|(Image: Saul Loeb/Getty Images)
“Most human beings have an almost
infinite capacity for taking things for granted”
When Mr. Trump completed his hostile
takeover of the Republican Party and claimed the 2016 nomination, it became Mrs.
Clinton's election to lose. Her senior aides had secretly been hoping she would
face Mr. Trump because they were convinced that “a race against Trump would be a
dream for Clinton”. A few months before the election it
became clear to me that Mrs. Clinton’s hubris might cost her the election. She
did not feel the need to make a case for why voters should choose her, and
instead came across more like a Queen expecting a political coronation.
Fast forward to the 2020 Democratic
primary, once again my views were out of sync with the majority media,
political pundits and progressive party base. From the outset it was clear to
me that Joe Biden would win the nomination. Not because I believed Mr. Biden
was the strongest or most qualified candidate, but reading between the lines of
a fractured and deeply divided party it was evident that of the frontrunners,
he was the only one who had support among Black voters;
without whom no Democrat can win the White House.
In February this year, I would have
put Mr. Trump’s chances of re-election at about 90% because the economy was going great guns, and
Democrats seemed too divided to form a cohesive front. Covid-19 changed
everything. With the economy in freefall, small businesses shuttering in record
numbers and the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression, the picture now is very different.
In addition, the President’s handling of the crisis has been
nothing short of a disaster and his repeated refusal to follow
the guidance of his top scientists or develop a coordinated federal response has
led to a patchwork of disparate actions at the state level, leading to a
dangerous resurgence of coronavirus cases and deaths all over the US.
As a result, polls show Mr. Biden’s lead growing to
double digits nationally. He
is widening the gap in swing states and even leading in states that Mr. Trump
won with double digits in 2016. There is growing consensus in the media and
within the Republican ranks that Mr. Trump is hurtling toward a massive defeat,
one that could see Democrats win not just the White
House, but also gain majorities in both chambers of congress.
Like 2016, it would seem that the
2020 election is fast becoming Mr. Biden’s to lose. Especially since Mr. Trump
continues to administer self-inflicted wounds almost daily. His latest approval has dipped below 40%.
Other than Harry Truman no incumbent President has won reelection with such an
abysmal job rating. However, if there is one thing Democrats excel at, it is
snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. There are six things I would caution
Don’t take Black
(and Latino) voters for granted: Since
1968 no Republican presidential candidate has received more than 13% of the Black vote, so
it is no surprise that Democrats have come to take the Black vote for granted.
In 2020 they do so at their own peril. A recent survey by BlackPAC of
registered African American voters found that a significant number are
disillusioned with the Democratic Party and more than half
feel that the party is not paying close enough attention to the black
The Democratic Party’s overly simplistic
view of African Americans as a monolithic voting bloc is out of touch with the
reality. Blacks in America comprise multiple ethnicities and nationalities,
with immigrants representing almost 10% and 24% of Latinos also
identify as Black. Similarly, Black voters do not hold the same views across the
board. As the Bernie wing of the party pushes the party farther leftwards, they
are in danger of disillusioning 25% of Black Democrats who called themselves conservative and 43% who called themselves moderate.
Worryingly, polls show that Mr.
Biden’s support among young Black voters, who are leading movements like Black
Lives Matter and spearheading calls for systemic change, significantly
trails the levels of support he enjoys among older Black voters. Also,
Mr. Trump’s support among Black and Latino voters has increased
in the past year from 8 to 10 percent and 28 to 30 percent,
respectively, this despite his best efforts to the contrary. What should worry
Democrats is not the level of support Mr. Trump has, which remains low, but that
displeasure with the President has not translated into more support for them.
It’s (still) the economy,
stupid: In the second quarter US GDP shrank
32.9% on an annualized basis, making it the worst contraction since
record-keeping began in 1947. If the current trajectory continues then Mr.
Trump will lose the only arrow in his tiny quiver. But we are still almost 100 days
away from the election, and we have seen that the moment the country begins
re-opening, as it did in May, there is an economic rebound. In May and June
alone a record-breaking 7.5 million jobs were
added and there was evidence of pent-up consumer demand with retail brick and mortar sales rising 7.5% in June, following a record jump of 18.5% in May.
If we are able to get the current
coronavirus surge under control and start re-opening businesses once again
across the country, it is possible that we might see the start of an economic
recovery just in time for the election. This would unquestionably be a boost
for Mr. Trump because the economy is the only issue he is still trusted on,
more than Mr. Biden. In fact, a sizable majority of swing state voters approves
of Mr. Trump’s handling of the economy, and trusts him more than Mr. Biden to lead America out of this economic
Biden’s enthusiasm gap: A recent national survey conducted by SSRS
for CNN finds that there is a gap in enthusiasm among Biden
versus Trump’s supporters. 70% of Trump voters say they support the President
and are voting to reelect him, with only 27% stating they are voting against
Biden. On the flipside Biden voters claim the opposite with 60% saying they are
voting against Trump, and only 37% casting a vote in support of Biden.
