Prof. Allan Jay Lichtman has correctly predicted the outcome of every election since 1984. His model says Biden will win the vote in 2020, but he thinks Trump is planning to work with Republican governors and secretaries of state to rig the final result. Only a people’s movement on a massive scale can prevent a Trump coup says Paul Jay. Prof. Lichtman is the guest on theAnalysis.news podcast.
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On Saturday, September 26th, Donald Trump nominated Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. Will this rush to nominate another far-right judge have an effect on the outcome of the presidential election? I’m going to ask Allan J. Lichtman, an American historian and distinguished professor of history at American University. Alan is the author of many books, including “White Protestant Nation: The Rise of the American Conservative Movement.” Alan created the keys to the White House model, which he developed with Russian seismologist Vladimir Keilis-Borok in 1981.
The model uses 13 true/false criteria to predict whether the candidate of an incumbent party will win or lose the next election for the U.S. president. He predicted the outcome of every presidential election since Reagan in 1984, including the 2016 victory of Donald Trump. The New York Times produced a video about Alan which explains the 13 Keys. Here’s an excerpt from their video.
New York Times Video
“What do Allan’s 13 keys predict for 2020?
And remember and answer of true always favors the re-election of the White House party. If six or more of the keys are false, you get a political earthquake.
OK, number one, the White House party gained House seats between midterm elections.
Republicans lost the U.S. House midterms in 2018. So false.
Number two, there is no primary contest for the White House party.
No Republicans challenged Trump for his renomination. So true.
Number three, the incumbency key. The sitting president is running for re-election.
Doesn’t look like he’s stepping down so true.
Fourth there’s no third-party challenger.
Despite claims by Kanye West to be running. This is a two-party race.
This is looking pretty good for Trump so far. Number five, the short term economy is strong.
The pandemic has pushed the economy into recession false.
Six, long term economic growth during this presidential term has been as good as the past two terms.
The pandemic has caused such negative GDP growth in 2020 that the key has turned false.
Number seven, the White House has made major changes to national policy.
Through his big tax cut, but mostly through his executive orders. Trump has fundamentally changed the policies of the Obama era. So true.
Number eight, there is no social unrest during the term.
There has been considerable social unrest on the streets with enough violence to threaten the social order. So false.
Number nine, the White House is untainted by scandal.
My favorite key. As I predicted, Trump was impeached. Plus, he has plenty of other scandals. So false.
Number 10, the White House has no major foreign or military failures abroad.
We’ve had some very difficult moments with Donald Trump, but so far true.
11. The White House has a major success abroad.
While Trump hasn’t had any big, splashy failures, he hasn’t had any major successes either. So false.
Twelve, the incumbent party candidate is charismatic.
Donald Trump is a great showman, but he only appeals to a narrow slice of the American people, and as a result, false.
13, the challenger, is uncharismatic.
Biden is a decent, empathetic person, but he’s not inspirational or charismatic. So true.
The keys predict that Trump will lose the White House.”
Thanks for joining us, Alan.
My great pleasure.
So let’s talk about the current situation and then I’ve got some history questions for you. So you predicted Biden’s going to win this election, but does this fight over the Supreme Court move one of your predictive keys?
No, absolutely not. Nothing matters in my system, as you say, unless it turns a key. That’s why I don’t look at the polls. I forget about the pundits. I don’t see who’s up and down on a day to day basis. I don’t pay attention to the speeches, the debates, the ads, the dirty tricks. Unless it moves a key, it doesn’t matter.
And the keys are very high threshold factors. They are the big picture of presidential performance and strength. Now, stepping outside the keys, it just popped up an hour ago on my screen here, a post-ABC poll released today says 38% want the replacement to be nominated by Trump and confirmed by the current Senate, 57 percent say it should be left to the winner of the election and confirmed by the Senate next year. So this notion that this is going to be a big shot in the arm to the Trump campaign, like so much else you hear, just has no basis.
