AT FIRST sight, Austrian voters chose business as usual in the election on September 29th. The Social Democrats (SPÖ) and centre-right People’s Party (ÖVP), which have governed the country together for all but seven years since 1986, retained their majority, albeit with fewer seats. Even though a coalition between the ÖVP and two right-wing groups is theoretically possible, another left-right coalition seems more likely. … Yet a closer look at the result reveals signs of turmoil in Austrian politics.
Not long ago, Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party’s 2016 Presidential candidate, put a halt to his considerable consumption of marijuana. “The last time I indulged is about two months ago, with some edibles,” Johnson told me in late June, in the lobby of a midtown hotel. Johnson, who was the Republican governor of New Mexico from 1995 to 2003, also ran for President in 2012, as a Libertarian, and received just under one per cent of the vote, but he believes this year could be different. At the end of May, William F. Weld, the former moderate Republican governor of Massachusetts, became the Libertarian Party’s Vice-Presidential nominee, giving the Party its most mainstream ticket since its founding, in 1971. ... as governor, he earned plaudits from the right for being one of the more conservative governors. National Review praised him as the “New Mexico maverick” and as a “Reaganite antitax crusader,” who cut income-tax rates, slowed the growth of government, and eliminated the jobs of hundreds of state employees. During his two terms as governor, Johnson vetoed more than seven hundred bills passed by a Democratic legislature. ... There hasn’t been a serious challenge from a third-party Presidential candidate since 1992, when Ross Perot, the eccentric Texas billionaire, ran as an independent and bought hours of TV time to educate voters about the large federal budget deficit. Perot won entry into the Presidential debates and received nineteen per cent of the vote against Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush. Bush blamed Perot for his loss, though the best analyses of the race concluded that Perot had drawn equal numbers of voters from Bush and Clinton. ... “Third parties are like bees,” the historian Richard Hofstadter wrote, in 1955. “Once they have stung, they die.” Third parties come buzzing to life when they seize upon an issue that the two major parties have ignored. If they gain enough popular support—the sting—one or both parties will adapt to the electorate’s demands, and co-opt the third party’s ideas.
In interviews with more than 40 of the Republican Party’s leading strategists, lawmakers, fundraisers and donors, a common thread has emerged heading into the general election: Win or lose in November (and more expect to lose than not), they fear that Trump’s overheated and racialized rhetoric could irreparably poison the GOP brand among the fastest-growing demographic groups in America. ... And so, to an almost unprecedented extent, as the 50,000 Republican activists, officials and media pour into Cleveland this week, there is something of a convention within the convention. Many of these GOP titans—the intellectual and financial pillars of the party and its possible future elected leaders—are plotting a parallel course. ... In delegation breakfasts, private hotel suites and steakhouses across Cleveland—and farther afield for those, like Jeb Bush and his family, who are skipping the festivities—they are laying the foundations for the next political battles they believe can actually be won: first, to preserve the GOP majorities in the House and Senate this fall, then to save the Republican Party itself. ... Ryan and Trump disagree on fundamental, and traditionally core, GOP principles. Ryan favors free trade deals, has backed comprehensive immigration reform and wants to rein in entitlement programs. Trump is a trade protectionist, whose immigration policy centers on building a mammoth wall and a deportation force, and he wants no cutbacks to entitlements.
The US polling industry has been suffering a crisis of insight over the past decade or so; its methods have become increasingly bad at telling which way America is leaning. ... The classic pollster’s technique known as random digit dialing, in which firms robo-dial phone after phone, is failing, because an ever-dwindling number of people have landlines. ... whereas a survey in the 1970s or 1980s might have achieved a 70 percent response rate, by 2012 that number had fallen to 5.5 percent, and in 2016 it’s headed toward an infinitesimal 0.9 percent. And finally, the demographics of participants are narrowing: An elderly white woman is 21 times more likely to answer a phone poll than a young Hispanic male. So polling samples are often inherently misrepresentative. ... Today’s polling landscape appears so fraught that Gallup, long the industry leader, opted out of presidential horse-race polls this year; the reputational risk of being wrong was simply too high. Civis, on the other hand, promises a paradigm that could rescue American politics from confusion. ... Today, campaigns realize they have to look elsewhere for their intelligence, which has caused a major change in how the political industry functions. In the past, an entire campaign’s data and infrastructure would go poof after Election Day. Now Civis and similar firms are building institutional memory with permanent information storehouses that track America’s 220 million–odd voters across their adult lives, noting everything from magazine subscriptions and student loans to voting history, marital status, Facebook ID, and Twitter handle. Power and clients flow to the firms that can build and maintain the best databases of people’s behavior over time.
