In the past week, I've seen hundreds of pieces about why Donald Trump won and why Hillary Clinton lost. In the next few months, I'll see thousands more. So do we have an answer yet?

Ha ha. Of course not. For the most part, people are just blaming all the stuff they already believed in. I recommend skipping those pieces entirely. I haven't entirely made up my mind yet, but for the record, here's how I'm currently feeling about all the usual suspects:

James Comey. Yeah, I think he made a big difference. Pretty much everyone on both sides agrees that support for Clinton shifted in response to Comey's first letter and then again in response to his second letter. My guess is that his last minute intervention swayed the vote by about 2 percent. That's not a lot, but in this election it was the difference between winning and losing.

Whitelash. In general, I'm unconvinced. White voters made up 72 percent of the electorate in 2012 and 70 percent in 2016. This doesn't suggest that Trump motivated white voters to turn out in unprecedented numbers. Nor did white voters support Trump at a higher rate than they supported Romney. However, there's more to this....

The white working class. Maybe. They did vote for Trump in greater numbers than they voted for Romney, but that merely extended a trend that's decades old. The white working class has been getting steadily more Republican since Nixon, so it's not clear if Trump accelerated this trend or merely benefited from it. It's also possible that rural blue-collar whites had a substantial effect in a few key swing states (Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin) even if they didn't have a big effect nationally. We need more data here.

Racism. This one is tricky. Obviously Trump appealed to white racism, but it's not as if racism suddenly spiked in 2016. It's about the same as it's always been, and it's hard to see in the data that it made a big difference compared to previous years. However, we did learn something new and disheartening: it didn't make a difference. In 2012, 93 percent of Republicans voted for Romney. This year, 90 percent voted for Trump. It turns out that Republicans just don't care about explicit appeals to racism and misogyny. You can be as openly bigoted as you want, and you'll only lose 3 percent of the Republican vote.

Third parties. This doesn't explain anything. Third-party candidates did double their vote share compared to 2012, but so what? Gary Johnson and Jill Stein were candidates in 2012 too. If they got more votes this year, it's because the two major party candidates were less appealing than Obama and Romney—which is what we're trying to explain in the first place.

The fundamentals. This probably had a bigger effect than it's getting credit for. There are lots of models out there, but generally speaking they mostly suggested that 2016 was a very winnable year for Republicans. The economy was OK but not great; Democrats had been in office for eight years; and Obama's approval rating was mediocre. Clinton was fighting a modestly uphill battle the whole way.

The media. I think the press played a significant role in Trump's victory, though the evidence is all anecdotal. Two things were in play. First, Trump hacked cable news. He figured out that they're basically in the entertainment business and will provide endless coverage to anyone who drives ratings. The more outrageous he was, the more coverage he got. Second, the media's gullible willingness to cover Clinton's email woes so relentlessly hurt her badly. It's easy to say that Clinton has no one but herself to blame for this, and there's something to that. Still, even long after they should have known better, the press reported every new development in breathless tones and 60-point headlines—even though, time after time, it turned out there was nothing there. They got played—and what's worse, they got played by the same wide-ranging cast of Hillary haters that's played them before.

Sexism. I don't know. It obviously seems likely that it played a role, but I haven't seen any real data to back it up.

Lousy turnout from Democrats. Maybe. It appears that voter turnout in general was down from 2012, but only slightly—and once all the votes are counted it might be dead even. In any case, turnout seems to have affected Democrats and Republicans about equally. We need more data before we can say much about this.

Millennials. This clearly had an effect. Young voters abandoned Clinton in much greater numbers than older voters (about 5 percent vs. 1 percent, by my calculation). Likewise, third parties got about 9 percent of the millennial vote, compared to 3 percent of the older vote. There's not much question that Clinton did poorly among millennials, and this reduced her overall vote total by 1-2 percentage points. The question is why this happened. The options are (a) Clinton was a corrupt, neoliberal sellout that young voters were never likely to warm up to, or (b) Bernie Sanders convinced millions of millennials that Clinton was a corrupt, neoliberal sellout who didn't deserve their vote. Take your pick.

