Category: US Foreign Policy (page 2 of 5)

International Affairs Scholars Talk Back to Trump at #Duckies2017

Trump told us we should study the world.  IR scholars had something to say about that. Earlier I promised to turn some of these quips into a special blog post, which also happens to be my Ignite talk at this year’s Duckies’ Awards in Baltimore. Happy #ISA2017.

The Downsides of Burden-Sharing

Abe Newman and I have a piece in Vox on Trump’s attempt to pressure allies into spending more on defense. You should ignore the title. The gist of the argument is that, first, there are upsides to having wealthy and technologically advanced allies dependent on the US for their security needs; second, while it would be great to get NATO allies to spend more on defense, this is a very dangerous way to go about doing it; and, third, the benefits of burden-sharing are likely overblown.

Since it went live, I’ve had a few interesting exchanges. One of the claims that we make is that Trump’s calls for burden-sharing are a bit odd. If we want to derive economic benefits from burden-sharing, we need to reallocate defense savings into more productive sectors. Trump’s own plans for military spending suggest he has no intention of doing this. But Raymond Pritchett points out that the alliance has major recapitalization needs—including the SSBN-leg of the nuclear triad—and so some in the Pentagon might hope that burden-sharing allows reallocation.

Regardless, please give it a read.

Trump’s Randian Foreign Policy

This is a guest post by Zachary C. Shirkey, an Associate Professor of Political Science, Hunter College, CUNY.

Attempts by observers to give Trump’s foreign policy some coherence by finding an underlying ideology that motivates it have largely focused on Jacksonianism. Certainly, aspects of Trump’s outlook and those of a number of his advisers fit the description of Jacksonianism. Jacksonians see US interests in white ethno-nationalist terms and they emphasize strength, unilateralism, self-reliance, and coercion. Jacksonians also seize upon simple solutions for complex problems. Early Trump policies and goals such as protectionism, the proposed border wall with Mexico, and the Muslim immigration ban fit into this worldview.

While such a description of Trump’s worldview has much to recommend it, focusing solely on Jacksonianism risks missing another important influence on him and his advisers: that of Ayn Rand. Many current Republican officials cite Rand as a major influence on their thinking. Trump himself has spoken favorably of Rand’s novel, The Fountainhead, and its hero Howard Roark. Likewise, both Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and CIA Director Mike Pompeo have spoken highly of Rand. This is not to claim that all of Trump’s key advisers admire Rand’s works. Steve Bannon—the adviser whose views perhaps most closely align with the white ethno-nationalist component of Jacksonianism and who has cited influences as diverse as Lenin and the Italian reactionary Julius Evola—is strongly averse to Randianism. Still, enough members of the Trump administration admire Randianism that it needs to be taken into account when thinking about Trump’s likely foreign policy. Continue reading

Trump Wants People to “Study the World!” IR Scholars Can Jump All over This.

Study the world!” brayed Trump on Twitter last week, in defense of his travel ban. Dan Drezner, who studies the world for a living, shot back:

“I have studied it, and I can tell you with some certainty that your words and actions have harmed US national security.”

On Facebook, I’ve seen friends and colleagues with PhDs in international relations post their own versions of Dan’s tweet:

Andrew Moravcsik: “I have studied the world, and people who say they are going to change history generally repeat it.”
Richard Price: “Those who seek power by dividing ultimately succumb to those who unite to oppose.”
Tanisha Faizal: “I have studied the world, and international norms don’t last forever. Proceed with caution.”
Deborah Avant: “I have studied the world, and extremism toward an external other often turns inward.”
Steve Saideman: “The international order has been good to the US. We shouldn’t break it.”
Peter Andreas: “Building walls and imposing bans is a good way to make enemies, not friends.”
Sarah Parkinson: “I have studied the world and learned that protest matters for visibility and solidarity.”
Joel Oestreich: “When countries want to do bad things, there’s nothing they like more than saying ‘see, the US does it too!’
Patrick Jackson: “Human identities are not facts, they are political strategies.”
Heather Roff: “I have studied the world, and learned that the failure to see people in other countries as fellow humans makes people do terrible things.”
Stephanie Carvin: “In America terrorists are usually homegrown, rarely immigrants and almost never refugees.”
Paul Musgrave: “I have studied the world and learned dramatic departures in US foreign policy have effects that can last for decades.”

