So now John Kasich is also out, following Ted Cruz’s similar announcement last night, which means that — unless he’s been doing this as a colossal prank all along — Donald Trump will be the uncontested nominee for president of the Party of Lincoln.
(Abe Lincoln, by the way, held the previous distinction of having the weakest résumé in terms of government experience of anyone ever to serve as president. Although he served many terms in the Illinois Legislature, and lost two bids for the Senate, his only federal service was a single term in the U.S. House.
Every other president had been either a senator, a governor, a general, a Cabinet member, or vice president before becoming president. And some of those with the most credentials (I’m thinking, for example of Lincoln’s immediate predecessor, the highly credentialed James Buchanan, who’s on the short list for worst president ever) had less than stellar terms. I bring this up because it suggests that a long prior record in high office is not necessarily the best predictor of presidential excellence. Donald Trump, if he becomes president, will be the first ever to do so with no government experience at all, other than as a donor and receiver of government favors.
I’ll just note one other thing. The pundits don’t know what’s going to happen. They basically never do, although if enough of them make enough predictions, some of them will turn out almost right.
But really, it’s not their job to know the future. Trouble is, they are constantly asked about what’s going to happen next and most of them lack the humility to acknowledge that they don’t know, or they are worried that if they say that they won’t be asked back on whatever show it is they said it on.
When Trump started, no one took him seriously as a future nominee, and many wondered if his strange announcement event was really just part of his long career in self-promotion. Then he started winning primaries and pretty soon he seemed inevitable. But then, if you go back just a few weeks, the Pundit Consensus was that Trump was unlikely to reach the magic number, and the pundictocracy spent the following fortnight or more explaining how a brokered convention was likely to go. Oops on that one, too.
I remember a great remark by a China scholar (I can’t remember whom) at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989. The crisis had been building for two months, and the China pundits had announced that if the Communist government hadn’t already turned to violence to end the protests, the moment for doing so had passed. Then, as if they had just been waiting for the China pundits to say that, the government turned on the violence spigot.
So I was covering a group of China scholars who were asked to opine about what would happen next. And one of them (sorry, can’t remember who, but it was the humble one who had been part of the herd predicting no-crackdown) said: “Obviously, as we’ve just demonstrated, none of us are able to predict the future. So we should stick to do what we know how to do. Predicting the Past.”
I always loved that predicting-the-past bit. Which may be why I’m writing today about Lincoln’s résumé. But I won’t tell you (even though I know) whom Trump will pick as a running-mate.