We also know that the Democratic
Party is deeply divided with various factions within it jockeying for position.
Earlier this year an Emerson College poll found
that 50% of Bernie voters would not support a candidate in November if Mr.
Sanders was not the nominee. The vitriol and divisiveness was laid bare during
the recent primaries, and while one has seen some degree of coalescing between
the Bernie and Biden wings of the party, there is still more that divides them
More recently Nina Turner, a
co-chair of Mr. Sander’s campaign, described the choice in November to a reporter at the Atlantic as, “It’s
like saying to somebody, ‘You have a bowl of shit in front of you, and all
you’ve got to do is eat half of it instead of the whole thing.’ It’s still
Harvard professor and Bernie supporter Cornell
West added in the same article that, “We have to be true to ourselves and
acknowledge that Biden is a mediocre, milquetoast, neoliberal centrist that
we’ve been fighting against in the Democratic establishment.”
In polls we trust: In 2016 national pollsters consistently predicted that Mrs.
Clinton’s likelihood of winning the presidency was around 90 percent. Two
weeks before the 2016 general election multiple polls showed her leading in the
key swing states of Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, with leads of
anywhere from 4 to 9 points. Mr. Trump won all three states.
One big difference between 2016 and 2020
is that Mr. Biden’s lead has been larger and more consistent at both the
national and state levels. Also, we should note that the issue is not so much
accuracy of polling, because studies show that they have been historically accurate within the margins of error, but that the
country has become so divided that the winning or losing can lie within these
margins of error of +/- 4 points.
Also, remember that winning the popular vote does not mean winning the Electoral College. In 2016 Mr. Trump lost the popular vote by around 2.5 million votes, but won the Electoral College thanks to 79,646 voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
Democrats must not grow complacent
based on current polling numbers. We know that Mr. Biden faces a serious gap in
enthusiasm with his voters and he also must not repeat Mrs. Clinton’s mistake,
and assume people will turn up simply because they dislike the sitting President.
Mr. Biden must continue to outline his kinder and more inclusive vision for
America, and contrast it with the President’s divisive one, giving voters a
reason to come out for him.
Biden’s fitness for office: A Rasmussen poll conducted
at the end of June found that nearly four out of 10 voters believe Joe
Biden has dementia. It is true that a higher percentage of Republican
voters (66%) think this, but 30% of independents and 20% of Democrats also
believe it. The same poll finds that over fifty percent of Democrat voters feel
it is an important issue, and one that Mr. Biden should publicly address. Another poll by Zogby found
that 60% voters aged 18-29 thought it likely that Biden is suffering
early-onset dementia, along with 61% of Hispanics and 43% of Blacks.
To be fair, unlike Obama’s birth
certificate, this lingering doubt is not a figment of the fringe right-wing’s
imagination. Through the primary debates Mr. Biden’s performance was viewed as
uneven, with him often losing his train of thought, forgetting words and
sometimes the question he was answering. He would routinely cede time back to
the moderators, when every other candidate was fighting for more time to speak. Julian Castro brought
up the issue of Mr. Biden’s memory lapses during one debate, and was backed up
by Cory Booker, who said in a post-debate interview on CNN that
it was a legitimate question based on Biden’s “fumbling”.
It is worth pointing out that there
is a double standard in the mainstream media on this issue. They have openly debated and discussed President
Trump’s cognitive faculties but seem to stay away from
questioning Mr. Biden’s. In the end, it will likely come down to Mr. Biden’s
debate performances against Mr. Trump, which will lead the American people to
decide for themselves.
Covid-19 and vote by mail; fail: New York has a Democratic Governor and the party holds
majorities in the state senate and assembly. The Mayor of New York City is a
Democrat, and the city council has a super majority with only 3 Republicans serving in its 51 member body. For
our local primary election on 23rd June this year, every
official from the Governor down vowed to expand voting by mail and other
So far, around 100,000 absentee
ballots have been invalidated, which is about one in five, and a number of
races are still waiting for results at the end of July. To say it was an
unmitigated disaster would be an understatement. What is scary is that, in a
state committed to getting this right, and completely controlled by Democrats, the
official preparation and infrastructure was clearly not capable of handling the
influx of mail-in ballots.
Every facet of the system seems to
have failed in New York. There were not enough ballots printed, the postal
service faced delays in sending and receiving forms, people were unable to
understand the mail-in ballot instructions and now officials are struggling to
count them. Furious candidates are still waiting for results more than a month
after the election and many are filing lawsuits claiming
Consider that a major factor in
Biden’s ability to win rests with 65+ voters showing up to the polls, and Democrats are more fearful of
contracting coronavirus than Republicans. So with Covid-19 at
large, one could conjecture that older Democrats are more likely to opt for
absentee ballots, than Republicans, which would give Mr. Trump a major
The bottom line is that if a solidly Blue state, one that made a concerted effort to expand voting rights, could not get any aspect of a small local election right, what will happen during a massive national election, and in far more contentious swing states?