It’s been summer, and I’ve been busy with other work, so I haven’t posted in a while. This started as a Facebook thing, but I figured I’d put it up here to knock the cobwebs out.

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I’ve read a few things recently on how things would go with the election, logistically, if Trump dropped out, but none of them put the whole story together.

So I’m gonna.

This is going to be long. Here goes.

If Trump withdraws from the presidential race, the responsibility for choosing his replacement will fall to the RNC. (That’s the Republican National Committee, made up of about two hundred party leaders, not the Republican National Convention, made up of thousands of delegates. The Committee could theoretically reconvene the Convention to hold the vote, but they won’t.)

So the Republican National Committee would get together somewhere, and elect a new nominee. This would likely be Mike Pence, since he’s the veep nominee—picking anyone else would divide the party further, and that’s the last thing they’ll want in the wake of a Trump schism. Pence isn’t widely hated, and putting him in the slot could be framed as a pro-forma thing, so that’s what they’d be most likely to do.

So Pence, let’s say, becomes the nominee. Presumably he picks a new veep choice, likely in consultation with party leaders, and the RNC rubber-stamps that pic right after picking him. But that’s not the end of it.

Because it turns out that every state has its own rules for taking someone’s name off the ballot and replacing it with someone else’s, and the earliest deadlines for doing that are coming up soon. Unless Trump drops out in the next couple of weeks, there are going to be states where he’s going to be listed no matter what.

Which means that if Trump drops out in, say, mid-September, there will be some states where GOP voters will be pulling a lever next to his name, and some where they’re voting for Pence. And as it turns out that matters too, because…

Every state also has its own laws about who Electoral College electors are allowed to vote for. In some states, they’re legally bound to vote for the candidate who was on the ballot in their state. The laws vary a lot, and some of them are pretty vague, so what to do about it would have to be hashed out multiple times all over the country.

If Clinton wins, of course, none of this will matter much. Electors on the losing side have voted in ways they weren’t supposed to in the past, and if Pence’s ticket gets, say, 180 Electoral Votes, nobody is going to care if some of them are cast for Donald Trump. But what if Clinton loses? What happens then?

Well, then it gets weird.

Let’s say that the Republicans wind up with 280 Electoral Votes, of which fifty or so are the fruit of states where (1) Trump was still on the ballot on election day, and (2) state law mandates that electors vote for the person on the ballot. In that case, if everyone votes according to their legal duties, nobody gets a majority in the Electoral College and the election goes to the House of Representatives.

That “everyone votes according to their legal duties” thing is a big if, though. Assuming the Trump electors are good Republicans who want a Pence victory, some or all of them would likely vote their conscience rather than the law, or file suit to get the law nullified before the vote. Even if they didn’t, the RNC would have good reason to try to get around the state laws.

The constitution seems to grant electors the right to vote for who they want, and even if it didn’t, the Supreme Court would likely reject the idea that the EC wouldn’t be able to seat a duly-elected president because North Carolina treated the guy who quit two months ago as the candidate, so I’d expect SCOTUS to allow GOP electors to vote for Pence, giving him the presidency without having to go through the House.


What if some of the GOP electors wanted to vote for Trump? What if they were die-hard Trump supporters who believed the Republican Party had betrayed them, and they weren’t willing to fall in line—or, alternatively, they were local politicians in Trump-heavy districts who were worried about voter backlash? What if they vote Trump not because they have to but because they want to, and the Electoral College deadlocks as a result?

In that case, I suspect SCOTUS would stay out of it, and the election would go to the House of Representatives, with each state delegation getting a single vote. In such situations the GOP is considered to have a structural advantage, given the composition of the House, with Pence again likely to emerge the winner. Unless, again, some House members cast votes for Trump, gumming up the works enough to keep the election deadlocked and allowing whoever the Senate chose for vice president to assume the presidency on an acting basis.

Which is a subplot from the most recent season of the HBO comedy Veep.

