Monday, October 10, 2016

All My Election Predictions Were Wrong

I was wrong in all my predictions about this election:

1. I wrote, back in May, that "the smartest thing Hillary and Bill could do would be to rent a nice house in the south of France until November, and disappear. Not say a word. Let her proxies (not Bill) snipe at Trump. Let Trump be the only candidate committing unforced errors. Give him the total spotlight he craves. Let the nation experience nothing but wall-to-wall Trump for six months. Let Trump undo Trumpism."

I still think that would have worked out just fine, but my prediction - that she'd mess things up with the lousy political skills which had squandered huge leads against seemingly weak opponents twice before - was wrong. She didn't spend the past months bellowing "Donald Trump is a racist!!" over and over again, as I expected. Rather, she and her team have played a subtle political strategy that I imagine will be remembered and taught for centuries.

The campaign ad below, from July, was brilliant. It perfectly set the stage for everything her campaign would be doing:

In the first debate, her strategy and execution were flawless. She trolled and provoked with perfect grace, while completely belying her image of stridency and smugness.

In the second debate, she played a prevent defense, declining to spar (even letting plenty of whoppers pass by unchallenged), running out the clock on her mounting lead. Trump gave her several opportunities to shove the knife in deeply, but she took none of them. This, too, was brilliant.

The Trump ticket went into the debate at a crisis point, with the Republican party on the verge of mass defection, and high-level talk of replacing the candidate. His running mate had even abandoned the campaign for two days and was said to be watching the debate performance before deciding whether to drop out. Clinton went in for no kills, did no trolling, and did little to set him off. She let him live, ensuring that the Republican party would be tied to this drowning candidate for the duration, and keeping the Senate's majority (and perhaps the House's) highly vulnerable.

That she was considered to have narrowly "won" the debate was, I think, purely accidental. Her main goal was to preserve a fatally damaged raft just enough that her opponents wouldn't abandon it for other, more unpredictable, means of survival. That was an awfully tough needle to thread, and she (and her team) nailed it [note that I just executed a rare quadruple mixed metaphor]. That she narrowly won, to boot, was a political triumph (long-time readers know I'm anything but a Hillary Clinton fan).

2. I thought Trump could turn his bellicose demagoguery on and off. But he never pivoted for the general election, as I predicted. I was extremely wrong...and stupidly so. A 70-year old shallow narcissist, perennially surrounded by sycophants, has had neither opportunity nor incentive to develop the facility to modify his persona, his views, or his verbal style. Trump, I should have realized, is an expression of pure id, and id can't pivot.

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