I’m of two minds in writing this post, since anything short of Trump demonization is bizarrely treated as if it were support. And in the closing hours of the 2020 campaign, it’s managing to get even more fever-swampy out there.
One curious element, at least if you are a news junkie, is how Trump fans don’t seem deterred by his poor poll numbers or the way the new Covid wave seems primed to cut even further into his backing.
So the question then becomes is this seemingly misplaced optimism merely diehards being in their own echo chamber, about to have their fantasy fall apart Tuesday or shortly thereafter? Or might there be some factors in play that the media has missed or is underweighing in its calculations?
I know far too few Trump backers to make any generalizations, but one who called Trump’s 2016 victory early is adamant that Trump will win now, despite the polls and the press saying his odds of prevailing are close to zilch. This individual demographically would be presumed to be a huuge Biden backer: a professional with an advanced degree, high income, blue city resident, cultured, female, older.
So why does Zelda believe, despite so much evidence saying otherwise, that Trump is going to pull it off? Her arguments:
The polls are wrong.
Well yes, you’d have to have that as a first order belief to be optimistic about Trump’s odds. Yes, the polls were wrong in 2016, but by 2%, which is within their margin of error nationally, and Trump cinched the election by a margin of less than 100,000 distributed across three key states.
But why would the polls be even more wrong now, and all in the same direction? Zelda claims they are push polls, which isn’t at all convincing, if you think of the conventional definition of “push poll”. But Zelda is more referring to a phenomenon Thomas Frank observed with an earlier populist:
I call it, ‘the democracy scare of 1896’, their war on William Jennings Bryan, which is really quite incredible, this airtight consensus among the American elite that this man had to be stopped. He could not become president.
Frank elsewhere applied the concept to Trump.
A better claim is that polling has long been broken due to the death of landlines and the resulting difficulty of getting a decent sample on cell phones.
But Zelda has more specific arguments:
Anti-lockdown sentiment means the young, lower income voters, and minorities aren’t as solidly in the Biden camp as the Democratic Party assumes. By being Mr. Tougher on Covid, Biden will be viewed as favoring lockdowns.
The Democratic party assumes that young people are like the college kids of their youth, and are if anything more left leaning than they like (confirmed by “socialism” being popular with them). But educational attainment has collapsed among the young. Save for those who got into a trade, job and income prospects weren’t great pre-Covid.
Zelda argues that more of the young and middle-lower income workers, particularly minority workers, will either vote for Trump or stay home than the Dems anticipate because many are anti lockdown. Even here at NC, we get occasional claims that only old people should be restricted, when modeling shows that has comparatively little effect in containing Covid 19 spread. There are also plenty of reports of young people disregarding Covid precautions.
So some, perhaps many young people believe that Covid isn’t a serious threat to their health; other workers in fields like restaurants, hotels, gyms, salons, may feel that they are being asked to assume too much of the cost of combatting Covid. We don’t hear much from Biden about what he intends to do to help these types of enterprises and their employees.
I got a weak corroboration of Zelda’s views on a recent trip, where I spoke to cabbies in NYC as well as the wheelchair-pushers in all the airports about what they thought about the election. They were all negative about Trump and only slightly less so about Biden, often with specifics, like Biden’s backing of the crime bill. One even said that no matter who was elected, the US was on its was to becoming like Russia after the USSR fell, with the rich grabbing everything of value. Disliking both candidates isn’t a great motivator for voting, and was surprising to see in ground zero for Covid in the US.
A Bloomberg story last week : corroborated my “mother in law” research:
Senior officials on Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s campaign are increasingly worried about insufficient Black and Latino voter turnout in key states like Florida and Pennsylvania.
The Associated Press tried to counter the Bloomberg story, arguing that black votes were 9% of early votes, broadly in line with their 10% vote share in 2016. But why is 2016 an encouraging benchmark? Black turnout fell in 2016 and was the largest percentage fall for any ethnic group since the early 1990s.
