In the film L.A. Story, Steve Martin plays a TV weatherman in Los Angeles, where the perfect weather is so predictable that he pre-records his forecasts days in advance.
In spite of the breathless suspense regarding the U.S. midterms—not to mention the overconfident glee of the Democratic leadership that can practically taste victory—I suspect these elections are like that L.A. weather: the results are, in fact, fairly predictable: Republicans will hold the House of Representatives, gain seats in the Senate, and generally outperform expectations. Therefore, I’m pre-writing my post-election analysis—the same points you’ll be reading from those omniscient pundits who wait until after the election to share their wisdom and analysis.
How can I be so sure? Because the poll-obsessed analysts are missing pieces of the bigger picture. Mix in some common sense with some trends and statistical analyses, and results become clearer. The reactions to the actual results are also predictable—but (if I’m correct) will still be entertaining.
The most obvious indicator is the polls themselves. Sure, they show lots of currently-tied races. The Real Clear Politics aggregation of polls lists 34 Congressional races as toss-ups, of which they calculate the Democrats need to win 15 to take over the majority in the House. And using similar calculations, Nate Silver calculates an 85% likelihood of a Democratic majority. But as we’ve seen repeatedly, the polls are only as accurate as the respondents are honest with pollsters. And that level of honesty is less than 100%.
We’ve seen this effect with the Brexit vote, where the 52% vote to leave the EU outperformed its polling by 4 percentage points—the difference between winning and losing. We saw something similar in Israel in the last national elections, where PM Netanyahu’s solid victory vastly exceeded his poll-predicted totals. And, of course, the 2016 Presidential Election stunned everyone who relied only on polling. The same Nate Silver calling this election for the Democrats predicted an 83% likelihood of victory by Hillary Clinton.
Those elections all have something important in common with these midterms: “Right-Thinking” people, including the media-entertainment complex, overwhelmingly favored the same outcome, and largely mocked anyone who would vote against such an obviously “correct” position. In such an environment, where voters don’t feel like sharing their seemingly unpopular leanings with anyone—even pollsters—the polls inevitably under-count those voting for the “wrong” result. If one Republican voter in 100 is not forthcoming with the pollster, a bunch of those toss-ups move to the Republican victory column. If that number is one in 50, even seats which were deemed safely Democratic (with polls showing, say, a 52%-48% lead) should be moved into the toss-up column. There are bound to be surprises election night. But they will most likely be surprise Republican victories.
There is anecdotal evidence galore of this effect. The current political atmosphere is toxic—and it isn’t Republicans trying to stifle the political messaging of Democrats. Look at the harassment and intolerance faced by anyone on a college campus dissenting from leftist orthodoxy, either in support of President Trump or in support of Israeli government policies. Stories abound of Republicans who won’t put up yard signs supporting their candidates of choice for fear not just of vandalism to the signs, but of bricks through their windows. Ever notice how much less often one sees Republican bumper-stickers than Democrat?
In fact—and this may be a stretch—even this week’s Pete Davidson Saturday Night Live incident illustrates the point. Davidson was mocking various Republican candidates’ looks (really, no better material than that?), and took aim at Republican Dan Crenshaw, whose photo (with an eyepatch) appeared on the screen. “You may be surprised to hear he’s a congressional candidate in Texas and not a hitman in a porno movie,” the “comedian” said, holding back laughter. “I’m sorry, I know he lost his eye in war, or whatever. Whatever.” Whatever, in this case, was the eye lost to an IED by this highly-decorated Navy SEAL on one of his five tours of duty in Iraq. Every such “joke” is vetted and rehearsed before the show, and I’m sure at least one writer must have found this beyond inappropriate, not to mention less than hilarious. Yet, there are no reports of anyone objecting. Best to keep quiet—what would all the other writers think?
Everywhere one looks, one sees instances where solid Republican supporters publicly hedge their allegiance in order not to run afoul of the ideology enforcers. The only question in terms of how that translates to polling is the degree of magnitude: is it 1%? 5%? 10%? Whatever the number, it doesn’t take much such skewing to swing a close election. Just ask Hillary Clinton.
Polling science is exceptional, but is only as good as the reliability of the responses; if less than reliable, it’s just garbage in, garbage out.
In addition, the Democrats are running on nothing serious in terms of policy agenda. There is no program, no manifesto, no Gingrichian “Contract with America” should the Democrats take control. There is just Trump-hatred; and promises to investigate the Trump administration every which way; and talk of Trump impeachment. But policy? Besides fantasy items like “Free Medicare for Everyone,” or forgiving of all student loan debt, there is nothing. Most Democrats won’t even take a position on how to deal with the convoy of thousands of Central Americans approaching the U.S. border.
If the U.S were an economic basket case, that one-trick anti-President campaign might be enough. But the economy is widely regarded as being in very good shape, unemployment—including that of blacks and Latinos—is at historic lows, and consumer confidence is high. Black approval of President Trump was just reported by one poll to be 40%. People initially might not have known what they were going to get with a Trump economy, but there’s not a lot of complaining about how things have worked out.
Also, the media has become ever-increasingly shrill and partisan, with one recent report showing 94% of Trump stories paint the President negatively; at the same time, there has been a corresponding plummeting of trust in the major media. That is no coincidence.
The public did not turn on the President last week no matter how many “experts” blamed him for the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. People understand that attacks on Jews went on long before the Trump presidency, and will continue long after. In fact, decent people were more likely turned off by the instantaneous politicization of the shooting while victims were still in the synagogue, bleeding. Similarly, most people were turned off by the partisan stunts surrounding the Kavanaugh hearings—and continue to be, as accusers now recant their far-fetched, uncorroborated stories. Is there really an anti-Trump groundswell, outside the media? Ask yourself: of the people who voted for Trump in 2016, how many do you know who regret their vote? The anti-Trump crusade seems to be more media creation than reality.
The consequences of a Republican victory will be interesting. First, expect the markets to rise; eliminating the possibility that anti-Trump Democrats will ruin the economy or the workings of government if that’s what it takes to take out the President may well do wonders for stock prices.
And watch—and enjoy!—the various Democratic factions blaming each other for the loss. Considering how left-wing so many of this year’s Democratic candidates are, the (relative) moderates may retake the upper-hand within the party. At the same time, radical leftists with poisonous anti-American, anti-Israel, antisemitic orientations will win seats—Ilhan Omar, Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib are going to Congress; let’s see if the party makes some attempt to marginalize them, or blame them for the loss of other Democrats.
Also, watch the early jockeying for the 2020 election. As it looks like the field of Democratic hopefuls will be crowded, there will be an effort by many candidates to stand out early. Like, Wednesday. Let the grandstanding begin!
Like the Los Angeles weather, there can always be surprises. Wild-cards like unexpected turnout by various groups can make up even for skewed polls. I reserve the right to retract everything above.
But I don’t think I’ll have to.
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