Well, the Republicans are certainly looking at this polling data. And Trump has announced the nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. And it looks like that’s going to take place before the November 3rd election. Maybe they don’t care about the 57 percent who don’t like this idea because they think only the swing states matter. Is there any polling data on how the swing states might react to this?
No, I don’t think there’s polling that fine. But you’re talking about a 20 point gap.
Remember, Hillary Clinton had less than, she had, what about a two-point gap, and he barely won the swing states.
So when you’re talking about a 20 point gap in public opinion, that’s going to maybe not be 20 points in the swing states, but it’s still going to be a healthy margin in the swing states.
But this is 20 points just about that particular issue. It’s not 20 points overall in terms of the election.
Absolutely. It’s nowhere near 20 points in the overall. It’s more like seven.
The other controversy that’s taking up a lot of airtime right now on the media is the whole question of whether Trump actually will leave if Biden wins, is Trump essentially organizing a coup? Steve Bannon was on Tucker Carlson the other day saying the war begins on November 3rd, that the only vote that matters is the one that happens on that day, and they should not recognize the mail-in ballot that comes later. Does this controversy move one of your predictive keys, and who does this controversy help or hurt?
It doesn’t move a key.
It doesn’t have a clear impact on the election. But here is the exquisite irony and hypocrisy, although hypocrisy seems to have no impact on Republicans and certainly not on Donald Trump. You are probably, like me, old enough to remember the controversy over the 2000 vote coun, and how every Republican cheered the Supreme Court when in the second week of December it decided the election. You never heard a peep from Republicans saying this is too late. This was more than five weeks after the election. And now they’re saying a few days after the election is too late, what errant hypocritical nonsense that is.
And if you listen to what the Republicans in the Senate were saying, again, the pundits have it all wrong. Oh, you know, they’ve stepped up and they’ve said there will be a peaceful transition of power. That isn’t the issue. The issue is before there’s either a transfer or continuation of power, will Trump steal the election? None of them stood up to that. None of them said Donald Trump was wrong to say we’re going to throw out all of these ballots to make sure I can win. Maybe Mitt Romney, but not one other Republican in the Senate directly challenged what the president had to say. They just gave us these passive voice invocations. “We’ll have a peaceful transfer of power,” utterly meaningless. The real issue is, will we have a fair and full vote count? The question is not whether Trump will accept the results of the election. The question is whether Trump will steal the election and then, of course, accept the results of the stolen election.
We have never in the history of this country, in the most bitter partisan battles, ever had a president openly say, I’m going to throw out the ballots to make sure I win. That is the real issue, not whether he will, if he loses and can’t steal it, barricade himself in the White House and call on the boogaloo boys to protect them. He’s a coward. He doesn’t have the courage to do that, but he’s a cheat. He cheats at everything, he even cheats at golf. Of course he will try to cheat and steal the election. And I cannot emphasize too strongly, that’s the issue. It has nothing to do with the peaceful transfer of power. It has to do with stealing the election before there is a transfer or continuation of power.
So I guess he steals it by all kinds of legal cases, challenging the results of the vote, of the mail-in vote, getting Republican governors and secretaries of state not to certify the elections.
Exactly. Just like we saw in Florida. Yeah. And in Florida they actually threatened to have the state legislature appoint a set of Trump electors, you may see that again. Basically he said, you know, I’m going to put my folks on the Supreme Court, I’m gonna pack the Supreme Court, and I want the Supreme Court, not the voters, to decide this election. This isn’t a secret.
Yeah, and his proxies are talking very openly about it on television. There’s no doubt about it.
And he has all the power of the presidency. And in virtually every one of the swing states, the legislature is controlled by Republicans, and in a number of them, like Florida, it’s the governor and the legislature, Ohio, it’s the governor and the legislature. You know, I have a lot of faith in Governor DeWine. I have no faith in Governor DeSantis that he would do the right thing.
So what can the Democrats do about it? What can the people do about it? And that’s not necessarily the same question.
