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Trump Has Never Been Popular

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I’ve made this point a couple times in the context of media coverage, but it does indeed have broader applicability:

Donald Trump won 46 percent of the popular vote on the way to victory — a victory driven by capturing the electoral votes of seven states in which he failed to capture a majority of the vote: Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Florida, Arizona, and Utah.

He was elected anyway because many people who didn’t want him to be president couldn’t bring themselves to vote for his opponent. Some of that was her own fault. But some of it was because Trump, in an odd way, was the beneficiary of the perception that he couldn’t possibly win.

People who felt he’d be a bad president felt secure in dissenting from the Democratic Party to either the right (Gary Johnson) or the left (Jill Stein) because everyone knew Clinton would win anyway. Almost everyone who had any kind of serious policy doubts about Clinton invested vast time and energy in exploring them, regardless of whether or not they had much more profound doubts about Trump, because everyone knew Clinton would win anyway. Mainstream journalists spent more time poring over potential access-seeking at Clinton’s undoubtedly life-saving charitable foundation than they did detailing the fact that Trump’s foundation was a potentially criminal fraud that appears to have had no legitimate public benefit.

Everyone knew Clinton would win anyway.

That was, obviously, a miscalculation. But it’s important to be clear about what the miscalculation was. Trump’s opponents failed to unify around a single compelling alternative. He wasn’t popular on Election Day and he wasn’t popular on Inauguration Day. And he’s not doing anything to try to turn that around.

The assumption that Clinton would win was absolutely crucial to Trump winning. But the converse is that Trump actually being president will concentrate the mind. This is still a horrible outcome — much of the bad stuff that Ryan/McConnell/Trump accomplish will be difficult or impossible to repair — but there are political opportunities. And above all Democrats have to treat him as being as unpopular as he is and making him more so.

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  • Dilan Esper

    If this is true, this may be in part on Clinton supporters in the media. I read a ton of stuff before the election basically saying Trump could never win. That the 3 point poll deficit was persistent and poll aggregation made it significant and a “big lead”, that poll bounces for Trump could be dismissed, that Clinton’s ground game and data advantages would result in her outperforming the polls, etc.

    This was how a lot of people, especially Clinton supporters like Josh Marshall, presented the election. Rather than saying it was extremely close, everything is within the margin of error, etc.

    If some people on the left thought Clinton was a sure thing, it might be because people kept telling them she would be.

    • timb

      I think Scott’s point is the media believed it. They believed so much they held her to a different standard than they did him. He was a clown to laugh at; she was the future President. Remember media types beating up 538 because it only gave her a 68% chance to win? Sam Wang and others put her chances in the high 90’s.

      I remember shaking my head at Bill Maher after he said Trump could win, when John Stewart lamented retiring cuz Trump jokes write themselves. Anyone who was savvy believed she would win

      • Nick never Nick

        Yeah, this is correct. And when a poll would come out showing Trump closer than everyone assumed it would be, we would all look in the weeds to find out why it wasn’t as worrisome as it seemed.

        Conversely, we didn’t do that with Clinton, and ask how much of her lead was from Texas, Georgia, Arizona, etc., places where she was running closer to Trump but still wouldn’t get the EC votes.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        I’m not savvy and I always believed that if Trump became the nominee of the Republican party that he could indeed win because that’s where we are- not just because of polarization but because in crucial ways the media as well as Washington is wired for Republicans

      • keta

        Here’s a thought I’ve entertained but never really floated:

        If Stewart and Colbert were still doing their respective gigs on Comedy network through the 2016 election, would Trump still have won?

        The thought I’ve toyed with is this: their shows were both hugely influential, especially with younger voters, and they would have constantly urged their viewers to a) get out and vote, and b) vote to ensure Trump gets creamed (i.e don’t vote third party.)

        I’ll just add I’m not much of a fan of “what if” shit, but this particular thought, as mentioned, has crossed through the canyons of my mind.

      • DrDick

        Even as a Sanders supporter, I would agree with this. They actually treated her much worse than Trump.

    • jamesepowell

      Living out here in Los Angeles, it’s hard to get a handle on how things felt in the last week in swing states. There was some talk of complacency pre-election day, but most that I saw that getting put down as negativism.

      How could we measure the “stayed at home ’cause I was sure she’d win” vote?

      • kvs

        It all gets lumped in to the unusually high number of undecideds. Which was a trend continued from the GOP primary.

        Pretty much all of this can be blamed on media coverage for treating Trump like a normal candidate, drawing a false equivalence between him and his opponents at every step of the way. The fact that they thought he couldn’t win meant they gave him less scrutiny than they would a frontrunner during, minimizing his flaws and deviant behavior. All of this made it OK for people to be apathetic about the outcome.

        It also doesn’t help that when they critiqued him they attacked his character at the expense of highlighting significant policy differences. That reinforced the persecution narrative that motivated his voters while undermining the most effective case for Clinton.

      • ASV

        Somebody with access to identifiable polling data — I can’t recall who it was, but somebody on Twitter — noted the other day that among people who said in the fall that they would “definitely” vote but actually didn’t (accordingly to actual election records), Clinton had a huge lead. We don’t know why they didn’t vote, but it’s a start.

    • DamnYankees

      If some people on the left thought Clinton was a sure thing, it might be because people kept telling them she would be.

      I’ve made this point here before, but I think comments like this are, I think, pretty unfair. So much of this post-election analysis about how we didn’t see America for what it was, and that it would never elect Trump, acts as though people were holding these beliefs despite evidence to the contrary. It’s not true. People weren’t being *blind* to believe Trump would lose. Almost all empirical evidence we had showed he would lose.

      * He was down in the polls pretty much the entire time.
      * He was down in the majority swing states literally the entire time. For example, he literally never had a lead in a single Wisonsin poll. Not once.
      * His favorables were terrible, much worse than Hillary most of the time.
      * Obama had really high approval ratings.
      * The economy was in decent shape.

