, 10.24.2020 03:40 PM

My latest: Donald Trump’s path to victory

Forget it.

Two years ago, in a limitless and sunny August when a global pandemic seemed like an impossibility, my daughter and I knocked on doors for the Democrats in Portland, Maine.

We were using a list of registered Democrats living in a tidy West Portland neighborhood. The houses weren’t terribly big, but nor were they terribly small. They were average. Middle America.

The people behind the mostly-unlocked doors were uniformly nice, and prototypically Democrat: single-Mom nurses, retired male government employees, nervous-looking new American citizens with pronounced accents and little kids swarming around their knees.

My daughter and I loped from door to door, a couple Canadian progressives intent on finding mid-term American progressives who detested Donald Trump, just as we did. What we encountered surprised us. Worried us, even.

We had thought it would be easy. Trump had been in the news two years ago, as he always is, threatening to take away American birthright citizenship. Or scheming to gut the Affordable Care Act. or shrugging off allegations of Russia-Trump electoral fraud, then still a live issue.

But the folks we met on the doorsteps didn’t want to talk about any of that. One elderly fellow, his grown daughter at his elbow, said he was a proud Democrat, “up and down the ticket,” as the Americans like to say.

“We’re Democrats. But don’t keep telling me what Trump has done wrong,” this man said, as his daughter nodded vigorously. “Forget it. Tell me what you’re going to do.”

“Forget it.” After a few such encounters, my daughter and I retreated to the sidewalk. She had the best assessment: “It’s not that they don’t dislike Trump,” she said. “It’s like they’ve just forgotten all the millions of bad things that he’s done.”

The Democratic thinker David Shenk had a name for this phenomenon: data smog. Every day, via the Internet, regular folks – like the ones found in that Portland, Maine neighborhood – get bombarded by hundreds of thousands of words and images.  It is overwhelming and relentless, and in the Trump era, it has gotten even worse.

So, Shenk postulates, people – voters, in our case – just tune it out. There’s too much information, too often. It’s data smog. So they turn it off.

And then they forget about it.

Last Sunday, the New York Times filled an entire ten-page section of their newspaper with a stirring editorial about Trump’s myriad crimes, political and legal. I scanned it. There were so many of them, I had forgotten about most. There are too many to list here, even partially.

The Times editorial board acknowledged this reality. “The enormity and variety of Mr. Trump’s misdeeds can feel overwhelming,“ they wrote. “Repetition has dulled the sense of outrage, and the accumulation of new outrages leaves little time to dwell on the particulars. This is the moment when Americans must recover that sense of outrage.“

When I ran winning war rooms for Jean Chrétien and Dalton McGuinty, I would always tell the youngsters who worked there the same thing, over and over: “We have a national memory of seven minutes,” I’d tell them. “The job of any good war room is to remind voters about the bad things the other side did. Because they forget.”

It’s not that voters are dumb. In my quarter-Century experience of running political campaigns, my conviction remains that voters are always smart and intuitive and aware. Always.

It’s just that they’re, well, busy: ferrying kids to hockey games and ballet practice, trying to get across town to work or an appointment, catching up on sleep after worrying all day about mortgage or rent payments. They’re busy.

And in the midst of a brutal global pandemic, it’s gotten even worse.

So they don’t scrutinize political parties’ shiny multi-page election platforms. They don’t listen to speeches. They barely watch entire debates. And they forget things.

It’s normal, to forget. It’s human. It’s a survival mechanism.

In the Trump era, we forget things even more. The terrible things he has done, in particular.

Because there have been too, too many.

If Donald Trump somehow squeaks out another victory – thereby throwing America into further chaos and division, hastening it’s end, and further destabilizing a world in disarray – it will be mainly because of one insight about voters, about humans, that he knows better than anyone else alive:

We forget.

33 Comments

  1. Walter says:

    I see a repeat of the 2015 Canadian election happening in the USA.

    All indications (now as then) are that the incumbent is a much better leader. In Harper’s case, he had the best economic growth in the G7, he had the most jobs created, and he had the lowest increase in debt (and the only G7 country to reduce the Debt to GDP ratio). In Trumps case, it was the best economy the US ever saw, record low Black and Hispanic unemployment, stock market returns 4X what occurred in Canada, and the best economic performance in the G7 (albeit least negative). Not to mention significant initiative around world peace.

