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Father of Clarity
Each day the same now:I wake her up—she’s a womanin the making, and me,I’m still a boy, given this responsibilityof another, and my boy,he’s visiting his mother, onethousand miles away. We driveto school each morning, discussingthe state of all things—how she will need to use my razorblades, for my legs, she says,and armpits, except she doesn’t sayarmpits, she says for under my arms.I mention the color of the skyat 8:15 a.m. being something likethe color of her eyes seconds after she was born.She responds by asking mewhat verisimilitude means, and I tell herto look it up. These arethe particulars of raising Rumi.Not like when we would once hold handsand write our names in the snow.Not like when she would fall asleepin the bicycle seat tethered to my backas we rode down Colorado pathways.This is El Paso, the face withoutmakeup. We cannot hide behindhiding any longer. The dry cycle never dries the firstgo-round. Living alone is learningto speak for both sidesof the conversation. And God,isn’t this true? And God replies,it is only verisimilitude. Lately, I don’t havemuch to say, except I wishI could go back to Hejira andthat rainy cafe in Asheville, North Carolina.I wish I could go back to the backof the beginning, try again. Like a video game,hit the reset button, throwa love tantrum, force round pegs to fitmy square anatomy. I’ve always wanteda kitchen with a view of both sides,and now I’ve got two, El Paso / Juárez.It’s like looking through a kaleidoscope that refractsthe surreality of our days. See here,a mountain preaches, with accent:La Biblia es la verdad, leéla.See here, the river howls in American twang:Go back to where you come from.Between the two, a chaparral bows:This is not what brotherhood looks like.This is not the conversation for Rumi, though.She reminds me of this. Held up the bird.Unnamed still. Trained it to land on her finger.How it returns to its cage when it fliestoo far. I’m the opposite. I return to flyingwhen I’m too far in the cage.She’s always been a friend-soulto me. More than a daughter.The hierarchy is this: I make hereggs with arugula and toast. She eats them.We attempt yoga in the mornings.There is a peacefulness in our routine.We don’t speak about the daywhen all of thiswill be nothing morethan a poem.theatlantic.com
Editor’s Note: Read an interview with Hernan Diaz about his writing process. We’re gathered around Victor’s body. I can’t look at his face and don’t want to look down like the others. Find myself staring at the glass of water on the counter. The nervous little ripples. This is why I know the hum is there, although I can’t hear it. None of us has ever heard the hum, because we were born into it. But the surface of the water, a crumb dancing on the table, or, sometimes, my face trembling in the mirror reminds me of it. Even if I plug my ears or listen to music, the hum is in my body. From the floor and the walls to my skin and my bones. So I look at the rippling water and think that with Victor, we’ve lost silence. It was only in his head, of course. A memory. But now we don’t even have that. Now there’s only the hum.When all lights are out, darkness is total and loneliness absolute. An infinite cage. That’s why they’re seldom turned off. And that’s why we all giggled with relief when Victor came in, holding the cake in one hand and a small flashlight in the other. It was pointed at the ceiling, like a candle. Everyone started to sing. As Victor walked toward me, the light under his chin magnified different parts of his face with each step. The blood vessels glowing in his nostrils. The confusion of his white beard. During the last “happy,” the entire cavern of his mouth was lit. One of his molars was blue. Who knows what he’d recast to make it. I closed my eyes, made a wish, and blew on the flashlight, which Victor switched off just in time. They all cheered. The lights were immediately turned back on.“What did you wish for?” Fei asked.“To see real fire one day.”This made everybody uncomfortable for a second.“That’s beautiful,” Victor whispered in my ear.Of course, that wasn’t my real wish. I felt bad lying to Victor, but everyone knows that wishes won’t come true if you say them out loud.Nan gave me a new game she’d made especially for me. In it, I was a centaur and had to explore a valley looking for data and things that’d allow me to become either a human or a horse. The graphics were amazing. Lu’s gift was to take over my full cleaning shift whenever I chose. Nefti promised to repair the loose wall paneling behind my bunk. Fei had made me a much-needed new shirt, and Victor gave me a book. My first actual book. He’d printed it, cut the pages to the right size, and bound it between cardboard covers. I could tell the others thought it was wasteful.“You have to read Amanda Gibbons on the page. At least once,” he told me. And then, to the others, “She can recycle it when she’s done.”“I’ll never recycle it,” I said, leafing through the book and then putting my nose into it.“Incredible,” Victor said. “That’s exactly what many of us used to do. How did you know to smell the book?”“How could you not?” Don’t know what I was expecting, but it had no smell at all.Then we all had cake. Except for Sam, who’d just been reclicked. She had that face, shut against the stench that hits you when you come back. And sort of looking inward, figuring it all out again.I couldn’t fall asleep after the party. Above me, in her bunk, Lu kept turning. The loose wall panel made noise every time she moved. That’s not what kept me awake, though. Thirteen years old. The real work began now, they said. But I’d also have more freedom. I’d be attending all the meetings. Thirteen. Something about the number itself, and not just because of the whole “teen” thing. There was a hardness, a seriousness to it that I couldn’t explain but could only feel. The youngest here but no longer a child, as everyone kept reminding me. Tried to read my book but couldn’t focus. Kept turning it in my hands, flipping through the pages. Thirteen. I opened Nan’s game. There I was, half human, half horse. Our bodies blended perfectly. Why did I have to choose? I trotted around a forest, thinking about Victor. He looked worried. Old. He was old. After me came Nan (15) then Lu (17) then Fei (19) then Sam (22) then Dit (25) then Delia (28?) then Nefti (31?) then Bibi (33?) then Robin (37). Then Victor (68).Lu kept turning. And across the aisle, Delia started snoring. I galloped through a meadow, toward a waterfall.The following morning Nan, Lu, and I had class. The lessons kept getting shorter. Bibi seemed to have given up. Didn’t really teach anymore—barely made sure we were reading instead of playing games. Lessons used to be so much fun. Especially history. We’d argue about the fall of the Western Roman Empire, Cortés and Montezuma, the Beijing campaign, the Canadian War. But something had changed. Now we just sat there. Nan and Lu often got away with playing games. Out of the blue, they’d have sudden laughing fits together. Bibi didn’t care. Seemed gone. Truth is we were all too old for school.After class, on my way to the bridge, I saw Sam. She was looking out, her forehead resting on the glass. Perhaps I upset the air as I approached her. She retched.“You should drink a lot of water,” I said. “Really helps.”“It smells here. I smell.”“You’ll get used to it. They told you that, right?”She turned toward me.“Have you ever been reclicked?” she asked.Her voice was raspy. It was probably her first time talking after the procedure.“Many times.”“Is it always like this?”“Always. But you’ll feel better by tomorrow. And then you should enjoy the novelty of it all, while it lasts.”“I don’t understand. I remember everyone here. Remember you. But can’t say exactly from where. Or who you are, really.” She coughed. “And I remember myself. My name. My face. But not where I come from. And can’t remember this place. Just went to the kitchen. Had never been there. But knew exactly where the plates and cups were.”