DJ Trump and the Search For Russian Dirt

Here’s a radical idea: It is entirely possible to believe what DJ Trump did was stupid while not treasonous.

Was it illegal? Possibly. As Eugene Volokh, Professor of Law at UCLA and overseer of the Volokh Conspiracy Blog, notes it appears Courts would find it illegal:

Foreigners who aren’t U.S. citizens or U.S. permanent residents, the argument goes, are barred from providing candidates any “thing of value” in connection with any American election campaign. Campaign staff are barred from soliciting any “thing of value” from such foreigners. And, the argument goes, valuable political information about an opponent’s misdeeds is a “thing of value.”

That would also include if a foreign national, living in the US notified a campaign about irregularities.

But, Volokh thinks the law might violate the 1st Amendment.

Yet that, it seems to me, can’t be right. It would raise obvious First Amendment problems: First, noncitizens, and likely even non-permanent-residents, in the United States have broad First Amendment rights. See Bridges v. Wixon, 326 U.S. 135 (1945) (“freedom of speech and of press is accorded aliens residing in this country”); Underwager v. Channel 9 Australia, 69 F.3d 361 (9th Cir. 1995) (“We conclude that the speech protections of the First Amendment at a minimum apply to all persons legally within our borders,” including ones who are not permanent residents).

Second, Americans have the right to receive information even from speakers who are entirely abroad. See Lamont v. Postmaster General, 381 U.S. 301 (1965). Can Americans — whether political candidates or anyone else — really be barred from asking questions of foreigners, just because the answers might be especially important to voters?

He also noted people are claiming Trump the Younger actually received anything of value. (Indeed it is not even clear what evidence of dirt on Hillary was proffered). DJ Trump’s met with supposed members of a foreign government and it is probably a stretch to equate information given by a government to work performed by a citizen of a foreign government.  You can read the whole post here

I happen to agree with Volokh. If the law was as broad as some are asserting it is, the law would be unconstitutional for being overly broad.

I can’t imagine not wanting to know what the Russians claimed they had. Depending on what was presented as evidence, I may also want to  let the FBI know about the situation. We are, after all, talking about someone who was in the very inner circles of power. If the Russians disclose a major bombshell about what Clinton did while in government, it may suggest there is at least one Russian agent inside the White House or State Department. I would think people would want to know.

(And if the Russians were prepared to give up something that juicy, it would also mean they had access to far worse evidence of wrong doing).

And as Volokh notes, why should Americans not be told of something just because the source is not American, but Russian? If the information is relevant, it should not matter where it came from.

(It also possible the supposed dirt was something already known and reported on in the press. During the Cold War, KGB agents in the United States were known to take stories they read in the New York Times and Washington Post and send reports based on those stories, taking credit for the ‘intelligence’.)

The problem with the way DJ Trump and the other folks running the campaign handled it, was the seeming complete lack of awareness regarding who was offering this information. Since 2012, Republicans had been hammering the Obama Administration over their coddling of Putin. How many times did Republicans post videos of Mitt Romney warning about the Russians in 2012 and Obama’s snide comment about the 1980s?

On some level, you would have to wonder why this was being offered to you. Why are the Russians being so nice? What do they want in return? Are they trying to blackmail me?

(The great irony of course is if this was some sort of blackmail attempt by the FSB, they probably picked the one person who is probably blackmail proof. Based on the response to every accusation made against Trump since the beginning of his campaign, one gets the feeling he would simply dismiss it as “fake news” and move on. Blackmail only works if you can embarrass the target. And Trump seems incapable of that emotion).

As I mentioned yesterday, the people running Trump 2016 are not Mensa Candidates. DJ Trump, Manafort, and Roger Stone remind me of characters from a Tim Dorsey novel, specifically Elroy, Slow, and Slower from Coconut Cowboy (though not necessarily in that order).  I mean look at this from the emails DJ Trump published yesterday:

Whut

It was 100 years ago this year the Tsar was deposed and the Russian monarchy abolished. The end of the Soviet Union did not restore Royal Authority. So why in the name of all that is holy didn’t someone wonder about the Russian Crown Prosecutor?

Plus it apparently never occurred to them to ask why a British music promoter had such pull with the Russian government. Music promoters can barely get meetings with record labels, why would you think they could get you access to dirt held by the <ahem> Russian Crown Prosecutor?

Ultimately, the “professionals” running political campaigns need to treat emails from Russians claiming they wish to share dirt on an opponent the same way every sane person treats emails from Nigerian Princes claiming they have a vast fortune they wish to share:

Mark it as Spam and move on.

