Category Archives: Politics

Trump Wants to Change the Game

There is a principle that I teach my martial arts students: don’t play by your opponent’s rules. Your opponent will try to set the terms of an encounter such that they favor him. Don’t let him. Change the gamechangethegame

Inside our dojo there’s a very easy example. We practice a full range martial art that combines the grappling and throws of jujitsu with the kicks, punches and other strikes of kickboxing and karate. With the explosive growth and popularity of MMA, this is a lot more common than it used to be. Even so, the majority of martial artists still heavily emphasize one portion of this curriculum, ground work, takedowns or upright striking, over the rest.

It is usually quite easy to determine at the start of a fight which of these ranges your opponent wants to be in. If he’s a ground fighter, he will try to get you to the ground very quickly. If he’s an upright fighter, he will try to keep at an optimal range for his preferred strikes (kicks or punches). If he’s focused on takedowns, he will position accordingly.

The key is to deny him his preferred zone. If he’s a ground fighter, force him to stay upright. If he’s an upright fighter, take him to the ground. If he’s focused on takedowns, keep him at bay with your strikes or take him to the ground with you. In any case, don’t play by his rules. Change the game.

The example here is easy and clear. Most of life isn’t. Yet you see this happen outside the martial arts all the time. It happens in sports, when a team develops a new kind of offense or defense. It happens in war, when one side develops groundbreaking new technology and/or tactics. It happens in business, when one company develops an entirely new business model.

GPS changed the game for American soldiers in the early 1990s. Saddam Hussein believed his army safe because no army had ever crossed the open Iraqi desert – ever. Navigation is tricky when you’re surrounded by nothing but sand. Yet GPS allowed the US Army to cross it with ease, catching him completely off guard.

Amazon changed the game for global retail. The ability to buy nearly anything from the convenience of your own home, coupled with timely delivery and affordable shipping revolutionized commerce. To be fair, if they hadn’t gotten there first, someone else would have done it. Yet they were the ones there, making it happen. Later they changed the game again, revolutionizing the book industry with e-books.

I’m not generally a sports guy, so don’t look to me for the sports analogy here. But it exists, I promise.

Often, people try to change the game and fizzle out. A great many web companies died in the crash of 2000 because they were unable to change the game the way they wished to. Sometimes the change comes slower than desired. A great many companies tried software subscription models a decade ago. The world wasn’t ready for it. Yet today, Adobe, Microsoft, and others are having great success with it.

Donald Trump is trying to change the game in politics. Scott Adams likes to say that he brought a flame thrower to a knife fight. At the moment, every sign indicates that he’s been successful. But the real proof comes next week in Iowa. We will find out if Mr. Adams is correct, or if Mr. Trump brought a knife to a gunfight.

If Trump succeeds, the game will change forever. Politicians from here forward will study his campaign and try to emulate it – just as every Presidential candidate now tries to emulate Jimmy Carter’s Iowa-then-New-Hampshire-momentum victory strategy. The next candidate to follow his lead will be less successful precisely because of Trump’s success; his opponents will also be following Trump’s lead.

Iowa will be the most interesting test. Everybody assumes you need a killer “ground game” to get out the vote in Iowa and win. Trump thinks he can win it a different way, with a different campaign. He is either right or he is wrong. Looking at the recent poll numbers, however, I think he might well be correct.

Given the commanding lead he carries in New Hampshire – a state with a primary rather than a caucus, and hence less dependent upon a get-out-the-vote operation – if he wins Iowa, it’s hard to see how he doesn’t go on to absolutely dominate New Hampshire. And given the way voters tend to latch on to the winner, it’s hard to see how he doesn’t run the table and win every single state in the primary.

As of today’s polls – and more importantly, the direction that they’re changing in – I strongly believe that Trump will win Iowa. And I think he will continue on to run the table. I also think that come November he will beat Bernie Sanders like a drum, carrying 40+ states in the biggest landslide since Reagan v. Dukakis in 1984.

Tomorrow: why I think Hillary will lose the Democratic nomination.

Why Nate Silver Will Fail Big

Nate_Silver_2009Nate Silver first made a name for himself by using statistics to make sports predictions. But like most, I became aware of him after he accurately called 49 out of 50 states in the 2008 Presidential election. His fame rose when he called the 2012 election accurately as well, despite many on the right not quite having faith in his numbers.

The core of his technique is nothing magical, although neither will I shortchange him by calling it “obvious” as so many people are wont to do after somebody clever does something new. It’s obvious in hindsight; it wasn’t so obvious before he did it. He’s published a general outline of his methodology after every Presidential election, and you don’t have to be an actual statistician to follow what he’s doing. You do, however, need to have a basic understanding of the underlying statistical methodology. Any undergraduate stats course should let you follow along – conceptually, at least, if not in the details.

