Bill James on the 2016 Election
Morning-After sitdown with the Founding Father (no, not THAT father)


Charles Krauthammer said on Monday night, or was it Tuesday ... if you were a Republican, your life went on during eight years of Pres. Obama, didn't it?  And if you were a Democrat, your life went on during George W. Bush, correct?

We're fortunate and blessed to live in a country with many checks and balances.  Those checks and balances are theoretical, yes, but also in practice they have worked stunningly well for over 200 years.  Whichever party you favor, your workday on Friday is likely to be very similar to the one you had last Friday.  There are a lot of places around the world where that isn't true.


Was surprised to see that Bill James sat down for an interview, The Morning After.  Here you go.

You might imagine that jemanji would approve of Jamesian responses like these, and you'd be right.  Of the polls' failures, in James' view:


It's a reminder that the world is a billion times more complicated than the human mind. Of course, everything that happens to me these days is a reminder.

I think of it like a chessboard, which is eight squares by eight squares, 64 squares. You sit down and think "He can do this, and I can do this, and he can do this, and I can do this." If you can think three moves ahead, you can beat almost anybody. If you can think four moves ahead, you're a chess grandmaster.

The world is a chessboard that's a million squares by a million squares. The human mind just isn't that sophisticated. We understand only little, tiny areas. A lot of times we think we've got it figured out, but we don't.


Not knowing anything about it, I was intrigued by Silicon Valley's idea to secede California from the Union.  Obviously there would be a bit of a process to go through.  LOL.  But if it is at California's initiative... well, what might be the advantages of creating two different places for Americans to live, depending on their worldviews?  At first blush the idea seems to have some legs to me.  Viewed as an alternative to a potential Civil War, which is the basis of the James interview above.

James believes that we were much closer to a Civil War than we thought we were, and that most civil wars come upon people suddenly, within just a year or two.  He is hopeful that Tuesday's outcome may "vent" some of the anger and move us away from, rather than towards, such an event.  Personally?  I suspect that may be true.  I hope that we'll be in for less suppression of debate than we used to be; very sharp engagement in debate, certainly, no-holds-barred engagement, yes, but less suppression.  If that were true it could only be a healthy adjustment to our discourse.  We'll see.  But check out the James interview for yourself.


We hear, quite frequently, that one of SSI's strengths is that it is willing to "blend" life and sports.  James has a remark on this too:

Q.  We are here at the 2016 Web Summit to talk about sports. We both make our livings in the sports world. Sports seem a little more trivial today, but maybe more important as a happy diversion. How have you reconciled chatting about sports today with the world changing so much in the past 24 hours?

A.  Politics and sports keep intruding on each other. On my website, people are always screaming at me to stop talking about politics and stick to sports because sports are fun. I won't do it. The same things that are true in sports are true in politics. - James


Civil political thoughts welcome below.  As always at SSI, you may express any idea whatsoever, but please use discretion in the way you express it.  This mirrors U.S. free speech law.  And, remember that the SSI denizens across the aisle have feelings just like you do.  

And never fear; we'll hit the "close comments" button like the jake brake on a runaway semi if the pads fail.  :- )






[Sorry for the length]

Finally this sad excuse for a presidential election is over. For many, their preferred candidate lost. For many others, their preferred candidate won. For many more, their preferred candidate was not on the ballot. And for a large percentage of voters on both sides of the ideological spectrum, they chose to vote for a candidate they despised, believing they had to choose between the lesser of two evils - in their view. That means that there are few who are truly happy with the results. For those that are, congratulations. I am one of those who wasn’t happy casting a ballot for either. As a conservative I stewed about who to vote for during entire cycle.

Today I find myself thinking more about how we dialogue going forward. Because dialogue is healthy. What passes for political discussion these days mostly is not. My fear is that we continue to build up figurative walls that prevent us from healthy dialogue. So we get sicker. We take our positions, then refuse to listen to counter points of view. It’s not that taking strong positions is bad, but if you were wrong, how would you know? If you’re a conservative and you get your information from the hundreds of websites based in foreign countries that post ridiculous stuff on Facebook for you to share, how would you know if you were wrong? Same thing goes for progressives. Do you realize how many bogus “news websites” are out there? Do you trust the non-context employments claims of Occupy Democrats for example? Is that how we communicate?

