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Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Saddest of Puppies



What Happened

What happened was this:
  1. There is a prestigious annual award given for science fiction and fantasy called The Hugos.
  2. A group of people with a couple of leaders on what might be described as the right-wing end of the political spectrum felt that too many progressive voices (women authors, stories with less literary merit but about progressive / social justice ideas, and so on) were getting elevated for political reasons--and formed a backlash. These people were called the Sad Puppies (or, for a different group, the Rabid Puppies).
  3. They managed to get authors they favored (some of whom were horrified to be included in the social-justice-war) onto the ballots, ensuring that in a five-category field like Best Short Story, one of their authors would win (as all five of their authors were the picks).
  4. The Hugo Awards came out and they refused to issue some awards in areas where the puppies had been successful. 
  5. All of this, from all sides, has made a lot of people very angry--and many of the individual decisions here have been widely regarded as bad ideas.

How Did This Happen, Exactly?

Here's what's interesting about this whole thing: the Internet Organization factor. The battle lines are the same ones we've seen in #GamerGate (although the puppies do pre-date them by some months) and in the general election (Trump?). It's a backlash against political correctness and progressivism on one side (the puppies) against a less organized--but still prevalent--front of groups seeking more inclusiveness of traditionally marginalized deomographics as an emergent priority.

If that sounds like evil vs. good, consider that if one elevates inclusiveness above quality (or above any other qualities)--which is what the puppies allege--then, in fact, you would be degrading the quality of the award, games, journalism, the election, whatever.

Inclusiveness as a top-priority is not necessarily an unalloyed good.

That said, the black-lash contains some pretty damn toxic people. Here you can cruise author 'Vox Day' to get a taste of the drivers in play.

No--the drivers aren't new--or all that interesting--but what they are is persistent. We'll keep seeing this again and again as the culture war grinds on. What's interesting is how a minority of culture-warriors (the puppies) used the Internet to take over the Hugos.


This probably isn't shocking--but it should be of interest to anyone with an interest in "Democracy." 

The net effect is that in a Democracy, the most-organized / most-motivated force wins. It appears that the key element of organization is the Internet (and it isn't going away). The most-potent motivating force is . . . anger.

The Angry Puppies

One thing that you should get right away when looking at any of the material from the Puppies: Their emotion wasn't sadness--it was anger. Anger--in an electoral process--tracks to engagement. From The University of Virginia's Center for Politics:
What makes partisan anger especially significant is that it is greatest among the most politically engaged and active members of the electorate. An analysis of the 2012 ANES data shows that there was a very strong relationship between political involvement and anger. Using the number of reported campaign activities — voting, canvassing for a candidate, trying to influence someone’s vote choice, donating to a campaign, etc. — as our measure of political involvement, we found that most active partisans were the angriest at the other party’s presidential candidate. Figure 1 displays this relationship.
If one were to engage in conspiracy theory, one might think this was being harnessed intentionally.

It should be noted that electoral politics aren't the only place where rage-based behavior plays out. An analysis of consumer call-center behavior by party affiliation found the following:
  1. Democrats swear more on call center calls--but Republicans yell/raised their voices more.
  2. Republicans sought revenge against companies they felt had crossed them three times as often as Democrats.
  3. Republicans felt that time spent complaining was worthwhile 73% of the time compared to Democrats 56%.
These differences aren't insignificant--the investment of time being seen as "worthwhile" and taking additional steps to 'seek revenge' is the sort of thing that equates to mobilizing behavior in any domain.

In other words: if you have angry people gaming the system you're going to be very, very effective.

Anger At SJWs

In the case of the Hugo awards, the anger was channeled against 'Social Justice Warriors.' This is an amorphous category of people whose crime is generally scolding someone else on the Internet. Of course there are cases where people have been fired from their jobs for saying improper things--and stirring up a social-justice mob--but statistically speaking, this is extremely rare and limited.

Simply put, most people have not ever been harmed by even extreme social justice advocates and, in the cases where someone has had their feelings hurt, it's generally in either specific communities or on, like, Tumblr.

The Omnivore thinks that there is a general--if mild--erosion of white-male-dominance going on in society. We see this in media with a great deal more inclusion of people of color, women, other minority groups. We see nods to non-mainstream genders on Facebook.

We see sexual harassment laws and other anti-discrimination acts being passed. People who are transgender may soon serve in the military. Gay marriage is legal.

Women are playing, making, and reviewing video games in greater numbers.

Church attendance is down--especially among the young.

All of this--and the force--the intentional force--behind some of it--is, in fact, an encroachment on what were, previously, white-male dominated domains. This, at least in some cases, generates anger--and that anger is susceptible to being harnessed by anyone who can bear a standard that aims to "stand up the bullies."

A massive part of Donald Trump's appeal is that he says things people--especially public people and politicians--and particularly conservative politicians--get sanctioned for and he doesn't back down. 

In the case of any gamable voting system, the use of Internet organization and the capability to draw from a lot of people who feel generally angry--even without a particular dog in the fight (The Omnivore suspects that many, many of the Hugo Sad Puppies voters had little particular interest in the works they voted for--how could they? It was a bloc-vote) is going to be a highly effective force.

Conclusions

The Omnivore thinks we're going to see the Sad-Puppies/#GamerGate dynamic play out over and over for the next decade. The rallying cry to organize against perceived threats will be potent--and if a community doesn't have checks and balances (the Hugos had the capability to issue 'No Award' for some categories and used it) then they will be vulnerable to being gamed. 

While this might lead to less general-voter participation, The Omnivore suspects that it will, instead, lead to more robust interaction systems being developed. Anger is a constant--but as we see with, for example, the Democrat's "Super Delegate" system, there are ways of mitigating its impact. As society shifts, we may need to enhance those immune systems.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Conservative Pundits Are Being Willfully Blind About Trump

Trump Rally In The Matrix ... 
One of the most startling aspects of the Trump phenomena has been watching various observers on the right look for blame as The Donald crushes yet another poll or holds yet another mega-rally. The stages of blame evolved like this:
  1. Donald Trump. An easy call. He's certainly the guy who said "Someone's doing the raping"--today that seems like a quaint roadblock to winning Latino votes in 2016. However ... anyone could just come out and say stuff like that--in order for Trump to be leading the national vote for the past month there needs to be a second factor . . .
  2. A Minority of Idiot Voters. Here things get tricky. When Trump was at like 13% and neck-and-neck with Bush and Walker--and trailing Bush in Florida and Walker in Iowa--it was easy to say that it was a marginalized swath of idiots who were having a lark or a summer-fling. That lasts for a while--but when Trump broke away in Iowa and now runs even with Jeb in Florida--and is pulling close to 30% (and above in some cases) in national polls the problem ceases to be a small group and becomes more like . . . 
  3. The GOP Base. By the time you have reached 30% Likely Voters you are no longer in the small-group-of-malcontents. At this point you have to recognize that Trump is winning support across a large band from conservatives ... to moderates . . . to squishy liberal RINOs?  His voter base isn't limited to one of the traditional three legs (national defense, evangelical, or fiscal conservatism)--Trump pulls from everywhere. This is when you start seeing debates about how to "approach these people"--i.e. pleas not to insult them--we'll need them! At this point it's time to blame . . .
  4. Obama. He's got us all so demoralized and degraded that even stalwart red-blooded Americans are going "What the fuck? Why not Trump."* 