Life Moves Fast

One of the many amazing things about the Trump Presidency (besides learning that comedians holding up fake severed heads of the President is not violent rhetoric, put posting gifs of with the President’s head and the CNN logo superimposed on wrestlers is a core-shaking threat to the Republic) is how fast the news cycle is.

Less than twenty fours ago, there were stories about how Donald Trump Jr  (hereinafter DJ Trump) may or may not have met with Russians who may or may not have had incriminating evidence against Hillary Clinton. The hot takes on social media were at about a 9 responding to it.

I was in the midst of my take when DJ Trump decided to turn it up to 11.

I posted this H L Mencken quote before the election. I think it is fitting to post it again in light of DJ Trump’s actions:

As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

And it is equally important to remind everyone, Hillary Clinton, the DNC, and the mainstream media still couldn’t beat the man being advised by the likes of Manafort, Stone, and DJ Trump.

Democrats Are the Ravenous Bugblatter Beasts of Traal

Because of the publishing of Freedom’s Light, I have been in a literary frame of mind. The Country is now in month 3 of Democrats whining and complaining because Hillary Clinton lost to the second worst candidate ever to be nominated by a major political party. Progressives are still in denial and still trying to explain away how they managed to blow the most easily winnable election since 1936. All the talk about respecting the election outcome has pretty much been forgotten. Incidentally, this pre-election tweet from CNN’s Sally Kohn hasn’t really aged well, has it?

kohn

Having blamed everyone but Hillary Clinton for losing to Donald Trump and that tactic not really gaining any traction, other than to have more 1) Democrat Electoral Voters vote for someone other than Clinton on December 19th and 2) Democrats believe the fake news that Russia altered ballots than Republicans ever believed Obama was not born in this Country, angry Democrats and Progressives are trying a new tactic: ignore reality. Some, such as George Takei, are calling on people to unfollow Donald Trump on Twitter.

Others, such as Congressional Democrats, are boycotting the Inauguration Ceremony. It was this news that caused me to realize Democrats and Progressives are essentially the Ravenous Bugblatter Beasts of Traal.

For those of you who have not read, the late, great Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal can be stopped easily:

A towel [can be used to] avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindbogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you – daft as a brush, but very very ravenous)

Democrats are working on the assumption that if they don’t see or hear Donald Trump get sworn in, then it didn’t really happen. There is no other rational explanation for their actions. (And these are, after all, people who claim to be members of the reality based party and pine for the mythical land of Rationalia). It’s a bold strategy. But it is also stupid and self defeating.

But it is also unsurprising. It is part and parcel of Progressives’ mind-set: mistaking their opinions for facts. Meryl Streep decries people watching football instead of Hollywood films and suggests this is why Trump won and progressives laud this statement, made to a room full of people who agree with her as speaking truth to power. (Speaking truth to power would be admitting making anti-gun films such as Miss Sloane, is something the American people do not want to see). Journalists have fits when asked if they know anyone who drives a pick-up truck. A CEO living in San Francisco tells people living in the Mid-West that they are the problem with this country, unless and until they adopt San Francisco values. You would think by now they would realize denigrating their opponents is not how you persuade.

The mainstream media isn’t doing themselves or their progressive allies. In the immediate aftermath of the election, the press began the drumbeat against fake news. The media seemed to see this as a way of discrediting anything that went against their world view that Clinton would win. Trump won, the media claimed, because of fake news stories. There was even the creation of the hashtag #FakeNews. The Washington Post then ran a “news” story about the fake news factory funded by Russians that aided Trump’s victory…. And then it had to admit that the “facts: in the story were fake. Then the Washington Post on December 30th, breathlessly reported that Russian hackers had infiltrated the Vermont Power Grid. Then on the 31st, the Post had to admit that 1) the reporter never actually talked to anyone at Vermont Power grid and 2) the grid wasn’t hacked. There was Russian malware on a laptop owned by the power company. And on January 1st, the Post acknowledged the malware wasn’t actually Russian, but a common form of malware. Within three days the Post’s big scoop turned out to be nothing.

The claims by unnamed sources within the intelligence community of the “proof” of Russian interference has boiled down to a story on Russian Television mentioning Americans were dissatisfied with the choices the Democrats and Republicans gave them in 2016 campaign and the debate RT held for the third-party candidates; and a list of http addresses that are outdated. Not only do these “intelligence” reports lack a smoking gun, there isn’t even smoke. Hell, there aren’t even two sticks which, if rubbed together, could produce smoke. The Buzzfeed “news story” about the alleged dossier the Russians have on Trump was so laughably fakenews, CNN had to chastise them. It has become so clear Progressives and the media are peddling fakenews to discredit Trump that Progressives are now calling for the term “fakenews” to be retired.

