Quick update time!
Bringing Ragnarok: Book Three is just about done. Part 3 will be fully drafted by end of this week, and I'll do the intensive rewrite and line edits over the next couple weeks.
Then I get to make the final edits to the full manuscript (usually 1-2 weeks) and it'll be ready to publish on Kindle!
And after that... Book Four! Goal: End of December release.
May sound like an aggressive timeline, but I wrote Book Two between August and mid-October 2018, and had edits all done six weeks later. So far, the reader ratings i'm receiving on Book Two are fully in line with Book One (better, which is normal, as people who didn't like Book One probably won't read Book Two), so I don't think quality has suffered from the compressed timeline.
And Book Four won't be as long as Book Two was. Book Three has topped out at around 150,000 words, which is about 10k more than planned, but Book Two left a lot of stuff to unpack - and there will be another time jump between Books. Book One begins on 20 July and ends about a week later, and Book Two begins in September, ending in mid October. Book Three, similarly, begins in December and ends at the end of January.
Book Four will not have as much of a time jump, as Three sets up the flurry of adventures that will constitute much of Book Four.
On that note - while Book Three is numerically the halfway point of the Saga, in terms of wordcount it is more like 60% (unless I wax on too long in Book Five, a distinct possibility) and in terms of the total workload more like 66% - 70%.
I actually began plotting the story out in the middle of my doctoral studies, way back in 2015. Apparently I was ahead of the curve on the whole apocalypse thing - I didn't think the orange idiot was a real threat until after the first couple primaries in 2016, but I've always believed something like him was coming. Many writers have, and during the course of my studies I came across a good deal of convincing evidence that led me to believe the USA would face a serious, very possibly terminal, crisis in the mid 2020s.
In any case, I was actually doing research on plot points and coming up with the general concept well before I began writing anything down. I've always wanted to write fiction, and wrote a fantasy novel about a decade ago. But I'm also kind of a perfectionist in many aspects of my work, and I've always wanted to write on the level of Tolkien or Clavell, with my own dash of Twain and Steinbeck to mitigate the darkness of reality. To do that, I felt like i needed to actually understand people and the world on a scientific level.
Bringing Ragnarok is very much the product of that effort - as will be all the worlds I build after. My next project will be more fully in the sci-fi world, set in a 22nd century where the Neoliberals don't win, and Earth is actually a pretty decent place overall. The rest of the galaxy, now (Earth's colonies and territories included) - very different proposition. And there are epic affairs afoot - some I actually intend to foreshadow late in Bringing Ragnarok, though you probably won't know it until I begin to publish Bivrost Nine.
As for BR, the nature of the Saga structure as well as the sort of narrative harmonics I'm trying to layer in means that Books Four through Six are actually easier to write, because so much has been established there are fewer degrees of freedom to work with in the metaplot. By which I mostly mean that stakes eventually get raised and irreversible moments accumulate that all but force a particular resolution. Not to give anything away, but the focus of much of these books will be exactly that - how to do what little one can to alter the unraveling of events produced by forces that became decisive long before you had any chance to effect the outcome.
So, war, in a nutshell, from the soldier's perspective. Sometimes even officers too.
I will post more on Book Three when I know it is ready to release, sometime mid-August. Around then, I plan to run a Kindle Countdown deal where the price on both Books One & Two will be $0.99 for a few days. I'll post on this site, for anyone who happens to get notifications.
Another note - I will slowly begin publishing appendix-style summaries of characters, histories, and the like in the coming months. There is a lot to keep track of and I've had requests for a kind of guide, so I'll work to put that together. Most of my conception of the Gods and Norse Mythology comes from public sources, which I will link to, and explain my own take.
To reconstruct the personalities and concerns of the Goddesses I've relied heavily on adjacent bodies of myth, but also Tolkien's Silmarillion. He relied heavily on the Norse Myths (nice standalone complex, eh?), and was deeply educated in other European traditions as well, so I consider him a very valuable resource for understanding Freyja, Idunn, and Frygga through the lens of Galadriel, Yavanna, and Varda. With Syf entering the scene too, later on, inspired by Niena.
Helps that I've got most of Christopher Tolkien's 'Making of Middle Earth' series on a shelf, and some of Tolkien's older conceptions of the Valar are very instructive. Americans have done their best to ruin Tolkien by turning his work into a male fantasyland, but if you actually bother to read deeply into his broader work you'll find that women should *always* have had more of a prominent role than Peter Jackson allowed.
