KEVIN'S LIST: Does our tribe tend to make a certain mistake?


The demographication of everything: Just for the record, there's absolutely nothing wrong with David Von Drehle's smarts.

Von Drehle is one of (roughly) three million columnists for the Washington Post. That said, there is exactly nothing wrong with the scribe's sagacity.

For that reason, we were especially struck by a column Von Drehle wrote last week. It dealt with what the voters were trying to tell us in our recent elections.

Long ago and far away, a famous TV star named Lassie was constantly said to be "trying to tell us something." Today, the voters, or perhaps the American people, are frequently cast in a similar role.

What were the voters trying to tell us last week? Focusing on the voters of Kansas, Von Drehle began by offering this:

VON DREHLE (11/11/22): Instead of focusing on Florida, gauging Georgia or pondering Pennsylvania, I was hung up on results from Kansasof all places. One weird pair of results in particular. I recalled the words of political consultant Dick Tuck, a legendary Pundits Club member. “The people have spoke—the bastards,” he said in 1966. His words echoed as I wondered what Kansans were trying to say.

The voters reelected Gov. Laura Kelly, a moderate Democrat with a soothing demeanor. Kelly is the sort of governor you want if you prefer not to give much thought to your governor: knowledgeable, practical, low-key. You get the feeling she probably has a safety pin and a spare handkerchief in her handbag, and maybe caramels for the grandkids.

Down the ballot, the same voters elected Kris Kobach to be their next attorney general. Kobach is an original gangsta of MAGA Republicanism; he manned the ramparts against immigrant throngs when Stephen Miller was but a lad watching “The Simpsons” and crushing on Mr. Burns. A perpetual candidate, Kobach distilled his platform this time to just three words: “Sue Joe Biden.”

Kelly and Kobach go together like a Christmas cardigan and a bag of broken glass. I can see why people might prefer one or the other, but I’m surprised to see both in the same shopping cart. Surprised and baffled. 

In this column, Von Drehle, who is plenty sharp, was "wonder[ing] what Kansans were trying to say" in last week's elections. The bafflement he experienced stemmed from these basic facts:

Kelly, a moderate Democrat, got re-elected as governor of the state. But in the same statewide election, Kobach, a MAGA Republican, got elected as attorney general!

What were Kansans trying to say, Von Drehle unwisely wondered. By the end of his column, he was offering a familiar conclusion, one pundits often reach:

Kansans were trying to say that they want divided government! More explicitly:

"Americans express a persistent impulse toward divided government...The ballot that elected both Kelly and Kobach...was cast by the electorate’s invisible hand, which seeks balance, always balance." Or at least, so Von Drehle said!

The Kansas electorate was seeking balance (between the two major parties)! David Von Drehle is very smart, but this extremely familiar judgment doesn't make a whole lot of sense.

For starters, there's no such congregation as "Kansans"—at least, not in the way Von Drehle's analysis might seem to suggest or imagine. 

A whole lot of individual Kansans went to the polls and voted last week—but they didn't do so as a group. It isn't clear that they were somehow voicing some sort of group judgment.

Why then did Kansas voters elect both Kelly and Kobach? A simple look at the Kansas tallies tells us this:

Kelly did win re-election—but she won by just over two points. Meanwhile, Kobach won his race for attorney general by substantially less than two points.

It would take very little ticket-splitting to produce those twin results. Almost surely, the vast majority of Kansas voters voted a straight party line, at least in these two races.

To her credit, Lassie was constantly trying to tell Timmy something. By way of contrast, there's no sign that the bulk of Kansas voters were trying to say that they favor divided government or some type of "balance."

That said, a simple fact emerges here—our elections are routinely decided by slender victory margins! Peeling away a small number of voters can turn defeats into wins.

That brings us to an instructive letter in today's New York Times. The letter writer makes several excellent points, while failing to notice another:

To the Editor:

Lest we Democrats take excessive comfort from the 2022 midterm results, note that many pivotal races were won with razor-thin margins. This means that tens of millions of Republicans backed candidates who were egregiously incompetent and/or blatantly dedicated to sabotaging future elections.

We cannot count on such helpful incompetency in the future, nor such timely outrages by the Supreme Court, to fuel our future success. Now is the time for Democrats to dramatically upgrade our messaging to earn a more substantial, reliable victory in 2024.

E— D— / Princeton, N.J.

Correct! The writer notes that many Democratic victories "were won with razor-thin margins." Beyond that, he notes that Democrats got some assists from outside forces this year. 

