Fun With Numbers: Another Trump Tweet Gone Horribly Wrong

It would be easy enough to wave off all Trump’s mangled syntax and say, well, we all know what he meant. But that’s a real problem; this man is setting the example for our young. One lesson any young American watching this surreal circus act would internalize is that words — like the thoughts they are supposed to represent — just don’t matter.

It’s happened again this morning. Trump tweeted, “The Senate must go to a 51 vote majority instead of the current 60 votes. Even parts of full Repeal need 60. 8 Dems control Senate. Crazy!”

For starters, “51 vote” should probably be hyphenated; if we’re talking about “parts,” then what is “full” doing here; “Repeal” shouldn’t be capitalized; and it’s bad form to start a sentence with a numeral. But let’s not nitpick.

Trump’s first sentence is a real mathematical doozy. It starts out reasonably enough: 51 votes is indeed a majority in the Senate, although it’s unclear what he means by “go to.” But Trump continues, still apparently referring back to the word majority, to decry “the current 60 votes.” The current 60 vote . . . what? Without any new referent being identified, we’re left with the only referent that was previously identified in the sentence: majority.

So what Trump has said here, by any fair reading, is that the Senate should adopt a 51-vote majority instead of its current 60-vote majority. The problem, quite obviously, is that the 60-vote threshold Trump is referring to is not a majority-vote requirement, but the supermajority vote required for cloture under Senate rules. So what he meant to say was that the Senate, instead of requiring a 60-vote supermajority to proceed to business, should proceed by a bare majority vote, that being 51 out of 100.  (Put simply, it doesn’t take 60 to reach a majority when the total number of votes available is 100. And the Senate doesn’t have to “go to a 51-vote majority,” because it’s already there.)

But Trump couldn’t pull it off. Was that because he’s so cognitively impaired that he didn’t realize that 60 out of 100 isn’t the threshold for a mere majority, or was it because he’s too intellectually lazy to care? My guess is that it’s the latter. And what an example that sets for the generation coming up in these times.

-bb