And yet Progressives and the Media have gone to war with the incoming President and act surprised when he fights back. Consider this exchange: John Lewis verbally attacks Trump, calling him an illegitimate President. Trump fires back. A kerfuffle ensues and Trump is the one accused of being divisive. Calling the duly elected President illegitimate is divisive and the media’s refusal to acknowledge this only going to play into Trump’s hand. As the great twitter wit David Burge (who goes by the handle @Iowahawkblog noted today:

Iowahawk.png

While this is all humorous, there is a danger to the press’ irresponsibility As the Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald noted:

There is a real danger here that this maneuver could harshly backfire, to the great benefit of Trump and to the great detriment of those who want to oppose him. If any of the significant claims in this “dossier” turn out to be provably false — such as Cohen’s trip to Prague — many people will conclude, with Trump’s encouragement, that large media outlets (CNN and BuzzFeed) and anti-Trump factions inside the government (CIA) are deploying “Fake News” to destroy him. In the eyes of many people, that will forever discredit — render impotent — future journalistic exposés that are based on actual, corroborated wrongdoing.

The lack of self-awareness in someone is problematic. When it infects those who claim to be unbiased reporters of news, it is dangerous.

Donald Trump, barring some catastrophic disaster between now and noon on Friday, is going to be President for the next four years. If Progressives don’t want Trump in office for eight years, they need to stop being Ravenous Bugblatter Beasts. They need to accept reality.

Boris Badenov Did Not Alter Votes to Allow Trump to Win

Let’s be clear: If Russia intervened and altered the recent United States Presidential Election, it is an Act of War. A foreign power intervening in another country’s governmental succession is one of, if not the oldest, Casus Belli there is. The United States would be completely justified, if not compelled, in declaring war on a fellow nuclear power in retaliation for Russia’s interference in our internal affairs.

However….

This did not happen. There is zero evidence that Russia altered the ballots between the time voters cast the ballots and the ballots were delivered to the election workers who were tasked with counting the votes. Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale did not go from Election Precinct to Election Precinct and swap ballots marked for Hillary with ones marked for Donald Trump. It didn’t happen. Indeed, the Washington Post assured the American Public on October 18, 2016 that it was impossible to rig the Presidential Election in this country.

To the extent there were voting irregularities, this was not the result of nefarious foreign interference. The irregularities were simply human errors that caused errors in voting tabulations. Though it is rather amazing that a lot of the voting issues seemed to occur in heavily democratic voting districts and the irregularities may have erroneously cause Hillary Clinton’s vote totals to be inflated. But that’s none of my business….

So if Russia wasn’t editing ballots, what in the Hell is causing so many Democrats to clutch their pearls so tightly?

An anonymous CIA official told the Washington Post that US Intelligence believes Russia influenced the US election by publishing Democrats emails.

That’s it. Russia published some stuff Democrats wished weren’t published.

What the recent anonymous CIA claims allege is Russia hacked both the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Republican National Committee (RNC) email systems but only released the DNC emails in an effort to affect the outcome of the election in Trump’s favor.

However…

This new revelation about Russia hacking the RNC contradicts the FBI assessment and what the Bureau told Republicans . The FBI told the RNC in October there was no evidence their email system was hacked. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) has found no conclusive evidence that Russia favored Trump over Clinton during the election

Let’s just stop here for a moment and ponder: if the agencies entrusted with protecting America’s National Security cannot even agree as to something as basic as whether a foreign power has hacked a private entity’s email server, why should we be confident that our actual National Security Secrets are safe? The ones kept on secured government servers kept in high security facilities as well as those unsecured servers kept in bathrooms by Secretaries of State.

If there is any evidence of Russian Hacking in this election, President Obama owes it to the American People to Declassify the Evidence immediately so everyone can see the proof. And Congress should launch a Joint Commission with full subpoena power to investigate not only the claims, but also why the US Intelligence Community can’t even agree on whether Russia is hacking emails.

(And let’s also point out Donald Trump’s response that CIA’s claims should be discounted because the Agency also claimed Saddam Hussein had Weapon of Mass Destruction is correct. In 1993, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY) introduced legislation that would have abolished the CIA. He reasoned that the agency, which failed to predict the fall of the Soviet Union was a useless Cold War relic. What is interesting is it is usually Democrats who distrust the CIA, not Republicans).

