The Dunning-Kruger Presidency

Knowing what you don't know is important.

light-bulbsInspired by a certain someone’s self-description of their genius, James Fallows of The Atlantic was inspired to write the following:  How Actual Smart People Talk About Themselves.  The piece comports with my own experiences on this topic, but I was especially struck by the following:

They know what they don’t know. This to me is the most consistent marker of real intelligence. The more acute someone’s ability to perceive and assess, the more likely that person is to recognize his or her limits. These include the unevenness of any one person’s talents; the specific areas of weakness—social awkwardness, musical tin ear, being stronger with numbers than with words, or vice versa; and the incomparable vastness of what any individual person can never know. To read books seriously is to be staggered by the knowledge of how many more books will remain beyond your ken. It’s like looking up at the star-filled sky.

This hit a chord on multiple levels. The basic thesis is one that I have tried to instill in my students for years.  First, a key element of learning is figuring out what you don’t know.  Indeed, these types of discussion make me thing of teenagers who often think that they know it all is simply because they have yet to figure out the vast areas of knowledge they lack.  Along those lines students who do poorly on exams often did not take the time necessary to figure out what they did not know or understand in class, relying instead on their extreme confidence in the areas they did know.  A key corollary to this notion is that the more you know, the more you know you don’t know.  It can be disconcerting, especially to very bright students, for them to feel that they know less and less the more education they receive.

And then, of course, we have, as Fallows notes, the Dunning-Kruger effect:

the more limited someone is in reality, the more talented the person imagines himself to be. Or, as David Dunning and Justin Kruger put it in the title of their original scientific-journal article, “Unskilled and unaware of it: how difficulties in recognizing one’s own incompetence lead to inflated self-assessments.”

This is very much one of the areas that has long concerned me about the president:  he has never shown any inclination or ability to know (or care to figure out) what he does not know.  Indeed, I noted it over a year ago:  Trump: “I’m like a smart person”; Doesn’t Need Daily Intel Briefings.  (In re-reading that post from mid-December 2016, I am struck by the phrasing:  “like a smart person” which is quite similar to the tweet from a few days ago, “being, like, really smart”–what is with the “like” modifying “smart”?).

And I understand we all have blind spots.  We all certainly have opinions on subjects for which we are not expert.  And yes, to be a politician requires having to have opinions on a range of subjects (and also a large ego that, no doubt, unduly amplifies one’s confidence on those opinions).  However, a truly smart politician (let alone a genius) knows that to function in that role that one needs actual experts as advisers.  The Trump administration’s poor record of a) appointing truly qualified persons to either advisory or governing roles, and b) adequately staffing the executive branch just helps to starkly demonstrate the D-K Effect both in action (on the part of the president) and then amplified by the appointees themselves.  Look no further than the State Department for evidence of this.

Look, Trump has certain talents (self-promotion being one of them).  He obviously has some level of intelligence to get where he is, but he clearly is ignorant of wide swaths of knowledge (foreign policy, trade, and health care are three than immediately come to mind) and shows no inclination toward learning about them–rather, he makes broad declarations as if he knows what he is talking about.  He is the Dunning-Kruger President:  a blind man leading the parade without cane or guide-dog, certain that he can not only stick to the parade route, but describe the scenery as he goes.

 

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    Trump has told us that he knows more about health care than anyone. He’s told us that he knows more about taxes than any CPA. He’s told us that he knows more about ISIS than “the generals” because he watches “the shows.”

    What’s truly disturbing is the number of people who purport to believe him.




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  2. Mikey says:

    @CSK:

    Trump has told us that he knows more about health care than anyone.

    Until reality hit and he said “nobody knew that health care could be so complicated.”

    No, Donald, EVERYBODY knew that…except you. But rather than admit you underestimated its complexity, you need to make it sound like nobody else knew either.




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  3. CSK says:

    @Mikey:

    Indeed. But he appears to have returned to his initial position that he knew more about health care than anyone else.




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  4. Ben Wolf says:

    @Mikey: Trump’s entire life has been the role of con artisté. He’s incapable of even recognizing he’s underestimated anything. Or knows nothing but the hustle. To him, it’s everything




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  5. rachel says:

    This hit a cord

    Chord. A ‘cord’ is a piece of string.




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  6. grumpy realist says:

    Speaking as a physicist, it’s really really important to realize what it is that you don’t know or your instincts give bad results about (we’re really really bad at understanding very small probabilities, for instance. “Common sense” doesn’t enter into it.) Otherwise you have a very good chance of ending up irradiated, poisoned, or squashed.

    The other area to be very very cautious of is engineering risk is not the same as financial risk which is not the same as managerial risk. Which we learned the hard way with the Challenger tragedy.

