Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Is Donald Trump the New Wendell Wilkie?

To the horror of many who buy into the sacrosanctness of elections, the Donald Trump phenomenon hasn't fizzled out. Although one might compare him to recent previous businessmen who ran - Herman Cain and Mitt Romney - I think a better comparison can be made to the 1940 Republican Presidential nominee Wendell Wilkie.

Similarities:

Both had business backgrounds (though there were no such things as Wilkie Ties, Wilkie Vodka, Wilkie Water)

Both not supported by establishment Republicans

Both were former Democrats

Both not particularly religious (Trump talks about being Presbyterian, but when you hear the word Trump, church doesn't come to mind...exact maybe confession...)

Both were big talkers who energized people, in sharp contrast to their stodgy competition (if third chins could talk, they'd be Jeb Bush)

Although both were "outsiders" who rode populist waves, both were obviously not salt of the earth people (Wilkie's nomination was said to come "right from the grass roots of every country club in America.")

Wilkie was running Roosevelt's third term, Trump is running against a potential third Bush or Clinton term.

Both had quite crazy hair.

Wilkie and Trump aren't a perfect match, of course. The worst strike against Wilkie - his flip-flopping and eventual tacit embrace of Roosevelt's policies - are closer to Mitt "not a Reagan Republican except when I need to be seen as a Reagan Republican, pay no attention to Romneycare" Romney.

In the end Wendell Wilkie became very unpopular. I think Trump is headed for the same fate.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Joining the Mile High Club is Less Risky than Joining in Holy Matrimony

I think most of us have points where we act as though statistics alone should conquer all fears, when the truth is they seldom do. If simple standalone stats convinced people, no one would have fallen for the War on Terror - no politician would get elected if voters took stats to heart.

Which brings me to the fear of flying, the only fear guaranteed to get you pelted with smarm-covered stats the moment you bring it up. When you confess you're scared to fly, not only do you get the shopworn "It is much riskier to travel by car and here are some stats I haven't verified and couldn't calculate if my life depended on it," but you're forced to endure this condescension from people who blissfully pursue risks with much worse odds, all the while denying how much risk they're taking. People who get married, for instance.

Almost half of all marriages end in divorce, so the married person claiming that stats should persuade you is himself ignoring the very ominous stats stacked against him. He should be much more worried about his wedding than the flight he'll take to get there. Yes, maybe it is stupid to get nervous on a plane given how low the disaster odds are, but it is far stupider to enter into something with nearly even odds of disaster, where total financial ruin is just a coin toss away.

The odds against a marriage working are a lot like the safety demonstrations you receive at the beginning of a flight - no one pays attention.