What it means to be American

A recent survey highlights some of the differences between Democrats and Republicans on what it means to be an American. The survey shows that, while each takes pride in their country, we disagree on the parts that we believe are important.

First, the good news. We each think that there are core elements about being an American that are important:

Note: all quotes are taken from the CBS News article titled Poll: 7 in 10 people say America is losing its identity

There are some points of resounding agreement among Democrats, Republicans and independents about what makes up the country’s identity. Among them: a fair judicial system and rule of law, the freedoms enshrined in the Constitution, and the ability to get good jobs and achieve the American dream.

Those seem to be pretty good ideals. While it is possible to disagree on what constitutes a good job or the details of the rule of law, at least we can agree that they are important.

But here are some things on which we disagree:

About 65 percent of Democrats said a mix of global cultures was extremely or very important to American identity, compared with 35 percent of Republicans. Twenty-nine percent of Democrats saw Christianity as that important, compared with 57 percent of Republicans.

Democrats are far more likely than Republicans to say that the ability of people to come to escape violence and persecution is very important, 74 percent to 55 percent. Also, 25 percent of Democrats said the culture of the country’s early European immigrants very important, versus 46 percent of Republicans.

Those are some pretty basic disagreements. The article also goes on to say that these disagreements have caused problems to spring up in the past. Given these basic differences in philosophy, it is going to be difficult to steer the country in any direction that doesn’t put is in direct conflict with other Americans.

Updated statistics for Clinton v Trump

There has been a lot of talk about whether Donald Trump will get a “bump” in the polling following the Republican National Convention. It looks like he did. Other pollsters are reporting various levels of the bump, and only time will tell whether his polling will remain at the higher level or revert back to its lower level.

I was curious to see how the Presidential race was developing over a slightly longer term; namely, I wanted to see how the previous month developed. Here is the latest graph for the last month ending on July 24, 2016 — the Sunday after the end of the Republican National Convention.

160728 clinton v trump

X axis = days to general election.
Y axis = percentage
Margin = Clinton percentage minus Trump percentage.

As you can see, Hillary Clinton has held pretty well steady though there was a slight drop in her trend line. After the month that the Democratic party just endured, it is amazing that there wasn’t a greater drop prior to the Democratic National Convention.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, has steadily gained over the course of the past moth. You can see the increase at the right of the chart that represents the polling done right after the Republican National Convention. With that bump, you can see that his trend has been positive over the timeframe.

Finally, the bottom line represents the difference between Clinton and Trump (Clinton – Trump). A positive number indicates that Clinton is in the lead while a negative number indicates that Trump is in the lead. It is obvious that Clinton’s lead has dissipated over the past month and they are now essentially tied, although the polling margins are split between positive and negative on the most recent data.

Since this should be the time when Donald Trump is at his best, the fact that he can barely tie Hillary Clinton  doesn’t bode well for his campaign. While there is still a long way to go before the general election, if Donald Trump doesn’t significantly improve — or Hillary Clinton dramatically falter — then he has little chance of winning in November.


  • All data was downloaded from the HuffPost Pollster.
  • Data was limited to registered voters.
  • Data was limited to polls ending between June 24 and July 24, 2016
  • Data was retrieved on July 28, 2016

What gun advocates should do

Niki, a blogger at The Orbit network, has an article about How to Speak to Your “Anti-Gun” Friends. For anyone that supports firearms — of any kind — it is well worth the read just to make sure that we aren’t being assholes to others.

Side note: Why is it important to not be an asshole? The long answer would require a full essay, or book. The short answer is that, eventually, gun control will be passed in some form. It would be better to have the best possible legislation instead of a law that is ineffective while making life miserable for the average American gun owner.

While I love Niki’s writing in general, this is what she said that really caught my attention:

D) Shooting down (HA!) people’s demands for action because of their lack of knowledge or whatever. If you have the knowledge, use it. SOME THING has to change, and it’s better to make some damn suggestions now than to wait until us “scaredy cats” push some sort of regs that make you roll your eyes and call us “stupid”.

I think her statement is exactly right. She might not know (or she might) the difference between an assault rifle and an assault weapon. Semiautomatic, selective fire, burst mode, and full automatic might be completely irrelevant to her. What matters to them is that firearms that are, seemingly, designed specifically to kill people are falling into the hands of people with the intent to kill large numbers of people relatively fast.

This must stop.

If we actually want gun control to work (and we do. No one wants terrorists or mass murders to have firearms) then we need to put or knowledge on the table to help solve the problem instead of denigrating the people who are determined to make a change. We all should be working together to make the best change possible instead of putting our fingers in our ears (or putting on our hearing protection) and hoping that whatever change people come up just happens to be right.

Clinton vs Trump: May 16 – June 22, registered voters

It’s still too early to do any real number crunching on the United States general election. There aren’t a lot of polls out, and the ones that are out are subject to dramatic change as time goes by. With that in mind, the only thing I am looking at right now is the overall mood of the United States.

I have used the data available from Huffington Post Polster to compile a list of registered voters’ preferences. The best this chart can do is give a general feeling of the way people are thinking of voting right now. To make the data easier to interpret, I have included trend lines into the graph.


