Facing Greta’s Challenge

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Facing Greta’s Challenge

On Thursday, 13 December 2018, Greta Thunberg, a 15-year-old climate activist from Sweden, addressed the U.N. Plenary Session at Katowice, Poland, to condemn global inaction in the face of the climate change crisis. (https://youtu.be/HzeekxtyFOY) Her address of under 4 minutes was a diamond of unadorned clarity, a challenge to all adults worldwide. In an 11 minute address earlier this year, Greta described her own evolution as a climate change activist while still a child, from: learning about the crisis, to spurring herself into solo public advocacy, and now forcefully challenging national and international politicians to act immediately in response. (https://youtu.be/EAmmUIEsN9A) Greta’s withering criticism of her elders is fully justified because no real action in response to climate change has occurred during the last quarter century, and since Severn Cullis-Suzuki, then 12, issued the exact same critical challenge to the world’s adults, over the course of 6 sparkling minutes, at the Rio de Janeiro summit on climate change in 1992. (https://youtu.be/oJJGuIZVfLM)

We all know what effective action means: an immediate disavowal of capitalism, militarism and imperialism, and the obscene wealth inequities they protect and are motivated by; and the redirection of the human energies, financial treasures and political powers wasted as tribute for the preservation of global rule by the elites of those wealth pyramids, to instead propel a vigorous and unlimited global program of climate change action based on economic equity and climate justice. Basically, Green World Socialism without end (or, till the end).

The only barriers to achieving this social and political transformation of the world are purely mental, not physical: the reluctance in less than perhaps 800 million minds (10.43% of humanity) to relinquish extracting unnecessary and excessive wealth and luxury from the operations of socio-political and economic systems that impoverish, exploit, injure and kill people in the disadvantaged 90% of humanity. What is lacking is a species-wide solidarity among homo sapiens. How do we gain that?

Solidarity arises out of a homogeneity of misery. A steep grading of affluence, along with a media-indoctrinated consensus for devotion to anxiety, acquisition and up-class envy, assures against any outbreak of solidarity. When there can be no thought for the world until the wanted “needs” of me and mine have first been met, we have a societal atomization assuring against any disruption, by enmeshing social solidarity, of our parallel isolated preoccupations. Societal inertia is condensed from the individually encapsulated and blunted awarenesses of people immersed in a regime of economic disparity. Transformative social evolution is simply the fluid mixing of a commonality of experience in the struggle for life within a leveled and even disorganized population.

To meet a species-wide challenge to survival, like climate change, we must first develop a species-wide solidarity. And, our history suggests that for that to happen we must first suffer a leveling catastrophe so the survivors and their successors can marinate in an equality of want for a sufficiently long time until it ferments into tangles of solidarity that eventually connect all human thought. This is how democratic socialism and social democracy emerged in Western Europe after World War II.

Our dread today is that we don’t want to suffer such a leveling catastrophe because it would be a devastatingly painful, tediously drawn out tragedy, and a holocaust undeserved by multitudes of its innocent victims, regardless of how just a retribution it would be against our criminal elite who brought us to this extremity; and we don’t want to suffer through such a catastrophe because the survivors of that purge (maybe you and me?) would have no idea how long they would have to scratch and shift largely alone and unprotected in the pitiless rubble of human society’s destroyed past before mind, spirit and moral character revived and interconnected into a new socially uplifting solidarity. But, that uplift might never occur, and the destruction that begs for it could be terminal. So, how do we break through the paralyzing dread and proceed expeditiously anyway?

We can’t wait for hope; hope follows action. Action must engage without relying on hope because for all we know the geophysical situation may be hopeless, and the social benefits of action would be widespread and immediate regardless of the duration and ultimate outcome of our efforts. Concerns over the financial costs of those efforts are irrelevant because only the social value gained matters. Waiting for some reassuring hope, telegraphed back into the present from the uncertain future, guaranteeing that our careening societal inertia can be finessed with minimal change to its governing prejudices and inequities, so it can then swerve around the geophysical wall our fossil-fueled fate is raising along the entire line of our horizon, is a blind and cowardly stupidity unworthy of our intellectual capabilities.

