Monday, October 28, 2019

Booing Trump in Washington: The Appearance isn't the Reality, But the Reality May Become the Appearance

Many of you saw that President Trump, who attended Game Five of the World Series in Washington yesterday, was roundly and loudly booed.
When the president was announced on the public address system after the third inning as part of a tribute to veterans, the crowd roared into sustained booing — hitting almost 100 decibels. Chants of “Lock him up” and “Impeach Trump” then broke out at Nationals Park, where a sellout crowd was watching the game between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros. 
For many of the folks on my Twitter feed, this was not just a feel-good moment (though it was). It was also highly symbolic -- proof that the President is weak, that he has lost the support of the people, and that maybe his grip on the GOP in the Senate might weaken just enough to make impeachment actually viable.

I remain skeptical. Partially, that's because I don't think congressional Republicans are responsive to anything remotely resembling "the popular will" at this point. But partially, it's because I know the demographics of the areas surrounding Washington DC. Below are the 2016 electoral margins of DC and surrounding counties (all went for Hillary Clinton):
Washington (DC): 91/4
Montgomery County (MD): 75/19
Prince George's County (MD): 88/8
Fairfax County (VA): 64/29
Arlington County (VA): 76/17
Alexandria City (VA): 76/18
This is an area of the country where (to its credit!) Trump has always been despised. And if anything relatively wealthy suburban professional counties have gotten even more sour on Trump since 2016, and I'd suspect relatively wealthy suburban professional counties surrounding DC to be "even more so" on that front. So it maybe doesn't tell us that much about the views of America as a whole if a stadium full of fans from places like DC, Montgomery County, and Fairfax loudly booed Donald Trump.

But if one is looking for a silver lining, here it is: it might not have to.

The appearance of widespread revulsion at Donald Trump doesn't match a reality where Americans, as a whole, are very different from DC metro residents, specifically.

But it is also the case that, as a matter of psychology, the appearance of widespread revulsion at Donald Trump can help move the needle on the reality, even in circumstances where that appearance is in many ways an artifact of local demographics.

Most people don't know the particular political orientation of the metro DC area. Most people just see a crowd full of regular Joes and Josettes who roundly despite the President, and take that as a data point that the President is despised by many, many regular folks. And we know in politics that people often follow herds -- the political positions they take are constrained by the set of political positions they know to be acceptable. Trump appearing weak can easily cascade into Trump being weak. And given that Trump really is weak -- perhaps not as overwhelmingly disliked as he would be at National Park, but certainly sporting consistently mediocre poll ratings -- a high-profile, high-salience event where Americans seemed to unite around thinking Trump is awful may well actually do real political work. Even if the appearance mostly is artificial.

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