Some states are more solidly Republican than the Dems and pundits think. Zelda contends North Carolina goes for Trump because pollsters haven’t allowed for the fact that out of state college students will be largely voting in their parents’ home state. She also thinks Pennsylvania goes for Trump due to Biden saying he was anti-fracking and the demonstrations in Philly stoking law ‘n’ order sentiments (as well as Biden presuming that being born in Scranton somehow meant he had an advantage, leading him to under-campaign there). Zelda knows more than a bit about Ohio and also calls it for Team R. She is sure that Florida will go for Trump and pretty confident that Texas will because Biden has presumed he deserves the Latino vote. In fact, Latinos are diverse (Cubans are not the same as Dominicans or Mexicans or Puerto Ricans or Hondurans), the church-going Catholics skew Republican, and small businessmen would tend to favor Trump (see lockdowns above). That does not mean the Dems won’t get a lot of Latino votes, just not as many as they need.
Having said all of that, if Florida and Texas go for Biden, it’s game over for Trump. But if Trump has won them or looks like he probably will, we could have the very drawn out fight that everyone save the media dreads.
Despite having way more money than Trump, the Biden campaign isn’t targeting its efforts well. Trump may be running the world’s worst campaign but Biden’s is no prize either. Per above, he’s not spending enough time in states he needs to cinch like Pennsylvania and Texas. He’s running tons of ads in Alabama, a state he will never never never win.
The Biden campaign isn’t acting like winners. Why is Biden appearing in Minnesota, a state the Democrats supposedly have tied up? Why are the Democrats utterly bent out of shape about the Texas bus convoy stunt? Aren’t they clever enough to counter-troll the Republicans, like depicting them as so afraid of having a big Biden sign go through Texas that they had to send 30 cars after it?
Are the convoys evidence of a highly energized Trump base? Lambert has pointed out that the anti-Trump contingent sees this election as existential, yet seems not to consider the idea that the other side might feel that way too. We’ve had convoys springing up, apparently without any Trump campaign involvement, in Florida, Oregon, apparently two in California (one in Marin, another reported by readers in Silicon Valley), and in New Jersey. These may just be teeny outbreaks; after all, the total number of participants isn’t large. But they could be the tip of a sentiment iceberg.
Perhaps I am reading too much into pet peeves, but the smugness of the key faces of the Democratic Party, Biden, Harris, Pelosi, is simply grating. Thomas Frank provided a terrific vignette of elite self-regard in describing their almost constant self-congratualtion and grade inflation. Pelosi’s cringe-making interview with Wolf Blitzer reconfirmed how the party top brass views themselves as not caring about suffering and not even believing they should ‘splain themselves to voters:
The condescension, the contempt for ordinary people is palpable. It’s deeply offensive. And they make clear that they view themselves in a parental or managerial role, and not as equals, let alone public servants.
Worse, you can find examples of elite self-scored superiority in plenty of other venues, like this grotesquerie in The Lancet: Psychoanalysis in combatting mass non-adherence to medical advice. It blame the US’s high Covid rate on the sheeple refusing to listen to their betters, as in doctors. Never mind that nearly all of the early good Covid students ranging from the Czech Republic to France now have Covid infections on a per capita basis that are worse than in the US. And never mind that medicine is a medieval art, with advice and recommendations changing too often to give a lot of people comfort (and that’s before getting to medical-industry-induced death events for profit like Vioxx and the opioid epidemic).
And I am not making this up...the Lancet piece attributes the US Covid fail to mass denial, which needs to be treated by shrinks, as opposed to a lack of readily available free tests, free PPE, and income support so that people who are exposed can stay home until they get a Covid test “all clear”. In other words, a massive public policy failure is being blamed on presumed neurotics who need therapy.
This is before getting to the fact that anyone in the psychology biz has a hell of a lot of nerve recommending mass prescriptions... when propaganda, PR and marketing all came from Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays. And it is conservatives, particularly ones allied with Big Business, who have fully embraced turning “freedom” into a political trump card, and using adept phrase-making, like “entitlements” to either stigmatize or promote pet causes.
In other words, even after Clinton’s loss, the Democrats are still serving up candidates that are so convinced of their superiority that they can’t even recognize how often they sneer at voters. Maybe Trump is now so demonstrably terrible that they’ll get away with their snootiness and lack of concern for ordinary people this time around. But maybe not.