When did we go away from the concept that ideas and facts win out over fear? Instead establishing “safe zones” or “trigger-free zones” whatever that means, why not discuss ideas? If you are a progressive and want to convince me to change my mind, how is calling me a “hater” or worse (when you have zero idea what’s in my mind) going to help you do that? If you want to find out what’s in my mind, ask me! If I’m a believer in free markets, how does it help me to go around and tell the poor to “get a job”? (I don’t do that, just to be clear).

In the aftermath, however you feel about this election, we are all still neighbors. I am a devout Christian, and the Jesus I know tells me to “love my neighbors”, but also tells me to know the truth. I will love my neighbors with truth and ambassadorship as a communicator of His message the best I can. I know my neighbors and I will not agree on everything and sometimes my love for my neighbors will not be received as such. And if you think my faith is wrong, persuade me. If you think I’m wrong about capitalism, persuade me. I’ll do the same. God really did bless this nation because where else can we freely express our views and use our own power by voting. I rejoice today that I had a chance to participate, despite knowing I wouldn’t like the result (presidentially) either way.

God says, “Come, let’s reason together”. If it’s good enough for Him, it’s good enough for me. When we’re done celebrating, lamenting, or feeling however we do about the election results, let’s renew our dialogue. Civil dialogue about important things is worth something don’t you think?


(Like Panda, apologies for the length, but this is what I sent to friends and family the morning after)

Donald Trump swept into the presidency by tapping into a current of emotion that mushroomed into a movement.  He prevailed over a more qualified and ‘reasonable’ opponent.

Barack Obama swept into the presidency by tapping into a current of emotion that mushroomed into a movement.  He prevailed over a more qualified and ‘reasonable’ opponent.

The fact that you may see one of these currents as ‘good’ and the other as ‘bad’ is irrelevant.  The person next to you may define them conversely.  In either case, the members of these movements were demanding the same thing: “listen to me!”

The fact that the media may have readily heard one of those pleas but largely turned a deaf ear to the other is now inconsequential.  They have their own soul searching to do.

Underlying both of these instances is the eternal argument about emotion versus reason.  The ancient Greeks believed reason to be predominant, although Socrates allowed that they were two horses connected to a chariot, pulling in opposite directions.

Not until the Enlightenment was this orthodoxy challenged, when David Hume countered, “reason is a slave to the passions.”  

And while I hesitate to suggest any implication or association here (none intended), it was Hitler who said, “I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few.”

There will be a thousand explanations offered and a billion words written to explain this election.  I think a writer in Mother Jones, who spent five years studying those who would come to be known  as ‘Trump voters” probably stated their feelings best:

You are patiently standing in the middle of a long line stretching toward the horizon, where the American Dream awaits. But as you wait, you see people cutting in line ahead of you. Many of these line-cutters are black—beneficiaries of affirmative action or welfare. Some are career-driven women pushing into jobs they never had before. Then you see immigrants, Mexicans, Somalis, the Syrian refugees yet to come. As you wait in this unmoving line, you're being asked to feel sorry for them all. You have a good heart. But who is deciding who you should feel compassion for? Then you see President Barack Hussein Obama waving the line-cutters forward. He's on their side. In fact, isn't he a line-cutter too? How did this fatherless black guy pay for Harvard? As you wait your turn, Obama is using the money in your pocket to help the line-cutters. He and his liberal backers have removed the shame from taking. The government has become an instrument for redistributing your money to the undeserving. It's not your government anymore; it's theirs.

And I think, there it is.  There’s the resentment.  There are the votes.

We can say this is demonstrably false—that progress these last eight years has helped every group.  But that’s my reasoning.

It doesn’t erase their anguish.   No person wants to be left behind…and certainly not see their kids left behind.  And that’s what they feel.  That’s their emotion. 

But before we dismiss this as unfounded complaint from the right, we might want to consider another current of passion that fueled another major candidacy: Occupy Wall Street gave birth to Bernie Sanders.  Many Trump voters listed Sanders as their second choice.  These are two sides to this same coin.  Something is wrong in who gets what.  

So over the closing days, when Donald Trump started complaining about a ‘rigged system’, the punditry pooh-poohed that.  How in the world could you fix an entire national election, across all those three thousand counties?

