Saturday, January 6, 2018

The Bannon kerfuffle: Did Trump want/expect to win in 2016?

There is so much to unpack with Fire and Fury, and... I haven't read it.  I probably won't.  I'll still comment on a couple of big points that have already slipped out.  One of the more interesting pieces is the contention, made by Bannon, that Trump didn't think he was going to win the 2016 election.  Some of the messes we are experiencing, then, are the result of that lack of preparation.  I thought I might tackle this one.

Did Trump want to be President?  Clearly, no.  He never wanted the responsibilities of the job.  That much has always been obvious.  Trump has always been fundamentally uninterested in public policy and administrative tasks.  That is separate from two other questions.

1)  Did Trump want to win the election?

2)  Did Trump expect to win the election?

When addressing these two questions, I'll make some basic observations about Trump.  First, he can't tolerate any public humiliation.  Second, he doesn't think coherently, so he has a remarkable tolerance for cognitive dissonance.  Third, he has a remarkable capacity for self-delusion.  I don't really think there is a clear answer to either question, then.

Did Trump want to win?  Here was the bind.  If he won, he'd be president.  He didn't want the job, but he can't stand losing.  Neither outcome was tolerable.  Solution?  Well, a) he shouldn't have run in the first place, but b) losing and saying it was "rigged" might actually have been kind of OK for him, if he could tell himself that he didn't really lose.  Remember that capacity for self-delusion thing.  So, maybe he didn't want to win.  Then again, that's still losing, so...  Again, he was in a bind.  That's why he shouldn't have run.  If you hate losing more than anything else, don't run.  Particularly if you don't even want the job.

So, did he want to win, or did he not want to win?  Can you both want to win and want to lose?  Have you ever been ambivalent about anything?  Trump really may have been ambivalent about what he wanted on election night.  I'd bet he was.  He was damned either way.  Either he lost, which he hates, or he was stuck with a job that he would despise, being constantly scrutinized and criticized by the media, which he hates.  Also, being investigated by the FBI...

When he entered the presidential election, he didn't think it through because he never thinks anything through.

The harder question, though, is whether or not Trump expected to win.  As of election day, 2016, the betting markets were heavily against Trump.  The polls were heavily against Trump.  The analysts (hi!) were heavily against Trump.  He looked doomed.  Why?  Because he is the worst candidate in history.

Enough revisionist history bullshit.  Pundits and other lower life forms try to re-write their assessments ex post facto, such that Hillary Clinton was always the weaker candidate than Donald Trump, but... no.  Just... no.  Listen to this again and tell me that Hillary Clinton was a weaker candidate than this fucking rapist piece of fucking shit because she sent emails from the wrong account while serving as Secretary of State.

Oh, but Hillary didn't go to Wisconsin!

If you wanted to say that... fuck you.  You don't get to say that after the fact and claim that Pussy-grabber is the stronger candidate because Hillary didn't go to Wisconsin.  Bull-fucking-shit.

And if you tell me that Hillary Clinton is just kind of "shrill," or something like that to justify your claim that Pussy-grabber was the stronger candidate...

There will be consequences.  Hillary Clinton did not follow proper procedure as Secretary of State for her communications.  That was a problem.  Donald Trump is a rapist.  You don't get to say that Trump is the stronger candidate because he won.  No.  The fact that he won meant that the candidates didn't fucking matter.

(And no, youtube caption, those aren't "lewd" remarks.  Trump was bragging about rape.  Fuck all you people.  Yes, I use the word, "fuck."  You know what I'm not doing?  Bragging about sexual assault!  Think about words, and think about meaning!)

Once the Access Hollywood tape surfaced, there weren't a whole lot of intelligent people who gave Trump a chance in the 2016 election.  Why?  Because the idiotic rapist motherfucker brags about his ability to get away with sexual assault.

