TYPE I ERROR

Posted in Rants on November 9th, 2016 by Ed

I'm not the least bit embarrassed to have gotten it wrong, since having done so puts me in an exclusive club called Everyone at the moment.

Predictions have to be made based on the data available. All of the available data pointed toward one outcome. Polling has a margin of error, and we understand that. Even accounting for the margin of error, there's a 1 in 20 chance that the result lies outside of it. I don't think anyone wants to read a lengthy treatise on confidence intervals, normal distributions, and p < 0.05 right now, but the entire process of statistical analysis of pre-election data (and most data in the scientific world, period) is built upon the reality that 5% of the time you will accept a hypothesis that in reality should have been rejected. Beyond that, statistical models depend on any number of assumptions that can and often do turn out to be incorrect. The biggest loser this week is the obsession within political science with quantitative wizardry ("Check out my new estimator, bro!") and in the political media with forecasting models updated by the second as reality overtakes their assumptions.

Here's the problem: There are other ways, but there are no better ways.

Oh, you "had a bad feeling" about the election? That's nice. You had some theory you pieced together that managed to predict correctly the outcome of a contest with only two possible winners? Amazing. You have a brilliant post-election take on what "would have" happened had Bernie been nominated, had Jill Stein voters not voted for Jill Stein, had X not done Z? That's great, I can also sit around and make up hypotheses that can't be tested, theories that can't be proven or disproven. There's nothing wrong with any of this, and it's what people do during and in the wake of elections. But make no mistake about what you are doing when you engage in this kind of "logic" – you are pulling things out of your ass. You're guessing. You're in 6th grade writing a Persuasive Essay based on the prompt, "How would the election have turned out differently if ____?" Would Sanders have done better against Trump? Intelligence is not being able to answer that question; intelligence is understanding that any answer you can offer to such a question is pure conjecture.

I don't look forward to the months of hand wringing, of people explaining ("explaining") why this happened. The construction of post-election narratives is a process that interests me only in that none of them can be proven and we go through a collective process of deciding which one is Correct based on feel, like a clueless car buyer kicking tires and deciding that this model truly is superior to the alternatives. The world of data-driven predictions is not a perfect one, and it is one in which we all accept that we will be wrong a not-insignificant percentage of the time. It is a better world to live in, though, than one in which we all sit around filling the world with our Hunches and gut feelings. The modern world, and certainly our educational system, strongly encourages people to think unscientifically – begin with your conclusion, then construct an explanation that supports it. This process has the advantage on the user end of allowing everyone to feel like they are correct, with the obvious disadvantage of being like the gemstones – pretty, alluring, and fundamentally worthless.

LIGHTSABER CONCESSION BLUES

Posted in Quick Hits on November 8th, 2016 by Ed

Regarding the pertinent issue of Trump (should he lose) refusing to concede, three points:

1. Remember that it is not necessary, legally or politically, for the losing candidate in any American election to concede. Cleveland didn't need to concede the World Series to make the Cubs the winners.

2. In the event that the outcome is not especially close, any attempt he makes to contest the results will have little effect. The Gore-Bush thing got drawn out to the wire because there was a single state at issue with a margin so thin that the odds of such a finish recurring are almost vanishingly small. Contesting the results in like fifteen states at once, especially if the popular vote is not particularly close in most or any of them, amounts to nuisance litigation and one last pathetic publicity stunt. That strategy has zero chance of succeeding.

3. In the event that the election is not a blowout but the difference is anything greater than "Florida 2000" close, I'd bet that the Republican National Committee (possibly relying on Pence, who is effectively estranged from Trump for weeks at this point) will concede the election and wash their hands of anything Trump does moving forward. One assumes they are in full damage mitigation mode right now and, at the very least, committed to ensuring that he does not tarnish the brand any more than he already has.

THE LONELIEST MAN ON EARTH

Posted in Rants on November 7th, 2016 by Ed

As I write this on Monday evening I'm aware of how many people feel about jinxes and other such tempting forms of bad logic, so let me preface this by saying that the assumptions here are based on all of the available data (actual data, discounting hunches, gut feelings, magical theories about how data is wrong, and so on) suggesting that Trump is highly unlikely to prevail on Tuesday.

