Day 41: Ignore The Polls

Remember all those presidential polls in 2016 showing Hillary winning or enjoying a slight but reassuring lead?  Remember the sickening shock of Election Night when, instead, Trump won?  Remember how afterward pollsters and news organizations declared “Mea culpa,” because their polls had failed to register crucial facts about what the candidates and the electorate were thinking and doing?  Hillary trusted the polls.  As a consequence, she became complacent and ran a poor ground game in states that she took for granted and lost.

Since then, the best polling sites have supposedly upped their game (and hedged their bets) by using more sophisticated and nuanced models.  Nonetheless, relying on polls remains dangerous because they are based on information that is always a little bit old.  It’s a little bit thin.  It’s always a bit scattered. It tends to be crude.   Meanwhile, the 2020 race will hinge on up-to-the-minute efforts by the nominees and their parties in specific localities.  This is how Trump won last time: by building on microlevel advantages in several key states, and leveraging those advantages into state-level wins.

Now Trump and his backers are at it again.  In Wisconsin, Republicans are mounting a concerted door-t0-door campaign to get out the vote, where, later this month, the state supreme court will hear arguments on whether to purge some 180,ooo voters from registration rolls.  Trump backers have pleaded with judges to limit ballot collection boxes and disqualify mail-in ballots lacking a secrecy envelope in Pennsylvania.  Finally, in the crucial matter of voter registration, the New York Times is reporting that in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan, “overall registration is up by 6 points through August compared to the 2016 cycle, but net Democratic registrations are down by 38 percent. That’s about 150,000 fewer additional Democrats than were added in 2016.”  Surprising numbers of whites without college degrees are registering, a demographic that went heavily for Mr Trump in 2016.  Such are the unobtrusive developments that will make all the difference in this election–developments that even the best polling, which focuses mainly on opinion, cannot capture.  The fate of the US will hinge on last-minute, local actions occurring in real time.

So, if you care about the future of the United States, please ignore the polls.  Act on your fears and redouble your efforts to get out the vote for Joe.

Thomas B. Edsall, “Five Things Biden and His Allies Should Be Worried About” (NYT)
Barton Gellman, “The Election That Could Break America,” (The Atlantic)

Image: from this source.

Day 44: The Non-Voters

Cartographer Philip Kearney has put together this map showing the scale of non-voting in the presidential election of 2016. In that election, the percent of Americans who could have voted but didn’t far exceeded the percentage of votes cast for either Trump or Clinton. Each grey county represents where the sentiment of apathy exceeded the votes cast for any one candidate. 

Overall, according to a Knight Foundation report, Americans eligible to vote behaved this way in 2016:

41.3%  Didn’t Vote
28.5%  Voted for Clinton
27.3%  Voted for Trump
02.9%  Voted for Another Candidate

The inset on Kearney’s map shows that only in a few states did active sentiment for one candidate or the other truly prevail.

Image: from this source.
Republished with permission.

Day 48: Don’t Just Vote, Volunteer

I think of 2020 as “the year of everything,” when nearly every day brings news of something bizarre or extraordinary. Beginning with the impeachment and the pandemic, continuing on with the protests following the police killing of George Floyd, now with the unprecedented West Coast forest fires, historic events are reshaping US society. How peculiar that all this is happening while many of us are cooped up at home, with many of our normal channels for congregating, communicating, and witnessing closed.

How, though, will COVID affect the November election and the anti-Trump campaign? It’s possible that, even as the candidates themselves do less, stay-at-home conditions may foster an unprecedented political mobilization. For some of us, staying at home results in our having more time. Once we have figured out how to cast our own ballots safely, we have plenty of time to influence how one of our nation’s most crucial presidential contests turns out.

The Biden campaign can’t pivot quickly enough to come up with a brand new style of voter mobilization. That’s where new initiatives like The Last Weekends come in. The Last Weekends is a consortium of left-leaning and anti-Trump activist groups that in 2018 pioneered its signature approach to getting out the vote, mobilizing volunteers nationally to work together in concert on the last three weekends prior to Election Day. That year, voter enthusiasm helped turn the US House blue.

Now the group is back, with an impressive platform aimed squarely at dealing an electoral defeat to Trump and spineless Republican Senators. Visit the Last Weekends website to find location-specific ways to volunteer.

If you are a committed Democratic voter, you may also like the Swing Left website. There, enter your zip code to learn the most effective ways to volunteer / give during the 2020 campaign. Almost everything about Swing Left’s campaign, which includes hosted “events,” is virtual. Its focus is on a dozen or so “super states” that together will determine the outcome of the presidential election. Swing Left’s operations are compliant with the CDC’s COVID recommendations and prioritize personal safety and public health.

If you’re tired of Trump’s presidency, join the groundswell that will put Joe Biden in the White House. Don’t just stay at home, volunteer!

“Celebrities and progressive groups team up for (virtual) get-out-the-vote push” (NBC News)

Image: Carol Highsmith, “Old voting house on the Johnston property, where everyone in Washington County would go to cast their votes during the early 1900s.” Leroy, Alabama. From this source.