Monday, June 06, 2016

The Year of the Weevils

[Scene from Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003; dir. Peter Weir)]

It is May 1805 aboard the British corvette HMS Surprise.  The warship's officers are seated at table for dinner mess.

At the head of the table sits Lt. Jack Aubrey, captain of the Surprise.  He addresses the ship's physician and friend Stephen Maturin, an avid naturalist. Aubrey delights in joshing him.

Aubrey, gesturing at two weevils on the table (in those days a not uncommon sight on vessels):  Do you see those two weevils, Doctor?

Maturin:   I do.

Aubrey:  Which would you choose?

Maturin, peering at them:   Neither. There's no difference between them. They're the same species of curculio.

Aubrey:   If you had to choose. If you were forced to make a choice. If there was no other...

Maturin: Well then, if you're going to push me... . I would choose the right-hand weevil. It has significant advantage in both length and breadth.

Aubrey bangs his fist on the table in triumph:   There, I have you! You're completely dashed! Do you not know that in the service one must always choose the lesser of two weevils?

The same dilemma all too frequently confronts the American voter,  The candidates they must choose from on Election Day are, metaphorically, the same species of curculio.  They must select between the "lesser of two weevils."

In other words, voters typically vote, not so much in favor of one candidate as they do against the other candidate.

Which is why political ads are so often negative ads.  With regard to Independents, they're not so much Vote for me as they are Don't vote for the other candidate.  Or, with regard to committed Democrats or Republicans, Stay home on Election Day.

By and large, 2016 is shaping up to be the Year of the Weevils.

The latest Gallup poll, reporting on a survey carried out between May 1 and May 22, puts businessman Donald Trump's unfavorable rating at 60 percent, historically the highest ever for a major presidential candidate.  It was even higher before Senator Ted Cruz and Governor John Kasich dropped out of the race, and committed Republicans began to accept the reality that Trump was going to be their weevil.

Secretary Hillary Clinton's unfavorable rating isn't far behind:  54 percent.

The poll has a statistical deviation of plus or minus 1 percent, with a 95 percent confidence level.

As with Trump, Clinton's unfavorable rating is expected to decline once Senator Bernie Sanders capitulates--which may not happen before the July Democratic Convention--and committed Democrats begin accepting that she is their designated weevil.

Some prominent Republicans are so disenchanted with Trump, whom they regard as utterly unqualified for the Office of President, that they've announced that Clinton has become their preferred weevil.  The list includes prominent national security analyst Colonel (Retired) Peter Mansoor, about whom I posted earlier.  But it's unlikely that the GOP rank and file will follow their lead.  They'll either hold their nose and vote for Trump, or stay away from the polling booth in droves.

There's speculation that Sanders' supporters are so strongly opposed to weevil Clinton that they will refuse to support her, although it's unlikely that many of them will choose weevil Trump.

One question therefore becomes:  Will 2016 be a low turnout year? (If so, this arguably would benefit Trump, since Republicans tend to fare better in low turnout elections.)  Another, posed on June 3 by the New York Times, is "Clinton and Trump have terrible approval ratings.  Does it matter?"
“We are in a position where both parties have extremely negative views of the opposite party and that pulls down the candidates’ favorables,” said Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette Law School poll. “The good news for both of them is they have to run against each other. So, in that sense, neither is substantially disadvantaged.”
There's also the matter of the "bounce" that nominees historically get in the immediate wake of their respective party conventions.
“If the 2016 convention unifies Democrats in anything like the way it did in 2008, there will be some boost in Clinton’s support, especially if Sanders gives her a strong endorsement and brings people back into the fold,” Mr. Franklin said. “It’s conceivable that Trump produces an extravaganza that gives him some boost as well.”
I suppose that as the Democratic sibling in Sibling Rivalry I'm supposed to rebut my brother's most recent post.  But if the Weevil Thesis holds together over the next months--and I feel certain it will--then there's plainly little point in doing so.


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