One thing I noticed and got right about the election season, which as far as I know nobody else did, was the cycle between rising and falling enthusiasm for Trump, both among his supporters and opponents.
During rising phases, his supporters were ecstatic and his opponents said he's not the anti-Christ after all. During falling phases, his supporters panicked about him selling out and his opponents panicked that he would bring about the apocalypse.
Within each phase, the two sides' conclusions contradicted each other -- if his supporters were ecstatic, shouldn't that send his opponents into a panic? And if his supporters were panicking about him selling out, shouldn't that make his opponents cheer up?
So, it was not a factual or rational response, but an emotional one -- turned on or turned off.
This cycle appeared to have an up month and a down month. The down phase was clear during the early part of even-numbered months, while the up phases were clear during the most parts of the odd-numbered month (perhaps minus the end, which led into the next down phase).
I first wrote about this cycle in June, then again in August, and just before the final slump in October, which I predicted in the last post on the topic. I was hoping the rollercoaster would end after the election, but it appears to still be going.
We're clearly in another turned-off phase, where blackpill feelings are palpable among enough of his supporters, while his opponents are in their uncharitable hater phase again. It nominally revolves around his Cabinet picks and transition in general, but as the earlier posts explained, it has nothing to do with what is actually going on in the political world. It's an emotional rollercoaster, so when people are feeling good they'll rationalize current events in a half-full way, and when they're feeling bad they'll rationalize them in a half-empty way.
When was the last time we were in a phase where his supporters were noticeably blackpilled? Early-to-mid October (PussyGrabGate), early-mid August (post-Conventions, Khizr Khan), early-mid June (La Raza judge), early-mid April (abortion punishment, Wisconsin primary), and early-mid February (Iowa caucus and debate). There's no thematic thread that connects all of these, including now his Cabinet picks. It's just an emotional rollercoaster oblivious to factual goings-on.
What kind of model does explain oscillations such as these?
The ones that come to mind are how neurons fire, or how the heartbeat works. There's an external stimulus big enough to cause an excitation that sustains or feeds on itself. A dampener applies and eventually drives the excitation into a calming-down phase. The dampener has done its job and shuts itself off, allowing the excitement level to rise slightly back up to a resting state. Then it fires all over again.
These are called excitable systems, and the best known simple model is the FitzHugh-Nagumo model, which describes how a simplified neuron fires. (Only quants should click that link, but it is a forgotten classic.)
In this case, the external stimulus is the emotional energy being injected into the citizenry from the political figures -- those who are influential enough to inject anything. Here, it's mainly Trump, but also Crooked Hillary and Bernie way back when, along with high-ranking cuck traitors within the GOP. It's not the media, who are reactive along with the rest of the citizenry.
As citizens interact with each other, they spread and feed off of one another's emotional energy. They're feeling better and better about Trump, even if his supporters always feel better than his opponents. But citizens also have a strong inhibitory tendency, so that they don't just fly off into outer space every time they get excited. (The inhibitory force is generally stronger than their self-sustaining force, which is why we're generally ho-hum about politics, or about anything for that matter.)
Aside from their own tendency to dial things down even when excited, the citizens' emotional energy also tends to get drained by naysaying -- perhaps by the media, by other sub-groups within the citizenry, but somebody internal to the system.
Naysaying rises in response to positive levels of emotional energy ("Uh-oh, people are getting excited, better go rain on their parade"). But it also tends to shut itself off in the absence of positive vibes -- naysayers aren't that way all of the time for no reason whatsoever.
In the terms of the neuron firing model, the citizens' emotional energy is like the membrane potential V, the naysaying is like the recovery variable W, and the emotional energy injected by the political figures from outside the system is like the external stimulus current I.
Can such a model not only describe what has been going on this season, but also explain why earlier seasons have not behaved this way?
The neuron model allows for cases where there is only a single spike, as well as repeating spikes. When the external stimulus is weak, there might be at most one spike and not a very large-magnitude one. This is like most elections, where the citizenry (not just political junkies) are mostly tuned out aside from, perhaps, one key moment where everyone got all excited and then went back to not caring anymore.
However, when the external stimulus is stronger, the resting state is not stable, and the spikes keep happening over and over. If any politician has injected higher energy into the citizenry during an election season, it has been the President-Elect. ("You OD on Trump.")
In the model, the external stimulus can rise so high that the resting state is stable, but at a shrill level, where both the emotional energy of the citizenry and the naysaying remain constantly high, rather than going through cycles. We haven't seen that yet. I'm not sure that it even got that bad during the lead-up to the Civil War, but I don't know the month-by-month story to determine if it cycled or remained constantly shrill.
