Anecdotes Are Not Data

An often repeated mantra in academia is a reminder: anecdotes are not data. Your run-in with a devotee of the Second Amendment isn’t reflective of majority opinion on the subject of guns; the sermon your pastor delivered about abortion isn’t evidence of a monolithic religious position on reproductive choice…etc. etc.

I know that. I really do.

But anecdotes can be intriguing, even if they don’t amount to statistical evidence. And I’ve been involved in recent conversations that have me mulling over their possible larger meaning–especially since they have displayed an unexpected similarity. I am filing them under “possible omens for November.”

Here’s the context.

As regular readers of this blog know, I have been working as a volunteer on Marc Carmichael’s campaign for Indiana’s open U.S. Senate seat. Marc is running against Jim Banks, who may be the most odious example of MAGA Republicanism running for public office this year, and yes, I know that is really saying something. Among the tasks I’ve taken on is an effort to recruit Republicans willing to identify as “Republicans for Carmichael.” Banks is so extreme (and, from all reports, personally unpleasant) that even many Republican voters detest him, so I figured my odds were good.

I spent 35 years as an active Republican, and most of the people I worked with in what was then still a political party are still alive, so I thought I was an ideal person to make the ask. I began calling former colleagues who I had found to be reasonable, “good government” partisans.

And one after another, I got virtually the same response: I’m no longer a Republican.

A lawyer friend who was a long-serving Republican ward chairman told me he’d not only left the GOP, he’d also cooled relations with friends who’d remained.

A Republican who formerly served as Mayor of a northern Indiana city said he’d love to help, but he was now a Democrat.

A friend who was a former Republican Speaker of the Indiana House said he was no longer a Republican, and didn’t understand how any thinking person could embrace the party’s transformation into MAGA extremism or consider putting Donald Trump back in the Oval Office.

A friend who served two terms as a Republican county-level office holder told me “Sorry, I ‘came out” as a Democrat on Facebook last year.”

Over half of the people I called had similar responses. A couple volunteered to help the Carmichael campaign, but pointed out that it would be incorrect–even fraudulent– to include them in a list of Republican supporters. As one of them said, they are now “proud to be ex-members of the GOP.”

Most of the individuals I have thus far managed to recruit (a list will be announced by the campaign in due course) expressed extreme distaste not just for Banks and Trump, but for the current iteration of a political party they had worked for and supported financially for many years. But they are hanging in, hoping for a turn back to sanity.

I draw two conclusions from these conversations. One is obvious: when so many former party workers and elected officials have left, expressing disapproval and anger at today’s iteration of the GOP, it’s a reasonable assumption that membership in the Grand Old Party is shrinking. Admittedly there is no way of knowing or estimating the size of the cohort represented by these “high information” individuals. It’s possible that the people I talked to don’t represent significant numbers who have disaffiliated. It’s equally possible, however, that there are hundreds more who–for similar reasons– no longer consider themselves Republican.

My second “take-away” is more a theory than a firm conclusion. I have often shared my bewilderment that any sentient American can support Donald Trump, who–in addition to lacking any redeeming personal, ethical or intellectual qualities– is clearly, deeply, and increasingly mentally ill. My inability to get my head around support for Trump extends to my reaction to MAGA folks, who are opposed to every value that really does make America great.

My repeated discussions with individuals who have fled the GOP, as well as my conversations with those who are struggling with their choice to remain, suggests to me that people who clearly see the danger posed by an explicitly racist and fascist movement are largely drawn from the ranks of more informed citizens–people who not only follow political news but who possess the knowledge and experience to understand the nature and extent of the threat posed by the MAGA cult.

Perhaps neither of my conclusions is correct. After all, my evidence is anecdotal.

In the meantime, if anyone reading this still identifies as Republican and is willing to join Republicans for Carmichael–shoot me an email.


  1. This is a hopeful message today. With the disillusionment of many of my Republican acquaintances, the revulsion that T*ump/MAGA elicits among thinking people, and the activism of young people, there may be a possibility that Indiana just might be the color purple this year.

