Alan Zendell, April 25, 2023
It’s painfully early to talk about the 2024 presidential election, but I’ve never been one to bury my head in the sand. I’ve always thought ostriches were weird, creepy birds.
Let’s recap where things stand. Today, President Biden announced that he will run for re-election, and no other Democrat has indicated an intention to challenge him for the nomination, despite polls that suggest Democratic voters wish Biden wouldn’t run again.
On the Republican side, Ron DeSantis’ belligerent, bull-like, extremist approach to every issue costs him supporters on a daily basis. The two South Carolina entries, Senator Tim Scott and former Governor and U. N. Ambassador Nicki Haley have thus far gathered negligible support. Donald Trump’s most rabid supporters reacted to his New York indictments and the likelihood that Georgia and the U.S. Department of Justice will soon follow with indictments for far more serious felonies as if he were a persecuted martyr. And former Vice President Mike Pence, who is contemplating a run, just spent five hours testifying about his conversations with Trump prior to January 6th. Watch for fireworks.
Political pundits, most of whom have been consistently wrong since 2015, predict Biden will face off against Trump next year. It’s a sign of our dysfunctional politics that not a single pollster thinks Trump can be re-elected, and Biden’s approval rating hovers in the low forties. 2024 could mark the third presidential election in a row in which neither major candidate was the first choice of voters. After much thought, I can’t figure out why.
Could the polls be wrong? There are a lot of competent pollsters – Gallup, Harris, Rasmussen, 538 – they’re professionals at the top of their game. But in a nation whose communications are dominated by social media, cell phones, electronic messengers, and scammers, finding representative polling samples is much more difficult that it was even twenty years ago. Most of us treat snail mail solicitations as spam, and those of us who have land line phones don’t answer them if we don’t recognize the caller. So how do pollsters come up with random sample populations that truly represent the American electorate?
I had an opportunity to talk to Professor Harris about that late in 2005, after George W. Bush was re-elected. Most pollsters were using phone listings to identify their sampling universe, but cell phone users already outnumbered land line users, and their was no national directory for cells. Didn’t that bias sampling toward older, more conservative users? Yet, the polls were quite good predictors of the 2004 election. When I asked Professor Harris how they pulled that off, he said he really didn’t know – maybe they were just lucky.
That’s a chilling thought, and I haven’t trusted polls since. I’m so concerned about polls turning elections into self-fulfilling prophecies, I and many others I know lie to pollsters. Polls don’t reach deep enough to understand why voters think the way they do or why pandering is so effective for politicians like Trump. If we knew what voters believed, how many on the right would be found to be primarily motivated by racism, xenophobia, religious extremism, or greed? How many on the left by socialist leanings or a desire to live off the system and avoid responsibility? I believe the result would be disturbing.
When we take those factors out of the equation, we’re left with the objective reality that Biden has been our most effective president since Franklin Roosevelt, but that gets lost in the noise of far-right grievances. Biden took a strong stand against right-wing economic philosophies that have been proved ineffective for four decades. COVID made the world face harsh realities, the most important of which was that the old economic models were no longer reliable. Models only work when the real world doesn’t diverge appreciably from the baseline data they were built on. Total lockdowns, disrupted manufacturing and agriculture, and broken supply chains aren’t reflected in the modeling data because they represent a situation we haven’t seen before.
I wish I knew how to get the attention of voters who are so caught up in their personal grievances, they can’t see that divisiveness and polarization are destroying our country. Biden saved our economy from disaster. He saved our traditional alliances from catastrophe and may well have prevented a full-scale war in Europe that could lead to a nuclear holocaust by being the driving force that re-united NATO as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine loomed.
I’m as concerned as anyone about Biden’s age. I’m six months younger than he is, and you couldn’t pay me enough to take his job. But his long years of experience and his history of being generally evenhanded and willing to compromise – even some embarrassing mistakes he’s learned from – make him unique among those who want it. We can deal with his age by electing a vice president who will work hand-in-hand with him and be ready to step in on a moment’s notice if need be – someone like Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar.
What about Kamala Harris?
I think Kamala Harris has irked too many people. She’ll be a liability Biden can’t afford.
I agree with 99 percent of your post. What really bothers me is that in a nation of 350 million people we can’t find two candidates who excite the voters. I’m really tired of voting for the “lesser” of two evils. Trying to decide which one will do the least amount of damage to the country.