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I’m Worried About The General Election

I haven’t been all that concerned with how the presidential election is going to turn out until this week. I had no doubt that whether it’s Hillary or Bernie on the democratic side, no republican candidate was going to pose a threat.

I can now see Trump’s path to the presidency. Let’s be clear: Trump is going to be the republican nominee. Unless the RNC pulls a seriously unseemly maneuver to stop him, I don’t see how Trump can be stopped.

When Trump announced, I didn’t think there was a snowball’s chance in hell that he was going to be the nominee. I was wrong. When Trump’s numbers were at around 24% of republican voters, I didn’t think that it was possible for his numbers to go up because they held steady at about 24% for months. I was wrong. When his poll numbers moved into the 30s, I thought that the republican party apparatchik were going to strategize over who they needed to get to drop out in order to consolidate the “establishment” vote. I was wrong.

So now Trump is almost certainly going to be the nominee. He steamrolled the entire republican party establishment and outbullied the bullies who like most bullies, were so scared when confronted, they were literally stunned and unable to act.

Donald Trump is the populist candidate on the republican side. He doesn’t have a platform other than his hatred for all things not white, and his seeming disdain for politicians and the establishment. He’s unpolished, unscripted, unconventional, and completely unconcerned with what politicos have to say about him. When you mix those qualities with the factphobia that republicans have contracted from their exposure to nearly twenty years of Fox News propaganda, you have an unstoppable force.

The disdain for the establishment isn’t sequestered within the republican party. Bernie is our populist. Despite a main stream media blackout until the day after the Iowa caucus, despite the (as Larry Wilmore puts it) top secret democratic debates that were all scheduled when television viewership is at its lowest, despite massively handicapping himself by refusing to have a superPAC, Bernie has managed to draw the biggest crowds we’ve seen at any political rally in this election cycle. He’s managed to keep up with Hillary in fundraising. Liberals aren’t any happier with corporatist, establishment candidates than republicans are.

Here’s where my worry lies: if Hillary is the nominee, we’re putting up a corporatist, establishment candidate against a populist. Ugh. That’s not a bet I feel good about. Head to head polls consistently show Bernie beating Trump by a larger margin than Hillary does. If you average all the polling, you get Hillary beating Trump by 2.8 points, while Bernie beats him by 6 points.

Why? Because it’s populist versus populist. More importantly, it’s a populist who has nothing but fear and hate to offer you, versus a populist who wants to give you back what the rich looted from you. I’m a sunny optimist so I don’t believe that Americans are more hateful than they are hopeful.

I feel great about putting a liberal populist up against a right wing populist. I feel great about putting a liberal corporatist up against a republican corporatist. I do not feel good about putting up any establishment corporatist against any populist in this climate.

I especially don’t feel good about it given the polling we have on Hillary versus Trump and Bernie versus Trump. I know what a lot of people are going to say at this point; “polls this early out are meaningless“. To which I say, no information is ever meaningless so stop dismissing information you don’t like. You never get the luxury of hindsight voting before an election happens. This information is the best information you have right now, and objective decisions are made by examining the information you have before you at the time that you have to make a decision. So unless you have other information to contradict this information, please spare me your efforts at dismissing information. This isn’t one, two, or five polls. This is information based on seven months of polling. At no point does Hillary ever do better against Trump than Bernie does. There are no outliers on this in any of the polling. You can’t logically dismiss this.

Let me address something else that is being said about democratic voter turnout. It’s true that democrats almost always have a voter turnout problem, but there is a cyclical element to primary election turnout that no one is talking about. Historically, the party who hasn’t held the white house for eight years are more fired up to vote in the primaries. That’s just a fact. Republicans were always going to be more fired up this primary season than democrats, just like democrats were more fired up after being Bushwhacked for eight years. Yes, president Obama had a lot to do with the numbers we saw in 2008, but that cyclical component was also a factor. The “problem” isn’t an issue with Bernie’s base not showing up to vote. The problem is that the cyclical voting patterns aren’t being taken into consideration here, and this election is being compared to a historic and anomalous election when Obama ran.

I don’t believe that millennial apathy is Bernie’s biggest issue in this primary.

I believe that Bernie’s biggest issue is that independents can’t vote in a lot of democratic primaries. More people refer to themselves as independents now, than in the past two decades. Do I really believe these people are “independent” and regularly vote across party lines? No. But I do believe that referring to ones self as an “independent” is a pretty good indication of how that person feels about establishment politics. Today, 39% of the electorate calls themselves independents. 32% call themselves democrats, and 23% refer to themselves as republicans. Yes, you read that correctly: the biggest block of the electorate refer to themselves as independents.

Here are some responses from a Quinnipiac poll of independents done in December:

  • Shares our values  – Clinton 33%, Sanders 47%
  • Cares about the needs of people like me – Clinton 40%, Sanders 59%
  • Honest and Trustworthy – Clinton 26%, Sanders 64%
Sanders leads Clinton among independents by a range of 20 – 50 points, depending on which poll you read. I could only find three polls of independents by credible polling firms. I don’t normally put too much weight in a mere three polls, but the results I’m seeing would explain how Bernie has a wider margin over Trump than Hillary does. More “independents” would have to be supporting Bernie than Trump. Populist versus populist.

I’m not as comfortable with a 2.8 point lead over Trump, as I am with a 6 point lead. If just one San Bernadino style event happens in the next eight months, that 2.8 points could evaporate. If you look at the polls, San Bernadino is what increased Trump’s support from the mid 20s (where he had been for a couple of months) into the low 30s.

I’m starting to see Trump’s path to the presidency, and it’s terrifying. Why did I highlight all of the ways I was wrong in the beginning of this post? Three reasons;

  • I can admit when I’m wrong so that
  • I can learn from my past mistakes and
  • Never underestimate Trump again
The “electability” argument that Hillary and her supporters have been making until now has been completely turned around on her by Trump. That’s the reality based on the information that we have today. Since I’m neither clairvoyant, nor am I prone to dismiss information just to make myself feel better about the opinion I started off with, I’m very worried about the general election.
This would be a change in my position from four months ago, that we had nothing to worry about from any republican nominee. That change in opinion is based on information that I didn’t have four months ago.

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