Philip Converse was the most important scholar of public opinion in the 20th Century. Even those who vehemently disagreed with his findings and conclusions used his work – particularly "The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics" – as the starting point for any academic treatment of how Americans organize political ideas. A portion of his seminal work deserves a closer look, as the current election is giving us daily reminders to its effect.

Briefly, Converse believed that the public fell into one of five groups in terms of how they organized their political thinking. A common criticism since Converse has been his definition of liberal-conservative ideology as the "correct" way to do it, with all other schemas inferior to different degrees. His estimates of what share of the public fall into each category are also easy to poke full of holes. Neither of those criticisms are relevant to the point I am about to make; I'm just preempting the need to point out that Converse's work is 50 years old and a great deal has been said about it in the intervening years.

The first group – people who do it correctly, in the eyes of 1960s political scientists – are Ideologues. They evaluate political ideas by comparing them to a "yardstick" defined by the liberal-conservative spectrum of ideas. Ideologues are consistent; a liberal position on one issue is likely to be found with a liberal position on other issues. Second we have Near Ideologues. These people reference the liberal-conservative spectrum and appear to understand it but do not rely on it heavily – in essence they know how to drive but they prefer to take the bus. Third are Group Interest types, people who see politics in terms of which groups each party represents (Democrats represent labor, Republicans represent business interests). They rarely understand any issue that cannot be framed in terms of which group it serves. Fourth are people barely hanging on to some sense of coherence – "Nature of the Times." They form opinions by assigning credit or blame for anything that happens to the party in power when it happened. Republicans are bad because they caused the Depression, for example.

The final group is where things get ugly. Converse labeled them NIC: No Issue Content. These people have a party they identify with but cannot explain what it stands for. They have opinion, but opinions with "no shred of policy significance whatever." They like individual candidates based on their personal attributes and they have no substantive understanding of any policy issue, so the ideas they appear to support can appear quite random and perplexing to the observer in aggregate.

Re-read that last sentence. Does that sound familiar?

The most incredible thing about the Trump campaign from an academic / political science perspective is that we have the rare opportunity to observe a major party campaign with no ideological content whatsoever. There is no coherence to anything about Trump, policy-wise, and this reflects his supporters' similar lack of meaningful ideology. On what rare occasions that he does put forth an actual idea it 1) makes no sense and 2) bears no identifiable relationship to any other idea he mentioned before or since. It is the definition of random. His appeal, in the eyes of his supporters, is that he is Tough or Bold or some personal characteristic that one could only get from watching and listening to Trump if one does not understand what anything in the realm of ideas in American politics actually means. Moreover, one must explicitly not care what any of it means.

For example, Trump recently stated that his bold plan for dealing with the national debt was that, as a brilliant negotiator, he would convince holders of Treasury obligations to take a haircut – in other words, to accept fifty cents on the dollar or something like that, as a bankruptcy court might force creditors to do during a liquidation or reorganization. This is almost too stupid to bother explaining why it is stupid, as though the Treasury of the largest economy on the planet is no different than a failing casino trying to talk down its debts to a bunch of Mustache Petes who put up the initial investment. It is such a stupid idea that it falls short of qualifying as an idea; it's the kind of thing someone who has absolutely no idea how anything related to the economy works would think is a really brilliant solution.

The problem, from Trump's perspective, is that there simply aren't enough such people in the electorate. Converse estimated (again, his estimates have been subject to much debate) that no more than 1 in 5 voters fall into this category, and since then most analyses have treated that as incautiously high. If there's one thing academics like more than calling people stupid, it's rationalizing ways that apparently stupid people are actually smart. Regardless, on the rare occasions that Trump says anything policy-related my mind automatically goes to Converse, because nothing he says bears any resemblance to a definable political ideology. And that's what Trump supporters like about it. To them it sounds brilliant, because they don't even understand the issues well enough to understand why his proposals are ridiculous.

