Articulate Ball-of-Fire Presidential Candidate Joe Biden said this last week:
“There are probably anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the people out there that are just not very good people…”
(This quote has to be accurate, because it appeared in The New York Times.)
Biden was addressing a group of democrats by video from his basement rumpus room, and he was surprisingly coherent.
(Forgive me, but this reminds me of a school superintendent I once encountered who said student achievement scores would improve if the town could just attract a better grade of parent. Smarter parents would translate to smarter kids, and better test scores. The town was unimpressed by his logic.)
As positive people, who turn frowns upside down, and insist on seeing glasses half full, it behooves us to see this as possible good news. Because it was just four years ago that Hillary Clinton, also running for president, estimated that half the people who supported her opponent Donald Trump – which would translate to 31.5 million voting Americans – were a “basket of deplorables.”
Whether or not this translates into meaningful progress depends on how you do the math.
If you take all the people in the United States, and apply Joe’s 10 percent number, that gives you 33 million of us who are “not very good people,” or just slightly more than Hillary’s estimate of how many lowlifes like us were in the basket of deplorables back in 2016. (Not good.)
At 15 percent of all the people in America, hard-charging Joe figures that 49.5 million of us are “not very good people.” (Even worse.) This would mean that more of us had oozed to the deplorable side of the political spectrum in a mere 3.5 years, which is no doubt Donald Trump’s fault, because, well, everything is, darn him.
According to this way of looking at the world, a higher stock market and lower unemployment – until the big coronavirus home confinement hit – made us (yes, I proudly count myself as deplorable) even more deplorable than before, and more not very good people-ish.
However, if you never took a statistics class like I never took a statistics class, you know that as soon as you cite numbers like these, some smug statistics grad will tell you that you don’t know your caboose from a hole in the ground.
So, let’s look deeper.
Hillary beat Trump in the popular vote by 3 million votes, meaning that a total of about 128 million people voted in 2016. (That factors out those who are not yet old enough to vote, and who haven’t had time to become deplorable yet, under the influence, no doubt, of their deplorable parents.)
Factor Joe’s 10 percent “not very good people” into that, and you come up with a mere 12.6 million of us who are not very good people. Bump it up to 15 percent, and you still only have 19.2 million not very good people. This is progress, people.
Take the higher estimate of not very good people, compare it to Hillary’s 31.5 million deplorables, and we’re talking real, measurable improvement. Positively granular. Even under the highest estimate of not very good people, an impressive 12.3 million of us have somehow slithered out of the basket of deplorables. This is a 39 percent decrease in deplorableness, which is enough to make even statistics grads bark their approval.
(I used to say “gnarly, Dude” at moments like this, but my wife won’t let me say that anymore. Forget I said it.)
Apparently what makes us deplorable and not good people is our fondness for keeping our doctor if we like our doctor, keeping our insurance if we like our insurance, secure borders, an aversion to late-term abortions, not saddling our grand kids with huge, crippling debt, a general appreciation for capitalism over socialism, and a general belief that big government screws up more than it fixes. (As some say, government could “screw up a steel ball with a rubber hammer.”)
Shame on us for thinking crazy stuff like that. Despicable, huh?
The good news is that we may be appreciably less deplorable, even if our democrat friends are doing the math.
Dave Simpson can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org