Some, including me, have wished for a mass popular awakening that erupts into a socialist revolution that then engenders a socially transformative climate change response. Such a response would surge toward the goal of achieving a self-sustaining balance between universal human aspirations and needs, with the enduring processes of Nature that support All-Life. Short of such a miraculous mass satori, I see little prospect of anything beyond a trail of excuses ejected behind our obviously inevitable surprising collision with fate’s wall.

In the absence of a species-wide solidarity, we are left with the prospect of class, race and intergenerational wars erupting out of the struggles for survival during the accelerating calamities of advanced climate change. The young and the striving workers, whose futures and economic viability are being robbed, will be driven by a righteous anger and the courage of those with nothing to lose to rebel and make war against the parasitic fossil-fueled regimes destroying them. Such wars would be heartbreakingly bloody for the rebels against capitalism because of the monopoly on highly technological violence held by the entrenched capitalist powers, a machinery of violence which would be used mercilessly against the much larger impoverished populations in rebellion. It would be like the Vietnam War, perhaps multiply and perhaps globally. Why do I think such gloomy thoughts? Because I have not yet found a major counterexample to the observation by Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) that:

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress.”

Gaining the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (the abolition of slavery, exclusive of prison labor) required the bloodletting of the American Civil War (1861-1865). The liberation of so many countries from dictatorial regimes and from colonial exploitation by foreign powers over the last two centuries required tsunamis of blood and long periods of societal torture of the oppressed. And, what of the Yemenis, Palestinians and the Uyghurs, among others today? It seems that Douglass’s dictum will remain a tragic tautology for humanity for some time.

If the capitalist establishment remains intransigent in its embrace of fossil-fueled inequity and acquisitiveness then any determined uprising against it, motivated by both a thirst for socio-economic justice and the mounting of an all-encompassing response to advancing climate change, has the potential to expand into a conflict that could itself collapse civilization in advance of the geophysical termination of planetary habitability for us.

An anti-capitalist and climate change motivated revolution that did triumph after sustaining massive losses over a long war would undoubtedly be morally coarsened by the experience, and their postwar socialist regime might not be as generous and utopian as we could wish for. But none of this need be so. As Greta and Severn have said, we could all just decide to agree and bypass all the “blood, toil, tears and sweat” of resisting, and get the job done.

So, I don’t bother being critical of the many types of advocacy for climate change action that are being tried today, from the confrontational consciousness-raising theatrics of Extinction Rebellion and the Sunrise Movement, to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s political proposal of a Green New Deal, to the articles, books, speeches, sermons and rants by many people, from distinguished to unknown. It’s all good if it tickles our species to wake up, unite, discipline its greedy capitalists and take control of its destiny. However, all these efforts combined have yet to induce government action, so it is obvious that a great deal more “motivation” has to be found or manufactured to spur governments to act now.

The time for our somnambulant capitalist bullshit and our hypocritical navel-gazing narcissism is over. Greta is right to kick us “adults” in the ass. We need to wake up, stop making excuses, unite, and get moving. Act now!

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Can’t Jump Out


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Can’t Jump Out

The World’s on a careening joyride
snaking along Cliff Drive
high above the moonlit surf rocks,
with drunken Frat Boy at the wheel,
motor gunning, tires chirping,
and you blank-staring down the edge
married to Knuckleheads’ fate.

It’s not a tragedy to die alone,
but it is to die lonely.
How do I want to die?
Quick!
But if it has to be slow,
let it be with Brompton’s Cocktail
and a 100 micro-gram chaser
of L.S.D. 25, twice.

Enough plastic’s in humanity’s gut now,
38 years into the blinding dark,
to pop out shrink-wrapped shits.
My days are numbered
but I’m not counting
for I keep faith with Nature:
fresh nectar’s in the Hummingbird glass
and it’s December,
Flat Top Johnny’s 78th.

Postwar began 26 July ’53,
and the ’50s ended ten years later
22 November.
The ’60s launched New Year’s ’59
and crashed cold and hard late ’73.
The ’70s flat-lined sputtering out in ’79,
and America died 4 November ’80.
34 days later
the Bloody Blackness took us down
our hallucinating plunge
god-gifted insanity hypnotized,
untouched by real awareness:
if ignorance is bliss
this must be paradise.
My castaway’s wish for shining youth
is glorious triumph over our bones
and lost hopes’ ashes greening anew.