From political power brokers to the entire island of Manhattan, a varied cast of taunting insiders has inadvertently driven Donald Trump’s lifelong revenge march toward the White House. This is what it’s like to be one of them. ... Trump was referring to a profile I’d written two years earlier in which I chronicled a couple of days spent inside the billionaire’s bubble and confidently concluded that his long-stated presidential aspirations were a sham. He had tweeted about me frequently in the weeks following its publication — often at odd hours, sometimes multiple times a day — denouncing me as a “dishonest slob” and “true garbage with no credibility.” ... Trump’s performative character assassination led to plenty of teasing from friends and colleagues about how I had inadvertently goaded Trump into running. But as his campaign gained traction, the tone started to curdle into something more…hostile. Once, after discussing Trump’s latest outrage on cable news, the host grumbled to me, “Won’t it be great when Donald Trump becomes president because you wrote a f***ing BuzzFeed article daring him to run? I mean, won’t that be f***ing fantastic?” ... I had landed on a long and esteemed list of haters and losers — spanning decades, stretching from Wharton to Wall Street to the Oval Office — who have ridiculed him, rejected him, dismissed him, mocked him, sneered at him, humiliated him — and, now, propelled him all the way to the Republican presidential nomination, with just one hater left standing between him and the nuclear launch codes. ... In the fall of 2010, with the national tea party wave cresting, Trump decided it was time for a rebrand. His marketing instincts had been the driving force behind a lifetime of political promiscuity, including stints as a Republican, a Democrat, an independent, and a member of Ross Perot’s Reform Party. Though he wasn’t one to read Hayek or quote Jefferson, Trump could tell there was something about this new conservative movement that was resonating with his core fanbase, and he wanted in. For guidance, Trump turned to conservative super-activist and Citizens United president David Bossie. ... “Half of the story here is the dismissiveness that the political operative class had toward him.”
- Also: The Atlantic - Donald Trump and the Backlash Against Political Correctness < 5min
- Also: The New Yorker - Donald Trump’s Ghostwriter Tells All 5-15min
- Also: Huffington Post - Sad! 5-15min
- Also: The New York Times - Donald Trump’s Deals Rely on Being Creative With the Truth < 5min
- Also: Bloomberg - What Kind of Man Spends Millions to Elect Ted Cruz? 5-15min
For the members of Congress, who in 2002 provided almost $4 billion to modernize voting technology through the Help America Vote Act, or HAVA—Congress’s response to Bush v. Gore—this probably wasn’t the result they had in mind. But voting by computer has been a technological answer in search of a problem. Those World War II-era pull-lever voting machines may not have been the most elegant of contraptions, but they were easy to use and didn’t crash. Georgia, which in 2002 set out to be an early national model for the transition to computerized voting, shows the unintended consequences. It spent $54 million in HAVA funding to buy 20,000 touchscreen voting machines from Diebold, standardizing its technology across the state. Today, the machines are past their expected life span of 10 years. (With no federal funding in sight, Georgia doesn’t expect to be able to replace those machines until 2020.) The vote tabulators are certified to run only on Windows 2000, which Microsoft stopped supporting six years ago. To support the older operating system, the state had to hire a contractor to custom-build 100 servers—which, of course, are more vulnerable to hacking because they can no longer get current security updates. ... The voting technology business, after a frenetic decade of mergers, acquisitions, and renamings, is dominated by just a few companies: Election Systems & Software, or ES&S, and Dominion Voting Systems are the largest. Neither has much in common with the giants of computing. Apple, Dell, IBM, and HP have all steered clear of the sector, which generates, according to an analysis by Harvard professor Stephen Ansolabehere, about $300 million in annual revenue. For context, Apple generates about $300 million in revenue every 12 hours.