Before I dive into my main point, let me emphasize that Mr. Silver’s methodology will work brilliantly the vast majority of the time. His methodology is just about as truly data driven as it’s possible to be. He uses the best data that’s out there. And given his reputation, he can now get access to that data easily. He also uses standard and sound statistical methods.

However, the day will eventually come when Nate Silver will fail – and when it does, he will fail big.

To understand why, we first need to have a basic understanding of his methods. A decade or two ago, somebody had the keen insight that although any individual poll taken during an election season had to be taken with a huge grain of salt, if you average all the polls together you end up with numbers that are pretty reliable. I’m not sure who had the eureka moment first, but Real Clear Politics popularized the concept with their RCP poll average in the early 2000s and it’s been a staple of politics ever since.

Mr. Silver took the concept even further and improved upon it in several ways.

First, he realized that in Presidential politics it was the state polls that mattered – not the national polls. So he computed polling averages for each individual state.

Second, he did historical analysis of each polling company and concluded that some were more reliable than others. He quantified this using standard statistical techniques, and then adjusted his averages by weighting each poll according to its historical reliability. This alone is a big improvement to the RCP model, and its validity shouldn’t be discounted.

Third, he added other factors into his model: the general state of the economy and how it favors the incumbent; endorsements; experience of the candidate; and several other factors. The predictive value of these factors is less, so they’re weighted less in his model – but their value counted.

Fourth, he improved the whole thing by running Monte Carlo simulations. This is also a giant improvement over the RCP average. Basically, it works like this: you write a simple computer program that takes the poll numbers given and, using the model you’ve devised (in this case, points 1 through 3 above) you simulate a given election. With the polls, endorsements, etc as given, you also account for some randomness in the actual results. To do this, you account for the historical error of the polls – if a candidate is polling at, say, 45% then history might suggest that his actual vote could be anywhere from 40% to 50%, and you can compute a probability curve that matches that range.

Then you run this simulation – a lot. Thousands of times or tens of thousands of times. Let’s say you run it ten thousand times, and out of those ten thousand times, Candidate A wins the election five thousand times: exactly half. You then say that candidate has a 50% chance of winning the election.

The methodology is pretty sound. But it has some serious flaws, and because of these, eventually Nate Silver will fail. Here are the problems.

First, the model requires that the input polling data be good. If the polls aren’t good, then Silver’s model isn’t any good either. Note that it doesn’t require any individual poll to be perfect. But it does require a few things. Each poll should be generally within or close to it’s historical margin of error. The polls should be canceling out each others’ errors. In other words, if one poll gets Candidate A’s share of the vote too high, the competitor’s poll should get it too low. If both polls are wrong in the same direction then averaging them doesn’t help.

There is strong evidence – even documented by Silver himself – that the polls are getting worse. Indeed, the polling companies are having so much trouble that Gallup has stopped polling the Presidential races altogether. There’s also evidence that the polls have started to weight their data so that they match more closely to other polls. That skews their value and makes them less reliable. So the polls themselves are a problem – and a growing one.

Second, polling long before an election is hugely inaccurate. Accuracy increases greatly the closer a poll is taken to the actual election. This is why Mr. Silver’s 2008 and 2012 predictions weren’t magic: the “predictions” relied on polls taken within days of the election. With respect to Mr. Silver, this accomplishment isn’t as big as many made it out to be. At that point, the polls are generally pretty accurate. His achievement was simply to look at the right polls.

To be fair to Mr. Silver, he’s quite aware of this problem and has discussed it at some length. He refrains from even making predictions before certain points in the campaign, and he’s the first to tell you that they’re of little value even when he begins them. However, having his predictions become accurate only days or a very few weeks before the actual election robs them of much of the value of a prediction. It doesn’t make them worthless, mind you, just of small utility for most of us.

But the real problem isn’t even those issues, as bad as they might be. The real problem is that the map is not the territory. Mr. Silver has constructed a wonderful model of elections. But it’s just that: a model. It is not the reality.

The biggest area where this will eventually bite him is in the non-polling factors that he includes. For instance, months ago Mr. Silver was claiming that Donald Trump’s low favorability ratings put a cap on the support he’d manage to get at the polls. He made the claim in several places, but this piece from July 2015 is the one I managed to find with a few seconds of Googling. In it he claims that candidates with Trump’s net favorability ratings rarely grow beyond 20 or 30% of the vote. As of this writing, the RCP average has Trump at 29% in Iowa (about to break that ceiling), 32.2% in New Hampshire (broke the ceiling) and 34.8% nationally (shattered it). A poll released today shows that he’s nearing 50% in Florida.

