To borrow from (and rewrite) the philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, “events are in the saddle and ride mankind.” In the US election, events are riding in two directions simultaneously because Democrats and Republicans are interpreting the same event in opposite ways.
For the final time I will examine the potential of events – the proverbial October surprise – to disrupt the presidential election. That potential is diminished because October is almost over and because so many voters have already cast their ballots.
Here is a summary of the impact of recent events, in order of increasing importance.
Defections by Never-Trump Republicans
There have been no more major defections, but The Lincoln Project’s videos continue to attract attention (the subject of my next post).
The Trump Administration has not achieved a major breakthrough in the middle East, but the move toward the establishment of diplomatic relations between Israeli and Sudan represents incremental progress. It is notable that Prime Minister Netanyahu, an avid reader of political tea leaves, has begun to distance himself from Trump.
Trump is pointing to the latest demonstrations in Philadelphia as justification for his as “law and order” presidency, but the demonstrations do not appear to be escalating.
Supreme Court Vacancy
Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation has raised hopes for conservative Republicans and fears for Democrats and is likely to increase turnout on both sides.
The spotlight has shifted from Trump’s income tax returns to accusations that Joe and Hunter Biden have enriched themselves through influence-peddling, particularly in the Ukraine. This now appears to be an article of faith among the Trump base, comparable to the belief in Hillary Clinton’s corruption and, for QAnon adherents, her sanguinary appetite.
The disputed, if not dubious, provenance of the evidence against the Bidens has not shaken Democrats’ support for him. The conduit for such evidence, former Mayor Giuliani, is himself the object of Democrats’ widespread schadenfreude for having been tricked and shamed by Sascha Baron Cohen in his newly-released Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.
Covid 19 remains the key issue in the election. In the absence of a vaccine, Trump still argues that the disease isn’t very dangerous, that the US has done a great job fighting it, and that “we’ve turned the corner” or “rounded the bend.”
Ongoing accusations and recriminations between Trump and Dr. Fauci haven’t strengthened Trump’s position, however.
More importantly, the case count closing in on 100,000 new cases daily, the long lines and high positivity rates for Covid tests, the crowding of existing hospitals by Covid 19 patients, and the opening of emergency field hospitals all are facts that undercut Trump’s assertions. And the weakness of US stock markets – a sharp decline of 5 to 6 percent this week due to concerns of the impact of the second wave of Covid on economic activity – also reinforces Biden’s narrative, not Trump’s.
Despite the tendency of the two sides to see different realities, I think the events of the last two weeks have provided a little more support for Biden’s than Trump’s.