    The problem, years of negative and biased media coverage take their toll. In Canada, Harper was chastized for a $16 orange juice, villified for forcing repayment of and excessive (yet legal) senate expense claim. Trudeau, on the other hand was praised for saying the budget will balance itself and that deficits were a measure of the strength of the economy and media looked away at his 13 Ethics Act violation, plus his sexual assault. The same way, no media points out the business optimism that spread throughout the US – remember Obama saying a 3% growth would never happen again, ISIS could not be defeated, etc. Biden’s hypocrisy on banning fossil fuels or his failure to condemn Antifa, getting huge kick-backs from foreign entities or saying all Black must vote for him (which is quite similar to Trudeau’s use of “brown files” to track constituents) go by without barely a mention.

    Similar to Canada, I expect the results to be disastrous. Whereas Canada could ride on the Trump economic boom to hide Trudeau’s incompetence, the same will not happen in the USA and business and the economy will head south quickly.

    The good news though, despite all the negative things happening – the media will twist the narrative to hide the truth from the people and report that things are fine. And probably similar to Canada, once some of the more intelligent media start to discover the massive lie and incompetence, they won’t be able to stop it because they invested so much effort to treat Biden as a saint.

  2. Nica says:

    Tell a million lies, who is going remember any single one of them? It is a strategy that may still work, sadly.

  3. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Here’s how I break it down about voter turnout: low voter turnout pretty much always favours the incumbent — because people aren’t mad or energized enough to get off their asses and vote; strong advance polls or early turnout also favours the incumbent because their party machine is at full tilt, turning out every living and breathing person they possibly can while voters on the other size stay home to a considerable degree. Now here’s the kicker: record or even unseen voter turnout in both early voting either in person or by mail, along with on election day is a pretty good indicator and predictor of a massive desire for political change. IMHO, that’s what the Americans have here in 2020. It’s kick the bums out time in U.S. politics, so I expect Biden to take the presidency almost in a landslide. Watch for similar strength down ballot at the federal level. In short, Mitch will thoroughly regret being Mitch, just like so many other Senators and Representatives.

    A low turnout of 56% in 2016 gave the world a Donald J. Trump presidency. A record turnout this year will give Joe Biden a terrific and perhaps unprecedented mandate.

    • Mark D says:

      I’m going to go with Bill Clinton on this one. On Election Day 2016, Trump received a different turnout than that normally predicted by pollsters. That is people who don’t normally vote in U.S. elections came out to support him.

      The question is whether they can elect him a second time. The key states to watch on Election Day will be Florida, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. If he takes all three of these states then he is likely to be reelected, although I imagine Biden will still win the popular vote, as well as retain the House and possibly win the Senate for Democrats.

    • The Doctor says:

      The other thing I’ve heard from professional pollsters like Nate Silver is that the higher the turnout, as a rule the more likely it is that polls will be accurate. So that would favour Biden.

      But I also think a super-high turnout would indicate that Republican efforts to suppress voting have not succeeded and have been overcome by Democratic coalition enthusiasm at booting Trump out. But I am biased. Of course the great Trumpy hope would be that high turnout would somehow indicate the massive size of the secret MAGA tsunami.

      • Mark D says:

        Trump has such an unusual voting constituency and tract record of impossible political survival that the best lesson I feel one can learn from Nate Silver, who I agree is one of the best in the business, is not to predict obvious winner and loser going into the election day, but propose percentages.

        As it stands now, I fully agree with Mr Silver that the odds clearly favour Mr Biden, but that Mr Trump still has a viable chance at re-election.

        In terms of high voter turnout, it will depend upon the particular state given how the electoral college works.

  4. Gilbert says:

    Both candidates have their flaws. Joe Biden lives very well. Most career politicians do. People don’t just want to hear criticism of one candidate. They want to know what a candidate will do for them. I’m not sure what Joe Biden’s greatest political accomplishment is.

  5. Ronald O'Dowd says:

    Speaking plainly, no, Joe Biden is not a saint. Far from it. But what does that make Trump? Exactly. That’s why Biden wins big. Most voters are already way beyond Trump and desperately want to turn the page. That’s why Biden wins. Trump, quite predictably, did this to himself, all by himself.