While Hillary Clinton gets a larger percentage of the registered voters in virtually every poll, the numbers are still quite close. It should also be noted that because of the high initial polling at around 173 days until the election, the trend line could easily change directions for Donald Trump in the upcoming weeks when I update the date range.

Progress toward reasonable gun control

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has proposed legislation that goes a long way to securing firearms from suspected terrorists and adding a measure of safety to the people of the United States. The bill has barely survived a vote, but hasn’t received enough support to break the assured filibuster that would await any legislation that would any restrictions to firearm purchases.

Reuters reports:

In a procedural vote, the Senate narrowly rejected an attempt to scrap the plan by Republican Senator Susan Collins to prevent guns getting into the hands of people on two U.S. government terrorism watch lists.

Susan Collins’ bill received 52 votes, but it would take 60 to overcome a filibuster. This indicates that either 8 more Republican Senators would need to join the Democrats in support of this bill, or the bill won’t be able to move forward as it is.

What is the bill about?

On her Senate website, Susan Collins has a white paper (pdf, 1 page) that has the bill’s overview:

1. Gives the AG the authority to deny firearms sales to individuals who appear on the No Fly List or the Selectee List.

The problem with thee No Fly List and the Selectee List is that we don’t know who is on them. We also have no way of removing ourselves if we should happen to find ourselves placed on the list erroneously.

2. Provides a process for Americans and green card holders to appeal a denial in U.S. Court of Appeals and to recover their reasonable attorneys fees if they prevail.

You would have to go to the US courts of appeals (Wikipedia link)? Are you serious? How could the average person ever be able defend themselves against a mistaken claim before a US court of appeals. Even the United States district courts (Wikipedia link) seem an unlikely possibility for the average person.

3. Sets forth a procedure for protecting classified information during the appeal.

No real problem here as long as either the judge gets to evaluate the information or it isn’t admitted as evidence against you.

4. Protects ongoing FBI counter-terrorism investigations by giving the AG the discretion to allow gun sales to go forward to individuals covered by this Act.

Again, no problem here; though I doubt that this would ever be used. Discretion is one of the problems (as I understand it) with the No Fly List. Once a name is on the list, various people have the discretion to remove the name, but no one will do it. They seem to fear that if they remove a name it will be held against them, but if they don’t then they have nothing to worry about. If those dynamics are the case, the discretion to remove a name is worthless.

5. Includes a “look-back” provision that ensures prompt notification to the FBI if a person who has been on the broader Terrorism Screening Database (TSDB) within the past five years purchases a firearm.

That seems only sensible.

Why can’t bill, or a repaired version of this bill, go forward?

We can’t lay all the blame on Republicans. While it is true that many of the Republican politicians receive support from the NRA – a group that hasn’t supported any gun control measures in recent decades – the Democratic legislators haven’t been willing to stand behind even the mildest forms of gun control that are supported by the vast majority of the American people.

From the above linked Reuters article, John Lewis (Wikipedia link) stated:

“It’s not a struggle that lasts for one day, or one week, or one month, or one year,” said Representative John Lewis, a Democrat from Georgia and a key figure in the civil rights protests of the 1960s. “We’re going to win the struggle,” said Lewis, who led the House sit-in.

And while that is a commendable statement from an inspirational and legendary political leader, the Democratic party hasn’t been following through with the idea. Every time gun violence reaches the public consciousness, it is only a matter of time before the news media moves on to the next story. And without the constant focus of the news media, the Democratic party moves on to other priorities as well.

As Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said (Wikipedia link):

“Eventually this problem will get addressed again one of two ways: We find a breakthrough, which I will seek, or there will be another terrorist attack which will bring us right back to this issue. I hope we can do it without another terrorist attack,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican who supported Collins.

It is important that the politicians stay focused on this bill if this bill is to have a chance. But the politicians won’t stay focused on the bill if their constituents forget all about it until the next attack comes. The NRA doesn’t have that problem. The NRA is laser focused on preventing new legislation and repealing (at least some) of the legislation that is already on the books. Until there are enough people with the same kind of focus on the present problem, sensible gun legislation will either not be achievable or will soon be repealed.

The cakes are baked

Or the geese are cooked. Despite how you look at it, some kind of culinary metaphor seems fitting.

With Ted Cruz and John Kasich ending their bid to become the Republican nominee, the slight chance of Donald Trump losing the nomination have vanished. At the same time, the Democratic nomination has been finished for a while now.

The only thing left to be done on the Democratic side is for the news media to move on to a different story. It could take the media a while to find a story better than the Democratic nomination process. After all, the media has a 24 hour a day, 7 day a week schedule to fill and very little other news to generate the interest that is necessary to fill the dead air. That makes the Democratic “horse race” – even if it is as firmly decided as the Republican nominating race – the only game remaining in town.

It is still too early for the general election polling to have all that much value. Granted, it will give some indications of what each candidate will need to do between now and November, but these will be slow, plodding changes that won’t excite many people’s interest for several months now.

I am going to try to take advantage of this lull in the political storm to begin gathering the information necessary to complete my general election model.