Mea Culpa

The history of this blog has been, except for the last three months, one of me never ever making political prognostications.  This is a policy I will return to, as I was completely wrong about this election.  Just to rub my own nose in it, this is what I wrote:

I think that "shackled to a suicide bomber" is more apt. Trump is not only going to lose big in this election to an incredibly weak Democratic candidate, but he is also going to kill the Republicans in the House and Senate and any number of down-ballot elections.

Oops.  At this point the election is not decided but Trump is clearly competitive and the Republicans look likely to hold on to both houses of Congress.

In business school, there is a famous project we do in marketing that teaches an important lesson.  In that project, a bunch of Ivy Leaguers are asked to estimate the percentage of people in the US who snow ski.  We all look around the table and say, "I ski and you ski and she skis, so it must be about 80%", when in fact the percentage is in the single digits.  The lesson is to not make predictions for whole markets (and countries) based on one's own personal outlook and experience.  I and many other clearly did not understand large swathes of the electorate, something I want to think about for a bit.   The one thing I am sure about is that my (and many others') attempt to apply a policy framework to this is simply not going to work.  Trump is a sort of anti-wonk, a governmental Loki. Policy choices likely don't explain this election.


  1. Ann_In_Illinois:

    Trump himself is certainly not a wonk, but he's got some good people advising him. His tax plan is far, far better than Hillary's.

    His style reminds me of Reagan. One difference is that Reagan had a clear, well thought out philosophy of government, while Trump hasn't shown any evidence of that. But they both have a more managerial style - after Jimmy Carter wandering through the White House turning off lights in empty rooms because of the energy crisis, Reagan delegated much more. I think that Trump (if elected) will turn over a lot of economic policy to Newt Gingrich and his economic advisors (rather than deciding it all based on either political advantage or bribes from big banks, as Hillary would do).

  2. Mr. Generic:

    The election appears to have broken down on Urban versus Rural lines, with rural voters breaking hard towards Trump. Other than that, this has been a really, really weird election cycle. Trump also appears to have broken union members from their leadership, allowing him to carry Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin (at this point the latter three are still counting and could possibly break for Hillary).

    I don't find it surprising that us Internet denizens are a little shocked at the results.

  3. Ray:

    That USC poll got it right for yet another election cycle.

    And stocks are going to be a bargain.......

  4. Ann_In_Illinois:

    Like Brexit. I'm loving it!

  5. jeremy:

    Perhaps you should let snuggles guest post once in a while.

  6. McThag:

    “It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Y Berra

  7. Rob R:

    Warren, I suspect you have unwittingly been sucked in by the general media hype over the Clinton campaign. Virtually all the main-stream were pulling for Clinton and activiely working against Trump. A portion of the vote seems to me to have been anti-media and anti star-power endorsement as much as it was pro-Trump. Independent thinking people got sick of the bias and could smell the underlying corruption.

    That's my view downunder in New Zealand.

  8. Quincy:

    This election should be considered a lesson not to trust aggregate numbers. Let me take California as a microcosm of the US as a whole: In aggregate, California isn't doing too badly economically. The truth, though, is that the success of the few in California is hiding the pain of the many. I've seen it with my own eyes.

    Get out of the San Francisco Bay Area or the LA basin and California is a completely different state. The Central Valley hasn't seen the prosperity that the urban centers have and it shows, neither have the northern rural areas. Every year or two I drive up to visit a dear friend in Klamath Falls, OR. Each time, I've witnessed fewer operating businesses and more shuttered buildings along the way. I've seen more signs of poverty. The impact of the Obama era on rural America has been readily apparent.

    Hillary Clinton never even attempted to appeal to the people Democrats left behind in the Obama era. She called them "deplorables". She promised to put some of them out of work. Donald Trump did the exact opposite. Despite all the missteps, Trump was able to connect the people who felt their pain went unrecognized. Had the media or the political elite looked beyond the aggregates, they might have had some clue that today's landslide was coming.

  9. Agammamon:

    Turns out Clinton lost big to an incredibly weak Republican candidate.

  10. Agammamon:

    I would say that the problems rural *California* are having are far more due to California government than any economic policy of the Federal government.

    Not to say that it hasn't been pretty uniformly bad policy from the Feds, but its been bad policy from the Feds going back past Nixon. Obama was not a big change or anything (his biggest specific screwup is the minimum wage changes for low-level salaried - don't forget that 'Obamacare' is actually a *Congressional* product), he was just another status quo maintainer - as Trump will be.