Think of it this way. Say you're one of those people who is totally ignorant when it comes to cars, and your car is non-functional. I came over looking like the quintessential stereotype of a mechanic from TV – blue coveralls, grease stains, a name across my breast pocket, and wrench in hand. After fiddling with your car for a few minutes – and since you have not one clue about anything car-related, my various taps and fiddles will easily fool you into thinking I know what I'm doing so long as I'm a half-decent actor and I stay in character. I tell you that your car will never run again unless you replace your Pancake Manifold and fill the gas tank with Bensonol. If I've succeeded in exploiting your ignorance by portraying myself as a tough, efficient, brilliant mechanic, there's no reason to doubt me…as long as you don't know a sparkplug from a muffler.

That's how Trump's popularity works. The more he talks, the less anyone with half a brain is willing to support him. But to people for whom the ideas of politics are totally meaningless anyway, every sentence makes them love him more. His ideologically nonsensical ideas aren't a bug. They're his best feature.


  • This jibes perfectly with the GOP as the "epidemiological bubble" / post- policy party.

    Trump just took it to tis natural conclusion, whereas "serious" Republicans like Paul Ryan are smart enough to play the game so that his voodoo budget proposals are cloaked in enough bullshit to make it palatable to more conventional (non-Trump) Republicans.

    It's kind of brilliant, really.

  • Has it occurred to you that maybe, just maybe, they have been so raped and pillaged by ideology that they have simply given up on it?

  • mojrim –

    IIRC, the only populations actually raped and pillaged by ideology were the Stalinist Soviet Union, Maoist China, and Jews in Nazi Germany. Haven't seen anything remotely like that affecting the current U.S. voting population.

    Frank Dikotter's latest book on the Cultural Revolution just came out, in case anyone needs a refresher course.

  • I am totally being that guy, and I apologize, but I'm pretty sure you meant "epistemological bubble," not "epidemiological bubble," unless you think Trumpism is contagious.

  • HoosierPoli says:

    The biggest problem with President Trump might be that, since he has no clue what's going on, he will be easily manipulated by advisors to pursue their pet projects, and we lived through enough of that with The Decider. Trump's BS detector is overwhelmed with his own bullshit; when the next Wormtongue Wolfowitz sidles up to him and says, hey, the Ayatollah said you have a small pecker, he won't be able to tell that he's being played.

  • I am not sure why I do half the things I do. I enjoy the hubris of someone else telling me why..always fun.

    Way off topic: Ed, now that you have a large enough commentariat, could this summer's upgrade be to a more modern platform. there is community here, and it could be so much more with a change. You might allow messages between commentators, or have @name notify someone of a response. etc. Or like or not, or respond to a comment, rather than the article. those… modern…. things…

    What you write is great. But the archaic platform that 'looses' the first 50 comments doesn't really bring in new readers much. I know they are not lost but … Give yourself a better chance to build the readership.

  • But why do the people who vote for Trump vote for him? Does it all come down to the fact that we've stopped investing in infrastructure – physical infrastructure, but also social and particularly educational infrastructure. We have been content to raise a couple of generations in third-world schools and pay them third-world wages when they get out, and Trump is the natural result.

  • Hazy Davy says:

    I think maybe this seminal paper fails to explain scapegoaters throughout history.

    For that, look to the non-politics realm. Specifically, look to Bert Decker's far less popular "You've Got to Be Believed to Be Heard". If you see campaigning as a competition for votes, rather than a competition of platforms of policy, then it matters that:
    "People buy on emotion, and justify with fact."

    It galls me for how many people that's true. While, at first blush, it sounds like we're describing NIC, it appears that this approach crosses some of the boundaries Converse apparently defined.

    So now, the question is, just how many people do buy on emotion? I'm sincerely hoping it's not so many to win an election…

  • As someone who was an adult and watching politics closely in 1980, I don't see a lot of difference between Trump and Ronald Reagan, except that Trump is cruder than Reagan and Reagan was totally in the bag for Wall Street. In fact, Reagan was a creation of Wall Street.

    Reagan had a lot of rabble-rousing mumbo jumbo about how government is bad and he was going to make American great again, how the Soviet Union was the evil empire, blatantly racist rhetoric, etc. Everyone said he was the "great communicator." I always saw him as the slightly drunk uncle who got hold of the microphone at your wedding and embarrassed the shit out of you.

