June 2016 - DrSunshine.org

The Rational Trump

Donald Trump way overestimates his intelligence. That makes him delusional, but it does not make him stupid.

Dr Sunshine has been trying to make sense of Trump's persistent assaults on Latinos. The wall thing, rapists, murderers, etc, and the latest thing, his insistence that a federal judge whose parents emigrated from Mexico cannot fairly preside over a civil case in which Trump is a defendant. Since the beginning, Trump has brought into his rambling tirades a snide sort of denigration of all things Latino, often in a "you know what I'm talkin' about" sneer, as if he were sharing a little secret with his in-group.

The Republican establishment pretends to be shocked by their outlandish candidate, and they say they wish he would stop doing all these racist things. That it will hurt them in the election and destroy their party in the long run. That kind of thing. They are probably right about the long run, but Trump has proven them wrong in the short run at every turn in the past year. He took it to the voters and beat sixteen contenders -- long-time, successful, professional politicians, and fellow amateurs alike.

Elections are about the short run. The very short run. A week is a long time in an election, a month is a very long time, and a quarter of a year is the whole ball of wax. The voters who will decide the election don't pay much attention until the last week or two. There is plenty of time to fix the Latino problem over the next decade or so, before the demographics make it impossible for the Republicans to do without Latino votes.

But, they do not need to fix the Latino problem right now. They can get by with white votes this time (that's white, non-Latino votes, to be racially accurate, as if that were possible ... "white" is shorthand). Trump knows this because he's done the same calculation that Dr Sunshine has. All he needs to do to win the popular vote in November is to get 63% of the white vote. Romney got 59%, and Romney tried to pretend that he wasn't a racist. Trump doesn't do that. He embraces racism. He thinks that's the way to get the 63% he needs, and everyone who's tried to outguess him in the past year has been wrong. Trump knows what he's doing.

The bottom line is that if Trump gets the 63% of the white vote that he's aiming for, Secretary Clinton would need 80% of Latino and Asian voters, assuming the other percentages are the same, which is a conservative assumption from the Republican point of view because the voter suppression initiatives that they have put in place in about 30 states may well work, and even if they don't, voter turn-out for millennials and blacks may not be as high as it was for Obama. If that doesn't scare you, Dr Sunshine doesn't know what would.

Dr Sunshine

PS. Here's how you can make the calculation yourself. The Republican's share in an election is a weighted average of their share in each demographic group, where the weights are each group's share of the total. For example, when you divide the voters into five demographic groups, the equation looks like this:

R = wW + bB + hH + aA + oO
R = ballots cast for Republicans, as a fraction of all votes
w, b, h, a, and o = fraction, by group, of ballots cast for Republicans
W, B, H, A, and O = fraction of all voters comprised by each group

In the 2012 election, the percentages of white, black, Latino, Asian, and other voters were, according to Wikipedia, 72%, 13%, 10%, 3%, and 2%. Romney's percentages for those groups were 59%, 6%, 27%, 26%, and 38%. To calculate the percentage of whites Trump needs, assuming he gets the same percentages as Romney in the other groups, set R equal to 0.5 and solve for w. You will find that it comes to a little under 63%. If you plug that 63% into the equation for R, along with, say, 80% for Clinton in the Latino and Asian groups, the Republicans lose the popular vote by a fraction. However, going from 73% to 80% of Latinos is a bigger leap for the Democrats than going from 59% to 63% of whites is for the Republicans. Isn't it? Maybe so, maybe not. FiveThirtyEight has a different take on it, but the New York Times is more pessimistic. There's no slam dunk here.

Dr Sunshine has not done the calculations to work out the state-by-state electoral vote. The popular vote was scary enough.

Update, 15 Sep 2016: Ian Frazier's ode to the Statue of Liberty explains, in a touching way, why Trump and especially Trump's supporters should be ashamed of themselves. Trump does not come up, but you will see the connection in the end.

Update, 10 Nov 2016: Unfortunately, Dr Sunshine's worst fears about the election came to pass.

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