Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Political Science Flunked American Politics 101

On June 16, 2015, Donald Trump announced his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination.  His overwhelming win in Indiana on May 3, 2016, makes him the presumptive nominee.

So far as I know, as of May 3, 2016, not a single political scientist has stepped forward to claim that he or she correctly forecast that Trump could, or would, win the Republican nomination.

Indeed, the opposite is true.  One after another wrote articles, blogged, tweeted, and presented slide shows incorporating rigorous statistical analyses based on past voting behavior, “proving” that Trump would fall out of the race. As his poll numbers rose, the predictions that he would lose grew in number and volume.

How did so many get it so wrong?  (Although the economics profession largely missed the financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession, at least a handful got it right.)  Political scientists are not likely to issue a mea culpa and tell you why.

Your friendly proprietor will give it a shot.  Here are some reasons.

Ideology.  About 80 percent or more of the profession favor “liberal” Democrats.  They are hostile to Republicans in general and appalled that a “bombastic” businessman such as Trump could win his party’s nomination and, horror of horrors, the presidency.

The profession is resistant to change.  Moreover, the industry is its own consumer.  Most political scientists write for other political scientists.  Only a small fraction writes in the popular media.  It’s hard to take a position way outside the normal range of professional consensus on a subject and get promoted, attract offers from other universities, and enjoy cordial relations with colleagues.  Those who present an extreme view are often ridiculed, called names and excluded from rewards and honors.

Poll analysts missed the lesson of the “Shy Tory Voter,” who told pollsters they would vote for Britain’s Labour Party, but then voted Conservative, giving David Cameron a big win.  This phenomenon crossed the Atlantic Ocean and was duplicated by the shy Trump voter.

The only thing worse in political science, and in the academy more generally, than having predicted that Trump would win, is openly stating that Trump is one’s first choice (the subject of the next post)!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Trump’s Foreign Policy Speech Sets Forth Three Important Themes

On April 27, 2016, Donald Trump delivered a major foreign policy speech. This post highlights three important themes.

This blog has posted several articles on the topic of democracy follies. Here are Trump's words on this theme.


“It all began with the dangerous idea that we could make Western democracies out of countries that had no experience or interest in becoming a Western Democracy….We tore up what institutions they had and then were surprised at what we unleashed. Civil war, religious fanaticism; thousands of American lives, and many trillions of dollars, were lost as a result….One day we’re bombing Libya and getting rid of a dictator to foster democracy for civilians, the next day we are watching the same civilians suffer while that country falls apart….We have made the Middle East more unstable and chaotic than ever before....After losing thousands of lives and spending trillions of dollars, we are in far worse shape now than in the Middle east than ever before."


The Republican Foreign Policy Praetorian Guard includes a few remaining Reagan administration officials, but consists largely of those who served in both Bush administrations.  Many of them were advisers to Jeb Bush and several other Republican candidates.  None, not a single one, is associated with Trump.  Here are Trump's words on members of his foreign policy team.

"That is why I will also look for talented experts with new approaches, and practical ideas, rather than surrounding myself with those who have perfect resumes but very little to brag about except responsibility for a long history of failed policies and continued losses at war."  The absence of any individuals of the Republican Foreign Policy Praetorian Guard is the reason that many in the Academic Political Media Industrial Complex have mounted a sustained, vicious attack against Trump.


Trump says he will "put the interests of the American people, and American security, above all else."  This doctrine repudiates globalism, what the French call "mondialism," subordinating national interests to global governance.  It means that American values, not some arbitrary notion of universal or global values, will guide U.S. foreign policy.  The U.S. will continue to play its global role, but will demand reciprocity from its partners and allies.  No more going it alone at U.S. expense.  Here are Trump's words on the primacy of America and the West.

"Finally, I will work with our allies to reinvigorate Western values and institutions.  Instead of trying to spread "universal values" that not everyone shares, we should understand that strengthening and promoting Western civilization and its accomplishments will do more to inspire positive reforms around the world than military interventions."

He concludes:  "We are getting out of the nation-building business, and instead focussing on creating stability in the world."

Trump has called out the Academic Political Media Industrial Complex (APMIC) for its foreign policy failures, wants fresh faces with new pragmatic ideas, and wants renewed emphasis on Western values and institutions.

President Trump is the Hieronymus Bosch nightmare of APMIC.  One cannot overstate its members hatred of Trump, especially in the academy.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Recommended Summer Reading and Viewing

Your friendly proprietor would like you to enjoy a leisurely summer before the final leg of the presidential campaign kicks off after Labor Day.