    Like Trump, he had no ideas except those that were fed him by other people. On election night, when it became clear he was winning, I became horribly depressed about the future of the country. I was right.

    The only reason the establishment is having conniptions about Trump is because, unlike Reagan, he hasn't been bought and paid for by Wall Street — yet. Wait for it. There are many ways to own people — money is only one way.

  • No question about it, our creditors should all take a haircut. We need that debt to come down.
    Not sure how that would play after it's revealed (!) that Social Security needs such a big haircut.

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    @Skipper –
    So much this. The GOP loves empty novelty candidates as long as they're under its control.

    A weekend with my in-laws exposed me to a heroic dose of Fox News. I couldn't help but notice that establishment bag men such as Hannity are already making a concerted effort to welcome Trump into the family. They didn't come out and say it, but I assume their real goal is to make him as pliable as Ronnie was, which hardly seems far-fetched.

    They couldn't elect someone from their ideological frat, but having a charismatic intellectual lightweight who owes them favors is a good deal. W, Reagan, and now Trump are all perfect figureheads because they're blatantly ignorant fools with great Q scores.

  • "So now, the question is, just how many people do buy on emotion? I'm sincerely hoping it's not so many to win an election…"

    I'd argue that it's enough to give someone a landslide. Please see "Shining city upon the hill" by one R. Reagan. He came along and sold the idea that it was "Morning in America" when the truth was far more brutal. People bought the fantasy hook, line, and sinker. It's much easier to believe things are great than it is to try to fix things that are, in reality, deeply fucked.

  • The flapjack patriarchy wants to live vicariously through an alpha male who displays stentorian bravado; never mind if the pancake manifold is out of syrup.

  • OK, Major K, how's this:

    … they have been so raped spanked and pillaged had their lunch money stolen by ideology that they have simply given up on it

  • @Mo

    It's only a matter of degree. These people have two generations of ideology-driven downward mobility under their belts while being lectured on the ideologies up "opportunity" and "bootstrapping." They may lack the vocabulary to criticize the Davos Idea directly, but they know it has failed them. Lacking that vocabulary it should come as no surprise to anyone that they have rejected ideology entirely.

  • @ doug has a fair point: Millions of people support Trump–attempting to diagnose "the Trump voter" will inevitably do the very thing that we (well, I) despise Trump for doing: Painting a diverse group with a wide (and invariably contemptuous) brush.

    But, that said, I think that one can observe that Trump as a candidate cannot be summed up as appealing to one particular kind of voter precisely because of the inconsistencies he displays. The man has no center apart from a pathological need to be paid attention to. Thus, whatever will get him the most attention at any particular moment is the thing he will say/do. This causes him to flail about quite a bit.

    Yeah, he's consistent about some things–The Wall, Muslims = Bad–and I suppose we could understand the people who support him for ONLY those things.

    But he's mostly all over the place–chaotic, inconsistent, and completely uninterested in any kind of coherence or attachment to reason.

    Which means that anyone who's inclined to want to listen to him–people fed up with the establishment (political or economic), people who are racist, people who hate Hillary, people who are just fucking angry–can hear from him, at some point, something they want to hear. And having heard it–and having heard NOTHING like it from any of the other candidates, they sign on.

    I don't think, in short, that we can understand Trump's supporters as individuals. (Well, I mean, the ones who spend their weekends Minutemanning it along the border–them, we can pretty much suss out.) But we can understand the dynamic, and it's pretty simple:

    A lot of people in this country are angry/frustrated with a lot of different things for a lot of different reasons.

    Mainstream candidates, being intellectually consistent, can only speak to a fraction of those people, as they will speak to a very few specific things and a very few specific reasons–and they will not say anything else.

    Trump, on the other hand, never shuts up and fires his verbal buckshot in the air in every direction. He is therefore far more likely to take down a larger, scattered number of birds.

    His unattachment to facts, to logic, to reality is thus not a hindrance, but an asset, as it allows him to be more things to more people. That, plus the aforementioned Q factor–nobody else who's running has as much experience, and thus as much confidence/comfort, being on TV–makes him an oddly strong candidate.