      All empirical evidence showed he was very likely to lose. It’s not like we all looked at polls showing Trump winning and deluded ourselves into thinking “these can’t be true – white Americans aren’t this racist or angry!”

      Democrats and liberals have, in my experience, tried to be the party of empiricism and rationality. We looked at the evidence that was there. It seems profoundly unfair to say that any of us realistically should have looked at a huge weight of evidence in our favor and dismissed it out of cynicism that America was too racist or angry or whatever to let us win. That would have been profoundly irrational, and trying to pathologize people for not doing that seems crazy to me.

      • humanoid.panda

        That being said, Silver did take a beating for suggesting Trump had decent odds of pulling out an upset. Liberals are not immune to motivated thinking – they just have some mechanisms to counteract it.

        • Theophrastus Bombastus von Hoehenheim den Sidste

          Silver, rightly, took a beating for nudging the odds in favor of Donald while lacking any empirical support for that adjustment. Silver claims to be a data guy, so he does not have the pundit’s luxury of pulling stuff out of his butt whenever he finds it convenient to do so.

          Politically, Silver’s move was quite astute. If Trump wins then Silver looks like a genius, while if Trump loses then Silver is correct in forecasting a Clinton. Heads I win, tails you lose, and Silver wins either way.

          The fundamental problem is that few of the people bloviating about poll data have any idea of what they are talking about. Instant experts abound, and a chattering head who is willing to accept correction from an actual expert is a rare bird indeed.

          So let’s all remember that Clinton actually won the popular vote by a healthy margin, just like the polling data said. The big mistake, the one that I made just like everyone else, was to assume that popular vote was a reliable proxy for actual likelihood of victory. As we all know, now when it’s too late, the EC victory depended on some exceedingly thin margins at the state level. After the fact it was easy to diagnose what had gone wrong, but I know of no one who was pointing to that specific danger when it might have made a difference.

          In closing, I would like for someone with access to investigate whether the Trump campaign spotted the vulnerabilities in Florida and Pennsylvania – shifting resources to bias the outcome away from the polling trends – or whether they simply got really lucky when the dice were finally rolled.

          • humanoid.panda

            e big mistake, the one that I made just like everyone else, was to assume that popular vote was a reliable proxy for actual likelihood of victory.

            Which is exactly the mistake Silver avoided: the reason his model was friendly to Trump was not “politics” but because it noticed Trump was doing well in swing states relative to the national average, so a small swing to him (Comey!) could land him as a winner of the EC even if HRC won the national vote.

      • Dilan Esper

        1. He was rarely down in the polls by a significant number. Most of the time it was within the margin of error, i.e., tied.

        2. State polls were infrequent and had sample size issues.

        3. She had huge unfavorables too.

        4. Obama wasn’t on the ballot.

        There was far less real “empirical evidence” than you are saying. A lot of it was people being encouraged to make unwarranted statistical conclusions.

        • Just_Dropping_By

          Most of the time it was within the margin of error, i.e., tied.

          Yes, but when the vast majority of polls shows the same candidate consistently leading, a reasonable inference is that the candidate is, in fact, leading. (And, of course, Clinton was, in fact, leading, just not by enough.)

          • Dilan Esper

            Actually, that’s not true, because the biases in samples can line up in the same direction (which almost certainly happened).

            • humanoid.panda

              Yes, but margin of error has nothing to do with that issue.

              • Dilan Esper

                That’s true if you are taking a statistics class and are sure you have an unbiased sample.

                But it’s not true if we are talking about the popular discussion of election polls. In that context, the margin of error serves a rhetorical function- don’t read too much into this if it is too close.

            • kvs

              Clinton won the national vote by about what you’d expect based on the polls. So the margin of error is a red herring.

              The problem was that an unusual number of people, especially in MI, PA, and WI were both undecided 2 weeks out from the election and susceptible to the narrative fed by Comey’s letter. And given that MI, PA, and WI represent 3 different experiments in campaign strategy with the only constant being how the media treated the candidates, I think we have our answer for what happened.

              And the trend was missed because there weren’t enough polls in those states in the final 2 weeks to capture it.

              • humanoid.panda

                That being said, at least in WI and MI, polls did show her leading outside the Comey margin of error. (the gold standard WI poll had her up seven- after Comey.) Comey swung the election, but there was a systematic polling error regardless.

                • Aaron Morrow

                  Just to be clear, kvs was talking about national polls, which Pollster and RCP both had Clinton around +2% or +3%. Humanoid.panda is taking about the current state of state-level polling, which is poor at best.

                  Regardless of policy and politics, Democrats need better state-level polling.

                • humanoid.panda

                  This is the place to note that in both 2008 and 2012, Obama’s people had polls that nailed down state-level vote to a T. Sometimes, shit just happens.

                • Aaron Morrow

                  Since the only Obama polling I “saw” at the time was back in Oct 2008, when the campaign moved resources from PA to IN, I’m not going to say that they didn’t have very accurate state polling from time to time. They did!

                  Did they release all of their polling after the fact, so we can see how precise they really were across the board?

        • Scott Lemieux

          He was rarely down in the polls by a significant number. Most of the time it was within the margin of error, i.e., tied.

          This is not correct. Clinton was ahead by more than the margin of error for most of the campaign.

          It was not wrong to see Clinton as a big favorite. It is wrong for journalists to act as if she was already president.

          • Dilan Esper

            Scott, the margin of error for the spread is 6 (3 on each figure). Which means they were almost always tied.

            • catclub

              No. If your best estimate is that they were not tied, then that is your best estimate.

              Which means your best estimate is that Clinton was ahead, but they might be tied.

            • DrS

              That’s not how margins of error work.