There are plenty of people who dislike Donald Trump that are still calling BS on this latest conspiracy theory. Glenn Greenwald and The Intercept, two entities not exactly known as being #EverTrumpers, have also pointed out the numerous reasons why these CIA claims should be taken skeptically.

Let’s accept for the moment that the Russians did hack the DNC’s email server. That would mean they have found a weakness in the server’s security and exploited it. Are we still confident about the FBI’s assessment that Hillary Clinton’s unauthorized, unsecured email server wasn’t hacked?

The Russian’s hacked the DNC server and…. What? Sent out bogus emails from Elizabeth Warren claiming she need your help in transferring money? Nonsense. All of those John Podesta emails, including the ones were he admits his boss, Hillary Clinton, is a liar, are actual emails he sent to other members of the DNC. The revelations that Donna Brazile, a DNC member working as an analyst for CNN leaked debate questions to Hillary’s Camp are true. The emails were Clinton supporters were trying to figure out how to use Bernie Sanders’ Jewish upbringing and current atheism against him in Bible Belt Primaries really did happen. The emails were the Clinton campaign tried squeeze political mileage out of the death of Eric Garner? Yeah those were all emails actually sent by DNC members.

In short, the damage caused to Hillary Clinton’s campaign by the these alleged Russian hacking, was a result of the public being exposed to further proof of the duplicity of the Clinton Campaign and the DNC. It simply reinforced what the public already knew: Hillary Clinton is a congenital liar and would do anything if it brought her power and money. It brings to mind the famous quote from the late Justice Louis D. Brandeis:

“Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.”

If Russia is responsible for the information on Wikileaks, it is a sad commentary on the American Media that a foreign power did more to shed the light on the corruption within our political system than ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, the New York Times, etc. did combined.

Is the RNC as corrupt as the DNC? I see no reason to think the GOP’s HQ is staffed with the Heavenly Host of Angels. I imagine its emails would show their underhanded dealings. It is probably as corrupt as its Democrat counterpart. And therein lies the rub: the DNC is pissed, not for what it did, but because it got caught in its lies and deceptions and the RNC was not. The DNC does not seem to grasp what every 3 year old is taught: “The Everybody Does It” Defense doesn’t work.

What this boils down is one of two things:

  • Russia wished to influence the election in favor of Donald Trump. If this is the case, how is this different from the current administration’s attempts to influence the elections of Israel and Brexit? If we don’t want other countries being busybodies in our internal affairs, maybe we should stop being busybodies in other countries internal affairs.

-or-

  • Russia wished to undermine America’s faith in Democracy. Given the demands by Democrats for a redo of the election because they didn’t get their way, it would appear the Russians’ efforts were merely duplicitous of what Democrats already believe: Democracy is fine so long as the outcome is pre-ordained in your favor.

Either way, this whole “controversy” is much ado about nothing. At the end of the day, Hillary Clinton ran such a gawd-awful campaign, she managed to lose to Donald Trump. No amount of excuse making will alter that unassailable fact.

The Progressive Who Cried Racist

Once Upon a Time….

There was a young progressive who lived in a village. The Progressive’s self appointed job was to protect the villagers from harmful things, such as referring to people by the wrong gender pronouns. (This is why the progressive was known as “The Progressive”.) The Progressive was always finding something wrong with the way the village was being run and would feel compelled to lecture the villagers about it and the proper, progressive way to run a village. The Progressive was very vigilant that only the correct type of people should be in the village or have any say in its governance. And by the correct type, The Progressive meant those who agreed with The Progressive’s beliefs. While the village was nice, the Progressive always dreamed of making the village into…, well…. The Village.

The villager, while not overly happy with the young progressive, tried to humor him/her/whatever for two reasons: 1) Occasionally The Progressive was right and 2) the village as a whole was far more tolerant about The Progressive’s beliefs than The Progressive was about theirs.

Now the progressive’s mentor, an Alinskyite, had always told The Progressive that it was very important to keep the wrong people out of the village lest the Sheep be harmed by a Wolf. Though when the Mentor said “Sheep”, he meant the villagers. And the Mentor said “Wolf”, he meant  anyone who did not agree with the young progressive’s world view. And so The Progressive was ever vigilant for wolves.

One day when the village was seeking a new leader (dealing with The Progressive caused a lot of early retirements in the position),  The Progressive sat watching the Sheep and road that lead through the quiet forest, always on the lookout for people who might come to village and undermine progressive ideology. The mentor had told the Progressive, should a  such Wolf be seen, The Progressive should call for help by shouting “Racists”. “For remember,” the mentor said, Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” This would cause the Villagers would drive away the wolf because they would not want to be seen as racists. 