    How to beat him? Simple. Point out his inconsistencies and don't let him wriggle away from them. Nail him on the truly heinous shit that only the furthest outliers can support (racism, sexism, etc.) Force him to explain the practical steps he'd take, then confront him mercilessly with the impossibility of same. In short, make him specify. Lock him down. Once you do that, his chaotic approach can't work.

    Or maybe it can–you can't rely on the common sense of the American electorate, as H.L. Mencken spent his entire career pointing out.

  • The comic John Mulaney described Trump as a hobo's idea of a rich guy. Similarly, Trump strikes me as an ignorant person's idea of a great leader.

  • Whenever someone predicts a Clinton landslide, I think of 1980. People are, if anything, even less perceptive and thoughtful now than they were forty years ago.
    It's Sanders who can beat the madman, damn it….

  • anotherbozo says:

    I'm sure Converse didn't reckon on media who emphasize the horse-race, personality- contest aspect of the election. Nor the media's mania for polls and their tendency to wag the dog, since as we all know no citizen likes to vote for (= bet on) a likely loser.

    That's merely one of many vicious cycles at work these days.

    I'm sure we've all be taken in by the super-salesman personality, at some time or another, that Trump represents. They're so damn confident that you think, well, OK, you know this guy will hate to fail once you give him the keys, right? He's put every ounce of his ego on the line, and you also think hey, if he can even pull off PART of what he proposes, it'll be something! He's not deluded, he's not a con artist, he's decided he wants something and he needs your permission to get it: ergo, a salesman! An actor in search of much more than just applause. We make a lot of them, but Trump is one of the best. Obviously.

  • People absolutely do buy on emotion, and (many) people absolutely, positively do NOT like to think, 'cuz thinkin's hard! Some of it might be two generations of crappy education; as a Gen X'er, I grew up being told we were getting the dregs–the broken chairs, the broken curriculum–because society decided after the Boomers, we simply weren't worth spending money on. Some people might just see the world that way. The people convinced that Donald Trump is going to "Make America Great" because he says he's going to are the same ones that were convinced that Sarah Palin would be a shoo-in for VP on the basis of being pretty (with enough help from professional makeup and clothing designers…) and saying hateful things about the people they hated.

  • @Mike Furlan It's funny that you would link to that definition, because this Presidential election is headed straight toward a replay of that Obama-Keyes race.

  • "because they don't even understand the issues well enough to understand why his proposals are ridiculous."
    Sums it up perfectly.

  • Leading Edge Boomer says:

    The Republican presidential nominee has suggested that US creditors “take a haircut” and be paid some fraction of the face amount of what is owed. Most of US debt is held by US citizens, not the Chinese or some other maligned group. This is dangerous because we need a rock-solid place to put $ that can never be defaulted in order for our economy (and those of other nations) to work properly.

    It is also manifestly unconstitutional: Amendment 14, Section 4 states that “the validity of the public debt of the United States … shall not be questioned.” That probably means that the whole concept of a US debt ceiling is unconstitutional too.


    Boy, this is going to be a long election season.

  • Assistant Professor says:

    So I'm actually going to speak up in defense of Trump voters. Donald Trump is appealing primarily to working class Midwestern and Southern whites. And so he's speaking the idiom of their preferred entertainment: WWE. Note that he's more or less said explicitly that now that he's got the nomination in the bag he's going to pull a "face turn," i.e., change personality to become one of the Good Guys. In the same way that the Trumpalos know that WWE is well-scripted, they know that he's playing a part, namely, the part of Ignorant, Brash Buffoon. When people say, "Don't they know that Trump is just playing a role?" your Trump voter would absolutely answer in the affirmative.

  • I really think Trump is cognitively impaired. My father is definitely showing signs of dementia, and is just a few years older than Trump. When I listen to my father speak, it's very similar to the way Trump speaks. Grandiose and emphatic utterances. Unable to hold a conversation. "Flip-flopping" simply because he can't remember what he previously said about a topic. Trump may be in fine physical health, but I think his mental health should be evaluated.