            • sibusisodan

              The fact that the 95% confidence intervals for two point estimates overlap does not warrant a conclusion that those estimates are identical.

              • Dilan Esper

                It warrants no conclusion at all.

                You guys want to believe that if 10 polls all show that Clinton is on top by 3 points, where the MoE is +/- 3 points (meaning only a 7 point or larger spread is statistically significant), you can ignore the significance level.

                That’s wrong, though. You have 10 statistical dead-heats. And you should have learned your lesson in November, but you didn’t.

                • sibusisodan

                  It warrants no conclusion at all.

                  Headdesk.

        • twbb

          What scared me at the time was the repeated trend over many months of Trump’s margin narrowing at steady intervals, with one projected to narrow to its maximum extent on election day.

      • timb

        I think this is right, but is still proof that what Scott said is correct. People weren’t wrong to believe she would win, but we/they should have acknowledged he could win. Instead, in September we were entertaining fantasies about the House (which, it should be noted, were fears shared by the House GOP), instead of focusing on how close the damn election was likely to be.

        • CP

          (which, it should be noted, were fears shared by the House GOP)

          Pretty much all the ideas about a Republican shellacking were shared by the GOP, in fact, which explains why they were so willing to hammer him and disassociate themselves from him. Donald Trump may have been literally the only person in the country who believed Donald Trump was going to win.

          • Just_Dropping_By

            Donald Trump may have been literally the only person in the country who believed Donald Trump was going to win.

            There’s actually been a fair bit of reporting that Trump himself didn’t believe he would win. That seems to be corroborated by the fact that Trump clearly started at square zero in selecting political appointees.

          • JKTH

            Supposedly even the Trump campaign didn’t think they were going to win on Election Day (don’t know about Trump himself).

            • jim, some guy in iowa

              I can’t remember where I read it, but coming off the stage at a big late rally in Michigan, Trump is supposed to have said in a surprised tone “this doesn’t feel like losing”

            • Bufflars

              He apparently didn’t have a complete acceptance speech ready up until that night.

              • so-in-so

                But that would fit his general disorganization. Even if he’d been ahead in the polls all campaign he probably waited until the last minute. How far ahead did he plan that inauguration speech?

      • efgoldman

        It seems profoundly unfair to say that any of us realistically should have looked at a huge weight of evidence in our favor and dismissed it out of cynicism that America was too racist or angry or whatever to let us win.

        We just have to make sure that the cynicism is baked into our calculus going forward, along with expecting the very worst of our racist, sexist, homophobic. xenophobic. willfully stupid beyond belief, countrymen.

    • CP

      If this is true, this may be in part on Clinton supporters in the media.

      All three of them?

    • Nick never Nick

      There was one area where I thought Clinton supporters were seriously deluded — this was in the ‘Clinton commands support in the African American community’. This got started in the heat of the primary, when feelings ran high — I always thought it was strange, as 8 years ago the opposite narrative held sway (for obvious reasons), and most of the arguments in favour of it were ones that can’t actually be measured.

      As it turned out, she did basically the same as a generic Democrat. I doubt that getting Obama’s share of the vote would have changed the states she needed to win, but it was a mistake to think that this was a strength of hers.

      I blame the Clinton campaign for one real source of overconfidence — its ground game, and beyond that, its analytic ability. I can’t count the number of articles I read about how her ‘ground game’ and won it by the last weekend before the election, or that she and her team knew exactly what they were doing, while Trump was flying blind into fog-shrouded mountains. I’ll never give those stories credence again, that was self-serving hogwash, and I don’t even know to what purpose.

      • Dilan Esper

        I have never understood the value of telling everyone you are winning in a landslide before the election (Rove used to do this too).

        • so-in-so

          Yes, I suspect there is a window. “OMG, we’re gonna lose” is too scary INHO (and the Democrats sent lots of emails like that), but “relax, it’s in the bag” isn’t motivating enough.

      • Joe_JP

        I thought Clinton supporters were seriously deluded — this was in the ‘Clinton commands support in the African American community’.

        They did have support and it was a major reason Sanders lost big in the South during the primaries. All things being equal, the average Democrat would have support. Sanders, from Vermont, isn’t average. Also, if you run against Barack Obama, it isn’t average. Don’t see the “delusion” here. Black vote isn’t high enough to win … if anything, Latino vote was an issue with high 20s or something for Trump. But, don’t recall them thinking black vote would save them.

        Nate Silver was an outlier regarding polls and even he had her chances at winning 65%. Her campaign relied on the evidence available to gain that sense of confidence. To the degree it was not properly held, she surely wasn’t the only problem. The sentiment on this blog on the morning of the election was she’ll win, the only real debate being how much. And, no, not the popular vote.

        • Nick never Nick

          fer cripes sake, we’re talking about the general election. “Overwhelming support” in the primary did not translate into “overwhelming support” in the general election. You’ve just illustrated the mistake I was talking about.

      • Bufflars

        I don’t have the numbers handy, but didn’t she win African American women at Obama levels, but African American men were down like 20% or something? I think we can make some guesses as to why that might be…

      • twbb

        There were indications that her ground game had serious holes in areas that she critically needed.

  • timb

    This!

    As Chait pointed out, people vote for their state reps based on how they feel about the President (an idea so silly it’s truth portends poorly for the future). Making his policies unpopular, and they will be, is the next step

    • Linnaeus

      I know I’m not the first person to suggest this, but a hang-everything-Trump-does-on-Republicans strategy seems like a good way to go. All the way down. Republicans had a chance to separate themselves from Trump and they didn’t. Everything is on them now, everywhere.

      • Rob in CT

        Yes.

      • jamesepowell

        For some reason, Democrats never do this. They also never unite in opposition to the Republicans. They also do not develop a theme or set of policies to which they all commit. For these and other reasons, the best we can ever hope for is the occasional presidential win.

