Giving credit to those who predicted a Trump presidency
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As the world continues to digest the reality of a Donald Trump presidency and media types - including myself - try to understand how it all happened, it’s worth pointing out that a handful of people did get it right.
Among those who saw Trump's victory coming is US professor Allan Lichtman, who uses a system of "true or false" statements to predict who will take the White House. Back in September, he correctly predicted a Trump presidency – although it’s important to note that he expected Trump to win the popular vote, which he didn’t. (Lichtman now predicts Trump will be impeached).
And we all know about that prophetic episode of "The Simpsons" back in 2000, in which Lisa Simpson, now US president, complains of inheriting "quite a budget crunch from President Trump".
But a few pundits did put pen to paper in 2016 and correctly predict that The Donald would beat the odds to win the presidency.
The most famous is left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore, who penned a piece on his website in July entitled “Five Reasons Why Trump Will Win”. Needless to say, he wasn’t happy about it. "Donald J. Trump is going to win in November. This wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full time sociopath is going to be our next president", he wrote. "Never in my life have I wanted to be proven wrong more than I do right now".
Moore correctly predicted a surge for Trump in the "rust belt" states of Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, traditional Democratic strongholds which were expected to vote for Hillary Clinton. Moore explains that Trump "said (correctly) that the Clintons’ support of NAFTA helped to destroy the industrial states of the Upper Midwest. Trump is going to hammer Clinton on this and her support of TPP and other trade policies that have royally screwed the people of these four states". The filmmaker should know what he’s talking out – he himself comes from Michigan. In the end, Trump did indeed triumph in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, giving him enough votes to sweep the Electoral College. Later results show he narrowly won Michigan, too.
'The Jesse Ventura Effect'
Moore gave four other reasons why Trump would win, which also turned out to be scarily accurate. He highlighted ongoing sexism among some male voters which made them unwilling to vote for a woman, Hillary Clinton’s unpopularity, a lack of excitement for Clinton translating into low voter turnout for the Democrats and, finally, what he called The Jesse Ventura Effect – a reference to the one-time governor of Minnesota and professional wrestler. "Millions are going to vote for Trump not because they agree with him, not because they like his bigotry or ego, but just because they can. Just because it will upset the apple cart and make mommy and daddy mad". In other words, once in the voting booth, voters are answerable to no one but themselves. There is nothing to prevent them giving a big middle finger to the political establishment.
So Moore called it correctly. But he wasn’t the first. Back in May, an opinion piece appeared on the website of Britain’s The Independent newspaper, entitled "Donald Trump will win the US presidency by a landslide – don’t underestimate him yet again". The highly prescient article was written by Andrew MacLeod, an Australian-born UK citizen and a distant cousin of Trump on his mother’s side (she was Scottish and her maiden name was MacLeod). A businessman, academic and former aid worker, MacLeod, just like Moore, is anything but a fan of Trump. But he was similarly clear-headed about the Republican’s chances of winning.
'The greatest error is to underestimate the enemy'
MacLeod was highly critical of the media for underestimating Trump’s campaign and took a swipe at The Huffington Post for initially putting the billionaire on its entertainment page. "When I was an army officer, we were taught that the greatest error was to underestimate the enemy. If one underestimates the enemy, then one will attack with too few resources and be soundly beaten – like America in Vietnam, Russia in Afghanistan and the Germans in Moscow", he wrote. Touché.
He went on to make the important point that on November 8, elections were also taking place for the House of Representatives, Senate, local governors, judges, and so on. "Republicans will turn out to vote for all the other offices. While there, they will be faced with the choice of holding their nose and voting for Trump, or, one presumes, Hillary Clinton. Democrats are kidding themselves if they think Republicans opposed to his candidacy won’t vote for Trump when it comes down to the wire", he warned. In other words, people don’t just switch party allegiance at the drop of a hat – even when exceptional circumstances would seem to warrant it.
And just like Moore, MacLeod recognised that Trump was polling well in the "rust belt" states and would take votes from Clinton. "Trump is gaining votes in the "rust belt" from people who would not normally vote Republican, or even vote at all", he wrote back in May. "His momentum is upward. Do you see where this is heading?"
Well, we do now – but it’s too late.