JFC as the kids say.
I’m well aware that all along this particular poll has given Trump a better shot than the poll of polls. It’s been an outlier by several points over the average. Trump is now up seven in it. The big question of course is whether it’s an outlier because of a methodological flaw, or because it will turn out that it has a better method of prediction than the average of the rest of the polls. I don’t know anything about the technicalities of polling but I guess we’re all going to find out.
And yes I’m now officially
panicked extremely concerned, and not because I think Trump is going to win, but because I think he has something in the neighborhood of a 30% shot of winning, which is genuinely terrifying. (Remember when everybody laughed at this 14 months ago? Good times!).
Part of what’s going on is, as Scott points out, the perverse and indescribably irresponsible normalization of Trump by the media. Why that normalization has happened is a complex and extraordinarily important question, to which I sadly don’t have any real answer.
The most optimistic possible take on the present state of the presidential election is that a huge percentage of voters are, to put it nicely, low information individuals who basically pay no attention to politics and vote for presidential candidates on the basis of roughly the same factors that lead someone who basically pays no attention to football to realize that if they live in the Denver area they should be rooting for the Broncos at a Super Bowl party.
Various less optimistic and more plausible hypotheses are just too depressing to consider. Anyway, Jon Chait does a good job of capturing how the present situation is, on one level, almost literally incredible to people who know what a cover three defense is:
Sometime around the end of summer, it dawned upon most Democrats, and the elite of both parties, that they — okay, we — inhabit a different political universe than does the rest of the country. In our world, Donald Trump is a surreal authoritarian buffoon whose presidency is too nightmarish to contemplate, except perhaps as an abstract intellectual exercise to bolster whatever argument one wishes to make about larger trends in American society. Hillary Clinton is deeply familiar, liked by some, loathed by many, and caught in a vortex of mutual paranoia with the news media that leads her into errors of secrecy. But her flaws, as the conservative but Clinton-endorsing pundit P. J. O’Rourke put it, lie “within normal parameters,” and disagreements within the elite feel small in the face of Trump. Envisioning him as the actual president of the United States seems to us like a category error, as if a Game of Thrones character were to show up on Veep.
But as the first of the presidential debates looms, the hard numbers simply do not bear out this reality. The website FiveThirtyEight gives Trump more than a four-in-ten chance of actually, for real, winning. The Upshot, the New York Times’ forecaster, puts it at a slightly more comforting one in four, which sounds low except that, as the model’s authors point out, this makes the odds of a Clinton victory about equal to an NFL placekicker’s chances of making a 49-yard field goal. Also, the kicker has pneumonia.
Update: There are a lot of good comments in this thread but I wanted to move this one into the OP:
I think it’s hard to express what a Trump victory would really mean to a liberal like me, so I want to try to lay it out below. And hopefully this will help people understand why, given the thinking below, even a narrow loss is a rather scary prospect.
Trump winning the election would not just be a policy loss. It of course would be that, but that’s a relatively acceptable outcome from a larger, worldview perspective. I understand that I live in a world where many if not most people disagree with me about various policy outcomes. And that’s fine. If Romney would have won, that would essentially have been the outcome. But Trump is different to me, for basically two very broad reasons:
1) Trump is completely incompetent. He doesn’t know anything. And yet he seemingly pays basically no price for this. As I said above, I can accept the fact that people really disagree with me on stuff. Totally fine. I understand I will lose arguments in a democracy. But the premise behind this, to me, has always been that the people who disagree with me should have some knowledge of the things *they* claim to care about. Like, I think Romney has shitty tax ideas. But he clearly has vast expertise in business. McCain? Not a fan of his foreign policy. But he *cares* about it and tries to have knowledge about it. Even if you go off the policy grid, and say that the real issue animating Trump fans is racism – ok. Pick an intelligent racist! Like, Pat Buchanan. An odious figure, to be sure. But he *knows things*. He’s spent his life trying to understand the best way to implement his ideas, and the effect they have on the world.
Trump is none of these things. He doesn’t know *anything*. And he clearly pays no price for it. I waver between wondering whether the voters *don’t know* he’s ignorant, or don’t care. I genuinely don’t know the answer here. I had a conversation with a conservative family member last week, where he brought up how embarrassing it was that Gary Johnson didn’t know what Aleppo was. I agreed that was bad, but then I mentioned that of course he understands Trump has no idea what Aleppo is either, right? My relative dismissed this out of hand, claiming that “of course” Trump knew what Aleppo was. I just live in a different world.
There are 2 options here – either the voters don’t *know* that Trump is staggeringly ignorant with absolutely no interest in critical things, or they don’t care. Frankly both answers sort of frighten me, and tear at my faith in the sustainability of our democratic institutions.
2) This one is less about Trump, and more about a systematic issue with our government, and that is that this election seems to be showing that the GOP has not, is not and never will pay any price for their procedural radicalism. While it’s not necessary to go through the whole litany of things that have happened since Obama was first elected, there have been a series of procedurally radical moves undertaken by the GOP: blanket filibustering in 2009-2010, the debt ceiling crisis of 2011, the government shutdown of 2013, and now we’re experience an unprecedented, ideological blockage of the Supreme Court. Many liberals, while living through this, have come to convince themselves that these sorts of overreaches would, in time, result in a backlash where people really got sick of this radicalism. Unfortunately, I think the opposite has occurred – rather than creating a backlash, our rigid partisanship has resulted in these actions being normalized. I mean, the fact that the GOP is blockading a Supreme Court seat just doesn’t matter at all. It has no play whatsoever in this election. I’d venture to say most voters neither know nor care about it at all. Same for the government shutdown, where the GOP had a wave election after doing this.
This one, unlike #1, is less of an existential crisis and more of me just being mad. If I misread the lay of our political landscape, so be it. If all those things I saw as “radical” were a gross misreading about how much the voting population cares about these issues, so be it. But unlike #1 above, this one sort of does hinge on why the feedback loop isn’t working. If it’s not working because people simply disagree with me about what’s important, then fine. I’ll lose that argument, live with it, and come back fighting the next time. As a liberal I hope we’ll learn the lessons and play the game better. But if it’s not working because people aren’t *aware* that this stuff has happened or that it’s not ordinary course, that’s a much larger systemic problem. The feedback loop in this scenario would be *broken*, as opposed to me merely misreading what people care about.