Trump: The Consequential President

Ed Rogers, writing in The Washington Post on May 10, offers some back-handed praise of Donald Trump and his presidency:

For the Trump administration, the absence of disaster usually has to suffice as good news. Well, I wouldn’t say President Trump is on a roll, but he has had several good days.

Specifically, the outcome of Tuesday’s Senate primaries made it more likely that the GOP will retain control of the Senate, the clean break with the Iran deal can be considered a bold display of resolve, and two judges have fanned back special counsel Robert S. Mueller III — perhaps curbing his overreach. Progress toward an agreement with North Korea seems to be proceeding quickly. In fact, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo secured the release of three Americans on Wednesday who had been held prisoner, and President Trump announced he will meet with Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12. Regarding North Korea, Jeff Greenfield wrote in a Politico piece titled “Thinking the Unthinkable: What if Trump Succeeds?” last week that recognizing all of Trump’s flaws provides “all the more reason to retain a sense of perspective; to be able to consider seriously the proposition that this misbegotten president has somehow achieved an honest-to-God diplomatic success.”

Then there are the recent polls from Reuters-Ipsos, Gallup, CBS and CNN which show that the president’s job approval is ticking up. The unemployment rate is at an 18-year low; according to the National Federation of Independent Business, not only are record levels of small businesses reporting profit growth, but also the Small Business Optimism Index continues to sustain record-high levels. Americans have confidence in Trump’s handling of the economy. And at least for the time being, even the generic ballot is moving in Trump’s favor.

In addition, a few of the president’s critics are stumbling. The mainstream media did themselves real harm with the debacle of this year’s White House Correspondents Dinner, and Trump tormentor New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman was forced to resign following allegations of repeated abuse of multiple women….

… Yet the Trump presidency could be an exploding cigar. Just as you begin to settle in and get used to it, the whole thing could blow apart.

To state the obvious, Trump is his own worst enemy — and he won’t change. Feckless Democrats won’t bring him down, Republicans have acquiesced, much of the media has become annoying background noise, and Mueller doesn’t seem to have a silver bullet. Only Trump can destroy Trump.

A correspondent of mine had some incisive things to say about the state of affairs:

I think Trump is not only consequential, but also significant. To me, in this context, consequential means changing important things from the way they had been. Significant, means historically noteworthy. I think he will be the most significant president since Ronald Reagan. Interestingly, both Trump and Reagan followed presidents that were not significant presidents, leaving little legacy to mark their terms in office. If Trump were to be impeached and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, remote possibilities, he would be significant 100 years from now. He is, and will be, significant for grabbing a political party and making it his party, even though he is not a politician. TR, also a Nobel winner, did the same.

Trump may also be significant for being unsavory and getting away with it.

My reaction follows:

Reagan accomplished three consequential things, in my view. First, he made old-fashioned conservatism somewhat respectable, though he was and still is reviled on the left for having done so. Second, his determined effort to rebuild the armed forces — to call the bluff of the USSR — was probably the main cause of the Soviet surrender in the Cold War. Third, his political support of Volcker’s tight-money policies, coupled with the tax-rate cuts he pushed through Congress led to the taming of inflation and a resumption of strong economic growth after years of “malaise”.

Thus far, only 16 months into his presidency, Trump has done three consequential things. First, he has nominated a conservative justice to the Supreme Court (though this didn’t change the balance on the Court) and a slew of district and appellate court judges, who seem to be solid conservatives. (There haven’t been any howls of outrage from the conservative sector of the internet.) Second, he has changed the image of American defense and foreign policy from defeatism (clearly the upshot of Obama’s “leading from behind”) to something like Reaganesque doggedness. (In tandem with that, he has backed the enlargement of the defense budget, though not yet, I believe, on a Reagenseque scale.) Third, he has deliberately (and somewhat effectively, as far as I know) pushed for a rollback of regulations that he views as especially harmful to the economy. His stance on immigration is loud and controversial, but it remains to be seen whether it will be consequential.

Maybe I’ve missed some important things, but my bottom line is agreement with my correspondent. It is entirely possible that by the end of Trump’s (first?) term the U.S. legal system will have shifted sharply toward a literal reading of the Constitution; the U.S. will not be in danger of military or political eclipse by Russia and/or China; membership in the nuclear club will not have expanded; trouble-makers like Iran and North Korea will have been “tamed”; and the rate of economic growth will be at its highest since the end of World War II, with a concomitant reduction in the real unemployment rate (much of which is still hidden in a low labor-force participation rate) and a somewhat higher (but not economically debilitating) rate of inflation.

If all or most of that happens — a big if — it will cement the political realignment in the country that was sparked by Trump’s candidacy. The Democrat party will increasingly be the home of affluent, well-educated whites (mangers, aspiring managers, academics, techies). Blacks will still be there for the Dems, though not in their former numbers, now that they are beginning to learn three things: Trump will not send them to concentration camps; white Democrats take them for granted while talking down to them; and blacks have done worse, not better, since Democrats began to throw money and special privileges at them. Hispanics will still be there for the Dems, perhaps in higher numbers than before because of Trump’s perceived “racism”. But the “blue collar” classes and regions will turn increasingly Red. Thus the Midwest, despite Blue enclaves in the big cities, will shift back toward the GOP. The South will remain Red, with the exception of Virginia and perhaps North Carolina, which are becoming extensions of the Northeast (though it will be less reliably Democrat because of the blue-collar shift). The Left Coast will remain reliably on the left, but the push to split California and liberate its conservatives will grow. If it succeeds, the GOP will become even stronger in Congress and in the electoral college. Regardless of what happens in California, the new GOP will be stronger politically than it has been at any time since World War II.

All of that could go by the wayside if there’s a real war involving the U.S., a recession, or a scandal beyond the known fact of Trump’s dalliances (i.e., an actual crime of consequence, not the payoff to Stormy). But barring such things, there will be a new GOP, and it will be stronger than the old one for some years to come.

As for Trump’s personal life, if things go nearly as well as they might, it will merit an asterisk in history books. Balanced historians (they’re hard to come by) will simply note that Trump was one of many presidents who couldn’t keep his pants zipped up, but that he succeeded in spite of it. They might even note that (among men, at least) there is a strong connection between sexual and political drive. Though the last observation will be out of bounds in the new Victorian era that is descending upon us.