  • Americans have been raped, pillaged and etc for the last 50 years. this started with the killing of their children at Kent State, where the youth were told to shut and go home. the problems of America have always been sold using whatever means necessary as Malcolm X alluded to for his own fight.

    the stupidity of the American Public can not be understated or overestimated. Voting D or R, either party screws it to the American Public. and the Voters come back for more.

    i was listening to the Republican media spokesman criticize Trump and the whole package of ways Trump has "stolen" the Republican base. i laughed so hard. i was listening to this criticism of the exact way the Republican party has screwed over its base since i woke up after Kent State. Killing your enemy always succeeds, always.

    and the Republicans were just apoplectic over Trump. The Party just can not or will not see Trump is using the Republican "model". it is so funny and sad to watch the American Public follow lemming-like the Great Leaders, of which Trump is the latest version of the Republican way. This time Trump is their Frankenstein. so sad, so funny and so true.

    i can only hope to wait and watch Trump go after Hillary. to see the outrage at the women hating, and what not will be so much fun for me. too bad Americans will be once more screwed.

    Talk about rape and pillage, if only Americans had it that good, we'd be lucky.

  • Please someone tell me when we were an honorable nation? when we didn't bring "Democracy"to your neighborhood, willing or otherwise.

    anyone remember the book, The Ugly American? tells how we have no clue how to deal with anyone who doesn't buy into the Great American Way.

    Americans are so dumb and have been so easily brainwashed, especially since ST. Reagan sold his spiel to the scared white people after Watts, Malcolm X and the Oil Embargo. St. Reagan did so much evil so well so efficiently. Like Lenin, Mao or that Nazi guy Trump, i hear so much about.

    lol America. land of easy marks

  • Here's why Trump could win. And it's not (solely) because many Americans are less than engaged cerebrally.

    People like a nice, clear message — even if the message is just propaganda, marketing bullshit. Corporations pay hundreds of thousand of dollars for this. "Things go better with Coke." "Less filling — more taste." "Have it your way." Corporation know this — so do successful politicians — "Hope and change." Yes, we can."

    Reagan used this to his advantage — and do does Trump. His hallmark slogan "Make America great again." Say that to anyone in the country and they will say "Donald Trump." They're synonymous.

    Now tell me what Hillary's core message, slogan, whatever, is. In less than 10 words. Yeah, I didn't think you could. I asked a Hillary supporter what she stood for, and he told me to go to her website and read her position papers. WTF? Really? The only ones who do that are the ones who have already decided to vote for her.

    The best they can come up with is "Do you want President Trump?" "We need woman in the White House." "It's her turn." Or the silliest of the them all, "Think of the Supreme Court." When I hear that, I ask them what in Hillary's past or in her current coterie of friends, associates, and advisers, lead them to believe Hillary will name a liberal to the court. Hillary has surrounded herself with a gaggle of neocon warmongers (Susan Rice, Victoria Nuland, Sid Blumenthal), Wall Street fraudsters (to whom she owes hundreds of millions of dollars), and people who should be in The Hague, not advising a president — Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger.

    In search of a Hillary theme, I went to her campaign site, hoping to find a bumper sticker, hat, T-shirt that would have a rallying cry. I found plenty with just her name — not anything I would get off my couch and march behind. There were also ones saying "I'm with her," again nothing to inspire anyone who wasn't really with her, and "She's with us," whatever the hell that means.

    Odd that she can spend millions of dollars to hire a regiment of Internet trolls (http://www.latimes.com/politics/la-na-clinton-digital-trolling-20160506-snap-htmlstory.html) to come to online sites — much like this one — and browbeat anyone who isn't worshipping at Hillary's feet, but she can't pay someone to come up with a thrilling campaign theme that will inspire people to follow her.

    You may consider this superficial and grumble about the intellectual depth of the electorate, but it's a fact. Corporations figured this out decades ago. It's odd that the corporatist candidate hasn't gotten on the bandwagon.

