As you can tell from some of my recent work — "A President-Elect Hillary Might Miss Justice Scalia," or "The Post-Trump GOP" — I got the ending of this election wrong. So did lots of other people on the coasts who relied on polls, though that is no excuse. Some other pieces I wrote held up better (Five Ways Trump Could Win, from August 13).
But overall it is a fail. Rabbi Elie Kaunfer, a Harvard pal of mine who now runs a yeshiva in Manhattan, asked on Facebook this morning, "What else are we totally convinced of yet are 100% wrong about?"
It brings up talk of Kaelism — the phenomenon named for the New Yorker film critic Pauline Kael, who supposedly reacted to President Nixon's election by wondering how it was possible, since she didn't personally know a single person who had voted for him.
That's not the case with me. I know and even respect lots of people who voted for Trump or predicted he would win. I may be the only columnist in America with columns that run weekly in two newspapers that endorsed Trump (the New York Sun and the Las Vegas Review Journal). The editor of a third newspaper of which I am a columnist, Dovid Efune of the Algemeiner, privately predicted a Trump victory to me a few weeks ago. I thought he was nuts. My own father, on the afternoon of election day, told me Trump would win by a large margin. I thought he was nuts. A "deplorable" Manhattan investor friend of mine with an amazing knack for seeing around corners and over horizons reminded me a few weeks ago that the pre-Brexit polling was off seven or eight points.
Other people I know or respect or both who either saw it coming with clarity or stuck with Trump: The former manager of the Congressional Effect Fund, Eric Singer. Former Pentagon official Harold Rhode, who is a friend of mine. The head of Americans for Peace and Tolerance, Charles Jacobs. Peter Thiel. Conservative intellectuals like Roger Kimball, R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr., Michael and Barbara Ledeen, Conrad Black, Lisa Schiffren, Lynn Chu, Ruthie Blum, and Larry Kudlow, who stuck with Trump even as other intellectuals and Republican thought leaders like Paul Singer, Dan Senor, Charles Krauthammer, Pete Wehner, Michael Gerson, Jamie Kirchick, Gabe Schoenfeld, Max Boot, Bret Stephens, and much of the National Review and Commentary and Weekly Standard crowds warned that Trump would mean a landslide Republican defeat and that he was, more or less, another Hitler, tainted irredeemably by racism, sexism, xenophobia, and Russia.
There's a distinction between predicting Trump would win and wanting him to win (or hoping and predicting he would lose), but confusing those two things is sure a fine way to mess up the prediction accuracy, or to miss what is happening all around you. It's a reminder to be constantly asking oneself Rabbi Kaunfer's question. I sure hope President Trump keeps it in mind, too.