Monday, October 10, 2016

Three Things I'm Scared Of Right Now

A new NBC/WSJ poll taken in the aftermath of the Donald Trump sexual assault comments has Hillary Clinton up a whopping 11 points in a four-way race (it jumps to 14 points in a two way). FiveThirtyEight has her chances of winning the presidency at 82%; Daily Kos Elections has her at 94% (and while I wouldn't normally trust a partisan site like Daily Kos, DK Elections is the successor to the old "Swing State Project" site -- a group I very much trust and whom I'm found to be eminently impartial and reliable in their electoral analysis). The polls look good, and that makes me feel good.

But still worried. Here are three things that will keep me up at night until the moment Hillary Clinton gets a check mark next to her name on election day.

(1) From Brexit to the Columbia peace deal, this year it seems like polls have consistently underestimated the electoral allure of right-wing resentment. Do they underestimate it by enough to overcome an ever-widening Clinton lead -- and Clinton's far superior campaign organization and ground game? I don't think so, but who knows? This one boils down to "can I trust the polls", and while the answer to that isn't always yes, it's never reliably no, so I'm trying to put this one aside.

(2) If Trump wins, how much unrest will we see in America's streets? Trump's "Second Amendment" comment raised the question of whether his supporters would even accept a Clinton election (and it took a long time for him to say if he'd do so when answering that question directly in the first debate). But there is a simmering mix of anger and fear of a Trump presidency in many corners of America too -- anger that America has not been living up to its promises of equal justice under law, and fear that Trump is the manifestation of White Americans preference that we continue not to do so. If there are marches or demonstrations in American urban centers, we could see a genuine, military-style crackdown from a Trump administration. It's not like he has much care or respect for the bounds of law.

(3) Russians hacking the polling machines. This one might be my greatest fear, because even if we catch it, it would still throw our nation into chaos without clear route to recovery. The risk is real, and I'm honestly not sure why Russia wouldn't try it. Imagine how it would play out: We start seeing suspiciously high Trump numbers in precincts he shouldn't be close in. The President and the head of the CIA announce that they are sure that the polling machines have been compromised by a Russian intrusion. Does anyone think any Republican would believe it? They'd immediately go in on how Obama and Hillary are trying to steal the election! Even if the evidence of Russian tampering is clear, it will no doubt be technical and not amenable to "smoking gun" images or videos. Circumstances like this require trust in our governmental institutions, and the rise of Donald Trump is the rise of a large swath of Americans who have been willing to believe anything and everything about Obama, Clinton, and the entire federal government. There's no way they'd accept a hacking story, even if it was entirely true


Anonymous said...

Just responding to concern #1:

The Brexit polling was too close to call going into voting day and in fact showed Brexit winning over Remain in the polls where there was a clear leader. FARC deal had too many polling issues (hard to poll heavily rural areas w/ minimal access) to be accurately forecasted. We have an entirely different situation from both here.

Gabe said...

In addition to the above comment, I'd also note that Trump tended to underperform his polling in the primaries, and did poorly among late-deciding voters-- both of which seem to undercut the notion that Trump has some massive hidden support base among non-traditional voters that goes systematically undetected by the polls but materializes on Election Day.