“You’re meant to forget most things about this place, but not who you are. They told you that, right? And it’s not perfect, what’s left in or out.”“Have I been reclicked before?”“Many times.”Her eyes demanded more.“Every two years or so,” I said. “Depends.”“On what?”“How stir-crazy we’re going. Nobody’s made it for more than five years.”“Was I born here?”“We all were. Except for Victor. He’s the last from the previous generation.”“Who are my parents?”Had no one given Sam the tutorial after reclicking her?“We come from the nursery. If it makes you feel better, I also come from the nursery. We all do. Except for Victor.”“I’m 22 years old.”I waited to see what she’d say next. But that was it. She put her forehead back on the glass. “Come with me to the bridge. The view is even better from there. And it’ll be like the first time for you.”“Nice shirt,” Victor said when he met me at the nursery a little later.“Fei is the best. Sorry I haven’t started reading the book yet.”“Ah, you have to find the right time.”The work at the nursery is boring but requires full attention. No room for mistakes. That’s why people work in pairs. To check on each other. I was assigned my first shift there the day after my birthday. A rite of passage, everyone called it at the party. I’d work with Victor, who’d teach me all about the place.“The code changes every week,” he said as he punched in a number and opened the door. “We want to make sure only the two people in charge get in. Here, want to set the new code?”I put in four digits.“French Revolution?” Victor chuckled. “Love it.”We went in. I’d visited the nursery countless times before. It’s the only place on board that’s spotless and new. Nothing’s ever taken away from there to be recycled or repurposed. Perhaps I wouldn’t notice how run-down the rest of the ship is if it weren’t for how pristine the nursery looks. Still, I’d always found the long rows of drawers and cabinets unremarkable, despite knowing what was in them. But now it was different. The sense of responsibility was breathtaking. Almost suffocating.“Multitudes,” I said.“Hey, that’s my line!” Victor said, jokingly bumping into my shoulder.True. It was his line. Whenever we visited the nursery, usually with Bibi for some school assignment, Victor would point to the middle section and say, “These drawers contain multitudes. These are our descendants.” And then, gesturing to different cabinets, he’d continue, “And here’s every tree and every bird. Over there, every flower and every bee. And there, every fish and the fish it’ll feed and the fish it’ll feed.” And so on. A bit in jest but also serious.“All right, let’s get to work,” Victor said. “I know this is weird, but I must ask you to recite the protocols into the camera. For the record. Everyone has to do it on their first day. And we all have to do it after being reclicked. We need to make sure people understand and remember the importance of this task and know every step when they begin.”I looked up at the camera in the corner where two walls met the ceiling and recited the passage I’d spent days memorizing:“The nursery is the core of this ship and its mission. The nursery is life itself: the most extensive collection of flora and fauna, including humans in their widest genetic diversity. To preserve this core is the crew’s main duty. No other task or circumstance may ever come before this one central mission: ensuring that the seeds in this ship be sown in new ground.” After this, I quoted the description of each of the 21 protocols, including vitals, inspection of the gestation chambers, power and safety controls, all six backup checks, and evacuation and rescue procedures.“Flawless,” Victor said. “Now let’s actually make sure everything’s okay.”We went through every screen on every drawer, testing the systems and reading the numbers out loud to each other—and for the camera.Halfway into this mind-numbing process, I asked for a break.“Nope. Can’t waste their time,” Victor said, waving at the camera. “In fact, in a couple of weeks it’ll be your turn to be on the other side, supervising the next pair as they read the numbers. Isn’t it fun to finally be a grown-up?”Nan, Lu, and Fei were by the recycling chute talking in excited whispers but stopped when they saw me come over with my chair and a bag full of cutlery. They weren’t that much older, but they treated me like a baby. For a short time, the four of us were close friends. But as they got older, one by one they left the kids’ group. In the end, it was just Nan and me. Then she also joined the others and never spoke to me the same way again.Nefti had told me we needed a new aluminum part for one of the generators. We’d be recasting half our cutlery. And they’d asked me to hand over my chair.Things seemed to be breaking more than ever. We constantly had to recycle all sorts of materials to make all kinds of parts. I knew the grown-ups had always been taking one thing from one place, breaking down its materials, recasting them into something else, and then recycling that again once they were done, sometimes turning it back into its original form. “What we have is what we have.” We’d been repeating this ever since I could remember. We kept reusing the stuff on board, which explained why the whole place looked so shabby and the passageways were always cluttered with half-dismantled gear. Of course I’d noticed it before, but I guess I only really got it now that it affected me. They’d never taken away my stuff when I was a kid.I put the chair down by the chute.“We’ll make you a new one as soon as we have some spare material to recast,” Fei said.I shrugged. I liked not being babied anymore. Having fewer things, like the others. Not caring.“How are you holding up?” asked Nan, concerned.Unsure of what she meant, I smiled.“We were watching you on the monitors when you were at the nursery,” Lu said. “Good job.”“Really great,” said Nan. “I hear you’re getting your badge today. How does it feel to finally be finally part of the crew?”I hated their condescension.“Listen,” Fei cut in, creating a heavy pause. “Just wanted to say … So sorry about Victor. I know how close you guys are.”“What do you mean?” I asked.The three of them exchanged glances.“Oh … Just that … Now that you’re a full crew member, you’ll be much busier, and both of you probably won’t be able to spend so much time together.”Like an idiot, I said Victor and I were working together and we’d still be close.Since it was my first crew meeting, they let me sit in the command chair. I felt embarrassed and would have preferred to stand or sit on the floor, like the others.Robin and Nefti did most of the talking. They welcomed me to the crew. Gave me that badge I’d always wanted and that nobody ever wears. I immediately knew I wouldn’t wear it either. A short speech about honor and responsibility. Then they said the time had come for me to learn about the true nature of our trip. Everyone looked down.Best to be direct, they said. None of us would ever make it to our destination. The trip was simply too long. Just as we’d been born on the ship, we’d die on the ship. But our descendants would make it. This had always been the plan, since the first generation left Earth. And just as we’d gradually replaced them over the years, we in turn would be replaced by the next crew. In fact, we’d be activating human material in the nursery soon. Very soon. One child now, and then one every two or three years until we reached a total of 11. A full new crew.They let this sink in and then asked me if I had questions.I looked out. Nothing ever seemed to move.I felt I had to ask something. Talk like a grown-up. But I was stunned.“Do we remember this after being reclicked?” I didn’t recognize my own voice. “That we’ll never arrive. Do we remember that?”Sam got up and ran out, sobbing. Nobody went after her.“Depends,” Nefti said. “Some of us do. Some of us have to be reminded of this difficult truth.”I turned to Victor. I must have looked hurt or angry.