Earl Ofari Hutchinson
On September 12, 2016 I wrote in a detailed email to a friend that “Trump may win.” Few others said or believed that then. I ticked off a series of reasons why the impossible might just be the possible with Trump. Those reasons are listed below.
Nearly four years later the word again is the polls showing Biden running away with the race mean nothing. Trump drives that point home with his tout of all the “shy” voters who supposedly will come out election day and put him over the top again. Remember Hillary and 2016. The polls showed her with a near in the bag win. Almost no one, and that included much of the GOP establishment, most Democrats, most of the media, the polls, and even privately many in Trump’s camp, and that may have included Trump, gave him a realistic shot at the Oval Office.
He was the near textbook hyper misogynist, race and immigrant baiter, was odious to GOP party regulars, and lagged behind Clinton in most polls. Clinton by contrast was the consummate party Democratic party insider, had tons of campaign cash, and the Democratic party establishment behind her. There was the supposed magic of the Clinton name. We know the rest.
So, it’s against this backdrop that more than a few think 2020 may well play out the same way, with Trump edging Biden at the finish line. That won’t happen for the exact opposite reasons Trump stunned nearly all in 2016. Trump then was the consummate outsider, a brash, loud-mouth businessman, who held no political office. This was not a built-in handicap. This was a colossal plus with millions of voters who railed, grumbled, and were enraged at the real and perceived endemic Beltway political favoritism, cronyism, corporate and political insider deal making and secrecy. The perceived victims of this thumb the nose by lawmakers were white, less educated, Joe and Jane Blue collar worker and rural voter. Trump was their answer.
There was the deep anguish over the flight of industrial and manufacturing jobs to the far limits of the Earth. That left whole swatches of Mid-America looking like a second 1930s Dust Bowl. Many voters in the heartland states screamed loud to bring those jobs back. They longed for an outsider, a proverbial man on the white horse, who would drain the political putrescent swamp. Trump was there answer.
There was Hillary. The Clinton fatigue, the X factor of being a woman, when many women said that the presidency was a man’s job, and her poll negatives ran neck and neck with Trump’s. That hurt her. The lukewarm to cool perception among African-American voters toward her, many of whom stayed home on Election Day, that hurt even more.
There is always the ugly sewer of racism, nativist know nothingism, gender misogyny, frontier crudity, that courses just beneath the surface in America. Millions swim in that current. The election of Obama brought that stench rushing to the surface. They were repelled by him, his administration, and the very thought of an African American president. Trump was there answer.
Four years later, that’s changed. He’s not the ultimate outlier for many who will sweep things clean. He’s President Trump, not candidate Trump. He’s not the unknown factor that frustrated and disgusted voters were willing to roll the dice and take a chance on then. He’s a very known quantity, the political insider who fills up every news cycle, and a man who many have had four years to take the measure of. And they do not like what they see.
For much of his four years, Trump had one major get back to the White House card to play. That was a robust, humming economy, and lots of jobs. He could falsely claim full credit for supposedly ushering the good times in. The COVID debacle tossed that card. This isn’t all its done. It has made lots of voters steamed that their president ducked, dodged, diddled, and denied the danger and threat. This cost lots of lives and put thousands at unnecessary risk. Despite all his lies, finger pointing, and denials, Trump is still the man at the wheel and he still deservedly gets the heat for bungling the crisis and putting lives at risk.
Biden, for his part, is not Clinton. He has none of her negatives, and consistently scores high on the favorability scale. He has far exceeded the polling numbers Clinton had in the swing states. The polls this go round carefully measure “likely voters” not simply eligible voters.
Trump’s biggest ace card in 2016, though, was the race and immigration card that he played hard, ruthlessly, and sadly, successfully. He made clear that that card would be his back to the Oval Office card again. He’s played it repeatedly at his rallies, in endless tweets, bellicose diatribes in Fox Network interviews, and by embracing kooky, far out, murky racist groups and conspiracy theories. However, this is a worn-out act that’s been seen and heard so much that apart from his rabid base it is a turn off for many voters.
Biden is every bit the household name and the establishment politician that Clinton was. But he has none of her baggage. Trump is very much the household name he was in 2016 but with tons more baggage than he had even then. That’s why Election Day 2020 won’t be a repeat of that shocking day in 2016.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is the author of What’s Right and Wrong with the Electoral College: (Middle Passage Press) https://www.amazon.com/dp/B084KPWNMD
He is a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on Radio One. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles and the Pacifica Network