If you're Donald Trump, this has been a hell of a ride. He relishes attention like whales relish krill, and it's hard to think of any person in the history of the modern world who has gotten more attention of this duration and intensity. American media, and to a lesser extent that of the world, has been Trump-focused for the better part of 18 months now. It has been impossible to get away from him or to avoid hearing his name, and god knows a lot of us have tried. If his goal was to bask in publicity and attention, to force everyone to focus on him whether they want to or not, then inarguably he succeeded. He succeeded beyond even his own wildest dreams. 2016 has been the Year of Trump.

It's all about to come to a screeching halt, and I think he knows it.

Three weeks ago, noted twit David Brooks offered a surprisingly thoughtful take on "Donald Trump's Sad, Lonely Life." It felt premature; as long as this election continues, he will be surrounded with people variously doing his bidding or kissing his ass. I do think Trump is sad, as Brooks muses, but I believe it's because some part of his twisted psyche knows that he isn't going to win and he knows, ultimately, what that means for him. On Wednesday morning, he is going to wake up to find himself the most hated man in the world. He will be able to count the people who want anything to do with him on one stubby little hand. That everyone to the left of Mitt Romney hates him is obvious, not to mention already true. But for the sake of the party, many people in the Republican orbit have been…well, they've pursued a number of strategies. Humoring him. Faking enthusiasm. Going through the motions. Tepidly and generically offering ambiguous statements of support. Endorsing him in language that does not actually endorse him. It's rational behavior on their part.

But here's the thing about Republicans, and about American conservatism more broadly: the movement can never fail or be wrong. It can only be failed and be wronged. It is always the candidate's fault. And oh my god and baby jesus in heaven are they going to throw Trump under the bus the second this election is over. He thinks, at this moment, that his followers are going to be loyal to him. Some of them will retreat into fantasies that he was cheated out of victory. Most of them will grow to see him (with the encouragement of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy and its mouthpieces) to see him as that most loathsome of all things in their worldview. They will see Donald Trump as a loser. For a movement based entirely on concepts like superiority, dominance, and nonspecific Winning, for a group of people that adulate Winners above all else, Donald Trump is not going to be able to survive being a Loser.

The Republican establishment, already in full Damage Control mode, will declare him persona non grata. His paid campaign staff will drift away and sell their stories to salivating media outlets – "You won't believe how terrible he was!" The media will leap at the opportunity to stop pretending for the sake of Balance to treat him as anything but a joke. And that army of numbskulls he believes will follow him to Trump TV will find that Fox News, right wing radio, and the rest of the noise that makes up their lives is pushing a new, curiously convenient message: He was the problem. He's a loser. He failed. We need a winner. We need to move on. We were so close, and we would have won if he didn't screw up so much. People who screw up and say "Grab 'em by the pussy" on tape aren't winners. They're losers.

We all know how effective the noise machine is at establishing its preferred narrative of reality. It will turn on Trump. Everyone associated with him will run for cover. Every Republican failure in this election year will be laid at his feet. And then it will move on. Fox and the RNC and the Koches and everyone else will say, "See? We told you so. Now never disobey us again," and the entirety of the Trump phenomenon will go down the memory hole. He will be marched before the firing squad and preserved as a corpse that will be dragged out only when the base needs to be reminded of the consequences of deviating from the path determined by their right wing elders.

Remember, nobody in the GOP wanted or likes this guy. Fox News banged the drum against him and only recently (and half-heartedly) supported him out of some sense of obligation toward the R next to his name on the ballot. We've seen the right tear into one of their own with amazing ferocity even when that person is someone they generally hold (or held) in high regard. Imagine what they will do to a con man who infiltrated their ranks at a time of weakness and made a mockery out of the party to the point where the brand name may be damaged permanently.

Trump on Tuesday evening will be a convict enjoying his last meal before execution, and he knows it. The saying goes that in politics that first they love you and then they turn on you, a bit of wisdom that bodes particularly poorly for someone who They didn't love in the first place.