    Trump? Is the sort of idiot who thinks he can bluster his way out of difficulty. DUMB is another word for it.




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  7. @rachel: Thanks for spotting that.

    One thing I know I know: I need an editor.




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  8. MarkedMan says:

    a blind man leading the parade without cane or guide-dog, certain that he can not only stick to the parade route, but describe the scenery as he goes.

    Priceless




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  9. michael reynolds says:

    Nicely written, Steven, if I may play literary critic for a moment.

    IQ is an element of intelligence equivalent to processing speed. It means you have a fast computer. It says nothing about the programming or memory of that computer. Nor does it guarantee that the computer’s operator (you and me) will reach wise solutions. (I have a very high IQ. . . and spent 22 years as a fugitive from justice.) But a capable observer can pretty quickly get an idea of a person’s IQ and I would be very surprised if Trump’s was north of average. 95-110, say.

    But whatever his IQ is, he’s missing every other tool you need. He has zero curiosity. He evidently concluded his education fifty years ago when he no-doubt cheated his way to a degree. And he’s crippled himself with a severe case of Dunning-Kruger. Starting from that weak base, add in the effects of age, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, insecurity and quite likely, Alzheimers, and you have the barely-functional, lost and confused old man we see today. I doubt Trump could crack 85 on an IQ test right now. I have someone close to me with that IQ, I love her to death, admire her talents and skills (very different from mine), and would not for a split second want her in charge of a nuclear superpower.

    We are in this fix not because of Trump’s Dunning-Kruger, but rather the D-K of 46% of American voters. They’re too dumb or else too motivated by malicious ideologies to recognize that Trump is incapable of doing his job. Trump isn’t the disease, he’s the symptom. The rot is in the American people.




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  10. MarkedMan says:

    During my active engineer era, the thing I liked best was debugging. And the most important thing I learned is that “Eureka” is just another emotion. In order to discipline yourself to get to the absolute nut of the problem it is vital that you learn how to deal with your confidence in any particular answer. Not infrequently, when I felt I had everything figured out, that all the pieces fit together perfectly, that this last bug that I found (coupled with these other two from earlier, etc) just had to be the final answer, I would hold my tongue, go home, sleep on it, and wake up thinking “Hmm. That was definitely a bug, but we also saw the symptoms under these other circumstances. It can’t be the final answer.”

    I can’t tell you how I compare in being “like, really smart” compared to other engineers. But I know that being aware of my own predilections and shortcomings and integrating that into the debug process made me a significantly better than average debugger.




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  11. @michael reynolds: First, thanks. Second, I agree with the basics of your post. At a minimum there is clearly a difference between IQ and education (and, beyond that, and perhaps more importantly, intellectual curiosity and self-awareness).

    I also agree that Trump is a symptom and not the the cause (although I might elaborate some of the elements of the problem in a different direction).




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  12. MarkedMan says:

    @michael reynolds: You are dead on. There are many Trump’s in the world (I’ve dealt extensively with two myself). The real questions are why one of our two major political parties nominated this man*, and why so many hapless Americans voted for him.

    *It’s a measure of Bernie Sanders’ boundless egotism that he views the train wreck our country is having because the Republican Party eliminated all possibility of jettisoning a dangerously incompetent buffoon and thinks, “I don’t know about that, but the Democrats need to get rid of super-delegates”, i.e. the only mechanism they have to stop someone like Trump from becoming their nominee.




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  13. Gustopher says:

    @michael reynolds:

    We are in this fix not because of Trump’s Dunning-Kruger, but rather the D-K of 46% of American voters. They’re too dumb or else too motivated by malicious ideologies to recognize that Trump is incapable of doing his job. Trump isn’t the disease, he’s the symptom. The rot is in the American people.

    I don’t think it’s that people were too dumb to realize what a disaster Trump would be, I think they just wanted to piss off their enemies. Spite is the universal human emotion.

    They voted for sticking a thumb in the eye of all those liberals who worry about equality for all while white people in the heartland are suffering.

    Trump hated the right people, and he wasn’t afraid to wear his hatred on his sleeve.

    I wish Americans had just failed to realize he was an idiot — that would mean that they could be reached next time. But, a huge swath of them are happy with Trump and don’t give a damn what he accomplishes, because he angers liberals.




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  14. It is worth pointing out again that a minority of Republican primary voters nominated Trump and he lost the national popular vote by almost 3 million.

    Trump’s election is very much a failure of our institutions. That is not absolve those who voted for him, but it cannot be stressed enough.




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  15. MBunge says:

    You know, in a way this Trump intelligence thing is a perfect example of what’s wrong with our public discourse in so many areas. Namely, that is is completely disconnected from reality.

    It sure is nice for Stephen L.Taylor to grant that Trump “obviously has some level of intelligence,” given that Trump has been massively more successful and is massively more accomplished in three separate fields than Taylor has been or likely ever will be in the ONE field on which he has concentrated.

    Mike




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  16. MBunge says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    And Hillary Clinton lost the total popular vote in 49 states. Installing her in the White House by allowing California to override the rest of the union would have been an even bigger failure of our institutions.

    Mike




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  17. @MBunge: Always, you remind me why engaging you is pointless.

    I will point out: you actively come here to read what I write, and frequently comment on it–not the other way around.

    Also, if you are going to be rude, at least spell my name right.




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  18. de stijl says:

    Steven L. Taylor:

    (In re-reading that post from mid-December 2016, I am struck by the phrasing: “like a smart person” which is quite similar to the tweet from a few days ago, “being, like, really smart”–what is with the “like” modifying “smart”?).

    I’m of the opinion that the “like” usage is small beer. It’s annoying, but tons of crap in English is annoying.

    Usually, it’s a verbal tic. A combination of a spoken filler (or hesitancy) like “er” or “um” and a non-specific modifier / intensifier. When you add to your written language, it’s a slightly bigger deal, because you have had the time to plan what you’re going to write and decided to use it, but it is mostly a sign that “like” as Trump uses it is entering American English in a new usage to mean “really.”

    Of all of Trump’s sins, his use of “like” like he was a tween girl is pretty far down the list.

    Like it or not, but “like” is going to be, like, totally common usage going forward. And by definition, it is now, like, modern-day Presidential.




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  19. de stijl says:

    @MBunge:

    And Hillary Clinton lost the total popular vote in 49 states.

    What?!? That is factually wrong.




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  20. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @de stijl: By MB’s logic, let’s also throw out all votes from Texas and Florida and see what the popular vote totals would be.




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  21. @de stijl: Sure, people drop “like” into everyday speech and it is a minor point.

    Having said that, it is weird to have typed it especially.




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  22. de stijl says:

    @rachel:

    This hit a cord

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Thanks for spotting that.

    Along this line, one of my favorite mis-usages is when people write ‘tow the line” instead of “toe the line”.

    They’ve internalized the meaning, but their mental picture of the concept is radically different than the original, intended mental image. Apparently, tug boat captains or bargemen do what they do because there would be negative in-group social repercussions if they altered their expected behavior.




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  23. Modulo Myself says:

    Trump is a bad liar and manipulator who has gotten away with it because he was born wealthy. The Republican party has been good to him because it’s a political party formed solely out of bad ideas created by wealthy people and repeated by insecure hacks who know they are not as smart as liberals. Fallows is more talking about the smug know-it-alls who think tax cuts are gold and government is evil, and speak in op-ed formation. Trump is from a totally different planet: he is not insecure about his stupidity anymore than a con man is about the con.




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  24. @de stijl: He is referring to the fact that if you deduct CA altogether, Trump would win the popular vote. IIRC, he is correct.

    Now, the notion that taking over ~10% of the population out of the mix to make an argument is problematic, of course.

    I could select another ~10% out, I could show how Clinton won a landslide of the popular vote.

    It is not a very effective argument. It is basically saying: if one ignores tens of millions of voters, the results would be different. No kidding. (It is also the fallacy that because CA is 1/50th of the states that it someone shouldn’t count more than any other state–something that is only true in the Senate).




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  25. de stijl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I would not be shocked to learn that Trump uses a speech-to-text app. Typing is for the gals in the steno pool.




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  26. al-Ameda says:

    @MBunge:

    And Hillary Clinton lost the total popular vote in 49 states. Installing her in the White House by allowing California to override the rest of the union would have been an even bigger failure of our institutions.

    Mike

    I believe that Hillary won 18 or 19 states.




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  27. de stijl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    He is referring to the fact that if you deduct CA altogether, Trump would win the popular vote. IIRC, he is correct.

    Ah! I got it now. That is astoundingly stupid, but it is factually correct.

    It is not a very effective argument. It is basically saying: if one ignores tens of millions of voters, the results would be different. No kidding.

    #WhiteVotesMatter is the appropriate hash-tag for Bunge’s comment.




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  28. al-Ameda says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    It is not a very effective argument. It is basically saying: if one ignores tens of millions of voters, the results would be different. No kidding. (It is also the fallacy that because CA is 1/50th of the states that it someone shouldn’t count more than any other state–something that is only true in the Senate).

    Exactly right Steven. It’s a fun parlor game.

