Let’s just take those states in which presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden leads by a big four points, and we have this:
Biden already has an Electoral College victory, and he’s leading in the other four gray tossup states! And as I showed several days ago, Trump is losing ground with independents on a critical issue: jobs.
So we’re at 100,000 dead, 40 million have lost their jobs just in the last two months, people are losing faith in Trump’s ability to create jobs, and this is how his campaign responds?
Whose mind is going to be changed by this? Who is going to say: “Aunt Susan died and I have no job, but hey, Joe Biden wore a mask and he’s ‘sleepy’ and something about China and now I’m going to vote Trump!”
Literally no one.
The reality is that when it comes to presidential politics, it is very hard to move numbers. Just look at how stable Trump’s favorabilities have been ever since he was inaugurated:
Those numbers come from almost a quarter million responses. So think minuscule margin of error and in that time frame, we’re talking about a spread of maybe four net points between his most favorable and least favorable days. And yes, he is currently matching the most unpopular ratings of his presidency at 42-55 favorable-unfavorable, but numbers just don’t move that much!
So you have polarized public opinion. You have a mass death event currently underway. You have an economic cataclysm currently underway. You have the most noncontroversial nominee the Democrats could’ve nominated. (Yeah, he’s boring and problematic to base liberal activists, but the fact that he’s “blah” means there is little for the broader nonpolitically engaged public to dislike about him. He’s just a boring white guy.)
And Trump’s campaign response? It isn’t to highlight Trump’s work or make substantive policy distinctions or in any way try to persuade Biden supporters or fence-sitters that Trump is the smarter choice.
No, they double down on the divisive “us vs them” strategy that gets their deplorable base all whipped up into a frothy frenzy, but does nothing to actually help Trump win the election.
So what’s going on here? Do they really think this is a path to victory? It’s not as if Trump has a strategic bone in his body. He’s 100% lizard brain, always reacting to either whatever is triggering him at the moment, or whatever gets the biggest cheers from his worst supporters. So they hate masks? Okay! Let’s make fun of Biden for wearing a mask, even though 72% of Americans think it’s smart and important to wear a mask. That’s not a campaign decision based on winning votes, that’s a campaign decision meant to get cheers from his existing supporters. Which, again, would make some sense if he was winning. But he’s not. He’s losing.
So no, this can’t be a tactic predicated on winning votes. Rather, it’s predicated on selling his band of deplorables on the idea that any Democratic victory couldn’t possibly be legitimate, that it would be stolen, that it would be manipulated, that it would be rigged.
Thus, vote-by-mail is now a plot to rig the ballot box. Social media is now plotting to censor conservative voices. The media is the enemy of the people, biasing people against Trump. People dying aren’t a national tragedy, but a plot to make Trump look bad. China created the coronavirus to defeat Trump. Democrats want to give more generous unemployment benefits to those affected by the coronavirus so that they don’t go back to work, since high unemployment rates, again, make Trump look bad.
Everything is a plot against Trump. Everything. And if enough people believe that the world conspired against their weak Dear Leader to rob him of his reelection, then ... something. This is where we can start engaging in our own paranoid fears. Except that maybe they’re not so paranoid as Trump follows the despot’s playbook to a “T”. There’s a nonzero chance that he refuses to leave office if and when he’s defeated. And if 30% of his paranoid and armed base stands by him, we can imagine the sorts of horrors that might ensue.
So if nothing else, we can dispense with the idea that Trump is trying to persuade anyone to vote for him. He’s already decided that anyone who opposes him is illegitimate. He says it daily. Like when the Department of Veterans Affairs found that hydroxychloroquine was not an effective COVID-19 treatment, he called the study a “Trump enemy statement.” Or when he retweeted video yesterday saying that “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”
Nah, Trump doesn’t have any interest in or desire to persuade anyone to vote for him. His only tactic is to delegitimize the opposition in the eyes of his supporters, thus having an able and willing army to back him when and if he is defeated at the ballot box.
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