As you can see, with these three little words Trump has handed IR scholars both a challenge and a natural rallying cry in the run-up to #ISA2017 and the March for Science on April 22. If IR scholars are good at anything, it’s studying the world, and if a President ever needed our advice from IR scholars, it’s this one who doesn’t seem to know nuclear weapons from climate change.

So today, I propose the following social media challenge to my fellow IR scholars: condense the most useful finding, fact, or causal truth YOU’VE learned by “studying the world” into a pithy remark of no more than 125 characters. Tweet it to @realDonaldTrump with the hashtag #StudytheWorld! Then go on Facebook and post it on your wall with this message:

IR Scholars #StudytheWorld! Facebook Contest: Duck of Minerva is crowd-sourcing pithy IR knowledge to share with Trump today. Leave a simple, policy-relevant causal truth or evidence-based claim about global politics on your wall with the hashtag #StudytheWorld! Tag three friends who are professors of global affairs or comparative politics and ask them to do the same. If you like, add a link to a book or study President Trump should read. The best replies will be featured in a special future post.

 

Does Bannon’s Appointment to the NSC/PC Require Senate Confirmation? Perhaps A Judge Should Decide.

Retired U.S. Navy Admiral Mike Mullen published an op-ed in today’s New York Times calling for the removal of Steve Bannon from the National Security Council Principals Committee, a position he apparently obtained without Trump being fully briefed.

According to Mullen:

“Having Mr. Bannon as a voting member of the Principals Committee will have a negative influence on what is supposed to be a candid, nonpartisan deliberation. I fear that it will have a chilling effect on deliberations and, potentially diminish the authority and prerogatives to which Senate-confirmed Cabinet officials are entitled. They, unlike Mr. Bannon, are accountable for the advice they give and the policies they execute.”

A point Mullen didn’t raise, and side-steps in this passage, is that Bannon’s presence on the NSC/PC without prior Senate confirmation is not only politically but legally controversial. As Fred Kaplan noted last week, citing an interview with Yale law scholar Eugene Fidell, according to Paragraph A(6) of the 1947 statute creating the NSC, appointment of members to the NSC beyond those stipulated in the statute requires confirmation by the United States Senate. This argument was made by Jonathan Alter in a tweet citing the 1947 statute echoed in a few places last week.

Other legal scholars aren’t sure this interpretation is correct.  Jordan Brunner, a National Security intern at Brookings, argued at Lawfare Blog that because Bannon was made a member of the Principals Committee, but only an invitee to the NSC itself, this circumvented the need for Senate Confirmation. In a back and forth with Kaplan on Twitter, Harvard law professor Jack Goldsmith tweeted: “Principals committee analytically separate from NSC, which is all that statute regulates.” This was also the expressed view of Harvard Law professor Lawrence Tribe last week, who tweeted the law “doesn’t require Senate confirmation to serve on the Principals Committee, which isn’t part of NSC as such.” Based on these arguments, and an interview with Tribe (but not Fidell), Snopes.com weighed in on January 31 to say the claim that Senate confirmation was needed for Bannon is “unproven.” This does not, of course, mean it could not be proven. But such a point of dispute among legal observers could only be settled by a court of law through a suit brought by a plaintiff with standing (in this case most likely someone associated with the US Senate).

As a non-lawyer who follows national security law, I’d like to see a a more nuanced consideration of whether the US Senate might have a case to make that its prerogative to provide advice and consent has been circumvented here. My reading of the 1947 NSC statute and other primary documents suggest to me that the PC’s relationship to the NSC is not as clear and unambiguous as suggested in these exchanges. So to the extent that Senate confirmation indeed hinges on that distinction, there might well be an interpretive basis for a confirmation hearing – or at least for judicial review to settle the matter.  Continue reading

Trump and the move away from the sitcom approach to foreign policy

If the United States is Blossom, then Australia is Six.

If the United States is Alex P. Keaton, then Australia is Skippy (not this Skippy).

