Here’s What It’s Going to Take for Democrats to Take Back the House in 2018

Bannon is on the defensive. There’s red dread and blue hope. But election data nerds say Dems must do even more next year.

What a difference one special election makes! Following Tuesday’s historic victory by Democrat Doug Jones in Alabama’s Senate race, Democrats and Republicans—to say nothing of pundits and election data-crunchers—have been revisiting old assumptions about 2018 and 2020.

Most visibly, the radical reactionary Republicans who backed Roy Moore—led by white nationalist and Breitbart News chief Steve Bannon—are on the defensive. Bannon, who never stopped himself from throwing mud before, complained about the Democrat’s “new model” of smearing his Breitbart-branded patriots. Of course, mainstream media, had a villainous role.

“I think the new model is they’re going to come at people with personal attacks and just overwhelm them with media—and you got to remember this wasn’t supported, this was triggered by the establishment,” Bannon said on Wednesday night on his national radio show, referring to The Washington Post reporting of Moore’s habit of preying on teenage girls. “They’re the ones that triggered all this stuff on Moore.”

His guest on Breitbart News Tonight, Pat Caddell, went even further into the us-versus-them, real patriots-versus-establishment shills divide that is likely to resurface in 2018’s GOP congressional primaries. (Caddell is a pollster who, four decades ago, helped elect Democrat Jimmy Carter; but in recent years has backed Donald Trump and white-America centered populism.)

“Understand this,” he intoned. “We’re watching how they are developing to handle the revolt, if you will, or the rebellion; you put it down. And that is to work in concert with the mainstream media. Even Republicans are doing this, as well as the Democratic establishment, to squeeze this out, and they will use it to attack candidates who are unworthy… But as people come forth to take back their country, we’re going to have to find way to protect, to give cover to these people… [from others] trying to take them out.”

The Bannon mob usually isn’t this defensive. But after Alabama, they have plenty to worry about, even if not what they’re fixating on. Alabama saw an unprecedented numbers of whites vote for a Democrat—especially those under 44 and suburban women, instead of reflexively for a Republican.  

That is a break-the-mold political development. It was one of many metrics from the Alabama election that create a new landscape of blue hope and red dread. Another is Alabama counties with majorities of registered Democrats showed up in much larger percentages to vote than GOP majority counties.

This raises a question that some of the country’s best respected election data crunchers and forecasters have been debating since Tuesday: How big of a popular vote majority do Democrats need in 2018 to win back the House?

At Sabato’s Crystal Ball, named after Larry Sabato, who decades ago took the helm at the University of Virginia Center for Politics, a rather dense post by Alan Abramowitz concluded, “a popular vote margin of between three and four points would be large enough for this purpose.”

The reason that Democrats cannot win elections simply with 50 percent plus one is because many House districts have been gerrymandered, which means their boundaries were drawn based on segregating each parties most reliable voters. The GOP did this in a dozen states in 2011 that resulted in Congress and state legislatures being under their control for most of this decade. So Abramowitz is saying that 53-to-54 percent of registered Democrats must vote in November 2018 for their party to win 24 seats to take the House.

Other election data nerds quickly pounced on that figure as too slim in Twitter posts.

“I thought it was more?” replied David Leonhardt, a New York Times columnist. 

“This is way too low. More like 7-8%,” tweeted David Wasserman, the U.S. House editor for The Cook Political Report.

“Totally agree. I don’t have numbers in front of me but I’ve looked at this specific w before. It’s basically 7.25% by which Dems need to win national vote for Congress in order to overcome gerrymandering. Chew on that…” tweeted Jeremy Kalin, a former Minnesota legislator.

Then came FiveThirtyEight.com’s Harry Enten, who tweeted, “Lots of discussion in nerd Twitter on just how much Dems need to win House vote by in order to win majority of seats. Here’s what I wrote in Feb 2017.”

That analysis is worth reposting, because it says Dems need an 8-point popular vote edge to breach the GOP’s gerrymander advantage.

“The median congressional district was 5.5 percentage points more Republican-leaning in the presidential race than the nation as a whole in 2016, meaning Democrats are essentially spotting the GOP 5.5 points in the battle for control of the House,” Enten wrote. “And even that may be underestimating Republicans ability to win a majority of seats without a majority of the vote. Since 2012 (or when most states instituted the current House district lines), Republicans have won, on average, 51 percent of the two-party House vote and 55 percent of House seats. If that difference holds for 2018, Democrats would need to win the House popular vote by about 8 percentage points to win half the House seats.”

