Thoughts on the Election and Polling
Today I’m going to share some thoughts about the presidential election now that it’s all over except the shouting, as my elderly relatives used to say. Except that it’s not, because the Toddler-in-Chief refuses to accept his loss and concede. Not that he has to do so for the process to go forward, but he can cause a lot of trouble on the way out.
Arizona has flipped to Biden but Trump will undoubtedly focus instead on his win in North Carolina, which will be by a margin of only a few thousand votes, at least two of which were cast by my in-laws, who apparently don’t care that their preferred candidate has a stated goal of removing their special needs grandchild’s access to healthcare and education (thanks, Grandma!).
Meanwhile, Georgia looks like it has flipped too. They are going to do a recount because the Georgia GOP can’t believe the results, but unless they “lose” tens of thousands of votes Biden will take it. I wouldn’t put it past the political machine in Georgia to lose those votes because they have a long history of voter suppression and election rigging in Georgia. It’s how Kemp himself got elected, after all, and I think the entire party is now regretting that. You fucked with the wrong women, Kemp. Oops.
But I digress. What I really want to talk about is Donald Trump and polling. We all know the polling was horribly wrong this year. I know a lot of people much smarter and more knowledgeable than I am have already parsed this to death, but I have something to contribute to the conversation.
Good polling depends on two things: accessibility and honesty. Pollsters must be able to reach people, and those people have to give honest answers. Neither happened in large enough numbers this year. First, a lot of people won’t talk to pollsters anymore, particularly on the rightward end of the political spectrum. Hardcore Trump supporters, QAnon believers, militia members -none of them are going to talk to anyone from or about the guvmint. If a pollster even got my father-in-law’s number, for example, he would simply not answer or hang up the phone when he learned what they wanted. Second, an increasing number of people simply don’t answer phone calls from people they don’t know. Hell, I’m one of them. Blame the extended car warranty people for that.
The issues with polling run deeper than this, however. Remember that second problem I mentioned? Honesty? Yeah, that went out the window in 2016 and even more in 2020. I think it will have a name in the future, maybe “The Trump Effect” or some such appropriate moniker, but the truth of the matter is that voting for Trump isn’t socially acceptable in most of the country. He’s an asshole, a misogynist, a philander, a bully, and a dozen other things that the majority of his base love about him and makes the rest of us recoil in disgust. So, a lot of people didn’t want to admit they were going to vote for him. It makes them look bad and they know it. These people either didn’t talk to the pollsters at all or lied and said they were voting for Biden because that was the socially “correct” thing to do. Shame and guilt are powerful motivators and have caused people to lie about far more important things. Enough of the people who took the polls lied to skew the results by multiple percentage points. Will this “Trump Effect” right itself in the mid-terms or the next Presidential election, or is it here to stay? That remains to be seen. A lot of it depends on whether or not that particular cohort of voters can come to terms with voting for Trump and why they did so. Who were these voters? The majority were white people.* Particularly white women.
Some of you may be wondering why so many people would lie in public and then vote for Trump in the privacy of the voting booth (I think Trump would have gotten a lot fewer votes if voting were still public, but that’s another topic entirely). The answer, particularly for white men and women who did this comes down to one thing: naked self-interest. Sure, they like the idea of our plural society, they like the values of liberal democracy, they know our country is racist as fuck, and they know they have inherent unearned advantages. And here’s the thing: if our country changes, if some of that goes away, they lose those advantages and the privileges that come with them. Trump protects that privileged status and voting against him means voting to give up those privileges. And when it came down to it, most of them voted to protect their own self-interests over those of other people, including some of the people they purport to love.
They lie to appease their conscience and then go into the voting booth and vote for Trump. And act surprised when many of their compatriots do the same.
White people voting in their own self-interest and throwing others under the bus has a long history in this country, going all the way back to Reconstruction, and it has to be overcome if we’re going to move forward as a country. There are only two ways to do this: convince more of them to vote against their own interest and to neutralize their votes with sheer numbers. The first hasn’t worked so well thus far, though plenty of us did vote for Biden. The latter will work better in the short term and is possible; one only has to look at Georgia and Arizona to see that. We need more get out the vote drives, more voter registration and voter mobilization efforts like we saw this year, and we will have a real chance of taking control of the country.
And until they figure out how to redesign them, stop believing the damn polls.
*Dear Butthurt White People about to exclaim “not all white people!” yes, I know. Good for you. Now stop virtue signaling and do something useful.