    David Belasco once said, "If you can't write your idea on the back of my calling card, you don't have a clear idea." That is the malaise that Camp Clinton is suffering from right now. It could cost her the election.

  • fasteddie says:

    Trump is a racist and his supporters are racists. Just because they don't wear hoods, burn crosses or say the N-word out loud ( at least when sober ) doensn't mean that they are driven by white supremacy. They want to "Make America Great Again" – when women gays and brown people "know their place". They want to "Take Their Country Back" – from the Kenyan Usurper – as if it was not possible that a black guy could actually win 2 elections. This is ALL about racism. Trump will get 27% of the vote. http://kfmonkey.blogspot.com/2005/10/lunch-discussions-145-crazification.html

  • There is a sixth group of people that seem to be more prevalent now than in the past, and we will find them supporting Trump.

    They are the trolls. Their ethos is defined solely by who they hate. You'll find these people 'rolling coal' on cyclists. Bumper stickers that hate on Prius's. Anything that pisses off 'liberals' is what they stand for.

    They don't open carry because they feel scared, they open carry because they know some liberal will feel uncomfortable.

    So, you have your people who just dig on Trump for being loud, and your people who hate all things that smack of empathy.

    I think this sixth group is made up of what is now referred to as Trolls.

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    @Leading Edge Boomer –

    It's the sort of idea that would come from someone who knows nothing about 9th grade civics and a hell of a lot about bankruptcy.

  • Davis X. Machina says:

    People are, if anything, even less perceptive and thoughtful now than they were forty years ago.
    Relax — They're also less white, less straight, less Protestant, less rural, and better educated than they were 40 years ago…

  • I just don't know if Sanders could beat Trump. Yes, I know that white millenials are very enthusiastic about him.

    "Socialist" is still a dirty word in this country. I know that isn't what Bernie means by it and you know that isn't what Bernie means by it.

    That still won't stop them from hanging that word around his neck like an anchor.

  • To those drawing Trump – Reagan parallels: no, they're not remotely similar on an emotional level.

    I could never stand Reagan. He made selfishness respectable. He was a very effective bamboozler. So if you weren't paying attention, he *felt* like a confident, kindly, calm leader with a sense of humor. The man was an actor. A much better one than I thought based on his films. And he was street-smart enough to know his place. He read his lines very well. The best character sketch I've heard of him is "the nicest grandfather to ever steal dinner from a kid."

    Trump is not an actor. Has no street-smarts. And has no repertoire (that I've seen yet anyway) beyond Rile 'Em Up! By any means at all. That has a much narrower appeal than Reagan's brand of homey, aw-shucks racism and greed. People like to think well of themselves while they shaft their neighbors, and Trump isn't making that easy for them.

    So, no, in terms of appeal I don't think the parallel holds. That's not to say Trump couldn't win by triggering people's inner trolls. Just that openly triggering trolls was not how Reagan succeeded.

  • "Donald Trump is appealing primarily to working class Midwestern and Southern whites."

    Counter-point: Trump voters are solidly middle class, and make more than HRC or Bernie supporters who tend to be truly working class:


    I mean, I agree with your larger point about white anger in general, but it's worth pointing out that we've already bought into a certain narrative that isn't true. Or at least, it's complicated.

    That said, I'm going vote for HRC and probably send her some money. I'm confident she'll win pretty easily, because of Electoral College math (starting with FL).

    And if Trump does win? Well, fuck it, Trump voters will reap the whirl wind and I'll be even more assured in my librul smugness.

  • Oh, @fasteddie of course they're racist. Your mistake is thinking that this bothers them.

    Plenty of assholes sleep well at night knowing they're assholes in this day and age.

  • Trump reminds me of a particulary virulent form of shingles. He's been lying in wait for 30 years with the advent of Nixon & Reagon's southern strategy. The R's have been driven insane by Obama and are at a low point in their body politic and no longer able to resist. Bed rest and vitamin C might help but I have my doubts.

