Extraordinary Claims

If you’ve read a fair number of outputs from the Machine, you know Carl Sagan is a personal hero of sorts. One of the topics on which he was most outspoken was the question of whether aliens had as yet visited Earth. He never categorically dismissed the notion, but he stated “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence”. That phrase actually dates back in another form to the French mathematician Pierre-Simon Laplace, who said “the weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness”.

“Strangeness” is indeed a word that could be applied with reckless abandon to the way the Trump campaign has approached this election. And one of the extraordinary claims made by the campaign is that the whole thing is corrupt, with Philadelphia as the epicenter. In particular, the campaign has spoken of Philadelphia’s “reputation”. These claims are extraordinary, because there has never been anywhere near enough widespread fraud in a U.S. Presidential election to flip the final outcome. Thus far, no real evidence has been produced to support the claims. But if something uniquely Philadelphian were going on here, one would think the raw numbers would support that. So I took at look at the percentages for a dozen established left-leaning counties, Philly included, to see if the City of Brotherly Love jumps out. Here is what I found:

County (City)BidenTrump
Boston (Boston)82.5%15.6
Cook (Chicago)72.6%25.8%
Dane (Madison)75.5%22.8%
District of Columbia (Washington)92.6%5.2%
Denver (Denver)81.5%16.6%
Fulton (Atlanta)72.6%26.2%
King (Seattle)75.7%22.2%
Los Angeles (Los Angeles)71.4%26.8%
Manhattan (New York City)84.5%14.5%
Philadelphia (Philadelphia)80.5%18.6%
San Francisco (San Francisco)85.6%12.2%
Wayne (Detroit)68.1%30.6%
Current percentages in votes for Biden and Trump across a dozen left-leaning metropolitan counties.

Some thoughts here. First, Philly ranks 6th out of 12 on this list. So that doesn’t jump out much. Sure, I cherry-picked the more liberal cities in the U.S., but Philly has always been known to be one of those, so the question is whether it jumps out as an anomaly against that backdrop. Its ranking here doesn’t support that notion. Second, Detroit, also a target of Trump campaign accusations, is actually last in this list. Third, Denver. Not exactly a city people think of when they think of corruption – yet the Biden ratio is even higher there.

The bottom line is that based on the above table, if Philadelphia is corrupt, then it would appear all left-leaning cities are corrupt, and of course a lot of Trump supporters will believe exactly that. But when you start taking these accusations to a national/conspiratorial level, you start to sound more and more like the crazy uncle. Bipartisan observers have been dispatched to all of these cities to ensure the integrity of the process, and bipartisan volunteers have been working insane hours under intense scrutiny to do the actual counting. The likelihood that all of these people are in on some sort of con game is about the same as the likelihood that President Trump will ever admit that he could actually lose a fair game.

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