Election countdown: 42 days

America’s craziest news stories usually happen in Florida—the infamous “Florida man”. The same holds true for crazy political news. It usually comes down to Florida…

Florida is the swingingest swing state, and the margins are always close. In 2000, Bush v. Gore had to go all the way to the Supreme Court when it couldn’t be settled in Florida’s recounts. In 2012, Obama won Florida by less than 100,000 votes, while in 2016 Trump won it by just over 100,000 votes.

I have no idea what is going to happen with Florida in November. For most states, I would say turnout is key for Biden—but Florida had a 70-75% turnout in each of the last 5 presidential elections. They elected Trump with a 75% turnout, so the notion that a high turnout helps the Democrats doesn’t seem to apply to Florida!

From my research on the gun debate after Parkland, I know Florida is the NRA’s stronghold. It’s the state with the most NRA members, and powerful lobbyists are responsible for making Florida a test case for the nation’s most permissive gun policies. They piloted the stand-your-ground law, for example, which George Zimmerman used to justify his murder of unarmed, entirely innocent black teenager Trayvon Martin.

As a Senator, Biden helped pass the 1994 Assault Weapon Ban, and has pledged to reinstate it as President, so if I had to guess, I think he might struggle in Florida…

Election countdown: 44 days

Connecticut is a safe blue state—Democrats have taken CT in all of the past 7 elections. Hillary Clinton won it by a comfortable 14-point margin in 2016, and Biden is currently polling 20-points ahead of Trump.

Despite being a Democratic stronghold, Connecticut had little input into the nomination process this year. Due to rescheduling for the pandemic, Connecticut held the last Democratic primary or caucus in the country—it was on August 11th, the week before the DNC. All of its delegates went to Biden.

Election countdown: 45 days

Colorado has become a swing state over the past couple of decades, with a mix of Republicans and Democrats in the House, Senate and Governor seats. It went blue in 2008 for the first time since 1992, but it stayed blue in 2012 & 2016, and it has recently enacted progressive policies like legalising recreational marijuana and protecting the rights of undocumented immigrants. The turnout in 2012 and 2016 was 71% and 72% respectively—and even in the 2018 midterm, Coloradoans managed a 61% turnout, second only to Minnesota. If they continue that level of voter participation, I think Biden will definitely carry Colorado.

Election countdown: 46 days

On election night, the west coast always gets called after the majority of results have already been announced, but everyone knows how they’re going to go—blue all the way down the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico. California is a safe bet for the Democrats, and it’s also the most populous state. Its 55 electoral votes go a fair way towards that 270 needed to win.

California is also home to the largest Latinx population in the US, with 15 million (27% of US Latinx population, 39% of total CA pop).

According to Pew Research Center, “A record 32 million Latinos are projected to be eligible to vote in November’s elections, exceeding the number of Black eligible voters for the first time.”

And it doesn’t hurt that their very own Senator Kamala Harris is on the ticket…

Election countdown: 47 days

The last time Arkansas went blue, it was for hometown good ol’ boy Bill Clinton. Trump comfortably carried the state in 2016 with 60% of the vote, receiving over 300,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton.

One of the few things Trump has released about his second term agenda is a list of potential Supreme Court nominees. Among them is Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton, who made headlines recently for calling slavery “the necessary evil upon which the union was built.”

Arkansas also supported segregationist George Wallace in the 1968 presidential election. I’m concerned that the current national reckoning on race may actually encourage racists to turnout in Arkansas, out of fear and anger, so I have no doubt that Trump will carry the state.

Election countdown:48 days

Arizona is looking surprisingly blue in this election. In the span of just a few years, they are going from having two Republican Senators to potentially having two Democrats, as Mark Kelly is leading in the polls. In terms of the presidential race, Biden has been polling ahead of Trump since March, and he’s currently 5 points ahead. In 2016, Trump won AZ by only 3.5%, just 91,000 votes. Arizona is definitely in play this year.

Election countdown: 50 Days

I’m so excited for November 3rd! With 50 days to go, I’m going to post something for each state, each day until Election Day, alphabetically starting with Alabama.

