Trump’s Conventional Logic

Let me start by laying my cards on the table.  Back in 2016 I predicted both the Brexit vote and the Trump win before they happened.  Clearly this was in part luck.  Partly it was also wish-fulfillment – I wanted both those outcomes, and humans being what they are it was easier to believe what I wanted to believe.  But also it was in part due to my then conviction that much of the mainstream media and much of the Establishment had become massively disconnected from the concerns and worldview of the ordinary voter.  Candidate Trump ran not just against the Democrats.  He also ran against the dominant wing of the Republican Party (many making up today’s ‘Never Trumpers’) and against the outlook and biases of most of the press.

I thought then, and still do, that the preponderance of Trump’s message was attractive.  End the outsourcing of American jobs, especially those in manufacturing.  Do something about judges advocating a ‘living Constitution’ (read that as ‘make it up at the point of application’), a concern I have shared my entire working life.  Make America energy self-sufficient, as opposed to virtue-signalling about renewables in a way that drives up energy costs hugely (as in Australia) but does next to nothing about lowering the rate of increase of carbon dioxide emissions in a world where China is building new coal-fired electricity generating plants almost fortnightly.  Get illegal immigration under control.  Try to do something to rein in the spread of political correctness.  End the Bush/Obama foreign policy approach beloved by the Washington insiders but not by Main Street USA. 

Al that struck me as a very saleable and attractive package.  And I say that knowing full well that those in the upper echelons of American and Australian society – the lawyerly caste, the insider and lifetime political class, the CEOs of big companies, the tech giants, Hollywood, the non-Fox News media class, etcetera – would despise this message.  They still do.  But it was enough to see Trump scrape home and win, the reaction of the media on election night (just as with its reaction the night of the Brexit vote) being one of the great pleasures yours truly has savoured in his life.

Fast-forward some four years.  I’m not much of a betting man but in early July of this year, when the online bookies posted odds of 3-1 if you took President Trump to be re-elected, I put $400 on The Don.  (And anyone who wishes to see my betting slip is free to ask and be shown it.)  By fluke that was pretty much near the top of the market, as the betting odds have continually narrowed since then.

Today the odds are either about even or President Trump has become the slight favourite.  That tells us a number of things.  Firstly, bettors don’t trust the polls.  I don’t either.  Especially not after I read the one that showed how many Americans were afraid to tell others, including pollsters, their actual views.  I work in a university as a right-of-centre law professor and I can tell you that it is not progressives who tend to keep their views to themselves or fear they’ll lose their jobs if they don’t.  Imagine, for instance, proclaiming loudly at the US Studies Centre at Sydney University that you were pro-Trump.  If you did, you’d be the only pro-Trump one working there that I know of.  Universities lean massively left, as every single study done here, in Canada, in Britain and in the US has shown.  Extrapolate more widely and there are grounds for believing a ‘shy Trump’ syndrome is making the polls very suspect indeed.

Secondly, Trump’s comeback tells us that the riots around America are hurting the Democrats and they know it.  Belated attempts to condemn the riots and to pretend the Republicans and President Trump are to blame for them stretch credulity, given all the accumulated video clips of Nancy Pelosi, Kamala Harris and others condoning what they had earlier characterised as ‘largely peaceful protests’. 

Related to this is that more and more Americans have come to distinguish the desire to better black lives generally – as Douglas Murray has challenged, name one person who isn’t for that – and the hard left Marxist Black Lives Matter organisation that is against the nuclear family, capitalism and more  (read it for yourself on their website).

Thirdly, the Wuhan coronavirus is in retreat in much of the US.  This was a wildcard that could have seen President Trump lose.  Remember, back in January The Don looked like a sure bet.  Put differently, the President’s re-election chances vary inversely with the virulence, reach and lockdown response of the virus.  Given that most of the southern US States are basically back up and operating, and the pressure this puts on the others in a federal system, unlike ours, where states largely pay the costs of their decisions, and you can see that trend is going Trump’s way at the moment.

And fourthly, I think the betting market is factoring in the mental state of Joe Biden.  If anyone can look you in the face and say he or she honestly believes the man is all there upstairs then that person ought to move to Los Angeles and look for acting work.  Moreover, with the polls narrowing and many Democrat campaign operatives thinking this is anyone’s ballgame, Biden will find it excruciatingly hard to avoid the debates. If he declines, Trump will roast him alive day in and day out. If he opts to debate, not only will that make for incredible TV, I think the odds of him not betraying his damaged state are poor.

