There is panic in the far-right and birtherism is back courtesy of President Donald Trump. Racist tropes were already let loose on Kamala Harris. This is making her the other who can’t possibly rise to positions of power. Like Barack Obama before her, she is black, and therefore cannot hold high office. We can feel it. Likely President Donald Trump will not win re-election. in December of 2015, I wrote in a now-defunct paper that he would win the election. I told family and friends as well. Most were shocked and surprised, because the polls did not say much, and a carnival barker as a president was not something most normal people could conceive off. After Democrats nominated Hillary Clinton it was sealed and delivered. There were a few things I based this on. It was my system.
It comes down to a few factors:
The Health of the economy. This is not just the national economy, that it was doing extremely well, but regionally: Some regions have done extremely well, for example, the coasts. Others, such as the rust belt, were left behind by globalization. People lost well-paying union jobs and their future economic well being. They were open for a populist promising a return to the old days. Those were the good old days when a person could work, get a car, a house, send children to college, and achieve the American Dream. Oh never mind that Donald Trump’s promise included a return to segregation and more open caste society.
Where people have been left behind, this is no longer the case. And this is not limited to the working class. Many of Trump’s base in 2016 were middle class and living in Suburbia. They have experienced the hollowing of this middle class, where people suffer job and food insecurity and need two jobs. They have also seen the rise of the Precariat. Yes, this was the longest expansion in American history, but it was nowhere close to helping the majority of the country. This is why Trump’s promise was so good, and why many voted for him. Enough in the blue wall to change the course of American history.
An increase or decrease in inequality: This leads to the next critical point. Inequality has gone up, and by 2016 it was undeniable. The Occupy Wall Street movement was an early warning sign for political elites that Americans were fed up with this. So was the Fight for Fifteen, which was also a battle for economic dignity for workers in the precariat. They also dealt with the ridiculous levels of student debt, and both housing and food insecurity that was not limited to the lowest rungs of American society.
Grievance politics: This leads directly to very real grievances including the rise of white supremacy. Over the last four years, these ideologies have left the shadows. The president is part of this movement and so are a few of his advisers. The anger is real though And this is what pushed many to vote for a populist who promised the return to a halcyon day when the country was great. It is a mythical past, but one learned in history classes.
In the current environment, this implies a white segregated nation where people knew their place. It is the 1950s that for many white Americans were the good old days when dad went to work, mom stayed home and the kids could go to college. To be fair, this is not just limited to the United States, and in Europe, similar forces are pushing nations towards the arms of extreme politics as well, This is the reason for Brexit, for example.
Feelings of being left behind: While there is no objective way to test for this, in reality, this is part of all of the above. It comes with the anger at the system and the rise of conspiracies, the latest being QAnon. The paranoid nature of American politics is long in the tooth, but it’s started to grow by leaps and bounds after 911. The Internet facilitated it. So it is a debate if it’s larger than during the era of the mimeograph, or just louder. There is another factor here. Yes, the John Birch Society was nuts in its own way, but the Republican Party of its era rejected them. The GOP embraced first the Tea Party and now QAnon.
However, the promises made by the carnival barker have not solved any of this, which means that people are starting to wake up from this horror that is this chaos presidency. COVID is a strong reason for this. More on this bellow, because the conspiracies have been strong around it, worst in these times.
Speaking to people on social media and in-person: Less so this year, but as a reporter, I talk to people all the time. I cover politics. So it comes as second nature to do this. In 2016 I heard the same reasons to vote for Trump in the backcountry, as I did with people from Wisconsin. So it came as no surprise.
Monitoring social media as imprecise as this can be: You can get a lot of material from what people post. This is imprecise, but you can at times tell when people are starting to pull away from a politician. I saw it with Clinton in 2016, and it is now in the air with Trump. Incidentally. since I have come across Professor Allan Lichman’s 13 keys who has a far better record than I do. So I do recommend you also take a look at his method. It also relies on more precise measures.
