In 2016, Donald Trump won 54% of the traditionally Democrat trade union vote in Ohio, a margin that eclipsed national exit polls by 12%. Nor was it lost on campaign managers then that several dyed in blue Democrat wool NE Ohio counties that had suffered manufacturing losses under previous administrations dumped Hillary and voted for Trump. The work has gone on relentlessly since to consolidate that switch all over the nation.
A memo handed to the President on Air Force One in September briefed him on the progress of plans to carry that successful Ohio campaign to battleground states across the country. In a tight election scrap for electoral college votes in swing states, this is a strategy the Biden campaign ignores at its peril.
Republicans smell blood. It was remarkable that during the four-day Democrat convention not a single speaker mentioned the challenges the US faces from China’s unfair trading practices, intellectual property theft, currency manipulation and aggressive regional encroachments. The blue-collar constituency was being ignored again.
If they continue to self-deny this issue it will cost them dearly with union voters. Candidate Biden reaches out not to workers, but to union bosses. They throng around him in set piece appearances – but today bosses don’t always deliver votes.
Biden carries more anti-worker baggage than Hillary. In 2016 she imperiously told West Virginian coal miners that they could go hang. Yet Biden is burdened with a comprehensive anti-union voting record. His vote for NAFTA and support for the Transpacific Partnership Agreement undermine his credibility with union members. His call for carbon free energy, vacillating support for the Green New Deal, and the Obama-Biden regulatory legacy, threaten millions of union jobs. Energy workers aren’t dafties. They know these policies will put them on the dole queue.
And Biden is soft on China. His past support for China’s admission to the World Trade Organisation and assignment of Most Favoured Nation trading status are not popular among blue-collar workers. As Vice President, he was President Obama’s point man on China, happily oblivious to the steady undermining of the American economy and potentially lengthening job lines. Now, he is trying to hop on the anti-China bus, but it’s gone past his stop.
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President Trump’s China bashing may have seemed high level theatricals, but his simplistic “America First” mantra resonates a solid truth that Democrats have been forced to acknowledge. Their pivot, grudgingly conceding the China threat is real, leaves their candidate’s voting record stranded on the political beach. The pro-China tide is well and truly out.
Then, there’s the Fuzz. That September memo handed to Trump focused on the importance of consolidating support with the boys and girls in blue, so recently roundly dissed by Democrats, as well as blue-collar workers. Police unions have been signed up by the Republican campaign. The “Defund the Police” sloganising of Bill de Blasio, Democrat Mayor of New York, the Republicans’ new recruiter-in-chief, has struck deep.
The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is onside with the Republicans. Its 355,000 members, alongside the National Association of Police Organisations’ (NAPO) 352,000 members, total 700,000 out of 800,000 registered law enforcement officers in the USA. Almost a clean sweep for the Donald.
These are far from knee-jerk Republican supporters. In the past they have supported the Democrats – and Joe Biden, of all candidates, should have been a sure thing. He forged deep ties to law enforcement while serving as the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when he was a senator from Delaware.
Desertion is a slap in the face. Biden also worked with law enforcement to help provide financial and educational benefits for police families who died in the line of duty. When he was Vice President from 2009 – 2017, Biden was President Barack Obama’s emissary to law enforcement. In 2009, Mr Biden donated $26,000 in leftover funds from his senate campaign to help create the Delaware Law Enforcement Memorial, honouring officers who died in the line of duty.
All that political goodwill has now been squandered.
This adds up to a hill of beans only in a tight fight, so may be completely irrelevant if the CNN poll showing Joe Biden coming out of the presidential debate 16% ahead is reflected in the vote on 3 November, and postal ballots already winging their way to counting centres.
Politicians have a formula for handling bad polling news. The scoundrels try to explain away the tsunami clearly about to engulf them with hopeful rationalisations. I know this, for I was such a scoundrel once.
“If you can explain the polls when all about you,
Are numbers that should have you in a stew,
If you can meet with ICM and Mori,
And treat those two fake-newsers just the same,
If you can twist one heap of hope from all those numbers,
You may hold on, and keep that seat,
And, which is more, you will be a politician, my son”.
(apol. R. Kipling)
Faced with bleedingly obvious oblivion, interview ripostes to reporters go something like this: “Polls have been wrong before”; “Our supporters are less likely to respond to pollsters”; then, more desperately, “Voters are embarrassed to admit they support us – but they really do”; and the final flop over the finishing line of self-delusion, “Never mind the opinion polls, it’s the poll on election day that counts.” Too right it is. Turn off the lights on your way out.
All rational analysis leads to a Biden victory in November, but since 2015, when Donald Trump launched his campaign for the Republican nomination, politics in the US have been anything but rational.
Beneath the surface of total war on all fronts which drives Washington Post and New York Times commentators into a perma-froth, Trump’s Republican machine – now truly his machine as it was not in 2016 – has been quietly tilling the fertile ground of those disillusioned middle America Democrats appalled by their party’s lurch to the East-Coast liberal left.
Mirabile dictu! It turns out this tweeting administration actually has a record it can defend, too. The Vice-Presidential debate – possibly the only normal political event to have taken place in the US in this campaign – was not the roll-over for sharp-shooting prosecutor Kamala Harris against stodgy Mike Pence that Democrats expected.
Whoa! Were these actual achievements Pence was reeling off? Tax reform, regulatory rollback, NAFTA replaced by USCMA, getting tough on China, criminal law reform. Some voters will have noticed.
Harris launched a Covid distraction flare, hoping to dodge the question of what new taxes would be raised to meet the Democrats’ promised spending splurge. She might as well have fessed up, “Read my lips, plenty more taxes.” Whitewashing the collapse of law and order in cities like Portland, Oregon, cut no mustard.
It is telling that Democrats are not certain they are going to win. They don’t believe the polls either. There is no Biden camp triumphal march to victory. They know they have chosen a weak candidate and that Trump’s Republican party has eaten – maybe fatally – into their traditional support, as did Ronald Reagan in the 1980s. Remember the southern state Reagan Democrats?
If 4 November 2020, the morning after election day, is a rerun of 4 November 2016 the Democrats will have only themselves to blame. As Donald Trump has worked to consolidate his base, they have contrived to hollow out theirs. That simple memo delivered to Donald Trump on Air Force One says it all.