And on this day, an old man came towards the Village. He had the bearing dignity of someone who had suffered many hardships but was determined to put his best foot forward regardless. “Hello,” he said to The Progressive, “I’ve come about the leadership position. My name is John McCain. Here are my qualifications.” McCain handed the progressive his C.V. The progressive looked at the qualifications, looked up at McCain and then shouted, “Racists! Racists!!”

As expected, the Villagers who heard the cry dropped their work and ran in great excitement to the where the progressive was sitting and chased a very confused John McCain away. (This treatment caused McCain to become quite disordered. For he was later seen wandering the forest shouting nonsensical things such as, “Complete the Danged Fence!“).

When the villagers returned, they asked the young progressive, “What were his racist policies?”

“Well, you can tell by the coded language he uses,” said The Progressive, changing the subject by using a tone that suggested everyone should know what he meant.

The villagers were confused and there was some muttering. One asked The Progressive, “What coded language?”

  The Progressive gave the exasperated sigh one gives to a small child. “The witch hunt he incited,” the Progressive responded, condescension dripping from every syllable. “The way he talked about everyone but him. He was catering to racists and xenophobes.”

The villagers looked at one another. None of them recalled a Witch Hunt. And since they had chased off the man before they had even heard him spoke, they weren’t sure what language the Progressive meant. But even with these nagging doubts, the villagers felt good for getting rid of someone who could have been racists. Some did suggest, in the dark of night, when no one could hear them speak unpopular truths, that maybe there had been rush to judgment and that maybe the old man wasn’t really a racist.

A few days later the progressive was seated in the same place, working on plans to improve the breeding stock of the Sheep, when another man came walking towards the village. While the last man was old, this man was younger, with finely coiffed hair and had an aura of leadership. “Hello,” the man said, flashing his amazingly white teeth. “My name is Willard Montgomery Romney. Most people called me Mitt. I understand your village needs a leader. I’ve done a good job turning around other villagers. Perhaps I can help yours.” As Romney handed his resume, The Progressive shouted, “Racist! Racist!” Again the Villagers ran to help The Progressive and chased Mitt Romney away.

(Though don’t feel to bad for Mitt. While he fled that village, he enjoyed his life, taking time to vacation with his grand-kids).

When the villagers returned from chasing away the “Wolf”, they asked the progressive, “What were his racists policies?”

“Well, if he became the leader, he would literally put black people back in chains,” The Progressive said.

“He actually said that?” asked one of the villagers.

Waving Mitt’s CV, the progressive said, “His whole agenda was a dog whistle to racists.”

A villager looked at the CV and then passed it around to others. None of them could see, or hear this supposed dog whistle. “What else did he say?” another villager asked, skepticism creeping into his voice.

“He kept lists full of women and their information. Binders full of them,” the progressive said smugly.

This got murmurs of disapproval from the crowd. That was surely wrong. But then a third villager, who was looking at the CV said, “According to this, the binders were lists full of women who were capable of running major businesses and government agencies This looks like he was trying to help them, not hurt them.”

“He was a racist and a sexist,” The Progressive stated. “Surely you are not saying we should accept racists and sexists, are you?

The crowd of villagers started to shift uneasily under The Progressive’s gaze.. No one wanted to be called a racist. There were murmurs of “No, of course not” before the crowd slowly dissolved. But, as they all walked home, many villagers started to wonder about recent events. There seemed to have been a lot of cries of racism without any actual proof. Some villagers started to talk to one another about this. (Not openly, of course. They didn’t want to be seen as racist). Had the Progressive not been seated at the edge of the village drinking his coconut milk, no foam latte ( made with ethically sourced coffee beans sold by the Clinton Foundation)  with an air of superiority, the Progressive might have sensed the shifting mood of the village.

Then one evening, as the sun was setting behind the forest and the shadows were creeping out over the pasture, another man appeared. He was well dressed. The man was clearly balding but had an amazing comb-over that all but defied the laws of gravity. The man looked at The Progressive and then the village. “I’m here to run this village. This village is really bad,” the man said. “I mean, I’ve talked to lots of people and they’ve all said, ‘Donald, that Village near the woods is horrible. The Worst. A complete mess. So that’s why I’m here. I’m going to Make this Village Great Again. We’re going to start by getting rid of all of the taco wagons. Then we are going to build a wall. Because everyone knows, and I mean I’ve talked to a lot of people and they all say ‘The village needs a Wall.’ So we are going to have the yugest, most luxurious wall ever built. And we will used it to get rid of all of the undesirable people. And of course we will stop trading with the undesirable people and make everything we need right here. And we’re not going to have any of this political correctness crap. We’re going big league. Not out of my way, Pajama Boy.”

