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The Lichtman Keys
Just before the first Presidential debate. 

Strike-out... the key turns against Trump. Italic: favors Trump. 


1. Party Mandate -- After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats inthe U.S. House of Representatives than it did after the previous midterm elections.

This has been so since the 2018 midterm election. One key so far turns against Trump. This rarely works well for any President; the last time it worked for an incumbent President was for Dubya in 2004.

2. Contest -- There is no serious contest for the incumbent-party nomination.

William Weld did offer a challenge to Trump, and even if it got just under 10% of the vote in two states in the Republican primaries it shows some dissent within the incumbent. Contrast Obama, Dubya, and Clinton who had no such meaningful challenge. Such shows a potential for significant numbers of people in Republican Voters Against Trump and the troublesome (for Trump) Lincoln Project. Trump would win re-election if he needed face only liberal opposition, but he cannot afford any conservative opposition on personality, performance, or character. So even if Trump won his Party's nomination without difficulty he has failed to unite it on his behalf. That is the second key turning against Trump.  

3 Incumbency -- The incumbent-party candidate is the sitting president.

This is as solid as it gets. Even if something happened to President Trump between now and Election Day, we could all presume that "President Mike Pence" would be continuing the campaign for his own election. No key turns here. 

4 Third party -- There is no significant third party or independent campaign.

A libertarian-to-ultraconservative challenge to the Trump campaign is more like a paper cut than a compound fracture or third-degree burn to his chance.  The effect should be trivial this time. No key turns here.

5. Short-term economy -- The economy is not in recession during the election campaign.

Unemployment is high as the result of COVID-19 and many people who have jobs are earning much less (think of cooks and waiters in nice restaurants who end up in fast-food places to mark time until such places are safe again). The stock markets have shown signs of reeling. One can blame the plague, but one can also blame the President for mishandling it, too. He may not be responsible for economic consequences from a disease to whose response 
he has no culpability, but he did bungle the response. Fear pervades the American economy, and perception is everything. This is the fourth key to turn against him.
6. Long-term economy -- Real per-capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms.

This is a tough standard against the sort of real growth that one associates with a recovery from a really-nasty economic meltdown. Trump really had no chance to win this key. The best that he could hope for was a continuation of the Obama recovery into higher territory. The Stock Market reached a peak in the winter of 2020 and took a huge dip before going into a rally. Whether one trusts that rally or not is one's choice, Economic growth has subsided. This key turns against Trump and stays turned. He has one key left that must not turn.  

7. Policy change -- The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy.

Even if the change is ultimately harmful to America, any significant change -- even if it were so horrible as instigating a pogrom -- would count as a key working for the President. Tax cuts intended for the Master Class and his likely transformation of the US Supreme Court into a defender of reactionary ideology against any liberal reform constitute major change in policy. Such is a measure of effectiveness of a President, whether one likes such a change or disparages it. This is one key that does not turn against Trump even if I disparage the consequences.  

8 Social unrest -- There is no sustained social unrest during the term.

As Lichtman put it, polite or non-violent protest does not constitute unrest likely to hurt an administration. He did not recognize the Tea Party Movement as unrest, and neither, really does such polite and non-violent protest such as the Women's March or the more continuing Black Lives Matters protests. What would people in Black Lives Matter do if they saw someone torching a car? They would call the cops.

I am more concerned about the racist violence of the Alt-Right that the President has trivialized or excused. Instead of telling Americans (as LBJ did after some horrors committed by "Killers, Kowards* and Kooks") to abandon violent racist causes, President Trump has offered a mangled response, saying "There are good people on both sides". This is not the Israeli-Palestinian dispute in which both sides have culpability and have done excesses and there really are good people on both sides. People who run over a protester of the other side or do racist massacres express the pervasive evil of their causes.  There are not good people on both sides on arson or child molestation, and there are not good people on the side of genocidal fascism. This is the sixth key to turn, and Trump is practically excluded from winning the popular vote.     

9 Scandal -- The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal.

This is the most pervasively-corrupt Presidency in American history. Donald Trump makes the previous holder of the title, Warren Gamaliel Harding, look like a saint in contrast. I wish I could say on this one alone that nobody needs a key because the door is blasted open with the door off the latch so that one could take away a grand piano. There is absolutely no excuse for corrupt behavior by the President -- ever. Seventh key, and four to go.   