What happened? Trump’s favorability changed – a lot. Gallup last week showed him at +27% among Republicans, up 23 points from where Silver had him in the July piece listed above. That’s yuge.

Again, as I noted above – the map is not the territory. Silver’s model, as good as it is, doesn’t account for this kind of thing to happen. Now, it’s easy to say, “let’s update the model to allow for the off chance of someone increasing his favorability.” Fine. But the underlying problem is that favorability doesn’t directly predict anything. It’s a proxy.

Think of it this way: there’s no ironclad law of physics that says that a candidate with low favorability ratings can’t win. Mr. Silver has merely observed that so far, in the election’s we’ve seen, this hasn’t happened. It seems to have a strong correlation with the winner. But correlation does not equal causation. In this particular case, the variables are probably weakly linked. That is, how favorably the electorate views a candidate probably does have some impact on how they eventually vote. But it’s not a perfect match.

Mr. Silver will readily admit this, and that’s why the value is weighted relatively small compared to other data. But the problem is that all of Mr. Silver’s data is intrinsically a proxy, including the actual polling data. How people say they’ll vote is not the same thing as how they’ll actually vote. The correlation is high, but it’s not a causation.

Someday we’ll hit a point in the territory where the map doesn’t agree with it. For that case, we’ll have no choice but to conclude that the map is wrong. As they say in sports, there’s a reason they play the games.

There’s good reason to suspect that this election cycle may be it. Mr. Silver has been giving Mr. Trump roughly 5% odds of winning the nomination, based mostly on his model. Personally, I think his model is wrong in this specific case. “This time is different” is called a lot and is rarely true. But… sometimes it’s true, this time really is different. By all outside appearances, this election certainly seems to be one of those cases. I believe that Mr. Silver has too much invested in his model for him to be able to step back and honestly admit that it may not cover this case. Again, to be fair to Mr. Silver, I don’t believe this is a conscious choice. But I think it’s real.

But this may not be the time, either. It may well be that this time Mr. Silver is right again and I am wrong. I fully accept that, and I’ll admit it here if it’s the case. But even if this time isn’t the one, sooner or later Nate Silver will fail – and it will be yuge.

The Consistency of Donald Trump

Donald Trump is often accused of being inconsistent in his political views, and of only “discovering” certain issues now that he’s running for President. However, if you check the actual history of what he’s actually said, you quickly find that this narrative falls apart.

The following video is an interview that Mr. Trump did with Oprah Winfrey all the way back in 1988 – nearly thirty years ago. Let’s take a look.

The protectionism that he advocates now? Check, it’s right there on his sleeve. And in both the modern case and the 1988 case, he’s correct. The nations he’s named are dumping cheap goods on the American market while simultaneously making it very difficult for American companies to sell in their markets. In the 1980s, it was heavily protectionist Japan that made it nearly impossible to sell American products there. Today, Japan has somewhat liberalized its trade – but China is pulling the same trick.

He is 100% correct to note that if it’s not reciprocal, it’s not free trade.

Note also his response when asked if he was running for President: “no, but if things get bad enough I might.” The premise of his modern campaign? Things got bad enough.

The man is far more consistent than he’s given credit for. It’s just that his views don’t completely align with Republican views. But then, I’m Roman Catholic – my views don’t align with Republican or Democratic views, either. But Mr. Trump and I are both nationalist, in an age when the other candidates mostly aren’t.

I’ll take that.

(H/T Mike Cernovich for the video)

Indict Hillary Now

The time has long passed to indict Hillary Clinton. From that bastion of conservative media fondly known as CNN:

Two government agencies flagged emails on Clinton’s server as containing classified information, the inspector general said, including some on “special access programs,” which are above “top secret” in classification level.

Quite a few people out there have no idea what “special access program” actually means – as evidence by the fact that even CNN gets it wrong in the quote above. There is no level of classification that is above Top Secret. However, within Top Secret, there are extra levels of security that are sometimes applied. Special Access Programs are one of those.

Anything classified Top Secret is handled with a lot of care to begin with. First, just because you’ve passed the grueling background check to earn a Top Secret level clearance doesn’t mean you can get access to anything you want that’s labeled Top Secret. You still have to demonstrate that you have what they call “need to know.” For anything classified as “Secret” this is relatively easy to do (assuming you have a Secret level clearance). For anything classified “Top Secret” it’s actually kind of hard. You have to show not just that you have “need to know” for the program in general, but that you “need to know” that specific piece of information. And you have to truly demonstrate it. Top Secret is already locked down pretty well.

