Trump is my fault

Okay, not me.  But people like me– political scientists who study American political parties and elections.  Really interesting theory on this from Dan Drezner, nicely summarized by Yglesias:

Especially the ones who specialize in American politics. And especially the group of political scientists who study American political parties and came to the constellation of views associated on the internet with the book The Party Decides.

Many people who’ve looked at how close Trump seems to be to capturing the nomination have concluded that the book, which argued that party elites play an incredibly important role in determining presidential nominations, is simply mistaken.

But Drezner’s hypothesis is that something more insidious happened — the book undermined itself. As he puts it, elite actors in Republican Party politics became so convinced by this line of analysis that they “concluded that they did not need to do anything to stop Trump.” And that led to the theory’s prediction — that elite actors would in fact stop Trump — being proven false…

Here’s how I would think about it: One advantage people working in physical sciences like chemistry have is that the molecules chemists study don’t read cutting-edge chemistry research and change their behavior accordingly.

Social scientists, by contrast, have to study human beings who are capable of learning from social science research and behaving in new ways in response to old research. [emphasis mine] Even worse, human beings are capable of learning from secondhand, somewhat oversimplified popularizations of social science research and behaving in new ways in response to subtle misunderstandings of that research.

Nobody ever said that the lack of establishment enthusiasm for Trump would cause him to vaporize for no reason. What the research said was that based on previous nomination battles, party leaders would settle on a broadly acceptable candidate and then equip him with the resources necessary to win. But for this to work, party leaders have to actually do things to make it happen, not just blithely assume that it will happen.

Is this what happened?  Who knows, but an interesting hypothesis.  That said, what is kind of awesome is to see just how much impact smart, thoughtful, political science can have.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

One Response to Trump is my fault

  1. rgbact says:

    Meh, DT’s big advantage was always going to be having a ton of opponents. The smart strategy was always to let him be a Ron Paul fringe character, and not waste resources beating up on his quackery. .I wonder if Ron Paul had thrown in some “build that wall” rhetoric, if he could have done as well. Certainly he’d have beat 5 others.

    Hell, if the Dems had a Hillary clone in the race, Bernie would be cruising over both. What was smart was how Hillary cleared her field so well. Her getting Democrats to circle the wagons on her emails also was genius..

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