    But its your local and state government that creates the regulations that choke out small businesses.

  11. kidmugsy:

    It's easy to ask how the Dems selected such a dud as a candidate. Happily, Wikileaks has explained much of that.

  12. CC:

    I actually predicted a Trump win but since it was so close I don't fall for thinking myself a pundit. But I think anti-wonk is a good way to describe it. I think people are fed up with "their betters" telling them what they should think and how they should feel. From my drive in Wisconsin, I saw about 3:1 trump/clinton yard signs, an indicator of voter motivation. I saw almost no bumper stickers for either, an indicator of reluctance to admit who you favor.

  13. rxc:

    The Washington Post lede story this morning about the election included this observation:

    “While Clinton assembled a diverse coalition that she said reflected the nation’s future, it was no match for the powerful and impassioned movement built by fanning resentments over gender, race and religion.”

    It is a common belief among the elite chattering classes. They cannot recognize, nor ever acknowledge that the entire current Democratic strategy is built on fanning resentments over gender, race, and religion. THAT is what identity politics is all about.

  14. Larry Larkin:

    California being the home to a third of all welfare recipients in the country doesn't help.

  15. Ray:

    This. They still don't get it.

    Trump did play to voter anger and frustration over the last 8 listless years, but far beyond race or gender, Trump appealed to America's belief in itself, completely apart from the artificial boxes that the intelligentsia continually tries to stuff us into.

  16. wreckinball:

    Exactly. Lets put aside inflammatory remarks about illegal immigrants and radical Islamic extremists. I mean he didn't have to call illegals rapists and he didn't have to state he would ban all Muslims but folks wake up. Not too many folks are sympathetic to terrorists and illegals. Is that so hard to comprehend?
    Hillary alienated the second largest demographic pretty much on a daily basis. White males. Is it also so hard to comprehend that that is a really dumb strategy? Calling half the country deplorable didn't help her either.
    Her rhetoric overall was divisive. That's why she lost.

  17. Jim Collins:

    What happened is simple. People just went along with it. I know people who wouldn't put a Trump sign in their yard because they were concerned that their car or house would be vandalized. I club that I go to has a bartender that would yell "No politics at the bar!" whenever somebody said something good about Trump. Her and her girlfriends could talk about Hillary all day, but, she would refuse to serve someone wearing a Trump hat or shirt. I had a college student knock on my door doing a get out the vote for Hillary. When I told him that I was voting for Trump and he wouldn't change my mind, he said "I'm voting for him too. I'm doing this as a class project for extra credit." I watched poll takers in our local mall ridicule people who said that they were voting for Trump. People just went along, until they got into the voting booth.
    By the way, I witnessed some of the voting machine errors in Pennsylvania.

  18. naturaljag0ff:

    Your analogy regarding the ivy leaguers & skiing is very apt.

    I would suggest spending some more time @ your various campgrounds/locations... guarantee you would have seen this coming. This election was figurative rural folk vs. literal urbanites. One group sees things for what they are... the other group sees things for what THEY wish them to be. Your typical urbanite navigates our crumbling, festering cities everyday and simply ignores the obvious decay & sickening crime... gay marriage and other personal issues completely blind them. A figurative rural thinker visits our cities and simply states the obvious... this place is going to hell-in-a-handbasket.

    2016 America - Revenge of the Hinterland

  19. naturaljag0ff:

    There are a TON of implications in this statement.

    The GOP doesn't need neocon warmongers like Bush/Kristol, and it doesn't need Country Club sycophants like Brooks/Will, either. Seems the GOP has become Pat Buchanan's party after all. Let that sink in a while...

    And the Dems certainly don't need neocon warmongers (Clinton), either. Further, it seems that Identity Politics backfired on the Left in a YUGE way. Would Bernie/Lizzie have done better? Serious soul-searching time for progressives...

    Both 'major' US parties will have a very different base & approach in the years to come. 2016 is a watershed across the entire US political spectrum.

  20. naturaljag0ff:


    Media polls are garbage. Every election come down to which party is most activated/enthused... and a blind man could have answered that question in 2016.

  21. naturaljag0ff:

    "broken union members from their leadership"

    deals like NAFTA & TPP will do that. ironically, this election was decided by issues, not identity politics. anyone who says different is doubling-down on the same old mistakes...

