What Happened?


November 14, 2016 9:14 PM

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Before the presidential election this year, many of my friends and relatives asked me who I think would win.  I was quick with my response.  I had no idea.  I suggested they all follow people who spend all their time looking at all the data.

I recommended three sources in particular:  Nate Silver of fivethirtyeight.com, Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato, Professor of Political Science at the University of Virginia.  All three predicted Hillary Clinton would be elected president and all three were wrong.  These are three sources that had almost always called election correctly (until 2016).

So, the question I asked on November 9th was – What Happened?  How could so many normally reliable election predictors be so very wrong?  On November 7th, Nate Silver pegged Hillary Clinton’s chances of winning the presidency at 71%.

I have a few thoughts on this.  First, political polling is a geeky exercise in statistical analysis.  Polls are not designed to predict an outcome, they can only quantify the margin of error.  The problems with a lot of the key state polls were related to this.  Many states were within the margin of error.

For example, if one candidate has a 2-point lead and the margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points, there is actually no lead, the election is a toss-up.  The pollsters cannot determine which candidate is ahead because the result is within the margin of error.

The national vote polls were actually fairly close (more on that later).  But also note that all three sources I cited earlier as reliable were qualifying their predictions with uncertainty.  Clinton may have been ahead, but the electorate was volatile and anything can happen.  Well, it did.

From all the reporting I have been able to find, even the Trump campaign was shocked that they won.  They had fully expected to lose.

Trump is now preparing to transition into office with no experience in government.  This is creating many problems.

Trump had railed against the lobbyists and the Washington establishment and promised not to allow those interests to prosper under his administration.  Yet his transition team is filled with K Street Washington lobbyists because that’s the only place to find the needed expertise.

The president-elect bowed to congressional leaders in appointing Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, rather than his reported first choice, Stephen Bannon, who will take over the job of Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor.  The Bannon appointment will be a serious problem for Trump.

Stephen Bannon ran the Web site Brietbart.com before joining the Trump campaign.  Brietbart is filled with what one can only describe as White Nationalist material.  Many of the Trump people are trying to minimize Bannon’s relationship to White Nationalist movements, but he ran a Web site that regularly argued for White Nationalism.

If you don’t know what White Nationalism is, here is a quick summary from the Southern Poverty Law Center at this link.  It is not a pretty picture.

The new president will have a major challenge when entering the White House.  He won the office by a comfortable margin in the Electoral College.  However, as votes are still being counted, Hillary Clinton has about 1.5 million more popular votes than Trump.  That does not translate into a mandate.

White working class voters went big for Trump, but based on the data I have seen, they expect Trump to stop to outflow of American jobs overseas, and add jobs for them here in America.  Trump will have a tough time delivering on that promise.  International trade is a delicate balance.  For example, if America gets into a trade war with China, both nations will lose economically and it would likely lose more jobs here as a result.

My heart goes out to the Carrier workers in Indianapolis is who genuinely expect Trump to stop their jobs from being shipped to Mexico.  The sad truth is that Trump is not likely to make that happen as president.

Trump also has very big differences with Republicans in Congress.  Look for that to be a fiery relationship.  I expect passage of legislation on issues like health care and tax reform to be contentious between the legislative and executive branches of government.

This all adds up to lots of potential trouble for the new president.  I am an American and want my chief executive to succeed.  But his campaign rhetoric was savage and people don’t forget that.

President Trump will find it very hard to lead when a chief adviser has ties to White Nationalist groups.  That is not a move that will bring Americans together.

The Trump presidency is likely going to be like nothing we have ever experienced in American history.  Whether that is a good or bad thing for the nation is something we will all watch in the coming months and years.

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