A computer scientist is behind the rise of Donald Trump and Stephen Bannon, apparently.
The Guardian had a breathless article this week about how big data billionaire Robert Mercer helped usher in Brexit and Trump.
Mercer helped bankroll Stephen Bannon’s Breitbart News.
And, more, his company Cambridge Analytica has "ace smarts" at analysing voters’ Facebook profiles, the better to target them with customised, manipulative ads.
Phew, that’s the rise of Trump explained.
As if. Blaming Facebook and fake news is a red herring.
Democrat PACs were equally wise to social media profiling, and had a better-funded effort, which is what helped them win the popular vote by 48% to 45.9%.
Trump won because Hillary Clinton lost touch with her party’s base; crucially in the rust belt battlegrounds of Michigan and Pennsylvania, which swung the Electoral College race.
Clinton was criticised for assuming these two states were in the bag when in fact the Bradly effect meant they were in play. But, similarly, the pattern of the Trump campaign’s spending (it bought only a token amount of TV ads in Michigan) indicates it was surprised by its own success.
The low-tech real story
Trump came to power because he sensed unease, and exploited it, on an instinctive level.
Working class voters in the rust belt states – and various among the anxious middle class – had come to fear and loathe globalisation.
They wanted someone who would punch Washington in the face and Donald Trump was that candidate.
They did not necessarily believe he could get many of his policies through, and found some of his behaviour stupid or embarrassing. But they did think he heard their pain. And they did believe he would upset the status quo.
They sensed, quite correctly, that Hillary Clinton didn’t have her heart in free-trade bashing.
The real answer
To win in 2020, Democrats need to stop making fun of the people who voted for Trump – and grit their teeth and start talking to them.
To continue to focus alleged manipulation by fake newsmakers and the likes of Mercer and Bannon (both of whom actually came on board after Trump had already sewn up the Republican nomination and firmly established his political brand with the electorate) is to avoid having that conversation.
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