So as a fair warning, most of this post is anecdotal. It’s all true, mind you, but it’s also based mostly on my personal experience. So please don’t take it as Gospel. The media is telling us that Trump has no chance of defeating Hillary. FiveThirtyEight puts him at about a 13% chance of victory. However, there are some polls regarded as more accurate in recent elections that give Trump about an even chance, or a little better. The swing is from something like 15 point Hillary victory on to a 2 point Trump victory. With such a wide spread, one could be forgiven for thinking they are all full of shit. With media bias in full swing, none of the polls are what I would call trustworthy.
The proper answer for this election right now is “I have no fucking idea.”
Trump supporters, of course, tell us that there is a great groundswell of hidden Trump support (the so-called “Trump Closet”), and that Trump rallies are full and Hillary rallies, when they even happen, are relatively empty. This, they say, is evidence of an impending Trumpslide. So I thought I’d put together my thoughts on them.
Is there a “Trump Closet”? In short: yes, absolutely.
I remember a gay guy saying that it was harder to come out of the closet as a Trump supporter than as a gay man. But I know many people who publicly remain uncommitted or who “hate both” candidates, but have confided in me that they are secretly voting Trump. The reasons for this are varied. Some are afraid they will lose their jobs if they come out as Trump supporters. Others are afraid they will lose friends, or be labeled racist, sexist, etc… A couple were once NeverTrumpers, and don’t want to admit publicly that they’ve changed their minds.
So how big is the Trump Closet? And how many don’t even tell pollsters the truth? I can’t say for sure. Again, this is all anecdotal. But it’s definitely non-trivial. Unless the polls are accounting for this, they will be off.
What’s going on with Trump Rallies? Is this evidence of a Trumpslide? In short: a very mixed bag.
So I’m in an unusual position to comment on this. I am, on the one hand, accounted as a relatively Upper-Middle Class quasi-intellectual (I hate the term “intellectual” but I have to use something here) Conservative. This meaning I make a high wage, my field is one that requires a high degree of intelligence and education, and I am admitted to such social circles whenever I wish.
On the other hand, much of my family is Working Class. So I share some of the Working Class values and culture. Thus when I bring my Mustang to the local muscle car meetups, I’m not accounted as a foreigner. There is dirt under my fingernails, I can work on my own car, and hell, I’ve even hung my share of drywall and done construction work on occasion.
Point being, I hear both perspectives on this election first-hand, and the contrast is staggering.
First off, the Working Class supports Trump like nobody I’ve ever seen. Perhaps Reagan in 1980 had this level of Working Class support. Nobody else has. At the muscle car meetups, it may very well be 100% Trump. And they are vocal about their Trump support. They love the guy (I don’t, but that’s another story). If Working Class Americans were the only ones voting, Trump would win in a landslide. Many of them have gone to the rallies. These are the folks likely to be filling the stadiums and cheering for him.
On the Upper-Middle Class side of things, the exact opposite is happening. Conservative intellectuals are, in my experience, very divided. I’d say in a very unscientific manner, that approximately 1/3 of them are Trump supporters, but no where near as enthusiastic as Working Class supporters. Another 1/3 are, like myself, reluctantly going Trump. Consider such notables as Tom Kratman and Kurt Schlichter in this category. They will go Trump, but more because they hate Hillary than any kind of love for the Donald. A final 1/3 are strongly NeverTrump. But I’ve seen some of them cracking, too. Hillary’s campaign is ruthlessly pursuing the racism and sexism angle, and the NeverTrumpers are seeing that. I’ve seen a number of memes posted by them along the lines of “please don’t talk me into voting Trump.” There is a risk that Hillary will make herself look so bad, that even those who hate Trump will be talked into voting for him to keep her out.
So, it is my thought that some, but not all, NeverTrumpers will crack on election day, and cast very reluctant votes for the Donald, go home, get blasted drunk, and conveniently forget they’ve done so.
In other words, support from the bottom for Trump will be much, much stronger than previous elections. Support at the top will be weaker, but probably not as bad as some suspect.
Conclusion? Trump will probably gain here, but not by nearly as much as rally attendance would suggest.
So what does that mean?
To me, it means that the election polls are probably off base, and they should not be trusted. The Trump Closet is likely very large. This election is strange. The conventional rules don’t apply. The demographics are very different, and voter turnout could defy expectations — in either direction. I still think Trump is more likely to lose than to win, especially when one considers that to defeat the Democrats, you need a comfortable margin. If it’s close, the voting dead will tilt it to the Democrats.
But I also think the chance of victory for Trump is much higher than most polls, and FiveThirtyEight, suggest.