Hacking the system: how Trump took the lead

Nate Silver writes at FiveThirtryEight about how Trump hacked the system.

As is usual with Nate Silver there is plenty of data and explanations before he gets to his conclusions:

Most of the media’s self-criticism of its Trump coverage has focused on whether Trump’s dominance of the news cycle reflects a craven desire for higher TV ratings or Web traffic numbers. It’s fine to debate that — although these criticisms are sometimes being evinced through crocodile tears given the record ratings and traffic Trump is bringing to news organizations of all kinds.12

But this critique avoids some thornier questions. For instance, with his ability to make news any time he wants with a tweet, news conference or conveniently placed leak, Trump has challenged news organizations’ editorial prerogative. Should the press cover a candidate differently when he makes trolling the media an explicit part of his strategy, on the theory that some coverage is almost always better than none?   

That’s not the only problem. Trump also challenges the media’s notion of what it means to be “objective.” Among other things, Trump has frequently invoked misogyny and racism; he has frequently lied, and he has repeatedly encouraged violence against political protesters. As far as we’re concerned at FiveThirtyEight, these are matters of fact and not opinion and to describe them otherwise would make our reporting less objective. Other news outlets will bend over backward to avoid describing them in those terms, however.

An underappreciated problem is that Trump’s candidacy is relatively lacking in precedent, which means we’re all trying to figure this out as we go along. Traditional journalists have had trouble covering Trump, but so have empirically-minded ones like us here at FiveThirtyEight. We laid long odds against Trump getting this far, in large part because no similar presidential candidate has done so since primary and caucus voting became widespread in 1972.

Put another way, Trump has hacked the system and exposed the weaknesses in American political institutions. He’s uncovered profound flaws in the Republican Party. He’s demonstrated that third-rail issues like racism and nationalism can still be a potent political force. He’s exploited the media’s goodwill and taken advantage of the lack of trust the American public has in journalism. Trump may go away — he’s not yet assured of winning the GOP nomination, and he’ll be an underdog in November if he does — but the problems he’s exposed were years in the making, and they’ll take years to sort out.

All the media did by attacking Trump is legitimise him. They are now reaping what they’ve sown.

Trump hacked the system, and proved the system was broken. Not everyone can do this. You have to have very good communications skills, and the hide of rhino to ignore the barbs and attacks and just keep on going.

But then, I think we all know that modern media is broken.


– FiveThirtyEight.com


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  • David

    This is a interesting article at Fabius Maximus about

    How the Democrats became Liberals for the Richhttp://fabiusmaximus.com/2016/03/31/thomas-frank-listen-liberal-95440/#more-95440

  • Superman

    Trump has been doing very well until recently but his statements on abortion may have sunk him. It is very good to say what you think and not back down because it generally doesn’t happen and people appreciated that about him. No matter what you think about abortion saying that the women involved should be prosecuted is shooting yourself in the foot.

    • gonzo

      Agreed. I think it’s the turning point and will definitely steel GOP resolve that he cannot be their candidate due to general unelectability – regardless of where he ends up delegate-wise.
      I also don’t think he believes what he said or is even “pro-life” – and that’s why he got really tangled on this one…

      Edit spelling

    • hookerphil

      I thought I read somewhere that he just said that someone performing an illegal abortion should be prosecuted.

      • Mighty1

        Yes he said initially the woman should then changed it to the operator, if it was illegal.

    • Builder

      The question asked IF IT WAS ILLEGAL should women be punished. The response was pretty much saying that if something was illegal, there should be a punishment. The questions was a setup to give the soundbite they were after. Trump may be a bit naive to answer such questions but he isn’t a typical politician used to giving slimy answers. The MSM have an agenda, same as in NZ.

  • Builder

    “Among other things, Trump has frequently invoked misogyny and racism”

    Misogyny is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. I don’t agree that Trump dislikes them, he pretty much treats men and women the same. When they attack him, his motto is to give it back twice as hard so they don’t come back for seconds.

    Is it racist to screen Muslims before entry? I don’t think so. Is it racist to stop illegal immigrants flooding across the Mexican border? I don’t think so.

    Nate Silver has predicted results with accuracy in the past but this time he has been way off the mark. He has been against Trump right from the beginning and his anti-Trump feelings have been pretty obvious.

    The tens of millions of dollars being spent against Trump seems to be having some effect at last but it may not be enough to stop him. Dirty politics from his GOP rivals and the DEMs.


  • samlbmason

    It seems as though Trump has envisaged every conceivable attack against him but a defence will always crack. The general election result will be interesting