Special Access Programs (SAPs) are even a level beyond that. First, you have to have that Top Secret Clearance. Then you have to be one of the people on the very short list that has been approved for the program (hence the name – special access). It’s not uncommon for that list to be only a couple of dozen people in the country, and on occasion that list might number in the low single digits. Records kept on the topic are sometimes sparse, detailing only what actually has to be recorded for the program. Very often, people who aren’t on the approved list won’t even know that the program exists.

To protect intelligence sources, often even the President isn’t briefed on the fine details of these programs – and sometimes isn’t even told of them.

The penalty for revealing classified information is up to ten years in jail – and revealing SAP information would be enough to qualify for the maximum sentence if any of us mere mortals did it. Just based on what we currently know to be true, any normal civilian with a security clearance would already be in prison, and they’d have thrown away the key. Secretary Clinton is not a target because she’s a politician – that’s the only reason she’s been protected so far.

The failure to indict Hillary is proof that law and order in the US no longer apply. If you’re a big enough fish, you can break the law at will. I say that this is unacceptable. Law and order must apply to all.


Indict Hillary now.

Falling Into Empire

List-Why-Rome-Fell-ENate has signed and sealed the death certificate of the United States.

Seems a bit early to be writing this… but the fact is the history is already written.  The nails are in the coffin.   Its already happened.  The US is down 34 to 10  and there are only 2 minutes to go.  There is no time for a come back.

If you saw the post last night or heard the show you know our friend Rycamor brought a great essay on the life cycle of nations.  This essay is called The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival.  It is written by Sir John Glubb.

I first read the essay Nate refers to several years ago, based on a thread at Vox Popoli. It may well have been Nate who posted the link, or it might have come from Vox himself. It’s been long enough that I honestly don’t recall. It’s a powerful essay, and it’s well worth the read. It’s also quite simple and easy to follow. On the whole, the essay makes a very strong case. But I do have a few issues with it, and I think they’re important.

First, the Sir John’s decision to split the Roman period is a glaring data point. Indeed, the author notes this himself:

(3) The division of Rome into two periods
may be thought unwarranted. The first, or
republican, period dates from the time when
Rome became the mistress of Italy, and ends
with the accession of Augustus. The imperial
period extends from the accession of
Augustus to the death of Marcus Aurelius. It
is true that the empire survived nominally
for more than a century after this date, but it
did so in constant confusion, rebellions, civil
wars and barbarian invasions.
However, this only partially deals with the issue. To be clear, I don’t object to his breaking of Rome into distinct periods. I do, however, object to him leaving out the third distinct period of the Roman empire – the time that we commonly refer to as the Byzantine Empire. It’s important to note that my objection comes not because I think this makes his case weaker, but rather because I think it makes his case generally stronger.
First, the divisions that he does include – the period of the Republic and the period of the Empire – represent a valid and distinct division. We must note that Sir John did not make this distinction arbitrarily – historians have made this distinction for centuries, and for good reason. The Empire was a very different beast from the Republic, and it’s correct to recognize them as so. Indeed, it is also correct to represent the Byzantine Empire as a separate period of its own. All three represent distinctly separate beasts, and although we might quibble about the exact dates of when one became another became the third, we can easily agree that they are, in fact, no longer the same beast.
And yet at one and the same time they clearly are one logical entity. The transition from Republic to Empire to Byzantine Empire honestly is a direct continuum. Roman citizens didn’t just go to sleep one considering their government a Republic and wake up the next morning singing the praises (or curses) of their new Empire. The early Roman emperors, especially Augustus, went to great trouble to maintain all of the outward appearance of the Republican government that they’d replaced. This continued, to one degree or another, all the way through the Byzantine Empire. Until the fourteenth century the citizens continued to call themselves Romans and the Senate – though completely powerless – continued to exist.
The division between the Republican and Imperial periods of Rome makes a nice split that aids Sir John’s theory. At first glance, the existence of the Byzantine Empire – and its thousand year reign – seems to cause the theory some problems.
I submit, however, that it doesn’t. People are fond of saying that every theory has its exceptions, by which they usually mean a glaring counterfactual that doesn’t conform to the theory at all. In reality, however, most real-world exceptions look a lot more like the case of Rome – they kind of fit the theory, but differ in important ways. And that’s why I think the case of Byzantium actually bolsters the theory.
Rome is the exception that proves the rule.
Because make no mistake about it, Rome is an exception – at every level. The very fact that it makes Sir John’s list twice, and with no gap between the periods, demonstrates that. But it’s not just on this list that Rome is the exception. Rome’s exceptional status has been well known for centuries. Indeed, until the current wave of globalism swept our educational system, Rome took center stage in history classes precisely because it was so exceptional.
What made it so exceptional? Lots of things, but here are a few.
  1. Rome built a level of infrastructure that had never before been seen. Their roads and aqueducts ran the length of the empire.
  2. They built to last. A non-trivial amount of that infrastructure still stands today, including some roads and aqueducts but especially a large number of buildings. Some are still even in use.
  3. At their peaks, they weren’t just a power, or even one of a few great powers – they were the great power.
  4. The empires around them had immolated each other (or in some cases self-immolated) so thoroughly that even as Rome’s power waned, there was nobody else to seriously challenge it.