        • so-in-so

          “Not a member of any organized party…”

          • Linnaeus

            Yeah, the nature of the Democratic coalition means it’s less coherent as a party.

            • Nick never Nick

              I don’t understand this, though — for example, to harp on something LGM keeps pointing out, what faction of the Democratic coalition is asking Senators to vote for Trump’s Cabinet nominees? Because they currently are . . .

              • xq

                GOP senators voted for most of Obama’s cabinet nominees in 2008. The only way a narrative in which Democrats are always divided and GOP is always united can work is to be very selective in the information you consider.

        • humanoid.panda

          The years 2006-2010 didn’t exist. It is known.

          • so-in-so

            Was that Democratic success or Bush failure?

            I don’t recall a great push for any particular policy in 2006, Obama had health care, but the Democrats in Congress mostly ran from that in 2010 (not that it helped them any).

            • DamnYankees

              Getting out of Iraq was a pretty unifying theme in 2006, if I recall.

              • so-in-so

                Yeah, not really “unifying”. Especially as once you’re out (or not), then what? Being “not-Bush and not his party” was probably unifying enough for 2008. Not 2010 nor 2016.

            • humanoid.panda

              So, one could argue that having a coherent policy doesn’t mean much in a 2 party system where the balance is made by low information voters that have no idea what the parties stand for.

              • so-in-so

                I think this is true of something that you need to read a policy paper to understand. Some form of “Fixing inequality” or “helping the 99%” or even “helping the middle class” is simple enough that, with repetition, even the no-info voters understand, details to come later.

                But what do I know, I was saying “don’t worry, she’s got this” way to late at the bar on Nov. 8th.

                • humanoid.panda

                  Me too, so it’s not like I’m an oracle! But we do have information that swing voters when informed about GOP stances, simply refuse to believe them! Hard to argue one can beat that kind of mindset with any kind of slogans.

                • so-in-so

                  Yeah, I get that “they support child labor, they want to take away your vote” don’t impress people, despite being true. Again, having a “positive” policy or slogan as well as saying bad shit about the GOP is probably the only chance. Otherwise, welcome our new dictatorship. Having the press finally get over the “to be fair, both sides” would help. Assuming the swing group having yet bought into the rights calling everything “fake news” if it doesn’t fit their agenda.

                • humanoid.panda

                  Assuming the swing group having yet bought into the rights calling everything “fake news” if it doesn’t fit their agenda.

                  And that’s the thing: the fakenews stuff is meant for core supporters. Swing voters basically decide on the basis of no information, not wrong one..

                • so-in-so

                  Or, last information heard before they go to vote, which was all Comey’s shit and nothing bad about Baby Don.

                • Bufflars

                  And that’s the thing: the fakenews stuff is meant for core supporters. Swing voters basically decide on the basis of no information, not wrong one..

                  Eh, I’m willing to bet a number of “swing voters” have a fair amount of exposure to Fox, Facebook feeds or even Drudge-type disinformation outlets.

                • humanoid.panda

                  Eh, I’m willing to bet a number of “swing voters” have a fair amount of exposure to Fox, Facebook feeds or even Drudge-type disinformation outlets.

                  You would be surprised: polls show that less than 40% of the public even knows what Breitbart is..

                • Rob in CT

                  Sure, but there’s a lot more to this than Breitbart.

                  Breitbart (and Limbaugh, and Drudge, and…) puts out the agitprop and then it spreads.

              • efgoldman

                polls show that less than 40% of the public even knows what Breitbart is..

                That’s still about 39.9% too many.

            • Rob in CT

              There was the fight against SS privatization.

  • keta

    I think the piece is spot-on, save this:

    He wasn’t popular on Election Day and he wasn’t popular on Inauguration Day. And he’s not doing anything to try to turn that around.

    Trump is incapable of turning it around. It’s simply not in his nature. We need to keep pounding away at his unpopularity, because it’s obvious the only part of the job he’s remotely concerned about is the reverence he thinks it should accord.

    • We need to keep pounding away at his unpopularity, because it’s obvious the only part of the job he’s remotely concerned about is the reverence he thinks it should accord.

      And what do you think his man-baby response will be to that? I’m not saying that we shouldn’t humiliate him with the facts at every opportunity, but he has the power of the pen, and he seems to have no restraint on using it to piss people off.

      • keta

        Do you really think he’s not going to use that power anyway? Really?

      • Karen24

        That’s exactly what needs to happen. Every time he throws a fit and writes a stupid order, we have to hit him. Again and again and again. Make the Trumpenproles defend every stupid decision. Share on Facebook with snarky notes. We make him unpopular and unstable until he blows up, and hope to God that happens before he finds the nuke codes. Still, our only hope now is to make him so toxic even Rove can’t defend him

        • efgoldman

          Every time he throws a fit and writes a stupid order, we have to hit him. Again and again and again.

          Many state attorneys general are already filing and joining suits against the EOs.
          While Cantaloupe Carbuncle will eventually appoint the 9th SCOTUS justice, there are something like 900 federal district and appeals judges in place appointed by previous presidents. While there are some troglodytes (hello, fifth circuit) most judges, even those appointed by conservatives, follow the law and the constitution.
          He’s also getting huge pushback from mayors and governors.

      • tsam

        I don’t really think that how he is treated by critics or the media is going to have any effect on his willingness to fuck people over. He’s just a rotten shit of a person, and we might as well push every button he keeps drawing attention to, and do what we can to mitigate the damage to actual people.

        The real question will be the courts. That’s our last line of defense here. Unfortunately, it takes time for them to be effective. But if we lose them, it’s all over.

  • Everyone knew Clinton would win anyway.

    Just like everyone knows that we will still have a functioning democracy once Trumperism runs its course.

