Donald Trump and his strategists are counting on one group of people to save his wheezing re-election campaign:
Americans too ashamed to tell pollsters they’ll be voting for Trump yet intend to do so anyway. The polite term for such a person in the world of political polling is “the shy Trump voter.”
Fill in your own impolite term. But don’t underestimate the phenomenon.
Those of us dedicated to expunging Trump from the body politic must heed the warnings of President Barack Obama and other Democrats not to remove feet from gas pedals. The “shy Trump voter” was deadly in 2016 and could be again.
The good news is 2020 is not 2016 for too many reasons to recount here. Most obviously, even those disgusted with Trump back then weren’t informed by his mental illness and autocratic impulses. He just seemed a clown.
America is now painfully aware of the threat to democracy posed by Trump. His racism and xenophobia were obvious in 2016, but not his evil embrace of white supremacy. His utter incompetence also was underestimated.
Then there was the Hillary Clinton factor. Fairly or not, history will remember Clinton as one of the worst presidential candidates ever. She aroused hatred from the Right even before Trump’s demagoguery inflamed it so masterfully. Conversely, Clinton dispirited her own base and her campaign strategy was legendarily inept.
None of that applies to Joe Biden, especially with Kamala Harris--as opposed to Tim Kaine--by his side. And there is this pandemic and crashed economy in 2020.
But there are red flags, as well, and they cannot be ignored. In 2016, the only pollsters who correctly predicted Trump’s shocking upset were right-wing reprobates. And they’re crowing Trump will win again.
They correctly forecasted that a record number of voters would flat out lie about their intention to vote for Trump. Maybe it was to teach a lesson to Clinton and Democrats or to roll the dice with a cartoonish reality TV star. Maybe it was racism. But there’s no denying that “shy Trump voters” made his victory possible.
So, it came to pass that presumed bottom feeders like the Trafalgar Group rocketed to the top, garnering bragging rights for calling correctly a historic election that left the large majority of pollsters tucking tails tightly between legs. There was also the “Democracy Institute,” which boasted of having predicted both the shocking Brexit vote and Trump’s win.
Mainstream pollsters having gotten fooled was nothing new. In 1982, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, a Black man, was widely expected based on polling to defeat George Deukmejian, a white man, by a solid margin. He didn’t. And so was born the notion of the “Bradley effect,” the basis for which pollsters recognize a need for anticipating that those surveyed often can’t be trusted to tell the truth, especially when race is involved.
Right-wing pollsters gleefully project that a Bradley effect on steroids can bail out a president on steroids.
Democracy Institute Director Patrick Basham has been making the rounds predicting a landslide electoral win for Trump. Basham has elicited rosy predictions from the likes of Breitbart.com and even received a serious interview at Forbes.com.
Basham described the secret sauce of the right-wing pollsters: Anticipating a huge Trump undercount.
“What we found is (shy Trump voters) do exist and in greater numbers (than 2016),” Basham said. “Our questions go like this: ‘If you were a Trump voter, would you tell anybody? Would you tell family? A friend? A coworker? Would you put a sign on your lawn or your car?’”
Basham told Breitbart: “Eighty-seven percent of Biden supporters said they were "comfortable with relatives, friends, coworkers knowing how you vote." But only 22% of Trump supporters said the same.”
That proud comment is quite telling, albeit maybe not in the way Basham meant. People who favor Trump are overwhelmingly ashamed to say so. Whether that means there will be another ambush is not so certain: Mainstream polls projecting a Biden landslide are themselves factoring in a Trump undercount this time around.
Basham revealed some absurd assumptions in the two interviews. He thinks projections of vastly greater Democratic voter turnout are overstated. Do you want to believe that or your lying eyes?
Here’s one bizarre assumption driving Basham optimism: “The #1 predictor of voting Republican is owning a handgun," Basham told Forbes. "Black female gun ownership has skyrocketed. Forty percent of new handgun owners are female; 60 percent are African-American.”
You think Black women buying guns means they’re secretly likely to vote for Trump? Good luck with that.
There’s also this telling sign of wing-nut bias from the Trafalgar Group. In an October 18 interview with the National Review, CEO Robert Cahaly regurgitated this Kool Aid on Trump’s behalf:
“Right now, we’ve got him down in Pennsylvania, Cahaly told National Review. “I think if it were held today, the undecided would break toward Trump and there’d be some hidden vote. He’d probably win Pennsylvania. I believe it’s the No. 1 state that Trump could win and have stolen to voter fraud.”
I believe that’s the No. 1 indication that Cahaly is spewing propaganda as part of a last-ditch attempt to turn out voters who are too ashamed to admit they’re Trump supporters. Trump’s panicked team is tilting at windmills.
But those praying for a Blue tsunami on November 3 need to redouble their efforts and not be lulled by all the encouraging signs. Turn up the dial as if lightning might strike again.