I am hardly the first person to note the parallels between the modern United States and ancient Rome. The comparisons are so obvious that my college history professors had to push people away from making the too-easy notes and force them to look deeper. Yet they are there, and they are real. In looking deeper, we must not forget that they exist. But more than anything, I’d like to call attention to point #4 on my list above.

As the US declines, nobody else is ready to take up the mantle.

The fact remains: on the open battlefield – be it land, sea, or air – no other military on earth can touch ours. Every other military is at least one full generation of technology and doctrine behind. That includes our western European allies. During the initial invasion of Afghanistan, our allies offered their aid. In most cases we either turned it down or imposed limits on it because their generation-old tech made it too difficult to integrate them effectively.

No other nation can even come close to the logistical capability that the US provides. It is often pointed out that we spend many multiples of the Europeans on our defense budget. It is equally often forgotten that they can spend so little because our European allies completely rely on the US for logistical capabilities. Indeed, this was official NATO doctrine for decades.

Economically, we remain in a similar boat. Our economy dwarfs everyone. The US still provides 14% of world GDP as of 2014, despite having only 5% of the world’s population. That’s well down from our peak, but not because our GDP has declined – it’s because China and other developing nations have actually been playing some catch up. Yet even though they passed our GDP as a percentage of world GDP in 2014, China did so representing 20% of the world’s population – five times ours.

Yes, 4th generation warfare is a real thing and the US sucks at it. This causes real problems to our military dominance.

Yes, our logistical capability is much more fragile than is often realized, and has also been in decline.

And yes, our economy is built on a foundation of debt that will likely soon prove to be catastrophic.

But the reality is that every other nation on Earth fares worse on at least two of these same scores, most on all three. China’s economy has been growing like mad for the last 15 years, but there are increasing signs that the house of cards is about to come down. Russia and the Middle East have built economies that rely on oil staying at quite high prices – prices that look increasingly like they’re not long-term viable. And Europe is too dependent upon the US. If our economy collapses, theirs goes down even further.

[Side note: I’ve believed for quite a long time that the price of oil was artificially high; recent events back up that opinion. But that’s another post for another day.]

In the comments, Nate’s post already start down the road to this when commenter Susan asks what other countries are ready to step into the void. Nate responds – not incorrectly – that there doesn’t need to be anybody to step into the void. But prior to that, his response that ISIS refugees are the ones conquering territory leaves a lot to be desired. It’s a long way from “conquering territory” to “launching a new empire.”

Where am I heading with this? The short version is this. I agree with both Nate and Sir John – the time of the American Republic is just about up. But I disagree with Nate about what comes next. My personal prediction is that the true American Empire arises from the ashes. Yes, I’m well aware of how much we already resemble an Empire. And yet there are certain lines that our nation has not yet crossed.

This is more fodder for another post on another day, but for now, suffice it to say… we will cross it. The historically literate will recognize its passing when a figure very reminiscent of Augustus Caeser comes to power in the American scene. He will probably retain the outward forms of the American presidency, and most notably the title (Augustus’s official title was neither “king (rex)” nor “emperor” nor “caeser” – it was “consul,” just as the countless Republican leaders before him had been called). The most obvious distinction? When we have a President who serves for life, you will know that the line has been crossed.

The time is not yet ripe for Americans to choose to elect that man (remember: Augustus was elected to his first term as consul). But it is coming. The right man has not yet presented himself for the post. But he will.

The US is declining, but not into nothing. We are falling into empire.

Will the GOP Split?

Franklin Graham, President and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and son of the more famous Billy Graham, has announced that he’s leaving the Republican Party.

Prominent evangelical leader Franklin Graham has quit the Republican Party because the omnibus spending bill passed last week in Congress will continue to fund Planned Parenthood.

Graham, who declared himself an independent in a lengthy Facebook post on Monday, said, “I have no hope in the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, or Tea Party to do what is best for America. Unless more godly men and women get in this process and change this wicked system, our country is in for trouble.”