Noah Rothman moves to Stage 4 in a Commentary piece entitled "The Joke's On Us"
Many of those blinkered political commenters who allowed themselves to be swept up in the diaphanous hysteria that resulted in Barack Obama’s presidency convinced themselves that he was a change agent of divine wisdom. A “lightworker,” as the San Francisco Gate’s Mark Morford called him. They said Obama would restore America’s faith in the United States, in government in general, and even in ourselves. “That campaign restored a faith in politics that most of us thought we had lost,” gushed The Hill’s Niall Stanage. “America has restored the world’s faith in its ideals,” The Guardian averred without evidence. Seven years later, it’s clear that the effects of Obama’s presidency have not been to restore but to sap faith in the American system. We have so little reverence for the order bequeathed to us by the nation’s enlightened founding generation, in fact, that we deface it with adolescent acts of directionless defiance.
It's deliciously ironic that Noah's piece, tracing the current clown-show to Obama, commits the same mistake that got us here in the first place (here you can see the Washington Examiner finding Trump 'Like Obama Where It Counts--vain and naive).

The Problem: Trump Is Legit Appealing To the GOP Base

A quick look at Vox's smarmy "The Republican Party doesn't want to believe its voters agree with Trump. But they do is in order. This kind of basic analysis focuses on healthcare and immigration 'reform' -- and while Vox is right: a lot of people seem to want a decent entitlement state with tight border enforcement -- this elides the problem that Trump is not just a stalwart immigration reformist who also believes in the Great Society Social Programs. No, Trump is a bomb-thrower.

Let's ask Peter Wehner who wrote back in the day (May 23 2015) that the Democrats had become a radical leftist party, risking some kind of ideological roche limit in their hysterical flight from the center:
Progressive figures like Senator Elizabeth Warren and Mayor Bill de Blasio are the politicians who electrify the Democratic base. 
For demographic reasons, many Democrats believe that they are riding a tide of presidential inevitability. They may want to rethink that. They are placing a very risky bet that there are virtually no limits to how far left they can go.
A few days ago, we check back in on Mr. Wehner writing in Politico about the 2016 Republican candidates' positions on repeal of birthright citizenship:
“It’s a terrible idea. It’s a politically insane idea. It can’t be done. It’s impossible to achieve,” said Peter Wehner, senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and former official in the George W. Bush White House. “So what’s the point? It’s symbolism and it’s exactly the wrong kind of symbolism. If Republicans want to make this their symbol … they’ll pay a high price for it.”
Pete: Check your Twitter Mentions--The Omnivore wants desperately to find out how the Democrats went from the champions of radical politics to having the Republicans do something terrible and insane--and, erm, impossible? We Need To Figure This Out!!

No, the staid analysis of Vox hinges on the policy positions at 50,000 feet. The policy positions--which are, yes, more or less impossible--aren't the point. The point is the bomb throwing. This is why Stage 3 is so tricky: If you can't get to Stage 4 (Blame Obama) you have to look at some very ugly potential scenarios. Let's do that (The Omnivore is sure Pete will read this!)

The Third Rail Scenarios 

In the New York Subway system the third rail is the one that has the electrical power for the car. If you touch it, you die. Rhetorically, a "third rail" is something that's too toxic to discuss or too disturbing to think about. In this context, for political purposes, it's realizing "your side" has a very deep and horrifyingly obvious problem. Here Hot Air's Jazz Shaw flirts with the third rail when, on August 7th (ancient history now) he observes:
Returning to the point I originally set out to make, our candidates aren’t just flummoxed by how to gain traction and get ahead of Trump in the polls. They seem to be failing an even bigger test when the media inevitably comes to them and asks why Trump is doing so well. Many respond by saying that Trump is just a celebrity and we’re a nation of folks who are fascinated by celebrities. But he’s leading in polls of people who are both registered Republicans and likely voters. These are the most involved, informed voters in the nation. When you do this you’re basically telling your base that they are vacuous consumers of brain numbing TV pablum. That’s really no way to win over the base, folks.
Yeah--you don't want to think about this too much--but maybe we'd better. When asking how is Trump winning when he's saying absurd, destructive things, there are three possibilities::
  1. Trump's appeal is solely a protest vote: a significant amount of his support comes because voters are sending a calculated message to the GOP Establishment that they are unhappy. They will settle down and vote Scott Walker when the time comes.
  2. The GOP--even the college educated swath--are what would be described as "Low Information Voters" (the kind that naively handed 2008 and 2012 to Obama)--this is the David Brooks / George Will position).
  3. Trump voters are neither playing a deceptive game nor are not-paying-attention--but instead, across a large swath of the GOP electorate identify not only with what Trump is saying it--but the way he is saying it. The GOP, in practical terms (judged by selected candidate), is a White Nationalist party which selects delusional policy positions and school-yard insults as rhetoric.

Scenario 1: Trump Support is a Calculated Choice

Image Search: "Political Calculator"
In this scenario a very large number of people, without coordination, and without declaring this on social media, have made the decision to pretend to support Donald Trump until, say, November (or something) in order to register their anger and dissatisfaction with the GOP Establishment. In this (comforting) scenario, people are 'righteously angry' but are not insane. When the time comes, they will revert back to a more reasonable candidate (Walker, Rubio, Cruz?) and choose someone who won't wreck the nation.

If this were the case, what would we see? Well, for one thing, we'd see people saying it--a lot. People leak. Yes: sending a message won't work if you telegraph that you're not serious--but for literally millions of people in the Trump-Voter demographic, some of them would be talking.

However, if you don't buy that (or you can accept that some kind of mass emergent behavior of deception could happen) there's another couple of testable metrics:
  1. First and Second Choice Polling: In this kind of polling, voters are asked who their first choice is--and then their second. In the event of a conspiracy of Trumping, we would see something like Trump-First and then Rubio second. What do we see? Trump first. Trump second. Trump leads in first at 24% and leads in second at 14%. Furthermore Jeb trails the first-choice at 13%. If people were looking to "send a message" to the GOP Establishment, this is not the way to do it.
  2. Who Do You THINK Will Win Polling: In this event, voters are asked who they THINK will win the nomination--NOT who-they-are-voting-for. This test would tend to get around a strategic protest candidate because a lot of people who are not part of the protest movement will say who they think is the strongest. What do we see? Trump.
Anyone who tells themselves that the support for Donald Trump is a somewhat disingenuous attempt to shake up the elite without breaking politics altogether should be aware that this is not what the numbers say.