8 December 2018

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A Formula For U.S. Election Outcomes

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A Formula For U.S. Election Outcomes

I am wondering what the chances are for significant U.S. government action on the following ten issues, before 2022:

1. Equity of taxation
(popular/leveling vs. corporate/plutocratic),
2. Extract money from politics, kill Citizens United
(prosecute influence peddling and financial crimes),
3. climate change action (Green New Deal),
4. cut war spending, end the Yemen War
(and cut military-corporate subsidies),
5. Medicare-for-All
(versus insurance company gouging),
6. Social Security expansion
(versus general impoverishment for fat cat gains),
7. fund and staff welfare programs
(food, shelter, childcare, post-disaster assistance),
8. immigration reform and smart liberalization,
9. public school upgrades and teacher funding
(versus vouchers for resegregation; free college),
10. end subsidies for Christian xenophobia bigotry
(pursue Civil rights prosecutions, and Reparations).

This depends on what kinds of administrations we get as a result of national and state elections in 2020 and 2022. So, I devised a mathematical model of U.S. voting outcomes based on voter political affiliations and voting preferences. My aim is to have a tool to quantify my guesses about future election outcomes, so as to improve my speculations on when and to what degree desirable action will be taken on the ten issues stated. This exercise was better than being glum, dejected and confused about American politics, and this essay summarizes my findings. I based my model on voting behavior during U.S. presidential (quadrennial) elections instead of on midterm elections, but why not use it for both?

There were 7 of steps in devising this model: 1, determining the fractional composition of the American electorate by age brackets (15 of them); 2, finding the percent voter turnout by age bracket; 3, finding the party identification (both formal affiliation and casual identification) proportionally by age bracket; 4, collapsing all that data into the percent of the voting population that favors each of the three major U.S. political ideologies (from least to most amorphous): Republican, Democratic, and Independent; 5, examining the tabulated numerical date to divine the most general and instructive relationship, dependent on the fewest number of parameters, to devise a specific correlating and predictive mathematical formula; 6, calculate hypothetical results from this formula and then compare them (to the extent possible) with data on prior election outcomes; and 7, generalize the initial formula into an easily used estimating tool.

The Data

My source for population data was the U.S. Census Bureau [1]. On July 1, 2017, the US population was (officially) 325,719,178, and the voting age (18-85+) population (without considering legal barriers) was 252,018,630. I used data published by Charles Franklin on voter turnout as a function of age (https://medium.com/@PollsAndVotes/age-and-voter-turnout-52962b0884ef), [2]. I collapsed Franklin’s smooth data curve (for voter turnout, by age, to presidential elections) into 15 single values of percent turnout, one for each of the 15 age brackets: 18-19, 20-24, 25-29, 30-34, 35-39, 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, 55-59, 60-64, 65-69, 70-74, 75-80, 80-84, 85 and up. Turnout for teen and early 20s voters is 47%-55% (17%-25% for midterms), and turnout increases steadily with age, reaching a broad peak between 80% and 85% for voters 55 to 80 years old (70% to 73% for ages 62 to 79, for midterms). The population between 18 and 34 years (16 year span) is 75,913,971; the population between 60 and 79 years (19 year span) is 58,412,409. The population between 55 and 79 (24 year span) is 80,420,365; the population between 18 and 39 (21 year span) is 97,145,968. Voters between the ages of 18 and 29 (11 year span) contribute 17% of the presidential vote; voters between the ages of 50 and 59 (9 year span) contribute 19% of the presidential vote. Ah, poor youth, condemned to struggle and strive in a country (and world) shaped and directed by the crabbed and brittle prejudices of a smaller number of futureless self-satisfied property owners.

