By all accounts, if the poll data is correct, Hillary Clinton ought to win November’s presidential election at a canter:
Having been holding his own right up to the conventions, Trump appears to have gone into meltdown while Hillary just carried on as usual. Senior Republicans are urging their party to abandon their own candidate – who, it should be remembered, won the nomination hands down – having seemingly conceded the presidential race and are looking to shore up their own positions in the Senate and House. How this is supposed to demonstrate that a party is fit to govern is anyone’s guess: if the Democrats sweep the next elections, the clueless Republicans will only have themselves to blame.
At this point one would normally say that unless major revelations come out about Clinton between now and November, the election is in the bag for her. Only major revelations about Clinton have been coming out on a weekly basis for as long as I’ve been paying attention and none of them seems to have damaged her in the polls at all. Quite what a Democrat candidate would need to do in order to experience a collapse in the polls is a question worth pondering.
But with all that said, and Trump being written off, I still think there’s room for a surprise here. Trump trotted into the Republican nomination in part because many Republican voters and conservatives were fed up of their representatives in both houses pandering to the Democrat agenda, and they felt the other Republican candidates were basically Democrats wearing a different hat and very much part of the same Establishment. By abandoning Trump and endorsing Clinton, these rebelling Republicans have now gone and proved it. If Trump doesn’t represent an electable Republican, these “moderate” Republicans who are throwing their toys out of the pram make him look like Ronald Reagan.
Where I think the surprise might come from is people putting too much faith in polls, social media, and the traditional media. The heavy defeat suffered by Labour in the 2015 UK General Election came as a complete surprise to everyone – not least the pollsters, who were confident right up the exit polls that it would be either a hung parliament or a narrow Labour victory. The next morning, social media was filled mainly with those wailing about the result, as was a good chunk of the mainstream media. Many questions were raised about how this happened, how all the experts, commentators, and pollsters had somehow missed the mood of the country.
Only the same thing happened again in June when the UK voted to leave the EU by a margin of just under 4% on a turnout of an impressive 72.2% (the turnout in the 2015 General Election was 66.4%, and in 2001 just 59.4%). In the build up to the vote, every major political party, newspaper, and TV station came out in favour of remaining, and countless experts, business leaders, and other commentators both domestic and foreign maintained a continuous, overwhelming narrative of doom and disaster should Britain vote to leave. The Leave side were dismissed by the entire Establishment and political classes as being backward racists who didn’t understand anything, and even Barack Obama weighed in on the side of Remain in an episode that did little to alleviate historical British complaints of American cack-handedness. On the night of the vote it appeared the Leave campaign would have no chance against such an onslaught…yet Britain awoke on the morning of 24th June to discover that they’d won. As with the Conservative victory in May 2015, social media and most traditional outlets were dominated for the week by two themes: much wailing from the losing side, and utter incomprehension as to how this happened. In the case of Brexit, the message was effectively:
“How did these backward, ignorant racists win? All the right thinking, smart people voted to remain!”
There is no concrete explanation for how the Establishment, media, experts, and pollsters got things so badly wrong and failed to gauge the mood of the country, but I suspect it went something like this. Having dominated the media for so long, sealed themselves off from opposing views, shouted the loudest on social media, and sought to outlaw views deemed unacceptable, the Establishment and their supporters have forced their opponents into hiding. Most ordinary folk are just trying to go about their lives, earn a living, and support their families, and aren’t interested in social justice crusades and slanging matches across the Interwebs. Nor are they interested in being berated by complete strangers for holding quite reasonable political views, and in an increasingly hostile climate they have taken to remaining silent rather than answer questions or respond accurately to pollsters. Even somebody as thick-skinned and obnoxious as myself has occasionally found it is better just to nod along with some idiotic left-wing opinion than to mention I’m of an altogether different political stripe. Better just to shut up and take full advantage of the secret ballot.
This isn’t anything new. The “shy Tory” has been a phenomenon for years, but I think with the spread of social media, the particular vindictiveness with which the Establishment and their supporters operate in contrast to ordinary people, and the increasingly repressive restrictions on expressing (or even merely holding) opinions which to many people are quite reasonable has greatly increased this effect. We’ve seen it in action twice in the UK, and although the US is not the same place I am wondering whether this most unusual of elections will reveal that the conditions are much the same over there.
For now we have almost the entire Establishment: politicians, business leaders, the media, celebrities, religious figures, foreign elites, all telling us that Trump will be a disaster and under no circumstances should anyone who doesn’t want to murder all minorities vote for him, and all the polls, commentators, and experts are telling us Hillary is set to win by a mile. Only I have an inkling that this sort of thing is precisely what propelled Trump to the nomination in the first place, and is precisely the sort of thing that will seriously piss off the great, silent minority into turning out to vote for him for no other reason than to tell the Establishment they are tired of being insulted and ignored. It could be I’m entirely wrong and the polling data will reflect how people actually vote, but I think this election could throw up a surprise or two yet.