Premature Poll Panic

I am not one of those who dismiss the fears of the Democrats who are terrified of the polls that show Trump right with Biden. We are in a scary time, and some of the people yelling at their fellow left-of-center folks to shut up and calm down were also the ones in 2016 yelling the loudest that the America They Know would never elect Trump.

Some of those folks went on to be the ones currently feeling anxiety. PTSD is a real thing, and the election of Trump really was a trauma. Repeating that, for some, would truly be an existential trauma. I get it and I feel empathy for them.

I myself want to grab America by our collective lapels and give us a really good shake and yell “REALLY? Do you honestly want Trump 2: The Worst Sequel Ever?” But I also know that polls this early have a history of simply being a snapshot of the political moment and not an oracle.

We have been here before. Some of the blame is on abysmal levels of poll reporting. In 2011, we had this breathless headline that basically said HARVARD, which is very smart, says Obama will surely lose. Except, it was about how millennials weren’t happy about Obama, and the poll was from December 2011.

What the polls demonstrate is what the Democratic Party needs to work on in the upcoming months (roughly 13 1/2 months to go, everyone). Not what WILL happen. There really is plenty of time to work on this.

There seem to be two main issues that voters are having with Biden. One is his age. The man really is 80 years old. Things happen to 80-year-olds, including death. That would be a complete nightmare for Democrats.

But on the other hand, Biden has been constantly underestimated. Leading up to his State of the Union address, many in the media seemed to be ready to schedule his funeral. However, Biden owned the speech because he also owned the Republicans by calling them out on Medicare and Social Security cuts.

Trump also is elderly. He is just three years younger. But the focus is very much on Biden’s age by the Most Serious and Reasoned Thinkers of the Great American Discourse, including Professional Awful Take Slinger Jonathan Chait:

Somehow despite literally sounding like he might be suffering from dementia based on the wacky things he says, Trump is cast as the young’un in this race. To be fair, and I say this as someone who lost a mother to dementia, it is very difficult sometimes to tell the difference between dementia and Republican opinions. But Trump somehow escapes being thought of as old.

This is a challenge for Biden’s campaign because any “slip” will be blown out of proportion. Biden made a jet lag/busy week joke about not knowing if it was evening, which ALL OF US HAVE, and the headline about it in The Paper of Record implied he was serious.

The other challenge is the economy. Look, I have all the empathy in the world for people who are struggling, as inflation has hit people in lower income brackets hard. But the American economy is doing much better than our peer nations, and inflation has been slowing significantly. However, the majority of people do not believe this.

Beliefs about the economy that do not match up with reality, such as believing that unemployment is nearing historic highs, are held by the majority of Americans. So many Americans think the economy is completely in the tank beyond inflation. Perhaps in a bright spot for Biden, the majority of Americans actually think they themselves are doing fine financially.

But again, there are more than 13 months ahead of us, so a lot of things can happen. People very well may come around on the economy. Trump is saying all kinds of nutty things so he could say something that freaks people out about the economy. There is a lot of time to go.

So, not the time to panic now. I know, we are Democrats, we do panic very well. We went through four years of a monster as a president. That monster is very open about his thirst for revenge, and his party is clear and open about their desire to drive our nation toward fascism. It is a scary time, for sure. But the world has not ended just yet, and we have a lot of time to win elections, which is something since 2018 Democrats have been pretty damn good at.

The last word goes to boygenius.

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