  • Most of you are making a fundamental error in examining Trump's assertions and "policy" statements as if they had any meaning. They don't, never have, and never will. The man may have some serious political thoughts but none of us will be privy to them until and unless he lands in the oval office. Every single thing he says is a calculated line designed to generate buzz, draw attention, and appeal to the emotions of potential voters. The man is not cognitively impaired, he's a marketing genius, and the american left is setting itself up for a huge fall by paying attention to this nonsense rather than what the man is actually doing. Scott Addams has been warning you for months now.

  • When I first read this post I recalled that W. left office after squandering a budget surplus, draining the treasury, miring us in endless wars and negating the 1st and 4th amendments with a 23% approval rate, so we've joked that's the baseline of a clueless electorate. Glad to learn about the "Keyes constant". Perhaps we're evolving beyond Converse's 20%!

    Have to agree with mojrim and others, whatever happens in a Trump administration will depend on which advisors and/or cabinet members take control. Trump could say or do anything he perceives as advancing his ego trip.

    Let's all hope we're immune to that disease on the body politic! (love it)

  • @wetcasements

    While I don't follow Addams closely enough to know his positions on much of anything, that has nothing to do with the insightfulness of his critique. Being nice (or even good) has no relationship to being right. What he has provided is a "psychology today" version of what many I know in PSYOP and HUMINT have been kicking around since this started. Also, Addams has specifically stated that he will not vote for Trump, not that it matters.

    My point is that the american left (and the right, for that matter) have been underestimating Trump since day one, at grave personal cost. Charlatan, carnival barker, famous for being famous; titles as true as they are irrelevant. He's still managed to destroy everyone that's gotten in his way and bullock Murdoch and Ailes into line. No cognitively impaired man could have accomplished that.

  • Skepticalist says:

    Donald Trump is a political expression of those morning TV shows where so-called friends and relatives jump up and down screaming at one another and sometimes throwing chairs. They are very popular in doctors' waiting rooms. It attracts a YUUUUGE group of likely Trump supporters.

    As far as Hillary is concerned. I find her boring but not voting for a Democrat this year would be like shooting oneself in the foot. Maybe with Democrats, things like Social Security or health care may not improve but they are unlikely to get worse.

  • Emerson Dameron says:

    @mojrim –
    The Trump-marketing angle isn't a big shock to anyone who's been paying attention. Scott Adams is an ignorant asshole who doesn't care about you.

  • I just read Harry Frankfurt's "On Bullshit" (2005) today, and it's really stunning what a perfect prognostication it is of this election cycle.

  • How many months ago was everyone, including our dear host, saying that there was no way that Trump was going to be the GOP nominee? And now these same people want to say things like "The Trump-marketing angle isn't a big shock to anyone's who's been paying attention."

    Oh really, it isn't? Because some of us realized that Trump had this in the bag and the GOP nomination, at the very least, was his to lose since at least last fall. But no, still we were treated to endless claims that we were all crazy alarmists and some self-correcting mechanism was going to come along any day now and erase the massive popular support of Trump.

    Now, these same sober commentators claim that Scott Addams has no insight because despite the fact that he certainly showed them up on this subject, he's also a regressive shithead (no argument from me on this, he is a regressive shithead). But he was right on this. Way more correct than Ed, or Emerson Dameron, or Nate Silver.

    And now, these same sober commentators claim that there is no way that Trump can win the presidency because the EC, and history, and reasons. Pardon if that's not convincing to me or anyone else who has noticed how spectacularly you've all been wrong about everything else this election cycle.

  • … hah: I was just about to chime in that the real "most important scholar of public opinion" has to be the authors of The American Voter before I remembered that Converse is one.

    I'm also partial to John Zaller.

  • @ Emerson Dameron

    Addams may indeed be an ignorant asshole, and almost certainly does not care about me since we've never met. I don't care about him, either. None of this has any relationship to his having been dead right about Trump from day one while almost everyone else has been wrong. Honestly, I'm perplexed as to why you think Addams character is relevant here, unless you are going to assert that he is misleading us with his demonstrably correct predictions.

  • Andrew Laurence says:

    I stopped reading Scott Adams's blog years ago, but back when I was still reading it he was very clear that he does not vote. Perhaps he was lying, but I have no evidence of that.

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