The midterm elections are over, and where the Trump phenomenon began as a radical overturning of our political status quo (“right diagnosis, wrong treatment,” I argued at the time), the traditional rules of American politics return: the incumbent President’s party is checked in the midterms. One of the iron laws of American politics is an allergy to one party keeping power too long. Trump’s checking was less than President Obama’s was.

The mainstream media narrative was one of the American system’s transcendence over this bad, bad man. But is that the whole story of what’s happening? The guardrails placed by our founding fathers containing our inexplicably elected buffoon? Let’s explore:

A more comprehensive review of his accomplishments will follow in a later article, but there is larger issue to get out of the way first, speaking of transcending: Trump’s rise and success is the greatest overturning of conventional political wisdom since the fall of the Soviet Union. No newspaper or professional news organization endorsed him. Trump’s caricature as a bewigged orange in mid-rant must now be the world’s most common political image. This scribbler has added his own voice to what must be the greatest choir of condemnation in the history of Western politics. But, I also have a day job.

If the truth is that the President has only tangential, or even indirect, power over the growth of the economy, as former President Barack Obama and media critics of the President maintain to explain Trump’s success, then that is doubly a refutation of what passes for political wisdom, and the first we’d be hearing it. It’s a sure bet no future presidential candidate, especially Democratic, will repeat that “the President’s impact on the economy is tangential, the President has only limited power over economic growth, and nobody knows how or why anyway” when it’s their turn to ask for the job (The libertarian answer to that would be “if you can’t prove what you’re doing is the right thing, you should not be forcing everyone else to go along”).

The chorus of status quo experts has been wrong about Trump, shockingly wrong, unprecedentedly wrong. I can’t think of a single pundit I respect who predicted anything like where we are now, economically speaking . Should we ever accept the opinion of a political expert ever again, with all of them being so very mistaken (and I’ve not even mentioned Middle Eastern policy, or the EU yet)? Where is elite expertise when, like OJ Simpson going into acting, a neophyte like Trump can barge in and do a better job than the professionals of the entire politically developed world? If he barged in to work with me, there is no possibility he could function, let alone outperform my colleagues, and this is true for almost everyone (an underlying reason for all the hatred from elites? As if they needed subconscious ones too).

Where is expertise when the union Britain seeks to leave has its health threatened by Greece (an economy less than 2% of the whole) with the regularity of every other soccer World Cup? Where is expertise when most of the pundits and politicians who voted for the Iraq invasion still keep their jobs? Where is expertise when most of the members of the finance committees are yet to be tipped from their chairs a decade after the 2008 housing bubble worldwide economic meltdown?

Poll data has reflected America’s revulsion with their political class for a long time, and in this light the Trump phenomenon should be (partly) seen as them getting what they deserve. And the warning is playing out everywhere the people have a say in their own government. Yet even amid the Trump phenomenon, our incumbency rate is still [in the high 90% range, as it always has been. Superimpose the incumbency rate over the approval rate to see that there must be structural flaws in our politics. Trump‘s earthquake was along this fault line.

Isn’t this poor performance, alongside stunted accountability, the root cause of the overturning of conventional political wisdom happening, from Brexit, to Brazil. From France (2/3 of their incumbents thrown overboard) to Florence, where Italian economic growth was announced as…wait for it… 0.0%.

Recall, Hillary Clinton said, during the debates, that she would confront Russia (one of two powers that can destroy us), over the privilege of bombing more Islamic dysfunctionality into functionality, just as we have done for half a generation now. At outrageous expense to us, with bloodshed and displacement the likes of which have not been seen since the Second World War. Clinton’s main selling point was her, wait for it… expertise (that, and the fact that she bought her party out).

I’ve long argued that the problems remaining to the developed world are too complex for binary, top-down political processes to solve. An evolution is needed. The government can answer simple and clear questions, like war, but cannot answer the question (affordably anyway) of, say, how we can make people be less racist or less sexist. As it is, in answering the question, we have more lawyers than anyone else, yielding the unsatisfactory results we have gotten so far, by applying laws crafted by experts. We certainly can’t double-down on more of the same. Meanwhile, race progress and gender equality enlightenment marches on with the rest of technology without any government program’s input.

From the outcomes of Trump’s policies, here at the midpoint of their implementation, we certainly can’t say Trump’s racist tendencies caused any more harm than Obama’s enlightened ones Obama deported more illegals). Trump did not kill our last attempt at immigration reform, enlightened Bernie Sanders did. Trump’s way smells of racism, but, when ground up in the sausage-making of our bipolar political machinery, the same sausage comes out on both ends, like everything else the government does, be it education reform, or healthcare reform. Which is: the continuance of the locked-in status quo, designed by insider experts, sustained for their benefit. Change is always noise around the margins, with very little innovative progress.

Nicholas Nassim Taleb hits it out of the park:

What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.

With psychology papers demonstrating less than 40% reproducibility, governmental dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fat-phobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Ben Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating only 1/5 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct, and listen to their grandmothers with a better track record, than these policymaking goons. Indeed, one can see that these academico-bureaucrats wanting to run our lives aren’t even rigorous, whether in medical statistics or policymaking.

There is no magic wisdom for coming up with the correct solutions from populism’s aggrievedness, either. The people have the same problem of immunity from direct consequences, and perverse incentives as their representatives do. For just one example: one hand of the nation’s electorate (politically developed world’s really) votes for expensive programs, the other hand will not raise taxes to pay. This is the cycle of America’s deficit problem, federal, state and city. The Trump input into the deficit cycle is in no way unusual, either.

In closing, consider this paradox: these two years have seen pathological liar and political neophyte Donald Trump’s promises of a high-functioning economy become the only truths told in the politically developed world.

Eugene Darden Nicholas

About Eugene Darden Nicholas

Eugene Darden (Ed) Nicholas is from Flushing Queens, where he grew up sheltered from the hard world, learning the true things after graduating college and becoming a paramedic in Harlem. School continues to inform and entertain in all its true, Shakespearean glory. It's a lot of fun, really. In that career, dozens of people walk the earth now who would not be otherwise. (The number depends on how literally or figuratively you choose to add). He added a beloved wife to his little family, which is healthy. He is also well blessed in friends and colleagues.


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