Why do these figures matter? Because as some of these same election data crunchers pour over the exit polls and other results from Alabama and every other big election in 2017, it appears that the Democratic wave is right on the brink of closely winning (like in Alabama) or losing (as Jon Ossoff did by a few points in Georgia’s sixth congressional district last spring.)

“In six 2017 special elections, Dems have been outperforming their @CookPolitical PVI-suggested share of the vote by an average of 9%,” tweeted Wasserman on Friday.

So, if Democrats have been turning out by 9 percent more than expected, how come they haven’t swept every race this year—you might ask? The answer is the gerrymandering advantage, which these analysts have been debating, is at the starting line of the process. But there are other intentional barriers that await Democrats at the finish line, where Republicans passed laws and regulations to undermine turnout. The biggest is stricter voter ID requirements to get a polling place ballot, which congressional analysts have said peels off 2-to-3 percent of likely turnout. (Academics say it’s more). There’s other tactics too, such as limiting early voting opportunities, complicating registration, illegally purging infrequent voters, etc.

Alabama’s senate election was the perfect capstone to a year where Democratic candidates and voters increasingly were getting their mojo back. Bannon and his right-wing rabble should be worried, because, as Dems are getting organized and are more optimistic, the Republicans are rife with intra-party strife, deeply unpopular policies and an unstable president.

However, Democrats, progressives and independents need to know the scale of the barriers that await in 2018. Because as much as the opposition party turned around and regained momentum in 2017, more will be needed next year to retake Congress and put a big red stop sign before the GOP.    

 

 

Related Stories

  • Alabama Stunner: Democrat Doug Jones Defeats Right-Wing Extremist Roy Moore in Photo Finish U.S. Senate Race
  • Alabama Supreme Court Blocks Digital Ballot Preservation in Eleventh Hour
  • Alabama Supreme Court Blocks Digital Ballot Preservation Requirement to Verify the Vote in Tuesday’s Senate Election

An error of reasoning on Bitcoin

On 22nd May 2010, Laszlo Hanyec bought a pizza for 10,000 bitcoins. This Twitter page shows the current USD value of that pizza, which is $141 million today. It is nearly impossible to hear that story and not regret not having bought 10,000 bitcoins seven-and-a-half years ago for the price of a pizza, and be a multi-millionaire today. So why didn’t we?

Bitcoins have no firm link to anything of real value, they aren’t supported by gold, or by some brick-and-mortar assets, or by a government. The value of bitcoins is based purely on the stupidity and greed of the people buying it. So we deemed ourselves somewhat more intelligent and decided not to invest in bitcoins.

Our error of reasoning was the following: There are only limited quantities of gold, of brick-and-mortar assets, or of government assets. Human stupidity and greed is in near infinite supply. Thus a currency based on stupidity and greed can rise much, much higher than a currency based on real assets.

Please do not confuse this analysis with a recommendation to buy bitcoins today. You would lose your shirt. Like in any Ponzi scheme the main losers are always the ones investing last.

Deal: Nova Launcher Prime on sale for $0.99 (was $4.99)

Nova Launcher Prime is regarded as one of the best launchers on Android. It’s sitting right now with an average rating of 4.8 out of 5 stars at the Google Play Store, based on hundreds of thousands of reviews, and if you’ve never used it before, now might be the time.

As pointed out on Reddit, Nova Launcher Prime has been reduced from $4.99 to just $0.99 — the same offer it launched this time last year. This is the unlocked version of the free Nova Launcher app, which comes with a slew of extra customization options and advanced features, like notifications badges, gestures, and more.

Editor’s Pick

Nova Launcher allows you to alter many aspects of your Android phones home screen, such as the app drawer, folders, dock, and their aesthetic, and has received a number of Android 8.1 Oreo features lately, including adaptive icons and the custom dock widget.

Nova Launcher sits on our best Android Launchers list and it doesn’t look like it will be moving anytime soon. We don’t know how long this deal will last, but you can find the free and Prime versions of the app in Google Play via the buttons below (note that Google Play says Nova Launcher Prime hasn’t been updated since December 2016 but it will still unlock the latest content found in the regular app).