AND HERE WE ARE, EXACTLY WHERE WE HAVE BEEN FOR MONTHS

Posted in Rants on November 6th, 2016 by Ed

The real kick in the teeth about this transcendently horrible election is that we've suffered through it mostly for naught. Very little about the candidates' relative standing has changed since the conventions. The recent FBI / Emails commotion, for example, was a textbook example of a non-story. No new information was involved. "Something something Hillary Clinton's emails or something." We've all been hearing about this for months. To anyone inclined not to vote for Hillary because of the email thing, nothing changed here. For people who don't care about the issue at all…well, nothing changed here either. In fact, the only movement in the polls since October 1 has been a slight bump for Trump – from defecting Gary Johnson voters. Johnson has gone from 8-10% to a predictable 4-5% (and probably won't do even that well on Election Day). The difference has accrued to Trump, presumably because your average Johnson supporter is a disaffected Republican.

Here we are, one day before the election, exactly where we have always been. My best prediction today is no different than what I said in June or in March or in 2015: There is no plausible scenario in which a candidate can win a presidential election in the modern era with essentially no votes from black or Hispanic voters. Factor in how much Trump has done to alienate women and you have no argument that does not involve an MTS (Magical Turnout Scenario). Every single prediction of a Trump win that I've read or heard over the past couple of months relies on an MTS. There's a "silent majority." There are people who have never voted before who will come out of the woodwork to vote Trump. African-Americans and Hispanics won't vote, because reasons. People are too scared of Scary Liberals to admit in polls that they support Trump but they're totally going to vote for him on Election Day. Huge conspiracies to vote fraudulently will be unraveled by patriots bravely monitoring polling places. On and on it has gone. Deluding themselves that improbable scenarios – in some cases pure fantasy – are going to save them has become an art among Republicans.

That leaves the related question of why we keep hearing that the election is so close. Neck-and-neck. On a razor's edge.

I'm beating a dead horse here, but just remember how "close" the election was claimed to be in 2012 versus the reality we observed. The media are driven by ratings. This is not a crazy conspiracy theory or some kind of adolescent Chomsky-esque slander; it's a simple statement of fact. Elections are their biggest ratings events, and they have every possible incentive to sell the narrative that the horserace is coming down to the wire. They have no incentive whatsoever to tell you that Clinton has a lead outside the margin of error and Trump needs some sort of miracle to close the gap. Already suffering from low ratings in the more competitive environment of modern media, TV news networks and political news sites badly need people to buy into the narrative that the race is close. If not, they will stop watching in the same way that the TV audience is likely to wander away when the Super Bowl is 50-0 at halftime.

Mitt Romney and John McCain were not exactly blown away or routed, but they were solidly defeated. That happened with each candidate getting something like 25-30% of the Hispanic vote. Trump is barely in double digits. Romney and McCain similarly did not go out of their way to alienate women, something Trump has turned into an X-Men superpower. While it is true that Hillary Clinton is statistically less popular and likable than voters felt Obama was in those two elections, none of the available evidence suggests that Democratic-leaning voters are any less likely to show up this year.

If I'm wrong I'll refund your money and we can start digging bunkers together. But I am highly confident that the scenario that plays out on Tuesday is going to be reminiscent of 2012, when the major media outlets declared 15 states "toss ups" and then one candidate won 14 of them, in some cases by large margins. No matter how many ways they try to convince themselves that there are, there simply are not enough dumb, old, or dumb and old white people to make an electoral majority without appealing to any other demographic in the electorate. In 1952 it was enough. The GOP seems hellbent on learning every four years that it no longer is.

NPF: FORGET-ME-NOT

Posted in No Politics Friday on November 4th, 2016 by Ed

So this is sports, but it's not sports.

It has been very interesting from an armchair sociological perspective to watch the nation (and certainly the city of Chicago) lose its marbles over the World Series win by the long-suffering Cubs. At 108 years, their championship drought certainly was unprecedentedly long. That's not interesting outside of a sports context. But the fact that national media outlets devoted exclusively to covering sports apparently forgot that the Chicago White Sox won the World Series just 11 years ago is.

