A Very Opinionated Rant: A Look At Some Worrisome Aftermath

Think of him what you may, Brett Kavanaugh is now an Associate Justice in the highest court of the land. To many Americans, the notion that a man embroiled in allegations of sexual assault can attain such office is a most reprehensible predicament—symptomatic of deep-running problems in the fabric of American society.

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If Dems Don’t Win the House in November, Can They Kiss 2020 Goodbye?

YM: Today I am allowed the mighty pleasure of featuring an analytical piece from Mark Sasse—a jack of many trades; master of all—but a man I recognize firstly as an early impetus for my interest in politics and related matters.

Mark W Sasse is a novelist and award-winning playwright who loves to dabble in the frivolity of political speculation when not knee-deep in the creative arts. His new novel The African Connection is book two in his low fantasy thriller series The Forgotten Child Trilogy. In his former life, he taught history and English in both Vietnam and Malaysia. He currently teaches theatre in Saudi Arabia. When he’s not writing or teaching, he’s cooking spicy Asian food or watching baseball. Check out his work on mwsasse.com

Mid-term elections are volatile. Almost always. They historically display the cantankerousness of the American electorate with pristine clarity. Mid-term elections are like the shiny new Christmas toy that finds itself dunked in an April mud puddle simply because you’ve become bored with it. That’s what happens. Two years after a presidential election is just enough time for the euphoria of “change” and “hope” and “greatness” and all other election slogans to wear thin to such a degree that the populace brutally penalizes the president’s party to let the other jokers have their turn messing things up. It’s a cynical cycle without question. The numbers back this up very clearly. Let’s take a look at the data before conjecturing their meaning for 2018.

Continue reading “If Dems Don’t Win the House in November, Can They Kiss 2020 Goodbye?”

Florida: The Name of the Game

In what looks to be the most expensive Senate race this election cycle, incumbent Democratic Senator Bill Nelson seeks to retain his seat amidst Class I elections that pit the Democratic Party against the worst Senate map any party has seen in the last half century—facing what looks to be his stiffest electoral competition yet.

The Rhetoric and Play

Nelson’s re-election campaign pivots largely on a combination of appealing to moderates and popularity among the more politically energized youth. As a southern Democrat originally elected in 1978, Nelson has never been very liberal or progressive like many of his Senate colleagues, so the threat of base turnout is very real.

Rather than an attack specifically against Trump and Capitol Hill Republicans, Nelson’s message gives off old-school vibes of “Washington isn’t doing enough”. Through campaigning on a purportedly poor federal reaction to natural disaster and Scott’s poor track record in a state where the environment is a crucial factor, Nelson seems to have covered a bit of ground with the new progressive Democratic base as well as not turning away moderate or otherwise undecided voters.

Speaking of undecided voters, Scott doesn’t seem to be doing very well with them. Though the governor has a massive edge in terms of name recognition among constituents, this may in fact be the decisive factor that acts against a Scott victory. Close affiliation with Trump and unpopular flabbergasts in past years decidedly put off still-undecided voters (yes, they actually do exist in this race). Surmising that this is a notable factor, Scott could counteract this by running to rile up turnout among his conservative base, which seems to be the case in his cautions of the fate of America if a Democratic majority Senate were to come to power.

What You Clicked For

Florida Senate 2018 Map

But enough talking. You’ve waited. And here they are. Lone Umbrella’s county outcome prediction maps for the Florida Senate race are complete!Outcomes involved in creating these maps:

  • 2016 Florida Senate election—Murphy vs. Rubio
    • Rubio won this one with the largest raw vote in Florida history and a margin of eight points.
    • Opponent Patrick Murphy was a relatively popular and charismatic Democrat, but name recognition put the ball in Rubio’s court—along with his incumbency advantage.
Florida Senate Race 2018

County Prediction Map | Population Adjusted
  • 2012 Florida Senate election—Nelson vs. Mack
    • Early polls indicated Mack with a lead over incumbent Senator Nelson.
    • Progression of the race showed a vulnerable Nelson with a three to seven point lead.
    • Election night showed Nelson very comfortably cruise to a victory by well over a million votes and a margin of 13 points.
  • 2016 Presidential election in Florida—Trump vs. Clinton
  • 2014 Florida gubernatorial election—Scott vs. Crist
    • very tight race. Scott won by a mere sixty thousand votes; a margin of less than a percent.
    • Though a tight margin for an incumbent governor, Crist was a notable opponent well known among Floridians as Republican-turned-Democrat former governor of the state.

Opinion: No, Everything’s Not On Fire

OPINION: The world in this decade is a better place than it’s ever been beforeThis shouldn’t even be controversial, but it is.

Sadly, this opinion isn’t a popular one—especially among the youth of today. The whole world’s ending, and *insert latest news story* will be the cause of it. Oh God no, racism’s on the rise, everything’s on fire and immigrants/corporations/terrorism/guns/the alt-right are to blame.

With cable news increasingly run like sports commentary, it’s not surprising that contemporary outlook on the future is bleak. Today, only 6%[1] of Americans believe that the world is getting better.

