Thursday, November 10, 2016

Obligatory Post Election Blog Post: Part 3--I Was Wrong. I Was so so so SO Wrong

See also Part 1: Boy Did I Not See That Coming
and Part 2: I think I've Become Very Out of Touch

Alright, I made a number of predictions this year that turned out to be dead wrong.

Before I get too much into the self flagellation, let me say that the whole game of making predictions on this blog was always just a bit of a lark--the whole point of the game is that no one ever predicts anything 100% right, but it's interesting sometimes to take a stab at it, and then look back and see everything you got right and everything you got wrong.
But that said, I would totally be cheating at this game if I didn't take my lumps when they came due.

So, my prediction on November 23, 2015: Hello President Hillary , is dead wrong.

As was something I said in a comment I made to the same post: "I can't imagine Trump would ever get the nomination."

The one thing I did get right, however, was: "There's no way that the Democratic Party Establishment is ever going to let Bernie Sanders get the nomination, and so Hillary's nomination is inevitable."
(Not only did Hillary go on to get the nomination, but of course once the Wikileaks were released, it turned out the Democratic Party Establishment was indeed actively conspiring to deny Bernie Sanders the nomination.  So two-for-two in that sentence, at least.)

My December 14, 2015 prediction that Donald Trump didn't really want to be President, and that he would either drop out of the race or sabotage himself, also turned out to be wrong.
(I think.)

On June 28, 2016, I acknowledged some of my errors, but went on to make fresh ones:
My other prediction, however, about Hillary winning the election, is looking safer than ever....And I know people are saying that we can't under-estimate Trump.  And people are saying that, yes,  a Trump victory could happen, and so we should be scared.  And people are saying that Brexit proves that voters can do incredibly stupid things some times.
But I'm going to go ahead and put my reputation on the line on this one.  There is no way Donald Trump will ever win in the general election.  He's going to get creamed in November.  He surprised us all in the primaries, I know, but that's because he was appealing directly to the racists and the crazies in the Republican Party.  There's no way he's going to duplicate that success when he has to try to appeal to moderate voters

Um, yeah, that one turned out to be dead wrong.

And as if being wrong on this blog wasn't enough, I also went on record in personal conversation.  Talking at the office, or out at bars, I repeatedly assured friends and co-workers that Donald Trump wasn't going to win.

"I don't know," someone would say, "Look at what happened with Brexit."
Or "I don't know," someone would say, "He won the primary, and no one thought he would do that.  Shouldn't we be concerned?"

And I was adamant each time. "No.  No no no no no.  Listen to me.  I'm going to go ahead and put my credibility on the  line for this one.  There is absolutely no way Donald Trump will ever win in a general election.  And if he does win, you never have to listen to anything I say ever again."

And that was basically verbatim what I said.  On several occasions.  And I actually repeatedly used the expressions: "put my credibility on the line" and "you never have to listen to anything I say ever again if he wins."

As time went on, and some people in my work place were getting more nervous about the election, I increased my insistence.  "No.  Listen to me.  Listen to me.  I will eat my hat if Donald Trump gets elected.  This hat, right here.  I will literally eat it if Donald Trump wins the election.  I mean it.  I will literally eat this hat." *1

I made this claim loudly enough and repeatedly enough that everyone in the office knew about it.

Of course, wiser liberals were taking a more cautious approach.  There were plenty of Cassandras out there, trying to warn us not to be complacent.

This Van Jones video comes to mind as something I knew about, but ignored.

Even some of my co-workers tried to warn me.  "Don't say that!" someone told me in the office just last week.  "He could win.  What good does it do to say things like that?  We need to be worried."

Indeed, what good does it do to say things like that?  Why did I go around telling everyone that Trump couldn't possibly win, instead of taking a more pre-cautionary approach.

I've done some self-reflection, and I've come up with three reasons why I said what I said.

1): Pure intellectual smugness.  I was sure Trump would lose, so I wanted to be sure I got all the credit for predicting it ahead of time.