The coalition that makes up the Republican Party has been fracturing lately, finding themselves at great odds. There are at least three major groups within the party: social conservatives, neoconservatives, and the business wing – with further, smaller factions (the libertarian wing, etc) filling in the gaps. Recently it seems that these wings are finding little to agree on.

Personally, I’m of the opinion that what’s currently happening is a generation gap in politics. The Baby Boomers are on the decline as a percentage of the overall population and Generation X has started to exert its political power. But as with everything else, the Baby Boomers aren’t letting go easily. As the only generation I’m aware of that’s successfully fought intergenerational wars against both their parents and their children, don’t look to them to relinquish the reins to their children anytime soon.

Is a GOP split imminent? Many people I talk to seem to think it is. It’s happened before in American politics – but don’t get too excited. If there is a GOP split, it’s far more likely that one of the new parties will replace the GOP than it is that we’ll end up with a three party system in the long run. Game theory tells us that our “first past the post” voting system virtually guarantees that in the long run we’ll stabilize on two parties.

And Democrats? Don’t get cocky. The only reason this isn’t happening to you is because a Democrat sits in the White House right now. But over the next 8 years, you’re facing the same issue.

Four Way Race in November?

Headline at CNN: “Bernie Sanders and the DNC: It’s War.

But the fight is about much more than a technical breach. It’s a battle over the future of the Democratic Party with Sanders representing a progressive wing disenchanted with Clinton and a party establishment it feels is enabling her.

Things have gotten bad enough that other Democratic senators are encouraging the Bern to run as an independent:

With Trump still waffling about an independent run… are we looking at the possibility of a four way race? Clinton, Sanders, Trump and either Cruz or Rubio? It’s happened before, even if it was 104 years ago. Interestingly enough, that one involved another self-style “progressive.” Granted, Teddy Roosevelt’s idea of progressivism was substantially different than The Bern’s.

If it does end up as a four way race, I’ve got a dollar that says it goes to the House of Representatives.

Trump Can Win With 30%

There are still quite a few people out there arguing that Donald Trump has a very low chance of winning the Republican presidential nomination, despite leading in the polls. First, those people told us that he was following the typical trend of the many “front runners” of previous campaigns, and that his peaks would fall of soon as other candidates took their turns as the front runner.

But this cycle hasn’t been like previous cycles. We haven’t seen other candidates spike and take over the front runner spot. To be sure, though, we have seen that pattern with the other candidates’ poll numbers. But none of them has passed Trump for any serious amount of time since he became the front runner in late summer.

So they moved on to the next argument. Trump can’t win because he can’t grow his constituency above 30-35%. As other candidates drop out of the race, this argument goes, their votes will spread to not-Trump candidates. And he just can’t win with 35% of the vote.

This argument has two weaknesses. First, Trump has – so far – been picking up a fair percentage of the votes as other candidates decline. His national RCP polling average currently sits at 33.1% – the highest it’s ever been, and the trend line is clearly upward. If Trump picks up votes as candidates drop out – even if he picks up less of those votes than the other remaining candidates, then the argument falls apart.

But that’s not the true weak spot. The true weakness of the argument right now is that Trump can win with 30% of the vote. This was a deliberate choice on the part of the Republican establishment over the last four years. It was their way to ensure that an establishment approved candidate could win against insurgencies, and win decisively.

But whether you believe that or not, the fact on the ground is that Trump can win – and win big – with 30% of the vote. I popped over to RCP’s interactive delegate simulator again today. For all states that have them, I defaulted to the RCP polling average of that state. For all others, I defaulted to the national RCP average. I assumed no candidates dropping out.

The clear and simple fact of the matter is that with these numbers, Trump wins the delegate count: 1451 delegates. His nearest competitor, Ted Cruz, comes in with less than a third of his delegates (410), while Rubio and Carson both come in at around 1/7th of his delegates (212 and 190, respectively).

Here in Alabama we have a technical term for that. We call it a landslide.

Now, I still don’t think this is the scenario that’s going to play out. As I’ve noted before, I think some candidates are in it to win but have no chance (Paul, Santorum) – and once they realize they don’t have a prayer, they’ll be out. Others are in it to enhance their careers (Carson wants to sell books and become a talking head; Huckabee wants to increase his fees for being a talking head). Most of the rest are in it as vote splitters for the establishment (Kasich, Fiorina, Huckabee, Christie and Graham) and will get out once their job is done (successfully or not). They’ll probably hang on until Florida – unless it becomes clear that they’re doing no good before that.

