Stop Underestimating Donald Trump

Yascha Mounk in Slate:

At every turn, pundits and political scientists underestimated Donald Trump. When he announced he was running to be president of the United States, they laughed. When he led the polls for the GOP nomination, they predicted his popularity would be short-lived. When he became the Republican nominee, they celebrated. Against a Rubio or even a Christie, Clinton might have lost. But against Trump?

We’ve underestimated Trump over and over and over again. And over and over and over again, we’ve all paid a heavy price. And yet, many of the same pundits and political scientists who confidently predicted that Trump would never be president are now confidently predicting that his presidency will soon be tanked by incompetence and unpopularity…

13 thoughts on “Stop Underestimating Donald Trump”

  1. Accepting that Trump is a real threat to liberal democracy, here is my “pushback” suggestion: a non-partisan organization running a plebiscite machine. It would set up a regular opinion solicitation by email to registrants. Votes on questions posed by the organization would be answered by voting buttons. Votes would be tallied and disseminated. The integrity of the results would be documented. If carried out under respected auspices with verifiable voting data and appropriate criteria for participation, would politicians dare to ignore it?

  2. Just read about you in The Atlantic. Thank you for organizing this watchdog organization. At 65 I’ve always voted independent and have never been fearful of what our president may do. I can no longer say that. Donald Trump as President is very disturbing and needs to be heavily monitored. His leading through fear and emotion and so many untruths is unacceptable.

  3. Someone needs to explore the commonalities between the 18th century Know Nothin movement and Trump’s supporters. The anti-immigrant anger, economic dislocation, divide between urban and rural voters, etc. It would be really interesting to learn of the common threads and how the country survived this movement

    1. I agree. I’ve been saying this exact thing over and over to my now-weary family. There’s a direct parallel. I’m happy to take this on when I can. Would you be interested in helping? I write a blog at
      Bob Thomas
      (attorney in Boston)

  4. Like some others I just read about you in The Atlantic. I’m very concerned about what’s happening in the Trump administration. Although I am a registered Democrat, I don’t remember ever being fearful for our country, like I am today, when other Republican presidents have been in office. I will be following your watchdog organization for information and possible ways I can help our country keep our liberal democracy. Thanks for being concerned Americans.

  5. I so appreciate this organization and the comments. Another group you might want to join is Presterity (, volunteers compiling the myriad activities of the Trump administration. I’m rereading E.O. Wilson on the biological basis for inter-group conflict and lessening it. A great quote from his “Meaning of Human Existence”
    […a simplified scenario of human evolution]. “A successful thief furthers his own interests and those of his offspring, but his actions weaken the remainder of the group. Any genes prescribing his psychopathic behavior will increase within the group from one generation to the next– but, like a parasite causing a disease…his activity weakens the rest of the group– and eventually the thief himself. At the opposite extreme, a valiant warrior leads his group to victory, but in doing so is killed in battle, leaving few or no offspring. His genes for heroism are lost with him, but the remainder of the group, and the heroism genes they share, benefit and increase…. Selfish members with within groups, but groups of altruists best groups of selfish members.” Heartening!

  6. I think Barry is close to the mark when he speaks about voting. But my take is a bit different. Some of the 60s civil rights efforts are instructive and should serve as a useful guide for effective action. While protests and marches were effective then, I think their day has largely passed. What WILL work though are massive voter registration efforts in well-chosen congressional districts (e.g., those where Trump did relatively poorly) as well as in states with Repuglican senators where the vote was close. But we must focus FIRST on the House races coming up in 2018. And then it’ll all be about turnout.

  7. The constant undercurrent of religious constructs that play such positive, yet sometimes subversive roles, need to be incorporated into this long term model of literate democracy. Whether a religion is minor or predominant, persecuted or honored, inclusive or separatist matters when considering the other significant divides we see attacking the core of incorporative governance. Civility sits in the back of the bus when a particular religion’s principle tenets become marginalized by simplistic stereotypical judgments. Those who believe firmly in their faith as a primary principle for action need to be a visible part of any on-going dialogue that hopes to attract multi-cultural minds that can address the loss of presumed norms we are experiencing. Making light of this thread as we consider the others will, in my opinion, make the others more difficult to embed in a democratic model of the future.

    1. Pete: Dense prose but I agree. Put a little more simply, those concerned with the loss of norms would be well advised to include the perspective of persons of faith who are also concerned with the loss of norms. Broader civil and civic alliances than currently exist will be needed to renew democracy and its norms. Distinctions need to be made between civic life and political views, We all need to agree on the value of civic life while continuing to fight like cats and dogs over our political views. It’s civic life that is under threat. Excluding – or downgrading – the views of the faithful will be counterproductive over the long haul…..

  8. Thank you for beginning this vital watchdog project as well as reminding us of the urgent need to envision our future as a “recovering democracy” once we have (we trust) managed to get past this threatening time. I live in a tiny town in the mountains of western NC, as state which is, as you know, no longer considered a functioning democracy. But in the aftermath of this election, our entire populace is exploding with energy, with groups inspired by Indivisible, with a strong discussion series designed by our local and very active chapter of the NAACP on all of the urgent issues that concern us (women, immigration, racism, LGBT rights, religious bigotry, economic inequality, environment, public education) They are being done as conversations, all focused on local experiences. If we do emerge from this mayhem as a country, we are daring to believe that we will emerge with an energized and balanced democracy and a far more vigorous civil discourse.

  9. Thank you for this website and your article in “The Atlantic.” I believe we, everyday Americans, must get involved in our government NOW. Through watchdog activities, voter activities, information seeking, active participation in our local governments, etc. involved citizenship is now an absolute necessity. After reading previous posts, I wonder if those of us who are so concerned shouldn’t put our money and time where our mouths are and get to work; e.g. what can we do to establish “a positive vision of what politics can be after Trump” and “build a new vision of how liberalism can improve people’s lives while pulling them together.”? So immigration is such a hot topic, what can be done by those of us who believe deportations are not the answer? The Catholic Church has been very active in supporting immigrants. Can the Church and those of us who want to “build this new vision” begin programs to help immigrants of all ages learn the English language. Our Constitution requires that immigrants become proficient in English, and certainly language skills are necessary to make a successful American life. How can we begin and operate such a positive and effective means of solving a really sticky political problem? Can we do this?

  10. Just read about you in the Atlantic and am glad to see the conversation is growing. This is by far the most dangerous time for our nation in my lifetime and I am 66 years old.

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