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Travel Ban Lifted in Early Victory for Non-Violent-Resistance to Trump

My colleague Erica Chenoweth has a great article in The Guardian today on the power of non-violent resistance:

Many people across the United States are despondent about the new president – and the threat to democracy his rise could represent. But they shouldn’t be. At no time in recorded history have people been more equipped to effectively resist injustice using civil resistance… Historical studies suggest that it takes 3.5% of a population engaged in sustained nonviolent resistance to topple brutal dictatorships. If that can be true in Chile under Gen Pinochet and Serbia under Milosevic, a few million Americans could prevent their elected government from adopting inhumane, unfair, destructive or oppressive policies.

Erica’s point was proven late yesterday when after weeks of non-violent resistance by citizens, academics, journalists, lawyers, civil society organizations, and the diplomatic and national security corps, a federal judge in Seattle  blocked the order, quickly reinstating the free movement of travelers. This is a heartening sign not only for tens of thousands of affected travelers, their families, and their colleagues/friends/co-workers, but also for American institutions, as it suggests that non-violent resistance has a real chance at blunting the damage the Trump administration can do to civil liberties.

Whether it will continue to work, however, depends on whether Americans can keep it up. The White House is already pushing back on this ruling, and, predictably, on the judge himself,  a pattern which can be interpreted as an attack on judiciary as an institution. As Chenoweth notes, 3.5% of the US population actively resisting means at least 11 million US citizens need to continuing to call their representatives, writing op-eds, pumping money into civil liberties organizations, defending science, defending the press, and engaging in informed, deliberative, non-violent dialogue with our fellow citizens.

Chenoweth goes on to provide a smorgasbord of fact-based information on how to do just that:

Today, those seeking knowledge about the theory and practice of civil resistance can find a wealth of information at their fingertips. In virtually any language, one can find training manuals, strategy-building tools, facilitation guides and documentation about successes and mistakes of past nonviolent campaigns.

Material is available in many formats, including graphic novels, e-classes, films and documentaries, scholarly books, novels, websites, research monographs, research inventories, and children’s books. And of course, the world is full of experienced activists with wisdom to share.

Scientists Will March on Washington on April, 22. International Relations Scholars Should Join Them.

As became clear earlier this week in the discussion around how academic associations should respond to Trump’s travel ban in organizing their annual meetings, President Trump’s policy does not only affect national and religious minorities; it does not only affect scientists from Muslim-majority countries. In the case of the travel ban, it is also an existential attack on scientific inquiry – inhibiting scholarly collaboration and exchange on which all scientists rely.  Excluding individuals from freedom to share scientific ideas based on their nationality or faith from is discriminatory and contrary to the US constitution and to human rights law, but it is also an impediment to science itself.

Indeed, a pillar of Trump’s vision appears to be his hostility to science.  Within days of taking office the Administration had issued gag orders and funding freezes for government science agencies and reversed science based policies.  An unrepentant plagiarist who believes evolution should not be taught in schools is close to being confirmed as Education Secretary. The situation is so bad that Dan Drezner  encourages political scientists to assume National Science Foundation grants will be on the chopping block in the next months. And he is probably right.

 

The good news: as with many other issues, the opposition response has been quick and swift, with a March for Science now being organized for Earth Day, April 22:

The March for Science is a celebration of our passion for science and a call to support and safeguard the scientific community. Recent policy changes have caused heightened worry among scientists, and the incredible and immediate outpouring of support has made clear that these concerns are also shared by hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Mischaracterization of science as a partisan issue, which has given policymakers permission to reject overwhelming evidence, is a critical and urgent matter. It is time for people who support scientific research and evidence-based policies to take a public stand and be counted.

Social scientists concerned with international relations have good reason to support, publicize and join this effort. Evidence-based foreign policy has never been more vital, and the authority of scientists and experts never more fragile in the “post-truth” era. Nuclear security and climate change adaptation depend on both physical and social science. Risk analysis is critical to a sensible approach to counter-terrorism and a measured response to media fixation on outlying events. Social scientists have a role to play in slowing or blunting policies based on fear, misinformation, propaganda or logical fallacy.