Download Nova Launcher
Download Nova Launcher Prime

3D printing larger objects

Since I bought my 3D printer I have printed hundreds of miniatures for my Dungeons & Dragons game. The miniatures are in a classic 1 inch = 5 feet that is 1:60 scale. So a typical medium sized miniature has a 25 mm base and is around 28 mm tall. As I have written earlier, the main problem of printing objects that size is that printing anything less than 1 mm thick tends to fail, so I had to “fatten” some miniatures or give them oversized weapons to work. Now that I have a good selection of miniatures, I am more often printing larger objects, and the challenges are different.

Now “larger objects” on my 3D printer are limited to 150 mm in any dimension due to the size of the printer itself. Over the last month I printed several objects that were at or close to that limit: Two dice towers, a hinged box, a card tray and two card holders for the 7th Continent, and JoyCon holders for the Nintendo Switch. Apart from the box, which was more of a tech demo to show that you can print a hinged object in one piece, the other objects would be either hard to get anywhere, or be much more expensive. Thus there is some utility to printing these larger objects yourself. The 3D printer also automatically makes items hollow, filled with some honeycomb structure, so a bulky 3D printed object is quite lightweight.

While with larger objects there are no more problems with too thin parts, the main downside of these objects is that the uneven surface is far more prominent. If you are used to holding plastic items in your hand which have a smooth and shiny surface, the 3D printed objects are notably different. Along the Z-axis the layer structure is very visible. And on inner surfaces where the printer had to move across empty space to get to the other side of the object there are irregular imperfections. To some extent you can clean the object up using a sanding sponge. But unless you want to spend hours sanding the object will never be totally smooth and shiny like a commercial injection-molded item.

I still don’t believe in a future where we all just 3D print everything we need instead of buying mass-produced items. However there are a few niche applications where a 3D printer can produce a larger object of some use.

“Hey Google” command for Assistant on Home now rolling out to phones too

There’s an advert currently doing the rounds for Google Home devices that plays up the smart speaker’s ability to recognize more natural sentences rather than rigid command lines. It’s not hard to see the advert as a thinly veiled shot at Amazon’s Echo smart speakers and Alexa’s stricter dialogue patterns.

To some extent this is true, as Google Assistant has been positioned as a friendly, more conversational digital butler ever since it first arrived on the first-generation Pixel phones last year. Yet unfortunately, actually kicking off the chat has always been a little clumsy due to the Assistant’s awkward ‘hotword’: “OK Google”.

Home users thankfully have a little more choice and can say “Hey Google” instead, but on smartphones it’s been “OK Google” ever since the dark days of Google Now. As of today, though, it seems that Google is rolling out the “Hey Google” command for Assistant on phones too.

More: What is Google Assistant? How can you use it?

Android Police reports that some users have begun receiving a notification prompting them to retrain their voice model settings to account for the new hotword. The feature began rolling out for some users back in October, but it appears this is happening on a universal scale.

I didn’t receive the notification personally, but after updating the Voice settings manually on my Pixel 2 XL I found that both “OK Google” and “Hey Google” are now both recognized by Assistant. You can do this yourself by heading to your Settings menu and then tapping Google > Search > Voice > Voice Match > Retain voice model.

Having two phrases instead of one on multiple devices is a step in the right direction for Assistant, but I still can’t shake the feeling that the insistence on using two specific, arbitrary phrases undermines Google’s claim that Assistant offers a more natural experience than its rivals – especially when you can wake Alexa with a single word or rename it entirely.

Which hotword will you be using, “OK Google” or “Hey Google”? Let us know in the comments.

Remove App Stories from your Facebook Timeline

The burden to control if an app can post on the Timeline falls on the shoulder of the user i.e.you. That’s theory, but in practice the vast majority of Facebook users don’t bother taking the time to review the app install screen.

So, they just click OK and in most cases that means giving an app in question permission to post its activities on your Timeline.

While the integration of an app with Facebook for login is convenient, doing so may occasionally come with the side-effect of letting these third-party apps drown your Timeline with notifications, which directly leads to your friends’ News Feed being bombarded by status updates.

So if you are the one  who don’t want to see this on your Facebook app’s timeline, just follow the below steps to remove it.

Step 1

Open up Facebook and click on the Down Arrow button  located right next to the Quick Help button.

Step 2

Select the Activity Log option from the drop down menu as shown above and click on the All Apps tab located on the Filters menu as shown below.

Step 3

To delete an app update, all you need to do is to click on the Edit button and select the Delete option. If you would prefer to stop the app from posting updates permanently, you can choose the Remove [App Name] option instead.

This way you can edit your timeline.

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