    • Mark D says:

      I know I sound like a broken record on this topic, but we need to recognize a few things about Biden:

      1 – He was not chosen to win the White House. The lead up to the primaries took place before the COVID pandemic hit full swing, or the racial protests and violence in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. At the time the U.S. economy was strong and Trump was seen as coasting to easy re-election. The question was whether he could re-take the House and hold the Senate. Biden was selected as a Democrat moderate and experienced hand to protect the Democrat brand downticket.

      2. – Nobody is voting for Biden. They are voting against Trump. So talk about whether or not Biden is a saint is largely irrelevant in this context.

      3 – Biden himself has said he is a one-term president. The question now is whether he goes the full term, or stays on three years and then passes off to Harris in order to give her the incumbent’s advantage going into 2016.

      All this assumes Biden wins. Trump still has a path to victory and reasonable chance of being re-elected, although just over one week out from the election I would say the odds definitely favour Biden.

      • “At the time the U.S. economy was strong and Trump was seen as coasting to easy re-election.”

        There has been no period of time when poll showed Trump would have an easy reelection.

        • Mark D says:

          Canadians generally don’t grasp the nuances of U.S. presidential elections, which is the reason why our best Canadian pundits and political media generally have a mixed record when it comes to calling U.S. presidential elections.

          All my political friends in the U.S.–Democrat, Republican, Independent–thought Trump would likely win reelection around this time last year. It is very rare that an incumbent president loses reelection without major third-party interference, and Trump was not trailing too far behind a generic Democrat in national polls. This is before we consider a breakdown into state polls since U.S. presidential elections are really something like 53 elections given the electoral college (50 U.S. states plus Puerto Rico, D.C., and U.S. Samoa).

          COVID 19 and the George Floyd aftermath is what rendered Trump vulnerable this election. Both of these came after Biden was established as the Democrat presidential nominee.

        • The Doctor says:

          Darwin, you’re correct there, and the point you refute is sheer revisionist history on the part of Trump supporters. His approval ratings have been consistently underwater since early 2017. A quick visit to 538 or RCP easily confirms this.

          Of course he probably would have had an easier time vying for re-election if covid didn’t exist. But nobody knows how that would have played out, we’re talking about alternative universes here. For all we know, Trump might have found something even bigger to fuck up than his covid response.

          • Mark D says:

            In the U.S. presidential system, incumbents don’t lose re-election without major third party interference or something on the level of COVID pandemic. Applies equally to Democrat incumbents as to Republican.

            This is because incumbent running against challenger is actually two elections. Those who like the incumbent will vote for them before considering the challenger. Whereas those dislike the incumbent will then compare the incumbent to the challenger. The voter will often decide that as much as they disapprove of the incumbent, they disapprove of the challenger even more. Now repreat across another 49 states in the electoral college. This is why incumbents have such a strong advantage in U.S. presidential elections.

            If Dems had known Trump would be vulnerable during the 2020 election they likely would have gone with a younger and more dynamic candidate. Nominating Biden was mainly about protecting and gaining Democrat seats downticket by putting a moderate and centrist face on the Democrat brand.

          • Remember many incumbents have gotten significant boosts from COVID and have had dramtic wins in elections. It is Trump’s sheer incompetence which has caused COVID to hurt him.

          • Mark D says:

            “It is Trump’s sheer incompetence which has caused COVID to hurt him.”

            Agreed.

            His incompetence on race too.

            However, neither of these could have been predicted by Democrats when Biden was more-or-less confirmed as the front runner.

            Well maybe race, but not to the degree that thing erupted as Trump stoked the fires.

          • COVID may not have been predictable, but an incompetent Trump campaign was.

  6. Jim R says:

    Total Aside:
    Birthright citizenship makes no sense. There is no logic in bestowing citizenship on the children of people who are neither permanent residents nor citizens. I.e. there is no logic in bestowing citizenship on the children of people who have no actual ties to the country.

    Among western countries, Canada and the US are outliers w.r.t. unconditional birthright citizenship. They are the only western countries with unconditional birthright citizenship. All the others (Sweden, UK, France, Germany, NZ, etc, etc) either never had it or got rid of it.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jus_soli
    https://www.businessinsider.com/countries-that-recognize-birthright-citizenship-jus-soli-2018-10

    And then there’s the issue of “birth tourists” coming to Canada to give birth to “passport babies”.
    Google: birth tourism in richmond BC

    Trump is a total, 100% moron who is manifestly unfit to be president, but he’s right on this issue.