Scenario 2: American Idiots -- Trump Voters Are Dumb

The Omnivore Wanted Something That Wasn't Green Day--And While You've All Seen This Already, There's Nothing Better ...
In this formulation, Trump voters are just dumb. Trump is appealing to the lowest common denominator and, hey, there's one in every political party (and some parties are nothing but, right?). This is less comforting than Scenario 1--but far, far better than Scenario 3. The usual balm here is that the Base is angry--and, yes, angry people sometimes do stupid things.

The problem with this theory on the face of it is:
  1. Angry people do stupid things in the heat of the moment. Not years after an election or a failure to repeal Obamacare.
  2. Trump draws support from, according to polling, educated and moderate-liberal demographics. These people are presumably not Low Information Voters and are not politically stupid. 
  3. The GOP Field is supposed to be giving us the strongest group in any recent history. So many good choices! So many real conservatives!
Paul Mirengoff at PowerLine puts all this properly in perspective:
Anger is an understandable reaction to the current political scene, but it’s no excuse for stupidity. 
Yes, Republicans as a party haven’t fulfilled expectations when it comes to advancing a conservative agenda. But at least they didn’t enact a Canadian-style single payer health care system (which is what the Democrats have always wanted) or impose massive tax increases on the wealthy. Trump, as noted, favored both of these core liberal agenda items. 
And why assume that all 16 of Trump’s GOP rivals are to blame for the failure of Republicans to push a conservative agenda through Congress? Is Scott Walker guilty? He successfully took on the powerful public sector unions in Wisconsin when Trump was trying still trying to decide whether he’s a liberal or a conservative. 
Is Ted Cruz guilty? In an attempt to undo Obamacare, he orchestrated a partial government shutdown. What else do Trump supporters think he should have done, engage in self-immolation? 
What about Bobby Jindal? How is he to blame for Republicans “not doing what they said they would do” when they got to Washington? 
Prefer the false purity that comes with never having held public office? What’s wrong with Ben Carson? Unlike Trump, he has a consistent record of supporting conservative principles.
This is a very, very good point: there are so many protest candidates in the field, why is everyone lining up behind the guy who probably fits the bill the worst? It has to be something else.


Scenario 3: The Comments Section Election

From The Brilliant Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal
One of the commonly stated bits of Internet self-care is never read the comments. This is because the comments section is always the anonymous-comment-driven dregs of verbiage with trolls, counter trolls, counter-counter-trolls, legitimate idiots (all of whom feel self-important enough to post), and so on. Comments sections are often a horrible view into the American Id.

Blog authors--and in this case, since, you know, Trump, we'll focus on conservative blog authors--have learned to distance themselves from their comments sections. Oh, to be sure, they look at them (don't let anyone tell you otherwise). When they see a deluge of toxic sludge the assure themselves:
  • It's a tiny, non-representative sample of idiots. 
  • Or one idiot with sixteen different screen-names.
  • It's the nature of the Internet for people to dial up the stupid or the crazy.
  • They don't really mean that.
  • Some of them are liberals posting caricatures of conservative view-points.
  • One of those assholes is probably actually Obama.
Trump's ascendancy, however, puts the lie to all of these.  

If you think you know what The Omnivore is going to say--that Donald Trump is essentially a conservative-blog comments section that has "gone SkyNet"--you are only half right. That's the joke version of the thesis. The rabbit hole goes much deeper. No--Trump is actually running a campaign that has a literal basis in the same drivers that create the online discourse known to be toxic.

It isn't literally the commentators who are electing Trump--no, it's the great silent-majority GOP Base masses--but the appeal of Trump--and his method of gaining support--is rooted in the same place that gives us FoxNewsComments. What does The Omnivore mean?

Online Comments discourse is impacted by two things: Lack of Accountability (usually due to anonymous posting or, at least, no direct easy real-world link to the poster), and a congruent Lack of Civility (the usual social morays around politeness go to the wayside when you aren't accountable). Donald Trump embodies both of these. He is not accountable to the usual social-gatekeepers (by virtue of what is technically known as "Fuck You Money" rather than anonymity)--and he is not remotely civil (he calls people babies as an insult).

From The Time's story on what may be an incredibly durable Trump coalition:
His support is not tethered to a single issue or sentiment: immigration, economic anxiety or an anti-establishment mood. Those factors may have created conditions for his candidacy to thrive, but his personality, celebrity and boldness, not merely his populism and policy stances, have let him take advantage of them.
Tellingly, when asked to explain support for Mr. Trump in their own words, voters of varying backgrounds used much the same language, calling him “ballsy” and saying they admired that he “tells it like it is” and relished how he “isn’t politically correct.
Trumpism, the data and interviews suggest, is an attitude, not an ideology.
Indeed it is--it is the attitude of telling #BlackLivesMatter to come try and take his microphone. It's refusing to back down on calling undocumented immigrants rapists--even after the ritual sponsor-collapse part of the equation. Trump's resolute refusal to apologize--even in the face of Armageddon**--and his willingness to sling fired-from-the-hip insults is the source of his power--it's the fulcrum of his appeal.

During the discussion of Trump's John-McCain-Gaffe ('gaffe') The Omnivore went to the comments sections of a few conservative blogs and contrasted the support there against the lack of it. It was notable that just about every actual blogger--conservative or otherwise--was of the opinion that the gaff could be (would be--and in some cases--should be) fatal. The comments sections, on the other hand? Overwhelming support for Mr. Trump.

The Omnivore was told, by several people, that, of course, The Comments Sections don't mean anything--statistically speaking--but The Omnivore already knew that--what he was looking at was this: The Comments Sections reflect--are driven by the same underlying forces--as the Trump constituency. 

In other words: if you are a conservative blogger who has ever looked in askance at the worst excesses of the responses to your articles? If you dismissed those guys? It's time to stop doing that: they're about to hand the primary over to Donald Trump in the midst of what you, yourself, told them was the "strongest line up in modern times" and was "far stronger than the weak-ass corrupt-ass Democrats."

Yes--yes you did. And you believed it too. Square that with the fact that Bernie Sanders, the fucking communist***, isn't running away with the nomination. Trump, The Donald, is--or maybe is about to be.

Like millions of other Americans, I am a registered Republican. According to Timothy Egan, writing in yesterday’s New York Times, that makes me responsible for the vitriol and inanities currently being spewed by Donald Trump. Trump, writes Egan, “is a byproduct of all the toxic elements Republicans have thrown into their brew over the last decade or so.” Not some Republicans, mind you, but all Republicans including those who might disagree with Trump but have allowed “any amount of gaseous buffoonery [to go] … unchallenged.”
... 
It is absurd to contend, as Egan does, that Donald Trump is a concoction of the Republican party. Trump is his own creation and if he succeeds in selling that creation as the Republican nominee for president of the United States (a prospect less likely than finding life on Pluto) I and many others predisposed to vote for a Republican may find ourselves voting for Hillary. Only then can we fairly be held accountable for the results.
Yeah--really Jim? Really? If you think this is Trump's doing alone, you're kidding yourself. The only thing that's becoming clear as this goes on is that you aren't fooling anyone else.