Most of this probably won’t happen, of course. If Trump pulls out, the GOP ticket most likely loses, and if it somehow wins, the Electoral College stuff most likely sorts itself out in the courts.

But if Trump does quit, expect everyone on your Twitter feed to become immediate experts on the Twelfth and Twentieth Amendments.

On Twitter last night, lefty blogger Matt Bruenig got into a thing with Joan Walsh of The Nation, accusing her of intentionally misrepresenting the demographics of Bernie Sanders’ voter support. In the course of that attack (on the substance of which I mostly agree with Bruenig), he referred to her as both “geriatric” and ageist, and to her expressed views as “disgusting” and “pathetic.”

While Bruenig was working himself into that lather, Neera Tanden of the Center for American Progress @-ed Walsh in sympathy, at which point Bruenig turned his sights on her. Calling her “Scumbag Neera,” he said that Tanden had “worked to starve my mother of cash assistance,” that she “uses welfare when she needs it then takes away from others when they need it,” and that she “tried to starve me and my mother because she wanted to be in Democratic politics.” When challenged on this, he said he was referring to Tanden’s welfare reform advocacy in the 1990s.

As far as I can tell, Bruenig has no evidence to support this charge.

Tanden said on Twitter last night that she’d never done welfare policy work, to which Bruenig replied that he was talking about her public statements in support of it. That’s a real stretch, since he’d previously claimed she’d “worked to starve [his] mother,” and that she’d “take[n welfare] away from others” — those are allegations that she had been involved in welfare reform directly, not just cheering from the sidelines.

But even this lesser claim appears to be without basis. The one bit of evidence he’s offered for it is a quote from a podcast in which Tanden told Ezra Klein that “welfare reform is really about ensuring every child has opportunity.” But here’s the context for that quote — Tanden had just finished (at 7:26) telling Klein how important public assistance had been to her and her mother when she was growing up, and that led to this exchange:

Klein: Do you think the welfare system as it exists now in its post-reform era would have played the same role for your family?

Tanden: Well, you know, my mother was on welfare three years. My own view of welfare is that welfare reform is really about ensuring that every child has opportunity. It’s not really about the parents. So I worry about a system that puts kids in worse positions because of the decisions that their parents make. I mean, there are a lot of people who have parents who are not fully functional, and we have a system that  decides to in some ways disadvantage kids because of the decisions their parents make, and I think that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

It strikes me as absolutely clear that Tanden is here using the term “welfare reform” to refer to the principles that should guide welfare policy, not in reference to welfare as it exists, and that the rest of her remarks are an explicit criticism of the ways in which welfare policy has changed since she was a child. Welfare, she says, should be a mechanism for helping kids, not punishing parents for bad choices, and to “disadvantage kids because of the decisions their parents make … doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

One can criticise elements of Tanden’s argument here. But to suggest that these comments represent support for “starv[ing]” mothers on welfare, for “tak[ing] away” public support from women in need? That’s just false. It’s imputing a meaning to her words that’s the direct opposite of what they say. (If Bruenig has other evidence to support his claims, he should present it. I’ve gone looking on his timeline and on Google and this is all I’ve found.)

This isn’t the first time that Matt Bruenig has been criticized for his attacks on prominent people, and when such criticism has come in the past he’s often framed it — and rejected it — as a mealy-mouthed, hypocritical call for “civility.” But civility is not what’s at stake here. We can debate when snark turns into abuse and when vitriol becomes harassment (and whether Bruenig tends to aim his flamethrower disproportionately at women). But we don’t have to reach any of those questions here, because here all the evidence indicates that Bruenig’s attacks on Tanden are, again, simply false.

To call someone “geriatric” in the same breath in which you accuse them of ageism is obtuse and unhelpful. But to accuse someone of enacting policies they had no involvement with, and to do so on the basis of a statement that explicitly repudiates the position you accuse them of holding?

That’s just lying. And it’s fundamentally incompatible with either serious political debate or good-faith movement building.

