Friday’s New York Times ran an op-ed by neoconservative Bret Stephens about how President Donald Trump could win re-election in 2020. As a neocon, Stephens focused on the “deeper problem” of the left, rather than on a proactive strategy by Trump himself. Stephens ate up column-inches talking about right-wing populism across the world, and ended with left-bashing.
But Stephens’ op-ed is sign of how far off-base both the left and the neocons are about Trump. Like the pointy-headed intellectuals on the left, Stephens is wildly overthinking the question of re-election, if he thinks it has to do with “the ideology of them before us” or that the left is winning “the contest of ugly.” It’s really a lot simpler than that.
The roadmap to Trump’s re-election in 2020 begins in 1999, but it’s stunningly simple after a little history.
In 1999 the economics guru James Glassman co-authored a book with American Enterprise Institute scholar and former Fed economist Kevin Hassett entitled Dow 36,000.
Backstory on Glassman: he was born in Washington, DC just six months after Donald J. Trump arrived on the scene in Queens. Glassman has the proper Sidwell Friends and Harvard pedigree to be part of the meritocracy. He was managing editor of the Harvard Crimson and his journalism career soared to the top in the 1980s and 1990s as editor, publisher or vice president of several notable magazines, including The Atlantic Monthly and U.S. News & World Report (when it was still a news magazine). This success translated into media attention, with Glassman making regular appearances on PBS and CNN programs during the 1990s. More recently, Glassman has been a G.W. Bush appointee and now is founding executive director of the George W. Bush Institute at SMU.
As the Clinton boom kept booming with its Goldman Sachs captain Robert Rubin steering the ship, Glassman saw nothing but more boom times ahead. And so, with Hassett, he confidently published Dow 36,000. The central claim of the book, as indicated in the title, is that the Dow would more than triple in value, from a little over 10,000 points when the book hit the shelves in October 1999, to 36,000 by early 2005.
This turns out to have been one of the more spectacularly wrong forecasts in the dismal forecasting history of the dismal science of economics. The weekly average for the Dow the week the book debuted was 10,649.76. Instead of tripling-or-better to 36,000 by early 2005, the Dow was at 10,568.70 the last full week of September in 2005. The Dow didn’t triple. It stayed flat over that six-year stretch. (OK, it lost almost 100 points over those six years. But who’s counting?)
It’s hard to overstate how bad Glassman’s forecast was. The public likes to shame weather forecasters for “busts” in which, instead of multiple high-end tornadoes, there were merely severe storms and a few lower-end tornadoes. For meteorologists to screw up as badly as Glassman and Hassett, the National Weather Service would have to forecast sunny skies and dry weather for Noah’s Flood. (I know; I have a Ph.D. in atmospheric sciences and I’ve won awards in international weather forecasting competitions.)
Now, 20 long years after that forecast, the Dow is still only less than 60% of the way from October 1999 values to Glassman’s chimeric 36,000 goal.
It gets funnier. After recanting his 36,000 prediction in the 2000s, after it didn’t come close to coming true, Glassman reverted course and wrote an article in 2013 saying 36,000 was within reach within another decade.
Right. Like those predicting the Second Coming of Jesus, all you have to do is stick to your forecast, keep moving the goalposts, and hope people have short memories or short lives, or both. Jesus 36,000 is always just around the corner!
All of this spectacular failure didn’t seem to harm Glassman’s career too much. According to Wikipedia, “Glassman is one of 21 members of the Investor Advisory Committee of the Securities and Exchange Commission.” That’s like making the Punxsutawney Phil the director of the National Weather Service.
Can you think of anyone else in American society who has risen so high and so far on a mountain of utter bullshit, moving goalposts, and still more bullshit?
Well, of course you can.
Cue “Hail to the Chief.”
And so this is how Donald Trump can win re-election in 2020 — by crossing the two streams of utter bullshit, his and Glassman’s. It’s not that hard.
Memo to POTUS
Recipe for Re-election for Trump:
- Between now (May 25, 2019) and the week before the November 3, 2020 election, do as you damn well please. It really doesn’t matter what you do. As you correctly stated during the 2016 campaign, your fan base is so all-in for you that you could commit murder on the streets of New York City and not lose a vote. So, do whatever.
- The week before the 2020 election, you call a big press conference about the economy. It doesn’t matter if the Dow’s up or down, we’re at war, or whatever — the media, desperate for a press conference that doesn’t involve Gene Simmons, will show up en masse.
- At the press conference, with a Cheshire-cat-grinning James Glassman in tow, announce that America has experienced an incredible economic success: the Dow has reached 36,000! It’s the most tremendous economic achievement in American history, and in world history!
- It doesn’t matter what the Dow actually is during the week before the 2020 election. It might be around 26,000, like now, or it might be up some, or we might already have crashed again by then. Who cares. Just say the Dow hit 36,000. Glassman would probably go along with it. And he’s a recognized expert!
- The press conference will erupt in spluttering chaos, as the reporters try to rebut the claim.
- You will immediately use the chaos as evidence of a lying press. If Jim Acosta’s there, call on him first and then question his patriotism. Fox will love that. Have Acosta hauled out. Fox will love that even more.
- Spend the rest of the week before the election trumpeting the “Dow 36,000” news. Go on a campaign swing in the upper Midwest pushing it. Tweet every overnight about it.
- The media will call you almost every name in the book for doing this, but they’ve already exhausted their vocabulary. The mainstream media will be relatively reserved as always, especially in the final days before a Presidential election. They exist to serve and preserve the status quo, whatever that status quo might be. It’s the only job they know how to do.
- Polls on the eve of the election will show that your Dow 36,000 success has solidified your base, which may have been wavering ever so slightly depending on what shenanigans you have pulled between May 2019 and November 2020. But with the Dow at 36,000, the voters have convincing evidence that they can vote their pocketbooks and vote Trump. MAGA!
- You will win re-election, without even needing (much) Russian help. It’s a slender victory, but you will call it a “mandate.” Compared to the Dow 36,000 lie, the claim of an electoral mandate is almost the truth.
- Shortly after re-election, stop talking about Dow 36,000, and most people will forget you ever made the claim.
- From November 3, 2020 to January 20, 2025, do as you damn well please. There’s probably no need to step down on Inauguration Day by that point anyway.