Of course, Americans would screw up the women too, I'm sure. I'll never, ever forgive them for how they portrayed Faramir. Eowyn too was 95% less cool than she deserved to be.
ANYWAY. Final note - I've been experimenting with Twitter (gods help me!) this year, trying to understand it.
I really don't like this generation of social media at all, as I'm well aware it is addicting and anxiety-inducing by design, but I value the perspectives I'm able to access - and wouldn't be able to otherwise.
If you happen to be reading this and for some mad reason you *also* use Twitter, feel free to check out my random nonsense. I post as Mimr's Head, only sometimes staying in character. The handle is mimr_s and I am probably as bad at interacting there as with email, but there's a rad bunch of writers and other creatives with military experience whose insights I find *invaluable* in understanding my characters.
Yep, in Book Three, there's a bit more depth coming to Chavez' character - when not playing Post-American warlord, she rather enjoys makeup and nail polish and her ex.
Hey, Samurai in Japan were admonished to always make sure their makeup was applied and their hair done correctly before going into battle. If your enemy might claim your head, you don't want to go out looking like a slob, was the thought.
Nothing wrong with that.
Stay safe out there in this nutty world!
So let me preface this essay and strategy thinkpiece with a bit of a (long) disclaimer.
I am not a Democrat. I am an American citizen, but I prefer to identify as a Cascadian of Anglo-Saxon descent, because heritage and local biome matter far more than a bit of dyed cloth ever could. It is my firm belief that the United States should and most likely will break up (in some form) in my lifetime, because its governing architecture has been captured by a privileged elite that has turned its laws and institutions against its people, which is simply not sustainable.
Further, the United States' endless wars represent a series of mounting atrocities that have stained the nation's honor beyond repair and made itself - and the wider world - systematically less safe. Where just twenty years ago the world was at the "End of History" and Great Power struggles were a thing of the past, now talk of a New Cold War and nuclear confrontations is once again the order of the day.
Americans never wanted any of this. The divisions tearing at the fabric of American society are a result of a generation of failed policies in DC. America must reform, must seek renewal, or it won't last for much longer.
But to be absolutely clear: I no longer believe it likely that any power can stop the coming unraveling. I think the USA is already across the cliff-edge, and Trump's people will manufacture "emergencies" while right-wing proxy groups terrorize neighborhoods in an attempt to suppress the vote.
Whether American democracy can withstand this is uncertain - it has never been tested in this way. And even if it does, the media normalization of Trump and Trumpism over the past four years has made it inevitable that other right-wing candidates will emerge to maintain his coalition after he is gone.
It is absolutely essential to combat this likely scenario starting now, before attempts to do so become overtly politicized. And because the Democrats really are the only established game in town (this is part of the broader problem in America, but you wage political war with assets you have available) the best chance of stopping Trumpism lies with the Democrats running someone in 2020 capable of turning out enough votes in the right states.
But here's the rub - anyone who has followed American politics since the 1990s knows that the Democratic Party has been colonized by a "Moderate" (Neoliberal) wing, mostly comprised of former moderate republicans who became disenchanted with the GOP. This tribe absolutely loathes identity politics, because it is disproportionately comprised of older and whiter members of the population, and works very hard to control the party' agenda and strategy both behind the scenes and in the major media outlets like the New York Times and The Atlantic. It is a tribe dedicated to maintaining the status-quo in America, largely because it is the tribe whose constituents (again, older and white than the average member of the population) happen to have the most (and deepest entrenched) power in elite circles.
This is Joe Biden's tribe, Hillary Clinton's tribe, and John Kerry's and Al Gore's. It is a tribe that consistently loses crucial elections to weak GOP candidates that worked as hard as it could to prevent Barack Obama from winning the nomination in 2008, just as it did Sanders in 2016. (And woe unto us all that they eventually captured his administration).
It is also the tribe most responsible for continuing America's wars abroad, against the will of the majority of the American people.
I don't have much hope left for American politics, and honestly believe that long-term we'll be better off if we break the country into six or so autonomous federal regions, so federal policy can be set and implemented more effectively to suit the needs of local Americans, however they determine them.