All of that brings me to the recent Republican Convention.  In my view this was clearly done better than the Democrats managed.  There were plenty of really good speeches.  Two by black Americans stood out.  One was by the former gridiron star Herschel Walker (below) on the implausibility of thinking Trump is a racist and on how he was treated after coming out of the closet as a Republican.  The other was by Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina.  It was a clear message that the Republicans were courting the black vote. As modern Republicans basically haven’t broken into double figures as far as the black vote goes – and that applied to Romney, McCain and loads of others, not just Trump – this is a low bar in a sense.

Should President Trump get up around 15 per cent of the black vote this November, it is hard to see how the Democrats can win.  And they know it.  And it turns out — Surprise! Surprise! — that black Americans are no more keen on defunding and neutering the police than most others (well-off progressive whites being something of an exception to that generalisation).

Another great speech, in my view, was by the Cuban refugee Maximo Alvarez.  And my early longshot pick for the first female President is the current Governor of South Dakota, Governor of the only US State that did not lockdown at all (following what I think was the correct Swedish game plan of telling citizens all the facts, trusting them, aiming to help the old and frail, and not mimicking the lockdown policies of communist China).  Her name is Kristi Noem and she too gave a good speech.

On top of that the Republican Convention trotted out war veterans, football coaches, Indian chiefs, small business owners, but not the great and good of Hollywood and the Davos caste that populated the Democrat Convention.  Basically, the Republicans were big on optimism, big on individual personal choice, big on America as a great country.  They left it to the Democrats to try to walk the difficult tightrope of calling half the country racists and then proclaiming ‘but hey, let’s unite’.

As for Trump himself, I thought he gave a good speech.  It was long. At first I thought it was too long.  But then it hit me that that was part of the point.  He could stand up and speak for a long time.  Biden couldn’t.  Such was the implicit message.

Look.  No one denies that candidate Trump is in some ways a flawed human being – crass, vulgar, a braggart.  But as the American columnist Victor Davis Hanson reminds us, Trump has faced vitriolic hatred for over four years.  He has taken on a spectrum of vested interests.  A normal person could not put up with that. Or take on the Russia collusion hoax, remembering that from what we now know what the insiders did to Trump was far worse than Watergate and that some of these attacks would have led to his imprisonment if successful.  Or deal with the most politicised impeachment process ever.  And do all that while delivering on more of his promises than any Anglosphere politician I can think of for a very long time.  (For the sceptics, the list starts with appointing interpretively conservative judges then moves through insisting immigration conformed to the rule of law; reducing taxes; deregulating the economy; making America energy self-sufficient; pre-COVID overseeing a country where the unemployment rates for blacks, Hispanics and women were at all time lows; cracking down on racial discrimination against Asians at elite US universities; moving the US Embassy in Israel; getting out of the disastrous Iran nuclear deal; and putting massive pressure on NATO allies to pay their way as they’ve promised to do for at least a decade.)

And as we enter the last few weeks before the election, don’t forget President Trump’s campaigning genius.  The man has the uncanny ability to identify an opponent’s weakness in a memorable and devastating word or two.  He’s now calling Biden “Joe Hidin’”.

Now I’m no fan of President Trump’s protectionism.  And I used to say he wasn’t the sort I’d invite for dinner, but I’ve changed my mind on that. Given all the insider attacks he’s endured and how well he’s stood up to them, I’d be honoured to have him at my table.  I respect his toughness under sustained onslaught.  And I respect the way he has tried, and mostly delivered, on what he promised. I think the Republican Convention went some way to showcasing that. Unless something happens in the next two months the momentum is on his side.  As I did four years ago, I’m predicting a Trump win. And I’m more confident now than I was back then.  (You won’t hear that from a US Studies person.)

James Allan, is Garrick Professor of Law at the University of Queensland, is the author of Democracy in Decline 

21 thoughts on “Trump’s Conventional Logic

  • Edwina says:

    Why does Donald always have to have any article about him prefaced with his “failings”? It didn’t happen with Winston! It certainly does not happen here with our “labour luminaries”!
    The Democrats are mostly liars, criminals, deviants and worse and yet this does not ever rate a mention. Why?

  • ianl says:

    >” … many Americans were afraid to tell others, including pollsters, their actual views …”

    Perhaps even further, many people may actually lie to the pollsters as a vengeance on being constantly snooted in the MSM. I’ve heard many journos voice this fear – if true, it mocks their loud-mouthed “predictions”.