Not understanding that “bigly” was actually Trump saying “big league”, the Progressive was too stunned to move or even speak. And before he knew it, the people of the village had chosen The Donald had become their leader. The Progressive’s mind reeled. “But he’s a racist, xenophobic, misogynist,” the Progressive cried out. “And he is being supported by the Russians!” But no one was around to hear The Progressive’s whines. Being distraught, the Progressive walked into the first bar he spotted. When he opened the door, he was shocked to find a large gathering of white men. “What’s this? Who are these people” he blurted.

“Oh, they’re 199 Neo-Nazis,” said a woman.

The Progressive looked at the group. They were indeed all white men. And they were all dressed like Lady Gaga at a Hillary Clinton Rally. But they didn’t look like the pride of the Aryan Race. It was more like a room full of Joseph Goebbels impersonators. Then the Progressive did a double take. “Tila Tequila?”

“Yes.”

“But why?”

Law and order, I think that’s very important to have. Most people are so used to being all about their ‘freedom,’ so they becomes these little crybabies. They can’t live by laws and rules. Civilization needs to be civilized.

“Oh my Darwin, it’s happening,” he squeaked. The Progressive couldn’t believe racists had made it into his village. He also couldn’t believe people thought they could live by laws and rules he didn’t agree with. It was all too much for him. And he needed to warn the village of the danger it was facing.

The Progressive ran outside. “Racists! Ray-cists!” he cried.

Some of the town folk heard the Progressive. But none went to him. “We’ve been fooled too many times,” said one while another added, “It’s probably another hoax.”  A third looked out a window saw The Progressive fleeing down the street followed by Tequila and the Alt-Righters. This villager said, “Hey, it looks like Mel Brooks is doing a sequel to the Producers  starring Tila Tequila”.

And what is the moral?

The moral isn’t that there aren’t any wolves or racists.

The moral is if you call everyone a racist, no one will care or believe you when the real racists show-up.

 

(If you liked this piece, be sure to check out the Freedom’s Light Anthology, now available for pre-order: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01NBAM5NG)

 

 

The Black Swan Event Donald Trump Needed to Win Was… Donald Trump

Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek. – Barack Obama (2008)

in 2016, Donald Trump of proved 2008’s Barack Obama was correct. Going into the general election this year, all of the structural elements of the US political landscape favored Hillary Clinton to win the Presidency. To win the White House, Donald Trump needed something to change the electoral playing field. And in the end, Donald Trump was the change that he sought.

He was the clichéd Black Swan event.

Well actually, Donald Trump not being Donald Trump was the Black Swan event that brought down the House of Clinton.

Way back when, when Trump became the presumptive nominee, I outlined why I thought he couldn’t win. (Obviously I was wrong). But shortly thereafter, I did list 9 scenarios that could cause the election to swing to Trump.

Amazingly, all of the scenarios, save (thankfully) those involving large scale violence, popped up during the general election campaign in one form or another. But most had a negligible, if any, impact on the campaign trajectory. Clinton’s health was a major talking point for about 24 hours after she collapsed at a 9/11 Remembrance and than it went away. Even the October Surprise Scandal wasn’t why Clinton lost. Granted it didn’t help, but at most all it did was to remind voters that she was Corrupt Little Bo Peep: where ever Clinton goes, scandal is sure to follow. But the revelations showed no massive drop in her support. The polling data showed Clinton’s numbers dropping only slightly.

polling
The Tracking Polls. October 21st was when the Email Scandal re-emerged.

Trump’s unfavorable ratings stayed consistently above Clinton’s and remained 10 points higher when election day rolled around. (Even today, his approval rating is the lowest ever recorded for an incoming President)

What did in the Clinton Campaign was the Black Swan Event of Donald Trump not being Donald Trump.

Consider: during the campaign, from the moment he rode down the escalator at Trump Tower to announce his candidacy, every-time Donald Trump had the opportunity to pivot towards a more Statesman-like approach, he didn’t pivot. Whether it was his claims Ted Cruz’s dad helped Lee Harvey Oswald kill Kennedy; his response to Ted Cruz’s call to vote your conscience; getting into public arguments with Gold Star parents; joking about Hillary Clinton being shot; or having Tweet storms at 3 am attacking Rosie O’Donnell and/or one-time Venezuelan beauty contestants, Donald Trump had a pathological need to inject himself into the news, even if meant taking the spotlight off the Democrats’ numerous attempts at self-immolation. To paraphrase Chris Rock, Donald Trump wasn’t going crazy, Donald Trump was going Donald Trump.

