(I wrote this for the Urban News in November 2020.)
Well, thankfully, the hand wringing is over. For days after the election I had anxiety and nervousness. I was constantly checking my cell phone and the TV news networks and the old radio. Finally, it is over. Former VP Joe Biden won the presidential election!!! Sen. Kamala Harris has been elected to serve as vice president.
In the meantime, our current president has been … well, he has been himself. He has spun up conspiracy theories about our elections. The only conspiracy theory that he hasn’t thrown out there on Twitter or Facebook would include the one about the Klingons using their Star Trek transporter to magically cause millions of votes for Trump to vanish into thin air.
After the 2016 election, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out exactly what happened. Although Hillary Clinton was probably not the best progressive candidate, she was good. She had solid support. Of course, there were circumstances that she could not control, which included FBI director James Comey reopening an FBI investigation into her emails just weeks before the election. Yet there was something else that happened in that race. (Pun intended) Although the polls tightened, they really did not suggest a Donald Trump victory.
In their book Identity Crisis, authors John Sides, Lynn Vavreck, and Michael Tesler try to explain not just the fact that Trump won but how he won. They suggested that race played an incredibly large role in Trump’s victory. Trump won white men with only a high school education by a large margin. Trump connected with that demographic. Somehow, almost inexplicably, Trump also won suburban white women by a large margin. The 2016 presidential election was all about race.
Although we were promised that 2020 was going to be different, it may have been more the same. Prior to the election the national polls suggested that Joe Biden was way ahead of Donald Trump. The polls suggested that states like Texas and Florida were leaning Democratic. Yet Trump won Texas by six points and Florida by three points. Yes, some of this is within the polling margin of error, but there has to be something else going on, since it appears that every poll underestimated the Republican candidate. North Carolina Sen. Thom Tillis was trailing his Democratic rival in almost every single poll yet, somehow, he won the election. How were the polls so wrong? Some analysts have postulated a “shy Trump voter”—middle-of-the-road, average Republicans who simply wouldn’t admit to pollsters that they’d be voting for Trump. (I think that this explanation is popcock. Trump supporters are NOT shy.) Others have suggested underlying racism among the electorate that Trump appealed to—and those voters, too, wouldn’t admit they liked Trump for that reason.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the answer. All I know is that I’m not sure that it’s wise for anybody to trust polling until we figure out how to fix this problem. Some have suggested that caller ID is the problem. Thirty years ago, pollsters would expect that 50% of the calls that they made the person would hang up and not answer any questions. Now, pollsters expect that over 90% of their calls do not go through. This is a problem with telephone polls.
With all the craziness that happened with polling, it is kind of amazing that Georgia seems to have slid into the Democratic column. Georgia. It is actually kind of mind boggling. If Georgia can turn blue, any southern state can turn blue. Mississippi, Texas, Louisiana—they can all be blue. We still need to do more research in figuring out how Georgia was able to make this huge transformation, but it appears that Stacey Abrams, former gubernatorial candidate and former Minority Leader of the Georgia state House of Representatives, was a large part of the reason. (more…)