Posted By Roger Stritmatter on November 11, 2016
Well, let’s face it; everyone in the predicting business except for Professor Lichtman, Michael Moore, the metadata miners, and to a lesser but significant extent, Nate Silver, got it wrong. Never before in history, it may be, have so many brilliant people having been armed with so much data, predicted something so badly.
Donald Trump’s followers would have us all believe that this proves that Donald J. Trump is a miracle worker and a genius.
I mean, look at how many people he gets to buy hats with his name of them!
Now there’s a man who has success written all over his freewheeling hands, a real genuine sort of American huckster of the sort traditionally known as confidence men.
Even Trump’s own internal polling numbers told him he was going to lose, and yet he prevailed in a very close election, to take the states he needed to win the electoral college, while losing in the general election count. Is this the death knell of the electoral college system? Is that a good thing, or a bad one? My students are thinking its time for it to go.
Like many I watched on in glazed amazement on Tuesday, November 8, as Florida looked woozy, stumbled, and then went over the cliff, and I clung to the hope for another two hours that, of course, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, would not collapse to the comb-over king of the garish 42nd Street groper narcissist seventh grader that is about to take up residence in rooms now occupied by a real President like Mr. Obama and a real 1st lady like Michelle. They could not be so crass. But they were, and they did, although not without a strong determination and counterattack by those informed Americans unwilling to be hoodwinked by the thuggish flim-flammery of the Republican candidate.
Is Impeachment Next?
I am heartened to read Dr. Lichtman’s newest predictions (see the above link) that Donald Trump will be impeached by his own party, and find his reasoning in support of this scenario (namely, that the Republican congress would vastly prefer to work with Pence), to be persuasive.
Pence would be a pliant and predictable conformist Republican reactionary, advancing the destruction of civil society in the nation, a redeployment of the corporate state surveillance system against gays and people of color and anyone who questions the status quo too openly, in an orderly and predictable manner so as to reduce casualties and conflict. He would turn back the tide of human progress with surgical legalistic precision, not Trump’s sledgehammer and brimstone display of world-wrecking grandiosity.
Impeachment before the end of his term would be, if we think about it, the logical culmination of Donald Trump’s entire career in public life. If you are a spoiled boss’s son who has gotten his thrills in life for over sixty years out of saying “Don’t you like my grope?” and “you’re fired,” sooner or later someone is either going to grope you back or fire you.
Most people I know are in favor of the second option.
Anyone who truly understands at a basic level anything about public policy, world politics, economics, sociology or really much of anything about the wider world, knows that Trump is a danger to us and to himself.
This is not about ideology at all.
Many principled conservatives already oppose Trump, but those running for congress have been caught in the terrible turmoil of trying to think ethically and tactically at the same time. It was not pretty in any way, watching them squirm between party loyalty and personal distaste, while at the same time trying to calculate if they would be more damaged at the polls if they renounced Trump or stayed with him.
By the spectacle of an inner corps of overly edgy opportunists now assembling a shadow government for the inauguration, dominated at this point by the ghoulish Rudy Guiliani and the at-risk Governor Christie, respectively number 1 and number 2 in the Trump transition team at this time, after two previous campaign managers that Trump just had to say “you’re fired” to for one reason or another, we may judge the larger scene in Trumpville, a town now torn between the unexpected ecstasy of victory and the sobering reality like the day after a rave that they don’t know WTF they are doing.
Trump has declared his intent to clean house in the national security administrations around Washington DC, in effect announcing a pre-emptive strike against the most important institutions that could become disloyal to his command. For many their response was to repudiate him and and refuse to work for his administration. But now the public mood favors compromise, there is no doubt about it. The general public seems to prefer that the professionals stay on as a counterweight to the Trump team’s manifest incompetence at evaluating or managing the US role in the world. That Pence would work better with the pros than Trump is obvious, at least to the pros and the people who read newspapers rather than just posting nasty comments tor discussion boards attacking individual journalists for responsible reporting on Trump.
We can talk about the rest of our disagreements later, after the White House has been thoroughly cleansed and bathed in rose petals after Mr. Trump and his family move back into their hotel.
Think about it. Nothing could bring this country together more than impeaching Donald Trump.