    • jam

      Just like everyone knows that we will still have a functioning democracy once Trumperism runs its course. a habitable Chicago at the end of the year.

      • wengler

        It’s both hilarious and sad that rural heavy Fox News abusers probably think Chicago isn’t much different than Aleppo.

        • jam

          I believe the current plan is to create even more similarities.

    • so-in-so

      I’m pretty sure I hear more people questioning that than I heard people thinking Orangemandius could win. Even David Brooks was on NPR before the election lamenting that he might only win Alabama.

    • humanoid.panda

      And just like a lot of people knew that the women’s march will not be gunned down by a hail of bullets by pro-Trump militias, nor supressed by executive order.

      • jam

        Citation needed. Trump twitters his threats and to my recollection did not threaten the Women’s March.

        • humanoid.panda

          There were a couple of threads here when people made those predictions.

          • jam

            People mentioned online threats by neo-Nazis and a handful of people suggested Trump might try to stop the Women’s March.

            Trump’s present talk about voting fraud foreshadows a massive attack on voting rights. Likewise his talk about “American carnage” (referring to urban violence) foreshadows an attack on people of color living in cities (and his threats toward Chicago continue that).

  • mbxxxxxx

    Trump’s opponents failed to unify around a single compelling alternative.

    This was true during the primaries as well. Trump likes to brag that he beat 16 opponents. Truth is, he was empowered by having so many opponents splitting up the anti-Trump vote and, practically, ensuring him a plurality victory in every contest which, in the GOP system, gave him a lion’s share of the delegates. Only Scott Walker, to his credit, seemed to understand this when he dropped out and urged most of the others to drop out as well. If the field had winnowed rapidly to 1 or 2 non-Trumps, they might have had a chance stop him. Even at the end you had neverTrumpers encouraging a proliferation of candidates (e.g., Evan McWhathisface) when the only way to ever beat him was to unify around one electable candidate. Unfortunately, that was the witch, Hillary Clinton. So here we are. Fucked. Royally.

    • Ok, lets roll with that. Which two candidates in that field could have rallied enough support to stop him?

      • timb

        The love child of Frank Burns and Nixon, i.e., Ted Cruz would have given him a run for his money. I am way more afraid of a Cruz presidency than I am a Trump one.

        • Agreed. Trump is a miserable excuse for a human being. Cruz is the fucking Antichrist.

        • djw

          Frank Burns and Nixon

          This may be the most apt “love child of X and Y” line I’ve ever seen.

      • mbxxxxxx

        Entirely separate problem. It is obvious that there are lots of reasons why there were so many candidates and why they were reticent to drop out. However, it is a cinch that splitting the anti-Trump vote 16 ways was not a winning strategy. Regardless of the fact that none of the non-Trumpers was a clear favorite, a majority of the GOP primary voters voted for someone other than Trump on a regular basis. It is also clear that the GOP establishment was paralyzed by fear of Trump’s 40% and would not risk unifying behind a candidate and taking him, and them, on. But could they have? Seems conceivable.

  • DamnYankees

    The thing to point out, I think, is that Trump got basically the same percentage of the vote as McCain. Who got creamed. Trump is not popular. He’s literally no more popular with the electorate than the GOP was in 2008. Which was a nadir.

    Any theory of this election which focuses on Trump’s connection with voters, as opposed to Hillary’s lack of it, is just wildly off the mark. There are 2 big questions, as far as I can tell, in understading what happened:

    1) How did Trump get McCain’s level of support? As Ezra Klein has mentioned, the question isn’t how someone as staggeringly awful as Trump got from 43% to 46%. It’s how he got from 23% to 43% in the first place. On this front, I think 90% of the blame goes to GOP leaders.

    2) How did Hillary’s share of the vote drop 5-7% from Obama’s share of the vote. Lots of explanations for this.

    • humanoid.panda

      This is really the key issue: given all that happened to HRC during the campaign (Comey twice, Wikileaks, third party votes doing well, the primary rift not fully healing, the pneumonia), there is a pretty good case to be made that Rubio/Kasich beat her by 5-7 points.

      • DamnYankees

        Not just that, but just a fundamentals based model had a Republican winning by 2-3 points or something.

        Hillary way outperformed the fundamentals. The problem is that people just assumed that obvious Trump’s nomination would not adhere to fundamental models, because he was so wildly unfit. People assumed that in any sane world he would lose by 15 points. Problem is, once the GOP decided to normalize him and lockstep behind him, there was no way that was going to ever happen.

        • humanoid.panda

          True. And yet, if the pussy tape and the Comey letter happen in chronologically reversed order, he probably suffers a historical defeat! Mushy voters are everything.

          • so-in-so

            Future lesson, save the Pussy tape for late October!

            Or would it? Had it come out after Comey’s coup I suspect the press would have stuck it on page four and the rest been the same. Maybe not, the urge to print “pussy” might have overwhelmed their anti-Clintonism.

            • JKTH

              For as much as you can trust the pre-election polls, there really wasn’t much of a shift after AH tape. Comey coming first probably would have been a bigger deal than that coming later.

              • humanoid.panda

                No, that’s simply not true. After the pussy tape, Trump trailed by nearly as much as he did post DNC (and media reports indicated that GOP polling had him down by 8-10 points). Also, I seriously doubt media buries a story featuring the word pussy 10 days before the elections..

    • 1) How did Trump get McCain’s level of support? As Ezra Klein has mentioned, the question isn’t how someone as staggeringly awful as Trump got from 43% to 46%. It’s how he got from 23% to 43% in the first place. On this front, I think 90% of the blame goes to GOP leaders.

      I think it is unquestionable that the Republican base will vote for anyone with a (R) next to their name over a Democrat. Anyone. Period.

      I think the bigger question is how Trump became that (R) on the ballot. I do blame the Republican leadership for that. But once selected, it was ridiculous to assume that the Republican base would boycott him out of some sense of morality. And they didn’t.

