The data journalists seemed so confident, so calming. “Why Donald Trump Isn’t a Real Candidate, In One Chart,” read the headline in a June 16 post at FiveThirtyEight. On July 18, even after the tycoon-cum-candidate surged in presidential polls, New York Times Upshot reporter Nate Cohn wrote that Trump had reached a “turning point” and would crumble under the weight of Republican attacks.
I have said something like this several times over the last month: “This election is a Seldon Crisis and Trump is the Mule, operating completely outside of any data-driven approach.”
While I have no idea if I am responsible for this meme making it to the WaPo or not, it reflects what I have been saying.
In a rough year for polling analysis, the Trump surge stands out. The first-time candidate whom so many people wrote off has done for 2016 what Isaac Asimov’s Mule did for the psycho-historians of Foundation — a conquest from out of nowhere, unpredicted by any of the calculations, turning his enemies’ blasted palaces into new (and classy) throne rooms.
The Mule was able to control people’s emotions in ways to alter the course of history. Humanity has seen people like this throughout its history.
Not because they have mutant powers but still able to manipulate emotions for their own purposes.
People ignore Trump at their own risk. He represents an important, if ugly, populism that so often arises during periods of unsettling change. Many people want a powerful, bullying leader to make them feel safe in an unsafe world.
The problem is that these people are often narcissistic sociopaths who leave a wave of destruction in their wake.
Like Paul Krugman, who was also influenced tremendously by Asimov’s series, I find it amusing that works written over 50 years ago can have an influence in today’s world.
I too smile at the last line of Second Foundation – one of the best last lines in literature – and wish their was such a group looking after us today.
But then, this is because I prefer a soothing Mother to a bombastic Father.
Image: greg westfall