It may be government schools, or it might be because they tend to favor emotion over logic, but I’ve noticed recently that leftists as a group seem not to be able to do basic math. Here are three examples.
While wandering around other blogs I recently visited a frothy, sarcastic liberal blog called Jesus’ General where there was a lot of weeping and gnashing of teeth and the remarkable assertion that the Republicans had tried to keep ‘brown’ (their term for ethnic voters) out of the polls by various means. Here’s where their math fails. In every election since the Reagan administration the Republican party has seen modest gains in the ethnic vote among both blacks and hispanics, but especially among hispanics. They have gone from getting tiny percentages of these groups to actually winning the hispanic vote in many states in the recently concluded election. This is a clear, observable and inevitable trend and it’s accelerating. In 2000 Bush had the largest increase in the ethnic vote of any Republican candidate. In the 2004 election initial figures show an even larger increase, gaining just over 10% among hispanics and just under 10% among blacks. This isn’t surprising, as Bush has more hispanics and blacks in his administration than any previous president, many of them in very prominent positions, and despite the slurs of the left the Republican party is ethnically blind in a way which is very attractive to upwardly mobile minority members. Believe me, Republican campaign strategists are very aware of this. What this means is that not only would the Republicans not want to discourage ethnic voting, but sensibly they ought to want to encourage it. This is an area where they are gaining new voters and the democrats are losing them. That means that when minorities vote as a group the Republicans are gaining voters they didn’t have in the previous election. With a minority voting population around 40% that 10% shift is enough to win a close election with breathing room. Hey, it’s about 4% which is about what Bush won by. Do the math.
I also recently had a little dialog with the fellow who runs a hardcore leftist blog called The Old Hippie. We were mostly discussing unemployment and he kept ranting at me “do the research” and pointing me to sites run by bizarre socialist loonies and semi-literate Bush-bashers, none of whom seemed to be the kind of primary sources one actually uses for research. Remember, I’m an economic historian by training, so I know the difference between research and opinion and also know how to do basic math. So when he claimed that Bush had presided over the worst 4 years of job loss since Hoover and that the percentage job loss in the last 4 years was even higher than in Hoover’s administration, even if the total number wasn’t, I had to destroy him with math. I went to one of my favorite sources, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which keeps unemployment records and other useful employment related data going back about 100 years. I’ve already previously used BLS stats to point out that unemployment under Bush has been well below average for the last 30 years. In response to the Hippie’s claim I can now inform you that good stats and good math inform us that not only has Bush not lost more jobs than Hoover, but he’s had less unemployment growth than most presidents since the depression, including his father, Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. As for the claim that we lost a higher percentage of jobs in the past 4 years than in the Hoover administration, it’s just laughable. 14% of the population lost their jobs under Hoover compared to 1.7% under Bush. Only with liberal math could 1.7% be higher than 14%. BTW, the Hippie stopped emailing me after being confronted with actual research.
Finally, the most timely example is the recent period of electoral limbo while John Kerry tried to figure out how you could count 135,000 provisional ballots – which would presumably not be 100% for Kerry – and gain 136,000 votes to turn around the election in Ohio. That this took them over night and that they were considering taking even longer tells you everything you need to know about Liberal math. The details tell you even more about their mathematical ineptitude. Apparently the reason they clung to this fantasy for so long was that despite the fact that election officials in Ohio had told them they had a near exact count on the provisional ballots, the Kerry campaign was basing their hopes on the theory that there were many more provisional ballots because they had calculated a total of 250,000 by taking provisional ballots from one district and extrapolating from that number to find a total for the entire state, which they did by just multiplying the count for that district by the total number of voting districts without regard to the relative population of the districts. That’s just bad procedure and you can’t get good results from bad math and bad methods. Of course, even with that many ballots Kerry would have needed almost 90% of the votes to cover his 135,000 vote deficit, an outcome so improbable it should have never even been considered.
In all three of these examples, the lefties appear to have reached their conclusions based on the outcome they wanted really badly or expected because of their preconceptions, without actually doing the math which would point out how abysmally wrong they are. The problem for the left is that you can’t browbeat or intimidate or frighten a number into agreeing with you. Numbers just sit there and are right and wrong, and there’s really only one way to run a formula and get the right answer no matter how emotional you are about it.