    There is no reasonable argument for unconditional birthright citizenship.

    • Martin says:

      It is actually worse than what you describe. At least Canada bases its tax regime on residency like all normal countries do. All US citizens(accidental or otherwise) have to file a return. Has cost lots of Canadians lots of professional fees over the years getting filings caught up. Had one client that found out to her surprise that she had a US tax filing requirement. She was born here in 1960. Her parents had been here since 1955. Her dad was born in Canada but was run out of the US because of a legal issue. Her mom only lived in the US for 10 years and only two of which was after age 14. So ridiculous. Anyone was drooling over Scheer and his dual citizenship just didn’t understand how expensive and a pain in the ass it is. And don’t get me started on their primitive estate tax regime. They need massive tax reform. HST basically.

      • Jim R says:

        FWIW, you’re responding to someone who, at no small tax filing expense, renounced US citizenship a number of years ago – and instantly felt a giant weight lifted 🙂

        But, yeah, the issue of “accidental Americans” is a genuine problem.

  7. whyshouldIsellyourwheat says:

    From a purely best interests of Canada perspective, the reelection of Trump would be better because Biden will kill Keystone XL. Keystone XL means tens of billions of dollars in federal and provincial government revenue over the next generation as it reduces the discount Canadian oil trades at.

    Biden and the Democrats are also more vehemently “Buy American” and will be more successful achieving it.

    Trump is far less likely to get involved in a war abroad, than Biden with his Deep State backing and Republican neocon neverTrumper supporters. The advantage of Trump’s lack of knowledge about the world is that he won’t intervene in a significant way anywhere (which is why the Deep State and the Republican neocons hate him). Obama went along with the failed Deep State plans in Libya, Syria, ignoring the rise of ISIS. He failed in Ukraine and lost Crimea. Wars are bad for Canada.

  8. It's not looking good says:

    Great points but there is a lot of malarkey here as well. Always have to acknowledge that Warren got it right about Biden winning the nomination. The safe bet.

    Re: Voter intensity: Agreed that you never ever tell people it is going to be a blow out. Always a close election. Otherwise, people won’t GOTV!!!

    Re; Policy: Biden gave a 10 minute stump speech on Friday. Obama gave a 40 minute speech. Biden’s speech as a horoscope of the centre, left. He said “all teachers are working so hard….” Anyone want to go up against the most powerful union still around? and say “at least 50% of teachers are in the wrong job….” “Larger lecture hall style classes would be better value per salary”? Nope!! Of course, the referendum on Trump approach is only prudent if Biden wins (as it gives him latitude in taking your vote without promises), but if Biden doesn’t then we will be talking about how anti-democratic this system is. What were Trump’s planks this time around?

    Re: What feels good: we get a dopamine hit when we dream our aspirations will be realized. But I’m unhappy. Expect disappointment at this rate. Frank Luntz’ independent voting groups were saying generally Trump is getting their vote post-debates. Independent voters aren’t swayed by Biden. The MSNBC and CNN viewpoint is blind loyalty.

    Do you get just how much progressive vote is NOT motivated? We are worried here, we should be very worried.

  9. MR DARYL R GORDON says:

    More food for thought.

    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://thehill.com/hilltv/rising/470120-campaign-official-25-percent-of-trump-rally-attendees-are-democrats-or-independents&ved=2ahUKEwjI-uztwdDsAhU_ITQIHUNrAdgQFjAAegQIARAB&usg=AOvVaw3P2HUAUSnONASItIhTDJbO

    Pretty much anything from either party from here on is spin.

    PS: Enjoyed Harper’s majority term , end of CWB alone put tens of thousands of my own money in my pocket, billions to the west as a whole. Now , just what was “The Hidden Agenda” other parties and media warned us of? …

    • The Doctor says:

      Yes, if I want totally unbiased, non-partisan facts and data, Tim Murtaugh is The Source.

      • Daryl Gordon says:

        What do you get from so called Legacy media such as CNN, NYT, MSNBC, Washington Post Et al? Hardly unbiased, hardly non-partisan. Next to nil reporting on Trump positives plus suppression of negative news regarding Biden plus active media participation in the Russia Collusion and impeachment takedown attempts.