  2. Thanks for some good news. Now lets hope these folks can be active supporters and voters for sane candidates.

  3. Some thoughts while watching the latest Republican/MAGA sitcom with the story line that frozen embryos are babies; it stuck me that they are not being loyal to their own party foundation of Creationism. A frozen embryo is a product of science which is in total opposition of the Republican/MAGA strong foundation based on creationism vs. science. This took me to question; if a frozen embryo is implanted and survives the gestation period to birth, is the resi;t to be considered another Virgin Birth as declared in all Bibles and the basis of Christian religion with the Virgin Mary’s birth of Jesus? Tommy Tuberville cheered on the result of the increase of the population (the basis of their anti-abortion stand?) of those he probably expects to become members of the Republican/MAGA party of the future.

    Perhaps none of my conclusions are correct but I see no evidence of Republican/MAGA party members recognizing the opposition between their avowed Creationism vs. Science foundation and their strong stand on reproductive choice.

  4. True that anecdotes don’t make data … until you have enough of them that add up to significant numbers. Hearing about former Republicans eschewing the MAGA muck-up is fine, but until enough of those folks actually vote the MAGA idiots OUT of government, it’ll just be anecdotes after all.

    Over the decades and centuries, it has been recorded in history that about 25% of the humans create 75% of the dystopia-feeding issues. The number of registered GOP members has shrunk dramatically over the last decade. Yet the media covers the 25% left of the 25% like they’re really the top stories for all humanity despite the 30 + shooting wars going on around the world.

    These data are from a collection of “anecdotes” known as reality. The United States, for example, has only been at peace for 8% of its existence. I don’t know the numbers for other nations, but I can’t imagine places like countries who have constant religious wars, abject poverty, abuse of women and a host of other issues having any data that shows the glory of humankind all pulling together to survive on a planet with shrinking resources and birth rates adding another 70 million mouths every year.

  5. My nickname in college was ‘GOP’ – (2 term president of the Earlham YRs)) I am so glad to have left that party over 30 years ago. To those hanging in and waiting for change; get out now, it will only get worse. Life is much more pleasant after GOP.

  6. Sheila – I hope the former republicans you contacted are willing to be public with their thoughts and reasons for leaving the gop party. Publicly expressing their thoughts could really make a difference to not only the people that know them, but the people who don’t know them and hear their viewpoints through the proverbial grapevine.

  7. Vernon – our country being at peace only 8% of its existence is a very sobering statistic, but one that I won’t question. Just yesterday during a conversation with a friend about the size of our military budget we both concluded that we seem to always be involved in some war or conflict somewhere in the world.

    JoAnn – Glad to see that you are back. I haven’t seen a comment from you in quite a while and was beginning to worry. Maybe you’ve been commenting and I just happened to miss them.

  8. To Everyone that doesn’t know much or possibly anything about Jim Banks. Please take the time to google him and his wife Amanda. Banks has his nose so far up 45’s a** that it has been dark brown for several years. He is a proud member of the Freedom Caucus and is buddy-buddy with Jim Jordan. Club for Growth and the members of ALEC are prepared to spend massive amounts of money to get him elected. Club for Growth spent millions of dollars on ads in 2017 to get him elected to the US House because his opponent was leading the race and his opponent could not have been bought by wealthy interests.

    His wife has a powerful job in DC at the Family Policy Alliance. as their lead indoctrinator. She needs to be kicked out of DC too.

    Banks claims to be a Christian, yet he constantly lies. He is truly a member of the demented Christian Taliban and is a despicable, power-hungry, all around horrible waste of space! If you really want to see him in action just google his Fox interviews and watch the lies/sewage flow out of his mouth.

    Please tell everyone that will listen to you that they will live to regret it if they vote for him as a US Senator. Banks only represents his corporate/wealthy donors. He One of the worst things a person can do is vote straight republican in the Senate race. The quicker we can kick him out of politics the better off we will all be.

  9. Faith is more straightforward to teach and faster to propagate than knowledge is. Faith teaches the simplistic, here’s the past, full of mistakes. Here’s the present, the only time to decide and act. Here’s a future full of hope.

    On the other hand, knowledge is a step-by-step trudge. One fact at a time. It builds very slowly. It’s taken me 81 years to learn what I know now.

    In a society, mythology propagates fast through those who need it—instant hope.