Which is really just to say that I'm not actually a total wackjob, and what follows is a set of progressive policy recommendations tailored to my assessment of the harsh realities of contemporary American political geography.
Pillar 1: An Honorable Foreign Policy
America's honor has been tarnished and the sacrifices of our forebears have been betrayed. The Forever Wars have consumed thousands of America's finest, indebted us by trillions, and have made all Americans fundamentally less safe. There is no more pressing moral cause than to end the era of interventions, securing a peace dividend that can be invested to secure America's future.
1. Cease all active military operations taking place without direct Congressional oversight and restore the Legislative Branch's Constitutional authority over the Executive Branch. Simultaneously, begin bilateral and multilateral negotiations with any party to a conflict where the United States or its allies have a clear stake, seeking a just resolution that ends the violence.
2. Commit to a 50% reduction from the proposed 2020 Budget of $750 Billion ($2,300 per American!) over ten years. This allows time for a drawdown of forces actively deployed abroad, coordination with allies, and planning for force reductions. Final reductions will be made contingent on the outcome of bilateral arms control talks to be held with leading powers like Russia and China, requiring their committment to spending limits and transparency.
3. Reform the forces to take advantage of America's core strengths - intelligence, electronic warfare, rapid deployment, logistics, command and control, and training - producing a smaller, leaner, elite force capable of meeting 21st-century security challenges. End wasteful Cold-War era procurement programs like the F-35 and Ford-class carrier, and focus on developing the next generation of military technologies.
4. Expand the Army and Air National Guard to absorb their Active-duty counterparts, and guarantee that all currently-serving Active-duty personnel can continue their career. In addition, we will create a two-tier service system, guaranteeing local service for those who cannot or choose not to deploy, preventing the possibility of another stealth draft like that experienced by many service members during the Iraq War.
Pillar 2: Restoring America's Dream
Inequality is tearing at the fabric of American society. Too many live on the edge of poverty, while a few live in ridiculous luxury, and everyone else is caught in the middle - what middle is left. While DC has played imperial games abroad, it has neglected to support basic infrastructure development at home. America has become socialism for the rich and savage capitalism for the rest.
This must be fixed by investing $1,000 per-American per-year, $325 billion in total annually, a peace dividend that will benefit all Americans, not just the well-connected and influential.
1. Rural communities will receive block grants, matching loans, and entrepreneurship support designed to build new green industries in America's heartland. In the West, the forests will be managed to reduce fire risk while providing carbon-neutral biofuels to heat area communities. In the Midwest, farmers will receive incentives to grow new and more environmentally sustainable crops, including next-generation biofuels.
2. Urban neighborhoods will receive similar block grants, loans, business startup support, and other proven community-oriented development programs. Renters who have demonstrated a committment to a community will be eligible for subsidized mortgages meant to help them purchase their own home, and those who sell to renters will receive benefits to encourage rent-to-own contracts, which give all residents of a community a stake in its future.
3. Every American will be guaranteed a free two-year degree through a community college, and anyone willing to sign a two-year service committment with their local National Guard or other qualifying public service organization will be granted a four-year expenses-paid scholarship to a public university of their choice. This will democratize access to higher education across the board, while instilling a committment to community service in a generation of Americans.
4. A new national health insurance plan will be offered to all Americans, free to anyone lacking insurance through their employer or another federal benefit. Healthcare is a basic human right and must be guaranteed to all, but we should remain flexibile when it comes to how best to achieve it. Further, medical and nursing school loans will become forgiveable after five years of licensed practice, encouraging more students to study and practice in that field, alleviating America's shortage of qualified medical professionals.
Pillar 3: A Green New Deal to Secure Our Future
Climate change represents an existential threat to global society, and many of America's most vulnerable communities are on the front lines of what will become one of the greatest challenges in our history. Make no mistake - without radical and immediate action on a global scale, storms will get worse, the seas will rise, droughts and fires will become more intense, and millions of people will be forced to move into climate refuge zones. America must do its part to transition to a global carbon-zero economy by 2050.
1. Offer incentives for community-based applied research projects that will identify new and innovative ways to build a green economy at the grassroots level, empowering local businesses and organizations to work together to slash carbon emissions while subsidizing the growth of new green industries across the nation, lowering energy and utility bills for Americans wherever they live.
2. Promote local-scale energy cooperatives capable of generating sufficient renewable energy and next-generation biofuels to meed local energy needs, insulating rural pruducers from rising energy prices while tying each and every American community to the green power grid. We will commit to a zero-carbon energy system by 2050, re-developing rural landscapes as green energy producers.
3. Embark on a total overhaul of America's transportation infrastructure, rebuilding bridges and roads while incorporating the latest technological innovations capable of reducing travel times and emissions, while embracing a completely hybrid and electric fleet by 2030. Further, safe and reliable autonomous vehicles will be deployed to guarantee that every community will have access to public transportation, reducing our reliance on owning our own vehicles.
4. Commit to fair international agreements that aim to reduce emission of carbon and other pollutants into the biosphere, doing our part in the global effort against both climate change and environmental degradation. Further, we will join wealthy nations like Norway and Germany in embracing international protocols allowing for the transfer of green technologies to developing nations in exchange for accelerating anti-poverty and environmental protection efforts.
Pillar 4: Rebuilding Our Society
Americans are being driven apart by the relentless changes now underway as a result of globalization and the internet. Hate crimes, racism, sexism, and all the other forms of violence that seem to be everywhere right now must be challenged.
1. Promote a culture of service in the upcoming generations by tying free public university education to a formal service committment through the revamped and appropriately funded National Guard. Restore the connection between America's citizens and civic institutions by allowing young Americans to work on service projects in their own communities in exchange for a free four-year education at a university of their choice.
2. Restore faith in American democracy by securing our elections against both foreign interference and the despicable efforts of some to prevent black and latino Americans from voting. Every electronic voting machine will produce a paper record of the voter's choice, and a dedicated task force will investigate every allegation of voter suppression to ensure that no one is able to select their electorate.
3. Reform America's criminal justice system to eliminate racial policing and the scourge of unjustified police killings. We will reverse the militarization of America's police, and require that police departments reflect the composition of the population they serve and protect, while improving police funding across the board to help end law enforcement practices that put officers at unnecessary risk.
4. Bring civility and dignity back into the White House, while working to reverse a half century of expanding executive powers, that have placed the Constitutional balance of powers in jeopardy under the Trump Administration. We will sponsor alternative social media and news services to Big Tech, while expanding regulation and anti-trust oversight of these companies to guarantee the principle of user ownership and control over their own data.
There is a deep truth to democracy, that most prefer not think acknowledge: People usually vote according to their sense of their own identity, and how their peers expect them to vote. That's not an opinion, that's a scientific evaluation based on a lot of academic research. Most policy preferences people express in surveys and polls are a function of their identity, not the other way around, and people's public behavior (and their votes) are heavily conditioned by whatever group they identify with.
Most conventional American political analysis pretend this isn't true in "advanced" democracies - read, white western democracies. They prefer their traditional model of the "rational voter" - the woman or man who knows what policies they value, and votes for candidates who will advance their policy interests. Identity may be relevant, but it competes with other things that are also valued, and so voters who exhibit behaviors indicating they are "Identity" voters are seen as an anomaly, people who simply value their identity above material factors.
This is the theoretical root of the myth of the "swing voter" - a hypothetical rational and moderate type who sometimes votes GOP, others DNC. While such people certainly do exist, their numbers aren't as large as you might think. The myth persists partly because it offers a conveniently simple media narrative, but also because of a bit of sleight-of-hand employed by mainstream political analysts, 538 included (especially, much of the time).
See, there actually isn't a lot of data that tracks actual voter behavior. Voting is secret, and you have to rely on exit polls and other proxy data to estimate the composition of who turned out and how they identify. This sort of work great for validating whether an election was free and fair in retrospect, but not so good at telling you what different cohorts of voters do from year to year.
When most analysts talk about "swing" voters, they're actually talking about swing electoral districts, where the actual vote count shows the district "flipping" between the parties from year to year. But what is actually happening, according to the data, is not necessarily the same group of voters going to the polls every year, and choosing the "optimal" candidate. IF you had close to 100% turnout, or at least a statistically representative sample of the population, in every election, you could impute the existence of these swing voters.
But you don't. All you have is the number of votes for each candidate, the share of eligible population voting, and some exit or post-election polls indicating (roughly) the composition of the electorate. From that, you can map out the districts by their vote count, and see which districts flipped from one party to the other. Analysts, however, knowing that the average person doesn't have the statistical training to spot the difference, have chosen to portray those district changes as indicating the existence of a group of moderate, non or bi-partisan voters.
What is actually a far simpler and more consistent explanation rooted in what the data can actually tell you, is that many voters - particularly those describing themselves as Independents - tend to show up at the polls only to support people they feel a personal connection with. And in the age of the internet, Obama, Trump, and O'Rourke have all shown that there are large populations of people who will only turn out to vote - but who will turn out - for someone who can appeal to their tribe.
As so many Pew Research reports show, America is composed of many political tribes, not just conservative and liberal, Republican/GOP and Democrat/DNC. These groups turn out to vote at different rates, they consume different political media, they share their own reality when it comes to how they feel about politicians and issues. The reason why we're all trained to think that American voters are composed of three groups - right, left, and moderate/swing - is largely down to the fact that the media amplifies the voices of the two biggest tribes at the expense of all the others, making it difficult to put together an electoral coalition.
In short, American politics is afflicted by bad theory and bad analysis, because this is profitable for the players involved. But the real, true nature of the beast is that people - and especially in the age of the internet - are tribal. Trump's people appear to have either figured this out, or stumbled on the truth, and that's why his approval ratings have not dramatically changed since 2017. Unless American can collectively figure out a way to escape the trap of the current two-party system, there is little hope of finding a way through the present crisis without formal political divisions.
It is widely recognized that trying to predict politics is a mug's game.
Still, I think it is kind of fun.
Also, I happen to believe I've a decent theory of how American politics *actually* works, shorn of the myths the mainstream media feeds everyone.
So here's the thing - American politics is about translating everone's desire to not be responsible for paying the cost of public stuff like defence and roads into real public policy.
Ultimately, we all depend on one another's taxes to fund things we like, but we don't (can't) all agree 100% on what gets priority.
So our ancestors set up systems of rules and regulations that work to make sure questions of taxes and benefits are resolved in a more-or-less peaceable fashion.
Problem is, over time, all such systems get gamed out by all the different interest groups involved. In the US, industries with their own geographically-specific interests compete for access to the politicians our system lets decide the niggling details of policy implementation. Like organisms sharing an environment, over time they've worked out a complex set of relationships that keep them getting what they want with minimal outright competition.
The present form of oligarchy many observers of US politics agree exists is a result of a natural process of our rule-making and rule-enforcement architecture decaying with time.
This underlies the growing sense of fear and viciousness pervading the political system. It is no accident that essential norms most of us have long taken for granted - you know, rules like don't push for total victory over your political adversary, or 'maintain the outward illusion that we're-all-in-this-together-so-we-have-to-all-get-along,' seem to be dying fast these days.
In any event, the highly structured nature of the existing political status quo actually makes understanding what will *probably* happen in 2020 fairly simple.
On one hand, you have the now fully-colonized Republican Party, which is doubling down on white supremacy as a core animating principle. Because of America's changing demographic profile, this strategy has a shelf life of approximately 2028, which the party knows - hence, the push for outright voter suppression and the rejection of any sort of shared reality uniting left and right. That's all they have left to offer their voters.
Sadly, this strategy can succeed so long as the Boomer generation is still the main voting cohort in just enough states to control 270 Electoral College votes.
And on the other hand, you have everyone else, who because of the strength of the two-party system (a result of what they call a first-past-the-post voting system, something that *could* be changed, but won't anytime soon) are forced to compete for the right to challenge the incumbent in 2020 through the architecture of the Democratic Party.
The fact that there are almost two dozen hopefuls scrumming to be the Democrat's selection in 2020 is an indicator of the party's fundamental identity crisis. There are three major wings of the Democratic party, each competing against the others to be the party's anointed, all beliving the present incumbent to be a historically weak candidate any half-competent fool should be able to knock off.
The Progressives, led by Sanders and Warren, who are calling for major policy changes throughout the federal system - medicare for all with the elimination of private health insurance as the key example.
The Liberals, led by Harris, Castro, and Booker who are traditional Democrats rooted in the Civil Rights Movement and believe in working for change within the system.
The Neoliberals, led by Biden and Buttigieg, who are creatures of the Wall Street-Pentagon-DC complex who speak like Liberals, but govern like Republicans.
