Thursday, March 3, 2016

Killing Donald Trump Part One: Ultionem in Nigroque Cygno

"What we call here a Black Swan (and capitalize it) is an event with the following three attributes.

First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations, because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme 'impact'. Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable.

I stop and summarize the triplet: rarity, extreme 'impact', and retrospective (though not prospective) predictability. A small number of Black Swans explains almost everything in our world, from the success of ideas and religions, to the dynamics of historical events, to elements of our own personal lives.

- Nassim Nicholas Taleb

So we all see that Donald Trump is a Black Swan, right?

1). Donald Trump's success most definitely "lies outside the realm of regular expectation." Sure, there were a few unusual people preaching the Gospel of Trump from relatively early in the election cycle, but that it itself is not that unusual. You're always going to have a few people riding a hobby-horse candidate. If Ben Carson was crushing the primaries, I guarantee you that some fringe pundit would be crowing about how they 'called it.'

2). Trump's success indisputably has "extreme 'impact.'" At the minimum, we're talking about overthrowing one of the two political parties of the world's sole superpower. At the maximum, we're talking about a permanent shift in the global balance of power. That's impact to an extreme.

3). Everyone and their mother now has a theory on why Trump was inevitable. It doesn't matter if anyone is right, what matters is that we're already engaging in the inevitable stage three of a Black Swan event. When only the prophets and madmen could have called it in advance, it does not have prospective predictability. 

By every predictive mechanism available, Trump will take the White House in November. But of course, Trump has already smashed every predictive mechanism available. Can we use mechanisms based on "regular expectation" to predict the course of a Black Swan? Probably not. It's hard to say. It's a Black Swan.

Let's look at a quick list of the things that have not stopped Donald Trump that have stopped other candidates in the past:

1). "Racist!"
2). "Sexist!"
3). "Unelectable!"
4). "Degenerate!"
5). "Psychotic!"
6). "Extremist!"
7). "Fake conservative!"
8). "Etc.!"

Obviously, the usual playbook of disqualification is having no effect, other than giving Donald Trump an impressive hold of our Distributed Thoughtware.

Since this first script has failed, people are looking for other options. Here's a list of common knee-jerk strategies I've seen floated around:

1). Shouting the above phrases even louder
2). Shout everything even louder
3). Assassination
4). Voter fraud 
5). Back-room political shenanigans

Despite accusations that Microsoft rigged the Iowa vote for Rubio, there's no evidence of vote tampering beyond the usual levels. Outright fraud is probably not going to happen.

Back-room political shenanigans are still on the table, and may be enough to prevent Trump from getting the Republican nomination. This option will also likely permanently destroy the Republican party, so the establishment isn't going to use it unless absolutely necessary. Of course, Republican establishment figures are already talking about voting for Hilary instead of Trump, so...let's call this one a "maybe."

Shouting "racist" et. all even louder seems least likely to work, and where anti-Trump figures are pooling most of their chips. *cough* John Oliver *cough*.

Shouting EVERYTHING EVEN LOUDER means stooping to (more accurately, stepping up to) Trump's level. It means the other candidates committing to full retard mode to make Trump less special. Unfortunately, I can't see the other campaigns seriously considering this - for the reason that they seriously consider things. They'd do it less effectively than Trump and lend him legitimacy (more accurately, make questioning his legitimacy even less effective).

Assassination has been mentioned (in a "I'm joking, but not really" sort of way), but would likely require cooperation from a figure inside the Secret Service. It would also likely destroy any shred of faith Americans have left in the political process. I won't rule it out as a possible thing that could happen, but I am ruling it out as a thing that anyone should ever consider a good idea.

Conventional wisdom says that the most likely thing to stop Trump at this point is a brokered convention or similar back-room shenanigans. But you didn't come here for conventional wisdom.

Let's go deeper.

[Next: Killing Donald Trump Part Two: Qualify and Attack]


  1. You missed one strategy: front-room political shenanigans. The party establishments have engineered their primary processes fairly carefully with multiple backstops for this kind of situation. This is part of what makes Trump interesting; he has managed to command many of the process features that were designed to promote the success of the establishment candidates. But Trump hasn't gotten past all of them yet.

    Expect to see a major reengineering of the primary process for the GOP establishment if they manage to survive the election and any backlash, something like what happened to the Democrats after Carter.

    1. The front-room political shenanigans are already pretty evident - #NeverTrump et al.

      As for the convention in particular, I think most people will view a brokered convention with about as much calm consideration as the most sinister back room deal.

      Even if it's 100% legal and 100% precidented, all people are going to see is the establishment doing that thing that everyone hates.

      In this election front room shenanigans are back room shenanigans.

  2. Not sure about the last time that happened with the Rs, but it happened in 2008 with the Ds and there wasn't a lot of crying about it. Check the popular vote and popular delegate counts for HRC and the Lightworker, versus the result. The superdelegates were the deciding factor there.