There are a few odd but interesting things in Nate Cohn’s analysis of recent polls. For example, Joe Biden is now close to erasing the Republicans’ traditional advantage with white voters, but he’s underperforming with Black and Hispanic people compared to Hillary Clinton. While it’s been widely reported that Biden is winning with voters over 65, ordinarily the GOP’s strongest demographic, he actually hasn’t made any new ground with them since May. His recent gains are coming from improvement with younger voters.
This last point doesn’t surprise me and I predicted that young supporters of Bernie Sanders would get over their hurt feelings well before November. They are still more reluctant than older voters to give Biden positive favorable numbers, but that should also continue to improve. As for the over 65 crowd, it could be that Biden just maxed out. If I have a possible explanation for why Biden isn’t doing as well with minorities, it might be that polls show they simply aren’t as engaged or “paying attention” at the same rate as white people. As Election Day nears, everyone will be engaged, and it’s likely that undecided Black and Hispanic people will solidify behind the former vice-president.
What appears to be the most consequential change is Republicans’ dwindling advantage with white voters. As Cohn points out, this could lead to previously unimaginable losses for the GOP in congressional and Senate races. It could turn states like Texas, Kansas, and Alaska blue. But I also think it’s part of the reason we’re seeing a mood change on white supremacy in general. It helps explain why Confederate statues are coming down and Congress just passed a defense spending bill mandating that Confederate names are removed from military bases and ships. It helps explain why police unions are suddenly on the defensive against demands for reform. And, I think, it also behind a lot of folks feeling that they’re being “canceled.”
David Brooks is whining in the New York Times that people like Andrew Sullivan are suddenly unemployable, but this isn’t an example of the left suddenly becoming intolerant of diverse viewpoints. That’s like arguing that police chokeholds are being banned because the left suddenly discovered that they kill people. What actually happened is that public opinion finally tipped in the left’s direction, and a practice that was formerly tolerated because white people supported it, is no longer tolerated because they changed their mind. The same can be said for publishing people who argue for the inherent superiority of whites. The same can be said for naming your sports team the “Redskins” or having a racist mascot like the Cleveland Indians’ Chief Wahoo.
These things were “normal” and accepted only so long as whites accepted them in large numbers. Trump’s excesses have jolted enough white people to not only lose him support, but to lose support for many of the structurally racist things that have gone unexamined outside of leftist circles.
The change can manifest in simple ways, like people losing jobs they previously would have kept after saying or doing racist things. But the overall impact is complex and hard to predict. What we’re seeing is a lot of people who were previously safe and comfortable now getting called out for holding certain beliefs. It’s not a surprise that they howl like a scalded cat when they suddenly get burned.
This change in public opinion is going to reshape the country. The base and sports name changes are a precursor for the political realignment that’s coming in the election. Once political power resides on the left, we’ll see more transformation, and a lot more howling.