    A family member reiterated the Trump-supporter talking point that if you subtract CA and NY then Trump wins the popular easily. I couldn’t help it but … I countered with, well, if you subtract the states of the original Confederacy, and throw out Missouri and Kentucky who wanted to sign on too, then Hillary annihilates Trump by both popular and electoral voting.

    I know it’s hard but you’ve got to have a sense of humor in some of this.




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  29. de stijl says:

    @CSK:

    Trump has told us that he knows more about health care than anyone.

    Trump thought that health insurance was life insurance:

    So pre-existing conditions are a tough deal. Because you are basically saying from the moment the insurance, you’re 21 years old, you start working and you’re paying $12 a year for insurance, and by the time you’re 70, you get a nice plan. Here’s something where you walk up and say, “I want my insurance.” It’s a very tough deal, but it is something that we’re doing a good job of.

    https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2017/07/does-donald-trump-know-what-health-insurance-is-an-investigation




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  30. Mikey says:

    @MBunge: Not to pile on, but this is a phenomenally stupid comment.

    “If we take out a bunch of people, the results of the vote would be different!”

    No shit, Sherlock. No wonder you’re a Trumpist lickspittle.




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  31. Kylopod says:

    It brings to mind the scene from The Princess Bride:

    Vizzini: I can’t compete with you physically, and you’re no match for my brains.

    Man in Black: You’re that smart?

    Vizzini: Let me put it this way. Have you ever heard of Plato, Aristotle, Socrates?

    Man in Black: Yes.

    Vizzini: Morons.

    Remember that the end of this sequence hinges on Vizzini’s failure to consider that the Man in Black has built up an immunity to poison. And where did the practice of building up immunity to poison originate? According to the history books, it was pioneered by the ancient Greek/Persian ruler Mithridates IV–a descendant of the very people whose greatest thinkers Vizzini dismissed as “morons.” In other words, had Vizzini spent a little more time reading the classics instead of disparaging them, he might have survived this encounter.

    True wisdom depends on accepting the wisdom of others and building on it. Claiming everyone in the world but oneself to be an idiot is folly, not wisdom.




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  32. michael reynolds says:

    Hey, guys, don’t pick on Bung – he only came by to offer a practical demonstration of Dunning-Kruger. Poor baby.




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  33. Hal_10000 says:

    Working in astrophysics, I’ve met a few geniuses — scary-smart people. And Fallows’ description is exactly right. They are fascinated by what they don’t know, keenly aware of how ideas can go wrong. My thesis advisor was (and is) brilliant. The most common thing I would hear from him is, “Why are we wrong about this?” He always wanted us to chase down systematics, look at alternative theories, address possible flaws — especially when we got the answer we were expecting.

    I would also my own Rule of Expertise. Experts tell you what they now. Frauds want to tell you how brilliant they are and how they know everything without actually giving you specifics. Trump is a classic con-man, a classic pitch man, telling you he knows everything while revealing nothing. I wish to heaven some reporter, whenever Trump says he knows “everything” about taxes, ISIS or healthcare, would ask him specific questions to show how ignorant he really is.




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  34. de stijl says:

    @Hal_10000:

    I wish to heaven some reporter, whenever Trump says he knows “everything” about taxes, ISIS or healthcare, would ask him specific questions to show how ignorant he really is.

    Which would be instantly castigated as a prime example of “gotcha” journalism that the liberal MSM routinely employs against conservatives.

    If the “What newspapers do you read?” question to Palin ended up being an example of “gotcha” journalism, your proposal would deemed that * 100.

    I agree with you; journalists should do what you suggest. But we know what would happen if they did.




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  35. Kylopod says:

    @Hal_10000:

    Trump is a classic con-man, a classic pitch man, telling you he knows everything while revealing nothing.

    You’re raising an interesting point. My first reaction was that you’re giving Trump too much credit. Con artists are usually more professional and convincing than Trump. But then I realized I was thinking more of the classic movie con artists, the type you see in films like The Sting or House of Games. The truth is, in the real world today scams are usually more along the lines of the Nigerian Prince emails–stuff that plays to the absolute lowest common denominator, where you have to be a total moron to fall for it, but there are enough morons in the world that these scams are actually profitable.

    And note that calling Trump a con artist isn’t an analogy. He isn’t like a con artist. He literally is one, as the “Trump University” case attests.

    But it’s important not to lose sight of the fact there are more subtle ways to be a con artist, and the GOP has been engaged in those ways for years before Trump came along. Trump isn’t the reason less than half of the American public affirms that climate change is caused by human activity. Trump isn’t the reason legions of Republican voters believe that cutting taxes increases federal revenue.

