Could Bernie Sanders have beaten Donald Trump? I think there's almost no chance of that, but since the topic keeps coming up, I feel like I ought to explain why. I know this won't persuade anyone, but the reason is simple: He's just too liberal.

Here's a chart of every Democratic presidential candidate in the postwar era—plus Bernie Sanders. It shows them from least liberal to most liberal. I used NOMINATE to gauge how liberal senators were; this paper to fill in the governors; and a bit of personal judgment to shift a few candidates around. I'm not pretending I got this perfect, but I think it's in the ballpark. Feel free to move folks around if you like.

Very roughly, the scores show how the candidates compare to all of Congress: LBJ was more liberal than two-thirds of Congress, while Bernie Sanders is more liberal than 99 percent of Congress. Winning candidates are in red.

No Democratic candidate with a score below 15 has ever won the presidency. Bernie Sanders, needless to say, is way below 15. There's not a snowball's chance that he could have won the presidency.

Like I said, I don't expect this to persuade anyone. You can always make up a dozen reasons why this time would have been different. But it wouldn't have been. In the end, Trump was treated like an ordinary Republican. Hillary Clinton, after being forced a bit to the left during the primaries, was treated like an ordinary Democrat who was right on the bubble of being too liberal for the country. Both candidates had plenty of personal flaws that they used against each other, but Sanders did too. They were just different than Clinton's. Republicans would have twisted him up like a wet rag and tossed him down the drain.

John Podesta, chair of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, is pissed:

The more we learn about the Russian plot to sabotage Hillary Clinton’s campaign and elect Donald Trump, and the failure of the FBI to adequately respond, the more shocking it gets....I was surprised to read in the New York Times that when the FBI discovered the Russian attack in September 2015, it failed to send even a single agent to warn senior Democratic National Committee officials. Instead, messages were left with the DNC IT “help desk.”

....Comparing the FBI’s massive response to the overblown email scandal with the seemingly lackadaisical response to the very real Russian plot to subvert a national election shows that something is deeply broken at the FBI.

[FBI Director James] Comey justified his handling of the email case by citing “intense public interest.” He felt so strongly that he broke long-established precedent and disregarded strong guidance from the Justice Department with his infamous letter just 11 days before the election. Yet he refused to join the rest of the intelligence community in a statement about the Russian cyberattack because he reportedly didn’t want to appear “political.” And both before and after the election, the FBI has refused to say whether it is investigating Trump’s ties to Russia.

I'm surprised that Democrats have been so muted about the FBI's role in the election. If something like this had happened to Republicans, it would be flogged daily on Rush, Drudge, Fox News, Breitbart, the Wall Street Journal, and the Facebook pages of everyone from Sarah Palin to Alex Jones. But Democrats have been almost pathologically afraid to talk about it, apparently cowed by the possibility that Republicans will mock them for making excuses about their election loss.

That's crazy. Here's a quick review:

  • Goaded by rabid congressional Republicans, the FBI spent prodigious resources on Hillary Clinton's email server, even though there was never a shred of evidence that national security had been compromised in any way.
     
  • In July, Comey broke precedent by calling a press conference and delivering a self-righteous speech about Clinton's "carelessness." Why did he do this, when FBI protocol is to decline comment on cases after investigations are finished? The answer is almost certainly that he wanted to insulate himself from Republican criticism for not recommending charges against Clinton.
     
  • Weeks later, Comey finally released the investigation's interview notes. Only the most devoted reader of bureaucratic prose was likely to suss out their real meaning: there had never been much of a case in the first place, and contrary to Comey's accusation, Clinton had never been careless with classified material. Like everyone else, she and her staff worked hard to exchange only unclassified material on unclassified networks (state.gov, gmail, private servers, etc.). There was a difference of opinion between State and CIA about what counted as classified, but this squabbling had been going on forever, and had driven previous Secretaries of State nuts too.
     
  • As Podesta notes, the FBI took a preposterously lackadaisical attitude toward Russia's hacking of the DNC server. Outside of a badly-written novel, it's hard to believe that any law enforcement organization would do as little as the FBI did against a major assault from a hostile foreign power aimed at one of America's main political parties.
     
  • Even when plenty of evidence was amassed about Russia's actions, Comey downplayed it in private briefings. This gave Republicans the cover they needed to insist that Obama not mention anything about it during the campaign.
     
  • Two weeks before Election Day, Comey authorized a search of Anthony Weiner's laptop, even though there was no reason to think any of the emails it contained were new, or that any of them posed a threat to national security. Then he issued a public letter making sure that everyone knew about the new evidence, and carefully phrased the letter in the most damaging possible way.