One prediction of this model, which has not been tested, is that if the external energy from politicians is strongly inhibitory -- meaning they're trying as hard as possible to calm the citizens down and do the naysaying themselves -- it would backfire. The citizens' emotional energy level would plunge below its already conservative resting level, and its correction would not merely lead back to the resting state, but instead toward a very large spike before returning to rest (with no cycles).
How unique has this election really been, though? It's certainly been more of an emotional rollercoaster than those within recent memory. But there appear to be rollercoaster seasons every 4-5-6 elections, which tend to come from geographical and ideological re-alignment. A strong third-party vote also shows up during these tumultuous seasons.
The last one wasn't quite this bad, but it was still a whirlwind -- 1992, when Clinton went on his own ups and downs throughout the season, as did Bush who was fighting off culture warrior Pat Buchanan, all while liberals and conservatives began fighting each other. Clinton and Bush both injected much higher levels of emotional energy than had been usual just four years earlier.
This was the re-alignment that ushered in the culture war era, which peeled off California, New England, and the Mid-Atlantic from the GOP (even in '88 this re-alignment was in effect, peeling off the Pacific NW and the Lutheran Triangle). Third party disaffection was Perot.
Some say the 1980 election was highly charged, but that was mostly confined to political junkies arguing over ideology. Among average citizens, there were fluctuations in poll numbers, but not the widespread waves of excitation followed by despair that we've seen this time. Most people were on-board with the "Anybody But Carter" feeling, and it wasn't nearly as nasty as 2016 or 1992.
We have to go back instead to 1968 to find another really tumultuous season. Nixon wasn't quite the firebrand that Trump is, but there was intense energy on the Democrat side as four heavies fought each other for the nomination, and triggered a massive protest at their own Convention (similar to this year). Not to mention the high energy being injected from other political figures, such as Martin Luther King, who got assassinated along with Bobby Kennedy.
This was the post-Civil Rights re-alignment that took away the "Solid South" from the Democrats, who made a strong third-party showing for Wallace.
Before that, the last "give 'em hell" candidate was Truman in 1948, another one where support seemed to wax and wane, as the indefatigable Truman toured the nation trying to keep voters pumped up. Also like 2016, the clueless media and pollsters not sensing any of this, and proclaiming the firebrand's demise before the election was even held ("Dewey Defeats Truman").
This saw the defection of the Mid-Atlantic states to the losing GOP, where they would remain later under Eisenhower, and a strong third-party vote for the Dixiecrats in the not-so-Solid South (a premonition of 1968, relating to segregation). Overall, though, not as seismic of a re-alignment, nor as bitter of a campaign as others like it. This was the Mid-Century, around the nadir of political partisanship and discord.
And without going into too much detail on the others: 1932 (intense energy from FDR about the New Deal during the Great Depression), 1912 (big fight between Taft and Teddy Roosevelt on the GOP side, causing a strong third party showing for TR, who actually won more than Taft), 1892 (incipient Populist rebellion in the Frontier and Mountain states), 1876 (the most contentious ever), and of course 1860 (Southern secession).
I don't know the month-by-month stories in these seasons, but given the unusually high level of energy being injected from the major political figures, I'd bet they were emotional rollercoasters like 2016, rather than having at most one big moment of excitement. The 1860 season may be an example of the model with such a high level of energy being injected from the political figures that there is a stable state at shrill levels and not just waxing and waning enthusiasm for Lincoln, leading the way to the Civil War.
The good news for this time is that even when there was a rollercoaster season, it didn't last forever and ever. After some time in office, Trump and other major political figures will dial down the intensity. He has already begun, although he's still ready to fire off threatening tweets and hold massive rallies where he works everybody up again. Already by the midterm season, things will have quieted down a bit (1994 was rambunctious, but not like 1992).
The only time when a highly intense election was followed by a greater one was 1860 and '64. Again, I kind of doubt that 1860 was a Trump-like rollercoaster, and more of a constantly shrill season that would lead to Civil War. At the same time, this rollercoaster was the closest we've come to constantly shrill levels in a very long time.
Peter Turchin has said that we're in 1856 again, but even assuming that's accurate, I don't see the second peak of political discord being anywhere near the original Civil War (knock on wood). This time around, the Secessionists would be unarmed West Coast pacifists, not Southerners who were born fighting.