Fine-Tuning the Electorate

George Will, who seems to have “grown” in his old age (i.e., become soft-headed), is now crusading for the restoration of voting rights to felons. Paul Mirengoff is on the case:

George Will argues in favor of broad restoration of felons’ right to vote. How broad he doesn’t say, but his column effectively presents the case for a more expansive restoration than exists in many jurisdictions.

There are good arguments against moving in that direction, however. Roger Clegg presents them in a critique of Will’s piece. This is an issue over which reasonable people can differ, but I think Clegg has the stronger case.

Will asks, “What compelling government interest is served by felon disenfranchisement?” Clegg responds: “If you’re not willing to follow the law, then you should not have a role in making the law for everyone else, which is what you do when you vote — either directly (in the case of a referendum or ballot initiative) or indirectly (by choosing lawmakers and law enforcers).”…

If the government did not “fine-tune” the quality of the electorate this would mean, as Clegg points out, that “not only criminals but also children, non-citizens, and the mentally incompetent must be allowed to vote.” In fact, he continues, “we do have certain minimum, objective standards of responsibility and commitment to our laws that we require people to meet before they are given a role in the solemn enterprise of self-government.”

I would go much further than Clegg. I have said for years that democracy is an enemy of liberty. In one of the posts that you will find by following the link in the preceding sentence, I say this:

It is well understood that voters, by and large, vote irrationally, that is, emotionally, on the basis of “buzz” instead of facts, and inconsistently…. Voters are prone to vote against their own long-run interests because they do not understand the consequences of the sound-bite policies advocated by politicians (nor do politicians, for that matter). American democracy, by indiscriminately granting the franchise — as opposed to limiting it to, say, married property owners over the age of 30 who have children — empowers the run-of-the-mill politician who seeks office (for the sake of prestige, power, and perks) by pandering to the standard, irrational voter.

There should be a movement away from enfranchisement, not toward it.

Trump vs. Obama

SEE THE GRAPH IN THE RIGHT SIDEBAR. THIS POST WAS UPDATED ON 07/03/18

The values plotted in the sidebar graph are derived from Rasmussen Reports approval ratings for Obama and Trump. Despite recent slippage, Trump’s strong approval rating remains well above Obama’s at the same stage of of his presidency.

Ratios of the ratios plotted in the sidebar graph yield enthusiasm ratios: the strength of strong approval ratings relative to overall approval ratings:

Post image_1

Despite a retreat from the spike at the time of the Singapore summit, Trump’s enthusiasm ratio continues to rise relative to Obama’s.

The next graph underscores a point that I make often; namely, the fate of the Republic is in the hands of the squishy center of the electorate, with the other 2/3 roughly split between the fascistic left and libertarian right*:

Trump vs. Obama_post image_2

In a polarized nation, a majority is unlikely to strongly approve of either a Republican or a Democrat. It is nevertheless of some comfort to me that Trump’s strong approval rating is distinctly higher than Obama’s was eight years ago.

There is a different poll that may be more revealing of Trump’s popularity. Every week since the first inauguration of Obama, Rasmussen Reports** has asked 2,500 likely voters whether they see the country as going in the “right direction” or being on the “wrong track”. The following graph shows the ratios of “right direction”/”wrong track” for Trump and Obama:

Trump vs. Obama_post image_3

The ratio of “right direction” to “wrong track” averaged about 0.5 during Obama’s eight years in office; that is, about one-third of respondents said “right direction” and about two-thirds said “wrong track”. The ratio for Trump, After a quick honeymoon start, fell into the same range as Obama’s. But it jumped with the passage of the tax cut in December 2017, and has stayed relatively high since then, despite the latest faux scandal concocted by the left: the separation of children from illegal-immigrant parents.

This suggests that the squishy center is lining up behind Trump, despite the incessant flow of negative “reporting” about him and his policies. The next big test probably will come in November, with the mid-term elections. But who knows what will happen tomorrow?
__________
* Doctrinaire libertarians aren’t really libertarians. That title belongs to traditional conservatives.

Presidential Approval Ratings: Trump vs. Obama

BHO delivered his second state of the union (SOTU) address in the evening of January 27, 2010. On the morning of that day, BHO’s presidential approval rating at Rasmussen Reports stood at -15 (percentage of likely voters strongly approving minus percentage strongly disapproving).

DJT delivered his second SOTU address in evening of January 30, 2018. On the morning of that day, DJT’s presidential approval rating at Rasmussen Reports also stood at -15.

Here’s what happened to the ratings in the days immediately following the SOTUs:


Rasmussen stopped polling on weekends about three years ago.

DJT’s SOTU bounce arrived more quickly and was stronger than BHOs. Moreover, looking at the big picture — approval ratings by day of presidency, as reported by Rasmussen — DJT’s strong approval rating has been running ahead of BHO’s for more than a month:

Stay tuned for updates in the coming months and years.

Immigration Blues

Enemies of big government and high taxes are right to fear the long-run consequences of massive immigration. The record of the last five presidential elections (2000-2016) is rather clear: Democrats prosper as the vote-count rises.

The following graph shows what happened in the 50 States and D.C. between 2000 and 2016. The percentage-point change in the GOP presidential candidate’s share of the two-party popular vote is on the vertical axis; the percentage change in the number of votes case for all candidates is on the horizontal axis.

And it happens not just in States that vote Democrat; it happens in GOP-leaning States, too:

Immigration isn’t the only explanation for the relationship, of course. It’s long been observed that people in big cities tend to vote for more government, whereas people in rural areas tend to vote against it. Population growth means bigger and bigger cities, and therefore a greater tendency to turn to the party of big government.

Who knows whether the relationship between population and voting is due to the “need” for more government as people are crowded together, contagion by the acolytes of big government (e.g., schoolteachers and “civic leaders”), or a mix of the two? Whatever the case, it can’t be denied that more voters means a bigger share of votes for the party of big government.

Conservatives are right to resist massive immigration, and the bestowal of voting privileges that surely follows it.

What Blue Wave?

Are Democrat spinmeisters or the mainstream media (pardon the redundancy) correct in believing that Roy Moore’s loss in Alabama means that 2018 will see a “Blue Wave”, in which Democrats retake one or both houses of Congress? Wasn’t Moore’s loss a continuation of the Dems’ “stunning” sweep of statewide offices in Virginia? Doesn’t all of that portend a repudiation of Trump in 2020?