    I sense that in the US, knowledge of our Constitution is overtaking Faith in the
    Seven Mountains Mandate and the myth of doing whatever you want in an overcrowded, considerably connected world. A world that has always been one in physics is now one world of humans connected by technology.


  10. Happy to hear you are volunteering on Marc Carmichael’s campaign. Would love it if you could promote Jennifer McCormick’s campaign for Governor. She is the only sane candidate of any and truly knows her stuff and will work with the people of Indiana.

  11. I became disenchanted with the GOP during the first Obama term. I still voted for Romney, I thought he could restore the sanity I expected from what had once been a respectable political party but I was wrong. When my state (NH) voted to nominate an obviously unfit buffoon, frequently bankrupt businessman, and acknowledged sexual predator I realized the party had crossed a line and left. 4 year later I became a democrat, the D aren’t perfect but 1. I need to be a part of a party to vote in NH primaries and 2. I had previously tried, and failed, to prove my right wing talking points by looking up the facts from credible sources. Ds are far more representative of my beliefs, and the desires of most Americans if pols can be believed, something I might not have realized had I blindly remained in the GOP spouting unverified right wing talking points. Democrats are far from perfect but in reality they are, on a world wide scale, centrist.

  12. It’s good to read that former GOPs have left the party for Dems. It would explain how the two political parties have shifted to the right. They are both center-right parties, leaving the entire left unrepresented. It drives me nuts when people on X refer to the “left wing” as Dems. It’s not even close. Even the elected progressives have acquiesced to the center-right Dem party.

    Sadly, Elon Musk still claims that all the immigrants and refugees coming in across our Southern border vote Dems. It stirs up hate against the Dems, but it’s completely unfounded since most of them are not citizens, so they cannot vote.

    Marc and Jennifer deserve our support in Indiana. The millions being spent by their opponents will persuade many Hoosiers to vote against them. Hopefully, Hoosier voters have learned to ignore the commercials. They don’t phase me because my TV is often turned off.

  13. Never having been a Republican, recognizing their distaste for “the common man” long ago, knowing Nixon to be odious and a “crook” from the get-go, and any organization that could embrace Mr. “Southern Strategy” was not for me.
    Still, to read of your recent journey through some newly disaffected former R’s is

  14. Please tell those “Recovering Republicans” they need to know that anonymity is not necessary to protect their reputations. They need to be very public in a state like Indiana. They need to help change the state.

  15. Professor, I am a Republican in good standing and primary-qualified under the State GOP rules written by Jim Bopp. I still am the elected PC for Warfleigh. Most of the other people in the party don’t like me. They even have made it difficult for me to figure out where the Broad Ripple Republican Party Club meets. If I can be of help, please let me know. I’ve said these last few years that I chose this path to fight bigotry and ignorance in one of the “two major” political parties.

  16. Sheila. Just change the title to ex-Republicans for Carmichael. If they get organized they could change a lot of minds. Just yesterday I heard an anecdote about a couple known to a friend of mine who had voted for TFG who expressed their disillusionment with him and felt ashamed of ever having supported him. Any other readers who have similar stories?

  17. My daughter is active in Democratic politics here in Monroe County and is into fund-raising for our Big Three, i. e., Senator, Governor and AG. I am active as a funder. Our Big Three candidates are each and every one outstanding candidates for this cycle and are deserving of our financial support for their messaging.

    Not only are the Republican candidates for these offices living in 1850 (they can’t stand inevitable change); they lie incessantly in their attempt(s) to make their version of reality the standard for all of us. It is therefore not really all that surprising that former members of that party are vacating a party that offers America a Putin-loving, coup-plotting criminal for president.

    Vern beat me to the punch today since I intended to point out that anecdotal evidence can become data if there is sufficient sampling taking place, and while I especially welcome Republican votes for Democrats since it is a vote we get and one the Republicans don’t in a two-for- one exchange, we (1) don’t have offsetting contra anecdotal evidence (Democrats voting Republican), and (2) must consider that many if not most Republicans would vote for Lucifer himself if he had an R beside his name.