10 Foreign/military failure -- The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs.

He got nothing from his parleys with the Emperor-in-all-but-name of North Korea. Meanwhile  the President's buddy Vladimir Putin chips away at Ukraine with impunity and China tightens the screws on Hong Kong in violation of treaties. Significantly, his attempt to blackmail the President of Ukraine into messing with the campaign of an opponent got him impeached. Maybe not convicted, but when the Other Side must impeach the President due to gross misconduct, and the issue involves foreign policy, then such is a foreign policy failure. 

I don't know how I would treat COVID-19 as a political key**, but in view of the mass death (200,000 and counting) it much resembles a costly stalemate from which we would be wise to extricate ourselves unless there is no viable alternative to victory. Lichtman did not mention plagues and other natural disasters mishandled badly. 

One way or another, this key turns against him.  So far he has a 2-8 winning record. NFL coaches are often fired for such performance when expectations began high and one does not have the excuse that the quarterback is out for the season due to a season-ending injury. 

11. Foreign/military success -- The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs.

Does getting an accord between Israel and the United Arab Emirates qualify as major? Few expected it. I will give him this one. At this point I can afford a little charity in interpretation.

12 Incumbent charisma -- The incumbent-party candidate is charismatic or a national hero.

No. He is an emotional wreck. Charisma can get people to do what they otherwise not do. If one lacks this one cannot convince people except in shrewd dealings. This key turns against Trump, who is now at 3-9. In a competitive sport a 3-9 season with one game to go. In the usual  162-game baseball season, a 3-9 stretch might indicate a team in trouble that needs to make major changes if it is to get or stay in contention. Trump can preach to the choir all that he wants, but that will not be enough.

13 Challenger charisma -- The challenging-party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero.

OK. Nobody is going to confuse Joe Biden with John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Trump wins this, and he is at 4-9, and that is the end of the story. 

*The spelling error is deliberate on my part. Get it?

**If I were President I would treat it as seriously as a major war. Wouldn't you? I doubt that Trump has read a biography of FDR or Sir Winston Churchill. I would demonize the virus like American leadership demonized Hitler and Tojo and keep reassuring Americans that the sacrifices are well worth the hardships.
The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the dedicated Communist  but instead the people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction, true and false, no longer exists -- Hannah Arendt.


Messages In This Thread
The Lichtman Keys - by Eric the Green - 06-19-2020, 11:02 PM
RE: The Lichtman Keys - by Eric the Green - 06-19-2020, 11:16 PM
RE: The Lichtman Keys - by pbrower2a - 09-30-2020, 03:56 PM
RE: The Lichtman Keys - by Eric the Green - 06-19-2020, 11:30 PM
RE: The Lichtman Keys - by Eric the Green - 06-19-2020, 11:39 PM
RE: The Lichtman Keys - by Eric the Green - 06-19-2020, 11:48 PM
RE: The Lichtman Keys - by Eric the Green - 06-20-2020, 12:20 AM
RE: The Lichtman Keys - by Eric the Green - 08-05-2020, 06:22 PM
RE: The Lichtman Keys - by Eric the Green - 08-05-2020, 05:12 PM
RE: The Lichtman Keys - by Eric the Green - 08-10-2020, 03:57 PM
RE: The Lichtman Keys - by Eric the Green - 08-10-2020, 04:15 PM
RE: The Lichtman Keys - by Eric the Green - 08-10-2020, 05:05 PM
RE: The Lichtman Keys - by Eric the Green - 08-10-2020, 05:21 PM
RE: The Lichtman Keys - by Eric the Green - 08-10-2020, 05:32 PM
RE: The Lichtman Keys - by Eric the Green - 08-10-2020, 05:57 PM
RE: The Lichtman Keys - by pbrower2a - 09-29-2020, 10:29 AM
RE: The Lichtman Keys - by Eric the Green - 09-29-2020, 07:36 PM
RE: The Lichtman Keys - by pbrower2a - 09-30-2020, 11:54 AM
RE: The Lichtman Keys - by Eric the Green - 09-30-2020, 03:03 PM
RE: The Lichtman Keys - by Eric the Green - 10-01-2020, 12:21 AM

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