Dems got help from the Dobbs decision, and from some of Donald J. Trump's strikingly weak nominees. They may not get that kind of help next time, or in the elections which follow.

On that basis, the letter writer sensibly suggests that Democrats, and the blue tribe in general, need to upgrade their game. Along the way, he fails to note another key point:

Republicans actually won the majority of House seats this year! On balance, "the American people" don't seem to have been delivering the upbeat message which is currently being bandied about all over our blue tribe's cable news programs.

Republican candidates actually won the House—won more seats than Democrats! It's hard to square this obvious fact with the triumphalist cries emerging from within our blue tribe.

As that letter writer suggests, our blue tribe badly needs to step up its game. In our view, it has needed to do so for years.

Next week, we'll start to discuss one of the ways our tribe may be letting the GOP peel voters away. More specifically, we'll start discussing the seventh point on Kevin Drum's recent list.

As we do, we'll euphemistically start to discuss "the demographication of everything." In our view, it's one of the least helpful parts of our tribe's prevailing culture.

David Von Drehle is very smart. In our view, he wrote a column which pretty much wasn't.

Anthropologically speaking, it's very easy for us humans to make mistakes. We leave you with an award-winning question:

What kinds of mistakes—on the politics and on the merits—is our vastly self-impressed blue tribe perhaps inclined to make?

Coming: The demographication of everything


  1. "You get the feeling she probably has a safety pin and a spare handkerchief in her handbag, and maybe caramels for the grandkids."

    Way to be sexist. Women bristle at prose like this, but not Somerby, apparently.

  2. "Kelly, a moderate Democrat, got re-elected as governor of the state. But in the same statewide election, Kobach, a MAGA Republican, got elected as attorney general!"

    When your preferred theory doesn't fit the data, you must modify your theory


  3. You're right, dear Bob: Kansans was trying to say nothing. Imaginings that it was is just brain-dead dembottery. the same time, one can't help but get the impression of zeitgeist. And our impression is that the Trump Revolution has weakened somewhat, has been suppressed somewhat, but is still bubbling under the surface.

    No, not as much as in 2016, as described by Michael Moore here:
    but still...

    These are interesting times; we'll see what happens...

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. "It would take very little ticket-splitting to produce those twin results. Almost surely, the vast majority of Kansas voters voted a straight party line, at least in these two races."

    This statement by Somerby makes no sense. It is not possible to determine how much ticket splitting occurred from the data he has provided, because ticket splitting can go either direction or both ways. He does not tell us the proportion of Democrats vs Republican voters, but it is theoretically feasible for ticket splitting to be happening among 98% of the voters and still produce this result, although highly unlikely.

    There is another problem. The total votes cast for governor were 965,798 while the total votes cast for Attorney General were 983,685. That is a difference of 17,887 or roughly 2%, approximately the amount Kelly won by. Schmidt, Kelly's opponent lost by 22,672. Because more votes were cast in the Attorney General race and a Republican won that race, it makes more sense to conclude that about 17,887 Republicans who voted for Kobach likely skipped voting for Schmidt. They didn't vote for the Governor's race at all, but did vote for Kobach in the Attorney General's race. If the same number of people had voted in both races, the races would likely both have been as close as Kobach's was.

    That isn't ticket splitting and it isn't expressing a preference for split power in the state. It suggests that Kobach was better at getting his voters out, or that many were low information voters who favored Kobach but didn't know anything about Schmidt, or who liked Kelly but didn't want to vote for a Democrat. If Kobach had significant backing in law enforcement, that might account for his extra turnout compared to the Governor's race. Or maybe he just has a large extended family.

    This means that Republican Kansas voters didn't support Schmidt, not that there was "ticket splitting". If the answer were ticket splitting, the same number of ballots would have been cast in both races. That isn't what happened. More ballots were cast in one race than the other. If it were a matter of Republicans voting for Kelly, the total votes cast for Governor would have been closer to the total in the Attorney General's race, not decreased in her race compared to Kobach's. So Somerby's explanation does not fit the data. Neither does Von Drehle's explanation.

    Note that 99% of the vote was counted for the Governor's race but 98% in the Attorney General's race. Failure to count all of the votes is thus not an explanation either. There are insufficient votes missing for Schmidt to catch up to Kelly's total.

    It is difficult to form a correct theory without understanding how to look at data. Today, Somerby is no better than the man he is criticizing.

