All posts filed under: US Election

Donald Trump and the Failure of Mainstream Social Science

Donald Trump’s victory in the recent US presidential election was a shock to many people. Polls, media pundits, even political insiders almost universally predicted that Hillary Clinton would win comfortably. In the aftermath, there will surely be questions about why they misjudged the situation so badly. I would argue, though, that the problem runs much deeper. The occurrence of a very similar situation in the United Kingdom a few months earlier suggests that this is not just a polling flaw, nor is it just a group of pundits misreading a single event. The underlying problem, I propose, is in the social sciences. These are the institutions expected to study human behaviour scientifically, and whose theories are spread to the rest of society. Yet many social scientists have quite openly voiced surprise and perplexity at both the Trump and Brexit events, often supporting their statements with proclamations of immorality directed at the voters. There’s something disturbingly unscientific about this, in my opinion. Imagine a group of physicists responding to an event they are unable to explain …

Corporate America’s Old Boys’ Club is Dead and Why Big Business Couldn’t Stop Trump

If corporate money controls our politics, as Bernie Sanders and others have claimed, then how did the Republican Party – the reputed party of business – manage to nominate a candidate whom almost no one in Big Business supports? And why have so many been so silent about it? A recent article in the Wall Street Journal reports that not one CEO at a Fortune 100 company has donated to Trump’s campaign, whereas one-third supported Mitt Romney in 2012. Many in business have said privately that they are terrified of a Trump administration and the possibility of trade wars and ballooning deficits, yet few CEOs vocally oppose him. So why isn’t a CEO social movement taking to the barricades against a Trump presidency? One possibility: To mobilize a movement, you need a social network, and CEOs no longer have one. In other words, corporate America’s “old boys’ club” is dead. The question is: Is that entirely a good thing? As our research – and Trump’s rise – shows, not necessarily. Building the old boys’ club …

The Clickbait Candidate

What happens to democracy when technology helps our impulses trump our intentions? While ‘interrobang’ sounds like a technique Donald Trump might add to the Guantanamo Bay playbook, it in fact refers to a punctuation mark: a disused mashup of interrogation and exclamation that indicates shock, surprise, excitement, or disbelief. It looks like this: ‽ (a rectangle means your font doesn’t support the symbol). In view of how challenging it seems for anyone to articulate the fundamental weirdness of Trump’s proximity to the office of President of the United States, I propose that we resuscitate the interrobang, because our normal orthographic tools clearly are not up to the task. However, even more interrobang-able than the prospect of a Trump presidency is the fact that those opposing his candidacy seem to have almost no understanding of the media dynamics that have enabled it to rise and thrive. Trump is perhaps the most straightforward embodiment of the dynamics of the so-called ‘attention economy’ — the pervasive, all-out war over our attention in which all of our media have now been conscripted …

Five Key Debate Moments That Altered the Course of a Presidential Race

Every presidential election year in my American Political Campaigns and Elections course, I get an opportunity to spend a full lecture discussing with students some of the famous moments from historic presidential debates. I explain to students that while the presidential candidate debates are supposed to be about presenting policy alternatives to undecided voters, almost no one pays any attention or remembers what the candidates say about policy. Instead the media covers the debates and voters interpret the debates in a winner and loser format. Which candidate connected to voters the best? Who had the best zinger or inspirational line? Some famous moments in debate history have reinforced the public’s negative perceptions of candidates, while other key moments have helped dispel such notions. Here are five from past presidential debates, chosen for their impact on the election campaign and outcome. 1960: Kennedy-Nixon In 1960, Richard Nixon had served as the Republican vice president for eight years after six years in Congress. Senator John Kennedy had served in Congress for 14 years, but was only 43 …

The Paradox of Democracy

Jason Brennan’s lengthy and provocative essay on democracy, is a follow up to his book and it challenges the foundational wisdom of our time, that democracy is good and moral. I hesitate to spoil the book so early at this stage, but democracy according to Dr Brennan, is inherently flawed, and that’s not because people are stupid, or misinformed, but they lack the incentive to know. In simpler terms, this data rich book shows that people who vote, take their voting rights for granted, and essentially cheer their side or team, without understanding the nuances of such momentous decision making, which affects everyone’s lives. Everyone under the sun opines on politics and economics, unlike neurosurgery and astronomy; even though politics and economics are also highly specialised areas which require knowledge and consideration. Brennan looks at data collected over a sixty year time-span, which suggests that most of people who take part in political process wouldn’t pass a University Politics or Economics 101 course. Nor are they even interested in understanding or knowing how basic taxation, …

The New Center: Bridging the Political Divide

The political divide is growing. We have seen an ever-increasing distance between the left and the right, one election cycle after another; two drifting tectonic plates holding hostage our political system in lieu of their inevitable collision — the type of cataclysmic event a Trump presidency could bring to bear. Rifts are even found within the opposing factions themselves. The GOP has been confronted with a lethal chasm between the “establishment” Republicans one on side and their relentless critics — the Trump supporters, the “alt-right” brigade, and the #WhiteGenocide fear mongers — on the other. For their part, the progressives are faced with a heated standoff between the Clinton Democrats and the social justice warriors — many of them former Berners. The middle-of-the-road “I’m With Her” crowd struggles to fend off the identity politicians who criticize Hillary’s controversial past, hold her responsible for mass incarceration, and view her as the status quo personified. The social justice legion is often referred to as the “regressive left” due to their emphasis on multiculturalism and diversity – except …

Is Donald Trump a Narcissist and Is He Fit for Office?

Donald Trump and his alleged narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) have been all over the political media. Recently a Democratic Congressman started a petition calling for Mr. Trump to be psychologically diagnosed because of the risk that he has NPD and that this makes him unfit for office. As someone who has spent a good deal of time researching narcissism, I am asked about Mr. Trump constantly by journalists, friends and even strangers who find out what I do. As much as I appreciate the work professional journalists do, I wanted to address three important questions about Mr. Trump and narcissism without an editorial filter. Is Mr. Trump narcissistic? Does Mr. Trump suffer from NPD? Would narcissism and NPD — if present — disqualify Mr. Trump from being a U.S. President? Is Mr. Trump narcissistic? Mr. Trump’s persona, or public image, has clear elements of grandiose narcissism. That is, he appears grandiose and in possession of a strong ego; he is willing to act aggressively to others and can appear emotionally callous rather than warm; and he is …