  22. tfowler:

    I hope your right. I hope some of his more extreme statements were just bluster. I hope he doesn't do much on trade (since he is very unlikely to do anything positive). I voted for him, but at this point while I happy Hillary lost I'm not happy he won. More so then usual this was a lesser of two evils election for me. I figured Clinton would win my state (and she did) but it was just competitive enough that I voted for Trump. If she was several point more ahead (or if for some reason Trump had a near lock on the state), I would have voted for someone else, maybe Gary Johnson.

  23. MJ:

    Consider that outcome for a moment -- this election featured the (nominal) Republican candidate outflanking his Democratic opponent when it comes to mercantilism/protectionism. As Christopher Hitchens used to say "stealing your opponents clothes is not a new tactic". But apparently an effective one. Looks like the trade unionists in Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania decided that after supporting anti-trade Democrats for a generation or more that they would give an anti-trade Republican a try.

  24. MJ:

    The role of the media was relatively muted. Apart from the usual lefty publications and blogs, I think the media generally did an okay job of covering the campaigns. The fact is that nearly all polls showed Clinton having a relatively comfortable lead in the weeks and months leading up to the election. This suggests that either 1) A lot of people changed their minds shortly before the election, 2) a lot of voters were either hiding or falsifying their preferences in opinion polls (another example of the Bradley Effect), or 3) the polls were simply inaccurate an were not collecting a representative sample of the population. That last one should make for interesting reading over the next couple of months. Also, I'd caution against describing the groups who swung this election as "independent thinkers".

  25. STW:

    I took a marketing statistics class where it was pointed out that only 95% of the US population uses toilet paper. I remember this whenever someone tries to tell me that "everyone" thinks one way or another. It also suggests that a 100% finding anywhere is likely false.

  26. MJ:

    I'd caution against projecting anything from this election forward. How many of those voters who propelled Trump to victory will even vote in the midterm elections? How many of them would even show up to vote for another Republican? In a lot of ways, I think this election reminds me of the way Democrat voters responded to Obama in '08. Their vote was more symbolic than anything, and they latched onto a candidate who projected an idealistic image and matched it with lofty rhetoric.

    Trump has expended a lot of energy trying to win this election. I wonder if he will spend as much energy trying to govern and, farther down the road, trying to build the party.

  27. rxc:

    What I am saying is that the progressive strategy of identity politics is really one of fanning resentment. Everyone is classified (by race, gender/sex/national origin, religion, handicap/disability, or wealth) and each of the categories is assigned a "suffering/discrimination" index value. Multiple characteristics are combined in ways that none of us can comprehend (or even be allowed to comprehend). They use the suffering index to appeal for support from these groups. "Blacks have suffered intensely for hundreds of years, and they deserve to be compensated, with affirmative action, or reparations, or something." "Women have suffered since the beginning of time, so they are owed a superior position in society, and no one who is not a woman can criticize anything that feminists say about their suffering, and all women should be believed about sexual abuse (except Bill Clinton)."

    They build up support by appealing to the resentment of the "underprivileged" categories. Trump just Trumped them by appealing to the "suffering" of the category that is lowest on the progressive suffering index - white males. They have feelings too, and they can learn how to play the game, as well. Now the progressives know that they can't beat those puppies any more - they understand what is going on and they have a champion who is not afraid to call out the progressives/SJWs.

    I watched the PBS coverage of the election results last night, and when I first tuned in, I was shocked to see the expressions on their faces. They did not know what had hit them. I think they went thru all 5 stages of grief in one night, however, because this morning the coverage on NPR was starting to gear up the attacks for what they feared President Trump would do. They had only had a small pause to digest what had happened, but then they just continued the attacks.

    It is going to be a very long 4 years under Trump, as the progressives marshall their forces to attack him continuously - not continually, but continuously.

    [edited for clarity]

  28. Quincy:

    "I would say that the problems rural *California* are having are far more
    due to California government than any economic policy of the Federal

    And that would be quite correct. The biggest problem facing California is that we are an effectively one-party state. However, nationwide, the "blue model" got a big boost during Obama's first two years in office. We saw a flurry of legislation and regulation trying to make the rest of the nation more like California and it hurt a lot of rural areas. Last night was the consequence of 2009-10.

    We had our own mini-revolt against the blue model, electing a celebrity Republican as governor back in 2003. Unfortunately, demographics being what they are, Arnold had little choice but to go along with the Democratic agenda anyway and nothing really changed. With the Republicans in control of two of the three branches of government, that part of the cycle is apt to play out differently on a national level.