    1. Good analysis, something Somerby does not provide.

      As everyone knows it is a huge win for Dems to be so few seats away from taking back the House.

      Equally obvious, there are no votes to peel, as the opinion letter noted, Dems need to better motivate their voters - THERE IS ZERO EVIDENCE OF VOTE-SWITCHING.

      Dems have been hangin by thread or wiped out since the 70's, since neoliberals like Somerby and Drum took over the party. This has only been shifting since 2018 where progressives brought a blue wave that then pushed Biden into presidency and fought off the expected red wave.

      Why does Somerby not do good analysis? He is more concerned with how he feels than people's material needs. Like all right wingers, Somerby is feelings over facts all the way down, bless his sad lost soul.

    2. I think it is because statistics are hard, and Somerby has grossly overestimated his own prowess using them.

      To be clear, vote switching is nothing like ballot or ticket splitting. Vote switching is changing your registration from one party to another. It is legal. Ballot splitting is where a voter votes for members of different political parties for different offices, instead of voting for all of the Democrats or all of the Republicans on the ballot. There used to be voting machines that would allow someone to mark all of the Democrats or all of the Republicans with one action. If you split your ballot (split the ticket), you might vote for a Democrat for Governor but a Republican for Attorney General, for example.

      As @3:34 says, there is no evidence of vote switching in the Kansas election or the midterms generally.

    3. 5:49 copy and agree.

      In Somerby's younger years there was some voters that would switch what party they voted for (not talking about switching registration), this was because the parties were going through monumental shifts. This has largely ceased since the late 70s, so it is a terrible electoral strategy to rely on, yet this is what Somerby, Drum, Carville etc - all the neoliberal morons - pin their hopes on.

      These morons fundamentally misunderstand modern voters, yet have so little self awareness, so much self satisfaction, that they continue to piss in the wind and put their head in the sand.

  6. "By way of contrast, there's no sign that the bulk of Kansas voters were trying to say that they favor divided government or some type of "balance."

    It is possible to link this mistake by Von Drehle to the press's preference for bothsiderist explanations. This strikes me as another example of the press penchant for creating balance itself, by seeking centrist, moderate, bipartisan, bothsiderist explanations and accounts at every opportunity. So, this seems to me to be an example of press bias.

  7. "Beyond that, he notes that Democrats got some assists from outside forces this year. "

    Just like Trump couldn't count on the same assists from Comey and Putin in 2020.

  8. "Republicans actually won the majority of House seats this year! On balance, "the American people" don't seem to have been delivering the upbeat message which is currently being bandied about all over our blue tribe's cable news programs."

    And once again Somerby ignores the Republican gerrymandering that most experts are saying contributed to their narrow victory in the House.

    Somerby's preferred narrative is that Democrats suck, so he is beating that drum, instead of understanding what actually happened in the various House races. AND he uses the House slim victory to deny Democrats their victory in the Senate, and the Governor's races nationwide and in many Sec of State and local races, where Democrats beat election deniers and Republicans who were not necessarily Trump's endorsees. Democrats do have a right and reason to be positive about this midterm election. Why does Somerby feel the need to use a single letter to the editor to piss all over the Democratic victory?

  9. "It's hard to square this obvious fact with the triumphalist cries emerging from within our blue tribe."

    It is hard to understand how Somerby, a political junkie, can ignore two important facts: (1) Democrats were not expected to make this a close midterm, much less win the Senate, because there a historical tendency for the party in power to lose House and Senate seats during the first midterm after the presidential election; (2) Republicans, pollsters and the press were all predicting a "red wave" that would wipe out Democratic officeholders and sweep Democrats from office.

    So, not only did Democrats win, but we won against strong trends and predictions that we would lose. That is surely something for Democrats to celebrate. And yes, it was partly due to abortion rights being overturned, but it was also because of Biden's strong achievements and the Republican's extremism. We do not expect that anyone will attack the Democratic speaker of the House with a hammer in 2024, but we do believe that we were successful in communicating a positive message about Democrats in this election.

    Somerby says there may not be serendipity in the next election. I think by then Trump will be either convicted or in the process of being tried. The Republicans will continue to be in disarray because people like Majorie Taylor Greene cannot govern effectively and really doesn't know how to do anything but fight, including with her own party. Newsom or someone like him may be the Democratic candidate for president, and voters will be even more sick of extremism than they are now (which is why Boebert is nearly losing in a solid red rural district).

    As Somerby himself continually says, anything is possible in 2024.