Voter suppression. This had, at most, a small effect. Among the key "firewall" states that Clinton lost, Pennsylvania has no voter ID law; Michigan has a loose ID law that allows you to vote without ID if you sign an affadavit; and Wisconsin has a strict photo ID law. Wisconsin was very close, and voter ID might have made the difference there. But Clinton still would have lost.

The electoral college. Yeah, there was that.

Once again: this is my best take on all of these theories right now. But the actual evidence is still weak. CPS data won't be available for years, and in the meantime we have exit poll data—which is suggestive but not much more—and a lot of people looking at county and precinct level data, trying to tease out who voted for whom. We'll eventually know more, but it will take a while. Until then, it's probably best not to be too sure of whatever your own pet theory is.

Except for James Comey, of course. That guy sucks.

So here's an interesting thing. Let's start off with Newt Gingrich, asked about Steve Bannon's advocacy of the alt-right:

The left is infuriated that anybody would challenge the legitimacy of their moral superiority. And so the left is hysterical...You get this with all the smears of Steve Bannon. I never heard about the alt-right until the nut cakes started writing about it.

Huh. It's just a lefty smear. Let's ask Bannon himself about this. Here is Sarah Posner:

"We're the platform for the alt-right," Bannon told me proudly when I interviewed him at the Republican National Convention (RNC) in July....During our interview, Bannon took credit for fomenting "this populist nationalist movement" long before Trump came on the scene. He credited Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.)—a Trump endorser and confidant who has suggested that civil rights advocacy groups were "un-American" and "Communist-inspired"—with laying the movement's groundwork.

I guess that clears things up. What's interesting here is that a fair number of longtime conservatives were #NeverTrumpers during the presidential campaign, and they got a very up-close-and-personal look at just what the alt-right was like. National Review's David French, for example, started a recent essay like this: "Trump’s alt-right trolls have subjected me and my family to an unending torrent of abuse that I wouldn’t wish on anyone." Click the link if you have a strong stomach. Today, Ian Tuttle joins him:

Under Bannon’s aegis, something ugly has taken hold of the Right.

In March 2012, Bannon — an investment banker-turned-conservative documentarian — became chairman of Breitbart News....Under Bannon’s leadership...the site built up its viewer base by catering to the alt-right, a small but vocal fringe of white supremacists, anti-Semites, and Internet trolls.

....The alt-right is not a “fabrication” of the media....If ethnic and religious minorities are worried, it’s in part because Donald Trump and his intimates have spent the last several months winking at one of the ugliest political movements in America’s recent history.

....Furthermore, as some on the left have been more attuned to than their conservative counterparts, the problem is not whether Bannon himself subscribes to a noxious strain of political nuttery; it’s that his de facto endorsement of it enables it to spread and to claim legitimacy, and that what is now a vicious fringe could, over time, become mainstream....To conservative and liberal alike, that he has the ear of the next president of the United States (a man of no particular convictions, and loyal to no particular principles) should be a source of grave concern.

Under normal circumstances, the entire conservative movement would be in Newt Gingrich's corner: Bannon is no racist and the alt-right is just a figment of the hysterical left. But during the campaign, lots of mainstream conservatives were targets of the alt-right. They saw firsthand just how vicious it is and just how real it is. This time, they can't write it off.

Bannon is an ugly, ugly character. He promoted the alt-right; he loves the right-wing nationalist parties of Europe; and his ex-wife says that he's personally anti-semitic. The movement he nurtured is dedicated to "white rights," loudly and proudly. And that has consequences: the FBI announced today that hate crimes were up 6 percent in 2015, "fueled by attacks on Muslims." Al Franken has this one right:

Federalist Society stalwart Saikrishna Prakash thinks we need to cut Donald Trump some slack:

Unlike his predecessors, Trump faces or is pursuing a slew of civil lawsuits, perhaps as many as 75....The news is awash with reports that Trump’s lawyers have asked for a delay of proceedings until inauguration, saying the president-elect is now too busy to participate. But it is hard to see how Trump would have more time for this suit after he moves into the White House. Being president is not a part-time job.