The answers are “no”, “no”, and “no”. Moore’s loss was a one-off event that had everything to do with Roy Moore and nothing to do with the political leanings of Alabamans. It is ludicrous to believe that Alabama has suddenly become a Purple State when Trump’s 64-percent share of the two-party vote surpassed the share received by any GOP candidate since Richard Nixon in 1972.

It is similarly ludicrous to believe anything about the elections in Virginia other than their consistency with that State’s burgeoning blueness. Bush II, for example, took 54 percent of Virginia’s two-party vote in 2000 and 2004, but McCain, Romney, and Trump won only 47-48 percent in 2008-2016. The Old Dominion is increasingly dominated by the rapidly growing cities and counties of Northern Virginia that are political appendages to Washington DC. (The same is true of Maryland and its rapidly growing appendages to DC.)

The 2018 elections will hinge manly on how voters feel about what the GOP-controlled Congress has done for them. And by election day 2018, most of them will be feeling a lot better because the government is taking a lot less from their paychecks. Continued revival of the economy will also help to buoy voters’ spirits. Unless something very bad happens between now and election day, a pro-incumbent mood will sweep most of the land. There will be exceptions, of course, as this or that Representative or Senator is exposed as a philanderer, swindler, or something else unseemly. But those exceptions tend to affect Democrats just as much as Republicans.

What is actually happening, in the grand scheme of things?

A naive forecast of the 2016 presidential election, based on State-by-State trends between 2008 and 2012, produces 245 electoral votes for Trump. The naive forecast doesn’t predict a Trump win in any State that he lost. Moreover, it under-predicts the extent of the pro-GOP movement in Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania — States that Trump won, and the electoral votes of which put Trump over the top.

A naive forecast of the 2020 outcome,  based on State-by-State trends from 2008 through 2016, produces 329 electoral votes for the GOP candidate. Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania will be joined by Maine, Minnesota, Nevada, and New Hampshire as Red States.

As an old saying (of mine) goes, trends are made to be broken. But the betting here is that the 2018 and 2020 elections are the Republicans’ to lose.

Speaking of trends, here are some relevant graphs:

The first graph covers 10 States that were Red in 2000 and have led the way in becoming Redder since then. Note that all 10 have rebounded from the Obama effect in 2008, which was the occasion of temporary insanity among many voters who usually pull the lever for GOP candidates.

The second graph covers the 10 States that have led the way in turning Blue or Bluer since 2000. You will note that even among some of these States Obama-mania shows signs of wearing off. Only California and DC seem determined to plunge deeper into political madness.

California, by the way, more than accounts for Clinton’s popular-vote “victory” over Trump. (Clinton won California by 4.3 million votes, as against her meaningless nationwide margin of 2.9 million votes.) This is further proof, if proof were needed, of the Framers’ wisdom in creating the Electoral College. It is also a big point in favor of my fearless forecast for 2020.


Related posts:
“Blue Wall” Hype
Polarization and De-facto Partition
The Midwest Is a State of Mind

Trump Catches Obama

GRAPH UPDATED FOR POLLING THROUGH 01/04/2018

For many years, Rasmussen Reports has published a daily poll of likely voters’ views of the incumbent president. Respondents are asked if they approve or disapprove the performance of the incumbent, and whether their approval or disapproval is strong. Rasmussen derives a presidential approval rating for each polling day by subtracting the percentage of respondents who strongly disapprove from the percentage who strongly approve. The complete polling history for Obama is here; the polling history for Trump, to date, is here.

The following graph shows, by day of presidency, the approval ratings for Obama (blue line) and Trump (red line). The difference between the two — Obama’s rating minus Trump’s rating — is plotted as a black line. Obama was well ahead of Trump for about 200 days. Trump has since closed the gap, and is now slightly more popular (or less unpopular) than Obama was at this stage (the 336th  350th day).

 

Trump Is Closing In on Obama

UPDATED WITH AN ADDENDUM, 09/08/17

I posted “Trump vs. Obama” on August 15. I said (in part) that

Trump’s recent upswing [in popularity] relative to Obama [at the same stage of his presidency] reflects not only a slight softening of opinions about Trump’s presidency, but also the rapid decline in Obama’s popularity in the summer of 2009….

Given the media’s incessant attacks on Trump, it seems unlikely that he’ll ever gain parity with Obama — whose negative ratings were based on his actual (and abysmal) performance.

Then came the riot in Charlottesville and Trump’s politically incorrect (but correct) assignment of blame to “all sides” — including the fascists of the Antifa movement. That episode is now in the distant past, inasmuch as events more than a few days old are ancient history in the media’s view.

At any rate, Trump’s upswing relative to Obama has resumed. Here’s the story:


Derived from polling statistics for Obama and Trump published by Rasmussen Reports.

Each line represents the ratio of favorable to unfavorable views. Values above 1 mean that the favorables outweigh the unfavorables; values below 1 mean that the unfavorables outweigh the favorables. The light-blue and light-red lines track the 7-day averages of Obama and Trump’s overall ratings with likely voters. The dark-blue and dark-red lines track the 7-day averages of Obama and Trump’s ratings with likely voters who express strong approval or disapproval.

Trump’s comparative disadvantage continues to shrink. Here are ratios of the ratios plotted in the first graph:

It now seems possible that Trump can become more popular — or less unpopular — than Obama was. Stay tuned.

ADDENDUM

Some readers may be uncomfortable with ratios and ratios of ratios, so the graph below plots Rasmussen’s presidential approval ratings for Obama and Trump, and the difference between them. Rasmussen’s presidential approval ratings are simply the arithmetic difference between the percentage of respondents who express strong approval and the percentage who express strong disapproval. Obama’s net advantage/disadvantage is just the arithmetic difference between the ratings for Obama and Trump.

The patterns are the same as those in the preceding graphs. Trump is still underwater but is nevertheless catching up to Obama, who was sinking fast eight years ago.

Libertarianism, Conservatism, and Political Correctness

Why do conservatives and libertarians generally eschew political correctness? Because we take individual persons as they come, and evaluate each them on his merits.