    In 2016 Mitt Romney called Trump a “con man.” But Romney is the guy who in 2012 attacked Obama for cutting Medicare while endorsing a plan that cut it even more. Marco Rubio called Trump a “con artist,” but this is the same politician who helped lead the bipartisan Senate bill on immigration reform before promptly abandoning it once he started running for president, and falsely claiming that there were more illegal immigrants in the country than five years prior.

    As I’ve argued before, Trump is to the GOP establishment what the Monster was to Dr. Frankenstein. They’re horrified by him, but they created him, more or less. What concerns me is that he’s such a dumbfoundingly obvious target there’s a tendency to dismiss him as an aberration from the party rather than what he actually is, an outcome.




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  36. grumpy realist says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Reminds me of the comment someone made somewhere “if you don’t count women and blacks, Romney would have won.”

    Sometimes one just has to pound one’s head against the wall.




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  37. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @de stijl: I have a friend who uses a speech to type app. I would think there might be more peculiar misspellings based on what I see that he texts to me. On the other hand, it would explain “covfefe.”




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  38. dmichael says:

    @MBunge: You really need to stop commenting. Your posts are dumb and getting dumber. Trump did NOT win the popular vote in 49 states. Look at the election totals and then for your final post, apologize.




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  39. An Interested Party says:

    Mr. “I Know Everything” is the perfect poster boy for why there needs to be a stringent estate tax…




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  40. de stijl says:

    @Kylopod:

    I think Magnolia is my favorite con-man movie, because it is not obvious about it. Plus, it’s a really great movie. And the weather, too, is quirky. It’s not *about* con-men, but it is all con-men. Well, maybe not Phillip Seymour Hoffman. Or John C. Reilly. (Crap, I may have to re-visit my premise.)

    I’m conflicted about Glengarry Glen Ross. Such great dialogue. Written by such a pr!ck.




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  41. de stijl says:

    @Hal_10000:

    We need a Walter Cronkite-type to stand up and boldly and confidently to say:

    “You, sir, Mr. Trump, are unfit to the office and need to resign.”

    The problem is that there are no Walter Cronkites anymore. And the media environment is entirely different.




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  42. DrDaveT says:

    @MBunge:

    given that Trump has been massively more successful and is massively more accomplished in three separate fields

    OK, I’ll bite. Which fields is Trump accomplished in (as opposed to successful)?

    (You do realize that these are not synonyms, right?)




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  43. de stijl says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Do you imply that being wealthy isn’t the same thing as being accomplished? Are you a Communist, an atheist, or a Muslim, sir?

    —-

    Challenge accepted!

    Trump is really good at misogyny. Misogyny is likely his core competency.

    Trump is really good at wandering from point to utterly unrelated point in the same sentence. It’s uncanny how good he is at this skill.

    Trump is wicked smart in picking just the correct toadies and sycophants to work for him.

    Trump is exceptionally awesome at thinking he has “won” a twitter battle where he, in fact, has been utterly destroyed.

    Trump is utterly incapable of feeling shame and belittles people who can.

    This is just a small sample of Donald Trump’s huge skill-set.




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  44. Gustopher says:

    @al-Ameda: all you have to do is remove states that have seceded from multiple countries to defend slavery, and Clinton wins.

    Remove states with the highest teenage pregnancy rates… Clinton wins.
    Remove states with the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases… Clinton wins.

    So many fun stats break along the Mason-Dixon Line. Lowest literacy rates, dental health, SSDI…

    Does Clinton win with just the original 13 colonies? Not sure. That one I would have to look up.




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  45. Kylopod says:

    @de stijl: I’ve only seen Magnolia once, around the time it came out nearly two decades ago. I remember really enjoying it, but I disliked the weird deus ex machina ending. I’ve had it on a list to watch again some time, but I haven’t gotten around to it yet.

    I love Glengarry Glen Ross to death. It’s written by the same guy who wrote and directed the aforementioned House of Games, so he does have a thing about con artists. The fact that he turned into a right-wing pr!ck puzzles me more than anything, because Glengarry struck me as one of these critiques of the materialist culture of the Reagan years, just like Wall Street. It almost makes me think the Alec Baldwin character was meant to be a figure of admiration, not the absolute d!ck most of us perceive him as.

    I have that feeling about Scott Adams as well. There’s just something surpassing strange that the man who created the Pointy-Haired Boss–whom we presumed was supposed to be a figure of ridicule and derision, and a satire on the kind of rampant incompetence that persists in the corporate world–would become a Trumpaloon. I’ve compared MBunge here to Adams, in that they both seem motivated by a certain pathological, mindless, knee-jerk contrarianism. It isn’t so much Trumpism as anti-anti-Trumpism.