You also have a set of hybrid candidates, each focusing on a new coalition that may, or may not, find a home in the Democratic party. A major hybrid includes Gabbard, who is focusing on anti-intervention foreign policy types angered by the Democratic party's abandonment of the anti-war movement and, to a lesser degree, anti-intervention Republicans angered by their party's own embrace of Forever War. Another is Yang, who appears to be pulling from the same wonky idea-driven pool as a kind of spiritual child of Ralph Nader and Ross Perot.
But insurgent movements will face serious challenges in getting oxygen when the media will already be trying to turn the Democratic race into a 2-person affair, 3 at the very most. So while I have hopes for Gabbard in particular - if and when Sanders sheds support or leaves the race, she might be the primary beneficiary - they aren't high. Like, 5% odds at best.
And before you say Trump's odds were that low, sorry, but no. I knew by the time he was set to win the nomination that his campaign was no joke. The polls in the Rust Belt were showing signs of being off early in the cycle, as a result of pollsters grouping voters by state and not by county, over-stating the impact of the more-liberal urban areas relative to the rural districts, where people in that area went hard for Trump. I had a sense of this when comparing polls in Iowa to Wisconsin, and comparing poll predictions to voter results in the last few cycles. That, coupled to some research that showed the Trump people investing in Wisconsin, told me he had about a 50% chance of getting to 270 heading into election day.
Here's the map I expect to wake up to the morning after election day - essentially, the map I feared in 2016 (and it went even worse than that).
Because here's how i presently expect 2020 to go.
In the Iowa Caucus, the big news will be the complete collapse of Joe Biden's campaign - then polling in the 20% range, neck and neck with a couple others. I expect, barring something very strange happening in the next six months, this result:
Harris - 25%
Warren - 20%
Sanders - 15%
Buttigieg - 15%
Gabbard - 5%
Biden - 5%
Klobuchar, Booker, Castro, O'Rourke each around 2%
half a dozen others each around 1%
Obviously there's a +-5% margin of error here at least - I'm making predictions a LONG way out, based on fundraising and my perception of the strength of the various coalitions. Biden might hold on at Harris and Buttigieg's expense, Gabbard could surprise, and Sanders could beat Warren or it could go the other way around.
At this point, the bloodbath of dropouts begins. Biden will immediately face calls to exit, as will anybody who isn't waiting for a later state to give them a sudden boost - Castro and Booker come to mind here.
So once New Hampshire rolls around, I'd imagine the race would be down to 6 serious contenders: Harris, Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg, Gabbard, and probably either Booker or Castro. The other, plus Yang and anyone else with a big fan base and fundraising opportunities (which is what this endless campaign is really all about) will hang around, but lose virtually all coverage.
New Hampshire will be billed as the showdown between the Progressives, who the Media will be absolutely keen on trying to reduce to precisely 1 as quickly as possible, but won't be successful until Super Tuesday - unless Sanders collapses totally (unlikely). The result, I think:
Warren - 30%
Sanders - 25%
Harris - 15%
Buttigieg - 15%
Gabbard - 10%
Others - 5%
Again, sizable margin of error here, probably approaching 10% because New Hampshire is small and a bit strange. Lots of libertarian voters there, who may want to jump in and support Gabbard or Yang. Here is where I expect the Sanders-Warren war to begin in earnest, when the Bernie Bros decide Warren is standing in the way of their frontrunner. Meanwhile, Harris sits back, waiting for South Carolina.
South Carolina is where the fact that Harris can speak so eloquently to the life experience of black women will give her a huge boost. Her entire campaign is focused on this group, which is a very wise call, as it was this cohort that didn't turn out for Clinton (and why would they?) which, coupled to Clinton's status as a hate-fetish object for the diehard Boomer conservatives, proved disastrous in 2016.
My bet for South Carolina -
Harris - 45%
Warren - 20%
Sanders - 10%
Gabbard - 10%
Booker - 10%
Buttigieg - 5%
I'd give this a plus or minus of 10% because South Carolina is less familiar to me, so I have to go by demographics. Ultimately, I think the core Sanders supporters will be revealed as middle-aged white men with either too much or too little education, who fail to recognize the limitations of their perspective and address the concerns of actual voters in places like SC.
I suspect Gabbard benefits from the Warren-Sanders battle and the fact that SC hosts a lot of veterans, and Buttigieg probably gets *only* the veterans in the state (black voters seem to dislike him), while Booker performs reasonably well - but not enough to beat Harris.