2): As a way to try to deflect the smugness of the non-American expats.
As anyone who's been an expat this past year will tell you, it's been an embarrassing year to be an American.  Many a time, a Brit, or New Zealander, or Australian, or Canadian, or Irish, etc, would say smugly something like "What is wrong with your country?"
And in order to try to undercut their smugness, I would say something like, "Don't worry.  Trump is going to get absolutely creamed in November.  Or I'll eat my hat.  Whereas you guys, on the other hand, still voted for Brexit."

3): To the extent that there was an ideological reason for this (and not just me being a smug jackass), it was that I felt that to acknowledge the threat of Trump's candidacy would be to legitimize it. *2

And then Trump won, and my jaw hit the floor.

I'm currently getting a lot of flack in the office about the hat eating issue.  And I did seriously contemplate eating it.
I posted on Facebook to try to get some free medical advice about the dangers of hat eating.

I need some advice about a situation:in an effort to show faith in the goodness of humanity, in the weeks and months preceding the election I assured everyone that Trump would not win, and I told everyone that I was so sure of this that I would eat my hat if he won. (literally, not metaphorically).I'm contemplating how I can fulfill this promise without doing any serious damage to my health. The hat is 75% cotton, and 25% polyester. It's a rather large hat, but I was thinking of cutting it into small pieces, using some kind of barbecue sauce, and washing it down with lots of beer. I was wondering if anyone had any insight into adverse health effects I should expect from this.
Many people have commented on the post, and several more people sent me private messages.  The advice is all over the map, but I've gotten several serious warnings that eating the hat could have devastating physical consequences.

So it looks like I'll be weaseling out of eating the hat.

Footnote 1:
 Years in Southeast Asia have caused me to develop the same phobia of the sun that all the local Vietnamese have.  I never go outside without a huge hat on.  The hat I'm currently wearing is a fishing hat with a wide brim--somewhat similar to the one pictured below.

Footnote 2
I have long thought that we liberals often give legitimacy to fringe groups by over-reacting to them.  For example, the common phenomenon of when the Klu-Klux-Klan holds a rally in some city, and 12 mentally unstable hill-billies will show up to represent the Klan, and then thousands and thousands of liberals will go out of their minds protesting them.  I've always thought this behavior was counter-productive--that it was giving these 12 mentally unstable hill-billies exactly the kind of attention and legitimacy they craved, and that it would be better to ignore them.
Or take Ann Coulter.   Here is a woman who should have faded into obscurity years ago, except that she knows exactly how to play liberals.  She'll make some sort of over-the-top ridiculous statement that know one in their right mind would take seriously, but then liberals will get so angry at her that she'll stay in the news for months.
In the same way, I thought that to worry too much about Trump's candidacy would be to give it an importance it did not deserve.  I thought it should be recognized for what it was: a manifestation of the fact that the Republican primary process had long ago been taken over by the right-wing nuts, and not as a serious representation of the American voter.  To treat it as a serious representation of the American voter, I thought, would to legitimatize Trump's discourse.
I was wrong.
Quite possibly I've been wrong on this issue across the board.  Maybe we liberals should go crazy and protest when those 12 mentally unstable hill-billies show up for the Klu-Klux-Klan rally.

Post Script
For an example of someone who actually accurately called this thing way back in February, see Whisky Prajer's post:
How are we going to manage President Trump?
In that same post, I chime in on the comments section with yet more wrong false optimism.
Ah, yes, I'd temporarily forgotten about Rob Ford.
I remember thinking at the time, "What is wrong with Toronto?" But I guess I can't feel so smug about it now.
Of course, Rob Ford never held any national office. It was just a subset of the Canadian Population.
Same with Trump. Or so I hope. He may be very popular with the extreme fringe of the Republican Party, but once the primaries are over and he has to go into the general election, I'm still hopeful that he's going to get creamed.

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