It’s got to be a tough time for Alabamans, between the pandemic and the racial reckoning. Obviously Alabama will stay red and re-elect Trump, so there’s little point in trying to persuade them to vote for Biden—but with some of the nation’s worst social rankings, to use Trump’s own words, “what have they got to lose?” Try something new, by going back to traditional, mainstream politics with a career politician like Biden.

Writing Your Journal Article in 12 Weeks–Week 2

Back to school–my favorite time of year! George’s return to in-person school means that I now have a little writing time every day! It feels so luxurious to have this extra time, especially after 6 months of being together 24/7. Even though I still have one kid at home to take care of, it’s so much easier–he naps better when there’s no big brother to wake him up, too. As I write this, he’s sleeping on me in the Ergo, just like I used to do with George. With all of this newfound time, I’ve been able to get my coding & SPSS done for 3 datasets and actually get my quantitative data for the paper I’m working on about Congressional Twitter post-Parkland.

This week of the workbook focused on the argument–probably the most important aspect, and often the most difficult. When I’m marking or proofreading someone else’s work, it’s easy to spot a missing or weak argument. When it comes to crafting one of my own, from scratch…I struggle to come up with a clear, central argument that covers all of the ideas/angles I want to include.

I thought I had a fairly good idea of my argument for this paper-in-progress. One way of thinking about the argument was to see it as an answered research question, so with that starting point:

RQ: How did members of Congress use Twitter in the aftermath of Parkland?

Argument: In the aftermath of Parkland, members of Congress used Twitter as a political communication tool to express empathy and to display partisan positions on the national gun debate.

As soon as I wrote mine out, I realised it was a description, not an argument. It was also very dry and put me to sleep. The topic is inherently interesting–a school shooting, hashtag activism, partisan points-scoring in the wake of a tragedy–but how do I do it justice?

The workbook has a series of tests you can use to determine whether you have an argument. Mine failed the “observation test”–it doesn’t explain anything. It needs to be interpreted, in light of the literature and my specific findings. It also sort of failed the “obvious test”–my claim is too general and a bit obvious. It needs to be something specific and clear, and something that you could only find out through deeper research.

Part of the delay so far has been that I didn’t actually have my findings yet. You can’t form an argument if you don’t have the evidence you’re going to use to support your argument yet.

I’m still in the process of figuring out what the evidence is, but my initial findings suggest that there’s the kind of political polarization going on that you’d expect.

  • Democrat Congress members with NRA grades of “F” wrote 76% of all Parkland/gun-related tweets during the month that followed the shooting.
  • Fully 100% of the tweets that advocated arming teachers, supported the NRA, and supported the 2nd amendment were tweeted by Republican NRA “A” grade Congress members.
  • Similarly, 100% of the tweets that discussed gun-control responses from corporations (i.e. DICKS sporting goods and Wal-Mart raising the age to buy guns/ammo to 21) came from Democrat “F” grade Congress members.

The one topic category that wasn’t definitely favored by one party over the other was “thoughts and prayers”. It’s the only truly bipartisan response to the shooting. It’s become a cliched and mandatory demonstration of caring–politicians must tweet their thoughts & prayers as a minimum (and many did just that one tweet and then never mentioned gun violence/policies again that month).

I’ll see how the rest of the analysis goes, but this is one angle I’m suspecting might turn into an argument. In a crisis situation, like a school shooting, members of Congress must be seen to care (whether they actually do or not). Expressing “thoughts & prayers” on Twitter is a low-cost (in terms of effort, time, and money), way to perform that necessary display of caring. After Parkland, however, such performative caring was deemed by many to be insufficient. “Thoughts and prayers” were met with resistance, accusations of failure on the part of politicians to keep children safe, and calls to action. Policy changes were demanded, rather than/beyond the performative act of caring with “thoughts and prayers.”

**But, my data is about what Congress said/did, not what voters demanded of them, so my evidence won’t necessarily support that argument directly.

This is why it’s complicated!