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Four weeks

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A few loosely connected thoughts about the election, that is actually already happening (millions of ballots have been cast), but that technically takes place four weeks from today.

(1) A new CNN/SSRS poll shows Biden up by 57% to 41% nationally among likely voters, i.e., a Hoover/Goldwater/McGovern style wipeout. This poll was taken after the “first” debate, and mostly after Trump’s COVID diagnosis was made public. It tracks with an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll a couple of days ago, which showed Biden with a 14-point lead nationally.

The most interesting aspect of the poll, besides the huge lead, and that it’s likely rather than merely registered voters, is that it featured almost no undecided voters, which obviously makes sense at this point, but which is still unusual for a country where I doubt half the populace could even tell you who the Speaker of the House is at this moment.

Some other details:

Likely voters broadly prefer Biden over Trump on a number of issues that voters consider critically important in the race, including the coronavirus outbreak (59% prefer Biden, 38% Trump), health care (59% to 39%), racial inequality in America (62% to 36%), nominations to the Supreme Court (57% to 41%) and crime and safety (55% to 43%).

The two are about even over who would better handle the economy (50% say Biden, 48% Trump), similar to where they have been among registered voters in recent polling.Biden’s favorability ratings have also improved, with 52% of Americans now saying they have a positive impression of the former vice president, compared with 39% who have a positive view of Trump.

Likely voters are more apt to consider Biden the candidate who would unite the country (61% Biden to 33% Trump), who is honest and trustworthy (58% Biden to 33% Trump), who cares about people like you (58% Biden to 38% Trump), who has a clear plan to solve the nation’s problems (55% to 39%) and who would keep Americans safe from harm (55% to 43%).

Here are some demographic breakdowns, taken from the registered voters in the poll pool:

Biden has expanded his edge over Trump among women, from 57% to 37% in September to 66% to 32% now. That shift includes substantial gains for Biden among white women with college degrees and women of color. Among people of color generally, Biden’s advantage has increased from 59% to 31% in September to 69% to 27% now.

The former vice president has also made gains among younger voters, moderates and independents over the last month.It is important to note that these increases in support for Biden have not come alongside substantial decreases in backing for Trump.

The President’s core supporters remain as supportive of him as they have been, if not more. Among white men without college degrees, for example, Trump’s support has increased from 61% in September to 67% now. But Trump does not appear to have made any gains among the groups his campaign needs to attract in order to dent Biden’s longstanding lead.

In my country there is a problem: White men without college degrees. That’s it. Take them out of the equation, and Trumpism is a weird fringe movement that attracts the same sort of people who are intrigued by flat earth theories and taken in by what Rick Perlstein identified several years ago as the Long Con. (If you were going to read just one article on identity politics in America, it should be that one).

(2) A commenter here yesterday — can’t remember who — said something along the lines of it’s daunting/depressing to contemplate that the right wing in this country has gone so far around the bend that you can present them with a choice between a deranged poo-flinging orangutan and the most soothing moderate old white guy imaginable, and 40% will still vote for the former.

That is a daunting thought, but the gin glass half full view (it’s 11 AM somewhere) is that at least the vast majority of low information/tenuously connected to politics people seem to be breaking for Biden. So in a voting population that 50% rational, 40% insane and/or patriarchy/white supremacy dead enders, and 10% deeply disengaged but not quite disengaged enough not to vote, that adds up to 57/41 for kindly old Uncle Joe.

How you live with that 40% will be the ongoing question of the next few decades. The only way mere anarchy will not be loosed upon us is if they gradually become 35%, then 30%, etc.

(3) Glass half empty: Trump’s support hasn’t collapsed. Bush II’s and Nixon’s approval ratings sunk to 25% near the end of their presidencies, and Harry Truman’s had sunk to 22% (!) before he decided not to run again. (It’s no doubt significant that neither W nor Nixon was eligible to run again when their numbers fell so low, while the Truman case is from 70 years ago and therefore not very germane to the present). Would Trump’s approval look similar at this point if you could signal your disapproval without seeming to support the Libz? Maybe? Or is the right wing in the country so far gone now that they really do worship him despite everything?

(4) Re-fill the glass with this thought: For marginal voters in particular, there may be particular value in being able to say honestly, in the future, “no of course I didn’t vote for Trump, are you kidding?” while tactfully omitting that you did in fact for for him in 2016. But now he’s a loser with loser stench on him, and sick to boot. And another group of marginal Trump supporters may just be discouraged enough not to vote at all.

(5) With four weeks to go, and after seven months of growing COVID fatigue, this whole thing right now feels like the (prayerfully) last days of an abusive relationship with a malignant narcissist who insists on being everywhere in your life all the time, like the God of evangelical Christianity, or John Malkovich in that scene in Being John Malkovich where Malkovich goes through the tunnel and everyone in the world is now Malkovich.

(6) Yeah I know, the lame duck period, and then everything afterward. Obviously getting rid of Trump is a necessary but far from sufficient step in the long march toward beginning to ameliorate the destruction that the Republican party has been wreaking on America for decades now. Let’s fall off those particular bridges when we get to them. Right now, the prospect of cutting this particular tumor out of the body politic is exhilarating and exhausting enough.

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