Update | Demos has announced that Bruenig will no longer be blogging for them, saying that “Matt has been at the center of controversies surrounding online harassment of people with whom he disagrees” — controversies that Demos was largely unaware of until today. It appears that they asked him to tone down his rhetoric on Twitter, he declined, and they’ve let him go.

I may have some more thoughts on all this over the weekend.

Remember that poll from last week that found that young adults weren’t big fans of capitalism? Well, I just stumbled across the full report, and it has some interesting stuff to say about the upcoming presidential election.

The big story out of the poll is that Clinton is currently beating Trump among likely voters aged 18–29 by a margin of 61% to 25%. Romney got 37% of the youth vote in 2012, and McCain got 32% in 2008. Even accounting for undecideds, these numbers would put Trump under 30%.

Perhaps even more interesting, though, is the poll’s partisan voter data. There’s a lot of worry right now about what Sanders voters will do in November, and though that worry is mostly expressed in terms of young “Bernie Bro” types, there hasn’t been a huge amount of polling on the issue that breaks down the electorate by age.

So how’s Clinton doing with young Democrats? Pretty well. The poll has her beating Trump 83–5 with that group, which is almost on par with exit polls from 2012 and 2008.

Trump, on the other hand, beats Clinton by only 57–13 with young Republicans, who went for Romney 91–7 and McCain 84–15. That 30% undecided Republican figure is particularly ugly — Clinton’s undecideds among young Democrats are only 12%.

And on top of that, she’s winning young independents by better than two to one.

Looking at race, we find Clinton doing about as well as Obama with young black voters, and a bit better than Obama with young whites, though a lot of white voters remain undecided. Where the difference between the two candidates really shows up in the racial/ethnic breakdown is with young Latinos, who supported Obama 74–23 in 2012. In this poll, Clinton is up 71–9, which translates to Trump losing half of Romney’s young Latino vote even after you account for undecideds.

Oh, and Trump is losing young women to Clinton 57-15. McCain got 29% of young women, and Romney got 32%.

Short version? Young Sanders supporters aren’t a problem for Hillary right now, but young Republicans are a disaster for Trump. Young whites like Clinton fine, and young Latinos are flocking to her.

Young voters went for Obama in historic numbers in 2008, and a bit less decisively in 2012. Right now, Clinton’s polling with the youth vote looks more like Obama 2008 than Obama 2012, and if anything it’s a little better than the 2008 results. Given Clinton’s performance in the primaries, I think it’s safe to say that these numbers are less a reflection on her than on her opponent.

When it comes to the youth vote, Trump is the anti-Obama.

Yesterday I reported on the slipshod, unprofessional “social media reports” that consultancy group IDMLOCO provided to UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi this spring while she was trying to get out from under an avalanche of bad publicity. Those memos, leaked by the Sacramento Bee this week, show IDMLOCO to be … well, you can click the link and see what they show. Because today I came to say nice things.

This spring, a group of UC Davis students opposed to Katehi spent a month sitting in at the lobby outside her office on campus. In an email obtained by the Bee, IDMLOCO urged Katehi to let them protest.

“At this time,” the email read, “removal will only fuel the current negative conversation and drive focus back to the Occupy protester removal in 2011.” The writer went on to say that “though the sit-in has caused a spike in media volume, it will die down if the university does not cause incident.”

IDMLOCO’s assessment of the staying power of the sit-in story may have been a bit simplistic—while mass media coverage tends to drop off after a while, such occupations often build in local attention over time—the essence of their advice was correct. For an administration trying desperately to shed its image as a coterie of thugs, sending the cops to roust yet another peaceful protest could only end badly.

In 2016, most college presidents understand this fact intuitively. Although some are still inclined to send in the cops to put down campus demonstrations, the reflexive, casual use mass arrests and police violence is far less common in the United States today than it was six or eight years ago. There are a lot of reasons for this, and they’re worth exploring in detail, but in the history of the twenty-first century American student movement one moment stands out as a pivot point where state violence is concerned, and it’s this one:


Most college presidents have learned the lessons of Linda Katehi’s first, worst mistake. That Katehi still needs to pay people to tell her not to make it again is all the evidence we need that she’s unfit to serve as chancellor of the University of California, Davis.

