A frenzied herd of U.S. reporters and media political analysts rushed to proclaim the immanent ascension of Donald Trump. Like reading many a movie review, one suspects that these pundits never actually watched the ‘film’, but pieced together their op-eds on the basis of the pre-release trailers, the undigested ruminations of fellow reviewers who did likewise, and Google.
Super Tuesday . . . a total renegade came close to clinching the presidential nomination of the opposing party. – CNN
Donald Trump is on the verge of winning the Republican nomination . . . Trump dominated a diverse coalition of states. – NBC
Trump is now unstoppable. It’s game over for Cruz, Rubio, Kasich and Carson . . . Game over! This was a rout, America. Winning seven states and the vast majority of delegates is a landslide. – Fox
It will be a Trump tsunami. The question is how high has the water will rise. – RealClear Politics
But the click bait hype fails to correspond to any objective political realities. On the morning of Super Tuesday, Tom Bevan, “syndicated” political analyst to multiple networks, and co-founder of RealClearPolitics, in the space of 250 words, made the following claims about an oncoming Trump political tsunami.
• “the only state that [Trump] is not winning is the state of Texas”
• “six polls taken [Texas] in the last ten days show Cruz with about a nine-point lead”
• “every other state . . . Trump has double-digit leads”
• “the only place where [Trump is] under double digits is Oklahoma and he’s 8.6%.”
• On Minnesota: “one poll that was taken in January, which is like ten years ago, in the way that this race has progressed, that showed Rubio up a couple of points”
• “Rubio is solidly behind Trump in all the states”
These were the ensuing realities.
• Of the eleven states in play, Trump lost 4, not 1.
• In Texas, Cruz’s lead was 17 percentage points, not 9.
• In only 4 of the states, not 10, Trump retained double-digit leads
• Trump’s high single-digit lead in Oklahoma, turned into a 6 point lead for Cruz, a difference of 14 percentage points
• Rubio, not merely barely won Minnesota, but won by high double digits over Cruz, and 15 points over Trump
• Rubio was ahead of Trump in 1 state, and barely behind in 2 others (Virginia, Oklahoma)
To paraphrase Churchill, “Some tsunami!” Indeed, the only diagnostic which proved correct was “[Trump] is in solid shape.” A ten-year old, sufficiently informed in current events, might have reached that same epiphany.
Instead of demonstrating a little humility, which invariably would undermine the credibility of his brand and business, this professional political prognosticator perpetuated this mythological tsunami narrative after the event. “The Trump and Clinton tsunamis crashed ashore as predicted . . . only adds to his momentum heading into the winner-take-all phase . . .” Bevan considered Cruz the only other Republican winner on the night. In retaining his home state, and adding a couple more, Cruz “[bolstered] his case that he’s the only candidate in the field who can defeat Trump.” Such facile and maudlin tripe raises suspicions as to whether Bevan is one of Trump’s sycophantic trumpets.
The Hard Tacks of Real Journalism
A little homework would quickly reveal that Trump’s popular support within the Republican Party remains stuck at 35%, evidencing no sign of momentum; momentum, seeming to be the primary Trump campaign strategy and expectation, considering Trump’s high negatives. Surely, momentum works in stock market manias, doesn’t it!
Trump’s actual electoral performance, in comparison with public opinion polls, should be worrisome for him. Of 10 of the 11 races, in which a reasonably recent poll existed, Trump strongly outperformed polls in only one losing cause (Arkansas), did mildly better in 3 (+3–5%), did mildly worse in 2 (-4–6%), and considerably worse in 4 others (-10–24%). Rather than people hiding their sentiments in his favor, they are brandishing a false image, reconsidering at the last moment, or support has recently dipped.
As for Cruz, Super Tuesday was his explicitly expressed firewall. While Cruz benefitted from late surges in Texas, Oklahoma, and perhaps Alaska; if one subtracts Texas, Cruz actually ran 2% behind Rubio in largely God and country Southern Baptist land.
Finally, the numbers proffer evidence of an organic Anybody-But-Trump movement. How otherwise does one explain the varied late-day surges, apparently undetected by late polls, in Oklahoma (Cruz), Virginia (Rubio), and Vermont (Kusich)?
These privately ascertained insights are not without confirmation. Jonathan Last of The Weekly Standard seems to have also done his homework, arriving with similar observations. A foreign newspaper, not caught within the frenzy, makes the prosaic and tedious note, that contrary to having won the vast majority of delegates, Trump has about 46% of all delegates overall; only 42–43% of the latest catch. Some vast majority! Some momentum! Another Canadian pundit expresses near perfectly the current existential crisis in the Republican union.
The politicos and pollsters continue to rely on historical precedents and traditions to determine existing and future prospects. This continues, despite the near flawless incompetence of that frenzied herd. But if the context of the sociopolitical milieu has been considerably transformed (e.g. the relative futility of campaign money), to what extent can historical precedent be reliable?
As for me, I largely stand by my August 2015 premonitions.
I watch bemused [at] the gladiatorial spectacle of Donald Trump from afar. He is, without doubt, a thuggish buffoon with the subtlety of mind of a solid cube; who pummels through prudence, rationality, empathy, civility, tact and virtue like a rhino in heat. He is the “ugly American,” raised to the third power, whose simpleton appeal to imbecility, confirms democracy’s devolution towards a Confederacy of Dunces.
The meretricious courtesans of political punditry hope that a fickle populace is merely toying with the witless minds and anxious hearts of a neglectful elite. They give the idiocracy too much wit.
Trump is the Rob Ford of the American [ideological] Whatever. (It becomes practicably difficult to identify a consistent and rationally coherent ideology or feasible strategic policy to his constipated outbursts.) But with Rob Ford; even after a season of Jimmy Kimmel easy-to-make vignettes about our clown naturale; the Bulldozer of City Hall retained a stubborn third of the popular vote in Toronto, indeed of liberal Toronto; before our Ford finally suffered electoral defeat to cancer. I likewise suspect that contrary to “wish-upon-a-star” analysis, the Trump Nation will endure. The ramifications of the long decline of mind and culture of the American Idiocracy is finally coming [home] to roost.
I would probably now add that contrary to a momentum-based coronation, there is real likelihood of a brokered convention and duplicitous machinations in a 1968-style tumultuous melee in Cleveland. And contrary to my initial scorn concerning Trump’s ideological incoherence, Trump is indeed a true conservative; just not the Exceptionalist American kind. His simple-minded, authoritarian “style” has historical if foreign precedents with the völkisch, nationalist, and intrinsically anti-democratic German National People’s Party (DNVP); which for lack of deeper study, Wikipedia must suffice to provide this little gem.
The spring 1924 campaign was largely led and organized by charismatic, media savvy Admiral Alfred von Tirpitz who was presented as the “savior” type figure, able to rally together the entire nation to both win the election and then restore Germany back as a great power.
© Copyright John Hutchinson