Mon, Jun

Political Fatigue And Our Electoral Future


GELFAND’S WORLD - It's a little more than a year to the 2024 presidential election, and people are already sick of it. They are sick of the topic and probably don't even want to read an article about Trump fatigue and Biden fatigue.

But let's persevere, at least for the moment and consider a couple of things that aren't talked about sufficiently.

There is a small, quiet movement on the left to find somebody younger than Joe Biden, in spite of the demonstrable fact that Biden is the moderate-left version of a dream president. But he is old, and getting older. Sunday, on Meet the Press, one midwestern congressman called for younger leaders to enter the Democratic presidential primary. He spoke of midwestern governors who could compete in their own states, which would otherwise be swing states.

Then there is the response on the other side to the avalanche of Trump indictments, now at 78 felony counts and soon to be somewhere in the 80s or 90s.

Here's my fatigue: Trump has been crowing that every time a new indictment comes down, he does better in the polls. The other day, he predicted that a fourth set of indictments (over the Georgia presidential election) would carry him over the finish line.

Considering recent polls showing that Trump vs Biden is, at the moment, a dead heat, Trump has some reason to brag.

But let's consider an alternative prediction. There is the suggestion that this is, to dig up an old cliche, whistling past the graveyard. A column by Dean Obeidallah suggests that Trump's current bounce is analogous to a "sugar high," in the sense that it won't last.

That does not mean that the accumulating tensions will prevent Trump from cruising to the Republican presidential nomination. He has a strong grip on his own party.

But the Republican Party is a minority party which needs other voters to win in a national election, as was demonstrated once again in 2020. That group of people referred to as "independent voters," have been showing a drift away from support for Trump. We should remember that most so-called "independent" voters are actually attached to one or the other of the major parties -- they just don't announce it publicly through party registration. That's why we don't see violent swings in non-party voters from one election to the other.

But we are seeing frustration and fatigue among a certain fraction of one-time Trump independents. There is reason to believe that the accumulation of serious criminal charges against Trump will have a substantial effect on the eventual Trump vote should he win the nomination. Even traditional Republicans are worn down from the last seven years of fighting.

Just to come back to Biden fatigue for a moment, I sense that voters would be more than happy with a candidate who is in his fifties or sixties. They fear the effects of age on Biden both in his functioning as president and in the danger it presents to his reelection. Still, I suspect that the vast majority of Democratic voters would accept a slightly damaged Joe Biden over another Trump presidency, but they fear the effect of Biden's speech patterns in the election race.

It's too bad that Biden wasn't 20 years younger when he was anointed as the front runner for the 2020 election. But he wasn't, and we will have to sit idly by and watch the conservative propaganda machine try to whittle him down to nothing by commenting on every misstatement and fall.

It has been and will continue to be tiresome.

And consider that the net effect of all this frustration and fatigue is a volatile electorate.

Returning to the other party, we should consider the potential schism within Republican ranks. The argument will come down to something like the following: It's true that there are lots of people in government who dislike and oppose Donald Trump, but that does not mean that all the prosecutors are motivated purely by animosity, or are dishonest in the way they work. That's what Donald Trump is trying to sell, but there must be some Republicans who aren't so cynical.

Or to put it another way, not everyone is into conspiracy thinking. And it is the more rational, non-conspiratorial voters who will drift away from support for Trump. They may come home to the Republican Party in the general election because they still are against taxes and abortions, but this is a statistical thing. A certain fraction of loyal Republican voters will avoid voting for Trump. The only question is whether it is one percent or five percent.

There is a dedicated group of Trump supporters who have been likened to a cult, in the sense that they fulfill many of the defined characteristics -- slavish devotion to a single leader, belief in conspiracies against their movement, turning away from logic and what we might call common sense. They are making their beliefs clear at the present moment by supporting Trump as their presidential candidate, in spite of the indictments. But the rest of us are weary beyond belief of listening to them.

Who is the Donald?

This is another topic which has become exhausting, but I think there is one more comment to be made.

A word about Trump and what guides him. I'll stay away from the psychological stuff about narcissism and all that, and just consider his upbringing. Everything we know about Trump's father says that he was a crook who taught crookedness to Donald. Don't admit to anything, don't apologize, don't worry about telling the truth about things. Money and the abuse of the legal system will get you through.

Here's the thing. That worked pretty well in the business setting. Back before the 2016 election, stories came out about Trump stiffing his contractors. He would pay for the work up to a certain point, and then he would stop paying. "So sue me," was his approach, and many of his victims took the loss rather than fronting the legal costs.

I guess it got to be a habit. Donald Trump learned that he could get away with just about anything. In other words, he really believed that for somebody born rich like him, the law does not apply.

But things are different at the level of national politics and government. There are newspaper reporters and editors keeping track of your every move. Something as seemingly trivial as your daily schedule becomes an item of public interest. Having a business (like a hotel, for example) that accepts money from foreign governments is considered to be questionable behavior.

And Trump continued with these behaviors, and more.

And that's where the election interference comes in. Trump's phone call to Georgia to ask for eleven thousand votes seemed normal to him. He calls it "a perfect phone call." How could it be "perfect" unless you consider it from the standpoint of a robber baron?

His attempt to subvert the presidential election by strong-arming Mike Pence was, to him, just business as usual, even if it was subversion to most of the rest of us.

It's now up to the voters to recognize Trump's behavior for what it is -- habitually criminal -- and to decide whether an anti-abortion and anti-tax candidate who commits felonies is worth voting for.

(Bob Gelfand writes on science, culture, and politics for CityWatch. He can be reached at [email protected].)

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