It’s a sad thing to say, but sometimes the security and well being of the majority requires sacrifice. Any rationally self-motivated person, including many and perhaps eventually most of those who elected Trump, will prefer Pence purely on the basis of the instinct for survival. For all these reasons, I think Dr. Lichtman may be as right in his second prediction that Mr. Trump be impeached as he was in his first that he would be elected in the first.
It could be confirmation bias or wishful thinking, but Lichtman’s logic is at least highly credible.
Consider the reasoning.
First, how low can the odds be that at least one of Trump’s many and well-known possible conflicts of interest will not, within the next two years or less, hopefully, present occasion to undermine his bogus “man for all seasons” performance? The public still does not know the scope and character of Trump’s foreign business deals, for example. What will happen if, or more likely when, definitive evidence emerges that Trump’s dalliance with Putin is motivated by his desire for pecuniary advantage for his businesses in Russia?
The possibility of a bloodless coup by the congress and the judiciary and the branches of the military (hint, hint) that recalled the madman on his knees via judicial impeachment, indeed seems high.
Given such an opportunity for the Republican congress, which would receive strong bipartisan support, the likelihood that we end up with Mr. Pence in the driver’s seat seems pretty high. The only thing really standing in the way of such an eventuality would be Trump’s massive “base,” but that is to assume that his base has roots, which it really doesn’t have. Most of Trump’s own supporters are scared by him and know that he’s said crazy things that could spell massive trouble for the whole world as well as the wholesale destruction of the Obama economic recovery through stagflationary policies that will shrink the US economy rather than grow it. And that is optimistically hoping that Trump does not start tweeting about nuclear war at 3 am in the morning just because a protester burned him in effigy and the new law prohibiting the protesters has not yet gone into effect.
Such a scenario is doubly ironic, considering that many of the same forces who later tried to stop Trump from winning the Republican ticket started off their opposition by trying to trying to keep Pence off the Presidential slot on the ticket because of his notorious Christian bigotry and support for the suppression of gays and women’s rights. This is not exactly a ringing endorsement for either Republican candidate. Without Trump, Pence has all the charisma of a piece of wonder-bread toast. He really thinks that it’s his business to tell women what to do with their own bodies and that everyone should convert to Christian Fundamentalism because the Bible told him so, and that gay conversion therapy will “cure” homosexuals.
Without Pence, on the other hand, the Republican party has no insurance policy on Trump.
The longer we look at this situation, the more likely a Pence for President scenario seems to become. It is doubtful if the Republican party would support an effort to kill off two birds with the stone of one impeachment process and pass the Presidency hail marry to the Democrats on recognition that they are the adults in the room. So most likely the best anyone else can hope for is a clean and swift-falling impeachment followed by a couple of years of stagflationary recession listening to a fundamentalist preacher who wants to outlaw abortion. I don’t know about you, but that sounds infinitely better to me than the only other real option.
Michael Moore in his now famous metaphor compared the election to an orgasm that would “feel good” but then made clear that he thought the warm feeling wouldn’t last very long, and that Trump was like a man flying a prop plane, having flunked the pilot’s exam, flying out alone at night into the middle of storm with a drunken monkey named Captain Bannon for his co-pilot.
To me it seems like a potentially highly rewarding beat for all the new world journalists out there. Who will become Donald Trump’s Woodward and Bernstein? Who will raise up his or her slingshot and knock down with the sheer force of the pen, this little man in an adult’s job?
The original author of this scenario (no doubt not the only one) is Dr. Lichtman. Trump must regard him as some sort of legend. After all, he predicted Trump would be elected. He was almost the only person who did. The fact that he now predicts Trump’s imminent downfall is therefore not without significance, especially for those, like myself, who are praying for the day when this will happen and hope if we pray strongly enough it will happen before January 20.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a big Mike Pence supporter. I know all the things wrong with him. But an opportunity to get a man like Trump out of office doesn’t come around every day. I say, let’s be both pro-active and bi-partisan about it.
But I started this blog entry to think about predictions and how we reason about them. In the links above I canvassed those who got very high marks for reliably predicting that Trump might or even definitely would win the election. To these might be added the LA Times survey poll, which used a different methodology than the other pollsters and all along predicted a close race with Trump sometimes in the lead.