Take a look at State level polls, to an extent:
I also use polls as part of my toolset, which the professor does not. But there are several caveats when it comes to polls. I also understand why there is distrust in polls and rightly so after 2016. They are a good tool only if you understand their limitations. The daily punditry style of who is up and who is down is worthless. The day today is not what matters, but the trends, the longer the better. They are useful since they tell you if a politician’s base is breaking away, or whether that politician is growing his coalition, A warning about national polls which the media is in love with. We do not elect presidents directly. You and I vote for a slate of state electors who vote for the president. This is the electoral college. In theory, though some states intend or have passed laws to prevent this, these electors can ignore the popular vote in their state and elect somebody else. These are called faithless electors. They could vote for the other party’s candidate, or simply anybody who fits the criteria for the presidency. The founders meant this system as a safety device against the passions of the crowd. They had very little faith in the people, and in theory, every slate of electors could have voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. However, both parties are very careful of who they chose for this slate, and they are most deeply partisans. This is also why the Senate originally was all appointed not elected by the people.
Incidentally, many states penalize faithless electors at this point. So do not expect the electoral college to save you.
When guessing on presidential elections national polls are worthless,. You need to pay attention to state-level polls, and those do have some value. This is why I knew that Trump was likely going to win. He started showing better numbers than expected in the three states where the election was decided, the famous blue wall, His campaign also figured this out, and the Democratic campaign did not. However, the polls were ancillary to other things.
I speak to people all over the country and I knew that some progressives (mostly in deep blue or deep red states, so their actions had zero effect) were not going to vote for Hillary Clinton. There is some noise on the interests matching this phenomenon. It is far less intensive than it was in 2016. Full disclosure, living in a deep blue state I did not vote for. Hillary Clinton but it was not for the slew of reasons that most progressives give. Mine was way, way inside baseball. If I were living in Wisconsin at the time, I would have walked through lava and broken glass to vote for her, with a nose clip on my nose. I can read polls and know how the electoral college works.
Clinton lost in three states, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. Why? These are rust belt states where a lot of people have been left behind by the new economy. They tend to be white and have a lot of valid grievances since their jobs left to other countries. They did not benefit from the promises of globalization. They are also middle-class suburban voters who feel insecure in their jobs and their lives and the future of their children, for the same reasons. These are the same voters who came out and gave the House to Democrats in 2018. These are also the same voters who came out for Joe Biden and not Bernie Sanders during the primaries. Though Biden’s campaign was saved by African Americans in places like the Carolinas.
Then there are the suburban voters in other states, such as Arizona. Texas and Florida, with North Carolina and even Nevada. The last one has been trading blue for some time. The electoral path to the white house has expanded in significant ways for the Democrats. They can also read maps. So if they should lose Wisconsin, but win Texas, they have the election in both the popular vote and electoral college. In fact, Texas has more electoral votes than Wisconsin.
Here is a truism of the United States: Americans distrust government until they need government. We are in the midst of a generational crisis with COVID-19 and we need effective government. One that is well funded and able to act effectively. Republicans in general have done all they can to weaken the federal government every time they hold the White House and at least one of the Houses of Congress. This process started at least with the Reagan revolution. Even now Republicans are going after good government or agencies that work well. The Post Office (which has not gotten federal funds since 1972) is a target because it will be essential for mail-in ballots in the middle of a pandemic. It also has a good reputation with the public. In my view, this is in an effort to suppress the vote in the coming election. Full disclosure my husband is a USPS employee
Then there is the president, who called COVID a Democratic hoax and promised (still does) that it would go away on its own. Donald Trump did not take any of the steps in a pandemic plan that he had. The previous administration left him one. He fired the pandemic team in 2017. So we were very unprepared for this. To this day he has ignored the seriousness of the situation. His administration keeps claiming that the previous administration left the shelves empty. Well, it’s been three years, so blaming them at this point is ridiculous, and also he ignored COVID, since early states affected, were deep blue states. For Trump anybody who rejects him is an enemy to be destroyed, and the disease was an easy way to do it. Well, the disease is now all over the country, including his very deep red rural areas. People in these places are realizing that we need capable leadership. Some are even openly saying it, they are now former Republicans and will join the blue wave. This is the kind of noise we did not get in 2016, but we did start to see in 2018.