  10. "Coming: The demographication of everything"

    This is what Somerby talked about today and now he is promising it for tomorrow. So much for any of the other things he was going to talk about today.

    What is the point of teasing something he has no intention of writing about?

    1. But this improbable development of the Howler is just what is being earnestly asserted, and the affirmations made are being taken in some quarters au grand sérieux. They are not a growth of today or precisely of yesterday; they have been more or less heard for some years, but their prominence at the moment is due to increasing insistence, pretension to scrupulous exactitude, abundant detail, and demonstrative evidence. Reports, furthermore, have quite recently come to hand from two exceedingly circumstantial and exhaustive commenters, and these have created distinctly a fresh departure. Blogs have multiplied, the Howler is taking action, even a legal process has been instituted.

    2. Double talk again, why waste people's time this way?

    3. It's not double talk, 3:10 just copy pastes from other sources, usually people like the Unabomber, or today it is from Waite, an occultist who wrote about devil worship.

      Please don't be fooled by such a transparent moron armed with Google.

    4. I'm prepared to back up every word.

    5. Every word was reblogged by Digby.

  11. Tom Petty's estate is objecting to the use of his song "Won't Back Down" by Kari Lake, without permission.

    Artist, writers, musicians, care about their works and their intellectual property rights. Somerby routinely violates these by quoting without attribution and by misusing quotes to support his own ideas, not those of the creator (who most likely would not agree with Somerby's view, just as Tom Petty would likely not support Kari Lake).

    Somerby needs to give Robert Frost his due. It isn't that hard to say "As the great poet Robert Frost has said: "The woods are lovely, dark and deep..." It is a mark of respect that should be no trouble to someone who genuinely values Frost's work. But I am increasingly finding it hard to believe that Somerby values anything.

    1. Yes, but you take things much too literally to ever be an authority on the deeper meanings of creative works, generally speaking. To you, it's just another bludgeon to yield against Somerby when you can't find anything else. Which is more of an affront to intellectualism? Your behavior.

    2. "yield"?

      whatever dude

      hmmm the deeper meaning of a Tom Petty song, brother please. whatever he meant, he didn't mean it as an attack on democracy


      oh my! sorry but 3:08 is way closer to the truth than you are


  12. "...some assists from outside forces"

    Hmm. Not just from outside forces, though.

    What about draining the strategic oil reserve?
    What about the fake pardons for federal pot-possession, that, quite predictably, haven't freed a single person?
    What about the fake debt forgiveness that, quite predictably, is not going to happen?

    ...and of course this (or similar) shit can -- and will! -- be repeated every two years. So all is well, dear Bob...

    1. Gas prices have been going down for months, making the strategic gas reserves irrelevant.

      The Republicans filed suit against the student debt forgiveness, which was blocked by a Trump judge. Biden has appealed to the Supreme Court.

      "Biden's pardons announced Oct. 6 affect about 6,500 people convicted of cannabis possession at the federal level. None remain in prison. Without a felony on their record, they won't be tripped up when applying for a job or trying to rent an apartment. Research by the American Civil Liberties Union has shown Black Americans are nearly four times as likely as whites to be arrested for marijuana possession."

      Those convicted of higher drug crimes remain in prison.

    2. Bullshit, dear dembot. "It does not signify innocence or expunge the conviction."
      And, obviously, the feds never-ever prosecute people solely on marijuana possession, which makes this pardon pure unadulterated bullshit. for the debt forgiveness, it was well known that it won't happen. And it won't. Same kind of bullshit.

      Plus, as we said, draining the strategic oil reserve, to keep gas prices down. Not bad, for a vegetable.

    3. So, it is your word against Biden's. I will go with Biden on this one.

  13. demography definition: "the study of statistics such as births, deaths, income, or the incidence of disease, which illustrate the changing structure of human populations"

    Strictly speaking, election results are not demographics. They are numbers used for decision making, not to describe a human population. The characteristics of prospective voters, used to select samples for polling, are demographics because they rely on measurement of human variables. But polling is used to predict an election outcome. It is not an election itself, as people discovered i the midterms.

    Somerby implies that demographics are a bad thing, but differences among people exist, whether you measure them using numbers or not. Further, I don't think it is measurement that Somerby objects to -- but we will have to wait and see what he says to know what his current beef is. I cannot imagine he is upset because some people are old and others are young, some earn more money than others, or some prefer Lassie while others like Rin Tin Tin.

    If you don't take your temperature, you can still have the flu.

