After the 2016 presidential election results skidded across the internet at my house, I had to wonder what went wrong with those enormous data-driven insights into how the race would play out. The Huffington Post, for example, predicted a 98.something percent chance of Hillary Clinton winning the White House in all the models they had run. Donald Trump’s chances fluctuated between 1.4 percent and 1.7 percent. The experts were not only wrong, they were reporting fiction.
Now, not paying attention to media polls has become my top New Year resolution.
After all, 42.7 percent of all statistics are made up on the spot, so how can I do worse.
Here are six statistical quagmires:
1) 63 percent of voters going to the polls thought SCOTUS referred to a brand of toilet paper.
2) 45 percent of women surveyed said they hate 55 percent of all the women they’d ever met.
3) 18 percent of bashful Americans don’t vote because of the skimpy curtains at voting stations.
4) 98 percent of racists have attended at least one Nascar event.
5) 27 percent of boaters prefer Roe vs. Wade.
6) 72 percent of adults are confused by puns.
Here is an answer key of sorts, but remember that polling data only feels right if it skews toward the belief you already hold.
1) The Supreme Court of the United States, minus one justice, has been forced to hear cases with only eight sitting members. Every decision has the potential to be a political coin toss. I grew up believing that as a branch of government, the Supreme Court should be held to a higher standard of impartiality. Remember the statue of a blindfolded woman holding the a scale for justice? American history classes burned that image into my retina. Eight justices gives us a 50/50 chance of getting what we want half of the time.
2) German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer wrote, “Men are by nature merely indifferent to one another; but women are by nature enemies.” In the 19th century Schopenhauer provided us with a reliable predictor of the gender gap, and how some women in particular would behave during the 2016 election, throwing rocks at that glass ceiling.
3) 97 million Americans did not vote. Not the worst non-turnout in recent history, but still disappointing. Being bashful could not account for such a statistic, but one thing I’m certain about is that it’s curtains for democracy if voters continue to feel disenfranchised and at the mercy of a system fueled by wealth and backroom bargaining. I’m reminded of the Wizard of Oz, of Dorothy yanking the curtain aside from the sparkling machinations of power to reveal a startled old man frantically operating the controls. How like a bad dream, how utterly Oz-ish.
4) “The race for the White House” — such a silly headline, as if campaign coordinators and pollsters serve as pit crew, and voters somehow fuel the election. Why do people watch Nascar? Internet forums declare that enthusiasts love the crashes, the near misses, the noise, and of course, the crashes. This year’s election — more of a demolition derby — explains why so many viewers tuned in to watch the presidential debates, and why so few bothered with the VP venue. Isn’t it strange how quickly racists perk up when cars crumple, especially if the incident is combined with a smell of something burning?
5) Comedian Wanda Sykes in her 2004 book, Yeah, I Said It, wrote, “Women and our right to choose were going to be challenged with Ashcroft around. When Bush appointed Ashcroft, I went out and got me four abortions. I stocked up. The doctor was like, ‘Listen, you’re not pregnant.’ I said, ‘Hey, just shut up and do your job. I’m exercising my right while I can, dammit.” Roe prevailed in the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision, 7-2, but politicians wade into the same muddy waters every election cycle. I’m all for the sanctity of life, but I’m more inclined to start by making war and poverty illegal.
6) Most jokes revolve around ridicule, contempt, or cradling the “other” in the ineptitude of sloppy thinking and laziness. Blonde, Jewish, Mexican, Polish, Gay, Black — you’ve heard them all. But puns are a special breed of humor, because wordplay is 99.9 percent derisionfree. Haven’t we had enough hateful rhetoric to last at least four years? We’ve heard more than a few nasty jokes sponsored by this year’s election. Here’s a pun, the best joke of 2017: Love trumps hate.
Every time I hear that one, I smile.
David Feela, an award-winning poet, essayist, and author, writes from Montezuma County, Colo. See his works at http://feelasophy.weebly.com/.