Pre-Loading ‘I Told You So’

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This note from TPM Reader JS more or less summarizes my thoughts.

The Boat in the Atlantic. Great metaphor. I don’t know Jon Alter, but I get the feeling that many of the “he’s too old” crowd are just pre-loading “I told you so” ammunition if he loses. There’s no downside to saying what everyone else is saying. I think so many people can’t contemplate a Trump restoration that they have to have some explanation why it happened. Biden was too old. The kids hate Israel. Whatever. Those explanations make sense to these people in a way that “more voters liked Trump” does not. I think they are then living in that world where things will happen as they forecast and it’s more comfortable than just getting your shit together and holding the course on the boat we have.

I also think it’s about pre-positioning oneself for the inevitable Democrat civil war in 2028. “I was right about Biden, so that’s why we need AOC/Manchin/Newsom/whoever” etc.

Unfortunately, I still don’t think any serious sector of the party has come to grips with the real reasons people are willing to vote for Trump. They think either do Bernie or keep doing Clinton/Obama/Biden forever. Neither solution really meets the voters where they are. I don’t have the answer, but I don’t think the people who should have it do either. I do not think it’s a simple “too left” or “not left enough” problem, but everyone else seems to.

I should add here that I think many people simply worry that Biden’s too old. Either because they think his age will make it hard for him to win the election or because they worry he’s simply not up to the job. It’s fine to be worried about whatever worries you. Many people don’t know the logistics of where we are in the campaign. So for me, and I suspect for JS, I’m not shaming everyone who’s anxious. But I am talking about people who follow politics and do or should know that Biden and Trump are the candidates, and are still engaging in these hypotheticals and games when they’re actually moot.

The other point I think is even more important. A lot of this “debate” comes down to the fact that people do not or cannot get their heads around the idea that Trump is popular. Roughly enough Americans want Donald Trump to be President again. We’ll find out in November if it’s just under enough, as it was in 2020, or just over, as it was in 2016. But in terms of who we are as Americans and the state of the country, that’s not a huge difference. For a lot of people it’s easier to inflate their own sense of agency, or that of the community they imagine themselves a part of, by believing that Trump’s ability to get elected can only be the product of Democrats’ mistakes. So Trump’s beatable, it’s just that Democrats are putting up a weak candidate, Joe Biden. Or Trump’s beatable, but Democrats are controlled by establishment neo-liberals. Or Trump’s beatable, but Democrats are too woke.

Obviously, Democrats need to do the very best they can to win this election, putting their best foot forward, running a smart campaign, running the best candidates. That’s the whole thing every Democrat needs to be focusing on right now, in every way that each of us individually can accomplish that. But if Trump wins the election the most important reason will be that enough people voted for him that he was able to win the election in the Electoral College. To think otherwise is to engage in a kind of paradoxically comforting myopia in which all or most political events are in fact under Democrats’ control. But that’s not the case. A huge number of Americans not only voted for Trump once but lived through his presidency and have decided they would like to do it again.

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