    Another example is Clint Eastwood. I really liked his 2008 film Gran Torino. That’s why I was scratching my head at his bizarre remarks in 2016 where he actually cited that film to explain his support for Trump. He said that people said the movie was “politically incorrect,” and, like, people say the same thing about Trump. Somehow it didn’t seem to occur to Clint that the apparent point of the movie (where an aging bigot learns to be more tolerant and accepting of the immigrant family next door) would seem to be a powerful argument against a candidate like Trump.

    In all these cases, I get the weird sense that the artists don’t even get their own work. Or perhaps we are the ones who misinterpreted it all along?




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  46. de stijl says:

    @DrDaveT:

    In my anxiety to provide a cogent list, I inadvertently left out the most important of Trump’s skills, i.e., narcissism. Obvs, duh!

    Trump is the most narcissistic President ever. Hands down. And that is a really, like, a really / really hard battle to win.




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  47. de stijl says:

    @Kylopod:

    What I love about the end of Magnolia is that the frogs fall out of the sky for no *apparent* reason and it wasn’t cinematically foretold. There were no frog close-ups preceding the event, thankfully.

    It just happened, and the characters freaked out naturally.

    It was bold. It was Old Testament. If God wants to scourge the earth with a plague, He will.

    In my mind, it wasn’t deus ex machina because the plague of frogs didn’t resolve anything. It just sorta happened.

    Random events rarely make it into stories because the rag-tag band of mis-matched, but heroic misfits are gearing up to what is supposed to be a sneaky / unexpected assault upon the villain’s lair … and then there is a random earthquake that knocks down the lair and the villain is killed by a falling ceiling beam. (Which probably explains the Biblical Jericho story.)

    Don’t even get me started on Aimee Mann’s musical contribution to the movie.




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  48. de stijl says:

    @Kylopod:

    David Mamet.

    I don’t think he’s a pr!ck because he became a right-winger after 9/11, I think he is a pr!ck because of how he writes women characters, or more accurately, how he writes male characters that talk about the paper-thin female characters Mamet thinks are realistic.

    David Mamet is a fantastic writer (of a certain type of male character). David Mamet is a massively misogynistic creep. Both of those are true.

    Like you, I love, love, love Glengarry Glen Ross, but David Mamet as a person creeps me out.




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  49. KM says:

    @MBunge:

    given that Trump has been massively more successful and is massively more accomplished in three separate fields

    This right here is why stupid people fall for the same BS time and time again. Success =/= intelligence or there’d be no starving smart people and the Kardashians would be the nobodies they truly are. Trump isn’t smart, Trump is lucky and has one vital skill: finding the sucker in the room. Card sharks have the same ability – are they geniuses too? Given that his “success” is highly debatable, is that even a criteria you want to use?

    I’ve been a member a MENSA since age 16. I have multiple degrees and accreditations in several fields. I’m published in prestigious journals, have been part of projects that lead to major medical breakthroughs (and the patents that go with it) and am currently considering going back for another degree because I’m bored with what I do. I am on paper a genius but I can tell you I know jack sh^t about the stock market, engineering, how to write decent legislation or major parts of life. Hell, finding my keys in the morning can be a challenge depending on how caffeinated I am. If I ran for President, we’d all die because I’m smart enough to know I know nothing of value in important necessary subjects. My success in life wouldn’t magically translate to the necessary intelligence to understand what crosses the Resolute desk so why in the world would you think Trump can do better?

    “But I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express” is supposed to be a joke, not a life philosophy.




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  50. Kathy says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: If you count all votes for third-party candidates like Johnson or Stein, over 10 more million people voted against Trump than voted for him.

    While this doesn’t affect the results, it explains how he’s still so popular with Republicans, while being so unpopular with the rest fo the country.




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  51. grumpy realist says:

    @KM: Ah yes, the collecting of degrees. Been there, done that, got the parchment. Six times so far. Trouble is, if one of them is a J.D. then everyone keeps prodding you to take the Bar exam…

    Good luck!




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  52. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @MBunge:

    “… given that Trump has been massively more successful and is massively more accomplished in three separate fields than Taylor has been or likely ever will be in the ONE field on which he has concentrated.”

    And Hillary Clinton lost the total popular vote in 49 states.

    Not sure how 6 bankruptcies are a measure of success…certainly losing money in the Casino business, a business where the house always wins, is an accomplishment…but seriously…do facts mean nothing to you?




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  53. Franklin says:

    First off, good post Steven.

    @michael reynolds:

    But a capable observer can pretty quickly get an idea of a person’s IQ and I would be very surprised if Trump’s was north of average. 95-110, say.

    Agreed. I had previously guessed about 115 on this site. Nothing super special; smarter than ~83% of the population. That may have been optimistic, and I meant it at his peak level (before any mental illnesses had taken hold, which many people now suspect). He was a skilled marketer, and at one time he was very persuasive. These are skills I don’t have so I tend to be impressed by them.

