Sunday, September 25, 2016

Political implications of shootings and unrest

One of the topics for tomorrow's debate is "Securing America," as we see continued and occasionally violent protests amid the latest police shootings.  Others can comment on the shootings themselves.  The Tulsa video pretty much speaks for itself, but the fact that no gun nor book is visible in the North Carolina videos allows everyone to project their priors.  I'll just ask what this means for the debate tomorrow night, and the election more broadly.

Conventional wisdom here is that violent protests help Trump.  Yup, they probably do, by some small amount.  Why?  That "issue ownership" thing I keep mentioning.  Law and order, national security, the whole deal.  These are what we call "valence" outcomes.  Everyone wants them, and the only question is who is able to provide them.  The concept of valence comes from an old article by Donald Stokes.  John Petrocik extended it to create the concept of "issue ownership."  There are certain valence issues that one party is just thought to be better at providing.  National security and reduced crime?  Republicans own those.  So, crime goes up?  Republicans do better because voters want the party better at providing that valence outcome.  Stokes + Petrocik.  Violent protests help Trump, by at least some small amount.

Remember, though, that the underlying fundamentals of the election favor the Republicans anyway.  This is an election after two Democratic victories with a tepidly growing economy.  This isn't a natural Democratic year.  Protests like this are generally part of what we quantitative types usually call "the error term."  Random stuff cancelling out other random stuff.  Anything bringing things back towards the natural Republican edge is doing that by cancelling out the randomly stupid shit that comes out of Trump's mouth to get him in trouble.  It probably won't be enough, but anyone claiming certainty these days is a fool.

The other thing to keep in mind to scramble normal calculations is that Tulsa video.  Even Trump had to admit that this one was real.  Department of Justice basically called bullshit on the "hands up don't shoot" story in Ferguson.  Depending on your news sources, you never got that, did you?  Anyway, there are a ton of ambiguous cases, but Tulsa?  That's a different story altogether, and one of many real cases that stands out most because we have video.*

And that could change the politics.  Even for Charlotte.  If the protests are contextualized in terms of real racial discrepancies and the very real case of Tulsa, video and all, then Clinton spends tomorrow night talking once again about Trump's connections to the "alt-right" and his greatest fan, David Duke.  Then again, the more violent the protests get, the more that helps Trump.

Regardless, stay tuned for tomorrow night...

*Then again, there was video for Eric Garner.  And Tamir Rice.  And, oh fuck it.  Never mind.

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