NYT/Siena Battleground Poll: Voters Want Change -- Again

Historically, if a person had more ambition than actual talent, he had three paths to fame and fortune:

1. Marry (and/or be impregnated by) someone rich and powerful

2. Befriend Adam Sandler and get paid boatloads of money to shout “Yew kin dew eet” in movie cameos

3. Claim to have unique insights (or simple solutions) to unsolvable, unknowable problems

For the third category, the historical examples are near-infinite: You name the problem—sickness, poverty, death, loneliness, sadness, immorality, subjugation, relationships—and since the dawn of time, corrupt men have been selling easy solutions to desperate people. Even today, many top social media influencers are using the same schtick: “Are you poor? Can’t get a date? Sick and fat? Click that link and become an Alpha!”

Soothsayers, healers, mystics, prophets, lotharios, seductresses having a Midas touch: There’s always been great social equity in claiming abilities that others lack.

The political version of these snake oil salesmen are the professional prognosticators – i.e., the ones who confidently claim to foretell months (or even years) in advance what will happen on Election Day. These self-anointed prophets act like scientists who’ve cracked the code, pored over the data, and finally, at long last, discovered the RIGHT way to translate the hieroglyphics.

You have them on the Right. You have them on the Left. They’re on all the news shows, 24/7. Occasionally, they’re apolitical and rely on various data sets (demographics, financial, polling, psychology). But what they all have in common is the end result: If you listen to them, you’ll gain insights that far exceed the grasp of mere mortals. In fact… you’ll be a modern-day Nostradamus!

Alas, this New Age “political alchemy” is just as unreliable as the alchemy of old. And the reason why is straightforward: Too many history-making moments are driven by Black Swan events.

If you had asked someone in 1999 to make predictions 25 years in the future, there are some things they’d have likely gotten right: further development and adoption of the Internet, for example. And perhaps they’d talk about the Baby Boomers retiring from the workforce. But they definitely wouldn’t have predicted President Donald Trump because President Trump was a direct reaction to President Barack Obama. And they wouldn’t have predicted President Obama because he was a direct reaction to President George W. Bush. And they wouldn’t have been able to predict President Bush’s long-term public image because they couldn’t have predicted the 9/11 terrorist attacks leading to an unpopular war in Iraq or the PR fallout from Katrina. (Let alone the eventual rise of social media, Taylor Swift, Elon Musk, ChatGPT, COVID-19, that short dude from “Fear Factor” launching a podcast, Robert Downey Jr. dusting Thanos and (ugh) South Korean boy bands.)

There are no legitimate, reliable formulas for prognosticating the future. Never has been. Never will be. It’s simply beyond a pollster’s scope.

Now, if you want to know the pace of our current trajectory, there’s no shortage of worthwhile pundits. If everything continues just how it is right now, lots of “experts” can provide all kinds of compelling insights and statistical projections. If you’ve ever worked off a business plan, then you’re very aware of how unreliable projections are – even in industries you know well.

Following the current trajectory, Donald Trump WILL defeat Joe Biden. The 2024 election won’t be about ideology or policy; it’ll be about the adjectives associated with the ex-president and the current president. And the crux of the campaign can be summed up in three words: Character versus Competency.

At least, that’s the current trajectory.

If the voters are more concerned about Trump’s character (or lack thereof), they’ll vote for Biden. If they’re more concerned about Biden’s competency (or lack thereof), they’ll pull the lever for Trump. As of July 2024, it seems reasonable to assume that, on the heels of Biden’s disastrous debate performance, issues of competency will supersede questions of character. Furthermore, it also seems likely that a badly diminished Biden – who’ll be forced by his underdog status to do more public speaking, personal appearances, and interviews than ever before – will have many, many more opportunities to remind voters of his mental fragility via high-profile verbal slip-ups.  And in the immortal words of President Obama, “Don’t underestimate Joe’s ability to f—k things up.”

But for God’s sake, don’t underestimate Trump’s ability either! For as much as the Deep State, far Left, and Never Trumpers have conspired to wound him, many of his wounds have been (and likely will continue to be) self-inflicted.

From now until Election Day, the Democrats will do everything possible to make Trump’s character the central issue. It’s the reason why Biden (spackled in a positively Trumpian orange tan) took to prime-time to bemoan the Supreme Court’s decision on presidential immunity and made the false argument that the president’s powers were now unlimited: If the public isn’t deathly afraid of Trump, the Democrats can’t win. Therefore, they’ll try to synergize their messaging so that all roads lead to Trump’s character.

Of course, that’s just the current trajectory… and the current trajectory is just one Black Swan event away from being tossed in the scrap heap. So, if you’re in the GOP, do not assume this presidential campaign is over.

It isn’t.

Not by a long shot.

The only prediction I’ll make is this: We haven’t seen the last curveball of the 2024 election.

Fight like hell, don’t get cocky, and campaign like you’re trying to save the soul of America. As Morton Blackwell wrote in his Laws of Public Policy, “Pray as if it all depended on God; work as if it all depended on you.”

And beware the false predictions of false prophets – particularly those chasing false profits. Even more so when they’re telling you what you want to hear.

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