2020-06-18 14:39:21 UTC
By any objective standard, the presidents prospects for reelection are looking
down. Joe Biden is continuing to lead him in trial heats nationally (by 8.1
percent in the latest RealClearPolitics averages) and in most battleground
states. The presidents job approval numbers are lower than theyve been since
last December. People are still very afraid of COVID-19, and despite one good
monthly jobs report, the economy is still in the ditch, with unemployment higher
than at any time since the 1930s.
Yes, yes, of course, theres tons of time to go, the economy could somehow turn
around and that second wave of the coronavirus could fail to appear, and Joe
Biden could do or say something self-destructive. But the possibility of a Trump
revival is not the same thing as its probability, much less certainty. Yet as
Politico notes, theres little doubt in MAGA-land that Trump will win in
November, and maybe win big:
Interviews with more than 50 state, district and county Republican Party chairs
depict a version of the electoral landscape that is no worse for Trump than six
months ago and possibly even slightly better. According to this view, the
coronavirus is on its way out and the economy is coming back. Polls are
unreliable, Joe Biden is too frail to last, and the media still doesnt get it .
The more bad things happen in the country, it just solidifies support for
Trump, said Phillip Stephens, GOP chairman in Robeson County, N.C., one of
several rural counties in that swing state that shifted from supporting Barack
Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. Were calling him Teflon Trump. Nothings
going to stick, because if anything, its getting more exciting than it was in
This year, Stephens said, Were thinking landslide.
Politico found that if you ask Republicans why Trumps going to win, they
generally offer explanations ranging from the hyper-optimistic (everything will
be back to normal any day now and a happy back-at-work electorate will reward
Trump for saving them), to the aggressively ignorant (all polls showing Biden
ahead are fake, because they were dead wrong last time well which they actually
werent), to pure disinformation (Democrats are throwing away the election by
calling for the abolition of police departments and confiscation of private
property, beginning with guns).
But whats more interesting is what Trump supporters really think, and why they
appear so determined to project self-confidence, unlike their endlessly neurotic
Democratic counterparts. After all, there is no established principle in
politics that thinking youll win makes it more likely that you will win, beyond
a minimal belief that its possible. And in fact, its very clear that in 2016,
the assumption that Hillary Clinton had the election in the bag hurt her,
perhaps fatally, since potential supporters felt free to stay at home, vote for
a minor party, or even cast a protest vote for Trump.
So why are Trump-supporting Republicans so relentlessly upbeat, and dismissive
of objective evidence that points in the direction of defeat? Here are five
---> 1. Theyre drinking his own Kool-Aid
Trump supporters are by definition big fans of a man who never admits mistakes
or weaknesses, expresses narcissistic, self-congratulatory hubris every other
hour, and hates losers as much as Jesus Christ loved them. Perhaps they are
simply following the leader, who appears to systematically block out any source
of information that doesnt tell him what he wants to hear.
---> 2. They believe enthusiasm is the ball game
As is well known, Trumps reelection strategy, and his behavior in office, have
been heavily oriented towards base mobilization, to the extent of sometimes
excluding any serious effort to identify or persuade swing voters, much less
Democrats. To the extent that mobilization is facilitated by enthusiasm, getting
the MAGA faithful to believe they are marching in a perpetual victory parade is
presumably valuable. Its possibly relevant that polls show a majority of
Republicans are motivated by a desire to support Trump, while a majority of
Democrats are more focused on beating Trump than on electing Biden. Trump voters
want to know they are part of a historic reelection campaign that will take
America another step closer to the paradise of the 1950s, not into some
socialist nonwhite dystopia.
---> 3. They want to own the libs
One bond Trump has with his supporters is in deeply enjoying the discomfort of
their common enemies. They are aware that the vast majority of left-of-center
Americans dont simply dislike the president, but dislike him intensely. Many
view the prospect of this strange accidental president serving another four
years with genuine horror. So its great sport for Trump supporters to confront
them with this possibility, raised to the level of certainty. Its mass
schadenfreude, with a dollop of Trumps own signature cruelty.
---> 4. They truly despise the elite sources of adverse information
If you are convinced that polls are all fake and most of the media including
Fox News on occasion just systematically lie, all to benefit Trumps enemies,
then its a short leap to assume that the truth they are hiding is MAGA-rific
or even glorious. Similarly, once one is convinced that real Americans are in
the presidents corner, then anything (like a bad poll or mockery of a
self-destructive Trump video clip) emanating from sources that either dont get
it or are actively hostile to this country and its interests simply cannot be
credited as real. Believing that Trump might lose, therefore, can become an
anti-patriotic act, or a sign of being duped by contemptuous wrong-doers.
---> 5. They are preparing to contest any defeat
The most troubling possibility is that Trump supporters understand the president
is laying the groundwork for contesting a defeat, and want to help him do so.
Heres how I recently described Trumps efforts to undermine, in advance, the
legitimacy of the November election in case he happens to lose it:
---> Trump is now regularly claiming that voting by mail is inherently
illegitimate, except for grudging exceptions for people who cant make it to the
polls. So, presumably, states that allow for no-excuse voting by mail in
November are holding substantially fraudulent elections. Thats 34 states who
do so by law (including battleground states Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Michigan,
Minnesota, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin), 11 more that so
far are waiving excuse requirements this pandemic year (including New
Hampshire), and another that may be forced to do so by a lawsuit (Texas).
--->So in a very real sense, unless Trump backs off his claims that voting by
mail means a rigged election, hes letting us know that he and his supporters
will be justified in challenging any adverse results in states that allow this
terrible practice to take place.
===>>> Keep in mind that Trump went to a lot of trouble to claim he was robbed
of a popular-vote majority in 2016 (thanks to millions of illegal votes for
Hillary Clinton for which he offered not a shred of evidence), even though it
didnt ultimately matter. One possible rationale was to convince his followers
Democrats always cheat, meaning their victories should prospectively be
discounted or challenged. If on Election Night 2020, Donald Trump claims victory
on the basis of early returns, is there any doubt his fans and media allies will
join him in crying out fraud! to the high heavens should late mail ballots
drift in and reverse the results? I dont think so. And either consciously or
unconsciously, some of them may be anticipating that fraught scenario already.
To a significant number of the faithful, Trump is not just a president, but an
embodiment of America, and even Gods Annointed. He cant fail. He can only be