        Not getting the big picture if that is your only information source. Trump takes hard questions (60 minutes, NBC town hall/inquisition) Why doesn’t Biden or Harris grant an interview to any Fox personality? Chris Wallace or Brett Baier are both respected by all.

        • The Doctor says:

          Yes, all media sources have their biases. That is a penetrating glance at the obvious.

          Ultimately it comes down to a question of degrees of credibility. The NYT, for example, clearly has a liberal East Coast elite bias, which is hardly surprising given where it is domiciled.

          That said, there is a reason why the NYT is still widely regarded and used as a newspaper of record, whereas nobody in their right mind would consider the NY Post to be one. One reason for that is that while the NYT Op-Ed page is often quite biased to the point of eye-rolling, its actual news reporting capacity is prodigious and its shoe-leather reporting and reporters are very good and professional and tend to be excellent writers.

          As for Trump and the incessant whining by him and his supporters about his VERY VERY UNFAIR media coverage, he is own worst enemy in that regard. You want me to start in about his stupid fucking rage tweets? His adolescent nicknames? His frightening authoritarianism? His DSM V Personality Disorder? His epic corruption?

          Maybe, just maybe, if it weren’t for all of the above, he would get a better shake from the press. And the press wouldn’t be so distracted from all of that dumb, horrible shit that they could cover the occasional stuff that he does that’s ok, like some of his recent efforts in the Middle East.

      • William says:

        These guys are true believers just like Walter up above saying trump had the best economy ever. Not even close.

  10. Steve Teller says:

    It is so nice to see someone acknowledge the CWB termination! Looking back, you wonder how that bureaucratic dinosaur survived for so long. Then again, here in Manitoba (former home of the CWB) we still have a government monopoly on liquor sales, which makes no sense. Perhaps one day that overpriced nanny-state relic will also go away.

  11. Daryl Gordon says:

    Re NYT Your “paper of record” and bastion of credibility has such a woke culture that it essentially forced out an opinion editor just for publishing a dissenting view.

    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.nytimes.com/2020/06/08/opinion/letters/james-bennet-tom-cotton-op-ed.html&ved=2ahUKEwiMosOq7tLsAhW9FzQIHf2RCiQQFjAAegQIAxAC&usg=AOvVaw3fyj9RmiH8ErzaiwwQHkVO

    Also a culture and political writer, Bari Weiss was according to her resignation letter, bullied and harassed by her colleagues at NYT until she resigned.
    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.bariweiss.com/resignation-letter&ved=2ahUKEwiVzf6-7tLsAhVRIDQIHYC7DwAQFjAVegQIHxAB&usg=AOvVaw0FaOyvTpTh_QI7yF3mXyJg

    Actions like these only make it easier for Trump or others to deny anything, true or false with some degree of credibility. I take everything I read with a grain of salt……

    • The Doctor says:

      The two examples you cite relate to the NYT editorial/op-ed function, which I already mentioned has a clear liberal bias. I guess you missed that part of my post.

      As for the Tom Cotton controversy, I would have preferred that they run his piece. That said, two things should be noted:

      1. No op-ed page, including the NYT’s, is obligated to run any piece by anybody. That’s journalism 101. So Tom Cotton was never “entitled” to have his piece run in the NYT.

      2. More importantly, prior to Cotton writing his piece, he had publicly gone on record saying that Army troops should be ordered into US cities against protestors and that they should give “no quarter”. Anyone with a military background properly knows that “giving no quarter” is a war crime. It literally means not taking prisoners or detainees and instead shooting them dead. Several responsible people with military backgrounds pointed that out at the time. I have heard it argued that what the NYT should have done is specifically asked Tom Cotton to address that in his piece, and if he refused, then the Times should have refused to run it. But it didn’t play out that way.

  12. Shane says:

    Aa a Canadian, a few interesting things I’ve come across during this US election. One is polling by the Trafalgar group. Supposedly they were one of the polling companies to most accurately predict the 2016 results due to a slightly different methodology:

    https://www.thetrafalgargroup.org/

    The second was a mini-series I caught while on a recent trip to the UK. Grayson Perry’s Big American Road Trip. It was excellent. For those who don’t know, Grayson Perry is a British artist who travelled parts of the US talking to people on all sides of the US political spectrum. Very insightful, and one of the best explorations of the US political landscape I’ve come across.

    https://m.imdb.com/title/tt13063460/

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