I'm somewhat biased here, as a Sox fan. I was at Game 2 of that World Series. But the distinction between Cubs and White Sox fans in Chicago is something we can describe without being affected by our own preferences. The Cubs are the North Side. The Sox, the South Side. The North Side is wealthier, whiter, younger, and where people go to have a good time. The big music venues, the fancy restaurants, the theaters…all north of the loop for the most part. The South Side is not glamorous. It is traditionally less wealthy, not a place people associate with having a night on the town, and heavily composed of black, Hispanic, Irish, Polish, and other identifiably "ethnic" populations. The North Side is residential and cosmopolitan. The South Side is industrial and without frills.

In 2005, the year the White Sox won the Series, it was interesting to watch how little anyone outside of the South Side gave a crap, here or nationally. The previous year, the Boston Red Sox won their first series since 1918 and everyone in the national media treated it like the second coming. Yet when the White Sox were going for their first win since 1917 – an even longer drought – nobody seemed to care. That they played the equally anonymous (but excellent) Houston Astros probably didn't help. And now ten years later everyone is going crazy for the Cubs and their drought again. Hmm.

The excuses for people hopping on the Cubs bandwagon – everyone loves an underdog, etc. – fall flat. It's clear that *some* underdogs and *some* droughts are worthy of our collective sympathy. As long as the team is one for whom being a supporter is sufficiently cosmopolitan and has sufficient social cachet attached to being a fan, then everyone cares. If your fan base is 25% native Spanish speakers and your stadium is located across the highway from what was once America's most notorious public housing project, then nobody even notices let alone cares.

I don't mean to read too much into reactions to a sporting event, and I have no doubt personally that the Cubs fans outnumber Sox fans in Chicagoland. Yet the White Sox victory parade in 2005 was attended by 3 million people, a staggering number that I'm sure today's Cubs parade will match. I can't help but feel that which 3 million people were excited about the White Sox is a significant part of the explanation for why their World Series championship inspired so little interest compared to what happened for the Cubs and Red Sox.

CODA: And it was great baseball, too. The White Sox went 11-1 in the playoffs, won a 15 inning marathon in Game 3 of the World Series (the kind of game that legends are made of), and won in the 9th inning of Game 4 on two plays by Juan Uribe that, had Derek Jeter made them, would have been the subject of feature films.

HOW TO VOTE FOR BERNIE IN YOUR STATE

Posted in Quick Hits on November 2nd, 2016 by Ed

To the many people asking, "Hillary Clinton is no different than Trump. How do I vote for Bernie Sanders?" the answer is not simple because procedures vary by state. Nonetheless this short step-by-step guide will walk you through the process.

1. Don't. He conceded on June 7 and ended his campaign on July 25.

URBAN TORPOR

Posted in Rants on October 31st, 2016 by Ed

Cities overemphasize population as a measure of economic health and overall vitality. If the population is stable or growing, the logic goes, then certainly there must be enough amenities and jobs to explain why people are moving or at least staying. Population loss certainly is a bad sign, one difficult to explain away. But growing or stable population is not necessarily what it seems. If you want to get a sense of the direction an urban area is trending, look at changes over time in population density.

Why does that statistic matter more? Let's look at one of my favorite Rust Belt punching bags. Peoria, IL is a good example, but honestly you could choose from the lengthy list of declining Midwestern and Northeastern industrial cities and prove the same point.

In 1950 the Census recorded 111,856 people in the city proper; 2015 Census estimates were 115,070. If it seems surprising that a city often cited as an example of decline actually grew (slightly) since the often-cited base year of 1950, it is. A closer look at how it managed the feat reveals a serious underlying problem. In 1950 the city covered 12.9 square miles. In 2015, that figure exploded to 50.3 square miles. Population density, then, fell from 8671 per sq. mile to 2288.