  • Edwina says:

    Donald always has to be referred to as “flawed” it seems!

  • Elizabeth Beare says:

    I want Trump to win, and win with strong margins. But I do worry about popular sentiments stoked by the relentless mass media that fabricates silly stories decontextualised from any reality. One can only hope it is better in the US where there is more political discussion in general and more chance for people to hear opposing views. I can’t count the number of times people here have mentioned Trump’s ‘lies’, although they can’t mention any, nor the general response that he has ‘failed’ in all of his activities as President.

    Republican advertising and the internet coming good for Trump may help a lot. Let’s hope so.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    Elizabeth: we humans tend to believe what we want to believe, and are subject all the time to confirmation bias: (present company excepted of course!)
    “But again, the Trump administration has been less than truthful on multiple occasions — believe me, I know — so it’s completely fair not to believe what Trump and his allies are saying. It’s also worth noting that none of the president’s supporters specifically say Trump never called war dead “losers” or “suckers” or that he didn’t berate McCain in private. The denials are more general, stating that none of what reported happened.
    “Simply put, the denials are less specific than the reporting.
    “What would help clear this up — right now — is if any of the sources who spoke to the outlets or anyone else who heard Trump’s comments came forward to state on the record what they know. As of this moment, it’s the word of a lot of trustworthy reporters relaying what unnamed people are saying against the word of untrustworthy people being openly clear about where they stand.
    “The sources speaking publicly surely wouldn’t end the controversy — there will always be people who back the president no matter what — but their public comments would shed light on one of the most consequential stories of the Trump era. The truth about all this is vital information, especially ahead of an election.”

  • Peter Marriott says:

    Good piece James and I agree with it. Also, many years ago I fell under the spell of the constant simple message that all we had to do was remove tariffs and our own industry support, and everything would be much better etc, etc., however I’m older and wiser now and can see that it just isn’t that simple, and things just don’t work properly for your own Nation and people, like that. The old bilateral arrangements of the past coupled with a fair dinkum comparative advantage free trade arrangement is the best way, and this seemed to me to be what President Trump saw, and gave me hope that he would be elected, because the USA is where our lead comes from, and in fact where all the English speaking world’s lead comes from. I told friends of mine both here, in England and the US then, that if I was voting in the US he’d get my vote big time, and I say the same now…if I was voting in the US Presidential elections I’d vote for President Trump big time.

  • bearops says:

    Ian what is clear is that Trumps opponents have been prepared to fabricate, edit and misinterpret reality in order to attack him. Trump wastes little time with such attacks but often retaliates with like. This may be frustrating for those desiring “Presidential” dignity however it is politically effective with the “common man” who lives in a world of common sense and votes.

  • Stephen Due says:

    Trump is the last bastion against the Progressive Left in America, and therefore the last bastion of American prosperity and democracy. Trump is also Australia’s last line of defence against potential enemies in our region. It is no accident that at recent protests against tyranny in Asia there have been American flags and even the occasional sign simply saying ‘Trump’.
    I’m not interested in the “Trump is a flawed human being” tack. This is fatuous commentary. Everyone is flawed, and anyone’s deficiencies will inevitably be exposed in an office such as that of POTUS.
    Trump is admired because he has intellect; he has consummate commercial and organisational experience; he is honest, open and sincere; he is committed to American exceptionalism; he is determined to protect American liberty; he is committed to American military supremacy.
    But above all Trump is magnificent in action. He takes the battle to the enemy without fear. He does not paper over conflicts and hide in a basement. Trump fights.

  • Warty says:

    I thoroughly concur with Edwina’s observation that so many self-styled conservatives find the need to point out Trump’s lack of finesse, before singing his praises.
    My sister lives in California, sees herself as a conservative, but uses all the MSM/ Democrat talking points whenever the Trump subject crops up. She claims not to follow the MSM, so she must suck this stuff out of her thumb. Telling her that it is his actions that count, or that substance has it all over form, is just a waste of breath.
    When we have an election that will determine whether or not we continue to have a Western Civilisation, is infinitely more important than the colour of Trump’s hair, or his Queen’s accent, or the apparent level of bombast.

