If there’s one thing we’ve learned from the 2016 presidential election so far, it’s that we’ve learned nothing at all.
Since the moment he announced his candidacy, professional pundits have been predicting Donald Trump’s demise. How could a candidate so brash, so controversial, so inexperienced have a chance on the national stage?
It’s impossible, so they thought.
Of course, that hasn’t been the case thus far. Not only is Trump leagues ahead of the Republican pack in national polls, he’s leading in Iowa by a healthy 5 percent margin according to the Huffington Post’s aggregations.
Oh, and the Iowa caucus is just one week away.
What’s remarkable is not just how wrong professional pundits have been about Trump, but also how certain they were about their opinions months ago. Take Nate Silver, for example, the whiz kid statistician behind Five Thirty Eight. As Leon Leyfakh reports in Slate:
Multiple times over the past six months, Silver has reminded his readers that four years ago, daffy fly-by-nighters like Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann led the GOP field at various points. Trump’s poll numbers, he wrote, would drop just like theirs had. In one August post, “Donald Trump’s Six Stages of Doom,” Silver actually laid out a schedule for the candidate’s inevitable collapse.
That collapse is running late. Here we are, a few days from the Iowa caucus, and Trump’s poll numbers haven’t gone down at all.
Maybe math isn’t the best tool to analyze human emotions. Politics is just as unpredictable as a boy at a wedding. You can dress him up to look professional with a suit and tie, but at the end of the night, he will almost be unrecognizable.
Silver and the data-journalism intelligentsia aren’t the only ones to get the rise of Trump wrong, however. As Matt Welch points out in Reason, conservative pundits were even further off the mark in predicting their own movement:
Many or even most of the people who make a living working in politics and political commentary—even those who think of themselves as outsiders, such as nonpartisan libertarians—inevitably begin to view their field as one dedicated primarily to ideas, ideology, philosophy, policy, and so forth, and NOT to the emotional, ideologically unmoored cultural passions of a given (and perhaps fleeting) moment. Donald Trump—and more importantly, his supporters, who go all but unmentioned here (Ben Domenech is an exception)—illustrate that that gap is, well, yuuge.
Conservative intellectuals can no longer laugh off the reactionary ramblings of Trump as passing populism anymore. They must deal with the frankenstein of their ideological making — a man whose foreign policy is pure hyperbole with no more respect for law or liberty than the progressive politicians they so despise.
I for one am happy that I haven’t written about Trump in months because — well — what in the world do I know?
We’re all on this wild ride together, and the only thing that’s certain is the past.