Of course there is scientific debate about the political significance of marches as a tool for influencing policy change.  Social scientists can and should be and are engaged in many other forms of activism, Weberian and civic at this time: holding the media accountable, writing Monkey-Cage style op-eds, running for office, using our connections and expert authority to visit our Senators in collective delegations, protecting our colleagues, working through our institutions to protect the scientific process and through our social media accounts to correct conspiracy theories, alternative facts and racist logical fallacies circulating in our networks.

Yet a Million-Scientist-March with an army of fact-loving citizens at our backs should be thought of as more than one among many efforts to communicate to the government. Mass marches are a signaling tactic for audiences within and beyond our borders, and a way to influence the national political narrative. Large crowds in the streets on April 22 will affirm to the world that particularly around pressing global issues not all Americans are willing to deal in “post-truth.” And the march will be a focusing event in a discursive effort to inoculate American citizenry against the idea that there exist “alternative facts.”

Earth Day is a moment to think in global terms about our planetary security. I hope scholars of international security will be front and center.

 

Talk Intel To Me

I remember laughing about an article in The Medium about a TV Sitcom that triggered the downfall of Western Civilization. In case you were wondering, it’s Friends with its “tragic hero” Ross Geller. The author lamented the awful mistreatment of the most cerebral character on the show that signified the harsh embrace of anti-intellectualism in America in the early 2000s. For instance, most of Ross’s academic stories were cut off by his bored friends and audience laughter. Why? Maybe some people would like to know more about sediment flow rate?!

In the age of an amazing accessibility of knowledge, America was conned by a man who disregards the value of science and whose surrogates do not see the difference between facts and feelings. Richard Hofstadter warned about the tendency for anti-intellectualism in the US back in the 60-s, but things seem to have gotten much worse. These days, there is a whole field and a term for deliberate politics of ignorance –  agnotology. It was already obvious on presidential campaign trail: Hillary Clinton was made fun of because she was preparing for debates instead of “winging” them. Academics and professional journalists were scolded (says who?) and college students were derided as snowflakes out of touch with real America. Gagging of scientists and professionals has followed: yes, lock them up in their ivory towers. Agnotology has even born its long-awaited fruit — the by now infamous “alternative facts” euphemism (or is it “euphenism”?).  As one of American bookstores has put it:

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Party Trumped Policy in 2016

This is a guest post by Christopher Gelpi and Elias Assaf.  Christopher Gelpi is Chair of Peace Studies and Conflict Resolution at the Mershon Center for International Security Studies and Professor of Political Science and Elias Assaf is a Ph.D. candidate in Political Science at The Ohio State University, both at The Ohio State University

President Donald Trump adopted a variety of controversial and unorthodox foreign policy stances during the 2016 presidential campaign.  Since taking office, Mr. Trump has moved quickly to begin implementing many of these policies – including a border wall with Mexico, a ban on immigration from certain majority-Muslim countries, and withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership.  While Mr. Trump was very clear about his intentions during the campaign, public reaction to his implementation of these policies has nonetheless been quite negative.  Protests among left-leaning progressives in response to the anti-Muslim travel restriction are not surprising, but even prominent Republican leaders have been critical of Trump’s foreign policy actions since taking office. Moreover, according to Gallup’s tracking poll, President Trump’s disapproval rating rose sharply during his first week in office.  Within eight days of taking office, a majority of the public already disapproved of the job he was doing as President.

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Understanding Trump’s Worldview

Over the weekend, Donald Trump gave an interview with Michael Gove of The Times of London and Kai Diekmann, a former editor of the German newspaper Bild. (The interview is behind a paywall, but you can register for free for access to two articles a week from The Times.)

There has been ample coverage in the press (see here, here), focusing on Trump’s ambivalence to NATO (“obsolete” “very important”), hostility to the European Union (“Personally, I don’t think it matters much for the United States”), and equal regard for Angela Merkel and Putin (“Well, I start off trusting both — but let’s see how long that lasts. It may not last long at all.”)

A friend on Facebook said she was struggling with explaining Trump’s foreign policy strategy. A number of people weighed in with suppositions about his business relationships in Russia, whether or not he is subject to blackmail from compromising information.

