Mere Orthodoxy: Rejoicing and Weeping After Election 2016

Today at Mere Orthodoxy, I offer my take on a Christian response to the complex and still hotly discussed results of our 2016 presidential election:

Writing to early Christians in Rome, St. Paul the Apostle offered a succinct summary of the Christian ethic in the twelfth chapter of his epistle. It is worth reading the whole thing with the events of the last week in mind, but here I’ll just look at one verse: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). Many are weeping and rejoicing after last Tuesday. A Christian who weeps ought to know how to rejoice with those who rejoice. One who rejoices ought to know how to weep with those who weep.

I realize that this is hard to do. Rejoicing with those we agree with is easy. Weeping with those we agree with is easy. Weeping with those who mourn the very thing that we celebrate – that’s hard. Rejoicing with those who celebrate the very thing that we mourn – that’s hard. But that is “the way which leads to life.”

This way is especially difficult, given the self-aggrandizement and demonization of others that have so often characterized this election cycle. Do you think everyone who voted for President-elect Donald Trump is racist, xenophobic, misogynist, Islamophobic, and homophobic? If so, I doubt you are rejoicing with those who rejoice right now. Do you think everyone who voted for Sec. Hillary Clinton is a pretentious, radically pro-choice, uber-progressive, out-of-touch, sore loser? Then you probably aren’t weeping with those who weep today.

Something to keep in mind when sitting across from eccentric uncle Earl this Thanksgiving.

Read the whole post here.

PowerBlog: 2016 Election Turnout Encourages Humility

Yesterday at the Acton PowerBlog, I continued my dive into the post-election data. As with my last two posts, I found some surprising things when examining more detailed reporting on voter turnout.

There is a meme going around of a graph that shows depressed turnout for Democrats compared to 2012 and 2008, implying that Sec. Clinton lost because she failed to turn out her base. There may be some truth to this, but it doesn’t add up when we remember that presidents in the United States are elected by the Electoral College and thus on a state-by-state basis.

I write,

I’m unsure the source of the data. It may be completely accurate, but even if so it is misleading. As Carl Bialik wrote last week for FiveThirtyEight, “On average, turnout was unchanged in states that voted for Trump, while it fell by an average of 2.3 percentage points in states that voted for Clinton. Relatedly, turnout was higher in competitive states — most of which Trump won.”

So turnout was depressed for Clinton, but apparently only in those states that she won. Low turnout, then, can’t explain why she lost the states she didn’t win. And, in fact, this doesn’t even capture the phenomenon accurately, since she is on track to win some states by a greater margin than Obama did in 2012. Thus, depressed turnout in the states she won might mean fewer Republican-leaning voters there and not that she failed to turn out her Democratic-leaning base.

To me, this sort of complexity ought to encourage humility. There are limits to our knowledge and explanations, and failing to forget that only gives warrant to unhelpful, even if well-intended, self-justifications.

I write,

All this is not to say that anyone who shared the graph … is some self-serving huckster looking for Facebook “likes” or even that they are therefore rationalists. I almost shared it myself, in fact. It is interesting, and I’m thankful that someone shared it with me. Rather, my point is only to highlight that while turnout is another piece of the puzzle, it also turns out to be more than it appears. Correcting our assumptions about the existence of unexplainable aspects of reality can help us maintain our humility and safeguard against making hasty conclusions, mistakenly presuming that all of reality can fit into our heads, even as we admirably seek to know all that we can.

Read the whole post here.

PowerBlog: Diverse Voters, Deep Passions

Today at the Acton PowerBlog, I take a look at what New York Times exit poll data tells us about last night’s election. Excerpt:

In all, despite sharp division and incisive rhetoric, the electorate was far more diverse in their voting this year than I, at least, expected, and than many made it seem in their reporting last night.

To me, the perhaps most interesting division is on the level of the passions that motivated voters: Trump voters were angrier and more pessimistic. They were also more opposed to Clinton than in favor of Trump. Clinton voters were more satisfied or enthusiastic with the status quo, more supportive of their candidate, and more hopeful for the future. However, these numbers were not always as sharply divided between parties as they were in 2012.

Read the whole post here.