That's staggering, but so what? The main problem is that urban infrastructure is expensive, and the more a city spreads out in an effort create the appearance of population growth or stability the more of that infrastructure it needs to provide. Roads, police and fire, utilities, sanitation, and any other costly function of modern urban governing become more difficult to provide over an ever expanding area with a declining number of taxpayers – individuals and businesses – to support them. Leaving aside the fact that economic opportunities in such cities almost inevitably are shrinking, each taxpayer becomes "responsible" for more and more infrastructure. That's not a great formula. Add in the fact that populations in these places almost inevitably become older and more impoverished over time and it's a disaster. Add in the current anti-government hysteria that makes even modest attempts to raise revenue a pitched battle and you have a place where you really don't want to live unless you can't afford to get out.

What happens next is predictable. Services get worse, costs are piled onto the remaining population that is least likely to be able to afford it, and lowest-bidder privatization farms out many essential tasks. The few remaining large employers in the area get to write their own ticket after threatening to leave, which often results in further reduced local tax revenues (through various breaks, loopholes, and handouts) and environmental degradation that no one dares try to make them clean up. Eventually the sense of decline becomes pervasive. Signs of crime and urban decay become widespread. Garbage piles up. Streets look like the Luftwaffe just bombed them. Aging water and sewerage systems fail. 9-1-1 calls go unanswered and fewer police are asked to deal with more crime spread over a greater area. Businesses shutter, and people with marketable skills take them to other places where things are not quite as bleak.

Despite the cottage industry of urban renewal and revitalization schemes, there's very little cities can do to reverse the slide into urban blight once the population density takes an appreciable drop. More accurately, there are some things they can do but hundreds of other dying and shrinking places trying to do those exact same things. Offering tax incentives to lure new businesses there? Great. So is everyone else. The end result is a sort of community-wide torpor, a "who gives a shit" mentality that sinks in after a couple years or decades of looking at empty buildings, driving over crumbling streets, and seeing visible poverty everywhere. Expectations fall and anger rises among people being asked to pay more for public services that seem to get worse every year. They seem to because they are.

If you're curious about where your favorite city is heading over the next 20 or 30 years, look at the historical trend in population density. If it declines consistently there's a good chance that great things are not on the horizon.

LOVE IN A TIME OF SHITPOSTING

Posted in Rants on October 26th, 2016 by Ed

One of the great ironies of this insufferable election is that something we all knew was inevitable and only a matter of time – the full, seamless integration of the reality TV / social media paradigm into our elections – was achieved by a highly unattractive 70 year old man. It is as apparent now two weeks out from the election as it was in the summer of 2015 when this nightmare began that Trump has no real interest in being president, a job that is by most estimates rather challenging. Instead this has been one long exercise in building the Personal Brand, of achieving the kind of multi-platform social media saturation that brings entire rooms full of Social Media professionals at SXSW Interactive to instantaneous and powerful orgasm. When a campaign spends more on hats bearing an eminently hashtaggable slogan than it does on polling, it becomes nearly impossible to argue that this is anything other than politics as viral marketing, a painfully long product roll-out for whatever insufferable Web 3.0 media product Trump plans to shove down the throats of his gullible herd of followers. It is a campaign not for votes but for Likes and Follows, the end goal being a list of potential subscribers' credit card numbers rather than accommodations on Pennsylvania Avenue.

As an adult old enough to remember the world before the internet, it isn't difficult for me or anyone else of my generation to see this for exactly what it is. We have been through enough elections and seen enough political campaigns to know what campaigns look like. We recognize, consequently, that this is not one. What I worry about a lot lately, especially given my constant contact with people in the 18-22 age range, is what long term effects this will have on the attitudes of people of different generations who have grown up with the internet and social media. Someone born in 1998 has never lived in a world without clickbait, viral videos, shitposting, memes, Facebook, Reddit, apps, and the idea of life as incidental things that happen so one can post pictures of it on the internet. It is not that today's college-aged voters are incapable of answering the question, "Is this a real campaign or is this all just a publicity stunt?" – what is troubling is that it would never occur to young adults to ask that question. When you've lived since infancy in a world in which saying outrageous and offensive things is a standard part of the repertoire for attracting valuable attention in a the internet's competitive marketplace of self-promoting assholes, this very well could appear to be normal. You can feel the collective shrug, the sense that nothing about what happened this year is in any way out of line with one's expectations about how the world of 2016 works.