That is to say, we reject stereotyping, and political correctness is just another form of stereotyping. Instead of insisting on something foolish like “all blacks are criminals”, political correctness leans the other way and insists that it is wrong to believe or say anything negative of blacks — or of any other group that has been condescendingly identified as “victims” by leftists.

Group differences matter mainly to the extent that they affect the likely success or (more likely) failure of government interventions aimed at defeating human nature. They also matter to the extent that human beings — including members of all racial and ethic groups — tend to prefer like to unlike (e.g., the preference of “liberal” white yuppies to live in enclaves of “liberal” white yuppies). But such matters have nothing to do with the conservative-libertarian disposition to treat individuals, when encountered as individuals, with the respect (or disrespect) due to them — as individuals.

In that regard, the conservative disposition is especially instructive. A conservative will not rush to judgment (pro or con) based on superficial characteristics, but will judge a person by what he actually says and does in situations that test character and ability. For example, I distinguish between leftists of my acquaintance who are at bottom kind but politically naive, and those whose political views reflect their inner nastiness.

Leftists, in their usual mindless way, take the opposite view and presume that the superficial characteristics that define a group count for more than the character and ability of each member of the group. Political correctness is of a piece with the intellectual laziness that characterizes leftism.


Related posts:
Academic Bias
Intellectuals and Capitalism
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
The Left’s Agenda
The Left and Its Delusions
The Spoiled Children of Capitalism
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
Are You in the Bubble?
The Culture War
Ruminations on the Left in America
Academic Ignorance
The Euphemism Conquers All
Superiority
Whiners
A Dose of Reality
God-Like Minds
Non-Judgmentalism as Leftist Condescension
An Addendum to (Asymmetrical) Ideological Warfare
Retrospective Virtue-Signalling
The Left and Violence
Four Kinds of “Liberals”
Leftist Condescension
The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy
The Left and Evergreen State: Reaping What Was Sown
Leftism As Crypto-Fascism: The Google Paradigm
Leftism (page) and related bibliography

Trump vs. Obama

Compare their standing with likely voters polled by Rasmussen Reports:


Derived from polling statistics for Obama and Trump published by Rasmussen Reports.

Each line represents the ratio of favorable to unfavorable views. Values above 1 mean that the favorables outweigh the unfavorables; values below 1 mean that the unfavorables outweigh the favorables. The light-blue and light-red lines track the 7-day averages of Obama and Trump’s overall ratings with likely voters. The dark-blue and dark-red lines track the 7-day averages of Obama and Trump’s ratings with likely voters who express strong approval or disapproval.

Trump’s comparative disadvantage seems to be shrinking. Here are ratios of the ratios plotted in the first graph:

Trump’s recent upswing relative to Obama reflects not only a slight softening of opinions about Trump’s presidency, but also the rapid decline in Obama’s popularity in the summer of 2009. (Caveat: The full effect of the events in Charlottesville on Trump’s standing may not be reflected in his numbers.)

Given the media’s incessant attacks on Trump, it seems unlikely that he’ll ever gain parity with Obama — whose negative ratings were based on his actual (and abysmal) performance.

Stay tuned.


Related post: Ending as He Began

Rabble-Rouser without a Cause

Lee Jussim, an academic social psychologist, styles himself a rabble-rouser. I will credit Jussim with even-handedness. He’s no lefty; see, for example, Claire Lehmann’s “How a Rebellious Social Scientist Uncovered the Truth about Stereotypes” (Quillette, December 4, 2015). But he displays a knee-jerk reaction to what he perceives as authoritarianism. As Lehmann puts it:

Jussim appears to have had an anti-authoritarian streak since day one…. Ferociously independent, Jussim describes having little respect for, or deference to, authority figures. In high school he says he purposely made life miserable for his teachers, and later he would become an anti-war activist.

Which leads me to suspect that Jussim never got over his case of adolescent rebelliousness.* He seems to have an inborn need to lash out at the current regime, regardless of its political flavor. A case in point is Jussim’s muddled analysis of the state of the union. Jussim’s assertions, in block quotes, are followed by my commentary.

In my blog entry here, I highlighted [four] main signals of rising authoritarianism….

All four warning signals are flashing bright red.

The first signal [the less the results of national elections reflect the popular vote, the more the principle of majority selection of representatives is weakened] is an inherently undemocratic characteristic of the Electoral College (lots of people defend the Electoral College on other, nondemocratic grounds but let’s not pretend there is anything democratic about it). Minorities tend to be more radical than majorities, in part, because radicalism is usually delusional (think about everything from Soviet and Nazi propaganda to the modern “alternative facts”) and, as Abraham Lincoln once said, “you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

Think concretely. Is it easier to convince one person or 1,000,000 people that the moon landing was faked, that AIDs was a conspiracy to kill blacks, or that Adolf was right all along?

Ok, let’s scale it up. How about 2 versus a million? 10 versus a million?

Etc.

Lenin never actually had the support of more than about 20-25 percent of Russians. Hitler maxed at about 40 percent and his vote total declined before he first adroitly took power democratically then executed his coup from within the halls of power.

Minority rule is a very very dangerous thing…

So a system that empowers minorities to select rulers is at much greater risk of selecting radical rulers.

Jussim implies that majority rule guards against tyranny. How does that square with the enshrinement of the administrative state — which is nearly as tyrannical as it gets — by FDR, a four-time winner of a popular-vote majority, and the expansion of the administrative state by LBJ, another big winner of the popular vote? (FDR was also responsible for the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, which still rankles leftists — who otherwise view FDR as a god — and libertarians like Jussim.)

And how is a 46-percent popular-vote minority (Trump’s share of the popular-vote total) the same as the type of radical minority from which Lenin and Hitler sprang? We should feel safer with Clinton — a statist in the tradition of FDR — who won only 48 percent of the popular vote?

What about other presidents who won the electoral vote with less than 50 percent of the total popular vote, many of them with smaller shares than Trump’s: John Quincy Adams (1824), James K. Polk (1844), James Buchanan (1856), Abraham Lincoln (1860), Rutherford B. Hayes (1876), James Garfield (1880), Grover Cleveland (1884, 1892), Benjamin Harrison (1888), Woodrow Wilson (1912, 1916 — bingo!), Harry Truman (1948), John F. Kennedy (1960), Richard Nixon (1968), Bill Clinton (1992, 1996), and G.W. Bush (2000). The rule that the winner of the electoral vote wins the presidency has been in place for a long time, and it has produced all of those “minority” presidents. Why? Because with the rule in place, candidates aim to win the electoral vote, not the popular vote. Trump is far from the first successful candidate to do so, and he’ll be far from the last.

