The rat race continues. The Democratic primaries are as chaotic as when they started, despite candidates like Andrew Yang and Deval Patrick dropping out and congealing the vote. Michael Bloomberg, despite missing the deadline for the first four states, has paid his way into double digit polls and is determined to unseat his longtime friend and golf partner, Donald Trump. Understandably, there’s a lot of buzz surrounding this election cycle. It’s almost excessive, with the divide between moderates and progressives of the Democratic Party and its rabid infighting causing even more coverage. But I think much of the media, especially those who lean left, are focusing too much on the wrong election.
Of course, the Democratic nominee is an important aspect of the 2020 race, but many people are forgetting the bigger picture amid the selection process. People seem to think that running against the orange man will be a cakewalk. After all, he’s an incredibly flawed candidate with plenty of skeletons in his closet. But don’t be too sure. Winning against Trump will not be easy, as much as you may want it to be.
The Republican primaries are looking to be an easy sweep for Trump, despite former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld vying for the nomination as well. It’s not too common for an incumbent president to be challenged within their own party, but don’t let a small wing of dissidents persuade you that they’ll vote blue instead.
Trump’s turnout in New Hampshire was at an astounding 129,696 votes, nearly doubling Obama and Bush’s numbers as incumbents. Trump manages to stir up an energetic base that’s unrivaled by many candidates across the aisle. Joe Biden, who was thought to be the frontrunner for the first months of the primary race, pales in comparison when it comes to passionate voters. It’s utterly pathetic. Rising star Pete Buttigieg, who shocked the nation with his turnout in Iowa and New Hampshire, can’t meet the numbers the incumbent has. His 4,500 attendees in Utah doesn’t match Trump’s 11,000 attendees (not 50,000 like he claims) in New Hampshire. Amy Klobuchar’s campaign, despite its growing momentum, only has crowds that number about 1,000 people. The only candidate to truly have the energy to rival Trump seems to be Bernie Sanders, with over 17,000 people showing up at his rally in Washington state. It’s not entirely fair to compare crowd sizes from states with vastly different demographics, but 11,000 in a state as small as New Hampshire should set off alarms for the Democrats. In the 2016 primary, Sanders drew larger crowds than former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, but she still won the nomination. Rallies can be misleading. But, one can still evaluate the enthusiasm and energy behind a candidate’s campaign, and many of the competitive Democrats simply can’t gather crowds.
The impression that the election will be easy is an intuition formed by unfavorable polls and nonstop criticisms of him and his policies. Trump has been consistently unpopular for most of his four years, but things are starting to shift. Against all odds, even through his impeachment in the House, the president’s approval is at the highest it’s been since his election. His approval is now in the margin of many other two-term presidents before their re-election. One of the “strengths” of his campaign is economic growth. Even if the economic voter is becoming less of a factor, I’d imagine many people still weigh their vote heavily on how they think the economy is doing. The stock market has been on a perpetual rise since 2013, hitting all-time highs consistently. Trump loves to take credit for a better economy, citing the stock market and job creation. The validity of his claims is, of course, questionable. A similar period of 30 months under Obama’s presidency actually saw more jobs created than Trump, 6.5 million compared to 5.8 million. The stock market is doing well, yes, but it’s almost delusional to believe that it has any real impact on working people. The stock market has seen a growth of 42 percent under Trump’s presidency, but wages have only increased by 9 percent. But despite the facts, Trump has seen increased support due to his trickle-down policies. In a recent poll conducted by The Washington Post and ABC News, 56 percent of people looked favorably upon his economy. It’s a tall order convincing people to vote for limits on an economy they think is doing well, and Democrats need to find a way to combat his claims.
Trump is still viewed as unfavorable by women and people of color, just like in 2016. But it would be a foolish assumption to think their votes are guaranteed. Despite his egregious sexism, he managed to receive 52 percent of white women’s votes in 2016. Only white women, mind you, but that’s higher than one would expect. The same goes for Latinos, surprisingly. Black voters consistently dislike Trump, but Latino voters have been polling at 30 percent favorable for the incumbent president. It doesn’t sound like much — a majority still unwilling to vote for him — but the Democrats should be more concerned. It’s a bad habit for the Democrats to take the votes of women and people of color for granted. Despite their claims to represent the interests of marginalized groups, there is an element of racism that lets people believe the voting bloc is just a homogenous and guaranteed vote. But with the margins of victory for presidential elections in recent years getting smaller and smaller, every vote counts. Some of the frontrunners in the 2020 primaries are not doing well with people of color, specifically Buttigieg and Klobuchar. If the nomination goes to a candidate that can’t inspire non-whites to come out and vote, it could prove to be an Achilles heel for Democrats.
It worries me that so many people are taking this election for granted. It’s not hard to imagine Trump losing, but we said the same thing in 2016. Contemporary politics has proven to be the era of political upsets. Polls can be egregiously misleading and predictions can be horribly incorrect. Even within this election cycle, we’ve seen Biden slide from the frontrunner to a position in which his odds now seem insurmountable. This election needs to be taken seriously, and Trump needs to be taken seriously. Even though Trump may be playing tic-tac-toe rather than 4-D chess, even if he seems like an incompetent fool, even in the likelihood that his win was a fluke — a demagogue is still a demagogue. And if there’s one thing fearmongers do best, it’s persisting in the face of reality. Take at least this with you: Don’t get comfortable.
Sam Fogel can be reached at email@example.com.