....The new president appears doomed to be distracted by his private concerns. Fortunately, a solution is within our grasp. Congress can pass a law that would put these kinds of civil actions on hold while President Trump remains in office. The law would have to provide that any lawsuit against a sitting president or president-elect, filed before or after he or she assumed office, would not proceed until the president left office. Such a law wouldn’t protect the president from impeachment or criminal prosecution, but it would ensure that Trump would not be distracted by civil litigation arising out of his personal life or business interests.

Ha ha ha. That's a good one, professor. But, um, no. There's a reason that IOKIYAR—It's OK If You're A Republican—has become such a widely-used acronym. It's because Republicans seem to think that anything goes when a Democrat is in office but Republicans should all be treated with kid gloves. Back in 1996, every Republican in the country thought it was a great idea to allow the Paula Jones lawsuit to go forward because, hey, Bill Clinton was in the White House. If it wrecked his agenda, that was great. If it provided an excuse to impeach him, that was great too. And anyway, spending a few hours in depositions is no big deal.

If that was true then, it's true now. Everyone who voted for Trump knew about Trump's penchant for lawsuits. It was all part of the package. The folks involved deserve their day in court.

For more on this, see Stephanie Mencimer's piece about the Paula Jones case. Someone might want to ask Kellyanne Conway's husband what he thinks of allowing sitting presidents to be sued in civil court.

Eliot Cohen is no Dick Cheney, but he is a longtime neocon who acted as a cheerleader for the Iraq War and just wrote a book subtitled The Limits of Soft Power and the Necessity of Military Force. In other words, not a guy who shies away from a tough-minded foreign policy. And yet, today he said this:

Cohen was a pretty public #NeverTrumper, so maybe this is nothing but personal animosity acting out. That happens all the time in Washington. Still, Trump's staffing decisions so far have all put power solely into the hands of loyalists who worked with him during the campaign, and most of the talk about future picks has been the same. There's not much sense that he's yet willing to branch out and choose experienced people who don't have any particular personal loyalty to him. In addition, the New York Times reports that Mike Pence's transition operation isn't going too well:

President-elect Donald J. Trump’s transition operation plunged into disarray on Tuesday with the abrupt resignation of Mike Rogers, who had handled national security matters, the second shake-up in a week on a team that has not yet begun to execute the daunting task of taking over the government.

…Mr. Pence took the helm of the effort on Friday after Mr. Trump unceremoniously removed Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who had been preparing with Obama administration officials for months to put the complex transition process into motion. Now the effort is frozen, senior White House officials say, because Mr. Pence has yet to sign legally required paperwork to allow his team to begin collaborating with President Obama’s aides on the handover.

Stay tuned.

Noted without comment:

Have there been any new email leaks lately? Or any news at all about Hillary Clinton's private server? I haven't noticed any. That's kind of funny, isn't it?

There are lots of wingnut sites that traffic in conspiracy theories and urban myths. But that's not all. There are also fake news sites, deliberately crafted to look real and fool people into believing outrageous stories. The most infamous at the moment is the Denver Guardian, which peddled a fake story written in pseudo-AP style about an FBI agent involved in investigating Hillary Clinton's emails who was found murdered. Sites like Google and Facebook should work harder to eliminate junk like this from their search results and news feeds, and in Facebook's case it turns out they have a pretty good idea of how to do it. But Gizmodo reports that they were afraid to pull the trigger:

According to two sources with direct knowledge of the company’s decision-making, Facebook executives conducted a wide-ranging review of products and policies earlier this year, with the goal of eliminating any appearance of political bias. One source said high-ranking officials were briefed on a planned News Feed update that would have identified fake or hoax news stories, but disproportionately impacted right-wing news sites by downgrading or removing that content from people’s feeds. According to the source, the update was shelved and never released to the public. It’s unclear if the update had other deficiencies that caused it to be scrubbed.