The pandemic is just the worst example of bad governance. There is no doubt he disdains the limits placed on the office by the founders. Trump is abusing the people that don’t like him. He is willing to use police elements to attack protesters, which is similar to many a tinpot dictator that Trump admires. He weakened the Department of Justice and made it a political tool of the government. People are noticing these things, and are not liking them. This is one thing I hear from around the country. And it is not just the liberal far-left elements in my social media feed, whatever this means. Though distinguishing between real people and bots can be tricky at times.
This silly promise that this was a blue disease has melted. In this situation, even the politics of grievance are giving way to survival. Oh, there is plenty of grievances still. And the conspiracy-minded are still in hoax mode, but it’s harder to ignore this new reality. Especially when people you know are getting sick and in some cases are dying.
Then there is the economy. It was the selling point for Trump. It’s mostly collapsed at this point. While there is a limited recovery, we know about forty-two percent of those jobs will be gone permanently. The realization is hitting Americans with the memory of 2008. They know that it was a Democrat, with a unified government, that started that recovery and the largest economic expansion in American history.
This is one reason the president is willing to do all he can to suppress the votes, and this includes not funding the United States Post Office. He knows that mail-in ballots, due to the pandemic, spell disaster for him and his party. It’s also been a decades-long goal to privatize the post office, and they also see this as an opportunity to practice disaster capitalism and do as much damage to it as they can, hoping to take that final step. Their problems for the service stem from being forced to pre-fund retirement for seventy-five years in ten years and the pandemic did not help.
Schools, College Football, the Midwest and the Election
As more college leagues cancel the season, the pandemic is touching people in real ways. I am not a fan of sports, let alone college football. This is a multibillion industry and canceling the season is a big deal. This is the first time the pandemic touches many people in very real ways. This is not just parents who find themselves at home with their children doing remote learning, or having the challenges of child care, as front line workers. College football crosses many social classes and age cohorts. And college football is a big deal in places like Ohio, Michigan, and Texas. It is almost a secular religion.
The cancellation of the season for many of the leagues, such as the big ten, means that teams such as Ohio State are not going to play this year. This is a big deal, and it is another signal that the virus is not under control. This points to the fact that we need a capable government.
Some of these states are deep red states and the disease is making its way to rural counties. It is a new reality that people are starting to wake up too. It is not just New York or San Francisco. It is Ohio, it is North Dakota, it is Michigan, and yes Alabama and Mississippi.
Then there is the defiance at likely the last large event at Sturgis, which held its motorcycle rally. This has all the markers of a super spreader event. This could be trouble for the rest of the country as well since people come from all over the country. The fact that attendees do not wear masks and will be in closed quarters is a problem. So see you in fourteen days.
Finally, we have schools. Governors, mostly in red states, and the president want to open schools in person. Some already have, and have already closed back down. Why? Infections. It was predictable. This is another mark of ideology over good governance. Americans may be selfish, but they are not stupid. They can see which party is better in an emergency, and they will vote for that party. Yes, I am hearing this even from people who are life long Republicans and think Trump is great otherwise.
We are in the midst of a global pandemic, with efforts by both internal and external actors to influence the result Trump is already delegitimizing it before the first vote is cast. This is a textbook from the authoritarian handbook. He will also bring a few surprises in months to come, it will likely include announcing a vaccine. Why? He is desperate. The interference in our elections from foreign forces is as widespread and deep as it was in 2016. There is also white supremacy, which sees this president as their own, and rightfully so. He is a fellow traveler who has already revived birtherism. Then there is hybrid warfare which uses a few conspiracy sites and the QAnon conspiracy, the mother of all conspiracies to advance its goals.
Voter suppression is also as old as apple pie and we can expect it in droves. So when all is said and done, unless Trump wins, we can expect this to go to the courts. I do not believe the president will concede unless he loses big, and even then maybe not. We should hope that the result is so definitive that no court will look at it. And that any claims of a stolen election will not resonate beyond the conspiracy boards. However, we must all insist on a clean election. This is what should keep any of us up at night. This is what may turn this election on its head.
Yes, the president should not win this election. There are too many signs that people are fed up with this chaotic presidency. You can even see the writing on the wall in some of the same conspiracy boards that love Trump. If you are going to vote by mail, drop your ballot in a county supplied secure box because at this point we can expect the postal service not to be as efficient as it always is. This is part of this effort to steal it. And yes, the next six months could be the most consequential of modern American history.