Most of the polls say Donald Trump could lose the presidential election on Nov. 3. But they said the same thing in 2016, and he won. So all the predictions and bets made in these convulsive times carry a high risk.
The last poll conducted days ago by the independent Pew Center gives former Vice President Joe Biden a solid victory over Donald Trump. It puts Biden at 52 percent support among registered voters, compared to 42 percent for Trump, less than a month from the election. But we cannot forget that the polls four years ago said the same thing.
An AP poll published Oct. 26 2016 gave Hillary Clinton a 14-point lead over Trump. And that’s not how it ended. Trump remains an electoral mystery. There are people who don’t tell pollsters who they will vote for or hide their preferences. Pollsters say they have a “nonresponse bias.” The Pew report explained why the pollsters were wrong in 2016. “Some have also suggested that many of those who were polled simply were not honest about whom they intended to vote for. The idea of so-called ‘shy Trumpers’ suggests that support for Trump was socially undesirable.” it said.
It’s likely he still has a negative image. It’s not easy to defend, among friends or family or at work, a person who has made racist and sexist comments. Regardless of who it is. And Trump has made many. Yes, he did say in 2015 that Mexican immigrants were “rapists” and “criminals. He also said in 2017 that a march by neonazi and ultra-right group in Charlottesville included “very fine people on both sides.” And during the first presidential debate he refused to condemn white supremacist groups and instead said the Proud Boys – branded as a “hate group” by the Southern Poverty Law Center – should “stand by.”
Trump also has made sexist comments. In a recording during an Access Hollywood program Trump is heard saying that he can grab women by the genital just because he’s a “star.” More recently, during an interview with Fox Business, Trump called Sen. Kamala Harris, the Democratic party candidate for the vice presidency, a “monster.”
All these comments by Trump support and promote racism and discrimination. There’s no way to defend them in public. Perhaps that’s why many people don’t like to say that they voted for Trump or that they will do so on Nov. 3. I wonder if this time the polls have counted the “shy” or hidden Trump supporters.
Trump believes he will win again. During a campaign event Aug. 20 he said that the “only way they (Democrats) are going to win is by a rigged election.” In fact, he has refused several times to say that he will accept the results of the presidential election if he loses. “I’m not going to just say ‘yes.’” he said in an interview with Fox News on July 19. Later, on September 29, he went even further and urged supporters to “go into the polls” and “watch very carefully” because of the allegedly fraudulent balloting.
The main question – electorally and legally – is what happens if Trump loses and refuses to admit defeat. There is no evidence of fraud, so far, at the national level in the presidential election. And his refusal to accept the results – when the polls say he could lose – is a grave threat to a democracy more than two centuries old. Those are the kinds of things we hear from dictators in Latin America, not in the United States.
This country has always had peaceful transfers of power from one president to another. But that does not mean it’s always been easy to declare a winner. In 2000, the Supreme Court intervened to stop the vote count and give the victory to George W. Bush. And if it’s a close election next month, it’s possible the court will intervene again.
That’s the significance of Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s expected confirmation as a Supreme court justice, replacing Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It would create an ideological imbalance, with six conservative justices and three liberals.
During her confirmation hearings, Barrett refused to say whether she would recuse herself if she had to rule on a court case that involved Trump and the election. But she did deny having an alliance or commitment with the president and said she would not “allow myself to be used as a pawn to decide this election for the American people.”
If the polls this year are virtually the same as 2016 – with Trump trailing the Democratic candidate – could the result be the same? Well, there’s a big difference this year: the pandemic, the more than 220,000 dead in the United Stated and the federal government’s confused handling of that crisis.
It’s possible that many voters will forgive Trump for his racist and sexist comments, his lies (more than 20,000, according to the Washington Post) and his authoritarian bent. But will they forgive him the dead and the more than 8 million cases?
We’ll know that in a few days.