I’m reading various polls and pundits who say Hillary is still ahead of Trump. The margins are fluctuating, and getting scarily closer, but she’s still ahead. And we trust these results, because they’re not just one poll, they’re conclusions reached by analyzing several polls, comparing their methodology to the accuracy of their results in the past, and accounting for known biases. They’re just about as scientific as you can make them.
Except for one thing: they’re measuring the way politics used to work. You get a huge political machine built, you organize your ground forces, and of course you secure a huge cash reserve to spend on media and other campaign expenses. The best machine wins, just like the best machine has always won, and you can predict the outcome of the race by measuring the efficiency of the machine.
Only Trump isn’t building a machine. Pundits and pollsters are gawking at him with bemused contempt wondering when—or if—he’s ever going to get around to running a real campaign.
And he’s within a few points of Hillary anyway. It’s like he’s entering the Indianapolis 500 on foot, and keeping up.
That should scare the hell out of the pundits. I don’t think they’re quite grasping the nature of what they’re seeing. If he’s keeping up, and he’s on foot, then this isn’t an Indianapolis 500 style race. And that means it isn’t necessarily going to be won by the most powerful and efficient machine.
I think what’s going on is that Trump, with his reckless, feckless, unpredictable behavior, has established himself as the first true None Of The Above candidates we’ve ever seen. We, as a nation of both liberals and conservatives, have lost faith in suave, polished glitzocrats and their retinue of handlers and focus groups and marketing know-how. We’re tired of well-funded manipulators treating their electorates like putty to be pushed and prodded and molded according to well-documented sociological techniques. Even die-hard right-wingers, who still respond predictably (and regrettably) to demagoguery, are unhappy with it.
When Trump defies conventional political wisdom, when he does “stupid” things that make experienced politicians roll their eyes in disbelief, he’s putting himself outside their cozy cabal. And that’s what makes him so appealing to his supporters. They probably can’t articulate it, and probably don’t even see it that way themselves, but I think that’s the underlying appeal.
That’s why I view predictions of Trump’s defeat with the same grain of salt I view (in hindsight) the experts who predicted Bremain would win handily. I think they’re all failing to recognize that politics in 2016 isn’t politics as usual. It’s changed drastically since 2012, and I don’t think they’re taking that into account.