Of these the one that interests me the most is Nate Silver, who had a closer connection to the other mainstream pollsters, aggregating the other polls and then examining the meta-data for patterns useful for prediction, which is pretty much the same niche as Sam Wang at Princeton Consortium, the meta-data collection analysts at the New York Times and Elsewhere. Wang, who apparently believes in admitting when he was wrong and following through on his pledges, recently fulfilled his October 18 promise to eat a bug if Trump won the election.
Unlike Lichtman and Moore, Silver did not come out, except possibly at the height of Trump’s polling in early October, to announce a likely Trump win, but he was, consistently, considerably less bullish on Clinton than the other mainstream poll aggregators.
Part of the reason Silver came closer to an accurate prediction than the other pollsters is that he had already blown it during the primaries, having famously predicted that Trump had only a “2%” chance of getting the Republican nomination. If so, it shows that Silver can learn from his own mistakes, because in the days leading up to November 8 he was pegging Clinton’s chances of a win at the 60-70% range when Wang and several others were putting it at 98 or 99%. Moreover, these estimates were in keeping with all the state polling, which was factored in along with the national polls by most of the aggregators. So we are not talking about a small amount of data from one or a few sources here, but a massive stream all averaged together and interpreted by the aggregators.
All these groups were compiling the same data, but they were interpreting it differently. What interests me is how Silver got closer to being right than the others did. Based on my reading of Silver’s own statements as well as some summaries from other sources, the answer seems clear to me and provides an instructive example of vigorous “outside the box” thinking.
Silver started by noting that the margins in a series of key swing states, including Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, and noticing that Clinton’s margins in at least some of the polling results were precipitously narrow, at one time or another, in all of these states. If the numbers by the end put Clinton up on average by 3%, at times they were considerably worse. Silver simply compared those numbers with the margins of error in the polling and concluded that in the end everything depended on what voters actually turned out for the election, which is the big thing that pollsters have difficulty predicting, even in 2016.
On that basis, it seems, Silver diminished his expectations of a Clinton win low enough to provoke the ire of Democratic operatives and other pollsters, who of course were protecting their own sense of mission by avoiding thinking through the set of questions that Silver set for himself in evaluating the probabilities of a particular outcome.
Angry colleagues accused him of no longer operating as a pollster, and instead being a mere “pundit,” since his methodology could not be expressed in any conventional way within the study of probability as conventionally relying on statistics. On the contrary, it depends on the un-quantifiable and unknown “X factor” of late deciding voters. But to Silver it made sense that all those polls could be off in the same wrong direction in Clinton’s favor enough to turn the election to Trump if only one condition was satisfied: namely that the calibrations of “likely voters” were being thrown off by the undecided voters. This turned out to be the case, both because many more Trump supporters turned out to vote than expected and many potential Hillary voters who had been expected to vote stayed home. Those two effects working together depressed the total voter turnout by just about Obama’s 2012 victory margin of about 5 million votes.
I doubted Silver too, and yet his method worked, or at least worked well enough to earn Silver a silver medal in the Prediction Olympics. Lichtman has to take the gold, especially in view of his graceful manner of following one prediction after the other in naturally reasoned succession, and Moore gets his own silver for explaining to the rest of the country what happened in more personal terms that helps us to see that Trump’s supporters must not be equated with Trump himself.
Trump is the deplorable one. His supporters, excepting of course the inside enablers, are his victims.
Bigdata is the dark horse and the Trojan horse of this election. Did Bigdata get it right? How calculated was the release of the Comey email story? What is Bigdata, anyway? And how does that affect your privacy?
I’ve started to really follow the Snowden story. This is very important now as it seems likely that Trump could if he got the chance lean on Putin to serve Snowden up to his attack dogs while trying to turn Julian Assange into a hero. I haven’t seen the new Snowden movie yet, but I’m looking forward to it after viewing CitizenFour. I hope that President Obama considers the proposition of many Americans that Mr. Snowden be offered a full and unconditional pardon and be rewarded for his patriotism to his country and asked to help draft new and comprehensive legislation protecting Americans and, by extension, citizens of all countries, from unjustifiable intrusion by government or corporate spies. The things Snowden exposed are wrong. We as citizens, whatever our allegiance to a left or right, should heed his warning before it is too late.