That leaves the four serious candidates left in the race: Trump, Cruz, Rubio and Bush. Bush’s backers will force him out once the voting drives home that he’s a truly shitty candidate, and the establishment will coalesce around Rubio, and that’s when the race get’s truly interesting. My best guess is that the splitters are out after Florida, when they’ve done their job.

The question is, who will be on top by then? Because whatever the party wants, and whatever its goals were originally, as candidates drop out, the majority of voters are going to coalesce behind… the winner. Whomever that happens to be, most voters will fall in line. I think it’s going to be Trump by that point, and even the idiotic talking heads will have figured out that he basically can’t lose the nomination anymore. So at the end of the day, I think he’s going to have an even bigger landslide (in delegates).

At the time I wrote the post linked above, Trump was polling around 25% nationally. I noted that even that was enough to win – but that he’d easily win with 30% if he could increase his share that high. If he breaks 40% before the voting starts – and his current trajectory is on path for that – it’s not even going to be a contest.

I could be wrong. Other candidates may pull out at different times. Their voters could split up in different ways than I predict. Trump may not increase his lead. But one fact still remains, and it’s a doozy:

Trump can win with 30% of the vote.

The 2016 Republican Nomination Goes to…

jebThe 2016 Republican Nomination has been rigged. It was rigged years ago by the GOP establishment, and it was rigged specifically to help Jeb. The calendar of the nomination, and the rules of the individual states, were specifically designed to allow Jeb to cruise to victory with approximately 25% of the vote.

You can read the full explanation of how this was done on The Last Refuge. But if you want to see it for yourself, check out this wonderful delegate simulator from Real Clear Politics (h/t Stephen Green).

From the creators of the simulator:

The order in which candidates drop out matters. A lot. It didn’t surprise us that the order and rate of dropouts mattered. What surprised us was just how much it mattered.

Emphasis is in the original text, not added by me. Yes, yes it does. This is by design, and the guys at The Last Refuge figured this out eons ago.

The catch? This rigged nomination process has been hijacked – by Donald Trump. To see how it works, consider this “baseline” scenario that I put together and ran through the simulator.

Scenario 1

This scenario uses today’s poll numbers (the RCP state averages for Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina; the RCP national average everywhere else, since there are no other state polls yet). I’ve chosen to divvy up “district delegates” (those assigned to the winner of each congressional district) proportionately amongst the front runners. In actuality, they’re more likely to skew heavily toward the front runner. Also, realize that polls will change before January and that at least one more candidate will probably drop out before then. It also assumes that no candidates drop out during the election, although we can be certain that several will. It’s a baseline scenario, nothing more.

The results?

  • Trump: 1202 delegates
  • Carson: 592 delegates
  • Rubio: 212
  • Cruz: 189
  • Bush: 82
  • Kasich: 43
  • Fiorina: 40
  • Paul: 39
  • Huckabee: 38
  • Christie: 33

In this baseline scenario, Trump doesn’t quite cinch the nomination (he needs 1237 delegates to do it). But he’s clearly in the lead.

As noted, though, this is a baseline. Let’s take a look at a more likely scenario.

Scenario 2

Again, this uses today’s poll numbers. These will change. But run with it. This model also makes the following assumptions:

  • Rand Paul drops out before the votes even start. Watch his campaign – he’s already figured out that the system is rigged against him and has no idea how to fight it. Despite the fact that it’s his logo in the upper right hand corner of the blog, and he’s clearly my favorite… he’s done. His votes split pretty evenly between Trump, Carson and Cruz (the outsiders; his fans are not establishment fans).
  • Santorum and Huckabee drop out after South Carolina when they learn that they can’t repeat their magic in any of the states they’ve done well in previously. Their votes mostly go to Carson and Cruz. Huckabee’s in it to keep his name in the news and keep getting “talking head” deals. He’ll get out once he can’t get headlines anymore. Santorum’s deluded himself into thinking he has a real chance, just like he did after winning Iowa in 2012. He’ll get out when the funding dies completely – which may actually be before Iowa.
  • Bush hangs on until Florida no matter how poorly he’s doing because his entire campaign is built around winning Florida. He’ll lose it anyway because he’s a terrible candidate that nobody wants right now, so he drops out after the 3/15 primaries. His votes go mostly to Rubio, the rest split between the other front runners (Trump, Carson, Cruz)
  • Kasich, Fiorna, Christie and Graham all drop out as well. They already know they can’t win. They’re in it because their superpacs are all funded by Jeb donors who are keeping them in the race to split everyone else’s votes. In other words, they’re there to help Jeb. But it backfires and helps Trump instead. Anyway, they’re out – and their votes split as follows: Fiorna half to Trump (people looking for a businessman) and half to Rubio (the Jeb backup plan). Christie mostly to Rubio (the Jeb backup plan and only establishment candidate left). Kasich’s all go to Rubio, if he has any. Graham’s family and friends are the only ones voting for him anyway, so they’re irrelevant.
  • Cruz throws his support behind Trump when he finally concedes that he can’t win – probably in exchange for a VP or cabinet spot. My best guess is that this happens after Utah. Most of his voters go for Trump, some go for Carson. His actual delegates… not sure what party rules allow on that, so I’ve still listed them as Cruz delegates.