Updated: Here's a telling comment from Hot Air--
It’s interesting that I never see politicians or writers on the left call their base “racists”, “stupid”, “uneducated”, “unreasonably angry”, etc. 
When was the last time Obama called blacks “racists” ? When was the last time Pelosi called abortionists “murderers” ? 
Why is it that the GOPe feels that it can vilify us ?
jaime on August 24, 2015 at 10:50 PM

* It is unsporting--but important to note--that it was just before this that a lot of online commentators were shocked at the amount of racism in American nationalism and racists/white nationalists behind Trump. To everyone else, this was Gambling-In-The-Establishment, of course--but it really was a surprise to a bunch of these fellows.

** Ted Cruz's favorite super hero was Rorschach, a guy who would never compromise--not even in the face of Armageddon. Cruz aspires to this--but he did back down. Trump lives it.

*** The fact that Sanders isn't a communist--and isn't even the kind of socialist you paint him as (he's the Canadian kind--we know that Canada is a post-apocalypse wasteland of oil-sands, soccer riots, and draconian overlords).

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Process of Elimination

WHO WILL BE FIRST TO FALL??
Last night Trump held a massive rally in Alabama*. Perhaps the most symbolic event of the night wasn't the large crowd but the attempt by Jeb's Right To Rise SuperPac to get in a dig:

"Trump 4 higher taxes. Jeb 4 Prez"
That, however, may not have been the best way to try to draw a comparison. Trump had his private, luxury 757 do a fly-over pass for the crowd:
T - R - U - M - P
TRUMPED

Who Will Be The First To Fall?

In the over-heated, over-crowded 2016 primary, we know there will necessarily be a fairly abrupt winnowing of the field--at some point. The current thinking is that after Iowa (Feb 2) and New Hampshire (Feb 6) there will be two sets of "winners" in the top 1-3 slots. Several candidates have placed must-win markers on each state. For example: Iowa is Scott Walker & Ted Cruz (also Carson, Huckabee, and ... erm ... Santorum). For New Hampshire Jeb, Kaisch, and Rubio all need to finish at or near the top-slots.

Trump currently leads both by substantial margins.

Once the ballots are cast, the thinking is that the field will then be down to a substantially smaller number of candidates and the head-to-head comparisons will be meaningful. If you like Ben Carson--but he's out--who do you go to?

While this is complicated by the fact that a lot of candidates will have a lot of money (the age of SuperPACs and one-man-billionaire funding) if voters think that even though, say, Ted Cruz is still campaigning he can't get enough delegates to win, they may well throw their vote to a second-favorite who is doing better. Thus, natural selection can still take its course.

On the other hand, it seems likely that some candidates will drop out before Iowa due to being completely lost causes. Here's some speculation--broken down for ease of digestion:

Candidate
Why
Notes
Rand Paul
Rand has to choose between running for president (a long shot) and running for reelection (not a long shot). If Kentucky changes the rules for him? He could stay. Otherwise? Smart move to drop and stay in politics.
Rand has also had a brutal summer and got beat up in the debates.
Rick Perry
Rick Perry had a bad first debate at the kid’s table and has stopped paying his staff (never a good sign). His Texas donors are going to Ted Cruz.
This all said, Perry raised a fair amount of money early on and has a low burn-rate. If he decides to stick around, he could.
Jindal / Santorum / Huckabee
With no Iowa Straw Poll to boost momentum--and no “spark” naturally taking hold, it’s unclear how these guys plan a game-change. Also: They have a niche appeal (evangelicals) which is kinda an insurgent-vibe. Today that’s 100% owned by Trump … and then Cruz.
Jindal had a bad first-debate (at least Huckabee made the big stage) but comparing fundraising numbers it’s Jindal 9.3MM, Huckabee 6.5MM, and Santorum 0.9MM. Of the trio, maybe Huck splits the difference and remains in the longest (also, Huckabee’s explicit strategy is to win the SEC states--who vote later than Iowa and New Hampshire)
Gilmore / Graham / Pataki
The bottom trio doesn’t have any money, doesn’t have any momentum, and doesn’t seem to have found a real base of supporters. Would they just give up?
They’re still getting on TV talk-shows (esp. Graham) and maybe debates (if the kids-table stuff continues). They have low burn-rates. They might drop in January but no real reason to bail before then.

The Omnivore's Answer: Scott Walker

Huh? Okay--so that's not literal. Walker, who comes in 4th in GOP fundraising, will likely be around until the brokered convention (Ha!). But what if the events of the campaign had already egregiously damaged him? What if he's a . . . Dead Man Walkering?

What is The Omnivore talking about? Well, it's this--Let's see if you can figure out which of these recent Walker Statements is the bad one. As part of the game, each has two parts!
  1. Walker said there were only a handful of reasonable, moderate followers of Islam. After criticism, a walker aide walked it back saying Walker knows the majority of ISIS's victims are Muslim and that we have abandoned our traditional Muslim allies.
  2. When asked if he would meet with #BlackLivesMatter, Walker responded that he would meet with voters and that it was a ridiculous question--he would talk to voters about things that matter! Although his response was somewhat hard to pin down, this gave rise to an at least reasonable interpretation by the press that Walker declared that #BlackLivesDon'tMatter (and the article notes that at least, to his campaign--in the primaries, black voters probably don't!).
  3. Walker was asked about his position on repealing birthright citizenship--at first he seemed to favor ending it--but then he 'clarified' that he had no position--and that he had misstated his seeming support because of interview fatigue. Some sources, however, point to Walker Mega Donor Stanley Hubbard who apparently stated that he wouldn't back the candidate if he really was for repeal of those rights,

The Scoring

In case you needed a scorecard:
  1. Muslims. Perfect (Good for Walker). Saying Muslims are either entirely or mostly 'terrorists' is good for his primary standing. Having an aide walk it back gives cover, deniability, and keeps Walker on the right side of people who might actually vote for him.
  2. #BlackLivesMatter. Good (for Walker). While his response was confusing in a way that wasn't exactly presidential, Walker hit the right notes by saying he wouldn't meet with them (because they have no actual leader--like the Tea Party--was his dodge--but the not-meeting remains) and called the statement ridiculous. That word association will work for him.
  3. Birthright Citizenship: Devastating (for Walker). Let's take a closer look.

A Birthright Debacle


The Omnivore's point with the above is that Trump's direct-to-the-heart approach to immigration leaves almost no room to his right (Bobby Jindal found a sliver of a breach by suggesting that Mayors of Sanctuary Cities be arrested and charged with complicity in murders committed by illegals!--Well done Bobby!!). In this environment, it's hard for someone like Walker (or Cruz) to gain purchase. The best they can do is "call" (the poker term for matching an opponent's bet and then hoping you have a natively stronger hand).