Party affiliation is of two types: being a reliable voter to a party you are registered with, or being an independent voter who will admit to “leaning” (in the voting booth) to the Democrats or Republicans, especially when you are alarmed or enthused about a particular election or issue. Those voters who refuse to declare a duopolistic party allegiance or even a “lean” are the staunch Independents. The Gallup organization has published data on the percent of voters who are Democrats, Republicans, and Independents, as well as leaners to the Democrats and Republicans, by age (https://news.gallup.com/poll/172439/party-identification-varies-widely-across-age-spectrum.aspx), [3]. Using this data, I lumped leaners in with declared party loyalists (respectively, for Republicans and Democrats), and then for each of the 15 age brackets assigned three numerical factors for the percentage of the age bracket voting in each of three modes: Republican, Democratic or Independent. From all the data described to this point, I was able to calculate, for each age bracket, the percent of the presidential vote that went to the Republican and Democratic parties, and to the Independent category. I summed up the results for the 15 age brackets to get an overall composition of the entire voting population, and rounded the final numbers slightly for convenience, to arrive at: 45% Democratic, 40.5% Republican, and 14.5% Independent. I will call this the “baseline.”

Note that all the data described above refers to conditions between 2014 and 2017.

The Formula (!)

If people voted consistently with their declared affiliations, we would have a continuous sequence of Democratic Party administrations; but people don’t, so we have flux and upheaval. In fact, the outcome of our national elections is driven by the surreptitious faithlessness of our tight-lipped (to pollsters at least) Independent voters. Our staunch Independent voters number between 1-in-8 (12.5%) to 1-in-5 (20%) of the voting population, and this fraction varies geographically and over time, in mysterious ways. What actually happens with Independents in the privacy of their voting booths is that they make individual choices about individual issues and candidates, and for each of these they vote in one of three ways: Democratic, Republican, or for one of the myriad of Independent options available, including abstention. So, the 14.5% (to take a fixed number for now) of the voting population that is incorrigibly Independent actually splits into three fractions during voting (quantified here as percentages of the Independent voting population only): I%D, I%R, and I%I. The label I%D represents the percentage of the Independents who voted Democratic in a particular election. Similarly, I%R corresponds to the percentage of the Independents who supplied Republican votes, and I%I corresponds to the percentage of the Independents who remained purely Independent. Note that I%D + I%R + I%I = 100%.

The 4.5% advantage Democrats have over Republicans nationally, based on my calculations (the baseline), can easily be overcome by a 5% or greater net contribution of Republican votes from the Independents. For example, if the Independent population splits: 50% Republican, 5.2% Democratic, and 44.8% staunch Independent (50% + 5.2% + 44.8% = 100% of the Independent population) then they contribute, nationally: 7.2% for Republicans (50% of the 0.145 fraction of the national vote made up of Independents), 0.8% for Democrats (5.2% of their 0.145 national fraction), and 6.5% (44.8% of their 0.145 national fraction) for Independent candidates. The result for the national election becomes: 47.7% Republican (40.5% + 7.2%), 45.8% Democratic (45% + 0.8%), and 6.5% Independent (14.5% – 7.2% – 0.8%). Note that 47.7% + 45.8% + 6.5% = 100% of the national vote. In this case the Republicans win the election with a 2.0% lead (with slight rounding).

By calculating several examples, as just shown, one can arrive at the following equation for election outcomes (for the duopoly horse race).

D-R = 4.5% + [0.145 x (I%D – I%R)].

In words: the percentage difference between Democrats and Republicans in national elections is equal to 4.5% plus the fraction 0.145 multiplied by the difference between the percentage of the Independent voting population that voted Democratic, and the percentage of the Independent voting population that voted Republican. The calculation for the previous example is as follows:

D-R = 4.5% + [0.145 x (5.2% – 50%)] =
D-R = 4.5% + [0.145 x (-44.8%)] =
D-R = 4.5% + [-6.5%]
D-R = -2%

Democrats lose, numerically, by 2%. Also, the actual vote going to Independents nationally is:

Actual Independent Vote Nationally =
14.5% (Independents) – 7.2% (to R) – 0.8% (to D) = 6.5%.

After playing a while with the duopoly horse race estimator formula, give above, I realized one can generalize it further.

D-R = D0 + [Fl x (I%D – I%R)].

D-R = percentage difference between Democrats and Republicans, from election.
D0 = percentage advantage (+) or disadvantage (-) for Democrats, based on affiliations.
FI = the fraction (not percentage) of the voting population that is Independent.
I%D = the percentage of the Independent population that chooses D (this time).
I%R = the percentage of the Independent population that chooses R (this time).
I%I = the percentage of the Independent population that remains I (this time).
Note that: I%D + I%R + I%I = 100%.

