Reminder: There Is No 'Conventional Wisdom' in Post-2016 American Politics

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It's quite natural at this point in a presidential election year for speculation to run rampant—especially in this weirdest of all cycles. What makes it either difficult or fun—depending on your perspective—is that all of the rules and historical trends that we once used in political prognostication were thrown out of the window in 2016. 


Spoiler alert: they're not coming back. 

We often talk about Donald Trump having broken some people in 2016. What he really broke were all the rules that political pundit types like me relied upon to seem like we knew what the heck we were talking about. They were valid prior to then because they helped us be right more often than not. 

What Trump didn't disrupt in 2016 was smashed into oblivion by the pandemic's make-'em-up-as-you-go election "laws" in 2020. 

Political speculation in 2024 is not just a crap shoot, it's a crap shoot where the dice are being rolled by a universe that's been mixing codeine and hard liquor for breakfast every day for eight years. With every throw, there's a good chance that the dice will end up on the other side of the Cosmic Casino. 

The classic example of what we can put too much stock in would be Joe Biden's cratering approval numbers. Back in Olden Times, an incumbent president with subterranean approval numbers was probably going to get roughed up in the general election. At present, Biden's numbers are so bad that his campaign people should just throw in a white towel to kick off every public appearance. 

No matter how awful the numbers get, however, they won't be a trustworthy indicator of what will happen in November. 

Ever since the 2000 Bush/Gore election, people have been swearing up and down that they don't believe political polls. Political pollsters are still doing just fine, though. Polls lure even hardcore skeptics in when there's comfort to be taken in them.

Relevant: Political Polls Are Lucy and Republican Voters Are Charlie Brown

Yes, those polls do look good for Donald Trump's quest to be the 47th President of the United States at the moment. I would much rather they be where they are now than have him trailing, of course. Polls can occasionally provide a vague snapshot of the mood of the electorate. Personally, I don't have a lot of faith in a moody electorate to do the right thing.

It matters not what I think, however. Whatever metric I use to find solace in the state of the race at this point just doesn't have the selling power that it used to. 

OK, there is one thing that I will point to for those of us who are hoping that the light at the end of the tunnel isn't a train with no brakes. In 2016, Donald Trump ignored, defied, and ultimately ran roughshod over every shred of conventional political wisdom that decreed he shouldn't defeat Granny Maojackets. 

If there is anyone who can prevail against the chicanery that the Dems built into our elections in 2020, it's the guy who never behaves the way any of the Democrats or squish Republicans want him to. 

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