Well, what the people can do about it is make this a blue wave election like 2018. Make sure that Donald Trump is so decisively rejected that no shenanigans can change the result, that’s what the people can do. And what the Democrats can do is, number one, expose this, and I don’t think they’ve done nearly as good a job as they should in exposing and challenging this, and number two, put together the best legal team in the country to counter this.
But, you know, when someone as powerful as the president, with all these Republican enablers behind him, is determined to cheat, it’s a very, very difficult to stop it.
The key issue, again, is the swing states. There’s very little doubt Trump is going to lose the popular vote. He lost it last time.
He’s not even concerned about the popular vote. He’s campaigning and focusing on 8-10 states. And that’s a horrific commentary on our electoral system, that 8-10 states determine the election and 40 odd states are irrelevant.
So Biden is doing it differently. He’s spending a ton of money in the swing states. He’s going to the swing states. But why is it even close in the swing states? Why is the polling relatively close?
I’m 73 years old. I’ve been observing politics since the Eisenhower administration. I’ve been studying politics since the founding and revolutionary era. And I cannot understand why two-thirds of the American people are not voting against Donald Trump. How can you possibly want this situation in America to continue? A pandemic totally out of control, that Trump couldn’t care less about and is doing nothing about, racial injustice and protests across the land that Trump has no clue whatsoever about, a president who has trashed almost every one of our sacred democratic traditions, who has lost us prestige and standing around the world, who kneels at the feet of the Russian dictator. [Editor’s note: I don’t agree with this statement about Trump and Putin and I’ll address it in a separate podcast. See the comments section for a short take on the issue.]
Forget about Biden. Is this what the American people could possibly want as a continuation? It baffles me. I’ve never seen anything like this. You know, whether I disagreed or agreed with other presidents and other candidates, I’ve seen the basis for voting them. I could perfectly well understand why some would vote for Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush, even though I might have disagreed with their policies. No problem with that. I do not understand how anyone could support Donald Trump and still believe in our democracy and our Constitution and our domestic tranquility, our national security.
Well, there’s two things there. One, I understand the disillusionment with the Democratic Party. I understand the disillusionment with the Obama Biden administration. I understand why people didn’t vote for Hillary. I understand why people may have stayed home. What I don’t understand very well is people voting for Trump. I can get why some might not want to vote at all. But I don’t get how you vote for Trump, except there’s some very deep kind of psychological thing happening here.
There’s a really interesting essay by Wilhelm Reich titled “The Mass Psychology of Fascism.” I don’t know if you’ve read it, but he talks about why so many Germans supported Hitler, and he talks about sexual repression, and the need to transcend the daily sufferings of life through focusing on a hero, identifying with a savior. I think there’s a similar phenomenon going on here, and the failures of the economic policies of the Democrats helped create the conditions for it.
I made a documentary film about professional wrestling, where wrestlers play heroes and villains, they play characters.
And in fact, Trump learned a lot of his politics from Vince McMahon and the World Wrestling Federation.
In fact, Trump actually played a character in the wrestling show where he wound up in a wrestling ring and fighting with Vince McMahon in “a whoever wins gets to cut the other guy’s hair off” match. I mean, Trump actually got to feel what it’s like to be the center of that kind of attention. And he learned how to play a kind of character that appeals to this kind of good and evil scenario.
And in some ways, and this is true in wrestling, the more flawed the character, sometimes people cheer more. Like in wrestling there’s a thing about getting pop from an audience and it’s all about the pop. And sometimes you get more pop when you’re playing the heel. That is a villain people love to hate so much, they actually love them. They love them more than when somebody’s playing the face. That’s the good guy.
I get that. And that’s very brilliant. And you’ve done an excellent job of explicating it. But the one difference that I see that still baffles me is, I get it with the WWE. But rooting for the villain doesn’t affect your life. Electing Donald Trump means California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, are going to burn up. Our coastal cities are going to be underwater. The pandemic is going to rage out of control. Our economy will continue to lurch along.
The rich will continue to get richer, and all of you are going to pay the price. So it’s not as if you can just watch your TV and feel you feel something about the good versus evil. This affects your life and your kid’s life.
