Imagine you are running a marathon with the goal of winning the race. I feel like it’s important to explicitly say the part about trying to win, because if I were to run a marathon, my only goal would be don’t die. But anyways, you’re running this marathon, for which you’ve trained for months if not years. Now let’s say your primary competition has, unbeknownst to you, hired another runner to run alongside you and whisper in your ear that you’re far more talented and you’re winning by a good mile… when really the race is neck and neck.
This is exactly what is happening with the presidential election coverage right now. Polling and punditry would have us believe that Biden has this thing in the bag, and is unstoppable. They point to Trump’s sustained unpopularity, his sagging approval numbers, and numerous polls showing Biden with a sizable lead. There’s no foreseeable way he could lose, right?
It’s all bullshit.
Even if it were going to be a free and fair election (it’s not), Trump is excellently positioned right now. The impact (if not the intent, though I can’t prove that) of the current punditry narrative – Biden’s WINNING! – is to mollify a traumatized electorate. Our weary brains and bodies yearn to believe that this nightmare has an expiration date. We need to believe a landslide-level majority of our fellow American citizens are hellbent on doing the right thing in the voting booth this November, and it’s so tempting to cling to any sign of this without asking the necessary underlying questions.
Based on the current narratives parroted by the talking heads, no one seems to be questioning whether the current poll numbers – nearly four months away from the actual election – have any significance whatsoever on the final result. The truth is that they do not. Last I checked, we don’t decide elections by averaging the prior six months’ poll numbers of each candidate. The cold truth is that it doesn’t matter one whit what polls say right now. They’re not prescriptive and they’re not indicative. They’re barely informative.
Mainstream media keeps insisting Biden’s reserved campaign strategy is brilliant, that giving Trump more airtime is genius (let him hang himself!), and that Trump is just so flustered at running against an old white man like himself. This jetstream of overconfidence and self-indulgence has a soothing effect, whether we realize it or not. We unclench our jaws just a tad as we forget that in 2016, liberals’ conventional wisdom was that Trump getting more airtime than Clinton would help her campaign. We breathe a little easier when otherwise quality journalists who ought to know better write balms about Trump’s inability to land punches on Biden, simply because he’s a white man; and those deeper breaths make us forget the obvious implications of Biden’s promise to choose a (potentially Black) female running mate. It’s easy to not think about the distinct probability that Trump’s campaign is just biding their time, angling to tee up all their bad faith attacks against HER instead of Biden.
It’s advantageous for Trump to let his opposition think he’s flailing. They’ll let their guards down and fail to see the attacks just waiting in the wings, and that will make those attacks all the more effective. Trump is excellently positioned right now.
I do not say these things because I want to discourage you, but because I want you to feel prepared. I don’t want you to be dismayed and shook by the October Surprise. And make no mistake, one is coming. I don’t want you to feel like the bottom is dropping out when the gap in the poll numbers starts to close in another month or two.
Realism is neither fun nor hopeful, but I honestly believe we can’t afford either right now.
Falling Down Brown Cow
- 2 scoops of vanilla ice cream
- 2 ounces bourbon
- 2 small pinches of ground cinnamon
- Coca-cola, to float
- Place each scoop of ice cream into a rocks glass. Sprinkle each ice cream scoop with a pinch of cinnamon, then pour 1 ounce of bourbon over top of each. Top each glass off with Cola and serve immediately.