You might have noticed that my predictions have been remarkably accurate lately, have you not?
For example, on Sunday, May 1, I predicted Ted Cruz would suspend his campaign after getting trounced in Indiana. Two days later, Cruz lost the Indiana primary to Donald Trump 53 to 36. At the time I wrote, many pundits and pollster still believed Cruz could win that Indiana race, and everyone believed Cruz was telling the truth when he said repeatedly he was staying in the race to Cleveland unless Trump reached 1,237 delegates before then. Turns out, those pundits were wrong and I was right. Cruz quit long before Trump won the magic number.
Then on Wednesday morning I predicted Paul Ryan and Donald Trump would end their meeting with a joint statement committing to work together to win in November. Pundits thought Ryan would use the meeting to chastise Trump and drive a permanent wedge between the two men. But the meeting ended with a joint statement that expressed precisely the intention and commitment I forecast.
You might think an ancient Sumerian god speaks to me through my dog Stella. Maybe. But more likely, I’ve been applying my day-job thinking in human behavior and persuasive design to my forecasting in politics. And it seems to work. While I’m not nearly as good at this as Scott Adams, I’m getting better.
I now predict that you would like to know my secrets for predicting outcomes. Great. I’ll tell you. In a moment.
Before that, let me tell you I have no idea if I’m right about any of this. I know just enough psychology to know that people are terrible at understanding their own motivations and errors. For example, psychologists will produce better research papers if they’re offered virtual badges for transparency and completeness. In other words, psychologists respond to incentive tactics that most psychologists consider psychological errors. If psychologists with PhDs fall for meaningless rewards, I’m pretty sure I have some blind spots, too.
Now, my secrets.
Focus on Words, Voice, Face, and Body
First, I try to focus on individuals. I can learn more about famous people like Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan than I can about millions of people whose names I don’t know. Over time, I might be able to accurately predict how many people respond to a given situation. An election, for example. But for now, I’m focusing on these people with a large body of public information. I pay to attention to the words they use, their tone, tempo, and volume of voice, their facial expressions, and their body language. These four behaviors–language, voice, face, and body–told me Ted Cruz was a beaten man the Friday before the Indiana primary. Maybe he told no one, but Cruz’s brain had already decided his race would end the following Tuesday. No matter how hard he tried, he could not hide what his brain had decided as he spoke to supporters in Jeffersonville, Indiana. The key is to watch people without judging or expecting anything.
Compare to a Baseline
In predicting the Cruz announcement, I had a baseline to compare against. That baseline was Cruz’s speech to supporters in Iowa just before the Iowa caucuses. When you watch the two speeches side-by-side, it’s impossible to miss the changes in Cruz’s words, voice, face, and body. One of the strongest tells was words. In Iowa, Cruz talked about the future, but in Indiana, Cruz talked almost completely in past tense, saying things like “we ran.” The difference in tense was probably totally subconscious, but it was distinct.
An example of subconscious language tells of future behavior happens when employees are ready to quit their jobs. Employees who’ve had enough start referring to the company they work for as “it,” “they,” or “them.” Happy employees say “we” and “us.” Again, it helps to have a baseline. Some people never refer to the company they work for as “us.” But most do–until they’re ready to quit.
Consider Their End Games and Interests
Everything in life is a form of negotiation, and most people open negotiations by stating their positions. But, in the end, rational people abandon their positions and, instead, focus on their interests. I’ve written about the difference before. Crazy people sometimes sacrifice their interests for their positions, but that’s always a losing strategy. The cliché that describes choosing position over interest is cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. See #NeverTrump for more examples of people who abandon interests for positions.
Paul Ryan’s interest is remaining Speaker of the House. Ryan also wants to get some legislation passed in the Senate and signed by the President. His interests are better served with President Trump than with a Democrat in the White House. I realize Never Trumpers can’t get this through their heads, but a Trump victory in November increases the likelihood of the GOP keeping the House and keeping the Senate. Plus, while Trump’s policies are somewhat vague, Clinton’s are not. Clinton would veto every bill Republicans like. A Clinton administration would look a lot like Obama’s administration when it comes to legislation and compromise. So Ryan’s interest is to get Trump elected in November.