So far here, I have used D0 = 4.5%, and FI = 0.145. However, you can choose different numbers based on your own survey of population, voter turnout and party affiliation data, or on your intuition about a particular electoral contest. As mentioned earlier, estimates of FI can range between 0.125 (1/8) to 0.2 (1/5), and perhaps beyond.

Comparing To Previous Elections

I have not found data on the population sizes and voting splits of the Independent voting contingent in previous elections. It would be nice to validate the formula using such data. While the assumptions underpinning this model may not be representative of conditions in all prior US elections, we can nevertheless use prior election results to calculate inferences about what might have been the voting behavior of Independent voters in the past. To do that, we assume that the baseline (40.5% R, 14.5% I, 45% D), which was calculated from 2014-2017 data, has been constant (or nearly constant) since 1968. Here are the calculated inferences on how Independents voted in elections since 1968, based on the known national outcomes.

1968, Nixon
R. Nixon (R) 43.4% vs. H. Humphrey (D) 42.7% vs. G. Wallace (I) 13.5%
Remainder of the national vote is 0.4%
Independents contribute 14.5% of the national vote
Independents split: 77.2% (Wallace), 20% (R), 0% (D), 2.8% (I).

1972, Nixon
R. Nixon (R) 60.7% vs. G. McGovern (D) 37.5%
Remainder of the national vote is 1.8%
Independents contribute 14.5% of the national vote
Independents split: 87.6% (R), 0% (D), 12.4% (I)

1976, Carter
J. Carter (D) 50.1% vs. G. Ford (R) 48%
Remainder of the national vote is 1.9%
Independents contribute 14.5% of the national vote
Independents split: 51.7% (R), 35.2% (D), 13.1% (I)

1980, Reagan
R. Reagan (R) 50.7% vs. J. Carter (D) 41% vs. J. Anderson (I) 6.6%
Remainder of the national vote is 1.7%
Independents contribute 14.5% of the national vote
Independents split: 42.8% (R), 0% (D), 45.5% (Anderson), 11.7% (I)

1984, Reagan
R. Reagan (R) 58.8% vs. W. Mondale (D) 40.6%
Remainder of the national vote is 0.6%
Independents contribute 14.5% of the national vote
Independents split: 95.9% (R), 0% (D), 4.1% (I)

1988, Bush Sr.
G.H.W. Bush (R) 53.4% vs. M. Dukakis (D) 45.6%
Remainder of the national vote is 1.0%
Independents contribute 14.5% of the national vote
Independents split: 89% (R), 4.1% (D), 6.9% (I)

1992, Clinton
W. Clinton (D) 43% vs. G.H.W. Bush (R) 37.4% vs. R. Perot (I) 18.9%
Remainder of the national vote is 0.7%
Independents contribute 14.5% of the national vote
Independents split: 0% (R), 0% (D), 95.2% (Perot), 4.8% (I)

1996, Clinton
W. Clinton (D) 49.2% vs. R. Dole (R) 40.7% vs. R. Perot (I) 8.4%
Remainder of the national vote is 1.7%
Independents contribute 14.5% of the national vote
Independents split: 1.4% (R), 29% (D), 58% (Perot), 11.6% (I)

2000, Bush Jr.
G. Bush (R) 47.9% vs. A. Gore (D) 48.4%
Remainder of the national vote is 3.7%
Independents contribute 14.5% of the national vote
Independents split: 51% (R), 23.5% (D), 25.5% (I)
Bush appointed despite a 0.5% deficit.

2004, Bush Jr.
G. Bush (R) 50.7% vs. J. Kerry (D) 48.3%
Remainder of the national vote is 1.0%
Independents contribute 14.5% of the national vote
Independents split: 70.3% (R), 22.8% (D), 6.9% (I)

2008, Obama
B. Obama (D) 52.9% vs. J. McCain (R) 45.7%
Remainder of the national vote is 1.4%
Independents contribute 14.5% of the national vote
Independents split: 35.9% (R), 54.4% (D), 9.7% (I)

2012, Obama
B. Obama (D) 51.1% vs. M. Romney (R) 47.2%
Remainder of the national vote is 1.7%
Independents contribute 14.5% of the national vote
Independents split: 46.2% (R), 42.1% (D), 11.7% (I)

2016, Trump
D. Trump (R) 46.1% vs. H. Clinton (D) 48.2%
Remainder of the national vote is 5.7%
Independents contribute 14.5% of the national vote
Independents split: 38.6% (R), 22.1% (D), 39.3% (I)
Trump appointed despite a 2.1% deficit.