However, among the unwashed masses, you could find people who expected Trump to win.  They were called "Republicans."  In the 2016 American National Election Studies survey, we did what we always do:  ask people whom they expected to win, regardless of their preferences.  By a 2-1 margin, expectations were that Clinton would win, in the pre-election survey (61.3% to 34.8%, with a smattering of other answers given by the most truly stupid respondents).  Those answers were not randomly distributed.  93.6% of "strong Democrats" (the most "Democratic" on a 7-point scale) expected Clinton to win, and on the opposite end of the spectrum, 75.4% of "strong Republicans" expected Trump to win.  Of course, the Democrats were more sure of their expectations, and by 54% to 33.3%, Independents thought Clinton would win, but the point is that partisans, as always, expect their side to win.

This is among the masses.  Elites?  Well, elites can at least focus more on the polls.

Here's the deal, though.  There are two things going on with the masses:  lack of information, and propensity to go with hopes.  Elites have more information, but they aren't necessarily less likely to have psychological biases.  (Sometimes elites have more psychological biases!  That's a whole other can-o-worms, though.)

Elites can, in principle, look at polls.  Voters could too, but... most aren't particularly literate.  Sorry (not sorry), but it's true.  Candidates usually obsess over polls.  How they interpret the polls, though, is another matter.

A sane, intelligent candidate polling the way Trump did in 2016 would think, "well, I'm going to lose.  OK, then.  Maybe I'll try to lose with some dignity."  Dignity.  Does anyone remember what dignity looked like in the political system?  I think that was before we had to talk about pussy-grabbing, my button is bigger than yours, and such.  Anyway...

What did Trump do?  He accused everyone of being involved in a massive, global conspiracy against him.  The polls were all a lie and the election was being rigged against him.  The polls being faked were a part of that global conspiracy.  Yes, remember that he really did talk about a global conspiracy back in October of 2016.

As crazy as it sounds for me to type that, it really is just what Trump was saying, going into the election, which was why, when asked if he would accept the results of the election, he said that he would accept the results, "if I win."

Did Trump think he was going to win?  Did he think the conspiracy was real?  Did he think the polls were really fake?  They were wrong, but that's different from being intentionally faked as a part of a global conspiracy.  Was he setting himself up, psychologically, to deal with a loss, preparing a challenge to that loss, explaining that he was really about to win...?

Or none of the above?

Giving a clear answer for what was going on in Trump's head as he said this stuff requires there being a clear thing going on in Trump's head as he said this stuff.

In math, one of the standard approaches to a "proof" is to take a proposition, assume that it is false, and show how that leads to a contradiction.  In so doing, you prove your proposition.  What constitutes a proof-through-disproof?  Let's say that assuming your proposition is false leads to X equaling both 4 and 5 at the same time.  Since 4≠5, the proposition cannot be false.  Therefore, it must be true.

A normal human being experiences discomfort attempting to hold two inconsistent ideas in his head at the same time.  This discomfort is called "cognitive dissonance."  Trump is not a normal human being.  He does not experience cognitive dissonance.  He "believes" whatever is convenient for him at the time.  I'm not actually certain it is appropriate to say he "believes" anything, given the brazenness and crassness with which he lies about every fucking thing ever.  Leon Festinger would have had so much fun studying Trump...  The man without fear of cognitive dissonance.  It's almost like he belongs in a comic book!  (Wrong part of Manhattan, though...)

So, did Trump expect to win?  Did he expect to lose?  I... don't think that either is appropriate to say.  I don't think he had a clear single belief because Trump doesn't have a clear single belief about anything.  This is part of what makes it so frustrating for any sane, intelligent person to listen to Trump.  Is it possible that he expected to lose, as Steve Bannon has implied?  Sure.  Is it possible that he expected to win because Trump believes himself to be such a winner?  Sure!

Is it possible that both were true?  If Trump were a sane person, then no.  But, this is Donald Trump, who is incapable of feeling cognitive dissonance.  From one moment to the next, he says whatever is most convenient at the time, and may convince himself of whatever is most convenient in that very instant.  I have no clue what Trump really believed about his chances in 2016.  I don't think it is appropriate to say he even had a belief.  I don't think it is appropriate to say that Trump has thoughts or beliefs about anything.

This is the President of the United States of America.  I don't think it is appropriate to say that he has coherent thoughts or beliefs about anything.  That is truly terrifying.

Is Steve Bannon correct to say that Trump expected to lose?  That completely misses the point.

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