Recently, Marco Rubio gave a speech in which he more or less boasted about calling Trump out as a con man " five days ago." This hits on a question Joseph and I have been discussing and texting over for quite a while now, why did it take so long? Why did topics like Trump University go unmentioned until the candidate was on the verge of cinching the nomination?
Joseph suggested glass houses. Lots of Republican candidates would prefer that the topic of for-profit education not come up. I am sure there is something to that but I think there is a bigger and scarier factor.
What if the people in charge of the Republican Party actually believed what they read in the paper? Even without the threat of a third party run (though that may have been the main factor), the Party had plenty of reason to be reluctant to piss off Trump. He had money, power, media access, a devoted following and a proven willingness to play nasty.
Balanced against the considerable risks of attacking Trump, what were the risks of letting him be? That depended on who you listened to. Among those with good track records, there were basically two camps: the guardedly nervous and the confidently optimistic. The first group (Paul Krugman, Josh Marshall, Jonathan Chait, et al.) considered a Trump nomination a long shot but still something to be taken seriously, partially because long shots do come in and partially because Trump would almost certainly exert considerable influence even if he didn't win the primary. The second group (which included most major data journalists) argued that Trump had virtually no chance of winning, was “not a real candidate,” and would have no significant impact on the rest of the race.
Even at the time, a lot of us pointed out problems with the optimistic camp position. The statistics cited were piecemeal and didn't come together in a coherent argument. Important parts were left out of the historical analogies. Conflicting evidence was ignored. Narratives took the place of models. Nonetheless, the optimistic position was the overwhelming establishment favorite.
Working from those favored assumptions, the delay in hauling out the serious charges against Trump would have been entirely rational. Why engage in a costly battle against an opponent who was already on the verge of imploding?
And when those assumptions have their final, fatal encounter with reality, outcomes like this were entirely to be expected:
So many things are happening right now - mostly with the actors in question having no clear plan for what they're doing - that it's very hard to know where our politics will be a week from now let alone in six months. But there's one thing we can see clearly and it's worth noting: top Republican stakeholders are breaking a lot of china right now that will be very, very hard to unbreak. What seems most relevant to me is that almost all of this is being done with no clear sense of an end-game or even a clear plan.
"Narratives took the place of models."ReplyDelete
Well, the modern presidential primary system didn't exist until 1972. It has only run 11 iterations. Perhaps double that to count two parties--but then in some years there were no real contests in the incumbent party. You have to be pretty gutsy, or perhaps foolish is a better word, to stake much on models built from such sparse data.
I don't think either side was really working from models here. Just different narratives.
I think you may have misread my point here. I'm not saying that they should have stuck with models (obviously that would not have been workable here) or that they should have avoided narratives; I am saying that narratives took the place of models, that they were used in much the same way and given comparable, if not greater weight.
Krugman, Marshall, Chait and company sometimes used narratives to explain what they were seeing, The narratives grew out of the facts and (cautious) predictions grew out of the narratives. On the other side we had:
“Here's a story (backed up by some impressive but largely irrelevant graph) where the terrible thing doesn't happen so you shouldn't worry... Okay, that story turned out to be wrong but here's another story (backed up by some impressive but largely irrelevant graph) where the terrible thing doesn't happen so you shouldn't worry... Okay, that story turned out to be wrong but here's another story (backed up by some impressive but largely irrelevant graph) where the terrible thing doesn't happen so you shouldn't worry... Okay, that story turned out to be wrong but here's another story (backed up by some impressive but largely irrelevant graph) where the terrible thing doesn't happen so you shouldn't worry... “
I agree with your post. If you think Trump is going to lose, you don't want to antagonize his supporters.
To take an example from the other side: Democratic politicians go to a lot of trouble to avoid antagonizing Al Sharpton. But Sharpton seems to be close to the equivalent of Trump, minus the pink skin and a few billion dollars: Sharpton is a recognized liar, a scammer, he's had dealings with the other party, he talks an aggressive game but it's not at all clear what if any political ideology he has.
But Sharpton would seem to be unelectable for any office--he hasn't even tried to run for mayor of New York City--but Democrats don't want to piss off his supporters, so they're nice to him.