Remember that People Decide Emotionally and Defend with Reason
There is no such thing as a rational decision. Zero. All human decisions are emotional. The most important decision most people make is whom to marry. If you think that’s a purely rational decision, tell your wife. Then duck. If the most important decision in your life is an emotional decision, the less important decisions are even more emotional. It’s obvious.
Children with brain damage that prevents them from connecting to the emotional centers of the brain cannot choose between a black pen and a blue-black pen. There’s no rational reason to prefer one over the other, so the kids in the experiment had no information available about which pen to choose. So, even the choice of very dark blue ink or black ink is purely emotional. Understanding that we decide emotionally allowed me to see that Cruz had already decided to leave the race if he lost Indiana. It was that simple.
Reason and facts do matter but only after the decision. For people to remain committed to their decisions, they need rational evidence to defend their decision. It helps to provide facts before people make their decision because the easy available of these facts makes it easier for people to commit to their emotional decisions. Every salesperson knows this.
Be Bold and Announce What You See
The last step is important and it’s the most difficult. To get credit for predictions, you have to announce them. That means you have to be okay with being wrong. Some people would rather die than be wrong, so I don’t know what to tell you if you think people decide rationally. I don’t want you to die. For you, being wrong in public is very painful, so you probably need to keep your opinions to yourself. I am used to being wrong, so I find it easier to announce my predictions in public.
And that’s all there is to my effortless and easy formula for predicting that Cruz would quit the race and that Trump and Ryan would work together to defeat crooked Hillary Clinton and down-ballot Democrats this year. I looked at behavior of key players, determined their interests, and remembered that they decide emotionally and defend rationally. Then I wrote about it.
Expect Trump to Win in a Landslide
Now I’m pretty sure Trump will win in a landslide in November with about 400 electoral votes. Maybe more, but 400 seems about right. That means he’ll win about 40 states. I don’t know which 40, but that doesn’t matter. If Trump wins 40 states, he’ll win about 400 electoral votes. Everyone will call it Trump’s Landslide, and Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan will be very happy because President Trump will support and sign their favorite bills.
[Tweet “Read why @whennessy expects landslide Trump win.”]
Most people expect Trump to beat crooked Hillary. I know pollsters aren’t releasing their expectation polls yet, because those polls would be a disaster for crooked Hillary. But people keep talking about “when Trump’s president” and “President Trump.” Even crooked Hillary released a “President Trump” video. These are psychological tells, just like Cruz’s “we ran.” Subconsciously, most people expect Trump to beat crooked Hillary Clinton (assuming she’s even allowed to run), and expectations trump preferences.
My only hesitation in making this prediction is that Never Trumper Glenn Beck also thinks Trump will in November. And Beck is usually wrong, but not always. So predicting the same thing Glenn Beck predicts scares me a little. Still, this time I’m going to agree with Glenn Beck and stick with what I see: a Trump landslide.
If you think “Never Trump,” you must also think “Never Cruz policies” and “Never Ryan policies.” That’s also called cutting off your nose to spite your face. And that’s crazy, folks. That’s crazy.
P.S. Your Comments: You’ll probably see a lot of people argue with me in the comments. They’ll ridicule me, then list a bunch of “facts” to prove I’m wrong about Trump winning in a landslide. Those commenters are actually proving my points. Everyone knows that facts don’t persuade, so why would people use facts to argue? Those commenters are not arguing with me; they’re arguing with their own minds. They’ve made an emotional decision, and they’re trying to defend that emotional decision with facts, exactly as I said. But the fact that they’re arguing on a public forum shows they’ve allowed some doubt to creep into their minds. Maybe some emotional trigger is urging them to believe Trump wins in a landslide. Vindicating.