Not So Fast: Tuesday’s Elections Are Nothing but a Data Point – For Now

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  • 09/21/2022

I’m sometimes accused of being a pessimist. My standard response is that I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist, but in today’s America the two often appear indistinguishable. With that noted, I offer the following thoughts regarding Tuesday’s election results.

America has awakened this Wednesday, November 3, In the year of Our Lord 2021, to hear the news of great Republican success and bad signs for Democrats. Suddenly Virginia is more important than it has been since the Constitutional Convention and the city of Minneapolis gives us assurance that Americans are demanding a law-and-order approach on the streets in their major metropolitan areas.  Even the blue state of New Jersey has put up a fight.

Not so fast.

The group known as “conservatives” which is what they will be called herein for lack of any better descriptive name, have long been drawn into what we will call the “fallacy of positing elections.”  The fallacy, goes something like this:

  • You need to win elections to make things good
  • We won an election
  • Ergo, things are now good

Any college freshman logic student recognizes the flaw in the above syllogism.  It is a common error made within that discipline and even more prevalent when it comes to conservatives and their view of election results.

Consider the date of November 9th, 2016.  Americans were waking up to learn that Donald Trump had just been elected President and that Republicans would now control both the House and the Senate. For many conservatives it was finally morning in America.

Four years later it became mourning in America when Democrats walked away in 2020 with the same three arms of government under their control.  For those conservatives, and they are legion, who were fans of the Trump Presidency and its policies, here in late 2021 an honest assessment shows those policies almost completely vaporized.  We do still have the First Step Act, and we have the paradoxically anemic and at the same time overly written Tax Cuts and Jobs Act from 2017, but beyond that the Trump Presidency has been relegated to legend status only ten-months after his leaving office.

We think that who holds office holds power, and we further think that if our “team” holds a majority in office we truly hold power.  That formulation is only partly true and fails to recognize the power of institutions outside of Washington and state capitals.  Big tech companies, they hold power.  Teacher’s unions, they hold power.  Large financial institutions and Wall Street members, they hold power.  The mainstream media, they hold power.  University presidents and faculty, they hold power. Activist groups, especially in large metropolitan areas, they hold power.  The list goes on.  None of those power holding groups are going to lay down their swords because an election in Virginia went against them.  Virginia for them is not a defeat, it’s a data point, something to be examined and reacted to, not a death blow to their movement.

Let’s stay with the data point characterization and move from freshman logic to freshman statistics.  Regression analysis is the statistical method that takes a set of plotted data points and attempts to create an equation that represents the line, or curve, that best represents that data.  Once we have the equation, we have a way to analyze the direction and slope of the curve.  Said simply, in what direction are we traveling and at what rate of speed.

In order to change the direction of the curve, you need a consistent set of data points that indicate a clear movement in a new direction.  One individual piece of data is not enough.  You need lots of similar data.  A win in Virginia in 2021 is not much different than a Trump win in 2016.  It is nothing more than a data point.  You need a lot more data points to follow in order to notice real change.

The other point to consider is exactly what data you should be studying.  Is it just election data?  Is it national election data?  Is it state and local election data?  Does election data matter at all or does it need to be combined with other data to measure anything?  Here is a simpler way to frame the question:

Is it election data we should be concerned with, or is it something else? 

I’d argue that for over the past 100-plus years the regression line I’m interested in is the one that represents the data we have on individual liberty.  I’d further argue that if we look at that data (difficult because it is more qualifiable than it is quantifiable), the line that best runs through it shows that we have been steadily losing our individual liberty over that time and, as of late, we are losing it at an increasing rate.

That conclusion holds despite the fact election data over those same 100-plus years looks more like an arrhythmic EKG chart than it does look like any sort of clear pattern.

Am I suggesting it’s a bad thing that Glenn Youngkin won in Virginia?  Am I suggesting that his election is irrelevant? Neither conclusion would be accurate.  What I’m suggesting is that it can be a very good thing that he won if repeated and sustained wins within the political and non-political world follow.  Only such a persistent flow of new relevant data, data that relates to the expansion of individual liberty, will ultimately decide if his election is relevant.  Right now, it is just a data point.

The other problem we have when viewing elections is the “illusion of proximity.”  You could also characterize this by saying objects directly in front of you may not be to scale.  As I type this on Wednesday morning, my newsfeed is filled with headlines of Biden’s major setback.  Really?  Are Americans going to overwhelmingly reject all of the entitlements and goodies in his socialist Build Back Better proposal now?  Perhaps, but I bet otherwise.  This election is fresh, but the American desire to take things from their neighbor for themselves or others has been aging like fine wine.  It isn’t going into retreat simply because of the actions of some voters in Virginia.

We live in a country where over half the households pay no income tax and where an extraordinary percentage receive direct government assistance.  Few are going to be in a hurry to vote against themselves for the purpose of saving the nation.  Beyond that simple calculation of self-interest, does anyone think that the Marxist advocates of Critical Race Theory in New York are going to be burning their textbooks today because parents stood up in Virginia?  Does anyone think that the BLM-driven anti-police movement in Chicago is going to end because of a referendum result in Minneapolis?  

The enemies of a traditional America, the America envisioned by our Founding Fathers and enshrined in their Constitution and its subsequent amendments, have been working at their craft for a long time. They are invested.  Yesterday’s election in Virginia isn’t some mortal wound, it’s a paper cut.  Regardless of any one election cycle, they will keep marching along their path toward collectivism.  Their work is not done.

The problem that conservatives seem to have is that they think that once they win an election their work is done.  They cannot seem to understand that once you win an election that is when the work starts.  Our challenge is to make yesterday’s results in Virginia and elsewhere become something other than just meaningless data points along America’s downward sloping regression line from freedom into tyranny.

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