“Donald Trump has absolutely nothing to say. He has no agenda. He has no plan. He has no ideals or hopes or purpose”, according to a post-debate analysis by Jill Filipovic in the Guardian on 23rd October.
One side of the partisan divide agrees vigorously. Watching the unedited 38 minutes of Trump’s 60 Minutes interview with veteran CBS journalist Lesley Stahl that his campaign released – breaking traditions and agreement, as per – you’re most likely to come to the same conclusion if your worldview was formed in that same echo chamber.
Mine was and yes, I struggle to imagine how anyone could watch and not see him merely as a mean-spirited, intellectually incurious and empty bloviator.
And yet. Sam cites the latest Popbitch newsletter which reminds us that, while both betting markets and polling favoured Remain and Clinton in 2016, higher stacks of money were put on Leave (75%) and Trump (68%).
And this time: 80% of money is on Trump (this analysis by Betfair’s political betting expert provides some context).
In the meantime, the breathless horserace pundits keep numberwanging it: from FiveThirtyEight to RealClearPolitics, the FT and the Economist, all have a Biden Electoral College win in the high eighties to low nineties, despite all the structural disadvantages for Democrats.
And that’s with revised and adjusted Bayesian models (based on constantly updated numbers and 40,000 simulations, in FiveThirtyEight’s case), carefully crafted to not fall into the same trap that (almost) all psephologists disappeared into on 4th November 2016.
Will that final debate make a difference? In what way, for whom? We think not. Neville points out that all the commentary is partisan anyway. The trenches have been dug a long time ago.
The Los Angeles Times comments on Mr. Hannity’s green-tinted glasses (I’ll come back to the Wizard of Oz later): “The debate showdown between President Trump and Joe Biden produced some sharp contrasts Thursday night, but none as drastic as the divide that emerged in the television world’s post-debate analysis — with Fox News delivering one worldview and most of the rest of the TV news ecosystem presenting a starkly different one.” Or as Hannah Arendt observed some 70 years ago: “What convinces masses are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably part.”
We touch briefly on the role of social media: Dave Cameron’s former poodle, now courtier and messenger of Emperor Zuckustus, Sir Nick Clegg, reassured us last week that the Facebook is firmly on the case of digital disinformants.
Although, as Neville rightly observes, it’s not actually that reassuring to read that 150m (!) warnings were posted to false information posted online. If anything, this points to a bottomless morass of falseness and fakery that we’d rather not delve into.
Talking of falseness and fakery, Sam’s favourite “worst government in history” (the word scum had already been taken) is showing a deft hand in furthering perhaps the outstanding talent in present British politics, left winger and competently outspoken social justice advocate Marcus Rashford.
His nutmegging flat-footed Tories is a pleasure to behold, even for resident Liverpool (Sam) and Arsenal (Thomas) fans. It’s almost a shame he has a decade of a likely successful career in football ahead of him, but perhaps we are witnessing the emergence of a British AOC.
For now, the digital future of politics seems in very capable hands with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose latest Twitch gaming live stream together with fellow squad member Ilhan Omar had more than 400,000 viewers. Her Twitch channel, set up Monday, already had half a million followers by Tuesday evening, according to Mashable.
Surely, rather than short-fingered Twitter tantrums, this is the promising future of engaged and engaging politics online.
But first things first: with the election of POTUS 46 only days away, we share some views from our respective crystal balls. And while Sam, based on recent lecture of Alain de Botton’s School of Life, praises Neville for his overall melancholic-pessimistic outlook – a virtue, according to de Botton, that helps us towards serenity and contentment through lowliness of expectations – none of us can bring ourselves to place our money with the 80%.
Neville’s take is short and snappy: Biden wins huge; Trump throws tantrums and refuses to go; the Republican establishment finally help to get him out, he is charged and goes to jail.
Sam provides an outline of an entire Black Mirror season:
- Trump loses.
- He contests the result.
- The Proud Boys no longer “Stand down and stand by” but rise up – and many others like them. Many cities experience race riots.
- Civil insurrection but not quite civil war.
- The Republican party does what it’s said it will and does effect the transfer of power to Biden.
- Trump only goes because of agreeing to immunity from private prosecution from the 6:3 stacked supreme court.
- Biden becomes POTUS 46, but shortly after taking office in late January, suffers a cardiac incident that means that
- Harris becomes president.
- Harris as 47 choses Michelle Obama as her Veep.
- Trump causes mayhem on Fox and Twitter until the
- Murdoch empire comes crashing down and Twitter deletes his account.
I’m playing defence, and go with current averages: Biden to win with about 350 (albeit with an outside chance to flip Texas and hit 400), the Senate to turn blue with 51 seats.
What would be nice, and perhaps ‘seismic’, would be for turnout to get to 160m. Anywhere above that, and percentages could hit 65%, something last achieved in 1908. That would make it a truly historic election, and most likely for the right reasons.
Finally, hopefully, Trump would be seen for the Wizard of Oz that he is: droning on about his bigly magical powers, but really just a sad fake, the curtain pulled back at last. Of course, Margaret Atwood told us that already four years ago.
Listen to Episode 40: