Thoughts on Recent Shifts in the Presidential Election

I’m setting out to write this post while listening to Kendrick Lamar, and as I’ve been trying to order my thoughts Lamar’s “Alright” came on like a bit of reassurance that the malaise that’s threatened to settle in over the past week is nothing of real consequence.

One of the things I do in my downtime at work (which is thankfully minimal; y’all, my new job is awesome) is browse the news and check in at FiveThirtyEight to see what the forecast for the 2016 presidential election looks like.  This habit has been pretty hard on my morale; the nearly eighty percent probability that Hillary Clinton will be elected president which was projected at the beginning of August has steadily declined so that at the time of this writing, it’s hovering just below sixty percent.  This is legitimately worrying stuff; events with a forty percent probability of happening occur all the time in real life.  The only question you can ask is whether FiveThirtyEight (or any other polling analyst) has a methodology that’s reliably accurate; that we’re trying to measure the outcome of a one-time event with a wide range of complex factors makes answering this question extremely difficult.  Most of the time it feels like there’s a heavy dose of fortune telling for the lay observer.

Especially confounding is all the bias present in whichever experts you want to appeal to for your answers.  For my part, I’ve been relying pretty heavily on analysis from Jamelle Bouie of Slate for guidance.  Bouie’s mantra throughout this election season has consistently been that we should pay attention to the polls; they’ve consistently predicted the results of each stage of the election (that is, back during the Republican primary, the polls said Trump would take the nomination despite disbelief from most corners of the politico world; and now in the general election season, they’ve been suggesting that Trump has a hard ceiling of about forty percent of registered voters), and they underline that the horse race between Clinton and Trump is not an especially close one regardless of what pundits want to say.

Clinton’s week of bad press with her “basket of deplorables” comment (which I maintain was the right and true thing to say) and the flap over her undisclosed pneumonia (that was avoidable and a perfect example of Clinton’s reflexive tendency towards secrecy coming back to bite her) has been a tough week to get through.  Like, I think, most people who oppose Donald Trump, I see Clinton as the best chance we have of avoiding electing a president who will be globally catastrophic (I know that sounds hyperbolic, but I continue to go back to the fact that Trump is clearly sympathetic to Russian interests, ignorant of and indifferent to the balance of power America has tried to construct with its alliances, and willing to use nuclear weaponry against America’s foreign enemies; these are not factors that are conducive to global stability).  The specter of any possibility that Clinton won’t win produces existential dread in me.

Of course, there’s more to this election that just fearing for the safety of the world.  If you back off from the apocalyptic, you’re still left with the fact that Donald Trump is the most overtly racist presidential candidate in modern memory.  He’s made it acceptable for white people to be openly racist where in the past if you wanted to express your bigotry you had to code it so you could maintain plausible deniability.  That’s not the case anymore.

I was talked with Rachael about this cluster of current events, and she pointed me towards some stuff on Twitter from the user @docrocktex26 (she goes by Propane Jane) discussing the state of the 2016 election.  A lot of what Propane Jane wrote dates back a month or two, and so doesn’t take into account the most recent events in the campaign, but I think her points are still quite salient.  Below are a couple of storified Twitter essays she’s put out that explore the importance of Black and Latinx voting blocs in preventing Trump from being elected this year.

Most of Propane Jane’s point about the significance of these demographics is effectively demonstrated in this tweet:

The “Angry White Dude” demographic isn’t big enough to overcome the coalition of people of color and women who will overwhelmingly vote against Trump.  He represents a real, overt threat to these groups’ well-being, and they aren’t going to take that lying down.  It’s highly probable that these demographics are in the process of getting out the vote to oppose Trump (based on the data available from both of Obama’s elections, Black voters are extremely mobilized when they are motivated by a presidential candidate; with Trump’s extensive anti-Latino rhetoric this past year, it makes sense that the two largest non-white demographics in the US would be highly motivated to mobilize to defeat him).

The takeaway from all this is supposed to be reassuring: people of color are very likely going to keep Trump from being elected.  Given that conclusion, the focus for white people like me now turns towards figuring out how to push back against the tide of overt racism that Trump has legitimized.  Rachael pointed out to me that probably the most effective way to do this is by using a method that women often ask male feminist allies to employ: when surrounding by your demographic peers, don’t allow social pressure to keep you from calling out racist or sexist language and behavior.  It carries a social cost (no one likes being the person to tell others they’re being jerks of one sort or another), but it’s necessary to keep casual and overt displays of bigotry from being normalized among peer groups.  I struggle to maintain this habit myself, which is no excuse.  I suppose I’m pointing it out here as a way of reminding myself that it’s a necessary commitment to being a good ally.

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