“I’m so sorry,” he said. “We never tell children until they’re ready. Everyone here learned when they turned 13 and got their badges. Why burden …” He couldn’t finish the sentence.A long time went by, it felt like. “You’ll have many questions later on,” Nefti said. “Please come to us.” She paused and then turned to the whole group. “Now, about that reactor.”Nefti was right. Once I was on my own, all I had was questions. Never arrive? Was my only purpose in life to follow the protocols and take care of the nursery? Ensuring that the seeds in this ship be sown in new ground? Would I be expected to parent one of our successors, just like each of us had been parented by one previous crew member—just like Victor had parented me? How could he have lied to me all these years, telling me those stories about how we’d populate our new home with multitudes and birds and fish feeding fish feeding fish? But had he really lied to me? I tried to look back and remember. Had I ever been part of his stories about that new world?I looked out.Shut my eyes.Compared the blackness outside with the blackness inside.Thought of the nursery. Destroying it.“Forgive me,” I heard Victor say.I opened my eyes as he was withdrawing his hand, which had almost reached my shoulder. He sat on the floor, leaning against a wall, and invited me to do the same by gesturing to the opposite side of the corridor. I didn’t sit down.“I deserve your anger,” he said, looking up at me. “But maybe I can show you how to hate me in a gentle sort of way. In a way that doesn’t hurt you.”This was all very awkward.“I won’t be around for much longer. Your generation will take over now. I wish you’d been in the next one. I wish you’d been among those who landed.” He shook his head. “Whenever anger builds up in your heart, please make sure it’s always pointed at me and those who, like me, brought you into this. Make sure your anger is never pointed inward.” He held his forehead for a moment. “In time, you’ll look after one of our descendants. I know you’ll be much, much better at it than I ever was.”He got up slowly, in stages, and left.After this, I avoided being alone with Victor, fearing another intense moment with him. And I was right: He kept trying to find a chance to talk to me. At the nursery, he skipped his usual jokes and went straight to work, reading the numbers on the screens. But he’d often pause, take a breath, and look at me. Before he could start speaking, I’d begin with the next sequence of numbers. Soon he stopped trying. The rest of the day, I made sure to be surrounded by other people. For once, I was glad there’s so little privacy here.I spent most of my time with Nan and Lu. Finally learned why they laughed so hard in class: They kept swapping retouched little clips of Bibi—against absurd backgrounds, with her face disfigured by acid, with screwdrivers stabbing her eyeballs, with a saw ripping up her belly. I was glad to be included but didn’t find it funny. Not because of the gore and the guts. Just didn’t find it funny. Pretended to laugh. After class, once our shifts were over, the three of us would watch movies or play games. It was great to be one of them again. Still, I always left before we were done and was the first to bed, lying with eyes closed so no one would talk to me.At the next crew meeting, a week after my birthday, Robin made the announcement. A new person had been activated in the nursery. In nine months, we’d be welcoming our new little crew member—and first lander. I’d never heard that word before. Lander.That night, when I was facing my detached wall panel, pretending to be asleep, Victor came over to my bunk.“I know you’re awake,” he whispered.I didn’t turn to face him. Didn’t even open my eyes.“It’s okay. This way you won’t have to feel like you have to respond. I came to say goodbye. I’m leaving tomorrow, you see.”At this point I had to fight the urge to turn around. Leave where? How?“It was always meant to be this way, so there’s no reason to be sad. Please remain as stubborn and kind and strong as you are today. And if you can’t forgive me, I hope you can forget me.”He kissed my head. Didn’t hear him leave.I turn from the rippling water to look at Victor one last time. A line has formed as everyone gets ready to leave. I am last, but Robin holds me back as she covers Victor’s face with the sheet.“Are you all right?” she asks.My anger has lifted. But I fail to be as sad as I think I should be.I shrug.“Now that we have a full crew and we’ve begun to activate the next one, I think it’s time for you to turn the page. A clean slate. You’ll be reclicked today. Now, in fact. You could use a fresh start.”The first thing that crosses my mind is that I’ll have to memorize all those stupid nursery protocols again after the reclicking. Then I think of the foul stench that first hits you. Bodies. Piss. Recycled air. But immediately after, I remember Sam staring out the window. It’ll be nice to look out for the first time.“Why don’t you go and get ready. Label the things you don’t want to forget. We’ll be waiting for you.”I go to my bunk and look through my stuff. There isn’t much I really need to remember. I make a few notes for myself. A doll that has made it through all my reclickings gets a label. So does the loose wall paneling. “Nefti promised to fix!” I also write a reminder of the cleaning shift Lu owes me. Impossible to keep ignoring Victor’s book. I write “Don’t recycle!” on a label, attach it to the cover, and leave. But after taking a few steps, I turn around, go back, take the note off, rip it up, and put it in the recycling bin. The book, I put under my pillow.theatlantic.com
Hernan Diaz on Vastness and Claustrophobia
Editor’s Note: Editor’s Note: Read Hernan Diaz’s new short story “The Generation.” “The Generation” is a new story by Hernan Diaz. To mark the story’s publication in The Atlantic, Diaz and Oliver Munday, the associate creative director of the magazine, discussed the story over email. Their conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.Oliver Munday: Your story “The Generation” follows a 13-year-old in a grim future where the fate of humanity is in peril. The dystopian particulars are somewhat vague, which allows the narrator’s voice to anchor the story with idiosyncratic detail. How did this story emerge? And how did you decide how best to tell it?Hernan Diaz: It took a long time to finish this story. I wanted to write something about technology set in the future but didn’t want any space slang, techno-tchotchkes, or the hackneyed grittiness of dystopian fiction. It helped to realize that “The Generation” was related to issues I find myself returning to over and over again. I often write about confinement and disorientation, which are essential in this story as well. I’m also interested in the dissonance between vastness and claustrophobia, and outer space offers a perfect setting for this. Still, it was challenging to find the right form. I love framed stories, and this device is, in a way, the formal manifestation of seclusion (a narrative encircled by a narrative). It was important, too, that this story be told by a young person who is being initiated into the true nature of the mission. This allowed me to present plot points in a less artificial way: We learn about the ship and its circumstances together with the protagonist—all while stressing the generational issue at the heart of the story.Munday: The narrator lives aboard a vessel that may be the last remaining container of human life. The crew members are tasked with cataloging human knowledge and history, hoping, eventually, to arrive somewhere the human species can propagate. One is tempted to read this as a warning about the precarity of our current moment, but I suspect something more universal at play. How important are the things we leave behind?Diaz: The story begins with the death of the last earthling on board; all those who remain have been born on the ship—which made me wonder to what extent earthling is part of the definition of human. Additionally, their overwhelming collective responsibility (saving the human race) is in direct contradiction with their personal fate (as individuals, they are doomed). Still, I never set out to write an allegory or a cautionary tale. I’m not into didactic literature. Perhaps my approach is the reverse of what you suggest in your question: I was interested in how large-scale, “universal” issues often begin and end with the reexamination of our most private and intimate relationships—with questioning our ideas of community, love, and selfhood.Munday: Primarily, you’re a novelist. Your books In the Distance and Trust both contend with the past. In this new story, you’ve sent us into an unstable future. The concept of time seems to deeply interest you. How does “The Generation” fit in with this preoccupation more broadly?Diaz: I am, indeed, deeply interested in the concept of time—as a metaphysical mystery, as a physical reality, and as the political vector we call history. It’s true that both my novels have a certain archaeological dimension: They examine highly calcified moments in history. With “The Generation,” I wanted to think about time from a different perspective. Nothing is more dated or historical than the ways in which we imagine our future. Think of any narrative set in the future, and what you’ll usually find is a sharp picture of the time during which the story was written—with all its hopes and anxieties. Science fiction is, to me, the culmination of historical fiction. And this brings us to genre, I suppose. I’ve always been interested in genre and playing with the expectations that come with narrative conventions. My previous books are about iconic, highly ideological moments of the American past, but I don’t consider them to be historical novels at all. And with “The Generation,” I wanted to write something about the future (on board a spaceship!) that was not a science-fiction story at all. Munday: Among the ominous inventions in “The Generation” is the notion of “reclicking.” Simply put, it’s a technology that helps people forget in order to forge ahead. A kind of reset. For the generation aboard the vessel, their role is intermediary—between annihilation and life—which, in a sense, is true for every generation. Is there an inherent nobility that comes with the notion of carrying humanity forward?Diaz: Although it’s overwhelming to think that we may be the only sentient beings in our cosmic neighborhood, and even though I obviously love the many ways in which we, as a species, have grasped for truth and beauty, I’m not sure there’s an inherent nobility in carrying humanity forward. We’re the self-appointed stewards of this planet but aren’t much better than pillagers. And in the end, “The Generation” is a story about colonialism—the ultimate purpose of the crew is to settle on a new planet. Behind all the exciting stories of “exploration”—of the seas, of “new” lands, of outer space—there is one single driving force: the exploitation of resources. And this is what’s humming behind this story as well. Of course, there has always been a direct correlation between colonization and technology, which is also at the core of “The Generation.” But in this story, I was going for an analog, scrappy, DIY feel of technology—a central conceit is that the crew members do, in fact, make their own parts and gear on board. Perhaps the only high-tech device (aside from the ship itself) is the “reclicking”—a treatment that induces a partial amnesia whenever crew members are going stir-crazy. This device, by the way, also helps highlight an important aspect of the story: The characters are not only confined in space, as I said above, but also in time.Munday: The center of the story is the relationship between the narrator and Victor. We’re aware, from the outset, that Victor has died, and we later learn that he is the sole remaining crew member who was born on Earth. What draws the narrator to Victor? How doomed is human connection in such an uncertain world? Diaz: As the title indicates, this is also a story about family. I can’t say I wasn’t thinking of my child and the horrible legacy my generation is bequeathing her. Of course, family ties in the story have been redefined, but in shaping Victor, I tried to make him a good caregiver who also embodies the inevitable failure that always, to varying degrees, defines parenting. So again: Family bonds, distorted as they are here, are crucial in “The Generation.” In fact, when I take a step back, I feel the whole thing may just be about the relationship between Victor and the narrator. Although the scope of “The Generation” may seem, literally, cosmic, it is in fact intimate and highly personal. As I was writing it, I thought about this story (only half in jest) as “Ingmar Bergman in space.”Munday: What projects are you working on?Diaz: A novel is taking shape, but it’ll wither and crumble if I tell you about it. A few more stories. Trust is also being made into a limited series for HBO—and the process leading up to that was more time-consuming than I ever thought.Munday: In a move that unsettled our copy desk, you dispensed with the subject I in many of your sentences. As a result, the voice that emerges reads as colloquial, but also at times as a collective representation of thought. How did you make this formal choice? Were its limitations freeing?Diaz: I’m so sorry! I, too, work as an editor, and I could sense your, um, “unsettlement.” Thank you and your colleagues for humoring me. There are two reasons for this pronominal deletion. The first one is that the story is, among other things, about the erasure of subjectivity, about impersonality—the generation, “reclicked” again and again, was born and will die aboard the ship only to keep the mission going: Its existence is predetermined and merely instrumental. People almost become things. I has been weakened. The second reason is that I was trying to signal a subtle linguistic evolution. I didn’t want for this to become a gimmick, but I tried to imagine how the English language might evolve under such circumstances, and this erosion of the grammatical subject seemed right. I tried to keep this to a minimum, though. It’s a lucky thing that earlier and more radical versions never reached your copy desk.theatlantic.com
Football Is at War With the Nerds
An analytics revolution comes for every sport sooner or later. MLB had Moneyball in the early 2000s and has moved well beyond it in the years since. The NBA has used efficiency to all but kill the mid-range jump shot. Soccer has seen an influx of countless new ways to measure passes and scoring chances down to the finest detail.The NFL’s change became most evident in 2018. Computer models that looked at thousands of games found an inefficiency: Coaches were being too conservative on fourth down, when teams can either punt the ball away or go for an all-or-nothing conversion. That year, they got a little bit braver, attempting fourth-down conversions on 15 percent of their chances, up from 12 percent in the preceding few years. The quants, it seems, won the battle for football’s decision-making soul. In accord with various metrics, NFL teams now pass the ball more now than before; going into the current season, every NFL front office had at least one staffer, and often many more, primarily doing analytics work.But somewhere along the way, football ended up with an analytics backlash. Across social media and on TV, fans and broadcasters are constantly pillorying the nerds. Last season, after the Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh came up empty on a late two-point conversion to seal a loss, a crew of CBS commentators took turns hitting him like a piñata. “They’ll show you a spreadsheet and say, ‘This is why I made that decision,’” said Nate Burleson, one talking head and former player. Another, the Super Bowl–winning coach Bill Cowher, was blunter: “Paralysis by analysis. We overanalyze things. It’s not that hard.” You can find similar analytics hatred in the college game. After Texas Tech University faltered on a fourth down earlier this month, the Fox play-by-play announcer Gus Johnson said, “Analytics! Throw ’em in the garbage!”