In the case of Birthright Citizenship, though, the topic is (a) toxic to Latinos, (b) toxic to intellectuals (if he promises to get rid of it, he's promising something he can't actually just go and deliver), and (c) toxic in the general to a lot of people (it sounds extreme--and is--even if a lot of conservative pundits agree with it).

The problem here, though, is not the position--or the walk(er)-back--it's the reason: a mega-donor peeling him off a position based on fundraising concerns is the kind of thing that can never happen to you in public. Read the comments here. Read the whole (short) post here. These are audiences for whom Walker's conservative-but-a-winner-and-electable pitch should be solid gold. That they are (rightfully) infuriated that he can be turned on or off like a switch with money is exactly the kind of thing that plays into negative-branding (Scott's negative brand is that (a) he's not that smart, (b) he's not that exciting, but also (c) that he'll say anything to get elected. It's the (c) that this plays to--perfectly).

This kind of key-into-a-lock gaffe is the kind of thing that can actually do real damage, persist, and be used against you. It's also hard to reverse course on it since Walker does need the money--and that will largely come from the "He's acceptable to The Base--but still sane enough for us (big money GOP Establishment Donors)" crowd. If he can no longer make that sale, he's in big trouble.

Conclusions

While Walker's 26 million dollars and seemingly low(is) burn-rate will keep him around for a long time, if his polling doesn't improve (he's losing badly to Clinton in his home state of Wisconsin) he could face erosion of his specific brand. That's hard to recover.


* Money Quote:
Cheryl Burns, 60, was on a road trip from California when she heard that Trump would be in Alabama. She turned her car around and got in line, warning people of what happened to states when liberals took them over. 
There is no more California,” Burns said. “It’s now international, lawless territory. Everything is up for grabs. Illegal aliens are murdering people there. People are being raped. Trump isn’t lying about anything — the rest of the country just hasn’t found out yet.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Trump Exploit

It's The Biggest, Classiest Logo EVER
The Omnivore's parents asked him--joking--but only kinda joking--if it was possible that Trump was running to help Hillary. After all, he was saying outrageous things--potentially really damaging things--that were, in fact, shaping the election (such as the overturn the 14th Amendment plank of his immigration platform). To put this in perspective:
For instance, in this analysis by Latino Decisions, under even the most absurdly optimistic scenario for Republicans — “that white voters consolidate behind the Republican Party at levels that were observed in 2014; that black participation and Democratic support returns to pre-Obama levels; and the expected growth in the Latino vote does not fully materialize” — the Republican candidate would need 42 percent of the Hispanic vote to win. As a point of comparison, according to exit polls Mitt Romney got 27 percent of Hispanic votes in 2012, while John McCain got 31 percent in 2008. Under a more likely scenario, with an electorate that votes something like in 2012 but with African-American turnout reduced, the Republican would need 47 percent of the Hispanic vote. In their worst-case scenario for Republicans — an electorate that votes identically to the way it did in 2012, but adjusted for changes in population — the Republican would need a stunning 52 percent of Hispanic votes.
The Omnivore hasn't validated the above numbers (and suspects Latino Decisions may have some kind of ... internal bias, let's say--for example, blue collar whites stayed home in 2012. The GOP plan is to mobilize a deeper white male base--something that is entirely possible)--but even so, yes: totally pissing off Hispanics is a bad strategy.

Trump seems, you know, intent on it. When a Hispanic man was beaten, urinated on, and the perpetrators were caught ... and cited Donald Trump as their inspiration for the assault, this is what Trump said:  
Trump, told of the alleged assault, said “it would be a shame . . . I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.”
You'll notice a lack of other candidates falling over themselves to call out Trump on this? Yep. Indeed, while Trump wants to build a big, beautiful (at least on one side?) wall along the Mexican boarder that might even bear his name, Rick Santorum accused Scott Walker, whose immigration plan can be summed up as "Trump? Oh, yeah--I agree with him! Me too!" of being too soft on immigration

Presumably the Rick Santorum immigration plan includes a "repatriation catapult."

The facts here are stark: The Omnivore is pretty sure that Trump-Bluster(TM) aside, were The Donald not in the race, people would not be talking about the unconstitutionality of a particular amendment to the Constitution--even if this talking point was, yes, part of the GOP ideology cloud for some time. It takes someone with nothing to lose (and especially NO need for the Chamber of Commerce and the GOP Establishment) to make such an argument a centerpiece of their platform. In other words, yes: if the current state of the race is doing serious damage to the GOP's brand with Hispanics (not to mention black Americans . . .  and women) then Trump is directly to blame for a significant percent of that damage.

The Trump Conspiracy Theory

Allan Ginsberg--and this was covered very well by Gawker--asks the obvious question:
This is the right question because it doesn't ask for a smoking gun of proof about Donald Trump's intentions--but rather what evidence we might see that illuminates a different intent than stated. For example: Trump attacks the GOP on Twitter five times more than Democrats. Could that be evidence of a sinister plan? Maybe.

On the other hand, this is the pre-game primary season so anyone not jockeying for position in the actual primary is wasting some energy. It might just be good strategy. Who's to say. The Gawker article linked above both examines the evidence (yes, Trump at least was friends with the Clintons. Yes, he did kinda used to be a Democrat. Yes, he definitely has said he might run independent)--but concludes that that's not enough to convict (like Obama and the IRS scandal, one presumes).

Gawker also elegantly nails the underlying wrong assumption:
The lack of evidence is not the biggest problem with this conspiracy theory, though. The biggest problem is that the theory’s most important underlying assumption—that Trump is anomalous, a xenophobic buffoon posing as a Republican—is wildly ignorant of actual Republican policies. 
Boiled down, Trump’s appeal to the Republican Party’s base consists of his willingness to say nakedly racist statements and his promises to enact equally racist legislation. But why is that appeal surprising? In its contemporary manifestation, the GOP has repeatedly sought the support of voters who wish to disempower and intimidate racial minorities. This isn’t just about the party’s bizarre obsession with upholding the sanctity of the Confederate flag. To this day, for example, the party continues to advocate for Voter ID laws, which are ostensibly designed to combat in-person voter fraud—a virtually non-existent phenomenon—but in practice help prevent a disproportionate number of eligible non-white voters from actually voting. Its intellectual leaders have dismissed the ubiquitous threat of police violence towards black people as illusory.
Indeed, this is so--but Gawker doesn't quite look deep enough. There may actually be a conspiracy theory under this stuff after all.

Let's look.

The Trump Exploit 

In video gaming, an "exploit" is the use of bugs, glitches, speed, game mechanics, or other such elements in the way the designers did not intend to gain an advantage. When an exploit is discovered, it can lead to a complete disruption of the game as players either use it and win, don't use it and lose to those who do, or both try to use it and the game comes down to who can execute the exploit first/best. Here is a visual example of Capcom's Ultra Street Fighter 4 where if you use the right combo in a certain way you can do it forever with the opponent having no chance to fight back. The person posting the video says "Please update your game, Capcom."

