On Making Predictions

Watching the breaking news of the terrible terrorist attack in Nice, during Bastille Day celebrations, I felt a morbid interest as the casualty count marched upward.  After the initial shock on hearing of the news of the attacks however, I skipped over the part about mourning a senseless tragedy, or whatever the current buzzwords are.  As I described last November after the Paris Attacks, I’m over it.  Europe would rather have regular terrorist attacks than recognize why they have regular terrorist attacks.  No, my interest was in the causality numbers, 30, 40. 70, and then finally it went over 80.

“I win.”  And I say that with no satisfaction.

On January 1st I listed these following predictions for 2016 on a forum:

The Syrian government will be in a better position than today against the IS and the other rebels, thanks to Russian help. Also Assad will still be in power.

There will be another terrorist attack in the US resulting in the deaths of at least 10 people.

Oil will be back over $40 bucks a barrel.

Trump gets the Republican nomination.

Hillary will NOT be indicted.

And finally…

There will be another terrorist attack in France resulting in the deaths of at least 80 people.

So with the Bastille Day attack, the last open prediction I had came true, and we’re only half way through the year.  Of course you could argue that the year is still not over and something could still happen to Assad’s government, or there could be a convention coup next week to put Jeb! Back on the Iron Throne, but if I had to call it now, I would say every prediction I made almost 7 months ago was right.

I don’t think this makes me a super forecaster, like the ones being sought for the Good Judgment Project, a crowd sourcing website for predictions.  But amateurs often beat the experts on these kinds of things.  My accurate prediction that the Supreme Court would uphold Obamacare had nothing to do with my (limited) legal knowledge, or the disastrous oral arguments, even though multiple “experts” declared Obamacare dead after the Solicitor General stumbled and fumbled his way through them.  My view was more holistic, and simpler: The left leaning judges will always vote left, regardless of the law or the Constitution.  With the right leaning judges, it’s more of a crapshoot.  They actually peek at the Constitution and case history.  And as Judge Roberts demonstrated, they can be intimidated by media pressure.  That’s why the Burwell case on the Obamacare State Exchanges was easy to predict.  No knowledge of the law was required, only the knowledge that the right leaning judges could crumble under media pressure.

And as for gay marriage, that was about the easiest prediction I’ve ever made.  Who didn’t know that as soon as it hit the Supreme Court, they would find a way to make sure love is love?

I applied the same holistic thinking to Presidential elections.  I called the 2012 election for Obama by the end of summer, and after the 2014 midterms, which was a huge Republican success; I went head and predicted that Republicans would lose both the Senate and the Presidency in 2016.  Again, I took a holistic approach.  I didn’t think I needed to know each county’s voting history, aka Michael Barone.  I just knew that overall demographic trends, media bias, and the increased tribalism of American politics favored the Democrats.

But I couldn’t anticipate Black Swan Events, and that very much describes Donald Trump’s impact on the 2016 election.  Minus Trump, this election would have gone pretty much as I had predicted it would in 2014, one of the other 16 primary candidates would have won the nomination, they would have run an honorable campaign, and would give what everyone would later acknowledge as one of their best speeches when they conceded on election night. But Trump was a wildcard not only in showing how Republicans could beat the media’s political correctness game, but he pushed the Overton Window on Immigration and single handedly threw out one of the Republican Party’s golden platform planks on trade.  By doing so, he changed the calculus on which votes he might attract.

So when it comes to predicting this year’s race…I’m out.  I think Trump could win if his campaign confiscates his twitter account, keeps him on a steady diet of prepared speeches, and Muslims continue to be Muslim.  However all of the default conditions that make me think the Democrats have a natural advantage in Presidential years are still in play.  If nothing else, this particular black swan has made this the most interesting Presidential race in my lifetime, and who could have predicted that?

 

Advertisements

Donald Trump – Leader of the American UKIP?

I’ve been giving some thought to the rise of The Donald, and how it compares to the previous insurgencies on the right, most recently the Tea Party.  The Tea Party was as much a revolt against the Republican establishment as against the Obama administration. Before they could take power, they first had to win primaries against incumbent Republican office holders. The Tea Party gave the Republicans major victories both in 2010 and in 2014 (2012?  Not so much.  There were 50 million extra non Tea Party voters).  Not that the Party establishment was particularly grateful.  Although grateful for House and Senate majorities that allowed the leadership to get bigger offices, they had no interest in the Tea Party priorities, cutting the budget, deficit reduction, and getting rid of Obamacare. The result has been a low grade civil war within the party for years, and given the conduct of the Republican majority Congress, the establishment is definitely winning.

