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What Will Happen Next November?

Αssociated Press

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

I grew up in a large extended family. My parents, aunts, and uncles were Greek immigrants, and overwhelmingly Democrats. Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy Democrats; not the kind of modern-day Democrats who might cancel exams and give their students coloring books and cuddle puppies because their candidate lost the election, or boycott a restaurant that still has ‘Men’ and ‘Women’ signs on the bathroom doors.

I became an avid political junkie around the time Ronald Reagan was elected. He was the first real-life political hero I experienced. Some of my cousins, like me, shed our family’s partisan coat of arms and jumped aboard the Reagan Revolution.

Thanksgiving gatherings were always fun. I enjoyed playfully teasing the Democrats in my family about how Reagan was going to win reelection in 1984, and after he did, rubbed it in for a while, reminding them how they thought Walter Mondale actually had a chance. But it was all in good fun – not really much different from sportily arguing about which team would be better next year: the Mets or the Yankees.

It’s been years since those large family gatherings in Washington Heights. Many family members have passed on, and others (including me) moved far away. Thanksgiving this year was at my house. A small but pleasant gathering, and no playful political banter, because everyone at the table was on the same page: all Trump supporters.

We find it rather pointless to pontificate about how ‘right’ we are and how ‘wrong’ the other side is, and so, most of us being very political, choose to focus on another issue: what’s going to happen next November? Is Trump going to win reelection? And if not, who has a chance of beating him?

I always try to base my conclusions on logical analysis rather than wishful thinking. Granted, I would like Trump to win, but that has no bearing on whether he will or won’t.

The first thing to remember is that national polls are irrelevant unless a particular candidate has at least a 20-point lead on his/her general election opponent. If, for example, Trump was beating Joe Biden 45 to 25 percent, or losing to him by that margin, it might be cause to take such a poll seriously. But even a 10- or 12-point margin at this point means nothing, for a variety of reasons. For one thing, presidential polls have proven to be unreliable as of late. Not because the pollsters are intentionally attempting to skew the results (though some are), but because a very significant voting bloc – first time voters (in 2016) who cast their ballot for Trump are not necessarily on the grid even to be identified and surveyed by pollsters. Next, many Trump voters (though fewer than four years ago) stay in the closet, concealing their support for the president so as to avoid the fear or nuisance of being Trump-shamed;’ “I’m for Bernie” is a much easier answer. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, national election results are meaningless, because presidencies are won and lost in the Electoral College (and unless the left can convince the residents of states like Alaska, North Dakota, Rhode Island, and Wyoming to relinquish their equality in choosing presidents and become politically inconsequential, the Electoral College is not going anywhere).

That means the 2020 election is going to come down to a handful of swing states – ones that are not solidly Democrat blue or Republican red. And some of the factors to consider are the following:

  1. By an overwhelming majority, Trump voters have not regretted their choice. What they saw is what they got. He will lose some purists (for instance, those who expected an immigration wall already built and paid for by Mexico), and some who really hoped he would have become more dignified once he actually sat in the Oval Office and were disappointed in that such hasn’t been the case. Don’t buy the opposition party bunk about farmers and steelworkers turning their back on Trump because he gave them a raw deal. The economy is good. Very, very good. Ridiculously good.
  2. Not all voters vote with their hearts. Many are practical, and few things were more practical than a vote for Hillary Clinton. She came with years of experience as first lady, a U.S. senator, and secretary of state, and she brought along a husband who happens to be a two-term ex-president and in many people’s opinion, a rather good one. This time around, the only Democrat in the race whose resume is even close to hers is Joe Biden, and his main problem is that he is clearly past his prime. Hillary voters who don’t particularly despise Trump, but value experience, may just stay home if Biden is not the nominee.
  3. On the other hand, many, many voters do vote with their emotions – and in terms of likability, after Hillary Clinton, the only way for the Democrats to go is up. Biden, Bernie Sanders, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, Mayor Pete, Tulsi Gabbard – you name him, or her – and the choice is eminently more likable than Hillary. Even spoilsport Elizabeth Warren, who acts like a volunteer condo board chairwoman who will yell at you and cite the bylaws every time you grill on the balcony, is better-received. Democrats are bound to get an enthusiasm boost this time – though not a huge one; after all, there’s no Barack Obama or Bill Clinton among them
  4. Finally, there is the impeachment wild card. Hardly anyone is banking on Trump being removed from office. The question is which side will be more convincing in controlling the message following Trump’s inevitable acquittal: the Democrats clamoring that he got away with murder, or the Republicans basking in vindication because Adam Schiff’s witch hunt went awry?

It’s still very early and a lot can happen, but these four points are likely to remain important factors over the next 11 months.