Any one of these things could be just an accident. Put them all together, and you need to be pretty obtuse not to see the partisan pattern. In every single case, Comey and the FBI did what was best for Republicans and worst for Democrats. In. Every. Single. Case.

If you want to believe this is just a coincidence, go ahead. But nobody with a room temperature IQ credits that. The FBI has spent the entire past year doing everything it could to favor one party over the other in a presidential campaign. Democrats ought to be in a seething fury about this. Instead, they're arguing about a few thousand white rural voters in Wisconsin and whether Hillary Clinton should have visited Michigan a few more times in October.

Over at the New York Times today, Eduardo Porter takes on the notion that working-class whites ignore their economic interests and vote for Republicans because of social issues like abortion and guns:

This view fits a common narrative among liberal analysts of American politics....But it largely misses the mark....There are almost nine million more jobs than there were at the previous peak in November 2007, just before the economy tumbled into recession. But the gains have not been evenly distributed.

Despite accounting for less than 15 percent of the labor force, Hispanics got more than half of the net additional jobs. Blacks and Asians also gained millions more jobs than they lost. But whites, who account for 78 percent of the labor force, lost more than 700,000 net jobs over the nine years.

This is very badly misleading. Let's plow our way through a fistful of charts to get at the truth. First up, here's the employment level:

Porter is right: if you look at the raw number of jobs, blacks and Hispanics have gotten most of them. Whites are at about the same level as they were in 2007. How can this be? That's easy: it's because the white population is at about the same level as it was in 2007

Whites have the same number of jobs as in 2007 because there are the same number of whites as in 2007. Hispanics and blacks have more jobs because there are more Hispanics and blacks. This means nothing. What you'd like to know is what percentage of each group is employed:

These numbers rattle around a bit. Whites did better in 2010-13 while blacks and Hispanics have done better in 2014-16. At this point they're all within a few points of each other. Now put all this together and you get the unemployment rate:

All three groups are at nearly the exact same level as they were in 2007, which means that all the new jobs have been shared out equally by population. Whites have done about as well as anyone else, and since whites started out ahead, it means they're still ahead. Here's the unemployment rate today, which is nearly identical to the rate in 2007:

  • Whites: 4.2 percent
  • Hispanics: 5.7 percent
  • Blacks: 8.1 percent

If you take a look at this stuff without accounting for population growth you'll be badly misled. When it comes to jobs, whites had it better than blacks and Hispanics in 2007 and they still do today by about the same amount. They haven't been screwed by the job market any more than anyone else, and they haven't gained or lost ground. After ten years with a huge recession in between, we're all back where we started.

After reading my post this morning about voter turnout rates, a friend asks if I can break this down by state. His wish is my command:

Nationally, voter turnout was up about 1 point from 2012. However, in Oregon it was up about 5 percent. In Wisconsin it was down about 3 percent. Of the three big Midwestern swing states, Wisconsin was down 3.5 points, Pennsylvania was up 2.7 points, and Michigan was up 0.9 points.

I don't know if there are any conclusions to be drawn from this. Nothing obvious pops out at me.

UPDATE: The initial version of this post had all the numbers reversed. It's now correct.

The Wall Street Journal reports that the Chinese economy isn't looking great right now:

Chinese authorities halted trading in key bond futures for the first time on Thursday, as panicky investors sold the securities on concern that a long, credit-fueled bull market was coming to an end amid slowing growth, capital outflows and heightened government concern about asset bubbles. China’s 10-year and 5-year Treasury bond futures recorded their biggest ever drops in early trading, falling by 2% and 1.2%, respectively, prompting exchange authorities here to suspend the securities. Trading resumed only after China’s central bank injected around $22 billion into the short-term money market.

Just a reminder: when bond yields go up, it means bond prices are going down. They're going down because everyone is selling. And everyone is selling because they want to put their money someplace else—preferably someplace non-Chinese.

If China's economy really is in trouble, it means that Donald Trump could have more leverage over China than he expected. He won't need a 35 percent tariff. Even a modest targeted tariff on certain key goods could be enough to rattle the Chinese economy even further and bring them to the negotiating table.

Of course, the Chinese might refuse to be bullied and retaliate instead, even if it hurts their own economy. Who knows? What's more, if China's economy really does tank, that will affect the US as well—and not in a way that brings any jobs back. More likely, it would slow global growth and put Americans out of work.

Welcome to real-world economics, Mr. Trump. Slogans don't work here, and the iron triangle constricts your options just as much as it does any other president. I hope you're ready.

