National Security & Defense

Experts Who Got Brexit Wrong Now Say Trump Can’t Win

Trump at a campaign stop in Tampa, Fla., August 24, 2016. (Reuters photo: Carlo Allegri)
Is elite overconfidence surfacing again?

Donald Trump says that the same experts and pollsters who incorrectly predicted that British voters would vote to stay in the European Union are now dismissing his chances to win the White House.

That’s mostly true. Before the Brexit vote, PredictWise, a website that aggregates data on the likelihood of events, found that there was a 21 percent chance of its being approved. Early on the night of June 23, when Britons voted, it pinned the chances of Brexit’s passing at only 12 percent. Over the last month, PredictWise has placed Trump’s chances of winning at between 19 percent and 30 percent. Other American prediction outlets give Trump only a 15 to 25 percent chance of victory. 

Nigel Farage, who as head of UKIP (UK Independence Party) helped launch the campaign for the EU exit 20 years ago, thinks there is a parallel. Appearing at a Trump rally of 15,000 people in Jackson, Miss., Wednesday, Farage told the crowd:

We saw experts from all over the world . . . giving us Project Fear, telling us if we voted to be run by a bunch of unelected old men in Brussels, our economy would fall off a cliff,  they told us there would be mass unemployment and investment would leave our country. . . . We saw the commentariat and the polling industry doing everything they could to demoralize our campaign.

Farage believes that it’s possible for a similar populist rebellion to succeed in America and elect Trump. He overstates the parallels, but he is spot-on when it comes to ridiculing the experts on Brexit. A new analysis by the Guardian, a left-leaning newspaper, concludes that British employment is up post-Brexit, retail sales have rebounded, the budget deficit is lower than it was last year, inflation remains low, the stock market is near an all-time high, and a weaker pound has boosted British tourism. 

Market Watch recently published a scathing critique of the Project Fear doom-mongers, concluding:

With a very few exceptions, [economists] forecast the U.K. would go straight into recession as a result of Brexit. As it turns out, however, Britain is doing just fine, and so is the rest of Europe. That is surely a calamity for which the profession deserves a beating — and at the very least should start asking itself some serious questions. . . . Most economists within the banks, fund managers, and policy institutes were so personally committed to staying within the EU that they couldn’t imagine anything other than a catastrophic outcome if the U.K. left. But that surely is not acceptable. Economics is not a hard science like physics. But it should be capable of more objectivity than that.

But if there are any architects of Project Fear who are now expressing regret or apologizing for their error, their voices are barely above a whisper. Far more common are the likes of James Moore of the Independent newspaper who wrote this week that “there is a reason that almost every respected economist supported Remain, with only the neo-Thatcherites, nobodies, and right-wing nodding dogs who make up the membership of Economists for Brexit speaking up for Leave.” While conceding that “things have stabilised since the initial panic,” he insists, without presenting any evidence, that “the UK is still in the midst of suffering an economic shock.” For drama, he adds: “The fear has become our reality.”

Over the next ten weeks, we will no doubt see a domestic version of Project Fear accelerate in the presidential race. As in Britain, the liberal establishment and its media allies will paint a dystopian vision of what America would be like under President Trump. As my readers know, I am no fan of Donald Trump, who is neither a conservative nor a truth-teller. But I am confident that the attack on him will be well over the top, and it could easily backfire.

In Britain, anti-Brexiters’ predictions of economic disaster didn’t persuade a majority of voters because only two regions of the country — London and the southeast — had seen average incomes rise above the levels they were before the 2008 recession. As Larry Elliott, the economics editor of the Guardian noted this week: “After weighing up the pros and cons, plenty of voters didn’t think they were risking all that much.” 

#related#A dynamic similar to what we saw in Britain could happen in the United States. Democrats rail against Trump as a con artist, while their own nominee is a proven prevaricator. They accuse Trump of being a danger to national security, but every single day she served as secretary of state, and also afterward, Hillary Clinton put our national security at risk by relying exclusively on her private server for e-mail. Trump’s business dealings are suspect, but Hillary Clinton’s relationship with the Clinton Foundation was unseemly and probably corrupt.

It’s true that any other Republican would probably be ahead of Hillary Clinton right now, and Trump’s unique negatives are weighing him down. But that doesn’t mean he can’t win a battle of “the evil of two lessers” this November if Hillary Clinton’s reputation is further damaged by WikiLeaks. Recall the parable of the two hikers who encounter a dangerous bear. One of the hikers laces up his boots and prepares to run. The other hiker protests that he can’t outrun the bear, to which his companion replies: “I don’t have to, I just have to outrun you.”

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