      • DamnYankees

        I think it is unquestionable that the Republican base will vote for anyone with a (R) next to their name over a Democrat. Anyone. Period.

        Something can be unquestionable and still be worthy of blame. I mean, the fact that it is inquestionable is part of what makes the GOP leaders even more morally abominable.

        Civic society requires some semblance of leadership. There is no system of government that runs on autopilot.

        But once selected, it was ridiculous to assume that the Republican base would boycott him out of some sense of morality.

        I don’t think its ridiculous to demand this at all. It may have been an uphill battle, if you already factor in the craven immorality of the party leaders, but that’s a reason to make the demand even moreso. Not acquiesce.

        • The fact is that Trump was the most rotten candidate to ever run for president of the United States, both in general, and specifically by the so-called high morale standards that the Christian right supposedly holds dear, and it didn’t. fucking. matter.

          It didn’t. fucking. matter.

          If you can’t make a case with the Republican base for voting against Donald Trump and make it stick, then there’s literally no one out there you can make a case against. We can demand all we want. And we should. But the results are the results. 46% of the electorate still voted for Donald Trump.

          • jam

            Alternative explanation: the Republican base likes bigotry and likes it spoken directly and plainly.

            • liberalrob

              Alternative alternative explanation: the Republican base knew that regardless of how they felt about Trump as a person, he was Team R and would sign everything Ryan and McConnell sent to his desk; whereas Clinton, like Obama, would veto it and there would never be enough votes to override. So yeah he’s an insufferable arrogant blowhard but he’ll be our insufferable arrogant blowhard, and finally we’ll get all the legislation we’ve wanted passed. We can grit our teeth in exchange for that. And anyway, he’ll piss off liberals so there’s that too.

              • so-in-so

                The “liking bigotry loud and plain” is why he got the nomination despite multiple gaffes that would have sent any other candidate to the sidelines. Like attacking McCain’s patriotism.

                The rest is why the #NeverTrumpers ended up endorsing and then voting for him once he was “their guy”.

        • liberalrob

          But once selected, it was ridiculous to assume that the Republican base would boycott him out of some sense of morality.

          I don’t think its ridiculous to demand this at all.

          You expect people with the twisted morality of the GOP base voter to boycott the GOP candidate who vows to embrace and enforce that morality? How is that not ridiculous?

          • so-in-so

            He is the logical end point of the modern GOP for certain. They didn’t realize themselves that their base had evolved to the open racism and hate stage, but they know now.

    • Joe_JP

      On this front, I think 90% of the blame goes to GOP leaders.

      Even those who actually said they wouldn’t vote for Trump couldn’t actually say Hillary Clinton was better. Don’t know of ONE Republican public official (in office; not someone like Colin Powell) who publicly did that. Heck even Bush41 voting for her apparently was off the record, so to speak. Figure I’m missing someone, but also figure if it was anyone of significance, HRC’s people would have promoted the fact.

      [I understand how hard it would be to actually endorse her ala Lieberman/McCain, but “they are equally bad” wasn’t necessary. But, that was the general sentiment. Voting for Gary Johnson? Sorry. No cookie for you.]

      Promoting the idea that both were basically equally bad net helped Trump. At least, some figured, Trump had a “fu” factor. Not a big fan of Republicans in Congress etc. in general. But, this was a new low. New level of disgust at these people.

      • DamnYankees

        Yup. Exactly this.

        The analogy I always thought of was a race between Mitt Romney and Kanye West.

        I’m very liberal. I would not vote for Kanye West for President (though frankly I think there’s a good argument that Trump is worse than West when you don’t account for ideology). I’d vote for Mitt Romney, and I’d encourage others to do so as well. Maybe that position wouldn’t hold up if I was under pressure as a party leader, but that wouldn’t be an excuse. It’d just make me a coward.

        • humanoid.panda

          I wish I could say this about myself, but if I have good reasons to believe that Kanye West will appoint Democrats to all offices, and nominate the same justices Obama would, I just don’t see myself voting Romney.

          • so-in-so

            This. If Hair Furor had somehow captured the Democratic nomination, however horrible he was, the resulting Democratic Congress would restrain him. The GOP congress wants 90% of the same stuff the orange one does, and will enable him far more.

            Conversely, Romney would still sign all the bills Ryan and McConnell put forward, and repeal all President Obama’s executive orders. Just less noisily.

            We too think the President is King. Congress still carries the weight.

          • catclub

            but if I have good reasons to believe that Kanye West will appoint Democrats to all offices

            but am worried that he will set off nuclear war over some insult, will you still vote for him? While I have no worries that Mitt Romney would do that?

        • Joe_JP

          It is even worse than this really.

          The “Never Trump” Republicans here didn’t even have to vote for Clinton in my view. They had to at least not equalize Trump and Clinton. I realize net this would be a sort of endorsement, but actually voting for her means something more.

          I honestly understand the difficulty here though on the merits Clinton really should be someone Republicans could live with on foreign policy and other issues, especially if they controlled Congress. But, there just has to be at least some people in a party who has some courage when it counts.

          I figure along with so many others that they didn’t think Trump would win … that made it easier for them to justify.

    • djw

      s Ezra Klein has mentioned, the question isn’t how someone as staggeringly awful as Trump got from 43% to 46%. It’s how he got from 23% to 43% in the first place.

      But we know this. It’s just how democratic politics tends to work in highly partisan environments. There’s reams of voting behavior scholarship on this. It’s a frustrating and horrible finding, and I wish it weren’t so, but it’s not some sort of mystery.

    • efgoldman

      I think 90% of the blame goes to GOP leaders.

      No, it goes to the frothing at the mouth flying monkeys who don’t give a runny shit about their families, their kids, their neighbors, or anybody the fuck else, as long as they have a reserved spot under the bridge and that ni[clang] over there doesn’t.

