The Crazy Campaign

(Or: More Google Hit Bogosities)

[Amazon Link]

We've long been interested in the perceived authenticity of our crop of presidential candidates (or lack thereof). We use a totally bogus metric for that: the Google hit count when we search for the candidate's name and "phony".

Well, phoniness isn't the only interesting thing about how a candidate is perceived. Especially in these days of modern times when wild accusations and insults are flung with impunity. What about…

Well, politicians are crazy. Or, to use less loaded language: their brains seem to operate in significantly different ways from those found in your typical American. They have personality traits which are several sigma off the mean.

Or, to return to loaded language: they're nuts. Cuckoo. Off the deep end. Screwy.

So let's look at our current crop of credible candidates and find out how wacko the Web thinks each one is. The results may surprise you! Or not, because the number one crazy candidate by far is…

Candidate WinProb Crazy
Hit Count
Donald Trump 46.9% 72,900,000
Joe Biden 15.4% 14,500,000
Bernie Sanders 9.3% 8,410,000
Pete Buttigieg 4.9% 6,560,000
Elizabeth Warren 4.1% 2,040,000
Kamala Harris 6.5% 997,000
Beto O'Rourke 2.3% 854,000
Andrew Yang 2.6% 373,000

"WinProb" calculation described here. Google result counts are bogus.

… but he's still, also by far, the most likely 2020 winner. Go figure. In fact, the candidates' "crazy" hit counts correlate pretty well with Betfair's estimate of their winning probability. Hm. Not sure what to think about that.

A sampling of those links:

  • The New York Times' Maureen Dowd takes us on a tour of her own psyche: Crazy Is as Crazy Does.

    Pete Buttigieg and Nancy Pelosi have both mastered the art of puncturing Trump — far better than his Republican primary debate rivals did.

    “I don’t have a problem standing up to somebody who was working on Season 7 of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ when I was packing my bags for Afghanistan,” Buttigieg told The Post’s Robert Costa, saying he took a dim view of Trump’s bone-spurs excuse to get out of serving in Vietnam.

    Pelosi winds Trump up when she drips condescension worthy of a Jane Austen grande dame, saying she will pray for the president or pleading for someone to stage an intervention with the poor soul.

    After Pelosi remarked that the president was engaged in a cover-up, Trump dynamited his own meeting with “Crazy Nancy,” as he called her. His I’m not crazy, you’re crazy rebuttal to Pelosi echoed his I’m not a puppet, you’re a puppet line to Hillary Clinton during the debate.

    Maureen finds it "exhausting to find the vocabulary to keep explaining, over and over, how beyond the pale and out of the norm the 45th president is." Fortunately, she's being paid to do that, much better than your average blogger, for example.

  • One symptom of looniness is the increased likelihood of babbling incoherently. Which brings us to, naturally enough: 'I am a gaffe machine': a history of Joe Biden's biggest blunders from the Guardian. An example, classified under "Crazy ‘Uncle Joe’":

    As troubling as some of his misstatements might be, and as serious some of the concerns people have about Biden’s retrograde positioning among a new crop of progressive candidates, a sizable percentage of the US electorate finds the often goofy Biden charming.

    It didn’t hurt matters that Obama often reacted to them with bemusement. “I don’t remember exactly what Joe was referring to, not surprisingly,” Obama quipped after a typically confusing statement from Biden about the passage of a stimulus package in 2010.

    The reference is to a Biden remark more generally applicable to big government: "If we do everything right, if we do it with absolute certainty, there's still a 30% chance we're going to get it wrong."

    This is obviously irrational raving; the actual probability would be closer to 90-95%.

  • Of course, it's possible to spin mental dysfunction as a positive. T. A. Frank tries that at Vanity Fair: “A Bit of Crazy Wouldn’t Hurt”: How Bernie Sanders Could Go Full Trump in 2020.

    Much will come down to the economy. An economic expansion that kept going through 2020 would carry Trump—just barely—back into office. Trump’s gift for ugly nicknaming is overrated in significance, but, for Sanders, “Crazy Bernie” is a decent one. It exploits Bernie’s quirks—stooped posture, unruly white hair, wagging finger, socialist affiliation—and stokes the ordinary voter’s suspicions. They’ll go with the familiar devil.

    But signs are already strong that a recession is nigh, and Trump never looks weaker than when fulminating about developments he can’t control. Very few Americans like Trump’s antics. They tolerate them. And that’s provided there’s a payoff. Absent that, they’ll look elsewhere. For all the strengths of “Crazy Bernie” as an insult, its coinage also shows its limits. Trump doesn’t project complete sanity himself, and yet here we are. If extreme discontent is in the air, voters are likely to decide, once more, that a bit of crazy wouldn’t hurt.

    Let me repeat that: "a bit of crazy wouldn't hurt." Because that's the state of desperate political thinking in late May 2019.

  • Mayor Pete Buttigieg likens Trump to a 'crazy uncle'. I wouldn't know how that works; all my uncles were pretty sane. But:

    “It’s almost like a sort of crazy uncle management,” the Democratic primary candidate said. “Like, he’s there. You’re not going to disrespect his humanity. But he thinks what he thinks. There’s not much you can do about it.”

    Or it could be like that old saying. If you look around the family reunion and you can't find the crazy uncle… then you're the crazy uncle.

  • Are Russkies still a thing? If so, probably one of their efforts is this Facebook page: Elizabeth Warren is Batsh#t Crazy. But it's not just Liz:

    I officially disapprove of such substance-free insults. Immediately after I get a small chuckle from them.

Last Modified 2019-06-03 7:05 AM EDT