Ken Allard is a journalism senior. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Mustang News.
The leaves have changed, the sun has set on previously unshakable relationships and the fall air is crisp with a cold, dry anxiety beset by a year unlike any other. Ain’t it great?
Don’t answer that. Listen, I know we’re all about six seconds away from losing our collective minds, so I’ll cut to the chase: Biden’s going to win. And it’s not exactly going to be a barnburner, either. It isn’t a matter of if he’s going to win, it’s a matter of how much.
Stop, I can hear you through my screen already. “I heard the same thing in 2016! We listened to the so-called polls and experts, look where we are now!”
I’m here to rid you of those 2016 demons. Yes, you were foolishly told Trump had no chance. Yes, we arrogantly believed so. But, with the benefit of a few years’ worth of information, a Trump victory was not that surprising. Hindsight — like everything else that sucks this year — is 2020.
But before we jump into why Biden is going to slam the door shut on Trump’s second term, we need to address a few things.
An Imperfect Science
Let’s get this out of the way: Yes, the polling was wrong in 2016, but only by a little.
First you need to understand what polling is and what it isn’t. Polling is not predictive; it’s not a crystal ball that will tell you the exact results without error. It’s simply a survey of likely voters that organizations conduct to get a better guess of how the population will vote as a whole.
It’s like reaching your hand into a jar of jellybeans. You can make a pretty good guess on the contents of the jar based on what’s in your hand. But it’s not foolproof; it’s an imperfect science.
Now, this journalism major isn’t about to spend 600 words explaining probability and the differences between polling and forecasts. Partly because I’d do it a disservice, but mostly because my editor would cut it out. Just know that the polling averages for the national popular vote were pretty close in 2016 and have been historically.
The Demons of Elections Past
So what happened in 2016, then? The story of the 2016 election has been talked about ad nauseam, with opinions still differing on what exactly went wrong. A tumultuous Democratic primary battle; Clinton’s “establishment” image in an anti-establishment race; Russian election interference and the hack-and-dump of Clinton campaign’s emails; FBI Director James Comey’s reopening of the email investigation just days before the election — it was a wild race.
Ultimately, the blame falls on Hillary Clinton and her campaign. They took for granted key states and constituencies that were long considered to be Democratic strongholds. White working-class voters across the United States, as well as white voters in the suburbs, fled Clinton and the Democratic party, voting for Trump in great numbers. And the effects were no more catastrophic than in America’s Rust Belt, particularly in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania — three states with a combined 46 electoral votes that were part of the Democratic party’s presumed “blue firewall,” which ended up going for Trump and which won him the presidency.
Even so, the margins were razor thin. Trump won by roughly 11,000 votes in Michigan, 50,000 in Pennsylvania, and 27,000 in Wisconsin. In a campaign fueled by chaos and channeled through improvisation, Trump’s upset victory was more band-on-the-field schoolyard bullshit than anything else. Contrary to what Trump chest-thumpers think, the Trump campaign didn’t rewrite the rules of the game. As the purported lesser of two evils in 2016, he leveraged his gaudy businessman persona with voters who felt left behind by a rapidly evolving America to a seat in the White House. But just like that $400 million inheritance he received from his father, whatever magic he had last go-round, it’s been recklessly squandered.
Addition, Not Subtraction
So what’s different now? Well, a lot. The past four years have aged this country about as well as a lifetime of cigarettes and UV overexposure have aged those buck-naked Boomers struttin’ down the beach at Pirates Cove.
Winning presidential elections is about building broad coalitions — or, at least, a coalition slightly more broad than the one across the aisle — made up of voters from a swath of demographics. Politics is about addition, not subtraction. For Trump, his base in 2016 was primarily made up of non-college-educated white voters, or “working class,” which were roughly about 44 percent of the electorate. From there, he was able to pick up enough voters from other demographics, such as white women in America’s suburbs and some college-educated whites, to push him over the 270 ECV line.
He’s done nothing but lose those voters ever since.
Tweet by tweet, scandal by scandal, separated child by separated child, Trump has bled support in crucial areas.
Among college-educated whites, Trump’s 3-point 2016 deficit to Clinton has blown wide open to 22 points against Joe Biden, a shift that played a pivotal role in the Democratic “blue wave” of the 2018 midterms. Among non-college white voters, Trump still maintains a sizable lead, but is down 8 points from his 2016 margins. As the largest electorate in America — especially in key swing states where Trump’s margin for error was already slim — that’s enough to tip the election in a big way.
Furthermore, younger voters who overwhelmingly vote Democratic will be turning out in record numbers. A Harvard study released last week found that 63 percent of 18 to 29-year-olds would “definitely” vote in this election, which is the highest in that poll’s 20-year history and 16 points higher than the 47 percent who said the same prior to the 2016 election. Early voting data back up those numbers.
Seniors, too, are going for Biden. This usually Republican-voting group now backs Biden by double-digits. Apparently being willing to let seniors die to a ruthless yet controllable respiratory illness for the sake of the stock market isn’t a winning strategy. Who could have guessed?
The American electorate’s awakening to the danger that an unhinged president poses is what has fueled Biden’s 9-point national lead, on average, heading into Election Day. Biden’s months-long lead is the most stable by a non-incumbent in polling history. Biden holds leads in many swing states, too, including Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona and even Georgia, among others. Hell, even deep-red Texas is in play this election, with Trump holding just a 1-point average lead in a state where early voting has surpassed all total votes cast in 2016. If Republicans are playing defense in the Lone Star state, they’re in trouble.
If that isn’t enough to convince you, consider the desperate actions of Senate Republicans last week, who opted to ram through a Supreme Court Justice days before an election instead of helping Americans with additional pandemic aid. You don’t opt for a deplorable power grab defiant of what the majority of Americans want unless you’re pretty damn sure you’re about to get your doors blown off across the board in the upcoming election.
Putting Chips Down
The 2016 election for many voters was a story of “what do we have to lose?”
Well, four years later, as we sit here gazing upon a devastated economy with tens of thousands of small businesses permanently shuttered, racial and social relations teetering on collapse, a resurgence in far-right white extremism which will almost surely lead to post-election violence, three Trump-appointed Supreme Court Justices cementing Republican minority rule, and 230,000 dead Americans with tens of thousands more on the horizon, the answer to that ol’ question is “quite a bit.”
We’re all rightfully a little shaken from Nov. 8, 2016, and it’s understandable that most of us are reticent to show even the slightest bit of confidence in Tuesday’s contest. And since Trump supporters have soaked up the universe’s entire supply of arrogance, I have none to share. But I’ll give you some self-assuredness: Biden’s going to win, and it won’t be nearly as close as your anxiety is telling you. Democrats complete the sweep, maintaining their hold in the House while reclaiming the Senate, too.
If my words don’t help with those old demons of yours, let the water of the impending blue wave do it for you.