  • sam

    Let’s also not forget that for even those of us that were (yes, we existed) enthusiastic Clinton supporters, we were basically required to caveat every endorsement and statement about her with “yes, I know she has flaws…”, “yes, I know she’s not perfect…”, etc., etc.

    Because god forbid we full-throatedly endorse a woman for president without negging her at the same time.

    I’m sure that had nothing to do with the (false) “enthusiasm gap” and turnout numbers in various places that ultimately happened.

    • tsam

      Well, having a vagina means your normal flaws ARE LITERALLY WORSE THAN HILTER.

      I’m ALL fucking done with assholes who did everything they could to take her down during the election and claimed to not want Trump as president. They didn’t fucking care, and they can all go to hell.

      • Little Chak

        I can understand someone like Ana Navarro endorsing her with “serious reservations”, or whatever — she’s a traditional Republican, and I have to admit that in a Mitt vs Kanye race, I don’t think it would come across as genuine for me to offer a full-throated “absolutely” as my endorsement of Romney.

        However: those are situations where you’re somewhere in the middle of the two candidates, and/or your party’s nominee is just completely unnaceptable, regardless of how much you like the platform.

        In a situation where both candidates are to the right or left of you, but one is way, way, way farther (and unqualified and otherwise unnaceptable), I don’t understand why you wouldn’t say, “well, she’s not perfect, but she has my unreserved endorsement, because she is closer to my position on just about every issue, and won’t burn down the republic if public opinion turns against her”.

        • tsam

          Right–in a situation where, say the Democrats managed to find some version of a Trump (let’s just say he’s bragged about sexually assaulting women), then I would never vote for them. I would really not be happy about voting for a Kasich (who probably represents an equal distance right to Clinton’s left), and would express that reservation.

          The bigger issue is this–people on the left had a choice–vote for Hillary Clinton and help out with enthusiasm and turnout, or contribute to the election of an outright fascist.

          I don’t want to hear any ostensibly liberal/leftists bullshit rationalizations for why they just couldn’t vote for Clinton. It’s all bullshit and there’s no fucking excuse for it.

      • Buggy Ding Dong

        Seconded.

      • liberalrob

        It was more about the Clinton name than the vagina.

    • Hillary Clinton was undoubtedly one of the most qualified people to ever run for office. But she also came with more baggage than a freight train. Granted, 99% of it was bullshit created by the Republican noise machine over 30 years of abuse, but it was still there, and it was not something that you could easily dispel over the course of even a campaign season as long as the one we just endured. The vast majority of the American public had already made up their minds about Hillary before she announced her candidacy. And we now know that for at least 46% of those who voted, even the thought of some as miserable an excuse for a human being as Donald Fucking Trump was not enough to change their minds.

      • jim, some guy in iowa

        you know what was weird about the American public though? When they got to see Clinton and Trump for themselves- the conventions and the debates- they were good with her. When they sat back and took other people’s word for her- whether it was the NYT, Fox News or the Left Purity Patrol- not so much

        • q-tip

          Excellent reminder. Every once in a while I think back to the debates, and my usual “WTF AMERICA” gets bolded, underlined, italicized, enclosed by flash tags, and grows by like 10 points.

        • efgoldman

          When they got to see Clinton and Trump for themselves- the conventions and the debates- they were good with her.

          Right. The gap widened after each debate.

  • anonymous

    While Trump is unpopular, he isn’t unpopular where it matters. He is popular, or popular enough, with Whites in swing states and as those states are still majority White that is enough.

    Just consider Macoomb Country MI as an example. A fairly reliably White Dem county, it is now starting to go the way of WV.

    And now that Trump is banning Muslims, building the Wall, sending in the Feds to the Chicago ghettos, etc. expect Trump’s popularity amongst Whites to rise further. This will in fact ensure his reelection.

    He may not be popular but he is popular amongst the Whites in all the right places.

    • humanoid.panda

      Hey it’s me, repeating the same comment over and over again, while ignoring a key fact that Scott mentioned in the story (Trump didn’t get to 50% in the states that swung the election).

      And even the history of Macomb county belies you bullshit: in the 1980s, it swung hard to Reagan. It was in fact the zero ground of Reagan Democrats. And then it swung back to Dems.

    • Murc

      And now that Trump is banning Muslims, building the Wall, sending in the Feds to the Chicago ghettos, etc. expect Trump’s popularity amongst Whites to rise further.

      Which means that he might… reach the same level of support among them Romney got?

    • Morbo

      Eh, I don’t know if I’d call 4 of the last 6 elections after having been Republican since ’72 “reliable.” It looks like this election was exactly the same margin as Carter/Reagan.

  • Simple Mind

    Get a load of Mafia capo Gianni Spicer:

    Mexico will pay for the border wall one way or another.

    What are you going to do, tough guy? Knee-cap Mexico?

    • liberalrob

      The goalposts have moved again. Now we’re going to go ahead and build the wall ourselves, and send Mexico the bill later. How much later has not been revealed, nor has what measures will be taken if Mexico tells us to go fck ourselves. Which they have already been doing, BTW. But it’s all bluster. There will be no wall, and any funds appropriated for one will wind up in the offshore bank accounts of wealthy cronies, leaving a mountain of debts and overruns on the corporate books for the American taxpayer to cover. And those taxpayers won’t be the wealthiest Americans, who are getting tax cuts.

  • Bitter Scribe

    Trump’s win was a fluke, plain and simple. The only question now is how much damage can he do before the inevitable correction.

    • Crusty

      That and how much damage can he do to prevent the inevitable correction.

  • Mike in DC

    The lowest ever approval for a POTUS is 21 or 22 percent. Trump could wind up below that.

