Pre-Arguing Conventional Wisdom

Truth is more interesting anyway

In 2016, a bunch of conventional wisdom got locked in. People believed that Hillary Clinton lost the women’s vote, despite winning it by 12%. (She lost the white women’s vote, which is a very different story.) They believed the polls were wrong, despite Trump having a lead during the conventions and the polling indeed showing significant tightening in the final stretch. They believed she ignored the middle class, economic anxieties drove the election, and a flawed electoral strategy is why she lost. Each of these has been disproven with data, but the conventional wisdom persists.

“Trump only lost because of Covid”

He’s the least popular president in modern history, and his numbers are remarkably consistent. Look at the orange disapproval line hitting his all-time best score of 50%. That was when Covid hit. Americans were ready for him to succeed. He did not, the American people noticed, and he went back to his normal poor approval numbers.

“Joe Biden campaigned from his basement and got lucky”

It’s true, the Biden campaign noticed there was a pandemic and took care not to pack too many people into enclosed spaces. But the “basement strategy” was exaggerated. Joe Biden was all over the airwaves, raising money over Zoom, doing podcasts, issuing statements, and giving speeches. His team adjusted his approach to the moment, like a smart team does, and ended up rope-a-doping Trump and his one trick pony of a campaign. As hard as it might be to believe, Joe Biden’s team executed one of the best campaigns in modern history.

“Donald Trump got more votes than any sitting president in history”

This one is true. But there’s some important nuance to discuss. First, the population of America is growing, so Biden getting “the most votes ever” and Trump getting “the second most votes ever” is muddying the waters a bit.

How Trump actually could have won

Covid helped incumbent politicians this year, as long as the voters believed they were taking Covid seriously and doing their best. So if he had done that, cut back his rallies, and stopped spewing so much hate, he would have barely won a second term, despite historically low approval ratings. Not despite Covid and increased turnout, but because of it.

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