The Comey disclosures are marginal to the focus of this blog. Nevertheless, how I think about it might interest the reader, insofar as I was a “superpredictor” in the Forecasting World Events research project. It appears to me that the impact of Comey’s disclosure will be increasingly discounted by the electorate.
I’ve done a little sampling of the psychology of the American voter. A description in terms of two poles, be it party identification, or something else, is always attractive. The selection of the poles has considerable latitude. Where the first cut on the pie is made is partly, though not completely, arbitrary.
In this particular case, a cut to the pie can be made so that “authoritarian” lies on one side, and “ethicist” on the other. That this may be an optimal way to cut the pie lies in the observation that the membership of each group implied by the names seems oblivious to the concerns of the other.
To an authoritarian, the fact that Clinton broke government regulations in the disposition of classified data, even though there is no evidence of damage, is paramount. This relates to the experience of the American blue collar worker at the hands of typical management. The theme of the work experience is that you follow company rules, or you get canned by your supervisor. There is no appeal, except with violations of civil rights laws. It’s an eight-hour a day way of life, and it’s not surprising that the demands made of the blue collar worker should be reflected in his single civic choice. To the voter of this stripe, concerns about the personal behavior of the super-rich, and their world in general, are disjoint from everyday existence. Interest in the Second Amendment is the side effect of a small stage of life. With such a small stage, the right to bear arms is one more thing you can do.
The ethicist, regardless of work background, has concerns that go beyond this. The ethicist’s world view is either expansive beyond the workplace, or in conflict with it. The ethicist’s interpretation of the law is flexible. It might be correct to obey the law; it might be right to protest, or disobey. All lawyers know that the law is a blunt instrument, but the ethicist takes this into the practice of life.
Hilliary Clinton is not the first person to grapple with and bypass the machinery of the State Department. The State Department has a “cable” system, an automated distribution network named for the days when undersea Telex networks linked the embassies with D.C. As Henry Kissinger explains it, the automated nature of the system meant that a confidential communication could easily be routed by accident to many more desks than intended. Kissinger’s solution was to bypass it, and most of the State Department, for a diplomacy based in the White House. Clinton’s private server doubtless had a similar motivation.
To an “ethicist” like myself, the Clinton server is a tempest in a teapot. But I can’t imagine a man who gropes women as president. That this is a voter’s choice indicates a very serious political disease that must be addressed in the next four years, or it will reoccur.
In Portrait of a Spaceman; Predictions for 2016, I predicted a Clinton win. The prediction stands. In the 2012 election, there was doubt that younger voters would turn out again for Obama. But their lack of polled enthusiasm turned out to be passive-aggression. They turned out on Election Day. And Comey’s disclosure is increasingly discounted, as the visceral offense of the other choice becomes starkly personal.