Over the past several months, I’ve interviewed Henry Kissinger, the former secretary of state, numerous times on the subject of America’s role in the world. Our conversations took place before this week’s election, but were informed by the foreign-policy differences between the candidates. ... There is obviously a gap between the public’s perception of the role of U.S. foreign policy and the elite’s perception. I think the new president has an opportunity to reconcile the two. He has an opportunity, but it is up to him to seize it. ... I’m fairly confident that China’s reaction will be to study its options. I suspect that will be Russia’s reaction as well. ... I think most of the world’s foreign policy has been in suspense for six to nine months, waiting for the outcome of our election. They have just watched us undergo a domestic revolution. They will want to study it for some period. But at some point, events will necessitate decision making once more. The only exception to this rule may be nonstate groups; they may have an incentive to provoke an American reaction that undermines our global position. ... Universities, he said, “like to teach history as a series of discrete problems. And they above all don’t want to teach Western history. They believe that the West has committed so many crimes that they are not entitled to single it out. That is a thought that would never occur to a Chinese. To return genuine pluralism to the campuses—to examine even ideas conventional wisdom rejects—has become a major national challenge.” ... What most annoyed Kissinger was the manner in which Obama talked about some other world leaders.
On average, an American office worker sends and receives roughly 120 emails per day, a number that grows with each passing year. The ubiquity and utility of email has turned it into a fine-grained record of our day-to-day lives, rich with mundane and potentially embarrassing details, stored in a perpetual archive, accessible from anywhere on earth and protected, in some cases, by nothing more than a single password. In the case of Violeta Lagunes, her email login represented a point of vulnerability, a seam where the digital walls protecting her campaign were at the mercy of her human judgment — specifically, whether she could determine if a message from an apparently reputable source was real or fake. ... Not only will a working email password yield years of intraoffice chatter, invoices, credit-card bills and confidential memos; it can often be leveraged into control of other personal accounts — Twitter, Facebook, Amazon — and even access to company servers and internet domains.
As you may recall from previous years, the January letter is always about the mine field laid out in front of us. What could cause 2017 to be a year to remember? What could possibly go horribly wrong? At this point in time, I see many potential problems. I have some concerns about the US. I see dark clouds gathering over Europe, and I see very slippery conditions in many emerging markets (‘EM’). In other words, lots of markets around the world appear to be accident prone but for very different reasons ... The secret to being a good investor is to focus on risk management and to be well prepared for bad news. ... Stagnating economic growth and low – or even negative – real wage growth has created a deep level of dissatisfaction that the electorate chose to use politically ... EM non-financial corporates have continued to accumulate debt as if there is no tomorrow ... USD 890 billion of EM bonds and syndicated loans (an all-time high) are coming due in 2017 with almost 30% of that denominated in US dollars ... I usually focus on the negative aspects when investing; hence my writing also has a negative bias. That is not the same as saying that I am always bearish, and I am most definitely not particularly bearish going into 2017.
The opinions of experts concerning the future are accorded great weight ... but they’re still just opinions. Experts may be right more often than the rest of us, but they’re unlikely to be right all the time, or anything close to it. ... A lot of people's lives would be more tranquil and more productive if they accepted that what the media says about an upcoming event - and whether you watch of not - won't have any impact on the outcome. ... Today many analysts seem preoccupied with central bank behavior, government actions, trends in interest rates and currencies, and the movement of markets, as opposed to the fortunes of individual companies. … Most people don’t want to tempt fate by saying things will go well forever, and in fact they know they won’t. It’s just that they can’t decide what it is that will go wrong. The truth is that while I can enumerate them, the obvious candidates (changes in oil prices, interest rates, exchange rates, etc.) are likely to already be anticipated and largely priced in. It’s the surprises no one can anticipate that would more markets most if they were to happen. But (a) most people can’t imagine them and (b) most of the time they don’t happen. That’s why they’re called surprises. ... People began to ask me what inning we’re in during the financial crisis of 2008, and they’ve continued ever since.