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Monday, September 14, 2020

Why is This Race Even Close?


If you’re like me and received a degree in political science, you might as well rip it up.  All that you learned from your experience in college while majoring in poli-sci—the models, the theories, the trends, the paradigms, everything—has been turned upside down in this 2020 presidential election cycle.

We always believed that an incumbent president seeking reelection would defend his record and not do stupid stuff to create doubts. Yet, with Donald Trump, he has done and said many dumb things with some more serious than others. I pointed out some recent miscues here as if he was trying to lose. Still, he remained close in the polls. #hocopolitics

Throughout his term, he has been the recipient of bad press emanating from a host of tell-all books that have ripped Trump’s intellect, lack of curiosity, temperament, competence, judgment, honesty and a bevy of other flaws.  I cannot think of a case where an individual in the know wrote a flattering piece about Trump. They’ve all been scathing indictments from former administration officials, journalists, intelligence officials, his long-time personal lawyer, and even family members.  Still, he remains close in the polls.

Then came a stinging bombshell story in The Atlantic  whereby Trump reportedly denigrated wartime casualties and POWs as “losers” and “suckers.”  These remarks were essentially verified by several news outlets including Trump favorite Fox News. Trump’s denials as well as those from his allies rang hollow given his public disparagement of war hero and POW John McCain.

As for his defense by his press secretary and others in his administration, how would they know what he said or didn’t say unless they have been in his company 24/7?  Two people who did not step forward to defend Trump were notably former chief of staff General John Kelly and former Defense Secretary General James Mattis. How these revelations did not trigger outrage from veterans and POW/MIA groups is beyond me. I wonder how those on active duty with some serving in harm’s way felt after learning what their commander-in-chief allegedly said.  Still, he remains close in the polls.

Trump’s insufficient response to the COVID-19 pandemic will probably be the key issue during this cycle. We bore witness to his lack of seriousness and leadership as the coronavirus hit a second gear and triggered an economic calamity the likes of which the country has not seen in many decades. 

Recall, how he called the virus “the Democrats’ new hoax” and that it is under control and it will miraculously disappear. Trump played it down when he realized that the virus was targeting blue states and more specifically people of color. He scoffed at those who kept social distancing, wore masks and blasted mostly Democratic officials for not jumping in with two feet to re-open businesses and schools. They did so to help spread the virus further. Trump even suggested dubious and dangerous therapeutics like ingesting bleach. Still, he remains close in the polls.

Well, it hit the fan with the previews of famed journalist Bob Woodward’s book Rage, which is about to be made public. All the suspicions about Trump’s failures during the pandemic came to light, which have been backed up by audio of Trump’s own answers to questions covered by some 18 interviews with Woodward. Trump’s best retort is that the book is “fake,” failing to grasp that his own words were used and were damning. Still, he remains close in the polls.

Why, then, is the race so tight even though Joe Biden has held a steady lead? This isn’t 2016 when Trump was merely a TV star and failed businessman and was considered entertaining to some. His opponent had been reviled by the Republican hit machine for decades and couldn’t get from under the baggage she was carrying.

There isn’t that level of animosity towards Biden. Moreover, the Democratic Party is more unified given the imperative that Trump be defeated.

As opposed to 2016, Trump has a record, and it’s not very pretty. Yet, he remains close in the polls.


The answer seems to be that much of Trump’s unyielding support stems from the fact they hate the same people he does: African-Americans, the BLM movement, protesters,  immigrants especially Mexicans and Hispanics in general, Muslims, and liberal Democrats among others. Of course, there are others solidly in Trump’s camp but I believe that the bigoted MAGA folks are the core.  

Many supporters are QAnon conspiracy believers, coronavirus deniers, climate change deniers, and white supremacists.  They form the foundation of his base, and they are frothing at the mouth to see that Trump gets 4 more years.

With such a shoddy record, Trump should be way behind. But that’s under the old rules of politics. The country is deeply divided and few are undecided. The upcoming debates will be hyped and considered must-see TV.  Each side will claim victory though there aren’t that many persuadable voters remaining to make much of a difference either way. The fact check industry, however, should get a huge boost from Trump’s participation.

Like 2020, which has been the weirdest of years, one thing remains constant in this election cycle from how it was back in the day when I studied politics. This November’s election will be decided by who and how many actually vote. It’s that simple.

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