Trump spent the vast majority of the last 4 months big-footing every major news story that was bad for Clinton. For example,  in September, the father of Seddique Mateen (i.e. the ISIS inspired shooter of the Pulse night club) was spotted at a Hillary Clinton campaign rally. Following the rally, he spoke publicly about supporting Clinton. This was a perfect opportunity for Trump to let the focus of the news cycle be on how people with anti-inclusive beliefs and sympathetic to those who hate the American Way of Life support Hillary Clinton. That was a perfect opportunity to make people wonder if the Democrats were being soft on terrorism. But Trump didn’t do this. Instead, he decided it would be the perfect time to crack a joke about Second Amendment supporters stopping Hillary Clinton. And just like that, the focus shifted away from Clinton and towards Trump.

Even during the debates, Trump would lose focus and veer away from the topics being discussed to talk about what he wanted. It always had to be about him.

So when FBI Director Comey sent the letter to Congress concerning the emails on Anthony Weiner’s computer, everyone was waiting for Trump’s to unleash his standard incoherent reaction about Corrupt Hillary. If there was ever a moment when you would expect Trump to stand up and shout “J’accuse!”, this was it. All of Twitter was aquiver at the coming storm.

And then nothing happened.

Lots of folks were wondering what was going on with Trump. He was being unusually quiet. I joked that the campaign must have replaced his phone with a toy phone. Everyone just kept waiting. And waiting. And waiting…

But as that weekend passed and the campaign entered the final week, it became clear Trump wasn’t going to go  Trump. Contrary to everything he did prior to that point, he remained calm and felt no need to be the center of attention.

This was the Black Swan Moment: Donald Trump stayed on message and wasn’t distracted by the media scrum attracted to the bright and shiny scandal. He ceded the public spotlight to Clinton. He even reminded himself in public, “‘Stay on point, Donald, stay on point’ … ‘no sidetracks, Donald, nice and easy, nice.'”

And that was all it took.

The Clinton Campaign’s strategy (such as it was) for the general election was about making this election a referendum: Could We Trust Donald Trump Not to Go Crazy? They used Trump’s volatile nature as Exhibit A as why he should not be allowed anywhere near nuclear weapons. Every time Trump went Trump and injected himself needlessly into some issue, the Clinton Campaign could sit back, shrug and say, Do you really want this for four years? Do you really want to risk a nuclear war because Trump felt insulted by a joke?” And it did work . Up to a point.

So when the email issue came back to the fore and Trump stopped being Trump for the last week of the campaign, the media had not choice but to cover the actual news and remind the public what the email scandal entailed. Clinton was suddenly the center of attention  and the GOP nominee wasn’t doing anything to shift attention away from her and to him.

Without Trump bigfooting the October Surprise, her campaign could offer no reason why the country should vote for Clinton that didn’t involve a variation of “She’s no Donald Trump”. The public already knew that. Voters had been told, repeatedly, why they should vote against Trump. But the Democrats failed to show voters why they should vote for Clinton. Because the entire campaign became predicated on contrasting Clinton to Trump, when Trump failed to do something wacky, the Democrats were forced to present reasons why people should be voting for Clinton beyond her not being crazy Trump.

The decision by Trump’s campaign (and big props to Kellyanne Conway) not to do anything when the email story returned was the one thing Clinton’s campaign could not afford to happen. Democrats were completely unprepared for this reaction. All they could do was play a prevent defense and hope they  could ride out the storm. Clinton’s campaign was reduced to hoping Trump would eventually revert to form and be the loud, brash Trump they needed so people would decide Clinton was the lesser of two evils.

By contrast, the Trump Campaign clearly sensed circumstances were changing and the aura of inevitability was falling from Clinton. They realized they could win was if the dynamics of the campaign changed. So Trump, unlike the Democrats, didn’t wait for someone else to change them.

He was the change he was waiting for.

And that is why Donald Trump won the election.

 

No Hillary Did Not Win the Popular Vote

There are any number of people and organizations claiming that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. This seems to be in part a justification for the nitwits vandalizing property because their preferred candidate didn’t win. While Clinton did (apparently) win more votes, she is not the winner of the popular vote. How can this be? Simple:

We do not have an election that measures the popular vote. We have an election to see who can get the requisite number of Electoral Votes.

