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OP-ED: What does the prophecy say about the US presidential election?

  • Published at 07:45 pm August 27th, 2020
Trump Pence
The consequences may not be pleasant / REUTERS

Why Trump might emerge victorious once more

Allan Lichtman, a professor of history at American University in Washington, DC, has been called a time-honoured election analyst. His track record with the election is surprising. This man of extraordinary talent has been making predictions about the results of the US presidential election since 1984, which have come true. Not only that, he also foretold the impeachment of current President Trump.

The only exception is the 2000 presidential election between Al Gore and George W Bush, where he predicted that Gore would be elected by a large margin.

But he was probably right because he focused on the popular vote in his research methodology at the time. In that election, although he could not be president, Al Gore appeared to be ahead of Bush in the popular vote by a wide margin. After that election in 2000, Lichtman added popular votes to his methodology, as well as electoral votes.

In fact, we will never know whether Alan Lichtman’s prediction is right or wrong in that American election because that election is called the most stigmatized election in America’s history. 

Ballot papers were found on the streets of Florida in that election. And as I said before, while Al Gore won the popular vote, George W Bush was elected as president.

After a lengthy debate, George W Bush was sworn in as president before the then-Supreme Court ruled in Florida that the irregular ballot recount should be stopped. As a result, the debate over the election continued. 

But most people around the world, like Alan Lichtman, still think that Al Gore was elected president in that 2000 election.

Lichtman: Joe Biden wins 2020

Alan Lichtman has made it clear in the run-up to the 2020 US presidential election that Joe Biden will be America’s next president.

His research in “Key to the White House” methodology shows why and how Joe Biden is going to win the election. Although he acknowledged that he thought Donald Trump would win the November election earlier this year, Lichtman revealed the results of his research last week, saying that the death of George Floyd while in police custody in May, the global pandemic, and widespread social unrest had changed his May predictions.

This time, he is adamant about his research findings, and he thinks he has no chance of changing that result. 

In his research caveats or limitations, Lichtman said that if young voters or minority voters are not suppressed and no country as big as Russia mediates in this election like in the last election, then his words are top notch.

Norpoth: Trump wins 2020

I may have started this piece with this prediction of Alan Lichtman. But I was interested in Helmut Norpoth, a well-known professor of political science at Stony Brook University in New York. 

This famous political scientist is another prominent figure in the prediction world of US presidential elections. His track record is also surprising.

The model he has been using to predict elections since 1992 shows that he has accurately predicted five of the last six presidential elections. Not only that, his model has been applied in the previous 27 elections in the United States, and it can be seen that his model is exactly correct in the remaining 25 elections, all except two.

One of the two that his model didn’t work well with, like Alan Lichtman, is the much-debated 2000 election between George W Bush and Al Gore. Another is the 1960 election of John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon. 

Even in March 2016, Norpoth predicted an 87% chance of Trump winning that year’s election. And that’s exactly what happened when Trump won the 2016 election.

Research on Norpoth’s primary model also shows that Donald Trump will win again in this election. In the light of the statistical presentation that Norpoth has put forward in this case, he has placed major emphasis on the results of the primary elections in New Hampshire and South Carolina.

In the primary held earlier this year, Joe Biden received 8.4% of the New Hampshire primary and 48.4% of South Carolina. In New Hampshire, Trump’s Republicans won 85.5% of the vote. There have been no early elections for Republicans in South Carolina this year.

In this regard, Norpoth thinks that the Republicans in South Carolina have cancelled the primary due to lack of competition. He added that if there was a vote here, Republicans would probably get 100% or so. 

Norpoth also said that Donald Trump had a much higher score than Joe Biden in these two primary cases, so according to his model, Trump will sit in the American driver’s seat again.

Norpoth’s model also factors in what he calls the “swing of the electoral pendulum,” the theory that control of the White House swings from one party to the other in presidential elections, on average after two to three terms. Norpoth has also magnified it in terms of results this time.

With that in mind, Norpoth predicts that Trump has a 91% chance of winning the 2020 US presidential elections again. And Joe Biden’s chances are only 9%. He said that out of 538 electoral votes, Trump will get 363 votes and Biden will get 175 votes.

Interestingly, Norpoth is so confident that he has no caveat or limitations in his research. Like Hillary Clinton in 2016, Joe Biden is leading in most of the primary polls. However, Norpoth thinks his prediction is “unconditional and final.”

Surprises, surprises

So much for talking about predictions. Now let’s come to another context.

Democrats and Republicans, the two main political parties in the United States, are hitting us with one surprise after another in the run up to the upcoming election -- the recent announcement of the closure of the Chinese embassy in Texas in the United States, repeated accusations against China regarding the pandemic, Trump’s mediation in the Israeli Accord with the United Arab Emirates, and the hasty issuance of four executive orders in the run up to the election with billions of dollars in subsidies.

Continuing the construction work on the Mexico border, to remain uncompromising on immigration policy, fierce nationalism, and the manifestation of heroism are all electoral strategies of the Republicans. 

Similarly, the nomination of Kamala Harris as Joe Biden’s running mate is a big surprise for the Democrats because Harris is the first black Asian-American woman to run for office in a country like America. 

Announcing middle-class restructuring, investing in federal infrastructure, tuition-free public universities, a so-called liberalism policy for immigrants, Biden’s personal image, and the positive role of the media in favour of him will play a positive role for the Democrats. 

An empire beyond its capabilities

It is true that this election is very tough for Trump. The decision to change his campaign manager last July, repeatedly calling public opinion polls “fake,” and even talking about postponing the November election is a clear indication of the lack of confidence in the current presidential election. 

However, overall, as the days go by, Trump’s chances of winning will come closer.

On the other hand, despite Joe Biden’s personal image, there is a great deal of scepticism as to whether the minorities or immigrants whom Democrats usually rely on will believe in them anymore. 

During the two consecutive terms of Barack Obama’s administration, Democrats had done nothing significant in that sense for these voters except dreaming and speaking smartly.

As a result, no matter how much the media and primary results like the Hillary Clinton election in 2016 make Biden out to be president, Americans will not do it. The real picture may be different.

So, overall, I think Americans will also lean towards the trend that is going on around the world: Of fierce nationalism and heroism. In that case, Yale University professor Paul Kennedy wrote the hypothesis “Imperial Overstretch” in his famous 1986 book, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, in which he said that America would be an empire beyond its capabilities in military and economic power. 

As a result, in the coming days, it seems that America will come forward holding the hand of Trump, even though its consequences will not be pleasant.

Fazlul Halim Rana is Associate Professor and Chair, Department of International Relations, Jahangirnagar University. He can be reached at [email protected]

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