I never drank the Obama Kool-Aid, in the sense that I always thought that he was a normal centrist Democrat, and I didn’t have much hope that he’d be any more transformative than that, which means I didn’t have hope he would be transformative at all, really.
But, yeah, I preferred him to the Republican candidates.
But he knew how to play the face. He knew how to play the smile, that everyone could read something into what they really thought he meant. And so progressives read all kinds of things into that smile. And I think a lot of the same things are happening with a lot of people who like Trump. They don’t listen to the policy issues. It’s all about belief, and he’s a vehicle. You can kind of believe what you want in him.
Yeah, I got that in 2016. I don’t get it now when the reality of Donald Trump is upon us all. That’s what baffles me. Sure, you can read into him anything you wanted in 2016.
He had no record. Now he’s got a record. And do you really want, as I said, you know, the West Coast to burn, the southwest to be destroyed by hurricanes, our coastal cities to be underwater, a pandemic in which he has doesn’t care about, has no clue how to solve. And there are going to be others. I mean, this is your life. This isn’t reading something into an empty vessel. This is what we know is happening in America today.
Is there anything that can move a key in Trump’s favor before the election, for example, a provocation with Iran, an incident in the South China Sea, a terrorist attack of some kind that conveniently shows up just before the election?
You know, you put your finger on something, Trump will stop at nothing. If he thinks starting a war will help him get re-elected, he’ll start a war. He doesn’t care about 200,000 dead from the pandemic, seven million infected, maybe with long term implications on your health.
And he won’t care about those who might die in a war. But unless it’s, you know, a lightning-quick, you know, like a seven-day war between Israel and Egypt back then, it won’t turn a key. It’s got to be a foreign policy success to turn the key. And they tried. You know, I don’t think Trump understands the keys, but I think Jared Kushner does. And I think with this UAE-Bahrain-Israel treaty, he tried to turn a key. Didn’t work, you know, no one cares about that treaty right now. You know, it’s not even made a ripple in this country. But he’s tried, and it wouldn’t surprise me one bit. Anything Trump does, nothing will surprise me, you know, declaring martial law, starting a war with Iran. Nothing but nothing will surprise me.
I thought Hillary Clinton was going to win like most people, other than you I guess, who did predict Trump was going to win.
It was only the night before the election that it really sunk into me that, holy shit, maybe Trump could win. It was when I saw Obama on stage with Hillary Clinton.
It was in Philadelphia the night before the vote. And Obama spoke about the great achievements about the great achievements of his administration. And I said to my wife, I said, “oh, God, he’s so out of touch with what’s happening to sections of the working class in these swing states. And he’s going to talk just about how great he did?” And I said, “shit, Trump actually might win this thing.”
It long predated the Obama Biden administration. It started in 1979.
Yeah, of course, and Bill Clinton played a big role. And I don’t blame any of these individuals as such. These are systemic things. It’s not about the individual’s right or wrong, but it doesn’t matter in terms of the elections. Who got blamed was the guys that were in power for the last eight years.
And Trump is going to get blamed for what’s going on while he’s in power. That’s the essence of the keys, when you’re the incumbent, not the challenger, you’re judged by your record. And that was the fundamental mistake that Trump has made. You know, I’m here in my study, and I have this note written on a copy of The Washington Post from September 2016 when I predicted Trump’s win. And it says, “Professor, congrats. Good call,” and in big Sharpey letters, Donald J. Trump, believe it or not. Understand the deeper meaning of the keys, which is when you’re the incumbent, it’s your record, that counts. And as we know, instead of substantively dealing with any of the challenges that suddenly emerged in 2020, he reverted to his 2016 playbook, and thought he could talk his way out of them. And that’s why he lost multiple more keys. And that’s why I’m still sticking to my prediction of a Biden win.
But, like any system, and like our democracy, it depends on a full and fair vote count.
If you throw out the ballots like Trump wants to do, then all bets are off.