Final results:

  • Trump: 1266
  • Carson: 651
  • Rubio: 310
  • Cruz: 145 (most voting for Trump)
  • Bush: 41
  • Kasich: 18
  • Fiorina: 18
  • Huckabee: 14
  • Christie: 11
  • Santorum: 1

trump-smilingTrump clearly wins the nomination.

This is not an endorsement of Trump – it’s just how I think things are going to play out. Except that I think the end result is going to favor Trump even more heavily. Carson’s already slipping in the polls, Trump keeps on rising despite the cries of impending doom.

Why Trump? 1) The GOP establishment rigged this map so that Jeb could win with ~20-25% of the vote. Trump picked up on that ages ago and co-opted the strategy. 2) He brought a gun to a knife fight. He’s just playing a different game than everyone else, plain and simple. Changing the rules to suit his own strengths.

Why not Carson? Smart as he might be, he hasn’t figured out this map yet – although I think is people may be starting to. He’s also, frankly, too nice to play this game for long. It’s already hurting him. Finally… I think he’s honestly in this for a talking head deal, and he’s surprised himself by doing so well.

My personal suspicion is that his poll numbers continue to drop (with his support mostly going to Trump and Cruz), and that he drops out relatively early in the race. If that happens, look for Trumps marginal delegate victory above to become a landslide.


The GOP establishment strategy was specifically designed to pick off Rand Paul , Ted Cruz, and Scott Walker. Indeed, parts of the strategy were put into place as far back as the 2012 convention in specific retaliation to Ron Paul. It’s already worked on one out of the three (Walker), and the second (Paul) is probably not far off.They didn’t count on Trump.

Waiting for Article 5

The tragic part of the 9/11 attacks were the tremendous loss of life. But the scary part was the sophisticated coordination of the attacks. Two coordinated airborne attacks that took place within minutes of each other, followed by a third not long after and a failed fourth attempt that came very close to working – but for civilian interference.

I was standing in my living room when the second plane hit the World Trade Center, dripping wet, watching it live. My boss had just called me to let me know about the first plane, interrupting my shower. When the second plane hit, we both knew what it meant. I don’t remember who said it first, but we were both thinking it: one plane was an accident. Two meant war.

The Paris attacks had a far lower death toll – thank God – but the coordination of the attacks carries far more military significance. At least six separate attacks, with at least seven suicide bombs. A police interception in Germany that implies that more attacks were planned.

This is the kind of coordinated terror attacks that we were afraid would follow after 9/11. They are finally upon us. Our leadership over the last 14 years has systematically failed to take the steps necessary to deal with this issue for real, instead opting to put band-aids over the situation (Bush) or to play ostrich (Obama). Instead of dealing with the situation decisively, we went out and created ISIS and made the situation worth.

War is upon us, whether we like it or not. We can argue about it all we like, but World War IV (call it World War III if you must, but I’d argue that the Cold War earned that name) has been a fact on the ground for months.

The biggest difference between today’s world and the world preceding World War I is that many of the alliances are out in the open. What will NATO do when push comes to shove? Will the French invoke Article 5? I’m ready to lay even odds that they will. It’s almost no-lose for them. If NATO steps up to the plate, then they get their retaliation with little cost. If NATO doesn’t step up to the plate, then it falls apart – and becomes a huge black eye for the Americans. The French spent half the Cold War giving us black eyes for fun, and they withdrew from the Alliance in 1966 for 30 years. They’ve got little to lose by calling in the chip.

What will Russia do? Whatever Putin is up to today, never forget that we wouldn’t have these problems in the Middle East without Russian interference. None of the terrorist groups in the region would have survived into the modern era without the training and funding they received from the Soviets in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. My bet? Putin will continue using the region to antagonize the United States and the west until the whole thing gets away from him and he realizes that he can’t control the Tiger anymore. Then Russia will join in with the western allies.

I mean, it’s not like Stalin was allied with Hitler in the early years of World War II or anything. Oh, wait…

Batten down the hatches and get ready. This ride is just getting started.