He Predicted Both Trump’s Election and Impeachment. What Else Does He Know?Historians in the News
tags: historians, Allan Lichtman
The kingdom of political punditry has always been divided between its two unruly houses: The tweed jacket set, holding forth on history and the political mood from vaunted column inches, and the self-styled data gurus, who claim to prefer spreadsheets to soliloquies.
Straddling this breach is Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University, who occupies a more uncertain dominion. Lichtman has predicted the correct outcome of every presidential election between 1984—where he made his first prognostication (a Reagan landslide) in the pages of Washingtonian—to 2016, offering the very lonely opinion that Donald Trump would narrowly vanquish Hillary Clinton.
To make these predictions, Lichtman uses a quasi-scientific method he calls the “thirteen keys”—thirteen factors, like the health of the economy and “social unrest”—that add up to determine whether the incumbent can hold onto the White House.
Licthman is not a political scientist—he’s a historian—so he doesn’t harmonize with the number-crunchers of the predictions world. But neither is Lichtman an academic’s pundit, who would typically steer away from bold declarations about the future. He has a flare for showmanship that can be off-putting to critics, and has come in for grief for inviting liberal bias into his scholarship. A misfit in either camp, Lichtman is still largely ignored by both—his primary suitors today are media personalities, while political wonks and academics still tend to cast his work as “suspicious” and “hyperbole.”
In a conversation edited for length and clarity, Lichtman discussed the Trump era, defended his use of history as a guide for prediction, and turned his oracular powers to the future.
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