Now that we have refreshed our spirits with a musical interlude, let us return to the matter at hand: the election. Many commentators have noted that Democrats are prone to handwringing and I am certainly no exception. I obsessively check the polls as they are reported each day, anguishing over changes that are so far inside the margin of error that they have no significance whatsoever. Isolated as I am here in my safe retirement community, there is precious little I can actually do save to donate money to candidates or organizations, so, faute de mieux, I worry. Herewith a brief discussion of several of the more common sources of concern.
First is the shy Tory. This, as I am sure you know, is the theory that Trump supporters are embarrassed to tell a pollster of their intention to vote for so execrable a candidate, thereby systematically under representing the extent of his strength. There have in fact been several elections in the past in which a phenomenon of this sort was recorded, but there is no evidence that this is going to be one of them. Some polls are telephone polls in which a voter must tell an actual person at the other end of the line of his or her intention to vote for Trump. Others are online polls in which this source of embarrassment is not present. I do not believe there is any evidence of a systematic difference in the results of polls taken in these two different ways. So let us put that aside. It is upsetting enough that scores of millions of not noticeably mentally deficient Americans are enthusiastically planning to vote for Trump. That is bad enough without worrying about shy Tories.
A second source of anxiety is the so-called Red Mirage. This is a slightly more complicated anxiety and needs a little explanation. If a significant majority of Americans vote for Biden but in very large numbers choose to vote by mail, on election night the initial results reported may show Trump leading in states with as many as 400 electoral votes. Although as the absentee ballots are counted Biden’s lead will manifest itself and he will clearly be the winner, there is a fear that Trump will declare victory on election night and then sow such confusion about the results that he will be able in some unspecified way to completely screw up the election and call its results into question, after which he will refuse to leave the White House and we will have a dictatorial crisis on our hands. I tend to think this anxiety is overstated but I understand it and there is one obvious way of avoiding it, namely voting early by mail. As I have reported, at least in North Carolina and perhaps in many other states as well, absentee ballots are opened and recorded as they arrive and then added to the election day votes on November 3. It is really only the absentee ballots mailed a few days before election day or even on election eve that cause the problem. So get out to vote just as soon as you can. I will predict (here I go again) that we are going to see a flood of early voting both in person and by mail. My sense is that Trump opponents are so eager to vote against him that they will crawl over broken glass to do so. Not so much to vote for Biden, but that is all right. A vote is a vote.
A more serious source of anxiety, and one that has afflicted me in recent days, is that continued demonstrations and unrest and occasional violence will spook those much discussed white suburban women whose shift toward the Democrats is a significant part of what now shows up in the polls as Biden’s lead. I worry a lot about that but I must say that so far the polls are not showing any evidence of such spooking. In response to the events in Kenosha and elsewhere, Biden has already started moving to the right on the issue, as surely we all expected. As someone whose only personal experience with electoral politics was running third in a three-person race for two open seats on the Northampton Massachusetts school committee, I don’t think my intuitions in this matter are particularly reliable, so we shall just have to see.
On the upside, Biden is taking in money hand over fist and much of it is coming from small donations so that is some concrete evidence of enthusiasm on the ground.
Sigh. It is more fun talking about music.