  29. Nehemiah:

    For many Americans, Trump is the middle finger given to the elites on the east and west coasts. He tapped into our growing resentment of the political establishment as well as of the media. When the never Trumpers said they would vote for Hillary, he said great, I don't need you and his popularity went up. During one of his speeches he said it was time to drain the swamp in Washington and I knew he had tapped into something very powerful. The democrat party is in a shambles and the republican party has been torn from its country club roots.

    Not sure if the way forward will be good or bad for America, but it is not likely our politics will ever be the same. We live in very interesting times.

  30. Nehemiah:

    Line of the night on CNN. As it became clear Trump would win PA putting him over the top, the CNN panel discussed what went wrong with the polling. How could the polls in PA, WI and MI have been so wrong? One of the panelists said something like, it was especially troubling that Hillary had lost given that Obama's approval rating stood at 54%. Never dawned on him that the same polling that had put Hillary ahead had also given Obama a 54% approval rating. Talk about bias blindness, the 54% approval rating was as inaccurate as the polling that had Hillary ahead.

  31. Agammamon:

    Doesn't need and still elects.

    Trump is as neocon as they come. Like Bush. Like Obama. Like Clinton. The major party candidates that *weren't* neo-cons (Paul and - to an extent - Sanders) were soundly rejected.

    Instead we got serial warmonger Clinton and wannabe warmonger Trump.

    Remember, Trump's the guy who said he was against our recent wars not
    because they were unnecessary, not because they were counter-productve,
    but because they weren't run well enough.

  32. SamWah:

    Why not? The Dems and media did. Got it wrong. BIG TIME. (They don't get out much. Live in a mirrored bubble and echo chamber, they do. Want to meet other people, they don't.)

  33. Thane_Eichenauer:

    I can't predict with certainty whether or not Trump will be a warmonger or not. There is a reasonable chance that he is not the warmonger that past presidents have been. Time will tell.

  34. Ann_In_Illinois:

    " More so then usual this was a lesser of two evils election for me"
    I agree with that! Trump was far from my first choice, but I forced myself to try to be objective and look beyond his distasteful rhetoric. On trade, I heard him say (on TV) at one rally that he actually favors free trade, but he just thinks that we should try to get a better deal. I think that many of the things he has said (for example, deporting all illegal immigrants in the country) are supposed to be the initial positions for a negotiation - you don't want to give away too much before the negotiation has even started.

    Like you, I hope that I'm right to be optimistic. Trump was far from my first choice, and I was heavily influenced by what I saw as the huge, huge evil of basically telling Hillary that she was above the law. But I'm truly hopeful that Trump will be a surprisingly good President, in the image of Reagan.

  35. TruthisaPeskyThing:

    "And stocks are going to be a bargain......."
    You had to be incredibly quick in the middle of the night to get stocks at a bargain. Investors here were quicker that those in Britain to recognize the silliness of lower stock prices stimulated by the vote.

  36. TruthisaPeskyThing:

    "many of the things he has said (for example, deporting all illegal immigrants in the country) are supposed to be the initial positions for a negotiation - you don't want to give away too much before the negotiation has even started."
    Ann, you are exactly right. Although I was intensely against Trump in the primaries, I have always regarded most of his outlandish statement to be opening positions at the beginning of negotiations. Labor unions start out with outlandish position in their negotiations, and we do not go into a tizzy over that move.

  37. TruthisaPeskyThing:

    In Minnesota, the yard signs were probably 100 to 1 in favor of Trump. I never expected Trump to carry Minnesota, but the yard sign discrepancy was amazing and said something about the mood of voters.

  38. TruthisaPeskyThing:

    Have you ever met anybody who does not use toilet paper? Really, one in twenty do not toilet paper? That statistic intrigues me. I wonder if some responders were playing games with the researchers as they answered that question.

  39. johnmoore:

    Plenty of us voted for Trump on policy grounds. I had the following hopes:

    Get constitutionalists, not progressives on the Supreme Court.

    Stop political correctness, especially as mandated by the government, which uses it to persecute churches (gay marriage) and divide people (transgender lockerroom mandate). Freedom and tolerance and diversity do not require the government to sledge-hammer dissenters.

    Substantially reduce immigration - especially illegal immigration. Immigration is killing low skilled Americans, no matter how much open borders people pretend otherwise. And, immigrants tend to vote for the statist party - the Democrats - because of the cultures they come from. Together, these can be fatal.

    Defeat the person who was so callous with our national security.

    Shatter the smug establishment, especially the press and the permanent Washington class.

    I wasn't for Trump in the primaries, but I am starting to think I should have been.

  40. Ray:

    Yeah, I was kind of bummed about that. :-)