American Psycho


Well today’s the date of the election of the next President of the United States of America. Will it be Hillary Clinton? Or will it be an unstable racist misogynist, a pathological liar, and a man who has boasted of a string of sexual assaults? It remains to be seen. The polls are alarming close. Hillary Clinton is ahead by just 3 or 4 percent nationally but only a handful of states really matter and some of those are too close to call. I’ve been following Nate Silver’s 538 election forecast for a while now. It seems to me his methodology more accurately estimates the uncertainty in the opinion polls. After narrowing considerably when the FBI decided to throw a spanner into the works last week, the probability of a Clinton win is now over a little over 70%. Uncomfortable, but the odds have been below 2-1 very recently.

At the weekend I decided that I would follow my usual betting practice and place a wager on the outcome that I don’t want to happen. Hunting around, the best odds I could find were 18-5 against Donald Trump. I put a monkey on, so will walk away with £2300 if Trump wins. I plan to use the proceeds to begin work on the construction of a fallout shelter in my garden. If an unstable psychopath like Donald Trump gets his hands on the American nuclear codes I don’t hold out much hope for the future of civilization.

I followed the same strategy on Referendum Day as I felt it in my bones that Vote Leave was going to win. I ended up depressed but compensated to the tune of £1000. I’m afraid to say I feel the same way now about the likelihood of a Trump victory. Not very scientific, I know, but there you go.

I have never paid much attention to American politics in the past. It is as incomprehensible to me as British politics must be to them. Gore Vidal summed it up for me:

There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt — until recently … and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties.

Things have changed this time. Although both parties still represent the moneyed classes more than anyone else, but this time the Republican contender has overtly fascist tendencies. No wonder Nigel Farage admires him so much. Americans are free to vote for whomever they wish, of course. I don’t have a say, as I’m a foreigner. All I can say is that you should be very careful what you wish for.

Although I find it deeply depressing that this race is even close, I won’t lose any sleep over the election night. I don’t have a television, and I’ll do what I did on the day of the EU referendum. Drink some wine, listen to music and then go to sleep. There’s no point in worrying about things that are out of your hands. And if Trump does win, at least it shortens the list of countries I will have to consider emigrating to if and when the UK does leave the European Union..

16 Responses to “American Psycho”

  1. Anton Garrett Says:

    Shouldn’t that be American Psychos (plural)? How such a great nation can put such a ghastly choice before its electorate is beyond me.

    • Simple: The candidates won the primaries. In other words, they are there because they got the most votes. And in these cases, the most popular votes as well.

      The real problem is why more sensible people don’t run. Answer: They don’t have a chance.

      • telescoper Says:

        It’s not really relevant but I can’t help quoting the story about Adlai Stevenson, who was told by an admirer that “every thinking person” would vote for him. He replied:
        ‘That’s great, but I need a majority.’

      • It isn’t even as simple as “got the most votes”. Trump won a total of about 14 million primary votes, the most of any Republican primary candidate. But across the various primaries a total of almost 17 million people voted for someone else. (On the Democrat side it’s slightly less complicated, since broadly speaking there were only the two main candidates.) So Trump became the nominee with less than half of the total number of votes across all the various primaries.

      • Yes, but this is a known problem in the system (at least known to thinking people). A first step would be for European politicians to stop referring to the USA as a democratic country (or, for that matter, to any country without proportional representation).

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        A truly democratic country would have referendums on important issues…

      • telescoper Says:

        A truly democratic country wouldn’t have politicians..

      • Anton Garrett Says:

        Still chuckling over the Adlai Stevenson quote, Peter.

      • Have to agree with Anton and disagree with Peter here. Division of labour is a good thing, hence politicians. However, it could happen that the majority in the electorate is substantially different from that in parliament on an important issue, so referenda are occasionally needed.

      • “A first step would be for European politicians to stop referring to the USA as a democratic country (or, for that matter, to any country without proportional representation).”

        I don’t know if it is official yet, but it looks like Clinton got a larger share of the popular vote than Trump. Apart from making the farce obvious, and the stupidity of calling this democracy, pundits should think twice before they claim that “more people voted for Trump because…”.

  2. I am more optimistic than you that this election will come out right, but when you calculate the expected loss (probability x badness of outcome), even a relatively low probability is enough to be very frightening.

    Even if Clinton wins, the fact that someone like Trump got this far at all is a source of deep shame for my country.

    I’m in Paris now. (Don’t worry: I did vote.) An expat American has invited me over at 2am to watch the election returns. I think I’ll take a nap and then go for an hour or so: unlike you, I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep through the night without knowing where things stand. We won’t know anything for sure until well into tomorrow (European time), but we’ll have enough data to draw some conclusions by about 3am here.

  3. “No wonder Nigel Farage admires him so much.”

    And Vladimir Putin. In this case (and probably the other as well), the feeling is mutual.

  4. Adrian Burd Says:

    I strongly suspect that the main reason the race is so close has to do with the Supreme Court. Many republicans are willing to overlook or rationalize away every bad aspect of Trump and a Trump presidency in order to make sure that a democrat does not nominate a member of the supreme court. The prospect of the supreme court turning even slightly progressive after many years of being dominated by the right of the political spectrum is enough to give republicans major panic attacks and forgive Trump anything.

  5. Congratulations on your winnings, Peter.

  6. Adrian Burd Says:

    Congratulations on your winnings, Peter. It’s the only bright spot in an otherwise terrible day. This is the first time in my adult life when I am actually frightened for our future. Hatred, xenophobia, misogyny, racial hierarchy, and the religious right have won the day through fear mongering and lying (the only way they can win).

    In the meantime, in another branch of the multiverse far from this one, Bernie Sanders has won the US Presidential election…..

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