So the first signal has been flashing red, on and off, for almost 200 years. It’s a rather unreliable signal, especially given the tyranny instituted by FDR and LBJ — who won huge popular-vote majorities. Or maybe John Quincy Adams was a stealth Hitler. No, it was Woodrow Wilson. Jussim is right, just 100 years late.

The second signal [if and when policies and practices threatening our fundamental rights – speech, religion, association, press – are even proposed, those rights are threatened] is flashing hard and fast. The stay of the Muslim ban was issued, in part, because the ban appears to violate separation of church and state, and in part because it violated academic freedom of state universities (this is part of what gave the states standing to argue for a stay of the ban in court).

Only someone who’s ignorant of constitutional law — as Jussim seems to be — would say that the temporary immigration order was constitutionally stayed for either of the reasons cited. Those are merely judicial pretexts for barring a president from exercising a constitutional function. The Constitution protects Americans’ freedom of religion, despite leftists’ efforts to curtail it; the Constitution doesn’t protect non-Americans because they happen to practice a certain religion. The Constitution protects freedom of speech, including the freedom of academics (like Jussim) to spout nonsense; the Constitution doesn’t guarantee the right of non-American academics to enter the United States.

In addition to the State Department Purge, President Trump has routinely advocated for torture, which is illegal (also flashing the third signal). His administration has also routinely attempted to silence, intimidate, or derogate members of the government and the press.

The State Department purge? Trump simply went against mindless tradition and accepted the resignations of senior political appointees who were undoubtedly anti-Trump. Sanity ruled, for once, in the treatment of the State Department.

Has Trump, as president, authorized torture? Or didn’t he back down from his earlier statements? I believe it’s the latter. (Though I have nothing against torture if the use of it protects Americans.)

Nor has Trump actually attempted to silence the press. He and Bannon have correctly characterized the press (or most of it) as tools of the Democrat Party and left-wing causes generally. Or are they not allowed to say such things because they’ve been accused of harboring fascistic ambitions by people who are afraid that Trump will — justifiably — dismantle much of the left-wing edifice that stands on the necks of American taxpayers? In any event, I’ve seen no evidence that the press has been silenced. Quite the contrary, in fact. Hour after hour, day after day, the media are dominated by anti-Trump reporting propaganda.

The third signal [if and when the federal government advocates not changing laws, but violating laws, the rule of law is threatened] flashed hard when the Trump administration instructed the immigration arms of the executive branch to ignore the court rulings.

The link leads to something else entirely. As far as I know, the court rulings have been honored by the Trump administration.

The fourth signal [rising popularity, membership, and political action among hate groups and neo-fascist movements] is flashing because of the rising tide of harassment of Muslims, minorities, and Jews.

There’s a lot of fake hate-thought and hate-crime out there (small sample here). But none of the real stuff is the doing of Trump, who — unlike Hitler — doesn’t hate non-Aryans or homosexuals. Anyway, there’s simply nothing like a mass movement of the kind that helped to push Hitler into power. It didn’t happen here. Or maybe it did, when Barack Obama became president and black thugs were given free reign to burn, loot, and kill.

To be sure, nearly all Presidential administrations have overstepped their legal and Constitutional bounds at some point. The Founders did not create a system of balance of powers and checks and balances to prevent attempts at overreach — they created it to prevent the success of such attempts. However, I do not recall so many attempts at overreach in the earliest days of any Presidential administration since I started attending to politics (around 1969).

The overreach seems to be in Jussim’s fevered imaginings about a fascist takeover of the country.

The question is: Can a system hold against a determined attempt to undermine it? Tyrants such as Hitler, Putin, and Chavez all initially came to power quite legally, and then subverted their respective systems to install authoritarian autocracies. “Following the law” is no guarantee against tyranny.

The “determined attempt” is another figment of Jussim’s fevered imagination. Tyrants like Teddy Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, and LBJ also came to power quite legally. But they were “all right” because they favored “compassionate” big government. (Well, not the segregationist Wilson or the FDR of the internment camps.)

All of which raises some deeply troubling social, psychological, and political questions. Why do people support autocracies? What, psychologically, is necessary for democracy to flourish?  Why do democracies fail?

American democracy has pretty much failed because successive presidents, Congresses, and Supreme Courts have violated the Constitution. It’s been going on since the Progressive Era of the late 1800s and early 1900s. Fascism is already here — but it’s not Trump’s fascism, so Jussim can’t see it.

Democracy, even American democracy, is not invulnerable, and will almost certainly not last forever. That, however, does not mean anyone needs to quietly acquiesce to its demise.

If Jussim means by “American democracy” the rule of law according to the principles of the Constitution, he’s postmaturely correct. It’s already dead. And it will take more than the election of a Trump to revive it.
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* I don’t denigrate persons who rebel against incompetent or tyrannical authority. I’ve done it as an adult. I twice succeeded in having incompetent bosses fired. A third effort failed, but knowing that it might, I used it to set myself up for a financially rewarding exit.

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Related posts:
FDR and Fascism
The Ruinous Despotism of Democracy
The People’s Romance
Fascism
Fascism with a “Friendly” Face
Penalizing “Thought Crimes”
Democracy and Liberty
Fascism and the Future of America
The Divine Right of the Majority
Our Enemy, the State
“We the People” and Big Government
Modern Liberalism as Wishful Thinking
The Authoritarianism of Modern Liberalism, and the Conservative Antidote
Society, Polarization, and Dissent
Civil War?
The “H” Word, the Left, and Donald Trump
The Left and “the People”

The Hypocrisy of “Local Control”

There’s much ado among the big-city Democrats of Texas about bills introduced by Republican legislators to ease the burden of city-imposed regulations. The Democrats like to accuse the Republicans of hypocrisy, saying that Republicans are against the federal government telling the States what to do; therefore (the Democrats say), Republicans should be against the government of Texas telling the cities of Texas what to do.