Leaving that aside, even in the absence of some specific connection between Trump and Russia, what might explain his coziness to Russia, his disdain for NATO, the EU, traditional allies? Or, put a little differently, since first-level analysis of individuals and agency is in vogue again, how can we understand Donald Trump’s worldview?

Tom Wright’s Politico piece from a year ago January 2016 is seen as one of the most accurate and helpful depictions of Trump’s worldview, and his forthcoming book will anchor Trump’s rise in the wider geo-strategic context. Wright focuses on Trump’s mercantilism and perception that the U.S. has gotten a raw deal from the liberal order and that alliances are sapping the country of resources. On Russia, Wright attributes Trump’s views to his general appreciation for authoritarians.

I think that’s generally right, but another idea woke me up at 2am last night and led me to some bleary-eyed tweets. Here is what I said.

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Trump and IR Theory: Did We Forget Great Men?

I was reminded on twitter that international relations professors have trained students for generations to focus on the third and second levels of analysis and dismiss the first–that individuals and their characteristics matter much less than the constraining impact of institutions and the incentives provided by the international system.

So, should we just apologize as Trump sells out the postWWII order and ends American hegemony by whim or fiat?  No, we need to drink heavily.  Seriously, there are a few real responses to this question of agency and structure.

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Never Too Early for a Crisis in Civil-Military Relations

To be clear, the latest news is “intra-civilian” but is likely to cross over given the stakes.

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#RussiansDidit

Putin’s annual press conference is a chance for regular citizens to spend 3 hours in a great and rich Russia, where everything is in order and Putin is capable of installing presidents in foreign countries (according to one journalist). In general, the press conference strived to paint a picture of a great power facing some economic problems and who is constantly challenged by other countries (they are probably jealous and/or Russophobic). For me it was also a chance to wonder at Putin’s stamina. He might not be Superman, as one of the posters brought by the journalists stipulated, but his bladder is definitely made of steel.

As always, Putin demonstrated his ability to juggle all kinds of statistics in response to questions about economics, including Russia’s successful export of IT. One may wonder if he included hacking, because that was definitely a very successful export. As a female journalist called for abolishing juvenile justice in Russia, because ‘slapping children is a traditional Russian [sic] pedagogical method’, Putin emphasized that there was a slim line between slapping and beating up, but still warned against interfering into family matters. In comparison to the rhetoric of some of the questions, Putin did make an impression of a more liberal and reasonable politician, very much fitting into the narrative of ‘without Putin it could be much worse’ .

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Explaining the Obvious in the Age of Trump

The President-Elect has called for expanding the US nuclear arsenal, not just modernizing it (old warheads may not be good warheads).  And when asked about whether this might lead to an arms race, he said woot!

Who wins arms races?

  1. Arms manufacturers and their stockholders
  2. Maybe Ken Waltz (who is already dead)

Yeah, that’s about it.  How about who loses?

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WPTPN: The Loss of the American Narrative

This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Aida A. Hozić is an Associate Professor of International Relations at the University of Florida. This blogpost draws on a chapter prepared for Hegemony and Leadership in the International Political Economy, edited by Alan Cafruny and Herman M. Schwartz (Lynne Rienner, forthcoming).

There is a moment at the end of every regime when the relationship between all hitherto accepted modes of representation and reality seems to collapse.  Regimes start running on fumes when well-established political rituals appear devoid of meaning, when institutionalized practices are revealed as arbitrary, when beloved symbols of power suddenly have no referent, pointing instead at power’s empty seat. In short, regimes collapse when narratives that have held them together are no longer believable.

America, I would argue, might be rapidly approaching that point.

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The Russians Are Coming (for your language too)

Gone are the good old days when I had to explain what the word ‘yarki’ means to my friends and colleagues (for the record, ‘colorful’, not ‘brilliant’). Now I will have to clarify the complexities of planting child pornography into the computers of oppositional leaders thanks to the re-emergence of ‘kompromat’.

