But to pull it off, the President has to simultaneously deliver 2 almost completely conflicting messages to 2 separate sets of voters
- For one set, the messaging is designed to make them feel like voting is the most important thing in the world.
- For the other set, the messaging is designed to make them feel like voting is futile.
So the path to a Trump victory is really a blend of boosting turnout of his boosters, and successfully suppressing everyone else. Biden’s only way of winning is more people getting out and voting.
This isn’t exactly new. Trump was able to pull off a similar feat in 2016. Obviously, since he won. But it’s a little different now than back then. Because a lot of people were really not inclined to support Hillary Clinton even before Trump came along. If Biden has an immediate problem, it might be that even though he was President Obama’s Vice-President for 8 years, people don’t know him that well. Not so much that they do know him and don’t like him. So his hurdle might be to become front-of-mind for more people. When we were volunteering for Hillary Clinton’s campaign in Pennsylvania in 2016, the number #1 reason we heard from people who had decided voting wasn’t worth their time (and there were plenty), was that they didn’t want to be told what to do, and felt like they were being forced to vote for Hillary. We don’t think it’s quite that stark for Biden.
Still, it was real disappointing to us when we called a young friend of ours in Texas this weekend (she’s in her 20s), mainly because we wanted her to help us pick out new eyeglasses. At some point, the conversation turned to politics, and she became very disgusted and said she’s not voting because “It’s a joke and I feel like the people don’t have a choice”. And added: “You can go ahead and try to talk to me about it but I won’t listen or care.”
We kinda let that lie. But will definitely call her back at some point and listen and work on it. Because while we understand Joe Biden is not a “true” Progressive; perhaps not even as progressive as we ideally would want, he’s also not a bona fide lunatic. And the Trump administration at this point is brimming over with those. Chock full of people in “acting” positions because they’d never get approved the way the Constitution says they should, even by the Republican led Senate. Plus Trump family members (who will be on full display at the upcoming Convention), in always hazily defined positions.
We have a hard time seeing why Trump’s plunge over a cliff toward a pit that apparently has no bottom because he keeps going lower and lower, is so hard for a lot of people to see, still. His administration is not a bunch of people you disagree with vs. another group of Biden people you also disagree with. It’s people who are maniacs vs. at least relatively sane.
The only deeper explanation we can see without (yet) asking our friend for one is that Trump being President really hasn’t affected her life. Her job’s secure and the same; even down in Texas, she still doesn’t know anyone who’s died from COVID-19. While we–up North, in a different age group—were directly touched by deaths of people we knew multiple times in the few first weeks of the pandemic.
And we guess it’s hard to rouse yourself to vote for people you recognize as same-as-always (even if they’re running against people you despise)? Especially if it means possibly waiting in a long line or making the effort to figure out where you have to go to do early voting. Especially in Texas, which will not allow fear of contracting COVID-19 as an acceptable excuse to get an absentee ballot. We were thinking maybe at least our friend would make an effort to fill out an absentee ballot even if she won’t go to early vote or stand in line on Election Day.
We follow this stuff pretty closely, and we know our friend does not work in the same county in which she lives, and absence from your home county is a valid excuse in Texas. But still, they make it tricky: if you’re going to be voting absentee with that excuse, they will not send your ballot to your home, they will only send it to an address outside your county. Upshot? Unless we can work some magic, or someone can appeal to her (perhaps as a peer) in a more persuasive way, hers is a potential Biden vote that will be lost to a lack of enthusiasm.
And that lack of enthusiasm is something Trump’s very actively trying to promote.
Starting late last week–as the Democratic National Convention started going off better than expected, and the Republican National Convention started being right around the corner—then really exploding into the weekend, we started seeing a real ramping up of some disturbing and persistent messaging ringing through our social media feeds that we’d hoped we were done with after 2016. And that’s that Joe Biden won’t really change anything, there’s still really no difference between the two big parties, you might as well let things crash and burn with Trump, which then could lead to real change, but for now it’s still not really worth voting.
So let’s take a pause to get this straight for a second:
- Joe Biden will completely “destroy the American way of life.”
- Joe Biden will never take any “truly real” action.
(Oh, and also, Kamala Harris isn’t really Black.)
Because wherever all this originated, it’s all now being swept in and spit out by Trump and/or the powers that support him. Whether through direct appeals, or internet ads, or bot-led chatter. And yes, the key points are completely contradictory. Yet Trump expects to get away with it. And in fact, win again with it.
Simple—and this is something he is very good at—dividing up America and talking to different groups separately. He’s using the ability to target different online audiences with different messages, which each will respond to based on their own well-defined personal beliefs and philosophies.
In this world, there is no such thing as a “silent majority”; there’s no such thing as a silent anything.
Because even if people believe their political and lifestyle beliefs are closely held, they’re not at all. The “free” internet tools and platforms they’re using know everything about their beliefs and habits. And even though some of these very same people won’t wear a mask because it’s an affront on their “freedoms”, they have explicitly given internet companies permission to gather, use and sell information about all parts of their lives. And that allows Trump to hit them with a high degree of precision. And more importantly, at any moment when they might be wavering.
How does the President prevent his messages from bleeding over, with the danger being one group somehow hearing what he wants the other group to hear? Especially since it’s opposite?
That’s the beauty of it: he doesn’t have to. If someone is convinced Joe Biden won’t actually change anything so there’s no point voting (Trump’s message), should they “accidentally” hear Trump say Joe Biden will change everything (also Trump’s message), they won’t believe it. So it won’t matter. Conversely, if someone who believes Joe Biden’s election would transform America into a socialist hell hole (Trump’s message), hears there’s no difference really between Biden and Trump (also Trump’s message), they too won’t believe it.