History professor predicts the Donald will be the next president–and he’s been right for the past 30 years
Washington Post, Sept. 23, 2016
Professor Allan Lichtman, who’s correctly predicted the outcomes all eight presidential elections from 1984 to 2012, is betting on Republican Donald Trump to win this year.
Lichtman, a distinguished professor of history at American University, reveals his methodology, and explains why 2016 was the most difficult election to predict.
WP: Tell us about the keys and how you use them to evaluate the election.
‘The Keys to the White House’ is an historically-based prediction system. I derived the system by looking at every American presidential election from 1860 to 1980.
The keys are 13 true/false questions, where an answer of “true” always favours the re-election of the party holding the White House, in this case the Democrats. The keys are phrased to reflect the basic theory that elections are primarily judgments on the performance of the party holding the White House. If six or more of the 13 keys are false—that is, they go against the party in power—they lose. If fewer than six are false, the party in power gets four more years.
People might say, well, President Obama has a 58 per cent approval rating, doesn’t that mean the Democrats are a shoo-in?
It absolutely does not mean that. First of all, one of my keys is whether or not the sitting president is running for re-election, and right away, they are down that key. Another one of my keys is whether or not the candidate of the White House party is, like Obama was in 2008, charismatic. Hillary Clinton doesn’t fit the bill.
The keys have nothing to do with presidential approval polls or horse-race polls, with one exception, and that is to assess the possibility of a significant third-party campaign.
What about Donald Trump on the other side? He’s not affiliated with the sitting party, but has his campaign been an enigma in terms of your ability to assess this election?
Trump has made this the most difficult election to assess since 1984. We have never before seen a candidate like Donald Trump, and he may well break patterns of history that have held since 1860.
We’ve never before seen a candidate who’s spent his life enriching himself at the expense of others. He’s the first candidate in our history to be a serial fabricator, making up things as he goes along.
We’ve never had a candidate before who not just once, but twice, in a thinly disguised way, has incited violence against an opponent.
We’ve never had a candidate before who’s invited a hostile foreign power to meddle in American elections.
We’ve never had a candidate before who’s threatened to start a war by blowing ships out of the water in the Arabian Gulf if they come too close to us.
We’ve never had a candidate before who has embraced as a role model a murderous, hostile foreign dictator.
Given all of these exceptions that Trump represents, he may well shatter patterns of history that have held for more than 150 years and lose this election even if the historical circumstances favour it.
WP: Do you think the fact that Trump is not a traditional Republican—certainly not an establishment Republican, from a rhetorical or policy perspective—contributes to that uncertainty over where he fits in with the standard methodology for evaluating the Keys?
I think the fact that he’s a bit of a maverick, and nobody knows where he stands on policy, because he’s constantly shifting. I defy anyone to say what his immigration policy is, what his policy is on banning Muslims, or whoever, from entering the United States, that’s certainly a factor.
But it’s more his history in Trump University, the Trump Institute, his bankruptcies, the charitable foundation, and all of the dangerous things he’s said in this campaign, that could make him a precedent-shattering candidate.
I don’t use the polls, but they have very recently tightened. Clinton is less ahead than she was before, but it’s not because Trump is rising, it’s because Clinton is falling.