The polls, the lines, and 2020 aren’t enough to convince me Trump will lose.
In the first debate Trump declined to take an opportunity, several actually, to denounce white supremacy. And if that wasn’t enough gaslighting for you, he decided to light a match and tell the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.”
The firestorm on Twitter, Facebook, and every news outlet was fierce. Immediate. It was seen for what it is: an acknowledgment and encouragement of white violence.
And to be clear: I have used the term “white violence” intentionally because it’s not a call to action to anyone, but white people. However, that is neither here nor there. What is here? The debate continued.
While there was immediate shock and criticism, the debate continued — no one in charge or present decided that encouraging white supremacists warranted a halt to the event, instead a debate on other topics was more pressing, even an appropriate choice in that moment.
Given recent conversations, given all the bestsellers of the summer, given all the self-labeling and self-congratulatory wearing of “ally”, and posting black squares, not a single person stepped in to completely condemn what can only be dubbed as a macro-aggression.
In the month after George Floyd, we were inundated with anti-racist literature and discussions — to the point where some actually believed anti-racism had been internalized and enough people would change, dismantle, maybe even intervene when they witnessed a micro-aggression. It was a fuzzy feeling, hope in a seemingly hopeless year.
And yet, here we are — and in this moment, I have come to the conclusion that Trump has a chance of winning. I’m going so far as to say: a great chance at winning — the popular vote, or the electoral college vote, or both. That’s right: winning. A burst of seemingly nonsensical Charlie Sheen winning.
See, in that moment I was reminded that Trump is a figurehead unable to denounce white supremacy, and this inability steers not just the ardent racist, of which the population is small, but the subtle racist, of which the population is vast. And it’s the latter, not the former, that chose him, and will choose him again.
For clarity: the subtle racists are the: “I don’t see color” folks, the liberal Amy Coopers, and the “But I’m from Minneapolis, I’m not like other parts of the Midwest” type of racists. They are the ones, really and truly, who have voting power — and wield it — at the polls now, and will wield it come November.
It is with this acknowledgement, and 500 years of history, and this year in particular, and even more poignantly this debate, that one could argue racism alone can bring Trump a victory.
But let’s deviate from racism, because all the fragility, exceptionalism, and superiority will be served to distract and cry out: “Not all white people!” “That’s not racist!”
Alright. Let’s just focus on more tangible facts, concrete observations, and general commentary.
Trump can win because . . .
- Republicans are overwhelmingly voting in-person, which will create an initial image of victory for Republicans/Trump.
Different states have different rules and regulations on when and how early voting can be tallied and included. All the hoopla over record-breaking early and mail-in voting are not a part of the initial tallied count. And, since Trump has created a tiger, since he has sown enough seeds of mistrust and doubt, he will invariably seize on the initial numbers rather than wait for a final tally. Once he claims victory, much like Florida being called in 2000, it will be next to impossible to dispute his claim — or, at the very least, being called the winner first gives him the advantage to cause doubt, chaos, and maintain control.
- Republicans have overtly, explicitly, admitted to, and engaged in, voter suppression.
From California’s fake ballot drop-boxes to the long lines in predominantly Black cities and communities — places and spaces that are not Republican — we are being reminded that Republican/Trump voters are valued, and that the rest of us can only hope that our vote counts.
- Voter suppression is targeted, real, and disproportionately impacts traditional non-Republican voters.
Again, if voter suppression is targeted at a demographic not likely to vote for Trump, then . . . you can finish that sentence.
- The electoral college has created a system where overwhelmingly white states are powerful states.
Later, we can debate the merits of one person-one vote vs. the electoral college, a system founded and created in response to human traffickers wanting their enslaved property to be considered enough of a person to give them government power and recognition, but not enough consideration to acknowledge or hint that they actually owned people. Nevermind, the origins or merits of the system.
The electoral college has produced the concept of “swing” states, and “battleground” states. Depending on who you ask, they vary a bit, but generally those states are: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin. These states, above all others, decide the outcome of our presidency.
And what is their racial/ethnic composition: Arizona (77% white), Florida (75% white), Michigan (78% white), Ohio (82% white), North Carolina (68% white), Pennsylvania (80% white); Wisconsin (80% white).