That’s a superficially appealing argument. But what the Republicans are trying to do is keep the cities of Texas from  telling their citizens and businesses what to do, and what not to do. In Austin, for example:

A property owner must have the city’s permission to remove a tree with a diameter greater than 19 inches. The doom-and-gloom scenario is the preposterous one that homeowners will have their trees cut down, which would — among other things — eventually cause more erosion and flooding. Give me a break. It’s costly to cut down trees, and homeowners appreciate their beauty, shade, and value to prospective buyers. A tree comes down only when it’s diseased or in the way of something essential (e.g., an addition to make room for mother-in-law).

Thin plastic bags and flimsy paper bags have been outlawed (with some exceptions). Why? Because the sight of a relatively small number of loose bags offends the greenies and artsy-craftsy crowd. But damn the inconvenience and expense to consumers, who must now carry their purchases in their hands or buy an approved bag if they leave their own approved bag at home. Picking up loose bags is good therapy for greenies and artsy-craftsy types, and an excellent form of community service for Austin’s ample supply of jailbirds.

The city is the monopoly provider of water and electricity to homes and businesses. It overcharges for utilities in order to subsidize the usual causes deemed “worthy” by the city’s left-wing government. And it doesn’t allow utility customers to shop around and buy gas or electricity from low-cost providers.

The city’s government — populated as it is with true believers in AGW — insists on stringent standards for the energy efficiency of new homes and replacement systems for existing homes (e.g., new windows and doors, new HVAC systems). The city, in other words, isn’t content to let property owners decide between investment and operating costs — the city preempts the decision and makes it for property owners.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Austin, like most other big cities, insists on micro-managing the affairs of the persons and businesses within its jurisdiction. Then, when Republican legislators threaten to deregulate something that the city regulates, local politicians appeal to “local control.”

Well, the ultimate in local control is the freedom to do as one wishes with one’s own property — barring actual criminality, of course. Dictation by Austin’s left-wing city council and the hired hands in the city’s various bureaucracies isn’t that kind of local control — it’s local tyranny.

Republican legislators (or some of them) are seeking to liberate me (and others) from local tyranny. It’s no different in kind than the Thirteenth Amendmentan initiative of the federal government — which voided State laws allowing slavery.

Foolish Inconsistency

A rich man graciously allowed visitors to wander the grounds of his estate. Many years ago, he had failed to be vigilant in screening visitors. And so, when vandals did great damage to some of his valuable plantings, he was called a reckless fool.

Finally, before another group of vandals could do more damage, he locked the gates to his estate until he could devise a way of detecting vandals among the visitors. For that he was called a cruel tyrant.

The name-calling in both cases came from the same people. What they proved wasn’t that the rich man was a reckless fool or a cruel tyrant, but that they were inconsistent fools driven by their hatred of the rich man.

The rich man pointed out that he wasn’t required to allow visitors, and that doing so raised the cost of maintaining his estate. His enemies jeered and called him selfish. Though, in their hypocrisy, they continued to lock their doors and protect their passwords, and the rich among them kept their armed bodyguards.

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Related posts:
Not-So-Random Thoughts (XVIII) – third item
Immigration and Crime

Trump’s Inauguration Speech, Annotated

I’m glad that the president is Donald Trump, not Hillary Clinton. But I still would have preferred someone else (e.g., Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio). Trump says a lot of things that cause this libertarian conservative to scratch his head.

Chief Justice Roberts, President Carter, President Clinton, President Bush, President Obama, fellow Americans, and people of the world: thank you. For what? Most of them opposed you.

We, the citizens of America, are now joined in a great national effort to rebuild our country and restore its promise for all of our people. Together we will determine the course of America and the world for many, many years to come. We will face challenges. We will confront hardships, but we will get the job done. Rebuild how? Restore what promise in particular?

Every four years, we gather on these steps to carry out the orderly and peaceful transfer of power, and we are grateful to President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama for their gracious aid throughout this transition. They have been magnificent. Thank you. B.S.

Today’s ceremony, however, has very special meaning. Because today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C. and giving it back to you, the people. I’m all for it, if it’s the power to live cooperatively and peacefully, with less government interference.

For too long, a small group in our nation’s capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished, but the people did not share in its wealth. Yes, the central government and its dependents are the true cronies (as in crony anti-capitalism).

Politicians prospered, but the jobs left, and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land. Regulation caused a lot of the jobs to leave and factories to close, but there were other, legitimate causes (e.g., fewer trade barriers).

That all changes starting right here and right now, because this moment is your moment. It belongs to you. It belongs to everyone gathered here today and everyone watching all across America. This is your day, this is your celebration, and this, the United States of America, is your country. We’ll see.

What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. Jan. 20, 2017, will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again Let’s hope this is a figurative statement referring to the ability of people to live cooperatively and peacefully, with less government interference.

The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now. You came by the tens of millions to become part of an historic movement, the likes of which the world has never seen before. At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction that a nation exists to serve its citizens. Yes, by leaving them alone and defending them.

Americans want great schools for their children, safe neighborhoods for their families and good jobs for themselves. These are just and reasonable demands of righteous people and a righteous public, but for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists:

Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. A lot of truth in this, but benign neglect is the best policy.

This American carnage stops right here and stops right now. I hope so.

We are one nation, and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams, and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny. The oath of office I take today is an oath of allegiance to all Americans. We aren’t one nation in morals and mores. Never were. Never will be. What should bind Americans is the freedom to live their lives peacefully. The rest is up to them.

For many decades we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry, subsidized the armies of other countries while allowing for the very sad depletion of our military. The second clause is spot-on.

We’ve defended other nations’ borders while refusing to defend our own and spent trillions and trillions of dollars overseas while America’s infrastructure has fallen into disrepair and decay. We’ve made other countries rich while the wealth, strength and confidence of our country has dissipated over the horizon. This is most yahoo hogwash.

One by one, the factories shuttered and left our shores, with not even a thought about the millions and millions of American workers that were left behind. The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world. But that is the past, and now we are looking only to the future. See earlier comments about jobs. What has really harmed most Americans (except for politicians and their dependents) is government itself.

We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power. From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it’s going to be only America first. America first. In defense, yes; in uncontrolled immigration, yes; in trade, no.

Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families. We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs. Protection will lead to great prosperity and strength. Only when it comes uncontrolled immigration that increases the tax burden on working Americans.

