Citizen Science

The incoming administration has not shown a great deal of interest in climate change or in science generally so it is up to those of us who care to do our part.  We can contribute to worthy organizations.  We can participate in protests against fracking and building more pipelines.  And we can submit observations to organizations that depend on Citizen Science.

I think we have all heard of the canary in the coal mine, but patterns of bird migration are also signs of change.  This will be the 4th winter my husband and I have participated in Feeder Watch.  Before that, we reported for the Christmas Day Count and other particular days.  If you live in the United States or in Canada and have at least one bird feeder, you can sign up for a modest cost and report the birds that come visit.  It is pretty simple.  Sign-up and you get a packet that explains what to do and how to report. Pick two consecutive days a week and report through the winter.

A Tufted Titmouse at one of our feeder a few winters ago.

A Tufted Titmouse at one of our feeder a few winters ago.

But what if you don’t have a feeder or live in the US or Canada?  Regardless of where you live you can report what you see on eBird.  I report birds we see on walks and when we travel as well as bird during Feeder Watch.  When we started, I could tell Blue Jays and Cardinals from House Sparrows, but saw many birds I couldn’t identify.   Gradually, you can learn who almost everyone is – even the same individual who comes often to the feeder.  Feeder Watch provides a helpful chart of common birds and Cornell University has a great online ID program.

If you are like me and feeling depressed about the results of the recent election, take some positive action and sign up for Feeder Watch.

 

 

Reflections Post-Election Day Two

I’ve calmed down a little but the numbness hasn’t gone away yet.  I’m not sure what Trump really believes since he really doesn’t have any policy positions.  Plus, he was a Democrat until pretty recently.  Either he will implement policies that are contrary to almost everything I believe or he will be disappointing his voters.  But that is in the future.  For now, I’d like to analyze my own party.

Bernie Sanders speaks near Hillary Clinton

Bernie Sanders speaks near Hillary Clinton

Bottom line:  I think they should have nominated Bernie.

This will annoy all my women (and some men) who supported Hillary Clinton from the beginning and who were really invested in seeing a women be elected President.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’d love to live long enough to see a woman elected, but I was never sure Clinton was the right candidate.  OK.  Maybe this is sour grapes, but I’m not the only one who thinks that Bernie could have won.  The best analysis I’ve seen so far is by Fredrik deBoer in the Washington Post.

Donald Trump’s stunning victory is less surprising when we remember a simple fact: Hillary Clinton is a deeply unpopular politician. She won a hotly contested primary victory against a uniquely popular candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders. In her place, could he have beaten Trump?

That Clinton has unusually high unfavorables has been true for decades. Indeed, it has been a steady fact of her political life. She has annually ranked among the least-liked politicians on the national stage since she was the first lady. In recent years, her low favorability rating was matched only by that of her opponent, animated hate Muppet Donald Trump. In contrast, Sanders enjoys very high popularity, ranking as the most popular senator for two years in a row. Nationally, his favorability rating is more than 10 points higher than Clinton’s, and his unfavorability rating is more than 15 points lower. This popularity would have been a real asset on the campaign trail.

deBoer points out that Bernie’s big primary wins were in the Rust Belt, most notably Michigan.

But turnout matters in a close election, and here she suffered significantly compared with President Obama in both 2008 and 2012. In Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties in Michigan, the heart of Detroit’s black voting bloc, Clinton won 55 percent of the vote — compared with 69 percent for Obama in 2012. Meanwhile, it was in Michigan that Sanders won his most shocking primary victory, probably through the same forces that hurt Clinton on Election Day: Her agenda did not seem to offer much hope to those hurt by deindustrialization and outsourcing. We can only guess how much better he might have performed there, or in Ohio and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (which he also won in a surprising primary upset) had he been the nominee. But there is little doubt now that his success in the Rust Belt was a canary in the coal mine for the Clinton campaign, a now-obvious sign that she was in trouble.

deBoer goes on to analyze image, something I had never thought of doing.  It is true that Bill and Hillary Clinton are very tied to the Eastern elite – or if you are on the West Coast, the Hollywood elite – at least in the minds of many voters.

