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The weathervane vote

Friday, October 28th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — not a weatherman myself, though I do appreciate Bob Dylan ]
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Is what I suggest here ridiculous, or important but largely overlooked, or well known and in general background awareness? What say you? I just want to air the topic..

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There’s a lot of talk about swing voters, right? A Brookings Institution chapter, What Exactly Is a Swing Voter? Definition and Measurement runs to 31 pages and 27 footnotes explaining the concept, but I think there’s one swing vote they may be missing.

I came to this conclusion after pondering the whole question of margins of error in polls. It’s generally accepted that polls have margins of error, often in the mid-single digits. Margins of error call forth interesting analytics, too — see this graphic and accompanying comment from Pew, 5 key things to know about the margin of error in election polls:

horseracepolls

For example, in the accompanying graphic, a hypothetical Poll A shows the Republican candidate with 48% support. A plus or minus 3 percentage point margin of error would mean that 48% Republican support is within the range of what we would expect if the true level of support in the full population lies somewhere 3 points in either direction – i.e., between 45% and 51%.

Even a relatively small margins of error can be enough to encourage misreading an upcoming election result, but the margin of error I’m thinking of is in the range of 35% of undecideds. Let’s call it the weathervane vote.

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Consider this quote from Theodore H. White’s The Making of the President, 1960:

The weather was clear all across Massachusetts and New England, perfect for voting as far as the crest of the Alleghenies. But from Michigan through Illinois and the Northern Plains states it was cloudy: rain in Detroit and Chicago, light snow falling in some states on the approaches of the Rockies. The South was enjoying magnificently balmy weather which ran north as far as the Ohio River; so, too, was the entire Pacific Coast. The weather and the year’s efforts were to call out the greatest free vote in the history of this or any other country.

That’s also the epigraph to another piece of learned disquisition — and yes, I love (envy, mock) academics — The Republicans Should Pray for Rain: Weather, Turnout, and Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections. That’s from The Journal of Politics, Vol. 69, No. 3, August 2007, pp. 649–663.

Parasols or umbrellas?

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But my figure of 35%?

First, let me admit i’m not exactly clear on the distinctions or overlaps between swing voters and undecideds, so I may be adding my own margin of error by conflating the two — but my 35% comes from a 2012 piece titled Bad Weather on Election Day? Many Won’t Vote. I think my favorite bullet point therein was this:

  • In bad weather, Mitt Romney supporters are more likely to vote.
  • Their lead paragraph gives me my 35% figure:

    Among those who plan to vote this year, 35 percent of undecided voters say that inclement weather conditions would have a “moderate to significant” impact on whether they make it to the polls on Election Day on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

    Don’t ask the the margin of error on that particular poll, though, the good folks at Weather.com failed to say.

    **

    My favorite weathervane to date:

    garden-installation-rabbit-weathervane-drawing-p

    Bottom line: If 35% of the swing vote hinges on which way the wind blows, I’m prone to thinking the weather may well have the deciding vote in this here election.

    Hat-tip for pointing me to the 35% piece: rockin’ andee baker.

    Trump’s candidacy ‘spells end of American religious right’ — my latest just up at Lapido

    Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — plus a link to Dr Moore’s Erasmus Lecture yesterday ]
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    My latest for LapidoMedia concerns Trump and the religious right, and centers on some remarks by Dr Russell Moore. It begins:

    DONALD Trump’s presidential bid is dividing not just of the American people but American religious opinion.

    Evangelicals and Catholics alike are deeply split on his candidacy.

    What’s at stake is both individual conscience and the future of American religious politics.

    Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s public policy office, says ‘the Donald Trump phenomenon … is an embrace of the very kind of moral and cultural decadence that conservatives have been saying for a long time is the problem.’

    Read the rest on the Lapido site

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    Dr Moore gave the 2016 Erasmus Lecture yesterday, after my article went to press: Can the Religious Right be Saved? for First Things [link is to video, I don’t have a transcript]. I am by no means an Evangelical, but I find him very impressive.

    Two more tweets of interest from Elijah Magnier

    Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — angels as force multipliers for ISIS, and the cross restored ]
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    I used a tweet from Magnier in Prophetic dreams, Dabiq now, Mosul back then, and another in my comment on The map borders on the territory? Turkey, Palestine. Here are two more..

    The first updates us on the Qur’anic concept of angels, rank on rank, supporting the Muslims at the Battle of Badr (Qur’an 8.9):

    **

    And before I show you the second, let me remind you of this, from November of last year:

    mosul-church

    Now the situation is blessedly reversed:

    Prophetic dreams, Dabiq now, Mosul back then

    Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — two dreams of the Prophet attributed to al-Baghdadi, one just now, one a year and a half ago ]
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    Another response to the failure of a prophecy is to claim the Prophet foretold it. That at least is the claim made recently about the ISIS retreat from Dabiq:

    However, we should note that something very similar was reported back in March of 2015!

    baghdadi-dream-mosul-2015

    **

    Dreams were important to Muhammad and his Companions, gave guidance to both bin Laden and Mullah Omar, and are important to ISIS. They are among the “soft” aspects of jihad that we overlook at our peril (cf Thomas Hegghammer).

    For a quick overview, see Iain R Edgar‘s pieces, Islamic State and Dream Warfare from September, or his earlier The Dreams of Islamic State. The second edition of his book, The Dream in Islam: From Qur’anic Tradition to Jihadist Inspiration includes material on ISIS.

    Tests, trials, temptations, tribulations

    Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — overstatement & correction in a Foreign Policy subtitle, more ]
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    I believe it was the science fictioneer James Blish who first brought the idea of testing up to breaking point, but not beyond — or shall we call that, testing that’s asymptotic to one’s breaking point? — in Black Easter and Day after Judgment.

    In those two novels, Blish describes a concordat between angelic and demonic forces, in which the devils can claim no soul for their own if they have tested that soul beyond its capacity, nor can the angels claim any soul for their own unless that soul has been tested up to that limit..

    It’s a fascinating premise, and one that finds echoes in both the New Testament and Quran.

    In the New Testament we read, for instance:

    Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. [James 1:2-4]

    and:

    God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able.. [Corinthians 10:13]

    Similarly in the Qur’an we find:

    And We will surely test you with something of fear and hunger and a loss of wealth and lives and fruits, but give good tidings to the patient.. [Qur’an 2.155]

    and:

    Allah puts no burden on any person beyond what He has given him. Allah will grant after hardship, ease. [Qur’an 65.7]

    **

    Bearing all of which in mind, observe the subtle change in subtitle observable between this Foreign Policy tweet (“scouring”):

    and the subtitle as it now stands on the FP page itself (“digging through”):

    digging-through

    **

    Cole Bunzel‘s article deserves your attention — it’s just that subtitle I’m a bit annoyed by.

    It really doesn’t take must “scouring” of the Qur’an to discover that trials and setbacks are part of the divine plan — and that faith, patience, endurance are what will get one through them.

    To my way of thinking, ‘digging through” is a clear improvement on “scouring” — but what’s really happening here is that ISIS propagandists are swapping out more immediately optimistic quotes for quotes that are better adapted to the long haul.

    That, I think, is what Bunzel is getting at here, just as that is why the IS English language magazine is no longer called Dabiq, but Rumiyah instead.

    It’s not a big mystery — they’re just picking their scriptural quotes to fit the changing situation.

    **

    Edited to add:

    I’m happy, but in no way surprised, to report that the subtitle in question was an editorial one, not the work of Cole Bunzel.


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