This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Antje Wiener, Professor of Political Science and Global Governance at the University of Hamburg, visiting fellow at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law at Cambridge University (September – December 2016), and 2015-2017 holder of the “Opus Magnum Fellowship” funded by the Volkswagon Foundation. She is founding editor of the Cambridge University Press journal Global Constitutionalism: Democracy, Human Rights and the Rule of Law and her book Contestation and Constitution in Global Governance is scheduled for publication by Cambridge in 2018. An earlier version of this paper was presented at Hughes Hall, University of Cambridge Nov 25, 2016: https://www.hughes.cam.ac.uk/news-events/.
When struggling to come to terms with the result on the morning after the US 2016 elections, some tried to make sense of what they saw by describing the results as a “Black Swan Event”. On Jan 28 2016 Politico published an article titled “Trump the Black Swan Candidate” which noted that “(i)mmune to the standard laws of politics, Trump has continued to rise in the polls, replacing the manageable disorder of a presidential politics with his chaos.” On Nov 12 2016 Politico dubbed Trump “The Black Swan President”. Accordingly Trump “became the closest thing to a black swan event we’ve ever seen in American politics: Statistically unlikely, rationalized only in hindsight—and carrying an impact that could be off the known charts.”
Typically, such an event indicates something out of the ordinary, quite sensational, which we try to explain with reference to the exception of the rule. The reference to a black swan event conjures the eventual return to normalcy following disruption. Does this mean that despite the Trump election, all else remains ‘normal’? Can – and should – we therefore move on and wait for the exceptional event to pass and politics to return back to ‘normal’?