[Read: What Moneyball-for-everything has done to American culture]Such is the crossroads where the sport exists in 2022. On the one hand, analytics have helped countless champions, and have made football, America’s foremost entertainment product, even more entertaining. On the other hand, the fancy stats are tearing football’s commentariat apart, and even inviting scorn from coaches who have spent their careers doing whatever it takes to win. The very concept of analytics has become a football bogeyman that no one saw coming. Maybe we should’ve.In theory, sports are the ideal place for intense number crunching. The stock market and the weather are naturally numeric, but “we’re the only place where you have a scoreboard,” Alex Auerbach, a sports psychologist for the NBA’s Toronto Raptors, told me. “Sports already quantifies the most extreme way of benchmarking where people are,” he said.The simple box score has been around forever, but even for casual football fans, advanced analytics are now unavoidable: Amazon Prime Video, the new rights holder for Thursday Night Football, runs a stats-y simulcast to its main broadcast every week. Player grades from the statistics-and-evaluation empire Pro Football Focus appear regularly on Sunday Night Football. Move into the depths of the football internet, and you’ll run into an alphabet soup of stats: expected points added (EPA) per play, completion percentage over expectation (CPOE), and DVOA (which nobody even knows by its full name). It is a Sunday ritual to see real-time, robotic evaluations of fourth-down and two-point decisions.Some football fans adore these innovations. Others very much do not. On Twitter, a fourth-down robot’s assessment of a decision often leads to responses such as this one from last week: “I don’t want to see this type of ridiculous stat anymore.” Some football media, especially on TV, take a similar approach. “It’s still reflexively negative, like, ‘The nerds don’t really know what they’re talking about,’” Bill Connelly, an ESPN writer who covers sports through an analytics lens, told me. “The end.’” Analytics has become a catchall pejorative applied to any bold, unconventional decision a coach might make—especially one that fails. What happens, absolutely, is that “when people do a quote-unquote aggressive move, it is often ascribed as an analytics play even if the numbers do not say so,” Seth Walder, an ESPN analytics writer, told me. (Ironically enough, projection models shrugged their shoulders at the Ravens’ much-derided two-point try, seeing it as a toss-up.)Plenty of coaches also recoil at how analytics have encroached on football. Consider the two most accomplished coaches of this generation: The University of Alabama’s Nick Saban and the New England Patriots’ Bill Belichick, who have seven national titles and six Super Bowl wins respectively. Saban has said he is “not an analytics guy” and described the job of a quant analyst as “some guy who hasn’t played football ever and he sits at a computer and he puts a bunch of stuff into a computer.” Belichick, meanwhile, once said about analytics, “I don’t care what they say.” Both coaches employ analytics staffers, however. Saban is famous for employing a small army of coaches whose job title is literally “analyst.” So, what gives?[Read: America ruined college football. Now college football is ruining America.]Maybe this is all simple. Becoming an elite athlete, or a coach of elite athletes, requires a lifetime of work that goes well beyond figuring out the wisest analysis of data. The NFL’s precise motion tracking of players, often illustrated in moving dots, does not know the play call or a million other subtleties, and in turn, neither does all of the data derived from it. “If I want to know how to cook a beef bourguignon, I’m not going to ask Einstein,” Hugo Mercier, a cognitive scientist at the Institut Jean Nicod, in Paris, told me. “People have their areas of expertise. And even if people might be able to tell you that the MIT crowd is smarter on the whole than [an MLB] scout, they would still think that the scout knows more about baseball.”For us fans, perhaps the whole contradiction comes down to the idea that numbers can be what Mercier calls “a black box.” Consider a computer that spits out the difference in pre-play win probability if a coach decides to kick a field goal instead of going for it on fourth down. Humans are geared to trust information sources that we can argue with, Mercier told me. There is no arguing, not really, with a fourth-down model.I am a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers, a normally solid team that currently has one of the worst records in the league. Before the season started, my more optimistic brethren had difficulty accepting that bad times were coming, even as various statistical analyses suggested an impending crash. “If you see someone on TV and they talk at great length about how the Steelers are not doing great this year, and for this and this reason, things are going to go bad, they might convince you,” Mercier told me. “But if you just see a statistical analysis that doesn’t explain its reasons, I don’t think it’s going to convince many people.”In a sense, sports analytics are stuck on a hamster wheel. Many who have played and coached the game harbor natural skepticism about them, which comes out when they’re asked questions about analytics or talk about stats in their post-career media roles. Then the backlash filters into the public discourse and reinforces itself over and over again before regular audiences of millions. We value what athletes and coaches say about sports, the same way we trust what doctors say about medicine or chefs about cooking.But perhaps the simplest reason for all of this resistance to analytics, in locker rooms and TV studios and everywhere else that football is played and watched, is simply that America has analytics fatigue. Escaping the algorithmic world that inundates us with an endless stream of information is impossible. I rely on a fitness watch that tells me exactly how long I slept and how hard my heart pumped for every minute of the day, then gives me advice on how intensely to exercise the next day. TikTok users can’t escape an opaque algorithm that queues up an endless scroll of videos. Political observers everywhere rely on a computer model that simulates an election and lets them track probabilities for months, or for a few hectic hours via a moving needle. Numbers are both the background noise to our daily lives and the battleground for so many of our societal fights.But sports, after all, are supposed to be a form of escapism to take us out of these troubles. What we really want, up to a point, is to argue. In that sense, analytics should be a godsend. They’re an extra weapon in any fan’s crusade to talk about their own teams or their rivals. But the cardinal sin that sports analytics commit against our brains is to make arguments that are hard to counter on their face. I might tell my friend that their team’s quarterback has an inaccurate arm, and they might respond that, in fact, the QB’s aim mimics a precision missile. But if I then counter that the QB’s motion-camera-generated completion percentage over expectation is well below the NFL average, then what is left for my sparring partner to say, other than that the stat itself is junk? Where is the fun in that?There is, of course, a way for an advanced stat to find approval with someone who believes they are skeptical about such things: It supports your argument. The analytics backlash “is kind of the same thing every year, but at least the teams change,” Connelly said. “The fan bases change that are yelling at me, because it really just comes down to: ‘If the numbers say what I want them to say, they’re good. And if they don’t, they’re ridiculous.’”theatlantic.com
Help! My Sister-in-Law Wants Her Dead Daughter’s Ashes Carried Down the Aisle at My Wedding.