Yet the facts overwhelmingly indicate otherwise. The world is better than it’s ever been and is continuing to get better and better.

Point 1: Numbers are numbers

Racism isn’t on the rise, it’s just that today nearly everyone has a pocket-sized camera-computer on them to document instances of it.

In the grand timescale of civilized history, the share of people in poverty has plummeted virtually overnight. In the 1950s, the decade and world my own father was born into, 75% of the world’s inhabitants were still living in extreme poverty. Today, less than 10% live in extreme poverty.

The situation with the world’s literate population looks just as optimistic. From going from a world where only a select lucky few were literate, now 4 out 5 of global inhabitants are able to read and write.

Political freedom has consistently gone up, more people inhabit democracies than ever before, and the long legacy of colonialism is beginning to be forgotten.

Unfortunately, “OBESITY EPIDEMIC PLAGUES AMERICA” is more of a catchy headline than “For The First Time In History, More Die From Eating Too Much Than Too Little.” “Inequality in America At ALL-TIME HIGH” is more eye-catching than “Between 1981 and 2008, 600 million Chinese Lifted Out of Poverty.” Heck, misrepresentative reporting has led to 2/3 of Americans[2] wrongly believing that the share of those in extreme poverty has doubled.

What’s going wrong will always be more alluring than what’s going right (which tends to be most things).

“News is about stuff that happens, not stuff that doesn’t happen. You never see a journalist who says, “I’m reporting live from a country that has been at peace for 40 years,” or a city that has not been attacked by terrorists.” – Steven Pinker

But media isn’t the tell-all problem with our skewed perception of global affairs.

The problem stems from the way our minds are wired to handle information. News is business, business is market-driven, and the market is subject to the whims of supply and demand. With a virtually infinite reservoir of information as our supply, the entity behind trend-specific demands is the human psyche. Rather than media creators being the cause for a skewed perception of human progress, media creation reflects humanity’s own implicit negativity bias.

For much of the youth of this day, it’s easy to become complacent and bitter about the modern state-of-affairs. Much of the news the average citizen consumes pushes the narrative that the fate of the future; the fate of democracy hinges on what the incumbent political regime is doing, whoever that incumbent may be. It’s far too easy for the left to sour up over the notion that conservatives are dismantling the post-war global order, and it’s easy for conservatives to get riled up over the notion that the left is doing away with the stability that traditional values have seemingly afforded the majority. Regardless of the political discourse, numbers are numbers.

Point 2: Numbers are just numbers

But while numbers are numbers, it’s still important to remember that numbers are just numbers. They aren’t good at making observers care or take in the trends and patterns displayed. All the databases needed to convince the general public that the world is, in fact, getting better and better are right at hand. The problem with data in today’s fast-paced world is that it’s often behind a paywall, or just plain boring. With little to no personal ties to humanity’s great progress, it becomes difficult for many of us to care much about the decline of war and child mortality. Men well-versed in the fields of statistics or visual cognition like Steven Pinker[3] and the late Dr. Hans Rosling[4] may attempt to bridge this gap, but the fact of the matter remains: numbers are just numbers.

I find it difficult to be complacent about the world of today just because of how much progress has been achieved in only a generation of my immediate family. The world my father was born into and the world I was born into are vastly different.

My father was born into a newly independent former crown colony: 8-year-old Ceylon. Democracy in the nation was still in its infancy, my father was a member of a minority ethnic group that faced marginalization just because of his language of common discourse, and the life expectancy in the country was a meager 54 years.

Amidst ripe ethnic and religious tensions, his country was plunged into a civil war that lasted a quarter of a century and faced a diaspora of opportunity-seeking men and women. Today, nearly a decade after the war’s conclusion, the nation is at peace, the average life expectancy is 77 years, and democracy is strong with peaceful transitions of power being observed between incumbent governments and former oppositions.

I, on the other hand, was born into a pleasant suburb of Miami a year into the millennium. Unlike the peers of my father in his youth, I grew up with access to all the amenities a growing child might ever need, and then some. I’ve never faced enmity from anyone on the basis of ethnicity, race, or first language like my father did before me, and I have access to nearly unlimited information about the world around me. It’s a world I sometimes fear I take for granted and a world that I wish my father was still around to enjoy.

Perhaps the problem of complacency is one that will never be solved, for so long as progress is made, there never will be a time where a child born elsewhere that doesn’t succumb to illness makes us as glad as losing one of our own makes us sad.

This post was inspired and adapted from an answer I wrote on Quora.com in response to:  What are your most controversial or unpopular opinions?


[1] OurWorldInData.org

[2] Survey – Gapminder.org

[3] Is the world getting better or worse? A look at the numbers | Steven Pinker

[4] The best stats you’ve ever seen | Hans Rosling

Visualized: American Public Opinion on Same-Sex Marriage

Blue: Support | Light Green: Plurality opposed | Dark Green: Majority opposed

On this week’s America Visualized, we take a look at public opinion on state-recognized same-sex marriages. All data used in making the maps above comes from the PRRI, the Public Religion Research Institute.

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