Culture

Everyone Was Wrong About Trump, Except For This One Weirdly Prophetic Tweet from 2011

Donald Trump
President-elect Donald Trump speaks at his election night rally in Manhattan. Carlo Allegri/Reuters

Everyone was wrong. Horribly and embarrassingly wrong.

The polls, obviously, did not predict the shocking upset victory of Donald Trump.

Nate Silver, the number-crunching poll whisperer who a year ago gazed into either his crystal ball or his navel and concluded that Trump would lose the nomination and that we should all stop taking him seriously, did not predict the billionaire's victory.

FiveThirtyEight, Silver's data journalism site, which spent recent pre-election days reassuring liberals there was a 69 percent chance of a Hillary Clinton victory (nice), did not predict Trump.

New York Times columnist Ross Douthat did not predict Trump. Oh my God, Douthat was so monstrously wrong about Trump and even managed to be condescending in his monstrous wrongness.

The Democrats did not predict Trump. (As recently as last week, some senior party officials literally laughed off the prospect of a Trump victory, saying they could not fathom it.) Nor did President Barack Obama; as Politico reports, his administration “never thought this could or would happen.”

The Clinton campaign itself, which spent crucial time and energy owning Trump on Twitter or hobnobbing with Lena Dunham instead of making pitches to disillusioned voters in states like Wisconsin (which Clinton had not visited since the primary), surely did not imagine the viable appeal of Trump.

Whoever hatched the idea of having Clinton's victory party at Manhattan's Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, where the literal glass ceiling was presumably meant to signify a barrier shattered rather than a goal just out of reach, probably did not predict Trump.

The Atlantic did not predict Trump. "The chance of his winning nomination and election is exactly zero," national correspondent James Fallows confidently declared in 2015. Months later, in December of that year, Fallows told us this was the worst thing he wrote in 2015, and though he conceded some degree of wrongness, he still insisted (again, wrongly) that "he's not going to be president."

The Washington Post's The Fix blog, which confidently crowed in 2015 that "no one should take Donald Trump seriously" and backed it up with the authoritative aid of "one very simple chart," did not predict Trump.

The Huffington Post, which made a widely publicized and poorly conceived decision to file Trump news in its Entertainment section instead of Politics, did not predict Trump.

Writers for Vox.com, the buzzy explainer site modeled after your irritating friend who works at a think tank and corners you at parties to explain why fracking is actually good, failed during the primaries and also the general election campaign to take seriously the likelihood of Trump becoming president.

The Liberal Punditocracy Complex got it wrong because of flawed polling models, but also because of pundits' almost pathological lack of imagination: Center-left pundits first laughed off a candidate who seemed too good to be true (Bernie Sanders) and then laughed off a candidate who seemed too bad to be true (Trump), this time with frightening results.

The 1976 film Network did not predict Trump (although yes, it did anticipate elements of his campaign, and the hyper-polarized media more broadly).

Election, the 1999 comedy film, did not predict Trump—well, not really, although it did provide a remarkable depiction of a fictional contest between an overqualified female candidate and a buffoonish man.

Whatever movie you think predicted Trump probably did not predict Trump, unless it featured a character saying to another character, "Donald J. Trump is going to win the American presidency in 2016."

OK, fine, Back to the Future Part II kind of did predict a Trump-like billionaire blowhard becoming president, but only in the dystopian alternative timeline where Biff has the sports almanac.

The Simpsons did not predict Trump—at least not in the way a misleading viral meme suggests, although a 2000 episode did feature a stray joke about Trump being president. (A topical gag at the time, since the billionaire had been publicly considering a 2000 run for the office.)

Bernie Sanders did not predict Trump.

We did not predict Trump. In fact, this magazine printed an entire special edition of Newsweek commemorating Clinton's historic victory. Sad!

The larger problem, perhaps, is the media’s obsession with predicting the race as if it were a game, a preoccupation with correctly forecasting the outcome instead of reporting on the election as it unravels in real time and talking to the voters themselves—a pursuit that seems particularly pernicious when the forecasts aren’t even correct. It's a model that does fabulous traffic and makes money, but fails readers—and voters—on a massive scale.

Pretty much nobody predicted Trump's remarkable win, except for this eerily prophetic tweet from freelance writer Dan O'Sullivan (better known by the Twitter handle @Bro_Pair). It is a remarkable thing. It was sent on April 21, 2011—more than four years before Trump declared his campaign for the presidency.

The tweet has now been retweeted more than 15,000 times. On Tuesday night, as the election returns rolled in, @Bro_Pair replied to the original tweet: "Update: yeah."

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