the incumbents elites want.  The insiders will bring everything they have to stop them, even at the cost of losing elections–as the Republicans are eager to be doing– and the chances that the rebels will fail are very considerable.  Second, even if we are able to spot the changes by observing subtle clues under the surface, the evidence that we can marshal, by necessity, will be limited and circumstantial, hardly a “slam dunk” for those who are not wiling to believe.  The “Vox Generation,” as Robin contemptuously calls today’s “public intellectuals,” are true believers in the conventional wisdom without subtlety or depth of analysis.  They trust academic theories that spout conventional wisdom as much as their forebears trusted the political insiders to explain what is “really” going on in politics, and these folks control the outlets through which new ideas can reach a wide audience.  Maybe the insurgents will win. Maybe we who are unseen by anyone will have seen them coming (I do not believe that this is all that likely–although more likely than the conventional wisdom might believe.)  But since nobody saw our predictions, “nobody saw them coming,” cry will the Vox of tomorrow (which could be the Vox).

I think there is a potential for something big building in many places around the world. I do not see the probability of these pressures adding up to something big, in the end, to be very high.  The spectre is worth paying attention to, but it is dangerous to make too much of it.  It’s like a 9th inning walk-off home run:  it’s common enough that one should not be surprised to see them, especially with some hitter-pitcher-ballpark combinations.  But no one should count on them.

Two Faces of Institutions

The DNC email scandal has been generating a lot of controversy–at least in the Twitterverse.  A lot of talk has been focused on the apparently hypocrisy of the DNC, acting in contravention of the letter of the DNC bylaws requiring fairness–notwithstanding the fact that, from the beginning, it was obvious that the mainstream Democrats did not like Sanders and his movement, who, not inaccurately, were outsiders to the Democratic Party (1/3 to 40% of the Sanders voters being independents and all that).  Equally, a lot of talk has been over the probable fact that not a whole lot had been done, explicitly, by the DNC to overtly rig the outcome in favor of the Clintons.

I think these are mistaken.  The role of institutions is not simply to serve as the tools that can be rigged by those who wield them, subtly or overtly, to win the immediate outcome.  They are to serve as focal points to rally all potential members of the coalition around.  While the two might, in practice, be more similar than not, this implies exactly the opposite use of institutions.

If the goal is to use institutions as weapons to beat one’s “enemies” with, then there is no point in sticking to the spirit of the rules.  The letter of the institutions may be adhered to, but there is enough flexibility for a clever lawyer to find loopholes around. The Clintons and their allies can revert to their old habit of arguing over what “is” means, if a favorable definition would net them an advantage over their rivals, like Sanders and his supporters.

But, if the goal of institutions is to serve as focal points, inflexible adherence to the spirit as well as the letter of the rules is critical.  Perhaps the potential allies are lost, confused, or uncertain.  If so, they need to learn where the party is and find the path to where the party is leading them.  To paraphrase Shakespeare, the party’s rules must be as constant as the North Star to provide as reliable a guidance as possible, even if maintaining that constancy requires considerable sacrifice.  That sacrifice may be worth while if the allies thus gained can provide valuable aid.

Of course, the premise behind the second perspective is the existence of uncertainty and the faith that, if sufficient goodwill and constancy can be shown, the “lost” partisans will appreciate it and find their way themselves.  A useful analogy might be to that of a lighthouse.  The lighthouse serves to provide the path for the mariners who are uncertain about where they are headed, but are skilled enough that, if they do, they can find the way themselves.  In order for the lighthouse to function properly, its light and location needs to be both well-known and constant–with the knowledge known to all that a great deal of effort is being made to keep things as constant as possible.  Once the lighthouse becomes a tool of manipulation, the mariners would no longer trust them.  They are not incompetent:  they are skilled enough that they may still find their way on their own, but at greater peril to themselves.  Knowing that they’d been tricked, however, will destroy their faith in the institutions of the lighthouse in the long run, and with it, any advantage that the lighthouse keepers to extract advantages therefrom.  In other words, strategic manipulation of the lighthouses may frustrate the mariners who are enemies of the lighthouse keepers, but, in the long run, it will simply ensure that the mariners will be mortal enemies, since they will not, probably, be killed off merely by the evil lighthouse tricks.

The Clintons and their allies have been quite clear, I think, in their view that they do not view Sanders and his supporters to be a valuable ally so far in the campaign.  The so-called “Rendell strategy” has focused on winning over affluent and educated segments of the Republican electorate, rather than the poor and the working class. The behavior of the DNC is consistent with this worldview:  Sanders and his people are not, ultimately, welcome (enough) in the Democratic Party that they control.  Maybe they can get away with it this time, with the Trump campaign in total disarray, but this subverts the ability of the Democrats to expand the electorate in the long run (Even today, will they be able to get away with it?  If they do lose all of the non-Democratic Sanders supporters to the degree that a significant portion of them do indeed choose Trump, they will have lost even that bet, even if that seems rather unlikely now).  Lost trust will take a long time, if ever, to recover.  Rules are rules for a reason:  by adhering closely to them, even if they could get away with bending them out of shape, the elites can induce the masses to rely on them as focal point–because everyone will be there, so to speak.  If the rules are only for the little people, why should the little people abide by them if the only people they will find are other little people?