  • Warty says:

    Ian, The Atlantic refused to substantiate their article by naming those who made the ‘loser’ and ‘sucker’ allegations against Trump. The timing was interesting too, being mere weeks before the election.
    At one of Kayleigh McEnany’s very recent press briefings, the MSM attempted an orchestrated ambush, with reporter after reporter framing their questions around ‘Trump’s deliberately misleading the American public’, with some brazenly accusing him of lying to the American public. This is a desperate ploy to dissuade independent swing voters from throwing their votes his way. It’s a fiction and his base is not swayed in the least.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    Warty: The Atlantic original is posted below. It is standard journalism practice for sources to wish not to be identified; and the White House appears choc-a-bloc with staffers and ex-staffers who have no time for President Pussygrabber. There were clearly enough Americans desperate enough through the bizarre electoral system they have over there to elect him, even though a majority voted against him. Even the editorial team of Quadrant Online was not sure of him at first, though they will generally buy anything marketed as ‘conservative’. Google up – trump’s record of lies – ; see what you get.

  • John L Devlin says:

    I would expect a Professor Law to be capable of putting up a good argument and he certainly does not disappoint here.
    But I am not interested in that so much.
    Gutsy…that is the word that immediately sprung up when I read the article.
    Because going to work every day amongst that bunch of tossers would test the hardiest of men..
    btw…I got 8/1 on Trump in 2016 and am extremely disappointed that the bookies are far more intelligent this time around.
    Will I show you the ticket to prove it like the more accommodating professor Allan?
    Nope…get stuffed.
    There was not a single member at my club in 2016 that agreed that “Trump could be the most consequential President in US history” and there were many that were less than polite.
    I like to remind them.
    I was praying for Big Mike Obama or Susan Rice to be nominated as Biden’s VP which would have skyrocketed the Don’s odds this time.
    Alas, it was not to be.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    A couple of weeks ago I remarked to my brother-in-law that it would not be long before a ‘credible’ sexual assault would be alleged against Trump. The ‘losers’ allegation was simply the first installment in a series of allegations that will emerge over the next few months. Expect the ‘sexual assault’ to be trotted out much closer to the election where it’s lack of legs will not matter.

  • pgang says:

    I hope we will see an analysis in Quadrant of the Middle East peace accord. Surely this is the biggest world news since the Berlin wall came down.
    And of course, because Trump’s admin was behind it, crickets from the media.

  • pgang says:

    Peter OBrien you are probably spot-on. But I doubt that anybody will be listening to yet another fake wolf story outside of the media bubble.

  • Ian MacDougall says:

    Peter: “A couple of weeks ago I remarked to my brother-in-law that it would not be long before a ‘credible’ sexual assault would be alleged against Trump….”
    I think that Donald Quack (Trump I mean, not Duck) probably has that covered. His movements 24/7 will almost certainly be accounted for and testified to by a combination of wife Melania and/or Stormy Daniels. Either them or the White House butler who brings him his regular shot-glass of snake oil to ward off Covid-19.
    Hold fast to your Trumpian faith! It will be its own reward!

  • Stephen Due says:

    Vancouver Freedom Rally 13 September 2020. Many signs in the crowd carry one word: ‘Trump’. At one stage the crowd chants “Trump! Trump! Trump!
    In California, John MacArthur, the renowned Christian pastor, stands with his church against the order of the governor to close the church due to the virus. Who phones MacArthur with encouragement? Trump.
    People worldwide know that Donald Trump stands alone among world leaders as defender of Freedom. Contrast the useless Australian Premiers and PM, who stand only for their own re-election.
    Trump is a fighter for freedom. Trump is a liberator who stands against Socialist-Progressive tyrants like Daniel Andrews,

  • gavanhe says:

    I am at a loss to understand why the likes of Ian MacDougall bother with our esteemed magazine as he apparently disagrees with the thread and tenor of most articles.
    Perhaps masochism underlies his views.

  • Peter OBrien says:

    Gavanhe, much as I deplore the tone of many of Ian McDougall’s comments (as witness his response to my comment in this thread) I do support his right to be here and to contribute – we do not want to become an echo chamber. And he does support the general Quadrant line on some issues.

  • gavanhe says:

    Peter, no issue with anybody expressing opinions as I also welcome them, but seems to me that Ian has preordained opinions/positions contrary to most of mine. I heartily hope that he continues to express them, it just seems as though he’s pushing a barrow in the wrong place. All the same I’ll happily read his opinions and thoughts.

  • Trevor Bailey says:

    Ian MacDougall is a gadfly to the QO crowd and its sometimes monotonous tone. Don’t we tire of a steady diet of bias confirmation? The agitated republicans of Athens in 399BC never did, and voted in favour of the hemlock solution for their own niggler-in-chief. (Anyway, sh*t stirrers are funny once we get over ourselves. President Trump proves it so.)

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