Is That How We Got Trump?

For many, “That’s How You Got Trump” has become the standard reply to dismiss criticism of the President from the left or the anti-Trump right.  Indeed, any skepticism of the idea that harsh criticism of Trump is How You Got Trump is also deemed How You Got Trump.

But was a revulsion against condescension from the elites in the MSM, DC or Hollywood or wherever really How We Got Trump?  Is a failure to listen to Trump supporters How We Got Trump?

Salena Zito, noted chronicler of Trump supporters, spoke to thousands on the campaign trail.  But in her dispatches from places like Brooke County, WV, or Charleroi or Youngstown or Moon Township in PA, Trump supporters are rarely quoted as referring to the MSM or elites in DC or Hollywood (a political scientist took issue with National Review’s Kevin Williamson).  Rather, they seem concerned about the economy and jobs (particularly ‘brown energy’ jobs), trade, immigration, and the preservation of their local communities.

During the campaign, an open-ended Pew poll of Trump supporters found the main reasons people backed him were: (a) he wasn’t Hillary Clinton; (b) he was a change agent; (c) his policy positions; (d) his “tell it like it is” personality; and (e) his support for the American people and their values.

And for all the talk about the MSM not seeking out the opinions of Trump supporters, outlets like The Atlantic (more than once), the Washington Post, The Guardian, the BBC, and the New York Times did.  The NYT also solicited comments from Trump supporters on a few occasions after the election.  And the portrait of Trump voters and their reasons remains pretty consistent.

To be sure, some of Trump’s supporters booed the press at his rallies when he encouraged them to do so.  But in general, they seem more interested in the fate of the local metal fabrication shop, the burden of filling out paperwork to operate their small businesses, or a general sense of stagnation than they care about what Katy Tur, Don Lemon or Joss Whedon are saying about them.

When you consider How We Got Trump, consider that he flipped a swath of voters who previously voted for Obama once or twice.  That’s a voter profile which is not particularly ideological and thus not particularly motivated by a revulsion for Glenn Thrush or Meryl Streep.

These crucial Trump voters seem far more concerned with the perceived (lack of) performance of elites than the condescension of elites.

Of course, there are Trump voters who are bothered by the bias of Acela media and Hollywood blather.  But most of them are likely conservatives who would have voted for the GOP nominee in any event.

And herein lies a risk for conservatives.  Many on the right were blindsided by the Trump phenomenon because they did not understand that the core Trump supporter is really not like them in a number of ways.  They projected their own strong ideological bent onto rank-and-file Republicans beyond what years of data supported. (I say “they” here because it’s been depressingly clear to me for some time.)

Now that Trump is President, the danger is that conservatives seeking common ground to support him will again project their biases onto core Trump supporters, while ironically lecturing his skeptics and critics about being in a bubble.  They also ironically feed the stereotype that Trump supporters whine and wallow in victimhood at the hands of Ben Smith and Samantha Bee.

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PPS: On Feb. 13, Margaret Sullivan of the WaPo visited Trump-friendly Luzerne County in PA.  During the campaign, Trump led supporters in razzing the media in Wilkes-Barre.  It does not seem to have affected the media consumption habits of the locals.  Moreover, the middle-aged folks interviewed seem to have the same basic media habits as Gen Xers and Boomers generally.

Upsets Happen. No, Really.

Before we get too far away from the SuperBowl, let’s revisit ESPN’s win probability chart:

We all laughed. We all made jokes comparing the Biggest SuperBowl Comeback to the 2016 election.

What we didn’t do was conclude that Tom Brady repealed the laws of probability.  People who have watched pro football over the course of their lives didn’t need a chart to tell them that when a team is ahead by 28-3 (as the Falcons were at one point), the odds of the opponent winning are slim indeed.  We also didn’t need a chart to remember that sometimes big comebacks do happen.

Yet there are a lot of people who seem to believe that the 2016 election proved that polls are worthless and polling models doubly so.  Before the election, Nate Silver wrote about why FiveThirtyEight’s model gave Trump better odds than others and why Hillary Clinton was in a weaker position than Barack Obama had been.  But people just wanted to treat the topline numbers as Gospel.

Nate Cohn, despite the NYT giving Trump worse odds, wrote just before Election Day that he was within striking distance of winning because of his huge lead with white voters without a college degree.  The NYT concluded that Clinton’s chance of losing was about the same as the probability that an NFL kicker misses a 37-yard field goal.

You don’t have to have been a longtime NFL fan to at least vaguely recall that the Vikings’ Blair Walsh missed a 37-yard FG attempt in 2016.  Or that the Bears’ Connor Barth missed a 31-yarder.  Or that the Bucs’ Roberto Aguayo missed a 32-yard attempt in 2015.

Of course, if a kicker is consistently bad, he’ll get cut; just ask the Mighty Bengals.  Then again, if you never campaign in Wisconsin, maybe you’ll lose to Donald Trump.

When we see unlikely things happen in football, we seem to have more rational reactions than when we see them happen in politics.  After all, if you’re not a fan of data journalism (and to be fair, it’s far from perfect), it’s an easy slam.  And if you’re invested in pushing a narrative of Trump as the Colossus who remakes the GOP and American politics generally, it’s a useful slam and a way to dismiss unfavorable data as “fake news.”

But the laws of probability have not been repealed.  And while the polling industry faces big challenges, it’s not dead.  People will ignore data at their peril.

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Between These Lines

This year’s most interesting Super Bowl ad may not have been run by a traditional business but by the NFL.  I refer to the “Inside These Lines” spot, which interweaves images of diversity, unity despite differences, and hard work, ending on a football field painted within the outlines of the United States of America.

Careful viewers will note that the phrase “…when you’re fighting to move forward” is accompanied by a very brief shot of the Seattle Seahawks staging one of their “unity protests” during the national anthem.  Casual viewers may miss it, as it was undoubtedly carefully chosen over of a shot of players taking a knee or raising a fist during the anthem to protest police brutality.

Before the big game, FDRLST publisher Ben Domenech wrote a column for the NYT arguing that when sports events (and sports media) get political, they get in the way of healthy apolitical bonding and ironically “limit[] the space free from the culture wars Mr. Trump exploited to great effect.”  Despite the fact that his lead target was the pregame interview of Pres. Trump, most of the response that he received from the left, afaik, tended to be ad hominem.

The marginally smarter lefty response to Ben’s line of argument, occasionally heard on sports radio, is that the NFL went political well before the anthem protests by wrapping itself in the American flag and embracing our military.  The argument isn’t entirely wrong, but given that the military and the police are two of the top three trusted institutions in America, it speaks volumes about the political judgment of those making it.

The same lefty sports media dismisses the idea that injecting New New Left politics into pro football is harming the NFL’s all-important television ratings.  Indeed, they will argue it is due to just about anything and everything else.

They will argue the league’s decline this season was about cord-cutting, the ratings-stealing election, poor matchups, the dilution of the product after a few seasons of Thursday Night Football, concerns about concussions and domestic violence, the decline of fantasy sports sites, the popularity of the RedZone, vague rules, and the breathtakingly awful color commentary of Phil Simms.

Again, this argument has a kernel of truth.  Simms is terrible.

But the NFL is worth at least $74.8 billion.  You can bet the league has put some effort into researching their situation.  The fact that the NFL decided to use extremely expensive airtime during its most-watched, marquee event to air “Inside These Lines” — as opposed to an image ad with a different message — may tell you what they found…between the lines.

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