One of the things that’s not a key, which I kind of thought should have been, though, maybe history doesn’t prove it so, is, where’s Wall Street? Where’s big money? And isn’t that an important indicator?
Yeah, it’s interesting on that. Very good point. For a while, I did keys to the Senate, and I was about 85 to 90 percent right, with one set of keys for all 50 states. But of course, the critics only looked at the 10 to 15 percent I got wrong. So I stopped that. But what was interesting about the keys to the Senate is that there was a big money key that mattered in the keys to the Senate.
But money does not matter in the presidency. Otherwise, Hillary Clinton would have won in a cakewalk. And for most of our history, Republicans would have won every single election, including beating Franklin Roosevelt. So in a presidential election, the candidates are well-known enough so that differentials in money don’t matter. But they matter hugely at every other level of election.
And that’s of great significance right now, because what I’m hearing from people, and it’s in the media, too, but I’ve talked to people that know some big shots on Wall Street, is that they’ve concluded that they do want Biden for president, but they’re going to spend their money on a Republican Senate so they can gridlock any kind of reform they don’t like.
Doesn’t surprise me one bit.
There are already people organizing for mass protests. If Trump tries to, as you said, steal the election, and it’s certainly sounding like that’s the plan.
That’s what he’s going to do. He’s going to try. I’m not saying he’s going to succeed, but take him at his word. He’s not joking. He doesn’t joke.
So how does the American state react to this? Mass protests in the streets against Trump, a Supreme Court that’s very likely to support him in stealing the election, even if it’s obvious to everyone it’s been stolen, but say the Supreme Court blesses it, even as unpopular as that appointment to the Supreme Court might be, as long as he has the power to do it and he doesn’t care about the 57 percent that don’t like it.
What’s happening to the American state here? It’s becoming dysfunctional.
You’re absolutely right. Look, you know, I’ve written about democracy. Democracy is precious. It’s maybe the most precious thing historically humanity has had. But like all precious things, it can be destroyed. In the first golden age of democracy, right after World War One, we had dozens of democracies. Two-thirds of them were gone by the middle of the 1940s. Even today, Freedom House has reported that some 25 democracies around the world are sliding towards autocracy. You know, Americans have this complacent belief that no matter what happens, their democracy will be preserved. Not true. I think if, you know, we see this nightmare scenario that you laid out, it could be the death knell of American democracy.
The one thing though that keeps me hopeful is the young people. The young people really do seem to understand the importance of critical issues. They do seem to understand the importance of preserving our democracy. And the Republican Party is also ultimately doomed, because the one thing you can’t fight is demography, as T.S. Eliot said, birth, copulation, death. That’s all there is when it comes down to brass tacks. The demography is cutting against the Republican Party.
We are becoming a multicultural, multiracial society. California, Texas already majority minority. And it’s getting very close to turning purple. So as time goes on, minority rule is going to become much more difficult. No question. Republican rule is minority rule because of the Senate, and because of the Electoral College. But that is going to become much more difficult to sustain over the next decade or two. I might not be around to see it, but my children and grandchildren will.
Well, I think if Trump does what we’ve been talking about, I think millions of people hit the streets. You get an explosion of a mass movement the country’s never seen before.
And then if Biden becomes president at the end of that process, it’s actually going to be an amazing situation where a people’s movement is going to put real pressure on the Biden administration for real reforms, reforms that perhaps go even beyond what Bernie Sanders has been talking about.
You know, you put your finger on something very important and we can close with this, that some of the greatest reforms have come out of some of the bleakest moments in American history. That kind of like Lazarus rising from the dead, positive change arises from crisis. We know, of course, that the civil war gave us the 13th Amendment, ending slavery, the 14th Amendment, and equal protection. The 15th Amendment on black voting. The Great Depression gave us the New Deal.
The racial turmoil of the 1960s gave us the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. So it is indeed possible. You know, when you’re in the midst of these crises, it’s hard to see, but it is indeed possible that some of the most constructive and positive changes could emerge.
Thanks very much for joining us, Alan.
All right. My pleasure. Take care.
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