At the same time, there has been a parallel right leaning movement rising across Europe, In France, it’s the National Front, in the UK it’s the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), in Denmark, it’s the Danish People’s Party and so on.  These parties are not European Tea Parties.  In Europe, the battle of big government against the little guy was decided long ago, and big government won, but these Parties are growing on issues that have nothing to do with Tea Party issues.  These parties are Euroskeptic, anti-immigration, and nationalist.  Now I wonder if there is an American equivalent…

And yes there is, Donald Trump.  As I’ve noted before, Donald Trump isn’t a conservative, in the American tradition, and he’s barely a Republican, but he is an economic nationalist. Unlike in Europe, which has had these nationalist, right leaning movements for years, there hasn’t really been a US equivalent except on the edge of right wing thought in the Paleo and dissident right.  Within the Overton Window of allowable views, there was no room for an economic nationalist.

Until now.

In the month and a half since The Trumpening, Donald Trump has not only upended the Republican primary, he’s upended the issues and agenda that will define the 2016 race. He’s altered the discussion on immigration.  Instead of discussing how many and will they get citizenship and how soon, the argument is now, “why should they be here at all?”  On trade, Trump is positioning to upend the decades long Republican support of free trade, totally flipping what has been a reliable Republican consensus.

 

Trump has single handedly created an American UKIP, an entire political movement that didn’t exist even two months ago. I have to wonder, could a celebrity billionaire with bad hair, who’s been derided as a clown, a bozo, and totally unserious do all that?

He’s already done it, and the 2016 race isn’t going to be anything like what the conventional wisdom could have predicted 2 months ago.

 

Scott Walker: No Amnesty and Limiting Legal Immigration?

I think I’ve enjoyed the Donald Trump Show as much as anyone.  I love his brashness, they way he commands the media, the way he takes control of every interview, and the best part, he never, ever apologizes.  I love the way he infuriates the Republican Party, the establishment Republicans, and most of all, the hated donor class, which has for all intents and purposes wrecked the Republican Party agenda for years.  I hope the Donald Trump Show gets picked up for another season and brings us the laughter and joy that comes from watching media experts get it wrong over and over and watching other politicos squirm.

So as much as I enjoyed the two debates and The Donald’s over the top performance, there was a little noticed bit of news that zeroed in my attention like a laser.  A response to a question to Governor Scott Walker about his change of position on immigration:

“There’s international criminal organizations penetrating our Southern base borders, and we need to do something about it. Secure the border, enforce the law, no amnesty, and go forward with a legal immigration system that gives priority to American working families and wages.”

As Walker made clear on Hannity, “gives priority to American working families and wages” means lower legal immigration. Walker’s immigration position has been slip sliding away from the standard Republican boilerplate of Secure The Border!/also pass amnesty, for several months under the guidance of economic nationalist and immigration guru Senator Jeff Sessions. But this is the first I’ve heard of any sort of definitive statement on a total rejection of Amnesty and actually limiting legal immigration.  However this has made so little news that most people, even those following the campaign closely, might not have picked up on it.

Right now, Walker isn’t really able to capitalize on it because Trump is sucking all of the oxygen out of the room.  Plus, he’s not really a super charismatic guy and I often get him confused with former SNL and 30 Rock actor Chris Parnell

Is this Walker?

Chris Parnell

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or is this Walker?

Scott Walker2

 

 

 

 

 

Who can tell?

With Ted Cruz also recently stating a definitive no on amnesty, this makes quite a difference between this group of candidates and the 2012 crowd, which except for Mitt Romney, all had some sort of amnesty plan, even the “conservatives.”  Why the difference?

I think it’s the Trumpenkreig.

As The Donald continues his long march through the Republican Party’s institutions, burning and pillaging as he goes, he is pushing the Overton Window a bit on immigration issues, making the formally forbidden to speak of (no amnesty) permissible. As I had hoped, Trump is pushing changes in what’s allowable for Republican candidates to say.  Some go overboard, like Mike Huckabee’s crazy statement about Obama holding the oven doors open for Israel. But with both Cruz and Walker just saying no to amnesty, Trump is forcing Republican candidates to stop being mealy mouthed and take a position.

This is good news in my opinion, so I’ll go pop some popcorn (extra butter) and continue enjoying the Donald Trump Show.

Six seasons and a movie.