The people overwhelmingly deciding the presidency are white — not just because we have effectively disenfranchised communities of color, or engaged in targeted campaigns to suppress people of color from voting, or even that we don’t provide the same representation and effective voting power to those in Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico (a combined total population of 4 million votes that are disproportionately Black and Latinx/Hispanic); rather, it’s just a matter of over-representation in the states that historically decide the election.
And what do we know about the white vote? We know that 58% of all white voters voted for Trump in 2016 — and by sex/gender, we know that 63% of white men voted for Trump and 53% of white women voted for Trump. This is in stark contrast to the 9% of Black people that voted for Trump.
And before anyone chimes in and says but COVID, and 2020, and what about BLM this summer? Stop at that last point.
What else do we know about the white vote, excuse me, about history in general? We know that Trump was the hallmark result of what is known as “whitelash” — white backlash.
As Carol Anderson has so rightfully illustrated in her work White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide:
“The trigger for white rage, inevitably, is black advancement. It is not the mere presence of black people that is the problem; rather, it is blackness with ambition, with drive, with purpose, with aspirations, and with demands for full and equal citizenship. It is blackness that refuses to accept subjugation, to give up. A formidable array of policy assaults and legal contortions has consistently punished black resilience, black resolve.”
The fuzzy feelings of our solidarity and progress have fizzled; there has already been a rapid decline of support for Black Lives Matter — not even 6 months after its height. And the reality is that Kyle Rittenhouse is actually part of a historical pattern of what happens when the oppressed congregate and demand equality, or in the excerpt, when one merely dares to aspire and succeed — reference: Black Codes as a response to the end of slavery, the Tulsa Massacre, the Ocoee Massacre, or for a more modern rendition consider our continued acceptance of white flight and the consequences of segregated communities.
Yes, history shows that white voters were already in Trump’s court, and history has shown us that when people of color, particularly Black people, are making gains, there will be pushback — and what better way to pushback than to vote for Trump?
- 35 days.
We have 35 days to finalize our count and accept the results — to proceed as normal as possible. No matter the results, we have 35 days.
Since 2020 has already felt like 35 years, I cannot imagine the doubt, deception, and dispute that will ensue between November 3rd and December 8th. Trump refuses to concede, Trump declares victory regardless of what the polls say, Trump has the initial count because as we know Republicans will be counted first as they are the overwhelming majority of in-person election day voters — whatever happens initially, determines the dominoes to follow, and if we end up with states choosing our president, or in front of the Supreme Court, we end up with post-election Trump-favor.
- Polls are garbage.
We all know that the weeks before the 2016 election the polls did not predict or show a Trump win. Four years later when only the most ardent Trump supporters are vocal, we do have to reconcile, or posit, that given 2016 and given hyper-polarization, official polls and even unofficial social media posting or personal conversations cannot give us a true picture of just how much Trump surrounds us.
I’m not saying they’re everywhere, or there is such a thing as a “silent majority”. Rather, I’m saying that any poll showing Biden in a landslide, or merely winning, could be enough to discourage or dissuade voters that they’re not needed; or, that we have enough Trump-ers feeling guilt or shame or avoiding confrontation that they may not respond truthfully. Or, more generally and informally: polls are garbage — reference: 2016.
Now all of this is to say: Can Trump lose? Sure. But I’m not holding my breath over the possibility.
The only scenario where defeat can be irrefutable and non-negotiable is a landslide.
Essentially, we need a scenario where all the formidable voter suppression tactics — one ballot box per county, fake ballot boxes, notarized signatures, purged voter rolls — will have actually not been enough, or failed. We need swing state voters (disproportionately white voters), Republican voters (disproportionately white voters), former and current Trump supporters (disproportionately white voters), to come out en masse and vote against Trump. We need the first image and the first call and the first count to be decidedly not Trump. That is our best bet . . .
Otherwise, the seeds planted and the system designed are overwhelming in Trump’s favor . . . and since the system couldn’t acknowledge, in the moment, swiftly, and fiercely, that a global leader on a global stage was sowing hate, since the system that made Trump possible is the same system still in place, since we’re celebrating people waiting hours to vote rather than crying out at a system designed to fatigue us out of voting, I’m going to say Trump has a damn good chance of winning, or “winning”, and either way, he’s president.