In the case of the GOP Primary an exploit exists in that positions that had been thought to be too extreme for any mainstream candidate were sold to the base (or those who held them were courted) with the net effect being that potential candidates simply had to get 'close to the fire' without getting burned.

Romney, for example, was barely warmed. Tancredo got torched early.

The counter-balance was the RNC and GOP elite who would disavow anyone spouting clear racism or sexism or whatever. Without that backing and the millions of dollars it would cost, everyone had to pretty much stay in their lane.

In the case of Trump, though, as we know, that fail-safe doesn't apply--so he can use the exploit all he wants.

He's jamming those buttons hard.

This is forcing everyone else to either try some unusual counter-moves (like Perry's surprisingly progressive speech on race) or try to do Trump-but-better (Walker gamely signing on, Jeb doubling down on Anchor-Babies). The problem is Trump is the pinball wizard of appealing to the base. None of these guys can do Trump-but-better.

So is there a conspiracy? Well, perhaps. If there is, it would look like this:
  1. Trump legitimately likes the Clintons. He certainly used to. In this hypothetical, he still does.
  2. When Obama started beating Hillary, Trump turned on Obama. Remember the birth certificate thing in 2008? In this scenario that was done to help Hillary (not to help the Democrats).
  3. Throughout Obama's terms, Trump, a famous grudge-holder, still had it in for Obama and, as Hillary was Secretary of State, gave to Republicans rather than attacking Obama personally. He flirted with 2012 run--but decided that would be more likely to give Obama a 2nd term. When the party decided on Romney, Trump was annoyed--but did all he could to give Romney his boost (appearing on stage with him).
  4. As 2016 gears up, Trump surveys the field and can see that (a) he is quite popular with the GOP Base--still--and (b) that the exploit exists. Trump is attuned to game-mechanics / rules holes (he has exploited them over and over--just listen to his bankruptcy speech during the debates). He realizes that he has an almost unique opportunity to help his friend: he can run into the fire and not get "burned." He's fireproof.
  5. He launches his campaign aimed directly at the lowest common denominator of The Base. If he can peel off 2 to 4% in a general election, his friend Hillary is 90% likely to win. Donald Trump is a one-man "dark-money" SuperPAC for Hillary Clinton.
  6. The exploit works better than he could have anticipated--he finds he is suddenly positioned to win the nomination (maybe). He realizes that, although he doesn't want to be president really, the best way to ensure Hillary wins is to seize the nomination and then ... run for that 20-30% of the base, thus losing the general.  The kicker? His brand will never have been stronger and he'll even go down a hero for his hardest core supporters.
In this case, the conspiracy is not a multi-year plan for a Democrat to insinuate themselves into the GOP supply-chain (donor-class) and then launch a surprise ambush in 2016. It is, instead an opportunistic move seen when 2016 comes around and Trump realizes he has an exploit for which the RNC and other power-brokers have no defense.

All this takes is (a) him liking Hillary (a given), (b) him hating Obama (obvious), and (c) him being willing to buy Hillary a 500 million "President's Day" gift. Of course, Hillary being Hillary, Trump can be pretty sure . . . he'll get his money back.


The Other Perspective

Before you go anywhere with that conspiracy theory, though, let's keep something firmly in mind: The exploit wasn't Trump's doing. It already existed. In 2012 a lot of Republicans felt humiliated by the "clown car." In 2008 some Republicans felt humiliated by the choice--and clear unreadiness--of Sarah Palin. In every case the root was quickly traceable to the same thing: The GOP base is a humiliation to the head of the party and its more thoughtful pundits. 

There are various rationalizations ("Oh--the comments section--those comments are meaningless!" or "Oh--but the Party Platform sure isn't racist. That's a tiny number of assholes who the GOP doesn't actually tolerate!"). The heuristic that 'Three Times Is Enemy Action' should be starting to sink in though. Trump's success and the subsequent race-to-the-bottom (now everyone is discussing whether "Anchor Babies" is racist or not) is hugely predictable. 

In fact, it's predictable enough that Trump might even have planned it that way.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Avatar Scenario and #BLM



This is The First Part of A True Story

A friend of The Omnivore told him a story a few months ago. It went like this: he went and saw this movie called Avatar where a (white) dude puts on an alien body and goes amongst a primitive native people (who are blue--and voice acted by people-of-color). When the natives are threatened by a massive army of technologically superior white people, the (white) hero:
  1. Wins the love of the native chieftain's daughter.
  2. Goes after the biggest, baddest flying dragon-thing (the planet's apex predator) and does what no native can do: masters it.
  3. In doing so, he comes to the natives (wearing their skin) as a legendary hero and unites the tribes.
  4. Leads them in their battle against the invaders. While not technically their new king, he is, at least for a while, effectively their warlord.
On examination, The Omnivore discovers it's even worse:
  • After an invader attack, with the native community damaged and grieving--their nominal leader dead--what do they do? They come together to try to save the life of a white scientist (Sigourney Weaver). That's who we all see them chanting for!
  • At the very end, the white guy permanently enters the native (POC) color-body: becoming one of them "for real."
  • Of course he could never really be one of the natives--he's been with them for like 2 months max. On the other hand, during this time he has (a) learned their secrets, (b) learned all their skills as well as them, and (c) been judged pure by the world-mind--which is shocking (and gains their trust!).
In other words, the outsider white guy is a kind of super-native: once he enters their group he does everything they do better than they can. He also retains his privileged ability to move among white people and understand their technology.

The friend said that, at the time, he was fairly convinced that the criticism of Avatar as a white-savior-film was fairly on point.

The White Savior Movie

Jim Cameron's Avatar falls into the category of the "White Savior Movie." This is, as described above, a trope where a white person (often male, often an outsider to their own culture), solves a problem and becomes messianic for some people of color--often learning something about themselves in the process. It tends to be "acceptable" as (a) the native people are presented as noble / kind -- even if not competent to solve their own problems by themselves and (b) the hero learns to respect the culture they save (usually)--or, if not respect (The Blind Side) at least build an emphatic relationship with people-of-color.

In other words, the white savior is kind of the ultimate "ally."

It should be noted that there are some reasons this works in Hollywood. The first, and most obvious, is that with a few very notable exceptions, white stars sell better and more reliably than people-of-color stars. While it is all well and good to say that there should be more diverse casts (and it is), if you are gambling your 150 million dollars, how edgy do you want to be?

The second reason is that the (majority white) audience likes to have a POV character to identify with as they are introduced to the story. A mild outsider is better for this than a total outsider. Netflix's Orange Is The New Black had the white main character be an outsider for the first season before it could deeply focus on the more diverse cast.

