Outside the marginals

A commentary on the politics that followed the UK 2010, 2015 & 2017 elections (and THAT referendum)

Trump and Brexit

I would like to write him off, but Trump did win the Republican Nomination even though so many commentators said he was a joke.

Why did he win the nomination?

  • He has plugged into something that most commentators (professional and amateur) don’t understand
  • I suspect that his supporters hold “commentators” in contempt, so either,
    • they are not listening to the commentators saying what a danger he is, or
    • they are listening and what is being said just hardens their support for him

He put together a coalition of support in places where it mattered and won the nomination. To win the presidency (elected by an electoral college) he has to build a coalition of support in places where it matters – the swing states. Outside those marginals it does not matter what people think or vote.

The Clintons are Marmite politicians, and it seems many will “vote for the devil” to keep the Clintons (any Clinton) out of office. Even Trump’s senior republican critics seem to find it difficult to follow through on their disgust for Trump and to say they will vote Clinton to keep him out of office. Abstaining to keep someone out of office is a bit half-hearted if you don’t actually vote for the one candidate that could keep that person out of office.

It promises to be a disgusting fight – and that plays to “the Don” (if looks like a Don, if it speaks like a Don, then just perhaps it is a Don).

  • A disgusting fight could just turn fair-minded people off altogether – and they won’t vote.
  • But the more you attack the Don, the harder his core support becomes – and they will vote.

Differential turnout in the swing states could put Trump in the White House. It’s called “leverage” and the Don understands leverage in business; he could pull it off in politics – look at the number of (more) reasonable candidates that he has seen off.

There is a danger in believing that natural demographics will deliver the White House to the Democrats. In the UK’s EU referendum it was believed that the status quo had a built-in lead (as also shown in the AV referendum and the Scottish Independence Referendum). But we had never seen a black swan.

The EU referendum was a black swan moment and the US presidential election might be as well.

Traditional demographics support the idea that the US is becoming more naturally Democrat, but that is assuming that there is not a differential turnout effect and that there is not a breach in “traditional” support.

In the UK Labour has been traditionally pro EU and politics has been predominantly a two-bloc business where the parties squeeze out diversity both at candidate selection and (through first past the post) at the actual election. Less than half the electorate actually voted for the two main parties – that is a lot of excluded voters (never mind those who gave grudging support).

If they are also questioning whether the traditional two elitist parties meet their needs, you have the potential for a political earthquake as a bloc of support breaks away and votes against what “their” party supports. It does not matter if they want to give the old parties a bloody nose, it does not matter if they sincerely believe what they have been told, it does not matter if they have been fed simplistic “facts” from non-experts. The one thing that does matter is that they break away. They want to “Take Back Control” (whatever that actually means).

Trump seems to appeal to those who feel excluded and let down by “the system” (defined as looking like the Clintons). If you are a blue-collar worker who has traditionally worked (or tried to work) in “rust belt” states and you feel that voting Democrat has made no difference to your personal situation, why not give the Democrats a bloody nose, or buy into the idea that there is a genuine alternative, or just accept simplistic “facts” from non-experts?

There is a risk if Clinton says “you must vote for me to stop Trump”, if the people you are saying it to are contemplating giving up on the Clintons anyway. She needs a positive message and for the sake of credibility it has to be different to what Obama and Clinton (1) have previously said – and it has to be as easy to digest as the sort of “Mexico will pay for the wall and solve our employment problems” type message that Trump will continue to trumpet.

How real is the risk that a chunk of Democrat support in swing states could break away and vote Trump “to Make America Great Again” (like “Taking Back Control”!) and that another chunk revolted by the campaign (or just complacent) stays at home?

A bet on Trump winning the White House might be worthwhile – at least as a hedge against the consequences of him winning,


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