The big campaign story coming out of Labor Day weekend in the states was the leveling of the playing field:
An interesting turn of events, and probably a bit of a shocker to anyone who’s been relying on DR’s ace U.S.A. correspondent Steffen Kretz for their sense of where the American election is headed. That’s because Kretz wrote a piece heading into the weekend entitled, “Analyse: 4 grunde til at Biden holder fast i føringen over Trump.”
Not everything Kretz has to say in the article is entirely wrong, but each of his four reasons, when considered without all the wishful thinking of a leftist establishment partisan, contains within it the possibility of working against Biden rather than for him.
And one must never forget Obama’s own warning not to “underestimate Joe’s ability to fuck things up.”
“1. Budskab om heling.”
Kretz seems to assume that Biden’s visit to Kenosha was a net political plus for the candidate because he met with Jacob Blake’s family without press attendance. This he compares favorably to Trump’s visit to Kenosha, which was terrible because it was mostly a photo session with police in front of a burnt-out store.
The assumption behind that calculation is that Americans are as one-sided on things as Steffen Kretz is. They are not.
Jacob Blake probably shouldn’t have been shot at seven times, but Jacob Blake probably shouldn’t have attacked the police. And he probably shouldn’t have sexually assaulted Laquisha Booker back in May, or violated his restraining order by paying her the ill-fated visit we’ve all heard so much about. The idea that a candidate meeting with the Blakes is inherently good and healing while a meeting with police is inherently bad and divisive is, like almost everything else in the establishment media these days, a ridiculous over-simplification.
Kretz points out that Americans want an end to racism and police brutality, which is certainly true. He doesn’t mention that Americans aren’t crazy about sex crimes (remember #metoo?) or restraining order violations, and that most Americans, especially black Americans, actually want the same or more police presence in their communities.
The media seem to have a hard time handling complex ideas like, “people can support the police and oppose police brutality” or “people don’t think suspects should physically attack police, but neither do they think police should shoot suspects seven times in the back.” Or even, “assaulting a woman by jamming a couple of fingers up her vagina is bad, and violating a restraining order is also bad, and fighting off cops is bad, but every suspect has a right to his day in court and is innocent until proven guilty.”
People don’t have as hard a time processing complicated ideas as the media seem to think they do. (At least people who don’t live on Twitter.)
To say that Joe Biden will benefit politically because of his “message of healing” assumes that Joe Biden is successfully communicating such a message. It also assumes that there are undecided voters out there who are buying it. That in turn would require that undecided voters watched Joe Biden ignoring the police and cozying up to a guy wanted for sexual assault and thought, “that’s some quality healing.”
Kamala Harris took it a step further and said she was “proud of” Blake and his family. Do you think Laquisha Booker felt the full healing power of that? She didn’t have to think Blake deserved to be shot repeatedly in the back to think the guy who forced his fingers into her vagina wasn’t the kind of guy anyone ought to be proud of.
(For a thorough and thoughtful deep dive into the full complexity of this issue, see Rav Arora’s “Police Violence and Rush to Judgment” on Quillette.)
“2. Bombardement af tv-reklamer“
In 2016, Hillary Clinton’s campaign and supporting organizations spent almost twice as much as Donald Trump’s campaign and organizations. That ought to have put an end to the idea that American elections go to the highest bidder.
Kretz explains that Biden is spending millions of dollars on television ads in battleground states promoting himself as a guy who wants to reform the police while condemning violence and vandalism, in response to Trump’s efforts to portray Biden as a Trojan Horse for the extremist left.
Kretz says it seems to be working.
He produces no evidence that it’s working: he simply says it.
“3. Økonomi og pandemi overskygger“
Kretz acknowledges that Americans want law and order, but that it’s not what they want most. “Det amerikanerne frygter mest,” he says, “er den økonomiske krise, som har kastet ca. 10 % ud i arbejdsløshed og lukket hver sjette lille virksomhed.”
The Wall Street Journal says: “In August, 48% said [Trump] was the candidate best able to deal with the economy, 10 percentage points more than said so of Mr. Biden.”