    I nonetheless welcome Sheila’s report today though I wish it were not limited to her “colleagues” (who are far more likely to be sane than the 1850ers), but a vote’s a vote. The task for all of us? Get every Democrat off the couch come November, and beseech our Republican friends, if any, to vote for our party’s candidates, local, state and federal, none of whom is under criminal indictment for overthrow of our government and ending our Constitution.

  18. Democrat candidates for any office in IN this year are going to have to depend on getting as many left-leaning urban voters as possible to show up at the voting booths – especially for the November general election. The rural areas of the state are still full of radically right indoctrinated trumpers that will do as they are told by Fox, trump and others to vote a straight R ticket.

  19. From Wikipedia re former AG Greg Zoeller: In 2020, he described himself as a “former Republican” in presidential elections (saying “it’s abundantly clear that the GOP is not likely to return to the party I joined anytime soon”) and he voted for Democrat Joe Biden in 2020. He supported Governor Eric Holcomb’s willingness to accept refugee resettlement in Indiana. He remains a Republican in state and local politics.

  20. Lester, how long do you think it will take people to accept the fundamental truth about Biden vs Trump? Biden accomplishes what he’s promised to the degree that it is possible given the world, country, Congress, and SCOTUS he inherited.

    Trump lies about nearly everything with virtually every word he speaks.

    We all know these things. Why do they only matter to some of us?

  21. Pete – IMHO –
    – The downgrading of civic education since our school days has done its job
    – The downgrading of local and “real” journalism has done its job – “bleeds lead”.
    – The ever-growing lack of trust in all institutions results in lack of belief in
    truth” of all kinds.
    – “Truth” is the price at the gas pump and grocery line, all of which are out of Biden’s control (maybe because they help fund the DEMS, too?)

  22. NPR recently reported that Latinx voters in PA are leaning to tfg because they believe the economy was so much better during his term. They do not seem to be aware of tfg’s plan to deport 10 million “illegals immigrants”. That warning message needs to broadcast loud and clear to that demographic. That goes for the middle eastern immigrant populations as well.

  23. I plan to vote for Marc along with Beth White who is running against T. Rokita.
    I don’t know much about other Democratic Candidates but I will probably vote for them as well as the Republican Party seems to have been hijacked by a “cult”.
    I am reading a book called “the Cult of Trump” by Steven Hassan which explains what mind control techniques he is using on the population. It’s really bizarre to me how many people are sending him money to pay for his legal fees.

  24. JD,
    Lots of data that those folks don’t care because they are already here and, sometimes, think that more immigrants might threaten THEIR jobs….

  25. Although it cheers me that some of Sheila’s former friends/colleagues/acquaintances are no longer Republican (and for good reasons), I can’t get too excited about it. The bias is clear: the fact that they worked with Sheila and she thought to call them up again means they are much more likely than not to be thoughtful, intelligent, and less bigoted than most. People of that sort–I mean… yuck! right?–have no place in the GOP today. They wouldn’t be able to open their mouths without being derided and hounded as RINOs. Or worse.

    Unfortunately, that group of Republicans has been shrinking for a long time, and that accelerated substantially about the time the tea party movement began. (NOT a coincidence.)

    From the outside, the progression of the USA in the last few years has been terrifying to behold. I don’t know how you can’t all be more scared than you’re showing. It especially worries me when I listen to many high-ranking, “respected” Democrats-like Pelosi, Clinton, Schumer, etc.–who seem to think the current state is bad but nothing to get frantic about. I think they are too close to the issues to really see the danger; too tied to, and reliant on, norms that are no longer meaningful.

    Well, look at that, totally pouring cold water on an otherwise optimistic post. But why? I believe the world is–overall–still making slow, tenuous, tortuous progress in the right direction. But you guys are influential; _powerful_. If _you_ went the other way, you might drag a lot of the rest of the world back with you. It terrifies me.

  26. Republicans and former Republicans for Marc Carmichael sounds like a GREAT group, particularly those who’ve held public office or had leadership positions in the party and/or community and have had a following. Thank you for doing this for Marc.
    If the group can do a little outreach and invite others to join, it could quickly develop into a state-wide group with people in many counties. There are any number of these folks everywhere who want and perhaps need permission or the comfort of knowing there are others like them. Thank you for getting the ball rolling.

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