    MBunge: First person to mention Hillary in every thread. What is the fascination?




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  54. @Franklin:

    First person to mention Hillary in every thread. What is the fascination?

    Healthy diet of Fox News or the like, I would wager. The HRC fixation in those quarters is rather amazing. I think the CA line is standard talking point there as well.




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  55. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy:

    If you count all votes for third-party candidates like Johnson or Stein, over 10 more million people voted against Trump than voted for him.

    While this doesn’t affect the results, it explains how he’s still so popular with Republicans, while being so unpopular with the rest fo the country.

    There have been several presidents who were elected with around 43% of the vote the first time, a significantly lower share than Trump got—Bill Clinton, Richard Nixon, Woodrow Wilson. Unlike Trump, they all won a plurality of the popular vote. But in all those cases you could say 57% or more voted against them.

    Clinton actually held the record for most unpopular first-year president before Trump, ever since Gallup has been taking presidential approval ratings (which is since Truman). Trump has left Clinton way behind in that department. But here’s the thing: Clinton had far worse intra-party approval ratings in his first year than Trump. By June 1993, only 63% of Dems approved of Clinton’s performance. Trump’s approval among Republicans has never gone below 78% to this day.

    I just think partisan polarization has gone through the roof. Part of it may be that in recent years a lot of Republicans have left the party and begun calling themselves independent, while still largely continuing to vote Republican (which helps explain why both Romney and Trump handily won the independent vote while losing the popular vote overall—there are significantly more Republican-leaning indies than Democratic-leaning ones at this point). So practically the only people left who still identify with the GOP are the hardcore cultists.




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  56. Mikey says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Something I’ve seen a few times:

    “They ought to build the border wall from Hillary’s e-mails because nobody can seem to get over them…”




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  57. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod: Bill Clinton made the very big mistake of thinking his electoral college win meant he had a mandate to do as he pleased. Trump’s performing the same mistake now. Clinton learned he had to reach out to those who did not vote for him, which meant in no small part he had to moderate his positions.

    I don’t see Trump doing likewise.




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  58. MarkedMan says:

    The amusing talk about how Trump would have fared if we removed various groups and states from the mix is all well and good, but just remember that the Republican strategy for 2020 will be to convince Bernie to run as an independent, thereby splitting the anti-Trump vote. And Bernie is just the type of angry self-centered semi-jerk to do it – in Bernie’s mind, nothing is more important than Bernie.

    I am confident enough in this prediction that I will bet every dollar of MBunge’s money…. 😉




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  59. Kylopod says:

    @Kathy:

    Bill Clinton made the very big mistake of thinking his electoral college win meant he had a mandate to do as he pleased.

    I agree. And Clinton won 370 electoral votes–not only a lot more than Trump, but more than Obama both times. Trump absurdly calls his EC victory a “landslide,” but the press pretty unanimously referred to Clinton’s as one, despite his relatively low share of the popular vote.

    I even heard some people use Clinton’s strong EC victory as an argument for the virtues of the Electoral College. Here, for instance, is a piece from the WSJ at the time, reprinted on AEI’s website:

    Bill Clinton’s victory has been widely termed a “landslide.” Yet it was that, of course, only in the Electoral College. Among those who went to the polls on Nov. 3, Mr. Clinton’s margin of victory was much narrower. Indeed, some 57% of them voted for one or the other of his opponents. Still, as happened in 1860 with Abraham Lincoln and in 1960 with John F. Kennedy, Mr. Clinton’s popular plurality (43%) was translated into a solid (69%) majority of the electoral vote.

    This serves to illustrate one of the virtues of the Electoral College system. By amplifying, or exaggerating, the margin of victory in the popular vote, it produces decisive results, or, at least, results that appear to be decisive. Thus, Mr. Clinton’s electoral majority will allow him to claim a popular mandate for the changes he promised during the campaign. His margin of victory will also make it easier for him to do things he did not promise to do, or even promised not to do, things that, nevertheless, ought to be done. In a word, it will make it possible, or at least easier, for him to do unpopular things.

    Of course, in retrospect this analysis looks foolish. The problem is that most of the public sees right through the artificiality of EC results. That’s especially the case when you consider one of the main factors that leads to lopsided EC victories, but which this article curiously neglects to mention: the winner-take-all apportionment of the electoral votes in most states. For example, Clinton won just 40% of the vote in Ohio but received 100% of the state’s 21 electors. That’s not something inherent to the EC system (in fact Maine and Nebraska don’t follow this practice), but it’s the single biggest reason why a candidate’s EC victory typically looks more impressive than his popular-vote one. Yet in practice, no one seems to care.