The same article notes that polls still show more people saying they would vote for Biden, regardless of the economy.
This suggests that, at least for the voters who think that Trump would handle the economy better than Biden but intend to vote for Biden anyway, the economy obviously isn’t the most important issue.
The pandemic, on the other hand, is obviously a very big concern to everyone, and Biden does poll better than Trump on that.
But if Trump beats Biden on the economy, and Biden beats Trump on the pandemic, isn’t that a draw? Can we really call such a split decision “a reason why Biden will keep his lead in polls?”
“4. Alt kan ske endnu – men…“
Kretz’s fourth “reason” is a little convoluted. He points out that voting by mail will begin in a few days (the article was published a week ago), and that roughly half of all voters are expected to vote by mail. This will change the dynamic, he explains, because so many voters will have cast their ballots so early that the effect of any “October surprise” will be reduced compared to other presidential elections. This means that voters’ attitudes two months before the election matter more than they normally would.
That’s mostly true, I guess.
Kretz seems to be implying that because Biden is leading in the polls now, it’s more significant than it normally would be because voting is going to begin soon (has in fact by now begun).
That may also be true. But it may be false. There’s never been this level of early voting, and no one can claim to have any idea how it’s going to play out. I don’t know. You don’t know. Steffen Kretz doesn’t know.
But this is his fourth “reason” why Biden’s going to hold onto his lead.
# # #
The only people who think Biden is doing any healing are people already predisposed to think the best of Biden. The success of television advertising is not a given: no amount of television ads could persuade Americans to drink the “New Coke” back in 1985, and the 2016 Clinton campaign’s massive ad buys weren’t enough to get the job done in the states that mattered most. Trump’s poll strength on the economy offsets Biden’s strength on the pandemic. Early mail-in voting is new territory: there’s no way of knowing how whom it’s going to benefit (if anyone).
In short, Kretz’s four reasons why Biden is going to hold onto his lead over Trump aren’t “reasons” at all, which is probably why Trump began to gain some ground in the polls almost as soon as Kretz’s piece was published.
That’s not to say he might not lose ground again as soon as I post this. My point is that (once again) DR is publishing their Chief USA Correspondent’s wish-casting as a straight political analysis.
The real tell in this “analysis” is that there’s not a single mention of the elephant in the room: a majority of Americans believe that Joe Biden is in the early stages of dementia.
The campaign is only reinforcing that belief by keeping him off the campaign trail and preventing live candidate interactions with the press and the public. He continues to misread his teleprompter and frequently becomes flustered when forced to speak without prepared texts. He reads stage directions out loud. He’s visibly a husk of his former self. I don’t know the state of his mental or physical health, and neither does Steffen Kretz, but it’s hard to take any analysis of Biden’s ability to hang on to his lead very seriously when the question of whether he’s able to hang onto his marbles is completely ignored.
# # #
This seems as good a place as any to inject a little speculation of my own.
Let’s say Biden turns out not to have been doing as well as they keep saying he is. Let’s say he says or does something in public that doesn’t just concern voters, but alarms them. It’s hardly outside the realm of possibility. And again, I’m not saying it’s going to happen, I’m simply wondering if. If it does happen. What then? If indeed his health has been deteriorating as badly as some have been speculating, and if it becomes impossible to ignore between now and election day, what happens?
I wonder this not because I think it will be an irrecoverable shock to the republic in practical terms–I’m sure if his health is really that bad, then his campaign and the DNC and the upper levels of Democrat leadership know it and must have contingency plans in place. No, I wonder not about the practical side of things, but the intangible side: if Americans find out in October that Joe Biden really is deteriorating so badly that he simply cannot serve as president, regardless of what that means in terms of his candidacy, what will it mean in terms of Americans’ faith in the Democratic party and its leadership, and with the media that went along with the weird rules of his strange press appearances?
It would obviously tank. And anyone with a couple of little gray cells to rub together can see that. Which suggests that either he really is fine, which makes a lot of things about his campaign even harder to understand, or else he truly is in rough shape and the DNC, the Democratic leadership, and a lot of the establishment media are complicit in one of the most atrocious deceptions in American political history.
Time will tell.