All You Need To Know #7

Hello, and welcome to week seven!

I found a great page to summarise The Six States That Matter. It shows Biden’s combined lead in these states over time. Right now he’s up by 5.6%. At his peak, he was leading by 6.2%, and at his worst he was up by 1.7%. Trump has never led.

Most of the information we’re seeing isn’t new. It’s just another chapter of a story we already can see the end to. The dual issues of racism and Covid are devastating America, and Trump is seen as unfit to lead the country through either crisis. Our unpopular president has become more unpopular. That’s the story.

Which isn’t to say there’s nothing new. If you see an ice shelf cracking in warm weather, you know it’s just a matter of time until it splashes into the water. It might not be a surprise, but that splash can definitely cause big waves. Right now, the biggest narrative splash is coming from a realisation that Trump’s messaging powers are neutralised. If he can’t speak for his base, then Republicans are more likely to buck his point of view. And if the GOP is in disarray, it makes everything worse for them.

And that’s what we’re seeing. Everything from masks to the just-canceled GOP convention to kneeling at sporting events to statues to Portland’s protests shows a party that isn’t just fracturing, it’s beginning to fully split in two. If you’re a Republican politician, you used to be able to stick with the president and get re-elected. But increasingly these same politicians are doing the math and realising Trumpism might be a losing hand for them. So they’re reacting accordingly.

Can I share a pet peeve of mine? I’ll use a sports metaphor to explain it.

Imagine being an athlete who has dedicated their life to sport. Imagine watching some rugby, basketball, or baseball play. Imagine seeing the nuance, where you don’t just see the athleticism, you see the strategy of the entire play. Because, sure, it’s fun watching Michael Jordan dunk. But an athlete can appreciate the same dunk on a whole other level, because they can understand how unlikely the play was, how risky a certain pass was, how fascinating the story around it is.

You might point out “See how he pivoted to aim straight at that guy? He did that because statistically he knows the other guy is more likely to stop him, even if it’s riskier to go with his offhand. He picked the riskier thing on paper, but the smarter thing from a strategy standpoint.” Whereas most other people just see a dunk. Now imagine if someone said “So what if it’s a dunk? The whole thing is rigged anyway.”

This would drive me crazy. It’s one thing to miss the nuance because you don’t know better, but to write off the whole thing as a hoax, a conspiracy, or unfair means you’re not even trying to analyse the play. And that’s what I see in politics every single day, and it really frustrates me. Politics is nothing more or less than trying to get people to agree on a way forward. Sure it’s rough, sure corruption exists, but it’s also not being guided by some invisible hand. It’s incredibly easy to work out if you start with people’s motivations and work back from there.

Imagine you’re ordering pizza for a party. You ask the room what they want to eat. You have three people who don’t eat meat, four people who want lots of meat, and three more that just want a cheese pizza. So you count up the votes, order the pizza, and that’s democracy at work.

So imagine you’re a Republican politician in a heavily pro-Trump district. Imagine a controversial bill is coming up for a vote, and 90% of the people in your district support Trump’s position. You should probably support Trump’s position, since your whole job as a representative is voting on behalf of the people. It’s just like the pizza example, democracy at work. It’s no more nefarious than ordering a meat lover dish when people ask for it.

Progressives like me are fond of asking aloud why Republicans are so scared to disobey the president. But I don’t think it’s about fear, I think it’s simple math. If 9 out of 10 people at your party want pepperoni and you offer them olives and onions, they’ll be frustrated with you because you didn’t give them what they asked for. It’s no more complicated than that, and it’s certainly not “rigged.”

Increasingly, Americans on the left and right are asking for things that Trump can’t give them. And increasingly, they’re not buying what he’s selling. That’s why he’s losing, and bringing the GOP down with him.

That’s the good news. See you next week!

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Jon Bell

Jon Bell

Designer, writer, teacher. I love building things.