I don't want to be a bridezilla, but I'd much rather she carry a bouquet.slate.com
A Trump judge seized control of ICE, and the Supreme Court will decide whether to stop him
Armed Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents execute a raid on an apartment in Alexandria, Virginia, on October 4. | Tom Brenner/Washington Post/Getty Images Judge Drew Tipton’s order in United States v. Texas is completely lawless. Thus far, the Supreme Court has given him a pass. In July, a Trump appointee to a federal court in Texas effectively seized control of parts of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the federal agency that enforces immigration laws within US borders. Although Judge Drew Tipton’s opinion in United States v. Texas contains a simply astonishing array of legal and factual errors, the Supreme Court has thus far tolerated Tipton’s overreach and permitted his order to remain in effect. Nearly five months later, the Supreme Court will give the Texas case a full hearing on Tuesday. And there’s a good chance that even this Court, where Republican appointees control two-thirds of the seats, will reverse Tipton’s decision — his opinion is that bad. The case involves a memo that Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas issued in September 2021, instructing ICE agents to prioritize undocumented immigrants who “pose a threat to national security, public safety, and border security and thus threaten America’s well-being” when making arrests or otherwise enforcing immigration law. A federal statute explicitly states that the homeland security secretary “shall be responsible” for “establishing national immigration enforcement policies and priorities,” and the department issued similar memos setting enforcement priorities in 2005, 2010, 2011, 2014, and 2017. Nevertheless, the Republican attorneys general of Texas and Louisiana asked Tipton to invalidate Mayorkas’s memo. And Tipton defied the statute permitting Mayorkas to set enforcement priorities — and a whole host of other, well-established legal principles — and declared Mayorkas’s enforcement priorities invalid. This is not the first time that Tipton relied on highly dubious legal reasoning to sabotage the Biden administration’s immigration policies. In July, shortly after Tipton handed down his decision, the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to halt Tipton’s order while this case was still pending, but the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to deny that request — with conservative Justice Amy Coney Barrett crossing over to vote with the Court’s three liberal justices. That means that, even if the Court does ultimately reject Tipton’s reasoning, his erroneous order will have been in effect for months by the time the Supreme Court strikes it down. And for that entire time, Mayorkas will have been prevented from exercising his statutory authority over ICE. Tipton’s opinion is an embarrassment As a threshold matter, it’s important to understand why Mayorkas must have authority to set enforcement priorities for ICE. As the Justice Department explained in a 2014 memo, “there are approximately 11.3 million undocumented aliens in the country,” but Congress has only appropriated enough resources to “remove fewer than 400,000 such aliens each year.” So it is literally impossible for ICE to arrest or otherwise bring enforcement actions against every undocumented immigrant in the country. Priorities must be set. The Supreme Court has long acknowledged that law enforcement, by its very nature, requires police and similar officials to make decisions about which arrests to make, which enforcement actions to bring, and how to allocate the limited number of officers employed by an agency. And it has warned courts not to interfere with these kinds of decisions, especially when law enforcement decides not to target someone for arrest or enforcement. As the Court held in Heckler v. Chaney (1985), “an agency’s decision not to prosecute or enforce, whether through civil or criminal process, is a decision generally committed to an agency’s absolute discretion.” This principle, the Court added, “is attributable in no small part to the general unsuitability for judicial review of agency decisions to refuse enforcement.” So if the leaders of a law enforcement agency decide that a particular class of people are not a high priority for enforcement, even if those individuals have violated federal law, Heckler says that judges like Drew Tipton should generally stay the heck away from that decision. This general rule, that law enforcement agencies, not judges, should decide their own enforcement priorities, is known as “prosecutorial discretion,” and it is one of the fundaments of how police and prosecutors operate at all levels of the government. Here’s a fairly banal example of how prosecutorial discretion works: Suppose that there are a rash of home break-ins in Washington, DC’s Columbia Heights neighborhood. Police precinct commanders, the city’s police chief, or even the city’s mayor may respond to this development by ordering DC cops to spend more time patrolling Columbia Heights — even though that means that crimes in other neighborhoods might go uninvestigated or unsolved. Similarly, if you’ve ever been pulled over by a police officer for a minor traffic violation, then let off with a warning, you have benefited from prosecutorial discretion. It would be nonsensical for judges to monitor every decision made by every law enforcement officer and their commanders about when to make an arrest or bring an enforcement action. And the Supreme Court has repeatedly warned judges against doing so. This general rule is especially strong in the immigration context. The Supreme Court has said that “a principal feature of the removal system is the broad discretion exercised by immigration officials.” Even after the federal government decides to bring a removal proceeding against a particular immigrant, the Court said in Reno v. American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (1999), that the government “has discretion to abandon the endeavor.” And it may do so for any number of reasons, including “humanitarian reasons or simply for its own convenience.” Indeed, the Supreme Court has held that law enforcement’s discretion to decide not to target certain individuals is so “deep-rooted” that it can overcome a legislative command stating that law enforcement officers “shall arrest” a particular class of persons. This principle dates at least as far back as the Court’s decision in Railroad Company v. Hecht (1877), which held that “as against the government, the word ‘shall,’ when used in statutes, is to be construed as ‘may,’ unless a contrary intention is manifest.” Which brings us to Tipton’s primary argument in ruling with the plaintiffs against the ICE enforcement guidelines. He relies on two federal statutes, one of which says that the government “shall take into custody” immigrants who’ve committed certain offenses, and another saying that the government “shall remove” immigrants within 90 days after an immigration proceeding orders them removed. To someone unfamiliar with the Court’s decisions in Heckler, Reno, Railroad Company, and numerous other precedents counseling judges not to interfere with non-enforcement decisions, Tipton’s statutory argument might have an air of plausibility. But, of course, judges are expected to actually familiarize themselves with controlling Supreme Court precedents before they hand down a decision — including the ones saying that the doctrine of prosecutorial discretion overcomes statutes with seemingly mandatory language. Also, even presuming that the Supreme Court’s precedents can be ignored and that Tipton is bound only by the text of the two statutes he relies upon, his decision is still wrong. The first statute provides that “no court may set aside any action or decision ... regarding the detention or release of any alien or the grant, revocation, or denial of bond or parole.” And the second provides that “nothing in this section shall be construed to create any substantive or procedural right or benefit that is legally enforceable by any party against the United States or its agencies or officers or any other person.” Both Congress and the Supreme Court, in other words, told Tipton not to interfere with Secretary Mayorkas’s decisions regarding law enforcement priorities. But Tipton didn’t care. There also are numerous other problems with Tipton’s opinion, some of which are so glaring that they suggest he’s operating in bad faith. Tipton claims, for example, that Mayorkas was required to complete a time-consuming process known as “notice and comment” before he could set new priorities for ICE. But federal law exempts “general statements of policy” from notice and comment. And, in Lincoln