The Corner

Politics & Policy

Donald Trump, The Black Swan

The “Black Swan”:

The black swan theory or theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that comes as a surprise, has a major effect, and is often inappropriately rationalized after the fact with the benefit of hindsight. The term is based on an ancient saying which presumed black swans did not exist, but the saying was rewritten after black swans were discovered in the wild.

I’ve been returning to the question of what lessons Republicans will learn from 2016. One of the frustrating aspects of the post-2016 analysis is that the likely Trump nomination had no single cause. There was a cascade effect of one unexpected turn of events after another.

For example, how likely was it that 17 Republicans would choose to run for president, creating such a logjam that they couldn’t all appear on stage at the same time? How likely was it that a rising governor like Bobby Jindal would never appear on a debate stage in prime time, because the networks chose national poll standing as the criteria to appear in the 8 p.m. hour? How likely was it that experienced, accomplished Republicans like Rick Perry, Scott Walker and Jindal would be sidelined, while also-rans like George Pataki, Jim Gilmore, and retreads like Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee hung around month after month?

How likely was it that in those early weeks after entering the race, a slew of prominent conservative voices, who had spent years warning about “RINOs” and sellouts and liberal candidates who only posed as conservatives when needing votes in a primary, would suddenly welcome Trump, a longtime Democratic donor who had supported gun control, abortion on demand, higher taxes, TARP, the auto bailout and described himself as “very liberal when it comes to healthcare”? How likely was it that Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter and Matt Drudge would not merely tolerate Trump’s previous liberal views but excuse them or conclude they were irrelevant to the 2016 discussion?

How likely was it after some conservative media voices like Glenn Beck and Mark Levin turned against Trump so sharply, his friendly voices would stand steadfast and simply ignore Trump’s more ridiculous arguments, such as the contention Ted Cruz was a Canadian ineligible for the presidency, that a guy who rushed the stage was ISIS, that Justice Scalia was murdered, or today’s accusation that Cruz’s father consorted with Lee Harvey Oswald?

How likely was it that Jeb Bush’s Super PAC would choose to spend about $20 million trashing his former protégé, Marco Rubio, instead of the front-runner?

How likely was it that John Kasich would continue, finishing in the low single digits in state after state, splitting the anti-Trump vote?

How likely was it that the 16 million Republicans who wanted someone besides Donald Trump could not unify behind an alternative, ensuring the 10 million Trump-supporting Republicans would get their way?

How likely was it that the last indisputable conservative standing, Ted Cruz, had so thoroughly alienated his Republican colleagues on Capitol Hill that they were willing to roll the dice on Trump than go with Cruz, even though they seemingly agreed with Cruz on the issues more?

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