See Trump Win. WINNING! (Guest Voice)
We put so much stock in The Polls. We Americans love scientific proof because it wins all arguments. And in politics the polls are our most trusted, indisputable “facts.”
Not anymore. Not this time. No recent candidate has intentionally alienated so many people, en mass or personally. Mr. Trump has been called every name imaginable. The American Nazi Party and celebrity bigot David Duke have both stood behind him as the closest thing to “their guy” approaching any real power. Trump has been accused of “dog whistling” – an accusation which can only exist when you’re trying to hide something decent society (we humans) find repulsive. Like a rube in one of his casinos Mr. Trump has doubled down on the whistle-factor which, of course, is cast as Trump being Trump.
On a deeper level, his surrogates and admirers often recourse to that last refuge of bigots – “He says what he thinks/tells it like it is” – to give hatred an acceptable gloss of “authenticity.” Garrison Keillor paints these supporters so artistically, as he often does, as; “a large contingent of people who sat way in back in high school history class and now need to blame foreigners for their lack of progress in the world. ”
If the above are true, there’s probably a shame factor at work when voters reply to pollsters. In political science this is known as the “Bradley Effect” – where what people tell pollsters is different to what they do in the private anonymity of a voting booth. In Tom Bradley’s run for Governor of California, white voters told pollsters they’d vote for (black) Mayor Bradley, but their private feelings had fewer voting for Bradley than said they would. So he lost. This election we have a case of embarrassed silence from many Trump voters, rather than a p.c. affirmation of support as in Bradley – this makes it the “reverse Bradley effect.” The dishonesty is the same, though. If the number of ashamed, or at least deceptive Trump voters unwilling to admit their support for him is higher than Hillary’s lead in the polls, she is in trouble.
These noisy supporters are, if anything, more maligned than he is. If indeed their worldview is socially unacceptable and embarrassing, the effect has to be that Trump’s quiet supporters are also embarrassed about openly backing him: to the public, to their friends, and unsettlingly, to pollsters. If they reserve their bigotry for one place other than his (“Safest place in America” -Trump) rallies, it might just be in the private anonymity of the voting booth. Thus the honesty we expect from poll participants is damaged by the embarrassment factor of those very respondents.
To bring an opposite, less cynical theory into play – if the polls are right, and the real numbers are in Hillary’s favor, this can also be terribly dangerous as it lulls Democrats into a satisfied complacency, reducing the perceived urgency of their vote, and thus turnout.
This happened in Brexit where the unimaginable possibility of Brexit kept “Remainers” at home – regrettably for them. Remainers were further disinclined to turn up when nearly all the polls said “Remain” (in the EU) would win. Boy were they wrong.
To take creative and predictive license here, the above could be combined with the danger of a terrifyingly effective policy by Mr. Trump these last few weeks of simply “behaving”: quitting the old timey racism, sexism, and snarling personal feuds; assuming he can. Such a strategy would give moral license to those who aren’t bigots and are leery of supporting one, and even those merely unhappy with his “tone”, to tell themselves “Well he said a lot of crazy stuff, looking for attention as all candidates and showbiz folks do. NOW, in October, he’s being real, not crazy or incendiary, so we can vote for him.” It is the story arc of a pro-wrestler who mid bout feints failure, and we’re all convinced he’s going to lose, just before he rears up, behaves, and steals the show.
We Americans love a redemption story – and there will be suckers who see a few weeks where Kellyanne Conway confiscates his twittering cellphone as a “Presidential” turn-around, as if 70 years of bigotry, willful ignorance, self dealing, and spite can be reversed in a month. By a geriatric.
The evangelicals particularly could be targets here – it wouldn’t be surprising to see an 11th hour Jesus enriched “Spiritual Awakening” by this consummate conman. And there are no vaccines for the dangerous possibilities and pitfalls listed above.
There aren’t vaccines but there’s a treatment. If the D.N.C. campaign and the citizenry are flying blind due to faulty polls, and/or Mr. Trump’s follows an October be-a-good-boy or an October Come to Jesus strategy, the D.N.C. must shoot not just for victory, but for total victory.
This is necessary anyway to avoid “rigged” charges which might stick if the result is a squeaker. On a grander scale, progressive America needs a loud smack-down of Donald J. Trump personally, as a dangerous narcissist, and we also need a total and utter rejection of all the backwards 1950s prejudices he and his shameful craven apologists stand for.
Whatever event, this is no time for Democratic voters to be lulled by a few points in the polls to not turn up.
David Anderson is an Australian-American (retired) attorney in New York City with a background in venture capital, criminal defense, and M.& A. He writes for counterpunch.org and themoderatevoice.com and consults for an M.& A. firm.
Graphic: DonkeyHotey via Flickr