Why did kompromat, arguably a KGB-developed practice of mining compromising material on politicians and blackmailing them with it, surface again in the media? As Fabian Burkhardt noticed, the word first appeared in the English language with the information wars of the 90s. Moreover, the term ‘kompromat’ is inextricably linked in Russia with the former Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov – or, rather, with ‘a man who looked like the prosecutor general’…

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WPTPN: Will Populist Nationalism Lead to Great-Power War?

This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Louis F. Cooper. His online writing includes “Reflections on U.S. Foreign Policy” at the U.S. Intellectual History Blog (July 16, 2014). His Ph.D. is from the School of International Service, American University.

The French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars of 1792-1815, which one historian has labeled “the first total war,” engulfed basically the whole of Europe. A century later, a war broke out in Europe that extended beyond the continent to become global in scope. One can think of the two enormously destructive world wars of the twentieth century as a “thirty years war” (1914-1945), interrupted by what can be viewed in retrospect as an uneasy lull marked by the Depression and the rise of fascism.

Those who see history as essentially cyclical might have expected another global war to occur in or around 2014. The idea of ‘long cycles’ of war and peace, explored by several scholars, could have suggested this. And if one believes, as Robert Gilpin wrote some years ago, that “even though some states occasionally come to appreciate the mutual benefits of international cooperation, unfortunately all states have yet to learn the lesson simultaneously,”[i] then the occurrence of another world war would not have been out of the question. Obviously, however, it didn’t happen on the centenary of World War I. Why not?

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How Are You? On Coping in the Time of Trump

I’m not going to assume that all of our readers are non-Trump fans, but let’s be honest, Trump support in the social science academy is probably slim. And, if you are like me, you are dismayed by what transpired with the election and continue to try to figure it out, both personally as a human being and as a citizen of whatever country you are from.

At moments, you think, maybe it won’t be so bad, but then he tweets or says something and you fear it will be worse. I think Americans are often preternaturally disposed to thinking things will work out, but events of late make me wonder.

So, in the meantime, I think many are coping as best they can,  spending more quality time with family and friends, starting that fitness routine up again, going camping or getting outside, vegging out with some escapism (the Ghostbusters reboot, a little Westworld), or finding community service projects to donate to or serve in.  There is some collective on-line therapy happening with friends and colleagues or groups like Pantsuit Nation.  There is the temptation to retreat from the public sphere and to cut out unpleasant news. I think some unplugging and going offline for a bit is warranted. I tried that for like 12 hours.

I think it is important though that we gradually pick up the pieces and re-dedicate ourselves to fight the good fights ahead, whether that be public service inside the government, citizen advocacy (I’ve called my legislators to let them know about a few choice appointments I’m not happy about), or possibly other forms of public protest if and when they are warranted.

In the meantime, let’s celebrate with some gallows humor.

#1

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In the end, I come back to this to get ready for the next chapter.

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Algorithmic Bias: How the Clinton Campaign May Have Lost the Presidency or Why You Should Care

This post is a co-authored piece:

Heather M. Roff, Jamie Winterton and Nadya Bliss of Arizona State’s Global Security Initiative

We’ve recently been informed that the Clinton campaign relied heavily on an automated decision aid to inform senior campaign leaders about likely scenarios in the election.  This algorithm—known as “Ada”—was a key component, if not “the” component in how senior staffers formulated campaigning strategy.   Unfortunately, we know little about the algorithm itself.  We do not know all of the data that was used in the various simulations that it ran, or what its programming looked like.   Nevertheless, we can be fairly sure that demographic information, prior voting behavior, prior election results, and the like, were a part of the variables as these are stock for any social scientist studying voting behavior.  What is more interesting, however, is that we are fairly sure there were other variables that were less straightforward and ultimately led to Clinton’s inability to see the potential loss in states like Wisconsin and Michigan, and almost lose Minnesota.

But to see why “Ada” didn’t live up to her namesake (Ada, Countess of Lovelace, who is the progenitor of computing) is to delve into what an algorithm is, what it does, and how humans interact with its findings. It is an important point to make for many of us trying to understand not merely what happened this election, but also how increasing reliance on algorithms like Ada can fundamentally shift our politics and blind us to the limitations of big data.   Let us begin, then, at the beginning.

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