One valuable Teaching Moment from this campaign was the vice-presidential debate. Students were able to see for one evening what, for most of recent history, a presidential campaign has looked like: two extremely boring older white guys using a lot of words to say very little. It contrasted sharply with the WWE Monday Night Raw spectacle of the presidential debates, which they view primarily through the lens of what they can provide in entertainment value. Much is said about the shrinking attention spans of younger generations, and I think there is a real element of truth to those fears. It's not surprising that today's young people, just like young people of years past, would find a Kaine-Pence type election extremely boring. What's worrying is the idea that, rather than considering this year's presidential election appalling and embarrassing, it not only seems normal but even desirable because it holds their interest. If they find this funny and entertaining we are likely to do it again in the future, and it will only be "funny" until one of these candidates – some media hog less personally repugnant than Trump – wins, at which point the joke will be on all of us.

NPF: HAMILTON

Posted in No Politics Friday on October 23rd, 2016 by Ed

More than a year into its rise as a Cultural Phenomenon, I knew almost nothing about "Hamilton." I do not like musicals in general – there's nothing wrong with them, I'm simply not the intended audience for it given the things I like – so not only did I not make an effort to see it but I remained almost totally ignorant of it. I knew it involved rap and Aaron Burr and a guy named Lin-Manuel Miranda who received a Macarthur Grant despite the fact that he already earned like a billion dollars off the musical. Other than that, I was a blank slate when an old friend texted me that an extra ticket was available for a group outing among her friends. Though somewhat worried about the ticket cost (I'd heard rumors, dark rumors) I accepted. It didn't seem likely to hurt me to put on some decent looking clothes and hang out with other adults for a while on a Sunday.

I would not necessarily recommend that anyone run out and pay the borderline crazy prices being sought for second hand tickets, but I will say that I have a very, very hard time believing that anyone who saw this performance could fail to enjoy it. I looked hard for reasons not to like it, and I found none. There are some minor nits to pick with the production, like the fact that the cartoon Pepe le Pew French accent makes Lafayette totally unintelligible, and with the accuracy of the way that some people are portrayed. Thomas Jefferson's role, as many critics have noted, is particularly odd but I also understand that this is a musical, intended to entertain, and that some character would have to serve as the comic relief and secondary antagonist. The spirit of the events retold here is accurate, and obviously the writer was not trying to reproduce conversations verbatim (it turns out the people involved did very little rapping in 1800). Overall, I strongly suspect that a viewer who could not enjoy a live performance of this musical is not capable of enjoying much of anything.

This is so Ed, but I have to be honest about something: I liked it slightly less when, later that evening, I did a little reading about Mr. Miranda. There's nothing deficient about his character or his motives. He obviously created something that strikes a chord with audiences right now and deserves to be rewarded handsomely for it. What disappointed me slightly – remember, I consume no theater or musicals at all – was that he was already successful when he wrote this. As it had been told to me, I was under the impression that this was a crazy idea carried out by an eccentric genius, a man devoted entirely to an idea so insane that one can only admire the fact that he stuck it through to completion. "It's going to be about Alexander Hamilton, but lots of rapping" is not a description that would produce many encouraging responses.

However, Miranda had already starred in a play called In the Heights and had been nominated for a Tony Award for his performance. Even I know that means he was already well established in the world of Broadway, enough so that he could take a relatively crazy idea and receive full benefit of doubt. No matter how bad the idea looked on paper, you can imagine the money people saying "Well, what the hell. His last one was a hit" and putting it on anyway. I'm not sure why, but that diminished it for me just a bit. It didn't change the performance, obviously, but it took a little bit of the shine off the backstory. I guess I liked the idea of some guy living dollar to dollar sitting in his apartment scribbling out a script and telling himself, "You'll see! It will be a hit, I'm telling you! Just you watch and see!" Everyone likes a good Starving Artist Makes It story, I guess.