I will fight for you with every breath in my body, and I will never, ever let you down. America will start winning again, winning like never before. We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams. Wow!

We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off of welfare and back to work rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor. “Infrastructure” meets the Keynesian fallacy.

We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American. We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world, but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. Bass-ackwards economics.

We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example. We will shine for everyone to follow. No more nation-building? Good.

We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones — and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the earth. At least he’s willing to say it aloud. That’s a big step forward.

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity. All right, already. I heard you.

We must speak our minds openly, debate our disagreements honestly, but always pursue solidarity. When America is united, America is totally unstoppable. There should be no fear. We are protected, and we will always be protected. We will be protected by the great men and women of our military and law enforcement and, most importantly, we will be protected by God. I don’t care whether America is united. I want to be protected from enemies (foreign and domestic), and otherwise left alone.

Finally, we must think big and dream even bigger. In America, we understand that a nation is only living as long as it is striving. What does that mean?

We will no longer accept politicians who are all talk and no action, constantly complaining but never doing anything about it. The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action. Do not allow anyone to tell you that it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again. How about less talk and less action?

We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the earth from the miseries of disease and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow. A new national pride will stir ourselves, lift our sights and heal our divisions. Whoopee!

It’s time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American flag. Whatever.

And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the wind-swept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky. They fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty creator. Striving to be Lincolnesque, but not getting there.

So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, from ocean to ocean, hear these words. You will never be ignored again. Your voice, your hopes and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way. Okay, okay!

Together we will make America strong again. We will make America wealthy again. Basta!

We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And, yes, together, we will make America great again. Thank you. God bless you and God bless America. Thank you. God bless America. Uncle!

Ending As He Began

Rasmussen Reports has issued the last of its almost-daily polls of Obama’s popularity (mostly the lack thereof). His final surge (see graph below) can only be seen as a backhanded compliment: (a) a belief shared by a lot of voters that Trump or Clinton would have been worse; (b) relief that the power-grabbing, quasi-socialist, race-baiting, feckless (or traitorous) “statesman” is leaving office; and (c) forgetfulness about the atrocities that marked Obama’s first seven years in office (e.g., Obamacare, the IRS scandal, fiascos in the Middle East, weakness vs. Russia, the defense draw-down, soaring health-insurance premiums, the gleeful uprooting of long-standing social norms).

obamas-final-approval-ratings

It’s a great relief to me that Obama is leaving office, and that he won’t be succeeded by Hillary Clinton. It’s also a great relief that I can now abandon the almost-daily chore of recording Obama’s standing in Rasumssen’s poll. It’s been a l-o-o-o-n-g eight years.

It should be said of Obama that nothing became his presidency so well as the leaving of it.

Why Conservatives Shouldn’t Compromise

It’s tempting, sometimes, to compromise with the left’s agenda, which is top-down regulation of social and economic relations. The agenda has a huge constituency, after all. Think of the tens of millions of persons who would be harmed in the short run, if not for a long time, if a leftist scheme were undone.

Consider Obamacare, for example. A key provision of Obamacare — the camel’s nose, head, and shoulders in the tent of universal health care (a.k.a., socialized medicine) — is the vast expansion of eligibility for Medicaid. In the 30-some States that have opted to participate in the expanded program, persons with incomes up to 133 percent of the poverty line are eligible, including adults without dependent children.

It would seem that only a Simon Legree or Ebenezer Scrooge would deny Medicaid coverage to those millions who have obtained it by way of Obamacare. Or it would until the following considerations come to mind:

  • The poverty line is a misleading metric. It’s a relative measure of income, not an absolute one. Most “poor” persons in today’s America are anything but poor in relation the truly poor of the world, and they live far above a subsistence level. The poverty line is nothing but an arbitrary standard that justifies income redistribution.
  • Other persons, with their own problems, are paying for the government’s generous “gift” to the semi-poor. But who is really in a position to say that the problems of Medicaid recipients are more deserving of subsidization than the problems facing those who defray the subsidy?
  • If expanded Medicaid coverage were withdrawn, those now covered would be no worse off than they had been before taxpayers were forced to subsidize them.
  • Being relatively poor used to be a good reason for a person to work his way up the ladder of success. Perhaps not far up the ladder, but in an upward direction. It meant learning skills — on the job, if necessary — and using those skills to move on to more-demanding and higher-paying jobs. Redistributive measures — Medicaid subsidies, food stamps, extended unemployment benefits, etc. — blunt the incentive to better oneself and, instead, reinforce dependency on government.

I will underscore the last point. The lack of something, if it’s truly important to a person, is an incentive for that person to find a way to afford the something. That’s what my parents’ generation did, even in the depths of the Great Depression, without going on the dole. There’s no reason why later generations can’t do it; it’s merely assumed that they can’t. But lots of people do it. I did it; my children did it; my grandchildren are doing it.

Republicans used to say such things openly and with conviction, before they became afraid of seeming “mean.” Principled conservatives should still be thinking and saying such things. When conservatives compromise their principles because they don’t want to seem “mean,” they are complicit in the country’s march down the road to serfdom — dependency on and obeisance to the central government.

Every advance in the direction of serfdom becomes harder and harder to reverse. The abolition of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid is now unthinkable, even though those programs have caused hundreds of millions of Americans to become addicted to government handouts.

And how does government pay for those handouts? In part, it taxes many of the people who receive them. It also pays generous salaries and benefits of the army of drones who administer them. It’s a Ponzi scheme enforced at gunpoint.

The best time — usually the only time — to kill a government program is before it starts. That’s why conservatives shouldn’t compromise.

The Left and “the People”

The American left, like its counterparts in the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, likes to don the mantle of democracy. The left is the “voice of the people,” ruling on behalf of “the people.” These are claims that the citizens of the USSR and PRC were never in a position to challenge. They were forced to vote, and when they voted they found that the Communist candidates ran unopposed.

America still has free elections, at least to the extent that voting remains optional and there usually is a choice between a Republican candidate and a Democrat candidate. Whether that’s a real choice or just variations on a theme is a subject for another post. But, symbolically and rhetorically, the choice between Republican and Democrat is perceived and portrayed as a stark one.

Given that, it never ceases to amaze the left that so many of “the people” turn their backs on a leftist (Democrat) candidate in favor of the (perceived) Republican rightist. Why is that? One reason, which became apparent in the recent presidential election, is that a lot of “the people” don’t believe that the left is their “voice” or that it rules on their behalf.