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  60. al-Ameda says:

    @Kylopod:

    I just think partisan polarization has gone through the roof. Part of it may be that in recent years a lot of Republicans have left the party and begun calling themselves independent, while still largely continuing to vote Republican (which helps explain why both Romney and Trump handily won the independent vote while losing the popular vote overall—there are significantly more Republican-leaning indies than Democratic-leaning ones at this point). So practically the only people left who still identify with the GOP are the hardcore cultists.

    I think you’re pretty much dead on.

    I’ve yet to meet more than a tiny handful of so-called ‘independents’ who have liberal voting tendencies. Most of those I’ve met tend right, seem to be Republicans in “independent” clothing, and they often insist that they have a libertarian view on social issues (of which I’m skeptical) and a conservative view on federal budgets and deficit spending.




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  61. MarkedMan says:

    @Kylopod: Something I’ve long thought about Clinton’s EC victory: it supports the theory that white Southerners will put regional affiliation above almost (but not quite) anything else. Clinton and Gore are both from the South and so, despite being Democrats, were able to win a respectable amount. Trump is an obvious exception to this rule, but he blatantly plays the racist card, which trumps (heh heh) his obvious NYC upbringing. I suspect to a large part of the white South, it was a choice between a NY Racist and and a NY Racial Apologist.




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  62. Kylopod says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Something I’ve long thought about Clinton’s EC victory: it supports the theory that white Southerners will put regional affiliation above almost (but not quite) anything else.

    I tend to look at it more in terms of the gradual realignment that happened between the ’60s and the ’90s. Jimmy Carter, in 1976, won every Southern state except Virginia and Oklahoma. But that turned out to be the last gasp of the old Democratic coalition. No Democrat ever won the South again. The Clinton-Gore ticket, despite being Southerners themselves, did not win a majority of that region, even though they did win several Southern states that have since become solidly red. By 2000, Al Gore couldn’t even win his native Tennessee. In 2004 John Kerry didn’t win a single Southern state even with a Southerner on the ticket.

    I’m skeptical that nominating a Southerner for president again would succeed in helping the Dems make serious inroads into this region. Let’s say we were to nominate, say, Doug Jones. If his Senatorial record turns out to be that of a conservative Democrat like Joe Manchin, that will make him less compatible with the national Democratic Party. But if he votes as a more conventional liberal, that will decrease his appeal to Alabamans and Southerners more generally. And if he flip flops–voting in the Senate as a conservadem, then later moving to the left when running for president–that will be even worse. In a way, it’s the same sort of dilemma–but in reverse–that Northeastern Republicans like Mitt Romney and Chris Christie have faced when seeking the GOP nomination.

    At the time Bill Clinton ran, his brand of centrism held appeal both in his home state and with the national party, which had just lost three presidential elections in a row and was in the mood to move toward the center. That kind of dynamic no longer exists. We’re in a different world now.




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  63. Kathy says:

    @Kylopod: I can see a slight justification in the EC for very close elections, like 2000, or for split elections when no one gets a majority of the vote. Although for the latter case a run-off election would be just as good.

    But when a candidate loses the popular vote, no amount of EC votes should make him the winner.




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  64. wr says:

    @de stijl: “Random events rarely make it into stories because the rag-tag band of mis-matched”

    And yet this movie is all about “random” events, and whether or not they really are random…




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  65. grumpy realist says:

    @wr: Stanislaw Lem wrote a whodunit once “the chain of chance” which plays with the idea of probability and what happens when you get a lot of random events happening that just might link up. Good book. I should dig it out again….




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  66. MarkedMan says:

    @grumpy realist: I didn’t actually read the Magnolia post because, darn it, one day I’m going to go back and watch that movie. So this comment might be a perfect addition to the thread, or it might come out of nowhere but, FWIW, Philip K. Dick actually used the I Ching to write The Man in the High Castle:

    DICK: Once. I used it in The Man in the High Castle because a number of characters used it. In each case when they asked a question, I threw the coins and wrote the hexagram lines they got. That governed the direction of the book. Like in the end when Juliana Frink is deciding whether or not to tell Hawthorne Abensen that he is the target of assassins, the answer indicated that she should. Now if it had said not to tell him, I would have had her not go there. But I would not do that in any other book.




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  67. gVOR08@fuse.net says:

    @de stijl: Also one of my pet peeves, along with “reign in” instead of “rein”.




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  68. mike shupp says:

    @rachel:

    In related news, somewhere on the internet today, I came across a website post which several times referred to “Noah’s arc.”




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  69. MarkedMan says:

    @mike shupp: I assume that would be the rainbow?




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  70. rachel says:

    @MarkedMan: An arc over the ark?




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