Monday, February 29, 2016

Trump to Political Science: Drop Dead, Part VII (Checking Our Pulse)

As I wrap up Phase I of the "Trump to Political Science: Drop Dead" series, it is time to check the pulse of the discipline.

Let's be blunt.  There isn't really a prominent model of nomination politics, nor electoral politics generally, that would have predicted a Trump victory, but tomorrow is Super Tuesday, and it isn't clear how anyone stops Trump at this point, which is why the prediction markets put his chances of victory at around 80%.  Could he still lose?  Sure, but we all clearly underestimated him.

Everybody makes mistakes once in a while.  There are two questions here:  were we mistaken because our models led us astray, and how do we respond to our mistakes?  Parts II through VI of the Drop Dead series addressed the former, but the real test is the latter.  So, what are political scientists saying about Trump's surprising success?  Is anybody questioning their own models because their predictions were wrong?

Here's what I'm looking for:  a political scientist who says, "I didn't think Trump had a chance because X.  Trump is winning anyway.  I am now less certain of X, and looking for a better model."

Well, let's head on over to The Monkey Cage.  I see a bunch of pieces on race, ethnicity and the Republican Party.  There's this fascinating piece on how primary voters weigh ideology and electability.  Lots of cool stuff.  Not much about the models that steered us wrong.

OK, let's head on over to Mischiefs of Faction, also known as the Politburo for The Party Decides.  Remember those people who think party elites control the nomination process?  Nope, not much introspection there.  Dig through the archives and you'll find a few pieces like this and this recognizing that the failure of the Republican Party to "decide" on a non-Trump candidate is at least disconcerting, but not much in the way of questioning the underlying model itself.  Masket even explicitly rejects the claim that Trump's victory undercuts the model.

Let's head on over to Jonathan Bernstein's place, and see what the high priest of The Party Decides has to say.  Any admissions of being wrong there?  Nope.

Huh.  It's almost as if my colleagues in political science don't want to admit that we all had it wrong, and we need to figure out why.

Next, I'll begin a series on what political science has to say that explains Trump.  The answer:  Nelson W. Polsby had it right in 1983 with Consequences of Party Reform.

Truth in advertising:  Nelson was my grad school mentor.  I miss him.

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