Lastly, I think one of the reasons many people do not like musicals is that it's hard to do a musical really well, and the difference between a musical done really well and one that is mediocre or worse is stark. There are only a small number of performers with enough talent to really pull something as conceptually weird as Hamilton off. I'm sure this will eventually spawn several touring versions, which may or may not be just as good, but I'm glad I saw it with the A+ cast while I had the chance. I think it would be hard to pull off with anything less than the best performers.

So for the first and last time that's my take on a musical. Ten stars, would see again, call the babysitter, fun for the whole family.

IDIOT MITOSIS

Posted in Rants on October 19th, 2016 by Ed

All year long I've felt (and voiced privately, because it's a bit salty to put it out there in public even by my standards) that Trump has been taking it strangely easy on The Jews.

Hold on. Don't make angry comments yet.

I'm not saying that Trump or anyone else SHOULD be blasting The Jews for any particular reason. It is merely that given the campaign's regular recourse to racism, misogyny, xenophobia, and in general the basest kinds of bigotry, it was unexpected and somewhat surprising that anti-Semitism would not be present as well. I hope that makes sense. I'm not advocating anti-Semitism; it merely struck me as bizarre that we were seeing far less anti-Semitism from him than one would expect given his neolithic attitudes toward every other group defined as The Other by white protestant male America.

It turned out, as it so often has throughout this campaign, that I only had to be patient and that with time things would indeed get Much Worse. When Trump announced on Oct. 13 (in PALM BEACH of all places, I mean what the hell, maybe he can book the Apollo Theater in Harlem and rip on black people for an hour) that "international bankers" were to blame for many of the ills, real or imagined, that his supporters bemoan, I realized that he had merely been keeping anti-Semitism in reserve as kind of a closing act. Jew-bashing would be to Trump 2016 what Beyonce and Jay-Z would be to a long music festival: the big finish. The crescendo. The climax.

There is not a sentient adult who fails to recognize references to Bankers, particularly of the International variety, as a crystal clear euphemism for Jews dating back to the Renaissance. It is almost literally the oldest trick in the book. The wink is implied. In his inaugural address, even FDR – a friend of Jews in general and reliant upon dozens of Jewish individuals in his administration – sunk to the level of telling Americans that "wicked moneylenders" and "bankers" were responsible in dark but unspecified ways for the Great Depression. True, the banking system as a whole was at its heart; nonetheless the choice of language is a clear appeal to baser attitudes.

The more I thought about Trump's remarks of Oct. 13 it became apparent that in the modern era, anti-Semitism is the final stage of the growth cycle of demagoguery. It used to come earlier in the process of Idiot Mitosis because it used to be more socially acceptable and Jews were generally a powerless underclass in any society they inhabited in numbers. Today Jews have more social and political power as a group and thus the first stages of bigoted demagoguery focus on groups against whom prejudice is more socially acceptable: blacks, Hispanics, immigrants in general, and so on. So it makes sense to start there. It is not until a group or individual has made peace with dwelling on the fringes and has accepted marginalization that he or they embrace good old fashioned Jew-bashing. An unsettling percentage of Americans don't much mind politicians dumping all over blacks (referenced by any number of dog-whistle euphemisms), immigrants, the poor, and people identifiably "foreign" living among us. Anti-Semitism, once as popular among the upper crust as among the lowest classes, is now too obviously gauche, too lower class to be accepted in Ivy League schools and corporate board rooms. This is not to suggest that anti-Semitism no longer exists, but that it is today more likely to be frowned upon in the same settings in which slanders against "thugs" and "welfare queens" and "the Mexicans" would still receive an approving nod.

When someone goes after The Jews in 2016, that is a person preparing for a life beyond the fringes of respectability in polite society. It is the difference between Ben Carson and Alex Jones; the former lives on the fringes of range of acceptable opinions, the latter is comfortably beyond them. Embracing the language and theories of The Protocols and Henry Ford (callback to Monday's post!) is a signal that post-Election 2016 Donald Trump is not going to be a figure welcome anywhere in polite society. He is about to be shunned as if he is toxic and he knows it, so like a smart, savvy self-promoting narcissist he is ensuring that the path is clear between his current place on the fringes and his future pandering to neo-Nazis and selling books and media programming to white nationalists.