On the other hand, Avatar actually uses a kind of literal CGI "black-face" both in terms of special effects (the white character spends time as a CGI alien--appearing of the same hue (blue) as the POC actors do) and within the movie itself (in the movie the white character is, literally, putting on an alien body to appear as an alien). Black-face is bad ('problematic') because it co-opts a less powerful culture and is used, generally speaking, either to mock it, leverage it, or use it in a very reductionist method.

In Avatar, the white guy in black-face is a better alien than the aliens themselves. Once he puts on their outward skin, he becomes everything they aspire to. He becomes a leader. Maybe even a teacher.

The Second Part Of The Story

The Omnivore nodded along, reading the email about Avatar's White-Savior-Complex--until the friend came to the second half. It featured then-in-the-news Rachel Dolezal.

Rachel Dolezal

If you remember, she was the professor of African American art and a leader in the NAACP--a white woman posing as a black woman. She wasn't just an anonymous black person: she was the leader of a black organization, she taught classes on black culture, and she was respected in her circles.

The link between the white-savior-complex and Rachel Dolezal being a white person who became, kind of, a "superior" black-person was never spelled out--but when The Omnivore saw it, it was kind of startling: The Omnivore's friend was saying the White-Savior-Complex had kinda "played out in real life."

Shaun King


In short, if King really is white (which appears to be the case), he is a white guy who has 'put on a black skin (front)' and then risen to prominence over other black people. This is both in terms of merit (he is a successful activist) and consumption (he took a slot meant for a black person at the college). It is also done in terms of laying claim to an identity that involves victimization (which is what #BlackLivesMatter is literally about) and so victimization is co-opted as a part of it.

The Avatar Theory And Identity Politics

At a purely sociological level it may be interesting to look at the very few data points of Dolezal and King as reflections of how early-life privilege impacts everything. If you attribute both Dolezal's and King's successes in "being black" to their privileged early-life, you could construct a case for saying that even in terms of being an oppressed minority. the privilege gives them an edge over the actual oppressed minorities.

Of course you could also say it was their "white genetics"--and The Omnivore is very critical of that position. So let's be careful about stipulating that.

In Avatar the alien-body was created to allow a smaller, more fragile (white) human to move amongst the native people without alarming them (they knew the body was fake--but it was still less disruptive than if the pale-skins had been scurrying around their camps). In the case of Dolezal and King, one might say that the adoption of a half-lie (being a 'very light skinned bi-racial person') allowed the white interlopers to integrate into black society with a minimum of fuss. In other words, you could say that the actual dynamic was not really, substantially different than if the persons had simply appeared as potentially black and not actually claimed to be black.

The problem with that is (a) in the black community, skin tone has historically been very important and still is today (at least to an extent), (b) racial politics draw a VERY distinct line between white 'allies' who aren't welcome to criticize tactics and messaging and actual black people who are generally allowed to do so. In other words: the faux-blackness acts as a protection for would-be activists--something white people, however well intentioned they think themselves, do not enjoy.

Finally, we might look at this in terms of actually cheating. If a white person wants a scholarship and can acquire one by pretending to be black (see the movie Soul Man), perhaps that's the way to do it? This would coincide with any benefit of claiming victim-hood at the hands of white people whether or not it happened. If nothing else you would get sympathy, yes?

The Omnivore thinks this is a bad way to look at this as well: the amount of work and risk necessary to pull off faking being black--in order to, what? Travel around and yell at cops? To run dodgy fund-raisers? To, probably, draw police and government attention? It all seems a bad bet from a pragmatic standpoint. If you are a con-artist, there are far easier and more likely successful cons.

No, The Omnivore thinks that, again, the Avatar Scenario works well here.

In the real-life cases learning "to be black" took years at traditionally-black schools. It didn't take weeks. It also was done seeking a kind of "nobility" in The Omnivore's assessment. Both King and Dolezal were attempting to "do right." This is similar to how many, many white activists feel (leaving aside that King may have profited from his fundraising illicitly). 

The Omnivore expects there was a sense of self-righteousness involved as well as a nice "protection" from missteps due to not being "an ally" but rather "the real deal." This, if you run in activists circles, is a level of privilege itself--one that white people can't enjoy. The Omnivore thinks that the combination of an ally's zeal-of-the-converted and a native person's privilege in activists communities is probably a potent mix. When years of actual socialization as a black person is added, it probably does allow for an innate feeling of "superior blackness" where the person faking being black honestly does feel they are entitled to their feelings of blackness--and entitled to act as a standard bearer for minority rights--something many white activists feel they ought to be able to do--but without the drawback of being called out when they eventually overstep.

In other words, for a white ally, pretending to be black is the ultimate sweet-spot. Being in the sweet-spot / comfort zone is, in and of itself, a recipe for success.

NOTE: In case it isn't clear, both Dolezal and King's 'prominence' in black activism (and relative success) does not outshine the actual black activists. There are far more influential people in black organizations who did not have two parents who identified as white. What King and Dolezal's "Avatar-like superiority" is in relation to is the average black activist (or black person with some association to activism, let's say). Our survey sample is tiny--but it appears that people who questionably identify as black are highly motivated and, thus far, reasonably skilled in activism. This is probably not coincidental. The zeal of the converted is a real thing, after all--even if the conversion is surreptitious and unacknowledged.

Dolezal, King, and Jenner

This being a political blog, The Omnivore would be remiss to note that where people lined up on various "trans issues" pretty much fell directly into partisan political groups:
  • Jenner was loved by the left, decried by the right.
  • Dolezal was accepted by the right (as backlash against Jenner) and opposed by the left (for appropriating blackness by a person of privilege)
  • King, doing the same thing as Dolezal, is hated by the right--and kind of more accepted (at least for the time being) by the left--perhaps because of the 'important work' he was doing with #BLM.
It turns out not all identity politics are created equal!

Conclusions

While The Omnivore has sympathy for both Dolezal and King on a personal level--being humiliated is incredibly painful--there's little doubt that what they are doing is damaging to the movement. #BlackLivesMatter does not need to be associated with provable lies (of any sort). 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Game Change

And in the master's chambers
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives
But they just can't kill the beast
-- Hotel California (The Eagles)
Exactly how long Trump can hang around is something of a mystery: back when he launched, FiveThirtyEight declared him "Not a real candidate (in one chart)." The chart was comparative likability and Trump was in a class all by himself: at the bottom.

Of course today, while still underwater with people as a whole, in the GOP he gets 58% favorable from Republicans and Republican-leaning voters. Certainly he'd lose with Republican women, though, right? After the Megyn Kelly thing? Nope. That's Ted Cruz (-16pt gender gap). Trump scores an average -9 along with Jindal, Carson, and Kaisch.