v. Vigil(1993), the Supreme Court held that these “general statements of policy” include “‘statements issued by an agency to advise the public prospectively of the manner in which the agency proposes to exercise a discretionary power’“ — such as the Department of Homeland Security’s discretionary authority over enforcement decisions. Similarly, Tipton faulted Mayorkas’s memo because it supposedly failed to consider “the costs its decision imposes on the States.” But a 21-page document accompanying Mayorkas’s memo includes a subsection titled “Impact on States.” That subsection concludes that “none of the asserted negative effects on States — either in the form of costs or the form of undermining reliance interests” — undercut the benefits of Mayorkas’s enforcement priorities. I could go on — and if you care to take a deeper dive into the many faults with Tipton’s reasoning, I’ll point out that the Justice Department’s brief in the Texas case also makes several strong arguments that Texas and Louisiana, the plaintiffs in this case, aren’t even allowed to file this lawsuit in the first place. But, honestly, listing all of the many errors in Tipton’s omnishambles of an opinion would require me to go on at such length, I fear my readers would lose interest. So I will do all of you the service of stopping here. It’s not a coincidence that this case was assigned to Drew Tipton According to an amicus brief filed by University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck, the state of Texas has filed 20 lawsuits in Texas federal courts against the Biden administration. All but one of those cases are overseen by judges appointed by a Republican president. As Vladeck explains, this did not happen by coincidence. Rather, “Texas has intentionally filed its cases in a manner designed to all-but foreclose having to appear before judges appointed during Democratic presidencies.” The federal court system includes 94 different district courts, trial courts that each preside over a geographic region. Texas, for example, is divided into four districts — the Northern, Eastern, Southern, and Western Districts of Texas. These four district courts, meanwhile, are chopped up into “divisions,” often named after the city or town where a federal courthouse is located. Tipton, for example, sits in the Victoria Division of the Southern District of Texas. Under a case assignment order handed down by the Southern District of Texas, virtually all civil cases filed in the Victoria Division are automatically assigned to Tipton. Thus, as Vladeck writes, “by filing this case in Victoria, Texas was able to select not just the location for its lawsuit, but the specific federal judge who would decide this case: a judge Texas likely believed would” rule against the Biden administration—“and who in fact did so, even as another court has rejected similar challenges.” The Supreme Court has thus far been very indulgent of this behavior, at least when it benefits Republicans. In 2021, for example, Texas chose Trump-appointed Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk to hear a lawsuit seeking to reinstate a Trump-era border policy known as “Remain in Mexico.” Kacsmaryk predictably did Texas’s bidding, and ordered the Biden administration to reinstate Texas Republicans’ preferred policy. Although the Supreme Court eventually reversed Kacsmaryk’s decision, which was as inconsistent with existing law as is Tipton’s decision in Texas, the Court sat on the case for nearly an entire year — effectively letting Kacsmaryk set the nation’s border policy for this entire waiting period. Now the Court appears likely to repeat this pattern in Tipton’s case. In case there is any doubt, this is not how the Supreme Court behaved when Trump was in office. During the Trump administration, the Court’s Republican-appointed majority was so quick to intervene when a lower court judge blocked one of Trump’s policies that Justice Sonia Sotomayor complained that her colleagues were “putting a thumb on the scale in favor of” the Trump administration. Even when the law offers no support for the GOP’s preferred policies, in other words, the Court permits Republicans to manipulate judicial procedures in order to get the results they want. The Texas attorney general’s office can handpick judges who they know will strike down Biden administration policies, and once those policies are declared invalid, the Supreme Court will play along with these partisan judges’ decisions for at least a year or so.vox.com
College football Week 13 report card: Cincinnati, Clemson home streaks come crashing down
For Cincinnati and Clemson, home did them no favors in trying to drive momentum into New Year's Six or a College Football Playoff berth.usatoday.com
Can I stop my co-worker from talking about politics?
What to do about a worker whose colleague loudly discusses politics in the office and is it illegal for an employer to ask a prospective employee about their pay history.nypost.com
Shop the best Amazon Cyber Monday deals of 2022: Apparel, tech, more
All the *prime* finds, in one place.nypost.com
Misery Index Week 13: Ryan Day's position feels tenuous after Ohio State's loss to Michigan
It's not just the losses by Ryan Day's Ohio State. It's the nature of them. Michigan has been the more physical, and better coached team.usatoday.com
Russian artillery rains down across Ukraine as wintry warfare looms
Russian shelling has hit several areas in eastern and southern Ukraine overnight as utility crews continued efforts to restore power, water and heat.latimes.com
'A significant severe-weather event will be likely' this week, meteorologists say
A new robust storm system moving into the Pacific Northwest Sunday is expected to spawn severe storms in the South this week.edition.cnn.com
USC set for revenge showdown with Utah: Takeaways from the Trojans' win over the Irish
After USC quarterback Caleb Williams and the Trojans beat Notre Dame, they learned they will get a revenge rematch with Utah in the Pac-12 title game.latimes.com
10 bestselling Black Friday items 2022, according to New York Post readers
You shopped, we listened: here are the bestselling Black Friday deals by NYPost shoppers.nypost.com
384 minutos sin anotar, la crisis mexicana en mundiales
El sábado 23 de junio de 2018 la Selección Mexicana anotó su último gol en las Copas del Mundo, gracias a Javier "Chicharito" Hernández, con lo que México vencería 2-1 a Corea del Sur en Rusia.latimes.com
Russia Cannot Gather Forces of Enough Quality To Achieve Donetsk Aims: U.K.
There has been "intense combat" in the south-central Donetsk region, but little territory has changed hands, Britain's military intelligence said.newsweek.com
Costa Rica rallies late to beat Japan 1-0 in Group E
Keysher Fuller scored in the 81st minute to lift Costa Rica to a 1-0 victory.abcnews.go.com
Costa Rica shocks Japan with a 1-0 victory
Costa Rica shocked Japan with a 1-0 win, thanks to an 81st minute goal from Keysher Fuller, as it kept its hopes of qualifying for the World Cup knockout stages alive with a crucial three points to pull level with Spain and Japan in Group E.edition.cnn.com
Can Ron DeSantis ride the culture war to the White House?
The Florida governor has several things going for him, including the adulation of Fox News, which treats him as a front-runner and has begun casting Trump as yesterday’s man.latimes.com
XPO’s Billionaire Chairman Brad Jacobs Is Hunting for His Next Big Deal
TIME recently spoke with XPO's billionaire chairman Brad Jacobs, about supply chains and why he's looking for his next takeovertime.com
Divided government demands creativity. Here are 3 ways to get things done.
The GOP House will make it difficult for progressive legislation. Democrats need to be creative when thinking about what’s possible over the next two years.washingtonpost.com
The West is finally waking up to the real problem in Iran
The international community must start the putting human rights of Iranians first.washingtonpost.com
After more than 600 mass shootings this year, let’s be honest about guns
The fact that no single action will stop all mass shootings is no excuse not to do things that could prevent some of them, or lower the toll when they happen.washingtonpost.com
He needed emergency surgery days before their wedding. So, they got married in a hospital.
Daniel Pecoraro, a teacher in Greenacres, Florida, needed emergency heart surgery three days before he planned to marry Lisa Siegel.usatoday.com
'A sense of reassurance and belonging' Campus religious groups tackle mental health services
Traditional pastoral care is being expanded in order to meet the needs of studentsusatoday.com
I’m Sick of Nightly Homework Battles—With My Husband
Parenting advice on homework, abuse, and trauma.slate.com
I Can't Live With My Lazy Husband—What Should I Do?