    1. And if your logic sucks, you can still fill a comments section with nit picks masquerading as analysis and conclusions, faulty as they may be. So it goes...

    2. 3:36 you describe what Somerby does perfectly, well done.

  14. Somerby has apparently removed his post from earlier today. I am unhappy with that because I commented on several things I thought people might like to be aware of, including his support for Rittenhouse, who has been meeting with MTG and the 2nd Amendment Caucus to gloat over his not-guilty verdict. Rittenhouse was defended by Somerby, despite having first taunted and then shot an unarmed mentally ill man, as well as several people who tried to stop Rittenhouse from shooting more people. I said that showed a lack of concern for the mentally ill on Somerby's part.

    So, Somerby is, in effect, censoring comments.

    1. Jonathan Bernstein: "Nancy Pelosi has been simply the best speaker of the House of the modern era. She is probably the best speaker in US history. It was time for her to step down from her leadership role, but it likely will be a long time before we see someone of either party master the job as well as she did."

      "Her four terms as speaker, two during unified Democratic government and two under Republican presidents and deivided government, were unusually productive. During President Barack Obama's first term, when Democrats controlled both houses of Congress, she steered the Affordable Care Act into law. When her party operated with a fragile majority over the last two years, she somehow again found ways to pass liberal priorities, sometimes on party-line votes and sometimes with bipartisan support."

      "None of this was assured. Unified government wasn't nearly as productive during the tenure of Democratic Speaker Tom Foley in the 1990s or under Republicans Dennis Hastert in the 2000s or Paul Ryan in the 2010s. Presidents matter too, as does the Senate, and the speaker is only the leader of the majority party. But Pelosi proved to be a genius of process and people."

      And only 4 Republicans showed up for her farewell speech. What assholes! After they attacked her husband with a hanmer, showing up was the least they could do. These people are hate machines.

    2. "In a preview of the intra-party battle ahead, far-right House Republicans, led by MAGA firebrand Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, vowed Thursday to fight against Ukraine aid," CNN reports."

      MAGA loyalty is not only to Trump but to Putin. We still don't know how many and which Congress members have been on Putin's payroll. You can bet that Trump isn't the only one. And Greene's actions here declare her loyalty. It isn't simply a matter of opinion about a foreign event, when Russia has been paying Republicans to subvert our elections, install someone like Trump as President, and now continue to undermine support for Ukraine from within our government.

    3. The right-wing dark money organization DonorsTrust was the beneficiary of two anonymous contributions of around $425 million each last year, according to a tax filing obtained by Politico, which described the gifts as "among the largest ever donations to a politically-connected group."

    4. And this is how it works too:


  15. From Atrios:

    "Twitter had two main contributions to the world (well, the US anyway): It killed the influence of Drudge, and suddenly a bunch of immensely self-important people were confronted with hundreds of people, often deservedly, calling them shitheads every day.

    By calling them shitheads, I mean often calling them shitheads backed up with good arguments. And a lot of those arguments were from people of color and other "riff raff" such as people who went to lesser schools than Harvard.

    That part broke a lot of brains, and I do think a lot of the "woke backlash" in our elite periodicals comes precisely from that. A bunch of elite white people who thought they were smarter than everyone were called out for their bullshit, and they went completely insane.

    Of course they could've just quite the bird app, but few managed to pull themselves away.

    That started a bit with blogs, but they could mostly ignore blogs."


    Ths aligns well with Somerby/Drum's complaint that centrists don't like being called racist either. Of course they don't. They prefer to do their dirty deeds in the dark, without the focus of massive attention on their every mistake.

    Now twitter is likely to collapse. No wonder Musk is a right-wing hero! And the centrists aren't much better.

  16. There was apparently in-fighting among Republicans and an alternative candidate to Schmidt, Pyle, who siphoned off votes from the Republican:

    "Schmidt was a right-wing candidate, but as Pyle supporters see it, he wasn’t right-wing enough.

    Hanna observes, “The hard right remained skeptical of Schmidt despite his conservative record as attorney general. He was an aide to moderate Republican U.S. senators early and served as Kansas Senate majority leader with a moderate Senate president before being elected attorney general in 2010. Pyle also was among the (Kansas State) Legislature’s most conservative Republicans before leaving the GOP to run for governor. Kuckelman and other GOP leaders contend Pyle took votes from Schmidt and decreased Republican turnout by making conservatives less enthusiastic about him.”

    Somerby mentions none of this as he tries to wedge the facts into his incorrect theory about what happened in Kansas.