I’ve been getting messages all night about the US election. So here’s a quick couple of thoughts for people who have been following it with me.
- If you’re looking for something witty to post on twitter or facebook, how about: “So America just elected a glorified toilet-brush as President. Whatever it takes to clean the bowl of American politics, I guess.”
- Polling is busted. Pollsters missed Trump by the exact same margin as they missed Brexit. What does that say about Hanson’s chances? I’ve heard 10% in QLD. You could probably double it.
- Markets have wigged out. Why? Trump was behind in the polls, but not by a large margin. Trump was still a contender. And yet his victory is playing out like some sort of black swan. What’s the lesson? Markets are messy and driven by emotions. And they just can’t price schism events.
- Our media channels (including social media) have become personal echo chambers. We see the facts we already believe and the opinions we already agree with. A lot of people I know literally cannot understand why anyone voted for Trump. The answer is that Trump voters are living in a totally different echo chamber. If you tune in to a narrow selection of media, and especially if social media is your only news source, then you need to know that you’re getting a very partisan view of reality. This is a relatively new phenomenon.
- If you’re bummed about Trump’s victory (and I get that), I’d encourage you to take a little heart. From a progressive perspective, I genuinely don’t think President Trump will be any worse than any past Republican President, and probably a lot better. People talk about racism and bigotry and all that, but as someone following what he actually says, and as someone who makes a point of spending time in different echo chambers, Trump is not the reactionary he is painted out to be. I’m not saying he’s going to usher in some sort of Libertarian Renaissance, but I really don’t think it will be as bad as a lot of my friends are imagining today.
- To my mind, money-politics is the biggest threat to democracy and western civilisation. (How’s that new job working out for you Mr Robb. Getting paid in Yuan?) Sanders was talking about getting money out of politics. Trump was talking about getting money out of politics. Hilary wasn’t. I don’t know what chances Trump has of actually following through and succeeding. I’d give it 30% tops. But even that long shot is enough to put a spring in my step today. Peaceful revolutions don’t happen that often.
- To me this election has really brought home the power of stories. Trump as incompetent buffoon had real staying power, even as the evidence massed up against it. (Remember how he took down the Bush dynasty and made Fox news his little bitch?) People wanted it to be true, and they wanted it so much that couldn’t see what was actually happening. As a result, everyone underestimated him. Democrats are in tears and markets are freaking out. Stories are the way we interpret reality, and they stick around long after the facts have left the room. This helps us understand why markets often overshoot in both directions.
- This shakes everything up. Everything. Right across the world. That’s only a bad thing if you think the system was working quite nicely already. I’m not one of those people.
- Policies will not feature heavily in western elections again. Their evolution into an emotion-driven contest of stories is complete.
- Is it too soon to say, “I told you so”? Remember I picked out the Trump comet bearing down on us way back in September last year. I was there way before it was cool.
Love to know your thoughts. The avalanche of punditry has started already. Take it with a grain of salt.
No one knows what they’re talking about. Especially me.
What do you make of President Trump?