The Most Interesting People I Know

28 - David Shor on Why Bernie Would Have Won in 2016- But Not in 2020

January 3, 2021

David Shor is a data scientist and the former head of political data science for Civis Analytics, a Democratic think tank. In 2012, he developed the Obama campaign’s in-house election forecasting system, which accurately predicted the outcome to within a point in every state. David was the subject of some controversy this summer when he was fired following his tweeting of an academic paper. The paper argued that violent protests decreased Democratic presidential vote share while nonviolent protests increased vote share. Unfortunately, David is not at liberty to discuss the details of this incident, which is an excellent example of what happens when employment protections don’t exist. 

I want to state up front that the focus of this episode is on how to improve the electoral prospects of Democrats, which is David’s expertise. I have many disagreements with the Democratic party and its leaders, and there are many pathways to power beyond electoral politics. But America’s political institutions are extremely powerful, and ensuring that they are controlled by the non-death cult party is important. 


We discuss:

  • What happened in the 2020 election 
  • Why the electoral college is biased towards Republicans 
  • Efforts to combat structural bias against the Democratic party
  • Why the polls were wrong again and why they’ll be very hard to fix
  • Why Bernie would have won in 2016 but may not have in 2020
  • How Democratic staffers and left wing activists are massively unrepresentative of the American public
  • The electoral obstacles to passing Medicare for All and how to make the policy more politically popular 
  • Policies that combat inequality without raising taxes
  • Whether Democrats actually want to win
  • Why Democrats need the working class to win power 
  • Why good politicians stay relentlessly on message
  • How we can move voters towards policy positions we think are just
  • Why Democrats should talk more about issues and less about values
  • What we can learn from the growth in support for same sex marriage
  • The importance of getting the media on your side


National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

Matt Grossman on Twitter

David Shor on Twitter

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