Thursday, April 7, 2016

Trump may lose, but political science still got it wrong

As Trump denialists regroup to bask in the first real signs of weakness in the Trump campaign, it is worth taking stock.  I have been writing a series of posts called "Trump to Political Science: Drop Dead," in which I discuss the many ways that Donald Trump has exposed serious problems in how we look at elections.  It is worth remembering, then, that even if he doesn't get the nomination, we got a lot wrong.

One would be hard-pressed to find political scientists who gave Trump much of a chance last year.  The irony is that it is only slightly easier to find political scientists who gave Cruz a chance, and it looks like we are down to Cruz and Trump.  As a demonstration of this oddity, here is a piece I wrote last year for Mischiefs of Faction on Cruz and the general belief among many Republicans that the true conservatives are the strongest general election candidates.  As a moderated blog, I tailored the piece to their preferences, and in that process, it was conveyed to me that there would be no discussion of whether or not Cruz could even get the nomination because it was so blindingly obvious that Cruz would never get the nomination anyway.  Why?  Because Mischiefs of Faction (now hosted by Vox), is the politburo for a book that I... find lacking.  (You can read my thoughts on The Party Decides here).  For what it's worth, when Cruz announced, I thought he had a small but non-zero chance.

So, here we are, with the top two candidates being people written off by nearly all of the political science community.  If Cruz takes the nomination out from under Trump, we will have taken it on the chin.  If Trump wins, we all suck.  And even if a brokered convention gives the nomination to a normal candidate, both Trump and Cruz outperformed by so much that we couldn't just claim victory.  And it shows us how wrong we were this year since we fell back on the old refrain that there wouldn't be a brokered convention because such a thing is impossible (see my earlier thoughts on that here).  Of course, I no longer see a Trump/Cruz coalition coming out of a brokered convention, but that just makes things even crazier.

Trump and Cruz both outperformed.  Nothing that happens now can absolve us of having gotten so much wrong.  And don't take seriously anyone who looks at a brokered convention selecting a normal candidate, or a Cruz victory as vindication of political science.

We got it wrong.

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