But I think in the heartland…and also in some parts of liberal America…the message was heard differently.  The rigged system that needed fixing was the one that funnels money from the middle…and pushes it either to the bottom…or to the top.

And now it’s up to the King of the Top, Donald Trump, to fix it.

Here we go…



I think a few important things happened in this election cycle.  

1. The media establishment was outed for its biases in a way that Rush Limbaugh (and few others) have been clamoring for over the last two or three decades.  Faith in media/journalistic integrity/objectivity is at all-time lows and this will only serve to continue the sundering of the monolithic major media corporations.

2. The political establishment (and here I include BOTH 'wings' of American politics, the Right and the Left) was outed for its blatant favoritism in both the Republican and Democratic parties.  The Republican establishment backed every candidate with a pulse in an effort to de-rail Trump, and the Democrats were even more blatantly supportive of Hillary (remember all those unbound delegates declaring for her THE FIRST DAY THEY WERE ELIGIBLE TO DO SO?!).  Bernie vs. Trump would have been a different process and, possibly, a different outcome than Hillary vs. Trump.  But it seems reasonable to believe that the establishment had gone all-in with Hillary as their nominee roundabout January 21, 2009.

3. The previously established value of purchased advertising election media was completely upended, with Trump's and Bernie's unprecedented crowds at their respective rallies demonstrating the value of speaking directly to large groups of people on the issues they hold most dear.  Social media (Twitter, Facebook, the hordes of memers from all across the political spectrum, the YouTubers with their creative takes on current events, etc..) proved itself to be a major player in modern politics.

4. The wave of anti-globalism and pro-nationalism which has been sweeping the world, culminating in the elections of Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, the success of Brexit in the UK, and now the elction of Trump in the USA, is no longer a blip on the geopolitical radar.  It is a movement that is going to re-shape the world as we know it, and such major re-alignments invariably create unwanted friction and chaos.  France and Italy have major elections upcoming, with pro-nationalist parties in each of those countries also gaining major momentum, so it's conceivable that this nationalist wave will sweep from one end of the Western World to the other before it finally calms down.

5. Both major parties in the USA are going to have some serious soul-searching ahead.  Trump has de facto moved the Republican party *hard* to the center on several previously-contested social issues (LGBT rights, abortion, etc..) while swinging equally hard to the right on certain economic issues (such as his proposed protectionist mechanisms, which have never proven successful in the long-term in the USA's history).  The Democrats, on the other hand, are going to have to decide whether they're going to hold their ideological ground and hope Trump fails to reform the Republican party, or move hard to the Left as Bernie Sanders would have done.  Whichever way it goes, the political landscape in the near future will be far from certain.

It's certainly an emotional sequence of events for everyone involved.  I know people who are so disgusted by the outcome that they've sworn off social media entirely for a few weeks, and I know people so elated by the outcome that they're figuratively dancing in the e-streets.  Personally I think it's good to see people be so passionate about politics, though I worry about the increasing division that has been well-noted here at SSI.  I just wish that instead of reveling in schadenfreude or wallowing in self-pity, we would take this opportunity to stop demonizing each other and engage in more productive, dispassionate discussions of the issues that are most important to us.  The democratic process is the best one devised by humans, for humans, but in order for it to work we need to engage with each other as calmly, rationally, and dispassionately as possible while attempting to discuss important issues or debate competing ideas.

That type of atmosphere is one of the things that SSI has been best at fostering since I became a lurker long ago, at a URL far, far away...

Arne's picture

Our civil war was a long time coming, and a lot of people saw it coming. Some examples: South Carolina came close to seceding in the nullification crisis of 1828, the war in Kansas before it joined the Union, John Brown, the attack on senator Sumner in 1856. Whoever reads Uncle Tom's Cabin (published in 1852) will get a very strong sense of Harriet Stowe writing her novel to examine whether the South and North could remain within one country.

I wasn't around in the late '60s and early '70s, but from say mid-1968 through 1974, wasn't there much more reason to think that a civil war was coming than there is now?


In the 60's, there was concern for the continuation of the culture (to a great degree) and the continuation of the form of governmnet (to a lesser degree).

Right now there is concern over a threat to civil rights, to women's rights, to gender issues like right to choose and gay marriage.

In the 60's, all those things were actually being hashed out in real time.  These issues COULD become real time battles in the near future...but we don't know yet.

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