In late December of 2015, I asked whether Scott Adams should be considered the political pundit of the year here.
Some of the objections in the comments were that he hadn’t been proved correct yet, since he predicted that Trump would win the nomination and we hadn’t even had a primary yet at that point. And similarly, that Nate Silver and co. hadn’t been proven wrong yet.
The post has aged well, as Scott’s major predictions from not only that list in 2015 (Trump’s primaries numbers would continue to increase and that he would win the nomination) have been born out but also his major prediction, also made in 2015, that Trump would win the general election. So, it was with some interest I started reading Scott’s book which summarizes much of his thought about Trump’s campaign, Win Bigly – Persuasion in a World Where Facts Don’t Matter.
Adams’ basic idea is that Trump is a very good persuader, and this has enabled Trump to win in spite of an array of experienced politicians opposing him, and a significant part of the media. I was particularly interested in why Adams was able to make a correct prediction at such an early point, when the large majority of experts in politics got it wrong, again and again, about Trump.
Here are some reasons Adams gives.
- “I made a point of sampling the election news on both sides of the political spectrum. I’m not sure how common that practice is. […] If you don’t sample the news on both sides, you miss a lot of the context.” (p.10)
- “When Trump’s critics accused him of laziness, ignorance, and cruel intentions, I saw a skilled persuader who knew what mattered and what didn’t. […] I’m a trained hypnotist and a lifelong student of persuasion. Trained persuaders recognize the techniques used by other persuaders in a way the untrained do not.” (pp. 10-11)
- “I was also among the first (or the first) to point out that Trump was using high-end business strategy that looked crazy to political pundits who had no business experience. I have extensive business experience across a variety of fields [such as running the Dilbert businesses], so most of what Trump was doing looked familiar to me. For example, where others saw Trump pushing outrageously impractical and even immoral policies, I saw him using standard negotiating tactics and hyperbole to make it easier to find the middle ground later.” (p.11)
- “Like Trump, I grew up in New York State. That helped me understand his communication style.” (p.11)
- Adams had enough money to not worry about people attacking him for his prediction, and what in a sense was support for Trump (even though Adams considers himself ‘ultra-liberal’ on certain issues). (p.12)
- Adams wasn’t as concerned about embarrassing himself as many others, and so was willing to stake much on the prediction (p.12)
For point 1., I would also add that if not sampling election news on both sides of the spectrum, you also miss a lot of what other people are seeing, and hence have a harder time understanding their points of view.