I do not usually make predictions about elections. This is not a prediction. But I want to make a couple of observations ahead of Tuesday, if for no other reason than to see how things play out against my own assessments.
We have seen record early voting. As of this morning something like 82 million ballots have already been cast. How they will be counted is at issue, particularly in four states—Wisconsin, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina. Be that as it may, it is the numbers that interest me here.
Traditionally, it appears Republicans benefit from low turn-out. In 2016 we had 53% turnout. A lot of people stayed home. Whatever the reason—assumptions of a foregone conclusion, no interest in either candidate, confusion, what have you—that handed the election the Trump, who lost the general election. His received the stalwart vote, the 55 to 60 million who always vote Republican no matter what. If that holds true this time, that’s what he will be stuck with. Which means…
I think it is important to recognize that in this election, all bets are off. We do not know how this is going to come out. We have droves of new voters—the young mainly, many of whom have been watching the last four years and perhaps realizing that their lack of participation will not serve this time. We seem to have no real third-party option this time to siphon off votes (in either direction). So it will be a slugfest between the two main parties.
But something to bear in mind. This time around, for the president’s supporters, it is not about him. It is about them. They aren’t voting for him because he’s so great, they’re voting for him to back up their choice—which is based on many things, not least of which is fear. Given a hypothetical, say an ardent opponent of Trump is facing off with an ardent supporter. For the former, the issue is the president. For the latter, the issue is who they are. The supporter isn’t voting for Trump because they love him, they’re voting for him because they despise you (the opponent, the critic). Every time you make an argument about how poor a president he is, you aren’t convincing the supporter to change votes, you’re validating their dislike of what you stand for.
Well, it is, unfortunately, a matter of identity. You have to get into the mindset of someone who thinks anything but Trump and what he represents is somehow anti-American. And that can be anything from taxes to social equity to racism to militarism to protectionism to education to abortion.
I’ve been saying for a while now that as long as this is a fair election, Biden wins. Of course, Trump has been making the same claim for himself. We have evidence of Republican voter suppression. Amy Coney Barrett was put on the Supreme Court in case the vote is too close and it ends up challenged.
But once again, the really vital races are all down-ticket. Without a change in Congress, it won’t much matter who is in the White House.
I do not trust polls. Polls only show what those who answer polls feel, and that’s both a self-selected group and a group selected by the questions asked. Plus, polls have had an unfortunate tendency to amplify apathy.
So either this one ends up too close to call and ends up in the courts, in which case we may be in trouble. Or this will be a blow-out, in which case…
Well, depending on who the blow-out benefits, next year will be very different.
We did a stupid thing in 2016. It could be argued that just based on the probabilities, this was inevitable. How we emerge from the lesson will say everything about who we are.