    • so-in-so

      Do you think he can get below that 27% who absolutely always want the (R)? Because he looks like a loser?

      • Mike in DC

        Bush got down to 24 or 25.

        • efgoldman

          Bush got down to 24 or 25.

          Tricksie Dicksie Nixie was ~25% or so on the day he left the White House.
          I don’t remember, but it seems likely it went down a little when Ford idiotically pardoned him.

          • so-in-so

            Lots of the WWC Republicans of today were (Blue Dog) Democrats then, and easily hated on Nixon as a result.

  • Buggy Ding Dong

    e wasn’t popular on Election Day and he wasn’t popular on Inauguration Day. And he’s not doing anything to try to turn that around.

    And lash him to the Republican Congress and him to them. Their agenda plus his pure concentrated assholery should make it easy to define them in 2018 and 2020.

    I say should because, hey, it’s the Democrats. They could mess up a wet dream.

    • John F

      I say should

      Yes the Democratic Party just seems institutionally feckless.

      A problem I have, even as a white male is that I know/interact with a vanishingly small number of people who admit voting for Trump (and where I live went for HRC by greater than 2:1), and the ones I know who admit voting for Trump are literally all people I already knew were dumbasses (with one exception, a not dumb but literally insane person afflicted with HDS).

      The Trump voters I know are people I would never discuss asking why they would vote for Trump, because I know from experience that they are too stupid to have conversations with on any topic other than weather, football and drywall.

      Given that Trump lost my area by closer to 2:1 than 9:1, I know that some people I run into must be closet Trump supporters- now why are they reticent, is it because here in NY its, it’s too socially unacceptable be pro-Trump, or are did they vote for him knowing full well he’s a shit stain, and won’t admit it for the same reason most people won’t admit something was their fault, hitting their wives/kids, etc.

      Any way, to get back to the thread, I’m middle aged white male- AND I DON’T KNOW HOW TO REACH TRUMP SUPPORTERS- if I don’t know how to reach these morons, how can someone who doesn’t even look like a Trump supporter figure it out?

      I don’t think it can be done, just gotta get more people out to vote and somehow out vote them.

  • Crusty

    Trump never popular? Apparently, you’ve never heard of the greatest and most popular show of all time that has been and continues to be #1 in the ratings for 47 straight years, a little something called the Apprentice, which debuted in black and white and starred a man so good looking, it spurred the invention of color tv.

    • so-in-so

      Explains those old stick-on “color TV” sheets to go on our B+W screen with the orange band in the middle for the faces.

  • osceola
  • Tsuyoshi

    This really isn’t complicated.

    Clinton was a bad candidate. And at no point in time was any part of that election really about policy. She speaks no better than an above-average bureaucrat. She has no intuition about how to get people to like her, least of all members of the media, who are already biased against Democrats. Her base (white college-educated baby-boomer women) was tiny. She had no great track record winning elections, running behind Al Gore in 2000 and behind Eliot Spitzer in 2006.

    The only thing she really had going for her was universal name recognition, due to being married to an actual good politician, who had a decent run as president himself. Problem was, the other side found someone with pretty good name recognition too.

    It probably should have been a warning sign when she barely beat a fringe candidate in the primary. (Oh, did you think I was relitigating the primary? Sorry, but all five candidates were terrible!)

    Someday I hope the idiots who run the Democratic Party will figure out that contested primaries are not a bad thing. If the frontrunner you so dearly love is any good at winning elections, they can win the primary without you clearing the field for them.

    Of course it doesn’t help that the really bad recession was really bad, but Democrats had two years to fix that, and they frittered it away pretending that they needed 60 votes in the Senate to do anything.

    Anyway, the Republican president we have now is the most unpopular president of all time, somehow even less popular than Richard Nixon. Congressional Democrats are in the minority and their votes are merely symbolic. So what do they choose to do? Give President Unpopularity the benefit of the doubt and vote for some of his nominees, of course.

    This feels like 2001 all over again.

    • sam

      Clinton was a bad candidate. And at no point in time was any part of that election really about policy. She speaks no better than an above-average bureaucrat. She has no intuition about how to get people to like her, least of all members of the media, who are already biased against Democrats. Her base (white college-educated baby-boomer women) was tiny. She had no great track record winning elections, running behind Al Gore in 2000 and behind Eliot Spitzer in 2006.

      That’s right. When she loses, even on a technicality after winning more votes than any white man in the history of american elections, it’s because she’s a terrible candidate, and when she won, it was entirely because of the MENZ, even the ones who LOST the elections that she actually won in.

      Go the fuck away.

    • liberalrob

      Someday I hope the idiots who run the Democratic Party will figure out that contested primaries are not a bad thing. If the frontrunner you so dearly love is any good at winning elections, they can win the primary without you clearing the field for them.

      Martin O’Malley and Bernie Sanders were not “cleared out”. They simply lost. In any event, after 2008 it was definitely “her turn”. If anything, the mistake the Democratic Party made was allowing Sanders to run in the first place; if they were such nefarious masterminds who were set on handing Clinton the nomination, if they truly wanted to “clear the field,” they did a damned poor job of it.

      they frittered it away pretending that they needed 60 votes in the Senate to do anything.

      Well, seeing as how that’s how the Senate works and all, I think it’s pretty hard to say they were “pretending”. The things that don’t require 60 votes would never have made it through the House (and would have to originate there in the first place). So they were pretty much screwed.

      • so-in-so

        Maybe he means they should have nuked the filibuster earlier. Front Pagers here have noted that there was reason to suspect a higher level of resistance, but I don’t think they really thought the GOP would be totally the party of “No!”.

  • so-in-so

    For the poster yesterday who said “who cares what Pompeo says, torture is illegal!”, note today’s news please. Black sites and “torture works” are both back in the news.

    Is “Arbeit Macht Frie” going over the White House entrance next?

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