After a month of desperately trying to prevent Democrat Roy Cooper from taking office even though he won the gubernatorial election, the North Carolina Legislature has changed tack:

After calling a surprise special session, Republican lawmakers who control the General Assembly introduced measures to end the governor's control over election boards, to require State Senate approval of the new governor's cabinet members and to strip his power to appoint University of North Carolina trustees.

Republicans also proposed to substantially cut the number of state employees who serve at the governor's pleasure, giving Civil Service protections to hundreds of managers in state agencies who have executed the priorities of Gov. Pat McCrory, a Republican.

Unbelievable. Every time you think Republicans can't get any worse, they get worse. I'm curious: Have any conservatives denounced this banana republic behavior? Breitbart? The Weekly Standard? National Review? The Wall Street Journal? Anyone?

Was Hillary Clinton such a crippled, establishment candidate that voters stayed home in droves because they were so unenthusiastic about her? With all the votes now counted, here's the raw data:

The 2016 election had the third-highest turnout of the past ten elections, so there was no general lack of enthusiasm. However, the Democratic share of the turnout was a couple of points lower than usual. I don't think we have the data to know exactly what caused this, but the most likely explanation is that a small number of dedicated Sanders supporters decided to stay home rather than vote for Clinton. The Republican share of the turnout was about the same as in 2012.

Roughly speaking, there weren't any major shifts in turnout, and if you dig down into the exit poll data you won't find any big shifts in vote share by race or income or age. You'll mostly find a few small shifts (negative among young voters, people of color, and high school grads, positive among college grads, married women, and high-income voters) but only of a few points. For political professionals there are some lessons here, but in a broad, national direction sense, there's really not a lot to see.

Two days after promising that he will be "leaving" his businesses, which will henceforth be run by Eric and Don Jr., Donald Trump held a "private" get-together with various leaders of Silicon Valley firms, presumably to discuss his plans as president. Neither the assembled CEOs nor Trump revealed what they had talked about, but there were a couple of outside business executives who got a detailed briefing: his children.

It's just corruption all the way down and Trump doesn't care who knows it. Most presidents would at least do stuff like this on the sly, via telephone calls or personal visits. But Trump invites his kids to meetings and then brings in the cameras to make sure everyone knows they're there. He knows there's nothing we can do about it, and nothing that Republicans in Congress will do about it, so he figures he can just thumb his nose at the entire country. I guess he's right.

NBC News tells us today that the CIA assessment of Russia's hacking goes further than previous reports have suggested:

Two senior officials with direct access to the information say new intelligence shows that Putin personally directed how hacked material from Democrats was leaked and otherwise used. The intelligence came from diplomatic sources and spies working for U.S. allies, the officials said.

Putin's objectives were multifaceted, a high-level intelligence source told NBC News. What began as a "vendetta" against Hillary Clinton morphed into an effort to show corruption in American politics and to "split off key American allies by creating the image that [other countries] couldn't depend on the U.S. to be a credible global leader anymore," the official said.

....The latest intelligence said to show Putin's involvement goes much further than the information the U.S. was relying on in October, when all 17 intelligence agencies signed onto a statement attributing the Democratic National Committee hack to Russia....Now the U.S has solid information tying Putin to the operation, the intelligence officials say. Their use of the term "high confidence" implies that the intelligence is nearly incontrovertible.

This comes from William Arkin, Ken Dilanian, and Cynthia McFadden, who are all pretty careful reporters. Arkin adds this via Twitter:

This makes sense. Nobody had any idea that Donald Trump would run, let alone win the Republican nomination, when the hacking operation started. And even after Trump did win the nomination, nobody thought he had much of a chance to win. All of Putin's hacking would have been for nought if he hadn't had some help from James Comey and a rogue group of FBI agents in New York.

So yes, Putin got lucky. But that's the way intelligence operations work. You try a lot of stuff and hope that a fraction of it pans out. This probably seemed like a low-cost-low-probability exercise when it was first started, and ended up succeeding beyond anyone's wildest dreams.

At the Wall Street Journal today, Damian Paletta notes that Donald Trump is announcing his cabinet picks at a faster pace than his predecessors:

But there also are signs some of Mr. Trump’s choices haven’t been rigorously vetted during the informal deliberation process....That leaves open the possibility that the first officials to study such material will be the Senate committees that next year will conduct the confirmation hearings, a process that can be grueling and disqualifying.

....People involved in the process said Mr. Trump is running an unorthodox transition process—much like his campaign. He is making some decisions based on gut instinct and his chemistry with people, and at times has revealed the name of a nominee before his transition team was ready for the announcement.

Well, that's about what we expect from Trump. But the Journal's headline writer concludes that this means Trump's picks are "likely to face heavy Senate vetting." Raise your hand if you believe that. Anyone?