The 2.1% Republican Credit

In the 2000 election, G. Bush (R) had a 0.5% deficit and was still appointed the 43rd President of the United States of America.

In the 2016 election, H. Clinton (D) gained a 2.1% lead over D. Trump (R) – the same lead J. Carter (D) used to win in 1976 – and yet Trump was appointed the 45th President of the United States of America.

These “deficit wins” were due to a combination of nefarious factors: the Electoral College, pro-Republican judicial bias, voter suppression efforts (in both R and D varieties), vote counting sabotage, and undoubtedly other forms of creative incompetence.

So, today we must assume that because of embedded structural irregularities in the American electoral mechanism, that Democrats must gain more than a 2.1% advantage over Republicans in order to win national elections.

I easily concede that my simple clean mathematical formula does not contain the full range of rascally dirty realities in American electoral spectacles.

Dreams Of DSA Utopia

Could a significant politically leftward sentiment ever take hold among the Independent voting population, and this cause a leftward shift in electoral outcomes? The more socialist (or democratic-socialist, or progressive, of left) the legislators, executives and administrations that result from near-future elections, the more likely the ten issues I listed at the beginning would get serious attention – and action!

W. Clinton (D) won in 1996 with an 8.5% advantage. His Democratic administration was pure corporate, no different from center-right Republican policy before Reagan. I assume that if the voting population turned further away from Republicans, and more in favor of the most socialist-oriented Democratic candidates, that the resulting Democratic administrations would be less corporate-oriented (yes, I know this is magical thinking at present).

So, perhaps a Democratic victory with a 12.5% advantage would result in a Democratic administration that is a half-and-half mixture of corporate (DNC type) Democrats and socialist (DSA type) Democrats, and then some serious nibbling would occur on the ten issues. Mathematically, this could result if the hypothetical Independents split: 55.2% (D), 0% (R), and 44.8% stayed pure (I). The projected national election result would be 53% Democratic, 40.5% Republican, and 6.5% Independent.

An even better though less likely occurrence would be a socialist Democratic Party that gains a 16.5% electoral advantage, driving the Republican Party to extinction (instead of us!). Using the formula, we can infer an Independent split of: 82.8% (D), 0% (R), 17.2% pure (I). The projected national election result would be 57% Democratic, 40.5% Republican, 2.5% Independent.

The ultimate fantasy is of all Independents becoming enthusiastic DSA socialists, so they would add their 14.5% of the national vote to a socialist Democratic Party, with a projected electoral result of: 59.5% Democratic (pure DSA), 40.5% Republican, 0% Independent. An electorate that could accomplish this would empower national and state administrations that would address the ten issues listed earlier, with vigor and all the resources – human, material, and intangible – available to this rich nation.

However improbable the last scenario – of a Socialist political tsunami – appears in the United States of today, I think it is better to keep it in mind as a vision (more easily done if you are young), rather than acidly disparaging and brusquely dismissing it (more likely done by the old and bitter), because it can help motivate useful activism and kind action from those who want a better world with fairer politics and economics, and know that it is humanly possible to get it.

Notes

[1] Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Selected Age Groups by Sex for the United States, States, Counties, and Puerto Rico Commonwealth and Municipios: April 1, [use above title to search in “2017 Population Estimates,” link below is just a start]
https://factfinder.census.gov/faces/tableservices/jsf/pages/productview.xhtml?src=CF

[2] Age and Voter Turnout (Charles Franklin)
https://medium.com/@PollsAndVotes/age-and-voter-turnout-52962b0884ef

[3] Party Identification Varies Widely Across the Age Spectrum
https://news.gallup.com/poll/172439/party-identification-varies-widely-across-age-spectrum.aspx

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