Nevada is up next, where I think the media tells a story of Sanders and Buttigieg fighting their last stands, while Castro is desperate to break out and Gabbard is treated as the Ron Paul of the cycle.
Nevada is a caucus state, and has very odd rules, so I won't attempt a percentage breakdown (nor will it likely matter). But here's how the ranking will probably go, if the rest of the campaign proceeds as I expect:
At this point, the media will start with the horse race narrative, and all attention will shift to Super Tuesday. And here is where I suspect things will start to get interesting. Because while the media will be touting a Warren-Harris battle royale, Sanders and Gabbard probably won't quit the race until *at least* after Super Tuesday, and I bet they'll hold out even longer, along with (possibly) Yang and maybe even someone like Buttigieg, who will have a fair amount of $ and probably some delegates, and who will start considering the upcoming convention, which could be brokered.
The chaos narrative will start to dominate the longer the race remains contested. Personally, I think it highly likely that no one will reach the delegate threshold in the first round of the Democratic Convention. My best guess is that the first vote comes out something like:
Harris - 45%
Warren - 35%
Buttigieg - 10%
Sanders - 10%
Gabbard - 5%
And then the wheeling and dealing begins - superdelegates get to vote in round 2 - and the progressive wing probably loses to a Harris-Buttigieg coalition - the closest thing to the Obama coalition the present crop of Dems will get.
Because here's the thing. In the end, these numbers probably reflect the overall strength of each coalition in the party, with Harris representing a Neoliberal-Liberal synthesis while Warren brings the Liberal-Progressive synthesis.
But no matter who wins, a significant number of enthusiastic primary voters will end up feeling like the system has failed them. And they won't turn out at the rate the Democrats will expect them to.
In the end, people vote for a politician they feel represents them and their interests.
If the candidate doesn't, no amount of peer-pressure and shaming will get them to actually turn out.
This is just the way humans are. It is why the two-party system is doomed: Too many people feel disengaged and hopeless, because it is always the best-connected and most morally compromised who can usually stitch together a coalition. And with so many interests effectively embodied in their candidacy, they won't be able to satisfy everyone.
So just as the Neoliberals would never hold their nose and vote Sanders over Trump, the Progressives who love Sanders won't vote for Harris, or probably Warren either. And the former republicans Gabbard brings on board? If she isn't the nominee, they'll sit home too.
And 2016 will play out all over again, this time with the many material advantages of incumbency on the orange buffoon's side.
Advantages like a partisan Supreme Court. That will hear the inevitable lawsuits brought in Arizona and Wisconsin and Florida and Pennsylvania that seek to manipulate the vote count in some way. Amid allegations of foreign meddling, voter fraud, voter suppression, and possibly even violence.
I have no confidence whatsoever of a good outcome under these circumstances.
How could a better outcome be achieved?
A wildcard with breakout potential, particularly Gabbard, could hit her stride and upend these calculations. If her campaign can start putting out smart, detailed policy proposals and stop getting involved in spats, when the orange idiot in chief inevitably attempts to use a crisis with Iran to impact the Democratic primaries, she would gain attention and a chance to sell a comprehensive, post-partisan reform platform.
Plus, Gabbard paired with Harris stand a chance of hitting Trump in his weak spot: The West. If you look at Trump's state-by-state approval rating and the loss of republican votes suffered in Utah and Alaska, and remember that any place veterans congregate, Gabbard is likely to be strong, then a Gabbard-Harris ticked could, if done right, flip Arizona, Utah, or Alaska. Producing a map capable offsetting an unexpected loss of Pennsylvania, OR winning the thing outright if the Dems do hold PA and Utah or Alaska flips.
One of the also-rans could emerge somehow, though thus far Inslee's climate-change platform and Gillibrand's me-too emphasis see to be appealing to yesterday's news, from the media's perspective.
Buttigieg, essentially a Biden backup and the thought-spawn of Bill Clinton and John Edwards, could also break out if Harris stumbles, though I suspect he'd be a disaster in the general election.
And then, of course, someone like Biden or Sanders dropping out might have the effect of shaking things up - as would Stacey Abrams jumping in.
But all in all, having observed a fair share of elections in my life, I'm fairly confident I can ignore politics until the time has come to check my predictions against reality.
Here's hoping I'm wrong!