We’re barely a year from the 2020 election. For all the daily sturm und drang, public opinion remains stable. According to Nate Silver, Trump’s approval rating is down, but remains within the low-forties rut it’s been in since he took office. Impeachment polls are similar, with 49% favoring impeachment and that Trumpian base of 43.5% opposed. Meanwhile, the Democrats hold the same 6.2% lead in the Congressional ballot they held when I last checked in June.
Americans have made up their minds about Trump and the Republicans — who won’t admit it, but know that means trouble.
In case they needed more evidence, an October 17–20 CNN/SSRS poll found that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s net favorability rating (those who like her minus those who dislike her) is -2, the best it’s been in a decade. By contrast, Nate Silver puts Trump’s net favorability at -14. Further, by a nearly 2–1 margin, Americans disapprove of how Congressional Republicans are handling the impeachment inquiry — and that was before Wednesday’s embarrassing stunt. (SSRS is a highly-regarded pollster, garnering an A- minus rating from Nate Silver, and has a slight Republican bias.)
What’s more, the Center for American Progress released a study Thursday on demographic changes to the electorate since 2016 and found that the percentage of non-college-educated white voters (i.e. Trump’s base) continues to decline, while the percentage of minority and college-educated white voters continues to increase. If those constituencies vote in the same proportions they did in 2016, Trump likely loses Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin, and thus the Electoral College, through demographics alone.
That doesn’t mean the Democrats have the 2020 election sewn up. They seem determined to thwart themselves, as always.
The Trump campaign, which used social media to great effect in 2016, creating a safe space for supporters and outraging or frightening them into voting and sending money, is busy enhancing that advantage. Meanwhile, overspending Democratic front-runner Joe Biden has severely cut his digital operations budget. Rising contender Elizabeth Warren remains active on social media, but she plays into the Trump campaign’s narrative by overindulging the Progressive Activist wing of her party (which comprises just eight percent of the electorate by More In Common’s reckoning) through such pandering as her vow to a nine year-old trans boy that she won’t name a Secretary of Education he doesn’t meet and approve of first. Bill Maher nicely captures the Democratic candidates’ talent for painting themselves into unpopular, identity-driven corners in this clip.
For the Democrats, running as not-Trump and not-the-Republicans is likely enough. But it’s no sure thing. For the sake of the republic, and perhaps our sanity and safety, over the next year all Democratic candidates for national office should focus on broadly popular themes (some of which are quite progressive) and politely deflect interest-group demands. And they need to really get on this social media thing, because Facebook, Google, YouTube, Twitter, and Snapchat aren’t going away — and aren’t going to voluntarily transform themselves into truth machines. Yet as one web consultant working for the Democrats noted, the party is “not even fighting last year’s war — the war that they’re fighting is 2012.”