If Clinton’s campaign seemed bizarrely pitched toward the interests of those who were always going to vote for her anyway, Sanders was uniquely positioned to reach voters with a different sensibility. In contrast to the millionaire polish of the Clinton camp, Sanders has a somewhat shambolic, grandfatherly presence that conveys an unpretentious and approachable character. Clinton struggled to use Trump’s wealth against him, in large measure because she herself is an immensely wealthy woman. (In fact, she frequently suggested that Trump wasn’t really all that richa ludicrous line of attack from a primary in which Sanders’s play for Nordic-style egalitarian policies won him favor in battleground states such as Pennsylvania.) Sanders would have been able to contrast Trump’s ostentatious wealth with his own shabby aesthetic. The message writes itself: Trump talks a good game about economic anxiety, but why would you trust this New York billionaire to put your interests first?

Bernie also had crossover voters which she did not.  Turnout was also an issue.

Indeed, turnout overall was a major problem for the Clinton campaign; though not all votes are yet counted, it’s clear that Clinton received millions fewer votes than Obama in several states, while Trump frequently received more than Mitt Romney did in 2012. Nor did Clinton enjoy the benefits of party crossovers. There was much talk of “Clinton Republicans” who would, in the spirit of the Reagan Democrats, cross party lines to oppose Trump. But according to the exit polling of the New York Times, more Democrats crossed over and voted for Trump than Republicans crossed over and voted for Clinton. Sanders, notably, never had trouble drawing crowds, and in the Democratic primary campaign, turnoutrebounded from 2012 lows. Whether that rebound was a result of voters’ enthusiasm for Sanders or the opposite is hard to say; what’s clear is that Clinton wasn’t able to get out the vote herself and that she lost both Democrats and independents to Trump, while Sanders had notorious luckwith independent voters.

Neither deBoer or I discount the sexist attacks that have dogged her since she was first lady of Arkansas, but if we want to elect a woman, I think we need to find one with less baggage.  None of the many investigations have resulted in any findings or prosecutions, but the sheer number of them led many to think “where there is smoke, there must be fire.”

Of course, we don’t know if Bernie could have actually pulled it off, but given what happened Tuesday and given his primary record, it seems clear he probably would have had a better chance.

There will be years of recriminations in our future. Many Democrats will, as is their habit, conclude that the fault lies with the left wing of the party — that progressive party activists did not sufficiently support the candidate or that leftward attacks weakened Clinton. But that notion hides a simple fact: In an election of immense importance, Democratic leadership and voters rejected a hugely popular candidate in favor of a deeply unpopular one and are now paying the price. Some of us will be asking why for years to come.

Photograph:  Melina Mara/The Washington Post

So what the hell happened?

Everyone was wrong except Donald Trump.  How could that have happened?  I didn’t blog at all during the campaign season because everyone seemed to be writing what I would write, but this post is meant to be therapeutic.

First, let me make it clear that my heart was with Bernie Sanders.  He is my Senator; I like his politics.  But when I voted yesterday I thought it was a vote for the first woman president, Hillary Clinton and that was exciting, but I did wear my pin that said “My heart’s with Bernie, but I’m voting for Hillary”.  So what happened?

I haven’t read any of the papers or clicked on any email or looked at my Facebook feed this morning so this is all my own take:  The Democrats screwed up.  We all knew the country was divided and the election would hinge on turnout, but the Democratic party, as it turns out, did not have a deep bench.  I believe that in nominating a candidate with a lot of baggage, (most of which was not true, but no one could ever convince people of that) we set ourselves up for what happened.  She just couldn’t excite enough people.  Yes, she had a ground game and, yes, she got people out to vote but she lost too many people who got discouraged by various voter suppression rumors and didn’t vote, decided they didn’t like Trump, but didn’t like her either, as well as a fair chunk of Bernie supporters.

Bernie did his best for her, but it just wasn’t enough.  I await the analysis, but based on what I saw last night around midnight, Johnson and Stein took just enough votes for Trump to win in some close races.

I have many friends who were Trump voters, some reluctantly, and to them I say, “have fun trying to actually govern.”  To those who voted third party:  This is why Bernie told you not to do it.

It should be an interesting next few years and I’m back to blogging.