Remember when Bill James was just the crazy, out of touch stats guy who had once been a pioneer, but stayed in his covered wagon while the rest of the stat community built an interstate right by his farm? He was almost humorous then, kind of like how those settlers in the DirecTV commercials are almost funny. Well, now Bill has turned his analysis to Donald Trump, and the results are about as mixed as his “Fools Gold” books.
Rather than nitpick James’ portrait of Trump, I am going to jump the alarming, and very dangerous assumption James makes – that there are not enough morons in America to elect Trump. James is assuming that all the people voting for Trump are morons, which might make James feel awfully smug on his moral high ground, but it is an erroneous thought. Just because some radically disagrees with your political stance does not make them stupid, but more importantly, plenty of intelligent people are starting to buy what Trump is selling because demagogues are very persuasive, especially when the other choices are complete shitshows.
Intelligent people are starting to rationalize a vote for Trump. “Yeah, he might say crazy things about race, but he probably doesn’t mean them, and he has the balls to say what needs to be said about other facets of politics.” Even James gives Trump a hat tip for courage. It is this type of rationalization that allows demagogues to gain power. A nation doesn’t just wake up and say, “Hey, let’s get behind the crazy guy! The trains will run on time!” Modern demagogues don’t seize power; it is slowly given to them when the electorate rationalizes a vote for them.
That rationalization becomes much easier in a democracy when the other choices are very grim as it fuels even more rationalization. “You know, he isn’t nearly as bad as Clown 1, and Clown 2, well, that guy is batshit crazy, so I can’t vote for him. And Clown 3, well, the world will just walk all over him. Trump will stand up to our enemies.” Once this rationalization starts, it quickly gains momentum, and dismissing a demagogue’s followers as morons just adds more fuel to train.