Friday, June 3, 2016

Two recent events, and their effects on the presidential race

Consider two recent events, potentially relevant to the presidential campaign.

First, the Republican nominee, who is currently facing a class action lawsuit for fraud, has insisted that the judge the removed from the case.  The judge was born in Indiana, but Trump described him as "Mexican," rather than even "Mexican-American,"and his reason for demanding the removal of the judge is the premise that no one of Latino decent will give him a fair trial.  To be clear, the presidential nominee of a major party is insisting that a judge be removed from his case for the sole reason of ethnicity.  The phrase he has used is "conflict of interest," but he is asserting that anyone of Latino decent has a conflict of interest, making them unfit to judge Trump.

Second, the latest jobs report came out.  38,000 new jobs in May.  That is horrendous.  It could be a blip, or it could portend a major economic downturn.

The second contains new information that could have a significant impact on the presidential race, handing the White House to, yes, Donald Trump.  From an economic perspective, the employment/unemployment statistics are actually poor predictors of the outcome.  I will assuredly write a post on that later.  The better predictors are GDP growth, and inflation-adjusted income statistics.  In particular, I am fond of the Alan Abramowitz "Time For a Change" model of presidential elections, and Doug Hibbs' "Bread and Peace" model.  Abramowitz uses GDP growth, and Hibbs uses "real disposable income."  A bad jobs report could portend problems for both down the line.  We should update our predictions of the outcome accordingly.

The first contains no new information.  The incident is exactly what any Trump-watcher should predict.  We should remember that, once upon a time, Trump promised that he would win a majority of votes from Latinos, so at least he is now acknowledging the fact that his campaign rhetoric and proposals make that about as likely as Donald Trump winning the Nobel Prize for physics, but my point is merely that this incident does not provide any insight into Donald Trump that we didn't already have.  The question is whether or not this affects anything.

The state of the economy has a strong effect on the outcome of a presidential campaign.  What happens, though, when one candidate breaks all the rules on the discussion of race and ethnicity?  We don't know.  Nobody has talked about race and ethnicity this way as a presidential candidate in a long, long time.  As I have said before, science progresses as weird events happen, forcing us to adapt to explain them.  We learn how important the rules about racial dialog are when somebody breaks them.

So, really, Donald Trump is just trying to help us political scientists out.  Thanks, Donnie-boy!

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