"He did nothing to change his behaviors and merely insists that he's always been the way he is and why am I complaining now."newsweek.com
The Creative Secrets of One of Detroit’s Most Innovative Theater Groups
A conversation with Liza Bielby and Richard Newman of the The Hinterlands.slate.com
The guy who got the midterms right explains what the media got wrong
Supporters of Pennsylvania Democratic Senatorial candidate John Fetterman react at a watch party during the midterm elections at Stage AE in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, on November 8, 2022. | Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images The media fell for a false “red wave” narrative. In the months leading up to the midterms, many pundits and politicians thought that Republicans had momentum enough for big gains at the state and federal levels, enough to count as a “red wave.” But veteran Democratic strategist Simon Rosenberg is one of a few voices in Washington who, despite President Joe Biden’s sagging approval ratings and polls that showed Democrats playing defense on inflation, remained optimistic about the party’s prospects and who was ultimately vindicated by a strong performance. Rosenberg — who has previously advised the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and is the president of the progressive think tank NDN — says he’s not in the business of predictions. But he thought that the available data consistently pointed to a competitive election, and he became a self-described “info warrior” on Twitter trying to convince the pundit class of that. He believes that, unlike in 2016 and 2020 when polling failed to register Trump’s strength as a candidate, this time around, it was the media analyzing the polls who got it wrong. “There was a massive media failure this cycle,” he said. “The failure that just took place is more grave than the polling error [in 2020] because there were a lot of really smart people who basically misled tens of millions of people through their political commentary in the final few weeks.” It’s hard to know whether there was a practical effect of the doom-and-gloom stories about Democrats in the months before the election — whether it suppressed turnout by demoralizing voters or motivated them to show up because they feared what would happen if they didn’t. But even if any negative effect was small, that might have made a big impact. “My own view is that it probably net cost us. It could have cost us the House,” Rosenberg said. Here’s what he thinks went wrong. Real election results weren’t given enough credence over polls Rosenberg has been arguing that Republicans made a huge mistake in running toward Trumpism since November 2021, when he first challenged the notion that there would be a runaway red wave in the midterms. That hypothesis gained a wider following over the summer amid backlash against the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. But there was a significant vibe shift in the fall, when Democrats’ margins on the generic ballot narrowed and they showed relative weakness in polls on issues like the economy and crime. Those seemed like signs that outrage over Roe had waned and that Republicans had the edge. Rosenberg doesn’t think that was ever true and that available data showed an election where Democrats were favored in the Senate and the House was up for grabs. The clearest indication came from actual election results. “Real voting is more important than polling,” Rosenberg said. “The way you interpret an election is looking at how people vote.” Republicans had doubled down on a brand of politics that had just been twice rejected by the American people in 2020 and 2018. And a series of special elections that occurred over the summer showed a similar pattern, with Democrats significantly overperforming across House races in Nebraska, Alaska, Minnesota, and New York. In Nebraska’s First District, for instance, the Democrat lost by less than 6 percentage points, compared to more than 20 percentage points in 2020. And Democrats won a House seat in Alaska for the first time in half a century, defeating former Gov. Sarah Palin. In August, voters in deep-red Kansas also showed up in supercharged numbers to vote against a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed state lawmakers to further restrict abortion access following the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe. All of that supported the notion that Democratic enthusiasm was up and that this wasn’t a normal midterm election, even as the polls narrowed and Biden’s approval rating was still underwater. “People should have started adjusting their understanding of the election at that point. They didn’t — they stuck with the old models. They got bamboozled by the red wave narrative,” Rosenberg said. Polls were misinterpreted When the polling averages narrowed in the fall, it was partially because partisan polls commissioned by Republican organizations were bringing them down for Democrats. Rosenberg was one of the first to identify the phenomenon, which he described as an “unprecedented campaign by Republicans to flood the polling averages in the final month to create this impression of the red wave.” If you were looking at polling averages that included Republican polls, “you were looking at a completely different election than we were looking at,” he added. When Rosenberg stripped out the partisan polling, he foresaw an election in which New Hampshire, Arizona, Georgia, and Pennsylvania were leaning Democrat, Nevada was too close to call, and Ohio, North Carolina, and Wisconsin were leaning a little Republican. That’s consistent with what actually transpired. It’s not clear whether the onslaught of partisan polls represented a deliberate attempt by Republicans to change the narrative of the election and dampen Democratic enthusiasm. But it may have had an outsized effect on the averages this year because of a lack of public independent polling. As Politico pointed out, big players like NBC News didn’t commission any state midterm polls this year, and the New York Times only did so in four individual House races and five states — far fewer than the number they’ve previously commissioned. The media was also too reliant on issue polling, which can be misleading if you’re just looking at the aggregate numbers across parties, Rosenberg said. Crime and immigration were among voters’ top issues overall because they are high-priority issues for Republicans. But if Democrats were trying to turn out their own voters, they needed to focus on the issues that matter to them. In general, it’s also hard to parse issue polling. Voters may say that they care a lot about a whole range of issues, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that any one of them will impact their decision to vote for a particular candidate or to vote at all. “This reliance on the most important issue among all voters was playing into Republican talking points,” Rosenberg said. The enduring salience of Roe was underestimated The anti-abortion movement lost big time in 2022: Democrats running on pro-abortion rights nearly swept the table, and every ballot initiative aimed at restricting abortion lost, while ballot initiatives strengthening abortion rights prevailed and even outperformed Democratic candidates in some cases. Though we shouldn’t put too much stock in exit poll data, which is incomplete at this point, KFF’s analysis of the AP VoteCast survey found that the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe had a “major impact” on whether roughly four in 10 Americans decided to vote this year and that it activated key constituencies for Democrats, including Black and Hispanic women under the age of 50, voters under the age of 30 overall, and first-time voters. That’s consistent with strong post-Roe voter registration numbers: The number of women who registered to vote increased by 35 percent across 10 states in the month after the decision came down. As my colleague Rachel Cohen wrote, Republicans and their grassroots have struggled to confront just how pivotal the end of Roe and their subsequent efforts to curtail abortion rights proved in this election. And that appeared to seep into media coverage, with many media outlets projecting before Election Day that abortion had receded from the spotlight in favor of inflation, an issue where Republicans thought they had the edge. “The debate over abortion rights has not emerged as a political silver bullet for Democrats,” the New York Times declared on November 4. Rosenberg speculates that male political commentators were particularly receptive to the Republican narrative on that front. “I think that they were unsympathetic to this idea that abortion really was going to be one of the two or three things that drove the election,” he said. But the evidence was always in the polls: Interest in abortion didn’t drop over time and, among Democrats, actually increased across several tracking polls. And Rosenberg thinks its salience won’t wane anytime soon. “This could be creating a millstone around the Republican Party’s neck — not just in this election but for many elections to come, and potentially may alienate an entire generation of young people,” he said.vox.com
Conservative states are blocking trans medical care. Families are fleeing.
From Texas to Florida, families with kids who are medically transitioning say state policies limiting gender-affirming care are forcing them to flee.politico.com
Florida hospitals weren’t ready for Hurricane Ian. Some fear the next big storm.
Despite being under evacuation orders and in the path of the catastrophic storm, five hospitals remained open and removed only a handful of patients before the Category 4 hurricane made landfall.politico.com
New York Democrats didn’t defend their bail law changes. It bit them at the polls.
Republicans across the country campaigned on crime. Nowhere did it resonate more than in New York.politico.com