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Jakarta Post

Trump will lose, but it hardly makes a difference

  • Dharma Djojonegoro

    -

Jakarta   /   Mon, November 2, 2020   /   11:53 am
Trump will lose, but it hardly makes a difference United States President Donald Trump supporters watch the first presidential debate between Trump and Democratic presidential candidate and former US vice president Joe Biden on Sept. 29 in Old Forge, near Scranton, Pennsylvania. (AFP/Angela Weiss)

I have a strange hobby: I like to follow the United States election very closely. I devour every article and every analysis by election experts and polling experts.

Having followed the 2020 election very closely for the past year, for me the result seems to be a foregone conclusion: Unless something dramatic happens at the last minute, Trump will lose.

The only question now is how big the vote margin of Trump’s defeat to Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden will be. To my great surprise, however, many of my friends still believe that Trump will win.

First of all, the opinion polls have consistently shown a clear picture. The national polls have been very stable at around +8-9 for Biden. While there is a great deal of trauma about 2016, the national polls were actually quite accurate — the last national polls in 2016 had Clinton winning the popular vote by 3 percent and she won by 2.

Obviously, the US uses the archaic Electoral College system, but an analysis by polling expert Nate Silver finds that a 6 percent popular vote margin essentially guarantees an Electoral College victory. As Biden’s popular vote margin is currently around 8 percent, unless the polls are significantly more inaccurate than in 2016, then a Biden victory is pretty much assured.

But wasn’t the state-level polls inaccurate in 2016? Yes, they were. However, many pollsters have identified and fixed the problem by properly weighting education levels. Moreover, a recent analysis by the New York Times found that even if you assume a polling error as big as 2016 in the state polls, Biden will still carry the states needed for him to win the election.

Second, I hark back to an argument I have been making for three years. Trump won by the slightest of margins in 2016 and I do not think the conditions are there for him to replicate that. As a reminder, Trump actually lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College because he won three key states that were previously considered Clinton’s “blue wall”:  Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania.

The key point here is that he won these three states by a combined 79,000 votes or a mere 0.5 percent of the population. He won Wisconsin, a state with a population of almost 6 million, by 10,000 people!

The reason Trump will not be able to repeat this is that he is no longer running against Hillary Clinton. Clinton, fairly or not, was one of the most unpopular politicians in the US. Biden does not inspire as Obama did, but he is generally well-liked and perhaps, more importantly, is a white male with a middle-class background.

The other reason for the crack in these “blue wall” states was the existence of “protest votes” that went to third-party candidates. In all of those three states, the third-party candidate netted more votes than the eventual margin of victory. This time around, I believe that both the anti-Clinton and protest vote will no longer be there. The entirety of the Democratic Party has now seen the danger of casting protest votes and is now highly motivated to defeat Trump.

Third, if we ignore all the numbers and all the polls and look only at the issues, the picture here is also clear. Two key issues that have emerged are COVID-19 and race relations, and Trump is not widely seen as having done a good job in both. He has consistently downplayed the pandemic and has even politicized something as basic as wearing masks. His one advantage was the economy, but even that has now gone due to COVID-19.

What does this mean for Indonesia? Not much I suppose. We have worked well before with Democratic administrations as well as Republican administrations. I think we will manage whoever wins. Nothing much will change anyway: China will still be enemy number one for the US and from a geopolitical point of view, our relationship with them will be primarily driven by this fact.

From a personal standpoint, I believe the world will be better served with a US government that is prepared to use its abundant resources and expertise to tackle COVID-19 head-on, rather than one that is actively denying and hoping it will go away. I think the world has sorely missed a clear-eyed, sensible leadership on COVID-19 from one of the richest and most technologically advanced countries in the world.

Of course, with Trump gone, US politics will be boring again. We no longer have to live in anticipation, or in fear, of another midnight presidential tweet. Given all the upheaval in this world, perhaps – for once – boring is good.

I cannot wait.

 ***

The writer is deputy CEO of an energy company who served in the transition team for president-elect Joko “Jokowi” Widodo as deputy COO for the people’s welfare department.

 

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.