Let’s look at the election as if it was a game:

Everyone who wants to play the game goes in knowing the ground rules: Each state is assigned a point value. The first candidate who assembles a group of states whose total value is or exceeds 270 points wins. The player must get tokens (let’s call them voters). Whoever gets the most voters in a state wins that state and gets that states points.

Because of various reasons that we need not go into now, the game currently only has two players having a chance to win.

<grumble, grumble>

When the game begins, each side has a certain amount of points locked in from the start (“the locked states”.) Team blue has 200 points, Team Red 133.

start-of-game
The Board at the Beginning of the Game

Therefore, Team Blue needs only 70* more points to win while Team Red needs 137 points. (What? That’s no fair? Too bad). Now we will add in states that, while not a lock for each team, are certainly leading towards a particular color (“tinted states”).

 

tints
Add in the Leaning States

With that, Red has 198 points and Blue has 259 of the 270 points needed. Each team therefore looks at the map and then decides how to best allocate their resources (time, money and personnel) to get to 270. The locked states need no resource allocation. So each team needs to divide the resources they have between the open states and the tinted states. Team Blue needs to make sure none of the tinted states change color and then pick up 15 points. Team Red on the other hand, needs to hold of the pinkish states while picking up 78 points.

The players know this and allocate their resources accordingly. Most resources go into the open states, with a small portion to the tinted as a backstop). And that is how we ended up with this map:

final
Election 2016 Final Results

And that is how the game is played.

Keep in mind the deep color states are unalterable- a state that started off Deep Blue cannot be changed to Red. (the hows and whys are not relevant for this version of the game. We will deal with those items in another post.). So spending any resources on it will not change the state and simply deprive your team of money & personnel that could be used elsewhere.

Because the goal of the game is to get to 270, not to see who is the most popular nationwide, campaigns are no concerned with the total number of voters. The Electoral College is not part of the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). You don’t get extra points for running up the score. So, it doesn’t matter whether you win Florida by one vote or one million votes, the value of winning Florida remains 29. Team Blue wins California regardless of the number of voters it amasses there. So if you are Team Red, you probably have supporters in California. But whether they vote or not, they cannot affect the color of California. They therefore have a dis-incentive to go out and vote because they can’t be the Hope and Change they want to be. Likewise, Team Blue will waste no resources on encouraging voters in Texas, because it will remain Red.

So saying Clinton won the popular vote nationwide is comparing apples to mangoes. The system is not set up to determine the most popular, merely to ascertain who got what number of Electoral Votes. So the numbers being bandied about claiming Clinton “won” the popular vote are misunderstanding what the numbers mean. It is simply the total of people who voted in the election, regardless of whether their individual vote counted.

Now, the closest you could get to seeing who “won the popular vote” would be to look only at the swing and leaning states. Those states are the only places where there would be a need and incentive for voters to come out and express a preference. These are the states where each team could either change the color (or solidify the hue). And this is how it turned out:

toss-up-winners
Results from Swing and Leaning States

The total number of votes:

Clinton: 26,142,767

Trump: 29,114,234

So Trump “wins” the popular vote of the swing and tinted states.

Even if you remove the leaning states that stayed loyal to their teams, you are looking at these states:

toss-up-sans-hues
Results from Swing States

 

(note: I removed both Nebraska and Maine because I was having trouble finding accurate data for the districts that are used in the split electoral votes. Since the sum total of those two states do no equal the difference in the total votes to Clinton and Trump, the effect on the final numbers are negligible at best).

Clinton: 22,070,732

Trump:23,792,961

If you were to use those numbers (because again these are the states where the most resources would be allocated to get people to vote where the votes would really count), you could make an argument that Trump was “the most popular” candidate by 1,722,229 votes

.But I wouldn’t because that is not how the game is played. The only numbers that are important are Electoral Votes. And Trump won that game, 306-232.

Bonus Fun Fact: In the 1960 Presidential Election, the Alabama ballot did not contain the names of either Richard Nixon or John Kennedy. Instead, the citizens of Alabama were asked to elected the State’s Electoral Voters. Alabama was trying to use it Electoral muscle to ensure the President selected would not follow the lead of Eisenhower and seek the dismantling of Jim Crow. For various reasons, the Electoral Voters were not able to follow through on this. But under the mythical idea of “winner of the popular vote”, it is probable that John Kennedy’s election total should not include a decent portion of the Alabama total meaning he was elected without winning the “popular vote”.

*Update [November 15, 2016 9:30 a.m.]: The original post said Team Blue needed 60 points. Clearly it should have been 70. I had changed the map and forgot to change the corresponding numbers. Thanks to Jack Norris who caught my error.