So, I recommend two books and one film.

The first book is Robert Michels, Political Parties.  (See also here.) It explains why politicians represent themselves, not the voters who elect them.  In particular, pay special attention to  Part Six, Chapter 2, "Democracy and the Iron Law of Oligarchy."

The second is Jean Raspail, The Camp of the Saints, previously highlighted on this blog.  As you read it, substitute Muslims for Hindus.

The most important film you can see is Lawrence of Arabia.  Watch the last few minutes carefully. They show that tribal cooperation to operate municipal services in Damascus broke down in traditional tribal conflict after three days.  If this film does not cure you of the futility of nation-building in the Middle East, then nothing will.

Trumpisms Are Contagious

Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president on June 16, 2015.

Before then, life in your friendly proprietor's home was blissful. Whenever he asked his lovely and talented wife to do something, she answered "Yes, dear."

Now she answers "Ain't gonna happen anymore, ain't gonna happen!"

Trump is truly the best candidate for women.  He has probably liberated millions from their partner's expectations.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Rules! Really?

It took the 17th Amendment to replace state legislators choosing Senators to direct popular election of Senators.

It took the Supreme Court to rule that “Separate but Equal” was not equal.

It took civil disobedience to integrate schools, public transportation, and eliminate other institutions of segregation.

Just think of how many times rules have been changed in American history to expand opportunity and participation in private and public life.

That something has always been done one way is no reason to keep doing it that way, especially when it infringes on, or curtails, the rights of different categories of Americans.  The Republican National Committee’s defense of voterless delegate selection in Colorado and Wyoming, because everyone knew the rules in advance, could just as well be used to defend any non-representative political, social, and economic arrangements.

Why not restore property and/or educational requirements to vote!  How about eliminating female suffrage!  How about counting “others” as three-fifths of a person!

No one would propose returning to rules that were neither just nor ethical, would they?  Maybe it’s time to bring primary and caucus rules into the twenty-first century to bring about “one man, one vote.”

Monday, April 18, 2016

Democracy Follies, IV

A bedrock principle of democracy is “one man, one vote.”  Or, is it?  The 2016 presidential primaries and caucuses have shown that the great majority of a state’s registered Republicans or Democrats can be excluded from the selection process on the basis of “rules” drawn up by party bosses who are wined and dined (bribed is a better word) by candidates and their supporters.  We are told that each state can set its own rules for choosing delegates through primaries, caucuses, or conventions with bound or unbound delegates.  We can have unelected super-delegates determine a party’s nominee.  That’s the way it’s been and everyone knows it.

Actually, it isn’t.  What if the rules in Colorado said that blacks, homosexuals, and transgender persons cannot vote?  The Department of Justice would be at the Colorado Republican Party’s headquarters and haul away its leaders in handcuffs.

Well then.  If U.S. political party insiders can impose rules to deprive individuals of their vote, so too can elected leaders in one-party states, or who jail opposing candidates, and impose other rules that narrow the franchise in African, Asian, or Latin American elections, as the case may be. To paraphrase President Bill Clinton, it all depends on the meaning of the word “democracy.”  Obviously it does not mean “one man, one vote.”

What’s different in 2016 is the Internet.  Anyone with access to the Internet can see what is happening in the United States.  We can watch live on our computers or smart phones.  We can follow the chatter in the blogosphere, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms.  We have seen how the “democratic” Arab spring destabilized the Middle East, created chaos in Ukraine, and turned once-promising Brazil into a corrupt, shrinking economy.

We have seen President Obama rule by decree, not by legislation.  We have seen gridlock, extreme partisanship, slow growth, and burgeoning debt afflict the United States.

Small wonder the U.S. has failed at promoting democracy abroad, if ever we could agree on a definition of it.  Too bad that reality is often no match for ideology.

Don’t expect the professors who staff the dozens of centers for the study and promotion of democracy in American universities to issue a mea culpa.  That would be expecting too much.  Rather, they are likely to blame the lack of funds at their disposal, the recalcitrance of conservatives, and the incorrigibility of leaders in countries that won’t surrender power.

What happened in democracy studies parallels what happened in the economics profession as it failed to anticipate the financial crisis of 2008 and the Great Recession it spawned.  Perhaps a bit of humility is in order before we try to remake foreign political systems. 

N’est pas?