“They absolutely have the tools to shut down fake news,” said the source, who asked to remain anonymous citing fear of retribution from the company. The source added, “there was a lot of fear about upsetting conservatives after Trending Topics,” and that “a lot of product decisions got caught up in that.”

This demonstrates the benefit of working the refs. Back in May, an ex-Facebook employee accused Facebook of manipulating its Trending Topics feed to favor liberal stories. Conservatives naturally went ballistic, and their shitstorm of abuse worked: Facebook caved in and agreed to change its process even though there was never any real evidence of liberal bias in the first place.

That was a victory, but not the real victory. The real victory is that it put the fear of God into Facebook, which became hypersensitive to anything that might affect right-wing sites—even if those sites were plainly bogus. And as Mike Caulfield points out, bogus right-wing stories like the Denver Guardian's get a lot of attention on Facebook:

To put this in perspective, if you combined the top stories from the Boston Globe, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and LA Times, they still had only 5% the viewership of an article from a fake news site that intimated strongly that the Democratic Presidential candidate had had a husband and wife murdered then burned to cover up her crimes.

Facebook probably could have stopped this kind of thing, but their earlier run-in over the Trending Topics feed made them afraid to do anything. That's how Facebook ended up promoting dozens of right-wing conspiracy theories during a presidential campaign. They had been worked.

Ed Kilgore says that it's not clear yet how much of Donald Trump's appeal to rural white voters is economic:

We may soon have an answer in rural communities that still largely depend on agriculture for jobs and income. While it did not get much, if any, national attention during the presidential general election, it may soon matter a lot that Trump is largely at odds with the farm lobby when it comes to two of his signature economic policy issues: his opposition to trade agreements and to comprehensive immigration reform. The American Farm Bureau has traditionally viewed trade agreements — particularly those with fast-growing Asian countries — as creating export opportunity for farmers and agribusinesses. It strongly supported the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement that Trump (and eventually Clinton) opposed. And it has also favored comprehensive immigration reform in order to stabilize the farm-labor supply and protect undocumented migrant farm workers.

I'm not buying it. First off, take a look at the chart on the right—and pay special attention to the units on the vertical axis. It comes from the International Trade Commission's report on the "likely impact" of TPP. In the agricultural sector, it's minuscule. By ditching the TPP, farm employment will lose a benefit of 0.031 percent per year. That amounts to maybe a hundred workers each in the biggest Midwest agricultural states.

You wouldn't notice this if you lost that many jobs, let alone merely failed to gain them. And that's assuming that Trump kills TPP in the first place, rather than renegotiating a few bits and pieces and then declaring victory. Either way, it's just not big enough for any of his supporters to notice.

As for migrant farm workers, the business community has been in favor of comprehensive immigration reform forever. Likewise, the base of the Republican Party has been against it forever. There's nothing new here, and nothing that's likely to split Trump's coalition.

I've seen a lot of complaints today that the press is ignoring or "normalizing" Steve Bannon's ties to the racist alt-right. I have plenty of beefs with the way the Trump campaign was covered, but at least for now, credit where it's due: no one is ignoring this. Here's a roundup of headlines from today. Even Fox News felt obligated to mention it.

Here's a chart for you:

What this shows is that states with the smallest population of illegal immigrants had the strongest vote for Donald Trump. It's not an especially strong correlation, and I wouldn't draw any grand conclusions from it, but it sure doesn't seem to suggest that actual loss of jobs to illegal immigrants is what drives support for Trump and his wall. If anything, it's just the opposite.

State-level popular vote data here. Immigration data here.