The first scandal in the fact that UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi paid consulting firms like IDMLOCO more than $175,000 to improve her online reputation is, of course, that such spending is an absurd waste of public money. The second scandal is that scrubbing the internet of negative stories isn’t something you can do. The third is that even if you could do it (and again, you can’t), you shouldn’t—at least when you’re a public official. The fourth is that once this kind of thing gets out, as it inevitably will, it’s bound to make everything incalculably worse. The fifth is that Katehi lied to the public and to UC President Janet Napolitano about the previous four.

And now we have a sixth.

The Sacramento Bee has released three of the memos that consulting firm IDMLOCO prepared for Katehi in the wake of the public disclosure of her financial ties to for-profit college company DeVry, and they’re … well, they’re really bad.

Not bad in the sense of evil, though they are that. Not bad in the sense of reflecting poorly on Katehi and on UC Davis, though they’re that too. Mostly they’re bad in the sense of being transparently shoddy. Junk. Snake oil. Grift.

The first of the three memos, written not long after the story of Chancellor Katehi’s financial ties to for-profit college company DeVry broke, says the DeVry story made a big splash on social media after it appeared in the press, that it subsided a bit the following day, and that as of the time the memo was written it hadn’t completely evaporated yet. There are charts and everything, in case the reader might be inclined toward skepticism. The word “notably” appears several times, though never in reference to anything notable.

A follow-up IDMLOCO memo from two days later is similarly banal, boasting meaningless hour-by-hour “analysis” of Twitter traffic, a color-coded map without a legend, and various lists of half-digested data. (Note: See update at end of post for more on the map.)

What leaps out most in this second memo, though, is how incompetently written it is. A caustic tweet mocking one of Katehi’s supporters is presented as an example of people “coming to her defense.” Statistics are misreported and misinterpreted. And then there’s this:


Number four on that list of “Influencers” is me, and if you look closely you can see that everything in the entry except for my follower count is wrong. My name is misspelled, my academic title is inaccurate, the self-description from my Twitter profile (which should read “historian and advocate of American student activism”) is rendered incoherent and ungrammatical. Best of all, my Twitter username—the most salient fact about me in this context—is given as that of an egg with nine followers who has tweeted exactly once.

As it turns out, all three memos are riddled with obvious mistakes. Spambots are cited as high-relevance Twitter accounts, anonymous cranks are given equal time with respected journalists, tweets and blogposts are treated as interchangeable. And there’s never even a half-serious attempt to contextualize any of the data—to draw conclusions from it, to compare trends against benchmarks, to analyze content on anything but the most rote level.

It’s all garbage, is what I’m saying. It’s malarkey. It’s the kind of “social media guru” crap that anyone who has even the most basic competency in dealing with social networks knows to shun and mock.

But somehow IDMLOCO received a hefty paycheck to spew this sewage, and somehow nobody in UC Davis administration noticed they were throwing their money away—news reports reveal that IDMLOCO has received at least three separate contracts for social media consulting from Davis in the last 22 months.

So let’s all take a moment to give IDMLOCO something to write about in their next internal memo. Share this post on social media, or write your own, so that the next time some college is on the verge of getting taken they’ll at least have a chance to find out the truth.

Update | A helpful friend on Twitter reveals that the reason the map in the second memo doesn’t have a legend is that it was sloppily cut and pasted from the website Nuvi.

Second Update | Barely two hours after this post went live, it now appears on the top page of Google, Bing, and Ask results for the search term “IDMLOCO.”

I am available for all your social media consulting needs at reasonable rates.

About This Blog

n7772graysmall is the work of Angus Johnston, a historian and advocate of American student organizing.

To contact Angus, click here. For more about him, check out

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