Five days ago, a majority of GOP Insiders (60%) told us that Trump--no matter what early polling says--can't win early states (Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina):
“Telling a pollster you support Trump is whiskey courage. Most of them will sober up enough to realize they aren’t going to walk into a ballot booth and vote for a misogynist jerk,” agreed a New Hampshire Republican, who like all participants was granted anonymity in order to speak freely.
And just today, after yet another round of great Trump polling, the Christian Post's political analyst Napp Nazworth gives us reasons Trump CAN'T win:

  1. A Plurality is Not A Majority. Trump has the most of a hugely divided field (16 other candidates). A bunch of these guys will drop out by voting time or shortly thereafter (Perry has, for example, stopped paying his staff). At that point people will (a) be paying attention and (b) not be "shopping around."
  2. Trump Is Not Qualified. He quotes 52% saying Trump is NOT qualified (doesn't name the poll)--which is much higher than other not-qualified people like Ben Carson.
  3. Trump Is Not Electable. Clinton wins by 5pts. Other candidates beat her (except for Carly Fiorina).
  4. Trump Is Not Likable (Enough). Trump has about 1-in-3 "hell no voters."
Indeed, the general analysis suggests that the electoral math looks something like this:

As Time (t) Goes To ElectionDate (0), Candidate Value Is All About Electability
That's not bad math, really: it assumes that when push comes to shove, people want to win--and take it from The Omnivore, people want to win. In fact, by most measures, Trump isn't even winning right now. Here is an excellent article from The Upshot (NYT's Data-Blog) that has some non-poll values for "winning."
This analysis looks at the Prediction Markets (still focused on Bush, Rubio, and Walker), National Endorsements (where Trump comes in at a five-way tie in last place with none), Iowa and New Hampshire polls (Trump wins), and Money Raised (Trump is near last, in 14th place).

by this metric, Bush leads with 3 first-places ... followed by Trump with two firsts although he might be behind Walker if you average his other low scores). But whatever--a lot of people think National Endorsements count. Everyone knows fund-raising is the smart metric ahead of the campaign--so, hey--Trump's a goner?

Even the latest FiveThirtyEight dialog notes that it's too early to panic: if Trump is around in November or December ... then maybe. Silver has laid out the six-stages of doom:
  1. Free-For-All: It's a mess and Trump's name recognition and (especially) media attention give him a huge edge.
  2. Heightened Scrutiny: Voters wake up around November (Labor Day) and higher-information voters will come out.
  3. Iowa and New Hampshire: All the polling up until now is pretty meaningless. If Trump finishes in 3rd place he's likely done.
  4. Winnowing: People drop out heading out to March. This is where "insurgent candidates" usually lose steam. Trump should drop out here--or at least dwindle (like, say, Forbes)
  5. Delegate Accumulation. If Trump doesn't have a crackerjack electoral team he can take a heavy hit there since the rules are arcane and the superdelegates won't help him.
  6. Endgame. The GOP Establishment can freeze him out with rules, rules interpretation, and party-leaders working against him.
The Omnivore finds this all pretty cogent analysis (much better than the points from the Christian Post guy)--but let's not close the door just yet.

However ...

All of this is looking at things from a more-or-less business as usual perspective. The Omnivore doesn't think that's the case here. There are a few reasons--these are:

Endorsements From The GOP's Entertainment Class

Guys like Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, and Ann Coulter have, literally, millions of GOP followers. These people usually stay pretty sidelines (Rush wasn't a fan of Romney--but got behind him when it was all over but the crying). Today, though, The Omnivore is seeing these people lean Trump-ward. This is because Trump is selling the same thing they are. From Limbaugh:
“Do you know what bought me all this?” he asked, waving his hand in the general direction of his prosperity. “Not my political ideas. Conservatism didn’t buy this house. First and foremost I’m a businessman. My first goal is to attract the largest possible audience so I can charge confiscatory ad rates. I happen to have great entertainment skills, but that enables me to sell airtime.”

Trump may not have endorsements from governors, senators, and so on--but he has some pretty key ones where it counts.These don't show up on FiveThirtyEight's metrics--or The Upshot's.

Money Can't Buy Everything, It's True (What It Can't Buy, I Can't Use)

Trump comes in low on one of those metrics because he hasn't raised money. That's largely because he isn't trying and isn't taking it. Neither Perot, Bloomberg, nor Forbes was as "all in" as Trump is--and while Trump is being pretty stingy in some respects (airtime)--he's also being savvy (using his helicopter and bus to campaign). Trump, simply put, has assets that other candidates--even with their swollen SuperPac war-chests, can't buy.

Jeb has raised the most money and he doesn't have a luxury 757 to fly around in. Trump does. If you give Trump a #1 in the money department, the Up Shot's metrics start to look ... strained. However, there is another reason why money counts--if you aren't winning, you aren't raising cash--and cash is the "mother's milk" of politics. You can't buy the White House--but not having cash is a sure way to lose it.

Trump, valued at several billion (he says 10, other estimates say a lot less) could, if he goes all in, outstrip Perot and Forbes easily:

Candidate
Year
Cash
Adjusted Dollars
Ross Perot
1992
60 million
102 million
Steve Forbes
2000
32 million
54.4 million

If Trump spends half a billion dollars, he would eclipse these guys and have roughly five times the staying power.

Electability Ain't What It Used To Be

Trump's likability has increased--especially with the GOP base--and so has his electability. What the Christian Post guy didn't say was that when, today, yes, other candidates beat Hillary and, yes, Trump is 'behind' by 5%, that's outrageously close. All those "winning candidates" were further behind when they started.

There's also the possibility that the nominee may be someone other than Clinton which would almost certainly give any GOP candidate a large edge. If the math that we sketched above is true, there's no reason to think that Trump will be any further behind than Romney or McCain was. They both got nominated over the 'cooling bodies' of the base. Trump would at least have real supporters. From The Political Animal (the natural enemy of The Political Omnivore):
The data are a bit unclear on the subject just yet, and the cycle is still young. But new CNN/ORC poll findings today should provide a very rude shock to those who think Republican voters will finally wake up and realize Donald Trump would be a disaster as a general election candidate and stampede instead to a “grown-up” like Establishment fave Jeb Bush.

What If The Game Is Changed?

What The Omnivore has been harping relentlessly on is that a vote for Trump is, yes, kind of a 3rd-Party vote--which is, yes, kind of throwing your vote away. The Game Theory mechanics behind this are why everyone talks about 3rd Parties and then suddenly Bernie Sanders is giving a speech the night before Hillary's inauguration or something (and he's still being heckled by #BlackLivesMatter because she hasn't given him any security). Third parties don't work because tanking your vote to send a message is something very few people really want to do.

But what if they didn't have to? Trump represents a possibility for a real "3rd way." He represents a way to have a protest vote and still maybe win. So long as that's feasible--so long as Trump gets respect from thought leaders like Limbaugh and Levin--so long as he hits the right notes (and so long as his opponents play catch-up ... badly--and so long as Congress proves to be ineffectual and doesn't go through with an even-more-disastrous government shutdown), Trumps cred will increase.

The Omnivore doesn't think Trump is in a death-spiral. The Omnivore thinks the GOPe is, if they don't figure something out fast.