Nassim Taleb popularized the term, “black swan”, in the decade past to describe “an event or occurrence that deviates beyond what is normally expected of a situation and is extremely difficult to predict.” The expression has since become a regular part of Wall Street lingo. But there’s no reason it can’t apply to politics as well, especially since the political becomes the economic and vice versa. With the media gloating over how Donald Trump’s candidacy is finished, it’s time for them to consider the Orange Swan with its trademarked combed-over coif wafting to our shores.
The Dewey Parallel
Anyone familiar with history, whose numbers sadly are fewer and fewer these days, knows the story of Thomas Dewey and the 1948 Presidential Election. Polls showed Dewey leading Harry Truman by five points in a Crossley poll, six points in a Gallup poll and fifteen(!) points in a Roper poll just before Election Day.
Somehow the polls were all massively off. Truman won by five points.
Historians believe the difference in the 1948 polling and raw vote was due to selection bias in the methodology. Naturally, polling was in its infancy back then and has since been refined. Twenty point mistakes do not happen anymore.
However, there is still the occasional YUGE surprise to the collective wisdom. I believe the race between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton will be one such shock. 2016 will be remembered by history as the Year of the Orange Swan.
2016: The Year of the Orange Swan Event
After Pu$$ygate, pundits in the mainstream media have declared the race over. Polls will assuredly come out in the ensuing days showing a comfortable Clinton lead, and it will likely remain so until November 8th. Then you will be in for the political media popcorn show of a lifetime.
Media types and pollsters make their living spouting conventional wisdom. Three sigma events, like the original financial black swan, are NEVER predicted by those in the press. Hive minds abound in the halls of media power. Questioning the queen can only make you lose credibility even if you happen to be right. [Check out the mockery Peter Schiff endured from the financial press for questioning the orthodoxy of the day. He nailed his predictions, but never got credit and the deniers are still employed today.]
They live in the insulated worlds of Manhattan and Washington, D.C. where the gravy train is speeding forth unimpeded. The people they associate with are doing just dandy. They are so clueless they are only just NOW realizing that there is a rage amongst the electorate. Sure, they know about the rage of Black Lives Matters, because it is the organized rage of press releases and Soros Bucks. But the anger of workaday Americans, who don’t have the time or money to get all SJW-y in the streets, is barely on the political class’ radar.
If they spent even one day in the suburbs or in a rural setting and talked with Joe Hardware, they would know he is sickened by the direction of the country he loves. He seethes about immigration, he boils over about globalism and he is internally red of tooth and claw about political correctness, though he fears to speak his mind lest he lose his job for having a contrary opinion.
And that last point is the crux of why the Orange Swan is on its way. Bigly.
The Effects of Political Correctness on Polling
When one lives in Orwellian times, even telling a pollster over the phone you plan to vote for Trump is an act of courage that not everyone possesses. Plenty of those called believe that the voice on the other end will harangue them for voting for the abominable racist and misogynist. Or they think that they’ll end up on some governmental list of undesirables – or tossed in the Basket of Deplorables – if the vindictive Hillary Clinton wins. The paranoia is real. And with ample reason. We do live in a surveillance state. Governments do persecute enemies of the entrenched. The money and power of the establishment is at stake. Bullying will occur.
Take a good look at the Brexit results of this past summer. Polling failed. The Silent Majority of Brits had enough. They most probably lied to pollsters for similar reasons. Hell, in jolly old England, birthplace of Magna Carta, you can be imprisoned for your unsavory opinions towards the protected classes. Or banned from traveling there if you’re a foreigner with a reputation.
Polls showed Brexit trailing Remain by six points in telephone polls the day before the vote. Brexit won by four points, a ten point swing.
The discrepancy doesn’t have to be as large for the Orange Swan to occur in America, two or three points should suffice in a few critical swing states.
The Enthusiasm Gap
There is also the enthusiasm gap to be factored, for which polling doesn’t appropriately account. This isn’t really scientific but it is sensible: pissed-off people vote more than the blase. Polling uses methodology based on citizens who voted in previous elections. There will be massive amounts of the disillusioned who haven’t voted in many years having their say in November.
You can see this in today’s race. Donald Trump routinely draws over 10,000 supporters to his freewheeling rallies which have the feel of organic enthusiasm. Hillary Clinton needs to bus bodies in and uses children as tools of propaganda. She relies on the media building up an atmosphere of inevitability to her election as the first female POTUS. Hers is the candidacy of the hollow, Hollywood facade.
Hillary is Dewey. The Donald is Truman, the potential Orange Swan that could completely change the economic and political history of this country. It’s going to be a fun four weeks.