A lot of “the people” believe, correctly, that the left despises “the people” and is bent on dictating to them. Further, a lot of “the people” also believe, correctly, that the left’s dictatorial methods are not really designed with “the people” in mind. Rather, they are intended to favor certain groups of people — those deemed “victims” by the left — and to advance pet schemes (e.g., urban rail, “green” energy, carbon-emissions reductions, Obamacare) despite the fact that they are unnecessary, inefficient, and economically destructive.

It comes as a great shock to left that so many of “the people” see the left for what it is: doctrinaire, unfair, and dictatorial. Why, they ask, would “the people” vote against their own interest by rejecting Democrats and electing Republicans? The answer is that a lot of “the people” are smart enough to see that the left does not represent them and does not act in their interest.

The Shy Republican Supporters

UPDATED 02/09/17

There was much talk during the recent presidential election campaign about “shy” Trump supporters. Scott Adams theorized about them on September 9, 2016:

It’s hard to count people who are intentionally hiding [a preference for Trump]. But just for fun, let’s see if we can deduce how many so-called Shy Trump Supporters are out there.

For starters, we can say with certainty that they exist. I have a better ear for that than most of you because of my Trump blogging and my public endorsement of Clinton for my personal safety. People feel comfortable telling me privately, and also anonymously online, that they hide their Trump support from their spouse and coworkers. So we know they exist. We just don’t know how many.

We know that sometimes robocall surveys and online surveys show more Trump support than human-to-human polling. So that might be an indicator, but we don’t know what other variables are in play.

In a recent Reuters poll, 7% of respondents “refused” to vote for either Trump or Clinton. I’m guessing some Shy Trump Supporters “park” their votes with Gary Johnson (polling at 9.3%) or Jill Stein (polling at 3.3%).

But I wonder if the Shy Trump supporters are mostly parked with Johnson because of gender (consciously or unconsciously), whereas Stein is more of a real protest vote against Clinton. Anecdotally, Shy Trump Supporters tell me they do park their pre-vote preferences with Johnson. So far, none have told me they are parking their vote with Stein. (This is anecdotal, and a small sample of perhaps a dozen.)

Then you also have the question of turnout. Trump is clearly generating the most enthusiasm in public appearances. I would think that translates into more new voters.

Most of my predictions so far this election cycle have been based on what I call the Master Persuader Hypothesis. I’ll depart from that model for this prediction because this one is based on a gut feel – which I understand in my rational mind to feel identical to confirmation bias. Therefore, you should place zero confidence in my prediction.

I predict that 3% of voters are Shy Trump Supporters. As polls continue to tighten, especially in battleground states, that will be enough for an electoral landslide for Trump.

And it was an electoral landslide, popular-vote totals to the contrary notwithstanding. See my analysis in “H.L. Mencken’s Final Legacy.”

In a commentary about Adams’s post, “The ‘Shy Trump Supporter’ Hypothesis” (September 10, 2016), I said this:

So I believe that Scott Adams is right. A lot of “shy Trump supporters” are claiming that they’ll vote for Johnson, but most of them will vote — if they do vote — for Trump. My evidence? Trump’s standing in Rasmussen’s poll is strongly (r-squared = 0.6) and negatively correlated with Johnson’s standing. As voters decide that they aren’t going to waste votes on Johnson, they’ll turn (mainly) to Trump….

If Johnson’s popular-vote share slips from its current 9 percent to 3 percent on election day — which is 3 times better than his showing in 2012 — Trump would pick up 3 percentage points. On the other hand, if Stein’s support slips from its current 2 percent to 1 percent on election day — 3 times better than her showing in 2012 — Clinton would pick up 0.7 percentage point. So far, so good, for Trump.

My forecasts of Johnson’s and Stein’s slippage were just about on the money. But I was nevertheless pessimistic about Trump’s chances:

[A]s the “other-undecided” vote shrinks from its present level of 7 percent to 1 percent (a bit higher than in recent elections), Clinton will pick up 5.5 percentage points while Trump picks up only 1.3 percentage point.

Adding it up, there’s a likely gain for Trump of 4+ percentage points and a likely gain for Clinton of 6+ percentage points. Adding those numbers to Rasmussen’s latest results for Trump (39 percent) and Clinton (43 percent) yields something like 43 or 44 percent for Trump and 49 or 50 percent for Clinton.

And I was wrong. As the outcome of the recent election attests, there are a lot of shy Republicans lurking in the ranks of nominally unaffiliated voters.

How many? I have estimated their strength by analyzing the Gallup poll of party affiliations. For 303 polls conducted from January 2004 to January 2017, here are the relationships between the non-aligned respondents and those who claimed a Democrat or Republican affiliation. The non-aligned respondents are those who claimed to be independents plus the small fraction of other respondents not claiming to be Democrat, Republican, or independent:

party-affiliation-democrats-vs-independents-others

There’s a somewhat stronger, mirror-image relationship for Republicans:

party-affiliation-republcans-vs-independents-others

As the size of the non-aligned block shrinks, more members of that bloc choose the Republican label than choose the Democrat label. For example, referring to the first graph, a drop in the fraction claiming independent/other status from the maximum of 49 percent to the minimum of 28 percent results in a gain for Democrats of 8 percentage points. Referring to the second graph, the same reduction in the independent/other fraction results in a gain for Republicans of 13 percentage points.

The equations represent long-run averages, of course, and Democrats have had their share of success among nominally unaligned voters, especially around the time of Obama’s win in 2008. The underestimation of latent support for Democrats at that time shows up in the following graph, which represents the actual results of the 303 Gallup polls and the results derived from the equations in the first two graphs:

party-affiliation-actual-and-estimated

The key to the outcome of the 2016 election is the net change in voters claiming GOP and Democrat affiliation since the high-water mark of those claiming independent-other status, which occurred in December 2013. From then until November 2016, the percentage of voters claiming independent-other status went from 48 to 41, a drop of 7 percentage points. Of the 7 points , the Republican Party added 4.7 while the Democrat Party added 2.3. As a result, Clinton’s long-expected national landslide became a hollow, California-based, popular-vote victory — and a comfortable electoral-vote win for Trump.