Why Liberals Can't Comprehend Progress in Trump's America

By any modern day measure of logic, rationality, or deductive reasoning, a Donald Trump–led government should have resulted in an unmitigated disaster by now — a complete and unrestrained failure sending society into a tailspin, erasing decades (maybe even centuries) of progress.  But it hasn't — and it probably won't.  In fact, much of his first term has seen progress and movement on key issues where there was once only a hopeless standstill, complete with feats that even the most passionate Democrat would have a hard time seriously arguing that Hillary Clinton could achieve.  The seemingly high-minded, rational liberals can't make sense of the results. 

Here's why: it is perfectly possible to be both completely rational and dead wrong.  Logic requires that people find universal laws, but outside scientific fields and especially in political contexts, there are fewer of these than we might expect.  To insist on thinking logically even when the real world is acting nowhere near logical is an affliction that tends to infect the liberal intellectual mind at a higher rate than just about anyone else.  And smug arrogance to boot doesn't exactly help open the aperture for a deeper depth of field. 

After the Obama victories, the Democrats swore undying obedience to the statistical models and approaches they thought had propelled them to victory.  Anecdotal evidence, political intuition, and anything else that couldn't be tested or tied to a statistically significant data point were discarded and even scoffed at.  Fast-forward a few years, and Hillary Clinton's campaign, in full embrace of the hyper-rational and mathematical worldview, made a series of tragic missteps.  Over the final 100 days of the election, Trump made a total of 133 visits to Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Michigan, and Wisconsin.  Over the same time period, Hillary Clinton visited the first five of those states a total of 87 times.  Why didn't Clinton travel to Wisconsin once during the 102 days between the convention and the election?  Because the data didn't lead her there.  Meanwhile, subservience to the model brought her to Arizona five times. 

Statistical analyses should always be taken with a heavy dose of skepticism.  While reliable for designed experiments, clean data, and well understood environments, they can also be downright harmful in situations that have none of the above — such as an election influenced by a multitude of unpredictable human variables.  But this isn't just about strategic and tactical errors made during a campaign.  It's an embodiment for the myopic mode of reasoning that has come to dominate the entire apparatus of liberal thinking.  Instead of prompting much needed introspection on the part of those who mistook broken models for winning strategies, the 2016 result only hardened the flawed thinking that to this day can't comprehend or fathom Trump-led progress.

For all his faults, Donald Trump is actually solving problems.  He didn't need to build the wall to achieve his southern trade ambitions — he just needed people to believe that he might.  He didn't need to rain down "fire and fury" on North Korea to halt that country's nuclear ambitions — he just needed the North Koreans to believe he might.  As it turns out, being slightly unhinged can be a good negotiating strategy.  Being rational means being predictable, and being predictable is weak.  This isn't chess; it's game theory.

The problem with most liberal ideas is that they make too much sense.  They're often incompatible with lived human behavior and missing incentives to change said behavior.  To solve complex problems requires intelligent, logical people to admit the possibility that they're wrong about something, or that they might not have sufficient data to solve with.  But these minds are often the ones most resistant to change or doubt — usually because their status is deeply intertwined with their capacity for reason.  Highly educated liberal elites don't just use logic; it is a core part of their identity.  In some cases, it is their identity.

As long as liberals continue to judge the world with a narrow and naïve logic, the alchemy of progress will slip right on by, only to be seized by someone with a little less sense. 

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.

By any modern day measure of logic, rationality, or deductive reasoning, a Donald Trump–led government should have resulted in an unmitigated disaster by now — a complete and unrestrained failure sending society into a tailspin, erasing decades (maybe even centuries) of progress.  But it hasn't — and it probably won't.  In fact, much of his first term has seen progress and movement on key issues where there was once only a hopeless standstill, complete with feats that even the most passionate Democrat would have a hard time seriously arguing that Hillary Clinton could achieve.  The seemingly high-minded, rational liberals can't make sense of the results. 

Here's why: it is perfectly possible to be both completely rational and dead wrong.  Logic requires that people find universal laws, but outside scientific fields and especially in political contexts, there are fewer of these than we might expect.  To insist on thinking logically even when the real world is acting nowhere near logical is an affliction that tends to infect the liberal intellectual mind at a higher rate than just about anyone else.  And smug arrogance to boot doesn't exactly help open the aperture for a deeper depth of field. 

After the Obama victories, the Democrats swore undying obedience to the statistical models and approaches they thought had propelled them to victory.  Anecdotal evidence, political intuition, and anything else that couldn't be tested or tied to a statistically significant data point were discarded and even scoffed at.  Fast-forward a few years, and Hillary Clinton's campaign, in full embrace of the hyper-rational and mathematical worldview, made a series of tragic missteps.  Over the final 100 days of the election, Trump made a total of 133 visits to Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Michigan, and Wisconsin.  Over the same time period, Hillary Clinton visited the first five of those states a total of 87 times.  Why didn't Clinton travel to Wisconsin once during the 102 days between the convention and the election?  Because the data didn't lead her there.  Meanwhile, subservience to the model brought her to Arizona five times. 

Statistical analyses should always be taken with a heavy dose of skepticism.  While reliable for designed experiments, clean data, and well understood environments, they can also be downright harmful in situations that have none of the above — such as an election influenced by a multitude of unpredictable human variables.  But this isn't just about strategic and tactical errors made during a campaign.  It's an embodiment for the myopic mode of reasoning that has come to dominate the entire apparatus of liberal thinking.  Instead of prompting much needed introspection on the part of those who mistook broken models for winning strategies, the 2016 result only hardened the flawed thinking that to this day can't comprehend or fathom Trump-led progress.

For all his faults, Donald Trump is actually solving problems.  He didn't need to build the wall to achieve his southern trade ambitions — he just needed people to believe that he might.  He didn't need to rain down "fire and fury" on North Korea to halt that country's nuclear ambitions — he just needed the North Koreans to believe he might.  As it turns out, being slightly unhinged can be a good negotiating strategy.  Being rational means being predictable, and being predictable is weak.  This isn't chess; it's game theory.

The problem with most liberal ideas is that they make too much sense.  They're often incompatible with lived human behavior and missing incentives to change said behavior.  To solve complex problems requires intelligent, logical people to admit the possibility that they're wrong about something, or that they might not have sufficient data to solve with.  But these minds are often the ones most resistant to change or doubt — usually because their status is deeply intertwined with their capacity for reason.  Highly educated liberal elites don't just use logic; it is a core part of their identity.  In some cases, it is their identity.

As long as liberals continue to judge the world with a narrow and naïve logic, the alchemy of progress will slip right on by, only to be seized by someone with a little less sense. 

Image: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.